Power without responsibility
by Dragoš Ivanovic
The chief characteristics of the current Serbian government are its under-performance in all areas that demand maximum competence, and a lack of state wisdom where the latter is most needed. Such half-governments would be a misfortune for any country, but in our case - the case of a country faced with open questions of fateful importance for its present and future - it signals a potential tragedy.
Our trouble is that the agenda of this incapacitated government has been filled with some speed by a number of questions, each more important than the last: the future status of Kosovo, agreement with the EU on convergence and association, regulation of the relationship with Montenegro, (non-)cooperation with The Hague tribunal, fulfilment of the IMF’s painful conditions, a new constitution, a strategy for economic development, and many more things. A poorly informed reader may think that we have made a modest advance in some areas, but when one looks at matters more closely one can see that, burdened by troubling impotence, we are visibly lagging behind on most of these points. The imbalance between ambition and ability is bound to cause a new social conflict, and to close off the perspective of cooperation with the outside world.
Our biggest problem does not lie in the lack of agreement between Tadić and Koštunica on the Kosovo issue, but in their individual lack of responsible reflection on how best to approach the issue. The government resolution on Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity adopted by the national assembly, as well as Tadić’s proposal to divide Kosovo into two entities, are nothing but abject pandering to established prejudices, lacking all vision and feeling for the historical perspective. What would be more normal at this turning-point than to begin by drawing a line under the recent past and speaking openly about the misdeeds committed in Kosovo by Milošević’s regime?
Yet no one from the post-Milošević administration has publicly distanced himself from, let alone condemned, the deportation of several hundred thousand Kosovo Albanians at the time of the NATO bombing. No official has tried to explain how it is possible to move from one extreme - the practical destruction in 1990 of the province’s autonomy and its reduction to the status of a mere municipality - to the current, never explained, offer of ‘more than autonomy’. As long as we have no reliable guarantee that this history, and the volatile disposition of those in power, will not be repeated, our government will not be viewed as a reliable negotiator. It is no comfort to us that the Kosovo side too has committed grave misdeeds, given that we are unable to deal with our own.
Our governmental and other state officials, including the president, unfortunately do not care much for democracy or principles in the pursuit of policy. They continue to be guided by the ill-conceived and predictable ‘least of our concerns’ [Koštunica on cooperation with The Hague]. It seems that the government’s policy consists of nothing but mundane arithmetic. When the recent departure of SDP deputies endangered its majority in parliament, it quickly got itself two new deputies from the DS. Supported by the SPS, it now behaves as if it has surmounted its greatest problem, boasting indeed that it will be able to govern comfortably to the end of its mandate. One can see here too how much we differ from the democratic world and from the Europe towards which we are now allegedly rushing. In Germany, for example, the old rivals - Christian Democrats and Social Democrats - have formed a joint government; regardless of how long the coalition will last, it shows at least toleration and solidarity in conducting public affairs. It is different with us: those who have a majority of a single deputy immediately boast that they can do whatever they want. The most important thing is to be, and to remain, in government: ethical and political concerns are quite irrelevant. When Milorad Vučelić bragged recently that this government is upheld by Slobodan Milošević, none of the ministers denied it. No wonder, since it was essentially true.
This leads to grave problems and dangerous perambulations. After the short period of Đinđić’s reforming course, this government is most responsible for the fact that a good part of society, the media, the parties and organizations, has shifted towards the nationalist right. One of the illustrations of this is the recent neo-Nazi rampage at the Novi Sad faculty of philology. The government appeared sufficiently shocked to order arrests, but all action came to an end when it was suggested that extremist organizations should be listed and banned. A step in this direction would have revealed the bitter truth that it is difficult to draw a line between these Nazi extremists and those in the government or close to it who inspire them to act. This why the whole action was stopped before it had properly started.
Our dislocation from reality is both deep and fatal. Daily speculation on the part of our politicians as to whether we shall enter the EU in 2010 or 2012 or 20015 sound quite cynical in the context. Few ask and even fewer act to make sure that the sequence is reversed, and that our greatest public concern becomes the question of how to rid ourselves of the ever more dangerous nationalism present in the government and its circles, in order to free ourselves from the situation of governmental stasis and to establish, by way of a new constitution, a normal state.
Translated from Republika (Belgrade), no. 370-371, 1-31 December 2005