Vibrant capital still in our hearts

From rich cultural life to EU diplomacy and EU affairs

Diplomacy & Commerce magazine, in each issue, among other things, represents the diplomatic corps, as well as everything that happens in the diplomatic community in Serbia. Now we also want to show our readers where the former ambassadors work and what they do. In this issue, we present the ambassadors of two countries: Croatia and Romania. We asked them what they did after leaving Belgrade, what they miss the most from Serbia and how much the pandemic has changed diplomacy and the daily life of a diplomat.

H.E. Oana Cristina Popa and H. E. Gordan Markotić

1. What have you been doing since you left Belgrade?
2. What do you miss the most from Serbia?
3. How much has diplomacy changed in the conditions of a pandemic and as well as the everyday life of a diplomat

H.E. Oana Cristina Popa, EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Podgorica

Very exciting times to be in Montenegro, after Serbia!

1. After spending four great years in Serbia, last September I embarked on a new professional adventure, taking up the position of EU Ambassador to Montenegro. In Montenegro, just like when I first came to work in Serbia, I was immediately charmed by the warm, welcoming people and the gorgeous landscapes. I’ve also grown to appreciate Montenegro beyond this surface – this is not only a country of rich European heritage, but also a forward-looking society capable of doing what it takes to realize its EU future. Professionally speaking, it has been a challenging, but rewarding first six months into my new role. My team at the EU Delegation in Podgorica and I are very much looking forward to working together with the authorities and people in Montenegro to help the country move forward on its EU path.

2. Most of all, I miss the many wonderful people who truly enriched my life and who I am now privileged to call my friends. Their friendship will always hold a special place in my heart.

3. The COVID-19 crisis has changed our lives in ways previously thought unimaginable. This holds true for any profession and especially so for diplomacy, which has always relied on handshakes and personal contacts as one of its main tools in building bridges among peoples and nations. The global pandemic has not only dramatically affected our professional and social interactions, it has also put our core values to the test. I’m glad that the European Union has risen to this challenge. In these extremely difficult times, when many EU member states are struggling to cope with the unprecedented health and economic crisis, EU citizens have not failed to show their solidarity and extend substantial support to their fellow Europeans in the Western Balkans. However challenging, this is also a very exciting time to be in Montenegro. I really look forward to seeing all political and social stakeholders in the Montenegrin society working together, beyond all the diversities and differences, to make their shared European vision a reality.

H. E. Gordan Markotić, Coordinator for Organisation and Logistics of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU

I miss Belgrade theatres and cuisine

1. After my returning to Zagreb I was appointed as the Coordinator for Organisation and Logistics of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Although the Presidency was a great honour for Croatia it was also a huge task as well . More than 170 different meetings were planned to be held in Croatia with around 20.000 delegates and more than 1.000 persons were involved in organisation of the events. Therefore we took more than two years for very intensive preparations and we started our Presidency as of January 1, 2020.
Until March 15, 2020 everything went as it was planned. Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 crises and lockdown all over the Europe we had to stop with meetings in person and we switched into online meetings. Until the end of the Croatian Presidency on June 30 we held more than 100 video conferences.
After the Presidency was closed on June 30, 2020, I was appointed as the Adviser of the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and I am still in the Minister’s Office.

2. I will always remember a years spent in Serbia as a very interesting in my career but also quite dynamic and intense. I established excellent professional relations with many Serbian officials, as well as with fellow Ambassadors in Belgrade and friendly relations with a lot of people out of politics. That is exactly what I missed the most: opportunity to meet daily new people and to establish with them professional or friendly relations. Of course I would like to add rich culture life in Belgrade which I was trying to follow as much as possible by frequently visiting the Opera House and many Belgrade theatres and different festivals. Last but not least I miss also an excellent Serbian Cuisine and Specialities although I struggled often with a quantity of food.

3. As I already mentioned we witnessed during the Croatian Presidency how the classic form of the planned meetings was changed into a web format. It is truth that even before we used to have sometimes video conferences but on exceptional bases. However since a pandemic of COVID-19 virus appeared and spread all over the world, video conferences have become a dominant way of the meetings and today we cannot imagine how to organise meetings without using video applications. On the other hand we do not travel anymore as we used to do, we do not held receptions and diplomatic dinners so one could conclude that social life of diplomats does not or hardly exists. The same happens in our private life: we do not see our friends, we do not have big family gatherings, we do not go to the restaurants… But we are perhaps more focused on ourselves and our close relatives: spouse, children, parents especially if we live together with them and that is certainly benefit of a pandemic. But since everything in life has its beginning and its end I am looking forward to a future without COVID-19 and to going back to our old reality as it used to be before pandemic.

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