Crime and responsibility
by Srda Popovic
‘The international community will not give up its demand that we free ourselves of our war criminals. The trouble is that no politician is willing to tell the Serbs that it is in their interest to rid themselves of this evil. That The Hague is the others doing us a favour, because we ourselves are unable to do it. That it is very good that they try as many of 'our' criminals as possible. That our 'honour and dignity' is better served by our demonstrative ability to rid ourselves of our criminals than by the lie that we have none. Even politicians who think along these lines do not dare to say so in public. Cooperation with The Hague will continue, since it cannot be avoided - but in the same unwilling, insincere, stupid and costly manner.
Does the international community share some of the responsibility for events in Serbia?
We - a small country, a poor country, a country burdened by a heavy historical mortgage - we started and fought wars with our neighbours, committed grave crimes in their lands and also lost the wars. We exist today on the basis of foreign donations, and are fully dependent on these in both the short and the long run. Is this the fault of the international community? Maybe yes, because it spent too much time trying to make the Milošević regime see sense, bribing it, appeasing it. In other words, because it did not intervene militarily far earlier, at the time of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, the siege of Sarajevo - i.e. when it was clear what was happening and who was doing it, when Srebrenica, for example, had not happened yet. They could have stopped the war earlier and reduced its horrors; they are responsible perhaps for not stopping us in good time. But are we the ones who should demand that they account for this?
How will political developments in Serbia influence the region, especially Bosnia and Kosovo?
They will fan the hope among the Serbs that the defeat is maybe not final, that we can continue to taunt the world, and that in the end everyone will recognize our truth and apologize to us. The integration of the Serbs into Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo will again be hindered, although integration is in their best interest. Serbia will send a message to the region that the past lives on, and that we shall not readily give it up.’
Srđa Popović interviewed by Monitor (Podgorica), 16 January 2004