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NO 129-130

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 129-130 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 129-130

March - April 2009



Extorting a more realistic tack

by Sonja Biserko


Twenty years on, after proclamation of independence of Kosovo, the process of disintegration of Yugoslavia was completed. Serbs in the wake of disintegration of Yugoslavia, as Dobrica Cosic has once put it, were compelled to find a state-political form of resolution of their national issue. In the 90's of the 20th century Cosic was of the opinion that in that regard the best solution would be a federation of the Serb countries, encompassing "not all Serbs, but rather all Serb ethnic areas." Having in mind such a defined and accepted goal, the Serb elite rejected the outcome of disintegration as defined by the internatonal community. Namely, the Badinter Commission, having in mind the AVNOJ borders (and the 1974 Constitution) defined criteria for recognition of the newly-emerged countries and recognized the right to self-determination to the republics and not to peoples who lived in them.

However, Serbia still hopes that in the midst of the global chaos it shall realize its intentions relating to re-composing of the Balkans. Cosic still maintains that the Balkans cannot be europeized "until it is defined in ethnic and state terms." According to Cosic, "the US and modern-day European philosophy on multi-ethnic states and societies in the Balkans, notably in the areas of Bosnia and Kosovo, in fact represents a manifestation of violence and a new form of colonization". Judging by his recent interview to Washington Times, the youngest spokesman of the Serb nationalistic camp, Vuk Jeremic, understood well the aforementioned statement of Cosic. Namely Jeremic said that "it is yet to be decided whether development of democracy shall be allowed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ...or ultimately it will be admitted that Bosnia is not a state, but, rather a protectorate." Jeremic went on to note: "Perhaps we indeed need the foregoing, but then let's stop pretending that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a genuine state." Or, as Cosic would put it: "The only, most humane, and most democratic solution would be to recognize to the Serbs the right to self-determination."

Serb nationalists have to a large extent succeeded in their intent: they imposed the ethnic principle as an exclusive criterium for settlement of all territorial disputes. Namely by dint of war campaigns they rounded the Serb territories, ethnically consolidated them and are now awaiting a better opportunity for unification. In the course of two decades, in the shadow of wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, they achieved ethnic consolidation of Serbia proper. An unwaning militant, right-wing nationalistic radicalism, xenophobia and hatred of others (including minorities), reduced the minorities to the minimum, with a trend to further downscale their percentage. After having nearly attained all their goals, the Serb elite finds it unacceptable to renounce a unique historic opportunity to finally "liberate Bosnia" and round the Serb ethnic space, even at the price of disintegration of Serbia proper, as the things stand now. On the one hand, a continuing agony caused by the economic crisis, and on the other hand- a victory within reach. German historian Holm Zundhauzen in his important book "History of Serbia from the 19th to the 21st century" has lucidly concluded that "history of Serbia would have unfolded differently if her elites had been interested in arrangement of the state, and not in its territorial expansion. Serbia could have been a highly developed country, but that goal was sacrificed in the name of a great idea, which in the 90's of the 20th century made Serbia regress for a whole century."

However, the global crisis has impacted the Serb government. As early as in the wake of the February 2009 Davos Economic Forum, the government representatives started talking more favourably about the EU and NATO. Financial collapse of Russia seemed to have had a sobering effect on the EU-inclined part of government and those top echelons manifesting solidarity with the Western Balkans countries. But the newly-acquired realism, exhorted by the collapse and bankruptcy of the country, was belated with respect to the chances once offered to Serbia in exchange for its more constructive stance on Kosovo and Serbia's neighbours. That realism was also belated because there is still a lot of economic uncertainty in the EU countries. Thus Tadic's slogan "Both Kosovo and EU" increasingly sounds like "neither Kosovo nor EU".

Serbia is clearly the leader among the countries which have no sense of their own future. In the gravest international circumstances, Serbia today must fight for its survival in the face of unpleasant outbursts of its Foreign Secretary, every day political and other graft-related scandals which lay bare the depth of corruption, persistent denial of crimes committed against Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians, Serbia's moral insensivity, persistent blackmailing of neighbours and international community, arrogance towards international officials and Serbia's citizens, conceit and primitivism, refusal to accept anti-Fascism as an European achievement, radicalism which threatens all and sundry, xenophobia and inability to effect a critical re-appraisal of its moves. All the foregoing only accelerates an internal rotting.

Danger of fragmentation and destabilization of Serbia proper may be pre-empted only by a swifter integration of the country into the European-Atlantic top institutions and organizations. Hence the debate "NATO: yes or no" is well-timed and most welcome. Croatia's and Albanian's entry into NATO is an utterly new strategic challenge for Serbia, since that event essentially alters its neighbouring milieu. If Serbia fails to soon take a decision on accession to NATO, or on meeting conditions for the position of candidate for the EU membership, it shall remain a segregated and sidelined island, sufficiently neutralized not to pose a danger to its neighbours. If Serbia does not want to remain such an island, it should, in a short-term alter its stances on Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, co-operation with the Hague Tribunal, and internal arrangement of Serbia proper. Any further vacillation in that regard, additionally lessens Serbia's chances to latch on the last train to the world. Jospeh Biden, the US Vice President, shall soon visit the Western Balkans coutnries, and during that visit shall make it clear that the US stand firm on the issue of the Balkans stability. Without the US engagement the map of the Balkans would have looked different, probably more similar to Cosic's idea of the Balkans re-composing. Biden's forthcoming visit is in parallel a chance for Serbia, after nearly two-decades long conflict with the US, to finally normalize relations with the still leading country in the world, to accept the values which have to a large extent been called into question by a global economic downturn, and finally start participating in international relations in a constructive and creative way.


NO 127-128

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