Serbia, March 9-15, 2015
Last few weeks were quite hectic for Serbia to say the least. The first of significant events was the Kopaonik Business Forum (termed ‘Serbian Davos’ by some journalists). The Forum which took place in an idyllic ski resort ended with a very grim note – that is, grim for the majority of Serbia’s citizens. A significant increase of new foreign direct investments is not in sight, while the IMF gave a whole bunch of brave new advices about new ways in which Serbian government should flex the austerity muscles, beginning with the 15% increase of electricity prices. At the same Forum Serbian Deputy PM, simultaneously the Minister of Public Administration & Local Self-Government, an outspoken neoliberal Kori Udovički, announced more layoffs to come soon in the public sector, avoiding the honours of specifying how many employees will lose their jobs to PM Aleksandar Vučić. Under the agreement with IMF, the government promised to fire 75,000 employees, some 15% of the public sector. At the same time, the government plans to privatise the last profitable state-owned companies, such as the national telecommunication company Telecom Serbia, which would deprive the country from the last attributes of economic sovereignty.
Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gašić and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić will attend a meeting at NATO Brussels headquarters on Мarch 18th, where they are about to sign the so-called Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). The agreement represents the highest level of cooperation a non-member state can have with the North Atlantic alliance. This fact alone is a good reason for Serbian citizens to be worried about, since the effect of that agreement would be worsening relations with Russia, traditional allay of Serbia, as well as decrease of Serbia’s defense capabilities that would be the true result after the ‘modernization process’ of countries defense sector is completed.
The political arena in Serbia is getting heated as well. Democratic Party, the main pro-Western opposition party, announced that they are forming a shadow government that will from now on be giving weekly reports on the sector questions of every ministry, as well as a list of questions to the current government. This is a good exercise of opposition activity between the two electoral cycles, as well as an attempt of rallying pro-western opposition around the Democratic Party.
Anti-Western opposition also intensifies their activities. Serbian Radical Party is traveling around the country ever since its leader Vojislav Šešelj came from The Hague Tribunal. The Radicals are rebuilding their party infrastructure, devastated when after then-deputy leader Tomislav Nikolić (President of Serbia now) and then-secretary general Aleksanar Vučić (Serbian PM now) left the party and formed their own in 2008. Dveri, a conservative movement branded as young patriotic intellectuals, will start with anti-government protests on 21st of March against the government’s policies on Kossovo, IMF, EU integration, NATO, etc. Having in mind their intellectual human resources potential and the level of discontent by government’s policies in the public, these protests might gather a significant number of people. The Democratic Party of Serbia, which is in a loose alliance with Dveri, is also very active, although significantly weakened after the 2014 elections which left them out of parliament and after their founder Vojislav Koštunica, former President and PM, left the party together with a number of prominent members. The non-parliamentary patriotic opposition is not only a worry for the ruling Serbian Progressive Party of PM Vučić, but also for the pro-Western opposition and Western diplomats that fear these have a potential to rally all the unsatisfied and shift Serbia away from the Euro-Atlantic path.
The most important event in the ex-Yugoslav commonwealth is a potential of unfolding blunt geopolitical attack on Republika Srpska (Serb part of Bosnia-Herzegovina). US, UK and the Netherlands proposed a resolution to the UN Security Council suggesting establishing a ‘Srebrenica genocide day’. The story behind is that Republika Srpska would be proclaimed a ‘genocidal state’ and therefore its mere existence brought question.
The period ahead of us might be very interesting for Serbia both internally and internationally.