BELGRADE – “Today it has become clear that the policy of reconciliation and cooperation with the Serbian regime will not bear fruit. For these reasons, we call on the European Union, its member states and other Western partners to change the current policy of making dubious deals with autocratic leaders. Guarantee the continuation of negotiations for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, urgently engage in a structured dialogue with pro-democratic and pro-EU actors in the country and in the region,” said several Serbian civil society organizations in an appeal read at the recent Belgrade Security Conference (BSC).
Civil society organizations call on international actors to refrain from imposing general economic or other sanctions that could affect the Serbian population and to support efforts to ensure fair and free conditions during Serbia’s December general elections .
They say that Serbia and the Western Balkans once again find themselves at a crossroads, adding that the time has come either to achieve long-term peace and prosperity through the European integration process or to plunge back into a death spiral of autocracy and conflict.
“The normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and the resolution of all outstanding disputes in the region will not be possible without the decapitation of the state and the full renewal of democracy in Serbia,” the appeal emphasizes.
It is added that Serbian citizens have been deprived of access to free and independent media.
“Through concerted action by the media under the direct control of the ruling regime, they have been exposed to continued anti-Western and populist propaganda which is in complete contradiction to the government’s stated commitment to the country’s membership to the EU. This is why citizens’ support for Serbia’s EU membership is at its lowest level in the last ten years, while more than 65% of citizens consider Russia to be the country’s greatest friend. , underline civil society organizations.
According to an appeal, undermining the Serbian constitutional order and the separation of powers established by it, the President of the Republic usurped the powers of the government, the National Assembly and even the judiciary.
“Nationalism, corruption and organized cross-border crime are constantly increasing. Regional relations are strained, the Kosovo issue is at an impasse and Serbia’s foreign policy direction is torn between emulating European integration and close ties with Russia.”
CSOs believe that the armed clash in Banjska on September 24 and Belgrade’s subsequent reactions revealed that the ruling regime is rarely led by a fundamental commitment to values and the protection of citizens’ rights, but rather by the officially promoted populist opinion.
“By supporting people associated with organized crime who are under US sanctions and declaring them defenders of Serbian interests in Kosovo, the Serbian regime is building destabilizing structures in Kosovo and pretending to be a constructive partner in dialogue. His decade-long policies, narratives and actions have created fertile ground for recent tragic events, thereby threatening the security of the entire region,” the appeal added.
CSOs believe that over the past decade, the ruling regime has been a single interlocutor for our European and international partners. According to them, this is a pragmatic approach to talking to the powers that be in the country, hoping that it will produce positive results.
“Serbian citizens have been protesting in the streets for more than 23 weeks against the mass shootings that occurred on May 3 and 4 in the Belgrade municipalities of Vračar and Mladenovac/Smederevo, demanding accountability for the failure of institutions to prevent these events and against pervasive violence and state-sponsored media control. Despite civil society and media reporting on attacks, defamation and violence initiated or tolerated by government officials, most European and international partners have remained silent,” the appeal adds.
CSOs conclude that today it has become clear that a policy of appeasement and cooperation with the ruling regime in Serbia will not bear fruit.
The appeal is signed by the following Serbian think tanks and civil society organizations: Women’s Autonomous Center, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Center for Contemporary Politics, CRTA – Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability, Civic Initiatives, Center for International and Security Affairs – ISAC Fund, European Movement in Serbia, Partners Serbia, Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, YUCOM – Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights Man, Youth Initiative for Human Rights.