Serbia as a new Singapore: The Island of its own

Text: Žikica Milošević

The future of Serbia is uncertain in an uncertain world. There are rough winds blowing from many sides, and as they say in Indochina, “when the elephants fight, the grass is the one who loses”. And in the omnipresent atmosphere of “who is not with me, is against me” it is hard to have your mind and your say. But here’s an opportunity. Since there are so many conflicting influences and pressures, it is an ideal time to say what you are.


Imagine the things like that. You are a teenager in a highschool. There is just one dominant narrative, everyone dresses the same and listen to the same music. So, you have an option to blend in or to be an outcast and a geek. This was the situation in the 90s and Serbia was an outcast, not able to understand that Yeltsin’s Russia did not care for itself, let alone for anyone else, drowned in thief privatisations and rampant crime. Twenty years later, there are many cliques and cliches, many dominant narratives, EU is at the same time willing to expand and unwillingly shrinking, the USA is still angaged in its controversial politics all around the world, Russia is coming back, Turkey has woken up in a neo-Ottoman dream, China is the new superpower, IMF and World Bank are still dominant factors, WTO is yet another player in the game… The world has changed to the point that we how have no common consensus about same-sex marriages, GMO food or what is even freedom? So you can dress anyway you want to, there are to many dressing styles and musics to be listened to. Or start your new style.


In the late 90s there was a dilemma what is Europe and where it ends. Turkey and Russia were considered a part of it, or not, depending on the point of view. Even Morocco wanted in. Nikita Mikhalkov, one of the greatest directors of our time, argued philosophically that Russia is actually out of it, that Russia is not Europe but Eurasia. It is a blend of European and Asian cultures, in short. Just like Turkey. OK, if there is such thing and we will not have United Europe from Casablanca to Tel Aviv and Vladivostok to Baku, from Reykjavik to Almaty, where is the border between Europe and the rest? I guess all the countries, even those in these “blocs” and those out of them, should speak loudly. Just like Poland and V4 did. Since there are no uniform values, why would not we say who we are?


I think Serbia shoud be a kind of new Singapore or new Hong Kong in Europe. Or a new Lebanon, new Switzerland or new Azerbaijan or new Iceland. Just pick the most convenient parable. I picked Singapore as a rebellious island who is multicultural. They have left the Malaysian federation since they wanted their own way. It was a kind of Brexit, right? And it would be great to be equally open to everyone. We want Lebanese buildings and restaurants to be along the Israeli blocks of flats and shopping malls. No matter how they hate each other in their homeland and have a closed borders and wars every now and then. We want Indian and Chinese investments side by side, Arab and European, Russian and American.

And not only that. We should respect the wishes of the people. If they strongly disapprove GMO, than we should ban it. No matter what it implies. The military neutrality is also desirable. If the people are not ready to accept the no smoking concept, so diss the concept. I am personally a non-smoker but I am glad that there is a country where you can freely smoke like in America in the 90s. There should be a country where you can buy a beer at the kiosk at 4AM freely. There should be a country where the Chinese will come first to get to know Europe and to see the major rock stars at the music festivals, like Exit. We should be that hub, like Hong Kong, where everything meets and mingles, and everyone respects each other. Like Remarque’s Lisbon or Casablanca in the eponymous film. Like Tangiers International Zone. Come in peace, bring your smile and your money, leave in peace. Or stay. There are several thousand Russians and Ukrainians in Novi Sad at the moment, and the number is increasing. Many French and Belgians have found their home in Novi Sad, the Capital of Culture. I met an American chess champion living in Novi Sad saying, it is a great place for gloing to tournaments, it is in the middle of Europe and there is a strong chess scene in Serbia. Welcome all.

We cannot be as rich as “perpetually neutral” Switzerland, but we can at least be like Azerbaijan, which keeps in the shade between the piowerful neigbours like Iran, Russia, Turkey and omnipresent America. Be like Israel, like Lebanon. Like Dubai. Like Panama, whatever. Just find your own way. Since all the other ways are not yours. As they say, be yourself, ‘cos everyone else is already taken.

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