World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer was in Serbia this week for talks with political leaders and representatives of the local Jewish community.
On Tuesday, Singer met in Belgrade with Serbia's minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister Ivica Dacic.
He stressed the historical and cultural ties between Serbs and Jews and expressed his gratitude for the attitude of the Serbian government toward the local Jewish community.
Singer commended Serbia for adopting a law on the restitution of looted Jewish property in 2016.
At the meeting, which was attended by representatives of the Jewish community in Serbia, Dacic and Singer also discussed closer cooperation and Holocaust remembrance as well as relations between Serbia and Israel.
Dacic said that Serbia actively participated in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and that it had taken significant steps in the field of restitution of Jewish property.
Singer also commended the government, specifically the agency for restitution and its director, for the effort it is undertaking to compensate the Jewish community for property which it had lost under the post-WWII Communist government. The position taken by the Republic of Serbia, as well as the policies enacted, should be emulated by other European countries; namely, Poland and the Baltic states, Singer said.
The Jewish leaders also emphasized the importance of the construction of the Staro Sajmiste Holocaust memorial museum, and reiterated that position that the Jewish community should have a distinct pavilion at the site in order to properly convey to the world the unique suffering and history of the Jewish community within Serbia during the Nazi occupation.
Dacic responded positively to this and emphasized the fact that despite the tragedy inflicted on the Jewish community during World War II, it was important to recognize the integral part that Jews played in the Serbian national framework. He stated that was in the vital interest of all parties to prevent the revision of history. Dacic added that this position could help enhance relations between Serbia and Israel.
During his visit to Serbia, Singer also met with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej and with Vladimir Božović, advisor to the prime minister.