Eastern Empire Rising?

EU Back in the Balkans

Following Emperor Bush II’s visit to Europe last month, the U.S. seems to have pulled back to the sidelines of Balkans policy, letting its junior partners in Brussels deal with the peninsula. American threats and saber-rattling had produced relatively few results convincing Balkans capitals to round up and deliver officials wanted by the Hague Inquisition, so Imperial diplomats must have figured it was time for a “good cop” approach.

A recent flood of surrenders to the ICTY certainly appears to be validating their conclusion. Eager to secure eventual annexation by the Brussels Leviathan, Belgrade is busily working down the ICTY list. But both Serbia and the equally eager Croatia have been told their hopes will remain theoretical until the Big Three – Karadzic, Mladic, and Gotovina – are delivered to The Hague in shackles.

Meanwhile, in the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo, the surrender of “Prime Minister” Ramush Haradinaj has created a vacuum the Albanians are scrambling to fill, and the EU has already sent its top commissar, Javier Solana, to make sure the replacement is to Brussels’ liking.

In a sharp contrast with 10 years ago, when a rogue American diplomat shoved aside European efforts to “manage” the Bosnian war, the eastern partner in the Empire is now taking the initiative in the Balkans. But the overall policy of conquest and subjugation remains the same.

Carrot or Stick?

It was predictable that the chain of surrenders by Serb officers and officials in the past three weeks would be attributed by Imperial authorities to their relentless pressure on Belgrade. For example, NATO spokesman in Bosnia Derek Chappell (formerly of Kosovo fame), told AP: “This shows that the concerted pressure of the international community is paying dividends.”

The Associated Press was more blunt: “EU Pressure Behind War Crimes Handovers,” blared a headline Friday. The story quotes ICTY president, Theodor Meron, who said that, “The EU’s message has been clear: there will be no real negotiations on EU membership if the court’s orders are not met. The new element in the calculus is the European Union.”

Such as it is, the “calculus” is rather simple: surrender of suspects in exchange for EU’s consideration of theoretical possibility of membership. As British weekly The Economist noted Tuesday, until Serbia and Croatia hand over the wanted men, “their paths to membership of the European Union and other European and transatlantic bodies are blocked. … In the end, Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic must go to The Hague, because otherwise Serbia will not be going to Brussels.”

Already Croatia’s talks with the EU, scheduled for this week, have been torpedoed by Head Inquisitor Carla DelPonte, who claimed last week that Croatian authorities obstructed the hunt for general Gotovina.

Vuk Draskovic, Serbia-Montenegro’s chief diplomatic embarrassment, once again articulated foreign interests instead of those of his country, telling the AFP during a visit to Brussels: “We understood that message [i.e., the rebuff of Croatia] very clearly that Serbia and Montenegro cannot even think about Brussels and approaching the EU until transferring to The Hague all indictees.” Yet the slobbering foreign minister still said he was “hopeful” of Serbia’s chances to “approach” the superstate.

In the EU’s extortion of Belgrade and Zagreb, there are elements of both the proverbial carrot and the proverbial stick. Whichever it may be, this new EU policy continues to treat both Serbia and Croatia like mules.

Unconditional Surrender

Instead of “increased cooperation,” Brussels’ newfound obsession with the ICTY requires nothing short of full, unconditional submission. This is illustrated by a lead editorial in The Guardian Wednesday, which saluted EU’s decision to postpone talks with Croatia as “inevitable – and right.” Aptly titled “All or Nothing,” the editorial demanded that Zagreb “do the bidding” of the Inquisition, as without “facing its past” there can be no European future for Croatia.

Of course, no one is really asking Croatia to face its past – not the murderous orgy of 1941-45, not the 1991-95 revival of Serbophobia, or the actual ethnic cleansing committed in the 1995 summer blitzkrieg under U.S. tutelage. The ICTY is after Gotovina so it can claim impartiality while charging the entire Serb leadership with a grand conspiracy to launch the Succession Wars. As The Economist puts it, it is important for the Tribunal “that it is seen to be serving up justice blindly, trying not only Serbs but those accused of crimes against Serbs” (emphasis added). So long as the Inquisition is seen to be just, anything else goes.

Serbia has already been told, in no uncertain terms, that Ratko Mladic holds its key to the EU and NATO. When four officers surrendered two weeks ago, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that “more needs to be done.” In response, Prime Minister Kostunica – once opposed to extraditions – pledged “total” cooperation. Thanks to Kostunica’s junior coalition partners, the Keynesian G-17, Serbia is already severely indebted and subject to IMF demands – the latest of which are to curb demand and control wages. Whether it can somehow find and seize Mladic or not seems largely immaterial – economically and psychologically, Serbia is already a postnational welfare state of the EU kind.

Meanwhile, in Kosovo

Not all of Serbia is subject to EU extortion, however. In its occupied southern province, the surrender of “Prime Minister” Haradinaj was very emphatically not attributed to pressure, but entirely to Haradinaj’s own brave, selfless, patriotic conscience. The sickeningly saccharine commentary accompanying Our Man Ramush to The Hague has stood out in sharp contrast to the assumption of guilt for other indicted officials. Yet almost no one has made an effort to point this out.

Javier Solana, the EU Commissar visiting the province to “assist” with forming the new government, praised Albanians for not launching a pogrom against anyone upon news of Haradinaj’s indictment. Apparently, not conducting murderous rampages is a sign of civilization and maturity; conducting them, on the other hand, is “understandable frustration.” But Solana, who as NATO GenSec led the 1999 invasion of Kosovo, said something altogether more interesting during his visit:

“[Rugova] has the support of the EU in something that in our mind is very, very important now – it is that all the Kosovars* have a sense of common course and common direction.” (ABC, Australia)

Surely the remark had something to do with the murmurings that the EU favored a “concentration government” that would include all the Albanian parties, something that Haradinaj’s party has resisted. According to Transitions Online,

“‘In this crucial moment, it would be very good to have a broader government which would have wider support among the people of Kosovo* for important decisions in this crucial year for Kosovo*,’ an EU official told the local newspaper Koha ditore.”

As Rugova was arriving to his meeting with Solana Tuesday morning, a roadside bomb exploded next to his motorcade. One passerby was injured by shattered glass, and Rugova was somewhat shaken, but the explosion had the same effect as a grenade thrown at his house last year. Namely, it offered Rugova a chance to furiously denounce “people who want to destabilize Kosovo” (which in Albanian political jargon translates as “Serbs”). It remains to be seen whether the Albanians would put together a government that pleases the EU, but it is abundantly clear that Brussels is backing their separatist efforts. And that is something the Brussels-worshipping authorities in Belgrade should at least notice, if not actually react to. One shouldn’t expect too much from them, after all.

Chasing Delusions

This resurgence of Europe as the enthusiastic “Eastern Empire” appendage to Rome-on-the-Potomac further illustrates the inherent idiocy of aiming to join the continental superstate. Built on the postmodern, postnational, post-religious, post-logical, welfare-state legacy of the mass-murderous 20th century, the Brussels Leviathan is basically a rebirth of the Soviet Union, dressed in velvet and with much better PR.

Unfortunately, in the beleaguered Balkans there is a confluence of delusions where the EU is concerned. The state-supremacist rulers are by and large men of feeble character, who appear to still believe the Marxist notion of “historical dialectic” under which the EU is inevitable. They either do not longer recognize freedom, or if they do, consider it of no value. Their subjects, meanwhile, turn to the outside for protection from their local kleptocrats.

What few understand is that the Balkans’ present is the EU’s future. Seeking to outrun entropy, the Leviathan will eventually run out of people, welfare money, or both. And when that happens, there may well be a Succession War on a continental scale that would easily dwarf the 1990s tragedy in the former Yugoslavia. One peek behind the curtain of false prosperity – no more than the legacy of a once-powerful civilization now dying – would make it obvious that the difference between Balkans kleptocrats and the Brussels Eurocrats is not one of principle, but of scale.

* Note: In the occupation jargon, “Kosovars” and “people of Kosovo” invariably mean “Albanians.” Sometimes just “Kosovo” is used, as if the province itself were alive and Albanian. This is symptomatic not only of Albanian politicians and press, but of UN viceroy Jessen-Petersen and his predecessors.

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.