Serbia gives reminder of defiance under Milosevic

Serbia's relationship with the EU is in crisis after Belgrade's failure to intervene to halt violence sparked by the West's endorsement of Kosovo's independence.

After almost eight years of bridge-building with its European neighbours, Serbia this week witnessed scenes reminiscent of the Milosevic era. Anti-Western feelings have been stoked by the authorities with even American television shows pulled off state television. An attack by rioters on the US embassy on Thursday night left one person dead and has raised fears of further violence.

The US and UN condemned the events in Belgrade but the EU warned that a failure to clamp down on violence could harm Serbia's prospects of eventual EU membership and the promise of millions of euros in aid and free trade concessions. "These acts of violence lead nowhere and they cannot help anybody," said the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "Things will have to calm down before we can recuperate the climate that will allow for any contact to move on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement."

His rebuke came as EU defence ministers met in Slovenia to consider their reaction to the crisis and the risk of violence spreading to Serb parts of Bosnia. The EU commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn, said: "I appeal for calm in Serbia and in the wider region. We urge all Serbian politicians to call for restraint and avoid statements that could further inflame the situation."

But President Vladimir Putin yesterday issued a sharp warning to the West about the consequences of recognising Kosovo's independence. The comments, made during an informal meeting of leaders from ex-Soviet republics, were the strongest by the Russian leader since Sunday when Kosovo made its declaration of independence.

"The Kosovo precedent is a terrifying precedent," he said. He added that those who have recognised Kosovo "are miscalculating what they are doing. In the end, this is a stick with two ends and that other end will come back to knock them on the head someday."

The recent election of the pro-Western president Boris Tadic had bolstered hopes that Serbia would move to tighten ties, eventually leading to inclusion in the EU family, but the declaration of independence by Kosovo has revitalised the nationalist hardliners, including the Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

After blocking the signing of an interim agreement with the EU earlier this month, he helped organise Thursday's rally of a 250,000 people. "[It] was magnificent and showed what the people of Serbia thought about Kosovo," said Mr Kostunica. "Most of all, Serbia's youth has sent a message that Serbia is for law, justice and freedom and that it rejects the bullying policy of Western countries."

But it was from this crowd that several hundred young men broke off to smash their way into the US embassy. Police yesterday confirmed that the charred remains of a young man had been found in the embassy, but did not reveal his identity, and said that they had arrested almost 200 people. Around 130 people were injured in the clashes, including 50 police officers.

Belgrade residents expressed anger at the government for not moving to curb the violence sooner. For many, the atmosphere is reminiscent of the anti-Western sentiment whipped up into a fury following the Nato bombing in 1999, when Mr Milosevic was trying to cling to power and prevent the collapse of what remained of Yugoslavia. Different nationalist groups are also distributing leaflets in the capital with calls for a boycott of international banks and imported goods in shopping malls all over Serbia.

"This is ridiculous," said analyst Misa Brkic. "More than 35,000 people in Belgrade work in international banks, which are mixed Serb and international companies. Self-isolation of such kind can bring nothing good."

This was a view echoed across the new border in Kosovo, by the Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci. In an interview with AP, he called on Serbs to reject old habits: "My message to Serbs in Serbia is to look forward and not to work with the mentality of the past, with the mentality of Milosevic's time."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Experienced Cover Supervisor

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Experienced Cover Supervisor...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Account Manager

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are proud to be on...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project