PAGE 2/3


NO 107-108

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 107-108 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 107-108

May - June 2007



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.


NO 107-108

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment