SERBIA HAS TO BEHAVE
By Sonja Biserko
Serbia got a new cabinet after the three-month bargaining over its
composition. The agreement on the DS-DSS coalition was reached before the January 21
election. It was reached in the informal circle of Dobrica Cosic who gave his blessing to
both Kostunica and Tadic. Basically, the new cabinet is what Serbia is - no more and no
less. Serbia's political landscape was laid bare in the week before the cabinet was
formed. Vojislav Kostunica's attempt to once more scare the world with the Radicals - when
Tomislav Nikolic, deputy of Vojislav Seselj who awaits trial in The Hague, was voted in
parliamentary speaker - failed. All the three accomplices in the vote - Nikolic, Tadic and
Kostunica - considerably lost public support in Serbia. The fact that Nikolic smoothly
resigned and thus, practically in the eleventh hour, enabled the establishment of the
cabinet also testifies that the agreement had already been made. Tadic was consequently on
the carpet in his own party for a part of the membership consistently opposes cohabitation
with the DSS and bargains with the Radicals. The new LDP coalition headed by Cedomir
Jovanovic came out as a moral winner. The coalition seized the opportunity to for the
first time raise some issues in the Serbian parliament. This gave the parliament a new
quality. The questions the LDP placed on the agenda disrupted the unison in all crucial
issues: Kosovo, cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague, regional relations,
indisputable pro-European course, etc.
As usual, the Serbian political class outdid itself while calculating
how to handle Kosovo at the point when its future status was already under discussion, and
how to avoid further integration into Europe. In 2006, the negotiations between Serbia and
the EU were suspended because the Serbian government failed to arrest Ratko Mladic.
Cooperation with the ICTY is a key precondition to Serbia's European prospects. Suspended
negotiations were most welcome pretext to the Kostunica cabinet - for, Serbian strategists
have already came out with the thesis that Serbia need not be in the EU membership after
all. Namely, they take that the EU will disintegrate by 2015 or at some later date when
Serbia is supposed to join in. The thesis about the EU's uncertain future is, therefore,
backed by the one about Serbia's neutrality with reliance on Russia. Russia that all of a
sudden became active vis-a-vis Kosovo considerably contributed to this thesis. But Russia
obviously exploits Kosovo just to reaffirm its role as a superpower. Economically
invigorated and relatively consolidated in political term, Russia resumed some of its
geo-strategic significance. Its internal developments and, in particular, the fact that is
more and more uses oil and natural gas as foreign policy instruments fuel the US' and
Europe's suspicions about the true nature of Putin's regime. On the other hand, the
Serbian political elite are more and more attracted to Russia. Such attitude reflects
different interests as well. The great majority of "successful" businessmen are
closely connected with Russian tycoons and most of them have their headquarters in Moscow.
It is them who present "economic" arguments in favor of Serbia's reliance on
Russia. The West has never really assisted Zoran Djindjic, Serbia can hardly compete on
the world market, etc., they claim.
The logic of the resolution of the Kosovo issue also counts on Russia's
role in the Security Council. Belgrade hopes that Russia would help it postpone the status
issue and thus buy it time to implement its actual plan - the province's partition.
Partition has been Belgrade's only option for 30 years now. Therefore, its strategy for
Kosovo in the past eight years was to prevent Kosovo Serbs' integration into Kosovo
institutions, demonize Albanians and undermine international efforts. And Belgrade's
strategy was mostly successful. Backed by Albanians, the EU and the US, Ahtisaari plan
itself includes some elements of partition, particularly when it comes to
decentralization. However, Belgrade is obviously disinterested in both Serbs and Albanians
- all it cares for is the territory. The imaginary demarcation line has nothing to do with
cultural and religious monuments of the mediaeval Serbia the official Belgrade invokes
when claiming Kosovo or referring to the so-called historical principle. Belgrade is
interested in mines only - in Trepca above all - and is interested in forests and the
public property transferred to Serbia in the Milosevic era. The latter considerably slowed
down the process of privatization in Kosovo.
The sum and substance of Serbia's actual problems derives from its
inability to accept the realities both in the matter of Kosovo and the 1990s
"enterprise" that failed but has not been totally defeated yet. Serbia has
territorial aspirations towards Bosnia, Montenegro and a part of Kosovo. Though these are
nothing but illusions but, as long as new generations are fed with such ideas, Serbia will
remain a frustrated country, unable to cope with itself. This is why the resolution of the
Kosovo question is a matter of urgency - not only for the sake of Albanians but also for
the sake of Serbs. For, that will finally put an end to "old" Yugoslavia's
disintegration and close the chapter of state borders in the region.
No wonder that Serbia has not reached a political consensus on European
option yet. The fact that its political class has sided Milosevic's project could not have
but separated Serbia from the European option. As Euro-Asian political idea was
predominant in the Milosevic era much effort will be needed to get Serbia back on European
track. The EU has been exerting such efforts for the past seven years - it has been the EU
that mobilized Serbia for the European option. With Zoran Djindjic gunned down, Serbia
lost an authentic pro-European reformer, which made the EU's task much harder. Serbia's
membership in CEFTA and Partnership for Peace reflects more the international community's
intention to keep Serbia on European course than Serbia's own political decision.
The outcome of the recent parliamentary election for the first time
faced Serbia with a crucial transitional challenge - to definitely break up with the
legacy of the Milosevic regime or to definitely cement the position that has been blocking
it for more than a decade. Objectively, Serbia has the potential to make a U-turn to
Europe but that necessitates massive mobilization of citizens. Destructive potential of
the conservative bloc is also huge. And here we have a wide range of political factors
that protect Slobodan Milosevic's criminal policy, war profiteers and war criminals. All
war criminals from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo have concentrated in Serbia. Besides, parts
of the army, the police and their services still influence the realities in Serbia. They
crucially obstruct the establishment of Serbia's political scene. Kostunica is a measure
of that bloc's power. The power decreases but still threatens with chaos and anarchy.
Kosovo and The Hague Tribunal are the bloc's major instruments for generating nationalism
s the only national ideology, but also for preventing changes and opening of a social
dialogue on the responsibility for the warring policy.
Taking into account all the limitations of its society and political
elite, Serbia has demonstrated its true reach. Therefore, it's hard to expect it to
thoroughly consider its European prospects and responsibilities, the responsibilities for
the wars and war crimes in the first place. Xenophobic nationalism and the denial syndrome
make up a powerful combination that pushes the society toward a mythic reality.
Serbia's anti-Europeanism is deep-rooted. Therefore, the EU policy of
conditioning is not powerful enough to make Serbia endorse liberal values. What Serbia
needs are new approaches and more time that will bring about new generations capable of
coming to grips with the realities and the legacy of Milosevic's Serbia.