The Sorrow and the Pity

If recent news from the Balkans sound stale, that is only because the problems of the region never really get solved. The political class of the peninsula – as well as that of the European Union and the Empire – has a vested interest in keeping problems alive, so they can pretend to be the only solution. There is but a small step from governments never letting a crisis go to waste to creating a perpetual crisis, seen as a perpetual opportunity to do “good”, line pockets, or both.

Scapegoating and Distractions

Caught in their own lawfare trap, Bosnia’s Muslim leaders had a powerful incentive to find a solution to the country’s constitutional conundrum: the looming threat of Brussels withholding aid. Yet the October 10 summit was a failure, and the Eurocrats actually made good on their promise, cutting off subsidies to Sarajevo as punishment.

The country’s Serb Republic has already amended its constitution and electoral laws, while the Croats – a minority in the Muslim-dominated Federation – have the backing of Croatia, member of the EU since July. But instead of negotiating with the Croats, the Muslim leadership has chosen to attack the Serbs, filing a lawsuit claiming that the Serb Republic’s celebration of January 9 as patron saint day is “discriminatory.” That will clearly foster trust and solve all the country’s problems.

Meanwhile, news of the punishment from Brussels has barely registered, because on October 15 – as Muslims were celebrating Eid al-Adha (known in Bosnia by its Turkish name, kurban Bayram) – Bosnia’s soccer team successfully qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a 1:0 victory over Lithuania.

While the Western media have spun the soccer success as something with potential to unify Bosnians of all stripes, it will take more than sports to mend the broken fences and poisoned wells. Once the euphoria wears off, the cold reality will still be there: the unresolved issue of Sejdic-Finci, the problem-ridden census, and a moribund economy. But by then, another scapegoat, or distraction, will be found.

Lords of the Ashes

Thirteen years after the CIA/NED “democratic revolution,” an overtly quisling government is running Serbia into the ground while claiming to be ushering in a brighter future.

According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based watchdog, some “$51 billion in ‘illicit financial flows’ left Serbia from 2001 to 2010, the 16th highest total among 150 developing nations.” (EU Observer). The actual figures are probably far higher, since the pillaging has not stopped in 2010; the government in charge then was able to continue its depredations for two more years, and the one that replaced it in 2012 has been much worse.

Finance minister Lazar Krstic – a low-level Imperial consultant hyped by the regime media as savior – has proposed new taxes and austerity as ways of dealing with the country’s ruin. This while he collects four salaries himself, and can’t get his own Yale BA recognized under Serbian law. Meanwhile, his bosses are employing even more foreign “advisers,” presumably not paid in raspberries.

In addition to the disgraced ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Belgrade has hired Austria’s failed PM Alfred Gusenbauer (who also “advises” Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev) in early October, Italy’s former FM, Franco Frattini just the other day. A former Berlusconi apparatchik who later became a Eurocrat, Frattini just happens to be the honorary citizen of Tirana, Albania.

It shouldn’t surprise, therefore, that the government employing him is doing everything it can for its occupied province of Kosovo to finally become Albanian. The remaining Serbs in the north of the province are being pressured to take part in the “local elections” scheduled for November 3. These are being organized by the “Republic of Kosova”, and would explicitly recognize the authority of the Empire-backed regime in Pristina over the province’s territory – something the northerners have successfully resisted since 1999.

While the government in Belgrade has mobilized all the media at its disposal for a propaganda blitz to convince the Serbs that capitulating to the Albanian occupiers would somehow be a triumph – going so far as to enlist the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church – the northerners may well have none of it. Unlike the fantasyland promoted by the Belgrade press, they have lived in reality for the past 14 years, and seen what has happened to their fellows who accepted NATO, EU and Albanian control.

The regime in Belgrade entirely fits the description of people who’d see Serbia burn, if only they could rule the ashes. Perhaps that is why they agreed to give preferential treatment to Croatian tobacco imports.

The Bitter End

Little wonder, then, that the passing of Josip Broz Tito’s widow this week became yet another pathetic occasion for government self-promotion. Jovanka Budisavljevic met the future dictator of Yugoslavia – 32 years her senior – during WW2, and married him in 1952. But in the late 1970s, Tito set her aside – due to malicious accusations from Party leaders, seeking to manipulate the ailing pharaoh themselves. After his death, Jovanka was placed under house arrest. There she remained for the next three decades, abandoned and forgotten by all.

Only recently was there some interest in her: some work was done to repair the villa in 2006, and government officials had Jovanka meet with the Imperial charge d’affaires to badmouth the Russians. She remained loyal to Tito and Yugoslavia, despite being betrayed by both. Perhaps this was because her fate mirrored that of Yugoslavia, “a state that came from seed that went to seed,” as Australian scholar Binoy Kampmark put it.

From Tito and his Communist cohorts, to present-day tribal chieftains in Bosnia and quisling cultists in Serbia (among others), government has been treated as a way to privatize the benefits of state power, while socializing the costs that came with it. All governments everywhere have faced this temptation, and most of them have succumbed. If with great power comes great responsibility, but those in power can shift that responsibility elsewhere – onto the electorate, the unelected bureaucracy, or a capricious deity – the result will always be a government that is too powerful and utterly irresponsible: a textbook tyranny.

Such arrangements are indeed cozy for tyrants – while they last. But they never last very long.

Ask Jovanka Broz.

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.