2 years ago

20 years of European journalism & history

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Twenty years doesn't seem a lot. Certainly not in the light of European history. But while we were writing this magazine for the 20th anniversary of EUobserver, we were surprised just how much happened in the European Union in those two decades.

Vesna Pešić, 80, has

Vesna Pešić, 80, has been a human rights activist since the 1970s Photo: information minister, was navigating the labyrinths of power in Belgrade, going from Progressive party chairman, to Serbia's deputy prime minister, to prime minister, and to become president in 2017. He took control of Serbia's judiciary, media, and stateowned firms along the way, creating "huge clientelism, putting his people everywhere," Pešić said. Vučić also destroyed what was left of Đinđić's Democratic Party, for instance, by jailing people on bogus corruption charges. Serbia's "dream" was shattered by a sniper's bullet, which hit Đinđić in the heart, as he was getting out of his government car in Belgrade to meet the foreign minister of Sweden. The assassin came from the same Red Berets with which Đinđić had made a deal back in 2000. The killer is in prison, but even if no one knows who gave the order, everyone knows who benefitted from the crime, Pešić said. Nationalist political chiefs, military, spy, and police commanders, and Serb mafias, such as the 'Zemunski Klan', wanted to stay in place, instead of being dragged to court on the way to Serbia's EU membership. Orthodox Church bosses also wanted things to stay the same. "All of these people wanted a continuation of Milošević state-structures and policies ... so they plotted against Đinđić," Pešić said. The story of how they got what they wanted is more complicated than one bullet. The nationalist bloc rounded against Đinđić's reformers after his death. And he terrorised other opposition leaders, such as those in the Liberal Democratic Party, into becoming puppets in a democratic make-believe. "A multi-party system is not forbidden, but, in reality, Serbia is a one-party system, since no other party has a chance to win elections," Pešić said. "Serbia has become a full autocracy in which one man, Vučić, decides just about everything," she said. And if Western leaders still trusted his "stabil-ocracy," they ought to know better, because "he [Vučić] will never recognise Kosovo, as the EU expects", she added. He knows what the EU wants to hear, but he speaks nationalist rhetoric at home, and he is arming Serbia to the teeth with new weapons from Belarus and Russia. But even if Serbia has gone full circle, for some the bulldozer-spirit never died. And there is still pro-European optimism in Serbian society, where more than half the population wants to join the EU. "We [Serbian people] haven't forgotten that once upon-a-time, 20 years ago, we were able to get rid of autocratic rule," Pešić said. Vučić gets the redcarpet treatment in EU capitals It changed its name to the Serbian Progressive Party and got Western backing by "whispering" to EU leaders, Pešić said, that Serbia would, one day, recognise Kosovo, unlocking the Western Balkans' path into Europe. It also got Russian support when Putin, 10 years ago, almost fell in Bulldozer Revolution-type protests and declared war on Western values. And all the while, the young Vučić, Milošević's former 04 — EUOBSERVER ANNIVERSARY 2020

Sherin Khankan: 'We are the first mosque in Scandinavia that conducts interfaith marriages.' Photo: Sherin Khankan the year 2001 September 11 and the female Danish Imam Sherin Khankan is a female Imam who runs the Mariam Mosque in Copenhagen. The idea for the mosque came a month before two planes slammed into the World Trade Center skyscrapers in New York on 11 September, 2001. By Nikolaj Nielsen 05 — EUOBSERVER ANNIVERSARY 2020

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