Serbia, March 23-29, 2015

Only a few days after the signing of the so-called IPAP (Individual Partnership Action Plan ) agreement between Serbian authorities and NATO in Brussels, an expected response came from Moscow. Russian authorities warned that its Serbian-supplied apples are actually not of Serbian, but Polish origin. This is not only a breach of the sanctions that Russia has imposed on Poland as a response to Polish sanctions against Russia, but more importantly a violation of the trade agreement between Serbia and Russia. It is logical to think that the Russian side must have been aware of this for some time now, but tolerated the apple trade for political reasons. However, now that Serbian authorities have moved the country closer to NATO (in fact, against the Serbian constitution, and proclaimed a neutrality that also violates Serbia’s already extremely weakened sovereignty), the Russian reaction is a clear signal of their discontent. The IPAP agreement is itself a scandalous document. It is probably the first military agreement in history that contains an economic component, of course against Serbian national interests. Besides complying with its own disarmament (meaning decreasing its firepower capabilities) which is justified as a part of the ‘modernization’ process, Serbia is obliged to ‘restructure’ and privatize its last state-owned profitable companies. Serbia also accepted an obligation to ‘synchronize’ its energy policy with the EU.

The IPAP was signed on March 18th, a mere six days before the 16th anniversary of the NATO aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This fact has upset the Serbian public and provoked a series of protests organised by parties and NGOs belonging to the patriotic opposition. On March 23rd, the Democratic Party of Serbia, Dveri, and the Serbian Radical Party together organised a protest in Northern Kosovska Mitrovica, the largest Serbian town in the province. The Serbian Radical Party led by Vojislav Šešelj organized a protest in front of the general-staff building in Belgrade. The building of the general-staff still has very large and visible holes on its facade from the NATO bombs. During the rally Šešelj personally burned the flags of NATO, the EU, the USA, and the flag used by the Albanian authorities on the illegally occupied Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.

Just a few hours later in the evening, on that very same place, Serbian leadership led by Prime Minister Alexander Vučić gathered to officially commemorate the victims of the NATO aggression. This would be a perfectly normal thing had the Serbian ministers not signed the treaty with NATO just days before, and had Vučić not engaged Tony Blair, one of the main architects of the NATO bombing, as a consultant for the Serbian government, which is ultimately an act of humiliation and defeat for Serbia. In this context the ceremony was simply a theater of utter hypocrisy. Additionally, the ceremony was a clear sign that Vučić is nervous about the possible political implications of the agreement with NATO on the internal plan. That is why the ceremony was in fact a tool meant to appease the public dissatisfied by the latest foreign policy move and humiliation of the country by the North Atlantic alliance. Another indicator of the leadership's nervousness is the reports of a large number of people who received phone calls from the police and the intelligence service to come to so-called ‘informative interviews.’ The political party Dveri announced that many of their members and supporters received phone calls just days before their rally in front of the government building. Dveri characterized this as a form of political pressure of the ruling elite against their political opponents.

Other events in the region have also been very interesting. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama made another of his infamous public statements. On this occasion Rama implied that the signing of several agreements between the governments of ‘Kosovo’ and Albania in Tirana was an act of “National unification trough the EU,” implying that the ‘Greater Albania’ would soon become a ‘reality.’ Serbia’s protest was weak and nobody from the EU made any comments. Needless to say, there was no condemnation of Rama’s statement. This was another sign of the EU’s approval of such behavior, and another slap in the face for Serbia, whose leadership set the standards in which this kind of behavior towards Serbia has become the norm.

The qualifying football match between Montenegro and Russia for the European Football Championship in 2016 has raised a lot of noise. Fans of Montenegro (a county whose leadership is striving to join NATO) were already causing unrest at the very beginning of the match, during which the goalkeeper of the Russian team was hit in the head with a torch by one of the Montenegrin fans. The match was temporarily interrupted, but after the same later happened to another Russian player it was finally cancelled. Montenegro is a deeply divided society, in a way similar to Ukraine. In the case of Montenegro, the main division is between Montenegrins who consider themselves as a part of the Serbian nation, and those who are supporters of the new ‘Montenegrin’ identity, separate from, and even fiercely hostile to the Serbian. This is why supporters of the Montenegrin football team and Neo-Montenegrin identity were ready to resort to violence in a football match against Russia – a traditional ally of the Montenegrins – Serbian highlanders. Montenegrins who identify with the Serbian nation were naturally supporting Russia, together with Russian fans and Serbs who came from around the region to see the match and support the Russian team.