As progressives in Europe and the rest of the world watch in dismay and with growing opprobrium the morally odious spectacle of a German-led EU spitefully destroying the “fiscal sovereignty” of the country synonymous with both democracy and the European civilization itself, the popular will in Serbia, a key state in the Western Balkans created from the German-supported dismemberment of Yugoslavia, continues to reflect a realistic assessment of the country’s chances inside an EU whose main interest in incorporating it is part of the old Anglo-American-German hostility towards Russia.
Thus, commenting on Merkel’s June visit to Belgrade, the German business newspaper Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN) complained that, despite the EU problems with Greece, Merkel should still be sticking to promises of EU membership for Serbia and Albania, “in order to prevent them from coming under the influence of Russia.” Meanwhile, in Serbia itself, a glance at the June 30th TANJUG report of the latest opinion poll conducted between June 10 and 20 by CeSID, a Belgrade-based NGO supported by USAID, reveals that a full month before Berlin’s ruthless humiliation of Athens, only 50% of Serbian citizens were still in favour of joining the EU, 37% are firmly against it, and a full 73% opposed to Serbia’s entry into NATO.
Compare these figures with CeSID’s previous polls of 2011, when 62% of the Serbs supported integration into the EU, and 2013, when the figure in favour stood at 63%. This June’s survey also shows a dramatic decline in the percentage of those favouring Serbia’s eventual membership in NATO. In contrast to 2013, when a full quarter of the population supported joining the US-dominated military alliance, the recent poll shows that today only a bare 12% of the population continues to back this option.
As in Greece, however, whose nominally left-wing Syriza has chosen to disregard the democratically expressed popular will and has caved in to the neoliberal overlords ruling Europe today, the current (also nominally left-wing) government in Serbia seems bent on pursuing EU-integrationalist policies for which it no longer has the support of the electorate.
To complete the parallel with the disaster that’s unfolding in Greece — which, now the parlament in Athens has endorsed the “deal” Tsipras has brought back with him, will be forced to sell off its state owned companies to pay a part of what both the Greek parliament and Nobel-prize-winning economists are calling an “odious debt” — at the end of June, Serbia’s Privatization Agency issued a call for the privatization of 38 media enterprises, including TANJUG.
Unless the parliament votes an extraordinary measure to prevent this move, Serbia’s media will soon pass into the hands of foreign citizens and consortiums, as provided by its laws on privatization.
Among the media affected by this move is the venerable TANJUG itself, originally Yugoslavia’s and for the past decade Serbia’s national news agency, founded on November 5, 1943, to keep the world up to date on the anti-fascist fight of the Yugoslav Partisans. Should the sale of the country’s media to foreign entities proceed, it’s highly likely that, in the future, the results of opinion polls such as the one TANJUG reported on at the end of this June will no longer be shared with the public itself.
In the meantime, the residents of Belgrade have had something else to puzzle out: the overnight appearance of innumerable text-free posters of Putin’s face plastered all over one of the city’s major recently developed neighbourhoods.
Who’s behind this campaign and what is meant by it remains obscure. Given the number of US- and EU-funded NGOs in Serbia, however, one of whose jobs is to ideologically soften the populace for an eventual capitulation to the neoliberal take-over already unfolding, it’s not inconceivable that the mysterious and mystifying appearance of Putin billboards in the capital city may turn out to be a deliberate provocation intended to raise fears of a nameless and faceless pro-Russian political movement in a country whose population overwhelmingly doesn’t see its future as part of NATO.
The mystery was compounded (or solved, depending on one’s interpretation of this sequence of events) when, barely a week later, the same posters appeared with the text “The Eastern Option” added to them.
It’s as though, finding no reaction from the residents of Belgrade to the text-free version of Putin’s face, the organizers of this public-perception project had come to the conclusion something more was needed to make the point and set the stage for Scene 3 of this (presumably 1-Act) anti-Russian agit-prop farce. The most recent, and presumably final, scene is captured in the photos below*, whose message is as unsubtle as they come.
Since “Putler” is the witticism favoured by Washington’s army of cyber-trolls one of whose jobs over the last two years has been an unrelenting demonization of the Russian president on social media and various Internet forums, it does seem most likely that the people behind this opinion-shaping campaign in Belgrade are paid and financed by the same set of Putler-wits-backers The Guardian identified 3 years ago.
All photos copyright Maja Vitaz
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