BBC
Serbian prince arrives in Bosnia

Jacky Rowland

Wednesday, 26 January, 2000


The exiled heir to the Serbian thrown, Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic is visiting the Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Republika Srpska (RS), to meet government and opposition officials.

Prince Alexander, his wife Katarina and their sons Alexander and Filip were greeted at Banja Luka airport by the former RS president, Biljana Plavsic.

He was then due to meet RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik.

On Thursday talks are scheduled with government officials involved in implementing the Dayton peace agreement which brought an end to the war in Bosnia in 1995.

He will also meet leaders of the Serb National Council from Kosovo, Bishop Artemije and Momcilo Trajkovic, who are travelling to Banja Luka for the meeting.

Worlds away

On first sight Crown Prince Alexander seems worlds away from Yugoslav politics.

He was born during World War II at London's Claridge's Hotel, in a room that the British government recognised as Yugoslav territory for a day, as only a monarch born in Serbia can be king.

He is a great-great-grandson of the British 19th Century monarch Queen Victoria and related to most European royal families.

Now a London-based businessman, he is married to a Greek woman and does not have a proper command of the Serbian language.

But he is emerging as a significant figure in Serbian opposition circles.

The Prince started visiting Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, when the Communist state was giving way to a multi-party system.

He is closely associated with the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) , a monarchist opposition party led by the controversial politician, Vuk Draskovic.

Some Serbs have criticised the Prince for allowing himself to be used by Mr Draskovic for party political ends.

Lobbying

As Yugoslavia has found itself increasingly isolated, Crown Prince Alexander has become an important advocate of the Serbian opposition with the international community.

He has been lobbying on their behalf with officials from the European Union. He is also believed to be using his contacts with wealthy members of the Serbian diaspora to try to raise funds for the opposition.

Analysts in Belgrade say Crown Prince Alexander may have long-term political ambitions of his own, but for the moment he is concentrating on the goal that unites most opposition figures in Serbia: the removal of President Slobodan Milosevic.

The Prince has been out of the country for so long that he is not well-known among ordinary people.

However, the Royal Family is still respected in the countryside, so he could count on support from rural people.

Royal rival

Crown Prince Alexander has a royal rival, his uncle, Prince Tomislav.

The authorities in Belgrade have allowed Prince Tomislav into Serbia to visit the old royal estates.

This tacit approval of Prince Tomislav by the authorities seems designed to play the two princes off against each other and to sow confusion among ordinary Serbs.




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