00:47 GMT06 August 2020
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    The French see no end in sight to the yellow vest protests, which have turned into clashes between protesters and the police. The events are being witnessed by members of the Serbian community, who, after several waves of emigration, have settled down in France. In Paris alone, there are about 40,000 Serbs, as assessed by the Serbs of France Union.

    Djuro Cetkovic, head of the Union, whose main task is to combat the negative image of Serbs in France, in an interview with Sputnik, noted that French Serbs, like the French themselves, receive few crumbs and would not refuse the whole baguette, yet they behave cautiously: "The Serbs do not rush to the front line with the yellow vests. After all the dramatic events in Yugoslavia and Serbia and all that is happening in our homeland today, we are used to watching such things from the sidelines. We will see what happens next. These are hard times now for France, for Serbia, and for Kosovo and Metohija. So we will just wait and observe, maintaining neutrality. I would say that what is happening in France right now is not our fight but indirectly it affects us too".

    Cetkovic argues that the French, in fact, have risen to fight against the system of neoliberal capitalism. But if you are not in Paris, you will not be able to see the protests and protestors in a good light, because in general the TV and media portray them as hooligans who are smashing and setting fire to the city. But the real picture of events is not limited to this.

    "No one's showing hundreds of thousands of French, young and old, who simply take to the streets every Saturday to demand social justice. And they demand the abolition of the privileges", Cetkovic said.

    In his opinion, the country that launched a revolution for the sake of fighting inequality, after 200 years has returned to the very same thing that it previously rebelled against. Thus the "fire" was inevitable.

    "If to ponder on who will benefit from all of this, who will gain from the fall of one of the strongest and richest countries in Europe, it becomes clear that this is the United States. Only they alone are not interested in a strong Europe because a strong Europe is their competitor. I think that this policy, which modern France adheres to — to follow the USA, not to contradict their policies — will very soon be in the past. I'm an optimist and I believe this will happen next year", the representative of the Serbian diaspora in France said hopefully.

    Cetkovic is also optimistic about the official stance of Paris towards Serbia. He noted that the cult of French-Serbian friendship, which has existed since the First World War, has not yet completely disappeared among the French people. According to him, not only Marine Le Pen supports the Serbs on the Kosovo issue, there are pro-Serbian-minded characters among leftists as well. He cited the example of presidential candidate François Fillon, who during the debates talked about the violation of international law in Kosovo.

    "And now we have high hopes for Valérie Pécresse, President of the Paris Region. We were very supportive of her. She even came to our service at the Serbian Orthodox church of St. Sava in Paris; talked with the parishioners. Mrs Pécresse told us about the Russian origin of her grandmother, said that she knows a little how the Orthodox liturgy works. And she will run for the presidency", Cetkovic stated.

    The Sputnik source talked about how important it is to work on the image of Serbs and Serbia in France: "We will do our utmost to ensure that the Serbs no longer have to be ashamed of their origin. Twenty years ago our people went through demonisation. We were declared aggressors and accused of all mortal sins. In the Paris subway, there were posters comparing Milosevic and Hitler, and posters depicting concentration camps and allegations of the Serbs forcing people there. It's just unbelievable!" he recalled.

    Cetkovic said that French Serbs were deeply wounded by an unusual protocol during celebrations commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War, which led to the president of self-proclaimed Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, being placed at the forefront of world leaders, while the Serbian president, whose country suffered enormous casualties in this war, was put at a significant distance.

    He also noted that the media, which supported the display of the Kosovo flag in Notre-Dame de Paris along with the flags of the victorious countries, did Serbia a disservice and only gave the self-proclaimed republic some extra advertisement.

    Cetkovic spoke about a plan to abduct the flag, which had been hatched by representatives of the Serbian diaspora in Paris: "We had a plan to get to the flag with the help of our French friends, take it off and send it to the ambassador of the so-called Republic of Kosovo in Paris. But because of the noise in the press, we failed to carry it out".

    Cetkovich regretted that the visit by Emmanuel Macron to Serbia, scheduled for 5-6 December, had to be postponed due to protests: "He would only visit Serbia without meeting with Albanians. This would be kind of an apology for the protocol on 11th November. Let us not forget as well about the significant economic cooperation between the two countries".

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    yellow vest, protests, Paris, Serbia, France
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