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Serbia was not the world, and now it is

Serbia is a closed country that no one wants, its society is xenophobic, it is distrustful of the world, as is the world of it. We have to turn to others, to give them a hand, we cannot progress on our own, we act too long as if we don’t need anyone and that is why we are struggling. And we used to be the world.

Unfortunately, we often hear stories like this, from educated, emancipated people, prominent in their work. Their views have an impact on the public because the media want to hear them, and when that is already the case, then there is an audience that takes those messages for granted. However, no matter how great the social authority of the authors of such messages, they are not the result of knowledge and expertise, their basis is not reality, but a subjective feeling about something where there must be no subjectivity. Therefore, such pseudo-analysis and the conclusions that emerge from them do not differ much from all those that offer a cure for cancer on Facebook or spread the theory that there are 5G network receivers in vaccines.

Serbia has never been more open to the world than today, nor has it ever had “more world” in it. It has never been more “world” in history than it is in 2021. And not only that, it is one of the most open countries in the world, side by side with the giants of an open society. According to the KOF globalization index, one of the most reference “meters” of the openness of countries to the world, in 2020, Serbia was on the 37th place of the most globalized countries in the world. In front of it are EU members, non-European NATO members, such as the United States and Canada, and eastern superpowers such as Japan and South Korea. Behind Serbia are political and economic regional giants such as Israel, Turkey, Qatar, the Emirates, Chile, and far below all the countries in our region.

Analysts from the Swiss Economic Institute at ETH University in Zurich are creating a popular KOF globalization index by measuring three criteria of openness – economic, political and social globalization of a country. Its economic ties with the world (exchange, scope of trade agreements, investments), its participation in political alliances and decision-making on a global level, but also the exchange of people, ideas, culture and information. Being in the company of a quarter of the most open (most globalized) countries in the world for a small country like Serbia is something to be proud of. Unlike some better past, from 1989, for example, when it was at the level of the world average, from which it has bounced back some 25% today. Regardless of the fact that in 1989, globalization did not have the momentum it has now, Serbia was not the world then, it is the world today.

The example of Serbia also confirms the rule that a small country does not have much chance of progress, if it is not maximally open to the world and the world to it. In recent history, this has been best shown by the examples of once closed and poor countries, which experienced an economic and social explosion only when they opened strongly to the outside, such as South Korea, Singapore, Turkey, all Eastern European countries by joining the EU, and especially China.

Serbia is progressing because it has opened up to the world to the maximum and in all areas. There is an abundance of evidence, although they are often overlooked as a certainty, and not as a result of decisions based on the calculation that we alone are not enough. The Serbian economy is almost completely connected to the supply chains of one of the most developed world markets, the European one. Serbia conducts more than two thirds of its trade with the EU markets, and it is similar with the investments that come here. It has free trade agreements with the largest markets in the world, and is a real exception because it has free trade with the EU, Russia and Turkey, which is a rare privilege. Serbia’s passport is among the first third of the “most valuable” in the world (according to the Henley Passport Index for 2021), which means that Serbian citizens can travel to most countries without visas (138).

From a political point of view, Serbia is a member of all relevant international organizations, has diplomatic relations with almost the entire planet, and bilateral agreements. It has consciously internationalized some of its most important internal issues, because it sees this as the best way to protect its interests. The issue of Kosovo is certainly the most important here, but there is also the issue of improving the electoral conditions, which is also being discussed with domestic political parties by representatives of the European Parliament. It is similar in the field of security, where Serbia, although a military neutral state, participates in a large number of international peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the UN and the EU, and has a long continuity of joint military exercises with NATO, but also with partners outside the Alliance.

What KOF and similar indices for measuring the inclusion of one country in the world do not record, is especially important for Serbia and further strengthens its position as a super-open state. These are connections in the region to which it belongs. Serbia conducts a huge part of its economic exchange in its closest neighborhood, but this is just the beginning for the opening of the second level, more intense than with the “rest of the world”, especially when it comes to communication between people, more or less open border crossing (ID card is sufficient for almost all neighbors in the Balkan environment), the recent abolition of roaming in the regional context, cultural exchange, and why not support in emergencies, such as the distribution of vaccines for example.

Experience shows us that the openness of a state is directly proportional to its prosperity, and for that it is enough to look at any list of the most open and developed countries, where the order more or less coincides. That experience is based on measuring real parameters, not personal feelings of anxiety and closedness, which are always just personal. The global “traffic light” that shows whether someone is “the world” or not, is quite relentless, and for today’s Serbia more than positive.

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