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Aleksandar Mitic | Columns | Serbianna.com Out of Milosevic
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.
One might argue that all this is pure coincidence based on unfinished business, but most will agree that the current approach towards the Kosovo status talks smells too much like bad timing and double standards.

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.
Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand, are praised for their “political maturity” even as  all reports suggest international standards are far from being achieved. At the time of his death in January, Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova was dubbed “the Gandhi of the Balkans”, although he never genuinely condemned anti-Serb violence or ever stood for any other than his own fellow Albanians. Rugova’s “pacifist” policy is praised as a model for Kosovo, but then a month later, it is the warlord and war crimes suspect Ceku who is elected Prime Minister.
And what about war crimes hypocrisy? Although Serbia extradited all of its Kosovo war crimes indictees to the The Hague tribunal, had the courage to open its mass graves and to organize local war crimes trials, the Albanians are still getting preferential treatment: nobody is pressuring them to face their own crimes, indictee Fatmir Limaj is freed of all charges, former Prime minister Ramush Haradinaj is set free until trial and allowed to participate in political life, and Agim Ceku, accused by Serbia of massive crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo, is elected as Prime minister of Kosovo with the backing of the international community.

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”.
And then came “absorption capacity”…

Aleksandar Mitic
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