The future of Serbia is in defining its interests – a response

Solutions to the problems facing the region – particularly that of Kosovo’s disputed status – require that the international community cease actively supporting one side over the other and instead pursue a more balanced approach.

By Stefan Dragojevic

I am warmly impressed by the appropriate response given by Dr. Soeren Keil to the article “The future of Serbia is in the defense of its interests”.

I could openly agree with Dr. Keil that the Serbian “ruling” elite has no idea as to what Serbian interests are. The Serbian meandering between improving relations with different players in the world arena has showed to the world that Serbia is not yet ready to express the goals of its foreign policy. On several occasions Serbia has shown a lack of consistency on what values and aims its foreign policy is based upon, as occurred in July 2010 with Serbia’s resolution on Kosovo in the UN and during the Nobel Prize event.

Wars, riots, revolutions and internal struggles had constrained Serbia from achieving its interests in a peaceful manner in the last few centuries, and the price is being paid today.

However, could we attribute the term “nationalist” to certain positions that Serbia is expressing with respect to its foreign policy? Is that term attributed only to Serbia when its interests are colliding with the interests of certain states from the European Union and with the United States? Does Serbia have to back down again in the face of certain pressures from its western partners in order to erase the ugly connotation of “nationalist”? Certain questions are to be answered and I will try to explain my personal position on those issues.

1) EU integrations of Serbia and the issue of Kosovo: between realism, illusion and delusion

Dr. Keil has argued, rightly according to the latest statistics, that the majority of the citizens of Serbia want to join the European Union. Serbian accession to the European Union has been one of the goals or the main goal (depending on the Government in power) of Serbia. Yet again, however, upon which conditions is Serbia’s accession based on? The last resolution adopted by the European Parliament openly calls for the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia as a perquisite for joining the Union. As the EP rapporteur for Kosovo, Ulrike Lunacek, noted on the 19th of January “Serbia must recognize Kosovo. I hope this will happen soon, which would make the situation easier both for Kosovo and the EU”. It is quite clear with the recent developments that the Serbian government’s catch phrase – “the EU and Kosovo” – has failed and Serbia has to choose between the struggle for the defence of its sovereignty and accession to the EU.

As Dr. Keil has stated in his article, the European Union is not willing to make the same mistake as it did with Cyprus. But isn’t that a precedent in the EU accession policies in demanding the recognition of a secessionist region? Would the Kingdom of Spain or the Republic of Slovakia, among others, accept such a development that could harm certain internal interests of their own countries?

The negotiations on Kosovo’s status are the only reasonable way to solve a dispute that could destabilize not only the fragile region of the Balkans, but also other fragile regions in the world. However, the European Union and the United States are still leading a policy of double standards in backing up only one side in the issue – in this case the Albanian side – instead of pressing both sides to find a mutual agreement. Even though some skeptics would mention that a common solution would not be easy to find, I have to recall the confrontation between FYROM and Greece over the name of “Macedonia”. Although it is clear that a common solution on the issue of the name is still distant, small but crucial negotiations are being held. Why, therefore, is the same principle not applied to the Kosovo problem? Compromise is the only solution to such a delicate question as that of Kosovo’s status.

Serbia still has much to learn from the European Union and the implementation of certain standards and legal solutions, such as consumer protection, environmental laws, media freedom laws and regulatory laws in economy and other fields are of prime importance for Serbia. However, if the European Union shall demand the recognition of Kosovo as a condition for joining the Union, Serbian integrations must be stopped. Finally, the Constitution of Serbia declares the defence of Kosovo to be a constitutional “obligation”.

2) Kosovo

Public international law guarantees Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo and UN Security Council Resolution 1244 reaffirms the territorial integrity of Serbia over the southern region. Today Kosovo, as I have written on my previous article, is the “black hole” of Europe, the capital region for drug trafficking and criminal activities. More than 150 churches and cemeteries have been destroyed since 1999, and more than 180,000 citizens left the region; not to mention the confiscation and usurpation of property that happened after the war in Kosovo. All this occurred under the blindness and blessing of the current Kosovo Albanian establishment, which is composed of former members of the terroristic Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The position of the Government of Serbia during the Kosovo status process was indeed flexible and had no “signs” of “nationalistic” demands. The Serbian side even proposed to reach a mutual agreement with the legitimate representatives of the Kosovo Albanians regarding autonomy and political rights for Kosovo. However the position of the Kosovo prime minister, Agim Çeku, was as not open and flexible as the Serbian one; “recognizing Kosovo independence would close the dark chapters of Balkan history, and create the opportunity for a new and sustainable regional stability”.

Now, lets go further into the discussion. Why is mentioning the criminal activities of the Kosovo elite important? The answer is plain and simple: the financial background of the war led by the terrorists in Kosovo was based on organ trafficking, criminal activities and, sadly enough, on human trafficking and murder. Can a state based upon criminal activities be legitimate? Serbia is much older than Milosevic but, unlike Kosovo, the prime economic activity is not criminality nor is the current Serb establishment involved in criminal wrongdoings. Furthermore, the sole financial income of the KLA was from criminal activities and just after the conflict, the wartime leaders became drug leaders. Kosovo today is the private property of certain individuals, including Hashim Tachi; is that really what certain western states wanted? Can a legitimate state be based on illegal matters? It cannot.

It is quite clear by now that one of the main reason for backing an independent Kosovo was financial gain. Recent investigations showed that Kosovo is a heaven for profit and business. The “Albright group”, an international strategy consulting firm founded by the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, had an income from Kosovo of 20 millions of Euros through business dealings around IPKO, the leading telecommunication service company in Kosovo.

And now lets turn to the humanitarian intervention during the war. The NATO intervention in 1999 was highly criticized by some of the leading intellectuals of our time, including Noam Chomsky, who asserted that “the term genocide, as applied to Kosovo, is an insult to the victims of Hitler”, or Harold Pinter, arguing that “little did we think two years ago that we had elected a government which would take a leading role in what is essentially a criminal act, showing total contempt for the United Nations and international law”, nor to mention Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Peter Hitchens, Senator George Voinovich and others. If the so called Operation “Horseback” was the pretext to bomb, why the US did not react on reports of ethnic cleansing made by the UN and other relevant organizations after the war? It is not mentioned that the sole bombardment of Yugoslavia provoked a massive fleeing of populations – both Serb and Albanian – from Kosovo and that more than 400 civilians were killed by NATO bombs.

I’d like to remind Dr. Keil again that backing only one side and implementing the policy of double standard over Kosovo will not help improve communication between communities in Kosovo, nor will it help in reaching a final solution over the Kosovo issue. As mentioned above, the international community must back up new negotiations over the status issue until both sides will reach a common agreement.

3) Bosnia

A stable and prosperous Republic of Srpska is of prime importance to Serbia, as s a prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina. In my previous article I have written that only economic prosperity and collaboration will erase nationalistic tension in that fragile state of the Balkans.

I cannot however agree with Dr. Keil on some issues he has expressed is his article. First of all, backing only one side in Bosnia will create even further turmoil. Demanding and encouraging centralization – including the transfer of RS competencies – could only cause a stalemate that will not help Bosnia to move on. Furthermore, attributing to the Serb entity such a connotation as being a “state based on genocide” will not help the communities of Bosnia to find a common language, but will instead only support extremism on both sides. That is the reason why the approach to the centralization of Bosnia must be taken with caution and with detailed analysis of all the effects that it could produce. Moreover, does the Dayton Agreement allow such transfer of competencies to a central organ? It does not. Serbia is one of the guarantors of the Dayton agreement and it is of prime importance to Serbia to support the Serb entity without bringing into question the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As Graham Day noted in his article “Bosnia – the path to sustainable peace runs through Banja Luka”: The international community must instead start dealing with the Republika Srpska as a political player with legitimate fears and concerns”. As soon as the international community understands that the Republika Srpska is a legitimate entity, then sooner things will move in a positive direction.

Could there be a centralized Bosnian state? It cannot, simply because the Serb population of Bosnia will never accept a centralized state, and nor will Bosnia’s Croats. The so-called creation of a third entity by the Croats is not possible either, since the Dayton Agreement does not permit it. The only solution for Bosnia is to create a mechanism for dialogue between the communities, respecting both entities and without broad involvement of the international community.

4) Understanding the Balkans

The Balkan region has always been a point of collision between different ideas, religions, ethnic groups and civilizations. Understanding how societies work and how nations think is of primary importance in finding a common solution to the problems that are affecting the region. With the whole region committed to find for the first time a common language, such events as the independence of Kosovo deteriorated and stopped the improvement in relations between countries. The recognition of Kosovo by certain European states only harmed the tranquilization of the region and provided the basis for further confrontation; fortunately this time not an armed one.

The solution – not only for Kosovo but for all the problems affecting the Balkans – is in understanding that both sides must be equally supported and that openly supporting one side over the other will only cause further aggravation of relations.

I dare not to think what will happen if the international community will continue to implement a policy of double standards in the world and in the Balkans. But I dare to hope that it will end one day.

Stefan Dragojevic was born in the United Kingdom and lived in Italy. Currently he is third-year-student at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade and has attended conferences and seminars regarding international and legal affairs. He’s active in the sphere of politics and student politics.

This article is published as part of TransConflict Serbia’s new initiative, ‘Serbia’s Future on the Future of Serbia’.

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