Entering EU is an endless road for Serbia

Sunday, 24 Jul 2011

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On July 20 Serbian authorities arrested Goran Hadžić, the last remaining fugitive sought by the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. By giving up wartime fugitives President Tadić may win the praise of EU leaders, but as Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs editor at Chronicles magazine told RT, this will hardly pave Serbia’s way to the EU.

Trifkovic: We’ve seen with the arrest of Ratko Mladić that the reaction of the Serbian public was almost uniformly negative because most Serbs believe The Hague tribunal has a deeply biased attitude to the apportioning of guilt in the former Yugoslavia between the Serbs and various other parties. The second problem is that Tadić’s claim that [Hadžić’s arrest] would pave the way for Serbia’s speedy membership of the EU is far from certain. With Mladić we’ve seen several days of media regurgitation of the old propagandistic claims about Srebrenica, about the siege of Sarajevo etc.  Instead of a pat on the back and the promise of a speedy EU accession, I think that Serbia will now see the list of additional demands and additional preconditions.

RT: Let’s talk more about this “ever-lengthening list of preconditions” which you refer to and that may be now put to Serbia… What sorts of tasks actually remain to be completed?

Trifkovic: It is an open secret in Brussels that what is euphemistically known as “normalization of relations with Serbia’s neighbors” – which is the code word for recognition of Kosovo’s independence – will top the agenda. Only a couple of weeks ago a ago a Bundestag delegation came to Belgrade and several German MPs openly talked about this as a precondition which at least they themselves will regard as paramount to any talks of Serbia’s accession.

The second area, which is highly problematic and which is talked about in Brussels in an off-the-record way, is a further decentralization of Serbia, with the northern province of Vojvodina and the predominantly Muslim-inhabited region of Sanjak in southwestern Serbia being given ever-greater degrees of autonomy. This means that even rump-Serbia, once Kosovo has been detached, cannot be certain of its integrity.

Last but by no means least, there is also the issue of accepting the unitarization of Bosnia and Herzegovina and encouraging Serbs of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia, and Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, to accept further reduction of autonomous status of the Republica Srpska under Dayton. All of these will come into play before Serbia sees any movement in what I believe is an endless road which will not be crowned by success in a decade at least.

RT: Considering what you’ve just said, a very lengthy list of preconditions that the EU will ask of Serbia before it considers accession… why do you think is Serbia so keen to join this bloc which itself is struggling to stay afloat?

Trifkovic: I don’t think it is “Serbia” as an entity that is particularly keen to join the EU. It is the “pro-European” coalition lead by President Boris Tadić that uses the rhetoric of EU integrationalism or Euro-enthusiasm as a substitute for a coherent strategy of Serbia’s getting out of a deep economic social and political crisis that has lasted for over a decade since the fall of Milošević. There has never been a proper debate in Serbia about the pros and cons of EU membership. The EU mantra has been imposed by the tightly controlled media as something that is beyond discussion and beyond reproach. It is regrettable that on this issue of prime national importance, a government that prides itself on being “pro-Western,” “democratic” and “reformist” has acted in as rigid, as ideologically intolerant manner as any regime of “Real Socialism” of 30 or 40 years ago.