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Former Yugoslavia: Rumblings In Soft Underbelly Of Europe …

  • April 17th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

belgrade-protest.jpegOver 50000 protesters were out on Saturday in Belgrade, backing demands from the nationalist opposition for an early resignation by the Serbian government.

Similar large numbers were appearing on the streets of Zagreb in Croatia, decrying the conviction of two former Generals at The Hague, for war crimes.


The opposition in Serbia is campaigning against the impacts of high unemployment and corruption, demanding immediate elections – a year before full term.

Government leaders who have been pushing for entry into the European Union have objected that destabilisation campaigns will harm the country’s chances of being accepted.

Similar angry protests took place in February.


Angry reactions followed the conviction of two Generals from  Croatia  -   Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac -  by the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

They were accused of heading a drive by Croatian forces to regain full control of the Krajina region and evict the Serbian population there, in 1995, late in the civil war that saw the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

Gotovina was sentenced to  24 years in prison, Markac  18 years, for complicity in  “ethnic cleansing”, murder and theft.

They’ve been seen much less harshly at home, enjoying hero status with many.

A crowd estimated at 30000 built up on Saturday to shout its objections to the verdict, and government leaders spoke of organising an appeal.

Croatia like the Serb republic has been going through tough economic straits, and political tension, recent large demonstrations in the capital being focused on joblessness and official corruption, as in Belgrade this weekend.


Crisis in the former Yugoslav territories has brought in several military interventions and peace-keeping moves, by the EU, the  NATO alliance and the United States.

Bringing the republics in to the EU fold has been seen as a long-term solution to generations of discord.

New-member negotiations between Croatia and the European Union  started in 2005  have reached an advanced stage, with several  member governments urging completion .

Hesitations were produced by the political trouble in the country and demands by Slovenia for a settlement of a disagreement with Croatia over their common border.

Late last year the EU announced that agreement had been settled on 28 out of 35 “chapters” in the plan, raising the possibility that a referendum, and the signing of an Accession treaty could take place before the end of this year.

Serbia is much further behind, having lodged an application to join  in 2009.

The EU has relaxed economic and visa restrictions, with predictions that the country might become an EU member, in the period between 2015 and 2018.


BBC News, London, “Croatians convicted of war crimes”, 16.4.11., (16.4.11).

European Commission, Brussels,  Enlargement:  Croatia – Country profile., (16.4.11).

EC, Brussels, Enlargement: Serbia., (16.4.11).

Jovana Gec, Associated Press, NY, “50000 rally in Serbia …”, 16.4.11., (16.4.11).

Reuters, London, “Serbian opposition rallies, wants early election”, 16.4.11.,-wants-early-election-.aspx, (16.4.11)

Lajla Veselica,  AFP, Paris, “30,000 Croatians protest against war crime verdicts”, 16.4.11.…,(16.4.11).


The Parliament square in Belgrade attracts mass protests; here a campaign against Kosovo independence, late 2010. BBC