Q: From an American perspective the concept of a monarchy is not generally associated with democracy. How does a monarchy engender democracy, specifically within Serbia?
A: I want to tell you something quite interesting. You have an absolute monarchy here, which is either elected for four or eight years. The President of the United States does not face an elected body. The only body he faces that asks him questions, and even then they are chosen people, is the media… So it’s an interesting thing that in a constitutional monarchy the prime minister is of course elected by the people in free and fair elections and runs the country. The monarch is not participating in politics. He or she gives a State of the Union speech, which is written by the government. It helps by bringing people together because the monarch is not a member of a political party or president of a party. So it’s a meeting point of unity and continuity.
Q: Why do you believe that you are the best person for the role of King?
A: Because it’s hereditary and my family comes from the land and has contributed to the history of the land, of the country. My ancestor enacted the first uprising against the Turks in 1804, so it’s embedded, really, as one might say.
Q: What would your first action be as King?
A: My first action would be to invite the twenty-six [European Union member nations] to come to Belgrade, and this includes the monarchs and the presidents. It’s sad that the politicians of Europe come to Belgrade and they’re like firemen. They have fire extinguishers and they don’t stay to be well received. We’re very hospitable people, very homely as we are. And there’s a lot we’d like to show. Just even a night at the theater, a lovely lunch at the palace, a tour of Belgrade. But they come like firemen, and they come in on their plane and can’t wait to get out because there’s nothing we’re offering them. So I’d like to see a much more warm approach in friendship—not only with the European Union, but also with the United States and Canada and other countries. They’re all welcome.
Q: How do you feel Kosovo’s declaration of independence and move away from Serbia has affected the political environment?
A: It’s a very delicate subject with the public and our politicians. The tragedy of it is that there is so much poverty down in Kosovo and nearby Kosovo, in Serbia and in Macedonia, and even bordering into Montenegro. I would have hoped that there would be a new effort in solving the situation. I was very much proposing when the negotiations were taking place in Vienna that the West would impose a solution of partition. The northern part of Kosovo would become Serbian with the protection of religious entities in the southern part. Now we have a sort of Palestinian situation, which is dangerous; however, I don’t see a new war. I don’t see any new wars in the former Yugoslavia. I see some dissent here and there and maybe some small clashes, but no war. I think we’ve grown out of that.
Q: Serbian youth have a very political history. What do you see as the role of Serbian youth today in politics?
A: They are very important because they are our future leaders and future decision-makers. We don’t want to lose anymore of these young men and women who go abroad to seek their fortune and security. I’d like to see far more involvement of the youth in the political scene. We also have a group of young men and women who have formed Youth for Kingdom. They’re growing with 17,000 members now and they’re cross-party. They’re all ages: some high school, mostly university young men and women. So there’s a lot to be done to get the youth to work and not to be scared of the government. I think many are intimidated by the government. The government also tends to just ignore them. The youth must participate.
Q: Speaking of youth, you founded a nonprofit in 2006 for the education of students. How do you see education in the future of Serbia and also do you see a role for foreign institutions such as Yale within the Serbian education system?
A: The future of education should include more work with Western institutions like Yale for example. We haven’t had enough of that. Yes, we’ve had exchanges and we’ve had contact with such entities as Kennedy School of Government and think tanks here and there across the United States. But we have not had a big effort of bringing institutions here. I’d like to see the Jackson Institute getting involved in our part of the world. It certainly has the capacity and it has some wonderful people to participate in it. I think this would bring us closer to education in the United States and closer to the thinking of young people in the United States and decision-makers. We’re lacking that because we were isolated for such a long time.
Alexandra Friedman ‘14 is a Political Science major in Pierson College. Contact her at Alexandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.