OpEd

The calf, frozen in time

The man who was the Minister of Information in the Government of Slobodan Milosevic during the war in Kosovo, today is the president of Serbia, who encourages war. Over the years, it has undergone a certain metamorphosis, only in rhetoric and public appearance. But in essence he has remained the same. As if frozen in time

Aleksandar Vuçiqi has changed his position and suit, but not his mindset. The one who was the Minister of Information in the Government of Slobodan Milosevic during the war in Kosovo, today is the president of Serbia who encourages war.

Over the years, it has undergone a certain metamorphosis only in rhetoric and public appearance.

From the man who comes out of every Serb's refrigerator in campaign spots, to the "savior" of his people who poses with pictures of food reserves. Appearing on the screens, he bites his quivering lip to demonstrate how under pressure Serbia is. Somewhere I shed a tear. Except for a "yes" or "no" for sanctions against a friendly state - Russia - the cause of the war in Ukraine. In an extraordinary press conference this end of February, he announced the decision: punishment yes, sanctions no. He calls Russia's action a violation of the territorial integrity of a state, but not an occupation. In the justification, he guarantees to the people that Serbia "is guided by its own vital economic and political interests".

In the name of these interests, at midnight on August 1, he returned the land to the Serbs in the north of Kosovo. I turned off the lights everywhere. He informs them, without evidence, that the "authorities of Pristina" - as he calls the Government of Kosovo - plan to attack them. It set off the danger warning alarms. It evoked the feeling of war and panic... in opposition, even though it has not yet been implemented, to the reciprocity established by the Government of Kosovo for the identification documents of Serbs who intend to enter Kosovo. Then, he packages as his triumph the subsequent decision of Kosovo - taken after the request of the American ambassador, Jeffrey Hovenier - to postpone the entry into force of the measure until September 1.

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Aleksandar Vučić is a man who does not like to be a loser. In the dialogue with Kosovo, the dogma "peace and stability in the region" is used as a "victory" card. Even though he is aware that he cannot actually take Kosovo, Vuçiqi also knows that putting his company in a final and legally binding agreement would cost him his political career.

"I'm not used to losing," he assured Serbs via the screens of the state TV channel RTS, a day after the unrest in the north. Rather than losing, no matter on what plane, you always find some dark forces, somewhere across the border, manipulating things for and in Serbia.

He blames the Government of Kosovo for inciting attacks and chaos even when the Kosovo Police is attacked by Serbian criminal structures in the north. These attacks against Kosovo law enforcement have become more frequent this year. Six occurred in April alone. On Saturday, there was also an attack in Ujman. The second in a week.

For each of them, Vuçiqi claimed that he was provoked by the "authorities in Pristina". He said that the operations of the Kosovo Police against corruption and crime in the north were mistreatment of the Serbs in that part. They themselves beg them to keep calm and not "fall prey to provocations" and when they hear it, thank them for "the bravery shown in Kosovo and Metohija".

He did not spare to call them "foreign agents" even his own citizens, whom he tried to save, when they rose up in protest just a short time before the April 3 elections in Serbia. Those who won with the formula: "Peace. Stability. Vucic".

With peace and stability on the edge of the sword, Vučić's Serbia today is not even close to democracy. As such, it has been qualified by quite a few as unworthy to be considered a potential member of the European Union. Membership in this bloc has always been his aim, but recently, wherever he turned his eyes to the West, he saw "traps". Those that are embodied in a request that has already come to the tip of his nose.

"Well, don't let us hear orders like: 'Recognize independent Kosovo and impose sanctions on Russia', instead of what you have done for us and what we are doing together." Well, slow down folks. Slowly, we have it in our country. Slowly, we also have our interests", he said on the sidelines of the Davos Forum on May 25 of this year.

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The interests of Vucic's Serbia, instead of the European path, paved the way for the extension of Russia's influence in the Western Balkans, manifested recently also through the activation of the Russian propaganda machine during the developments in the north, better analyzed by the Serbian media , N1, a CNN affiliate. In a long article, he revealed how and when these mechanisms were activated during the events of August 1 in the north.

But Vucic doesn't even need Russia's propaganda. He already has Serbia in the palm of his hand, with his dramatic appearances in front of its people.

In some of them, his resemblance to Milosevic becomes frightening. It echoes the former slogans of his former boss, which served to sow hatred and conflict in the 90s and culminated in massacres. Milosevic's famous "No one dares to beat you" is the same in Vucic's rhetoric, albeit with a different wording.

Vucic's praise of Milosevic in a 2018 appearance set off alarm bells around the region, as some interpreted it as a veiled embrace of the "Greater Serbia" idea. An idea which Milosevic had tried to bring to life with the more than ten-year process of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and which Vuçiqi, at least in his rhetoric, is still trying to keep alive.

He does not mention "Greater Serbia", but he works for it. Vucic has tried to polish his image from the chief propagandist of Milosevic to that of today's "savior" of Serbia. Even though he temporarily renounced his earlier radical positions, today's Vuçiqi has not changed in essence from his former self. He remains the same. As if frozen in time.