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NO 171-172

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 171-172 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 171-172

January - February 2013


Serbia and Croatia

What is Serb Progressive Party after?

By Aleksandar Sekulović


President Tomislav Nikolic’s scandalous statement about Croatian Premier Milanovic “phony” visit to Serbia laid bare the main foreign policy objective of Serb Progressive Party /SNS/ and Nikolic himself: to fight against Croatia. This only logically follows upon “Radical careers” of SNS leaders: manifestation of anti-Croatian sentiments was a benchmark of the actions they took part in together with Seselj. President Nikolic has even taken up arms against Croats – an episode of his career that dominates individual and collective memory and is additionally testified by his recent statement about Vukovar being a Serb town. Such information does not mark Aleksandar Vucic’s biography. However, his role in the verbal war and statements about hating Croats made him “the third best” in his party. Professor Oliver Antic proved his legitimacy at a number of panel discussions in Seselj’s defense, while his protégée and potential number four of the party, Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic, established his legitimacy when he took from a student of his a bottle of detested mineral water “Jana,” made in Croatia, and threw it away. He demonstrated that he was perfectly aware of the basic criterion for party advancement.

For more than a quarter of a century manifestation of anti-Croat sentiments have been a handy method for easy political gains and diverting public attention or making people believe that everything would be fine were there not for Croats. This is why this method is used whenever some vital issues come to a standstill as they have today: the loop on Serb policy for Kosovo is tightening, leaving less and less room for manifestations of patriotism. The country’s economy shows no signs of recovery, while the much publicized campaign against corruption can easily turn into a paper tiger. And it was exactly at the time when the hysteria about the “Storm” operation and Gen. Gotovina’s acquittal reached the necessary “boiling point” that some Milanovic /Zoran/ came to Serbia to undermine a carefully planned and comprehensive action with his constructive and conciliatory messages.

In this context, President Nikolic’s nervous and rude reaction, unprecedented in the history of diplomacy and bilateral relations, is quite understandable. He said that his meeting with Croatian President Josipovic should have preceded all meetings at lower levels: in other words, he strongly warned public servants off any contact with the Croatian side. Relations with Croatia will be frozen until he meets with Josipovic. In theory this might happen next month but might never take place in practice since he will do his best to deter Josipovic in the long run.

Nikolic and his SNS will use the period of frozen relations with Croatia to fight against it at international level, in the region and EU in the first place. Nikolic plans to relax relations with neighboring countries and in the region as much as possible to prove that Serbia has no problem with anyone except for Croatia. His travels abroad without respite – usual when a major action is in question – are quite indicative of his plan. Hence his statements in all the places he visits – Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Turkey, etc. – are unusually conciliatory. He praises his hosts, he offers cooperation, he, in a word, tries to make his counterparts wonder, “How possibly someone wouldn’t cooperate with such a decent and peaceful person?” And, of course, when it turns out that this “someone” is Croatia, Nikolic explains to his hosts that Croatia is exclusively to blame for non-cooperation, that it is responsible for ex-Yugoslavia’s disintegration and wars and that its present hostility for Serbia is nothing but a follow-up of everything it triggered off more than two decades ago.

Nikolic is not alone in this campaign for Croatia’s isolation. Other SNS leaders side with him, especially Vucic who has been assigned the most difficult task: to sell SNS pious image on Americans and Germans.

The minimum SNS expects from this action is the international community’s pressure on ICTY to revise verdicts to Gotovina and Markac and be lenient to Serb “heroes” on trial. The maximum SNS hopes for is denial to or at least postponement of Croatia’s membership of EU.

One can hardly predict the actual outcome of Nikolic’s and SNS’s action. The outcome hardly depends on their coalition partners, Socialist Party of Serbia /SPS/ and Dacic in the first place. They have already been severely warned that Nikolic was the one to represent the country abroad. If this warning turns ineffective, they can always be threatened with early elections. As usual, this depends the most on international actors. Actually, it depends on how vivid is the memory of the international community – especially the West – of the negotiations with Serb nationalism in 1990-2000. In any case the outcome, no matter what, will not benefit Serbia.


NO 171-172

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