Wrong sort of government

Observations on Serbia by Neil Clark

Henry Ford told customers that they could have any colour car they wanted so long as it was black. The janissaries of the new world order tell us we can have any government we like - as long as it does not oppose the global hegemony of neoliberalism.

So it is in Serbia. December's parliamentary elections produced a result most unsatisfactory for Washington and Brussels - victory for the anti-western Radicals, who took more than 27 per cent of the vote. Both the US ambassador in Belgrade and the EU foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, warned Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, the second-largest party, of dire consequences if he formed a government with either the Radicals or Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists. Serbia would lose finan-cial aid and again face isolation from the "international community".

After long haggling, Kostunica has now formed a minority government. The Radicals, despite their widespread popular support, are excluded but, to the horror of Washington and Brussels, the administration depends on Socialist support.

"The EU," said Solana, "would prefer very much that the government in Serbia-Montenegro has the same values and same direction as the government before." This was a government that sold off state and socially owned assets to foreign multinationals, presided over a rise in unemployment to more than 30 per cent and, through its acceptance of an IMF/World Bank programme of "economic reform", reduced two-thirds of Serbs to poverty.

The west describes the new government as "nationalist". But Kostunica's "nationalism" merely amounts to his preference for alleged war criminals being tried by a domestic court, not one set up and funded by the same Nato powers that bombed his country five years ago. Otherwise, the west shouldn't worry much. The prime minister may be slightly less sycophantic than his immediate predecessors, but he has promised to cut public spending, try to attract foreign investors and "press ahead" with privatisation. The millions of Serbs who want a different future - one with jobs, national independence and social justice - know the price of rejecting the path of the "international community". On three occasions in the 1990s, Serbs elected governments led by unreconstructed socialists, instead of the neoliberal "reform" parties they were supposed to elect. They got the most swingeing sanctions ever imposed in Europe and, finally, 78 days of air strikes.