This week Serbia is marking 20th anniversary since NATO air strikes on the country. Two decades on, the state is unstable, the society is stagnant, the media is biased, the people are moving abroad, and the streets are filled with protesters who want change, writes Milena Zupanič in Delo.
It has been 20 years since NATO carried air strikes on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It was the first NATO intervention without the consent of the UN Security Council. In the attacks, 16 of the then 19 NATO members participatied in the air strikes, forcing Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo.
Poverty in Serbia today is widespread: every fifth household in the south of the country has no electricity. The economy is still struggling to recover. “The collapse of Yugoslavia, wars in the neighbouring areas, and the bombing of Serbia have led to the loss of economy, decline in education and a stable society, and set us on a path of neoliberalism. We have paid a huge price for the wrong decisions we made in the past,” says Zoran Stojiljković from the Belgrade Faculty of Political Sciences.
For now, Serbia is not a democratic country, but an authoritarian oligarchy that resembles the current authorities in Montenegro, Turkey, Hungary and Russia, argues sociologist Jovo Bakić from the Faculty of Arts in Belgrade. He points to the authorities manipulation of the media, reducing the freedom of the press that curently only covers postive stories about Aleksandar Vučić’s government and brands the opposition as the enemy, which in recent months has led to protests on Serbian streets.
Bakić notes that the situation in Serbia after the NATO air strikes is even worse than before the raids. He emphasises the current existential threats, struggle for survival and loss of dignity. The result of this is mass emigration of the population: over the last two decades, more than 650,000 people have left the country according to the official data.