Serbian parliamentary minnow pushes for 'Russian law' equivalent

Serbian parliamentary minnow pushes for 'Russian law' equivalent

Serbia's Movement of Socialists party has announced it will draft a bill aiming to restrict the activities of foreign non-governmental organisations operating in the Balkan country.

The draft closely resembles the highly controversial law on foreign agents that is expected to be implemented in Georgia soon.

Defending the draft law, Movement of Socialists MP Bojan Torbica said, "Betraying one's own country and people can no longer be a highly profitable activity."

The proposed anti-foreign NGO law could bring more attention to the left-wing nationalist party, which currently has just two MPs in the 250-seat National Assembly.

"I really believe that it is a threat to the Republic of Serbia if there are NGOs that are donated from abroad and work here to propagate Kosovo as an independent state, to propagate the genocide in Srebrenica and the destruction of Republika Srpska," said Đorđe Komlenski, parliamentary leader of the Movement of Socialists.

The three issues — two of which pertain to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina — have been prominent talking points of nationalist politicians in Serbia ever since the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and a series of bloody wars in the region in the 1990s.

While it is unclear whether Komlenski and Torbica alone can gather enough support to advance the law past the draft stage, civil society actors, such as the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, are concerned that the bill will impact Serbian society's future.

Marko Milosavljević from Youth Initiative for Human Rights sees the move as a means of intimidating civil society and independent media.

"Through these announcements, we actually see the ban on the advocacy of certain democratic principles is kind of desireable," Milosavljević said.

Serbian voters will go to the polls on 2 June to participate in a rerun of last year's local election in 66 electoral units, including the capital, Belgrade.

The EU recently criticised Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, for not conducting free and fair elections, citing allegations of voter fraud.