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Serbia Turns Back to Milosevic-Era Leaders

If Serbia wants to join the EU, it first must reconcile with Kosovo
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic presents the plan for his new government on July 26 in Belgrade
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic presents the plan for his new government on July 26 in BelgradePhotograph by Andrej Cukic/EPA/Corbis

Think the Greek economy is a mess? Check out Serbia, where the unemployment rate is 25.5 percent, inflation is nearing double digits, and only 0.5 percent of the population, just 40,000 workers, earn more than $1,254 a month. The Serbs are so desperate that they’ve turned power over to two ex-allies of former President Slobodan Milosevic, who dragged the fractured Balkan nation into a crippling ethnic war in the 1990s.

Ivica Dacic, Milosevic’s wartime spokesman, became prime minister in July, and Tomislav Nikolic, who served as deputy prime minister of the former Yugoslavia toward the end of Milosevic’s regime, was sworn in as president in June. Both men, who were barred from entering the European Union during the war crimes tribunal of Milosevic at the Hague, have pledged to fix the economy and lead Serbia into the EU. “One of the risks is that people turn to more nationalistic behavior if the economy is deteriorating,” says Svetlana Logar, research director at Ipsos Strategic Marketing in Belgrade. “Democracy has always been very confusing for Serbians, and they’re not aware that democracy is a way to a stronger economy and jobs.”