With so much talk about the future status of Kosovo and Serbia’s stance on it, people outside of Serbia sometimes forget that there are living, breathing, reasonable people there. More importantly, there are many people in Serbia who are not living and breathing Kosovo every minute of every waking hour. Rather, as a recent poll has shown, the big concern for people is not the future status of Kosovo, but jobs. At the end of the day, the question is whether you have enough money to put food on your table.
Hey, wait a minute, that concern is not too different than anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, and unfairly, sometimes a country is so defined by the words of its most divisive politicians — dead (Milosovic) and alive (Kostunica and Nikolic) — as opposed to the people that make it run: the workers and those who have to struggle each day to make ends meet. Too, the press also has to do more than always framing the Kosovo question on every story on Serbia. By framing most articles this way, along with the polls, the press is framing Serbia by its stance on Kosovo. Serbia is a lot richer of a country than to limit it to Kosovo.
In the same way that Kosovo leaders need to do more than simply repeat the mantra of independence as a panacea to all problems, Serbia’s politicians, too, have to do more than consistently frame the paradigm that Serbia’s ultimate survival as a country depends on keeping Kosovo. The true investment of a country is not its name or its flag, but its level of tangible investment in people.
Serbia does not face the same magnitude of economic problems that Kosovo does. Nonetheless, Serbia does have economic issues to deal with, particularly in Nis. What is it doing to help people without jobs? What is Serbia doing to help improve the standard of living? What is Serbia doing to help ease the gap between the haves and have-nots, as well as the disparity of opportunity between Belgrade and other cities?
In the end, the security of Serbia, as it is with the rest of the region, is economic stability. Of course, economic stability follows good government, and let’s hope that the upcoming elections provide Serbia with politicians who have more vocabulary than just “Kosovo.”
There may be nine candidates in the race, but virtually all analysts agree that it boils down to a race between the current president and the hardline nationalist [Tomislav Nikolic]. The election comes at a crucial time for Serbia, with the issue of Kosovo hanging like a black cloud over the country.
Although the presidential candidates’ speeches have been peppered with references to Kosovo, and countless newspaper column inches written about the breakaway province, Kosovo is not uppermost in voters’ minds, according to political analysts.
“Kosovo is definitely not the most important subject for most people. The top issues are improving living standards, employment and the fight against corruption. We found in our survey only 26% of people thought Kosovo should be the number one priority of the government,” says Marko Blagojevic.Serbia’s third city, Nis, down in the south and not far from Kosovo, has seen its fair share of election rallies. But despite Kosovo’s proximity, other issues are on people’s minds. “For me, and for other young people, having a better visa system so we can travel abroad more easily is the most important issue,” says Maja, 27, a teacher.
Ljubisa, 56, selling wall calendars from a stall on the main pedestrian street, says she only gets 70 euros (£53; $104) a month as a pension.”I can’t live on that. There are just no jobs. Industry has been privatised and there are no more jobs. That’s the main problem,” she says. Dragan, 41, who works for the Serbian military, says Kosovo is a side-issue. “In Nis, there is high unemployment. The priority is to get more jobs here. Belgrade takes most of the industry and money. More should come here.” (Article published by BBC and can be found here.)