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NO 167-168

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Helsinki Charter No. 167-168

September - October 2012




By Sonja Biserko

With brutal dismissals at all levels the new regime speeds up the dissolution of the Serb society. It has started a “cultural revolution” of sorts that follows in the footsteps of the notorious anti-bureaucratic revolution of the late 1980s. Everything is more threatening today than in 1980s because, two decades later, Serbia has no more potential for opposing another wave of populism.

All questions are still open – from those dealing with political system to the conceptual one. Since 2000 not a single government has defined its vision of Serbia’s political order. Judging by the new regime’s attitude toward Vojvodina – as the most illustrative case – traditional centralism that caused ex-Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the first place still prevails. The final curtain is falling on Vojvodina’s autonomy in the shadow of the Kosovo issue.

Institutions and the society that are being destroyed on daily basis definitely lead towards total decline: the decline that end up in some form of autocracy like in Belarus. The fact that, according to newspaper stories, some 400,000 people in Serbia are wiretapped on daily basis – out of which only 15,000 legally – testifies of the degree of overall paranoia and the closed system.

After Milosevic’s ouster, new authorities have not taken stock of his disastrous policy that is to blame for most of the problems still challenging Serbia. And this was a catch with a boomerang effect. Hardly anyone touches on Milosevic’s warring policy and the plebiscitary support to it despite the fact that it was this policy that destroyed Serbia’s economic and social potentials. The same parties that have generated a chaos in Serbia and in the Balkans alike today hold the reins of the fight against corruption and crime. Democratic Party – certainly not flawless – is called on the carpet for Serbia’s collapse, because it has not collected the courage to take the stock of Milosevic’s policy: neither before nor after October 5, 2000.

However, despite its “commitment” to the fight against corruption, the new regime has neither legitimacy nor capacity to come to grips with accumulated problems. Do to this, it should first cleanse its own ranks starting from the office of the President through offices of some ministers to members of local self-governments.

Speaking of what the international community expects from Serbia, it is settlement of the Kosovo question. In this context, the international community exerts pressure on Serbia at various levels. For instance, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton – now on her last diplomatic mission – together with High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton will pay visit to the Balkans, Serbia included only a couple of days before American presidential elections. It is clear that key international players are well aware of regressive trends in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and want to prevent the collapse of their policy and of everything they have accomplished in the region in the past two decades.

Faced with the challenge of Kosovo and not knowing how to respond, Serbia tries to find a “rescue formula” in a state strategy that will allegedly fulfill the West’s expectations (and consequently help Serbia to obtain the date for EU accession negotiations) on the one hand and maintain the partition scenario in play on the other. (The President said proudly that he himself had drafted the document, which is still sealed as state secret.) On the eve of his visit to Macedonia President Tomislav Nikolic and his associates found an exit strategy in the largely propagated thesis about the Greater Albania project. “An Albanian state is being established in the territory of the Balkans,” said Nikolic and messaged Macedonians, “Once they realize their rights in the territory of Serbia, they will invoke the same rights in other countries.” This thesis has always been fueled deliberately – either to attract Tirana as a partner for Kosovo partition or to further destabilize Macedonia.

The West expects the new regime to acknowledge the Kosovo reality. Except for its responsibility for the war and the situation in Kosovo, the new regime would have a much easier task than its predecessors – because the present opposition would cause no problems when its comes to Kosovo. Should it be the one to let people know and acknowledge that Kosovo has been lost forever could be a historic justice.

The new regime relies on Russia to a considerable extent and expects its support – financial and for its policy for Kosovo. However, even some Russian analysts warn that the “both EU and Kosovo” policy has been unrealistic from the very beginning and that Serbia would be forced to choose between the two. The momentum for the partition scenario has been lost, they say. For its part, Serbia has wasted precious time when it comes to its relations with EU. Now it has good reasons to fear that it would remain the only country in the Balkans outside EU. The question is whether the incumbent authorities are aware of that. Their provincial mentality and autism hamper their realistic perception of the difficult situation Serbia has found itself in.

Historian Latinka Perovic said that Serbia has “gambled away” its chance for Europe and that the Serb people are faced with the threat of dying away. Only a huge effort we cannot make on our own could turn the tables, she warned.

This is why there is no alternative to EU. Serbia could recover only with assistance and solidarity from Europe. Anyway, the entire Balkans is now, for the first time in its history, under European umbrella, which opens up to it unprecedented vistas.


NO 167-168

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