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Serbia - US Relations

After severing diplomatic relations in March 1999, the US Embassy formally reopened in May 2001. The Serbian Embassy in Washington and the US Embassy in Belgrade have reestablished bilateral relations and provide a full range of consular services. Serbia withdrew its ambassador to Washington from February to October 2008 in protest of US recognition of Kosovo’s independence. Vice President Joseph Biden visited Serbia in May 2009 and met with President Tadic, Prime Minister Cvetkovic, and Defense Minister Sutanovac. Vice President Biden’s visit was the highest-level US visit to Serbia since Vice President George H.W. Bush’s visit in September 1983 and signaled an interest in energizing US-Serbia relations. In 2009 and 2010, other high-ranking US officials, including Secretary Clinton, visited Serbia and met with key leaders in an effort to bolster Serbia’s European integration path.

The US shared normalized relations with Yugoslavia until 1992 when Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia all seceded. The republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in April 1992. On May 21, 1992, the US announced that it would not recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) as the successor state of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), as Serbia and Montenegro claimed. The US Ambassador was recalled from Belgrade, but the mission continued with a staff under the authority of a Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.

In response to the conflict in Kosovo, and one day prior to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, on March 23, 1999, the US severed relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and closed Embassy Belgrade. Diplomatic recognition and full diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in November 2000, and ambassadorial relations between the two nations resumed with the appointment of William Dale Montgomery as US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on November 26, 2001.

In 2003, the FRY became Serbia and Montenegro, a loose federation of the two republics with a federal level parliament. The office of President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, held by Vojislav Kostunica, ceased to exist once Svetozar Marovic was elected President of Serbia and Montenegro in March of 2003. In May 2006, Montenegro invoked its right to secede from the federation and, following a referendum, declared itself an independent nation on June 3, 2006. Two days later, Serbia declared that it was the successor state to the union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Vice President Biden’s May 2009 visit to Belgrade established a more positive tone for US-Serbia relations and underscored the United States’ commitment to pursue new avenues of bilateral cooperation and engagement. While acknowledging that the two countries would need to continue to “agree to disagree” on Kosovo, the Vice President made clear the United States’ strong support for the full integration of Serbia and the entire Western Balkans region into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Serbia is at a crucial juncture in its democratic and economic transition and its European future. Our bilateral partnership seeks to bolster Serbia’s reform process, grow its economy, and to support forward-looking policies that will reinforce Serbia's efforts to advance its European aspirations.

The US is working to support Serbia’s European integration by helping Serbian partners build sustainable democratic institutions, strengthen Serbia’s commitment to the rule of law, advance economic reforms, and position Serbia to foster regional cooperation and reconciliation, and become a contributor to regional and global peace and security. The US is encouraging Serbia to complete its commitments to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The US is also working jointly to develop a stronger independent civil society, to improve transparency and rule of law, and to reform domestic institutions, which will promote public confidence and a long-term commitment to democracy. The US is helping to deepen Serbia’s defense reforms and contributions to global security, bilaterally with the US and other partners, through more intensive engagement in NATO Partnership for Peace activities and with a stronger commitment to multilateral police and peacekeeping activities.

It is also a US priority is to point Serbia toward greater economic reform and European integration so that it can assume a leading role as a regional economic hub and as an engine for economic growth. The US continues to encourage Serbia to exercise fiscal discipline and to effectively reform its public sector on both the state and municipal levels to encourage private sector initiatives and development. Additionally, the US seeks to broaden and deepen commercial ties between the United States and Serbia to foster economic growth and innovation so that Serbia may be seen as an attractive location for US businesses and investment. US companies present in Serbia, including Ball Packaging, US Steel, Microsoft, and Bank of America all speak positively about doing business in Serbia. It is a US goal to both help create a better business environment for US companies to conduct business in Serbia and to raise the profile of Serbia in the business community in the United States.

At the social, political, and geographic crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe, Serbia occupies a key strategic juncture in the Balkans. The United States has been engaged in assisting Serbia's transition to a market-oriented democracy since 1997. Despite political uncertainty, US Government assistance to Serbia continues to promote opportunities for economic growth, build capacity with key counterparts, and work steadily to move the country toward stability and Euro-Atlantic integration.

US assistance to Serbia is strategically targeted to address priority US foreign policy objectives and to promote Serbia's successful transition to a functioning market economy and stable pluralistic democracy. These resources, although modest in comparison to the European Union and other multilateral donors, have proven to be instrumental in leveraging other investments and in focusing Serbia's reform agenda. Annual congressional restrictions have been imposed on US assistance to Serbia in order to ensure that the country meets its obligation to comply with the rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Anti-US sentiments are strongest in Serbia surrounding the anniversary dates of certain events and on some national holidays. These dates and holidays include March 24 (the beginning of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign), February 17 (the date of the 2008 independence of Kosovo), and ethnic Serb holidays such as St. Vitus’s Day (Vidovdan, celebrated June 28).

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Page last modified: 20-09-2013 19:03:25 ZULU