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A view from Serbia

Submitted by on 01 Dec 2010 – 10:44

The EU is not ready to run the Balkans, argues the Democratic Party of Serbia’s Dusan Prorokovic

From Brussels’ perspective, things look extremely successful. They managed to persuade President Tadi to start official negotiations with the government in Prishtina at an equal footing. This was verified by the new resolution passed by the UN’s General Assembly on September 9. Even though Kosovo’s Prime Minister already stated that “Serbia has recognized Kosovo”, the best description of the situation was given by the Russian newspaper Pravda which referred to it as “the Serbian handing over of Kosovo to the EU”.

We can add that Serbia has also “handed over to the EU” all other issues. The EULEX mission has extended its mandate to the entire territory of Serbia. Put simply, until now, the progress of Serbia’s European integrations was contingent on Serge Brammertz’s report, and now it will also hinge on EULEX’s account. European integrations became a matter of life and death for the Serbian government because, following the diplomatic turnaround, the country has completely lost credibility with its allies outside of the EU.

From Belgrade’s perspective, the situation looks completely unsuccessful. Even the proponents of “accepting reality” are asking what Serbia has got in return. Western officials have restated the phrase that “Serbia has a European perspective”, but have not provided any additional guarantees. This probably means ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and candidate status and after that, like Turkey, Serbia might stay in the Brussels waiting room for several decades.

However, the EU should be aware of three things.

Firstly, this can still be viewed as a result of “extra US involvement” and not new diplomatic skills in Brussels. In the following period, when the US temporarily will cede the leading role in managing the affairs in the Balkans to the EU, we will be able to see the true reach that Brussels has. Results so far do not leave room for optimism. The EU, within the UNMIK framework, has been in charge of economic strengthening and development in Kosovo since 1999 and what is the achieved outcome? Despite the enormous financial means poured into Kosovo through different aid programs, Kosovo’s GDP per capita is around the GDP of East Timor.

Secondly, by giving up on the Thessaloniki Agenda the EU has missed a chance to establish itself as a key factor in the Balkans. That was the time when the EU should have encouraged strategic talks between Belgrade and Zagreb, and status talks between Belgrade and Prishtina. It was the time when talking about “Yugosphere” made sense and when the EU had both the capacity and favourable circumstances on its side.

Today, with the economic crisis, strategic confusion about how to advance forward, many open internal issues, public opposition to further EU enlargement and gradual but constant strengthening of the political right in key EU members, the EU, despite its wishes, will not be capable of running the Balkans.

The EU’s weaknesses have already been exploited by others. Turkey’s interest in this part of Europe has increased and, we have to keep in mind, that Turkish diplomacy, based on the neo-Ottoman doctrine, has nothing in common with Turkish policies of just few years ago. It is not necessary to mention Russia as its presence is visible on a daily level. And finally, the “Western bloc” does not look like a monolithic whole.

By giving up on the Thessaloniki documents, the EU left the Balkan issue wide open in a strategic and geopolitical sense. That is why the future of the region will depend more on geopolitical interests, strategic regroupings and balance of power between the global and regional forces interested in South Eastern Europe.

Thirdly, and finally, all the above will lead the Serbian society to ask themselves the question, “what is our direction and where do we belong?”

Western propaganda has created a picture that we are on the verge of joining the EU and when that happens, we will live in opulence. However, propaganda aside, there is no real statistical indicator that we can be better off in the next ten years. Someone should explain why the industrial production in 1998, at the time when NATO was preparing to launch a bombing campaign against Serbia, was higher than in 2010, when we have a “European perspective”.

Maybe, a comprehensive answer lies in the following question: “Why the economic, social and political westernisation did not give any results in Orthodox Christian countries? After three decades this finally becomes evident with the Greek example.

The sudden imposing of “western” values, accompanied with aggressive fulfilment of geostrategic and financial interests of western countries and their economies, did not bring an expected progress to Serbia but a tremendous demographic decline, brain drain, debt-which with the current rate of economic growth will linger for several generations-collapse of the education system and an increase in defeatism.

That is why a string of political defeats which Serbia has experienced in the past several months can help break illusions and initiate more dynamically the process of re-examining Serbia’s positions and results in the past ten years.

Even though it seems like Brussels has a reason to be satisfied, while Belgrade cannot see an end to hopelessness, in the long-term things can go completely differently as often is case in the history of the Balkans.