Heading for Belgrade next week
I haven’t been to Belgrade for a long time. I am looking forward to seeing many friends, meeting new ones and participating in a conference on “What Next for Dealing with the Past in Serbia?” sponsored by the Fund “Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco.”
Here are the questions that are on my mind. As usual I am open to suggestions of others that I should be asking, and any reading I should be doing:
1. What is the political lay of the land? Who is going up, who is coming down? Why? What role do different issues play: economic issues, Bosnia, Kosovo?
2. How far has Serbia’s democratic transition progressed? Are its courts independent? Is its parliament doing the kind of oversight that a European parliament should do? Is its government being held accountable? Are its institutions reformed? Are its army and other security forces under civilian control? Is its press free? Are its civil society organizations having a real impact?
3. What are Serbia’s long-term objectives? Does it continue to believe in the prospect of European Union membership, or is that fading? Is there interest in NATO membership, or not? Is anyone seriously interested in aligning Serbia with Russia?
4. What is Belgrade hoping to achieve in Bosnia? In Kosovo? How does it balance those aspirations with its interest in good relations with the U.S. and Europe? How can the U.S. best use its influence to ensure satisfactory outcomes?
During one of my last trips to Serbia, a prominent civilian of the more nationalist (but anti-Milosevic) variety showed me around Belgrade, pointing out with satisfaction the damage NATO did to security force targets. He praised the accuracy of most of the strikes and bemoaned the hit on the Chinese embassy. I gather attitudes have turned more sour since then. This is not surprising. I don’t expect anyone to appreciate bombing, even if it is accurate. What caused the shift? How far will it go?