Ana Brnabic. A personification of the senselessness of politics in Serbia. Having stepped onto the public stage as a natural talent, cast as the lead actress (at least formally) in an amateur political theater, she quickly started “making up knowledge” on everything she both knew and didn’t know, which was important for her political career and the function she found herself in. At the same time, she instinctively began to gather nonsense from the arsenal of Serbian national-chauvinistic ideology and political culture. From a distant prefiguration of what would be called a technocrat in a serious political climate – a person deprived of political affiliations and immune to ideology – Brnabic has become some kind of wannabe “apprentice” of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, childishly deprived of a sense for tactical distinction between what is actually meant, but not said, and what is said, but not actually meant, which is a common occurrence in those lacking both tact and genuine opinions. With Ana Brnabic, all of this is mixed into one screaming ball of incredulity.
Hated by the chauvinistics precisely because of what makes her human and vulnerable and, in spite of that, accepted by her party peers thanks to an order “from above” to make an exception, Brnabic was quick to nationalize herself and aggressively proving her own nationalist credentials. The mantras she’s been reciting, without understanding their content, are nationally orthodox. This, however, doesn’t seem to help her credibility.
Her statement that Kosovo leaders “came straight out of those woods and became leaders of political elites in Pristina” counts as one of her steps towards seemingly having political opinions. The self-confidence and sharpness in expressing her “opinions”, characteristic of newcomers and wannabes trying to leave an impression on their audience, has problematic consequences in every possible sense. Such lack of restraint hurts the dignity of the office of prime minister, doesn’t help to mend broken relationships, serves exclusively for the prime minister’s self-promotion as the “iron lady” of Serbian nationalism and, generally speaking, can’t possibly have any positive effect in the area where such effect is the most needed – Serbian-Albanian relations.
But, let’s look at the historical relevance of this statement. Although the prime minister was obviously referring to the guerilla character of the KLA, there are ample reasons as to why anyone who finds themselves leading the government of the Republic of Serbia should take good care of how they qualify things. Another Serbian prime minister (already former at that time), Vladan Djordjevic, wrote in 1913 about “tailed Arnauts”. According to him “as the human race evolved, they stopped using their tails, which led to that organ becoming obsolete and, finally, reduced to a couple of bones in the coccyx. It seems that only among the Arnauts there lived the odd tailed man as late as the XIX century”. Although he cited an Austrian source for these claims, Djordjevic used them in a specific context to defend “Serbian state interests” and disqualify Albanians. This obscure racist content has obviously escaped the prime minister in her recent interest in all questions difficult and important. Even if it didn’t, there’s no guarantee that she would’ve acted differently. However, this fact is part of the corpus of knowledge of almost every informed Albanian, so it was no wonder that Kosovo politicians decided to use the racist implications of the prime minister’s statement to their benefit.
Historical experiences create certain obligations, impose contextually conditioned considerations, and demand very sensitive political nerve. Yes, I’m talking about the hated political correctness, without which politics might seem more interesting, insofar as a wild wasteland can be more interesting than a sterile room. But, to what benefit would we want things to be “interesting”? Speaking of the importance of the political lexicon, imagine how careless and wrong-headed it would be to speak of a “final solution” to a problem in the context of resolving national conflicts which have historically led to serious crimes. And yet, local politicians often do precisely that when they talk about Kosovo. Prime minister Ana Brnabic’s statement, whose political tactlessness can truly be qualified as “straight out of the woods”, caused a similarly negative association.
Translated by Marijana Simic