Approximately at the same time Voyager left our planet, carrying with it the music of Bach, Mozart and Chuck Berry, greetings in 55 languages and brainwaves of a girl in love inscribed on a Golden Record, Matthew Nimetz began his mediation in the dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

In the meantime, while Voyager discovered an ocean underneath the frozen surface of Jupiter, volcanic activity on its moons and recorded incredible planetary winds, Matthew Nimetz sat and waited for a favourable signal from Athens and Skopje. These days he again visited this part of the solar system, grey-haired and with a white moustache; Greeks are still claiming that the name Macedonia reflects Skopje’s territorial claims over northern Greece, while the Macedonian minister of finance is urging the EU to let Greece default. Voyager is expected to leave the heliosphere any moment now and begin its interstellar space sail. Nimetz is expecting nothing, other than a pension and good fishing in Key West.

Meanwhile, this obscure dispute about whose symbol is the Vergina Sun, has undermined Macedonia’s successful continuation of accession negotiations with the EU. Since 2005, when they received what we aspire to obtain on March 1st, the candidacy process did not advance an inch. Because of the Greek veto they did not become a part of NATO. Meanwhile, Greece has reached the brink of an abyss, while Macedonia has been long forgotten by everyone. The unemployment rate in Macedonia has for years been the largest in Europe, and any assertion that it may have territorial claims against anyone sounds like a joke. But the Greeks do not want to give up, despite the 350 billion reasons which point in the opposite direction. However, if the war over the Vergina Sun (which, by the way, Macedonia has agreed to remove from its flag at all international meetings) had been waged for such a long time and so passionately, how many light years will the Serb-Kosovo conflict last, since problems between us are real, large, and bloody. The battle would probably last somewhat shorter if someone in Belgrade acknowledged the existence of irreversible processes, such as the declaration of independence and the recognition of independence by Europe’s and the world’s most powerful countries.

Negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, the ones that will (again) determine whether we’ll receive EU candidate status next week, came into a comic stage – the stage of footnotes. Until now, this word represented a note at the end of a text which innocently served only to better explain the text. With the ongoing negotiations, a footnote has lost its innocence and now corresponds to the recognition or non-recognition of an entire state. Our Matthew Nimetz, EU’s Robert Cooper, seeing that things are getting out of control, decided to pull an even greater joke in order to resolve the problem of Kosovo’s regional representation – and created two footnotes, one for each side in the negotiations. Borko won a right to his asterisk, and Edita for hers. A 24-hour trench battle is raging so to determine what will be written beside them. While all we need is a single number – 1244, Albanians want a whole sentence – Declaration of the independence of Kosovo. After the mediators realized that the Maginot line between the negotiating teams did not budge, land and satellite phone calls commenced, followed by the arrival of foreign representatives to Belgrade by air, land and water. The German foreign minister Westerwelle suddenly flew in to clarify to the Serbian president Tadic that the problem is not just in the current negotiations, but that Serbia has not yet implemented some of the already signed agreements, like the so-called “integrated management of border crossings”. Head of the EULEX mission, de Marnhac, arrived from Pristina to warn us that his officers do not have “permanent and unconditional access to northern Kosovo.”

Realizing how much we love teleconferences, the High representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton, called Tadic and reminded him that he knows very well what is expected of him. Baroness seems to know our president better than himself, because he doesn’t seem to really know what kind of a role he should be playing in the most recent episode of the Kosovo saga, as demonstrated by his remarks to Westerwelle, later repeated during his telephone conversation with Baroness Ashton – never, either explicitly or implicitly, will we recognize – you know what. But these were not the only calls that were made those days. Hashim Thaçi received a call from Hillary Clinton, as well as from Stefan Füle who offered a feasibility study for Kosovo. The head of an alien observing our planet, would be spinning from the multitude of calls. I can only imagine what it was like for Tadic and Thaçi, who had to talk to these cunning diplomats and understand what is at stake, and how much more can they bluff, particularly because neither of the statesmen can pride themselves with being too smart. Throughout all this they were being observed by their opposition and their people – those who survived the winter, that is. For Thaçi it seems to be a little easier, he might receive applause from somebody, such as Hillary Clinton or the Self-determination movement, while our president will be good for no one. Sergey Lavrov will consider him a traitor whatever he does, just as will the Serbian progressive party, Serbian orthodox church, Democratic party of Serbia, New Serbia, Serbian radical party, and right winged movements 1389, Nasi and Dveri. While Albanian police will listen to Thaçi, Tadic will not be acknowledged even by those wearing hoods in northern Kosovo. To the exception of his cabinet, the president doesn’t have anyone on his side. Likewise infuriated will be Serbian intellectuals, advisers and politicians, the ones who dream of major international conferences being held in French castles, where for weeks at a time, over good wine with the crushed berry, cedar and coffee aroma, world leaders would try to convince them into abandoning footnotes for the sake of world peace and love among nations. There will be more last minute phone calls, four-hour visits, twisting arms and – Adios! until the next phase of European integrations, if any ever happen.

Just when we thought that footnotes will remain our only trauma after this round of negotiations, unexpectedly came another blow: Romania is threatening to block our candidacy bid unless we promptly address the issue of the Vlach minority in Serbia. A quick search on Google reveals: a continuous discrimination of the Vlach language, problems with the Vlach Orthodox Church, debates about their true national affiliation. And then, just before the stroke of midnight, it turns out that we have a bigger problem than previously thought with the Lithuanians. The land that we know only for its great basketball players did not say it will obstruct the EU accession process, but their foreign minister said that Lithuanians are very angered because Serbia, instead of supporting their candidate for the UN General assembly presidency, came out with a rival, Jeremic, despite the fact that they declared their intent to obtain this position when they become an EU member 8 years ago. We ignored this and contravened diplomatic fair play, somewhat because of disputes with Lithuanian companies in international arbitration courts, somewhat because of Russians who do not like Lithuanians – and Jeremic and Tadic need to score, if nothing else, then with Russia. We still don’t know if, before the next nightfall, someone else will come out and remind us about where and when they have been stepped on, humiliated, deceived or killed.

Everyone recognizes that we will carefully listen to what is being said and respond to questions only in the hours immediately preceding the next EU status decision. This is the only time when we may be forced to reflect on our actions. For years we have been solving problems of Vlachs, northern Kosovo as well as other more or less difficult problems by sweeping them under the carpet, and this is why it’s extremely stressful when days like this arrive and it appears that the sky is falling on our heads. We pretend to be the righteous Job who continuously asks himself – why is all this happening to me and what should I do. And then a Serbian priest or a poet comes along to explain how the righteous Job, a synonym for suffering and a role-model for every Serbian man, was ultimately rewarded. As previously Job of Jehovah, Serbia will one day receive much more than it has lost. In the meantime, it will continue loosing property, his sons and daughters and lay sick on a heap of rubbish outside the city, as did its legendary orthodox model.

But some people will not surrender. Nebojsa Covic, the one from Srdja Popovic’s lawsuit, as the head of the Red Star basketball club, allowed his coach Pesic to help the German team prepare this summer for the Olympic Games qualifications. Covic said that this way he wanted to appease the German chancellor who personally knows our coach and is a great fan of Alba which Pesic once successfully trained. Everyone contributes to their homeland as best as they can: while those from Gucha want to welcome Julia Roberts and award her with a golden trumpet, Belgrade’s sophisticated film audience gave its patriotic contribution to Angelina Jolie’s movie last night by boycotting it. The premiere of the movie In the Land of Blood and Honey was attended by 12 people, three of whom left after the first few opening scenes.

From the radio show Pescanik

Pešč, 28.02.2012.