Where now for Serbia? Violent protestors; with the tacit support of the police and elements of the Serbian government and political establishment; have succeeded in setting Serbia back five years. After all the progress that Serbia has achieved over the last ten years to move towards the international club of nations, one night of state ‘green-lighted’ violence has recreated what should have now been, tired, negative stereotypes of Serbs. After all the positivity created by the likes of Djokovic, Ivanovic and Serifovic, Serbs are once more at the centre of violence which has been internationally reported and condemned.
Serbian anger over Kosovo is understandable, but the government’s willingness to give protestors a thirty minute window of opportunity to attack the U.S., Croatian and other embassies is criminally reckless and all too transparent. How Kostunica, the police and those that sanctioned this can justify their actions, or believe that any positive outcome will emerge from this violence is hard to fathom. Officially, the international community has voiced its anger at police failure to intervene, but the repercussions are likely to be more severe than simple statements, and not only on the U.S. side.
How Serbia will move forward is the biggest question. An apology is almost certainly on the cards and a lot of international bridge-building, but what happens on the domestic political scene is perhaps more significant. Serbs aren’t blind to what happened and most recognise the lasting damage that the violence has inflicted. The government has a lot to answer for and Kostunica may well have to fight to preserve its integrity. His uneasy alliance with his DS coalition partners will likely be stretched to the limits and early elections may well cost the DSS. This is DS’s chance to punish their coalition partners.
What happened two nights ago will hopefully be suitably sobering for the Serbian electorate. Continuing support for nationalist parties and ideologies amongst the general public, and the police force in particular, created the conditions that led to the violence of two nights ago. Serbs must recognise that only a rejection of nationalism at the ballot box will prevent future executives being involved in such mindless vandalism. What would have happened if a Radical government had been at the helm? Until Serbia rejects these dangerous ideologies, there will be little trust in the international community. And it wasn’t just the American Embassy that went up in smoke two nights ago, but ten years of building a positive image of Serbia and the illusion that DSS was a party that could restrain its nationalist tendencies.
Those that attended the peaceful demonstration must feel particularly aggrieved; hopes for Kosovo remaining part of Serbia must seem further away than ever.