“Slobodna Bosna”, 14 November 2002
EXCLUSIVELY FROM BELGRADE
Aleksandar II Karadjordjevic, Serbian Crown Prince who returned to Belgrade with his family last year, after several decades of exile in London, received reporters of ”Slobodna Bosna” at his home and for the first time spoke for Bosnian media about his ambitions, monarchism in Serbia, struggle against Milosevic’s dictatorship.
By Mirha Dedic
Milosevic used everything, even crimes and religion to maintain his power
For more than 10 years I did everything to overturn Milosevic’s regime which pushed backwards Serbia as well as other countries • My family has estate in Han Pijesak, but we shall not ask for it if that would harm the people who live there at the moment • For the whole last century there was no democracy in Ex-Yugoslavia
HRH Crown Prince Aleksandar II Karadjordjevic came back to Serbia in the middle of last year, right after Milosevic was extradited to the Hague, as the heir to Serbian throne. Since then his address has been – the Royal Palace, Belgrade.
After death of his father, King Peter II, Crown Prince Aleksandar II decided not to take the Royal title formally, but he never renounced his right to the throne. He was particularly engaged in overturning of Milosevic’s regime and taking over the power by the democratic opposition in Serbia in the elections of 2000. His activities in Serbia are numerous, from bringing strategic investors to the country, providing humanitarian aid, to advising Serbian politicians.
His meetings with Bosniac religious leaders are very often and Aleksandar II, together with his wife Katherine, also very often provides aid for the Bosniacs in Serbia. Despite their very active social engagement, the Royal family do not intend to proclaim monarchy over night, although they believe it would solve many problems. Crown Prince Aleksandar II received the reporters of “Slobodna Bosna” at the Royal Palace in Belgrade, and in an exclusive interview for our magazine, the first given for Bosnian medias, spoke about his role in Serbia, the region, his ambitions and plans.
• Why did it take so long for you to return to the motherland?
It was always my dream to return home, however it was not possible because I used to work against the regime in the country. I wish to remind that the regime was very cunning, and it certainly wasn’t my intention to live in a hotel. I always wanted to come to the house where my grandfather and my father used to live. My roots are here and everything is very emotional to me. Since 1989 I worked actively in establishing democracy in the country, and my wife was engaged in humanitarian activities. We have always been at service to help anybody. However, it is sad that it so long for the regime to collapse. New time has come for us, we now live in our ancestral home. close to our people.
I CAN’T SUPPORT EXTREMISM
• How do you see your role in Serbia?
My position is to respect all political parties, and not take sides. But, there is a limit to what I respect. I have no respect for extremism and terrorism, I only respect people of good will of all ethnic groups and religions. It has been for too long that the regimes throughout ex- Yugoslavia used the people only for their own profit. Finally the time has come for us to have democracy, to work together, and create a better future for all of us.
• Do you intend to turn Serbia into Monarchy?
It is doubtless that constitutional monarchy is a great factor of stability, we have the examples of Spain, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Australia. Monarchy fully respects democratic process and provides unity and continuity. I believe constitutional monarchy could solve many of our problems, but of course, the monarch must take care of his behavior.
• Are you going to get involved into politics, and how close to you is the example of Bulgarian King Simeon II, who is the Prime Minister of that country?
Monarchy and politics do not mix. Bulgaria is a specific case. King Simeon has brought such decision and accepted such position. In our case and in case of other constitutional monarchies, the monarch does not mix into politics and is not a member of any political party. He is there for all democratically oriented politicians and therefore it can’t happen that the King says, let’s say to the Prime Minister how he didn’t approve of some of his political moves.
• For about ten years a body named Crown Council has been functioning. What is its aim?
The Crown Council was established in 1992, consisting of prominent people from many areas, to help me gain the perspective of the situation in the country. The last nine years was a very difficult time and I am grateful to them for the advice they gave and for the unity they kept between themselves. We had some very successful meetings during that period and it is our aim to expand the Crown Council to many other areas.
• Did you have any contacts with the people from Bosnia during the war?
I had contacts with the people of good will from all over ex-Yugoslavia, including Sarajevo. Those are the people who truly believe in democracy and I shall continue to meet with them.
TRAGEDY OF SARAJEVO IS APPALLING
• Could you tell us some of their names?
I think it is not in their interest to mention their names for then I would have to name everybody I met. I can only say those are the people who are reformists and that I met them at conferences in London and Liechtenstein.
• What was your relationship towards Bosnia during the war, and what is it now?
I was very sad when the war in Yugoslavia broke out. I love Sarajevo and I was very sad indeed during the tragedy in Sarajevo. I used to watch TV every day and read newspapers to learn more about the tragedy that was going on. That was not the way to solve the differences. Killing and maiming people and hundreds of thousands of refugees was a tragic and painful experience. In the mid eighties I met with the ex State Secretary Henry Kissinger. He told me then – “you should pay attention to Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
I was certain we could have argue our differences without killing people. It turned out I was wrong. We all know about the tragedy that had happened, and which shouldn’t have happened. Killing or destruction of the places of worship does not solve any problems. All I can say it was complete madness. Only extremists can boast with such events, and there should be no place for them anywhere. And they should all pay the price for violation of human rights. I believe we should now work together, respect each other, and work on the economic progress and avoiding isolation which is the great enemy of all nations.
• When Mr. Kissinger told you to pay attention to Bosnia, what did he really mean?
There is no doubt that we all come from the country that used to be called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, that was established after a great crisis in Europe. We did not live together for a long time, and we did not have the time to establish democratic institutions in a proper sense. There were many people of good will, but then came fascism which coincided with the great economic depression, followed by WWII in ex-Yugoslavia. After that years of communist dictatorship when Yugoslavia was used as a buffer against the expansion of the Soviet Union. Many experts, like the former American State Secretary Kissinger, who is also a historian, have studied our internal affairs and in his opinion, as well as in the opinion of other experts, something might come out after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after Yugoslavia stopped to be the buffer between West and East. That was a clear signal for the extremists to put their own will above the will of the people. There is no need to emphasize what the price we all paid because of that, and that can never, never repeat again.
• Does your family have any property in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
As far as I know, there is our estate in Han Pijesak. But in my opinion, all issues of property must be resolved in a civilized way, by passing the law on denationalization. In the meantime people who live at the estate must not be harmed, be they old people or children. In the case of Dedinje estate, nobody lived here, Both Palaces, the Royal and the White, were empty, so nobody was harmed after our return to Serbia.
DEMOCRACY DOES NOT TOLERATE CRIMES
• You very often meet with Bosniac religious leaders, muftis of Belgrade, Sanjak, many imams, you have recently been to Novi Pazar where you donated equipment to the hospital and the university. One gets impression that you help Bosniacs in Serbia more than any politician or the state?
First of all, I am not a politician, and I would recommend to all politician if they want to be democrats, to respect everybody, and to make it their main principle. As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, my wife, through her foundation and humanitarian activities, helped all sides – Moslem, catholic and orthodox. We had contact with everyone. Convoys of aid from Great Britain were coming all the time, bringing medical equipment, wheelchairs, blankets and medicines. And of course, books, the perfect example being aid to Sarajevo City Hall Library that suffered horrible tragedy.
I have cooperation with Belgrade and Sanjak mufti and many imams from Prijepolje to Banja Luka, where I visited them. A positive impulse should be created, and misunderstandings should be overcome. Respect is very important and sincere. I am against anybody who is against tolerance.
• One of the current issues in this region is the question of war crimes and collaboration with the Hague Tribunal. What is your attitude towards it?
It is fundamental that everyone, whoever they might be, must pay the price for violation of human rights. There should be no tolerance for the people who committed crimes against other people. There should be no places on the planet where those people should be free. Justice must go all the way.
However, I am a little confused that there is a tribunal that limits its activities only to ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda. I support a new initiative – the Statute of Rome and establishing Permanent Tribunal, that has been supported by many countries so far. I dare say that no one in this world should be above the law. Everybody who commits crime must answer for it regardless of the nation one belongs to.
• You fought against Milosevic and his regime for many years. How successful that struggle was and what results it gave?
Since its coming to power, I worked against that regime. For I clearly saw that it works for its own profit only and that it has no interest in the people or the country. When somebody is a politician, he should have interest in all people, that is a standard in democracy. In his case, he only had interest in himself and his pocket. It is tragic that people’s goods were stolen, money was laundered abroad in the most cunning way. Of course, there were no angels in ex-Yugoslavia. There were many others who behaved appallingly. It is all mafia, unlike the citizens who are the basic component of any state, and they paid terrible price. In the case of Milosevic and other politicians they used religion in a negative way to their own benefit. We all witnessed the results of such politics that was disastrous.
• How do you see the process of normalization of the relationships in the region in the next few years, regarding that nationalists parties won the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
I encourage as many parties as it takes to make that process work. We are all in it.
I repeat, we must open, isolation will only create problems and sufferings again. My wife and I have traveled through the parts completely detached from the world and we were wondering why that was so. The stupidity of isolationism can’t be understood. It can only be the interest of certain people who play their games with the public. Citizens need people in power who will bring investors, start new jobs and progress. We are not on an island in the middle of the Pacific, we are in Europe. The Berlin wall has gone, now our walls must go. I appeal to all politicians to think about people, to put interest of the people first of all
THE KINGDOM OF THE SERBS, CROATS AND SLOVENES HAD A HISTORIC IMPORTANCE
• Many people believe that the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was a big mistake. What do you think about it?
I don’t think it was a mistake, I think it was a brilliant concept for all people to live under the same roof. Those who criticize it are completely wrong. Look at the price we paid. In modern democracies all citizens are respected and basically that was the idea of the Kingdom of SHS, that is, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after 1929.
But we didn’t have enough time to establish democratic institutions , one must remember there was civil war during WWII, and in the last decade we had even worse war with many regions almost ethnically cleansed. If you look at the ethnic map of ex-Yugoslavia today, it is very different from the one twelve years ago. Moreover, it is rather shocking! If things like that had happened in multiethnic democratic countries like Great Britain or France, that would have been dramatic.
Now we must really move towards EU, and all citizens of ex-Yugoslavia must understand what EU is. All right, we established our own countries, we must respect them, have open borders, no taxes and full economic freedom in both directions, and the EU is going to integrate us and in that way bring us closer for it will insist on mutual respect.
• How did the citizens of Serbia accept you and what situation did you have coming back to your country?
Not counting humanitarian aid, for humanitarian situation not only in Serbia but in other parts of ex-Yugoslavia is very serious, there is a difficult situation in health institutions, the tragedy of refugees, great poverty. We are trying very hard in that direction, and we have a new mission, to create new jobs. Serbian Government has excellent experts and I am trying to help in the process of attracting foreign investors. We have had industrials from Britain, Sweden, and just recently a group of American businessmen, visiting the Palace. Those people should visit and invest in the whole region. We must certainly work on our image and public relations and learn how to promote ourselves in a positive way in order to attract foreign investors. In my humble way I am trying to help in that.
• How often are your meetings with local politicians, and what is your relationship with them, do Serbian politicians ask advice from you?
It is a pleasure to see many of our politicians here at the Palace and on my trips all over our country. Of course, we talk, exchange opinions and ideas, they listen to my ideas and I listen to theirs, and we work in general interest. I also travel abroad with some of our politicians and businessmen and our cooperation is excellent.
• What option is closer to you: the one represented by the President of FRY or the Prime Minister of Serbia Zoran Djindjic? One gets an impression that you are much closer to Djindjic although he is a republican, and Kostunica a monarchist?
I do not take sides of any politician or party.