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Serbian CSOs appeal to the EU to stop appeasing Serbia’s autocratic regime and support democratic actors

Photo: European Union

BELGRADE – “Today, it has become evident that the policy of reconciliation and cooperation with the regime in Serbia will not bear fruit. For these reasons, we appeal to the European Union, its member states, and other Western partners to change the current policy of making dubious agreements with autocratic leaders. Ensure the continuation of negotiations for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, urgently engage in structured dialogue with pro-democratic and pro-EU actors in the country and the region,” stated multiple Serbian civil society organizations in an appeal read during the recent Belgrade Security Conference (BSC).

Civil society organizations call on international actors to refrain from imposing general economic or other sanctions that would affect the Serbian population and to support efforts to ensure fair and free conditions in the December general elections in Serbia.

They state that Serbia and the Western Balkans are yet again at a crossroads, adding that the time has come either to achieve long-term peace and prosperity through the EU integration process, or to once again plunge into a deadly spiral of autocracy and conflict.

“The normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and the resolution of all outstanding disputes in the region will not be possible without state de-capture and full renewal of democracy in Serbia”, the appeal stresses.

It is added that Serbian citizens have been deprived of access to free and independent media.

“Through a concerted action by media under the direct control of the ruling regime, they have been exposed to a continuous anti-Western and other populist propaganda that has been in total contradiction to the government’s declared commitment to the country’s EU membership. Therefore, the citizens’ support for Serbia’s accession to the EU is at its lowest level in the last ten years, while over 65% of citizens see Russia as the country’s greatest friend”, civil society organizations underline.

According to an appeal, undermining Serbia’s constitutional order and the separation of powers established by it, the President of the Republic usurped the powers of the government, the National Assembly and even the judiciary.

“Nationalism, corruption, and organized cross-border crime have been on a steady rise. Regional relations have got strained, the Kosovo issue has reached an impasse, and Serbia’s foreign policy orientation is torn between a mimicry of the EU integration and close ties with Russia”.

CSOs assess that the armed clash in Banjska on 24 September and the reactions from Belgrade that followed have unveiled that the ruling regime is rarely led by the basic commitment to the values and protection of citizens’ rights, but rather by the officially promoted populist opinion.

“By supporting the people associated with organized crime, who are under the US sanctions, and declaring them to be defenders of Serbian interests in Kosovo, Serbia’s regime builds destabilising structures in Kosovo, while pretending to be a constructive partner in the dialogue. Its decade-long policy, narratives and actions have created fertile soil for recent tragic events, thus threatening the security of the whole region”, adds the appeal.

CSOs believe that for the last decade, the ruling regime has been a single interlocutor for our European and other international partners. According to them, this has been a pragmatic approach to talk to the acting powers in the country, hoping that this will produce positive results.

“Serbian citizens have been protesting in the streets for over 23 weeks because of the mass shootings that happened on 3rd and 4th May in Belgrade municipalities of Vračar and Mladenovac/Smederevo requesting the responsibility for the failure of the institutions to prevent these events, and against the omnipresent state-sponsored violence and control of the media. Despite civil society and media reporting on the attacks, smears, and violence initiated or tolerated by the government officials, most of the EU and international partners remained silent”, the appeal adds.

CSOs conclude that today, it has become obvious that a policy of appeasing and cooperating with the ruling regime in Serbia will not bear fruit.

The appeal is signed by the following think tanks and civil society organizations from Serbia: Autonomous Women’s Centre, Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Centre for Contemporary Politics, CRTA – Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability, Civic Initiatives, The International and Security Affairs Centre – ISAC Fund, European Movement in Serbia, Partners Serbia, Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, YUCOM – Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

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