PAGE 1/3


NO 179-180

PAGE 1/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 179-180 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 179-180

September - October 2013



Spin doctoring for Vučić

By Sonja Biserko


The image of Aleksandar Vučić as the most powerful man in Serbia is being created systematically – something like the once spin doctoring for Boris Tadić. However, Vučić’s actual power is limited: by the situation of the country, the balance of forces within the ruling coalition – within his party especially – and the influence of the conservative bloc that is not to be underestimated. He is being presented to the international community as the man in the forefront of modernization – like some Trojan horse of transformed Progressists. And, for sure, his belief in his own missionary role in Serbia’s modernization (“I’ve decided that Serbia should modernize”) perfectly fits into his party’s populism that spirals his ratings. And yet, the regime has failed to provide solutions to pressing problems so far or even prove its ability to solve them.

The First Vice-Premier’s fiery rhetoric against corruption, his orations for economic renewal, restoration of the judiciary and state security have raised the dust and added to his popularity – but that was all. There has been no U-turn in economy, security services, the judiciary and the media have not been reformed or public expenditure seriously cut down. His party has accomplished nothing tangible to justify his popularity. Even the EU Progress Report on Serbia did not register any progress except for Serbia’s relations with Kosovo. It earmarked all open issues – Vojvodina, Sandzak, the Preshevo Valley, the judiciary, the media, the economy…

His party is after systematical and high-handed ouster of local self-governments the Democratic Party won in the elections – in Belgrade and Vojvodina in the first place. It ousted the Mayor of Belgrade and meeting no resistance. It plays on the outcome of early elections in several Vojvodina municipalities to bear down on the provincial government. Early elections in the town of Vrbas – latest in a row – were held in an atmosphere of fear, open threats and violence. President of the Republic Nikolić just happened to visit Vrbas on the eve of the elections and so did folk singer Aca Lukac, the Red Star football team leadership, Aleksandar Vučić and many others. The Progressists are still seizing power, absolute power if possible, with the helping hand from the extreme right-wing.

Contrary to all they claim about improving regional relations, the reality is a different story. Nikolić and his associates sharpened their stand about some crucial issues of the region. About succession, for instance. Oliver Antić, Serbia’s newly appointed representative in the Committee for ex-Yugoslavia’s Succession, openly denies some already settled matters and announces revisions.

The recent visit by Croatian President Ivo Josipović testifies of this new turn in bilateral relations. On the other hand, the visit itself can be interpreted as a part of the strategy of EU having admitted Croatia to its membership not long ago. Neither have policies for Bosnia, RS and Montenegro changed for the better. Local elections in Kosovo this November with Kosovo Serbs’ participation will test Belgrade’s readiness to implement its agreement with Prishtina. Violence may easily mark these elections. Aleksandar Vulin, minister without portfolio in charge of Kosovo, only adds fuel to the fire and sides with the campaign that stands in the way of the establishment of the planned community of Serb municipalities. Patriarch Irinej himself appealed to Kosovo Serbs to go to the polls. SPS and SNS – aware that success of the elections decides Serbia’s fate and relationship with EU – also and with heavy heart lobby for the biggest possible turnout of Serb voters. A fixed date for the beginning of accession negotiations with EU hinges on these elections: and no doubt that “the date” would only boost the Progressists’ morale for early elections they might call next spring.

The new regime tries to lay hands upon EU funds on the one hand, and safeguard the wartime booty in Vojvodina, Republika Srpska and Kosovo North (where it is probably after another Republika Srpska) on the other. And Montenegro is just a question of time: the regime constantly plots against the life of Milo Đukanović, the main obstacle to its plans. As things stand now, the Progressists take they have to cope with opposition only in places in which they do not have an absolute control over the wartime booty. Bratislav Grubačić, outstanding SNS official, said that in Serbia the opposition operated in Kosovo North, Vojvodina and Republika Srpska. Coincidence or not, this was when Milorad Dodik, president of RS, had a book of his interviews published. Dobrica Ćosić penned the foreword. For Ćosić, Dodik has successfully protected Republika Srpska in the atmosphere of “the war continued through chauvinistic propaganda, fabrication of historical truths, the fueled residual hatred and anti-Dayton policy of international representatives.” This strategy has not been abandoned yet, not even by the present regime. The conservative bloc, however, fears that by fulfilling EU requests “Serbia will regress to the borders as it were before the Berlin Congress.” What shapes the country’s political scene and attitudes of all relevant actors are two factors: Serbia depends on EU for survival on the one hand, and fears losing its wartime booty on the other.

All this would be not so manifest were it not for Russia’s support: unsettled situation in the Balkans suits Russia. And it costs it nothing. On the contrary – Russia has clinched a most favorable deal in the domain of energy with Serbia, the deal that only adds to its influence on Serbia’s economy. Having dispatched inspectors to “Srbijagas” Zorana Mihajlović, the incumbent minister of energetics, obviously tries to annul the agreement and adjust it to EU criteria.

Russia’s intelligence services are also very much present in Serbia. The fact that Russia has moved its biggest intelligence center in the Balkans from Bulgaria to Serbia indicates the region’s relevance for its geo-strategic calculations.

The opposition is marginalized and disorganized – and this is what causes bother. The Democratic Party failed to consolidate its ranks and take its proper place at the political arena. The civil sector has also lost its voice against the background of general confusion, media marginalization and promotion of extreme right-wing groups that had occupied the greatest bulk of the civil scene. These groups make a part of the actual regime that feeds them funds and ideology. Such situation systematically undermines pluralism – built for long time and partially established.

One thing is for sure: the Progressists’ triumph reflects the mindset of the Serbian society. U-turns they made, as well as the U-turns in the society and the public opinion cannot be understood without understanding the historical truth about the fatal adventure of the 20th century for which Serbia’s elites received unquestioned support: only then one can understand why it is that who’s in power – the Progressists or the Democrats – makes no difference to most people. The Democrats have missed the historical chance to come public with the truth in a proper way – for, they had been involved themselves in the national program. Rather than speaking up they allowed Serbia’s radicalization and fascization – and the government in keeping with these trends.


NO 179-180

PAGE 1/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3










Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment