Licht: Not enough dialogue, politicians resorting to populism
One of the basic principles of democracy is dialogue, which is missing. Citizens have withdrawn into their own microcosm(s), because they are do not see themselves in what is around them, and because of the fear of being punished if they do something that does not suit the ruling elites, said for N1 Sonja Licht and Sonja Stojanović Gajić.
“In the first place, we are discussing very little. In order to really breathe ‘fully with democratic lungs,’ we lack a public debate on all the important issues we face as a society. There is not enough debate in the media, and even less outside the media … that citizens have withdrawn from public life”, said Sonja Licht, President of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence.
Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy Sonja Stojanovic Gajic says that people have withdrawn into their microcosm, because “they feel that they do not find themselves in what is around them, and that is intimidation, that if you enter a dialogue, if you say your opinion, you’ll get threats.” “There is no atmosphere in Serbia to lead a dialogue, to listen to the opinions of others,” she said.
According to Licht, the Belgrade Security Forum, which was held in Belgrade for the seventh time, was a place where different opinions were heard.
“The forum was very different in subjects that are all basically talked about the collapse of democracy and the rule of law, even where a man least expected, and that the developed democratic countries. The main quality is that we are with the various parties able to approach all these topics, we had very good speakers, and I would single out panel on inequality, where it turned out that one of the main reasons for the collapse of democracy and strengthening of populism – the deepening of the gap between citizens and elites, and not just political elites”, said Licht.
As she said, it turned out that this gap is much greater for the elites than for those who hold the bulk of the world’s capital in their hands.
“Ten percent of owners own 2/3 of capital in the world… There is a biggap between those who have and those who do not. For now, anger does not turn to them, but towards those elites who are actually mediators between them and ordinary citizens , which are precisely the political elites, the people in power”, Licht said.
“Certain politicians decide to play populism, as an easier strategy, and by fear from something different, whether it is a matter of migrants, as in the case of Austria and Hungary, or, in our case, neighbors, in order to get citizens’ support”, says Sonja Stojanovic Gajic.
Asked what the forum participants had to say on this topic, Sonja Stojanović Gajić says they “did not have the chance to talk about it, because it was discussed at the very end of event”, but that the forum participants “located the problem in populism.”
She pointed out that at the panel on populism at the Belgrade Security Forum, colleagues from Hungary and Poland pointed out that very often these politicians use the institutions and the democratic process to come to power, but then start pulling not so democratic moves.
“These elections are often free, but not necessarily fair. Then they come to power, even going to make some reforms that bring benefit to society, for example in Poland, when the present right-wing government increased social benefits for the poor, but in the same time has begun to abolish a multitude of other rights guaranteed to citizens and citizens of Poland, including the right to abortion, “says Stojanovic Gajić.
According to her, the liberal opposition failed to resist such elites, and only women in Poland, who protested against the deprivation of these rights, managed to, as she says, set a red line for populists.
Asked if Europe was able to cope with these intimidations and populism, Stojanovic Gajic says that Europe is currently traumatized for terrorist attacks in the capital cities, although statistics show that a greater number of victims in Europe were in the 1970s and that now the states are safer.
“But fear is now much higher, as demonstrated by France, where colleagues say it is very difficult to talk to people of other religion, in a country that is understood as an ideal of freedom and fight for human rights,” says Stojanovic Gajic.
“It’s important that we have a conversation (about everything). People who are undecided, who are ignorant, are easier deceived and manipulated, and ultimately it becomes easier for them to commit violence,” says Sonja Liht.
Speaking of this extreme right, Sonja Stojanović Gajić says one of the conclusions at the Belgrade forum was that “all of us who do not share the values of the Right are able to see the problems of the citizens, but are not doing what they are – talking with ordinary people”.
Formulate strategies and solutions in relations with Kosovo
“A concrete strategy and solution for Kosovo is something we lack in general policy and specific policies when it comes to the Brussels process. I sincerely hope that the internal dialogue that President Vucic was talking about, that they will go in that direction, finally formulating what we want in Serbia to see in a future relationship with Kosovo, “says Sonja Licht.
She adds that we are “condemned to co-operation because we live alongside each other“.
“We are being condemned to dependence, we are condemned to cooperate, we have to think about each other … The problem is, on the other hand, they say, ‘We need to be recognized.’ And how are you going to stop the youth coming, how are you going to improve economy? … And that is all the problems of our side, “says Licht.
“No one expects our government to come out with a ready picture, then dialogue, but the parameters of the dialogue, so what is the dialogue – who will all participate, which phases, must know this,” says Stojanovic Gajić and adds: “Here, we have almost heard that the first phase has ended, we do not know what the end is and what has begun the second phase … What is more important is what is expected to emerge from that dialogue, what are the parameters, not the solutions? what we do is in the interest of Serbs in Kosovo, ‘is this the parameter, or’ what we do is going to the point of non-recognition ‘? … The minimum parameters must exist, to know in which contexts we talk or to know the beginning the vision behind this government. “