I really had my hopes up for this year’s Gay Pride in Belgrade, but unfortunately it was only a wishful thinking. Third year in row most prominent Serbian politicians went before cameras to proclaim victory rather than defeat of the state in not allowing Gay Parade to happen. And now when I come to think of it, it really seems that Serbian political culture is gradually becoming enslaved by these highly inappropriate “victory proclamations”. Just to remind you, it was Slobodan Milosevic who started this trend and spoke of victory after NATO bombing of Yugoslavia back in 1999 and, to follow his suit, Milosevic’s disciple, currently a PM of Serbia Ivica Dacic, imitated his former mentor on several occasions by speaking of “victory” in not letting LGBT community and its supporters have their 970-step walk down a couple of Belgrade streets. Unfortunately, it is precisely these 970 steps that keep Serbia away from Europe and obviously Serbian politicians are just blind enough not to see it. Thus, instead of having a political elite that is brave enough to change things and lead the country by introducing a new value discourse, Serbia is unfortunately still stuck with the elite whose haphazard ways are a reminder that Serbian political scene is somewhat trapped in ‘roaring 1990s’.
All things being equal, Serbia is undoubtedly heading towards the Union membership and no one can deny that many changes have been made so far. However, it is also important to note that what the country deserves and actually badly needs is a new civic set of values. The tragedy seems to be that Serbian political leadership has failed on numerous occasions to comprehend just how important this new value set actually is. Hence, without this new value equation the country will remain prisoner of its past and will also in a way be robbed of opportunity to move forward. This means that, when Belgrade politicians start speaking about victory over anything, supposed respect of law and human rights, social equality, the Union membership as the country’s ultimate goal, fighting corruption and organized crime, or anything else for that matter – they need to keep in mind that Serbian future principally relies on the first step in any social change: changing the country value-wise in modern civic direction. This is not just about gays and lesbians in the chiefly homophobic society, organized hooligans and ultra-right paramilitary formations, corrupted state officials and judges, forget all that: this is about navigating according to a new course and towards a new reality. At the end of the day, once a responsible elite starts leading in this new civic direction, and this, above all, means sticking to principles of rule of law unlike being currently very selective about it, the society will inevitably start changing. Therefore, in order to make Belgrade a truly European city, far from that Saturday image of a typical “kasaba”, where thugs organized in hooligan groups, ultra-right organizations and false morality seized the day – a social contract of new values needs to be institutionalized. Unless this happens soon enough, Serbia may easily fall prey to growing radicalization of society that, coupled with economic troubles Belgrade has been facing for years now, could easily lead the country in wrong direction.
The author is PhD candidate and assistant lecturer, Dept. of IR and European Studies, FSS, Masaryk University, Czech Republic.