Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

The biggest question now is whether Vucic will sign the Franco-German Proposal for resolving relations between Serbia and Kosovo. An open conflict threatens Europe and its closure has become urgent, considering the global tensions and Russia’s now year-long aggression against Ukraine. That war has divided the world into Russia (the East) and the West: EU, USA and Great Britain. Inflaming our local conflict is beneficial for Russia, that’s how it started, and it was stopped by external intervention. It is enough to listen to the Russian ambassador to understand that Russia is fueling the conflict in Kosovo through Vucic, who is giving the Serbs there their marching orders. The stubborn Kurti also played along, so things became very tense. When the order came to erect the barricades that I wrote about, and when they lasted for weeks, right until the breaking point, Vucic received a serious call from the outside and ordered the barricades to be removed and the situation immediately calmed down. While Russia was pushing the conflict, Ukraine’s western allies tried to eliminate it through a temporary agreement between Serbia and Kosovo based on the Franco-German Proposal.

The situation is truly dramatic: Serbia is once again sitting on two chairs, the western and the eastern, and in the internal life of the society, Vucic’s long-term orchestration of a Putinophilic campaign has led to an outpouring of religious processions, pro-fascists, extremists, and murals of Mladic, the latter now complemented by the ones of Putin and the Wagner Group logo. Looking from the outside, the beloved mantra of neutrality and non-alignment is no longer tenable. Vucic has to make up his mind. No one else’s opinion is important, because he decides on everything. He cannot leave the EU, on which he is economically dependent. His rating, on the other hand, depends on fueling Russophilia and the fairy tale about Serbia as an economic tiger that has ushered us into a golden age. The general internal and external confusion is a true reflection of the ruling personality who now holds complete personal power in Serbia. And when problems arise due to a global shift, the ruler must rethink his position.

This is the second dramatic global turn that Serbia has misunderstood and because of which it may once again meet with catastrophe. The people were not to blame the first time and they are not to blame now, because it is not the people who decide one way or the other, but always the elite. Just like the first time, today the biggest responsibility is borne by the immature pastoral elite, which was led by Dobrica Cosic, Matija Beckovic and other poets, academics, professors and professionals during Milosevic’s time. Today’s elite with similar views and occupations still holds the same course – its nationalism is no longer fought in wars in the neighboring countries, but on Kosovo and the ever-present motif of betrayal of the Kosovo covenant. We will see very soon what Vucic, who is now crying and moaning, not for us but for himself, will decide.

Vucic makes me remember the first big turning point – the fall of the Berlin Wall, when all communist (Eastern Bloc) countries realized what path they should take: transitioning from one-party communist dictatorships to the Western model of liberal democracy and membership in the European Union. Only Serbia, led by Milosevic and its immature elite, went in the opposite direction: into extreme nationalist mobilization, wars with neighbors and terrible crimes in the ruins of Yugoslavia. Vucic himself has admitted that he did not understand the fall of the Berlin Wall, but that was to be expected from a young radical.

The global turning point today is similar in scale to the previous one. The war in Ukraine is a hidden world war that has fundamentally changed the position of Serbia. The choice is fateful, and the question is the same. Whether Serbia will repeat the same mistakes thirty years later and allow itself to be dragged down another detour, is not yet clear. The first mistake happened under the rule of Milosevic, and now everything depends on Vucic, who has been deciding everything for the past 11 years. Therefore, the important question is whether he understands what is happening or whether he will miss another Berlin Wall. And the moment of decision is close, perhaps as early as February 27, when he is scheduled to meet Kurti in Brussels, where the two of them are to express their views on the Franco-German Proposal.

The problem is that Vucic has been polluting Serbia for a whole decade with Putinophilia (also called Russophilia), extreme right-wing, fascist outbursts, and anti-Western sentiment. This has raised his personal ratings, established his indisputable authority, and enabled him to completely control all important points in the state. All this took place as part of defending Kosovo and Kostunica’s Constitution, but also Vucic’s slow but steady surrender of Kosovo, on which Serbia’s survival on the road to the European Union depended, not to mention investments and economic interests that he needed to keep his ratings high. Now he cannot undo the pollution of Serbian society with one stroke. That’s why this moment is decisive.

Putin is barely holding on to life, which was evident in his address to the nation the other day, where he almost put his key people to sleep with a boring two-hour speech. But he is still alive in Serbia, in its elite and people – not so much in Vucic himself, who in the meantime has received different and more attractive offers.

When Christopher Hill was brought out of retirement as a connoisseur of this part of the world, many of us thought that he was sent to set Vucic straight, but the opposite happened. He came with a new American strategy, not the typical aggressive one, nor the empty one where the ambassador praises Serbian cuisine, but with the intention of taking Serbia and Vucic to the other side. He offered him a chance to become a strategic partner to a stronger world power, an offer that is hard to refuse and that our psycho-calculator has to seriously think about. Hill is not interested in whether Vucic will impose sanctions on Russia, nor is he interested in the rule of law, free media, democracy, institutions, corruption, crime, and the many evils that Vucic has committed against us, the citizens of Serbia.

The Americans have realized that the root of the problem is Kosovo, which needs to be taken out of Russia’s hands, so it was decided to listen to both sides and their objections to the previous plans. The goal is to abolish the so-called red lines on both sides and that is why the Franco-German Proposal was tailored as a European proposal, supported by the USA from the background. This opened up space for both sides. Kosovo should think carefully about whether it can afford to renounce the support of the USA, and Vucic should think about whether it is worthwhile for him to renounce his economic interests and risk not being able to pay out pensions and salaries. At the same time, it is clear that Russia is no longer of any use to him, that Putin is not doing very well and that he may end up losing this war. On the other hand, he is offered investments, with a hint of a threat that they may dry up. Vucic is very careful when making decisions that affect him. There is no arrogance and careless words as there is when he is bamboozling the citizens with Putin, religious processions, and other trinkets. There is no throwing around big statements about how we are the strongest and how we have already acquired gas and oil for next winter.

The question now is which side Vucic will take. Will he accept the Proposal as a temporary agreement, without a final solution that is postponed for 2030? Will he decide, however reluctantly, to choose the West or will he remain sitting on two chairs? If I were to hazard a guess, it seems to me that this time, too, he will choose his own survival and accept the Franco-German Proposal, with the addition of a few dots and dashes here and there.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 27.02.2023.

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Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).

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