Zoran Djindjic’s Legacy & Serbia’s Never-ending Transition

Zoran Djindjic’s Legacy & Serbia’s Never-ending Transition

The International Institute for Peace, in cooperation with Karl-Renner-Institut & oiip, organized – in the context of the Western Balkans Initiative – an event about Zoran Djindjic’s legacy and the never-ending transition process in Serbia.


VEDRAN DZIHIC, Senior Researcher at the OIIP and Lecturer at the University of Vienna

HANNES SWOBODA, President of the IIP and former MEP
IVAN VEJVODA, former Senior Advisor on foreign policy and European integration to Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic
ALIDA VRACIC, Executive Director at Populari Think Tank
SOFIJA MANDIC, Lawyer & Human Rights Activist, CEPRIS, Serbia Moderation:
LUKA CEKIC, Project Assistant at the IIP

Content: Since the end of the Yugoslav wars Serbia is experiencing a turbulent transition from an authoritarian to a democratic regime. The major transition from the old communist system to a democratic one began on the 5th of October 2000, when the coalition DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia) organized a major rally in Belgrade to defend its victory over Slobodan Milosevic in the presidential elections. The protestors, along with members of civil society and political parties, pressured President Slobodan Milosevic to acknowledge his loss and peacefully transfer power to president-elect Vojislav Kostunica. With parliamentary elections following in late 2000, in January 2001 Serbia got its first democratically elected government with Zoran Djindjic being the first democratic Prime Minister of Serbia. Djindjic’s background is more an academic one, rather than a political one – he pursued an academic career as a political philosopher which resulted in returning to Serbia from Germany after the fall of the iron curtain. He successfully helped found the Democratic Party and became its leader in 1992. During the Yugoslav wars, he opposed Milosevic’s government and fought for a modern, pro-European, and democratic Serbia. Prime Minister Djindjic started a series of reforms to start to transform the country and society into a more modern and democratic one. His government initiated a huge privatization process to attract foreign investments, war criminals were sent to the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), institutions were democratized, the EU integration process was started, and the Kosovo issue was tackled at the beginning of 2003. All those actions and reforms were abruptly cut short by the assassination of Zoran Djindjic on March 12th, 2003. With Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic Serbia kickstarted its transition to democracy with the final goal of becoming a member of the European Union and the democratic world. It seemed realistic for Serbia to achieve those goals by the year 2010. Nevertheless, 20 years later, Serbia finds itself partly isolated, ruled by politicians who were once close allies of Slobodan Milosevic, and not even close to full EU integration. Corruption, state capture, and crime are on the rise, while media freedom, democratization, and liberalization experience a downfall. What went wrong? How come such an ambitious and great start to the democratization process ended this way? What could have been done differently? How do people nowadays reflect on Djindjic’s era? Does Djindjic’s legacy have the ability to motivate and kickstart a new wave of reforms in the political and social system? Those questions and more will be tackled by our speakers! Djindjic’s legacy continues to exist, inspire, and shape new generations, and he will be always remembered as the main architect of the Serbian transition to a democratic system.