An Unexpected Refusal

As late as Monday, it had appeared that the government in Belgrade would accept the demands from Brussels and capitulate on Kosovo. The province, occupied by NATO in 1999, was declared independent in February 2008, but despite the Empire’s insistence, even the most dedicated of quislings in Belgrade have been unwilling to recognize this.

When it became clear that the previous government, led by Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party, was unable to carry out the mission for which it was installed in power, the Empire castled: the farcical election in May 2012 ended with a candidate from the Empire-reinvented Progressive Party replacing Tadic as president, while his party replaced the Democrats in the otherwise little-changed cabinet.

The Progressives were created by a hostile takeover of the Radical Party, whose refusal to submit to the Empire got it branded as “ultranationalist” and “hardline.” As the spin went, the Progs were just as patriotic as they were as Radicals, only more sophisticated and capable of delivering on the European pipe dream.

Now they, too, have failed their masters.

Unconditional Surrender

Anxious to “finish the job” in the Balkans, the Empire has pressed Belgrade to sign agreements amounting to official recognition of Kosovo’s “independence.” They aren’t called recognition in diplomatic doublespeak, of course, but “normalization of relations” – but the ultimate result would be Serbia treating of its occupied province as an independent state.

In December 2012, Belgrade agreed to “integrated border management” with the Albanian regime in Pristina, pulling the rug under the Serb community in the north of the province that has successfully resisted the Albanian takeover for years. Belgrade then proposed a “platform” for talks, essentially abandoning all claim to the province and attempting to secure “self-governance” for the four northern counties. This was a watered-down version of the 2007 Ahtisaari Plan, concocted by the Empire to provide a pretext for “Kosovian” independence, but rejected at the UN and by the Serbian government at the time.

Yet even that was deemed too much by the Albanians. While the actual content of the proposals on the table remains a mystery, leaks in the pro-government Serbian press and the Western mainstream media suggest that Belgrade was asked for unconditional surrender. All that was offered in return was a vague promise of a date on which negotiations on Serbia’s EU accession might begin – something the Germans had already said was extremely unlikely.

“Eleven Days of Hell”

On March 23, the deputy PM and head of the Progressive Party Aleksandar Vucic, told reporters that the government was in for “eleven days of Hell.” They were desperate to please the EU and really wanted to accept the ultimatum, but they needed something, anything they could spin as a victory at home. There have already been protests and campaigns against the government’s treason throughout Serbia, becoming more numerous by the day.

From Brussels and Berlin to Washington and the mainstream press, everyone expected Belgrade to cave. The outcome was presented as an inevitability, and the current status spun as Serbia’s enforced “partition” of rightfully ethnic Albanian territory. To ensure Belgrade got the message, on March 28 the EU “courts” in the occupied province convicted three Serbs over an incident in 2008, during an attempted NATO takeover of the north. Needless to say, there have been no convictions over the deadly 2004 pogrom targeting the Serbs…

The PM penned an op-ed in the pro-regime weekly NIN, dismissing the Constitution as a “lie” and advocating the surrender of Kosovo. Mladjan Dinkic – the man who has been in charge of ruining Serbia’s economy since October 2000, no matter who led the government – actually told the media that Serbia “must accept” the ultimatum or face “isolation.” In short, all signs pointed to a “yes” from Belgrade.

But the answer that came was “no.”

An Unwanted Victory

It is impossible to say with any certainty what went on in the minds of Tomislav Nikolic, Ivica Dacic and Aleksandar Vucic when they made the decision. Best one can tell, their fear of popular anger spilling over into violence outweighed – perhaps only temporarily – their fear of disobeying the Empire. That the current “deal” offered Serbia nothing, and demanded everything, probably didn’t make much of a difference. Saying “no” to Brussels wasn’t necessarily about getting a better deal for Serbia, as much as getting a better deal for themselves. The hapless quislings thus managed to turn a certain defeat, towards which they labored, into a victory they neither wanted nor deserved.

Over the past week, the three have been meeting with EU and US officials, trying to explain themselves. The pro-Imperial daily Danas has claimed that the government is in “constant contact” with Washington and Berlin, trying to get an improved proposal they would be willing to sign.

Judging by the statements by Washington’s envoy Phillip Reeker, however, the Empire is unlikely to budge.

Sideshow at the UN

Further complicating the picture was the session of the UN General Assembly on April 10, called by the former Serbian FM Vuk Jeremic to address the work of Empire’s “war crimes tribunal”. The U.S., Canada and Jordan boycotted the debate, calling it “inflammatory.” Additionally, the U.S. mission claimed that the debated “fail[ed] to provide the victims of these atrocities an appropriate voice.”

Jeremic had bent over backwards to do just that, however, by allowing a leader of the “Mothers of Srebrenica” to attend the session, though the organization lacked UN standing. Munira Subasic then tried to disrupt the debate by flashing a tee-shirt with a message calling the Bosnian Serb Republic “genocidal”, and was removed from the chambers.

Perhaps what really bothered the Empire was the unusually firm speech by Serbia’s president Nikolic, who for once managed to accurately represent his constituents.

Show Must Go On

There are no indications the Empire has abandoned its Balkan policy. It is definitely too early to tell whether the quisling leadership in Serbia might be trying to change course. But their refusal to follow the script, both in Brussels and in New York, suggests things aren’t quite as neatly wrapped as Imperial propaganda suggested just a week ago.

A spree shooting that took place on Tuesday at a village near Belgrade is a reminder that many Serbs own weapons, and might become willing to use them under the right circumstances. Media spin is trying to blame the spree on the killer’s alleged post-traumatic stress from the 1991 war in present-day Croatia. However, it is far more likely he was driven mad by the media-created climate of despair, combined with recently becoming unemployed, rather than events from two decades ago.

Not unexpectedly, Belgrade has made noises about gun control, and it is possible that this incident might be used as a pretext to disarm the populace. If successful, the government might be far more willing to capitulate to outside demands than it is now.

Meanwhile, the pro-Imperial regime in Montenegro came close to losing power in last weekend’s presidential election. In a most undiplomatic gaffe, a German parliamentarian delegation tried to run the deputy PM’s press conference in Belgrade. And Moscow just approved a $500 million loan to Serbia, intended to plug Belgrade’s gaping budget holes. Considering that one of the government’s arguments for accepting the EU ultimatum was that Serbia would “starve” otherwise, this might prove important in more than one way.

What is important to remember is that this has never really been so much about Serbia as about power, control of the Balkans, and thus the nexus between Europe and the Middle East, as well as Russia’s access to the Mediterranean. The great global game of thrones is still very much afoot…

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Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.