Social relation on the Balkans

By: Geert Luteijn

As a scholar in international relations, I always found politics on the Balkans fascinating. It has something alien for someone from the Netherlands. Where the public interest is often debated in parliament, newspapers and random conversations on the streets in the Netherlands, completely different arguments seem to be appealing in the Balkans. Most of the time people discuss the horrible decisions made by politicians, serving their own cause rather than the public. I think that the press is often looking for sensation rather than the truth in Serbia and this tendency has spread to the word on the streets and in the café’s and even to the way politicians approach the public. The result is apathy under the majority of the public and politicians that don’t take their responsibility as representatives of the people seriously. An example follows from my Master dissertation about the functioning of the Serbian state since the fall of Milosevic.

Everyone in Serbia seems to know about tycoons that own a large share of the Serbian economy and other economies in the region through offshore companies. The Anti-Corruption Council reported several times about the huge amount of violations of the law by these tycoons, however the government and prosecutors office in Serbia do not act upon these reports. One of the best-known examples is probably the acquisition of the company ‘C Market’ by Delta Holding, the cornerstone of the business empire of Miroslav Miskovic. By buying this company, Delta got a lucrative monopoly position on the Serbian retail market. The company was first privatized by its socialist director. He ‘mysteriously’ acquired most of the shares himself, than sold to Miskovic. Business as usual. Although the government could have declared the privatization as unlawful and sold the company by auction to the highest bidder…

The Serbian state has long since reached an agreement with the tycoons in the economy and rather serves their interests than those of the Serbian people. This is my read on the situation. I can understand that people turn away from the political scene after being set-up so many times in a row, by different regimes. I hope that civil society in Serbia will be able to organize itself and formulate the interests of its people in a constructive way. As long as national-populist politicians get away with empty promises, it is unlikely that the organization of counter hegemony will be successful.