Mosaic can be Complete
By Sonja Biserko
The Srebrenica genocide is and will remain an enduring
trauma for all generations in Serbia, both present and future. Each new
judgment passed by the Hague tribunal reveals new details and lays bare
the enormity of the crime. Although 15 years have passed since the
atrocity, social consciousness in Serbia remains largely unchanged.
Criticism of selective memory as a prerequisite for reconciliation has
been blocked by organized amnesia and relativization. Notwithstanding
the Declaration on Srebrenica adopted by the Serbian Assembly, the
attitude to the genocide and to what happened during the 1990s in
general remains the main obstacle to normalization both in the region
and in Serbia. I spite of the intensification of relations in the
region, a true normalization will not be possible without a precise
diagnosis of what happened in the former Yugoslavia. Such a diagnosis is
lacking not because it cannot be made but because, in its relations with
the region, the international community has adopted a neutral stance in
the belief that this is the way to make Serbia part of European
integrations more quickly and easily.
The young generations in Serbia need the truth about
the 1990s. Although they themselves are not responsible, they bear the
burden of frustration and reflection about the crimes committed during
the period. If these generations do not progress beyond the
interpretation that Serbs were the only victims, Bosniak-Muslim memory
may well seek vengeance too. A repetition of crimes must be prevented by
building a lasting peace by remembering and telling the truth about the
wars of the 1990s.
The attitude of the international community too has
contributed to the strengthening of victimhood sentiments within each
local nation. Very often, the ambivalence is fortified by European
elites' ambiguous attitude to the NATO intervention, with the generation
of European sixty-eighters developing a guilt complex after initially
supporting the intervention. Belgrade has capitalized on this by
skilfully imposing a guilt complex on all foreigners who have visited
the capital since 2000 and obscuring its responsibility for the events
in Kosovo that threatened to throw the whole region into a permanent
state of chaos.
Ten whole years have been lost in meandering between
desires to "normalize" Serbia and to incorporate the region in the
European Union as a whole. This shows that it is not possible to equate
all the actors and all the victims. That this is so is borne out by the
situation in Bosnia. Although nearly 20 years have passed since the
outbreak of the war in Bosnia, Bosnia remains Europe's unresolved moral
issue. Bosnia cannot be rebuilt solely on ethnic principles while
letting the most responsible side decide its future. Belgrade's
insistence on the status quo, on the immutability of the Dayton Peace
Agreement and on any arrangement "agreed by the three nations" testifies
more to Europe's impotence than to Serbia's strength. Having rallied
thanks to support from the EU and the United States, Serbia is able to
pursue a policy of blackmail because the West is powerless to solve a
number of substantial, non-local issues.
The opening up of a European perspective for all
Balkan countries has mobilized political elites in the region, with the
agreement on association and NATO partnership (or, for some, already
membership) establishing a security-political framework to be filled
with appropriate content. The fact of the establishment of the framework
is very important, especially because it also encompasses Serbia. The
framework fortifies the European perspective of the Balkan countries.
However, the next phase will be slow and will depend on the internal
potential of each country as well as on its horizontal Europeanization,
i.e. its society's involvement in changing the value systems.
In order to accelerate the second phase, it is
essential to close the territorial and/or state, issues of Kosovo and
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most obstruction in this connection comes from
Serbia, whose unwillingness to give up its ambitions against other
countries harms both those countries and Serbia itself. As regards
Kosovo, its full independence will be hastened after the International
Court of Justice delivers its opinion. There will be a wave of
recognitions accelerating Kosovo's territorial consolidation.
However, the problem of Bosnia remains because there
is no political will to address it from a moral point of view. Bosnia
has been and remains Europe's moral issue. It is high time the
international community defined itself in relation to the crime
committed against Bosnia and the Bosniak nation. It is immoral that
Srebrenica should be located in the Serb entity and that the murderers
and persecutors should be free to walk the streets of that town. When
the last of the Women of Srebrenica has died, Srebrenica will not only
be a town of the dead but also a dead town. Therefore, the Declaration
of the European Parliament is an important document designed to prevent
the Srebrenica genocide from being forgotten. At last, Europe has come
to treat the crime as its moral responsibility.
Bosnia can be revitalized only by marginalizing the
ethnic principle, which should remain only where it serves to defend the
fundamental interests of each nation, as was the case with the chambers
of nationalities in the Assembly of the former Yugoslavia. One should
not dismiss some of those arrangements. What one should dismiss,
however, is the platitude Belgrade often repeats that Bosnia is a
Yugoslavia in miniature and therefore unviable. A "Citizens' Europe"
cannot support this argument. It is important to define clearly the
points of integrating Bosnia (a common army and police, foreign policy,
education and an Assembly whose work cannot be blocked by an entity).
The international community has so far done a lot
towards the establishment of institutions, state of law and standards;
what is needed now is an economic strategy, coupled with substantial
financial support, not only for Bosnia but for the region as a whole. A
considerable portion of the huge sums directed to the region has ended
up in the West through the maintenance of numerous missions.
Nation-building in Bosnia must be put on a new footing
with the citizen at its centre. The Bosnian Serbs should be helped to
absolve themselves of sole responsibility for genocide (which Belgrade
imputes to them) in order to clear the gulf between themselves and the
Bosniaks. After all, reconciliation in Bosnia is possible only by
acknowledging the truth, not by holding the three sides equally
Bosnia is the final stage of putting the Balkan mosaic
together. It is also the part in which the gravest error was committed.
Europe too would do well to admit some of its fallacies and blunders.
Such an admission would help the region to adopt a more responsible
attitude to the recent past.
Yugoslavia was a paradigm of a state incorporating the
ideals and contradictions of modern times. This is why it is so
difficult to write off a model to which Balkan countries will be
returning to look for their origins. After all, it was Yugoslavia that
gave statehood to most of them. Today, the area is characterized by
archaic attitudes, absence of ideals and lack of a sense of common
interest and good. Devoid of authentic ideas and vigour, it can hardly
return to civilized ways without EU help.
The region in general and Serbia in particular will
have to make further efforts towards adopting European values. The
process is going to be long and arduous. The EU will therefore have to
define a new framework right now on the model of the visa liberalization
one in order not to discourage the elites as well as citizens. Without
the EU, countries of the Western Balkans (not counting Croatia) will
hardly abandon their feudal positions.
Serbia's elites may give up, considering that
President Tadic has already asked the EU to "state clearly whether it
wants Serbia in its community". It looks as though any blame for the
failure of the European option is going to be shifted onto the EU
itself. Vojislav Koštunica has already interpreted this as the absence
of relations of partnership between the EU and Serbia, arguing that
Serbia does not pay enough attention to its own interests.
Fortunately, Serbia has no alternative but the EU.