From 2pm to 4pm on the conference site and the YT channel, Color Media Communications you could watch international online conference hosted by the Serbian-American Friendship Congress along with Color Media Communications. The goal of this conference was to raise a public awareness with trustworthy information about the COVID-19 situation in both countries and to discuss and explore opportunities for mutual help and assistance during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robert Čoban opened the conference with figures and facts about the pandemic and announced the speakers.
Vladimir Marinković, Deputy Speaker of the Serbian National Parliament and founder of the Serbian-American Friendship Congress (SAFC):
Together we will be stronger than Covid-19 and we will together write the new chapter in our friendship. It is not the first time, and we hope we will overcome it. The USA is in front of great challenge, and the result of the struggle will be very important for the whole world, since the world needs America and its economy, science and technology and its leadership in these areas. We are grateful to the USA, President Trump and congressmen and officials that supported our efforts in European integration, and the cooperation, including the efforts in trying to resolve the Kosovo issue. We will need after Covid-19 much more America in politics, economy, science and technology and I believe America will be stronger after this crisis.
About the post-Covid situation in business circles, I am satisfied how our government is dealing with the crisis, especially SMEs – and FDIs, to stay afloat and to keep their workers, so that after the Covid-19 they can have a new growth. The people from business community can be satisfied. We can have very good growth in 2021, according to WB and IMF. We should keep the good attitute towards the American companies, since our future relies on that.
H.E. Anthony Godfrey, the US Ambassador to Serbia:
When we come out of this, and we will, there will be a next chapter of our cooperation, and I am proud of that. We all share the same goals. Our Embassy is still at work, adapting and following the guidelines of the Gov’t of Serbia. We are helping our stranded citizens to come home, and our mission is not on hold. The USA is hardly hit, and the virus is not respecting borders – the Congress allocated money to help. We are not trying to be generous, but also practical in this help. I am pleased to see the assistance coming from Russia, China and EU, which was extraordinarily generous, the people of Serbia should take it as a strong signal that the EU is interested in Serbia and the economies are connected. The two flights to America is something should be thanked to FM Dačić. In the future we will need stable currency and capitalisation of banks. I am delighted by the support of the private sector, but we should need tp facilitate the donations from diaspora. We have invested billions of dollars in infrastucture, like in Medical Centre in Niš, which is now doing the great job in fighting Covid-19. EU is the main goal of Serbia, as emphasised by PM Vučić and FM Dačić.
As for Kosovo-Serbia negotiation, we are delighted with recent cooperation. We have invested $4b in Serbia an we expect more investments, and the facilitation of investment – we marked The Balkans as the strategic investment place. We are happy that the majority of the help will be aimed to SMEs which are the backbone of the Serbian economy. But there will be more effort to be done, and the economy needs more help. But I want to emphasise that the Serbian-American cooperation is stronger than ever.
Steve Stivers, US Congressman and Co-Chair of the Serbian caucus:
I am staying at home in Ohio now. We in America made $2.2b bailout programe and Healthcare Bill, it all gave money for hospitals and companies, states and administration, and also we are moving towards the anti-viral therapy and hopefully vaccines. We are working very hard to flatten the curve, in Ohio we were very successful in that, in contrast with our neighbours in Michigen. I am co-chair of Serbia-US caucus, and we are hoping for a stable peace in the region, especially the impovement in Kosovo-Serbia relations. The partnership between the Ohio National Guard and Serbian Army is great and I am proud, and also I would like to praise the volunteers in Serbia who were using 3D-printers to make visiers to fight Covid-19.
The essential businesses and medical care are open, and the Governor issued Stay Home Order, and the Federal Gov’t is helping the SMEs and Treasury is helping bigger businesses. Also, we are maintaining the social distancing of 6ft, and diminishing the number of people in businesses. We are very successful in slowing down the disease in Ohio, and we are waiting to see how the businesses will bounce back, it will take more time.
I am exciting about the economic cooperation between the two countries.
Derek Mitchell, Representative of NDI in Serbia
We are all grateful for the US-Serbian relation to citizens and FM Dačić and Congressman Stivers. Congressional support is always precious. I am president of the NDI and we support the evolution of th democtratic institutions around the world and we have an office in Belgrad in 1996. We have some 24 years of great coopertaion with different players of the political spectrum and NGOs and civil organisations. We would like to see Serbia joining the EU, strengthern democracy and Trans-Atlantic relations, imporoving economy.
Covid-19 is a colossal thereat and challenge to us and our health systems, and to governments across the globe – to react in stopping the contagion and changing the social rules and economic behaviour. Balance between devastating economic consequences in the future and containing the infection is a tremendously hard task for every government in the world.
Government create social trust for the measures that are nomally not accepted, and maintain social peace. Governent should be transparent in imposing measures like surveilling citizens, and these methods should not be permanent. They have to have responsible leadership, to maintain the countries united and strong. They have to respond to information and to transmit them properly, with feedback. The most vulnerable must be included in this. Exclusing anyone is literally dangerous, since virus is not discriminting. Women are particularly vulnerable to the violence – we have the reports every day around the world. And also, the parliaments have to be included with their responsibility in the times of crisis. We should all be united in our countries’ wide effort. The world after the pandemic will not be the same. All the crises are at the same time opportunities – to change and improve govermnents, healthcare system and infrastructure, and the government-civil cooperation.
I believe that China’s help in welcome but at the same time I believe that China is trying to show the advantage of the totalitarial system over the democratic one, and President Vučić should be aware how China is doing business.
Shanley Pinchotti, the Director of USAID Serbia’s Office for Democratic and Economic Growth
We have long standing support of Serbia, in $1b of help, and we plan to stay here with robust presence. We never enter the new phase without consultation and we have a robust portfolio of $21m in assistance to Serbia’s joining the EU and we need some democtratic principles we eneed to support: like civil society and media, transparency, dialogue, competition in both political and economic area. That is how US democracy is taking shape and believe we will have the same in Serbia.
Paul Prososki, Director of IRI in Serbia
We have some unusual situations now, like some distrust in doctors. The doctors are under some political pressure, I understand, but we need to build mutual tust between people and government. Also, there is a danger in politics, in political parties. We need to build trust and the good govenment, not political factioning of the parties rising and falling.
The American president Trump made a great efforts in economy and it should be his trumo card in November and the presidential election. But now, all of this is disrupted. After all of this is over, Trump might revert to his old mottos: America first, national interests, solving problems in China with leverage, but I don’t think anybody has the answer to that.
I hope America and Serbia will prevail, and with EU and NATO will overcome the situation.
Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and co-chair of the SAFC Advisory Board
The most of the efforts of the Government is centred around the fight against Covid-19. The most of the taken measures were about the slowing down the pandemic, so our health system could cope with it. We imposed social distancing and movement restrictions, curfews during evenings, nights and total lockdown during weekends. We established Covid hospitals. Unfortunately Serbia was badly hit after 6 weeks, we have lost over 100 lives. The virus changes our lives and the State has adopted the package of economic measures to help the economy and the most vulnerable. We also helped our citizens to come back to Serbia and to assist our medical institutions to cope with the pandemic in transportation and getting medical equipment. We have organised 29 flights so far, more than 8000 people have been returned so far, either with planes or by their means. At this moment there are no Serbian citizens abroad waiting for assistance, and we offered our planes free of charge to help evacuate the foreign citizens, 230 American citizens have been avacuated. We are thankful for the donated medical equipment. We are ready for strengthening our cooperation and to work together towards the strategic aims, to make a stable and peaceful region. We want to confirm that we are reliable partner. We hope that we will raise the dynamics of our political dialogue. The last visit of any American president was in June 1980, and it was Jimmy Carter. We think that it is about time to change that. I asked Ambassador Godfrey, how many times Presidents Putin or Xi should come to Serbia to make American President willing to come to Serbia? It is a very practical question. I am thankful for the 600 businesses in majority ownership of the USA companies, and the American investments are big, among them Microsoft, PMI, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo…. Our trade with the USA should be however bigger. I am thankful for the American efforts in Priština-Belgrade dialogue. There are many Serbs in America, between 500,000 and million Serbs, and Chicago is practically a Serbian city. We need to find practical fields of mutual cooperation, and these kids of events are very important.