EXCHANGE RATE DIFFERENCES
By Bojan al Pinto-Brkic
Eight months ago, the Coalition for European Serbia won the elections on
the platform promising a dynamic agenda for tahe accession to the EU. Six months ago, the
Coalition for European Serbia - with not so insignificant assistance of the West, the
European Commission and the Socialist International in the first place - persuaded the
coalition made by the Socialist Party of Serbia that its program led to prosperity. So
they formed the parliamentary majority and brought forth the cabinet of Premier Mirko
Five months ago, the cabinet formed by the Coalition for European Serbia
and its partners arrested Radovan Karadzic, indicted of genocide and crimes against
humanity, and extradited him to the tribunal in The Hague. In response to Karadzic's
arrest, nationalistic opposition staged a protest in Belgrade, assembling not more than
some ten thousand people. That was a clear sign what course citizens expected the country
to take. Under the pressure of yet another electoral defeat, the Serbian Radical Party
Four months ago, the Serbian Parliament ratified the Stabilization and
Association Agreement with the European Union and the Transitional Agreement by majority
Two months ago, the Serbian cabinet decided to unilaterally implement
the SAA as of January 1, 2009.
A month ago, the official Belgrade reached an agreement with the EU on
deployment of its civilian mission in Kosovo.
And yet, Serbia is in a weird position at the close of 2008. The process
of European integration has not made the expected progress. Serbia even lags behind
Montenegro. Were it not for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia
and Azerbaijan, Serbia would be at the bottom of the list of countries aspiring for a
better future. To all appearances, Serbia's relations with the EU froze the moment it
decided to bring 22 member-states before the International Court of Justice for its
advisory opinion on Kosovo's independence.
Serbia's representatives in international forums were also instructed to
vote against the EU initiatives, which practically means that Serbia shares not the EU's
values, stands and opinions about scores of world issues. One cannot but conclude that our
country doesn't want to join the club that is so different from it - or, has a secret but
honorable plan to change the EU from the inside.
In Serbia, dizzy with diplomatic successes, policymakers speak nothing
about the accession criteria that call for countless things the country should change,
adjust and manifest its ability to implement. Strictly speaking, this makes our chances
rather meager or almost non-existent. The only way for Serbia to join the membership of
the EU in foreseeable future - i.e. before 2020 - is to prove to everyone in the EU that
it geographically, civilizationally, administratively, culturally, as a state and by its
value system belongs to the European family of nations and would not shake the boat too
much once it joins the club if, for some sentimental reasons, its admittance is passed
That means that we should urgently adjust our stands on bigger and
lesser international issues with those of the EU - even at the cost of the Foreign
Ministry departments working overtime.
Since Serbia in most cases has not have any position so far (namely, our
diplomacy believes that the whole world hinges on Kosovo) it would do us good to kindly
ask Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy each to borrow us a foreign policy advisor
for a month or two, who would bring his notes on all major issues dealing with global
economy at least if we find the domains of human rights or collective security that
boring. In the meantime, the Foreign Minister and his subordinates should be instructed
against public appearances. And if someone asks them why it is that they are nowhere to be
seen, they should quote Confucius, "Silence is a true friend who never betrays."
And they should smile with modesty when someone faces them with Francis Bacon's
counter-thesis - "Silence is the virtue of fools."
From all points of view, except that of your ego, you should better be
considered a fool than vote in the UN against condemnation of public executions, torture
and dismemberment, or say in your capacity as Foreign Minister that you know nothing about
the situation of human rights in Iran. It's good for Serbia that it has not needed the
support from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the United Serbia. Otherwise, it would
most probably vote for ban for girls' education, destruction of ancient statues of Buddha
or some other things telling of cultural specificities of friendly regimes. Well, we can
still give our vote to genocide in Darfur...
Our bad position is easily understood. On the hand, Serbia is surrounded
by Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary, the member-states of NATO and the EU. Serbia would not
accept NATO and pledged military neutrality. Bulgaria and Hungary have recognized Kosovo's
independence. On the other hand, Serbia is surrounded by Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Montenegro, Macedonia, and, via Kosovo, Albania. Croatia and Albania are at the threshold
of NATO membership, while Macedonia and Montenegro hope to be there soon.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a dysfunctional state thorn by ethnic and ethno-kleptocratic
motives. Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia have recognized Kosovo's independence.
Serbia has filed a counter lawsuit against Croatia for genocide, whereas Montenegrin and
Macedonian ambassadors in Belgrade have been proclaimed personae non grata.
Even had Kosovo not been the problem of Balkan stability Serbia should
have to seriously reconsider its policy. We are not living in the Middle Ages. Serbia is
not the strongest country in the region. At least three countries in its neighborhood have
economically, military and politically overstepped Serbia. Besides, those countries are in
the membership of the most powerful alliance Serbia officially indents not to join.
From geostrategic point of view, NATO is not far from encircling Serbia.
Given that we cannot rely with certainty on a kind of Russia's Slav air bridge are options
are as follows: 1. To turn ourselves into Switzerland, which implies hard labor; 2. To ask
where to put a signature under a declaration of loyalty, which would be nothing new to us;
and, 3. To apply for full-fledged membership with pomp and circumstance. Sitting on one's
hands and waiting for NATO to vanish on its own is not an option, though that's what we
are doing now.
Last but not least, a real test Serbia's fitness for memberships of the
EU and NATO is its relationship with Croatia - because of historical similarities and
differences, cooperation and conflicts, politics, economy and culture. If Serbia learns
how to live side by side with Croatia, other countries will probably also learn how to
live with Serbia. However, two lawsuits are pending before the International Court of
Justice - one the Court has accepted and another that is still in preparation. Two
lawsuits imply at least another two years of uncertainty for both neighbors.
It would be good to finally start playing fair for the sake of the
future of bilateral relations and both countries' prospects. Belgrade and Zagreb know each
other well enough to be unaware of one another's undercover business. The statement by
Croatian Premier Ivo Sanader should be understood in this sense. He said that Croats would
not treat Serbs as Slovenians treat Croats once Serbia's membership of the EU was on the
agenda. Generally, the policy of obstructing progress of bilateral relations and suing
others does not bring fortune to Balkan nations. President Tadic should keep this in mind
when choosing new cadres for formally or informally reconstructed government much rumored