Down the Road: Serbia's Path to Reconstruction

Article excerpt

He came, he saw, and he conquered. When late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was elected to office in 2000, he inherited a struggling country and an economy rife with corruption and crime. After his predecessor, former President Slobodan Milosevic, had ravaged the country with a military campaign to cleanse the republic of ethnic Albanians, and after NATO had launched a succession of military strikes, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was utterly devastated. The republic soon dissolved, and Djindjic began the arduous process of reconstructing the Serbian state. Although Djindjic was initially faced with an abundance of setbacks and hardships, his progressive reforms have since propelled the economy, fought corruption, and established Serbia as a democratic and nearly autonomous entity.

After the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, the United States warned that it would block international funding for Serbian reconstruction until Belgrade pursued democratic reform, giving Serbia a good incentive to start the reconstruction process by democratizing. Under Djindjic, the Serbian and Montenegrin components of Yugoslavia commenced talks targeted at forging a looser and more democratic relationship, and in 2003, the Yugoslavian republic was replaced by the state union of Serbia-Montenegro. The two entities also agreed to hold a referendum in 2006 to establish full independence of both Serbia and Montenegro. Although these progressive talks resulted in more democratic autonomy for both governments, they unfortunately coincided with the ill-fated assassination of Djindjic as well. In February 2003, Djindjic was succeeded as Prime Minister by Zoran Zivkovic, who has since supported and even enhanced Djindjic's efforts at reform.

Like many post-communist countries, Serbia has sought to develop a modern and law-abiding culture to reduce the high levels of corruption and crime that have long plagued it. The Budget Inspection Control Review, a survey of budget use conducted at the end of 2000, indicated that the public administration was mired in corruption and that funds had been fraudulently taken and misused. As a result, the administration took tough actions to bring 24 criminal charges against 47 former government officials and filed 29 settlements for restitution of illegally spent resources. Additionally, Serbia has sought to increase public awareness and engagement in the fight against corruption by encouraging scrutiny by the media and non-governmental organizations. To achieve this goal, the government hopes to both facilitate a higher level of freedom of information and create forums for public discussion of draft laws, although neither goal has yet come to fruition. While there is still more to accomplish, the public fight against corruption and the strict governmental stance have contributed immensely to the development of progressive reform. …