“DANAS” 11 June 2003
Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic
We came back not to take, but to give
The head of the Royal House of Karadjordjevic, Crown Prince Alexander, together with his wife Princess Katherine attended last week the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the British Queen Elizabeth II who is the Crown Prince’s godmother, and to whom he is related to. The Karadjordjevics will organize the celebration of the centennial of King Petar I’s accession to the Serbian throne, tomorrow on 12 June in Oplenac, and the next year they will celebrate one century since his coronation. Royal jubilees were the occasion for the interview with Crown Prince Alexander, who speaks first hand about his impressions from London, relationships between Serbian dynasties, and today’s role of constitutional monarchy. – The invitation from Queen Elizabeth II was a wonderful occasion to be at Westminster Abbey and attend the celebration of her coronation jubilee after 50 years. My wife and I were very impressed by the service at the Church that was attended by the members of the British Royal Family, religious leaders and diplomatic corps. In the evening, we were the guests of The Prince of Wales who invited us to a small private dinner for about forty members of the Royal Family. We were delighted by what Prince Charles had organized. The evening was inspired by 1953 music and humor. Queen Elizabeth really enjoyed it very much, she laughed and she was very happy. The whole day was an extraordinary experience and it brought memories of the event that took place when I was just 8 years old, and the only thing that I remembered was the huge crowds in the streets of London. I also remember the day when in 1952 my godfather, King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth, died. I was in New York and my nanny was very upset.
From the point of view of the current world processes and trends, where do you see the place and the role of monarchies at the beginning of the 21st century?
- All European monarchies are constitutional, and they are all very successful democratic countries. In constitutional monarchies, the monarch rules, and the Prime Minister together with his cabinet, that is the Government, runs the county. Monarch is neutral, he respects everyone and provides continuity and unity of the country. That is exactly what we need. Some friendly foreign media have drawn attention that Serbia is still viewed negatively abroad, as a country filled with what can be described with the horrible word “balkanization”. The region of enormous tragedies and suffering, with horrible ethnic cleansing, with huge number of refugees. Of course, as a Serb I love my country, but I am also deeply worried. For me, 5 October 2000 was in fact the end of The Second World War in this region. I am very glad that after 5 October the Government was taken by the clever people, but there is still the problem of internal conflicts. That is why I believe it would be best for our country to be presented to the international community as a constitutional monarchy. That would turn the eyes of the world to us. That is exactly what happened in Spain. They too had dictatorship, and a fascist one. They changed it into constitutional monarchy in which democracy has full control of the society, which brought very positive things, like the membership in the European Unity.
When you came to the country for the first time after the fall of Milosevic’s regime, you said: “Democracy first, then monarchy”. Does this open proposal for re-establishment of monarchy means that we have already acquired democracy, or that monarchy is necessary because of the politicians’ conflicts?
- There is no lack of talent among our politicians, the ones in the Government as well as in the opposition. However, the situation is serious and basically it comes down to one word – stability. We have established democratic process in the country, we have had free elections. Many of those elections, however, did not bring solutions, and that had happened for several times. On the other hand, there are conflicts in the very government, and there is also the whole list of the draft laws that need to be passed in the Parliament. I agree that the economic situation in the world today is not good, and that we are still suffering the consequences of the former regime and criminal bombing, but we can’t allow to “shoot our own foot” all the time. We must have democracy, but also discipline. From my experience of almost two years of living in the country, I think the time has come to gradually view the advantages of constitutional monarchy.
The critics of this idea should have in mind that as a person I have respect for everyone, including our past. I am not against anybody and I seek no revenge. I respect people who might be in the office of the head of the state, but we must also have in mind that all of them come from political parties. I don’t belong to any.
Wouldn’t opening the issue of monarchy in our case deepen the existing political divisions in our society?
- There is interest to open this issue among politicians, both among the ones in the Government and the ones in the opposition, for it is in their own interest to have stability, so that they could go on carrying out the reforms. However, it is sad that there is huge misunderstanding of the basic elements of constitutional monarchy. Many people say to me: “I can hardly wait for you to take power”. I don’t want to take power at all. Constitutional monarchy clearly defines the role of the monarch. That is not a way to take dictator’s power. All power in a constitutional monarchy is in the hands of the ones who have been elected, which already functions very well in the European countries with the system like that. One of the better examples is Belgium, where the two people live, different in many ways- in religion, origin – and constitutional monarchy keeps the country’s unity.
How much the contacts and connections of the members of the Royal House of Karadjordjevic, and above all yours, with the representatives of other Royal Houses and influential personages, can make easier for our country to integrate into world courses and solve the problems it has?
- My wife and I have excellent contacts with European monarchies, as well as with the ones outside Europe. We are close with many Royal Families, just as we are great friends with all the members of the British Royal House. During this last gathering in London we thanked The Prince of Wales for his donation, a piece of equipment for one of our hospitals. He is very interested in our health care system. He would like to help us in the future, and to come to our country, but that is something for the Government of Great Britain to decide. We have very good contacts with the Presidents of republics, among which there are some left wing oriented ones. We also have excellent relationships with many members of parliaments. Those are the people with the broadest range of political views, but they all respect the democratic process. They all show great interest in our country. They want to know what the situation is and what the problems are.
Of course, when our politicians travel abroad, they try to achieve the same through their contacts, but the problem is when they come back, they come back to internal conflicts, which is difficult for them. I think we should all work as a team, respecting each other, but also we should have discipline.
Are the humanitarian activities of you and your wife the only are of social life in which the Crown might help?
- When we returned to the country we knew the humanitarian situation was extremely serious, because our country suffered all misfortunes that had happened in this region. My wife worked very hard to organize humanitarian aid, and it was my pleasure to help her as much as I could. We came back not to take, but to give. While we were living abroad, she established “Lifeline” organization that provides humanitarian aid. When we came back, she established The Foundation of Princess Katherine, with an extraordinary team of people. We work in rallying funds to buy medical equipment. The nation’s health is of the greatest importance and we thank so much to the organizations that had helped our health care system. Of course, the Crown is a meeting point.
Many important people who were our guests, as well as those who we meet abroad, are interested to help the economy of our country. We have great talents who make plans for the international organizations. Many organizations, like the World Bank, have told me that the reports and plans that we make were very good, but that effort must be supported by stability that would attract foreign partners.
How do you see, in many views, the uncertain future of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro, and the solving of Kosovo problem?
- It is vital that our politicians work together on Kosovo issue, and they will always have my support in that. The future of Kosovo is very delicate and it must be based on mutual respect of all ethnic groups and all confessions, but also on zero tolerance of terrorism. I hope we shall reach the solution soon. As for the relationship between our two states, Serbia and Montenegro, I think it is vital to continue together, but the will of the people is above all, and they should decide freely about the destiny of the state union. In the same way the solution for the status of Vojvodina must be found, just like the solution must be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Terrible things have happened to us – murders, hundreds of thousands of refugees without roofs over their heads.
We feel for all victims, but now the time has come to make sure that something like that never happen again and that we go on as a region respecting each other , cooperating with each other. If we want to develop as a democratic country, open new jobs, have better organization, health care and social services, to be a great nation, we must get along well with everybody and we must not have a negative attitude.
You have recently laid a wreath on the tomb of the last Royal Couple from the House of Obrenovic. Are you the first Head of the House of Karadjordjevic who did that or King Peter I had done that before you?
- King Alexander Obrenovic laid wreath on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Karadjordje’s death in 1897. The future King, Petar Karadjordjevic, warmly thanked him, but the full reconciliation between the two dynasties didn’t happen. Upon his accession to the throne, King Peter stated he wanted reconciliation, but I’m not sure if he laid wreath on the tomb. It is very important that we respect our history. May Coup d’Etat was a horrible crime, but my great-grandfather, King Peter , had nothing to do with the assassination, because of which Serbia found itself in a situation pretty much like we had recently. It was isolated. The difference is that were a single country then, and after that tragedy, the situation got better. The policy of respecting everyone was accompanied by a healthy economy.
The King had a good Government, better days followed, but then we were again involved in the Balkan Wars, the First and the Second World War, civil war, dictatorship... It is tragic that so much blood was lost throughout the 20th century, and that there was so much suffering. But we should leave it all behind us. Now is our time.
The next year will be the bicentennial of the First Serbian Uprising, and this year it is the centennial of King Peter I’s accession to the throne. How will the Royal House mark these jubilees, and is it going to be an occasion to bring back to the country the remains of your father King Peter II and his mother Queen Maria?
- 2004 is a big year for us. It is the centennial of the modern Serbian state. The First Serbian Uprising started to be commemorated already after the 5 October 2000, and the Government accepted it as the state holiday, Presentation of the Lord. I had already started talks with the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on how to mark this jubilee. We agreed that the organization had to be central for the whole country, so that there are no various confronted organizations. Prime Minister Djindjic proposed that I could be the honorary Chairman of the organizational board. I hope these talks will be continued with the new Prime Minister, for 2004 is near. My concept is that Serbia is a modern state, with great history, and great possibilities for the future. The next year is also the centennial of King Peter I’s coronation.
There is a very interesting film about it, the first one ever to be made in Serbia. It is a fascinating historical event that we should all be proud of. As for the return of the remains of my father King Peter II, Queen Maria and other members of the Family, to Oplenac, I hope we are all going to work on making that plan come true.
“DANAS”, 13 June 2003
Prince Charles in Serbia?
Belgrade – Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic claimed, upon his return from the visit to the British Royal House that Prince Charles had expressed his wish to visit Belgrade soon. “Prince Charles would like to visit Serbia not only to find about the humanitarian situation, but also to learn about our history, our culture, and perhaps to take part in some sport event”, said Karadjordjevic. He added that he proposed to the Government of Serbia to “make a gesture and make possible the transfer of the remains of King Peter II and Queen Maria from Libertyville and Windsor.
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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