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<nettime> Is Serbia next to say NO to US?
Ivo Skoric on Mon, 16 Jun 2003 11:38:17 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Is Serbia next to say NO to US?


First Croatia, now Serbia. The US is having some problems even 
with the "New Europe" - of former Yugoslav states, Bosnia signed 
Article 98, but Croatia and Slovenia did not. And Serbia did not yet 
say whether it would do it or not.

Serbia seems to be happy with signing, if the US greases that 
signature with loads of re-construction money (particularly because 
those were US bombs that necessitated that re-construction). With 
dollar in free fall (Treasury's Snow and GW Bush finally got on the 
same page and decided not to slow dollars fall), I doubt the US is 
going to dish fortunes around.

In which case the EU seems to look as a better deal. Although, the 
increasingly Balkanized International Community made the world 
very hostile to the weak, both Washington and Brussels issued 
their own "with us or against us" memos.

Maybe the headquarters of NATO can be moved from Brussels to 
New York, and the headquarters of UN from New York to Brussels, 
in the tradition of the 'population exchange' practiced between Serb 
peasants in Croatian Slavonia and Croat peasants in Serbian 
Vojvodina - who switched their lands, when the political situation 
became intolerable.

ivo

from www.iwpr.net
SERBIA'S US DILEMMA

Belgrade is being forced to make a difficult choice over its 
international
allegiances.

By Jan Briza in Novi Sad

The Serbian government may have to choose between a future in the
European Union and closer financial and diplomatic ties to the United
States, before the end of the month.

Belgrade now has less than three weeks to accept or refuse to sign an
agreement outlawing the extradition of United States citizens to the
International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague.

If the agreement is signed before July 1 - as Washington insists it
must be - Serbia-Montenegro's hopes of joining the EU, which is
strongly opposed to America's demands for exemption from the ICC, may
be dashed.

But if Belgrade chooses to stand with Brussels, millions of dollars of
much-needed US aid could be lost, and with it any hope of revitalising
Serbia's shattered economy.

The dilemma was summed up by Serbia-Montenegro president Svetozar
Marovic, who said, "We live in Europe, and want to have our place
there. But on the other hand, our foreign policy priorities are
friendship and expanded cooperation with the US."

Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic's June 7 statement that "there will
be no haste in taking this serious decision", has led analysts to
speculate that Serbia-Montenegro will not reveal its choice until
after the EU's Thessalonica Summit on June 21 at the earliest.

Svilanovic has emphasised that while the Serbian and Montenegrin
governments will make a final decision together, the process itself
will be public, and arguments for and against Washington's request,
will be presented to the people.

Belgrade is now in very delicate position. Not only are the
authorities worried by Brussels' statement that "all those who wish to
be a part of the European Union must honour its principles" - which
implies the rejection of Washington's demands - they are even more
concerned by the domestic implications.

Questions are now being asked in Serbia as to how America can demand
that Belgrade extradite all war crimes suspects to stand trial at The
Hague tribunal, while simultaneously asking that its citizens be
exempt from the same process at the ICC.

Many local institutions and non-governmental organisations are now
asking the government to reject the extradition agreement. Belgrade's
Human Rights Centre, led by prominent international law professor
Vojin Dimitrijevic, said, "It is hypocritical that America, which
unambiguously insists on cooperation with ... The Hague tribunal,
should undermine the attempt to found a permanent international
criminal court."

The Serbian media has taken a similar stance, devoting much editorial
space to criticism of the Bush administration while allowing little,
if any, argument in favour of the non-extradition agreement.

Anti-American feelings have long run high in Serbia - a product of the
isolationist tactics of the Milosevic regime and the 1999 NATO bombing
campaign, during which people were encouraged to view NATO and the US
as one and the same.

According the latest public opinion survey, carried out in May by the
Medium Gallup agency, 80.9 per cent of respondents said they thought
poorly of NATO and 73.7 per cent viewed the US in a negative light.

However, a poll conducted at the same time by the Belgrade weekly NIN
showed more than half of Serbia's citizens were in favour of the
country joining NATO in the interests of reintegration with the
international community - this in spite of their traditional antipathy
toward the alliance.

Such opinions have implications for the ruling coalition, Democratic
Opposition of Serbia, DOS, which is under increasing pressure from
opposition parties clamouring for early elections.

The risk facing the government becomes clear when its slim majority in
the 250-strong parliament is taken into account. If early elections
are forced by the opposition, any decision to stand with America and
sign the non-extradition agreement may prove fatal.

On the other hand, the government knows full well that it will be
almost impossible to revive the economy and raise the Serbian people's
low standard of living without financial help from the US. And unless
there is a marked improvement in these areas, DOS stands little chance
of being re-elected anyway.

Observers say that Washington is well aware of these factors, and has
been engaging in some very subtle diplomacy to improve relations
between the two nations in the run up to the treaty deadline.

The US let Belgrade off very lightly over the Orao arms-to-Iraq
scandal - when it was revealed that Republika Srpska had provided
equipment and training to Saddam Hussein's regime in defiance of the
UN  - and chose to turn a blind eye to Serbia's neutral stance over
America's attack on Iraq.

Following the assassination of prime minister Zoran Djindjic on March
13, US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Belgrade to express his
condolences to the murdered man's family - a gesture that underlined
America's interest in Serbia and its reforming government.

And on May 29, President Bush cancelled sanctions that had been in
place against Belgrade for eleven years. At the same time, the
government here was told that local companies may be given profitable
contracts connected to the reconstruction of Iraq - which could help
to revive the Serbian economy.

This alone would be a major boost to DOS's chances of re-election in
the 2004 parliamentary elections - and could shift the balance in
favour of signing the non-extradition agreement.

If it is guided by the current public mood - and stays mindful of the
threat of early elections - the Serbian government may still reject
America's request. But if it is looking to the future, it may have no
other choice than to sign.

Jan Briza is the editor of daily Dnevnik from Novi Sad.


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