H. E. Elias Eliadis, Ambassador of Greece to Serbia, discusses with Reminder his life in Belgrade, the recently closed International Tourism Fair, but also the essence of the friendship and the similarity that brings our two peoples together
The fraternity of our two peoples is a well-known fact: both in terms of history and in terms of the real, live energy that people can feel. What is the most interesting thing for the Greeks who visit Belgrade and Serbia for the first time and „the top of their list“? Is it the Nebojša Tower, a form of a symbol of the unity of our two nations, or is it some completely different attraction?
Of course, Greeks visit the Nebojša Tower, the place where Rigas Feraios was executed by the Turks after being turned over by the Austrians, as he is not only a Greek national hero, but also a symbol of liberation for all the peoples in the Balkans. Still, I would say that Greeks mostly visit the Church of St. Petka in Kalemegdan, the St. Sava Temple and, of course, Zemun, the place with many traces of Greek presence during the 18th and 19th century, which was then called „Semlino“. In addition to such landmarks, Greeks now increasingly often visit Belgrade for its well-developed music scene and the numerous entertainment opportunities it provides.
The year began with negotiations between our two countries on the matters of pollution, perhaps one of the most crucial issues humanity faces in the contemporary age. How far ahead is Greece in this respect and which models that you have applied could we take over and implement here?
We have always had close cooperation, especially like in the last year, in many areas – including the area of environment protection, which permeates every aspect of both the everyday life and the economy. Environment is a high priority both for Greek and for Serbian Government, as the quality of life of the population depends on it. Over the recent years, Greece has predominantly invested into renewable energy sources, which are environment-friendly, such as solar and wind power; in that sense, the cooperation between the two countries could develop even further, through exchange of knowledge and experience.
We are all witnesses of the great success in the field of cultural cooperation of our two countries, achieved by the Belgrade Centre of Hellenic Cultural Foundation. Are there some projects coming up that you could tell us about?
Same as last year, the Embassy – in cooperation with the Belgrade Centre of Hellenic Cultural Foundation – will organize 10 days of Greek culture in Belgrade, at the end of April, with art shows, the cultural heritage of Mt. Athos, Ancient Greek art, musical shows and concerts, such as the concert of the music genre Rebetiko which we organized last year and will repeat again this year, and many other events. A detailed plan will soon be published and, of course, the entrance is free to all these events and we will be eagerly awaiting our Serbian friends.
-The Tourism Fair in Belgrade is behind us; Greece was a partner of this event. The cooperation between our countries in the field of tourism is traditionally excellent. Will there be some novelties this summer that you would like to emphasize?
Greece’s participation at the 40th International Tourism Fair in Belgrade was very successful; this year, we were a partner country. We are happy to receive increasing numbers of Serbian tourists every year, and in the recent years, Serbs have begun exploring some new locations in Greece. The tourist offerings and arrangements encompass many destinations inland, but also the islands; Serbian tourists can choose between travelling by car or direct charter-flights, or a combination of air and ferry transport. Such destinations are Peloponnesus, Pelion, Samos, Kos, Karpathos, Kefalonia, Syros – to name but a few. Athens is currently offered as a year-round destination and is becoming popular not just as a „city break“, but also for a summer holiday due to its sea-side resorts.
-Many say that Greece is perhaps the most beautiful country in the world; it has it all – exotic beaches, cultural heritage, beautiful cities, good music and excellent food. You have been living in Serbia for a while now, what are you missing from Greece and, on the other hand, what is it that has made you feel at home in Serbia?
I feel at home in Belgrade at every moment. Not just because of the common history and friendship between our two nations, but because Serbs and Greeks have the same mentality. The same things make us laugh, we make the same jokes and we are also offended by or concerned by the same issues. What I miss is slightly better, slightly warmer weather and the sea – but on the other hand, I am so happy to be living in a city that has two rivers, with such a life and such activities that have developed around them.
How do you find Serbian music and food?
It’s true that Greeks and Serbs share a taste in music. Serbian music is very popular in Greece, for instance, the songs of Goran Bregović. Greeks sing his songs, he had a close cooperation with numerous popular Greek artists. As for food, Serbian cuisine is mostly meat-orientated and I have to say, meat of such quality is rarely found anywhere else in Europe. I also like the exquisite Serbian wines, especially those produced from the traditional Serbian varieties of grapes.
In conversation with Miljana Nešković