Lecture Hopping More World Leaders: President Tadic of Serbia
Written by Bwog Staff
The motorcade hanging around college walk, the red carpet paparazzi frenzy outside Low – those sly dogs at the World Leaders Forum must have booked another celeb. Bwog contributor Kate Hughes snuck past the cameras last night to hear what Serbian President Boris Tadic had to say.
Serbia and Columbia go way, way back. Turns out, Pupin was named after a Serbian physicist who taught at Columbia. Everyone’s been bosom buddies since. And last night, they got together to talk about the global economic crisis, secession, and genocide. Not cheery topics, sure, but a brief history lesson from President (formerly Professor) Tadic convinced us we must. Tadic began his serious remarks by comparing the potential for world-wide change that the economic crisis has created to the times of great change that followed major world events in 1945 and 1989. The coming changes in our world economic and political systems could rival those following the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The question to ask, says Tadic, is not only what changes will occur but how they will occur. Tadic predicts a shift in the style of international relations, but worries aloud whether the transition might be less than smooth. It could get rough, apparently: if what Tadic calls the “geopolitical tectonic plates” happen to clash, that would not be good. Tadic strongly favors all attempts to solve international problems diplomatically, with democratic principles as a basis for all negotiation (Read: he quoted Woodrow Wilson.)
The potential that the crisis brings for improved global understanding means, of course, that Serbia would get into the EU. President Tadic emphasized Serbia’s relationship with the UN emphatically and frequently. He also described a strong Serbian desire for “engagement with the world” that arose when Serbia became a democracy in 2000. Only once the warm and fuzzy groundwork was laid could the conversation turn to Kosovo. Kosovo’s declaration of independence was of course first supported by the US under the Bush administration, and the UN Court of Justice will rule on the case in 2010. Even on the occasion of Joe Biden’s warm welcome to Serbia earlier this year, the Serbian President recalled saying that on the Kosovo issue, “we will have to agree to disagree.”
Tadic took questions from the audience for some time, much of which was spent on an exchange with an audience member about the specifics of the Kosovo court case, and the impact of the Kosovo situation on Serbia’s EU hopes. Then, after dodging a question from the audience on a proposed law that would enable government censorship of the press in certain situations, Tadic fixated on the question of a Serbian student about Serbian student leadership and (gasp!) internship opportunities with the President’s office. However crass the question seemed to Bwog, Tadic was so excited to talk about Serbian students – whom he called “the reason that Serbian democracy is not in danger” – that he essentially offered up the sort of internship that comes with a title so elaborate it takes up two lines in your resume.
But the bar for bluntness was raised yet again by the next question, on the Kosovo issue, when the questioner asked if Serbia would apologize for the Kosovo genocide now. Like, right now. Not surprisingly, this led to some verbal sparring between the two, even returning once again to Kosovo’s secession. Tadic pointed out that, for the first time, Serbia is not operating by force, but by letting the International Court of Justice settle the issue, drawing applause from the crowd, and proving once again that, in Q&A sessions, the questioners rarely win.