Zoran Djindjic was the architect of the peaceful revolution in Serbia. On March 12, 2003 he was shot dead. His goal was to build a European and democratic Serbia. What has become of his dream?
The political legacy of Serbia's former prime minister Zoran Djindjic, who was murdered ten years ago still has a great influence on the country.
Fellow party member Boris Tadic, who became president shortly after Djindjic was shot dead in Belgrade, says he doesn't like being compared with Djindjic. He admits that his term of office could only vaguely approach Djindjic's visions of a modern and European Serbia, but it is really a truism to say that visions often get lost under the pressure of day-to-day politics. "It was difficult to make this vision come true. It was a very complex one. A prerequisite was that Serbia would quickly become a member of the European Union," Tadic says now. "Even Zoran Djindjic would probably not have been able to make the ideal vision come true."
Those words sound like the exhausted excuse made by a man who only realized the limits of political feasibility after he lost power. Last year, Tadic lost the presidential elections to challenger Tomislav Nikolic. His Democratic Party has since taken a nosedive in support, according to recent polls, and media reports suggest that the party is financially bankrupt.
'Nothing has changed for the better'
Zoran Zivkovic, who was Djindjic's deputy prime minister and took over after his murder, is very skeptical when it comes to the current situation in Serbia. As interim prime minister, Zivkovic led the young Serbian democracy through the 40-day state of emergency that followed the killing. He was in charge of the police's "Operation Saber," which arrested the men who killed Djindjic. They are still in prison today, but the political masterminds behind the killing remain unknown to this day.
Djindjic was a figure of hope for his people, who was known as the Kennedy of the Balkans. "Nothing has changed for the better in Serbia - on the contrary," says Zivkovic. The country is still facing the same problems as when Djindjic was killed. And over the past seven or eight years, new problems have made the situation worse.
"Corruption has reached a gigantic level. It's acting just like a cancer, and it has taken a firm grip of Serbia's very nature." Zivkovic has just founded the New Party and wants to break with the old way of doing politics. He intends to bring Serbia back onto a pro-EU course by pushing for swift modernization of the country.
Multiple role-swaps between members of old elite
In the ten years after Djindjic's murder, much has changed. But much has also stayed the same. Members of the elite have swapped roles several times. Vojislav Kostunica is one of them. In the year 2000, Djindjic helped him win the elections against Slobodan Milosevic. Today, Kostunica is one of the most radical nationalist opponents of Serbian EU accession.
And yet, Serbia today is home to a relatively stable majority of EU supporters. By and large, the country's new President Tomislav Nikolic, a former arch-enemy of Djindjic, does what the EU expects from him and keeps getting praise from Brussels. It looks as though the most loyal supporters of the former autocratic ruler Slobodan Milosevic, who used to be Djindjic's strongest opponents, are now in the process of making Djindjic's visions of Serbia in Europe come true. So are they - ironic as it seems - the true heirs of Djindjic, the committed European?
Tadic: 'Great victory for a vision'
Djindjic's former deputy Zivkovic is still skeptical about the new government. But former President Tadic sees the political activities of Djindjic's former opponents as a success story of the democratic socialization of former anti-democrats. "We reached an absurd situation," says Tadic. "All those who were enemies of democracy, Europeanization, modernization, and rapprochement in the 1990s are today obediently working on making all of these projects come true. I think that's a great victory for a vision."
It's a vision of a European and modern Serbia - one for which Zoran Djindjic at the time didn't manage to get enough support in parliament, and for which ultimately he paid with his life. The vision seems to have found its own way into Serbian reality without his help. It may not be moving in a straight line, but it is moving forward incessantly. Zoran Djindjic studied philosophy in Germany - maybe this would be how he would describe it.