Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #019-Serbia After the Murders of 1903
The Obrenovic regime was held in such universal odium in Serbia that the removal of its last representative, and hence of the old and grievous dynastic feud, was greeted with relief rather than horror. The regicides at once formed a cabinet representing all parties, reestablished the constitution of 1901 and convoked parliament for June 15. It unanimously elected Prince Peter Karageorgevic, son of the ex-Prince Alexander to the vacant throne, and then restored the constitution of 1889, acknowledged as the most liberal of all those under which Serbia had been governed.
Thus the shortlived senate disappeared, the franchise was extended, and the practice of tampering with such fundamental institutions as the bench, the press and the right of assembly received a salutary check. The new king found himself in a position of extreme delicacy, for the regicides were at first all-powerful politically.
Austria- Hungary and Russia, indeed, at once congratulated him on his accession, but in Dec. 1903 all the Powers represented at Belgrade protested against the Government's weak attitude towards the regicides, and it was not till 1906 that a British Minister was appointed to return to Belgrade. The sinister incident of the murder of the Novakovic brothers in the Belgrade state prison caused a reaction of feeling against the regicides, and the Radical Party, predominant since the murder, split into two sections, the Old and the Young, the former evolving steadily towards extreme conservatism.
Their chief merit was a further reform of the finances; in 1903 there had been a deficit of 11.500.000 dinars, in 1904 and 1905 there were surpluses of 6, 500.000 and 4.700.000. Under Dr. Pacu as finance minister confidence revived both at home and abroad.
In foreign policy the Radicals concluded in June 1905 a customs convention with Bulgaria, which was intended to lead to a political alliance and common action in the Balkans. But it was prematurely disclosed (probably by the deliberate design of Prince Ferdinand) just as negotiations between Vienna and Belgrade for a new commercial treaty were nearing the final stage.
Early in 1906 Austria-Hungary peremptorily vetoed Serbia's ratification of the Bulgarian agreement, and when the Government j demurred, broke off the Austro-Serbian negotiations and closed ; her frontiers to Serbian imports. The result was a prolonged tariff war. due largely to the increased political influence of the Agrarians both in Austria and Hungary and their desire to prevent Serbia from extending her market for livestock and agricultural produce in Vienna and other cities.
Serbia was also embarrassed by Austria-Hungary's further demand that she should order the guns and munitions which she required, at the Skoda works rather 1 than in Western countries. This too was firmly resisted, and the orders were placed with Schneidcr-Creusot. In the end Serbia was surprisingly successful in finding fresh markets, e.g., in Egypt: in the first year of the tariff war her foreign trade only diminished by 300.000 dinars, in 1907 it had again increased by io.ooo.oco dinars, and after a drop in 190S, which was still inferior to the pre-war figure, it continued to grow steadily, keeping pace with improved finances.