Read about the two steps that could contribute to development of sustainable cultural relations and scientific cooperation
In the past, relations between Serbia and Germany have often been complex. They depended on the given political and social situation in both countries and moved from valuable interaction to misunderstanding, conflict and war.
Did you know… that first diplomatic encounter between Serbia and Germany occurred 820 years ago, when Stefan Nemanja welcomed Friedrich Barbarossa, who was making a brief rest on his way towards the Crusade?
…that among Tsar Dušan’s bodyguards were those of German origin – «alemans», and that one of them, Palman Bracht, was even awarded the title of their Captain?
…that one of first German schools abroad was established in Belgrade, and that in 1829 Paul Werner was appointed as its first principal?
…that from 1885 until 1914 110 Serbs gained academic degrees at German universities?
Cultural multidimensionality of Serbia remained always attractive, yet was difficult to understand and – at times – looked even intimidating to Germans. This is one of the reasons why Germans tend to see in Serbia a unreliable and unstable future member of the EU. Responsibility of Germany towards the Balkans was always beyond question, however, the actual degree, causes and size of responsibility for most German intellectuals, as well as public opinion in Germany remained unknown – which transformed this historical responsibility into plain (political) declarations, with little actual content defining it.
Disinterest of German intellectual elites for Serbia is currently great and it influences indirectly both political and economic relations between the two countries. Academic and scientific relations have been downgraded to personal contacts and occasional cooperation more upon insistence of Germany than expressed need of Serbia.
Intellectuals who gained their PhDs at German universities have chosen to live and work in Germany, leading us to label this cooperation more as “brain drain” or “headhunting” than anything else.
Universities in Serbia seem satisfied with being granted occasional scholarships, study trips and donations, having no plan or program to promote their own scientific accomplishments and capacities. Connections with – for scientific world – important institutions, i.e. publishing houses, institutes as well as cultural institutions of every type have, on the Serbian side, been left to individuals without any institutional coordination whatsoever and thus remain fragmented and unreliable, meaning: completely irrelevant in terms of advancing cultural cooperation between the two countries.
In one sentence, Serbs and Germans know very little one of another, although they believe how they are actually very close, only because history pitted them against each other several times before.
What is Forum Serbia-Germany?
«Forum Serbia-Germany» was registered as an association gathering individuals, companies and institutions from Serbia and Germany. Goal of this Association is to develop and further Serbian-German relations in the fields of politics, economy, culture and science.
Forum Serbia-Germany offers all interested organizations and individuals different forms of engagement and cooperation: membership for individuals and groups as well as institutions and companies. Forum also envisages honorary memberships for institutions and individuals. Forum works through its bodies: Forum’s Council, Executive Board and Friends of Forum.
Forum’s honorary members are: Ruzica Djindjic (President of the dr Zoran Djindjic Fund), Wilhelm Staudacher (Former Head of Presidential Office of the Federal Republic of Germany), and Aleksandar Vucic (First Vice-President of Government of the Republic of Serbia).
Govt. of Serbia could make two key moves, which could motivate both Germany as well as Serbia to seriously and thoroughly approach the establishment of long-term relations, above all in the fields of science and academic exchange.
- To develop German studies in Serbia,
With the goal of promoting German culture independently of the language studies, inspiring and motivating young people for both learning the language and cultural and scientific cooperation and exchange between the two countries. Germany and Serbia have written common history for many times in the past. This «faithful togetherness» remains largely unknown to younger generations.
- To open Serbian Cultural Centre in Berlin.
This might turn out to be the most important move of Serbia in its claim to «conquer» its cultural and scientific importance in Germany. Cultural Centre in Berlin should not be just another diplomatic outpost; on the contrary, with basic funds and great autonomy it could become the meeting point for both Serbian and German intellectual elite, active in acquisition of necessary funds and cooperation with institutions of interest in Germany.
By doing this, Serbia would take the lead in providing form and substance to its relations with Germany, especially in the light of its eventual accession to the EU. Simultaniously, Serbia would open its doors to German (scientific and cultural) accomplishments since WW2, seeing Germany no longer only as a great power, but a partner as well.
This post uses excerpts from the Strategy for Advancement of German-Serbian Relations, prepared by Jelena Volic-Hellbusch, Forum’s Executive Secretary and CIM Expert at BFPE; as well as anectodes from German-Serbian relations, compiled by Prof. Dr Gabriella Schubert of University of Jena.