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NO 115-116

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Helsinki Charter No. 115-116

January - February 2008


In the Wake of Kosovo's Independence


By Ivan Torov

As it seems, only in Serbia's "reality" a repeat of one historical experience is not seen as a farce. If the three-month bombardment of Serbia and the loss of its sovereignty over the province was the cost of the first "battle of Kosovo" in 1999, the cost of Kosovo's latest departure - some call it final, others claim that nothing is definite unless Serbia says so - can only be estimated but not measured until the realities are acknowledged and accepted. The more the truth is kept away, the bigger the damage caused and harder to repair.

Every loss is hard to bear, but the loss that repeats itself in a relatively short period equals a national drama for the perplexed, divided and deeply confused Serbia. Proclamation of Kosovo's independence of February 17 and ensuing recognition of a new state by the most relevant countries in the West was a denouement that now makes the question of whether such an outcome of two-year unsuccessful negotiations actually put an end to the longstanding disintegration of the Yugoslav state less important than an in-depth debate on the whys for Serbia's loss of Kosovo. And on why is it that the Serbian national policy that has been working conscientiously, for years and decades, on its defeat in Kosovo of all places does not even try to learn a lesson from such a devastating denouement.

The paradox is that by establishing continuity with the catastrophic policy of Slobodan Milosevic at the point of history when distancing from that past was imperative for new, democratic forces and national awakening, the Serbian national and political "elite" practically took back Serbia to the starting line. Fiery speeches by Premier Vojislav Kostunica, "spontaneously" organized assaults by mobilized football fans and professional patriots from the multiplied clerical-nationalistic groups and organizations, "happening of the people" in the form of a reprisal for the Euro-American "snatching and tear of the holy Serbian land," bombs in Northern Mitrovica, demolition of foreign diplomatic missions and companies, persecution of political opponents - all those are the symptoms of the worst possible scenario: Serbia's collective sacrifice and suicide.

If Kostunica ululates that Kosovo is "priceless," if his words start the media orchestrated avalanche of patriotic brainwash and the alarming wave of violence, and promote the atmosphere of threats and fear, if all that so much resembles the national homogenization of the second half of 1980s, if Gazimestan, in a way, has its repeat in Orasac, in the Serbian parliament or at Belgrade squares, what else would be more logical than to conclude that Serbia is being again pushed into an ambience of permanent, though undeclared state of emergency? The purpose of the latter is to "rearrange" domestic political scene so as to turn the region, once again, into the Balkan powder keg. Extraordinary or extreme measures can produce nothing good for Serbia in Kosovo - now closed for the state of Serbia - but can entrench more firmly the devastating ideological and nationalistic matrix Kostunica promotes. The maneuver begun a year and a half ago, at the moment the DSS leader realized his position was weaker and weaker, and he was losing ground. He raised the issue of Kosovo in the worst possible way - the outcome of his approach was quite predicable - he stopped Serbia's movement towards the world and proclaimed himself a messiah who would restore Serbia's "honor and dignity" and, of course "territories." Zoran Djindjic's assassination provided him with a large room in which to maneuver and establish himself, at Serbia's chaotic political scene, as the strongest and unavoidable political figure. As Serbia's new master, some say and they are in the right. And all that despite a series of his and Serbia's defeats. Whatever he took upon himself was doomed - from disintegration of the FRY (with him as the President) and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro to overt obstruction and defamation of The Hague Tribunal and Serbia's course to the European Union. He was a staunch opponent of Montenegro's independence, even stauncher "fighter" against Kosovo's independence. But, as it turned out, it was mostly thanks to him that we got three states instead of one: Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. And there are good chances that what remained of Serbia will become a merchandise to bargain with both domestically and internationally.

Faced with yet another heavy defeat (in Kosovo), Serbian nationalism will do all in its power to garnish this disaster with "historical victory of Serbia that will do its utmost to restore Kosovo within its constitutional order." As of February 17 the Radicals have been announcing "continued struggle," the Socialists have been calling Bosnian Serbs to "shake" Bosnia-Herzegovina, the populists have been waiting for the opportunity to organize an all-inclusive boycott in Kosovo and thus turn the situation over there even more complex, while the Democrats have been confused and on defensive: making some concessions all the time, torn between the wish to maintain Serbia's European course, whatever that might be, and the fear of being labeled traitors if they insist too much on that course. And the fear of losing their newly attained image of yet another national populist party.

And yet, everything boils down to the strategy the concerned Kostunica-Tadic-Nikolic troika had coined: to retain Kosovo, Serbia and the entire region in the state of chronic tension and instability. Serbia "annulled" Kosovo's Declaration on Independence and announced a general blockade of this "false" state in the UN, OEBS and the Council of Europe. Its decision against an economic blockade on Kosovo is actually an attempt to secure the room for even stronger political influence in the territory of the "self-proclaimed independent state." In parallel, it announced a general boycott of Kosovo institutions, UNMIK and EULEX. Unless the incited confrontation is not restrained and modified in due time, Serbia will find itself in conflict with Kosovo Albanians, their state and the international community. Under such circumstances the official Belgrade will do the remaining Kosovo Serbs an ill turn. The latter are expected not to leave their homesteads and, at the same time, be victims of yet another ideological and authoritarian stratagem of Belgrade politicians. Turning a blind eye to the fact that something very important took place in Kosovo despite all is nothing but a continuation of the old policy that would recognize neither defeat nor reality and thus shun historic responsibility of its masterminds.

When some of our pro-European and moderate politicians say they have nothing against an EU mission in Kosovo, with the blessing of the UN Security Council, and simultaneously, through Russia, do everything in their power to hinder such a decision, than it's perfectly clear what kind of policy they pursue. Their policy is hypocritical and insincere. The motives behind it are aimed at destroying rather than on building bridges. True, such policy occasionally turns successful but in the short run: it only briefly hinders the possibility of some solution. In the long run, however, it ruins Serbia's prospects for overcoming this umpteenth challenge without too much repercussion. It seems that, in this context - on the eve of proclamation of Kosovo's independence and in the wake of presidential elections in Serbia - it was the "pro-European winner," President Tadic who inflicted Serbia the hardest blow. By accepting Kostunica's ultimatum to have Serbia's European course "postponed for a time" ("until we defend Kosovo"), he practically greenlighted the foxy populist-radical monkey business according to which Serbia's European future will be placed on the agenda once we restore Kosovo. Which means never or at least not in the next hundred years. So, hasn't Serbia, in its time-tested style, turned against itself once again?


NO 115-116

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