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NO 125-126

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


Helsinki Charter No. 125-126

November - December 2008


Aleksandar Vucic Revisits Croatia


By Nastasja Radovic

Our politicians would not understand that concern for one's own "nation" is neither the ultimate goal of political excellence nor the highest standard of contemporary world. The mantra about people knowing all answers, Slobodan Milosevic had introduced into his career of a successful socialist apparatchik through back door, did not disappear with his defeat or passing away. Over 90 percent of political opposition competed with his over it in 1990s. The mantra became a Bible of Serb politics in the late 20th century. Things have not changed much today. Politically anachronous and life-threatening, this "concept" is still a winning card over here. By this concept Vojislav Kostunica was chosen for Milosevic's rival and the ensuing Serb policy under Kostunica mostly counted on that card. The incumbent Serbian President often refers to "my people" and more often than not when it comes to some major issue. For him, people does not imply modern interpretation of nation with interdependence between citizens, their state and its constitutional order but a picture of the Middle Ages idyll - wars, refugees, exiles, folklore and houses with nothing but fireplaces and pots...

COPY-PASTE SYSTEM: However, things become even complex for someone who abandons the political option overtly advocating the ideology of "blood and soil" as it happened to Radicals' front men, Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic. When they realized they were in a blind alley and that even Milosevic's spiritual son, Ivica Dacic, would not socialize with them (though his rival, Vojislav Kostunica, would) they cut off the umbilical cord. Of course, Seselj helped them a lot to make the decision. Vucic's case is not that clear, but he had done everything in his might for Nikolic to stop being a Radical. Having recognized the EU as a major political and economic factor, the two established a new political party obviously in search for something in Serb political history that would at least to some extent satisfy their new-old appetites. The handy name they chose, "progressists," once opponents of Pasic's Radicals, suited them perfectly. The only difference is that their political platform is inasmuch comparable with Progressists' as Seselj's one is with Pasic's Radicals. However, some similarities should not be discarded just like that. In their time, Progressists, modernists of the 20th century, were nothing like Nikolic's party today though the latter has grasped their name. And yet, aren't our contemporaries loyal to the spirit of Garasanin's political program, Nacertanije? This is probably why the second in command of the Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, not long ago set himself for a holiday tour of "Serb territories" in Croatia ignoring all warnings that he was unwelcome there. The spirit of Nacertanije in the struggle for liberation and unification is still with those "regressors," the spirit of time bygone and obsolete ideas and policies. For, what makes a hallmark of one era is harmful for some other and harmful for understanding of society and politics. It were the Serbs in the territories Vucic toured that witnessed that in full splendor. Faking generosity and understanding Vucic was trying to communicate with some returnees over his progressive tour - in the surroundings of Zadar, in Knin, Kistanje, Gracac, Korenica.But his tour turned into a fiasco. True, Vucic managed to collect some grievance and appeals, and see for himself the outcomes of the policy he had blindly followed as a young political arriviste. And he could produce a "justification" of sorts - in 1995 and before Seselj's party had not been in official alliance with Milosevic's. The difference between the two was that the former was advocating publicly what Milosevic was still doing secretly to a certain extent. Cooperation with the Socialists was not just a "scheme" at the time but a partnership in a manipulating war and other projects of the Serb dictator who needed Seselj's men for his dirty jobs.

OBLIVION IS NOT A REMEDY: Vucic, who joined Seselj in political rallies in Knin and Dvor na Uni in 1995, says he went there to manifest support for Krajina Serbs' right to chose, like Croats, the state to live in. The only internationally recognized subject over there, he says, was the SFRY. The Progressists are obviously intent to so overmaster the Radicals' "stretching of theses" until it becomes sick oblivion. So Vucic planned his two-day visit to Serbs in Croatia just as a chatter with a handful of returnees, the more so since officials of Serb parties the same as the Serb Cultural Society Prosvjeta had avoided to meet with him. But for him that was not a problem at all. Jibber jabber was much easier than confrontation with Serb politicians in independent Croatia and being called on the carpet. The turncoat hostage to Seselj's grandeur and his most meticulous mimic can easily, like many our politicians, stand before some hundred old men and women and admit he was only young and knew nothing. Now he has grown up, waved goodbye to Seselj and bravely faces the life. And not any life but a life in the limelight because of which many wise men will spend sleepless nights. Therefore, it is easy to deal with the people living around neglected "hearths," in poverty and haunted by memories. "We will readily listen to their worst criticism of our silence and bad behavior in the past 13 year, and to apologize to them for Serbia's doing nothing for them," he said before he set himself for the trip. Vucic forgets that 13 years are not that short period of time and that bad behavior is not a passable grade. When at age of 24 he accepted a generous offer for the office of the secretary general of the Serbian Radical Party - and before that for a MP in the Serbian Parliament - everything looked much simpler in the midst of wars and general disaster. How that wars are over - but his visits "coincides" with Croatia's lawsuit and Serbia's counter lawsuit in The Hague - he is ready for big deeds. "No one shall maltreat me and pull my ears. They can only kill me for my different stands, since I still hold that Storm and Flash operations were ethnic cleansing," he said.

How does Aleksandar Vucic feel in his new skin of a humanitarian and a Serb European? We shall probably learn that one fine day, but not soon. For, not only "all avenues are open to him" but he has also just started the PR campaign for his party's and his own new image. And so, though escorted by the police assessing his visit as a one of "high political intensity" he put on benevolent attire for cameras and even more for "people."

He promptly denied any notion about his visit being aimed at establishment of some party base among Croat Serbs. All he was sending, he said, were "human rather than political messages." He messaged Croats that the best policy was the one "with all cards open," he appealed for and offered "responsibility, seriousness and concern for the future, along with detailed and thorough consideration of the past." He lectured with "low intensity" both Belgrade and Zagreb. "Things can get off the ground only through open dialogue," he preached. He took pity on the killed at Ovcara nearby Vukovar, one of the counts of the indictment against his old and worn out idol, he waved away the protests from some exile government of Republika Srpska Krajina, he was amazed when they mentioned a crime against Croats in Skrbinja nearby Zadar. My god, exclaimed the sadly misinformed Vucic complaining about the actions of the people with whom she used to share a mentor. For, progressive as he is now, politically and generally, he grasped (which seems to happen to people after adolescence) that the famous line of Serb sovereignty in Croatia was nothing but a youth fantasy.

However, it skipped his mind that in Knin he and Seselj had organized a protest against the "Z-4" plan, the denial of which definitely removed all barriers for Croatia to act against Republika Srpska Krajina. He doesn't take himself responsible. "It was not Serbia that demolished these houses but Croatia, and it was not Serbia that expelled those people but Croatia," he said trying to hide that his unexpected and unwelcome visit was a component part of a new radical-populist agenda. That's why he wonders anxiously - why should a representative of the second biggest party in Serbia sharing the same goal with big Croat parties, accession to the EU, be unwelcome in Croatia? He also presented himself to Croat Serbs as a critic of the incumbent Serb government, but also as a messenger from Krajina. "I will inform the government about the situation of returnees, your problems and your expectations from Belgrade," he promised.

PROGRESSISTS' STRATEGY: Notable concern for Serbs in neighboring countries is a backbone of policies pursued by both the government and the opposition, and not only the opposition that used to "liberate" throughout the former Yugoslavia. Of course, the most telling example of such concern is Republika Srpska. However, Republika Srpska has suppressed the Radicals from its political scene as its incumbent government has turned "radical" in many issues. And not only because of the international community and the High Representative but also because of the struggle for power in which the High Representative had played into the hands of the Serbian Radical Party (the case of the short-lived presidential mandate of Radical Nikola Poplasen). Montenegro is not exactly an ideal terrain because of the experience similar to that in Republika Srpska. So, the Serb issue in Croatia makes a perfect case: human rights, EU, Storm and Flash operations, Croat nationalism. In brief, it brims with opportunities.

Serbs from Croatia that now mostly live in Serbia - in better or worse circumstances - brought Nikolic and the Radicals some hundred thousand votes in 2007. Once they obtained Serbia's citizenship and voting right they opted for Nikolic and Vucic. Why shouldn't they do it again for the new party the two formed on the grounds of many new and many old promises? That's why he strongly opposes any insinuation that he feels the ground for new followers in Croatia while avoiding the existing competition inasmuch as it avoids him. Milorad Pupovac, Serb leader in Croatia, says he advised Vucic to postpone the visit because of inappropriate political moment in the relations between Serbia and Croatia, but also to prepare it "in some other way." "The fact that Aleksandar Vucic knows not about the crimes committed in Skrbinja means that he has not prepared himself for the visit or is not ready to face up /the crimes/," comments Pupovac Vucic's tour somewhat euphemistically.

Indeed, his visit to Croatia was hardly motivated by troubled mind and wishes to improve bilateral relations and Serbs' position. He is well aware that he is politically totally unfit for that. He went there to see what it is Croat Serbs - both returnees and those living in Serbia - can still offer him.


NO 125-126

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