Serbian prince calls for democracy

A Serbian monarch endorsed a move towards democracy in his home country and expressed radical views on the future of Balkan politics at a talk Wednesday evening.

In an event sponsored by the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Crown Prince Alexander II Karadjordjevic of Serbia joined roughly 80 students and professors in Linsly-Chittenden Hall to discuss Serbian history and the current political challenges on the Balkan Peninsula. He said that the Serbian government needs to confront high employment and an unstable economy. But the ineptitude of politicians has hindered significant progress so far, he said, and he thinks constitutional monarchy founded in democratic principles would mitigate this problem.

“We still have a long way to go,” Karadjordjevic said. “It takes a long time to create a democracy.”

Karadjordjevic began the talk by providing some background information about the Serbian royal family, Serbian history and the history of the Balkan region. After communism arrived in the Balkans in 1947, when Karadjordjevic was just two years old, he said he became an “enemy of the state.” But when communism fell in 1991, Karadjordjevic returned from his self-imposed exile to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Upon his return, he said, he committed himself to promoting peace and democratic change. Many political leaders across the Balkans united under Karadjordjevic’s leadership against Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Serbia.

“I started receiving opposition leaders from all Yugoslav countries,” Karadjordjevic said. “These were all aspiring leaders seeking democratic change back home, people who were opposed to the violent and unjust regime of Slobodan Milosevic.”

This collective effort culminated in the overthrow of Milosevic on Oct. 5, 2000, known as the “Bulldozer Revolution.” Since then, Karadjordjevic said he has helped to reinstate democratic institutions and ideals in Serbia.

But despite his efforts, Karadjordjevic said that the situation in his country and the region is far from perfect. With many people unemployed and an ailing economy, Serbia is still struggling to become eligible for European Union membership.

In addition to discussing Serbia’s internal problems, the Prince also offered insight into how Serbia should interact with other countries in the region. His country is “not ready” to recognize Kosovo, he said, which seceded from Serbia in 2008. He said that since the majority of north Kosovo is Serbian, and the majority of south Kosovo is Albanian, separate provinces should be created.

His stance on the situation in Bosnia, a country riddled with tension between three different religious groups, was similar.

“Bosnia is an artificial state,” Karadjordjevic said, “I would argue that the Serbs should join Serbia, the Croats should join Croatia, while negotiations should settle the rest.”

When Karadjordjevic took questions from the crowd, one audience member inquired about his opinion on the cancellation of a gay pride parade that was supposed to take place on Oct. 3 in Belgrade. Karadjordjevic expressed regret that the parade had to be cancelled, adding that he is “a strong advocate for freedom of expression and freedom of choice.”

John D’Amico ’15, who attended the event, said he thought Karadjordjevic’s speech was filled with many empty platitudes. He said Karadjordjevic’s proposal for the division of Bosnia could only further inflame ethnic tensions.

But Juli Cho ’15 said she found Karadjordjevic’s recurring argument about promoting unity compelling.

“I feel like because of his status as a monarch, Karadjordjevic can truly engender unity among his people,” she said.

The event was originally scheduled to take place at the Pierson College master’s house but moved to LC due to overwhelming student interest.

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