PAGE 1/3


NO 173-174

PAGE 1/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 173-174 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 173-174

March - April 2013



The Kosovo Knot Is Cut

By Sonja Biserko


At long last Belgrade and Prishtina’s agreement ended the process of ex-Yugoslavia’s dissolution. It killed the delusion that international constellation would change to Serbia’s advantage: make it possible for it to enforce Kosovo’s partition. Belgrade has banked on the partition scenario all along. Having to cope with strong resistance from the conservative bloc and the grey zone of politics, Premier Ivica Dacic was skillfully meandering through Brussels’ demands on the one hand, and domestic criticism on the other. Over nine negotiating rounds the ruling coalition has traveled the road from denial to acceptance, throughout the process blaming its predecessor for having committed the country to this course. The present-day ruling coalition’s signature under the agreement makes is a fair deal: in the past two decades, while in opposition, it has strongly opposed any attempt at cutting the Kosovo knot.

The Progressists have vacillated throughout the negotiations, especially their leader, President Tomislav Nikolic. To prevent them from blaming him for “treason,” Premier Dacic had to play shrewdly: he involved both Aleksandar Vucic and Nikolic in the negotiations – true, with the support from Brussels and Washington. The two ducked out at first but then accepted the invitation and begun speaking in favor of the agreement.

It could be said that this is a historical agreement: to Serbia and to Kosovo alike. For the first time ever Belgrade negotiates with Albanians on equal footing. The agreement opened up European vistas to both countries. Its significance for the entire region is indisputable: it marked a U-turn in regressive trends, especially in the Western Balkans. The agreement indicates that Serbia has come to its senses and for the first time taken a rational attitude: it had found itself in the economic impasse. The 15-point agreement has yet to be verified by Serbia’s and Kosovo’s parliaments. Resistance, misinterpretation and sabotage are to be expected, especially as of the date Serbia obtains the date for accession negotiations with EU.

Ivica Dacic proved to be a quick-witted politician at domestic scene. In an article he penned for the NIN weekly, he said, “For almost ten years Kosovo has been a taboo and no one dared to tell the truth about it officially. Fairy tales have been told instead…lies were told that Kosovo belonged to us and that lie was even incorporated in the Constitution. Today this Constitution is of no avail. The President of Serbia cannot travel to Kosovo. Neither can the Premier. Nor ministries. Nor the police. Nor the army.” A Serb Patriarch left Kosovo back in 1690, he retorted to Patriarch Irinej’s appeal against “betrayal and surrender” of Kosovo. He made no bones about many other things as well. On the eve of the last round of the negotiations he paid a visit to Moscow. What happened there is still unclear. Be it as it may, Belgrade had little choice.

It was obvious from the day it was signed that the agreement would be interpreted differently – within the ruling coalition, the opposition and in Kosovo as well. Belgrade and Prishtina will each interpret it in a manner most pleasing to their citizens. Both parties are aware that they had no choice. And yet, only its implementation will demonstrate whether or not it has been backed by genuine political will, Belgrade’s in the first place. Belgrade will be treating the implementation itself as another negotiating round. It will not stop trying to secure the status of Republika Srpska for Kosovo North.

Vucic and Nikolic have to cope with extremists “of their own” now. They have done nothing to prevent their activities as long as these activities, especially in Vojvodina, have been in the service of their policy. The two politicians have the most radical electorates and will have to work hard to pacify them.

The conservative elite, Serb Orthodox Church, Serb Academy of Arts and Sciences, some media (like Pecat) and intellectuals will be the hardest nuts to crack. For them, the agreement equals defeat. Citizens – at least judging by their blogs and comments – received news by far more rationally.

Vojislav Kostunica of DSS accused the government of “betrayal of state and national interests.” Together with Seselj’s Serb Radical Party he turned to street protests. Similar are the reactions of all extreme right-wing groups such as Dveri, Nasi, Obraz (though banned) and the like. The time to come will witness a variety of protests and manifestations, especially in Kosovo North.

For Djordje Vukadinovic of the New Serbian Political Thought the agreement is a typical capitulation to the pressure from Brussels, Washington and Prishtina. That day will go down in history as one of the saddest and most shameful days, he wrote, as it equaled recognition not only of Kosovo but also of the fact that Serbs in Kosovo North belonged to Thaci’s state. The magazine he edits launched a 20-point initiative calling, among other things, for a referendum on Serbia’s membership of EU and NATO, criminalization of secessionism propaganda, policy that would be more oriented towards the East, especially the markets of the former Soviet Union and Middle East, etc.

As it turned out, the public in Serbia, preoccupied with making ends meet, felt the loss of Kosovo but knew that it had been a lost cause for long. Citizens are more concerned with developments in Serbia proper when the dust settles. Obviously, the Kosovo story can mobilize people no more.

The international community has worked hard to make the two parties reached the agreement. Now it is the main warrant of its implementation, especially when it comes to its security aspects. No wonder the extent to which the agreement is implemented preconditions the date for accession negotiations Serbia expects to obtain in June. The international community was aware that problems were still to arise when it comes to actual implementation.

The international community fully backed the actual government in reaching an agreement with Prishtina. But, as usual, it is reserved about domestic issues. Vucic played on its reserve: on the wave of international support he sharpened the situation in Serbia, in Vojvodina in the first place. Having secured public support with his so-called campaign against corruption he is tailoring electoral outcomes at local level to the outcome of the parliamentary election, obviously intent to concentrate authority in his own hands inasmuch as possible.

The culture of violence – the hallmark of the Radicals and now of the Progressists as well – is in full swing in all segments of the society. Fear has reigned people’s lives once again: criticism of the incumbent government is almost non-existent. Except for being forced to negotiate, it made no progress in other domains in 2012. True, it was successful in destroying Democratic Party, which is in fact to blame for its present position.

Twelve years after the democratic change, Serbia is again faced with an authoritarian regime that sticks at nothing to get what it wants. And with a leader that stops at nothing to satisfy his appetites. In other words, Serbia is faced with homogenization and terror of one party that is far from being pro-European despite the fact that it put its signature under the agreement, which opens up European vistas.

Whether or not Aleksandar Vucic will become the hallmark of another phase of authoritarianism and fear depends on the society as a whole. And depends on the society’s preparedness to grab the chance the agreement has opened up. This refers to Vojvodina as well.


NO 173-174

PAGE 1/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3










Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment