Vučić Can be Trusted as Much as Putin
Adelina Marini, August 21, 2017
While Western media continue to praise Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić for starting an internal Serbian dialogue about Kosovo, calling him "the Serbian Willy Brandt", the clever former Milošević information minister opens up a new front line of tension in the much suffered region of the Western Balkans. First of all, the dialogue about Kosovo is not going at all in the direction that would appeal to the EU. In his invitation to Serbian society to conduct this dialogue, Aleksandar Vučić called on the Serbs to pull their heads out of the sand, which, by the way, were buried even deeper over the past five years thanks to Vučić and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), and look the realities in the eye.
But what are the realities, according to Vučić? From the mouth of his closest allies, it can be concluded that recognition of Kosovo is not an option. Vučić claims to already have a plan, but will not present it until this dialogue is over. How generous and democratic! First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, a former spokesman for Slobodan Milošević, proposed Kosovo to be divided on an ethnic basis, which was met with criticism by part of the opposition in Serbia, the countries in the region, and analysts. The biggest concern is that it will open the Pandora's box and begin a new redrawing of borders in the Balkans, known as Europe's gunpowder keg.
Aleksandar Vučić supports the idea of the leader of the Socialists and his loyal ally. In one of his frequent lengthy interviews – of type monologue - Mr Vučić said that certain media (implying the few remaining out of his control) have shown signs of neurosis over Mr Dačić 's statement, such as they have not demonstrated with regard to ideas Kosovo "to be given to the Albanians" or to preserve the status quo. Even before the real dialogue began, which is with an unclear shape or form yet, the Serbian head of state has said that there are currently no conditions for a change of the Constitution (that is, recognition), which of course means a delay on the way to the EU.
At the same time, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama supports the efforts of Aleksandar Vučić, whom he named his friend. In an interview [in Serbian] for the Serbian semi-tabloid Blic, eccentric Edi Rama does not spare praise for Vučić's text on the internal Serbian dialogue and said it would not be bad for such a dialogue to take place in Kosovo itself, as well as in Albania. He believes the ultimate goal should be full recognition of Kosovo. At the same time, however, Mr Rama places himself in the shoes of the Serbian president. He did not explicitly reject the idea of partitioning Kosovo, but said it was not a good idea to start with that.
"It does not help us to start from there, though I could conclude that this is an unusual proposal, as is the one, according to which Serbia should be divided and the Preševo valley to unite with Kosovo, or the other one, according to which Kosovo is to unite with Albania and then Serbia is to recognise this Albania, not Kosovo", says the Albanian prime minister for Blic, which shows what such ideas can lead to.
One people, one language, one culture .... What about one country?
And while media in Serbia are dealing with the various proposals and ideas, turning the subject of Kosovo into an endless chewing gum, Vučić made his next move by announcing – together with the President of the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik - known for his persistent attempts to sabotage the Dayton state and his frequent statements that Republika Srpska should separate from BiH – plans to adopt a legally binding joint declaration on the survival of the Serbs. In the words of Mr Dodik, the intention behind the document is to list all the important elements and activities that need to be carried out in order to protect the Serb nation, increase its state capacities, and protect all Serb communities, regardless of where they are.
The latter is the most alarming part of Milorad Dodik's speech, as it reminds many of the Putin approach to "protect" Russian minorities in neighbouring countries by occupying their territories. According to former Serbian justice minister, and now secretary general to the president, Nikola Selaković, the aim of the declaration is to protect the Serbian nation, language and culture from extinction. Vučić himself was "wondering" what is people’s problem when there is nothing put on paper yet. Instead of calming down the situation, however, he poured more oil into the fire, by falling into worrying pathos in a people-pleasing interview for Pink TV: "Serbia will lift its head and no one will force Serbia's head anymore, and no one will ruin the pride and dignity of Serbia".
The plans for a declaration were not well accepted in the area. In Montenegro, they already show how much Vučić and Dodik's intentions are not harmless. New Serbian Democracy party, which is part of a coalition with the Russia-backed Democratic Front, immediately announced that it would be involved in the drafting of the declaration. "We will give our concrete proposals and ideas not only to the situation of the Serbs, but also to the cultural and other forms of Serb unions in all Serbian territories. We, Serbs from Montenegro, belong to a great people, who are obliged to think in bigger and broader categories, and take such stands, which, of course, will not threaten anyone else", said party MP Jovan Vučurović.
His words were harshly welcomed by the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of Milo Đukanović. The controversy has been running for several days in Montenegrin media. Vučurović claims that the Serbs in Montenegro are second-class people and are in a very difficult situation. Asked to comment on Dodik's allegations that there is a "genocide of identity" over Serbs being conducted in Montenegro, Vučurović stated that "our people, church, culture, identity are directly threatened and exposed to discrimination, but we have shown toughness and we will not allow anyone to assimilate us by force". The Democratic Front in Montenegro was firmly opposed to NATO membership.
The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in Croatia, Milorad Pupovac, provoked serious controversy in Croatia with a programme text on the situation of Serbs in Croatia, published in the Serbian daily Politika. It is unclear how much this text relates to the plans for a declaration of Vučić and Dodik, but the timing of its publication is a big coincidence. The reactions are rather against the fact that Mr Pupovac prefers to raise the issue through Belgrade media instead of talking directly with his partners. His party supports the ruling coalition, and the opposition agrees that there is still much to be done to improve the situation of minorities in Croatia. However, it is noteworthy that Mr Pupovac has been particularly active lately in raising the issue of the situation of Serbs in Croatia.
In a July interview for the Croatian weekly political magazine Globus Pupovac angered many on the Croatian political scene with his claim that Serbs were excluded from all vital issues in society. Another curious moment around Mr Pupovac is his visit to Moscow in July. On his Facebook page, he wrote: "The Russian type of interculturality, multi-ethnicity and multi-confessionalism, visible at every step - from the parliament and state institutions to the streets, is impressive." Milorad Pupovac expressed his regret that little is known about this in Croatia. "Here [in Croatia] we destroy our traces of anti-fascism, and there the five-pointed star and the icon live together. Here we also destroy the last traces of multi-ethnicity, while at the same time we lecture others on how multiethnic societies should look." Milorad Pupovac has failed to mention that this multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity is not a consequence of the great Russian tolerance, but a heritage of imperial ambitions.
The declaration is expected to be adopted in November. So far, no data has been disclosed in the public domain to illustrate the scale of the threat of the Serbs' "disappearance" as a nation, their language and culture, which are also to be matched to similar processes going on in neighbouring countries so that the correct conclusions about what is happening can be made.
According to some analysts, the idea of the declaration aims to divert attention from Kosovo, but given the activation of minority leaders in neighbouring countries, it would be an underestimation to treat it as such a move. It is more likely that Serbia is preparing the ground for a deal - recognising Kosovo against a redrawing of borders in the region. The EU, however, will not agree to this. Serbia is expected to act within current borders, find a solution to the Kosovo issue, work for establishing rule of law and strengthening democracy, fighting corruption and organised crime, good relations with neighbours and, last but not least, separate from the Russian sphere of influence and get closer to the Euro-Atlantic one. Nothing more, nothing less.
Inflaming nationalist passions through declarations and dialogues that lead nowhere is an attempt to do nothing of the above. The tactic we have seen plenty of in the last five years. In this sense, it is more correct to look at Vučić through the prism of Putin, than of Willy Brandt. This will save the EU from being put in an embarrassing situation once again because of underestimation of the "partner".
Translated by Stanimir Stoev