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INFO   :::  Projects > Archives > Promoting a Social Climate Propitious to Transitional... > Helsinki Charter No. 163-164 > Text





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 decoration ceremony.

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.



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