Serbia: Serbia within Yugoslavia

Serbia within Yugoslavia

Serbia's predominant position in the new kingdom was a major cause for unrest in Croatia and Macedonia in the period between World Wars I and II. After the conquest and dismemberment of Yugoslavia in World War II, German occupation forces set up a puppet government in a much-diminished Serbia. The Serbs waged guerrilla warfare under the leadership of Draža Mihajlović. Later, Marshal Tito and his pro-Communist partisans attracted the majority of the Yugoslav resistance fighters, while Mihajlović's following became mostly restricted to the Serbian nationalists. The Yugoslav constitution of 1946 stripped Serbia of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, which became constituent republics. In the postwar years, Serbia had one of the more conservative Yugoslav Communist governments. The desire of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo for independence or for union with Albania resulted in periodic unrest.

In 1986, Slobodan Milošević became leader of the Serbian Communist party. He and his supporters revived the vision of a “Greater Serbia,” comprising Serbia proper, Vojvodina, Kosovo, and the Serb-populated parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Beginning in 1989, Serbia ended Kosovo's autonomy, which had been granted in the 1974 constitution, and sent in troops to suppress the protests of Kosovo's Albanian majority.

In May, 1991, Serbia blocked the ascension of Croatian leader Stipe Mesić to the head of the collective presidency, triggering the breakaway of Slovenia and Croatia and the end of the old Yugoslavia. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, established in 1992 by Serbia and Montenegro, was thoroughly dominated by Serbia, a situation that led by the end of the decade to a strong movement in Montenegro for increased autonomy or independence.

Serbia was the main supplier of arms to ethnic Serbs fighting to expand their control of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In response, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Yugoslavia, which were eased in Sept., 1994, after Yugoslavia announced it was cutting off aid to the Bosnian Serbs, and in late 1995 Serbia signed a peace accord with Bosnia and Croatia. Milan Milutinović was elected president of Serbia in 1997, but most power remained in the hands of Milošević, who became president of Yugoslavia (1997–2000). In Mar., 1999, following the continued repression of ethnic Albanians in the province and the breakdown of negotiations between Albanian Kosovars and Serbia, NATO began bombing military and other targets in Serbia as hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were forcibly deported from Kosovo. In June, Milošević agreed to withdraw his forces, and NATO peacekeepers entered the province.

The Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) won early parliamentary elections held (Dec., 2000) after Milošević lost the Yugoslavian presidency to Vojislav Koštunica, and formed the first noncommunist, nonsocialist government in Serbia in 55 years. Zoran Djindjić became prime minister. The DOS pledged to create a market economy and to dismantle the authoritarian state Milošević had established, and subsequently (2001) turned the former president over to the UN war crimes tribunal at the Hague.

Relations between Djindjić and Yugoslavian president Koštunica became increasingly strained, with the prime minister more concerned about improving the economy and relations with Western Europe than preserving the Yugoslavian federation, which had become strained as Montenegro demands for greater autonomy turned increasingly into demands for independence. However, in Mar., 2002, a pact designed to preserve the federation was signed by Serbian and Montenegrin representatives. The pact, which was approved by the federal and republics' parliaments, gave both republics greater autonomy while maintaining a shared foreign and defense policy. The federation officially became the “state union” of Serbia and Montenegro in Feb., 2003.

Three elections for Serbian president in late 2002 resulted in a victory for but failed to produce a sufficient turnout to be valid under the constitution; Nataša Mićić was appointed acting president. Djindjić was assassinated in Mar., 2003, and Serbian officials accused a criminal gang of responsibilty. The assassination resulted in extensive arrests of governmental, security, and criminal figures associated with organized crime and the former Milošević regime, and 12 men were convicted of involvement in 2007. Zoran Živkovic was elected as Djindjić's successor.

A fourth attempt to elect a president failed, as the Nov., 2003, balloting again did not draw a sufficient number of voters. The parliamentary elections the following month resulted in a plurality for the the Serbian Radical party, an ultranationalist opposition party. Three pro-reform parties, however, formed a minority government in Mar., 2004, with the support (but not participation) of the Socialist party, and Koštunica became prime minister. That same month Kosovo erupted in anti-Serb violence that appeared designed to drive Serbs from mixed areas. Koštunica called, as he had before, for the partition of province into Albanian and Serb cantons. The United Nations and Albanian Kosovars rejected that solution, but Serbia remains opposed to complete independece for Kosovo, and the ultimate status of Kosovo is unresolved.

In June, 2004, Boris Tadić, a pro-Western reformer and the Democratic party candidate, won the presidency after a runoff, defeating Tomislav Nikolić, the Serbian Radical candidate and front-runner in the first round. When Montenegro finally held a referendum on declaring independence in May, 2006, Montenegrins approved the move, and the following month Montenegro declared its independence from the union of Serbia and Montenegro. Two days later, on June 5, Serbia proclaimed itself a sovereign state and the legal heir of the defunct union. The action marked the complete, if prolonged, dissolution of the former Yugoslavia into the constituent republics that had been established after World War II. In Oct., 2006, one of the parties in Koštunica's coalition withdrew, forcing new elections in Jan., 2007. In November Serbia adopted a new constitution; one of its articles proclaimed Kosovo an inalienable part of Serbia.

In 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in a case filed by Bosnia that originated in 1993, found that Serbia had violated international law when it failed to prevent genocide against Bosnian Muslims and then failed to prosecute those responsible for it. The ICJ did not, however, find Serbia guilty of genocide, as Bosnia had charged. Such a finding would have required proving intent on the part of Serbia's leaders, and the ICJ had limited access to internal Serbian and Yugoslavian government evidence.

The Jan., 2007, parliamentary elections were inconclusive, with the strongly nationalist Radicals placing first, the president's party second, and the prime minister's third; no party won as much as 30% of the vote. A coalition between the president's and prime minister's parties seemed most feasible, but Koštunica's insistence that a coalition government take a hard line on Kosovo's independence stymied negotiations until mid-May, when the two parties agreed on coalition with two smaller parties. Koštunica remained prime minister, but divisions in the coalition have since threatened the government's stability. In Mar., 2007, UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari, unable to reach a compromise with Serbia and Kosovo, presented a plan for Kosovo's eventual independence to the UN Security Council, but Russia insisted on a solution acceptable to both Kosovo and Serbia, and the year ended without a resolution to the issue.

Tadić was reelected in Feb., 2008. Shortly thereafter, Kosovo declared its independence, an act that Serbia refused to recognize. (In 2010 the International Court of Justice ruled, in a case brought by Serbia, that international law did not prohibit a unilateral declaration of independence.) Tensions in the government over joining the EU, many of whose members had recognized Kosovo, led Koštunica (who objected to proceeding with EU membership) to resign.

New elections were called for May, 2008. In early May a stabilization and association agreement with the EU—a first step toward EU membership—was signed, and in the subsequent elections Tadić's Democratic party placed first. After negotiations the party formed a government (July) with the Socialists, who favored entering the EU, and several other parties; Democrat Mirko Cvetković became prime minister.

One apparent effect of the new government's installation was the arrest (July) in Serbia of Radovan Karadžić, the former Bosnian Serb leader wanted on war crimes charges, and his extradition to The Hague. The EU, however, did not begin the ratification process for the agreement until June, 2010, over concerns about Serbian cooperation with the war crimes tribunal; in 2011, Ratko Mladić, the former Bosnian Serb commander, and then Goran Hadžić, a former Croatian Serb general and political leader, were also arrested and extradited. In Mar., 2010, the Serbian parliament condemned the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, Bosnia, and apologized for failing to prevent it from happening.

In Feb., 2012, Serbia agreed to allow Kosovo to participate in W Balkan regional meetings and to joint management with Kosovo of their common border. That agreement led in March to the European Union granting Serbia candidate status for negotiations on EU admission, but conflicting interpretations of the agreement subsequently stymied the joint attendance of Serbia and Kosovo at regional meetings. EU-mediated talks aimed at normalizing Serbia-Kosovo relations occurred in 2012–13; in Apr., 2013, an agreement was signed that was intended to integrate the Serb-dominated regions of N Kosovo into Kosovo's jurisdiction. The agreement led to formal talks concerning Serbia's admission to the EU beginning in 2014. An agreement signed with Kosovo in 2015 granted greater local powers to Kosovo's Serb areas, but aspects of it were declared unconsitutional by Kosovo's highest court.

Meanhwhile, President Tadić resigned in Apr., 2012, in order to have the presidential election coincide with the May parliamentary elections; the resignation was intended to aid his party's chances of success. Slavica Djukić Dejanović, the parliament speaker, became acting president. The parliamentary elections were narrowly won by the Serbian Progressive party, and in a subsequent runoff election for the presidency, Tomislav Nikolić, the Serbian Progressive candidate, defeated Tadić. A coalition consisting of the Progressives, Socialists, and smaller parties formed a government in July, with Socialist Ivica Dačić as prime minister. In Sept., 2013, the government was reshuffled; the new cabinet consisted of Progressives and Socialists only.

In snap elections called for Mar., 2014, the Progressives secured a landslide victory, winning nearly two thirds of the seats. They subsequently formed a five-party coalition government headed by Aleksandar Vučić, leader of the Progressive party. In 2016 Vučić called a snap election, and though the Progressives retained their majority after the April vote, they lost nearly a quarter of their seats. Vučić was elected president a year later after a campaign marred by some irregularities and Vučić's dominance of the media coverage. Vučić nominated Ana Brnabić, a nonparty former government minister, for prime minister; she became (June) the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the office.

In Mar., 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the president declared a state of emergency and began ruling by decree; the move was criticized because under the constitution the president is largely a ceremonial figure. The June, 2020, parliamentary elections, postponed from April due to the pandemic, were boycotted by most opposition parties, who were critical of holding the voting during the pandemic as well as of the Progressives' control of the media; the latter situation was also criticized by the OSCE. The Progressives won a landslide victory, securing three quarters of the seats, and Brnabić remained prime minister.

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