news 06 Feb 12

Serbia Hands Passports to Celebrities

Belgrade authorities are generous in issuing the country's passports to all sorts of celebrities - from Victoria Secret's angels to football players.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

"I was pleasently surprised that [Interior] Minister [Ivica] Dacic gave me a Serbian passport," the New York-based actor Zarko Lausevic said on Thursday.

Convicted of murdering two people and wounding another in Podgorica in 1993, Serbian President Boris Tadic granted him a pardon in December.

Lausevic is not the only one surprised by the generous gesture of the Serbian authorities, who seem keen to hand out citizenship to celebrities.

Victoria's secret "angel" (supermodel), Adriana Lima, who is married to Serbian basketball player Marko Jaric, also obtained Serbian nationality.

Dacic offered the Brazilian supermodel a passport after he met her in Belgrade with her husband in 2009.

Two years earlier, American actress Catherine Oxenberg, better known as Amanda Carrington on the 1980s soap opera Dynasty, obtained the same privilege.

Her connection to Serbia is slightly more obvious as she is a daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and hence part of the former Karadjordjevic dynasty of Serbia.

It was less clear why the authorities granted Serbian passports to two foreign football players playing for Serbian teams, Brazil's Cleverson Gabriel Cordova, aka Cleo, in 2010 and Evandro Goebel in 2011.

"I hope I will be able to repay the Serbian people for love and respect they have shown," Goebel said on receiving his Serbian passport in August.

Immediately after Goebel, Dacic handed a passport to the Georgian judo star Dmitry Gerasimenko who now plays for Serbian football club Red Star.

Serbian citizenship can be granted to any foreigner whose inclusion serves the interest for the state in the opinion of the government.

According to the Serbian Interior Ministry, 345 foreigners obtained passports in the first half of 2011. The largest number were from Romania and Russia.

The Interior Ministry could not disclose the names of all the celebrities who have got Serbian passports.

"In accordance with the Law on Protection of Personal Data, the data cannot be given out," the ministry said in a statement.

On the other hand, 16 years of residence in Belgrade was not enough for Chilean brothers Rene Emiliano and Claudia Alejandra, to officially become what they feel - Serbian nationals.

Born in Chile they moved to Yugoslavia after General Augusto Pinochet took power in a 1973 coup. Belgrade authorities promised them Yugoslav passports after they completed military service in 1990 but didn't get passports till now.

The pair is not giving up and is still coming to Belgrade from Chile every three months with their residence visa.

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