I watch as natural disasters sweep away entire beaches, overturn ships, drown cities, and cause enormous damage. Natural disasters can be predicted, but they can rarely be prevented. When disasters occur in society, created by human will, primarily the will of those people who are most influential in the community, they are often equated with natural disasters. External observers – I’m referring here to EU representatives tasked with analyzing and commenting on the situation in Serbia – have spent years trying to de-subjectivize the destruction of institutions in Serbia, as if such a situation was a natural thing, uninfluenced by any individuals and without the need to name them. I hear them calling out Orban, Erdogan, Kaczynski and some other leaders in the countries of so-called illiberal democracy, who are, in fact, autocrats, but I never hear them include Alexander Vucic among them.
I listen to Tanja Fajon, here in Belgrade, otherwise the MP in the European Parliament in charge of Serbia, talking about her commitment to the process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union, noting that along the way the country “faces problems with regard to the level of democracy, freedom of the media, and the rule of law”. Who, by name, through their political influence, causes these problems and that level of democracy, remains unclear. EU mediators believe that problematic electoral conditions could be improved. Even if they can’t be made democratic, we could at least put on a show that makes them seem acceptable. These repairs, however, miss the point, because in Serbia, electoral democracy doesn’t need repairing (though, in principle, it could be improved), but re-establishing.
Democracy in Serbia has been abolished, with only a few oases of freedom remaining, thanks to the European Union, on which Serbia depends heavily. None of the respected mediators has ever asked the Serbian ruler who abolished free elections or whether he plans to return them to Serbia. His people, i.e. the executioners of democracy, sit at the same table with European mediators and discuss “improving electoral conditions”, and no one remembers to ask those executioners of democracy why they abolished free elections when it is known that Serbia has practiced electoral democracy in all elections held since the fall of Milosevic.1 It seems that European mediators do not attribute this “problem” to their interlocutors, but instead hold “repair talks” with these enemies of democracy, and miss the point in spectacular fashion.
Tanja Fajon is well-intentioned and says that she perceives Serbia as an equal member of the EU and part of the European family, and that the speed at which the problem (“level of democracy, freedom of the media and the rule of law”) is resolved and at which we progress towards the major goal – Serbia’s accession to the European Union – depends on the commitment of the authorities in Serbia to solving these problems. This is where it gets tricky. The authorities in Serbia are not committed to solving these problems, quite the opposite; they are committed to creating them, as a byproduct of conquering almost every inch of society and the state for themselves and their personal interests. That is why democracy, free media, and the rule of law bother them. I suppose that well-meaning Tanja Fajon is familiar with the situation, but she has to play the tired social game called “Vucic solves the Kosovo issue”, which is actually a lost cause, but its main character still gets whatever he wants, just in case.
I recall that during the 1990s, influential figures from Europe came to Milosevic to seek the release of the arrested Vuk Draskovic. The great humanist Danielle Mitterrand, ex-wife of the French president, came to Serbia with the aim of securing freedom for Draskovic, and so did David Owen, the negotiator for resolving the war crisis in B&H. How is that now forgotten? EU parliamentarians and electoral mediators who have been sitting for days with police minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, who has been tasked with conducting a dialogue on democratic electoral conditions, never thought of asking for the freedom and release of Aleksandar Obradovic, a heroic whistleblower held under house arrest. He publicly pointed to abuses of power by the very man with whom the European representatives negotiate about democratic elections. What an absurd situation! The head of the government’s Delegation for Free Electoral Requirements has been publicly called out for engaging in abuse of power to obtain funds and to seize public (state) property. If Tanja Fajon and other EU deputies demanded freedom for the whistleblower, they would push aside the empty talks with Nebojsa Stefanovic and Vladimir Djukanovic and confront them with themselves. This would drag European negotiators out of their bureaucratic roles and win them credibility for organizing real negotiations on establishing democracy in Serbia.
By demanding that Aleksandar Obradovic be released from custody, they would force the authorities to admit that they were holding an innocent man under house arrest and threw a barrage of insults and heinous fabrications at him through the “not completely free media”. I am ashamed to watch European negotiators enter the Serbian Parliament with representatives of our government to conduct a dialogue on electoral conditions, without demanding freedom for Aleksandar Obradovic. Free elections cannot be negotiated while a man is trying to return basic morality to our neglected society is sitting behind bars. And while those who hold him there and who were caught committing grave abuses of power are negotiating democracy! It doesn’t even work as a tragic comedy.
Translated by Marijana Simic
- The process of establishment of electoral democracy after October 5th is described in Nebojsa Vladisavljevic’s book “The rise and fall of democracy after October 5th”, Arhipelag 2019.
Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).