NEDELJNI TELEGRAF, 1 June 2005
Interview of the week: Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic
STRAIGHT TALK AT THE SERBIAN PALACE ABOUT SERBIAN
POLITICS, THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY, CORRUPTION AND CRIME
Disunited politicians are
KEEPING SERBIA IN A GHETTO
They keep disagreeing on what we want and where we wish to go
-Serbia has no clear national plan. We do not know what our common
goal is, and we are not working on it; we are wasting energy by working
-People in Serbia are frustrated because their future is uncertain:
they do not know if they are going to receive their salary next month,
how they are going to survive, buy bread and milk tomorrow. Meanwhile,
our politicians, who are competent people, quarrel among themselves
CORRUPTION AND CRIME
-We must reform the judicial system urgently. Judges must be given
absolute freedom of decision, there must be no “under the table trade”,
neither in business, nor in politics. I am not saying that there is no
such thing in other countries, but we have to admit that we become
experts in this
-The sad thing is that all of our neighbor countries are either on
the way to, or are already in the EU. Serbia is like a piece of cheese
in the middle of a sandwich. The public is very confused with the
current affairs, and people feel isolated
-There are many individuals in our political parties who are
advocates of this concept. Even in the current Government there are many
Ministers who believe in a parliamentary monarchy. But, nobody wants to
take the first step
MESSAGE TO TADIC AND KOSTUNICA
-The West must perceive our politicians as an Army that is fighting
for the interests of Serbia. We have not reached that point yet, but I
notice a convergence in the cooperation between President Tadic and
Prime Minister Kostunica
In little less than two months, on 17 July, Belgrade, or to be
more specific, Dedinje will be the center of the European and
World political and Royal elite. On this very day His Royal
Highness Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic will be
celebrating his 60th birthday.
In the interview for NT, The Crown Prince says that this will be an
excellent opportunity for the promotion of a good image of Serbia,
which, as he adds, he feels is his main “job”. And while when abroad, he
speaks about Serbia only in superlatives, when he is home, he does not
hesitate to criticize, straight and out of best intentions, all the
things he finds are not good for our country. At the beginning we asked
him why the transition in Serbia is such a painful process, and do we
know where the country is headed:
-At the beginning of the nineties of the last century, everything was
in favour of Serbia except the elected politicians in power. We had a
slight advantage compared to the other countries that were starting the
process of transition at that time. Now we are in the situation that we
are paying the prize of delay, the price of the precious time we wasted.
Our politicians are trying to keep up with Europe, to learn how
democracy and the EU work.
And, where do you think they are making a mistake in this process,
since the crises in Serbia are unabated?
-They are making a mistake, because their criticism is not a
one, but is an empty story. There are many people in Serbia who
consider themselves to be experts; they claim to know how things are
functioning in EU, and actually they know nothing or know very little
about it. Our politicians act like they were professors who are
educating pupils about the processes they themselves are only learning
· Do you think that a part of the reason for such a difficult process
of transition lies in the fact that political actors are having
difficulties in agreeing on the national and civil programs? What is our
national and state strategy today?
-I am afraid that there is no clear national plan. We do not know
common goal is, and we are not working on that; we are wasting energy
by working against ourselves.
· And what should, in your opinion, constitute, say, a five-year
unique national strategy?
-First – fulfilling of international obligations, above all,
cooperation with the
Haag Tribunal. We might not like these obligations, but that is
reality. Secondly – reforms, which are not easy ones, but we could use
the experiences of other countries that went through the same processes.
Creating a market economy and opening new work places is a difficult,
but an inevitable, process. People in Serbia are frustrated because
their future is uncertain: they do not know if they are going to receive
their salary next month, how they are going to survive, buy bread and
milk tomorrow. Meanwhile, our politicians, who are competent people,
quarrel among themselves, and they should, with respect for their
opponents’ political views, agree on a unique position – and that is, I
repeat, Serbia as a modern, European country with a market economy and a
strong social welfare. The International Community demands extradictions
to Haag, faster reforms, and, as long as we are ignoring these demands,
we are going to get “slaps in the face” from everyone.
· One of the main findings of the feasibility study is that the
biggest problems of Serbia today are corruption and crime? What is your
- We must reform the judicial system urgently, and comprehend the
meaning of its true independence from the state. It is a massive job;
judges must be given the absolute freedom of decision, there must be no
“under the table trade”, neither in business, nor in politics. I am not
saying that there is no such thing in other countries, but we have to
admit that we became experts in this. If we lose the habit of giving
money for certain services under the table, we may attract the attention
of more foreign investors, more money for humanitarian purposes, etc.
· And what is the view of the West to the corruption and crime in
-Unfortunately, we are still seen as a rather insecure country. But,
things are changing slowly in a positive direction; foreigners are
realizing that Serbs are a good and fair people. People are not killed
in the streets here; ladies can be free to walk the streets alone, and
that is not the case in many places on this planet. The sad thing is
that all of our neighbor countries are either on the way to, or are
already in the EU. Serbia is like a piece of cheese in the middle of the
sandwich. The public is very confused with the current affairs, and
people feel like they are in a ghetto. We can not travel; we have three
times lower incomes than 15 years ago, so frustration and anger are
huge. We have to be very careful in order not to isolate ourselves even
more; to prevent the brain-drain, to find jobs for 55 percent of
graduate students, to create a future for youth in Serbia.
· Do you think that with a monarchy in Serbia our current social,
political, and economical problems would be solved easier and faster?
What do people tell you abroad, are you receiving some signals that it
would be good for us?
-I think that a constitutional monarchy is the solution for Serbia.
The King, a monarch, is an independent figure, he is not a member of any
political party and he does not participate in political discussions,
and quarrels. The Prime Minister is the captain of the ship, he is
elected by the people, and he determines the direction of the country.
This is functioning in Spain, Japan, Sweden, Norway, England, and I
don’t see why it wouldn’t function in Serbia…We have to have a so called
“meeting point”, where all the political parties, regardless of how
different they are, could sit down at the same table and talk. We would
be a much happier nation.
· How do you explain that none of political democratic parties that
have been in power since 2000 in Serbia have proposed this motion?
- There are many individuals in political parties who are advocates
of this concept, but the parties are advocates of the republic as a
state system. I spoke to many mayors, who are coming from different
parties, and they still claim that constitutional monarchy is a good
solution. Even in the current Government there are many Ministers who
believe in a parliamentary monarchy.
· But, nobody wants to set this issue in motion as a political
-Yes, nobody wants to take the first step.
· Could this be the case because they all want to be “monarchs”, and
they use the republic in order to be like “kings”?
-I know one thing – many of them would like to use my name and the
monarchy for their political promotion, and I am not very happy with
that. My only concern is the people of Serbia. I think that we do not
miss kings and queens in our country; we are a society in which anybody
in a restaurant (kafana) can be a “king” or a “queen”. But, we have to
be serious when it comes to state leadership. A few more years will have
to pass until things become clearer, and until a large number of people
realize how important and significant the roll of the monarch can be,
the roll of the unifier of all citizens, politicians, ideological
· Did you discuss this with Kostunica and Tadic, and what are their
-When we have coffee together, I often stress to them that I think I
have an interesting solution for the future: for them to have the power,
and one neutral man to unify that. Mostly, they answer me that it is an
interesting solution, but that it is also difficult to work on
establishing such a system at the moment.
· How many times have you been drinking coffee with Kostunica, since
he became Prime Minister?
-We were seeing each other often, also before 5th October, before my
return to the country, and couple of times we had very important
meetings in London. I always had a good cooperation with him. Not only
the Prime Minister, but also many other politicians were my guests in
· Have you ever been offered a political function, and would you
accept something like that?
-If I were to put on a political suit that would lead to additional
divisions, and at the moment that is the last thing we need.
The West is ready to hear our solution for Kosovo
Do you think that Serbia and Montenegro will
stay within the current borders?
-What is happening between Serbia and
Montenegro at the moment is very sad. A lot of time is passing,
things are being dragged out, and there is nothing happening in
our mutual relations. Everyone, in Serbia and in Montenegro,
should have in mind that our destination is the same – it is the
membership in the EU. It may not be that important if we are
going to travel this road together or not; the important thing
is to get there.
According to your information, is Kosovo on
the way to independence or will it stay within Serbia?
-Kosovo is the Serbian Jerusalem. I believe
that there is a solution, but we need to have a united position
regarding this problem. Our politicians, first of all, Tadic and
Kostunica, and then everyone else too, must sit down and settle
on a strategy that all political factors in Serbia, both
position and opposition, will agree on; then we need to enter
the international stage with unity.
Isn’t the status of Kosovo an issue that has
already been decided upon in the world centers of power, first
of all in the United States and United Kingdom?
-They always have their solution, which is
different from what we want. And they will apply it, unless we
do not come out with a national strategy.
Does this mean that they are still ready to
listen and accept our opinion, and therefore that everything
depends on us?
-Yes they are. But we just need to agree on
what our opinion is.
In European circles there are some
suggestions that the best thing for the Balkans would be to
create ethnically clean states and to redistribute the existing
territories according to this principle…
- These are not democratic and European
standards. That would be impossible, as it is impossible to
create an ethnically clean Paris or London. There is no place
for small states in the Balkans. Serbia has neither petroleum
nor gold. If you create states as small as a postage stamp, how
do you expect them to endure? It is my opinion that the only
solution, not only for Serbia but also for the Balkans, is to
give more autonomy to the local governments and to enable the
free circulation of people, goods and information.
THE SERBIAN VERSAILLES
If it comes to the break down of the State Union, what will
happen to the property of Karadjordjevic Family in Montenegro?
-This is in hands of my lawyers; all the law-suits for
returning the property in Montenegro, in Slovenia, and in Serbia
are in process. In Slovenia, there is goodwill for either
returning our property to us, or compensating it in some other
way. Recently, we signed the draft of the law that regulates the
status of our property in Serbia, and now we are waiting for it
to pass through the Parliament procedure. My wish is that the
compound in Dedinje remains intact, and not to be divided; to be
a monument, as a little Versailles, open for the people; and all
the art works to stay here, because it is our inheritance.
No wars – no interests of great powers for Serbia
British politics have always had a great influence on Balkan
affairs. What is their position towards the Balkans now?
-Since there are no wars, there is not much
interest in Serbia now. When a war is going on, many people have
many interests. A lot of armies crossed Serbia and a lot of
battles took place here during the Empire of Austro-Hungarians,
Turks…During World War 2 we were in war against Germans and in a
civil war…Back then we were working for the interests of the
allies, and now we finally ought to work for Serbian interests.
We are to go to London, Washington, Paris and talk about our
national interest, and not to wait for it to be chosen for us in
the world centers of power. They want to receive us and to
listen to us, but I am afraid we are not ready for this “tour”.
And who are the greatest allies of Serbia
-It is important to be close, and to
cooperate well with all the member states of EU. Also, to go
around the world and explain to people that Serbs are not
warriors, to tell them where and what is Serbia. I do not see
this initiative in the country, and that is very bad. People
here think that the solution for our future lies abroad. But,
they are very wrong, the key is in Belgrade, it is in our hands,
we only need to find a way to quit working against ourselves and
to start to work for ourselves.
The Crown Prince’s birthday wish:
A BETTER AND A HAPPIER LIFE FOR THE PEOPLE IN
You are celebrating your 60th birthday on 17
July, what will be your birthday wish?
-When I was celebrating my fiftieth birthday,
I made a wish to celebrate my sixtieth birthday in my country.
And that wish came true. Now I wish for a better and happier
life for the people in Serbia. My birthday will be a good
opportunity to promote our country, because there will be a
great number of significant, distinguished guests from all over
the world, who will have a chance to see how beautiful this
town, and this country is. And for my birthday, I wished from
Princess Katherine to offer me just one flower.
HRH Crown Princess KATHERINE KARADJORDJEVIC
Dinkic promised me annulment of the
humanitarian aid tax
We are the only country in the world where
you get punished for giving
The Royal Couple Karadjordjevic, especially
Princess Katherine, has been involved in humanitarian work in
the Balkan area for more than 15 years now. Katherine
Karadjordjevic set herself the task to do everything she can to
decrease the death rate, especially of the children in Serbia.
About her humanitarian activities for NT she says:
-The two most destitute groups in our country
are the children and the elderly. For four years now I have been
working on fund-raising all over the world. With the support of
our Foundation, the first ultrasound center in the Balkans was
founded; we provide medical equipment, incubators, etc. At the
moment we are working hard on the education of young people,
especially on their specialisation. Serbia can not survive
without educated youth. It is our job not only to attract
investors, but also to create the best of what our country has –
that is, educated personnel.
In June we will organize a reception at The
White Palace, and Crown Prince Alexander II will host and will
award the best pupil from each high-school in Serbia.
One could hear a lot of objections made on
the Government policy of humanitarian aid taxation. Have you
spoken to the Minister of Finance, Mladjan Dinkic about that and
have you asked him for annulment of such taxation?
-Yes I have, and he promised to solve that.
We are probably the only country in the world where you get
punished for giving something.
Do you believe that he will fulfill his
- I believe he is a clever man, and anyone
who is reasonable enough can see how unreasonable this law is.
Now, when there are crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are
less and less humanitarian organizations in Serbia, and less and
less help that arrives in the country. That is why we need to
encourage everyone who is willing to help us, and not to
discourage them and make the whole thing more difficult. It is
hurting the image of our country. Finally, we have to decide
what we want: if we want to be a part of the brotherhood of
European nations, we have to accept the European rules of
Momcilo Djorgovic/Danijela Milinkovic/photo: Boris Subasic