PAGE 2/3


NO 125-126

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

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 125-126 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 125-126

November - December 2008




By Sonja Biserko

The year 2008 ends with a global crisis the proportions of which are still unknown. The origins of the crisis were evident in the constant rush for profit without adequate risk assessment and in the uncontrolled mushrooming of complex financial constructions, as well as in inconsistent macroeconomic policy and inappropriate structural reform. The crisis is an outcome of excessive reliance on liberal mechanisms only. The world, obviously, cannot function by the dictate of a state or a market.

The developed world, however, reacted to the crisis with unusual instinct and speed. It was already on November 15 that the G20 summit conference was convened in Washington to discuss financial markets and global economy. That was the first summit conference of the sort in modern history. It manifested for the first time redistribution of the world's economic and political power, and political rise of the countries such as China, Brazil, Russia and other regional powers. The summit reached an agreement on the origins of the crisis, measures to be taken, common principles for reform, support to an open, global economy and an action plan for the implementation of reformist standards.

Global dynamics emerging from the crisis have bypassed Serbia (so far). This is an indicator that Serbia is in the periphery of global developments. And global dynamics are those that reflect the agility of leading countries in search for a new paradigm that is also necessitated by technological revolution. In this general, global "chaos," Serbia maintained the position of a country wandering in time and space. The Serbian government's reasoning that turbulence would affect not Serbia and sitting on its hands instead of preparing a mitigation strategy for most vulnerable groups also reflect a kind of autism. The crisis will also have secondary effects on the countries that have not been involved in the initial financial crisis.

In a way, the year 2008 was unique for Serbia as well. That was a year of change. It begun with presidential elections in which Boris Tadic won by razor-thin margin. Kosovo's independence declaration followed, and then the Belgrade rally against that independence. February 21, 2008, will be remembered by torched embassies, demolished shops and premises of the Liberal Democratic Party and threats to all those recognizing Kosovo reality. It will be remembered by movie director Emir Kusturica's threats to "the mice hiding in their holes." While the liturgical prayer in St. Sava temple was on, organized groups demolished American and Croatian embassies. That was a message to the world that Serbia would not accept the realities in the Balkans. Vojislav Kostunica then called early parliamentary elections in the hope that the Kosovo issue would secure victory to the Radicals and another premiership to him.

It turned out, however, that citizens of Serbia were ahead of its elite and were gradually changing their priorities. The EU offered Serbia to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which, along with FIAT's offer to the Kragujevac Car Industry, helped Boris Tadic win the elections. Endless negotiations on formation of a new government were finally cut short with a helping hand from abroad. And so, the so-called European government was formed. A sudden arrest of Radovan Karadzic was the first signal to the world that Serbia was ready to make a breakthrough. Karadzic's arrest shook Serb nationalists already shaken by the Radicals' electoral defeat. (The world, too, was getting prepared for the Radicals in power.) Since the Radicals, despite being individually the biggest party, failed to attain their goals in several electoral rounds, the scenario for their split was put in play, aimed at presenting Tomislav Nikolic to the world as an acceptable rightist. The idea behind such rearrangement of Serbia's political scene was to establish a two-party system, i.e. dominance of the Radicals and the Democrats. The process is still underway.

For Serbia as it is, the 2008 electoral outcome is the maximum it could attain. Serbia's elite still reasons by the 19th century matrix, is still fixated on Russia and incapable of adjustment to the new era. So, for instance, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic says that defense of the constitutional order (safeguard of Kosovo), speed-up of accession to the EU (just as a mode of survival) and harmonious regional relations top the list of foreign policy priorities. Bilateral relations with Russia are the most important of all - for, says Jeremic, those relations "last for centuries and are exceptionally close, partner and brotherly." And they are special for their "spiritual dimension." Ergo, membership of the EU and closeness to the Russian Federation at the same time. And that closeness is costly - the section dealing with construction of a pipeline evaporated from the energy contract, whereas realistically and under new circumstances, as Nenad Popovic puts it, the agreed price of the Serb Oil Company /NIS/ will be 118 million Euros instead of 400. The veil of secrecy surrounding negotiations on the pipeline and NIS indicates this is all about compensating Russians for Milosevic's and Marjanovic's loans. According to Popovic, the West is intent to separate Serbia from Russia. For, as he puts it, the alliance with Russia rises Serbia's stock vis-a-vis the EU and generally.

Russia has the interest to keep Serbia as its backyard wherefrom it will occasionally challenge the EU though, realistically, Serbia is not that important in this regard. The ex-foreign minister (in Milosevic's era), Vladimir Jovanovic, seems to perceive things better. He accurately remarks that "the relations between the EU and Russia are better than our relations with either of the two." Russia is by far keener to keep Serbia away from NATO. As of lately, informal military circles are, therefore, being more and more critical about the General Staff's and the Defense Ministry's pro-NATO orientation. To justify Russian expectations in this context, Jeremic argues that, unlike Serbia, no other country in Europe "underwent traumatic experience in its relations with NATO." "NATO bombarded Serbia," says Jeremic without providing the whys. And on that account he expects "recognition of our particularity and all sensibility emerging from it." The conflict between the General Staff and the Defense Ministry (Ponos-Sutanovac) is also in the function of removal of the pro-NATO lobby from the defense system. The ongoing media campaign - that will most probably boil down to a corruption scandal - prepares the terrain for both Ponos's and Sutanovac's deposals. Russia has charged dearly its veto in the Security Council in the Kosovo case and placed Serbia in the same vassal position it used to have vis-a-vis Turkey in the 19th century.

Serbia's relations with its neighbors are more worrisome than its minor part in the global "revolution." For, it is in this micro-world that Serbia reveals that it would not give up its aspirations. Radicalized relations with neighbors, Croatia in particular, are justified by the fact that they have recognized Kosovo. Anti-governmental protests in Montenegro have been staged in the hope to have the country destabilized (but produced a reverse effect). And yet, the situation with Bosnia-Herzegovina is the most delicate. After Bosnia-Herzegovina's recognition of Kosovo Milorad Dodik was tasked with radicalizing the situation in the country inasmuch as possible and curb "the silent revision of the Dayton Accord" - all that in the hope that at some point the international community would wash its hands of Bosnia-Herzegovina. So a century-long dream of Serb nationalists would come true: annexation of Republika Srpska.

Serbia dichotomy and inability to take a realistic stand towards the EU, instead of neutrality, are mirrored in all spheres: in the Parliament, the government, the army, the Church and almost all institutions that are traditionally allied when it comes to Serbia's strategic course. All those institutions undergo anomy but are also - at the same time - split between reforms and regression.

The Serb Orthodox Church that - along with the army - traditionally enjoys high reputation among Serbs has been trying to elect a new patriarch for a year now. It was Bishop Grigorije who put an end to the conflict going on behind the scenes. In an open letter he said, among other things, that the state (as usual) tries to influence the profile of the Serb patriarch to be. By this conflict too, the traditionally conservative and almost regressive Serb Orthodox Church reveals how huge the obstacles to reforms are.

Serbia's inability to give the upper hand to pro-Europe orientation - in the areas of politics, military and religion - cannot but lead to the conclusion that the country needs assistance, primarily from the EU. The ongoing maintenance of Serbia at an existential minimum via direct support to the pro-European government nourishes Serb elite's delusion about its aspirations for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Conditioning with extradition of Ratko Mladic is, therefore, counterproductive at this stage as it can only wear out the country's anyway small democratic potential. Actually, Mladic's role is the one of blocking the process of Serbia's accession to the EU. Bearing in mind the international constellation, the EU should take a fresh approach to the Western Balkans. Bosnia-Herzegovina should have been given a candidate status for EU membership way back, since such a status would buffer official Belgrade's undermining. The same applies to other countries in the region. An isolated Serbia suits Russia (to some extent) and a part of the Serb elite only. The latter thus protects itself from accountability, lustration and transparency. Liberal elites in both Serbia and the region are not strong enough to make the European option prevail - and that is why the EU needs to develop a new strategy for the Balkans.


NO 125-126

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







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment