I think it is impossible to be a politician of modern times and to perceive the world through national or administrative borders that are ornaments of the past. I believe that a region is the smallest area that a modern leader should have in mind when making decisions and facing the challenges of this time, in the sense that regions are not defined by administrative boundaries, but rather by nature, culture and mentality.
When I say this, I mean the territory larger than a state, such as the Balkan region that is the home of my country, Serbia. I am also a firm believer in learning from the best, and I do not see a better model to learn from than the Nordic, or Scandinavian, as we popularly refer to it in Serbia. I truly believe that the mentality of the people in the Balkans needs to be overhauled, which is also in line with the differences between Northern European and Mediterranean nations. The epicentre of this change is the work ethic, as well as the relationship between the state and its citizens.
In the Nordic countries, patriotism is demonstrated by paying taxes and contributing to the country, for which one expects in return a modern education and protection, ranging from health and legal, all the way to safety and security. In our region it is more common that an individual will look for any possible way to circumvent the system, to avoid liability, but still expect benefits from the state. This includes the battle against corruption, which in Scandinavia is based on the principle of zero tolerance that I am working diligently to apply in our country. Not only politicians, but even kings have not been spared from that fight in Nordic countries, and tycoons do not even need to be mentioned. In societies that cherish the middle class, voters consistently vote out the greedy, or politicians that they believe are not working in the public interest.
Another fundamental lesson that I think people from the Balkans should learn from the Scandinavians is teamwork. In the Balkans we often wish bad luck upon our neighbour, which is a retrograde legacy of the former time and small-town mentality. Nations that wish to progress and leap into the future have already faced the fact that they can achieve little in the modern economy without working jointly with their neighbours. By joining forces it is easier to overcome common problems that occur in global markets and conquer new technologies.
Nations that wish to progress and leap into the future have already faced the fact that they can achieve little in the modern economy without working jointly with their neighbours. By joining forces it is easier to overcome common problems that occur in global markets and conquer new technologies
When it comes to the work ethic, I am proud of the fact that Serbian workers have been working for Nordic companies and learning from them for more than two decades. These companies include pioneers of foreign investments in Serbia, such as Tetra Pak, or the largest individual investor in Serbia, Telenor, and Tikkurila Group in Šabac that is raising company Zorka Colors to a new operating level, and ending with the latest entrants, like IKEA and PKC, whose investments are a seed for the whole region. All of them were evangelists of a new attitude towards work, examples of someone who needs to level out our differences in mentality and lead us into the future.
I would like to finish this editorial by concentrating on our similarities rather than our differences. I do not see a greater similarity between the Balkan and the Nordic countries than in the courage of the people. In the past, this Viking-like courage was best demonstrated in war, and I do not see a better modern battlefield to display this courage than by changing ourselves and our habits. This personal change in mentality is the most difficult change to make and I am grateful to you for being a guiding light that we can follow on our endeavour.
Welcome to the Serbia of the future!