SERBIA: FEAR OF EU CANDIDACY
By Sonja Biserko
Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit sobered up the Serb elite about EU
candidacy the regime expects Serbia to obtain this autumn. The key message Merkel put
across was that Belgrade should not count on progressing towards EU integration unless it
normalized relations with Pristina. EULEX should place the entire territory of Kosovo
under its control and Serb parallel institutions in its north have to be dismissed, she
said. In other words, Serbia should accept the Ahtisaari plan, something to which the
statements by US and EU representatives this summer had already hinted at this summer. The
Ahtisaari plan Serbia turned down three years ago envisages a kind of autonomy for North
Kosovo. As things stand the date for the beginning of Serbia-EU accession negotiations
will be conditioned by the plan's acceptance.
The conflict in North Kosovo that broke out when Kosovo authorities
tried to take over the borders crossings with Raska and Novi Pazar completely changed the
EU's and the international community's perception. They finally realized that the status
quo in Kosovo's north was unsustainable and prevented completion of Balkan processes:
consolidation of new states, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the first place, but
Serbia's as well. The international community (US and EU) messaged with one voice that
things would never be as they used to and that any partition scenario was out of question.
Where was Serbia mistaken?
As usual Belgrade hoped that by buying time would force some partition
scenario. Having nothing realistic to offer to voters, the political elite was harping on
Kosovo this summer, the same as it did over the past election campaign. And that was when
Kostunica's Kosovo option lost to the pro-European course advocated by Tadic's coalition.
Then Belgrade saw the crisis within EU as its advantage. It played on
the eurozone crisis to prognosticate a dramatic future for EU, thus only fueling public
manifestations against Europeanization. This indicates that the election campaign is
already on and that great majority of parties hope to win over voters with populism which
questions the European course. Some even go for advocating that Serbia should "remain
an island within EU."
Serb elites, without vision and inoperative, now complain that EU treats
"us as the worst students in its school, lectures us and is unfair: it bombards us
with questions the answers to which are not included in regular curricula and
textbooks." Further, "EU is unjust and has double standards that discriminate
All that EU expects is the respect for the rules applicable to all:
respect for European values and principles, and the Copenhagen criteria. The Serb elite
behave as there must always be a loophole for it just because of its strategic importance.
Its attitude towards EU has been resting on such a premise throughout the past decade.
All this cannot deny the fact that Europe itself faces a crisis:
primarily the crisis of credibility of its political and financial elites. Some European
countries have crossed the red line of European values. This opens the space to radical
currents from the extreme right and the ideologies resting on anti-European sentiments,
autism and exclusiveness. This is what all local players in transition countries, the
Balkan included, pinpoint. Islamophobia is among their common denominators in which Serbia
in particular builds its expectations for Kosovo and Bosnia. An analysis of the tragic
events in Norway and Andreas Breivik's Manifesto that, among other things, invokes Serb
warlords Karadzic and Mladic, is telling enough. The messages of the European extreme
right are simple and as such a major threat to European ideas insufficiently promoted by
European leaders themselves. In their election campaigns they too go in for cheap
populism. Today's Europe obviously has no statesman capable and brave enough to rise above
petty interests and open long-term vistas to nations. And that would necessitate clear-cut
messages against egoism and xenophobia on which the extreme right feeds its growing
However and regardless of all those huge problems within EU, one should
keep in mind that its achievements are way ahead of any other ideology's and that it is a
unique integration worldwide. EU is a project that secured the peace process after the
WWII, Europe's economic growth and its position of the world's biggest trade bloc.
Unless it seriously acknowledges this summer's messages about
unchangeability of borders and regional stability Serbia will be again faced with fait
accomplis that will by itself change the realities in the field. The absence of the rule
of law in Kosovo's north provides legitimacy to criminal and compromised structures that
have nothing to do with the interests of the state of Serbia and Serb nation.
Speaking of EU's role and significance to Serbia one should take into
consideration a larger context and objectively anticipate EU's future course. This is the
more so important since the expected EU candidacy for Serbia should be seen as a part of a
larger process throughout which Serbia will have to adjust itself to all the complexities
of EU integration. Therefore, the upcoming election campaign should focus more on the fact
that in foreseeable future Serbia will be a part of this integration. Serbia had not taken
a responsible attitude toward Yugoslav integrations. Now, after twenty wasted years and
the defeat of such national policy the actual political elite should acknowledge that
Serbia must take the responsibility for participation in international affairs.
Though with much delay EU - Germany in particular - resumes its original
values now in the finale of the Yugoslav crisis. Its actions in the Balkans were those
that made it realize these values are not to be taken for granted - but constantly