THE CIRCLE IS CLOSED
By Sonja Biserko
The victory of the Serb Progressive Party and its leader, Tomislav
Nikolic, in May 2012 elections laid bare Serbia's grim reality: Serb nationalism is a
constant. The international community's political engineering had reached the point after
which it was ineffective. Once again it became clear that the changes in 2000 had been
cosmetic and touched not the foundation of Milosevic's legacy. All attempts at changing
this legacy were brutally curbed (assassination of Zoran Djindjic, consequent ruination of
the Democratic Party, demonization of the Liberal Democratic Party and its leader, etc.).
The international community, as well as the great bulk of Serbia's political elite, would
not fundamentally analyze the situation of Serbia nor were ready to do it. Nationalism, as
Serbia's predominant ideology, implying regional aspirations, prevented a rational
consideration of the consequences of Milosevic's policy. Nikolic's electoral triumph means
a legitimate comeback of key figures of the Milosevic era - in politics, culture,
education, economy, etc.
The hookup between the so-called left-wing and the extreme right wing
took Serbia back to the beginning at where it all started: to the time when Milosevic
homogenized all political forces on Serb national program. Besides, the two political
options that won out - the Progressists and the Socialists - have always been close to
Russia Milosevic had relied on it ever since he came to power. The infamous Eight Session
of the League of Communists of Serbia and "anti-bureaucratic revolution" would
not be possible without a support from Russia. Disintegration of USSR prevented Russia
from getting more involved in Serbia in 1990s. Nevertheless, the illusion about Russia's
support persisted. It once again became a reality with Putin enthroned and Kremlin's
revived imperial ambitions.
True, circumstances have changed since the wartime. But even against
such a changed backdrop the official Belgrade remains obsessed with territories and
recomposition of the Balkans. It hopes international constellation would change in favor
of its obsession. EU, US and NATO have obviously not been convincing enough - their
irresolution about Bosnia in the first place and leniency to Belgrade have been only
fueling Belgrade's aspirations.
With few phrases only new President Tomislav Nikolic managed to raise
hue and cry in the region. After his statements such as "Vukovar is a Serb
town," "There was no genocide in Srebrenica," "I recognize Montenegro
but not Montenegrins who are actually Serbs" or "Serbia would never recognize
Kosovo," regional leaders decided as one not to show up at his inauguration. The
effects of his longstanding maxim "Both Russia and EU" are already evident -
membership of EU is no longer on the priority list, whereas that of NATO definitely no
longer an option.
One can already tell a "personnel" profile of a new
government. People who would have been banned from public service under an effective
lustration law are making a comeback now. Their comeback will inflict a blow on all levels
of the administration.
"I am a nationalist and I am fed up with Euro-fanatics," says
Ivica Dacic today. This is not just a trope, as some might see it: this clearly indicates
the sum and substance of the policy his bloc stands for.
Taken together, several recent events - such as marking of the Battle of
Kosovo at Gazimestan on St. Vitus Day, marking of the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize
for Ivo Andric (construction of "Andric-city" in Visegrad, orchestrated by
director Emir-Nemanja Kusturica), Dodik conferring a medal on Kostunica, address by
Patriarch Irinej at Gazimestan ("Serb Kosovo will resurrect like Jesus") or the
Gendermerie's ceremonial plegde composed by its commander, Bratislav Dikic - clearly
indicate the future government's attitude towards Republika Srpska, Kosovo, EU and NATO.
The attitude towards Republika Srpska is most indicative. One can tell
that political energy is being concentrated on Republika Srpska. "Serbia's progress
and the progress of Republika Srpska, and interests of the Serb nation are our utmost
national goals. I only hope I have helped Republika Srpska to become what it is today and,
especially, to what it can be and will be tomorrow," said Vojislav Kostunica at the
Market economy and competition are not in the interest of tycoons who
are also tied to Moscow. Serbia's accession to EU, therefore, can hardly be in their best
interest. Besides, their links to Russia implicate that they must owe a lot to Moscow.
What also needs to be taken into consideration are the expectations of
the new government's gray zone: they look forward to Serbia's restored sovereignty in
Kosovo till 2015 (for them, this also implies Macedonia's and Montenegro's unification
with Serbia, as these two countries are too small to hold in independence), to cooperation
with Russia and the East on equal footing, to a new Serb leader and Nikolic's
understanding for this imperative, to favoritism of state-orchestrated economy (implying
contracts with Russia, especially on arms sale) and, of course, they look forward to
reduction in Serbia's relation with EU. The Army will face the biggest challenge as it has
undertaken most reformist moves. Recent tragic deaths of two cadets were used to trigger
of a campaign against army reforms and professionalization on the one hand, and for
restoration of a regular army on the other. A regular army, they reason, would secure
Serbia's military supremacy in the region and stand in the way of its membership of NATO.
Russia's role in and about May 2012 elections was more than visible.
Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Konuzin openly supported the Progressists.
Commenting on Nikolic's victory, he said, "Finally, the time has come for Russia and
Serbia." And before leaving Belgrade he said, "When you, Serbs, make up your
mind on how to settle the issue of Kosovo, you may count on our support."
Serbia is a small, devastated country with even smaller potential to
make breakthroughs on its own. Its economic and social situation is desolate: the country
is on the edge of collapse. Permanent destabilization of the region - and itself - is its
only strength. By failing to seriously deal with Serbia EU has contributed to the present
situation. For, Serbia itself is a mirror of the international community. In other words,
EU, US and NATO, rather than the region itself, hold the key to regional development.
After twenty years of its presence in the region, the international
community must finally stick to its principles, seriously analyze the situation of the
region, revise its strategy, mark up major obstacles and implement a developmental policy.
It must also clearly define the nature of ex-Yugoslav wars - for this preconditions a
proper denouement in the Balkans. Treating all warring parties as equal is not only unjust
and morally unacceptable, but also counterproductive. It is high time for Serbia to start
coping with its responsibility for a chaos it created in the Balkans. And the
international community has to encourage it to do so.
International players crucial for resolution of the regional crisis must
make their policies and moral values that precondition social progress, especially in
Serbia, crystal-clear. Only Serbia's and the Western Balkan's speedy accession to EU could
put an end to regressive trends in the region.