The message was read by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral
Your Royal Highness,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to greet this second assembly of distinguished Serbs from our Homeland and the Diaspora who have gathered in the ancient city of Athens, under the patronage of Your Highness, for talks imbued with a sense of responsibility and aimed at finding out the ways to salvation, preservation and progress of our state and nation.
Your assembly coincides with the days when we remember the Passion of Our Lord and His Resurrection. Like Our Lord, the Serbian people have been going along the path of Golgotha for a long time now. In addition to the old wounds, new and very recent ones have been opened up, especially those of Kosovo and Metohia. The unity and the very survival of the state and people are under threat. We are also in danger of losing everything that the entire generations had achieved through their effort and their blood over the centuries. Because of our sins and our leaders` sins, but also because of the action of evil forces trying to dominate the world again, we have become the most lonely people on earth.
Everything we and others are experiencing today should not, however, serve as a pretext for despair but rather as a stimulus for an all round consolidation and regeneration of our society and our people. It is precisely in this that we see the meaning and the goal of your assembly and give it as such our Patriarchal Blessing. Undoubtedly, the precondition for this consolidation and national transformation is, first of all, a spiritual and moral rebirth of the people, the renewal of the principles of the ethos and institutions whose value has been tested through centuries and which have been built into the historical and social memory of the people and its very being.
The Feast of Christ`s Resurrection gives us and reawakens the hope that all this can be achieved: that life is victorious over death, unity over disunity, love over hatred and creativity over destructive force and devastation. For centuries our people have gathered around Jerusalem and Athens: from Athens we learned sciences and democracy and from Jerusalem the true faith and life based on faith, the eternal meaning of the individual, society and state. Your assembly just before Easter, and right in the city of Athens, at this fateful historical moment not only for us but for the entire world, is a confirmation that you too are aware that we must go into Europe and join the contemporary processes of social life in the same way and on the basis of the same principles. That is the way “leading into Life” opened up to us by our Holy Father Sava, his father Simeon Nemanja and other saints, kings and emperors, knights and wise men of our race.
We use this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to your hosts, the Hellenic democracy, and His Beatitude Archbishop Cristodoulos of Athens and All Greece for his proven and brotherly hospitality shown this time and on innumerable earlier occasions.
Praying to God for the success of your joint undertaking I send you
my arch-pastoral blessing and remain your prayerful intercessor
with the Risen Christ.
AEM Serbian Patriarch
I open our Athens conference on the fate of the Serbian people and all citizens of Serbia. I welcome you all and thank you for coming.
I call on you to put your differences aside and think of the grave predicament of the Serbian people and all citizens of Serbia.
You should also bear in mind the need to look to the future positively, prepare for the elections and be ready for any eventuality. It is necessary to formulate policies and plans for all sectors.
Thank you for coming! Serbia needs you!
HRH CROWN PRINCE
It is my pleasure and my privilege to welcome you here at the formal opening of this very important conference that is taking place in Greece’s capital city. The conference is attended by Serbia’s public figures from the ranks of the church, democratic opposition parties, public institutions, NGOS, Trade unions, Youth organisations, the media and activists from all occupations.
We also have here guests from Republika Srpska and from Croatia, as well as Serbian leaders from Kosovo. The proud Montenegrins are also represented. We have gathered here to consider the ways and means of effecting radical changes in Serbia in order to save the Serbian people and all citizens of federal Yugoslavia from further ruin and disaster. For the next two days we shall also be discussing how to turn the Balkans into a region of peace and stability and enable the Balkan nations to prosper in peace. It is quite clear that these aims can be achieved only if the present regime in Belgrade is removed. That is our priority number one.
In order to effect a peaceful change of government in Belgrade - and achieve it soon! - it is necessary to mobilise and unite all democratic opposition forces into a broad nation-wide movement for change. By “opposition forces” I mean not only the opposition political parties but people of all classes and backgrounds who want change but don’t know how to achieve it and how to translate their wish for change into action.
What they really need is decisive leadership. I shall, therefore, be calling on all participants here, on church leaders and politicians, on representatives of national institutions and NGOS, on Trade union leaders and students to provide leadership to the growing ranks of people who demand and need change.
As regards my role, I have always said: what matters now is to crown democracy and to lead our country and people out of the present quagmire. I do not want any revenge. When the regime in Belgrade is removed, the enormous task of rebirth and reconstruction will start, and that is another reason why we are meeting in Athens today.
We are greatly encouraged by the presence of our Greek friends here today. The Serbian people and all citizens of Yugoslavia need your help.
The Greeks have always been friends of our people and despite everything we still have many friends in the international community in general. We, therefore, appeal to the international community to show stronger support for the democratic opposition movement in Serbia and help us re-establish our links with Europe and the rest of the world. They can do that by having another look at the UN and European union sanctions against Serbia. Those sanctions that hurt ordinary people and benefit the mafia regime must be lifted.
In addition, there is no doubt that the regime thrives both on sanctions and on Serbia’s international isolation. Therefore, the first request we make to the international community is to review urgently its sanctions regime against Serbia.
Our second request is to involve Serbia’s opposition and NGOS in Europe’s integrationist processes and all contacts between federal Yugoslavia and the west. For instance, Serbia’s democratic opposition should have a say in the distribution of western aid. It should be consulted where the aid goes and to what purpose. If this is done, the democratic opposition will gain credibility and authority and will be able to show it can handle economic matters. Similar co-operation should exist in other fields such as cultural exchanges, NGO contacts, humanitarian activities etc. By doing this the international community will help those many people in Yugoslavia who are keen on creating a civil society and putting the country on an even keel so that people can lead a normal life.
Contacts between Yugoslav democrats and the west should be encouraged and developed. If the regime in Belgrade wants the Serbs to live in a ghetto the west must do nothing to help build the walls around that ghetto!
I could go on and on about this subject but let me mention just one more field where the international community could help.
This is in the field of information and media. As you
are aware, the regime has a very firm grip on the media and uses state
TV, radio and controlled newspapers, such as “Politika”, as a powerful
weapon to influence public opinion, especially in the rural and provincial
The independent media in Serbia are weak in comparison with the state propaganda machine. They are undefended and understaffed and don’t reach all the far corners of the country. So the voice of the opposition is not sufficiently heard and, as a result, the regime’s view still prevails among some sections of the population. This must be put right as soon as possible.
Serbia’s independent media must be helped financially and provided with equipment and training facilities. I know that something is being done in this respect but clearly, it is not enough. The west should also more seriously consider the possibility of setting up information networks which should help win the battle for minds in Serbia.
Serbia and all citizens of Yugoslavia are today at a crossroads and their fate will affect the future destiny of the entire Balkan area.
The stability of the Balkans is at stake and until the cancerous growth in Belgrade has been removed there is no hope for a better future. All democrats in Serbia and Yugoslavia want change and genuine democracy and a return to the European institutions. Only this will help bring stability to the Balkans which all of us desire and need. This is the aim we are working for in our resolute fight for a new Serbia and a new Yugoslavia.
The international community must also understand that Serbian democrats, while determined to fight unflinchingly for freedom and democracy, need support and reassurance. The democrats and the entire nation need reassurance from the international community about the territorial integrity of their state, bearing in mind that Serbia’s territory includes Kosovo. If Yugoslavia’s territory shrinks further the already existing feeling of insecurity, vulnerability and fear will increase and this will provide an excellent opportunity for extremists to stir up trouble and cause unrest.
Reassurance is also needed with firm guarantees about the fate of the Serbs in the areas of what used to be Yugoslavia, particularly in Republika Srpska and certain parts of Croatia.
The Serbian nation has a proud and long history. It has also suffered tragic reversals of fortune and serious setbacks, of which the current one is among the worst.
However, the Serbs are a resilient and have already started to fight back and move towards a democratic transformation of their country which must regain its rightful place in Europe. They want to live in peace and friendship with all neighbours without exception.
All citizens of Yugoslavia irrespective of ethnic origin, religion or race deserve a decent life, security and freedom. Once democracy is achieved and the rule of law becomes supreme, these ambitions can be fulfilled. Let us look forward with optimism and with hope. Democracy and the rule of law will prevail in the end.
I have the honour of opening this meeting of Serbs from the country and diaspora whose aim is to implement change and democracy in our country. This is why I open this conference under the slogan: “Time for Change - Time for Democracy”.
First of all, I would like to welcome all present here and wish you success in your work. I welcome especially our bishops and thank them for coming. They have come although they have great many other commitments before Easter. I welcome also our guests from Republika Srpska and from Zagreb, as well as all other delegates from the country and diaspora. Ziveli!
The fate of a country depends on its sons and daughters. The Homeland calls on us to do our duty and do everything in our power to save the people. I don’t want to talk about the crisis now since you know more about it than I do, but I would like to say few words about the need for urgent action for the salvation of the Homeland. It is for this reason that we are meeting here today. It is up to you to find the best solutions and my advice to you is as follows:
Unite in a powerful movement for change!
Be resolute in your demand that the current regime must go!
Don’t co-operate with the regime and don’t quarrel among yourselves!
Look forward to the future!
Show the world you are the face of a new European Serbia!
Fight for the rights of all citizens of Yugoslavia!
The regime will fall once a powerful democratic movement for change is created all across all the country. We want to do that in a peaceful manner since our country has had enough of wars, bloodshed and unrest. There also must be no revenge since the wounds should be healed not reopened. You who are here today must lead the people into the struggle for freedom and democracy. The Church is the spiritual shepherd and leader of the people but must resolutely condemn the evil in our society. The opposition parties must act together and prepare joint lists for elections. Their big rally in Belgrade last week was a huge success. Various institutions, professions, trade unions and individuals must join in the democratic movement for change. Young people have an especially significant role in all this. The diaspora too will give an important contribution to the democratic process in the country. I use this occasion to call also on the Yugoslav Army to be with the people, not against them.
Last November we met in Budapest for the Sentandrej assembly.
Today we go a step forward in our effort to save the country. You
are faced with serious tasks and bear great responsibility before history.
Either the democratic opposition will succeed or our tragedy will continue.
This is the reason why we must succeed and our decisions must be to the
benefit to our people. I am convinced that the Athens meeting will
be a significant contribution to the resolution of our crisis.
I wish you success in your work! Ziveli!
HRH CROWN PRINCE ALEXANDER’s
closing address to the Athens conference
Ladies and gentlemen
With this I wind up our Athens talks and thank you for your effort. We have discussed the problems of our present-day reality for two days. Decisions of great importance have been taken. Now we must move from words to deeds. The country and people await changes and it is up to you to provide leadership for changes. If there are no changes, the country will go to ruin. This is why you must act at once!
This time last year Nato bombs were falling on civilian targets in our country. The mistaken policy of the West and Nato attacks caused huge damage to our country and people suffered terribly. The Nato action should be fully denounced and can never be justified. But is also necessary to denounce the policy of the regime, which had led to that situation. The regime’s only wish is to remain in power, they don’t care what happens to the people. This is why the regime must go! The sooner the better!
When you return to your homes, tell people what happened here in Athens. Tell your friends there are still people ready to serve the nation. Tell them also that the whole world is not against Serbia, that there is no conspiracy though the West has made grave errors. Tell them that that no one will help the Serbs if they don’t help themselves. They must not expect salvation from the big powers, but only from themselves. As our people say: “Trust in yourself and in your horse”!
The Serbian people have suffered a lot in the past ten years. We no longer live in one state but are divided. Our race has been scattered across the world and the country split up. The imperative of today is to maintain spiritual unity and strengthen ties between us. Serbia, Montenegro and Republika Srpska must act together. The diaspora is also ready to help. We have suffered defeats in the past too, but we have always risen again. So it will this time too.
As a member of the Royal House I can say I am not a politician, but Serbia’s fate is not a political issue but a question of existence. This is why I have convened this meeting. As a Karadjordjevic I cannot be indifferent to the fate of the people and I will do everything so that we succeed in crowning democracy. I plead with you to help me. Ziveli!