Serbia and the Bosnian Serb entity passed laws Wednesday to encourage the use of the Cyrillic alphabet, a further attempt to strengthen a common national identity that raises alarm in a volatile region.
The deputies of the two Parliaments voted on two similar texts on the occasion of the day of “Serbian unity” in force since last year in Serbia and in Republika srpska (RS), in Bosnia. All Serbs in the region were invited to hoist Serbian flags to their balconies while a military demonstration was scheduled in Belgrade.
The new laws force public companies to use Cyrillic in their public communications rather than the Latin alphabet. Tax cuts are planned for private companies who will do the same.
The Serbian language can be written in Latin or Cyrillic, but the latter alphabet is considered more traditional than the more widespread Latin script, especially among younger people.
National anthem compulsory
Belgrade is accused by its critics and rights groups of wanting to exert its influence beyond its borders and of creating instability in neighboring countries where many Serbs live, such as in Montenegro or in Bosnia.
Since this year, the Serbian government has made the national anthem compulsory at the start of the school year, sparking protests in regions where the Serbian community is in the minority.
In July, Serbian Interior Minister Aleksander Vulin, known for his inflammatory rhetoric, spoke of a political union of Serbs in the Balkans dubbed “Serbian world”.
“For me, the Serbian world is a country – unification – but in a peaceful manner, without a shot being fired,” he said.
This notion has sown consternation in neighboring states where voices are being raised to denounce a return to Slobodan Milosevic’s dreams of a “Greater Serbia”, which triggered ethnic cleansing campaigns over vast areas of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
A “conquering and hegemonistic” concept
Croatian Foreign Minister Goran Grlic Radman protested against an “invasive, conquering and hegemonistic” concept.
On the contrary, the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs take the opportunity to reaffirm their separatist tendencies. The West “pushes us to live with them (Muslims and Croats), but we have nothing in common“said Milorad Dodik, Serbian member of the Bosnian collegiate presidency, on Tuesday, referring to”the independence we aspire to“.
Some analysts suspect the Serbian authorities of playing the ethnic card to woo the nationalist vote in Serbia, where early legislative elections are scheduled for next year. “It is an attempt to use populism to distract voters from corruption, rights violations and undermine democratic institutions supposedly in the name of the national interest.analyst Aleksandar Popov told AFP.