By Nenad Kulačin
“The President of Serbia has gone through an interesting journey from a desirable partner of the international community to someone who is threatened with punitive measures because of the armed conflict in Banjska. What represents a big dilemma for many citizens of Serbia is the fact that during their entire time in power, Aleksandar Vučić had tacit support for all his undemocratic, uncivilized and autocratic behaviour in the past 11 years.
It is not much of a secret that the entire ruling party in Serbia was changed in the 2012 elections under the great influence of Germany. According to the words of the former President of Serbia, Boris Tadić, a little earlier, in August 2011, it was clear that Germany would support the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in its bid to take over Serbia. Angela Merkel, who was the German chancellor at the time, asked Tadić that Serbia withdraw the parallel Serbian institutions in the north of Kosovo. Tadić refused and, as he said, realized that he would lose the next election. Allegedly, Merkel said on the occasion: “Then we will find someone else to do it”.
Few people know whether she said that or if it is another myth, but the fact remains that Vučić turned out to be that “someone else”. The first result of the Vučić-led government was the signing of the Brussels Agreement by which Serbia did what Merkel asked of Tadić, but he refused to comply. With that Agreement, Serbia handed over the police, judiciary and responsibility for local elections to official Priština and agreed that the northern part of Kosovo, i.e. four municipalities – Severna Mitrovica, Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok – will somehow be integrated into the Kosovo system.
Delivering on requests
After that, Vučić proved himself as a reliable partner and someone who can be counted on to be a “delivery man”. Whatever was put before Serbia as a request, the “delivery man” delivered. The most difficult thing for him, in all likelihood, was to accept the new Kosovo vehicle license plates. That crisis culminated in Vučić’s abandonment of Kosovo’s institutions, leaving the Serbs in the north of Kosovo without any protection.
During all that time, the political situation in Serbia increasingly resembled the one from the 1990s. There was no longer place for any criticism of the government in electronic media that were assigned a national broadcasting frequency. The situation is the same in the print media. The only thing is that Vučić still can’t control is the Internet, but that’s why he trained an entire army of bots to further pollute that space on his behalf and at his expense.
In Serbia, there is not even the slightest chance to hold free and democratic elections. The media do their part and the rest of the election theft is secured by the complete state-party system with elaborate engineering that includes blackmail, threats and coercion never before seen in Serbia. ‘Bulgarian train’ (a method of vote-rigging with the goal of influencing the election process through the control of ballots) is a normal occurrence in Serbian elections. Taking a photo of their vote is almost an obligation of every SNS voter, as is constantly checking up on registered voters who are forced to vote for the SNS, mainly workers in state institutions and public enterprises.
Journalists who are not under his (Vučić’s) control are under daily attack. One of them is under international protection and has been relocated to a European country while his colleague lives under video surveillance. Others report daily death threats, which are recorded by the Prosecutor’s Office which does nothing about them. The president personally uses every press conference to insult independent journalists, humiliate them and belittle their work. To specific questions about the state’s criminal activities, he answers immediately reverts to talking about former governments. And so on. Companies are almost not allowed to advertise in independent media.
The rise of criminals
Vučić also divided state affairs and large-scale infrastructure projects in Serbia almost equally between superpowers. The energy sector went to the Russians, the construction of the subway to the French, the Germans were given full access to the business sector thanks to huge state incentives and the roads are built by the Chinese and the Americans. He also gave something to the Azeris. All these deals are concluded by direct agreement.
None of this bothered the international community, which, in all probability, cares more about someone who is able to do the work that needs to be done at a certain price, to prolong it to the maximum and to the point of breaking, than the fact that Serbia has the worst symbiosis of a political party and a state in the heart of Europe, except for Russia and Belarus.
Let’s not mention how this type of government has led to such a rise of criminals in society that some may have become so powerful that they are making moves without Vučić even knowing. That, at least, is the excuse Vučić used in the Banjska case. Milan Radoičić, his associate and ally, was blamed for the Banjska incident, and Vučić allegedly knew nothing beforehand. However, the international community is not naive and knows very well who is the master puppeteer behind certain events in Serbia and also in the north of Kosovo. That is why Vučić is now very close to being penalized. Those punitive measures or sanctions can hardly help anyone. They will only solidify his dictatorship, because what the citizens of Serbia live in is a modern, well-oiled dictatorship. The problem is that now we have all become hostages of Vučić’s failed policy on Kosovo.
Vučić should have been punished a long time ago and not by the international community. That didn’t happen, because everyone thought it was enough to depose Slobodan Milošević from power. Unfortunately, it is not, nor will it be. Serbia needs the international community as a partner and not as someone who will turn its head away from the problem, because the most important issue for it is the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The Delivery Man will pay the price, one way or another, but wasted time can never be recovered.”
(Al-Jazeera Balkans, 07.11.2023)
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