The West is Fueling Serbia’s Protests

Written by Anthony Constantini

What’s happening: Serbia’s populist governing party recently won national parliamentary elections. But opposition parties and watchdog groups funded by Western governments have claimed fraud, and anti-government protestors are demanding the results be annulled.

Why it matters: Serbia is one of the last Russia-friendly countries in Europe and a major player in the Balkans. If the newly re-elected government is replaced by a pro-E.U. one, it would shift the balance of power in the region decisively toward the West.

We’ve seen this elsewhere: 2014 protests and riots in Ukraine led to a pro-west government in what’s now being called the Maidan Revolution. That movement was backed by western non-governmental organizations similar to ones now meddling in Serbia.

The reality of NGOs: These organizations serve as tools for foreign governments to exert influence over states wherever diplomatic leverage might fall short. They are commonly utilized to mobilize citizen protests, shape political matters, and initiate legal actions against governments, all in line with objectives of foreign donors.

Contrasting claims: International organizations, namely the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and domestic Serbian groups, monitored the elections. But both came to different conclusions:

  • The OSCE: The report found only isolated cases of violence and government influence on media, and assessed voting in 93% of the observed polling stations as positive.

  • Domestic groups: Officials from Serbian organizations, primarily the CRTA and the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, went further than the OSCE and claimed the elections did not represent the “will of the residents.”

Who funds the watchers?: But these claims of independence run up against the reality of their funding. Almost all of it comes from abroad:

  • The CRTA is funded by a variety of Western organizations including USAID (the U.S. government), the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the British, French, German, and Swedish embassies, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

  • The Belgrade Center is also funded by the Endowment for Democracy and USAID, along with other embassies and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

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