“Kill a Đurđe, save a lamb”: Serbian politics in need for new ideas

The international community of journalist engaged in the Balkans analysed next Serbian elections with wealth of details. As you will read soon, I lack of such zeal. I also lack of interest for political bargain, thus I believe it is useless to discuss “political programmes” brought up by the various candidates. Partially endorsing Radio Free Europe perspective on the issue, I shall, however, express my opinion, starting from congratulating with Boris Tadić.

Psychologists played a far more important role in Balkan politics than other professional guild. Radovan Karađić was a psychologist, enough said. Philosophers might have played a more important role, but their representative did not have enough time…

Tadić managed to interpret Serbian society better than others; he was the mastermind behind the smart move resign so to force the organisation of presidential and parliamentary elections together; his politics of balance between the two “missions” of the country (EU and Kosovo) kept, somehow, internal stability.

Thus, is the Sarajevo-born psychologists likely to become, for the third time, the new Serbian President? Well, it does not seem so sure.

Last news from Serbia report the arrest of eight Albanians accused of war crimes, in the southern village of Bujanovac close to the South-Eastern administrative delimitation with Kosovo. The move shall be interpreted as a clear retaliation of Belgrade against Pristina, after the EULEX-Kosovar mixed judges-panel found Fatmir Limaj not guilty of ordering and conducting torture in a Kosovo camp in 1999. The case deeply moved Serbian society, which, of course, did not welcome the recent sentence.

Ivica Dačić, Minister of Interior until tonight seems the most suitable candidate to transform Limaj-look-alike social unrest’s causes in votes. His move against Pristina looks also like a last minute attempt to convince part of the electorate that a stronger, mode decisive Serbian government is needed in order to face the challenges posed by the international community.

Yes, dear reader, that is what we are talking about. The role played by the international community is extremely important in (last four…) Serbian elections. Sticking to current elections, foreign actors’ relevance is such that the only substantial difference between the programmes of the two forefront candidates (the aforementioned psychologist and the economist Nikolić) is the timeframe by which they embraced the EU Membership as the country’s mission. Tadić got they idea first, recently followed by the (once) more radical Nikolić.

Dačić’s position is quite different. Although he is expected to collect merely 12% of the ballots, he’s proving to be the candidate showing the closest contact with population, translating the belief of more than 50% of Serbians, willing to abandon the EU path so to embrace the one which leads to Moscow. As I analysed in my recent academic researches on the matter, EU-commissioned statistical findings depict Serbian society as averagely opposing the EU.

So, why Dačić is expected to hold the balance of power rather than compete for the presidency?
First of all the game is over when the game is over: I pay the due respect to political analysis, but I would not be surprised if Dačić would get more votes than expected.
A more comprehensive analysis of the issue would take in consideration also the widespread status of drowsiness, insensitiveness of Serbian electors.

The real news, in fact, will be the grand total of Serbian voters. Data related to citizen trust in politicians dropped dramatically in the last years. The collimation of the two biggest parties’ policy watered the level of political confrontation, leaving the rhetorical arena to “extremists” (both nationalist and of course liberals, which, in my understanding of Serbian politics, remain an extreme group).

As Florian Bieber smartly wrote, these elections will be everything but historical. Is this a step forward the normalisation of Serbian political life, including the abandonment of XIX century rhetoric? I do not think so.

Be that as it may, I believe that todays biggest event for many Serbs remains Đurđevdan. I have bought some lamb myself, although there is no Spring to celebrate in Brussels…

Saint George Statue in Upper Zagreb is the only one in the Balkans which depicts the famous saint while praying over the freshly dead body of the enemy dragon. A rare example of pity and respect.

From your own correspondent: Pristina

Snow.
Which means wet feet, deadly cold, mud everywhere.

Apart from the white blanket of snow covering Pristina, I was touched also by the news reported on the most important Balkan newspapers.
Apparently, following the withdrawal of Serbs from the barricades in North Kosovo, the Council sent a clear positive message. A “carrot”, if you allow me this wording.

The importance of this carrot is huge: if by any chance Serbian expectations would be let down, I prospect an escalation of the situation in Kosovo. Even if the decisive support of the majors of Serbian municipalities de blocked a long deadlock, I cannot see substantive political ameliorations of the situations.

I will discuss the issue with some experts I had the chance to contact, here in Pristina.

 

 

My point is that the “carrot and stick” policy undertook by the EU since the beginning of the Kosovo barricade crisis allow a series of speculations which, in the end, won’t result in any good, nor for the pro-European Serbian government, nor for the far less pro-European Serbian society, nor for the wannabe Russians Kosovo Serbs.

First, a (still very possible!) negative decision of the Council against Serbian candidature will definitely undermine Tadic power, which will lead to his total defeat in next elections, most probably paving the way to nationalists parties success. So much for Merkel glorification of “multiculty” societies.

Secondly, even if the Council would grant Serbia with the candidate status (rather then frozen pseudo-idiotic half-effective semi-statuses, as Austria proposed…) , no effective steps towards the reconciliation with Kosovo have been made in last weeks. Au contraire the management of the crisis by Bruxelles (Berlin? Amsterdam? Vienna?) lead to an exacerbation of the conflict, which ultimately resulted in last hate speech made by several Serbian politicians.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the EU managed once more to pass for the “bad guy” at the eyes of Serbians. The way arguments in favor of the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina negotiations, paired with the direct attacks led by several MS leaders to Serbian government managed (once more) to polarize the general impression of the EU, shifting it (if possible) towards a pro-Kosovar position. It does not matter if this is the case, if this is the real position of most EU countries. What matters is the way such position has been communicated to the public.
It seems that no one, nor the EU, nor Serbs, are learning from their past mistakes.

Which leads me to a conclusion: most probably change is guided more by ambition and blind will, then by wiseness.

Fourthly (an in the end), nothing changed in Northern Kosovo. Or, better to say, the IBM (the big “achievement” brought ahead by the Cooper) still remains on paper. I will try to move North, so to get some more informations on the matter.

Apart from everything, I have to communicate you all that the cappuccino in Pristina is extremely good. And when I say extremely, I mean that is the best I ever tasted in my life.

Should Serbia forget about EU? No, dear Kostunica. EU should re-think its values…

The first thing that I read this morning, while making my usual screening of world news, was this interesting confession by the father of the euro, Jacques Delors, affirming that the problems of the euro were born together with the common currency. Or, better to say, the roots, the seeds of the current crisis were already present in the moment the euro was created.

Curiously, former Serbian prime minister Vojslav Kostunica affirmed today  that Serbia should forget about EU and focus more on strengthen its internal policies to so stabilize itself as an independent state. “This new state policy [the agreement with Kosovo, supported by Tadic] and this new national goal that removes the issue of Serbia’s EU accession from the agenda is a natural consequence of the EU’s intention to snatch Kosovo away from Serbia”, these are Kostunica words.

The statement is has clear a election-campagne function. However, if my memory doesn’t fail me, the language used by Kostunica is peculiarly taken from Milosevic’s rhetoric of a strong, independent Serbia having a predominant role in the Balkans.
The huge clash of values going on between Serbian politicians is self-evident. Which is, more or less, of the same nature of the clash among pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics, going on in Brussels as well as in every and each of the 27 EU Member States.

Jacque Delors gave us the key  to solve both clashes: the euro system as such was born defected, handicapped. And since the EU, i.e. the pivotal argument around which both of the aforementioned clashes turn around is a rotten system from within, both Kostunica argument and Eurosceptics one are of no use.

Why? Conservative, nationalistic and protectionistics attempt to find a domestic solution to the European political and economical stalemate won’t lead to any effective solution, given the inter-dependence of EU political and economic future (so much for Adam Smith and its failed theories).

If it is true that the only possible future for Serbia is within the EU, it is also true that nowadays EU has a burden of historical mistakes that won’t make it possible to Serbia to join the Union without a disastrous cultural clash within its own society.

The only solution appears to reconstruct the European Union.
Recently, President Sarkozy took advantage of its position to propose a brave modification of the EU, down to its own roots: the EU founding treaties. I won’t comment on the measures proposed by Sarkozy, but I welcome the strong position of one of the major players within the EU arena.

If something has to change, this “something” cannot be anything else but the structure of the EU itself, so to make it more adherent to the real necessity of Europe, meant as the European continent.
This would be assure a sustainable new vision of the Union, which agrees with the geopolitical reality of the continent. This should be the common understanding over which our governors should re-build the EU system.

Rather then requesting societies which were integrated in Europe for centuries to torn, rape and dismantle their own cultural values (and I am referring to both Tadic and Merkel).

From your own correspondent: Novi Sad (Brussels in my mind).

Some might say, rightfully, that Novi Sad is the pearl of Serbia. It is indeed one of the most beautiful town I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. Counting on the fact that I will remain here for more then 2 weeks, I will be more than happy to update your touristic appetite at some point, when I’ll feel I have a better knowledge of the town. For the time being, have a look at some pics I’ve taken last night.

What makes me think at the moment is the news, delivered last night by several newspapers online, that the delegation of Serbia and the Kosovo representative reached an agreement on the “border”, on the base od the integrated border management (IBM) proposed by the EU.

First of all, it seems that saturday mornings here in Vojvodina are too quite and lazy, even for such a news. “Trafika” (newspaper and tobacco kiosks) are not crowded, as usual.

Secondly, and most importantly, the agreement has to be edited by Cooper (chief mediator for the European Union). Ergo, since the agreement was not signed yet, and we do not know the content of such agreement, there is room for a number of considerations.

The first comments concerns Serbian chances to be granted with the candidate status. If there is a single chance by Serbia to get the candidate status at this moment and time, this is due to the ongoing drafting agreement. Last week statements by EU leaders (Angela Merkel on top) led to no misunderstanding: Serbian path to the EU passes thought the normalization of relations with Kosovo. What remains unclear (or rather, what diplomatic languages left to Serbians hope and to the imagination of a blogger…) is the meaning of “normalization”. But I guess that both me and Serbians will be disappointed to know the answer, on Dec. 9th.

Aside from the Council decision, it will be fundamental to measure people’s unrest after the two bad news (no candidature and a fishy agreement with Pristina).

It is my conviction that Serbians are too tired to pick weapons up and solve the Kosovo issue “unilaterally” at this point.
Said that, those two bad news might surely arm Tadic chances to be re-elected as Prime Minister, favoring a nationalistic revival in the composition of next government. With a nationalistic government, unwilling to sit at the table together with Pristina, the chances for Serbians to join the EU are approximating zero.

If this will be the case, a huge responsibility will be played by those EU governments which are deliberately condemning the huge efforts made by Tadic government to modernize and reform Serbia. And at last, they will have a even greater responsibility in the (possible?) next breach to security on the European continent.

After sustainable growth, we should start talking about sustainable politics. EU foreign policy is still too much influenced by national interests to play any kind of political international role. Au detriment of the whole continent.
Once again.

“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.