Capital Belgrade
Time Zone CET (GMT+1)
Country Code 381
Mobile Codes 60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67
ccTLD .rs
Currency Dinar (1EUR = 101RSD)
Land Area 88,361 sq km
Population 7.3 million (excl. Kosovo)
Language Serbian
Major Religions Orthodox Christianity, Islam

Serbia’s Relations with Belgium and Luxembourg: Interview with Ambassador Vesna Arsic

In this comprehensive new interview, Director Chris Deliso speaks with Vesna Arsic, Serbia’s ambassador to both Belgium and Luxembourg. The embassy is based in Brussels, and complements Serbia’s missions to NATO and the EU, which are also based in the Belgian capital.

Serbian Ambassador Vesna Arsic- Balkanalysis Interview

“Belgium and Luxembourg have indicated their support for our proactive role in regional cooperation,” notes Ambassador Arsic.

Ambassador Arsic’s distinguished career has included leading technical reforms in the banking and pension funds systems in Serbia’s ministry of finance, drafting important legislation, and leading the negotiating team in the process of Serbian WTO accession. She also served as the head of government representatives for negotiating free trade agreements with the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey and the EFTA countries.

In this interview, Ambassador Arsic discusses the Serbian bilateral role with Belgium and Luxembourg, cooperation on security and migration-related issues, and how the two countries continue to support Serbia’s EU accession goals. Also discussed are some interesting, little-known facts about the countries’ historical relationships and cultural cooperation initiatives.

The Importance of Bilateral Ties

Chris Deliso: When the discussion turns to Brussels, everyone talks about Balkan countries’ diplomacy with the EU. So in contrast, how is it to be the Serbian representative to the state of Belgium? What are the key issues?

Vesna Arsic: It is very important to Serbia to have a strong diplomatic presence in Brussels: currently Serbia has three ambassadors, including the EU and NATO missions. My position is to cover the bilateral relations. This fact means that the Serbian government has assessed it as a high priory to be more strongly represented in Brussels and Belgium in general.

It is essential to note that in Serbia, not only the government but all parties have the common interest of EU accession as a top priority, and Belgium is one of those countries among the founding members of the EU. My MFA and I myself see my role as very important in that we have direct relations with our counterparts in the Belgian MFA.

We also have developed networks in Belgium as a whole, which is partly due to the complex structure of Belgium, its decentralized and multi-ethnic nature. This means there are other levels of authorities who are also involved and we must have engagement with them too.

CD: What sort of legacy do the two countries have in terms of historic relations?

VA: Our bilateral relations are very historic. They were first established in 1879, and in 1886 further, during the Kingdom of Serbia, when we had a diplomatic envoy to Brussels. Also, Belgian investors were active in Serbia in the 19th century, in mining. And in fact the first railway in Serbia, in Negotinska Krajina, was built on Belgian concession.

Further, the first privileged national bank of Serbia, back in 1884, was developed with the support of skilled staff from the Belgian national bank- and the first Serbian bank notes were even printed in Belgium.

CD: Really! That is quite extraordinary.

VA: Yes. And also, the first democratic constitution in Serbia was made following the Belgian constitutional model. So we have long and rich ties.

CD: Also, in addition, Luxembourg is a country in your diplomatic remit. What specific interests and challenges does this portfolio entail?

VA: It is also essential for us to have direct communication with Luxembourg, and we have seen this year with the Luxembourg COE presidency the positive results of their support. They called all EU candidate countries, not only Serbia, to participate in the majority of ministerial councils. This means that similar to the Belgian bilateral relationship we seek to cultivate, the goal is the bilateral relationship here. The role and experience of Luxembourg as another country that was in the group of the first EU founders, like Belgium, is important.

CD: Can you tell us if there are a certain number of Serbian citizens living in Luxembourg presently?

VA: Yes, we have a certain number of Serbs present in Luxembourg- many of them moved there as a result of the conflicts of the 1990s. The number is estimated at around 5,000 to 7,000 persons.

CD: In the past, Luxembourg has played a somewhat complicated role- we know for example that in the run-up to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, the Americans were heavily using Luxembourgish diplomats to coordinate European states’ recognitions process behind the scenes, in the months before the decision in 2008. Obviously this was against Serbian interests. How have things proceeded now in the seven years since? What is the state of the diplomatic relationship now?

VA: It is still an important matter for Serbia, the process of countries’ recognition of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence. But it didn’t ruin our bilateral relations with Luxembourg at all. Although it is also important for Serbian foreign policy to know how many countries, generally speaking, recognize Kosovo, because that decision is something that was unprecedented.

On the other hand, Luxembourg was very important and helpful for Serbia in regards to the Stabilization and Association Agreement we reached with the EU. They helped to push for this agreement at a time when some states were referring to issues such as Srebrenica to try to block Serbia’s SAA. This was back in 2010 and 2011. But Luxembourg helped a lot as it pushed some of the more reluctant countries, and we are grateful for their support.

In general, Luxembourg and Belgium have been able to show us their examples regarding reconciliation attitude after WWII, and used this case to point out their experience regarding how to improve attitudes to other regional countries. In fact, they have noted that Serbia, being the biggest country in the Balkans seeking membership, should be the role model for the region. And in the process of dialogue, both countries said they supported this approach, as only through dialogue and reconciliation will all countries in the region achieve better prospects and prosperity.

CD: Does Belgium provide any kind of political diplomatic support to Serbia that is unique or different than other countries, in terms of initiatives, programs etc?

VA: They stress the importance of dialogue to achieve solutions we should reach for Serbs in Kosovo, for example. But at the same time, over the last few years officials like the minister, Didier Reynders have visited the whole region, including Serbia, and in a lot of his speeches and appearances he has emphasized the need to support the EU integration of the whole region. Serbia and Montenegro are on top of this agenda currently.

Security Cooperation Developments between Serbia and Belgium

CD: Security has obviously come to the top of the European agenda after the Paris attacks. In late November, the Jerusalem Post reported that “a week before the Paris attacks, Serbia announced that Serbian and French security agencies had rounded up a major gang running guns between the two countries.” Do you have any further information on this case?

VA: This kind of case is as you know managed between the special services of the two countries, so they would have more details. But I can say that Serbia and Belgium are in the process of completing a new agreement on police cooperation.

This is to be finalized by the end of this year and signed next year. It will provide for deeper cooperation between the MOI in both countries, in all cases regarding extradition and readmission, as well as regarding concrete cases involving activities such as human trafficking and weapons smuggling.

The bilateral security relations, we should note, have been long established and have had excellent results in past. The two police forces have recorded high success rates in important cases.

CD: So the current planned agreement was agreed before the Paris attacks, and the implementation was envisioned already before that event?

VA: Oh yes, it was agreed before the Paris attacks. Those attacks emphasized the importance of closer cooperation. Because you can see now that problems are becoming more and more international and global in nature; there might be weapons produced in a certain country, sold in another, with an entirely different final person or group using them somewhere else. And so it is something normal and necessary to develop direct communications with specific countries like Belgium, and not only through Interpol and similar institutions.

CD: The Israeli newspaper’s report also specifically mentioned Serbia and other Balkan countries as routes for weapons trafficking into the EU and particularly Belgium, and reported that the EU is thinking of imposing some restrictions on Balkan countries. Do you have any information on this, and what possible developments could occur?

VA: They will be focused on better border controls- not regarding restrictions of the visa liberalization that our citizens enjoy, but on stricter measures in controlling the border. We can see 500,000 migrants passed through Serbia this year, and this created an enormous problem: how to manage a problem which impacted our budgets for police, health care for migrants and so on. In the latest EU progress report you can find a very good appraisal of how Serbia managed the crisis, even compared to some member states that have much more capacity than Serbia does for crisis management.

CD: That is interesting to note. We will consider the migration issue a little later but first I would like to ask if in general, after the Paris attacks, has the direct security relationship between Serbian and specifically the Belgian security services stepped up? If so, has it led to any tangible effects? What do you expect for future cooperation?

VA: There are several channels for cooperation on a bilateral level, as I mentioned, better checking via borders and of persons who had experience in fighting in Syria and other countries suffering from wars. We are now trying to exchange data about such persons at a higher level than before.

This is the priority on the national levels, but at the same time our embassy has had a lot of communications with concrete departments in Belgium like the anti-terrorism force, with the public prosecutor’s office, with the crisis center. We wanted to pick up their legislative framework and inform Serbian institutions how Belgium manages legislatively in fighting against terrorism. In fact, Serbia will finish a 2020 security strategy for fighting terrorism.

CD: Really? When can we expect to see this?

VA: The strategy will be finalized soon. Again, because of the possible smuggling from the Balkan region and generally globalizing nature of security threats, Serbia will be more focused on cooperation with European countries, which also need more cooperation with us on the bilateral as well as international institutional levels.

Cooperation on Migration-related Issues

CD: Obviously the migration issue is a major topic for Serbia and Macedonia now, and for Europe as a whole. Here at the embassy, what do you cover regarding common plans to deal with this, compared to the Serbian delegation to the EU?

VA: The matter is channeled through the part of government concerned with it. All criteria and recommendations, and also laws that are actually enforced within the EU framework, are implemented in Serbian legislation and practice. We have been in direct contact and had lots of meetings with the EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and with different offices in Belgium, like institutions for social protection.

CD: You mention Avramopoulos who of course was nominated by Greece, the frontline country in this whole migration crisis during 2015. Has this fact been helpful at all for Serbia, considering it is a traditional ally of Greece, in terms of getting support from the EU?

VA: I couldn’t say that support from the EU comes especially because of his origin, but this year he has had a complex role to carry out. And this job is also shared by the EU External Action Service, while Commissioner Mogherini also plays a big role. At the recent EU summit in Malta, we finally got more concrete measures to improve the situation.

CD: Migration is also a controversial subject for domestic politicians in Europe, and Belgium is an interesting case because of its decentralized, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic composition. Does this mean there are any challenges for you in communicating Serbian policies or getting cooperation? Is there a unified Belgian position that can be understood and assessed?

VA: Regarding foreign policy, Belgium has a formulated standpoint through its MFA, and we have a direct channel through the MFA where we can find general approaches to concrete matters. Also, our embassy has developed very good relations at all levels throughout the country, so regarding the majority of issues, we have direct contact and can see clear policies.

Investments in Serbia from Belgium and Luxembourg: a Promising Development

CD: How does your background in financial negotiations help in your current posting? Are there any trade deals that you have worked on between the two countries? How do these countries measure up as trade partners for Serbia?

VA: Regarding trade agreements, we have a free trade agreement with the European Union, so it covers all states- there is no need for separate treaties with individual states. And we can say the EU is our most important economic partner; the volume of Serbian trade with EU countries reaches 67 percent.

Regarding the volume of trade with Belgium- it is among the first 20 countries for Serbia as a trade partner. And especially in the last few years, you can find a very positive trend in the export growth rate. This is going from five to eight percent annually from Serbia to Belgium. Trade is especially increasing in processed food and Fiat cars- in central Serbia there is a factory for the Fiat 500L model, a car that you can see frequently driven in the streets of Brussels.

CD: I also understand there is a Belgian-Serbian Business Association in Belgrade. How active are they, and do you work with assisting them? In general, how is the Belgian investment scene in Serbia today?

VA: Yes. This club for Belgian investors in Serbia was established seven years ago, and is very active. Investors from Belgium include major companies like Delhaize, a supermarket chain, food processing interests, Metes in the metal industry, and Puratos in the bakeries industry. Another major company from Belgium is ElectraWinds, active in the renewable wind energy sector.

We are also in the process of attracting cooperation between the three countries’ ICT sectors, examining potential areas and matching possible interests. This is done by looking at relevant sectors and chambers of commerce, matching them with representatives of relevant companies. For example, in one case with a Luxembourgish ICT interest, we have already found interest on both sides. And we agreed that in April 2016 a special conference will be held in Belgrade- a certain numbers of companies from Luxembourg will participate.

Also in the ICT sector, Microsoft established a big center in Belgrade for outsourcing some of its European activities. They are happy with the quality of Serbia’s skilled engineers, and now you have more than 500 Serbian engineers working for Microsoft around the clock. And we see matching possible interests from ICT companies in Luxembourg.

Aid and Technical Assistance from Belgium and Luxembourg

CD: You have also worked in banking and pension reforms. Are there any specific programs or perhaps lessons learned from your Belgian and Luxembourgish counterparts that have been implemented?

VA: Well, the two national banks have constant bilateral programs and technical support experts from Belgium have trained Serbian banking staff in annual programs. Also important to note is that between Luxembourg and Serbia, there was important cooperation on the stock exchange infrastructure. This permanent cooperation involves the software that the Belgrade Stock Exchange runs on.

CD: So, you mean the actual software Luxembourg’s stock exchange uses was brought in to also power the Belgrade one?

VA: Yes. And it was financed on the bilateral level by Luxembourg. They gave us their software, which is quite sophisticated and has improved our own stock exchange technically.

CD: On another subject, Luxembourg’s Catholic charity Caritas has for several years run aid projects in the cross-border Serbian and Montenegrin Sandzak/Raska region, in poor and multi-religious areas. This is interesting considering that there are other areas of Serbia where poverty is worse and development also necessary, that would seem equally or more deserving of such aid. Do you have an awareness of this program, and how it was decided? How do you assess the situation?

VA: Yes, we know they are present there. I believe that they concentrated there because some 70 percent of the Serbian diaspora in Luxembourg came from the Raska area. So it is normal that Luxembourg as a country is taking efforts here to help it integrate these foreigners in society. But also this choice was because of the relative openness of society; Luxembourg assessed that the openness of this part of our diaspora was less than other parts, so they want to help them regarding integration. We should add that this activity is being done there at a high level, compared to other EU countries.

Diplomatic Benefits of the Relationship and Future Expectations

CD: It is well known that Luxembourg as a wealthy and influential country has many connections globally in the political and business spheres, while Serbia has historically been noted for its diplomatic acumen. Is there any benefit your country gets, therefore, from its partnership?

VA: Diplomatically, we do have support based on the kind of communication we maintain. But we can also have political support through company channels. For example, the European Investment Bank, which is headquartered in Luxembourg, has financed several Serbian infrastructure projects.

CD: Do Belgium and Luxembourg have any particular or different approach to Serbia compared with other western European countries? What are the ramifications of this, if so?

VA: They are both very supportive of Serbia. We need and we value their support, not only for keeping up the current EU enlargement momentum over the next several years, but also because of their understanding over our position regarding Kosovo and the need for dialogue in resolving that issue. Further, Belgium and Luxembourg have indicated their support for our proactive role in regional cooperation.

These three matters will be priorities in the next three years for the Serbian government and people. We therefore need the continuation of support from these two countries. The main focus of these three key matters – EU accession, Kosovo dialogue and regional cooperation – is to point out this message. We need continued understanding, and a continued level of support, like Belgium and Luxembourg have continually expressed.

CD: How do you see the future of Serbian relations with these two countries, especially in regards to the EU accession process?

VA: We are sure that Luxembourg and Belgium will stay on a similar course in future. Towards Serbia’s EU membership, they will help with the further opening of more and more negotiations chapters. In the last few years we have seen real support and understanding from both countries for greater Serbian prosperity and progress.

But it is not only a matter of directly joining the EU; we also want to make sure we stay in a position whereby the gap [between Serbia and EU members] does not become wider and wider. It is important to follow the progress, and to be aware of the EU’s own developing legislation and policies. If you stay behind, the gap tends to get wider and wider.

This is also vital for all countries in the accession period, for candidate countries, which nowadays need more and more time since the EU didn’t put enlargement on their agenda in the next few years. Now, you can let yourself be disappointed by this, but no- we look at this situation as one in which we have to continue our reform efforts. But we also need understanding of our situation; maybe the European Union and Commission can establish new methods and models to involve candidate countries in the meantime in some processes. Luxembourg did this in some capacity during its EU presidency.

It is also in the interest of the EU to act not only through handing out IPA funds, but also to include candidate countries through a broader scope. Belgium and Luxembourg in this regard participate and have an important role. This imperative is particularly necessary in a globalized world.

It is important that both countries have recognized that it is important that the momentum keep up for Serbia, and that after those efforts we have done regarding accession reforms, proactive dialogue and engagement with regional reconciliation. They have also noted our improvements in the economy, especially in the field of fiscal adjustment.

The point is that it is important that you have two countries that recognize how much effort we have made, and how hard it is to implement reforms in a transition country. Sometimes, this understanding and their presence in important meetings is enough to prove to us that they support Serbia.

CD: That is very important to note indeed. Now finally, I am always interested to ask about any unique or little-known aspects of the bilateral relationship that readers might not know about. Is there anything you would like to add here?

VA: Well, you can feel both Belgian and Serbian societies have a similar feeling for history. Like the Serbian people, Belgians like history and to be present at commemorative events, especially because both of us suffered a lot during the First and Second World Wars. Many civilians as well as soldiers lost their lives then.

This legacy is still in the mind of ordinary Belgian people, small children are presented with it and this means they grow up with this essential awareness of the heroic history of their country. It gives us this special feeling. Very often, our embassy is invited to share our history here.

For a concrete example, we have very tight communications with the Belgian city of Liège, not only because of our diaspora, but also because it holds the graves of Serbian soldiers who had been held in prisoner of war camps. They are buried in Robermont Cemetery.

CD: Wow, that is interesting. I did not know there were any Serbian war graves in cemeteries in Belgium.

VA: Yes, and it is also important to note that Belgrade and Liège are two of only five cities in the world to have received the French Legion of Honor medal for their role in the First World War. So we have a common and distinguished history that is commemorated.

CD: What about cultural events and other happenings that people might not know about? Does your embassy help organize any such things?

VA: We have a lot of exchanges of cultural heritage and exhibitions and movies from Serbia presented here. Cinema festivals like Balkan Trafik or the Mediterranean Film Festival, for example. And from time to time, there are concerts- the music of Goran Bregović, for example, attracts the attention of not only Serbs but Belgians too.

So we can say that all channels of communications are open. Between our universities, we have agreements, and a memorandum of cooperation exists between the National Library of Serbia and the Royal Library of Belgium.

CD: Interesting! What does this mean in terms of specific activities?

VA: This means that we have cooperation on a constant level; the two libraries exchange books and experts in the field of conservation. We also have very tight communications with Belgium regarding the process to establish cooperation between our respective military museums, directly or indirectly via our embassy.

European Identity, Politics and the Western Balkans: Interview with György Schopflin, MEP (Part One)

The European Union finds itself in a moment of crisis. The European identity is under challenge from the nationalist discourse in some Member States, while the Eurozone is in need of new rescue strategies and stability mechanisms. In this context, contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag recently sought out the views of György Schopflin, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) active in the Foreign Affairs committee, and a member of the Delegation for relations with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, on the future of the European Union and the resumption of the enlargement process as to include the Western Balkans countries.

Fascinated by Eastern European studies, nationhood and national identity, Hungarian-born György Schopflin was educated in the UK, where he was employed by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and then by the BBC. He took up university lecturing at the University of London. He has produced various academic works, and is currently also teaching at the University of Bologna, in the Department of Political Sciences.

From EU Intervention to Democratic Deficit

Maria-Antoaneta Neag: The EU has entered a period of change: elections, austerity measures, protests, new governments etc. What effects do the events in Greece and Italy have on EU stability? Were the changes of governments imminent and necessary for the stability of these countries?

György Schopflin: Let me start by answering the last question: people think that these changes were overdue. It raises a number of very interesting points. First of all, these are clearly technocratic governments. They did not emerge as a result of elections and I think democracy as a general principle and system accepts that in such situations of danger or emergency, one can take steps which are not democratic.

What is interesting and new is that in both cases of Italy and Greece, the new governments came not as a result of domestic pressure but as a result of external pressure, from the European Union, the European Central Bank, France and Germany. This really raises very interesting questions about exactly where the democratic legitimacy of the actual government comes from and if it is reciprocal. Does this mean that at a future stage, Italy can instruct France to get rid of its government and install a technocratic government because the French are endangering the EU? Where does this stop? I don’t have an answer to it but I think that in terms of democratic theory and practice, these questions have to be asked.

The second point I wanted to make is that the EU is really taking decisions which intervene in the domestic affairs and even in the domestic stability of MS. I wonder how much legitimacy there is to it, especially when the general view of the European citizens is pointing in the opposite direction, away from Europe. That again raises difficult questions regarding the democratic deficit. There is a great deal of power which has accumulated in the symbolic Brussels, the legitimation of which is very thin.

That brings me to the heart of the issue. One justification for intervention is that economic developments are moving much faster than political developments. This is very clear if you look at the last two or three years and it has partly to do with the 24-hour-markets, the capital movements which, in a way, are autonomous of any state or any government, and this has been the case for 15-20 years.

Does this mean we need ‘more Europe’ as Angela Merkel has just said, or does it actually mean we have to go back to the nation state? Both processes are taking place and the difficulty I see is that it is almost impossible for practically anybody to understand that they are simultaneously citizens of their own country and citizens of Europe. The idea of European citizenship has basically not taken off. Until they do see themselves as having a voice in both, the legitimacy deficit that I’m talking about will remain in being.

Here I think that the national political elites have a really major task for which they are not yet prepared.  They are not prepared to discharge it. They don’t see, for the most part, that the solution to the economic processes has to be at the European level. We accept in principle that organised crime is global and we try to work against it at the European level. I think that from this perspective, there is a strong argument in favor of a much more effective Europe, but I think the transfer of more power to Europe is simply unimaginable without a much greater popular acceptance of power at the European level.

I think that the utopian solution is that the national political elites would accept that the European institutional system should have a much more direct link with the citizen, which really does mean that if you are a citizen of Romania or Hungary or any country, you accept that you function politically at two levels. I don’t see it.

A Pan-European List for the European Parliament

MN: You are the shadow rapporteur on behalf of the EPP Group on Andrew Duff’s own initiative report of the “Modification of an Act concerning the election of Members of the European Parliament” in the Committee of Constitutional Affairs. One controversial proposal relates to the idea of a pan-European list which would represent the European interest and strengthen the European identity. Do you think this proposal will ever be accepted by the European Parliament and the Council?

GS: There was a James Bond film called “Never Say Never Again.” I can’t see it happening at this time. Regarding Pan-European list, the idea is that 25 Members of the Parliament, either in addition to the existing 751 or coming from the existing 751  (this is still unclear and undecided) which should be elected on a separate or European list. We debated this in the Constitutional Committee countless times, so we are basically pretty clear on how this should be, but we are only a small minority within the European Parliament. What surprised me is the great majority (probably 60% or maybe even two thirds of the European Parliament) is hostile to the idea, and that includes my own EPP Group.

I don’t think it would stay on the table for too long. Formally it’s still there, but I don’t think there is real support for it in the European Parliament. Some people think that it’s irrelevant with the crisis, others do not see how it would change anything, while others are concerned that this would establish two “classes” of MEPs (European members and domestic members).

My counter-argument is that with the growing power being transferred to the symbolic Brussels in terms of economic governance, one needs some kind of elected representatives who could, in a way, supervise and control this. I think my argument is right, but I’m only one MEP out of the 751: that’s democracy, I accept it. Frankly, this idea will still remain on the ground, at least at this time. It may be that something will change quite radically and then the Pan-European list will get a great wave of support.

MN: Do you have any views from the Council?

GS: I haven’t heard anything from the Council, but I think the MS are probably taking the view that they will deal with this proposal when it becomes important.


The Western Balkans- Looking toward the Future

MN: In this moment of EU crisis, what is to be expected from the countries in the Western Balkans?

GS: I think we can separate Croatia from the others, because we can very much agree that it would join the EU in middle of 2013 and I think the Croats, whether they understand what they are joining or not, basically think that it’s a good idea to join the European Union. That’s true of every country that has acceded. They didn’t really know fully what they were doing. This contributes to the democratic deficit that I was talking about.

Regarding Serbia, my impression is, and I was there very recently, that the European Union still functions as a magnet. This has partly to do with the illusions, partly with reality – meaning that whatever happens, it’s better to be inside then out.

Serbia is interesting and I’ll talk a little bit about this because I’m the shadow rapporteur for Serbia. There is a growing sense of unease in Serbian society about the EU. The support for accession is diminishing. I think it’s around 50%, so it can go up again and it can go down. I have to say it’s the standard process that every MS has undergone: the closer they got to it, the less support there is. This didn’t mean opposition to it. An awful lot of people said “I don’t really know” and prefer to just keep quiet about it. This was the case of Hungary in 2002-2003. I don’t know what things were like in Romania, but probably something fairly similar.

The elites in Serbia are on the whole committed to joining. What is interesting is that the Serbian Progress Party, which used to be a nationalist party has switched. Tomislav Nikolić, with whom I spent an hour back at the beginning of November said, “I’m unconditionally in favor of the European Union, among other things.” This is interesting. I think what it signals is that the Serbian elite, including the radical one (which was really close to Šešelj and the anti-European position) has understood that if you want to become the Prime Minister of Serbia, you can’t be anti-European. Is this tactical, is this sincere, does it matter? I leave these questions open. To be truthful, I think that Nikolić is sincere. I think he really has changed his mind and understands the situation better.

Here I would add one other thing, which is true for every country inside the EU or those wanting to join it. I think the elites, especially the media elite, the intellectuals, are not interested in what is happening in the EU. They don’t take the trouble to learn about the European Union. Also, the academics who are working on it don’t seem to be able to transmit that knowledge to the wider public. I see a gap, a black hole. People say: “there’s the European Union, oh yes,” and then the curtain comes down. They don’t see it and the power issues actually at the heart of the EU simply don’t get transmitted. This feeds into what I was talking about earlier: the “disconnect.” You may remember the first and second Irish referenda on the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty. They used the word “disconnect” which means the gap in understanding, the gap in knowledge; so no wonder the Irish were so reluctant to vote for it.

I think it’s a fairly universal and widespread position throughout Europe. Even if you are moderately interested, where do you find the information? There are various websites, if you really want to know about the EU, you can discover it without too much trouble. However, only a small minority takes the trouble to go through the European news. It is certainly the case for Hungary. When I talk to people in my virtual constituency, they are always very interested, but I don’t think their interest lasts beyond the meeting!

What is European integration for, anyway? European integration is for all sorts of things, but the two which really count, in our part of the world, is that it gives us parity of esteem and status. Each member of the EU, on paper, to some extent in reality, is equal to any other member; in other words, size doesn’t really matter. Secondly, the EU is a superb conflict resolution mechanism. War in Europe, especially if you are an EU member, is absolutely unthinkable. That’s why, in the West, people were so shocked by Yugoslavia breaking up in terrible bloodshed.

To give you one illustration – three or four years ago, the Slovak National Party (SNS) led by Ján Slota, published a map on its website from which Hungary had disappeared. Romania was given the Tisza frontier, which you remember Romania was once promised with the 1916 secret Treaty of Bucharest. The Austrians got quite a lot, Slovaks got Northern Hungary, I think the Serbs got some parts too. In other circumstances, this could have been seen as a direct threat to the integrity of Hungary, and bear in mind the SNS party was part of the ruling coalition, in the Slovak government. Frankly, people in Hungary sort of laughed about it. I don’t think they would have laughed about it had it not been for the European Union.

That’s why I say the EU is a conflict resolution mechanism: it creates a level of security that Central Europe has never had before. Think about the repeated interventions by the great powers in the 19th and 20th centuries or the inter-war period: Germany constantly intervening, playing Hungary off against Romania. The great powers took a very active interest in the two Balkan wars (1912-1913), supplying arms, sending military observers etc. This is unthinkable today. That is part of what the EU brings us, whether the elites in South Eastern Europe are fully conscious of it. However, I think to some level, there is an understanding of it.

The EU as a Conflict Resolution Solution for the Balkan Countries

MN: You’ve mentioned the EU as a conflict resolution mechanism. Do you think the EU can be a conflict resolution solution for countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina or for the Belgrade- Priština dialogue?

GS: Yes! It’s not easy and I think the two situations need to be separated, Bosnia-Herzegovina on the one hand, and Kosovo and Serbia on the other.

I think the Serbs know they really don’t have another alternative but joining the EU. Russia is not an alternative and I don’t think they want Turkey back as their patron. I think that 500 years of Ottoman Empire rule was enough for them.

The Serbs basically know, even if they don’t like it, that if they actually want to join the European Union, they have to recognize Kosovo. The question that I found, when I was there recently, is “On what terms?” Can they do something less than full independence of Kosovo?

The answer from Brussels, as indeed from Berlin, is no. The Serbs are still coming to terms with that and their idea is to create a situation in which Kosovo is de facto independent but actually is formally still a part of Serbia and enjoys complete internal sovereignty. This won’t happen. It’s very difficult to lose territory, it’s very painful. I think that complying with EU conditionality will actually make a difference.

The Non-Consensual Bosnia and Herzegovina

MN: What about the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

GS: Whereas Serbia is a single state, even if there are quite some major divergences within the country, nevertheless, I think that there is a fundamental coherence. This is not true of Bosnia. The main problem, which nobody here – whether it is Brussels or Strasbourg – wants to confront, is that it’s a non-consensual state.

The Serbs, the Croats and the Bosniaks don’t want to live in the same state. Geography and, to some extent, history and politics pushed them in that direction. Is this democracy? What do you do when people living on a particular territory which has been given the status of a sovereign state don’t want it anymore? Belgium is the obvious example. I think that the future of Belgium hangs in the balance and I’m not sure that a break-up really matters. I can certainly see a scenario where Scotland opts out of the United Kingdom.

Most people think that states are there forever, but I think states are the product of history. They are human creations and they can change. The configuration of states can change. We pretend otherwise. On the other hand, I think it’s possible that somebody will eventually say to the citizens of Bosnia that they don’t have an alternative:  you have to live in this state whatever it takes and we will force you to do it even if it takes 100 years. I don’t see anybody rising up to say it and, in a sense, this is what is needed if the EU, the world, the US obviously, wants to ensure that Bosnia will become a single state.

Frankly, what I see is that Republika Srpska wants an autonomous status which is so autonomous that it can deal directly with Belgrade and Belgrade is not unhappy with this. They really don’t want too much to do with Sarajevo, they don’t like it and the level of tension below the surface is still very high. It’s a traumatized society, in fact it’s not a single society, but three traumatized societies. There, I think the task of EU conditionality is much greater.

MN: How do you see the rest of the Balkan countries?

GS: Montenegro can make to the EU it fairly soon, although there are still some serious problems: criminality, the Russian presence, but those are different things.

I see Albania as being a long way to anything that remotely resembles an integrable state. I think Enver Hoxha’s regime was worse than that of Ceausescu, hence the communist legacy is worse too.

I feel very regretful about Macedonia because I think it is integrable. I don’t see why nobody is saying to Greece to stop this fight. If Greece is being bailed out and is saved from complete collapse, than the least it can do is to abstain from the fight against Macedonia and accept that it is going to be called that way, and that this name doesn’t really pose a threat to Greece.

Reconstructing Histories

MN: What do you think about the trend in Macedonia to “build their own history” in terms of public works and monuments?

GS: Everybody does this.

MN: Isn’t it like a threat to the so called European identity which we all desire?

GS: No, I really don’t think this for one moment. Every country constructs its own history. There is no such thing as totally objective history. Let me give you one instance. It’s still part of the Hungarian mindset to talk about Mohács, 1526, a terrible defeat at the hands of the Ottoman army. It was partly Hungary’s fault, but we won’t go into these arguments. We talk about the catastrophe of Mohács. If you go to Istanbul, you see signs of celebration of a great victory of Mohács, which is right. They are right in their own way.

There are countless discussions about Transylvania, the Daco-Roman continuity or not. I did once suggest we should start talking about the Daco-Hungarian continuity and that would solve the problem. It’s nonsense. In a way, it’s a ridiculous historical debate but, on the other hand, in terms of identity construction, it’s really very significant. Think about the way Ceausescu constructed the entire Dacian past which is similar to what Macedonia is doing with Alexander the Great. I haven’t seen the new statue live, as it were, but it seems to be complete kitsch which reminds me of another 100 meter-high golden statue, that of Saparmurat Niyazov from Turkmenistan. I don’t want to be unkind, but that statue of Alexander the Great does look like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.

Turkey and Russia’s nostalgia over the Western Balkans

MN: You’ve mentioned the Ottomans and Russia, and their influence in the Western Balkans. Do you think they will give up on the Western Balkans so easily, as both Turkey and Russia have some strategic investments in Serbia, Montenegro and other countries from the region?

GS: They will not abandon their interest entirely. Some of it is economic investment, some of it is political. The question is: can they actually do it, is it important enough for Russia to maintain these significant outposts in Serbia, Montenegro and to some extent in Croatia. I don’t know if they are present in Bosnia in any significant way. Actually, the Russians are also present in a number of other countries. Can they do it? Can’t they do it? The question is the terms on which Serbs actually want them. It’s a two way relationship.

As far as Turkey is concerned, Erdoğan repeatedly denies that there’s any significant strategic interest, but of course he has. When they had the commemoration of the Srebenica massacre, Erdoğan went there and he was the leading figure. He was the most important person there. Everyone deferred to him. In other words, to Bosniaks and to some extent to Kosovars, Istanbul is an important source of moral and economic support. Whether that’s quite so significant or straightforward or welcome for the Serbs and Bulgarians, I wouldn’t like to say.

George Friedman, a hard-line geo-strategist, argues in his book “The Next Hundred Years,” that sometime in the future, Turkey will emerge, it’s already emerging, as a major world power. It’s one of the states that produces over 1% of the world’s GDP. It’s not quite one of the BRICs, but it’s getting that way. It’s a serious player, in regional terms, and to some extent in world terms.

The Turks would want to push their military power northwards, which means back into South-Eastern Europe and then the only counter-force would be a Polish-Romanian alliance and Austria, Hungary, unless Hungary isn’t already occupied. Hungary is indefensible, it’s all flat. If the Turkish army were to advance, Hungary would be occupied very quickly. The battle line would be the Carpathians. I think the idea of expanding the Turkish power northwards which encounters Polish-Romanian power looking southwards, that’s something that doesn’t have to be military, but I think that’s something that makes you think very seriously.

Turkey, sooner or later, if it goes in that direction, will find itself engaged in a very serious contest with Russia. The countries around it mostly speak Turkish languages. Azerbaijan is, in particular, Turkey’s closest ally. All sorts of interesting scenarios can be constructed.

The difficult that I see is that the large states of the West, in a way are not that interested in the smaller states of Central and South-East Europe. I think the French generally feel that the 2004-2007 enlargements were a mistake.

Enlargement Fatigue

MN: Many people are of the view that Romania and Bulgaria may have joined too soon and that the political criteria prevailed over the other Copenhagen aspects. Do you think this was one of the reasons of the postponement of the enlargement in the Western Balkans?

GS: It’s there in the background. Formally, things are going ahead. The Enlargement Directorate of the Commission is working very hard on this and produces these country reports every year. No enlargement can take place without the political will of the existing 27 Member States. I think it will happen, but not in the near future. The negotiations with Croatia began in 2005 and Croatia will enter in 2013; 8 years, it’s a long time.

MN: How long do you think the other Western Balkan countries will have to wait before they receive a comprehensive answer from the EU?

GS: Serbia will very likely get candidate status, but no date. So, how about 2020?

[End Part 1]

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle

Civil Society’s Continuing Role in Serbia and the Western Balkans: Interview with Sonja Licht

Editor’s note: Since the end of Communism, the development of ‘civil society’ has been deemed to be of utmost importance for strengthening democratic institutions in the Western Balkans. In the following new interview, contributor Maria Neag gets the insight of Sonja Licht, a distinguished activist in many non-governmental organizations, and a woman considered to be one of the architects of the modern civil society movement in Serbia.

Ms Licht is currently president and founder of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, an NGO that is part of a Network of Schools of Political Studies in South East Europe, which itself operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe with the aim of creating and developing a democratic political elite.

Among her many distinctions, Ms Licht has recently been recognized by the European Movement in Serbia and the International European Movement with an award granted each year to “the person who contributed the most to the process of European integration and the promotion of European ideas and values in Serbia” – “Contribution of the Year Award 2011.”

Living Together- Separately?

Maria Neag: Given your work and research experience on issues related to human rights, minorities, cohabitation and ethnic conflicts, what could you tell us about Serbia in this context? Have Serbians yet recovered after the wars that dissolved Yugoslavia? What is their relationship with and attitude towards Serbia’s neighbours and other ethnic groups?

Sonja Licht: The disintegration of Yugoslavia left deep scars throughout the entire ex-Yugoslav space, from Slovenia to Macedonia. And it would be foolish to believe that it could be otherwise. Yugoslavia existed for more than 70 years. People did live together – from being neighbors to getting married and forming new family ties. Many moved from poor to more developed parts of the country. Economic, cultural, educational relations created numerous networks that were often very much interdependent.

Thus, the dissolution of the country would be a very painful process even without wars. The wars added to the traumas and tragedies. There are still more than half a million people in Serbia who came to the country as refugees during the nineties, and at least 100,000 so called IDPs, people who escaped from Kosovo immediately after the NATO intervention in 1999. This means, that among other things, the ethnic composition of some places changed quite dramatically.

For example, during the nineties many ethnic Hungarians left for Hungary (escaping the drafting or direct discrimination and pressure, finding better work opportunities, studying at Hungarian universities etc.). The percentage of Croats who left Vojvodina is even higher. During the same time, many Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia came to Vojvodina. Many of them joined relatives there who settled after the first and second world wars. All these processes, as results of wars and ethnic cleansings, made inter-ethnic relations even more difficult. And yet I am convinced that the overall development since the democratic, pro-European forces came to power 11 years ago is going in the right direction.

There is growing institutional recognition of the needs of minority populations, including all minorities, not only the ethnic ones. For example, the Law on National Minority Councils (20 councils in total) provides legal opportunities for minorities to form their own educational and cultural institutions and media in their own languages. I believe this approach of the state could be a major step in changing the overall climate as well, although the distance between various ethnic groups is still high- though decreasing in most of the cases, except toward the Roma. The other minority group still faced with a very strong animosity is the LGBT population. It is of utmost importance that all the social and political actors work on the implementation of the anti-discrimination law and, among others, strengthen the role of the Commissioner for Equality in Serbia.

The attitude towards Serbia’s neighbours is changing for the better as well. To mention a few examples: each July thousands of young people from neighbouring countries attend the Exit festival in Novi Sad; it became a custom that huge number of youngsters from Slovenia are coming to Belgrade to the New Year’s festivities. The number of Serbian tourists in Croatia is growing every year. In Montenegro, Serbian citizens remain the most numerous tourist group every summer. This does not mean that tensions disappeared. There are still political and other types of disputes, but the communication is becoming more intensive among ordinary citizens as well as between states officials, including communication on the most sensitive issues such as justice and home affairs.

MN: We are witnessing a polarisation of the political spectrum and the emergence of extremist and populist political parties in Europe, including Serbia. What role can or should the civil society play in the fight against the rise of xenophobia, intolerance and anti-migrants feelings?

SL: Civil society could and should play a much more comprehensive role than it is playing now. However, it is very important that both national authorities and international organizations, including the European Union, Council of Europe and OSCE take its potential much more seriously. Civil society could play a much more active role in opening new ways of communications and building bridges between various groups, by initiating public dialogue about difficult issues that concern the relations between the locals and the people with migrant background, issues that are sometimes too sensitive and unpopular for the politicians. Civil society should also play a more prominent role in life long education.

However, this requires a much more responsible attitude of the media toward the danger of rising xenophobia, intolerance and anti-migrant feelings and attitudes. It is sad to witness how independent, autonomous, progressive media – outlets that fought a courageous battle against the autocratic, nationalist regimes of the nineties both in Serbia and Croatia – have been disappearing since they were not able or ready to cope with the primitive but omnipotent commercialization of the media.

MN Both Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have spoken of the failure of multiculturalism. Do you think the European identity will ever prevail over the national identities? What are the public and civil society’s views on this topic since Serbia is also a multi-ethnic country? What is the way forward to surpass this ideological/philosophical deadlock?

SL: I had the honour to be part of the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe that prepared the report “Living Together – Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe.” The report based its recommendations firmly on the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, especially individual freedom and equality before the law. It holds firmly that “identities are voluntary matter for the individual concerned, and that no one should be forced to choose or accept one primary identity to the exclusion of others.

It argues that European societies need to embrace diversity, and accept that one can be a ‘hyphenated European’ – for instance a Turkish-German, a North African-Frenchwomen or an Asian-Brit.” With its guiding principles and recommendations for action I believe that this report could be a very useful guidebook for debates, especially with young people and teachers, with the media and cultural operators, and, last but not least, civil society actors and political activists and leaders in designing various actions in fighting xenophobia and fear-of-the-other. Civil society in Serbia and our whole Balkan region has an impressive experience in dealing with these menaces and I strongly believe that we could both offer our lessons learned and learn from others how to establish a renewed, but extremely important, culture of living together in challenging circumstances.

The EU and Civil Society’s Influence in the Decision-making Process

MN: Many of the political decisions in Serbia are taken in order to pursue the European perspective and the EU is pushing forward the reform process. In this context, can the civil society be considered a motor for change in Serbia? In what way does the civil society influence the decision-making process?

SL: Civil society was the real motor of both resistance and change during the times of Milosevic’s autocratic regime. After the democratic forces came to power the situation became much more complex concerning the role of civil society. Some decided to focus on setting the agenda and build partnerships with the decision-making bodies, others to remain in a more or less pure watch-dog capacity, the third to deal with humanitarian and development issues etc.

I believe that diversification is extremely important for civil society’s strength and sustainability. It needs to remain independent from various power centers, including the political and financial ones, a very difficult approach to maintain when foreign donors are cutting down their assistance and the countries, including Serbia, are facing protracted economic crisis. And all this is happening in parallel with real potential for growing influence of the civil society on the decision-making process, especially in protection of human and minority rights, gender equality, civic education and capacity-building in general. Just to mention one of the latest examples: in May 2011, at the peak of the debate about changes of the electoral law, there was a strong push to avoid [the stipulation] that every third member of the parliament must be from the less represented gender. A short but well coordinated campaign by the civil society, supported by some political activists, prevented this from happening, and for the first time in the history of Serbian parliamentary life, every third member of the parliament will be a woman.

MN: Serbia is facing a difficult challenge with regard to young and educated people who decide to study and look for employment opportunities abroad. You and the NGOs with which you are collaborating have been very active in implementing programmes to address the “brain drain” phenomenon in Serbia. What were the most successful initiatives in this sense and what input has civil society brought to the drafting process of the governmental strategies for “brain gain”?

SL: Unfortunately the “brain drain” will be impossible to stop, especially in these times of severe economic crisis. What we are trying to do is to provide a better insight into the entire situation, and to help in designing methods for a parallel “brain gain” approach/policy. This means that we are advocating for a much better communication with both young people in the country and already abroad, for an easier access to job opportunities and diversification of ways by which those who remain abroad could be connected to institutions and projects in the country. We are organizing round tables and conferences that include all the relevant stakeholders and trying to encourage everyone – and especially the authorities – to develop policies and practices which would address these issues in a systemic and strategic way.

The International Community’s Presence in the Balkans

MN: During the wars of the 1990’s, the international community intervened in the interest of conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building. It has remained present until today in the Western Balkans, and has influenced the democratic and economic development of the region. To your mind, is the international community’s presence still needed? How would you quantify its involvement in Serbia?

SL: The international community’s presence has been very important, I would say crucial in developing an autonomous civil society in Serbia and the entire Balkan region. I would have to limit myself to this part of the answer- otherwise this set of questions could be answered only in the form of a much longer text.

Although there have been different experiences with different organizations and donors, one has to be fair and to state that without them, an autonomous civil society would not have had a chance to develop as a genuine actor of social change. It is true that there were many mistakes, development of donor dependency- for example, misunderstandings of specific needs and problems of finding the right timing, especially in the second half of the nineties, but one has to be fair and say that without democracy assistance from abroad, including the huge support after the democratic change in October 2000, Serbia would not be the same country: it would have been much less ready to proceed on the path to European integration.

This support is still needed, of course, especially through various EU funds, both for institution-building and also for the development of political culture and development in general, for example, in the fields of environmental protection and the shaping of a new energy future for Serbia and the whole region.

It is very difficult to quantify its overall involvement, but let me give you again two concrete examples related to my organization. At the beginning of 2011, the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence initiated the launch of a new event- the Belgrade Security Forum. There have been similar regular events in Bratislava, Riga, Brussels and Munich organized for years. In partnership with two other CSOs, the European Movement in Serbia and the Belgrade Centre for Security Policies we are organizing the First Belgrade Security Forum, September 14 to 16 this year with more than 70 distinguished guests from abroad.

This would simply have not been possible without the generous support of the Slovak, Czech, US, and Norwegian governments, the UNDP, the Balkan Trust for Democracy of GMF, the European Fund for the Balkans and a few local corporate donors. The same is true for another project we are working on, Public Dialogue for Sustainable Use of Energy in SEE. This project was launched with the support of the German GIZ and the International Visegrad Fund. I am mentioning these two projects as personal testimony for why, without international donors they would either have to wait for years to be realized or would not happen at all.

MN: Recently, we have seen a withdrawal trend of the US from Balkan affairs. The US is stepping back while the EU is showing more and more interest in becoming a mediator in the remaining conflicts in the region. Is this shift of international actors going to affect Serbia?

SL: It is fully understandable that the EU is taking a much more active mediating role in the Balkan region, including the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. All these countries want to join the Union, and the Thessaloniki agenda is still on the table. On the path toward full integration in the EU, it is absolutely essential to build the strongest possible mutual understanding and trust between all of us and our future “home,” especially having in mind that we shall also be active participants in a common European foreign and security policy and possibly even a common fiscal policy (given that the membership of these countries, except Croatia, is still quite far away).

Present Leaders and the Future Political Elite of Serbia

MN: As the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) promotes leaders engaged in the political realm, as well as in the administrative sector, media, culture etc., it is clear that you had the chance to get familiar with the activities and goals they embrace. What can you tell us about their backgrounds? What are the criteria for receiving consideration from your organization?

SL: BFPE worked with several hundred people from various political parties, including those who occupy very high positions, more than a hundred MPs, many local officials, as well as people coming from all other relevant sectors of the society. First of all, the majority of those who take part in our programs do so because they are eager to learn more about topics covered by BFPE: from the functioning of European institutions to the major issues related to stability, security and regional cooperation, from economy to ecology.

We have also organized specialized seminars on minority and human rights, human security, empowerment of women in politics, poverty reduction, energy efficiency, how to face climate change, etc. People participating in these programs gain additional knowledge but also use these opportunities to get to know each other better. There are still very few inter-party, inter-sectoral dialogues in Serbian society; thus by participating in our programs they also create informal networks and start to understand each other much better. Our main requirements in selecting the participants are that they come from different institutional and organizational backgrounds, want to learn, to transfer experience and are ready for mutual exchange in a tolerant atmosphere.

MN: Could you say that Serbia’s leaders are, somehow, atypical?

SL: I don’t think that they are atypical at all. We have many regional gatherings where participants from other schools of our Network come together, and once a year there is a major gathering at the Summer University for Democracy in the Council of Europe. In all these situations it is more than visible that especially those from our region not only share the same concerns and hopes, but that they find a very easy way to communicate with each other. Tim Judah would find this to be a genuine proof of his theses about the ‘Yugo-sphere.’

MN: What about the future political class? Did you notice any noteworthy evolution among the young politicians? How prepared are they to face future Serbian and EU challenges?

SL: It is extremely important for them to find their own ways of expression, to define their own views and not to be only followers of the existing patterns of political behavior. I am hoping that our activities, as the activities of our entire Network (16 schools in total, with one in every capital in the Western Balkans) will contribute to the development of their knowledge and self-esteem and even attract some additional bright, decent, socially conscious young people to take part in political life. I must say that in my opinion, most of our participants are ready to face the future Serbian and EU challenges, but I am hoping for even more: for a new generation of politicians both in Serbia and Europe who will bring ethics back into politics and to build a political class that will enhance democratic governance and restore citizens’ trust in politics.

Serbia’s Role in Reinventing the Balkans

MN: In a speech made during an event in the European Parliament (Serbia and its contribution to the regional cooperation in the Western Balkans, May 26, 2011), you stated that Serbia has the role of reinventing the Balkans as a European place. By what means could Serbia undertake this responsibility?

SL: Serbia and all the other countries of the region, I strongly believe, have the same responsibility and the same opportunity- to develop not only themselves but indeed the whole region into a genuine European place. When you speak with citizens from any of these countries they will all tell you that they are very proud of their history, of their cultural heritage, of the fact that since Roman times they have been part of Europe.

However, this is not enough to be part of the common European space. We must adopt all those values and standards built by contemporary Europe, i.e. the EU. And we also must convince this very special club that we are bringing in some added values. These values are [not only] our cultures, our potential to face the past and get rid of our demons, but also our geography and our history.

MN: Can the Balkans be called a “success story” considering the clashes of the past and the unresolved issues regarding Kosovo or the difficult situation in Bosnia & Herzegovina?

SL: Yes I am absolutely convinced that the Balkans is one step away from being considered a “success story”- of course, when compared with other post-conflict areas in the world today. A decade after the armed conflict ended, we have developed relations in some of the most sensitive areas, such as cooperation in fighting organized crime, in the military field, as well as in other relevant security areas. Economic cooperation is growing, as well as educational and cultural exchanges. [Not to mention] the growing awareness that only as a region can we provide enough energy security and thus development for our countries.

The signs about a changing climate are everywhere: just a few days ago the Belgrade Philharmony, conducted by Zubin Mehta, was met in Dubrovnik with ovations. Film directors are regularly inviting actors from various Balkan countries to play in their films, concerts of Serbian singers in Croatia or Bosnia & Herzegovina, and vice versa, are not news any more. When the Macedonian Tose Proeski, singer, song-writer and actor was killed in a car accident the entire region was in mourning. And the most popular Croatian pop-singer Severina is expecting a baby with her Serbian boyfriend, while all the popular magazines are following her pregnancy with great interest and sympathies. The ingredients and potential for a “success story” are already present, it depends on all of us and especially our political leaders as to whether they will be wise enough and responsible enough to transform them into a long-term policy, and thus to secure the European future for our entire region.

Strategic Options for Serbian Diplomacy in Kosovo: Interview with Dušan Proroković

Editor’s note: in general coverage of Serbia-Kosovo relations, the full range of hypothetical diplomatic alternatives, and the scenarios that condition them, is rarely encountered. Partly due to media oversimplification, and partly due to the perceived need to safeguard strategic options, the issue is rarely explored in depth.

In this detailed new interview for contributor Cristian Dimitrescu in Belgrade, however, former State Secretary of the Ministry of Kosovo and Metohija Dušan Proroković provides an informed and detailed situation report on the factors involved with current and future negotiations, the role of foreign powers in Kosovo diplomacy, and the current escalation of tensions in the north.

Dušan Proroković served as State Secretary of the Ministry of Kosovo and Metohija from 2007-2008 and, from 2004-2007, was Chairman of the Committee on Kosovo and Metohija in the Serbian National Assembly. He was also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and member of Parliamentary Assembly of NATO. Today, he works under the auspices of the Serbian think-tank Center for Strategic Alternatives, and as an associate of the Foundation Slobodan Jovanović.


Cristian Dimitrescu: When, in 2006, Serbia declared its independence, the country was already engaged on a European path: since 2001 it had been part of the EU-FRY Consultative Task Force (CTF), a member of the subsequent Enhanced Permanent Dialogue (EPD) and, starting in October 2005, it became involved in negotiations with the EU on the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA). If you recall, what prospects did you foresee for the country at that time and what were the major shortcomings you expected to be encountered in the short- and medium-term?

According to Dušan Proroković, “the solution for Kosovo will have to be looked for in a new security and political framework that will be defined for the Balkans in the coming decades.”

Dušan Proroković: After the fall of Slobodan Milosević in 2000, a desire emerged in Serbia to join the EU and there was a hope that this could be done within a reasonable time. First, Serbia did not have some other clear alternative and all countries in the region were already in some stage of EU accession. [Serbia was] a country that had just gotten out of the dreaded sanctions that had caused isolation. Secondly, the EU looked like an opportunity for successful integration and challenging society. Thirdly, European integration had become heterogeneous – the EU had just received Eastern European countries which were in a similar economic situation as Serbia. And fourth, it appeared that the supranational framework is a desirable model for solving the accumulated international problems in the Balkans.

Three reasons are usually stated as an explanation for why Serbia has not yet joined the EU. First, in the last 15 years, from a successful commercial alliance the EU has become a geopolitical entity with vague goals and often conflicting interests of the leading states. There is no consensus on the admission of Serbia among key member states. The EU as a whole is not even sure why she needed Bulgaria and Romania. Second, at the very moment when Serbia accelerated its European integration the economic crisis – which in the last two years has started spreading, like an epidemic – had just begun. And third, one question becomes more and more relevant: where are the borders of ‘Westliche Hochkultur’- Western civilization and the Western cultural pattern? What is the place and role of Orthodox Christianity in the new geopolitical makeup of Europe? All these dilemmas had an impact on slowing down and finally, essentially, stopping Serbia’s EU integration. However, the key to the whole process is something else.

Willy Wimmer, a former vice-president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and a long-time MP of the German CDU in the Bundestag, attended a closed meeting in Bratislava, organized by the US State Department in the spring of 2000. Regarding the findings from this meeting, he informed the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and later the German public in an interview for “Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik” in summer 2001.

European Antecedents

It came down to this: General Eisenhower had failed to deploy ground forces in the Balkans as a geopolitical hub in 1945, and so the US must not repeat this mistake. In this sense, the US expected the support of European countries, and those countries, like Serbia, whose support in the long-term they could not count on, would be denied access and opportunities for rapid and sustainable development, and would be subjected to peaceful isolation.

In Henry Kissinger’s book, Diplomacy, there is one map that represents Southeastern Europe before the First World War, and under the Serbian name there is a note saying, ‘Russian ally.’ Nothing similar was written on any other map or under the name of any other state, not even on a map that explains the very complicated alliances after the Thirty Year War (1618-1648).

Serbia had clearly become a danger for British geopolitical interests even in 1813, after the Russian-Persian agreement on the influence zones in the Caspian and Central Asian region. The British had tried to slow down Russian advances in the southeast, fearing for their possessions in India. That is why they tried to open a new “soft belly” of Russia in Southeastern Europe.

Because of that, the Ottoman Empire had a great significance for them. France and the Austro-Hungarian Empire also had an interest in this idea, and restless Serbs were just a ‘disturbing factor.’

The US took on fully the British attitude in this matter in the early 1990s. The current situation on the Balkans in full represents a result of this fact. That is why, viewed from today’s perspective, we can say that the European powers historically were never actually interested in Serbia as a subject, but rather as an object of international relations.

Strategic Limitations

CD: As Kosovo is one of the prominent issues on Belgrade’s agenda, we cannot avoid acknowledging the different frameworks employed to clear the way for sustainable outcomes: the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) established by the June 1999 UN Resolution 1244, and the EU facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Priština set through the September 2010 UN General Assembly Resolution 64/298. How dedicated is Serbia to such initiatives, and how much responsiveness and openness did it receive from the Kosovar side at the level of the aforementioned structures?

DP: The EU has expended a lot of energy in persuading others that the ‘creative interpretation’ of the international law is the legal basis for its engagement in Kosovo. The existence of multiple parallel legal frameworks in Kosovo is a proof that the situation is not legally clear. The EU engagement in Kosovo is based on illegal decisions. This is the main reason why we have such a complex legal and political system in Kosovo today. Negotiations will not change this.

First we need an answer to the question: why do we have the current negotiations? From Belgrade’s perspective these negotiations are a shortcut to EU membership candidate status, something that President Tadić sees as an important electoral asset.

From Priština’s perspective, negotiations present a chance to be accepted as an equal partner by Serbia and a possibility of de facto recognition of their independence, if Serbia accepts signing of bilateral agreements.

It should also be stated that Belgrade is limited by the Serbian Constitution and no intergovernmental agreements with Priština institutions can be signed. On the other hand, Hashim Thaçi is limited in a political sense- in order to preserve his shaky parliamentary majority, he cannot agree to another ‘original’ solution that would only affirm Priština’s unequal position compared to that of Belgrade. In such circumstances one cannot expect that an agreement will be achieved, nor that Belgrade will get candidate status, or that Kosovo will be de facto recognized by Serbia.

The EU will spend a lot of energy in order to convince the international public that the sustainable and functional agreement between Belgrade and Priština has been achieved. The failure of these negotiations would be marked as a failure of the EU and that would have a bad influence on Brussels’ image. This is how we will soon see some ‘creative interpretation’ of the political reality.

CD: In an interview for the Associated Press, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremić said that the agreements reached at the end of the fifth meeting of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue, on July 2, owe to the fact that the Kosovar counterparts “moderated their demands.” As one who has held, for some time now, a great deal of interest to this matter, could you be more specific regarding this ‘moderation’? What exactly is it that Kosovo’s negotiators have conceded?

Out the Window

DP: The message of Minister Jeremić was primarily addressed towards the local public. The need of Serbian officials to constantly present something as a success is in fact the proof that the Serbian government cannot commend itself [as having made] some visible results.

Having in mind what was asked of them, the pressure they were under and what the final results were, we can say that Serbian negotiators have achieved a certain success in the July talks in Brussels. However, that was their personal success. The question is: what kind of benefit will Serbian interests have from this in a final result? It is as if we have fallen from the second floor of a building onto a concrete sidewalk and now feel triumphant because we have only broken our legs, but we are still alive. We need to seriously address the issue of why did we fall? Why did this happen?

President Tadić made a strategic mistake in September 2010 when he accepted the ultimatum of the EU and a resolution written in Brussels, which was subsequently adopted by the UN General Assembly. In doing so, President Tadić accepted that instead of the UN, where Serbian still has the overwhelming support and understanding for its own attitudes, the Kosovo issue should in future be resolved by the EU, where Serbia has neither support nor understanding.

He explained this move, although very unconvincingly, with Serbia’s need for ‘EU integration.’ But this was more a reflection of his expectations, than an argument-based political position. Since September 2010, to quote former Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica, the Serbian policy has been wandering like “a blindfolded man in the dark.” That is why Serbia fell out of the window and slammed down on the concrete.

Import Ban Ramifications

CD: On July 20, the Kosovar authorities introduced an embargo on import of goods from Serbia. This decision, agreed upon by the Government of the Republic of Kosovo on the proposal of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was officially explained by the Kosovo government as a “measure of reciprocity in trade exchanges” caused by “the failure to reach agreements on recognizing Kosovo custom stamps in exchange for free trade of goods.” How does the reaction fit national and international legislation and what are the economic consequences Serbia will have to face due to this measure?

DP: There will certainly be some economic consequences for Serbia, but they will be short-term. Serbian producers sell annually to Kosovo goods worth above 300 million euros. Most of these are food products and construction material. There were hints in 2008 that something similar would happen at the time when Kosovo Albanians adopted a unilateral declaration of independence. At that time a plan to re-export Serbian goods to Kosovo through Montenegro and Macedonia was being elaborated. In that way Serbian goods would be a bit more expensive, but their prices would still be competitive.

I do not know whether Serbian state authorities are considering a similar plan this time, but even if they are not thinking about this, businessmen will do it on their own. Therefore, the measures taken by Kosovo Albanians cannot drastically hurt the Serbian economy. As for the question about the legality of this decision, I believe that this question is not in place. How can we talk about the legality of one decision in a situation where everything else is illegal?

CD: The ban on Serbian goods came just before a new meeting of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue, scheduled for July 20 and 21. The agenda was supposed to cover issues such as telecommunications, customs stamps, energy supply, cadastral records, mutual recognition of university diplomas, etc.

In a press statement dated July 19, the EU mediator for the dialogue foreseen in UN General Assembly Resolution 64/298 Mr Robert Cooper, assessed that “we have now reached a stage in the dialogue where agreements are part of the process” and that “there are a few issues that are ready or very close to agreement… in accordance with [the] EU acquis and in line with international standards.” Could you specify what are the items on which Serbia is ready to agree with Kosovo?

A Growing Dissatisfaction

DP: Belgrade and Priština have a range of topics they need to discuss because they are in their mutual interest. But there will not be a serious dialogue any time soon, because that would mean that both sides would be ready to make some concessions. On the one hand the position of Belgrade is not so good. Serbia has no political, diplomatic or military force to convince Albanians to negotiate, and to get them to see that they need to make some concessions in this respect. Albanians, who have a saying – ku është shpat, është feja – ‘where there is a sword there is faith,’ have realized that the sword is in the hands of the United States.

This is why they strongly, at any cost, hold on to Washington, which has no interest in any kind of rehabilitation of Serbia. On the other hand, the mess made in Kosovo in the last decade has left terrible consequences. The situation in Kosovo today resembles the situation there during the late 19th and early 20th century. Collective frustrations are enormous, tension is felt everywhere and lack of prospects has never been greater. Directing part of the growing dissatisfaction towards Serbia and Serbs is one kind of a vent, which cannot be used much longer.

The only job young people from Kosovo can find for sure is to become a part of criminal gangs involved in smuggling heroin. Since, similar to the case of Afghanistan, no plan for sustainable development can be found, the West eventually began to tolerate parallel criminal structures that provide some sort of income for people. That is why the illusion of peace will exist only until NATO and the EU tolerate these activities. How long this will last we cannot predict, but we can see that activities of Kosovo Albanians in Europe are increasingly becoming an obstacle, and that at some point NATO and the EU will have to respond to these challenges. This response probably will not differ much from the Young Turks’ attempt to impose order among Kosovo Albanians at the beginning of the 20th century. And this will only make the situation worse than it already is.

Demonstrations of Strength

CD: The issue of custom stamps was a sensitive one, which developed a certain history of its own. However, why do you believe the decision was taken, and announced shortly before the beginning of the new round of negotiations and not, eventually, after discussing officially the matter during the meeting? For how long have the parties conducted these concealed consultations aiming to find a compromise to this issue which, apparently, became a deal-breaker at this stage of the negotiations?

DP: There are two reasons why Hashim Thaçi entered negotiations. The first reason is an attempt to obtain de facto recognition from Serbia, something that will not happen as he had planned. The second reason is the external pressure he was under, especially from the EU, which he sought to dispel. This is why the last weeks of crisis in Kosovo was a chance he could not allow himself to miss.

On the one hand, it provided Thaçi with the opportunity to enter future negotiations with a stronger position- he will thus have no regrets even if negotiations fail, because he has achieved his main goal.

On the other hand, he has demonstrated his strength to the EU and once more has shown that he enjoys the full support of Washington, something the EU will have to take more seriously into account. Also, Thaçi does not look favorably on a number of investigations led by EULEX for war crimes and organized crime against people close to him. So, furthermore, this was a way for him to strengthen his position within domestic politics.

The main problem for Serbs is that the use of force and embargo by Hashim Thaçi is just the beginning of his campaign. What will he come up with for the next elections? Charged as an organizer of the illicit trade in human organs, a head of political organization whose members and sponsors are questioned by EULEX, [having achieved] no success in economic policy, faced with bankruptcy, he will have no other way out but to start a campaign of taking over Serbian Northern Kosovo.

With a combination of the use of force in the establishment of Priština institutions and intimidation of the Serbian population, Thaçi will re-impose himself as a key politician in Priština who can get another four-year term in government. A number of people are urging him to do this, also, for historical reasons. If he occupies Northern Kosovo he will be remembered as the Albanian hero who established full Kosovo sovereignty, whatever this means. Being an important and discreet American player he will most probably get the full support of Washington for this.

Escalating Tensions in the North

CD: Recently we’ve been witnessing an escalation of tensions and violence on the ground: Kosovo Albanian police seizing the border crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje, located in the Serb-dominated northern regions, leading to sharp reactions from the Serbs in the region, including an exchange of gunfire and setting of barricades.

As a result, in a Declaration on the current situation in Kosovo and Metohija adopted by the Serbian National Assembly on July 31, the protection of the legitimate interests of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija was declared a priority of the state institutions and public factors in the country, until a compromise solution is adopted; at the same time, it asks the government to continue the dialogue with Priština, while doing “everything it can to protect life and property, rights and freedoms of citizens of the province.”

Corroborating this stance with the August 1st closed-door meeting, between chief negotiator Stevanović and minister Bogdanović with Serb representatives in Zvečan, an ethnic Serb-dominated town in northern Kosovo, one can clearly see a display of support and engagement.

However, given that – as you previously said – Serbia is not in the best political, diplomatic, and military position to force the ethnic Albanians to engage in conclusive negotiations with Belgrade, what are the tools the Serbian government can use in order to fulfil the tasks referred to in the Declaration? How and to what extent can the Serbian authorities protect the Serb communities in Kosovo and Metohija?

DP: The Serbian government has moral, legal and political reasons to react. Between 70,000-100,000 Serbs are living in Northern Kosovo. They are citizens of the Republic of Serbia, and Serbia has a moral obligation to help them.

It is not in the interest of Serbia to create an unsafe environment in the north, but, at the same time the Serbian government cannot just stand and watch a humanitarian catastrophe unfold in Northern Kosovo, starting with shortages in medicine, food and energy supply. The Serbian reaction will for sure cause a counter-reaction from Kosovo Albanians, NATO and the EU, but at the moment Serbia does not have another choice. Legally, Kosovo is part of Serbian territory, and Serbia has full legitimacy to act. No international court can deny this right to Serbia. However, in the current political situation NATO and the EU can always limit or even suspend the actions of Serbian institutions in Kosovo.

But even so, the Serbian government has to react for political reasons- for if it does not react, the Serbian government will risk weakening its already unstable and low rating in the coming election period.

The official Serbian request is that the situation in Northern Kosovo be returned to the previous condition. This will not happen. KFOR will not withdraw from the administrative crossings, and Hashim Thaçi will not give up the institutional occupation of Northern Kosovo. Serbian negotiators will not be able to persuade him to do this by any arguments.

If the Serbian government wants a result and diplomatic victory it has to use more radical solutions, such as full blockades on the Serbian side of the administrative line as well, an embargo on shipments of goods and services to Priština (the threat of stopping electricity transfer can be a pretty persuasive argument), rejecting further negotiations because of a deficit in democratic legitimacy and capacity of the government led by Hashim Thaçi… these would lead to further worsening of relations between Belgrade on one side, and NATO and the EU on the other. Is the Serbian government ready for something like this? I think not. But at this moment, I do not see any other way in which the Serbian government can react without turning out to be the complete loser.

The Outlook for September

CD: Following the trade embargo and the reaction of the Serbian side, mediator Robert Cooper, considering there to be “no point in holding a meeting unless we’re going to be able to reach an agreement on something,” decided to postpone the sixth round of the dialogue until September, when there “will be a better prospect of agreeing on quite a number of issues.” Apparently, just as in the case of the previous such encounter, Mr Cooper took this decision in order to allow the parties involved the necessary time for doing “a little bit of thinking” and working on possible solutions. What should we expect from the September round of discussions?

DP: Robert Cooper is a politically educated man with enviable experience. These kind of people are rarely found among the loads of bureaucratic careerists in Brussels. However, he represents the paradigm of EU involvement in Kosovo. How come a man who wrote about the disintegration of nations happened to be named as a mediator in a problem with exclusively national roots? That’s like if a man who smokes two boxes of cigars a day was giving lectures on the dangers that tobacco presents.

Under normal circumstances, this mediation would be destined to fail even before it began. However, viewed from the Serbian side, negotiations are already taking place in abnormal circumstances. Since the election slogan “there is no alternative to Europe” has become the official policy of the Serbian authorities, Serbia started accepting almost everything coming from Brussels, without any critical attitude and without previous definition of self-interest that must be protected.

It is therefore likely that the Serbian authorities will accept the majority of future proposals from Robert Cooper. Still, the problem for this presents limitations imposed by the Serbian Constitution. That is why a special mechanism was set up for defining the conclusions. There is not going to be any signing of documents between Belgrade and Priština, but the binding conclusions for both parties will be defined in a statement of Robert Cooper, who is probably also the one who guarantees implementation of these arrangements. That is why the direction in which the negotiations will develop will mostly dependent on future relation between Brussels and Priština.

The International Recognitions Battle

CD: Up to now, 76 out 0f the 192 UN members and 22 EU Member States have recognized Kosovo’s independence. Even though at a slower pace, the trend seems to be continuing, with Andorra the latest country to recognize Kosovo.

That said, how will the remaining states succeed to balance their position on Kosovo in the presence of the two main stances promoted, through political and diplomatic channels, by the US and Russia?

DP: The West has shown all of its weakness in the process of bilateral recognition of Kosovo. Until Saudi Arabia joined these efforts, only around 50 countries had recognized Kosovo. Out of this number, if we exclude the EU and NATO members, some small states, island states and semi-dependent states, only seven other countries from around the world that could be called mittelstaat or regional powers recognized Kosovo independence.

This shows the full diplomatic influence of the Western, Euro-Atlantic part of the world on a global scale. Therefore, the western part of the world had to start the search for allies that could help in this process. The ally was found in Saudi Arabia, which could influence around another 15 countries thus contributing to a significant increase in the number of countries that recognized Kosovo. It’s true that among these recognitions there were some bizarre examples like Somalia who recognize the secession of Kosovo although on its own territory it had two self-proclaimed states – Somaliland and Puntland, while a third one was being formed.

On the other side, though, are all the BRIC states and a large number of influential regional powers that are trying to promote a fundamental respect for international law. Russia has directly tied the question of Kosovo status to the question of the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which only made it more complex and harder to resolve. The only way for Kosovo Albanians and their Western allies to come to a positive solution is for Serbia to recognize Kosovo. However, despite the enthusiasm expressed by certain Serbian politicians, at this time this is impossible.

A New Balkan Framework

CD: For a long time the entire international community is advancing solutions for the situation in Kosovo. The UN, the EU, the US and Russia have all expressed themselves in this regard. Out of the available proposals, which ones do you find more suitable?

DP: When the Austro-Hungarian Empire withdrew from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1918, it left behind a society in which 88% of the population was illiterate. There is no need to explain how the economic, political, scientific or educational system in this society looked. The EU will leave a similar result behind in Kosovo.

The main reason for this is that power, either “hard” or “soft” is seen as the key measurement for reaching a solution. Negotiation and other solutions based on international law and diplomatic compromise are thus put to the side. For example, a good framework for solving the Kosovo problem could have been the conclusions of the Badinter Commission- the boundaries of the former federal units were there declared internationally recognized and problems within these borders were supposed to be resolved by international mediation. With the unilateral declaration of Kosovo Albanians independence, however, this rule was violated. A new norm of establishing borders on ethnical principle was launched.

The West has made a huge mistake and cannot go back anymore. In the future the West will have to be aware of the new reality that is being created in the Balkans. The solution for Kosovo will have to be looked for in a new security and political framework that will be defined for the Balkans in the coming decades. To make this framework more viable it would be advisable to seek a solution with the participation of the US, EU, Turkey and Russia.

Final Observations

CD: Then, considering also some of the recent events in Serbia – such as the visit of Russian Prime Minister Putin, the July 2nd agreements concerning the “areas of civil registry, freedom of movement and acceptance of university and school diplomas,” the trade embargo, the preparation of the following meeting of the dialogue foreseen in UN General Assembly Resolution 64/298 etc. – how would you briefly define Serbia’s solution to the Kosovo issue and what developments do you envisage?

DP: It is too late now to ask what Serbia is suggesting. And it is not even correct to ask that kind of question. Serbia had a moderate proposal, limited to 20 years, proposed in November 2007. This proposal was easily rejected by the US and the EU. The self-declared independent state of Kosovo’s Albanians is today in a catastrophic position, first of all diplomatically. Its president, Atifete Jahjaga, had not been heard of before [the election]- diplomats serving in Priština say that when the American ambassador told four party leaders that she was the US favorite for president, none of them knew who he was talking about. So they had to call the interior minister, Bajram Rexhepi, as Jahjaga was working in the police, to inquire about this person who they were supposed to vote for. Not knowing why they were asking about Jahjaga, Minister Rexhepi’s first reaction to ask if he should fire her.

Also, the prime minister of the Kosovo government is accused of being one of the organizers of human organs trafficking, one of the most monstrous war crimes in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. A person dealing with accusations from ICTY for war crimes is one of the opposition leaders. Another opposition leader has given a political legitimacy to Great Albania and does not care a whole lot about international representatives’ opinion.

In Kosovo, GDP per capita is on the same level as the GDP of East Timor. Pensions are around $60 per month. The unemployment rate today is above 50%. Only one-third of the state budget of Kosovo is made up of sustainable sources. Another third is coming from internationals donations, and the final third believed to come from money laundering from smuggling of narcotics.  There are no prerequisites for sustainable development in Kosovo.

But Serbia should be interested in some other issues. USA and the EU have taken the full responsibility for the development of situation in Kosovo so this is the issue that they should worry about. The Serbian interest in Kosovo at this moment should be aimed at taking care of the Serbian population, the preservation of Serbian cultural heritage and creating stronger foreign political ties with countries that support Serbia’s position. Serbia has a moral right to lead a self-centred policy regarding Kosovo.

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle