A Small Country With Big Problems

January 22, 2021
Olivera Stefanovic

Novi Sad, Serbia

Class of 2022

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Serbia is an old European state which obtained its internationally recognized independence at the Berlin Congress in 1878. Still, problems remained for centuries after. Democracy and the European way of life, education, a market economy, and human rights were finding useless ground in Serbia, but only after great fights and complications. A fully democratic Constitution was adopted in 1888 and was renewed in 1903. There was a diverse political landscape, free press, and market economy, with the figure of King, caught between parties and military strongmen.

Modern-day problems of Serbia come from various sources. First, there is and dangerous heritage of wars and nationalism still present in Serbia, along with authoritarian rule by President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party. This party, along with him, used to be the Serbian Radical Party, a war-mongering and extreme nationalistic political force, whose members were put on domestic and international trials for war crimes, hate speech, and verbal promotion of ethnic cleansing. Mr. Vucic himself was one of the most fierce populist and war-monger among the Serbian Radicals.

In 2008, a strong faction of this party decided to form the Serbian Progressive Party and to unwillingly adopt pro-European agenda.

Right now, Mr. Vucic and his party are the rock-bed of corruption, state capture, iron grasp over media (all TV stations and tabloids are under his direct control), and daily smear campaigns against opposition and the West (in their tabloids and TV stations).

The big problem of Serbia along with the incompetent and corrupted government is poverty. Salaries and pensions are still low and to obtain the job is literally impossible if you’re not a member of the ruling party, even in private corporations.

An additional problem is the unsolved issue of Kosovo, whose unilateral declaration of independence (2008) Serbia will not recognize. Under those circumstances, Mr. Vucic is giving promises left and right in order to keep his power, without real commitment to resolve the issue of Kosovo, even without formal recognition of its so-called independence. The situation started to aggravate in 2014 when he became the prime minister.

The average salary is slightly above 500 euros per month, but three-quarters of the population doesn’t have more than 300 euros. The new elite from the Serbian Progressive Party is entangled in corruption, false university diplomas, and brutal violence against the opposition. Investments that are coming to Serbia, mostly from the EU, China, and Russia, are heavily subsidized by Vucic’s government, sometimes more than 15,000 euros per job. Main infrastructure projects (highways, bridges, railroads, apartment complexes) are being built by three, or even four times the higher price, all at the burden of Serbian taxpayers.

There is also an attempt by the Progressive’s government to privatize natural resources, on behalf of the people close to the party.

July 7th, 2020, a series of protests against the government.

Since there are no media, except cable TV, in which you can hear about many affairs of this regime, people tend to use the internet more. Still, because of Government organized propaganda, Vucic still enjoys wide support (that is eroding since last year).

In Serbia, we have many instances of human rights violations; sacking people who are against the regime and organized street violence against the opposition. The EU is still appeasing Mr. Vucic because they expect to gain his cooperation on the issue of Kosovo but to no use.

Anti-semitism in Serbia exists among a few right-wing groups, but they are minor. Still, their actions, graffiti, and internet activities are being widely tolerated by Vucic’s regime. Not because he himself believes in that, but because he believes that it doesn’t represent any social danger or threat to his regime. On the other side, his regime and controlled tabloids are spreading hatred towards the West neighboring countries and nations, and a well-known arsenal of stupidities about Rothschild, Soros, and Bill Gates, 5G network, and an anti-vaccine rant. Many Serbian people are traumatized by the wide range of horrific things that happened to them and the generations in the past, from NATO bombarding to dealing with the corrupt leaders and their brainwashing regimes. Considering that, it's understandable to see where their restricted mindset comes from. The problem is, instead of helping them work through the layers of generational trauma and many other things so we can all involve as a country, our president chooses to once again stay selfish and work only for his own benefit. As a teenager in this country who is trying to be as aware of as much as possible, it hurts me to see my people being used, lied to, and manipulated without even realizing it. After everything our country has been through, the least the people deserve is a firm leader who can get it back on its feet where it deserves to be.

The main problem of Serbia is the lack of democracy and clear policy in health-care, economy, education, and agriculture. Since this country is captured by a small but well-organized oligarchy, it seems necessary that Serbia finds its path toward democracy, EU integration, and reconciliation with its neighbors. None of these things are possible with the current regime and current bad situation in our institutions that are captured and in fear, media that is under the iron grasp of the regime, and rigged elections conducted by Mr. Vucic. Most of these things are happening in the heart of Europe and many people in Serbia, otherwise pro-EU, are losing their faith in EU integration and openness as a political approach. There is a close connection between the regime and football hooligans and their organizations and the regime is using them as para-police force against the opposition.

Olivera Stefanovic is a BBG BBYO Balkans: Serbia and likes to draw, listen to music, and talk about problems in our society.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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