Serbia's Foreign Policy: Substance and Rhetoric

Thursday, February 25, 2010
1219 International Affairs Building

Please join the Harriman Institute for a talk by Ljiljana Smajlovic, President of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia.

Two years after Kosovo independence, the majority of Serbs still reel with the loss of their ancestral province and continue to resent the role the United States played in the break-up of their country. At the same time, most continue to support becoming part of “the West” and joining the European Union, and are almost equally eager to strengthen their country's political, cultural, and even military ties to the United States.

As if such contradictory positions were not enough, Serbia’s leaders have recently come up with a foreign policy claiming no less than four pillars--European, American, Russian and Chinese. Starved for cash and desperate for new investment, Serbia is trying to prove this is a workable regional strategy, and not mere posturing.

No wonder some are calling Serbia's position schizophrenic, a mission impossible. Yet Serbia's foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, tops the country's list of most popular politicians, and is considered to be the only one able to bridge party lines and loyalties. Serbs seem captivated by the paradox of their country inching towards EU membership with US backing, while their top diplomat invests all his energy into thwarting US ambitions to secure UN membership for America's Kosovo Albanian protégés. Is there any substance to this policy, beyond playing to the nation's sense of self-importance? How did a foreign agenda born of domestic political necessity become the bedrock of an increasingly wobbly pro-Western coalition government in Belgrade?

Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia and former editor-in-chief of Serbia’s most-important daily newspaper Politika, will address these and other questions regarding the current trajectory of Serbia’s foreign policy.