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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
Serbian prince aspires to throne
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Belgrade

Crown Prince Alexander II
The crown prince does not have his own political party
The man who would be king of Serbia smiles warmly at me as I enter the royal palace in Belgrade.

There is no hint of a Serbian accent from him as he guides me into the splendid interior.

"The first time I came into the royal palace, it was very emotional for me. This is where my father lived, where my grandfather lived. It was quite something."

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia and Yugoslavia only moved to Serbia in 2001.

Most of his life had been spent in the United Kingdom - and one of his godparents is Queen Elizabeth II.

The Yugoslav royal family was abolished when Tito's communists came to power after World War II.

Alexander was born in Claridge's Hotel in London in 1945. Winston Churchill declared the hotel suite Yugoslav territory for the occasion.

1804 Founder of dynasty, Djordje Petrovic, known as Karadjordjevic or 'Black George', leads Serb uprising against Ottomans
1811 Karadjordjevic confirmed as ruler
1918 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes proclaimed
1929 Kingdom of Yugoslavia declared
1934 King Alexander I assassinated in Marseille
1941 King Peter II goes into exile
1945 Crown Prince Alexander II born in London. Tito's communists abolish monarchy
2001 Prince Alexander II returns to live in Belgrade

"The previous regime castigated the monarchy, said that we left with trainloads of gold. That would have been great. But it never happened," says the crown prince.

In many ways, he is the last embodiment of the old Yugoslavia, following the final dissolution of the old country this summer when Montenegro and Serbia split up.

The six republics of the former Yugoslavia - Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Slovenia - are now six independent states.

New royal role?

Crown Prince Alexander believes there is a role for the monarchy in the new Serbia.

Founder of the dynasty, Djordje Petrovic, known as Karadjordjevic
Djordje Petrovic, founder of the Karadjordjevic dynasty

"I do believe a constitutional parliamentary monarchy is a very positive thing. It works very well in Europe and Australia, New Zealand and Canada."

"You have a head of state who is neutral, not a member of any political party. I think a monarch can help provide political stability."

But how much support is there in the country for a return of the monarchy?

"I don't have a coffer to do campaigns, blow up balloons, blow trumpets. But the polls say more than 30% of the people are solid for it - which is more than most political parties here."

'Lack of unity'

He believes Serbia has real potential for the future but that certain actions have to be taken before the country can really move forward.

He believes the former Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, have to be arrested.

The royal palace in Belgrade where the family lives now
The royal palace in Belgrade is now home to Prince Alexander

"We have to fulfil our international obligations. Even though they will be distasteful for some. But we do have to do it and move ahead towards the European Union and kick start again the negotiations that were suspended. We have to work hard to bring more money, business and investors to Serbia."

"We're suffering from lack of unity and sense of purpose. I don't think there'll be a proper settlement in the region until Serbia is at peace with itself and with its neighbours."

And as for the Serbian language?

"I am improving all the time," he says.

Country profile: Serbia
25 Jul 06 |  Country profiles
Yugoslav royals allowed home
13 Jul 01 |  Europe

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