- Title: SERBIA/FILE: Serbia progressing towards EU membership, says president
- Date: 6th October 2010
- Summary: BELGRADE, SERBIA (OCTOBER 02, 2010) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER AND LEADER OF SOCIALIST PARTY OF SERBIA, IVICA DACIC, SAYING: "We have today sort of an ironic situation that Kostunica [referring to Vojislav Kostunica, opposition leader in 2000], who beat Slobodan Milosevic in the elections, is today one of the biggest opponents to Serbia's entry to EU but SPS [Serbian Socialist party], which is the successor of Milosevic's party is one of the parties which is maybe one of the strongest advocates for EU entry." DACIC HANDS (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER AND LEADER OF SOCIALIST PARTY OF SERBIA, IVICA DACIC, SAYING: "It could be said that ideas about democratisation of the society, European integration of Serbia, cannot be done without the participation of the Socialist party and that everyone must have this in mind."
- Embargoed: 21st October 2010 13:00
- Topics: European Union
- Reuters ID: LVABHLGJM900LIRPQMAFOTQ7XLGJ
- Story Text: A decade after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic's regime, Serbia is still recovering from the Balkan wars and isolation of the 1990s but the country is steadily progressing toward European Union (EU) accession, the country's president, Boris Tadic, said on Tuesday (October 5).
Serbia officially applied for the EU membership in December 2009 with the goal of EU entry in 2014.
"The biggest achievement of 5th of October is the establishment of democracy in Serbia and that no one would ever think of stealing the democratic elections, as was happening in all 10 years in the 1990s. So, we have a democracy, which has been verified by all international organisations, we have democratic rule and Serbia is today a democratic society, there is no doubt about it. Are these the highest achievements of democracy? It is possible to do more but I am convinced that in the whole history of the Serb nation we haven't been at a higher level of democracy than we are today and we have to be aware of this," Tadic told a conference marking the October 5 anniversary.
A decade ago, an estimated 500,000 people from all over Serbia, led by the now-defunct 18-party Democratic Opposition of Serbia Alliance took to the streets of Belgrade to force Milosevic to accept his election defeat.
Two people died and protesters burned the former federal parliament and disarmed police after day-long clashes.
Milosevic, who conceded defeat, stayed in virtual house arrest until April 2001 when he was extradited to the United Nations (U.N.) war crimes court to stand trial for fomenting genocide and war crimes during the 1990s.
He died in his prison cell in the U.N. detention centre in the Scheveningen, Netherlands in 2006.
The October 5 unrest was also fuelled by a decade of wars, international isolation and 1999 NATO bombing which left the country's infrastructure and key industrial facilities in ruins.
After Milosevic's oustingr, new pro-Western Serbian authorities led by pro-Western Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and the conservative President Vojislav Kostunica sought to improve ties with the EU with the ultimate goal of joining the bloc.
In 2009 Serbia secured visa-free travel to EU countries and started the implementation of the pre-membership Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
Djindjic was gunned down in 2003 in downtown Belgrade by members of an underworld clan and several disgruntled secret service para-militaries.
After one mandate as the president of now-defunct state union of Serbia and Montenegro and two mandates as Serbia's Prime Minister, Kostunica lost power in general elections in 2008.
A decade after Milosevic's fall, Serbia is still seeking EU entry but its accession process is hampered by its inability to arrest Ratko Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb commander and the most wanted war crime suspect.
In the past decade the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Milosevic's former party, managed to reform itself. Today, the SPS is a member of a pro-western coalition and one of the strongest voices for Serbia's entry into the EU.
"We have today sort of an ironic situation that Kostunica, who beat Slobodan Milosevic in the elections, is today one of the biggest opponents to Serbia's entry to EU but SPS, which is the successor of Milosevic's party is one of the parties which is maybe one of the strongest advocates for EU entry," SPS leader and Serbia's interior minister, Ivica Dacic, told Reuters.
"It could be said that ideas about democratisation of the society, European integration of Serbia, cannot be done without the participation of the Socialist party and that everyone must have this in mind," Dacic added.
The country also needs to implement structural reforms and adjust its legal system, industry and economy to EU standards. Many of those who took part in October 2000 events, like miners in the Kolubara open pit, some 30 kilometres south west of Belgrade, are disappointed by the lack of speed of the reforms.
"Those expectations at the time, I definitively believe, have not been fulfilled but, today, Serbia is one country which is significantly different than prior to October 5 in all ways. I think it's very clear also to those, who were at that time, against the changes," Predrag Videnovic, one of the organisers of the 2000 protest at Kolubara, told Reuters.
Serbia must also improve its economy which was hard hit by the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009. Top officials have repeatedly said the country is emerging from the crisis this year and that GDP growth may exceed two percent by end 2010.
Ivan Vejvoda, the executive director of The Balkan Trust for Democracy thinks that in the last ten years Serbia has changed a lot.
"I would start with what we hear often, a sentence and a thought, 'everything is the same but he is gone, I think it's nothing more than wrong', because Serbia in the last ten years has done very much." Vejvoda said.
Changes in the country are big, despite the communist heritage and that of Milosevic's years, Vejvoda explained.
"I think that the weight of heritage is not taken into account which we have like all post-communist states, we have that communist, authoritative, patriarchal, and paternalistic heritage and on the other hand, we have the heritage of 1990s which left one criminalised state, and criminalised society."
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