Your Excellency President of the Republic of Serbia,
Dear members of the Serbian Government,
Dear Rabbi and members of the Jewish communities,
Your Holiness Patriarch of Serbia, Dear Bishops,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Dear colleagues from the diplomatic corps,
Dear Belgradians, Dear friends,
All of you who came here
Dozvolite mi da počnem jednom snažnom političkom izjavom: Ja volim Srbiju. Volim ovu zemlju još od vremena kada sam pre 12 godina došao ovde kao mlad diplomata. To je i razlog zbog koga sam toliko radio da bih se vratio kao ambasador.
Znam da je ovo jedno svečano veče, kada moramo biti ozbiljni i uzdržani, ali ponoviću još jednom, od srca, veliko je zadovoljstvo ponovo biti ovde. Da sada pređemo na zvanični deo. Hajde!
Officially, Ladies and Gentlemen, the diplomatic relations between ex-Yugoslavia and the State of Israel were disconnected after the Six Days War in 1967, by the decision of the Government of Yugoslavia of that time. They were renewed on the level of Charge d’Affaires in autumn 1991, and in spring 1992, the Embassy of Yugoslavia was reopened in Tel Aviv. The first Yugoslav Ambassador to present Credentials in 1997, was the legendary Mirko Stefanovic, who is on the other side of Europe now.
I said officially, because relations between our two nations, in the deepest and the most sincere meaning of the word, were never disrupted. Serbia is not a neighbor of Israel on the geographical map but is a neighbor in the heart.
You don’t have to be a historian, a poet or a prophet in order to see the deep similarities between our two peoples. Our intimate relations derive from a common historical past, present challenges and future dreams.
Common historical past – because both peoples were enslaved by their bleeding history, foreign occupations, loss of sovereignty, and heroic struggle to maintain their cultural and spiritual heritage in an ever changing environment. The Jewish community has always been the integral part of the Serbian nation, sharing both good days and challenging times. Both our nations had to sacrifice so much, in order to prevail and survive. And we both succeeded.
Yes, we are small, both Serbia and Israel have around 7.5 million inhabitants, and yes we are not always popular in certain international arenas, but we are still vigorous, persistent and, pardon a self-compliment, charming by a dynamic nature, warmth and human generosity.
Common challenges of the present - because the struggle to sustain still exists until today. Both Israelis and Serbs believe that they have to protect their home, their national treasures and their unique identity.
And similar dreams for the future - because we both long for peace, security and stability, aspire to be incorporated in the regional space and to overcome the deepest fears, sometimes the internal ones.
Let me tell you a small secret - I am very happy that Israel, although remote from here, is so much present in the daily life of Serbia.
I am happy to hear that Israeli companies come here more often and are involved in building and real-estate projects.
I am happy when Aja Jung visits our Dance Festivals and brings to Belgrade Israeli performers.
I am happy to purchase home appliances at the Israeli shopping malls and start my mornings with a cup of Israeli coffee.
I am happy when Mira Adanja Polak travels to Israel to interview our President Shimon Peres.
I am happy to see that an Israeli coach came here just a few days ago to train PARTIZAN football team. And for CRVENA ZVEZDA fans, I am sure that your day will come too.
What are twenty years in the history of such ancient nations? Both of us are young states, who derive from ancient and glorious nations, not necessarily in size but in their internal drive, their inspiration and their deepest trust in themselves.
What should I wish to both Serbia and Israel for the next twenty years?
To fulfill our vows to ourselves, not to miss any chance or opportunity, to strengthen our sovereignty, to fortify our international position, to enhance our social solidarity, our economy and perhaps the most important - to invest in our future, our young generations.