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NO 161-162

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 161-162 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 161-162

March - April 2012


Revision of the (Recent) Past


By Aleksandar Sekulovic

The fact that Serbia's and European Union's stands on NATO intervention in 1999 are diametrically opposite is a common knowledge. European Union sees it as a humanitarian action aimed at preventing an impending ethnic cleansing and prosecution of Albanians from Kosovo, whereas Serbia holds that an "aggression" meant to punish Serbia for its iron nerve on the one hand and establish an independent state of Kosovo on the other.

Given that this is not about an inconsequential diplomatic disagreement but an insurmountable gap between two value systems, one cannot but ask himself whether Serbia's accession to European Union makes any sense at all. If EU is a community based on shared values it makes no sense for it to admit someone who holds it an enemy. The same refers to Serbia - why should it join a community it treats as hostile? As it turns out, Serbia's main motive is economic benefit - and that's a motif with a boomerang effect, evident in the case of Greece: it promotes unrealistic expectations among citizens and encourages them to live beyond their means. It creates the illusion that EU funds would make up for every economic blunder but ends up in bankruptcy of a national economy. Having learnt from Greece's dramatic experience EU will no more be so free-handed to those regarding it as a meal ticket only.

Speaking of this, claims that NATO and EU are not the same thing - that Serbia is hostile to NATO but not to EU - hardly hold water as they typically shun a proper answer. NATO and EU are based on the same value system; all major EU member-states actively participated in NATO intervention, while the rest supported it. The fact that, to this very day, the sentence by the Belgrade District Court whereby Schroeder, Chirac, Blaire and other EU statesmen had been punished by years-long imprisonment has declared senseless testifies hostility for NATO is nothing but a cover for strong animosity for EU.

Besides expectations that such different perceptions would be overcome as "time heals all wounds" turned out unrealistic. Rather than being on the wane as years go by NATO intervention is growingly condemned in Serbia with growingly harsh tones and stronger words. And the bottom line is that the Serbia's entire political elite - from the extreme right, through municipal officials to the President of the Republic - has joined hands in this aggravation. A thin layer of "Euro-optimists" Serbs fascism labels "auto-chauvinists" is the only exception.

Here are just some latest examples of this sharpened attitude towards NATO intervention taken from Serb officials' statements in 2011 and 2012.

A hue and cry was raised about the so-called NATO strategic conference in June 2011: NATO was depicted in worst terms. Democratic Party of Serbia was the one to lead the way: it staged protests against the conference of NATO which, as they put it, attacked Serbia. At a rally in downtown Belgrade poet Dobrica Eric said, "NATO is an acronym for Nazi Anti-Russian Terrorist Organization." This raised a cheer among the masses.

Commenting the conference Serb Patriarch Irinej said that NATO had "heavily wounded" the Serb nation and their economy and that the conference itself was "a poisonous cure for these wounds." Speaking about the manner in which he performed his duties, Minister Milutin Mrkonjic said his vigor was due to his work on the country's reconstruction in the "aftermath of beastly bombardment by NATO planes." General Stevan Mirkovic, leader of one of Serbia's communist parties, shares this view. "Why the army does not arrest Gen. Clarke for his criminal bombardment of Serbia in 1999?" he asks.

The general public's and politicians' consensus on the nature of NATO intervention was seemingly undermined only once - in October 2010 when the People's Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Declaration "against the crimes committed against Serb people and citizens of Serbia." The nationalistic opposition protested against the neutral term "NATO bombardment" used in the Declaration, demanding wordings such as "NATO aggression" and "criminal aggression" (Serb Radical Party). The parliamentary majority adopted the Declaration in its original form, aware that the value-neutrality of the disputed term was put-on and only such if one discards the context in which it was used. Given that the Declaration condemns the crimes against Serb nation and citizens of Serbia it is obvious that the parliamentary majority considers NATO intervention a crime and aggression against Serbia. Not long ago, President Tadic confirmed this by voicing the strongest condemnation of NATO intervention. "That war was a crime against our country and our people," said Tadic.

Boris Tadic's stance about NATO intervention is identical to those by Milosevic and Seselj, and their national-socialist regime, which used to turn the blame onto NATO for Serbia's hardship. For, saying that NATO intervention was a "criminal aggression" only logically leads to the conclusion that the Milosevic-Seselj regime is upright in this matter and was just protecting the Serb people from a genocide Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians had planned to commit against it. Consequently, the thesis about a "criminal aggression" is not that much accusing NATO as it justifies the Milosevic-Seselj regime and Serbia's policy in 1990-2000.

Civilian victims and material damage Serbia suffered could formally justify harsh terms against NATO. However, they cannot stand for an argument - a war by itself implies huge losses in human lives and destruction. By such a criterion of a justified war, USSR, US, Great Britain and other Allies would have committed a "criminal aggression" against Germany, Japan and Italy. True, having capitulated in due time Italy managed to avoid heavy losses in human lives although the very destruction of the Benedictine monastery in Cassino and killing of several hundreds of civilians could argue for "a criminal aggression" against fascist Italy by the Allies. And then what about American, British and Soviet planes bombarding Dresden, Berlin, Nuremberg and other German cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and destroying invaluable cultural heritage? Or about nuclear bombs thrown at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

It goes without saying that from a humane point of view all human and material losses are equal. But this is about something else: this is about a tendency to set a political equation, which only logically leads to the conclusion that all parties in the war were the same, equally guilty and, according to Boris Tadic should "apologize to one another." Such equalization is meant to hush up the responsibility of those who had started the war in the first place, and suppress the fact that there would have been no Dresden, Hiroshima, Cassino or Grdelica had it not been for Hitler's nazi plan for a "Great Germany" and extinction of lower races, Japan militarism's ambition to rule the entire Asia, Mussolini's desire to restore Roman Empire and rule in the Mediterranean, and had Serb fascism not revived the "Greater Serbia" project and gone after unification of the "Serb ethnic space." In brief, the purpose of such equalization is to cover up inhumane natures of the regimes that caused wars and the fact that it were these regimes and their unstable leaders that are to blame for sufferings of their own people.

It is only natural that all players of the Milosevic-Seselj regime go in for this equalization in today's Serbia. What is less understandable, however, is that those who came to power after October 2000 and had strongly opposed that regime are now sophisticatedly justifying it. This indicates that the general mindset of the Serb society has not changed at all since 1987-1991 when the so-called communism was discarded and the ideology of "Greater Serb" nationalism accepted in a plebiscite. There were in the Milosevic-Seselj era and there are still today serious differences within this same when it come to who, when and how should realize the project of unification of all Serbs in a single state and settle the Serb question. Occasionally very strong, these differences led to conflicts and even murders - all of which left one under the impression about different political options and disunity about a main national goal. In fact, all the differences within Serb national corps boiled down to relations with Milosevic and to the question whether or not to join hands with him in the accomplishment of the national goal. With Milosevic gone from the scene of politics and life gone was the main cause of dispute: it could be said, therefore, that agreement and unity about the strategy for settlement of the Serb national question are stronger now than in 1987-1991. This is reflected, among other things, in the consensual term "a criminal aggression" for NATO intervention. Yet another fact strengthened this unity: whereas in 1987-1991 the dream about unified Serb lands seemed to be close at hand - and in that name politicians were competing for offices in a new state - competitive spirit waned today. Today authors of the idea about a pan-Serb state are speaking about a long-term goal and a task to be accomplished by some future generations against a changed international backdrop. What could be done at present, they say, is to further fortify national unity about the original project of Serb nationalism and, especially, to raise younger generations in this spirit. Over the past years, this new strategic orientation has shifted the whole of Serbian society, not only its politics, towards the right-wing. Many examples testify of this shift: from unyielding attitude towards Kosovo, permanent destabilization of Bosnia-Herzegovina through the genocidal creation called Republika Srpska, constant destabilization of Montenegro, through rehabilitation of the Tchetnik movement and its leader, Draza Mihailovic, to the media scene brimming with the rhetoric and figures from the time of belligerent chauvinism. Not long ago, Dragoslav Bokan, a prominent exponent of Serb neo-fascism notorious for claiming that "the most sacred duty of any Serb is to spill Turkish blood," appeared as a guest on a talk-show aired by the national broadcaster, RTS. Books by gangsters and war criminals (Ulemek, Lukic, Sljivancanin and the like) are galore.

In conclusion - the stance that NATO intervention was "a criminal aggression" is an integral part of the overall political climate and social mindset and cannot be changed or eliminated without a change in political climate and Serbia's predominant value system. That's a crucial reform Serbia has to undertake on its road towards European Union: it has to undertake it not for the sake of European Union but for its own sake and for the sake of a definite break-up with the Milosevic-Seselj regime and its value system. Serbia's recognition that NATO intervention was a necessary and justified action against an insane regime will prove that this reform has been realized.


NO 161-162

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