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NO 159-160

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 159-160 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 159-160

January - February 2012




By Sonja Biserko

Having met the preconditions for EU candidacy Serbia has finally - after three decades - declared its strategic affiliation. The EU candidacy marks the end of the policy that brought Serbia to a blind alley and total isolation - the policy stemming from misinterpretation of international circumstances in 1989-91. Disintegration of the bi-polar world created the space, as Zbigniew Brzezinsky put it, for the changing distribution of global power and the new phenomenon of massive political awakening intensified, each in its own way, the volatility of contemporary international relations. Having realized that it could not control the entire Yugoslavia Serbia saw this as an opportunity to tailor the Balkans to its aspirations. It took the international community years and years (and still does) to cut Serbia down to size, which it resisted strongly even after Milosevic's ouster.

It took time for the international community to realize that a part of Serbia's new democratic regime was pursuing the same policy only by "other means." Zoran Djindjic and his small circle tried to direct Serbia towards Euro-Atlantic integrations. He paid for it with his life - for, the national project had to be rounded off. Against all odds, his vision was reincarnated in the Liberal Democratic Party /LDP/ and in some segments of this own, Democratic Party. So in 2008 Serbia signed SAA. Consequently, it adopted a series of pro-European laws, established various independent agencies, proclaimed its priorities such as struggle against corruption and organized crimes, arrested and extradited to the ICTY the accused war criminals and so on. However, little has been done in a bigger picture. Serbia stagnated - came almost to the brink of regression - under the influence of its powerful anti-European bloc and due to inadequate human resources. Serbia's stagnation cannot be ascribed only to the global financial crisis because it mostly stems from the country's inability and a lack of political will for thorough reforms.

The issue of Kosovo was activated in the last year of the incumbent government's term: that was an attempt to profit from turbulent international circumstances and the international community's lesser interest in the Balkans. The entire 2011 was marked by actions aimed at partition of Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, destabilization of Montenegro and undermining Vojvodina's autonomy. However, anti-European bloc's activism finally awakened the international community, Germany and US in the first place. German Chancellor Angela Merkel obstructed Serbia's EU candidacy on December 9, 2011, intent to first have the process of Kosovo's independence recognition and stabilization of the Balkans rounded off. Though caught unawares for such counterattack, Serbia's strategists knew that was what stood in the way of EU candidacy.

Russia's role that marked Serbia's political scene in 2011 was crucial for survival of the obsolete option. The government and the President of the Republic (whom Russia trusts not) were forced to choose between "both Kosovo and Europe" policy and EU candidacy. The question was how to get out of the North Kosovo "trap" involving almost all political players. All of a sudden the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue intensified and, in relatively short period, Serbia fulfilled minimal conditions for EU candidacy (free movement for EULEX and KFOR in the entire territory of Kosovo, integrated control of border crossings and Kosovo's representation at regional forums). To avoid any mention of the fact that "both Kosovo and Europe" was a debacle in the midst of the election campaign the ruling elites invented all sorts of explanations in interpretations for this sudden change of mind.

In the past months, particularly since December 9, 2011, the anti-European bloc has gone on the offensive to prevent EU candidacy. The book "Why Serbia rather Than European Union" by Vojislav Kostunica, leader of DSS, has been promoted by almost all the media. The contents of the book actually stand for the bloc's program that rests on ideology of Dobrica Cosic and academicians that are stepping down slowly as Serbia's mainstream. The influential Politika daily was publishing Kostunica's book in installments - and this indicates that the media, uncertain about candidacy, were generally in favor of his option. In fact, Kostunica's omnipresence testifies of deep anti-European feelings among national institutions such as Academy of Arts and Sciences, Serb Orthodox Church, the army and the University. This is also illustrated by the fact that the recently appointed head of general staff, Ljubisa Dikovic, has a war career that is unacceptable for NATO and EU partners. This "cuckoo in the nest" is supposed to undermine Euro-Atlantic integration as well as Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac.

Eventually rational thinking prevailed within EU itself: it's better to have Serbia involved in the accession process than left out as a potential crisis factor with reliance on Russia.

The agreement Belgrade and Prishtina reached created preconditions for both Kosovo's and Serbia's speedier movement toward European integration. Serbia obtained candidacy, while Kosovo negotiations on free visa regime and a green light for feasibility study. This places Kosovo on the road to EU the sections of which other Western Balkan countries have already left behind.

In his recent statement President Tadic himself has hinted at possible change of policy. In an interview with the Press daily he said while commenting on Dobrica Cosic's role in 1990s, "They (Dobrica Cosic and Ljubomir Tadic, his father) thought constitutional amendment should precede democratization. I think that was a big mistake as they missed a chance for a radical turn. A rational solution for Yugoslavia's disintegration could have been found, we could have avoided all that evil. But that simply did not happen."

Sure, his statement does not touch on Serbia's main responsibility for the wars but it matters nevertheless to all those aware of the fact that Serbia was the first secessionist republic that started Yugoslavia's disintegration. This fact is being swept under the carpet now that we witness a memory reconstruction on a quite different scale. For instance, Angelina Jolie's movie "In the Land of Blood and Honey" has only recently come to Serbia's theaters. However, the campaign against it that has been on in Serbia for months only reminded the world of the war in Bosnia. An action by the international community could be expected and that is exactly what the Belgrade campaign wanted to prevent.

"Experts" assembled in the International Initiative to Monitor Anti-Serbism decided that the entire film was brimming with anti-Serb sentiments.

"Serb politicians and this kind of propaganda are the ones that impose collective guilt on Serbs. People who negate crime are themselves victims of such propaganda. Those who know something about crimes but say nothing are simply accomplices or criminals themselves," wrote an anonymous woman from Prijedor who dared to screen Angelina Jolie's movie in her apartment.

All in all, EU candidacy is a major step forward for Serbia. This is why Vojislav Kostunica's and other conservatives' response is so strong. New stumbling blocs in the way to EU are not to be excluded. Serbia has been wandering for too long to proceed smoothly now.


NO 159-160

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