The Roots of the Unconsolidated State of Society in Serbia and Croatia

Essay, 2017

17 Pages, Grade: B


Table of contents


Table of contents

1 Introduction to the genesis of transition processes in Serbia and Croatia

2 The state of Serbia's and Croatia's institutional and social capacity in 1990s
2.1 The pillars of the Serbian regime in 1990s
2.2 The caracteristics of the Croatian transition during the 90s

3 The transitional processes in Croatia and Serbia after 2000th

4 The transitional in(justice) as a root of the newly established mutual relations of misunderstanding between Serbia and Croatia
4.1 The burden of the past never prevaild
4.2 The unconsolidated bad legacy leads to a bad future

5 Bibliography


After Yugoslavia fell apart in 1990s, its two republics, Croatia and Serbia, continued their paths through the transition process as independent countries. Croatia is already a member state of the European Union; by evaluating the condition of Croatian society it derives that Croatia cannot be considered as a completely consolidated state. On the other hand, Serbia is currently struggling to adopt the societal and state system which would meet the requirements of a fully transformed country. The current position of both countries has largely been defined by Serbian-Croatian mutual relations over the past 25 years.

1 Introduction to the genesis of transition processes in Serbia and Croatia

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Yugoslavia) was, after a few constitutional changes that were conducted in its political history, the last known name of a country which consisted of six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia) and two autonomous provinces (Vojvodina and Kosovo) as the constitutional parts of its one republic (Serbia). As regards the constitutional framework, Yugoslavia, after the end of World War II, was constituted as a federation of republics, politically arranged as a one party system (autocratic regime) governed by the Yugoslavian Communist Party.1 In 1991, at the time when huge changes occurred in Europe and when all the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe fell down, the first multiparty elections were held in Yugoslavia after which its two republics Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia.2 Also, at the time two leading political figures in Yugoslavia, Milošević and Tuđman, the president of the Republic of Serbia and the president of the Republic of Croatia respectively, met each other in the place in Northern Serbia named Karađorđevo and shaked hands for the first time. The second time they shaked hands was in 1995 in Dayton (USA) when the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed which ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Namely, on 25 March 1991, both leaders made a secret meeting in Karađorđevo and decided that Yugoslavia as a federation is dead. For them the death of Yugoslavia did not just mean that Serbia and Croatia will continue their existence as independent states, it meant they can pursue their plan of making the great Serbia and the great Croatia, the states the borders of which will be expanded outside of the borders of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia.3 Their plan was that the borders of future Serbia and Croatia should include the territories where Serbs and Croats lived as majority regardless of the republics's borders established after the World War II. The status of Serbs in Croatia was the only disagreement they had with regards to the division of spheres of control within the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Soon after these events the war started in Croatia which in the essence presented a conflict of two different ideas on how the interethnic relations between Serbs and Croats should be solved since the territory of the Republic of Croatia was not a homogenous territorial entity which, among other peoples, included 12.16 percent of Serbs4. Namely, at that time the leading policy within the Serbian people was that all Serbs shall live in one country and Yugoslavia or any other form of a state which would territorially and politically unify all Serbs was the only option. Contrary to that, Croatian leading policy was that the Republic of Croatia had to be an independent state within its borders recognized after the World War II as a Yugoslavian republic, at the same time, leaving Serbs as a national minority within the newly established Croatian state. A year after the war started in the Republic of Croatia, in 1992 the conflict based on the same premises on how the interethnic relations within the newly established states should be resolved hit the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and later in 1999 the Serbian autonomous province of Kosovo.5 All these events are very important when we are talking about the genesis of the transitional processes in the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia as the former republics of Yugoslavia over the past 25 years. More precisely, the proclamation of independence of the former Yugoslavian republics occurred within the timeframe 1991-1992, among which, the independent Republic of Croatia (Croatia) and the so called "truncated" Yugoslavia (On 27 April 1992 The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or so called the "truncated" Yugoslavia was formed by the decision of the Federal Executive Committee of Yugoslavia and it consisted of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro as two former Yugoslavian Republics with a vast majority of citizens affiliated to the Serbian ethnicity6 ) were formed and regardless of the fact that in Croatia stared the war, this can be considered as the starting point of a transition process from an autocratic regime towards the democratic society in each of the former Yugoslavian republics. This was proved by the fact that both countries, Croatia and the "truncated" Yugoslavia adopted the Constitution which prescribed a wide range of rights and liberties considering political as well as trade-union assembling.7 However, Serbia with proclamation of independence of the Republic of Montenegro in 2006 became an independent state.8 Both countries, Croatia and the "truncated" Yugoslavia in which the republic of Serbia (Serbia), played the major political and governing role directed they transitional path towards the negative and regressive social processes which were based on the national reconciliation deeply rooted in the ethnic principle of exclusivity, at the same time, using the sense of the national affiliation of the Yugoslavian people as the strongest tool for the strengthening of political power. One of the main excuses of the policy of the national-ethnic exclusivity was that only in that way the nation itself can be protected from the enemy peoples, not long time ago the fraternal nations with whom the same country was shared. Although both countries, Croatia and Serbia, became independent, stheir paths with regards to the transition process were still different, especially in terms of regime transformation and the conducted transitional justice measures that even today make the burden of mutual relations between Croatia and Serbia. All these processes as the assumptions for the full societal and institutional transformation of the state will be further evaluated in the following chapters.

2 The state of Serbia's and Croatia's institutional and social capacity in 1990s

During the course of the rule of Milošević in Serbia and Tuđman in Croatia the abuse of institution was obvious. More precisely all the ruling power in these countries was personalized through the political figures of Milošević and Tuđman. Both presidents concentrated their power in the executive branch while the legislative power was reduced to the mere executor of the presidents' will while the judiciary was ignored and constantly under political pressure.9 One of the sources from which the political power was deriving its influence was economic power in the way that the majority of common societal goods and infrastructure was transferred to the private hands creating economic tycoons.10 Consequently, the informal networks of loyalty became a core principle of the social and political system. In addition, the bureaucracy was upheld to the extent where they could execute their power in a manner of providing support to the political will of the ruling party (oligarchy).

2.1 The pillars of the Serbian Regime in 1990s

Despite the fact that many analysts consider that the Serbian society entered in transition period in 2000 after the fall of Slobodan Milošević who ruled Serbia in 1990s, all the processes, both political as well as institutional, that were developing within the society over the period of Milošević's rule are very significant and by no means can be disregarded if we intend to perceive the whole transitional evolution. The multiparty system that was introduced in Serbia in 1991 can be defined as an authoritarian pluralism marked with hegemony of one party, the Milošević's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). The great ally of the Milosevic's policy was nationalism permeating every pore of the Serbian population and, at the same time, spreading his influence beyond the Serbian border in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Yugoslavian republics in which the greatest number of people affiliated to the Serbian nation lived before the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The state institutional capacity was inherited from the previous Yugoslavian regime and was adjusted to the needs of the newly established oligarchic system of rule released of democratic restraints. The three main pillars - institution of the Milošević's regime were the internal police forces, the state-owned media and the economy.11 As regards the police forces, the regime made sizable police forces which were ready to act against the declared enemy of regime at any time.

The state owned media (Radio-Television Serbia) presented another powerful tool in the hands of regime. The Radio-Television of Serbia's goal was to penetrate inside the heads of citizens and provide them with so called facts on some ongoing processes in the society in the way that would be in favour of the ruling regime. While the majority of the enterprises stayed after the fall of communism in the ownership of the state, at the same time, that was the steering factor of control of the population targeting the oppositional groups and individuals with treats of losing their jobs if they do no reconsider their attitude on the ruling party. The final and equally important factor marking the level of pressure under which the Serbian society had to live during the 1990s was the fact that in 1992 the economic sanctions was introduced against Serbia which very often included the total embargo on any kind of economic relations with the European Community.12 The power and the strength of these sanctions were varied depending on the involvement of the Serbian authorities in the Balkan Conflict but during the 1990s they were constant. This caused a great exhaustion of the state system but, primarily, of the Serbian citizens.

2.2 The characteristics of the Croatian transition during the 90s

After the first free multiparty elections that were held in 1990th in the Yugoslavian Republic of Croatia, the absolute winner on the elections and the main political leader was the Party named the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU).13 As was mentioned before, its policy was based on the national ethnic exclusivity as the response to the growing right wing national movement in Serbia. This kind of defining factors inevitably led Croatia to the war against the Milošević ultra-right wing movement, the Yugoslav army at that time controlled by Serbia and the Serbia militia situated in Croatia which was mainly consisting of Serbs from Croatia. Although the state institutions were formed they were still fragile and under the complete control of the Croatian president Franjo Tuđman. The short-sighted interest of the ruling oligarchy was a leading force when it comes to the definition of the functioning of the democratic state at that time. For example, the election rules were changed before every local and national election by the absolute majority in the Parliament.14

Although the great numbers of political and historical analysts deem that Croatia finished its transitional process in 1995 when most of institutions defining a democratic state were formed, there are a lot of signs on how a ruling oligarchy autocratically oriented continued to exist with a special support by a semi-presidential system that enabled the ruling CDU to be institutionalized as the regime. This kind of politically and institutionally organisational failures lasted until the death of the charismatic president Tuđman in 1999 and when the first non CDU government was formed after elections in 2000th. Further, the forthcoming period was marked by the ruling of the Social Democratic Party which formed a coalition (2000-2003) when, among other things, the agreement on the stabilisation and accession to the European Union was signed and the new era of the transitional development of Croatia started.

3 The transitional processes in Serbia and Croatia after 2000th

Despite the events occurred in 2000th (the fall of Milošević’s authoritarian regime and the death of the president Franjo Tuđman causing the fading of the institutional support to the ruling CDU) which marked the beginning of the second step of the Serbian and Croatian society towards the full transition, still the both countries' institutional and social development capacities were based on ethnical exclusivity and the informal networks of loyalty. Some of these informal networks of loyalty, deeply incorporated in the bureaucracy as well as the security state sector, were dedicated to the old way of political life where the state functioning had strong roots in an autocratic decision making mechanism where the consensus of wider societal stakeholders did not play any significant role. These parallel mechanisms of rule among other retrograde processes within the society caused the assassination on the Serbian Prime Minister Dr Zoran Đinđić. After the death of the Serbian Prime Minister Dr Zoran Đinđić, it seemed that these retrograde forces accomplished their goal. Namely, although his party named Democratic Party still remained in power, it had to be a part of a wider coalition in which a significant role played the national right wing parties representing the old way of political life and also representing the old middle positioned of manlike structure in the state as the legacy of the Milošević's regime. They did not want the fast transition which would lead to their extinction, more specifically, they wanted the transition to the extent that would preserve and secure their status within the society and, especially, within the decision making process. While the Serbian transitional development was slowed by the influence of old elite, the Croatia after 2000th and in the following years recorded a significant progress in many fields of the democratic development. The freedom of association was recognised by a wider European community, the work of indpendent trade unions was not disrupted and freedom of speech and press was improved.15 The division of powers was secured with a special emphasis onthe judiciary's freedom of political pressure.16 In addition, the security sector was separated from any form of political influence.17 All these characteristics lead to a conclusion that the Croatian political system after 2000th was changed from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system of government. Contrary to that, the scene of the Serbian political life has been fragmented in the meaning that almost every government consisted from several political parties with opposite interests disabling the Serbian government to make a greater move towards the adjustment of its state of institution to the European Union’s values. The aggravating circumstances for Serbia have been the status of its province Kosovo and the high number of its citizens accused of war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. This state system could be defined as an inefficient or a blocked system still strongly wrapped in the dream of national rising and expanding. There were no serious political forces strong enough to make positive movements towards further transition of the society. As a result of the fact that Serbia at that time was ruled by a wider political coalition with the opposed directions which constantly caused that the main state's institution such as the Office of the President, the Constitutional Court, the National Assembly was in a constant clash, mainly dealing with their mutual relations. The political coalition composed of several parties which overthrew the Milosevic’s regime failed to reinforce its position within the society with the final goal of restructuring of the state in order to push it towards the European Union integration. In addition to all these negative processes that were occurring in the years following the 2000th, the organised crime network deeply rooted in the entire security sector was another obstacle for the Serbian state on the path of transition.18 Also, there were numerous parts of police, Special Forces and intelligence inherited from the Milošević's regime and not loyal to the state government or any formal centre of power. These disloyal to the government forces showed their real face on 12 March 2003 when the Prime Minister of Serbia, Dr Zoran Đinđić was assassinated. The accused for the murder and later convicted were the members of the intelligent Special Forces named the Red Berets.19 In the 2012 elections in Serbia a newly established party named the Serbian Progress Party composed of the parts of the Serbian Radical right wing party win the elections and made two major steps of which one was very painful for the Serbian state as well as society. The first step was that the Serbian government started to negotiate with Kosovo which presented the breaking point in the process of normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.20 By this time, almost all major figures accused of war crimes hiding in Serbia were delivered to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. After these transitional accomplishments, Serbia had a clear path towards the European Union integrative processes which are now in progress.21 While the Serbia has shown its commitment to the European Union integration, Croatia fully accessed the European Union on 1 July 2013. Although Croatia accessed the European Union, and by this event its process of transition was finished, in accordance with the evaluation of some developments in the state, it can be concluded that Croatia has not been transformed yet. One of the issues that Croatian has been facing is the protection of the rights of minorities. There was noticed a lack of political participation of the Roma and Serb national minorities in the administration and decision-making processes.22 The use of the minority languages is an also problematic issue as well as their property rights.23 In addition, the problem of segregation of the Roma children is present within the Croatian state.24 Hate speech directed against the Serb minority stated by some public figures has also been noticed.25 Although both countries have shown their commitment to the full organisational transformation of their states, it seems that there are still a long path ahead towards the achievement of all the values of the consolidate societies which cannot be expected to be done just with an increasing pressure of the European Union or any other form of international involvement.


1 According to The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1946, adopted by both chamber of the Federal Assembly and the Assembly of the Peoples, which prescribed and confirmed the internal political composition of the state.

2 According to The Constitution of the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1963, adopted on 7 April 1963 by the Federal National Assembly, which prescribed the name of the state and its internal territorial and political composition of the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

3 The exact date of the secreet meeting in Karađorđevo can be found, among other numerouse sorces, in the online magasine titled (

4 According to the 2009 Statistical Year Book, published by the Republic of Croatia-Central Bureau of Statistics, which, among other statistical data, shows the exact number of citizens of the Republic of Croatia which in 1991 were affiliated to the Serbian nationality.

5 The view on the causes of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was also explained by the Radio Slobodna Evropa in 2005

6 This information can be found in the online magazine dated on 27 April 2014 (

7 According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1992, adopted on 17 April 1992 by the Federal Executive Committee of Yugoslavia, and the The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, adopted on 22 December 1990 by Croatian Parlament, which presribed in its wording a wide range of rights and liberties considering the political, sindical assembling.

8 The referendum on the independence of the Republic of Montenegro was conducted on 21 may 2006. This data can be found on the official page of BBC News (Europea). (

9 The both presidents "concentrated their power in the executive branch"... (Dolenec 2013:189).

10 Danijela Dolenec (2013) presented the mechanisms of abuse of the state institution in Serbia and Croatia.

11 This view was also supported by WW Norton and Company (

12 According to the 2007 Report on Ethnic Mobilisation in Serbia produced by Ms Vesna Pešić, published by European Academy.

13 According to the 2000 Political Development in Croatia 1990-2000 produced by Goran Čelar, published by the Croatian Scientific Magazine named Politič ka Misao

14 Ibid.

15 The spefic areas of the democratic development in wich Croatia during the time followed 2000th acchieved a significan progress were broadly evaluated on the website of "Shaping Change - Strategies of Development and Transformation" (

16 ibid.

17 ibid.

18 According to 2008 “Blocked political system”: Serbia 2000-2008, published by the Balkanologie revue.

19 According to the Serbian Supreme Court judgment of 2008, the commandant of the red beretes Milorad Ulemek Legija and his deputy Zvezdan Jovanović, along with some other members of their squad organised and executed the assassination (murder) of the Serbian Prime Ministar Dr Zoran Đinđić.

20 On 17 February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo decleared the independence of the newly established Republic of Kosovo, previously the Serbian province, which after the NATO intervention counducted on 1999 during the conflict between the Serbian security forces and the self-proclameid Kosovo Liberationa Army ended up as the temporarely administarted Serbian province by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244, adopted on 10 June 1999. These information can be found in the online magasine Radio Slobodna Evropa (Radio Free Europe) (

21 To date, Serbia has oppened the chapter 5 – public procurement and the chapter 25 – science and research. This information can be found on the website of the Offic of the Serbian Government for the European integration.(

22 According to the 2015 the Human Rights Committe consideration on the third periodilcal report of Croatia on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, publish by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

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The Roots of the Unconsolidated State of Society in Serbia and Croatia
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
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roots, unconsolidated, state, society, serbia, croatia
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Peđa Đurasović (Author), 2017, The Roots of the Unconsolidated State of Society in Serbia and Croatia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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