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: â€œBlaming 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.â€ 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: â€œThe 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-Montenegroâ€™s World Cup match losses on the EU as well.”
Oh, man. Ouch.