“Biznis Kontakt” magazine, 14 December 2003
Our Interview: HRH ALEXANDER II KARADJORDJEVIC
THE CHOICE IS ONLY ONE – EUROPE
If you look at the parliamentary monarchies in the world they are all sable countries like Spain for example, which for us is a particularly interesting country for many reasons. They had dictatorship, after which came democracy and membership in the EU.
Coming to Belgrade for the first time in 1991, welcomed in the then SFRY that was only entering the process of transition and the time of bloody conflicts, our collocutor could not even imagine that he would have conversation about economic development and our country’s integration into European Union, after more than a decade later. We have had the honor and the pleasure to talk to HRH Crown Prince Alexander II Karadjordjevic in one of the salons of The Royal Palace, which still has the air of the times when Serbia and Belgrade were truly a part of Europe.
Knowing that economy is one of the main fields of your interest, how do you estimate economic policy of Serbia for the past three years?
After many years of controlled system, in 1989 we entered into a new stage of development, like many other European countries. Regrettably, we missed the opportunity and failed to introduce modern principles of market economy. At the same time other transitional countries in our neighborhood managed to develop their economy and democracy.
In addition, we had the burden of the past, sanctions, isolation, criminal bombing etc. All of that had a negative impact on our economy. I must admit it was that what we did after 5 October was a great success, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
What are, in your opinion, economic potential of Serbia, in which foreign investors should be interested, and how much did you contribute, by your doubtless influence, to the participation of foreign investors in privatization and other forms of capital investments?
The answer to this question could be reduced to one word – stability.
I have to be honest, we still don’t have it. Like the rest of the world, we too must be ready for total commitment to work, and though we do have people who work very hard, there are still many of those who only talk about it. As if it was our main task. I was abroad with some of our Ministers who were representing our country in a right way and did they job very well. However, when we came back home, they almost had to “save their skin”, because they had to prove they were not doing anything against the country’s interests. I must point out that this is highly unusual anywhere in the world and that we are not going to improve our position, nor attract foreign investors in that way, regardless of which government is running the country’s politics.
We must pass the new Law on Finance and the new Law on Property which will regulate the property rights so that each investor will know that when a factory is bought, the land is also bought, like everywhere else.
The people have to know that our survival depends on several factors, above all on stability, unity and reforms, reforms, reforms.. Unless we fulfill these conditions, although we are a great and brave nation, I’m afraid we will disappear.
Would closer relationships with our Diaspora result in their broader interest in investing into Serbia?
We have very large Diaspora which means our potentials are large. Our people in the Diaspora are a kind of Ambassadors of our country, and the Government should work together with the Diaspora, and they should be partners. The Diaspora is disappointed with the relationship with the Government. They have brought a lot of money to the country, but with no effect. The Diaspora should have influence on the homeland, and the other way round, but the first step on that way should be the return of the right to vote to our people in the Diaspora.
I have excellent contacts with the Diaspora, as well as in the country, but we must all work together in bringing us closer to each other. We must bring closer our country to our people abroad. Just as we established air traffic with the USA, we should establish it with new, more distant destinations, such as Australia and Canada. We should all have the same task of explaining throughout the world that our country is a land of hardworking people who need new jobs and who are ready to join modern developed democratic countries. All of that was initiated after 5 October, but it is necessary to continue it further and more.
How much are our people ready to face transitional changes, and our businessmen with market economy conditions?
It is obvious that the concept of big state owned companies can’t survive any longer, and that they deteriorate at a slower or faster pace. The future of our economy’s development lies in the development of small and medium companies, and the more we develop them, either by our own funds or by the funds from abroad, the more new jobs will we create, and the transition will be easier for the people. To achieve this goal as soon as possible, it is necessary to do what we have talked about, from changing our way of thinking, to building bridges to the developed world and our own people in the Diaspora, for that is where the funds are for financing production and services which will bring jobs for our people.
How do you see the future of democracy development in Serbia and when can we expect, realistically speaking, to get closer, and eventually integrate into the European Union?
Whether we want it or not, we must get closer and integrate into the European Union. However, this is in no way an easy task and it is necessary to do a lot of work here at home. We must prove to Europe that we can do it, but we must also prove to our people that we need it. The European Union is a solution for a modern market economy, which we are still not accustomed to, but at the same time it is a bureaucratic institution with strict rules that are not easy to follow, so it is necessary for our politicians to literally “hang out” in Brussels, in order to represent our interests in the best possible way.
The EU is important to us, but we are important to them, too, considering that we are in the central position in South East Europe and in the crossroads which could formally connect the Union. If we speed up the reforms and getting closer to the EU, we might become an important center of South East Europe.
What are the advantages of constitutional parliamentary monarchy, and how would the reestablishment of such state system influence the international position and economic stability of our country?
If you look at parliamentary monarchies in the world, they are all stable countries. For example Spain, which is particularly interesting country for us, for many reasons. They used to have dictatorship, and then democracy and membership in the EU. In addition, it is the country consisting of different regions and nations, with monarchy keeping them together. The country has full democracy, the power belongs to the Prime Minister and the Government who rule independently. The King is not a member of any political party and is neutral. Similar situation is in Japan, Sweden, Belgium etc.
The presidential elections in Serbia failed three times for the last two years, with huge funds spent for that purpose, and they could have been directed in new enterprises and new jobs. We still don’t have the head of state, and the question is how we are going to get one. The people need someone who will be respected by the Government and the opposition alike, and who will respect all religions and ethnic groups. I think Serbia as parliamentary monarchy could be a stable and successful country.
What can you tell us about your activities in the country?
I shall be straightforward in this answer. Our media also need a reform package. The media should report objectively, and not pour lies to the people. I am a part of such writings. I love my country, I am a Karadjordjevic, I am the head of The Royal Family, not somebody else. The media sometimes wrote various lies about me, and I disapprove of that. At the same time I support freedom of the press and freedom of speech, for it is important for any democratic country. In the West the representatives of the media are obliged to present the truth, because if they don’t they are liable to severe penalties. A few lawyers in the West made great careers in such law suits. Nevertheless, I believe that will change in our country. It is a great job ahead of us and we should do it together.
My family and I came back here to stay and live in Dedinje Compound, filled with joy and patriotism. At first there were many things to be fixed, cleaned and reconstructed at The Palace, all in order to open it as soon as possible for the people, and to have various activities here. For 18 months, The Palace was visited by over 25,000 people. Among others representatives of the Federal, Serbian and City Government, high foreign and local officials, diplomats, university professors and students, doctors, academicians, media representatives, businessmen and individual visitors.
I also help my wife in her humanitarian work, we travel together throughout our country, we visit all our regions trying to make contacts between our and international businessmen.
What is your message to the citizens of Serbia on the eve of Christmas and New Year holidays?
Don’t lose hope, work together and have faith in the future, vote for whoever you want and elect freely who you want. That is freedom.
I wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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