Esteemed representative of the President of Serbia,

Distinguished representatives of the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament and the Prime Minister of Croatia,

Dear guests and attendees,

Thank you all for joining us in the celebration of the Statehood Day of the Republic of Serbia, the first one organized by the Serbian national community in Croatia. In doing so, you showed us an exceptional honour and, we believe, demonstrated interest in enhancing relations between Croatia and Serbia, as well as the relations between our community and our motherland – Serbia, which are two causes we deeply care about.

Chance wanted this seemingly pretentious but genuinely humble act of gathering to coincide with the 220th anniversary of the first Serbian uprising and the 189th anniversary of the first modern Serbian Constitution. Just as the first Serbian uprising ignited the initial flame of freedom in the eyes and hearts of the South European Slavs, the Constitution of Sretenje, although written in our vernacular, reflects European grammar of that very freedom. That is why today presents an opportunity to emphasise that none of us should overlook these two anniversaries. Nor should anyone with whom we share a common life, with whom we have shared more than two centuries of common ideas and the language of freedom, and with whom we now, or at least should, jointly shoulder the responsibility for the European future of South-Eastern Europe be denied the knowledge of their historical significance.

We highlight this not only because of its intrinsic importance, but also as a possible positive historical inspiration for overcoming recent negative and tragic historical experiences, particularly between Croats and Serbs. We bring attention to this also because I know that the emotions tied to our recent historical experiences are often more pronounced and profound than the sentiments related to our current historical responsibility for the European future of our region, its peace, and prosperity. Let it also be said that all this that is mentioned will hardly find its right answer without a stronger European sense of responsibility for our future and  for the peace and prosperity of Europe and the world.

Serbs in Croatia, as a newly formed minority, like, we believe, all newly formed minorities in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, have a need for improved and more open cooperation with the motherland – Serbia. Their sustainability as a national community largely depends on this collaboration, whether it is in the spheres of culture and education, religion and information, or in fostering a genuine sense of belonging and understanding what constitutes or makes that sense of belonging. That is why we welcome every piece of good news and each positive message in the relations between Croatia and Serbia with joy, just as we receive every piece of bad news or negative act, such as those that took place in the past few days, with increased concern. And that is why tonight we express gratitude to both Serbia and Croatia for creating, even with this event, a space for us to experience increased freedom and more self-awareness, with the aspiration for the betterment of all and harm to none.

At the beginning of this ceremony, we heard a patriotic poem that exalted Serbia in supreme aesthetic terms. We also heard a very successful historical-literary fragment dedicated to the beginnings of the modern state of Serbia. We do not need to know about the reservations regarding language skills, such as rhetoric and poetry, expressed by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, or even historiographical skills, if we may add, to recognize their potential to confuse minds and sow discord among people, often stirring strong emotions in some, while fuelling feelings of resentment in others. They can be such, and most often are, that they have the tendency to unite people internally while creating distance externally. Minorities, like the Serbian one in Croatia, have the privilege of experiencing both. Therefore, if by any chance there was something in our chosen poem and our bespoke literary fragment that was not shared with each of you, I invite you to translate them into a toast for both Croatia and Serbia – to the well-being and prosperity of Serbia! To the betterment and progress of Croatia!