ASTANA – This year, Serbia and Kazakhstan are celebrating a little anniversary – 20 years of diplomatic relations – and will shortly see the first meeting of their joint commission on economic cooperation. Ambassador of Serbia in Kazakhstan Vladimir Mirković talked about bilateral relations, the main areas of cooperation and his personal impressions about Kazakhstan in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times.
“The two countries have a high level of conformity and similarity in relation to all important international issues. The two countries share a deep concern about the increasing negative trends and crises around the world. Long-term conflicts and crises, particularly in the Middle East, terrorism and extremism, economic stagnation and crisis, the nuclear threat – these are just some of the issues of the international community. Serbia and Kazakhstan’s positions on all these issues are very similar, and I think our two countries are on the side of justice,” said Mirković.
He added that Serbia appreciates and respects the actions and initiatives of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan on solving the problems the world faces in the 21st century.
“I would like to emphasise deep gratitude from Serbia and the Serbian people to Kazakhstan and its leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, for the persistent and principled support in an exceptionally important and painful issue for us, which is the non-recognition of the self-proclaimed, so-called Republic of Kosovo. We see this not only as an act of friendship and solidarity, but also as a firm commitment to respect the letter and spirit of international law, to oppose separatism and unilateral actions which pose a threat to the national sovereignty and integrity of internationally recognised states in the international community,” said Mirković.
Talking about cultural parallels in the two countries, the diplomat noted that Serbia and Kazakhstan have more in common than it may seem. If you look beyond their different sizes, languages and environments, there are many similarities, he said.
“First of all, the two countries have a rich history full of struggle for freedom and even physical existence. But both nations not only survived in this struggle, but also became stronger. Our people are … free people for whom personal freedom and the freedom of their people, the independence of the state, are the first priority. Our national costumes are different, as are our songs and poetry, but underneath it all the same warm human hearts are beating. And to better understand and learn all of this, there should be contacts not only between officials and businessmen, but also among ordinary people. To do this, we need to develop cooperation in the field of tourism, education and culture, and when we do that, we will see that we have more in common than it seems at first glance,” he said.
The diplomatic relations between two countries were established in 1996. “Since then Serbia and Kazakhstan [have been] developing a great relationship, not burdened by any open issues,” stated the ambassador. The countries have agreements on free trade and visa-free travel, and expect several other contracts to be signed soon, he said. “Meanwhile we expect in the near future the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Serbian-Kazakh Commission on Economic Cooperation,” he added. He also said Serbia had chosen an expo commissioner and is hard at work on creating the concept and design for their participation in EXPO 2017 in Astana.
According to Mirković, all of these actions are the embodiment of preparation for the long-awaited first official visit of Nazarbayev to Serbia. “I am sure that this visit, as well as negotiations and agreements that will be reached as a result of the meeting, will give a strong impetus to the further development of friendly relations and all-round mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said.
“All this opens up opportunities for rich, diverse and mutually beneficial cooperation in such fields as trade, investment, technological and innovation cooperation and others. At this point, by the way, both parties agree with the assessment that all this potential and opportunities are not being used properly and economic relations are not sufficiently developed,” said Mirković.
He mentioned the very successful work of Serbian construction companies, which are engaged across Kazakhstan in building important objects of infrastructure in the city of Almaty and on the Caspian shores, highways in the framework of the Silk Road project, and their newest achievement, the construction of Forte Bank’s office building in Astana that the Energoprojekt company plans to finish any day now.
Mirković started his duty as in Kazakhstan in 2012 in the newly opened embassy, with the early priorities to establish contacts with the officials in Kazakhstan, get acquainted with the country and explore the potential and opportunities for cooperation development. “At first, things were difficult and slow, but the results were becoming more tangible over time. Numerous visits were carried out, including a meeting of the two presidents in August last year; also the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation was established,” he said.
The ambassador had visited the country briefly in 2011 and had worked on relations between the countries during his time in Serbia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he noted. “So I tried to convince myself that I knew enough about Kazakhstan, and I did not need too much time to get used to the new position,” he said.
“Really new in your great and beautiful country for me was getting to know the people’s ‘breadth,’ which cannot be seen or felt from the outside. And it turned out that the [thing I knew least] was the people living here – confident and brave, patriotic and devoted to protecting national freedom and independence, who are working hard for the benefit of their future and their children and grandchildren. And, of course, getting to know that behind all that there is the idea of a vision, a national project and the leadership of President Nazarbayev.”
Kazakhstan has lessons to teach about relying on one’s own strength and making progress through openness to the world, he said, and the capital, Astana, tells the story of how a sleepy city on the former Virgin Lands became a metropolis, he commented.