Cultural Diplomacy is Important in the Process of Negotiation of Serbian Membership into the EU

A brief discussion with Mr. Stefan Draškic shows how cultural diplomacy is essential to foster Serbia’s political relations.

December 18th, 2019

On December 17th, members of the Berlin Global had the opportunity to meet the Cultural Attaché of the Serbian Embassy in Berlin: Stefan Draškic. He has a Bachelor in French Language and Literature from Belgrade University and a Master degree in EU Constitutional Law. He worked as a freelancer translator, Third and Second Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. 


During the interview, topics were discussed ranging from the importance of cultural diplomacy for maintaining and developing the Serbian-German bilateral relations, questions around Serbia joining the EU, whether Yuguslavian history is prominent in Serbia today, and future plans for promoting Serbian culture in Germany, and particularly Berlin as its cultural capital.

Mr Stefan Draškic, as the cultural attaché of the Serbian Embassy in Berlin, could you give us an introduction to your work?

The work in the area of culture in the Serbian Embassy in Berlin can roughly be divided in two areas- one is to make it easier for Serbian artists and cultural institutions to find their way in the German public and the other one is to present a little bit, introduce the Serbian culture to people from Serbia who live in Germany, and in Berlin.

How have you observed culture to shape society and politics in a multicultural society like Serbia?


I find that cultural diplomacy is very important. We are not nearly representative of the Serbian government or implementing its policies, or finding partners to talk about high level politics and stuff like this. But also, a big part of our job is to make German and Berliners more acquainted with Serbia´s culture, language, people, and what they do. Having said that, there is no very updated this policy when embassies used to present Serbian culture. Its a globalised world.  Everyone can find very easily what they are interested in, our job is to make those connections between cultural institutions and artists easier. 


How effective is tourism to nation branding as well as sustaining cultural relations with other nations?


Belgrade is the former capital of Yugoslavia, a bigger state which encompassed modern-day Serbia. The film festival lost a little importance during the sanctions which were imposed during the 1990s.  Nevertheless, the Oktober Salon, a modern and contemporary salon, takes place every few years. Belgrade has been on the cultural map of Europe for 40-50 years. It makes our work a lot easier, and makes it a lot easier for people around Europe to connect with Serbia.


How have bilateral relations between Germany and Serbia developed since Serbia´s transition to a democratic country in 2000? In your opinion, how is Germany using cultural diplomacy to influence not only Serbian but also other Balkan countries? 


Germany is by far the biggest foreign trade partner for Serbia. Germany is the number one for Serbia for economic exchange since 2000. German companies employ around 60,000 people in Serbia. So, one cannot simply underestimate the economic bilateral relations between these two countries. However, one should not forget the political support of Germany to include Serbia into the European Union. On a cultural level, this cooperation lasted way longer. It goes back decades and it has several wonderful examples. For example, the conductor of the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra was also a resident of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra for the last couple of years, and he also conducted this last Orchestra. We had now the project to join the two Orchestras together in Dortmund for one night in 2020. This is still at the earliest stage of preparation. This is just an example of how Serbian and German cultural institutions have really strong ties. 


Are Serbian cultural and political relations with Europe, Germany and other countries still influenced by the Yugoslavian history and cultural heritage?


Serbian foreign policy has prioritised one simple goal- that is to join the EU as a permanent member state. And all other goals are beneath this one. So, our main political and economic partner is the European Union. However, there are many partnerships between European and Serbian institutions that are not led by us as the Serbian Embassy. We used to be more mediators before globalization, and the world became “The Big Village” as it is now. But, as I said, Belgrade is a city with a vivid cultural life that, excluding a few years, has always maintained cultural relations with other European nations.  


Serbia is a candidate country to become a member of the European Union. What role do you think cultural diplomacy play in the process of negotiation for the Serbian membership in the European Union? 


Cultural diplomacy is definitely important in the process of negotiation of the Serbian membership. It is not obvious but I would say that it is very important because the entry of a country in the European Union is not a simple political move where one day, some men in suits decide that Serbia can become a member and this country fulfils all the conditions. In order to make more attractive the Serbian membership to all the citizens of the European member states, they have to be better acquainted with Serbia. They need to know that Serbia is a European country with a rich cultural heritage, a long history, a large number of cultural institutions and many young dynamic artists. We have already shone on the world stage with cinema. Compared to its size and the relatively modest resources, Serbia has had a few well-known European film directors, and we are really proud of that. Cultural diplomacy started to connect people on so many levels that they become acquainted with each others and they do not regard each other as distant. And in that sense, it is very important for political negotiation as well. 


The Serbian Embassy decided to collaborate with Berlin Italian Communication and participate in the Travelling Film Festival last year and this year. What other cultural events will be organized by the Serbian Embassy in Berlin in 2020? How do you want to promote Serbian culture in Germany?


This is a good question. We are trying to move forward our cooperation with Berlin Italian Communication regarding the Film Festival. Although it is still too early to say, this festival takes place at the end of November and beginning of  December. However, we will try to make a bigger appearance on other Film Festivals. All these possible collaborations are still at an early stage of negotiation. So, I cannot tell you what exactly will be the events where Serbia will be present. The Embassy of Serbia has limited resources available and we are oriented to this policy to “do more with less”- rather than organize six or seven small events, we prefer to participate in one or two big events. We would be more than happy to collaborate again with the Travelling Film Festival, but we have also planned some other collaborations.  

References and Links

Marta Faraoni and Victoria Rochelois
Berlin Global, News from Berlin