Belgrade to honour slain pro-European leader Djindjic

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was mowed down by a sniper in broad daylight on March 12, 2003

The Serbian government said Monday it planned to erect a monument honouring the country's pro-European prime minister Zoran Djindjic, assassinated in 2003, even as some voices called for a statue to the man he ousted, Slobodan Milosevic.

The government said in a statement it had a "duty to finance a monument to a man assassinated while he was prime minister."

Djindjic -- who already has a boulevard in the capital named after him -- was shot by a sniper in broad daylight in front of a Serbian government building on March 12, 2003.

He was 50 at the time of his death and is seen as the architect of a popular uprising that ousted Milosevic in October 2000.

Milosevic -- widely considered responsible for the 1990s wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo that killed more than 130,000 people -- had been refusing to cede power, despite being defeated in the election.

It was Djindjic's administration that extradited Milosevic to The Hague where he was tried by a UN tribunal for genocide and war crimes. He died in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.

His extradition paved the way for Serbia to set in motion the process to join the European Union. That accession process is still ongoing.

But some Serbs continue to view the move as treason.

Last week, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) -- set up by Milosevic and now a member of the ruling coalition -- proposed setting up a monument in Belgrade in honour of the late strongman.

The SPS's current head is Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who was the party's spokesman under Milosevic.

"I agree with this idea, but the municipal authorities will have the final word," Dacic told the Vecernje Novosti paper at the weekend.

The party had put forward a similar proposal in 2016, but it was rejected.

"Milosevic's policy already has monuments throughout the Balkans -- its cemeteries are full," one Twitter user commented.

"We already have a monument since 1999," said another, posting a photograph of a ruined army building in downtown Belgrade, destroyed by rockets during NATO bombing campaign to stop the Kosovo war in 1999.