The Year Everything Changed

To say that the year behind us has been interesting would be an understatement. On one hand, there were no wars in the Balkans; no insurgencies, pogroms, or massacres. On the other hand, Imperial influence in the region has decreased dramatically, most likely as a direct result of the long defeat it is undergoing worldwide. Emissaries from Washington, Brussels and The Hague are no longer greeted as demi-gods. Viceroys and envoys are told to sod off. Years of abuse, pressure and coercion have managed to produce the opposite effect from the one intended.

As differences between reality and Empire-construed "facts" become increasingly apparent, cognitive dissonance leads to either madness or reexamination of one’s beliefs. The edifice of lies cannot sustain itself much longer.

The Hague: Inquisition’s Fall

The year began well for the Hague Inquisition. Belgrade was under enormous pressure to find and arrest Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, and Head Prosecutor Carla del Ponte had veto power over EU’s relations with Serbia. The trial of Slobodan Milosevic wasn’t going well, though. After four years of prosecution and defense, Milosevic was getting seriously ill and the case was going nowhere. Despite having spent millions of dollars, generated hundreds of thousands of pages of paperwork, and bringing in almost three hundred witnesses over the course of three years, the prosecutors had not managed to prove any of their claims. Milosevic had successfully challenged their malicious interpretations of history and political situation in Yugoslavia, and his cross-examinations showed the witnesses as irrelevant at best, perjured at worst. So it was a relief for the Hague Inquisition when Milosevic was found dead in his cell on March 11. Although the Inquisition never convicted him, the Empire’s court of public opinion passed a posthumous sentence on him – guilty as charged, of course.

It turned out, however, that Milosevic’s death marked the high point in the Inquisition’s reign of pseudo-judicial terror. The frankly ludicrous conviction of Muslim warlord Naser Oric in July – sentenced to two years and promptly released – and the farcical conviction of Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik in September – sentenced to 27 years for supposedly participating in an alleged Serb conspiracy – relegated the ICTY to irrelevance. By then it had already lost its leverage over Belgrade; after Del Ponte sabotaged EU’s talks with Serbia in May 2006 because the government of Vojislav Kostunica had not arrested Gen. Ratko Mladic, Belgrade simply shrugged and stopped paying attention to the Hague Harridan.

Serbia: Still Standing

At the beginning of this year, the Empire was proclaiming with certainty that the "final solution" of the Balkans crisis was at hand and inevitable. For a while, it seemed things were going its way. Serbia’s talks with the EU were suspended in May. The end of that month brought a surprise victory for the Montenegrin separatists. After almost nine years of threatening to secede from Serbia and extorting privileges and foreign donations on that account, the venal regime of Milo Djukanovic rammed through a rigged referendum and declared independence. And nothing happened.

While the position of the majority of Montenegrins who declared themselves ethnic Serbs got worse, the position of Serbia improved dramatically. Without the "Montenegrin question," the Empire lost another level with which to control Belgrade.

By late June, the people of Serbia have begun to put the train of abuses heading their way from the West in its proper context, telling the Imperial officials precisely where they could stuff their threats and false promises. This was met in Washington and Brussels with a growing sense of panic, because their Serbian quislings were no longer taking orders. After more than a decade of abuse – including blockade, a bombing war, partial occupation and funding a coup – directed at Serbia, the Empire was confounded as to why the Serbs might be angry and bitter.

Given a false choice to surrender Kosovo for the theoretical promise of possible membership in the EU and NATO, Serbia refused. Such "intransigence" was deemed unforgivable by the Washington Post, which railed against both the Prime Minister and President of Serbia in a hysterical July editorial, declaring that Serbia needed to elect "better leaders."

At the end of October, the ramshackle coalition government of Vojislav Kostunica got approval for its draft constitution at a national referendum. The new constitution – cumbersome and incoherent, but an improvement over its predecessor – reasserted Serbia’s claim to Kosovo as an integral part of its territory. Its adoption started the counter for general elections, and forced the Empire to delay its decision on the status of Kosovo till after the January 2007 vote. With its last desperate attempt at bullying a failure, the Empire is now betting on "better leaders" and conducting a campaign of overt support to "democratic" parties, hoping that their expected triumph might pave the way to Kosovo’s separation.

Kosovo: The Frustrated Occupation

The death of Kosovo Albanian "president" Ibrahim Rugova in late January delayed the start of "status talks" concerning that occupied Serbian province. However, an outpouring of (undeserved) praise for Rugova in the Western media created a climate of sympathy for the Albanians, and for the first time independence was openly proclaimed as the preferred solution for Kosovo.

Soon thereafter, the Contact Group issued a statement that left independence as the only acceptable option. British diplomat John Sawers, speaking to Kosovo Albanians in February, stated almost explicitly that independence was inevitable. The Empire stood squarely behind the Albanians, going so far as to orchestrate the change of leadership in Pristina. Provisional "prime minister" Bajram Kosumi was replaced in early March by the wartime leader of the terrorist KLA, Agim Ceku.

But for the rest of the year, the project to separate Kosovo from Serbia went nowhere. Empire’s pompous proclamations met with Belgrade’s determined resistance, Russia’s opposition, and the growing frustration of the Albanians that has translated into violence against both Serbs and their international "liberators." The battle for Kosovo is far from over.

Bosnia: The Gordian Knot

Constitutional amendments that would have made Bosnia a more centralized country, drafted by the U.S. Embassy, were narrowly defeated in April. Leading the opposition to the amendments was Haris Silajdzic, Muslim nationalist and the self-proclaimed champion of centralization.

Silajdzic’s antics won him the leadership of Bosnian Muslims and a seat on the country’s tripartite presidency, but also paved the way for an unprecedented alignment of political forces on the Serb side, and the emergence of Milorad Dodik as the key power broker in Bosnia. The project of creeping centralization, ongoing since the first High Representative took office in 1996, ground to a halt this year. Utter chaos in the governing structures of the Muslim-Croat Federation, in comparison to which the Serb Republic is a paragon of functionality and efficiency, has pulled a rug out from under the centralizers.

With its pivotal question of ethnic relations fundamentally unresolved, Bosnia remains a place where the promise of human decency constantly battles the oppressive modern state.


Sixteen years since Yugoslavia started fragmenting, its shards are nowhere close to a peaceful settlement. European and American interventions, both political and military, over this period have not created peace, but simply changed the context of conflicts and influenced their course.

The "final solution" envisioned by policymakers in Washington, London and Brussels is nowhere in reach; in fact, it is rapidly spinning out of their grasp, with the Empire failing worldwide. The year ahead may well see the complete unraveling of the Imperial design for the Balkans, as political, social and economic realities continue to hammer at propaganda-created delusions. What will replace the Imperial architecture is hard to predict, but there is a possibility for a better Balkans now, more so than ever since Yugoslavia imploded.

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.