Bargains, Rumors, and Lies

Serbia and the EU

Proponents of joining the EU in Serbia rejoiced this week as Brussels announced the opening of talks on the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Belgrade – the first step on a long road to the EUSSR. Speculation has been rife that the move came as a reward for Belgrade’s stream of extraditions to the Hague Inquisitors, confirming once again that Imperial "justice" is in fact all about political leverage.

Demonstrating yet again how little leverage – or political savvy – he actually has, Serbian president Boris Tadic made an unprecedented offer to Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, only to be rudely rejected. Meanwhile, the Serbian military has been accused yet again of sheltering Inquisition fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, while a rabid Jacobin politician accused Prime Minister Kostunica of responsibility for the assassination of his predecessor Zoran Djindjic.

Promise of a Possibility

It used to be the EU was regarded as a means to an end – prosperity. Now, at least in the Balkans, it is increasingly perceived as an end in itself, a panacea for all the social, political, and economic ills plaguing the shards of Yugoslavia. What most people don’t understand is that Europe is beset by the exact same ills, which are only tempered by the ability of the authorities to prey on a still marginally profitable economy. Anyone who knows anything about politics, economics, and the nature of government ought to see that United Europe isn’t doing too well right now, although it may not quite be circling the bowl.

Nonetheless, virtually all the political parties and much of the public in Serbia was thrilled when the EU announced it would approve a feasibility study by expansion commissar Olli Rehn, and that Serbia could start talks about possibly, eventually, perhaps joining the Union – by 2012. Reporters immediately claimed that the EU path would bring aid and help reforms, though experience has shown aid to be ineffectual at best, destructive at worst. Furthermore, "reforms" that Serbia would need to implement to join the EU certainly don’t involve cutting back on government, freeing up the markets and economy, and abolishing frivolous and tyrannical legislation; if anything, there will be more laws, more rules, more government waste, and Serbia can’t afford even what it has right now. Some "reward," indeed.

Over the past two months, Serbia has been busily rounding up officials indicted by the Hague Inquisition in order to appease the EU. Politicians like Foreign Minister Draskovic, leaders of the ruling coalition member G-17 – but also PM Kostunica and President Tadic, though to a lesser degree – have pledged full and unconditional cooperation with Brussels and The Hague, without any regard to Serbian sovereignty or national interests. For all its prostration at Brussels’ feet, what Serbia got in the end was a promise of a possibility, nothing more.

Overture Snubbed

Parallel to the frantic effort to court the EU, Belgrade also played host to a delegation of a five-member "Contact Group" – envoys of the U.S., the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Russia, who appointed themselves arbiters of Balkans conflicts. Being a self-appointed body, unrelated to the UN or any other legitimate organization, the Contact Group has never felt a need to obey international law; their framework for Kosovo’s future follows this pattern faithfully. Trampling the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (itself not the Holy Writ by any stretch), they ruled out the status quo ante bellum, "partition," and annexation to Albania, leaving open a "loose union" with Serbia and independence. Honestly, one would think they cribbed their guidelines from the ICG.

Seeking to impress the Contact Group, the overeager President Tadic offered to launch direct talks with Kosovo’s Albanian "president" Ibrahim Rugova on the future of the occupied province. German envoy Michael Scheffer announced the offer excitedly earlier this week, and Tadic himself made the announcement Tuesday.

Rugova’s rejection was swift and undiplomatic. "There can be no direct political talks with Belgrade," Rugova’s spokesman Muhamet Hamiti told AP. "The bilateral meetings between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia ‘ can happen only after Kosovo’s independence is recognized."

Rugova and other Albanian leaders have repeatedly demonstrated a complete lack of desire to discuss anything but the unconditional and immediate fulfillment of their demands. Serbian leaders, on the other hand, have done their uttermost to project a willingness to negotiate. Whose policy has produced better results ought to be painfully obvious.

Smearing the Military

Last week, Serbia-Montenegro’s renegade foreign minister Vuk Draskovic told the Financial Times the country’s security services "ought to know" the whereabouts of Mladic. Instead of prompting his dismissal, the scandalous statement merely served as an introduction to another sensationalist claim about Serbia’s alleged complicity in shielding the Hague Inquisition’s most wanted.

The leading Jacobin daily, Danas, published an interview on April 11 with a former Army sergeant who claimed the Serbia-Montenegro Army has been protecting Mladic. Miroslav D. Petrovic claimed he was a member of the "outermost ring" of security for Mladic, but later somehow ended up in southern Serbia, where he refused to "join an alleged army ring of illegal sale of arms to Kosovo Albanians." So on Nov. 24 last year, he deserted and "defected" to U.S. Army troops occupying Kosovo.

Of course, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should not take the word of a deserter and "defector" (what is this, the Cold War?) who claims the Serbian military not only sheltered Mladic, but also sold weapons to their sworn and mortal enemies, the KLA. No, none whatsoever. Nor should the appearance of such claims in Danas, a rabidly pro-Imperial publication that does not even bother to hide its hatred of everything Serbian – but rather revels in it – detract in any way from Petrovic’s claim. Why, oh, why should either Petrovic or Danas be making any of this up?

Actually, the reasons are legion. Petrovic needs to produce a good story that would justify the U.S. government offering him protection (and perhaps asylum). The Empire needs to destroy the Serbian armed forces, not just as a way of eventually conquering Serbia but also out of vengeful spite for their resistance during the Kosovo War. Serbian Jacobins, for their part, loathe the military (along with the Orthodox Church and other institutions) as one of the pillars of Serbian society. By itself, Petrovic’s claim that the military is sheltering Mladic is just a regurgitation of familiar rumors peddled by the Jacobin press and its Imperial counterparts. It’s the allegation of selling weapons to the reviled Albanian terrorists that gives it a specific stench of something cooked up to smear the military.

It did not take long for the Western press to assert that it was "widely believed" the military protected Mladic and other officers. Actually, it’s a rather narrow belief, shared only by the Serbian Jacobins. Even the Imperial organs occasionally making such allegations don’t seriously believe it to be true; but if the mud sticks…

Ravings of a Lunatic

Mudslinging, by the way, is the favorite form of political expression of Serbian Jacobins. They are strange and horrifying beasts, surpassing in sanctimony even the most self-righteous "progressive" warmongers and easily matching the revolutionary zeal of frothing neoconservatives. These professional haters-of-everything-Serbian and well-funded champions of "Western values" (of which they know but two: cupidity and venality) have minuscule support among the people, but a disproportionately loud voice in the media.

Foremost among them is one Cedomir "Ceda" Jovanovic, an angry youth who first rose to prominence as a gofer/stormtrooper for the late Zoran Djindjic. Now one of the most prominent "professional revolutionaries," Jovanovic never misses an opportunity to launch tirades of foul invective at anyone who dares disagree with him.

It was in this tone that he testified this week at the trial of people suspected of assassinating Djindjic. Jovanovic’s well-publicized testimony demonstrated that while eloquent, he is also a raving lunatic, whose relationship with reality is at best casual.

The first day in court, he accused the current prime minister of responsibility for Djindjic’s death. "I have no information that Kostunica took part [in planning] the assassination, but he is responsible that the attack happened," Jovanovic told the court (AP). He doesn’t need "evidence" to know Kostunica is guilty, so why aren’t the Revolutionary Guards shooting him already!?

After he spent the following day showering the accused with insults while the judge did little or nothing to rein him in, Jovanovic faced some consequences of his vulgarity: in the hallway outside the courtroom, the wife of the accused thumped him with a purse and called him a "disgrace to humanity."

One does not have to approve of her husband (though Milorad "Legija" Ulemek ought to enjoy the presumption of innocence, if the trial is to be anywhere near fair) to agree with the sentiment.

Conquest by Stealth

These examples of Serbia’s scandalous quotidian reality illustrate that in their obsession with politics and their inability to curb the powers of government, Serbians are incapable of seeing how they are being slowly conquered by the EU – and made to do all the work of conquest, too.

Brussels needs Belgrade as the strategic linchpin of the Balkans, while Belgrade doesn’t need Brussels at all. Everything that makes the EU an obscene, over-regulated, welfare-ridden bureaucratic nightmare is already present in Serbia. Still, whether because of their own political nightmare or because of loud and persistent lies they hear every day, Serbians believe the EU is actually doing them a favor. Presented with a false dichotomy between their own rapacious rulers and the Eurocrats, one can almost understand them. But they should be pitied just the same.

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 debuted in November 2000.