A RISKY TRIAL OF STRENGTH
By Sonja Biserko
Belgrade's Pride Parade of October 10, 2010, put across a multiple
message to Serbia, the region and the world. First, homophobia manifested on the occasion
laid bare patriarchalism and convervativism of the Serbian society. But the fear of
"having our kids from kindergarten on forced into tolerance for sexual and other
minorities" is characteristic of the entire region. Second, the Parade only provided
an opportunity for a trial of strength between those holding Serbia stuck into the past
and those pushing it timidly towards Europe. And, third, the influence of the
international factor on the developments in Serbia and in the region - both positive and
negative - was clearly manifested.
The violence bursting out in the streets of Belgrade while the Parade
was on (and several days later at the stadium in Genoa) symptomatically indicates that
there are numbers of marginalized, frustrated and alienated young people in the Serbian
society. Therefore, yet another wave of violence in the near future is not to be ruled
out. But these groups were skillfully instrumentalized for political purpose. The slogans
they were crying out were against Serbia's accession to EU and against European values
implying the respect for the rights of homosexuals.
Their slogans and destructive behavior were unquestionably directed
against the state. In a way, they tested the state's capacity and power to stand up
against extremist groups operating like para-military formations, the groups that were
well-organized and under the command of anti-reformist centers of power undisguisedly
supported from Russia. Reacting to the state secretary of justice's statement about the
state's "merciless response to the violence, Slobodan Antonic, analyst for the New
Serbian Political Thought magazine (the mouthpiece of the rightist Serbia), said,
"There is another side too, the one that will once again turn Serbia into a state and
its power into an advocate of democracy and national interests."
What actually triggered of this trial of strength are more and more
frequent visits by EU and US officials and their clear messages supportive of Serbia's
speedy Euro-Atlantic integration. In this context, the visit by US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton was the most explicit of all. She came to Serbia with a clear-cut offer:
US will lend a helping hand to Serbia's candidacy for EU and accelerated accession to NATO
but will expect Serbia to accept the realities in Kosovo in return. It was at this offer
that the opposition reacted, the same as it reacted at President Tadic's earlier
"capitulation" to Catherine Ashton. "This capitulation transformed Serbia
from a state into a dominion," wrote Antonic.
Actually, EU's and US's offer is a fair one given that Serbia does not
really want sovereignty over Kosovo and uses it only to induce compensation for Bosnia.
For long has the international community been a hostage to Serbia's false construct of an
unavoidable compensation for Kosovo. The fact is that Serbia has waged wars and lost them
without losing territories. It gave up Kosovo back in 1980s (Serbian Academy of Arts and
Science has publicized a number of documents elaborating the reasons why Serbia should
waive Kosovo, Albanians' demographic supremacy being among crucial ones). Ever since the
same circles have been planning amputation of Kosovo and, in the event the project of
Yugoslavia's recentralization fails, Serbia's expansion towards northeast (to encompass
the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina in Croatia, Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Montenegro and, if possible, Macedonia).
Serbia was mostly successful in the achievement of these goals until the
international community realized that the republican borders defined during the World War
II and by the 1974 Constitution were optimal and that the 1991 Hague Conference had been
visionary in this respect. It took the international community almost twenty years to
acknowledge the solutions the conference put forth and to acknowledge that these solutions
rested on European values - anti-fascism and the civilian concept.
Despite all the efforts from The Hague Tribunal and the international
community, Serbia is simply not capacitated to come to grips with the recent past on its
own. EU's insistence on regional cooperation up to a certain level is only partially
effective because a problem of the recent past pops out almost at every step. Besides, the
region still remembers Belgrade's policy of destruction and distrusts its good intentions.
This is the more so since Belgrade makes gestures of good will and fresh advances only
under the pressure from the international community. The war for Bosnia is not over yet -
it continues by other means. The well-known trope that Bosnia will be stabilized from
within and admitted to EU and NATO when "three constitutive nations reach
agreement" is poorly reasoned: one of these three nations does not have a unified
Bosnia for a goal.
Though it supports the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina the international
community has not yet put on the table a well-argued strategy for overcoming the blockade
Belgrade has been cunningly building since the Dayton Accord: maintenance of status quo
while awaiting favorable circumstances for secession of Republika Srpska. Kosovo's
independence declaration provided an opportunity for radicalization of Republika Srpska,
which brought Bosnia on the verge of collapse. The balance of powers in Serbia proper
stands in the way of fresh advances in Bosnia. Now that the mandate of The Hague Tribunal
is nearing its end and the Balkan crisis fenced in, the international community should
link the tribunal's considerable achievements with regional realities. That would prevent
glorification of war criminals such as Biljana Plavsic whose release is celebrated and
treated as her sacrifice to Republika Srpska.
At the same time the situation in fragile to the extent that questions
the state's capacity to settle some matters in a democratic manner. Throughout history
Serbia has oscillated between two extremes: undisputed centralism and anarchy. Despite
many statements to the contrary, including President Tadic's that "hooligans will not
rule the state," there is justifiable fear that the ruling coalition might be ready
for a compromise with the right-wing bloc. For, it is still incapable of making a clear
break with the policy of Slobodan Milosevic and Dobrica Cosic.
President Tadic and the incumbent government must show more political
courage and resoluteness if they want to avoid a situation similar to the one of Weimar
Republic, as the Stratford agency put it. A simile with the Weimar Republic makes some
sense given that Serbia's powerful right-wing, radical bloc might take the upper hand in
the ongoing trial of strength. Russia supports this bloc for its own, selfish reasons: to
prevent Serbia from joining NATO.
Therefore, Serbia needs to be admitted to EU and NATO as soon as
possible. Serbia should seize the opportunity of the international climate playing into
its hands. The government should pay more attention to the endeavor for NATO's
transformation into a forum of sorts for consultations on global security, including
stronger cooperation with other regions and countries such as China, India and Pakistan,
strategic partnership with Russia and Russia's inclusion into European anti-rocket shield.
So transformed NATO would be "cooperative" and act along the lines of UN goals,
and such NATO should be at Serbia's priority list.