To give you a guide to why the protesters are on the streets, in their words, and the general situation in Serbia.
1. Life really isn’t that good for most people (population around 7 million) in Serbia, the stated salary of 400 Euros is a dream for most, with many earning just 200 Euros a month. These young protestere here in Belgrade speak about working for ‘5 Euros a shift’ –
2. Alexander Vucic, Prime Minister since 2014, (though actually running the show since 2012, as leader of the largest party – SNS) may have officially taken 55% of the vote in recent presidential elections, but few believe that was the real result, with mass denouncing of the election as ‘rigged’.
3. While presenting the appearance of being pro-Russian, to appease a generally pro-Russian Serbian populace, Vucic is actually taking Serbia closer towards the EU (which many Serbians in general support), the US, and NATO (which almost all Serbians are strongly opposed to, due to NATO bombings of Serbia (then Yugoslavia) in 1999).
4. Many feel that Vucic is authoritarian, and in a position where he now controls everything in Serbia, including the state media, giving plub jobs to his inner circle etc, while many in the country struggle. Interviews with protesters here:
5. Driving the protests on is indignance by protesters, who feel they are being ignored, by wider media, but particularly by their own Serbian, state-controlled media. Often the most heated parts of the (peaceful) protests are when the march passes the national newspaper, and television news, offices. This video here, from April 12th, outside state tv channel, RTS –
6. Back to the economy, and things are not going well in Serbia. Debt to GDP has risen from 41.8% in 2010, to 73.4% in 2015. Serbia’s national debt is estimated at over 29 billion dollars now, rising fast.
7. Rather than addressing the problems of the country, protesters accuse of Vucic of covering them up, ie declaring the national average monthly salary had ‘passed 400 Euros‘, when that patently wasn’t the case, or whitewashing them – in the case of engaging a PR firm to rewrite his wikipedia page.
8. More, there are allegations that Vucic himself, is corrupt – he and his family own seven properties in Belgrade, worth over 1 million Euros, and recently sold an eighth. Yet Vucic reports himself as having only one property, a studio flat, and an income of only 1000 Euros a month.
9. All of this has contributed to a malaise, where many in Serbia feel there is little hope for them, or their lives. Unemployment is high, almost 20%, youth unemployment extremely high, 44.2% with many young people feeling there are little prospects for them in Serbia:
10. While the protests are peaceful, which they currently are, with few police even along, and while there is no prospect of them escalating to seizing administrative buildings, violence etc, as per Euromaidan, no one is stopping the protests, Vucic himself, meanwhile, has sought to defuse the protests by making out he actually ‘supports’ them – read about that here. And, in cases strong, personal dislike for Vucic himself, would also have to be another factor –