NEWS

Serbia

In a recent survey conducted in Belgrade the majority of Serbs said they considered Greeks to be their best friends, with the Russians a distant second. It is true that Serbs and Greeks have been on brotherly terms for centuries, a relationship built mainly on their common Orthodox religion, their alliance during the Balkan Wars and Greek support during the civil upheaval in the former Yugoslavia. The recent wars have brought the two nations closer with thousands of families coming together as a result of the assistance offered by Greeks to Serbs. Even today, many Serbian children are financially supported by Greek families who have «adopted» them, providing assistance for their schooling and holidays. Stroll around old Belgrade and anyone can sense the Greek flavor in present-day Serbia, including the Greek street names and the tower where Greek emancipation hero Rigas Feraios was imprisoned and died. (The site is currently being restored by the Serbs with the help of the association of Greek Serbs.) Even Greek songs on current release in Athens are played by Serb pop groups. Some Greek and Serb intellectuals talk of an osmosis of cultures. The Serbs thirst for anything Greek or related. Their universities have Greek studies (in the philosophy department), modern Greek studies (in the literature department), Modern Greek language (at Nis University) and ancient Greek history (at Belgrade University), all of which attract many students. The works of dozens of Greek writers are available in translation. Many Serbs also teach the Greek language. Some 100 large Greek investment projects in the areas of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis as well as in Montenegro are the main focus of the Greek presence in Serbia today. Investment amounting to 1.2 billion euros – the first in Serbia – and the creation of 25,000 jobs have contributed significantly to rectifying the economy ravaged by the war. Serbs working in Greek companies earn three times more than the local average and the companies provide various grants for personnel training in Greece or for the education of the workers’ children.