Letting Serbia decide for itself

This analysis from Reuters of the dynamic between the EU and Serbia in the run-up to Serbia’s general election 3 weeks from now points to an extremely ham-handed attempt by some EU countries to influence the outcome, which seems like a strange way to handle an election in any country, let alone one with as fraught a regional situation as Serbia.  The issue is whether the EU should offer a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, but the incumbent PM Vojislav Kostunica has made clear that he wants no part of it and views it as an attempt to get Serbian ink on a document that would implicitly recognise the independence of Kosovo —

“That agreement is obviously in the interests of (EU Enlargement Commissioner) Olli Rehn and (EU foreign policy chief) Javier Solana,” Kostunica told state news agency Tanjug. “It is obviously not in the national interest of Serbia to sign an agreement that would tomorrow be interpreted as Serbia’s signing off on an independent Kosovo.”

The opposition Democrats are in favour of the agreement and argue that it makes no commitment about Kosovo’s status.   What’s troublesome is the analysis of why the prospect of an offer is even an issue —

Most EU states want to offer Serbia the accord before May 11 to help the Democrats win against the hardline Radicals, support for whom has been fuelled by bitterness at the loss of Kosovo, low wages and stubbornly high unemployment.

i.e. one goal is electoral manipulation.  Whatever one’s opinion of Kosovo’s status, surely it is better to wait to deal with a post 11 May government that has an actual mandate and especially not to tag one party as a puppet of the EU.   It’s not clear whether the Lisbon treaty would help reduce this kind of backfiring incoherence in EU foreign policy.

5 thoughts on “Letting Serbia decide for itself

  1. The EU policy of appeasing Serbia with financial support or undeserved political concessions in the process of EU membership every time Serbia faces decisive elections, has been the wrong strategy.

    The message that such a policy conveys is that the so called EU “standards” can fall on the level of “radical or less radical”. Obviously, the whole political spectrum in Serbia has had a sharp shift towards radicalism in the last years with the so called radicals being in fact ultra-radicals and the so called pro-EU forces being radicals. The more radical Serbia gets, the more concessions and financial support it receives from the EU for turning less radical.

    Serbia has failed to make progress in some crucial fields. Well, it still adamantly refuses to deliver it’s war criminals to international courts. More generally, Serbian society has failed to acknowledge it’s (large) responsibilities in all the wars of the 90-ies. The radicals are now the strongest single party in the country. The situation in Serbia is analogous to that of a hypothetical post-WW2 Germany where the Nazis would have still been strongest party and Germans would still feel as victims. The EU is basically financing Serbian radicalism with its cookies-per-election strategy.

    Even the fall of Milosevic was not a result of a broad societal movement of analysis and self-reflection but a result of a free fall economy due to isolation and political pressure from abroad. Serbia should not be rewarded for it’s radicalism. The EU should face Serbian radicalism with the only path that has worked until now, namely isolation. Only this way radicals in Serbia can fall out of fashion.

  2. eni of course you are right. The right strategy to get Serbia to hand over Mladic and company is obviously to support anti European forces of Nikolic and Kostunica. I’m sure they will give Serbia the reform it needs and extradite Mladic!

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