The LDP leader calls for a change in official policy.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 03/10/11
Cedomir Jovanovic, the leader of Serbia's opposition Liberal Democratic Party. [LDP]
Cedomir Jovanovic started out as a student protest organizer and soon became the youngest member of parliament in Serbia's history. Since the founding of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2005, he has served as its president and in several other capacities.
Following the clashes last week in northern Kosovo, Jovanovic issued this statement to SETimes:
"If Serbia does not immediately react by changing current policy, as the LDP has been proposing for a weeks, the situation in northern Kosovo -- where there are violence and injuries -- will end with a big disaster for all Serbs who live there. Termination and Serbian boycott of talks in Brussels will not bring anything useful to Serbia, and will present to Serbs in Kosovo new problems and isolation, under constant threat of suffering and conflict."
Jovanovic earlier spoke to SETimes correspondent Ivana Jovanovic.
SETimes: What is the best way for Serbia to support its citizens in Kosovo, and should it help them in maintaining parallel institutions and leaders [in Kosovo]?
Cedomir Jovanovic: Serbia must give Kosovo Serbs an opportunity to break free from self-appointed leaders who seek an opportunity in inflammatory speeches, crisis and an instability in Serbian political life. They can quickly provoke an incident, always at the expense of their people.
SETimes: The integration of Serbs in Kosovo with Albanians and other people is often displayed as impossible, but the experiences of many among them are opposite. Where do you see the cause of these differences and how can they be overcome?
Jovanovic: Kosovo Serbs and the citizens of Serbia in general never had an opportunity to rationally decide about their lives and the future of their children. Those who were forced to do so, who could not wait for Belgrade, as the Serbs south of Ibar, have in part managed to get organised, form relevant political parties, go to the polls and enter the institutions.
Results of their work is obvious, but in Belgrade, directly or indirectly, they have been labeled traitors. In various ways, the Serbian state spends annually about 600m euros on Kosovo, but Serbs in Kosovo institutions have managed, with far less money, to do more concrete and useful things.
SETimes: Turmoil in the Bosniak community in Serbia has been going on for a while. Is perhaps the situation in Kosovo causing it?
Jovanovic: There is no evidence of that, but there are those in northern Kosovo today who are falsely trying to introduce the last line of defence in the further disintegration of Serbia.
Serbia is "Kosovising" itself for the moment. The situation in Kosovo -- continuing the frozen relations and isolation -- can lead us, regardless of minorities and the region, to push into a new cycle of instability and fear. Most are dissatisfied in Serbia, with a sense of isolation over the past years.
SETimes: Is the stance of the EU and the United States towards Serbia and Kosovo conditioned by the perception that Boris Tadic is a Russian sympathiser?
Jovanovic: The EU and the US stance is conditioned by the belief that the conflict on the edge of Europe cannot last forever and that this region needs to step out of the international community's focus.
SETimes: As Serbian closeness with Russia is constantly pointed out [even assuming a religious intimacy], can we expect it to cause a negative impact on Serbia's relations with the West, primarily the US?
Jovanovic: For Serbia, the policy of "four pillars of foreign policy" is untenable and absurd, and Russia knows it is unsustainable.
A country that wishes to join the EU, and has at least made such nominal claims, must be consistent in its external affairs with Brussels. A country from this region that wishes to join the EU cannot do so without entering the NATO Alliance. Finally, a state that cares about itself and its interests, should never transfer to another country, not even Russia, access to its energy sector without protecting its strategic interests.
SETimes: Your advocacy of the strategic importance of Serbia's membership in NATO is well known.
Jovanovic: For a country such as Serbia, NATO membership is a prerequisite for rapid EU membership. NATO membership is not a threat to anyone, and it makes a final and lasting peace in the Balkans. Without NATO membership, Serbia is doomed to decay at the margins of Europe and the Balkans.
"NATO membership is the only way to get out of the chronic Balkan uncertainty," says Jovanovic. [Reuters]
All other countries in the region already joined NATO or soon will. NATO is, also, part of the answer for the question of internal security and safety. We are surrounded by NATO countries, NATO membership is the only way to get out of the chronic Balkan uncertainty.
SETimes: In late August, the German chancellor visited Serbia with a particular message. [In your view] what is the essence of the visit and messages of Angela Merkel?
Jovanovic: The most important message is that we are nearing danger to be permanently excluded from the political issues that determine our future. Europe and the US can solve the Balkan problem without us, but the marginalising of Serbia, which we cause with our undecided and confused policy, it is a constant threat to our EU integration and the loss of Serbia's chance for immanent modernisation.
SETimes: Boris Tadic thinks that Serbia can join the EU without Kosovo recognition. Do you trust him when he says this?
Jovanovic: No smuggling into Europe. Serbia cannot go anywhere without resolving the current Kosovo and regional policy. Boundaries of the states built on the ruins of the former Yugoslavia are well marked, and part of that is the recognition of Kosovo.
The slogan "Kosovo and Europe" was from the start doomed to failure, because it means nothing. Nor can Serbia preserve the illusion of a long lost Kosovo, or expect concessions in the process of joining the EU.
SETimes: How do you view Serbia's present international politics?
Jovanovic: Serbian foreign policy is nervous and superficial. We have a foreign minister whose actions are superfluous in large political processes, but successful in unnecessary incidents at every possible opportunity.
Serbia will not change, and nobody serious in Europe or the world will understand its policies and interests, as long as Belgrade is not accepted in Ljubljana, Zagreb, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Tirana, Skopje, Pristina.
The region is still in a crisis, afraid of Serbs returning to the old policy, and it is understandable. There is no need to shake the region and mobilise the Serbian public with domestic issues in surrounding countries, especially when they can be solved.
SETimes: In view of the Croatians' preoccupation with their generals and Serbia's delivery of its generals, Mladic and Hadzic, to The Hague, do you think that both attitudes are there to entice new votes in the upcoming elections?
Ratko Mladic at The Hague tribunal hearing. [Reuters]
Jovanovic: The Mladic arrest in Serbia has been quickly turned into a public farce, which reduces the positive effects of taking responsibility of those like Mladic. Everything became a show, and ended in five days. I do not think it has made a permanent impact on the electorate.
SETimes: Is Mladic's departure to The Hague one of the ways of overcoming obstacles on the path towards the EU, and do you give it added significance?
Jovanovic: Handing Mladic to justice should not be seen as blackmail in which Serbia tried to ensure its place in Europe. We as a state had an obligation to arrest him, for ourselves, our neighbours and the future of Serbia.
Handing Mladic to justice is not justice enough for the victims and those close to the ones killed in the crimes charged against him at The Hague tribunal. It is an opportunity for our society to remove heavy mortgage under which we have lived more than 16 years. The politics of Mladic must be defeated, giving the country a chance to free itself from the burden of responsibility for crimes, including the Srebrenica genocide.
SETimes: There is speculation that LDP may not be able to pass the census in the forthcoming elections?
Jovanovic: According to ratings, LDP has long been the third party in the country, and our support is stable. The political goal is to double the support from previous elections. Only stronger LDP guarantees a different, faster and better government of Serbia after the 2010 elections.