The Republic of Serbia celebrates its National Day (Statehood Day) on Feb. 15, 2015 and on this auspicious occasion The Korea Post recently had an exclusive interview with Ambassador Zoran Kazazovic of Serbia in Seoul for the introduction of the country to our readers in Korea and around the world. Details of the interview follow.-Ed.
Question: What are the important developments scheduled between Korea and your country this year, including the possible visit of your Chief Executive to Korea. Any economic and/or other delegations coming?
Answer:Serbia and Korea have very good and friendly relations. Korea is one of our most important partners in Asia and Pacific region. Having in mind our good political relations, we focus on developing bilateral economic cooperation, including increasing overall trade volume, as well as attracting more Korean investors to Serbia.
This year we are planning to have visits of our highest officials and dignitaries to the Republic of Korea - speaker of the Serbian Parliament - as well as the representatives of the government in charge of the economic cooperation.
Besides that, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations marked in December last year, President of Serbia Mr. Tomislav Nikolic and President of Korea Mme Park Geun-hye exchanged congratulatory messages and President Nikolic extended the invitation to President Park to visit Serbia.
Q: Who is the Head of Government of your country? Please introduce His Excellency in detail, including his major achievements.
A: Serbia today is a politically and socially stable country. It has a strong Government, headed by Aleksandar Vucic. the leader of the “Serbian Progressive Party”, the most influential political force in Serbian National Assembly.
When it took office in May 2014, the Government announced as its key priorities the recovery of the national economy, fiscal consolidation, creation of the most favorable business environment, comprehensive public sector reforms and the fight against corruption and organized crime. Implementing wider economic and strict austerity measures in cooperation with the EU, IMF, WB and other international financial institutions, Serbia has achieved full stabilization of its macroeconomic system.
The budget deficit was reduced last year to 6, 6% of GDP and it is expected to be further reduced to 5% by the end of this year. Serbian Government is creating healthy public finance as a precondition for growth of its economy and investment. The economic measures taken by the Serbian government have strong support among citizens as they are meant to provide stable economic environment and better future for all people in our country.
On the international level, the main priorities of the Serbian government remain the continuation of the EU accession negotiations. We already demonstrated administrative capacity to carry out the negotiation process. The Serbian Government is fully committed to this goal and is ready to complete accession negotiations by the end of its term in 2018. Our expectation is that Serbia could become a full member of the EU by the year 2020. The process of our EU integration now is irreversible. Regarding the pending issue of the Kosovo and Metohija province, Serbia is dedicated to talks with Pristina provisional institutions, and is committed to implementing the Brussels Agreement made under the auspices of the EU, in order to improve the lives of both Albanian and Serbian community, and to reach stable, comprehensive and long-lasting solution.
Also, Serbia is dedicated to continue to maintain good cooperation with its key partners in the international arena, as well as to develop good neighborly relations and build modern and stable Serbia, committed to preserve international peace and uphold international law.
The year 2015 will be a very challenging one, having in mind our chairmanship to the OSCE. As a chair country to this important international organization, we do our best to profile ourselves as a reliable and credible partner, and accordingly to our capabilities, contribute to resolving the issues of importance for stability and security in Europe and beyond.
This is not the first time for Serbia to chair one international organization, but certainly it is the most complex one, especially in light of the crisis in Ukraine, and we are fully aware that it will be the dominant issue on the OSCE agenda during this year. We are prepared to work towards reaffirming goals and basic principles of OSCE together with our Mediterranean and Asian partners.
Q: What is the volume of bilateral trade and what is its outlook in this year?
A: Overall bilateral trade value between Serbia and Korea is about 250 million USD, and Korean investments in Serbia amount 60 million USD. A few Korean companies are operating in Serbia. One of them, Yura Company (car electric parts producer, ranked among 500 biggest Korean companies) is a very successful story. Yura Company has opened four factories and employs more than 5000 people in Serbia. Samsung Company has recently opened its branch office in Belgrade. Korean brands like Samsung, LG, Hyundai - KIA are well known in Serbia for their high quality, acceptable prices and reliability.
Serbian government has carried out deep economic reforms for establishing most favorable environment for foreign investors. We are the only country in the Southeast Europe that has raised its FDI attractiveness during the period 2004 - 2013. Besides the EU, Serbia has FTAs with the Russian Federation (Serbia is the only country outside of CIS to have FTA with Russia), Turkey, Kazakhstan and Belarus, as well as a customs-free access to CEFTA and EFTA countries, which would enable Korean investors access to these markets as well. As possible sectors for cooperation we see energy, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. Serbia's government is determined to promote Serbian market and its favorable business environment through various activities, which include organizing business and investments seminars abroad and domestically. Serbia now represents a real hotspot for foreign investors, and it is the right time for Korean companies to come to Serbia, as there are numerous comparative advantages for them in our country.
Q: What are the details of your National Day? Please introduce them to our readers.
A: February 15 is known as “Statehood Day”--the National Day of the Republic of Serbia. It is a very special day in the Serbian history.
Two major historic events happened on this date, which represents cornerstones of the modern Serbian state.
First, in the year 1804, the first Serbian uprising against Ottoman occupation took place and, after a long struggle, Serbia regained freedom and independence.
Second, in the year 1835, Serbia adopted its first Constitution. It was one of the most progressive and liberal constitutions in the 19th century in Europe, and it set up foundations of democracy and rule of the law. The Constitution was the expression of needs of Serbian society at that time: national emancipation, breaking the feudal institutions and autocratic rule. This Constitution is known as “Candlemas Constitution”, by religious holiday which is celebrated on February 15.
Q: What are the major tourist destinations of your country?
A: Having in mind growing interest of Korean tourists to visit the Balkans and Southeast Europe region as new and unexplored destinations, there's huge potential for the cooperation in this field.
Serbia is located on the Balkan Peninsula in the Southeast Europe, at the crossroads of the main routes linking Europe and Asia, and is famous for its eventful and turbulent history.
We are dedicated to promote more Serbia's tourism potentials on the Korean market, since our country has so much to offer.
It abounds with tourist hotspots--Serbian Orthodox Christian monasteries with astonishing frescoes, pearls of medieval art and ancient Roman archeological sites (17 Roman emperors were born on the territory of today's Serbia), many of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, boat cruisings on the river Danube - second longest river in Europe, national parks with preserved and pristine wild nature, organic food and Serbian traditional cuisine which reflects different influences--Turkish, Hungarian, Greek, Italian, friendly and hospitable people.
Serbia? capital Belgrade, one of the oldest cities in Europe (founded under the name Singidun around 279 BC by Celtic tribe Scordiscs), is famous for its history, culture and vibrant nightlife.
Q: Are there any other important details which our questionnaire has not covered? Please introduce them.
A: Science. Serbia has a rich tradition of contributing to the field of science and technology with many renowned scientists. Let us mention only some of them:
Nikola Tesla, electrical engineer and inventor, best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system including the AC induction motor. The tesla is the SI derived unit of magnetic flux density and was named after Nikola Tesla.
Mihajlo Pupin discovered means of great extension of the range of long-distance telephone communication by placing loading coils of wire (known as Pupin coils) at predetermined intervals along the transmitting wire (known as "pupinization").
Milutin Milankovic is known for his theory of ice ages, suggesting a relationship between the Earth's long-term climate changes and periodic changes in its orbit, now known as Milankovic cycles. Milankovic is the author of one of the most precise calendars yet.
UNESCO Heritage lists: The World Heritage list includes almost 1000 properties of cultural and natural value from all over the world, deemed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to be the places of outstanding universal value.
In selecting the properties which Serbia put forward for inclusion in the World Heritage List, an emphasis was placed on Serbia’s medieval heritage, particularly monasteries and royal mausoleums belonging to the Byzantine sphere of cultural influence, as well as the remnants from the period of the Roman Empire.
Following Serbian sites are so far added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites: Monasteries--Studenica, Gracanica, Visoki Decani, Stari Ras and Sopocani. Also on the list are Bogorodica Ljeviska Church and Gamzigrad--Romuliana.
As part of the UNESCO Memory of the World program, Nikola Tesla’s Archive (2003) and the Miroslav Gospel (2005) from Serbia have been added to the World Documentary Heritage register. Also, the UNESCO MAB Council has declared part of the Golija nature park as the Golija-Studenica Biosphere Reserve.
Recently Slava (celebrating family's saint-protector and customs related to it) has been enlisted to the UNESCO World Heritage list as intangible heritage.
Arts: In the long list of renowned cultural figures, the 20th century was dominated by the prose writers Ivo Andric (the 1961 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature), Milos Crnjanski, Mesa Selimovic, Borislav Pekic, Danilo Kis, Dobrica Cosic, Isidora Sekulic Aleksandar Tisma and David Albahari. Milorad Pavic stands out as being the most critically acclaimed contemporary Serbian writer, with his novel Dictionary of the Khazars that brought him international recognition. 15 works of Serbian prominent writers so far have been translated into Korean language.
Serbian cinema is one of the most dynamic smaller European cinematographies. Serbian cinema dates back to 1896 with the release of the oldest movie in the Balkans, The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vozd Karadorde, a biography about Serbian revolutionary leader, Karadorde. The most famous Serbian filmmaker is Emir Kusturica who won two Golden Palms for Best Feature Film at the Cannes Film Festival, for When Father Was Away on Business in 1985 and then again for Underground in 1995. Other renowned directors include Goran Paskaljevic, Dusan Makavejev and Goran Markovic among others. Steve Tesic, Serbian-American screenwriter, won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1979 for the movie Breaking Away.
Serbian music is characterized by its diversity, due to various influences and also by some unique, original genres. Most popular music festival are Guca Trumpet Festival with over 300,000 annual visitors and international rock festival EXIT in Novi Sad. Exit was officially proclaimed as the “Best Major European festival” at the EU Festival awards 2014. More than 2.5 million people from over 60 countries around the world visited this festival so far. Other festivals include Nisville Jazz Festival in Nisville and Gitarijada rock festival in Zajecar. Former rock musician, and nowadays author of music for films and big global concert attraction is Goran Bregovic, with his current band Orchestra for Weddings and Funerals. His music is used in some Korean films.
Sports: Sports play an important role in Serbian society, and the country has a strong sporting history. The most popular sports in Serbia are football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and water polo. The success of Serbian tennis players has led to an immense popularization of tennis in Serbia. Novak Dekovic, eight-time Grand Slam champion and currently No. 1 in the world. Ana Ivanovic (French Open champion) and Jelena Jankovic were both ranked No. 1 in the world. There were two No. 1 ranked-tennis double players as well: Nenad Zimonjic (three-time men's double and four-time mixed double Grand Slam champion) and Slobodan Zivojinovic. The Serbia men's tennis national team won the 2010 Davis Cup while Serbia women's tennis national team reached the final at 2012 Fed Cup.
Serbia is one of the leading volleyball countries in the world. Serbia men's national volleyball team won the Olympics gold medal, and twice won European Championship. Also, Serbia women's national volleyball team won European Championship.
The Serbia men's national water polo team won two World Championships and four European Championships. With seven European champion titles, Partizan is one of the best European clubs in water polo history.
Serbian national basketball team won silver medal in World Championship in Spain.
Other noted Serbian athletes meriting a special mention include: swimmers Milorad Cavic (World champion and silver medalist, as well as Olympic silver medalist) and Nadja Higl (World champion); track and field athletes Emir Bekric (hurdler; bronze medalist at the World Championships) and Ivana Spanovic (long-jumper; bronze medalist at the World Championships); shooter Jasna Sekaric (Olympic gold medalist) and taekwondoist Milica Mandic (Olympic gold medalist).