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NO 101-102

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Helsinki Charter No. 101-102

November - December 2006



By Teofil Pancic

Last December was really hard on all, and a still harder January awaits us. Everything aspiring to rule Serbia in the four years to come is running to and fro, making promises and endearing citizens. The whole Serbia resembles a fair of jugglery and acrobatics. Everybody exerts himself to sell his cheap merchandise at highest price possible. Well, that circus makes up unavoidable side-effect of the picturesque parliamentary democracy a la South. And we will (probably) leave all that behind one fine morning. But in the meantime we should better examine what was it we got last time as the outcome of previous elections, the elections won by those who were harder on, say, Zoran Djindjic than on Slobodan Milosevic. Let alone on Ratko Mladic.

These days "Watch-the-Pennies" Premier Vojislav Kostunica, Minister of Capital Incidents Velimir Ilic and their assistants, aide-de-camps and worshipers tour Serbia and lobby with citizens to entrust yet another mandate to the "populist coalition" as the only true pillar of the outgoing government. For this mandate was not enough for proving all their skills and expertise. And what a pity would it be had they not be given a chance to fully realize their plan! And so, the Premier and his entourage cannot but boast - not because they are prone to boasting, they simply must as no one else would. Now at the end of their (early) mandate, they say, Serbia is in a far better shape than at the time they stepped in. Ergo, today's Serbia is much better off than the one they inherited from the disgusting DOS coalition in which uninformed people mistakenly included them at the beginning. The bottom line here is that having a more or less the same team at the helm after January 21 would perfectly benefit the overall bloom. Everything simply must be in full bloom or else face the government's wrath!

Joking apart, after almost three years at the helm of the government, Kostunica's cabinet has no choice other than singing odes to itself. For, its results are much too meager - and even directly detrimental in some aspects - for serious people to speak in its favor. Just an occasional, more or less carefully selected and context-isolated "economic indicator" is truly better than it was three years ago. But, after all, isn't that a minimum of the minimal minimum after six years of democratic-market transition? The rest is either status quo or the legendary Dead Sea, the Silent Decay covered with a thick layer of ditchwater, or spectacular, scurry backwards. But arguing with such regime over directions and speeds is of no avail. Therefore, let's see how it tackled major political problems and what its managerial capacity might produce should it only get the chance.

Let's start from the end: Serbia got a new Constitution and that's the most tangible result of the actual regime generously assisted by the "constructive opposition." No big deal? Well, it would have been wasn't only the new Constitution so awfully porous and leaky, was it not, in many aspects, a hindrance rather than encouragement to Serbia's modernization and Europeanization. In some of its segments, the Constitution turns into Constipation, a cynical ridicule of contemporary democratic standards, let alone its Dadaist "preamble." The latter by itself undermines any trace of seriousness of the "constitution-building" project its creators planned it to be. What a waste of time and energy! What a waste of the resources every irresponsible government in Serbia sees as boundless!

Further, the government itself defined "the Kosovo question" as the top priority for which it forged such makeshift constitution after all. But what's a realistic impact of the government's "Kosovo policy" if there is any? (I definitely refuse to call the amateurish blubbering of Sandra Raskovic, the Kostunica Serbia's second best surrealistic political entity after legendary Ljiljana Colic, a policy.) It's non-existent, I am afraid, given that the government has so spectacularly failed to implement its (non-existent?) plans "A" and "B." The former was a Don Quixote-like enterprise meant to at least formally maintain Kosovo within Serbian borders. It turned out to nothing since the dynamics of the "Kosovo problem" took a turn of its own. You could use Fabian tactics and "play tricks" on the process to buy time, but that's actually a labor lost. The latter was supposed to formulate some kind of Serbia's post-Kosovo strategy. But no one formulated anything given that the very consideration of an option as such would break the Taboo, magically "invoke" the developments the regime simply would not "believe possible." Here the regime gives the impression of being composed of epic poetry enthusiasts rather than of highest public servants.

The "Montenegrin issue" was also the government's impressive shame. And not because the famous "state union" disintegrated - which was unavoidable since that union was nothing but a bizarre caricature and was of no avail. The government disgraced itself for having put all its eggs in one basket - a virtual "state union" - which had nothing to do with common sense and sound reasoning. And so, after Montenegro's referendum it was left blatantly disoriented and childishly pouting. The government's shame is Serbia's shame as well. And the very fact that it was predictable and quite unnecessary hurts you and makes you angry. Serbia was again wasting time on delusions, and was again hostage to its political and intellectual quack-elite's unrealistic, "super-national" obsessions and frustrations. Shall we ever see the end to it? And who will survive - them or Serbia?

"The Hague issue" - so movingly unsavory to the Premier & Co. - is yet another of the regime's shipwrecks. They firstly tried to pretend The Hague and the tribunal did not exist at all. For, boy, the government has better things to do than bother itself with "the head cook and the dishwasher." That "wise policy" flopped almost like the super-honest Marsicanin in the presidential race. Then the government stuck to "two-way cooperation" and "voluntary surrenders" like a leech in spite of the fact that is has been duly warned that that's nothing but trivial buying of time and that eventually - once it packed all her Pavkovics and other Milosevic's mannequins - it would have to come to grips with the Real Problem: Ratko Mladic and Co. All in all, now three years later, Serbia is more blocked and "blackmailed" with Mladic than she was in March 2004 and a viable solution is nowhere in sight. But then, can you find a solution after all when you first don't look for it at all, then pretend to be looking for it and finally just look for it a bit but would rather not be the one to find it?

Last but not least, the government these days boasts of "normalized and stabilized" social and political situation. How interesting! For, this is how things look like in real life: organized crime feels better and better, whatever survived the "Saber" action has recuperated and put on weight (moreover, it has been compensated for the enormous mental pain and impairment of the reputation for which it had worked up a sweat); the regime, with the helping hand of its ministries and police and other services, has made such a mess of the trial of the accused of the Premier Djindjic assassination and provoked so many scandals that it sickens one to list them; when it comes to "national policy" the Radicals are stronger than ever before though they have not changed their skin, let alone their habits; the Socialists have always been the regime's (abundantly remunerated) pillar; all in all, two major riders of the Serbian Apocalypse of 1990s have been leniently given the comfortable status of "system parties" without having to undergo any transformation whatsoever. And there is more to it, just name it.

As it seems, seven or eight days before the parliamentary elections Svetlana (Ceca) Raznatovic - Arkan's widow, Legija and Siptar's bosom friend and the crowned queen of the mafia-warmongering glamour of 1990s - will be emitting sounds from a stage mounted in downtown Belgrade. The happening's proud organizer is the "populist coalition," the incumbent regime's virtuous backbone. See, had I only mentioned that as a possibility, many would have raised hue and cry, and called me malicious. But every pot has its cover be there or not my dirty imagination. Give it a thought...


NO 101-102

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