Patriotism and Systemic Plunder

A Pair of Pears


In 2012 a new B92-Insider series entitled Patriotic Pillage (Patriotska pljačka) was looking into abuses, smuggling and other offences in northern Kosovo. The series discovered the mechanisms of "patriotic plunder” that have been used for years to smuggle VAT-free goods between Serbia and Kosovo which damaged the Serbian budget for millions of euros each year.

It seems that, when it comes to Kosovo - the very heartland of patriotic sentiments and politics, the citizens have been betrayed for years and that “helping our brothers and sisters” was in fact a lucrative commercial operation.  

It was investigative journalism and not state institutions that broke the news to the public, and journalists should be encouraged to use the Law on Free Access to Information and supported in their efforts to hold the government accountable. This case is one of the most notable examples of public pressure that led to institutional procedures in Serbia.     

In April 2014 the Inquiry Committee of the National Assembly of Serbia on Patriotism and Systemic Plunder finalized its report about the theft of public funds during 12 years of channeling public funds money allocated to the Serbian population on Kosovo into private pockets. Findings show that 2,8 billion euros  were stolen from Serbian taxpayers. Head of this Committee was Momir Stojanović, former Director of Military Security Agency and now a retired army general. In his interview with NIN journal he clearly indicates that the investigations have again and again been halted by vested interests, in particular by the Serbian Ministry for Interior Affairs.

Since the new president Tomislav Nikolić was elected and SNS-led coalition with Socialists formed the government the fight against corruption has dominated the public discourse. Not by chance, this fight was directed almost entirely against members of the former government, and the same goes for the Inquiry Committee's report. It inquired solely into the period until the current officials took office. This is a very common characteristic of all societies that are suffering systemic corruption or state capture: after elections the winner “captures” the state and only politicians and governments that are no longer in power are held accountable.

The interview with Momir Stojanović published in NIN is not an end of this affair and it should encourage further investigations into doings and responsibility of the Government in office as well. The views published in this article are not here by endorsed but rather an illustration of the ongoing discussion on transparency and democratic governance. It is an interesting read for domestic as well as foreign public and it can here be found in English translation: Interview: Had We Accepted a NATO Base, We Would Have Saved Kosovo.