NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg inaugurated the civil emergency exercise “Srbija 2018” on Monday (8 October) together with the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic. This is the biggest exercise organised by NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, and the first to be hosted by Serbia. It will include around 2,000 personnel from almost 40 countries.
‘Srbija 2018’ is not a military exercise, but a platform for civilian first responders and the military, from Allied and partner countries, to learn from each other how they can save lives. The Secretary General thanked Serbia for hosting the exercise, noting that it is “a great example of how Serbia’s partnership with NATO can bring concrete benefits, to Serbia, to NATO, and to the whole region.” He added that the exercise is an opportunity to test new relief tools, such as artificial intelligence and a next-generation Incident Command System. “The lessons we learn this week will help us to save more lives in the years to come,” said Mr. Stoltenberg.
The Secretary General underlined that NATO has one overriding objective across the Western Balkans region: to help build peace and stability, which are the foundations of prosperity. He noted that NATO Allies are the biggest investors in the region, helping to bring jobs and economic growth.
Mr. Stoltenberg stressed that NATO fully respects Serbia’s neutrality, and explained the concrete benefits of the partnership between NATO and Serbia. The Alliance has worked with Serbia to dispose of tons of dangerous surplus munitions, and helped Serbian forces contribute to international peacekeeping missions.
On Monday, the Secretary General also joined President Vucic at the event "Leadership for a Secure Region", at the invitation of the Belgrade Security Forum. He highlighted the strong partnership between Serbia and NATO, and praised President Vucic’s leadership on reforms. Mr. Stoltenberg also welcomed progress in the Western Balkans to build stability, security and economic growth. He added that more regional trade creates greater trust and will diminish nationalistic rhetoric.
Mr. Stoltenberg started his visit by meeting with students and lecturers at the Department for Scandinavian Languages and Literature at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Belgrade. He also met with Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.