US - Serbian relations: diplomatic, economic, and cultural

(click to enlarge)

We spent 2 hours today at the new American Embassy in Belgrade.  It's in a beautiful neighborhood, a few miles outside the city center and among the hills and open-green-space of Belgrade.  It's a beautiful new building; the old Embassy may as well be put out to pasture.  It's old, small, worn out (including after having been set alight by Serbian protesters after the US recognized Kosovo in 2008).  This space - the grounds themselves, the architecture of the building (a "green building" no less!), and the interior - are a great investment for the American taxpayers, and a great symbol of the strong partnership the US is (re-)building with Serbia.

We met with a number of US Embassy personnel today - topped off with a surprise visit by the US Ambassador to Serbia, Michael Kirby.  Our speakers included:

  • Drew, Cultural Affairs Officer
  • Judith L., Political Officer/Human Rights
  • Matthew G., Economic Officer
  • Peter W., USAID
  • Catherine B., an MA student at Northeastern, interning at the Embassy!
  • and of course the Ambassador himself!

We heard a lot about how these US foreign service officers (and our own Intern!) are working to improve the cultural, economic, and diplomatic (and thus political) relations of the two countries.  The Human Rights Officer, Judith, was one of my personal favorites.  She shared with us her passion for promoting human rights among various minorities and persecuted peoples (LGBT, Roma, and others) and her tireless efforts to end human trafficking, with the help of some very brave Serbian police officers.  The economic and security discussions were great.

And Drew's hard work promoting cultural, educational, and "public engagement" work - the "people-to-people" intiatives, improving the relationship both ways - is impressive.

As usual, our students asked great questions - informed, probing, brilliant.  As with every other visit we have had, our hosts praised our students for being well-informed and exhibiting (in the midst of the questions themselves) deep knowledge of the intricacies of Serbian (or, earlier, Bosnian) politics.

After the US Embassy visit, which we all agreed was an amazing visit all around, we went to the Museum of Yugoslavia/Tito Museum.


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