Serbia after the elections
Our visitors from Germany were very excited because an extremely interesting programme had been prepared for them.
The visit to Serbia, which took place from 3 – 6 May under the title ‘Serbia after the 2022 elections, was organised by the Southeast Europe Society (SOG) in cooperation with six German political foundations. Approximately 20 staff members for German MPs of different political persuasions had the opportunity to inform themselves comprehensively about the current political and social situation in talks with representatives from politics, culture and non-governmental organisations in the country.
The substance of the visit began immediately with on the day our guests arrived, with two panels in the afternoon on the domestic political situation and the state of democracy, as well as on Serbia’s role in Europe. Serbian experts from NGOs and think tanks as well as representatives of the EU delegation in Serbia and the Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy, Dorothea Gieselmann, took part. Particularly impressive were the remarks of Srđan Majstorović from the Centre for European Policy, who described the collapse of the guiding principle of Serbian foreign policy – ‘sitting on four chairs’ – and spoke of the currently almost insurmountable balancing act between the pro-European and pro-Russian pillars.
This was followed by talks with representatives of the opposition and governing parties.
The representatives of the pro-European opposition alliances ‘United for Serbia’ and ‘We have to!’ mainly addressed the still unfair electoral conditions, especially with regard to access to public service media. On other topics, one answer from the ruling parties will certainly be remembered for a long time: when asked by a guest why the face of the convicted war criminal Ratko Mladić could be seen on the walls of so many buildings in Belgrade, a leading SNS parliamentarian said that this was a sign of freedom of expression and liberality in Serbia!
Visits to the National Assembly, with a welcome by the President of the Parliament Ivica Dačić, and to Belgrade City Hall, which included a presentation on the development of the city up to 2030, rounded off the day. Dačić once again proved to be a rhetorically skilful interlocutor when he justified the rejection of Kosovo’s independence: the guests from Germany should put themselves in the shoes of a decision-maker who considers the preservation of his country’s territorial integrity to be of the highest value.
One evening was dedicated to a meeting with independent journalists and civil society representatives, mainly from the partner spectrum of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom: this was an open and free exchange in an informal atmosphere.
The third day included a visit to Novi Sad, the capital of the Serbian province of Vojvodina. In the town hall and in the parliament, the focus was on discussions with representatives from politics and society on the topics of culture, cultural diversity, investment and the environment. In the afternoon, topics such as coming to terms with the past and regional cooperation with NGO representatives were added.
Another highlight of the trip was an extensive discussion with the German Ambassador, Thomas Schieb, on the final day.
As became clear in the final discussion, this trip was of great benefit to our visitors from Germany in terms of impressions and insights. There was a generally expressed with that a similar trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina should be offered next year. The foundations will be happy to be part of this once again.