Firstly, it must be noted, with great relief, that Boris Tadic decided, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, to put an end to the strategic wandering of Serbia, albeit, in a symbolic manner. Serbia finally submitted the EU candidacy application, and thus, at least for now, gave up the road leading towards prosperous democracies such as Teheran, Moscow and Pyongyang. After ten years which included a conspiracy, a murder, Kostunica, Jocic, the Zemun Clan, Nikitovic, Putin, Ilic and others, it just might be possible that the madness is behind us and that Boris may turn out to be the good boy who will do the job he was elected to do. However, it is just hard to disregard several key problems which are here with us and will probably remain.
If you have been watching the RTS Daily news (I refer to the daily news of the public service provider) on the day the candidacy application was submitted, you could have reached the conclusion that the EU anxiously waited for the day Serbia would submit the application. You would have also been able to find out that all EU member states, during unofficial talks with Vuk Jeremic, supported this unilateral Serbian move. Another thing we were told – now that the Netherlands has been crushed and defeated and Serbia has been granted visa liberalization for traveling to the Schengen Zone – our road towards the EU is certain and unstoppable, and we will become a member of the EU as early as 2014, although technically,we will be ready for that already in 2012.
However, the truth is, as always, somewhat different.
On April 29th 2008 (several days before parliamentary elections), Serbia succeed (with tremendous effort) in signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. After a several months long haggle within the EU, Serbia was granted the Agreement as a result of the goodwill of certain friendly countries and some EU bureaucrats. In fact, signing the agreement was a result of the process of the technical dialogue between Serbia and the EU, which has been going on since 2001. The SAA negotiation process itself lasted from November 2005 until November 7th 2007, when Bozidar Djelic (with his famous sharpened fountain pen) signed the Agreement in Brussels. Then we waited another six months – for the SAA to be signed together with the Interim Trade Agreement, which eventually happened. As soon as they were signed, both documents were immediately put out of effect, as several EU member states, led by the Netherlands, insisted upon that. The SAA ratifying process within the EU member states never even started, while the trade agreement was technically blocked. Thus, between April 2008 and December 2009, our relations with the EU were frozen, except for the unilateral implementation of the Trade Agreement on the Serbian part and the ratification of the SAA in the Serbian parliament.
Everything “changed” in December this year, when the Interim Trade Agreement was unfrozen, the white Schengen list became a reality, and Serbia submitted its candidacy application.
Serbia needed little less than 10 years to reach this point – submitting candidacy application – but without the ratification of SAA and the arrest of Ratko Mladic. It appears that, for Serbia, this kind of behavior towards the EU paid off at the end. Despite all possible punishments, obstructions and imposed conditions, we got everything we wanted: SAA, TA, white Schengen, and, at the end, we even submitted the candidacy application without obstacles, while, at the same time, we gave up nothing: Kosovo, Mladic, football fans, tycoons, war criminals.
However, this rapturous state also has an end, at this end will come sometime in 2010. Further progress of Serbia towards the EU will remain blocked the same way SAA and TA were blocked before. The candidacy application will most probably be gathering dust in some drawer belonging to the next commissionaire for enlargement. From this moment on, until Ratko Mladic is arrested, Serbia cannot even count on its application being considered. And then, one night, we will receive breaking news from Andricev venac that Mladic is arrested, that he was killed during an arrest attempt or that he committed suicide. Football fans will then demolish half of the city, make a round of the offices of several Belgrade NGOs, while Obraz and 1389 will be allowed to blockade the city several times unimpeded (because Dacic never arrests his own).
And then, our EU reality will be laid bare. On that one day in 2010, it might start becoming clear that the arrest of Ratko Mladic was just another police operation and that Mladic has nothing to do either with the core value process of integrating Serbia into the EU, or with the process of facing the past. His arrest is only the technical arrest of one man, who, one hot summer July day, only technically carried out a technical job of gathering together, sorting and murdering 8000 people. He is our Eichmann, he only did his job, albeit with a little love for that job and his historical mission. Maybe in 2010, we will start discussing some trifle issues on our road towards the EU, as for example, the Copenhagen criteria or the new Lisbon contract.
I hope that the questions of the internal arrangement of the Republic of Serbia, the Constitution, the rule of law, democratic and economic consolidation of state, will be opened within the next year. Then, in the imminent future, maybe one of the esteemed professors from the Faculty of Political Science in charge of the issues of EU integrations (for example, Slobodan Samardzic) will put on paper how long and how hard is the road on which we have to open and close chapters in the negotiations with the EU: Serbia will have to undergo, again technically, a deep internal transformation: legal, political, and economic. One day in the future, when the candidacy is taken into consideration, Serbia will have to answer several thousand questions, some of them difficult. When the Serbian government somehow formulates answers to these questions, and bureaucrats in Brussels study these answers, Serbia will have to start opening and closing a still undetermined number of chapters. The number of these chapters will not be less than 35. For opening and closing of each particular chapter, a consensus of EU member states’ national governments will be required. Thus, 35 chapters that have to be opened and closed, multiplied by 27 member states, even 28 (Croatia), amounts to 1960 steps, that Serbia, together with its EU partners, needs to make, so that we can get just one step from membership.
If everything turns out right, and if Mladic finds himself where he belongs, if Kostunica does not come back into power, if the most retrograde faction does not win the elections for the Patriarch, if Tomislav Nikolic remains declaratively faithful to the EU, if we don’t start a war in Bosnia and if, in due time (the next five to ten years) we recognize independent Kosovo, Serbia may count on an easy entry to the EU somewhere around 2020 (give or take two years).
In another crazy, yet beautiful country, there is an unusual temple, on top of a mountain, more precisely, on the top of the inactive volcano Mount Popa (Myanmar). There is a belief that, when you conquer the 777 steps, that is, the 736 meters of elevation, you will reach heaven. It seems that we will have to conquer only 1960 steps, however, not to reach heaven, but rather to return to civilization.
And, at the end, one small issue remains, and that is, what will be the nature and the attributes of this Serbia, which will one day join the EU. A wise woman once told me that Nikola Pasic advised his Radicals (who, at the end of the 19th century, were extremely concerned with demonic contraptions such as the locomotive, the railroad and the industrial machines), that it is best to pass these European laws, manufacture them in large quantities and on time, but that Serbia should be left to live according to the Radicals’ concept. A concept, which is the result of an agreement between the third class and its best sons.
Happy New Year 2010.
P.S: Here is one scene from the Paris airport: the thirty years old JAT airplane lands without malfunction or incident. Several dozen happy passengers with new biometric passports are eager to reach passport control. However, the immigration officers on duty are not informed about this new privilege of Serbian citizens. Then a dialogue between a female member of our long-suffering nation and an airport official, likable by nature, begins: “Where is your visa?” Citizen: “But Serbia was granted white Schengen”. Airport official: “Madam, I have no idea what you are talking about, where is your visa to enter the Republic?” Citizen: “But, white Schengen..” Airport official: “I don’t know what white Schengen is.” The misunderstanding was cleared once another airport official arrived, who was informed about white Schengen and Serbia, as well as about red passports.
So, before we dig into the process of candidacy, it might be good if we leave Europe at least several weeks to get used to the fact that, after twenty years, we are allowed to move within its borders, and no worries about the rest.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic
- According to texts published in German press, as Deutsche Welle reports, comments regarding the candidacy application were not especially positive and “can be mostly summarized as follows: the EU is not ready for new problems, that is, Serbia”. ↑
- MPs of the Serbian parliament ratified the SAA and the Interim Agreement with the EU, as well as the Energy Agreement with Russia, on September 9 2008. ↑