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By Aleksandar Mitic
March 29, 2006 -- The EU Council of Ministers was right this week in promising strong support to Serbs in coming to terms with the legacy of Slobodan Milosevic, but in order to achieve this, Brussels must first free its current policies from the 1990s double standards and stereotypes about a “rogue Serbia”.
Consider the timing of the current “pressure package” on Serbia. The
Montenegrin government has been calling for independence for over five
years now – but the referendum is scheduled at a time when the volative
Kosovo status talks are heating up. Bosnia has filed a lawsuit against
Belgrade in front of the International Court of Justice in 1993 – but the
proceedings and the verdict will be given during the Kosovo negotiations.
The “Dayton Peace Accord” in Bosnia had been in place since 1995, but the
pressure on Republika Srpska to accept constitutional changes have stepped
up only now, during the Kosovo talks. Former Bosnian Serb military commander
Ratko Mladic had been indicted for war crimes since 1995 but Belgrade is
being given a strict deadline to locate and to arrest the runaway general
or face disruption of EU integration talks – you guessed it, exactly at
the beginning of the Kosovo status talks.
With Pristina, it is a wholly different story -- as if Milosevic was still in power in Belgrade. Criminal activities are tolerated, controversial, “lesser evil” politicians are pushed to power, the lack of results on the ground is masked by rhetorical goodwill of the UN and the Kosovo leadership, while threats of violence by “frustrated Albanians” are tolerated and even used as arguments to speed up the status process. The pressure is put on the Kosovo Serbs instead.
Still living in enclaves and ghettos seven years after the war, the
Kosovo Serbs have rejected further participation in the Kosovo institutions
in protest over the persistent discrimination and attempts to use them
as a “multiethnic decor”. In the two years in parliament, not a single
amendment they had proposed has been adopted. It seems highly unlikely
that they will return to parliament now, just for the sake of “fulfilling
the standards of multiethnic institutions”. They do not see their place
in the Kosovo assembly which ignores their legitimate interests, proclaims
“independence as the only solution”, puts portraits of war crimes indictee
Ramush Haradinaj on its walls and elects Agim Ceku, a general suspected
of war crimes, for Prime minister.
Moreover, statements urging the Serbs “to accept reality” abound. Some senior Western officials, including a foreign minister of a EU country, are suggesting that independence of Kosovo is inevitable, although the negotiations on the status itself have not even begun and despite the dangerous repercussions of such a precedent.
This is not the way to help Serbia’s pro-European government and the democratic forces of a a country which Brussels sees as the future backbone of economic growth and political stability in the region.
Neither helpful are the extremely meager carrots offered to Serbia:
selective softening of the Schengen visa regime, limited aid funds, a regional
free trade agreement – way too little for the “crucial year in the Balkans”.