BELGRADE -- Serbia's decision to boycott the ceremony to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has drawn sharp criticism from the liberal opposition and some public figures at home, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Belgrade will not send a representative to Oslo to attend the ceremony on December 10, because the government's decisions "are linked primarily to the realization of national interests and state priorities."
"One of our most important bilateral partners and one of the four pillars of our foreign policy is the People's Democratic Republic of China," Jeremic said.
Ivan Andric, a member of the parliament from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, asked at a parliamentary session on December 8: "Who has the right to disgrace our country in the world in such a way and to put us in the same group as anti-civilized countries?"
Nongovernment organizations and many other public figures have also called on the government to send a representative to Oslo, instead of siding with Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries which have announced their intention to stay away.
"This is not a society Serbia wants to join. When a country places itself in this kind of group, it says much more about it than we think," said Miljenko Dereta of the nongovernmental group Civic Initiative.
Filip David, a writer and prominent public figure, said this was the latest in a series of similar "gaffes" by President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Jeremic.
"As we well remember, Serbia didn't have a representative at the Holocaust Memorial Day in Auschwitz, and we weren't present at many other places. It looks as though we have a policy of 'trying not to cause offense.' And this policy is not only wrong, it shows our real face. And [that face] is not at all pretty," David said.