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Public debate within the project "Promoting a Social Climate Propitious to Transitional Justice and Culture of Non-impunity" realized with the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

Belgrade, November 25, 2011.

The fifth public debate in a row in 2011 was staged in the "Vuk Karazic" Cultural Center in Belgrade's municipality of Zvezdara. Editor-in-chief of the Helsinki Charter and regular contributors to the magazine - Sonja Biserko, economist Vladimir Gligorov and historian Latinka Perovic - addressed the audience.

Like on previous occasions Ms. Stanojlovic firstly presented the magazine's editorial policy and orientation and then changed her focus to the topic dominating the latest issue published under the banner "The End of the Myth of Kosovo." In these days of the "dramatic countdown till December 9" (the date when EU leaders in Brussels will decide on Serbia's candidacy), she said, the actual government has to make crucial decisions while at the same time under enormous pressure from anti-European forces in the country.

"Border crossing stations of Jarinje and Brnjak are today focal points of the opposition of the entire conservative bloc, formal and informal centers of power, the Church, the media and all other advocates against Serbia's course towards European integrations," she said.

Having briefly outline the genesis of the ex-Yugoslav crisis, Sonja Biserko spoke about the developments "in and about" Kosovo. Once the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue on "technical issues" was launched Belgrade openly begun implementing a strategy for Kosovo's partition (the idea was firstly mentioned in public in the spring of 2011 though this has been Belgrade's one and only strategy since Yugoslav crisis broke up). German Chancellor Angela Merkel "brutally dispelled the illusion about sustainability of that option" when she told a press conference what she had said to President Tadic over their tete-a-tete talk, she said. Referring to the appeal for Russian citizenship by tens of thousands Kosovo Serbs, Ms. Biserko said that Russia was just trying to profit from the situation - for it, Serbia is a "backyard" from which it controls the European Union while maintaining with it good relations. "It would be very good news should Serbia obtain EU candidacy on December 9, mostly because domestic elite are incapable of defining a realistic national interest," she said.

The origin of Serbia's problem with the European Union is in the fact that the EU is based on rules, which escapes Serbia's understanding, said Vladimir Gligorov. The audience was captured the most by his interpretation of the UNSC Res. 1244. According to the Resolution, said Gligorov, Serb institutions in North Kosovo are definitely illegal. Mr. Gligorov took the Resolution 1244 as an illustrative example of the manner in which domestic pubic is manipulated by half-truths and often by half-knowledge of fundamental principles of the international law. The great majority of domestic official and opinion-makers refer to the term "sovereignty" as an absolute doctrine, which totally distorts its true meaning. "Sovereignty means fulfillment (of a country's) obligations to other countries," he said, adding, "If Greece cannot pay its debts, it is not a sovereign country." According to Mr. Gligorov, the ongoing commotion within EU will most probably result in a federalized decision-making system and a stronger fiscal integration.

"If attitude towards Europe is a crucial point of today's social and political drama, one should remember that this has been Serbia's constant dilemma in its modern history," said Latinka Perovic. In the meantime and in many aspects - demographic decline, aging population, the fact that 80 percent of the young see no prospects in their country and the like - "Serbia has touched the bottom of life." The appeal originating from the society - the "Turnabout" initiative aiming at European prospects - is most significant against such a backdrop. The present trend of "amnestying individuals" for Serbia's actions in the past two decades is hardly sustainable as a political philosophy, she said. The same refers to initiatives for, say, the boycott of elections or "blank ballots" - these initiatives are politically wrong because there are always options among which citizens can make their own choices.



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