The Republic of Serbia attaches particular importance to relations with the Diaspora and Serbs of the region, as best reflected in the Declaration of the Government of the Republic of Serbia proclaiming the relations between the home country and the Diaspora the relations of the greatest state and national interest (2006), the Law on the Diaspora and Serbs of the Region (2009) and in the Strategy of preserving and strengthening relations between the mother country and Diaspora and between the mother country and Serbs of the region (2011).
Through the network of its diplomatic and consular missions in foreign countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia is making every effort, by using all available capacities, material and human resources, as well as diplomatic instruments, to meet the needs of its nationals and people of Serbian descent in foreign countries and to help them foster their national identity, language, culture and customs. By rendering an effective and quality consular protection and services, organizing education and information in their mother tongue, assisting them in establishing and managing clubs and associations, and by ensuring them contacts with business and other organizations in the mother country, they are encouraging them to cooperate among themselves, to intensify contacts and relations with the mother country, and to work tirelessly for the promotion of their overall economic, scientific, cultural, information, sports and other ties with the mother country. Our wish is that the Serbian Diaspora worldwide and the Serbs of the region look upon the diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia as “their home” that they should turn to for assistance and solution of their problems in a foreign country, to obtain information about the mother country and realize their educational, cultural and other individual and group interests. In addition, the diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia are the addresses at which they may find partners for discuss on business cooperation with economic partners in the Republic of Serbia, either in respect of investment, joint ventures, trade, tourism or any other form of mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
Information available on the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia intended for the Diaspora and Serbs of the region should provide basic information, facilitate mutual contacts and serve as an encouragement for further cooperation.
The new Law on diaspora and Serbs in the region, published on 28 October 2009 in the “Official Gazette of RS”, which entered into force at the beginning of November 2009, is the expression of the Republic of Serbia`s exceptional interest in the problems facing the diaspora and Serbs in the region and of its great desire to promote relations and cooperation with them. The Law has introduced a new notion among the historical issues of the mother country and its diaspora, and that notion is “Serbs in the region”. It is, on the one hand, the reflection of the Republic of Serbia`s effort to identify and define all problems related to its citizens and the citizens of Serbian origin who live in foreign countries, taking into account diversity regarding their historical origin and their situation in the countries where they live. On the other hand, it is the result of the recognition of the genuine situation on the ground, mainly in the former Yugoslav republics and the neighbours after the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia and emergence of the new states and borders and, as a result of this, demographic changes which brought great many Serbs into a completely new position vis-a-vis, first and foremost, these newly created states.
The new Law on diaspora and Serbs in the region is an all inclusive legal document opening wide opportunities for cooperation among the diaspora, Serbs in the region and the mother country, institutionalization of the cooperation and it provides a more appropriate framework than before for the articulation of the interests of diaspora and Serbs in the region in relation to the mother country. This altogether contributes to the promotion of the Republic of Serbia and affirmation of its state and national interests. In this context, institutionalization of cooperation is of the utmost importance through the establishment of an Assembly of diaspora and Serbs in the region and the corresponding Councils as well as through the establishment of the Council for Relations with Serbs in the Region and the Council for the Diaspora.
According to the latest information provided by the diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia abroad, even though the census of the entire Serbian diaspora has never been attempted, it is estimated that overall, Serbia has a diaspora of 3.5 million people. Of this number, about a million and a half are citizens of Serbia, a considerable number of them having dual citizenship, meaning that they also have the citizenship of their country of immigration. It is estimated that there are more than 1,300 various associations in diaspora bringing together our people on all five continents, most of them being in the European Union countries, North America and Australia. As per percentage of diaspora members, including the number of Serbs in the region, in relation to the number of Serbs in the mother country, Serbia is among the countries with a very numerous diaspora.
Such a large diaspora abroad resulted from a long history of emigration of the Serbian population from their homeland for various reasons and in various periods, ranging from economic, political, religious, cultural and family reasons to the emigration caused by violence and persecution.
After the democratic changes in the mother country, both the diaspora and the Serbs in the region aim to participate actively and on an equal footing in the political, social and economic life of the country and to be included in its reconstruction and development.
The goals of the Serbian policy on the diaspora and Serbs in the region are: preserving their national and cultural identity; protecting their interests and rights; ensuring the exercise of their legal rights and obligations abroad through consular and other services; fostering economic, scientific, cultural, information, sports and other ties between the diaspora and Serbs in the region and their mother country; encouraging and directing the professional and financial potential of the diaspora and Serbs in the region, based on the partnership of the diaspora and Serbs in the region with the mother country for the purpose of the economic development of their motherland.
Cooperation between diplomatic and consular missions (DCMs) of the Republic of Serbia and the diaspora and Serbs living in the region
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia is making a maximum effort, in good faith – within the framework of its obligations under the law, responsibilities and objective possibilities, both directly and through the network of its diplomatic and consular missions worldwide, by resorting to all of its available capacities, material and human resources and diplomatic instruments – to meet the needs of its nationals and emigrants of Serbian origin living in foreign countries.
The openness of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomatic and consular network abroad, towards the Serbian diaspora and Serbs living in the region reflects the readiness of the Republic of Serbia as a state to actively undertake to protect the interests and the rights of its nationals and emigrants living in foreign countries, as well as Serbs in the region, in a measure which is not in contravention of the laws of the states in which they live – to extend its utmost support and assistance in fostering their national and cultural identity, education and information in their mother tongue; to encourage them to intensify their contacts and relations with the mother country and is continually working towards the promotion of the economic, scientific and cultural ties, as well as those in the fields of information, sports and other mutual links. The Republic of Serbia would like to see that the Serbian diaspora worldwide and the Serbs in the region consider the diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia as “their home” on whose assistance they can always count in dealing with their problems in a foreign country. And not only in dealing with problems, they should consider them also as a partner in discussions on business cooperation with companies in the Republic of Serbia, both in the areas of investment, joint ventures, trade, tourism or any other form of mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
The Serbian diaspora and the Serbs living in the region should refer to the DCMs of the Republic of Serbia in order to obtain the latest information regarding Serbian policy and the possibilities of cooperation with their mother country in all the areas for which they have an interest.
The Serbian diaspora and the Serbs living in the region should consider the DCMs of the Republic of Serbia as an embodiment of all Serbian state authorities, which are called upon and are able to address their status and other issues. At the same time, they are an embodiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, municipalities and courts, where the consular services constitute a link between the mother country and the diaspora and Serbs living in the region, enabling the latter to achieve their civil and other rights in an easier, quicker and simpler manner.
To the Serbs living in diaspora, its DCMs abroad represent a reliable partner which will support the establishment and the work of their associations, societies, clubs and all other forms of organization, and assist them to the best of their abilities in order to resolve their potential problems in a better and a more effective way, all this contributing to the strengthening of the ties between the diaspora and Serbs living in the region, on the one hand, and their mother country, on the other. In this sense, the role played by Serbian DCMs abroad is invaluable to the Serbs of the diaspora.
The entire staff of Serbia’s diplomatic and consular missions abroad is aware that they are representing their country not only vis-a-vis the host country, but also the Serbs living in the diaspora. This role of “specific representatives of the Serbian policy, identity, culture and mentality” imposes huge responsibilities and obligations, and in playing it, the DCMs count on the assistance, support and cooperation of the diaspora and Serbs living in the region, for the benefit of all of them.
In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia is making tremendous efforts in all areas in order to upgrade the standards and the effectiveness of the services rendered by its diplomatic and consular missions, bearing in mind that, by their conduct at all times, its diplomats and officials represent their country, thus increasing the level of confidence of the Serbian diaspora in their mother country.
Furthermore, public diplomacy and transparency of work in all DCMs and the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are particularly important for the country’s reputation and for gaining the confidence of both foreign partners and the Serbs in the diaspora. Therefore, their active and intensive cooperation with the media in the receiving state, aimed at improving the existing image of Serbia and the Serbian Foreign Ministry’s network, is an important segment of their work.
What the diaspora and Serbs living in the region can expect from diplomatic and consular missions of the Republic of Serbia
The diaspora rightly expects that Serbia’s diplomatic and consular missions be more open to its needs and initiatives.
Therefore, it is important for the diaspora and the Serbs living in the region to know that Serbia’s diplomatic and consular missions are obliged to do the following:
– to actively commit themselves to carrying out their significant role in the democratic process of articulating the interests of the diaspora and its authentic representation in their mother country;
– to effectively render consular services for which they are authorized;
– to cooperate with all Serbian associations, organizations, clubs and other organizations for the purpose of consolidating their internal ties, uniting the diaspora and creating more efficient “roof organizations” with a potential to exercise greater influence both in the country of residence, as well as establishing a better and more comprehensive cooperation with the mother country;
– to visit the Serbian diaspora in more distant parts of the country (holding of consular days), provide consular services, hold discussions with and provide the Serbian citizens with necessary information;
– to make an effort to expand and improve education in the Serbian language at all levels of education in the receiving state and, to that end, to cooperate with the relevant institutions of the host country;
– to organize queries and assist in organizing and setting up supplementary education in the Serbian language and help maintain the ties of the second, third and every other generation of the diaspora with the mother country by fostering the Serbian language and culture;
– to commit themselves to the better organization and staging of cultural, sporting and all other events within the Serbian diaspora so as to preserve the identity, culture, tradition and customs of the Serbian people;
– to take care o cultural-historical monuments and Serbian military memorials and war cemeteries from World War I and World War II, and from all other periods of Serbian plight, which are located in as many as thirty countries in the world, to cooperate with the Serbian Orthodox Church and its bishoprics abroad.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Diaspora at a common task of institutionalizing cooperation between the diaspora and the mother country.
The new Law on the diaspora and Serbs living in the region is a comprehensive legal document that opens broad possibilities for cooperation between the diaspora and the mother country including:
1. Institutionalization of that cooperation by establishing Assemblies of diaspora and Serbs living in the region and the relevant Councils and the setting up of a Council for the relations with the Serbs in the region and the Council for the diaspora reflect the readiness of the Republic of Serbia to significantly improve cooperation with the diaspora and the Serbs in the region, as well as to increase its assistance and influence for the benefit of both sides.
2. Introduction of far greater possibilities for the protection of the interests of the Republic of Serbia, its citizens and legal entities in foreign countries in cooperation with the ministries and institutions in charge of maintaining the relations with the diaspora;
3. Provision of an opportunity for taking measures aimed at promoting the relations with Serbian emigrants living in foreign countries;
However, notwithstanding the distribution of competencies envisaged by the law and the communication between the highest Serbian Government representatives from the relevant Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Diaspora, on the one hand, and the representatives of associations and prominent economic representatives, it is necessary to underline that the entire cooperation and the good intentions and relations with the diaspora and Serbs living in the region begin and may also end at the “customer service window of Serbia’s diplomatic and consular missions”.
For this reason, the purpose of work and the responsibility vested in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite the numerous difficulties in carrying out its daily work because of the reduced staffing levels and increased volume of work (for example: issuance of new passports and lack of biometric equipment), is to upgrade the services of its diplomatic and consular missions and bring them to the level which would be effective and presentable in all its segments. The Serbian Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic and consular staff is well aware, having learned from experience, that their civilized and professional treatment of our people from the diaspora will also reflect the relationship between the mother country and the diaspora.
Personal contact and presence in the receiving state – precious and irreplaceable
In spite of introducing information technologies in almost all segments of work, personal contact and cooperation make the role played by Serbia’s DCMs in the receiving states irreplaceable, as it is primarily aimed at promoting the relations between the mother country and the diaspora, as well as protecting the interests of Serbia’s citizens in the receiving state, where they temporarily live and work.
Serbia’s diplomatic and consular missions in foreign countries deal with promoting and expanding the contacts and communication with the legal entities of the receiving state, thus promoting the development of bilateral economic, cultural, scientific and technological and all other forms of cooperation which are in the common interest of developing the overall relations between the Serbian people and the states where its diaspora should, and is able to, constitute that important “bridge of cooperation”.
Respecting the multi-ethnic principle in working with the diaspora
Finally, references are most frequently made to the Serbian diaspora. The notion includes the citizens of the Republic of Serbia living in foreign countries and Serbian emigrants from the Republic of Serbia and the region, as well as their descendents. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that many people of other ethnic groups also live in Serbia. Accordingly, all those people whose origins are in these lands and who have expressed their wish to be part of the Serbian diaspora or to participate in its activities are welcome. The democratic nature of our society and our European integration would be hard to imagine without the respect of the multi-ethnic principle.