The success of Serbia is not a partisan issue in the United States and our positive momentum will continue, regardless of the outcome of our November 3rd national election. We have much more work to do together, and I truly believe we are on the cusp of the greatest days yet for Serbia and the United States
The longer nights and crisp days of fall are reminders for us to slow down, focus on the family and home, and indulge in a little bit of nostalgia. I remember crisp October afternoons playing football with friends, or taking my children to Halloween parties, back in the days when we only used masks as part of costumes, not for everyday activities.
I will not indulge in nostalgia here for the “normal” way of life we had before COVID, apart from expressing my sadness for the many people who are no longer with us today because of this terrible virus, including my father and the family members of several people from my Embassy team.
Despite the challenges of 2020, we have reasons for optimism. I am hopeful a vaccine will soon be with us – arriving in record time, thanks to the concerted efforts of our best scientists. Change is also in the air regarding relations between the United States and Serbia. One year ago, when my family and I arrived in Belgrade, we were greeted with traditional Serbian hospitality, but it was no secret that the relationship between our nations was not where it should be, nor where it could be.
Although our official relationship was cordial, professional, and, frankly, a bit stuck, the connections between businesses and citizens were stronger than ever. As I traveled Serbia during my first year, I met so many people who talked about their relatives and friends in Chicago, Los Angeles, or my home state of New York. And I was amazed to see the entrepreneurial energy here in Serbia and the growing business relationships. I even started to notice more American tourists “discovering” the great food, culture, and scenery of Serbia. Luckily, there’s more than enough pljeskavica, ajvar, and rakija to share. In fact, through USAID, we’re even helping Serbian companies to sell ajvar abroad.
Washington and Belgrade also seemed to have gotten the message that the time was ripe for a change in our official relationship. Presidents Trump and Vučić understand the importance of making decisions and then moving on them without delay. That’s exactly what they did, focusing on something both countries can easily accept: the need for better business and investment conditions.
There are still many political questions to be addressed. In the meantime, we can work together to improve the region’s economy. The United States wants a strong and united Europe and Serbia to be a full member of the European Union. We also see business and investment opportunities in the Western Balkans, especially if the region can tear down trade barriers and become a dynamic emerging economic center in Europe. Neighbors don’t always get along, but it doesn’t make economic sense to turn your back on business opportunities next door. Just look at the United States: our largest trading partners are not China, Germany, or Japan – but Mexico and Canada.
Serbia can be the powerhouse economy of the Western Balkans. I applaud President Vučić for recognizing this potential, and for listening to the entrepreneurs who are driving Serbia’s economic engine. He also understands the importance of slowing the brain drain, by giving Serbia’s best and brightest minds reasons to stay home and help build their nation. These businesses and young people understand the importance of not allowing politics to block prosperity.
The success of Serbia is not a partisan issue in the United States and our positive momentum will continue, regardless of the outcome of our November 3rd national election. I am very proud of the renewed respect and friendship between the United States and Serbia. We want nothing more than to see our old friend succeed. This will not change, no matter the season. We have much more work to do together, but I truly believe we are on the cusp of the greatest days yet for Serbia and the United States.