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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Karadzic arrest: It’s not that simple

Radovan KaradzicWar criminal arrested: cue all sorts of guff from people who should know better about how this proves the Serbian government’s “pro-Western credentials” and demonstrates “Serbia’s European aspirations”. It does nothing of the sort.

All this really means is that a thoroughly unpleasant mass-murderer has finally been arrested and can at last be brought to trial. Wider significance cannot, as yet, be drawn from this long-overdue apprehension of one of the nastiest pieces of work Europe’s seen for a while. Not while Serbia’s still being cozy with Russia and helping the Kremlin further dominate European gas supplies to gain backing in the ongoing Serbian campaign against Kosovo’s independence.

Because the thing to remember is that yes, this current Serbian government may well have made some of the right noises to flatter the EU’s ego – but it’s still a Serbian government, and Serbian governments have long been unable to decide in which direction they want to head. Little wonder as, slap-bang in the centre of the Balkans, Serbia has cultural and historical links to Europe, Russia, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Islamic world to the south – it’s been right at the heart of some of Europe’s most confusing and vicious territorial disputes for centuries. Little wonder as well, then, that Serbia’s identity crisis mean that it has rarely been known for either consistency or sanity ever since gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire back at the start of the 19th century. It was no accident that the First World War kicked off thanks to the actions of a bunch of Serbian assassins – with the first declaration of war being between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia. (Which then escalated, lest we forget, thanks to Serbia’s old friendship with, erm… Russia…)

So, what does Karadzic’s arrest mean? Probably not a lot in the long-term, because hardly anything ever means much in the long-term when it comes to Serbia. It is, however a potentially handy short-term bit of PR for the current Serbian government:

With Serbs refusing the accept Kosovo’s loss and angry with the EU for sanctioning it, the liberals needed other areas where they can show they are ready to co-operate with Brussels… It was particularly beneficial for [Serbian President] Mr Tadic that Mr Karadic was captured with the help of Serbian security officers because the arrest provides clear evidence of Belgrade’s willingness to co-operate with the war crimes tribunal.

But PR is all that this is – and PR largely aimed at the outside world. Within Serbia, nationalist feeling remains high despite the current government’s supposedly “liberal” credentials, and the arrest of a nationalist figurehead could just as easily cause trouble for a more moderate government still trying to prove to the Serbian people that it’s just as pissed off about the Kosovo situation as anyone. Having already overseen the independence of Montenegro, losing Kosovo as well puts Tadic’s government in a very tricky situation indeed – and he’s too canny an operator not to ensure that he has all bases covered. Why else would he be sucking up to both Russia and the EU at the same time?

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Karadži? arrested, ambassadors back - What next for Serbia? « Kosmopolit

  2. LOL! A very funny scatter gun approach, though the only thing you got anywhere near target is that nothing much will change.

    The current ‘pro-west’ government in Belgrade needed some seri?us backing and promises and threats from the EU to even come into its slim existence, not to mention an unparalleled interference in to another sovereign states elections – but hey, they’re all a bunch of barbarians who would certainly profit from outside help, much as the Congress of Berlin in 1878 did, much as the A-H helpful annexation of BiH in 1908 (a plenty good enough reason for a bunch of bosnian serbs, moslems and others to want to whack the Archduke) and A-H’s Ultimatum to Serbia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_Ultimatum) etc. etc.

    Of course foreign interference in the Balkans has made it such a safe place. The Serbs have no ‘identity crisis’ at all, it is just that the ascendant powers, i.e. the West at the moment, has decided that Serbia is an enemy (1990s+) rather than an ally (WWI & WWII) and needs to be civilized – no so far from the view of the Ottomans that that British and French stopped the Ottoman empire from collapsing ran out of money in the mid-1850s and set up the first ottoman bank…

    The real question is how long will it be before the Serbs tell the EU to shove it? The EU has been long on promises, short on delivery. It may well be that it is the EU that terminates Tadic’s freak circus of a government. The electorate are expecting results and they will only hold out for the illusion only so long. Without Serbian interest in EU membership, what does that mean for the Stability pact, corridor 8 (or whatever). Serbia is a strategically important geographical region.

    Bulgaria may have fallen to all sorts of threats and promised to ‘recognize’ Kosovo despite publicly announcing not to do so and only Romania has told the EU to shove it. Does the EU and NATO somehow expect both these countries to come on board and intimidate Serbia? Both were immensely damaged when sanctions were placed on the FRY in the 1990s and will be exceedingly reluctant to even threaten as much.

    Turkey, for all its US ally goodness is still pissed off with them as after all the support they gave the US in the first gulf war, not to mention the very large loss of trade due to sanctions imposed on their neighbor, the US ordered them to let it use their territory to invade Iraq for a second time. Turkey refused, the US blamed Turkey for its own failure in Iraq, and the marvelous relationship has faltered and become strained with NATO’s most important member.

    Still, whilst we can be smug over Karadzic in the Hague, we can conveniently ignore the West’s reheated relations with Indonesia and total lack of action since those fun events in east timor….

  3. Excellent article. In particlular I like..

    “So, what does Karadzic’s arrest mean? Probably not a lot in the long-term, because hardly anything ever means much in the long-term when it comes to Serbia. It is, however a potentially handy short-term bit of PR for the current Serbian government.”

    Karl Haudbourg
    Ambassador of Serbia to the world