Nationalism in Serbia
Dangerous dream of a great empire
A guest contribution by Christian
Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)
August 15, 2010
(An approximate translation from
the original German article)
Conspiracy theories, dreams of a
"Greater Serbia" and not a word about genocide: Serbia's nationalism is blocking
development of the Balkans. But Germany and the EU must do their homework.
For years, Europe's top political leaders have been talking about the permanent
state of crisis in Kosovo and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The truth, however, looks
rather different: the reason for the lack of progress is not the lack of good
will or the stupidity of the politicians in those two countries. The biggest
problem is still the ideological rigidity in Serbia.
Belgrade has still not cut itself loose from the nationalist ideology of Greater
Serbia, which in the 1990s led to the worst genocide in Europe since the Second
World War and resulted in the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Even
today, this ideology is blocking any progress in the two neighboring countries.
In a show of unparalleled political defiance, the Serbian government seeks to
ensure that the historically outmoded idea of "Greater Serbia" is not called
into question. Anyone who dares to do so in Serbia is still subjected enormous
political pressures that may even go so far as murder, as happened in the case
of the courageous former prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, who was in a real sense
But there is also another factor that prevents positive developments in the
region: it is the unfocused, inconsistent and short-sighted policy of Europe.
Europe still does not want to admit how much harm it has caused with its
constant concessions to Serbia's policies, and how much this has contributed to
the current disastrous situation in Kosovo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia.
Two court decisions, issued in Europe, should now open the eyes of European
leaders. First, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has issued
a clear and unambiguous ruling on the independence of Kosovo: the declaration of
independence of Kosovo was not a violation of international law! The ruling was
received in Belgrade as a thunderbolt.
The second court decision, issued by a London court after a careful examination,
ruled as follows: It has freed Ejup Ganic, who at the request of Serbia had been
arrested in London on March 1st and was to be extradited to Belgrade as a
suspected war criminal. The court determined that there is no evidence that
Ganic had in fact committed the alleged war crimes in May 1992. The judge found
that it was not legally valid evidence, but political motives that led the
Serbian Public Prosecutor to make false allegations; according to the judge,
this was an abuse of British legal process.
The grounds for London Judge Timothy Workman's judgment also showed that the
Serbian side, behind the back of the court, had attempted to cut a political
deal with London and Sarajevo: Belgrade would withdraw the request for
extradition, if Ejup Ganic were put on trial in Sarajevo and if the Bosnian
government would signal its approval of the inadequate declaration adopted by
the Serbian Parliament on the massacre in Srebrenica, which avoided using the
word "genocide." This attempt demonstrates in what low regard the Serbian
government holds the rule of law in London; of course, the court turned down
such a request.
The news of Ganic's release - after five months in London - was greeted in
Serbia with an outpouring of rage in the Serbian media, on the part of the
Radical Party leadership, but also within the government, which once again shows
how overheated the atmosphere is in the country. President Boris Tadic, Foreign
Minister Vuk Jeremic and the prime minister of the Republika Srpska, Milorad
Dodik, have since outdone each other in their efforts to represent these two
court rulings as part of a great anti-Serb conspiracy and in their vows that
they will never accept the independence of Kosovo. In all haste, 55 special
ambassadors have now been dispatched [from Serbia] to the four corners the
world, to make sure that as few UN member states as possible recognize Kosovo.
It is not excluded that this activism may even achieve some small successes.
There are even five EU member states that, due to fears arising from their own
domestic situation, have declined to recognize the state of Kosovo. But in the
long run it is becoming increasingly clear that the time is long past when
Serbia could insist that - as "Greater Serbia" - it has the final say in Kosovo
or Bosnia. History has simply moved on.
All the more reason why Europe must now do its own homework. This includes
supporting those forces in the Balkans that act responsibly for long-term
meaningful solutions and are ready to make constructive contributions to the
stabilization of the region. It was, for example, a fundamental mistake when,
under pressure from the Republika Srpska, the international judges were removed
from the state courts of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the end of last year.
This has greatly hampered the development of a functioning state in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and mistakes such as these must not be repeated. Europe must
help those who want to move forward the process of reform in the Balkans. The
latter depended on such international and professional support.
An important task for the EU it would be to open talks with Russia and China at
the highest levels in order to the break down the blockade in the Security
Council, step by step. The goal should be a mutual agreement on the future of
the region. The Europeans must also be ready to relinquish the attitude that
they know everything better, and to win back the confidence of governments and
the population in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Serbia.
Unfortunately, in this process the
Germans are also among the passive, sometimes even among the laggards. In
Berlin, the leaders are apparently waiting for a European special train in which
seats will be reserved for Germany on the matter of cooperation in the Balkans.
This will turn out to be a miscalculation. Meanwhile, for some time now other
powers, in particular Turkey, have occupied those seats. In an exemplary fashion
they are seeking to unblock the tense situation in a European sense and in
coordination with Russia. The return of Germany as a constructive player would
still be welcomed. These two court rulings could provide a good opportunity to
Schwarz-Schilling, 79, was minister of posts and telecommunications in the Kohl
government and resigned in 1992 in protest against the government's policy on
Bosnia. In 2006-07 he served as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.