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Progress Made under the Pressure from Realities

By Sonja Biserko


Judged by its achievements the incumbent government is still at the beginning although formed a year ago. It failed in tackling pressing problems systemically at institutional level – and particularly so when it comes to corruption. As a consequence, Serbia is on the verge of collapse.

Slobodan Milosevic had also mobilized masses by his cheap, populist promises that nailed the nation to crimes and crime. The Progressists have popularized Vice-Premier Vucic through his alleged fight against corruption – and that was what they had been after in the first place considering the possibility of early elections. As early elections are supposed to enthrone the Progressists alone for the next ten years their coalition partners are now constantly called to account. This is how the Progressists reason.

Objectively speaking, their “expiration date” will raise suspicions once citizens realized that corruption is a lifestyle in Serbia and that the struggle against corruption is a labor lost. For, a society needs much more to defeat corruption – above all it needs credible leaders of anti-corruption campaigns. Actually, the present government has done nothing so far. All spheres of life – culture, healthcare, economy, education, etc. – are crumbling to dust. The media additionally banalize the overall atmosphere and confuse citizens. Primitivism and anti-intellectualism pander to the basest instincts.

This is why only a date for the beginning of accession negotiations with EU could save the system from falling all to pieces. At this point it is crucial for Serbia to obtain the date – the date in itself would place it in a different political context and definitely chart its course towards Europe. Serbia would be on the path of no return. Accession negotiations, as time goes by, would catalyze Serbia’s potentials and at the same time vouch for a so-so sociopolitical stability potential foreign investors need. Unfortunately, negotiations would lay bare Serbia’s deep-rooted resistance to modernization. But without them Serbia would remain an isolated and rotten island that threatens regional stabilization.

Serbia was in a similar position in the aftermath of NATO intervention. It would have ended up in anarchy was there not for the great assistance from the West. More than ten years later, despite all the assistance and with all the opportunities it mostly lost, Serbia has not managed to overcome Milosevic’s legacy and reach a consensus on its future. Above all, this is so because it still nourishes regional aspirations, while being governed in a deplorable way. Its perception of international circumstances has been usually wrong, based on estimates of EU’s disintegration, US weakening and Russia emerging anew as the biggest global power.

This is why the Kosovo issue has been on the agenda for so long. Serbia’s decision-makers believed the time was playing into their hands – that the partition scenario for Kosovo was unavoidable and, as such, a prelude to Bosnia’s disintegration.

And yet, things have changed. True, EU failed to stabilize Bosnia but definitely decided against Kosovo’s partition. So, Serbia’s present government was faced with a no choice but to give up the partition scenario: this time for the sake of a fixed date for the beginning of accession negotiations. The date became the government’s magic formula for survival and long-term rule.

The First Vice-Premier’s farcical self-promotion as “a great European” sounds unconvincing, the more so since he is so obviously after concentration of power at home. Some may not see such a tendency unusual for a Progressist or anyone else. But after all it went through in the past quarter of century, it is rather bizarre that the entire Serbia once again looks up to an absolute ruler. It is even more bizarre that people who had stood up against Milosevic now fully support this ruler-to-be.

Aware of the country’s dramatic situation, the present government knows that EU is its only hope. The turn towards it was made under the pressure from the realities rather than as an outcome of a serious understanding of Serbia’s position in the region and Europe. It is tragic that Serbia has made the only right choice only once it was on its knees. This indicates that accession negotiations will be complex and that Serbia will be resisting changes strongly. Conservative circles have already articulated this resistance that is going to be manifest at all levels, in individuals too.

The road to the rule of law would be a long and thorny one considering Serbia’s history of Barbarianism. For, it implies overcoming Serbia’s greatest resistance – to face up the past. Acquittals of Momcilo Perisic, Jovica Stanisic and Frenki Simatovic play into the hands of the argument that Serbia had never gone to war and, in particular, of Serb elites that are marginalizing its responsibility for the war and war crimes. But this is a short-lived gravy: historical truth cannot be avoided, including the three above-mentioned “war veterans.”

Milosevic’s legacy will be weighting heavily generations to come: not only because of his regime but because of the almost plebiscitary support it had from all elites, political, military, religious, cultural, intellectual...

Over accession negotiations Serbia will have to face up its past. This is the sine qua non of the country’s “normalization.” The present-day political elite that is moralizing about everything will also have to face up the past. Today their moral insensitivity is simply cynical. What is even harder to believe is that everyone either forgot or forgave Nikolic’s Greater Serbia warfare or Vucic’s “volunteering” during the siege of Sarajevo, closing down of media outlets and many other deeds.

The reality of them being in power cannot be ignored. What is good is that good that the Progressists and the Socialists are those who are putting an end to Nikolic’s dream. But what is no good at all is that Serbia lacks a relevant opposition capable of preventing relativization of war crimes and calling evildoers to account. Serbia has lost the sense of good and evil in this regard. It has lost a moral minimum for a functional society.



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