Ooh harsh, Cristina

Two Serbia-related stories come together this week.

One, you may recall that I speculated about the Serbian team’s chances in the World Cup. I didn’t rate them very high. But I’ll admit I didn’t expect the famous defense to simply disintegrate. Plavi will limp away from the Cup with the worst record of any team: 0-3, with a shocking ten goals allowed versus only two scored.

Two, Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica recently complained about the EU’s action in freezing talks on Serbia’s candidacy. Brussels did this because the Serbs have been consistently unwilling or unable to produce wanted war criminal Gen. Ratko Mladic. This, said Kostunica, was unfair; the EU was punishing Serbia, and holding it to too high a standard. He blamed the EU for not understanding Serbia’s situation or appreciating its very real efforts at cooperation.

Some days later, the EU fired back: “Blaming the EU for your own failures is not realistic. It is up to the Serbian Government and its leaders to fulfil conditions for achieving a European perspective for the country. Full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal is a well-known condition for Serbia and has been for some time now. We encourage Serbia to implement full cooperation and remove the obstacles standing in its European path.” This from Cristina Nagy, press secretary to Ollie Rehn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner.

That’s pretty clear and strong. And, for the record, I applaud it. The Kostunica government has been tying itself in knots over Mladic. If they’d handed him over a year ago, there would have been a brief muted wail from Serbia’s evil-nationalist wing, and then the matter would have been forgotten; he’d be sitting in a cell in the Hague now, and Serbia would be signing a Stability and Association Pact with the EU, with an eye towards membership in 2012-3. Instead, the process is stalled, and indeed is threatening to go backwards. I have some sympathy for Kostunica, but he’s played this really badly.

Cristina Nagy then went on: “The European Commission remains willing to continue discussions for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement at the same moment that full cooperation is achieved… The EU is implementing concrete measures, through cooperation on economic development, better trade relations and better interpersonal relations between the EU and Serbia. By this we mean the relaxation of visa regimes and offering student scholarships…”

Not too subtle: you’ll get some scholarships, but that’s all. Don’t think you’re getting any closer unti you deliver the goods. And I’m fine with that too. I support Serbia’s candidacy and eventual membership, but not until they hand over Mladic (or show convincingly why they can’t). This isn’t an unreasonable request.

But on this point, I think Ms. Nagy went a bit far:

“Commissioner Rehn… is thankful to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav KoÅ¡tunica for not blaming Serbia-Montenegro’s World Cup match losses on the EU as well.”

Oh, man. Ouch.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros and tagged , , , by Douglas Muir. Bookmark the permalink.

About Douglas Muir

American with an Irish passport. Does development work for a big international donor. Has been living in Eastern Europe for the last six years -- first Serbia, then Romania, and now Armenia. Calls himself a Burkean conservative, which would be a liberal in Germany but an unhappy ex-Republican turned Democrat in the US. Husband of Claudia. Parent of Alan, David, Jacob and Leah. Likes birds. Writes Halfway Down The Danube. Writes Halfway Down The Danube.

15 thoughts on “Ooh harsh, Cristina

  1. Two points:

    Trivial: you’re reading Serbian sources. Ms Nagy prefers to spell her first name Krisztina.

    Less trivial: Commissioner Rehn is a big football fan. According to my sources, when he went to see Koštunica after the Montenegro referendum, he tried to make small talk about football, and Koštunica totally blanked him. Rehn took it diplomatically at the time but was obviously really pissed off.

  2. You know, I looked her up on Rehn’s website. But I just can’t love that Hungarian sz. Everyone else uses the letter “C” for the ss-sound. Even if you’re Russian and spell it “C”. And don’t tell me it’s a Ugric thing, because the Finns are not down with that, Laszlo.

    Where was I. Kostunica. No, no football. Kostunica is a famous nerd. This is someone who spent a year translating the Federalist Papers into Serbo-Croat. Other than a fascination with keen-o computer hardware, the man has no hobbies to speak of. In a normal country, he’d be your least cool professor in law school — the guy you sort of respect because he’s just what he seems to be, but you skip all his classes anyway because he’s so damn boring.

    Of course, in a normal country Ibrahim Rugova would have been an utterly obscure minor literary critic, Franjo Tudjman would have been a cranky retired general living in genteel poverty, and Radovan Karadzic would be a defrocked ex-psychiatrist serving a short prison term for embezzling medical funds.

    Djindjic, BTW, was a damn good football player. Stronger than he looked, whip-smart, and quick as a ferret. The day he was shot, he was on crutches and limping, because he’d broken a bone in his foot playing a day or two previously.

    Doug M.

  3. Doug, Germans use “sz”: “szene”. When there’s a pure “s” at the beginning of a word, you can’t use an “ß” so you use “sz”. That’s where the Hungarians got it from.

    I think you only see it in borrowed French words these days.

  4. Germans use “sz”: “szene”. When there’s a pure “s” at the beginning of a word, you can’t use an “ß” so you use “sz”

    That is produced /tsene/ or /stsene/

  5. However her name is spelled, she sure knows how to put the boot in. Diplomacy as a contact sport?

  6. Serbia did however win the World Cup water polo championship very recently. A tough sport and they are tops. And arguably the best offensive player in the world, Aleksandar Sapic, easily scored the most goals even though Serbia, coming in as the reigning champion, only had to play 5 games instead of 6. He scored 5 more goals (17) than the next highest players (13). Additionally Ghana’s coach is Serbian:

    http://www.fina.org/press/PR06_41.htm

    13th FINA MEN’S WATER POLO WORLD CUP
    Serbia-Montenegro beats Hungary in Budapest

    Lausanne (SUI), June 19, 2006 – In front of a 6,000-spectators crowd in Budapest, the local team of Hungary lost the final of the 13th FINA Men’s Water Polo World Cup with Serbia-Montenegro by the minimal difference of 10-9. The outcome of the competition, held from June 13-18, 2006 represents the third victory for Serbia-Montenegro in the World Cup – as Yugoslavia, they won the 1987 and 1989 editions.

    For the bronze medal game, Spain defeated Croatia by 13-10.

    It is the third consecutive world level triumph for Serbia-Montenegro, after their successes in the 2005 FINA World Championships and 2005 FINA World League. Serbia-Montenegro’s Aleksandar Sapic was also the best scorer of the tournament, with 17 goals. He was followed by a group of three players, with 13 goals: Tamas Kasas (HUN), Felipe Perrone and Xavier Garcia (both from Spain). In the 20 games of the competition, were scored 334 goals.

    The final ranking of the 13th FINA Men’s Water Polo World Cup was: 1. Serbia-Montenegro; 2. Hungary; 3. Spain; 4. Croatia; 5. Italy; 6. Romania; 7. Greece; 8. Russia.

  7. Nate, the technical term for this is “whistling in the dark”.

    In 1988, united Yugoslavia won 12 olympic medals — 3 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze. Yugoslavia picked up medals in water polo, shooting, wrestling, basketball, table tennis, boxing, rowing, and handball. And 1988 was not a particularly good year for them! In 1984 they took 18 medals including 7 golds.

    In 2004, Serbia won exactly two silver medals: water polo and shooting.

    You can argue whether or not the breakup of Yugoslavia was a good thing. But in terms of international sport, it was a disaster from which the successor states will never recover.

    Doug M.

  8. Well, for one, the population of Serbia-Montenegro minus Kosovo is much smaller than when Yugoslavia was whole. The Serbs weren’t the ones who wanted the country to dissolve – it was led by the Croats and Slovenes, and an Albanian population which wasn’t loyal. (Remember a Kosovo Albanian conscript even killed several sleeping soldiers in their barracks – mostly non-Serbs – back in the early 1980’s.) There wasn’t much loyalty, and it’s rather ridiculous having a country of hateful ethnic groups which always have committed mass murder and terror on each other at every major war – WWI, WII, the 90’s wars.

    And actually Croatia is doing very, very well in tennis and they have the Kostelic siblings, especially Janica who has done stellar.

    Then when you have the fact that Yugoslavia will likely never exist again – what is the point of saying they are so worse off now?

  9. Well, for one, the population of Serbia-Montenegro minus Kosovo is much smaller than when Yugoslavia was whole. The Serbs weren’t the ones who wanted the country to dissolve – it was led by the Croats and Slovenes, and an Albanian population which wasn’t loyal.

    It turns out that trying to dominate

    (Remember a Kosovo Albanian conscript even killed several sleeping soldiers in their barracks – mostly non-Serbs – back in the early 1980’s.)

    Mentally ill individuals do not a state policy make.

    Question: How many non-Albanian Yugoslavs, of any ethnicity, bothered to learn the Albanian language?

    There wasn’t much loyalty, and it’s rather ridiculous having a country of hateful ethnic groups which always have committed mass murder and terror on each other at every major war – WWI, WII, the 90’s wars.

    Didn’t you make the point elsewhere that Yugoslavia was fundamentally a good thing and that its collapse was unfortunate?

    At any rate, I don’t think I’m wrong in judging Doug’s point to have been that the breakup of Yugoslavia destroyed a country that was becoming a noteworthy contender in international sport.

  10. Well, for one, the population of Serbia-Montenegro minus Kosovo is much smaller than when Yugoslavia was whole.

    It’s about 30% of the old Yugoslav population. So you’d reasonably expect them to win about 30% as many medals, awards, and championship.

    But they’re not; they’re winning more like 10% as many.

    That’s because not only are they smaller, but they’re also poorer. Serbia still has not recovered to the per capita GDP they had in 1990. They went from being a middle-income country, almost as rich as Greece or Spain, to being a poor country, in the same category as Swaziland or Peru. So there’s much less money for stadiums, equipment, travel, training, you name it.

    Also, they’ve lost the benefits of scale. This isn’t about population per se. It’s about the new borders that make it hard to move aroud. Back in the good old days, a basketball team from Novi Sad could freely compete against teams from Pristina, Ljubljana, and Split. Everyone got better. Now they only play with teams inside Serbia. Result: the level of competition is much lower, and everyone is less good.

    I mentioned that united Yugoslavia won 18 medals in 1984, including 7 gold. Twenty years later, in 2004, all the successor states combined won 11 medals with just one gold. So it’s not just the population. The general level of quality has dropped.

    The successor states may shine in one or two individual sports — water polo for the Serbs, handball for the Croats. But none of them will ever remotely approach the broad and general excellence of Yugoslavia.

    Doug M.

  11. “I mentioned that united Yugoslavia won 18 medals in 1984, including 7 gold. Twenty years later, in 2004, all the successor states combined won 11 medals with just one gold. So it’s not just the population. The general level of quality has dropped.”

    In 1984 the Soviet Union boycotted, and they were major competitors.

    Also, at this last olympics, Serbia/Yugoslavia had one athlete, Natasa Janic, who switched to Hungary practically at the last moment. She went on to win two golds for them in rowing.

    I believe her father had been on the Yugoslav olympic team in his younger days and he had been her coach, but he died. I’d bet she wouldn’t have deserted the country if her father had been alive.

    She got all her training in Yugoslavia and had been competing for them and coming up the ranks, so for Hungary to get credit rather cheated Yugoslavia in the 2004 Olympics.

    http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0409&L=twatch-l&D=1&F=P&O=D&P=1107&F=

    01. September 2004. .

    Olympic champion arrived in Budapest

    In Serbia they did not tell me to stay

    Natasa Janic rowed in Hungarian national dress in the rhythm of Greek national music and won two Olympic gold medals. This August and Olynmpic Games were like a dream for a girl from Backa Palanka.

    She became the best with 22 years only. She fulfilled the promise given to her father Milan, who unfortunately, has not lived to see his
    daughter with gold medals in Athens.

    In Budapest she was welcomed by Hungarian fans.

    ‘It was a welcome from my dreams. At the airport only journalists and TV teams were present, but a real welcome took place at Ferenz Puskash
    Stadium’, Natasa Janic says. Thousands of people cheered to her.

    She does not like to talk about problems that forced her to change the passport.

    ‘In Serbia and Montenegro they have not made much effort to persuade me to stay. However, that is not important now. I fulfilled my goals, I
    worked a lot and that is the only thing that matters now’, Natasa Janic
    says.

  12. “She got all her training in Yugoslavia and had been competing for them and coming up the ranks, so for Hungary to get credit rather cheated Yugoslavia in the 2004 Olympics.”

    So, in other words, you agree with Doug’s points?

  13. No, not all his points and to the same degree.

    The Olympic medalist rower was 22 in 2004 when she won.

    Doug was saying how competing in the different republics strengthened the quality – yet she would have been only 9 in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia left, and only 10 in 1992, when Macedonia and Bosnia left, and I doubt she ever went to Kosovo.

    Therefore, all her training was by and large in Serbia and her training mostly by her father – so no further than her own home for a coach.

  14. “Therefore, all her training was by and large in Serbia and her training mostly by her father – so no further than her own home for a coach.”

    How many other people missed out on her opportunities? Note, too, that despite her relatively advantaged status she left Serbia. Why?

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