By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Serbian Ambassador to Mexico Goran Mešić marked his country’s national day on Thursday, Feb. 15, with a diplomatic reception at his embassy that included an exhibition of Serbian icons and a performance of modern Serbian music, as well as a sampling of traditional Balkan food and drink.
Sretenje, Serbia’s national holiday, commemorates the adoption of the first Serbian uprising in 1835, which granted the region quasi independence under the Ottoman Empire.
The people gathered at the so-called Sretenje Assembly at Oplenac on that day and chose Djordje Petrovic, known in Serbian history as Karadjordje (Black George), as their leader.
Sretenje was celebrated as a public holiday in Serbia until the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.
It emerged again as a national holiday nearly 100 years later, in 2002.
Mexico and Belgrade have maintained bilateral diplomatic relations since 1946, although Mexico downgraded its embassy there in 1991 during a series of ethnic conflicts that led to the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia.
Notwithstanding, Mexico remained one of the few countries that did not close its embassy in Belgrade during this period.
In 1995, Mexico elevated its diplomatic mission in Belgrade back to that of an embassy and established diplomatic relations with the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (which would later be known as Serbia and Montenegro), along with the newly independent countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia,
In 2006, when Montenegro separated from Serbia, Mexico recognized both countries.
Two-way trade between the Mexico and Serbia is still limited, amounting to barely $25 million annually.
Mexico’s primary exports to Serbia include computer memories, mother boards, tobacco and minerals, and Serbia’s main exports to Mexico consist of car tires and garments.
Serbia has been courting European Union membership since 2008, and is hoping to join the bloc in the year 2020.
The prospect of EU membership for the Balkan nation could open the door to closer commercial and economic ties with Mexico.