Czechs and Serbs rediscover their old partnership


Relations between the Czech Republic and Serbia-Montenegro have a long history. Both are Slav nations and their languages are similar. Their predecessors - Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia - were very close allies in the period between the two world wars, and something of the special relationship has survived even after the tragic events of the 1990s as Yugoslavia disintegrated. The Czech think tank, the Council for International Relations, has decided to take a closer look at Czech-Serb relations and organised a special debate on the subject.

The Council for International Relations which is led by the former foreign minister Jiri Dienstbier has launched a series of public debates dealing with different international issues, accompanied by booklets. Jiri Dienstbier explains why they decided to start the series with the Czech Republic's relations to Serbia-Montenegro.

"We chose Serbia and Montenegro because there is a lot of misunderstanding following the events of the last decade - the nineties. Serbia is a central country in the Balkans. Nothing can happen without the development of Serbia - even the Stability Pact can not function. All roads cross through Serbia; railways and highways too. The Danube, which is an important river for Romania and the Ukraine also passes through the country."

The Serbian ambassador to the Czech Republic Aleksandar Ilic also took part in the debate. He said that his country sees many opportunities to learn from the Czech Republic's experience as it has reintegrated with Western Europe.

Jiri Dienstbier
"We all do our best to cultivate our relations. The most important are, of course, the political relations. A lot of your politicians know about Serbia and Montenegro, they've been to our country and our politicians have been here. So we have a political ground for cooperation. The reforms in our country should be very similar to those in the Czech Republic - this regards political, economical, cultural, as well as military domains, as we are also on the road to the European Union and NATO."

Jiri Dienstbier also believes that the Czech Republic, in spite of being a freshman in the EU, has some experience to offer.

"We can give them some instruction in the reconstruction of judiciary - we know how bad it's here - and what they should expect - how to organize the new police, how to pass the important laws, which are needed in order to cooperate with the European Union, and so on."

But already today, there are not only political but also growing economic relations between these two countries. Since the fall of the Milosevic regime, a lot of Czech companies have rebuilt their old contacts in Serbia-Montenegro and investments are rising. As Serbian Democracy stabilizes and its economy improves, the Czech Republic is rediscovering an old European partner.