Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Milosevic: Just What the Balkans Didn't Need

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Milosevic: Just What the Balkans Didn't Need

Article excerpt

First, the historical record of Slobodan Milosevic. He won power by manipulating the mechanisms of a one-party state, toppling his mentor and close friend of 20 years, Ivan Stambolic, in a process of unadulterated Stalinism. (In 2000 his henchmen completed the parricide by murdering Stambolic.) He whipped up Serbian nationalism to strengthen his power base in the Yugoslav federation. He never won a democratic election that he didn't rig. He stole hundreds of millions of dollars for his family and cronies. He was a nepotist. He bore chief responsibility for the break-up of Yugoslavia (only Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian leader, comes close) and for the subsequent wars. Armies and militias under his influence killed tens of thousands. And at home in Serbia, he and the mafia that he employed to ransack the state murdered their opponents at will.

Although some will contest this assessment, I am confident it will also be the dominant view in Serbia itself. So much for Milosevic.

His death, however, comes at a bad time for his country. The Balkans were in a parlous state when the Kosovo war ended and Milosevic was toppled in 2000, with all the Balkan states vulnerable to penetration by a local mafia nurtured on war and sanctions.

Since then the region has edged towards the goal of European integration. Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are now firmly on the road to EU membership, a tremendous achievement. On the minus side, war in Macedonia was only narrowly avoided; Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo are quasi-protectorates of the west, with next to no economic development; and Serbia is a constitutional mess. For every step forward it has been forced back two for failing to hand over General Ratko Mladic for trial at The Hague.

Serbia's minority government is headed by the moderate nationalist Vojislav Kostunica. …

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