Global Independent Analytics
Radostina Schivatcheva
Radostina Schivatcheva

Location: Bulgaria

Specialization: Sustainable development, International relations, Comparative European politics, European integration, Eastern European politics and EU-Russia relations

In Serbia thousands protest against NATO

Serbians remember how they were bombed.

On Saturday February 20th, thousands of activists of Serbian patriotic (according to some) and nationalist (according to others) organizations held a massive march and a rally in Belgrade. Although the media in Serbia as well as in other Balkan countries did not broadcast any news about the protests, information about it came via the social media. Organizers and participants posted photos and videos of the event, urging: ‘Help us break the media blockade’. 

The protest was directed against the policy of cooperation with NATO, pursued by the Serbian government. The Serbian Parliament ratified on the 12th of February an agreement giving diplomatic immunity to NATO representatives in Serbia as well as stipulating cooperation in the field of logistic support. Indeed cooperation is already happening and NATO military vehicles have already been seen on Serbian roads. Serbian military personnel have also been participating in NATO training missions in neighbouring countries. According to the Alliance: ‘Serbia’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Training Centre in Kruševac was recognised as a Partnership Training and Education Centre in 2013, opening its activities to Allies and partners’.

While the government charts rapprochement with NATO, the people on the street demonstrate. At the February 20th protest, participants carried banners, which read: ‘NATO the killer of our children, how could you forget that’, ‘Resist the occupation’, ‘Serbia is not NATO’s colony’, etc. There were numerous large portraits of Vladimir Putin, fitted on banners. Many protesters wore St. George’s ribbons and the procession also carried a giant St. George’s ribbon. Indignation was also expressed at the US air strike in Libya, which killed two previously abducted staff of the Serbian Embassy.

The protesters held a rally in front of the Serbian Presidency building and in front of the former Ministry of Defence, which was hit by NATO bombs in 1999. The ruins of the building have been left as a reminder of the war. Speakers stated that the Serbian government needs to have a referendum about people’s support of closer ties with the Alliance. The march then led to the Russian embassy in Belgrade, in front of which another rally was held. There the protesters played the Russian national anthem and chanted ‘Vladimir Putin’ amidst applause, imploring Russia to intervene.

Serbia’s Individual Partnership Plan with NATO signed in January 2015 came into force in March of the same year. The document defines the terms of educational and technical cooperation, joint exercises and the creation of a positive image of NATO in the Serbian society. At the same time, Serbia is an observer country in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in April of 2013. A parliamentary resolution, adopted in 2007, specifies the neutrality of Serbia with regards to its participation in military alliances. The question is: as it is about to be encircled by NATO member-states, how long could Serbia maintain its neutrality and balance between NATO and CSTO?

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