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NO 93-94

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Helsinki Charter No. 93-94

March - April 2006



By Teofil Pancic

By paraphrasing a well-know expression of spontaneous humor of the desperate, one might describe the tactics of the negotiations between the EU and Serbian officials on extradition of Ratko Mladic & Co. - conditioning Serbia's association with this organization - as follows: "They make make-believe promises to have him extradited by this day or other, and we pretend to believe them." But as any romance ends this way or another, the odds are that this mutual affectation came to an end in the only logical way: Kostunica's cabinet has failed to meet all deadlines, including those it had set itself, and the EU has found itself in a situation when further tolerance for such conduct would be more harmful to its reputation than to the anyway virtual credibility of the Serbian Premier's cabinet so lenient to The Hague's indictees. Premier Kostunica would rather lead Serbia to a blind alley than, God forbid, arrest some "hero" of ours. If they want to surrender, that's great - we shall help them make their mind. And if they would not, well, that's it. As it seems, it has never even occurred to Ratko Mladic to give himself up. Anyone with a slightest idea about the place we live in and the people surrounding us could have informed Kostunica things would be as they are long ago. Well, the man /Mladic/ has put in so many years, hard work and resources at his hideout and the run for his dear life (far from being alone in his endeavor) and sees no reason why he should now gamble all that away by giving himself up!

Of course, as we are once again going through a period that is "too interesting" for our taste, one should not rule out the possibility of Something Spectacular taking place in the brief interval between the writing and publishing of this story. That's rather improbable, however. Even should it happen, those in charge of it and responsible for it both before domestic public and international forums it would be probably taken aback the most...Even should something hardly imaginable take place - let's say, at this very moment, resigned and tired up Ratko Mladic locks his last refuge, throws the key into some decent person's mailbox, takes a cab to the Serbian government (or the Patriarchal See) and ceremoniously makes himself available - the government would still have to come to grips with the merry storekeeper Hadzic and the rest of the crew. Just remember how much trouble Croatia had with one man only, Ante Gotovina, while Serbia's "stock" amounts to half a dozen. Mladic is the most important, that's for sure, but not the only one.

Be that as it may be, all those Easter and May Day holidays were over, and Kostunica's first working day in the office simply forced him to dehibernate at least inasmuch to address the Nation via a press release (no speeches, no eyeball-to-eyeball contact) wherein he woefully complained that the government had not managed to catch the Srebrenica fugitive, though it so much wanted to, but somehow had not run into him. Had it even run into him, the latter would for sure cross the street - ignoring a red light or a zebra crossing - and there in nothing one could do about it. A man, above all a legalist, is just helpless when faced with such insolence. But foes would not show any compassion for his feelings and take them for justified.

Some might say this is not a matter for fooling around. But I am serious to the marrow. It is the government that fools around with us. The famous Press Release mirrors some of it: we know nothing about Mladic's whereabouts, but we know that he is on his own, as we have caught his accessories to the last man! Well, if you know that he is on his own, you must see him this way or another, don't you? Unless it is about some parapsychological phenomenon, we cannot but conclude that Kostunica is bluffing in every case: either when he claims he knows nothing about Mladic's whereabouts and, therefore, cannot arrest him or when he says he does know. For, he is persistently sending both signals at the same time.

Even should we accept the version that the government had not indeed "located" Mladic, it is to be blamed nevertheless: as it has simply and deliberately lost sight of him, hidden him from itself, so as to avoid the undignified temptation of arresting him.It should be noted that Kostunica's cabinet has not made all this mess by itself. The DOS government bears the same responsibility. Had it behaved in a principled and responsible manner, Serbia would not have to wait till the Doomsday (and a bit longer) for Kostunica to overcome his tummy ache and mental pain related to the arrest of The Hague's indictee for worst war crimes and mass killing. His infamous reference to The Hague Tribunal as "the chief cook and bottle washer" anyway belongs to the far, dark past, today nothing but a successfully overcome stage of the Premier's turbulent intellectual-political development, doesn't it? Well, I wouldn't say so. For, had it been so Kostunica would not be singing for the umpteenth time - in a situation as such - his pitiful and irritating refrain, "Ratko Mladic's surrender would be the best solution of all." True "the best solution" would be should criminals walk into prisons on their own free will and report their own wrongdoings. We might send the police and the judiciary on long, long vacation. This persistent and obsessive attempt to pass over one's own statesmanly responsibility to someone else (for instance, to the "conscience" of someone responsible for thousands of human lives) really offends one's ear, let alone the consequences it implies.

At the moment I write this story, Vice-Premier Miroljub Labus' resignation is the only major consequence of the broken negotiations on association with EU. His party, the G17 Plus, simultaneously announced it would continue backing the government. What does it actually mean? It's a strong, symbolic gesture, and that's all to it. Though symbolism is not to be underestimated in politics, what matters is that this government survives (so far) mostly thanks to the fact cabinet members feels better inside it than outside it, and fear that next elections would clog their landing some other governmental ship.Well, the same as the Serbian Renewal Movement, the G17 Plus had made empty threats to its "oldest" coalition partner before, but this time the things have become serious indeed: if "The Hague-Europe crisis" takes longer than one can bear it (and how bearable is it at all?), Labus & Co. will be forced to take steps that will hardly be symbolic, for the story of Euro-integrations makes the sum and substance of the G17 Plus' identity. Without that story there is no sense for the Party to partake in power unless it wants to lose a handful of its remaining voters.

And what is it Kostunica will do in the meantime? Well, since he already knows that Ratko Mladic is all alone - without a dog or a cat to keep him company - he might drop in for a nice man-to-man cup of coffee and a man-to-man chat, and convince him eyeball-to-eyeball, like a true Serb, to surrender for the Motherland's well-being (and that of Kostunica's self-perception of someone who would "never arrest Serbs in the name of the New World Order"). But what if Ratko Mladic turns him down again? He might even get so furious - that's the man's temper - to take the Premier hostage. Well, that would be rather embarrassing for Our Image but the country's everyday life would go on as usual. The imprisoned Premier would be replaced by those who usually stand in his shoes - the one you've seen at capital-intensive village roads or the one whose seemingly invisible face smiles at you from fiscal bills. Really, why doesn't the EU - rather than wasting its time on Kostunica - kindly ask the bulldozer-terminator-like Dinkic to arrest Ratko Mladic? (He might, for instance, accuse the latter of not paying the added value tax). After all, it's common knowledge that all Dinkic's targets unavoidably end up behind the bars!


NO 93-94

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