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Aleksandar Vu%C4%8Di%C4%87

Aleksandar Vu?i?
?
Aleksandar Vu?i? 2019 (cropped).jpg
Vu?i? in 2019
President of Serbia

31 May 2017
Ivica Da?i? (Acting)
Ana Brnabi?
Tomislav Nikoli?
Prime Minister of Serbia

27 April 2014 - 31 May 2017
PresidentTomislav Nikoli?
DeputyIvica Da?i? (First)
Rasim Ljaji?
Zorana Mihajlovi?
Kori Udovi?ki
Neboj?a Stefanovi?
Ivica Da?i?
Ivica Da?i? (Acting)
Ana Brnabi?
First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia

27 July 2012 - 27 April 2014
Ivica Da?i?
Ivica Da?i?
Ivica Da?i?
Minister of Defence of Serbia

27 July 2012 - 2 September 2013
Ivica Da?i?
Dragan ?utanovac
Neboj?a Rodi?
Minister of Information of Serbia

24 March 1998 - 24 October 2000
Mirko Marjanovi?
Radmila Milentijevi?
Ivica Da?i?
Biserka Mati?-Spasojevi?
Bogoljub Pej?i?
Personal details
Born (1970-03-05) 5 March 1970 (age 50)
Belgrade, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
NationalitySerbian
Political partySRS (1993-2008)
SNS (2008-present)
Spouse(s)
Ksenija Jankovi?
(m. 1997; div. 2011)
(m. 2013)
RelativesAndrej Vu?i? (brother)
Alma materUniversity of Belgrade
Signature
Websitevucic.rs

Aleksandar Vu?i? (Serbian Cyrillic: ? , pronounced [aleks?:ndar t?it?]; born 5 March 1970)[1] is a Serbian politician serving as the President of Serbia[2] since 2017. After leaving the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party in 2008, he became one of the founders of the populist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and he has been the party's president since 2012.

Vu?i? served as the prime minister of Serbia in two terms, from 2014 to 2016 and from 2016 until 2017, as well as the deputy prime minister from 2012 until 2014. Furthermore, Vu?i? served as a member of the Serbian parliament, Minister of Information from 1998 to 2000, and later as Minister of Defence from 2012 to 2013. In April 2017, Vu?i? was elected president with over 55% of the vote in the first round, thus avoiding a second round. He formally assumed office on 31 May 2017, succeeding Tomislav Nikoli?. His ceremonial inauguration ceremony was held on 23 June 2017.

As Minister of Information under the Slobodan Milo?evi? administration, he introduced restrictive measures against journalists, especially during the Kosovo War.[3][4] In the period after the Bulldozer Revolution, Vu?i? was one of the most prominent figures of the opposition. Since the establishment of the new party in 2008, he shifted away from his original far-right and hard Eurosceptic platform toward pro-European, conservative and populist political positions. The SNS-led coalition won the 2012 election and the Serbian Progressive Party became part of the government for the first time, leading to the establishment of the dominant-party system.[5][6][7] After Vu?i? became the head of government in 2014, he promised to continue to follow the accession process to the European Union (EU) by privatizing state businesses and liberalizing the economy.[8]

In December 2015, the EU opened first chapters during the accession conference with the Serbian delegation led by Vu?i?. He is one of the crucial figures in cooperation and EU-mediated dialogue between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia, advocating the implementation of the Brussels Agreement on the normalization of their relations. Following United States-mediated negotiations, Vu?i? signed an agreement in September 2020 to normalize economic relations with Kosovo, but also to move the Serbian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He is one of the initiators of Mini Schengen Zone, an economic zone of the Western Balkans countries intended to guarantee "four freedoms". Observers have described Vu?i?'s rule as an authoritarian, autocratic or illiberal democratic regime, citing curtailed press freedom.[9][10][11][12]

Early life and education

Aleksandar Vu?i? was born in Belgrade to An?elko and Angelina Vu?i? (née Milovanov). He has a younger brother, Andrej Vu?i?.[13]

His paternal ancestors came from ?ipulji?, near Bugojno, in central Bosnia. They were expelled by the Croatian fascist Usta?e during World War II and settled near Belgrade, where his father was born.[14] According to Vu?i?, his paternal grandfather An?elko and tens of other close relatives were killed by the Usta?e.[15]

His mother was born in Be?ej in Vojvodina.[14] Both of his parents were economics graduates. His father worked as an economist, and his mother as a journalist.[14]

Vu?i? was raised in New Belgrade,[14] where he attended the Branko Radi?evi? elementary school, and later a gymnasium in Zemun. He graduated from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law. He learned English in Brighton, England, and worked as a merchant in London for some time. After returning to Yugoslavia, he worked as a journalist in Pale, Bosnia and Herzegovina. There, he interviewed politician Radovan Karad?i? and once played chess with general Ratko Mladi?.[16] As a youngster, Vu?i? was a fan of the Red Star football club, often attending Red Star's matches,[16] including the one played between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star on 13 May 1990, which turned into a huge riot.[17] The homes of his relatives were destroyed in the Bosnian War.[15]

Political career

Vu?i? joined the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) in 1993, a far right party whose core ideology is based on Serbian nationalism and the goal of creating a Greater Serbia,[18][19] and was elected to the National Assembly following the 1993 parliamentary election. Two years later, Vu?i? became secretary-general of the SRS. He was one of the SRS's volunteers who visited the army that kept Sarajevo under the siege.[20][21] After his party won the local elections in Zemun in 1996, he became the director of Pinki Hall,[1] which was his first employment.

Minister of Information (1998-2000)

In March 1998, Vu?i? was appointed Minister of Information in the government of Mirko Marjanovi?.[22] Scholars described Vu?i? as the crucial figure in the shaping of turn-of-the century media policies in Serbia.[23] Following rising resentment against Milo?evi?, Vu?i? introduced fines for journalists who criticized the government and banned foreign TV networks.[24] He recalled in 2014 that he was wrong and had changed, stating "I was not ashamed to confess all my political mistakes".[25]

During this period, Serbian media was accused for broadcasting Serbian nationalist propaganda, which demonized ethnic minorities and legitimized Serb atrocities against them.[26] In 1998, the government adopted Europe's most restrictive media law by the end of the 20th century, which created a special misdemeanor court to try violations. It had the ability to impose heavy fines and to confiscate property if they were not immediately paid.[27][23] Serbian media were under severe repression of the state, and that foreign media had been seen as "foreign elements" and "spies".[23]Human Rights Watch reported that five independent newspaper editors were charged with disseminating misinformation because they referred to Albanians who had died in Kosovo as "people" rather than "terrorists".[28] The government crackdown on independent media intensified when NATO forces were threatening intervention in Kosovo in late September and early October 1998. Furthermore, the government also maintained direct control of state radio and television, which provided news for the majority of the population.[28] After the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began in March 1999, Vu?i? called for a meeting of all Belgrade's editors. Print media were ordered to submit all copies to the Ministry for approval and they were allowed to publish only official statements and information taken from media outlets, which either are controlled by the state or practice radical self-censorship.[23] Also, Vu?i? ordered all NATO countries journalists to leave the country.[23]

Radical Party to Progressive Party

Aleksandar Vu?i? and Tomislav Nikoli? on the founding congress of the Serbian Progressive Party, Belgrade, 2008

Tomislav Nikoli?, deputy leader of the Radical Party and de facto interim leader due to absence of Vojislav ?e?elj, resigned on 6 September 2008 because of disagreement with ?e?elj over the party's support for Serbia's EU membership. With some other well-known Radical Party members he formed a new parliamentary club called "Napred Srbijo!" (Forward Serbia!). On 12 September 2008 Nikoli? and his group were officially ejected from the Radical Party on the session of SRS leadership. Vu?i?, as secretary-general was called to attend this session, but he did not appear. Tomislav Nikoli? announced he would form his own party and called Vu?i? to join. Vu?i?, one of the most popular figures among SRS supporters, resigned from Radical Party on 14 September 2008.[29] The next day, Vu?i? announced his temporary withdrawal from politics.[30]

Aleksandar Vu?i? and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Washington, D.C.

On 6 October 2008, Vu?i? confirmed in a TV interview that he was to join the newly formed Nikoli?'s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and that he would be the Deputy President of the party. He then seemed to change his positions. In 2010 he made statements such as a "horrible crime was committed in Srebrenica", saying he felt "ashamed" of the Serbs who did it. "I do not hide that I have changed... I am proud of that," he told AFP in an interview in 2012. "I was wrong, I thought I was doing the best for my country, but I saw the results and we failed, We need to admit that."[31]

Nikoli? stepped down as party leader on 24 May 2012 following his election as President of Serbia. Vu?i? assumed leadership until the next party congress is held to elect a new leader. On 29 September 2012 Vu?i? was elected as party leader, with Jorgovanka Tabakovi? as his deputy.[]

Minister of Defence and First Deputy Prime Minister (2012-2014)

Vu?i? briefly served as Minister of Defence and First Deputy Prime Minister from July 2012 to August 2013, when he stepped down from his position of Defence Minister in a cabinet reshuffle. Although the Prime Minister, Ivica Da?i? Deba, held formal power as head-of-government, many analysts thought that Vu?i? had the most influence in government as head of the largest party in the governing coalition and parliament.[24]

Prime Minister (2014-2017)

President Aleksandar Vu?i? with US Vice President Mike Pence, Washington, D.C., 17 July. 2017

2014 parliamentary election

As a result of the 2014 parliamentary election, Vu?i?'s Serbian Progressive Party won 158 out of 250 seats in Parliament and formed a ruling coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia. Vu?i? was elected Prime Minister of Serbia.

2016 parliamentary election

At a party conference of his ruling Serbian Progressive Party, Vu?i? announced early general elections, citing that: 'He wants to ensure that the country has stable rule that its current political direction will continue - including its attempt to secure membership of the EU.'[32] On 4 March 2016, Serbian President, Tomislav Nikoli?, dissolved the parliament, scheduling early elections for 24 April.[33] The ruling coalition around Vu?i?'s SNS obtained 48.25% of the vote.[34][35] Vu?i?'s ruling SNS retained majority in the parliament, despite winning less seats than in 2014 parliamentary election. The coalition around SNS won 131 seats, 98 of which belong to SNS.[36]

2017 presidential election

Vu?i? announced his candidacy in the presidential election on 14 February 2017, despite earlier statements that he would not run.[37] According to the Constitution, Serbia is a parliamentary republic in which the presidency is largely ceremonial with no significant executive power.[38]

After initial speculations that the incumbent president, Tomislav Nikoli?, would also run, he backed Vu?i? and his ruling SNS party. Vu?i? won the election in the first round, having obtained 56.01 percent of the vote. The independent candidate, Sa?a Jankovi? was second with 16.63 percent, ahead of satirical politician Luka Maksimovi? and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremi?.[39]

This public opinion survey, carried out by CeSID, showed that significant proportions of Vu?i? supporters are composed of pensioners (41%) and that a large majority (63%) hold secondary education degrees, while 21% have less than a high school degree.[40]

President (2017-present)

President Aleksandar Vu?i? with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Gandhinagar, 2017.

The election result sparked protests around Serbia. Thousands of protesters accused Vu?i? of leading the country towards authoritarianism. Protesters organised the rallies through social networks and insist they are not linked to any party or politician, and demand a total overhaul of what they call "corrupt political, business and media systems that serve an elite led by Mr Vu?i?".[41] Vu?i? maintained that the protests were organized by his political opponents who expected "the dictator would bring the police into the streets."[42]

Serbian President Aleksandar Vu?i? with President of Israel Reuven Rivlin during his official visit to Serbia, 26 July 2018.

However, Vu?i? was sworn in as President of Serbia on 31 May, in front of Parliament.[43] He promised to continue with reforms and said Serbia will remain on a European path. He also said Serbia will maintain military neutrality, but continue to build partnerships with both NATO and Russia.[44]

After becoming president, Vu?i? disbanded the traditional police security service responsible for President's protection, and replaced it with members of the Cobras, military police unit which contrary to the law, protected him while he served as the Prime Minister from 2014 to 2017.[45]

Since late 2018 and into early 2019, thousands of Serbians have taken to the streets to protest the presidency of Vu?i?. The protesters charge that Vu?i? and the SNS are corrupt and that Vu?i? is trying to cement himself as an autocrat, which he denies.[46][47] In 2019, Freedom House report that Serbia's status declined from Free to Partly Free due to deterioration in the conduct of elections, continued attempts by the government and allied media outlets to undermine independent journalists through legal harassment and smear campaigns, and Vu?i?'s accumulation of executive powers that conflict with his constitutional role.[48] After Vu?i?'s announcement of the reintroduction of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people protested, accusing the government of missteps in handling of the pandemic, including the premature lifting of restrictions and downplaying the risk to hold the elections.[49][50] Some analysts said that they had not witnessed police violence in Serbia since the Slobodan Milo?evi?'s regime.[49]

Policies

Economy

Vu?i? at the opening of the TANAP pipeline with regional leaders in Turkey, 12 June 2018

After his election as Prime Minister in 2014, Vu?i? promoted austerity-based economic policies, whose aim was to reduce Serbia's budget deficit. Vu?i?'s policy of fiscal consolidation was primarily aimed at cuts in the public sector. One of the measures was the reduction of pensions and salaries in the public sector as well as a ban on further employment in the public sector.[51] Vu?i? announced that his reform based policies have reduced country's deficit, and contributed to financial stability. However, criticism of Vu?i?'s economic policy stated that his measures have not overall contributed to economic recovery, but have instead caused a further decline in living standard. On 23 February 2015, Vu?i?'s government has concluded a three-year stand-by arrangement with the IMF worth EUR1.2 billion as a precautionary measure to secure the country's long term fiscal stability.[52] The IMF has praised the reforms as has the EU[53][54] calling them one of the most successful programmes the IMF has ever had. The GDP of Serbia has surpassed the pre crisis of 2008 levels as have the salaries.[55] The economic prospects are good with GDP growth rising above 3% and the debt to GDP ratio falling below 68%[56][53]

Fight against corruption and organized crime

Vu?i? has pledged to tackle corruption and organized crime in Serbia.[57][failed verification] He also vowed to investigate controversial privatizations and ties between tycoons and former government members.[24][58] Vu?i?'s anti-corruption drive has recorded a 71 per cent personal approval rating in a March 2013 opinion poll,[57] though in more than two years it produced no convictions and only a handful of arrests.

On the other hand, data from the Transparency International showed that a significant increase in perceived corruption was seen exactly from 2012, when Vu?i? came into power.[59] According to research conducted by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, the battle against corruption in practice comes down to media announcements and arrests in front of cameras. "They are followed by a large number of criminal charges, significantly fewer indictments, and even fewer convictions".[59][60]

Aleksandar Vu?i? and Sebastian Kurz in 2018.

EU and Immigration policy

During the 2015 - 2016 European migrant crisis, Vu?i? strongly aligned himself with the policies of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and publicly praised German migration policy.[] Vu?i? also stated that Serbia will cooperate with the EU in solving the migrant stream going from the Middle East to EU member countries through the Balkan route, and that Serbia will be ready to take some portion of the migrants. "Serbia will receive a certain number of migrants. This makes us more European than some member states. We don't build fences," Vu?i? wrote on Twitter, while criticizing the migrant policies of some EU member countries.[61]

Kosovo question

Vu?i? has been central to negotiations on Serbia's bid for EU accession, traveling to Brussels for talks with the EU's Foreign Affairs High Commissioner, Baroness Ashton, as well as to North Kosovska Mitrovica to discuss the details of a political settlement between Belgrade and Pristina.[62][63] During his visit to northern Kosovo, to garner support for the Brussels-brokered deal, he urged Kosovo Serbs to "leave the past and think about the future".[58]

President Vu?i? (left), Donald Trump, President of the United States (middle), and Avdullah Hoti, Prime Minister of Kosovo (right), signing the 2020 Kosovo and Serbia economic agreement in the White House

In 2017, Vu?i? accused EU of hypocrisy and double standards over its very different attitude to separatist crises in Kosovo and Catalonia.[64] In September 2018 in a speech to Kosovo Serbs he stated: "Slobodan Milo?evi? was a great Serbian leader, he had the best intentions, but our results were far worse."[65] Journalists report that Vu?i? advocates the partition of Kosovo, in what he calls "ethnic demarcation with Albanians".[66][67][68][69]

On 27 May 2019, during a special session of the Serbian parliament on Kosovo, Vu?i? said that "We need to recognize that we have been defeated... We lost the territory",[70] while also criticizing the "unprincipled attitude of great powers" and "no one reacting to announcements for the formation of a Greater Albania".[71] He stated that Serbia no longer controlled Kosovo and that a compromise was needed on the issue through a future referendum in the country.[70] Vu?i? has close links to the Serb List and he invited Kosovo Serbs to vote for them in the elections.[72][73]

On 20 January 2020, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to restore flights between their capitals for the first time in more than two decades.[74][75] The deal came after months of diplomatic talks by Richard Grenell, the United States ambassador to Germany, who was named special envoy for Serbia-Kosovo relations by President Donald Trump the year before.[74] Vu?i? welcomed the flights agreement and tweeted his thanks to American diplomats.[76]

On 4 September 2020 Serbia and Kosovo signed an agreement at the White House in Washington D.C., in the presence of US President Donald Trump. In addition to the economic agreement, Serbia agreed to move it's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv starting in June 2021 and Israel and Kosovo agreed to mutually recognise each other.[77]

Mini Schengen Zone

On 10 October 2019, together with Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, and Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Vu?i? signed the so-called Mini Schengen deal on regional economic cooperation, including on the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour between their three countries, while they await progress on EU enlargement.[78] A month later, the leaders presented a set of proposals to achieve the "four freedoms" and the first steps towards them, including the possibility to the open border area.[79] In December, the three leaders also met with Milo ?ukanovi?, President of Montenegro, opening the possibility for the country to join the zone.[80] Following the 2020 Kosovo and Serbia economic agreement the two sides pledged to join the Mini Schengen Zone.[81]

Relations with Croatia

President Aleksandar Vu?i? and President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovi? with other world leaders on the World Holocaust Forum 2020, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel

In 2007 Vu?i? stated that the Democratic League of Croats in Vojvodina is a branch of the Croatian Democratic Union.[82] In 2008, with the establishment of the Serbian Progressive Party, Vu?i? said that the goal of a Greater Serbia taking Croatian territory up to the proposed Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line "is unrealistic and silly".[83] The Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list claimed in a reportage that none of his family members had been killed during World War II, upon which he replied that these were "brutal lies and attacks on his family".[15]

During 2015 and 2016, relations between Croatia and Serbia were further affected by to the ongoing migrant crisis, when Croatia decided to close its border with Serbia. In September 2015, Croatia barred all cargo traffic from Serbia,[84] due to the migrant influx coming from Serbia in a move which further eroded the fragile relations between the two countries. In response to these actions, Vu?i? announced that counter measures will be enacted if an agreement with Croatia is not reached.[85] The dispute was eventually resolved through the mediation of the EU Commission, yet the relations between the two neighboring countries remain fragile. On 31 March 2016, Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, was acquitted of War Crime charges in the Hague Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. The verdict has caused controversy in Croatia. Vu?i? distanced himself from ?e?elj and his policy, but stated that the verdict should not be used as a tool for political pressure on Serbia.

On 7 April 2016 Croatia refused to endorse the EU Commission opinion to open Chapter 23, a part of Serbia's EU accession negotiations, thus effectively blocking Serbia' EU integration process. Serbia accused Croatia of obstructing its EU membership, and Vu?i? said that his government was: "Stunned by Croatia's decision not to support Serbia's European path."[86] Croatia has not agreed for Serbia to open negotiations of Chapter 23. On 14 April 2016, the EU Commission rejected Croatian arguments in its dispute with Serbia.[87] However, on 7 July 2016, Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kova? announced that five conditions set by Croatia have been incorporated in the common position of the EU member states for negotiations with Serbia which will be the basis on which Serbia's progress in Chapter 23, concerning the judiciary and fundamental rights, will be assessed. These five conditions are: Serbia has to: 1. steer clear of conflicts of jurisdiction concerning war crimes, 2. cooperate with neighboring countries in search and identification of missing persons or their remains, 3. strengthen its investigative, prosecution, and judicial authorities, 4. strengthen protection of (Croatian) minority, and 5. fully cooperate with the ICTY.[88]

Relations with Russia

President Aleksandar Vu?i? during his bilateral meeting with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow Kremlin 2020.

Vu?i? has maintained traditional good relations between Serbia and Russia, and his government refused to enact sanctions on Russia, following the crisis in Ukraine and the Annexation of Crimea. Vu?i? has repeatedly announced that Serbia will remain committed to its European integration, but also maintain historic relations with Russia. "We have proven our sincere and friendly attitude to Russia by being one of the European countries that refused to impose sanctions on Russia," Vu?i? said after meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. "Serbia will continue pursuing this policy in the future."[89]

Vu?i? with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Moscow Victory Day Parade on 9 May 2018

During Vu?i?'s mandate, Serbia has continued to expand its economic ties with Russia, especially by increasing Serbian exports to Russia. In early 2016, after a meeting with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Vu?i? announced the possibility of Serbia boosting its military cooperation with Russia by purchasing Russian missile systems.[90]

In December 2017, Vu?i? made an official visit to the Russian Federation for the first time as the President of Serbia.[91] He expressed his gratefulness to Russia for protecting Serbian national interests, and stated that: "Serbia will never impose sanctions on the Russian Federation (in relation to the international sanctions during the Ukrainian crisis)".[91] During his visit, he focused on strengthening cooperation in the field of military industry and energy.[91]

Relations with the United States

In July 2017 Vu?i? visited the United States and met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, where they discussed U.S. support for Serbia's efforts to join the European Union, the need for continued reforms, and further progress in normalizing the relationship with Kosovo.[92] Referencing the proposed land swap arrangement between Serbia and Kosovo, U.S. national security advisor John Bolton has said that the United States would not oppose a territorial exchange between Kosovo and Serbia to resolve their long-running dispute. The U.S. State Department continues to maintain that the full normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is "essential for regional stability", which Vu?i? has said before.[93]

Aleksandar Vu?i? and Mike Pompeo address reporters before their bilateral meeting in Washington, 2 March 2020.

The media

In 2014, Dunja Mijatovi?, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, wrote Vu?i? and made attention with the suppression of the media, which he denied and demanded an apology from OSCE.[94] According to the 2015 Freedom House report and the 2017 Amnesty International report, media outlets and journalists has become subject to pressure after criticizing the government of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vu?i?.[95][96] Also, Serbian media are heavily dependent on advertising contracts and government subsidies which make journalists and media outlets exposed to economic pressures, such as payment defaults, termination of contracts and the like.[95] Four popular political talk TV programs were cancelled in 2014, including the renowned political talk show Utisak nedelje by Olja Be?kovi?, running since 24 years and well known for its critical scrutiny of all governments since.[95][97] In first report after Vu?i? took the office, European Commission expressed concerns about deteriorating conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression.[98] Report said there was a growing trend of self-censorship which combined with undue influence on editorial policies.[98] Reports published in 2016 and 2018 stated that no progress was made to improve conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression.[99][100] In July 2016, the ruling party organized an exhibition of government-critical press articles and social media posts, labeled as 'lies', saying that they wanted to document wrongful attacks and to prove there is no official censorship.[101][102][103] In 2017, Freedom House reported that Serbia posted one of the largest single-year declines in press freedom among all the countries and territories. Also, they emphasized that Vu?i? had sought to squeeze critical media out of the market and discredit the few journalists with the funds and fortitude to keep working.[104] Some commentators have described that Vu?i? built the cult of personality, with the significant role of mass media.[105][106][107][108][109][110][111]

President Vu?i? with journalists during European People's Party Congress in Helsinki Finland, November 2018

Observers described that during the campaign for the 2017 presidential election, Vu?i? had ten times more airtime on national broadcasters than all other candidates combined and mainstream media under Vu?i?'s control have been demonizing most of the opposition presidential candidates, without giving them the opportunity to respond.[112][113] Organizations that observed the elections emphasized that the presence of Aleksandar Vu?i? in newspaper and the electronic media during the presidential campaign was disproportionate, adding that media have lost their critical role and that they have become a means of political propaganda.[114][115] The OSCE Report explains that general reluctance of media to report critically on or to challenge the governing authorities, significantly reduced the amount of impartial information available to voters.[116] They also mentioned that the government used public resources to support Vu?i?.[116] Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported harassment and physical assaults on journalists during the presidential inauguration ceremony, after Vu?i? win election.[96][117]

Within five years of President Aleksandar Vu?i? in effect governing the country, Serbia has become a place where practicing journalism is neither safe nor supported by the state. The number of attacks on media is on the rise, including death threats, and inflammatory rhetoric targeting journalists is increasingly coming from the governing officials.

In 2018, International Research & Exchanges Board described the situation in the media in Serbia as the worst in recent history, and that Media Sustainability Index dropped because the most polarized media in almost 20 years, an increase in fake news and editorial pressure on media.[120] They also pointed out that the judiciary responds promptly only in cases in which the media allegedly violates the rights of authorities and ruling parties.[120] The increased government control of the media comes as Serbian journalists face more political pressure and intimidation, in 2018 the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists recorded the highest number of attacks against journalists in decade.[121] According to Serbian investigative journalism portal Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, more than 700 fake news were published on the front pages of pro-government tabloids during 2018.[122][123] Many of them were about alleged attacks on Vu?i? and attempts of coups, as well as messages of support to him by Vladimir Putin.[123] The best-selling newspaper in Serbia is the pro-government tabloid Informer, which most often presents Vu?i? as a powerful person under constant attack, and also has anti-European content and pro-war rhetoric.[11][124][125] After Vu?i? was hospitalized for cardiovascular problems in November 2019, his associates and pro-regime media accused the journalists of worsening the president's health by asking questions about alleged corruption by government ministers.[126][127] The Council of Europe warned that the investigative outlet was target of smear campaign from the state after they caught Vu?i?'s son with members of crime groups, while the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reported that Vu?i? "pledges to fight the lies".[128][129]

Internet surveillance

Since Vu?i?'s party came to power, Serbia has seen a surge of internet trolls and pages on social networks praising the government and attacking its critics, free media and the opposition in general.[130] That includes a handful of dedicated employees run fake accounts, but also the Facebook page associated with a Serbian franchise of the far-right Breitbart News website.[131][130] On 26 March 2020 Twitter announced that they shut down the network of 8,500 spam accounts that wrote 43 million tweets - acted in concert to cheerlead for president Vu?i? and his party, boost Vu?i?-aligned content and attack his opponents.[132]

Views and comments

Public profile

Aleksandar Vu?i? on the EPP Congress Madrid 2015

Some have compared Vu?i? to other strongmen in European politics and, as noted above, accused him of being an autocrat. Many believe he has successfully taken over the center ground of Serbian politics.[] He has built a reputation for technocratic efficiency, ideological flexibility, and political pragmatism while retaining a base of center-right and right-wing electoral support.[]

Greater Serbia

Until 2008, Vu?i? was a disciple of the Greater Serbia ideology, which he testified was envisaged as extending to a western border running along the Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line.[133][134] In 1995, during the Croatian War of Independence, Vu?i? said in Glina (which was at the time controlled by the rebelled Serbs) that 'Serbian Krajina' and Glina would never be Croatian, Banovina would never be returned to Croatia, and that if Serbian Radical Party had won elections, Serbs would have lived in Greater Serbia.[135][136] In another speech from the early 2000s, Vu?i? called Karlobag, Ogulin, Karlovac and Virovitica "Serbian towns", stated that "they [SRS's critics] rejoice that Usta?e (referring to Croats) have occupied Serbian lands and want to convince us Serbian radicals that it wasn't Serbian, that we were saying nonsenses. (...) We want what's ours, Serbian."[136] After split from the Serbian Radical Party and creation of the Serbian Progressive Party, Vu?i? said he no longer supports the Greater Serbia ideology.[137]

On 1 September 2020, Montenegrian President Milo ?ukanovi? accused Vu?i? and Belgrade-based media of interfering in the internal politics of Montenegro, as well of alleged trying to revive a "Greater Serbia policy".[138]

Srebrenica massacre and Ratko Mladi?

On 20 July 1995, commenting on NATO bombing campaign against Army of Republika Srpska's (VRS) positions, Vu?i? said in the National Assembly: "for every Serb killed, we will kill 100 Muslims" only a few days after the Srebrenica massacre, when more than 8000 Muslim Bosniaks were killed by the VRS and paramilitary groups from Serbia.[139][140][3][141] In 2015, he said that his statement from 1995 was "taken out of context" and "that was not the essence of that sentence."[142]

Before splitting away from the Radical Party of Vojislav ?e?elj, Aleksandar Vu?i? was openly and publicly celebrating and calling for the protection of Ratko Mladi?, a military leader convicted of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In 2007, while Mladi? was still at large in Serbia, Vu?i? was distributing posters stating "Safe house for general Mladi?". During a parliament session he stated that the Serbian Parliament will always protect and be a safe house for the general and that any house in Serbia that bears the last name of Vu?i? will protect and shelter Mladi?.[143]

In the same year Vu?i? organized a street protest where the signs naming the street after the assassinated pro-west Serbian PM were replaced with the signs effectively renaming the street to Ratko Mladi? Boulevard.[143] This has become a frequent occurrence in which Serbian ultra-right factions vandalize same signs on top of the regular signs to celebrate the anniversary of the Zoran ?in?i? assassination.[144]

Vu?i? also participated in protests against the arrest of later convicted war criminals Veselin ?ljivan?anin and Radovan Karad?i?, as well as Vojislav ?e?elj, then president of his party.[145][146][147]

Slavko ?uruvija

It was during Vu?i?'s term as the Minister of Information that Slavko ?uruvija, a prominent journalist who reported on the Kosovo War, was murdered in a state-sponsored assassination.[148][149] In 1999, before the assassination took place, Vu?i? gave a front page interview to the tabloid Argument in which he stated "I will have my revenge on Slavko ?uruvija for all the lies published in Dnevni telegraf (?uruvija's paper).[150] In 2014, Vu?i? apologized to the ?uruvija family for having waited so long to bring the perpetrators to justice, and thanked everyone who was involved in solving the case for their work.[151]Branka Prpa, ?uruvija's common-law spouse, said Vu?i? participated in the murder and that he is the creator of the practice of persecution of journalists.[152]

Personal life

Tamara Vu?i?, who married Aleksandar Vu?i? in 2013

At 198 cm (6 ft 6 in) tall, Vu?i? is one of the tallest world leaders.[153]

On 27 July 1997, Vu?i? married Ksenija Jankovi?, a journalist at Radio Index and Srpska re?. The couple had two children before divorcing in 2011. On 14 December 2013, Vu?i? married Tamara ?ukanovi?, a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia.[154] On 9 June 2017, a week after Vu?i? took the presidential office, his wife gave birth to a son.[155]

During the opposition period, he has frequently appeared in popular TV shows.[156] In 2006, Vu?i? became the winner of the first season of the Serbian version of The Pyramid, a talk show with a competitive element broadcast on Pink TV.[157] He was the first politician who participated in the humanitarian dance contest Plesom do snova (in 2009) and the first politician to guest-starred on a late-night talk show Ve?e sa Ivanom Ivanovi?em (in 2010).[156][158][159] He also was a guest judge in one episode of the third season of Zvezde Granda, the most popular music competition in Balkans.[156][160]

On 15 November 2019, he was hospitalized at a military hospital in Belgrade due to apparent "cardiovascular issues". Three days later it was reported that he was released. Some, including his media advisor and the deputy mayor of Belgrade, have claimed that his health problems were in part due to pressure from journalists. Vu?i? explicitly denied this at media conference shortly after his hospital stay. At the same event, he confirmed the chronic nature of his health problems.[161][162]

On 8 April 2020, it was revealed that Vu?i?'s 22-year-old son, Danilo, had contracted the coronavirus and was admitted to the Infectious Diseases Clinic in Belgrade.[163]

During July 2020 Vu?i? became a student at Belgrade's College of sports and health, with the goal to become a basketball trainer for juniors after he ends his political career.[164][165] Some Serbian journalists have reported that a mandatory condition for entering the College was active participation in sports for three years, which was removed from the official website shortly after Vu?i?'s enrollment.[166]

Honours

Orders

Honorary doctorates

Honorary citizenship

Country City Date
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Honorary citizen of Drvar[173][174] 21 July 2019
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Honorary citizen of Sokolac[175] 29 July 2019

Other

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Sources

Other sources

  • "? ? " (in Serbian). Poreklo. n.d. Retrieved 2015.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Radmila Milentijevi?
Minister of Information
1998-2000
Succeeded by
Ivica Da?i?
Bogoljub Pej?i?
Biserka Mati? Spasojevi?
Preceded by
Dragan ?utanovac
Minister of Defence
2012-2013
Succeeded by
Neboj?a Rodi?
Preceded by
Ivica Da?i?
First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia
2012-2014
Succeeded by
Ivica Da?i?
Prime Minister of Serbia
2014-2017
Succeeded by
Ivica Da?i?
Acting
Preceded by
Tomislav Nikoli?
President of Serbia
2017-present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tomislav Nikoli?
Leader of the Serbian Progressive Party
2012-present
Incumbent

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