Many governments in Central and Southern Europe, and in particular in the Western Balkan countries, have used the state of emergency and the pandemic to strengthen their executive power and massively restrict freedoms, but in Serbia, the authorities have done everything to limit the rule of law, writes the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
The newspaper writes that opposition politicians, human rights activists and independent media in Serbia “speak almost unanimously of violation of the Constitution and coup d’état”.
Der Spiegel recalls that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic laughed about the virus at the end of February, while immediately afterwards, he declared a state of emergency, without parliamentary consultations, which “has led to serious restrictions on fundamental rights and public life in Serbia, which has been relatively mildly affected by the pandemic”.
The newspaper writes that, in Serbia, “only the parliament has the right to declare a state of emergency, but a hole in the Constitution allows the president to do so if the legislature cannot”, and adds that Vucic used this quibble to justify the curfew.
Discover the most important foreign investments in Serbia in 2019: click here!
“This is not the first time the President has ignored the Constitution. Vucic, for example, is also the head of the Serbian Progressive Party, although the Constitution forbids him to perform any function other than presidential,” wrote Der Spiegel, adding that “the Serbian leadership shows no scruples in undermining the Constitution”.
Strict restrictions and curfew have been imposed in Serbia, in particular for the elderly, and more people have ended up in prison for violating these restrictions. The newspaper also conveys the opinion of the president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Sonja Biserko, who says that ‘it is sad that the EU refuses to acknowledge what is happening in Serbia at the moment’.
“They hope that Vucic will contribute to the resolution of the conflict in Kosovo, which is why he is allowed to act freely,” she told Spiegel.
The German newspaper also points out that Aleksandar Vucic, the Milosevic government’s Minister of Information and ultranationalist in the 1990s, now presents himself daily in the media as the leader and saviour of Serbia, although “improving the jurisdiction is not really necessary, as he has been ruling for years without judicial restrictions”.
“Initially scheduled for April 26, and postponed due to the pandemic, Vucic’s party would probably have won the elections by a large margin, partly because most opposition parties intend to boycott them. However, there is growing discontent in the country due to political corruption and the lack of social and economic prospects for most people. The problem of the virus, which Vucic “fights against” as if Serbia were at war, overshadows the country’s problems,” concludes Der Spiegel.
This post is also available in: Italiano