Dacic talks about neighbors, strong rhetoric, elections

The relationship between the Socialists (SPS) and the Progressives (SNS) "has never been better," says Ivica Dacic, Serbia's foreign minister and SPS leader.

Source: B92

In an interview for B92, Dacic, who recently criticized Serbia's neighbors, reiterated that many far away states showed more understanding for Serbia's interests than the country's neighbors.

"I've said out loud what I've told them a hundred times. We're not playing Chinese whispers, we spoke to them personally, both PM Vucic and myself, both to (Macedonian PM and FM) Gruevski and Poposki, with (Macedonian) head of state Ivanov, with (former Montenegrin PM) Milo Djukanovic and (former Montenegrin FM) Igor Luksic, etc, and drew their attention to how important this issue is to us, and I cannot understand that Japan, South Korea, Colombia, and Peru have more understanding for Serbian interests that Montenegro and Macedonia. Therefore your conclusion that my rhetoric is undermining something is ridiculous. It's not me with my rhetoric who is doing the undermining - it's them with their decisions. And I guess short reckonings make long friends," Dacic said.

Asked whether his strongly-worded rhetoric damages the reputation of the state, Dacic asked for "examples of one such statement."

"Damaging it how? By defending it? Cite one (statement) for me. The one made to a Danish diplomat? Well, when they recognize Greenland and the Faroe Islands (as independent) then we'll be ready to hear what the Danish diplomat has to say. In the meantime, he should be quiet and mind his own business. Because he has no right to lecture us. What do you think - how does one defend the state? Well, (former British PM) Cameron, every time he went to Brussels, said he was going to defend London from Brussels. (Donald) Trump was very diplomatic in the campaign, wasn't he. Well, did he win? What are you talking about? What is it you want from our policy," the minister asked.

According to Dacic, Serbia's policy is "very balanced, and everyone is getting what they deserve."

Asked if he was doing this for the sake of his possible candidacy in the presidential elections, Dacic observed that he is "not a candidate."

And will he be one?

"Well I don't know, why would I do that when I haven't even put forward my candidacy. I'm the foreign minister of the Republic of Serbia, not the chief of an EU branch office. That's the difference. I'm neither a freelance associate nor a professionally hired Russian spy, and I have nothing at all to do with the U.S. administration - I'm not interested in anyone, I'm only interested in Serbia. I don't know what you're thinking, if we should tell Macedonians and Montenegrins, 'go ahead vote against us, no problem' - you think that's a good policy, I don't."

Dacic also spoke about last year's tragedy in Libya when two Serbian embassy staffers died. It remains unknown to this day what exactly happened.

"They were killed in the (U.S.) bombing. They certainly did not lose their lives due to an error committed by anyone, but the problem is that neither the Libyan nor the American side is giving (us) any reports about it. We are not investigating this topic, the prosecution is. When it comes to the (Serbian) ambassador's political responsibility, that's a different issue, he will be held responsible, in order to round off the whole case reports are needed that are missing for now, except the autopsy reports produced by us," he said.

Asked why he "fell silent" about the possibility of his presidential bid, considering that he previously announced it, Dacic denied his silence on the issue, and said he was instead "merely approaching the subject in a very responsible manner - something that the ruling coalition must do."

According to him, the ruling coalition believes its joint candidate will win, "and it's not important now who the candidate is, if there is unity then the results of the presidential elections are important for the future of that coalition."

For that reason, he continued, his SPS party's position is that they will "participate in the elections and have their own candidate - but if Aleksandar Vucic is interested in discussing it, they are ready to discuss a joint candidate who will win."

Dacic also believes he would make a better candidate than Tomislav Nikolic, and adds, "I did not put himself forward to Vucic."

"Why would I, we didn't discuss this at all, I'm speaking only about the results, I'm the president of a party that has not yet reached agreement on whether to have a joint candidate, I can talk with Vucic when he comes back from India. Our party organs will sit down and talk. We are together, therefore this relationship of ours, Vucic-Dacic, SNS-SPS, and our coalition parties guarantees Vucic's victory in the first round. I think that's very significant for Serbia's political stability."

However, many say that the party would lose its identity unless it had its own candidate, while Dacic may lose his cabinet job if he fails to support the candidate of Vucic's SNS.

"We are talking about a joint candidate. What is a joint candidate? It's a joint political plan, joint participation in the campaign, it means planning together everything that will be happening in the next four years. How can you lose some identity in that? If there is the state interest and an agreement among everyone, you can't lose you party's identity in that. Another question is if we supported somebody, we would lose our party's identity if we supported Sasa Jankovic or Vuk Jeremic - (but) what have we got to do with them?," he asked.

According to Dacic, the relationship between the SPS and the SNS "has never been better."

"What matters the most are relations between Vucic and Dacic, Vucic plus Dacic equals victory in the first round. I've made myself clear enough," he said.


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