Freedom came to Serbia in 2000, with a decade-long delay with respect to the rest of the post-Communist Europe. Ever since, the country has been on a wobbly transition towards an established democracy and EU membership. More than Serbia’s inability to settle firmly on a Westward geopolitical course and its uneasy relationship with its neighbors, it is the lack of trust between the citizens and their government internally that stood in the way of the construction of a lasting democracy. Was there a political conspiracy to murder of Zoran Djindjic, the first democratically elected Prime Minister since WW2? Did a criminal network steal more than three thousand babies from the mid-1950s to 2000 so as to sell them for illegal adoption? Is sustainable democratisation compatible with the unreformed security service and their monopoly on secrets? Is the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by the current regime historically unique, or can it be set in the broader historical perspective of state capture and disregard of the independent institutions in Serbia and Yugoslavia? The answer to these questions concerning Serbia can serve as an allegory for all of the post-Communist world’s untold stories that combined offer an explanation to its shaky democratization in the last three decades. Populists and their outlandish conspiracy theories did not come from thin air. It is the lack of transparency and accountability of the mainstream governments that created reservoirs of disgruntled citizens thus transforming them into easy prey for the enemies of democracy.
Srdjan Cvijić’s research as a Europe’s Futures Fellow in 2020/21 sets itself at the intersection of history, political science and a highly personalized eye-witness account of the events that have marked the last two decades of Serbia’s development, from a former journalist, academic, civil servant and diplomat, turned into a policy analyst advocating for Western Balkans’ EU accession.