The Serbian Ambassador to the U.S. welcomed distinguished guests--including U.S. Congressmen, military and diplomatic corps--to Serbian National Day reception at the Library of Congress.
WASHINGTON—On Tuesday, Serbian Ambassador to the U.S. Djerdj Matkovic greeted a flock of American guests inside of the Members’ room in the Library of Congress for a reception celebrating Serbian National Day.
In attendance were Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, Congressman Stivers, Honorable Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, Deputy Secretary of State of Maryland Luis Borunda and members of the Serbian diaspora and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Serbian Ambassador’s opening remarks highlighted the historic significance of the Serbian National Day (Sretenje - or Presentation of the Lord), the day when Serbia became an independent state for the first time.
“Against all odds and rationality,” the Ambassador said, “on February 15, 1804, Serbs started an uprising against the then Ottoman Empire. At that moment in history, the Serbian people didn’t have anything but their vision of freedom and faith. Three decades later, on February 15, 1835, Serbia offered to Europe one of its first modern constitutions. Although short-lived, the constitution remains in our history as a reminder of our endeavors inspired by the great American and French revolutions and a testimony of our aspiration towards freedom and prosperity.”
During his opening remarks, the Ambassador emphasized Serbia’s commitment to its path to EU membership and the process of the EU integration.
“EU membership for Serbia and the Balkans has its unique and irreplaceable value,” Ambassador Matkovic said. ”Today, it gives me great pleasure to say that Serbia, along with Montenegro, has been recognized as a leading country in the region on its path to join the European family.”
Ambassador Matkovic, on the issue of regional stability and relations with Pristina, said that “unilateral approaches could only result in frozen conflicts, and therefore we should invest ourselves in search of a solution which will equally enhance regional stability and boost shared economic prosperity.”
In an effort to make the Kosovo issue a priority, President Trump has recently appointed Ambassador Richard Grenell and Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer as Secretary Pompeo’s Envoy for the Western Balkans. “High-level political meetings, such as the recent ones between the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the President’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien help boost further cooperation,” the ambassador said.
Serbia’s relationship with the United States remains one of the central pillars of the Serbian foreign and security policy. In the domain of security cooperation, Ambassador Matkovic stressed the importance of support from the US Department of Defense in reforms and modernization of Serbian armed forces through education and training.
“Equally cherished is the relationship with our friends from the Ohio National Guard. Being assessed by the Department of Defense as the best State Partnership Program, we are working on strengthening it even more, and promoting it into a fully-fledged military to civilian cooperation with the sisterly state of Ohio,” said the Ambassador.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Matkovic thanked the co-hosts and co-chairs of Serbian Caucus, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio.
Following Ambassador’s remarks, Congressman Cleaver, Deputy Secretary of State of Maryland Luis Borunda and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker gave remarks praising Serbia and U.S.-Serbian friendship. Congressman Cleaver mentioned Serbian cuisine, which, he said, he loves very much.
Congressman Cleaver said that each year he attends a Serbian festival in his district where he eats “kolaci” (Serbian homemade cookies). As a relatively new member of the Helsinki Committee, Congressman Cleaver said that he looks forward to working with Serbia in the domain of human rights. “I love Serbia,” he said as he was leaving the podium to strong applause.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker said that he’s delighted to celebrate the Serbian National Day and he took an opportunity to pass on a message from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “on behalf of the all the US government to offer warmest wishes to Serbia on this truly special occasion.”
Reeker recalled the long history between the two countries, including the event in 1918 which helped grow the Serbian-US friendship, when on the fourth anniversary of the Great War, President Wilson raised the Serbian flag over the White House to express support and sympathy for the sacrifice of Serbian people.
Deputy Secretary of State of Maryland Luis Borunda presented Serbian Ambassador with the Governor's Citation for the National Day.
The success of the Serbian National Day reception at the Library of Congress is one of many diplomatic efforts in bringing the two countries closer in all aspects.
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