Milan Pajevi, Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the International and Security Affairs Centre (ISAC) of Serbia, visited Korea to look into ways to promote cooperative relations. The ISAC is a nongovernmental organization that conducts research on Serbia’s foreign policy and the efforts to institute needed structural reforms. Q With Korea and Serbia both being situated on a peninsula, what influence does this have their strategy for international relations? A
We could say it is a very significant factor that we have in common. Surrounded by big powers, our two countries are placed in a not so pleasant “sandwich” situation. Before coming to Korea, I read a great deal of materials to learn about Korea, and I found that our two countries had many similarities, in terms of international relations and history. So, I thought there might be a number of matters for us to discuss and cooperate.Q. In large part, the international media’s coverage of Serbia has been related to the conflict with Kosovo. So, what positive impressions of Serbia did you hope to present to people in Korea? A
During my visit to Korea, I gave lecture presentations at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security and Yonsei University, which focused on Serbia’s efforts to join the EU. As expected, the audience was most curious about Serbia’s entry to the EU and NATO, the rule of President Miloevi, and our conflict with Kosovo. In reality, there are so many factors behind Serbia-related incidents, that it is not possible to properly explain all these circumstances during a regular lecture. Therefore, I emphasized the future, rather than the past of Serbia, and tried to show that Serbia is currently pursuing needed change.Q. In this regard, Serbia’s efforts to gain admission to the EU or NATO are related to this “future” that you are most concerned about? A
Correct. I think we can develop more rapidly if we can join the EU. We need a boost to help us heal and recover from the terrible consequences that have resulted from the rule of President Miloevi. We also need to bridge the gap with many other countries in the world as soon as possible. But Serbia cannot achieve this all by itself. Therefore, we need assistance from other countries. Gaining EU membership can be seen as a way to resolve national boundary issues, which eventually would eliminate the various problems of minority groups.Q. In a previous interview, you emphasized: “It is time for Serbia to leave the Kosovo controversy behind and pay attention to the practical issues of everyday life.” Is this the direction in which Serbia should be headed? A
Of course. Kosovo gained full independence in 1999. What we share with Kosovo today is only past history. In fact, the reason why we could not give up Kosovo was related to its “historical and spiritual roots.” In terms of real life, it is completely independent. But my opinion is still in the minority. I hope that our high-ranking government officials would inform the Serbian people of the reality of our situation and move beyond the Kosovo issue. You cannot move forward when you insist on clinging to past history.Q. In terms of your interests, would you say that your visit to Korea has been fruitful? A
Everything seems to have a right time. I have been really busy for the past several years and could not even dream of traveling abroad. And then suddenly this year, I was able to make some time for this visit. I wanted to see the driving force of Korea’s development with my own eyes. This visit provided me with an opportunity to again confirm what I knew, and to broaden my vision and scope of understanding.
Of the various places I visited in Korea, Jeju Island is most memorable. It has its own special atmosphere, human relationships, traditions, and vitality. I think such a place can be a good example of desirable regional development. I hope that more policy makers from around the world would visit Jeju Island.Q. When do you expect that Serbia will become an EU member? A
I hope this can happen around 2015. I suffer much despair when I think that Serbia might miss out on tremendous opportunities to promote its development. We must change and move forward. In this sense, I can think of many areas in which Serbia can work together with Korea. I offer information and will exchange opinions about issues related to politics and the economy, as well as business and cultural matters. I would recommend that Serbia dispatch a delegation to Korea, in an effort to promote exchange and Korean investment in Serbia. The visit to Korea gave me a chance to map out a future like this for Serbia, which I look forward to with much anticipation.