Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations Page: 6 of 18
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Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations
In early June, President Vucid appointed Ana Brnabic as the new prime minister. At the time,
Brnabic was serving as minister of public administration and local government. Brnabic is
Serbia's first woman head of government. She is openly gay and is a pro-Europe advocate.
Brnabic, although little known, seemed to enjoy the full support of President Vucid, although
most observers believed that Vuci6 would be the real power in Serbia for the foreseeable future.
The appointment of Brnabic, however, created some tension within the SNS, as Brnabic was not a
party member and because her strong views on integration with the EU (reflective of Vucic's
views) are not universally shared within the SNS. Brnabic generated controversy during the
summer of 2017 when she reportedly stated that Serbia, if forced to choose between closer ties
with Russia and membership in the EU, would choose the EU.s
One issue involving the strength of Serbia's democracy that had dogged the former Vuci6
government and will likely continue in the Vuci6/Brnabic government is the handling of the
media. The previous Vuci6 government came under a great deal of pressure from within Serbia
and from the EU for its crackdown on the media, particularly opposition media. The new
government faces the same problem. In August 2017, the Adria Media Group announced that it
had filed a total of 150 lawsuits against Serbian President Vucid, Interior Minister Neboj sa
Stefanovic, the Tax Administration, and editors and owners of several Serbian tabloids. These
actions were taken in response to what the Adria Group alleged was a smear campaign in
progovernment media targeting Adria's flagship tabloid Kurir and the group's owner, Aleksandar
Radic. Kurir's continuing negative reporting on the Serbian administration and Vuci6 after the
suits were filed was reportedly met by the Tax Administration's decision to freeze the company's
bank accounts over alleged tax debts.6
Another issue Serbia continues to confront is the issue of alleged war crimes committed by Serb
military and security officials during the wars that followed the unraveling of Yugoslavia in the
1990s. During this period it is estimated that some 130,000 people died in a series of conflicts
throughout the Balkan region. In 1993 the ICTY was established in The Hague to try war crimes
suspects. The ICTY has investigated, brought charges, and secured convictions against persons
from every ethnic background, including Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Kosovo Albanians, for
crimes committed against ethnic populations. However, the majority of, and the most high-
profile, cases chiefly dealt with alleged crimes committed by Serbs and Bosnian Serbs. The
ongoing arrests and trials continue to generate resentment of the West by many Serbs.
In addition to the ICTY, Serbs have also been confronted by courts in Kosovo that have addressed
Serb war crimes. For instance, in January 2016, the Basic Court of Mitrovica in Kosovo,
composed of a panel of international judges under the auspices of the EU's rule-of-law (EULEX)
mission in the country, found the former head of a Serb paramilitary group guilty of committing
war crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians and sentenced him to nine years in prison.
Belgrade has complained that Kosovars and Albanians have also been responsible for war crimes
but have not been prosecuted as often or as vigorously as the Serbs have. In response, the
government of Kosovo in 2015 approved, through a controversial amendment to the constitution,
the creation of a Special Court for Kosovo, affiliated with the judicial system of Kosovo, but
located in The Hague, and staffed by international jurists who would hear cases against former
members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).7 The Serbs, although skeptical, appear satisfied
that at least an impartial court would hear those cases.
5 Comments reported by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, EurActive.rs, July 7, 2017.
6 "Serbian Media Group Files 150 Suits Claiming 'Repression,"' Balkan Media Watch, August 8, 2017.
7 Law Library of Congress, "Netherlands: Special Tribunal for Alleged War Crimes," Global Legal Monitor, January
Congressional Research Service
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Morelli, Vincent L. Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations, report, September 19, 2017; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1042360/m1/6/?q=terrorism: accessed May 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.