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Helsinki Charter No. 97-98

July - August 2006



By Bojan Al Pinto Brkic

Montenegro has recently opted for independence. Decision on the future status of Kosovo shall be soon announced. Instead of grappling with true challenges, the Serb political elite is now considering some strange alternatives. Unwilling to discuss it own reponsibility for humiliating and terrible results of alleged national policy, it consciously posptones elections and also definition of every relation which could constructively impact the process of creation of a modern state.

In one of the least successful years in its history, the Serb political elite has renounced the process of latching on the European integrations. Someone who for a long time felt very special decided that it would not be good for the past, present and future of nation, to be in company of other nations for we can do better than Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Poland, let alone Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with whom we accidentally share borders. The fact that we are so specific, according to numerous media articles, is most discernible on all the beaches on which citizens of Serbia are vacationing, and on all the sports grounds in which our sports teams are competing under suspciously selected hallmarks and insignia. Added to that foreigners, aware of their inferiority, shy away from discussions with a wise Serb leadership, whose initiatives are bound to succeed!

Sorry picture of Serbia limited by its frustrations is anew emerging on the horizon. Serbia of the year zero does not show any interest in others, is absent from global developments and trends, and is inward-looking. That picture is created by conscious isolation of citizens. Serb political elite for weeks has been trying to persuade citizens of fenomenally successful implementation of the action plan, EU\'s delight with the Serb-proposed "package plus" which is both presented as a governmental and non-governmental document, and smooth running of the state apparatus, beyond any influence of the two or three tycoons. According to the government and its media moutpeieces our foreign currency reserves shall soon compel Russian banks to build bigger coffers and deposit safe-boxes, after which we shall pile pressure on the US dollar, while Euro is being depreciated by excellent measures of the Central Bank of Serbia, inflation is under strict control, public spending is very low, international financial institutions are willingly lining-up to offer us favourable loans, for which, this time around, we dictate conditions.

Unfortunately the only success of Kostunica-led government since early 2006 is its seizure of company \"Mobtel\" owned by Bogoljub Karic and its subsequent sale to the Norwegian \"Telenor\". The whole sale was executed in a very sloppy fashion, though it enabled the Austrian businessman Martin Schlaf and his partners, involved in many shady deals, to walk off with an incredible profit. Bogoljub Karic has not been tried for his plunder of the country, nor has Mirjana Markovic, though suspected of organizing political assassinations.

Government of Prime Minister Koštunica tries to present itself as the protector of international law, and does its utmost to ridicule the ideal of justice in its own country. Hardened and vicious criminals and their financiers are relishing their freedom, and are treated as the most respectable members of society. In parallel in prisons are many who in difficult social conditions were compelled to commit some stupidities and for whom no program of re-socialization shall be able to offer equal opportunities for employment. Let us look at the statistics of criminal offences linked to possession of drugs: youngsters were convicted for having smoked two or three joints, while there were no convictions for organization of smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of heroine and cocaine. Sreten Jocic, a nice gentleman wanted by many European states, was handed over to us by the Dutch prison authorities, only to be released on bail, as if he were a minor traffic offender.

How valid are arguments of Vida Petrovic-Škero that the justice system of Serbia does not function because it is cash-strapped? And what does poor financial standing have to do with dispensation of justice that is justifiable convictions for multiple murders, swindles, smuggling of arms and drugs? Sreten Jocic is not the only example; but his case received much media coverage. Prime Minister with his twenty year stint in the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory as a serious jurist, should not be told by his advisers that toeing of the modern right-wing policy on the internal plane is notably reflected in the issues of security and tougher stance on offences. In other words, he does not need to be reminded that the right-wing governments, when making public spending projections take some money from environmental protection funds and allocate it to the strategy for defence of terrorism and judicial prosecution of criminals.

With his short-sighted policy Prime Minister Koštunica managed to grow closer to Radicals. Their world in which we are self-sufficient, too good for the others, from whom secret services protect us, has somehow become his world. What he has yet to do is to inaugurate his cult of personality...It is well-known that in political theory there are many patterns, therefore a man need not be a genius to become a politician, even a Prime Minister. It is sufficient that he selects a lofty goal and embraces the guiding principles of his predecessors.

Prime Minister Kostunica has an evident and easily explainable admiration for Croatia. Ivo Sanader and his Croat Democratic Community won the elections on the ticket/slogan "Let's jump-start Croatia." and scored major results. Despite numerous problems, image of Croatia in the international community is very good, its candidacy for the Security Council had good prospects, tourism renevues are growing steadily, and Croatia is in the midst of negotiations on the full membership of EU. In the foreseeable future it shall become member of NATO and EU. Koštunica should have set his sights on our neighbour: he should have emulated one of the most successful transition governments in our neighbourhood, and with which it should be easy to share a model, if we already share with Croatia common language and past.

It is possible that Koštunica understood that Sanader\'s success was based on his personal understanding of Europe. But therein emereg the problem: Sanader had been active for ten years in the political life of Austria before Tudman invited him to become a Deputy Foreign Secretary, Sanader\'s understanding of Europe is based on serious experience, while Kostunica\'s is based on holidays, study trips, on what he has read about Europe and has been told about it by his friends like Zoran Dindic, Borislav Pekic, but also Desimir Tošic, Kosta Cavoški and Smilja Avramov. One of closest Sanader\'s aides was the former Croat long-standing Ambassador to Washington Miomir Žužul, while Koštunica faced much opposition in his naming of Dragan Maršicanin to the ambassadorial post in Bern.

What would Sanader\'s personality have been like had he spent his whole life in Split, it is difficult to assume, but it is easy to remember the frontmen of the Croat Democratic Community, during the late years of Tudman\'s rule, namely how Ivic Pašalic and his Herzegovina cronies controlled everything, from the cash flow to culture and media. Paradoxically Koštunica managed to emulate pre-Sanader CDC, the one which took care of territories and threatened nation, and allocated money and property to its men of confidence. Now that prompts us to think more seriously about the following: how sincerely is the Serb government embracing and enforcing European standards in the building of free market, in encouraging fair competition, which is its stance on minorities and what kind of cultural contents it promotes. Once one ponders the latter, one realises which Croat model we are emulating.

Serb political elite, well aware of its inability to become an ace in the process of Euro-Atlantic integrations in 2006 devoted itself to the quest for alternatives to that process. Negotiations are underway with Russia on the unique energy budget. Hopefully we shall not make agreements with China on standards relating to the protection of human rights.


NO 97-98

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