Comment on Ambassador Holbrooke and the Belgrade Cultural and Information Center
By Dr. Walter Roberts
I remember that when I served as a member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy in the 1990s, the Embassy closed down our Information and Cultural Center for budgetary reasons, which made me very unhappy. Having known the important influence of an American intellectual center in the heart of Belgrade and realizing the difficult relationship between Washington and Belgrade at that time, it seemed inconceivable to me that the US Government would give up such an important diplomatic tool.
When I was PAO in Belgrade, the Information and Cultural Center at Cika Lubina was one of the most thriving intellectual meeting points in Belgrade, There was a well-appointed library, there were film rooms, lecture halls – and all this in an authoritarian communist society! It worked because the Tito Government’s foreign policy pursued good relations with the United States as a priority. Hence it was even possible to issue an American Newsbulletin every morning, which citizens of Belgrade picked up at our Center. (Sometimes the Yugoslav secret police upset the applecart and seized our Bulletins and dropped them in the Danube. The Foreign Office then apologized and things stayed quiet for a few months).