THE SERBIAN PRESSURE GROUPS ON A GLOBAL SCALE AND THEIR CONNECTIONS
(RIEAS Junior Analyst)
The following text derives from a speech by Ioannis Michaletos being presented on the 4th of July in the Athens “Zapeion” convention center for the 86th world conference of the American Hellenic Progressive Association (AHEPA)
The Research Institute for European & American Studies (RIEAS) presented a series of themes relating to the organization of the pressure groups in the world and their interaction with the Greek one. It is interesting to note that in the case of the Serbian one, there is intense dynamism, although that cannot be seen at first glance and has to be researched through.
The Serbian pressure groups have evolved dramatically over the previous decade due to the events in Yugoslavia and the great upturns that this entailed.
The basic characteristics of the Serbian “Lobbies” are:
-Extensive use of electronic transmissions especially the internet for dissemination of information
-Coalition with other ethnic lobbies (Greek, Russia, Jewish, increasingly Armenian) and political ideologies (paleoconservative, conservative, centrists, left wing and certain aristocratic figures of the Anglo-Saxon world)
-Use of individuals as communication hubs, a very flexible system
-Lack of centralized or commanding authority
-A very strong nexus between the American and the Canadian organizations
-Mostly grassroots organizations
-The Serbs use extensively social network websites such as the facebook and you tube in well coordinated efforts
Strength & numbers
According to the official statistics there are approximately 5.5 million Serbs outside Serbia, the largest Diaspora community being found in the USA (1.8 million), Canada (700.000), Germany (700,000), Australia (200,000), Austria (200,000), and Switzerland (200,000). As it can be understood the majority lives in the Western world thus they tend to function in parallel with the “Opponent” pressure groups, i.e. the Albanian ones that share similar concentration of Diaspora members.
In the United States the Serbian community contains one Governor (Illinois), three Senators and two ex-Senators. The Serbian Caucus in the Congress has 31 members of which two are of Greek descent, Mr. Bilirakis and Mr. Space.
On 6 December 2001 the Federal Government adopted Decision on setting up the Council of the Diaspora as a consultative body of the Federal Government for the first time in the history of relations between the mother country and its Diaspora. The Council is comprised of representatives of the Diaspora and of the mother country on a basis of parity.
The Council of the Diaspora gathers and processes information from the Diaspora and Serbia and formulates proposals for the Government of Serbia and for other government bodies and institutions in the Republic of Serbia.
It is interesting to note that up to 2001, when the Serbian Diaspora Council was formed in Belgrade, there was no authority that assisted or overviewed the activities of the Serbs abroad. Nevertheless, due to the existence of political brinkmanship and other domestic issues, the coordination from Belgrade can be considered as a feeble one, a paradigm very close to the Greek one.
Greek-Serbian joint ventures
The connection between Greeks and Serbs in the States could be seen through a recent letter by the ex-Senator Helen Delich to the Greek FM. It stated that “During my time in Congress Greece never had a better friend than me… I drafted many proposals concerning the Cyprus issue and supported Greece in the FYROM name issue… The Serbs and Greeks in America have strong bonds dating back a long time”
The Greek-Serbian cooperation in North America and elsewhere heavily relies in the actions of the local communities and Churches. According to information relayed over the first three months of 2008, common festivities, as well as, demonstrations against the Kosovo independence declaration were held in: Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, California and in Sydney –Australia. Moreover there are at least four organizations with Byzantine acronyms operating in USA that are being composed by Greeks, Serbians and other Orthodox descent citizens that aim towards the creation of common fronts in a variety of issues. They rely on the internet for the exchange of information and they have been able to attract a few thousand members and conduct dynamic activism.
For instance the "Serbian Day in Washington" was vividly presented by the Serb-Hellenic Forum; from we were also informed that “It's not uncommon for Serbs to attend Hellenic Orthodox churches, especially if they happen to be located in an area where there isn’t Serbian Orthodox churches”
According to Adamantions Koukouves, a Hellene living in the States and a member of joint forums “The thing about Greek-Serb cooperation is that it is not centralized. There is no major Greek-Serb organization (at least yet). It is mostly: Greek-Serb festivals, local Greek-Serb (and, in one case, also Russian) organizations, Greek-Serb nightclubs (with special "Greek-Serb nights"), and joint demonstrations/protests. These things tend to occur in places where there is a high concentration of both Greeks and Serbs. Aside from the "Serbian Day in Washington" event, I personally participated in a Serbian protest outside of the Croatian embassy on 5 August 2007 regarding the Croatian invasion of Krajina as well as the Serbian Genocide committed by Croatians”
A small sample of joint Orthodox organizations in the States.
"Orthodox Front”, "The Byzantine Edge", “Hellenic Front”, Serbian-Hellenic Forum” , Serbia-Hellas”, "Serbian-Hellenic Brotherhood", "Hellenic-Serbian Alliance: International Lobby For Serbs and Hellenes" and many other.
Another feature of the Greek-Serbian connection is being currently envisaged by the Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA), based in New York. In a recent commemoration in the City of the Jasenovac genocidal concentration camp, CANA participated, along with the leading members of the Serbian community, Mayor Bloomberg and most of the Jewish leaders of the Five Boroughs.
In Florida, CANA along with Armenian and Serbian organizations has enacted a campaign against a particular Congressman that is characterized by pro-Turkish and pro-Albanian stance. The campaign has grown to a considerable strength and CANA’s PR man in the region is of Serbian descent.
According to CANA’s past press statements, “The Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA) accompanied by political organizers from Washington DC, along with hundreds of activists, many from Florida and many traveling from several states away, joined together to rally against Genocide denier and Cyprus invasion denier Congressman Robert Wexler (D-19), and to stand in support of democratic primary candidate Dr. Benjamin Graber, and thereby stand in support of human rights, justice and democracy on Saturday, January 12, 2008 in Boca Rotan, Florida”
Moreover, “The rally, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), and co-hosted by the Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA), along with the Armenian National Committee of South Florida the Armenian Student Association (ASA), was a huge success!
CANA consultant John Bosnitch, commented on Wexler “he is in the pocket of the big money Turkish lobby denying the illegal occupation of Cyprus…Wexler’s denial of the past Genocide of Armenians is strike one, Wexler’s support of the present Genocide of Greeks in Cyprus is strike two, Wexler’s support of the future Genocide of Kosovo Serbs is strike three…lets be Americans about this.. Mister Wexler, three strikes you’re out”.
Another example of the Greek-Serbian common stance on wider issues is the inclusion of James Jatras in the American Council of Kosovo and in parallel in the Greek American Political Action Committee that is going to play an important role in the upcoming forthcoming Presidential elections.
Large Serbian Diaspora organizations
The American Council for Kosovo is an organization primarily concerned with the Kosovo issue and important personalities from the Serbian, Jewish, Greek and Anglo-Saxon communities are represented. The Council has an internet based radio program and has initiated foreign trips to countries such as Russia, Israel, Canada, and Australia in order to inform officials of those countries around the Kosovo problem and the cultural genocide conducted by the Albanians.
It hasn’t visited Athens yet, due to indifference by the respective Greek authorities, although that is something that could be changed anytime soon due to the changing nature of Greek domestic political balances for a variety of reasons beyond the scope of the present speech.
The Advisory Board of American Council for Kosovo has made numerous appearances in major USA think tanks, Israeli policy forums and Serbian newspapers. It includes:
Doug Bandow is a Washington-based political writer and policy analyst. He served as a Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan
Ambassador James Bissett
Ambassador Bissett spent 37 years as a Canadian Public Servant in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and Foreign Affairs.
Andrew G. Bostom
Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School
Thomas Gambill is a former Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) security official and was based in Kosovo for five years. He has made several important appearances and comments based on his important experience in the region.
Julia Gorin is among the most recognized names in politically conservative stand-up comedy. She has been profiled in the book South Park Conservatives and her jokes will be featured in the forthcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Jokes. She also is one of the most influential thinkers on contemporary Balkan politics.
Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, is a writer and researcher with a large number of publications and appearances in issues concerning security and anti-terrorism policies.
Sir Alfred Sherman+ In Memoriam, with Gratitude
Sir Alfred Sherman was a national security advisor for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and one of the prime strategic thinkers of the United Kingdom
The Rev. Canon Keith Roderick, D.D.
An Episcopal priest, Father Keith Roderick was a Cold War human rights activist on behalf of Soviet citizens facing religious persecution under Communist
William J. Murray
William J. Murray is the chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC
The Serbian Unity Congress is another organization that was established in 1990, and already has 11 offices in USA and 10 other in the rest of the world. Its main function is to inform the public on Serbian themes and to mobilize Diaspora Serbs on issues of great concern. It mainly operates using the English language in order to have a greater appeal in the 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants and to be able to penetrate its view on a greater media audience.
It provides 24/7 information flow on Serbian issues and has a special high quality information gateway regarding the exposure of cultural treasures of Serbia in a way they address the American mind.
Offices in the States are in:
Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Houston, Miami
And abroad in:
An informal, but well organized Serbian lobby in Israel has been active from the very beginning of the breakup of Yugoslavia. It includes a number of media personalities, in concert with the Association of Immigrants from Yugoslavia and the Serbian Embassy in Israel.
It has attained a great role in presenting the Serbian view on the events that took place in ex-Yugoslavia and assisted in shaping a positive image of Serbia to the Israelis.
Ms. Mel Polishook-Bloch and Ms. Erela Golan, members of Knesset, as Chairperson and member of Serbian Friendship Group in the Knesset, visited Serbia from September 5th to 8th 2005 according to the invitation of the Serbian-Israeli friendship group in the People's Assembly of Serbia.
Serbian-Israeli Friendship Group is the first such group established in the Serbian Parliament, initiated by the Committee of Foreign Affairs and its Chairperson, Ms. Gordana Comic.
The Serbian pressure groups successes
Obama is the friendliest to the Serbs due to efforts by the lobby, and was approached by the Serbian Diaspora in a relatively early stage of his election campaign, when Clinton’s campaign seemed as the favorite one.
Excellent relations with Israel and the right wing American Jewish lobby, without at the same time loosing connections with the Arab world, is another accomplishment of the Serbian groups.
Moreover a great number of Balkan scandals and atrocities were made known to the wider public, by an extent through the assistance of the Serbian groups across the world and especially via the internet.
The Serbs were pretty apt and successful into forming very good relations with certain wings and clubs of the British Conservative party, the American Republican Party and veteran associations in the States and Canada
The most important fact is that despite the hurdles of the '90's they have managed to form a lobby which is now beginning to become influential, I would say that it will become amongst the 10 most influential in the next 5-10 years if it continues with that pace.
Lastly the likeliness of the mergence of an orthodox axis in North America which has more than 8 million Orthodox citizens, is a very important aspect of the whole discussion