From your own correspondent from Brussels – 1: preparing the first interview

In some days I will have the chance to interview an important international official in the city of Brussels.
For all the interviews I will attend during my research period I am not reporting neither the name of the interviewed nor the institution the interviewed belongs to.

So what else you might find interesting in this blog section?
Yesterday, discussing with a friend about video games, we found out to perceive the same disappointment for nowadays gaming production: the graphics are amazing, it is extremely easy to set up a multiplayer game (and thus to interact with friends and beat them…), but nowadays games (and gamers) lack of “strategy“, of “thinking“, of the “human touch” you could give to your army while playing games like Roma Total War, or similar. Everything is to quick, to fast, direct to the point, missing all the surrounding halo of entertainment, of thinking that an old pixel-style strategy game would give to the mighty patient player of the ’90.

News universe (and, at last, also the diffusion of cultural informations) works pretty much in the same way: if the message is not violent, direct, shocking, it is hard for it to be read by anyone.

This post is not about reminiscences of the past, neither about nostalgia of ’90 video games (I keep on playing those video games…).
This post wishes to warn that you will not find names and revelations about the hidden “bottom-rooms” of the Commission, neither revealing anthropological discovers. But you will find real-time first-hand impressions of a person willing to make his hands dirty.

Impressions on EC Report.
The first impressions about the DG ENLARG annual overview of enlargement policy  including the report on EU-Serbia relations are as vague as the style used by the Commission itself. The most handy documents (the Conclusions and the Communication to EP and the Council) are rough, generalized, non specific.

The far longer (and thus less practical) analytical report is definitely more accurate. For how obvious this might be, it has to be taken in due consideration the impressions left by the aforementioned “handy documents” on the mind of the unlucky reader who does not have the time to pass through the almost 140 pages of the analytical report. I am sure that the means put in place by DG ENLARG to write down this accurate document could have been used to draft a more complete sum-up document, able to give a proper description of the current state of art of the EU-Serbia relations.

Apart from those negative remarks, the quality of the analytical report is very high. It gives a fair (although “westernized”) description of Serbian state structure, legally pertinent, focusing on most relevant issues.

Serbia as a brick.
One of the strongest point of the European Union so far, has been the capacity to put together different local administrations in different countries, thus implementing the so called “Cohesion Policy“. The results of this policy vary from area to area. However it demonstrate the sensitivity of the EU towards the local administrations, toward the differences (and the common features) among bordering regions of different countries.
Reading the analytical report, some might have the impression that Serbian society is thick and uniform as a brick. Even if Serbia has not been granted the status of candidate country (unlike some specialized reviews affirmed), a more accurate description of the various differences among the Serbian is fundamental to the general evaluation of the country. The European Commission should be aware of this.

Despite the fact that the Commission suggested the Council to grant Serbia the candidate status, the general impact of the report would be more adherent to reality (and thus easier to implement) if it would take in consideration the diversified panorama of social and legal institutions in Serbia.
The author is not aware if the Commission put in place such analyses, nor if Serbian authorities, in their continuos supporting EU officials, underlined the regional differences in the country.
That is what I am going to ask for and discover. 

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Rakija internal diplomacy: how Croatians make sure Croatians will like the EU.

Last measures taken by Croatian government to make EU accession more appealing to its electorate might seem funny.

Will this pic be part of the Croatian government campaign?

However they demonstrates the deep roots of the lack of trust by Croats in the European Institutions. Most of this mistrust is due to the comprehensible geographical and cultural (historical?) difference between Zagreb (Slavonski Brod?) and Brussels. More then a solution to a problem, those measures, sound to me like an attempt by the Croatian government to control and influence their (weak) public opinion, the position of which represents a clear threat to Croatian effective inclusion in EU. Mind, I mean Effective, not on paper. Because it is clear that a huge part of Croatian civil society (the one, for example, protesting after the condemnation of Gen. Gotovina) it is not exactly welcoming the recent engagement of Croatian government in the international relations panorama.

I hope that pursuing Sanader and launching the aforementioned campaign would not be the only steps made by Croatian government in order to engage Croatian civil society into a deep and serious reflection on EU accession issues.
Or to make the internal/international public opinion blind.

2012: will it be the end?

Along with the Mayan calendar, it seems that this world’s going to end the 21st December 2012. In order not to find themselves unprepared, however, Kosovars and the international community supporting Kosovo independence are deciding, as reported by Balkan Insight, to raise the anchor of the Serbian province independence more or less by the same period (I guess that Mayan didn’t predicted that!). The news emerged after the though riots of this week, due to the “customs war” between Pristina and Belgrade.

The author is not really sure about the end of the world, though. Nevertheless he has a strong feeling that  it is quite early for Kosovo to make this step.

Durer, “The Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Every culture has its own way to imagine the end of the world. Unfortunately it seems that there’s just one world to be ended…

Even if a huge amount of critics can be directed to the most influential international actors engaged in supporting Kosovo’s independence, it is the humble opinion of the author that any sudden and rough-and-ready withdrawal of the aforementioned support is far more noxious to the regional stability than the support itself.

Unless European Union engagement towards the region is increasing, the nature of this “European interest” seems not solid and effective enough to keep the parties set at the negotiation table, nor to keep the Kosovar “border” safe.

Solution? The author believes that journalists can lack of ideas and solutions. Since the author is not a journalist, however, it is his duty to try to give his contribution to the issue.
Without a long term strategy (the Athisaari plan is everything but a long term strategy…) for the reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo, any further unilateral decision made by the international community/Kosovo will be perceived as a threat by Serbians.
The fact that a huge part of Serbian voters perceives Kosovo as a continuous threat represents a far bigger problem, not taken in the due consideration by European diplomatic bodies.

To cut it short, the role of Balkan political leaders in relatively young democracies like Serbia and Montenegro might lead to straining speculation of the EU Enlargement policy. The political arena, lacking the participation of a mighty civil society, are still too sensitive to historically critical issues like Kosovo status. The wish to abandon the field by the international community represents the nth example of lack of serious engagement in supporting neighborhood countries, but for their own internal interests.

Somebody would say: “Fair enough”.

I think that I am disgusted by the vocab I’ve used in this article: a cultural issue should not be addressed in political terms.
However mutual understanding is by definition a compromise.
I made my part.

Corruption and organized crimes: Füle addresses the Balkans

Yesterday, Commissioner Füle, in occasion of the Western Balkan Forum held in Luxembourg, addressed the former Jugoslavian republics on their accession to the EU, defining priorities and welcoming the measures already taken. The complete speech made by DG Enlargment Commissioner can be found here.

The most important pattern noticed by the author of this post is the ease and confidence demonstrated by Commissioner Füle in vaguely defining “corruption and organized crime” as two of the fundamental areas where Montenegro, Serbia and Albania have to show their committment.

It would be of no interest trying to understand whether or not corruption and organized crime exist in those countries and if those two phenomenons are effective or not. A political debate on such bases would lead to a never ending sophistic ping-pong.

Without a more cultural intensive approach, EU will keep on playing with Serbia for long…

A far more interesting approach would be the one encompassing the social and cultural consequences of the way Serbia, Montenegro and Albania intend to “fight” corruption and organized crimes. Avoiding unfruitful diplomatic discourse, is it out of any reasonable doubt that several members of the former governments of those states were somehow related to organized crime and/or were directly involved in pernicious corruptions practices.  It is also indubitably  true that those practices seems to be somehow accepted in Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. Nothing new till now.

A new approach would be the one trying to define in which cultural environment corruption and organized crime prevailed, managing to become the “rule”, the social value upon which individuals and groups based their actions in order to achieve a variety of objectives, from protection to political power, from economic revenues to cultural rights. Along with this new approach, evidently aimed ad analyze the past, there should be a parallel action the objective of which is to define the cultural elements residing in the Balkans societies which could be used as a leverage for the construction (or better to say the reaffirmation) of more democratic and transparent behaviors.

The easiness by which Commissione Füle addresses the Balkan countries is disturbing, although the aim and the audience to which those recommendations were addressed are clearly noticeable: governments. From a mere political point of view, his message could be also evaluated as an encouraging outstretched hand towards Western Balkans governments (please notice, for instance, the deep understanding of Serbian political contingency regarding elections).
The question arose is whether the social reactions to those affirmations are taken in consideration or not: what the EU is planning to do in order to support those governments to make the EU itself more appealing? Probably nothing, since it is in Balkan governments’ duty. From my small experience, however, statements like the Luxembourg one are surely not welcomed by the majority of Serbians, Montenegrins and Albanian electors.

I am not that sure that Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and even Croatia can cope with the issue of “EU’s popularity” in a reasonable timeframe. The clash of values between the Balkans and the EU may be not so strong as, for example, the one between Turkey and the rest of Europe. History taught us, however, that in Balkans “grey zones” several subtle cultural questions are hidden, the consequences of which are not totally unpredictable, but not even taken in consideration by major international players.
Time could not be “ripe” for a discussion on the differences between EU cultural values and Balkan ones. But time will never be “ripe” without a serious commitment by both parties on the matter.

“Improved situation”: Serbia

Along with the International Crisis Group monthly report “Crisis Watch” (the same bulletin which caused an immense warning over Bosnian referendum situation a month ago, without taking in consideration the fact that the referendum was simply a new phenomenon of a situation that thew Dayton Agreements didn’t managed to resolve in 15 years…), after the capture of Gen. Mladic, the situation in Serbia has improved.

What does “improved” means?
ICG monitors the situation in several world countries afflicted by any kind of conflict, both at the military or political level. To cut it short, the good part of this analysis is that it provides a quick an up-to-date panorama of the last events and also a (very) general history of the whole crisis.
However, the analysis is focused on merely political/economical/military aspects, lacking of any social analysis, thus mis-interprets the actual situation in Serbia, which, by my modest point of view, it is not so clearly and incontrovertibly “increased”.

As demonstrated by the protest against Mladic extradition, a huge portion of Serbia’s public opinion it is still linked to the idea of nationalism carried by the former political elite, of which Mladic was, in the end, the “armed arm”. This idea of nation, as carried by Karadzic, Milosevic and some well known Serbian literates, it is still strong and hard to eradicate. Most of Western actors refers to this nationalism as “sick”, against history flow, or simply fake. Although the products of such nationalism could be surely condemned as violent, the same nationalism, as a genuine believe of part of the population, can’t be referred as sick by foreign actors. The judgement over those matters remains an exclusive of Serbians.

The reactions after the capture of Gen. Mladic were extremely strong by every international actor, especially by the European Union. DG Enlargement’s Commissioner Fuele welcomed the capture far before the President of the Commission Barroso. The strong engagement demonstrated towards the Balkans in the last month by Ashton also resulted in a very welcoming reaction towards Serbia. Such a warm welcome is “The Welcome” Serbia is waiting since years? I don’t think so.

Goran Hadzic is still absconder. Along with the last reports made public by the Commission, Serbian juridical system has several systemical problems that has to be solved before joining the EU. The path seems to be longer then expected. However the political pressure put on Serbian public opinion by the international reactions to Mladic capture may lead to a “huge misunderstanding”: Serbia seems not to be ready yet, but the EU is “welcoming” every step made by the actual government towards Brussels.

Brammertz’s last words on Serbian collaboration with the UN established tribunal were highly critical. Days ago the UNSC discussed, together with Brammertz, how Serbian authorities collaborated with the UN Chief prosecutor. Despite the capture of Mladic, Brammertz analysis won’t be of any good for Serbia…

Is the EU is satisfied?
Also days ago, UN News service reported that the war crimes tribunal are facing stuffing crisis as the end of their mandate is approaching. Along with this information, the two tribunals does not have enough personnel in order to decently continue their work untill their mandate is supposed to expire, in 2014, fulfilling UNSC Resolutions. The same tribunal is demanding direct and immediate support from member states, in order to stop this institutional crisis. But why this situation is taking place? Will this represent an obstacle for the prosecution of further suspected war criminals? Would this situation lead to a slow, never ending trial against the old Mladic? Is the UNSC trying to disengage from the tribunal, since the most of the job has been done?

Those amount of question arose also thinking at the last reports made by the EU towards Serbian accession to the Union. Will the European Union be satisfied with the “mere” capture of Mladic or it will take a look also the outcome of the trial (and the further collaboration of Serbian authorities with the tribunal)? Taking in consideration the news about the current crisis within the ICTY, the second scenario looks like the nth frustration factor the Serbian government will be forced to face in order to comply with its international duties…

Linkage theory – Serbian style
A Kosovar Albanian political analyst smartly affirmed that after Mladic capture Tadic will likely put more pressure on Kosovo, pushing for a solution of the controversy in favor of Serbia. Moreover, certain international campaigns and independent researches (like Carla Del Ponte attempt to organize an independent task force investigating the possible traficking of organs and people in Kosovo) are creating a general mistrust towards Kosovo leadership. Yesterday EU established its own task force with purposes similar to the Del Ponte’s proposition, thus investigating on possible organ trafficking, which could involve also Thaci.
More pressure on Pristina means by definition a more active and aggressive role of Belgrade.

How this can be referred as an “increased” situation by the ICG remains unclear.