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Research Report

The question of Serbia

Judy Batt
Copyright Date: Aug. 1, 2005
Pages: 79
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-10)

    Five years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, it is still not clear where Serbia is heading. Indeed, it is not yet clear what, or even where Serbia is.

    Serbia is not a state with international legal personality, but a constituent republic of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Although the Republic of Serbia functions in most respects as a de facto independent state, its foreign policy and defence are in the hands of ministers of the State Union. In practice, both mainly speak for Serbia because Montenegro has established its own Foreign Minister. The republics use different currencies...

  2. (pp. 11-20)

    Serbia is not yet a nation-state of the modern European type, and the question today is whether it can become one. What this requires first of all is clarity about Serbia’s borders. Until then, Serbian nationalism will continue to pose threats both to Serbia’s neighbours and to Serbia’s prospects as a liberal-democratic state.

    Nationalism is not per se inimical to liberal democracy. In fact, liberal democracy presupposes the existence of ‘nations’ – consensual political communities organised in states. Both liberalism and democracy take ‘nations’ for granted, without offering any guidance as to how nations emerge, what makes them cohere, and...

  3. (pp. 21-32)

    EU integration has often been seen as a means of ‘transcending’ the nation-state, or even as leading to its ‘demise’. But this is misleading. Certainly, EU integration provides a framework for mitigating the negative effects of a European order resting solely on sovereign nation-states (with their belligerent nationalism, economic protectionism and market fragmentation), but the EU cannot do without its member states. It depends on them not only for democratic political legitimacy, but also for the very functioning of the Union. This presupposes that member states are capable of implementing the common laws, rules and standards to which they have...

  4. (pp. 33-54)

    The question of Kosovo goes to the heart of the question of Serbian statehood. But what, precisely, is the question? Serbs almost always frame it in nationalist terms. Kosovo is the ‘heartland’ of Serbian national identity, the ‘core’ of the medieval Serbian kingdom, and today still the site of their most precious national religious monuments. It is their ‘Jerusalem’.28 Serbs argue that no political leader in history has ever voluntarily given up state territory, let alone territory of such profound national and historical significance – so why should Serbia?

    A blunt ‘realist’ answer would be that Serbia has already ‘lost’...

  5. (pp. 55-70)

    The survival of Serbian democracy cannot be taken for granted. The country is preparing to enter negotiations on the future of Kosovo, while simultaneously facing the breakdown of the State Union with Montenegro. Challenges such as these would tax to the limit the skills of the most experienced statesman and the resilience of a long-established democracy. Serbia’s democracy is just five years old, and precariously balanced. As was the case in the early years of other post-communist democracies, the rules of the game – both the formal constitution and the informal practices of consensus- building and compromise – are only...

  6. (pp. 71-74)

    Serbia matters. The EU cannot be indifferent to the fate of 7.5 million people living right on its southern border, and in the heart of the fragile Balkans region. The relative size of Serbia; its economic weight; above all, its inescapable political and cultural ties with the rest of former Yugoslavia, and especially with the 1.7 million Serbs who now find themselves citizens of new neighbouring states, combine to make Serbia the linchpin of stability – or instability – for the whole region.

    Serbia faces enormous difficulties in the short term, and one purpose of this paper has been to...