Day: July 4, 2011

All about Serbia

From one perspective, the news this morning seems all about Serbia: Novak Đoković won Wimbledon, Ratko Mladić got tossed out of court in The Hague for being disruptive, and Belgrade reached some agreements with Pristina. These are apparently only on freedom of movement and civil registries, not on other items under discussion.

This represents serious, if agonizingly slow, progress. Mladić would surprise me only if he accepted responsibility for the murders he is alleged to have ordered at Srebrenica. Denying it is nothing new, but his having to deny it in The Hague is certainly progress.

The minimal agreements between Belgrade and Pristina are significantly less than what was hoped for and even expected, and so far as I can tell they haven’t yet been published.  While the press is saying the agreements were “signed” or “inked,” I’ll be surprised if that is the case.  More likely, the EU will issue them.  Still, kudos to EU facilitator Robert Cooper as well as Serbia and Kosovo negotiators Borko Stefanović and Edita Tahiri for getting at least a few things done.

Nor do the agreements reached so far seem sufficient to justify EU serving up its “big potatoes” to Serbia:  candidacy and a date for starting membership negotiations.  I trust the EU will insist on most of the other items under discussion being resolved before moving ahead on the membership front.  I hope it will also be prepared to meet Pristina’s desire for a “contractual” relationship with the EU and a roadmap for the visa waiver.

So far as I can tell, Đoković’s victory has nothing whatsoever to do with Serbian or Balkan politics. It is the result of a sterling rise to the professional forefront of a talented and disciplined athlete. How refreshing!

That said, politics will not shrivel up and die any time soon.  Serbian President Tadić is thought to be planning an official visit to Bosnia this month.  I’ve got to hope that he uses the occasion to make it clear that Serbia supports a Bosnia and Herzegovina that can enter the European Union.  This will require significant changes to Bosnia’s Dayton constitution, which has already been ruled out of line with the European Convention on Human Rights.  Don’t be fooled if Tadic merely declares Serbia committed to “One Bosnia.”  That is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for Bosnia to qualify for the EU.

Serbia is on its way to becoming a normal European country, albeit one with residual issues stemming from the Milošević period, which is now more than 10 years in the past.  The faster it establishes normal state-to-state relations with Bosnia and Kosovo, the better.




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