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NO 101-102

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 101-102 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 101-102

November - December 2006



By Sonja Biserko

The year about to pass was the year of consolidation of the Balkans' stability. Serbia was a major consideration of the process due to her fluid situation and great dilemma: whether to opt for the West of the East (Russia). Serbia remained hostage to political insecurity mostly caused by her stalled cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague. Actually, Serbia put an end to that cooperation. Therefore, the fact that the EU cancelled the association and stabilization negotiations with Serbia did not come as a surprise. The content of the new Constitution made it clear to the West that Serbia's democracy was undefined, and that she has not yet developed an authentic pro-European policy and was still weighted by authoritarian tradition. The Constitution's preamble earmarking Kosovo as Serbia's inalienable part infers Serbia's refusal to partake in the search for a compromise. Such attitude could easily lead to a conflict with her neighbors and even with the international community in the near future, once the latter decides the future status of Kosovo. The ruling coalition deftly manipulates the threat of the rise of the Serbian Radical Party and its coming to power, which would allegedly jeopardize Serbia's movement towards the EU.

Therefore, the decision to admit Serbia into the membership of PfP was meant to round off the security structure of the Balkans. It moved Serbia closer to the European option but also implied establishment of mechanisms that could play important role in the event of her destabilization. At the same time, the membership of the PfP figured as a victory over the army's conservative bloc that has not only stood in the way of its reform but also obstructed the army's adjustment to new circumstances and the new concept of security under the pretext of defending the state's sovereignty. Gen. Zdravko Ponos' appointment the Chief of General Staff completed the package recommending Serbia for speedier access to European integrations. However, the strong lobby that will be refuting and slowing down such orientation is still there.

Serbia's new Constitution, passed overnight as a prelude to the ruling coalition's election campaign, is counterproductive for Serbia's true interests and indicates the political elite's basically anti-European policy. This Constitution not only secures continuity with Milosevic's Constitution but also messages the world that Serbia has lost touch with the realities in her territory, in the region and worldwide. Besides, either unaware of European trends or ignoring them totally, the Serbian elite (the government and the Parliament) missed the opportunity to define Serbia as a decentralized, modern country adjusted to European standards. They missed the opportunity to use decentralization for boosting minority rights. Minority rights have thus been turned into nothing but election campaign slogans that only a handful of minority leaders profit on. The constitution-makers have turned a blind ear to Vojvodina's legitimate demands, and the province's economic potential and regional tradition. Such blunt disregard awakened Vojvodina's dormant elite and, as it seems, citizens as well. The fact that the constitutional referendum failed in the province will probably influence the upcoming elections. Last but not least, the Constitution's earmarking the protection of majority rights only logically generates fascist-like incidents.

Like all Balkan countries, Serbia made a progress in the economic sphere. However, she failed to invest local self-governments with more authority, and create a legal frame conducive to foreign investment and healthy market economy. The economy in the hands of tycoons only logically resulted in new monopolies that chocked small entrepreneurs that could have revitalized economic capacity of Serbia but of other countries in the region as well. However, the biggest problem of all is the state-run economy that is unavoidably accompanied by political voluntarism. The very fact that the state is an arch arbiter in economic matters makes it a major generator of corruption. The OECD report pinpoints corruption as the major obstacle to larger foreign investment in Serbia, while, according to Transparency International, Serbia is at the bottom of the corruption ladder.

Judiciary still remains among the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of Serbia's democratization. And this is not only about the cadres that used to invest Slobodan Milosevic's regime with legitimacy but also about the general mindset that would not accept the world's realities and particularly the fact that international law has supremacy over national legislation. Such attitude was fully manifested in Serbia's new Constitution. Commenting on Richard Kaplan's book on ex-Yugoslavia's disintegration, Milorad Ekmecic practically summarizes such mindset by saying, "Though it cannot be proved that Serbs are to blame in the first place for the onset of bloodshed, this is taken for granted, almost for a fait accompli that will always follow us." The Hague verdicts are obviously not seen as relevant. "The new world power has made its international law from the blood shed in our civil war," say Ekmecic in the attempt to discredit the tribunal in The Hague and the international law it emanates.

"Special services" are also among those that hinder the consolidation of Serbia's political scene. Hooked up with more or less tycoon-owned media, they systematically fabricate scandals that almost never have epilogues in courts of law. This is how they attempt to discredit not only political factors but also all "hotbeds of resistance" such as some NGOs and small political parties like the Liberal-Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Union and the Civic Alliance of Serbia. Smearing campaigns in the media and earmarking of "patriotic" NGOs that closely cooperate with the regime and enjoy the Church's strong support follow in the footsteps of the fear of liberally-minded organizations and parties. The fundamentalism of the Eastern Orthodoxy thus confronts globalization and liberalism.

In the shadow of the election campaign, final preparations for the solution of Kosovo's status are underway at the international level. The government's and its officials' hubbub has stifled the voices reminding of Kosovo realities. The Kosovo myth again serves the purpose of national unity. Day in day out, Premier Kostunica messages citizens that the Kosovo problem has been solved through the new Constitution, while Sandra Raskovic - in her address to Serbian media in New York in the wake of the Security Council's session - claims that the international community has not yet made a decision on the status. On the other hand, Foreign Minister Draskovic says Kofi Annan's report plays not into Serbia's hands. For his part, President Tadic announces, "Kosovo will more probably be independent than an autonomy within Serbia." In his series of articles carried in the Politika daily Svetozar Stojanovic says, "By comparison with the Albanian question the Serbian question by far exceeds the problem of Kosmet" Relying on Russia's impact on the Contact Group and, in particular, on special relations between Serbia and Russia, Stojanovic takes that "Serbia's importance is becoming again disproportionate to her actual strength." Denial of the realities has become a serious problem of the Serbian society. High expectations that some turn of the tide would amnesty Serbia's responsibility for the recent past are growing proportionately to ever more obvious facts. Thus the society glides towards a kind of schizophrenic state that feeds on the constructs of the past before the communist era, meant to justify the crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo by widening the historical context.

Serbia has only one way leading ahead: the one defined by late Premier Zoran Djindjic and backed by the European Union. The absence of political will for fundamental change coincides with the absence of political and social energy. The real progress Serbia can make in the direction of the EU is remains an open question when one takes into account her traumatic experience. To overcome her post-imperial trauma Serbia needs a more responsible and efficient political elite capable of solving her crucial dilemma: modernity or patriarchate. Regardless of their opposite stands, only the Radicals and the Liberal-Democratic Party manifest sufficiently convincing political energy. With the Liberal-Democratic Party in the parliament, the already made political deals on division of power will be disturbed and the room for a liberal Serbia will be made.

Serbia's crucial problem is neither of economic nor political nature. Serbia seems to be rather disoriented as she searches for her own soul. Unable to give up the wishful thinking about turning into a regional leader and still aspiring for glory and power, Serbia found herself in the labyrinth of delusions about her glorious past, and split between the role of a victim and that of a winner. That's why Serbia needs to redefine dignity and honor, and moral tenets that guide her as a state. Unfortunately, Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and the others are there to remind that the problem is in moral principles and obligations that are disregarded while the West is blamed instead. Serbia must find answers to all those questions if she wants her democracy - if she really opts for it - to be meaningful.

As long as Serbia defines not moral tenets and meets her obligations like all democratic states, she would hardly prove to the world the theses advocated by outstanding intellectuals such as Milorad Ekmecic.


NO 101-102

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