We didn’t understand

Grafit na zidu zgrade: Ajmo... De ćemo??!

Let’s go… Where to??!, graffiti in Belgrade, photo: Slavica Miletic

Mr. Dacic says that, looking from the historical perspective, it is clear that Milosevic did not understand the changes brought about by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Mr. Vucic goes into more detail and says that “we did not understand”, although this seems a bit too inclusive. A lot of us understood and even tried to do something about it, but, apparently, there wasn’t enough of us and, for those who didn’t understand, that lack of understanding proved very lucrative.

Although not completely irrelevant, all of this is demagogy. And I say this for three reasons.

First and foremost, not understanding was instrumental. The key political calculation, and the consequent decision, was: it is desirable and justified to give up on Yugoslavia to gain full control over Kosovo. Serbia in Kosovo through Yugoslavia or, in other words, Yugoslavia as a way to fulfil Serbian goals for Kosovo – that was not enough. On the contrary, it was seen as an obstacle for the establishment of Serbian power in Kosovo. Hence the choice: Kosovo or Yugoslavia.

The persistence of the Berlin wall and the bipolar world could’ve helped this. What’s more, with Serbian Tito, we might’ve been able to secure international support for changing the status of Kosovo to limited autonomy within Serbia, while also preserving Yugoslavia. If it had worked for Broz for the past four decades, it could work for Milosevic for the upcoming four, right?

And if that’s not possible, the persistence of the Berlin wall or, at least, a successful military coup in the Soviet Union, would have created international conditions for securing full authority in Kosovo, at the cost of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. That would be a desirable scenario for reaching the political goal of securing full and immediate authority over Kosovo, outside Yugoslavia.

Not understanding, to the extent it really happened, came as a consequence of the chosen political goal. That goal wasn’t abandoned even when, according to the Ahtisaari plan, Serbia was supposed to secure its long-term interests in Kosovo with the help of the international community. It’s not like we didn’t understand the international circumstances – for example, that Kosovo will definitely proclaim independence and that Western countries will recognize it. It’s just that even marginal and temporary control over one part of Kosovo was more important than reliance on international community.

And nothing has changed now. We are told that, based on their understanding of international circumstances, misters Dacic and Vucic have concluded that control over Kosovo, or even some part of it, however impossible and even at the cost of giving up some parts of Serbian territory, is more important than EU membership. And they say this while they justify literally everything else with the potential future EU membership.

The Serbian church says: forget about Yugoslavia, European Union, and the world – the earthly kingdom is no substitute for the kingdom in heaven, in which Kosovo is Serbia.

We have the goal and the price. Then we have the choice of means. It can be summed up in the choice made by Milosevic and his followers, including misters Vucic and Dacic: state first, democracy second. So democracy is not a means of statehood. Consequently, constitutional decisions made from 1990 (“constitution first, elections second”) till 2006 were not democratic. Even before the constitution was changed in 1989, the opposition, even the liberal one, had one important rule: don’t do anything against Milosevic before the constitutional amendments are adopted. And this was the time when all of Eastern Europe was adopting democracy. This was not the consequence of a lack of understanding. This came out of the fact that we’ve chosen immediate control over Kosovo as our goal. And nothing has changed between then and today.

Even then, I didn’t like the idea of Yugoslavia being an unfinished state, meaning that it lacked sovereignty. It was not a democratic state, but it was no less sovereign than the countries which inherited it, if sovereignty can even be measured. I think that Serbia had a more fateful choice to make, compared to other ex-Yugoslavian countries: democratic or authoritarian road to statehood, within or outside Yugoslavia. As the attitude that giving up on Yugoslavia is an acceptable price for control over Kosovo prevailed, we chose the state first, democracy second. Or, in other words, Milosevic first, democrats second.

Last, but not least, how can we judge the ability of misters Vucic and Dacic to “understand global changes today” if, according to their own admission, they failed to understand such major changes like the fall of the Berlin wall? The day before yesterday, Vucic said that his plan for Kosovo has failed due to the lack of international support, which means that those who want to lose everything will win over those who want to gain something. Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, while talking about the plan for Kosovo and, implicitly, Bosnia and Herzegovina, reminded Dacic about Resolution 1244 and the Dayton agreement. Without discussing the truthfulness of all that, it is clear that Vucic and Dacic have failed to understand global changes yet again.

When we talk about victories and defeats, it is interesting to note that Dacic, who supports the idea of territorial solutions in Kosovo and B&H, thinks that, in spite of everything, Milosevic won two major victories – the Dayton agreement and Resolution 1244. It is possible that this is his way of understanding the remarkable fact that Vucic and himself have managed to survive not only in Serbian politics, but also in power after the horrors of Kosovo and Bosnian wars. So the failure of the politics with which they started – Yugoslavia for Kosovo, European Union for Kosovo, the state for Kosovo – seems like a victory to him. Not to mention how their dreams of Greater Serbia have been reduced to “take what you can get”.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Peščanik.net, 02.10.2018.