Serbia and Europe - from Pešcanik FM (Belgrade)
by Žarko Korac and Dubravka Stojanovic
This discussion, originally broadcast on the independent Belgrade radio station Peščanik [hourglass] in 2005, provides valuable insights into the Serbian party system since the fall of Slobodan Milošević on 6 October 2000 , and into the relations between president Boris Tadić and premier Vojislav Koštunica since the assassination of premier Zoran Dinđić on 12 March 2003. Žarko Korač, a leader of the Civic Alliance, was a minister under Dinđić; Dubravka Stojanović is a prominent Serbian historian.
DSS, SPS and SRS share the same electoral following, and represent the same political idea. The Radicals [SRS] attack Koštunica [leader of DSS] only in order to show that they are a party of opposition. Koštunica and the Radicals understand each other well, they have the same patriotic task which is how to keep Kosovo, keep Montenegro, help the unfortunate Serbs of RS finally to join the mother country. We are dealing here with a great and instinctive mutual understanding. The petty conflicts and verbal duels between them should not deceive us. What is unnatural is that the Democratic Party [DS, led by Tadić] has agreed to cohabitation. This creates a confusion on the Serbian political scene. On the one hand the whole čaršija, i.e. the nationalist circles, are pushing Tadić and Koštunica to embrace one another, insisting that this represents Serbia’s future, while on the other it is obvious that the only natural coalition is one between DSS and the Radicals. This is why people are confused: they feel that the political cards have been wrongly dealt, but don’t understand why.
The conflict between Dinđić [former DS leader] and Koštunica was to my mind perfectly natural. As early as 6 October  Koštunica said: ‘The army remains unchanged, [General] Pavković remains in his place and so does Rade Marković.’ He would have kept Marković as head of the state security service to the end of the latter’s mandate, if that had been possible. Koštunica protested because Milošević had been kidnapped and delivered to The Hague, and the Socialists [SPS] and Radicals agreed with him. Koštunica said that Operation Sabre [crackdown following Dinđić’s murder] was criminal, that we were conducting reforms too fast, and that the reforms were in fact corrupt. He claimed that we were servile towards the West, whereas he by contrast showed courage. Serbia today, in other words, has the same old policy which they are trying to adapt to new circumstances. Koštunica is conducting Milošević’s policy in a new key. It is natural in this situation for the Radicals to demonstrate to the voters that they are the only true bearers of this policy, and that Kostunica does what they want. When the right moment comes Serbia’s true masters will take over and the Radicals will ground Serbia on the only right idea: the idea of a clerical Orthodox state at war with Western civilisation. It is not true that this war is simply a war against Western Europe - something more fundamental is at stake. One needs only read Nikolaj Velimirović to see why these people like him so much [see following articles, and Bosnia Report new series 32-34, p.43]. Velimirović spoke out against Western civilisation, Western culture, said that the French Revolution was decadent because by endorsing the rights of man it had destroyed the natural order. It is enough to read the main ideologue of the Serb Orthodox Church to see how much he hates modern civilisation. It is all crazy, in fact, but this is the credo of our governing circles. Koštunica is trying to reconcile this idea with the process of integration into Europe, which is impossible. His impotence derives from the fact that he is attempting to join together two incompatible things. His heart and mind are on the side of anti-Western rhetoric, anti-democratic traditions and institutions, while at the same time he knows he has no real alternative to joining the West.
It is impossible to join together what is incompatible; to lead Serbia into Europe and at the same time defend a contrary system of values. The Serbian nationalists have not managed to create an alternative model. The best they can do is to say that we will enter Europe on our own terms - which, of course, is total nonsense. Koštunica says: ‘We’ll play the game, but not according to their rules; we’ll trick them.’ The Europeans watch us and wonder whether we are a serious nation. I think that Europe has lowered its criteria in our case, that it expects a minimum from us; but cannot have a black hole here. What we lack here in Serbia is a strong pro-European voice, and the DS should play that role. It takes courage to say what Mesić and Sanader said after the arrest of Ante Gotovina. It was brave of de Gaulle to say after the war that Marshal Pétain had betrayed France. What we need is a change in the system of values. Our young generation is like Baudelaire’s flowers of evil, raised from within the evil of the wars, and a large part of it is nationalistically inclined. This is a consequence of the lack of alternative models. Đinđić at one moment appeared as the hero of that generation, but he was murdered and this sent a terrible message to it. It is most unfortunate that this society lacks the courage to defend the idea of a modern Serbia, and that the person who advocated it most consistently was murdered.
We pretend to be terribly clever and wise when addressing the international community. We think we can trick them by sending a message that we are not in the least interested in the world, and that the isolation of the 1990s was largely due to our own will. Everyone is trying to push us towards integration, but we always find ways to hold back. The refusal to surrender Mladić and Karadžić is part of the same process. We wink at the outside world that we shall be good, and then wink at the people back home that this was only a trick. I don’t understand this logic, but I fear that the people behind the policy don’t know the world, have never travelled there, don’t read its press, have no idea about how international diplomacy functions, etc. - that what we are witnessing is in fact a great misunderstanding on the part of a small provincial world, on the part of a frustrated nation which knows little outside itself. Key questions for this country are undoubtedly Kosovo, Montenegro and the IMF, but there is also the more important moral question: where the country is, what it wants, and where it wishes to go. If we were to opt for democracy and Europe, all other issues such as Kosovo, Montenegro, and the IMF would find a solution, because we would have opted for a democratic model of resolution of outstanding differences. But if we continue to agree with Matija Bećković that Kosovo will remain Serb even when no Serb lives there, then we are in trouble. So we send one message to the outside world and another to the folk at home, and we wink with both eyes because we have not decided who we are, what we are, where we wish to go and what we want to do.
Comments translated from Peščanik FM, Belgrade 2005, vol. 4, pp 406-8