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Contribution to the polemic launched in Danas: Where Serbia heads for?

Why a part of civil sector backs Vucic?

By Sonja Biserko, December 25, 2012

The May elections tectonically changed Serbia’s political scene. But the Progressists and the new government have no answers to the pressing economic and social issues. The general public backed their struggle against corruption in the first months of their rule. However, one cannot tell yet whether the struggle against corruption would be waged through institutions and the Prosecution or end up like Putin’s attempt in the Khodarkovsky case.

Actually, the present government has little choice but to fulfill demands of the international community (EU in the first place) so as to secure financial support to the country that is about to collapse.

But even in doing this – above all in fulfilling the demands related to Kosovo – it still tries to buy time and impose solutions the international community is deaf to. The long announced national platform for Kosovo is obviously after having the Kosovo North solved by the model of Republika Srpska – something neither Albanians nor Serbs south of the Ibar would or could accept. Serbia once again wastes time on a solution that was turned down long ago.

In fact, what is the Progressists’ strategy about? Nothing but to present themselves internationally as welcome partners capable of closing the issue of borders while “putting out the light” domestically.

The new government failed to reach a consensus on political arrangements in the past six months but managed to demolish everything its predecessor had accomplished. Twelve years after the democratic change Serbia’s political, institutional and administrative architecture is still among most controversial issues. Tailoring of electoral results to the central government is alarming and threatens with anarchy. The Constitutional Court’s decision on unconstitutionality of a number of provisions of the Law on Competences of Vojvodina – the provisions contrary to the 2006 Constitution – coincided with the beginning of the new regime’s mandate. Along with ouster of local governments in Novi Sad and other places in Vojvodina comes the demand for annulment of Vojvodina’s autonomy.

Public servants have been massively deposed. By replacing them with “their” cadres at central and local level, the regime has the regime has made a “cultural revolution” of sorts with long-term consequences. It has deposed the Governor of the Central Bank among others. Old cadres made a comeback – especially in the security sector. Reappointment of judges and prosecutors who had not been reelected (about 500 persons) created an atmosphere of revanchism and totally destroyed the anyway half-done judiciary reform.

Beside political regression at home and undefined orientation not only toward the Balkans but also Europe, the policy of the new government leads Serbia toward isolation and a new phase of overall involution. This policy reflects patriarchalism and strong resistance to Europeanization and modernization. Populism is just another form of Serb nationalism that persists as the one and only ideology. The fact that the biggest part of the public and liberal civil sector applauds Aleksandar Vucic’s policy in unison testifies of a threatening phenomenon: resistance to transition to market economy and the rule of law, and support for egalitarian distribution.

A solution to Serbia’s present-day political and moral crisis calls for more imagination and courage. Serbia lacks self-confidence: hence its aggressiveness. Its elite are divided over fundamental issues. It has considerable public support because of its illegitimacy and irresponsibility, and above all inability for coping with crucial problems of the society.

All this indicates that national strategy has to change. That change would be a major impetus for Serbia. What Serbia needs is a “moral minimum” that would help it to get constituted as a state but also leads toward rational coexistence of nations in this region. The moral minimum implies a moral vertical – and then trials before domestic courts that would manifest that the society really wants to make a clear break with the policy of the past.

We can escape from our recent past – and our trauma – only once we UNDERSTAND that past. In other words, we can overpower the legacy of the Milosevic era only once we come face to face with it.

Every country and every nation have their dark side of the past. The problem is in how a society copes with that past and whether or not identifies itself with it. Instead of using everything ICTY has accomplished, Serbia continues to deny proven facts. It interprets the wars of 1990s as a conspiracy of the West and secessionist republics, Slovenia and Croatia. Moreover, it renounces its own anti-fascist past. Anti-fascism has been deprived of its sum and substance: morals, freedom and tolerance. Rehabilitation of Draza Mihailovic is doubly problematic because the wars of 1990s have been imbued with Tchetnik ideology. Fabrication of history further confuses young people who know little about the 1990s.

Is the present government capable of coping with such a legacy bearing in mind Serbia’s dire straits? No observer with at least some knowledge of Serbia can possibly neglect the fact that the Progressists have no potential for radical steps. Their attempt at “disciplining” Serbia while the international community still turns a blind eye to their actions shows that they are unaware of how deadly such approach is. Only the Socialists in the present government and Premier Ivica Dacic know how to rule a country. It was not by chance only that Ivica Dacic got the tallest order – Kosovo. It may either destroy or elevate him: depending on how the agreement with Kosovo is treated in the public, by the media in the first place.

Aleksandar Vucic floats on citizens’ justified dissatisfaction: for them, the struggle against corruption seems to be a way out of misery. Vucic has been trying to channel their support towards the support to his party in possible early elections next year, the support that would make it possible for it to sovereignly rule Serbia. And that would lead to their total control over the society like the one Putin has been trying to have in Russia. In brief, everything indicates that a dictatorship in not to be ruled out: institutions are being bypassed in all crucial matters. While the public life is choked, tabloids and daily releases by the Progressists call to account every rational thinking or criticism.

Tomislav Nikolic secured for himself the most cushioned place – he entrenched himself in a presidential fauteuil he intends not to give up soon. He managed to sharpen relations with the region, strengthen the thesis about victimized Serbs and wipe out the progress made in regional normalization. He messaged Europe, “Serbia is Europe, but Europe obviously would not have us.” So he secured a space to maneuver in – he would have a sound alibi should Serbia fail to obtain the date for accession negotiations with EU.

The crisis in the Democratic Party and the fact that it has not managed yet to establish itself as a serious opposition – which is crucial against the present backdrop – heavily burdens Serbia’s political scene. Its role is now on the shoulders of Liberal Democratic Party /LDP/ and a small circle of non-governmental organizations. At the same time the extreme right, backed by the government, constantly targets LDP, NGOs and liberal media.

Unless it fails to decide on the membership of NATO in near future and fails to meet the conditions for EU accession negotiations, Serbia will remain an isolated and marginalized island, but sufficiently neutralized for destabilization of its neighbors. EU should not allow Serbia’s isolation. It should develop a more imaginative approach not only toward Serbia but also toward all West Balkan countries. The “stick and carrot” policy has its limitations in the societies such as Serbia.

The criteria Serbia should meet are not attainable in foreseeable future – because it has not potential for meeting them and because its orientation is anti-European. Only a new policy, integrated sectors and developmental strategy could prevent further regressive trends.



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