Slow to Europe



The arrest of Ratko Mladic will significantly help Serbia, but its consequences in some places in the Balkans may be less ambitious than many hope.


A little time passed after the arrest, and the echo of the voices of those who prophesied a bright and cloudless future for the Balkans subsides. In the 1995 year, the Yugoslav military tribunal has already filed charges against the former Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladić. The most serious of these was genocide, namely, the order to kill 8 from thousands of men and boys (Bosnian Muslims or Bosnians, as they call themselves) after the fall of Srebrenica in July of the same year.

The arrest of Mladic and the trial of him in the Hague court will undoubtedly have consequences. But as the euphoria of some and the malice of others subsides, these consequences may turn out to be less definitive than many foreign pundits predict. Zoran Lucic, who heads the Serbian sociological group CESID, has no doubt: there will be no Mladic effect at home. During one of the polls shortly before the arrest, it was discovered that 51% of respondents were against extradition of an arrested person, and 40% were generally considered to be his hero. However, Luchich argues from personal experience that if the arrest upsets people, then “very briefly for a day.”

For the European Union, the consequences of arresting Mladic can be serious. The Serbian government is desperate to become an official candidate for EU membership this December, because on the wings of success it will be able to announce elections. In the course of these elections, the arrest of Mladic will have a huge impact, although it will not be the only decisive factor. In addition to everyday reforms, such as demonstrating the existence of an independent judiciary, Serbia will have to negotiate with Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, in order to give the impression that at least some time the conflict between the two countries will be resolved.

Serbia will make enough efforts to become a candidate for EU membership, but, according to Lucic, this will not necessarily ensure victory in the next election of the Democratic Party, headed by President Boris Tadic. For most voters, jobs and the economy will be decisive. However, the main opposition force, the Serbian Progressive Party, may also not take the opportunity. Its leader Tomislav Nikolic responded to the arrest of Mladic, like a frightened little hare, saying only that he was "surprised." If he supported the arrest, he would have lost a lot of votes. If he condemned, he would lose respectability, which he received abroad. Until 2008, he was the current chairman of the Serbian Radical Party, whose head is also being tried for war crimes in The Hague.

What will be the effect of Mladic in the “Yugosphere”, as the countries of the former Yugoslavia are sometimes called? Probably less significant than many hope. The arrest testifies to the fact that Serbia takes its obligations seriously. But it was already evident when the Serbian authorities arrested Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb military leader, in 2008, and when Tadic honored the memory of the victims of Srebrenica, and when in 2010, he made the Serbian parliament adopt a resolution condemning the massacre. This is unlikely to convince Bosnians, Croats and Kosovars in the opposite, because they believe that nothing has changed in Serbia. Nor would the Bosnian Serbs, who staged demonstrations in support of Mladic, convince this. After all, they suddenly do not accept the existence of the Bosnian state, which he tried to destroy.

European officials like to repeat that upon completion of the processes necessary for accession, the Western Balkan countries will enter the EU in a beautiful regatta. In fact, the former countries of Yugoslavia and Albania are more similar to the old Taratyaks that rumble slowly forward, break down along the way, and sometimes roll back. Anyway, they all have common problems that will deter them on their way to the EU. Among them are organized crime, corruption, party nepotism and the media, dependent on political and financial interests.

Last December’s arrest of former Croatian Prime Minister Yves Sander on allegations of corruption shows that Croats who hope to complete accession negotiations in early July are indeed moving towards their goal. Montenegro has already become a candidate and is working hard on what else needs to be done. Serbia hopes to do the same next year. But Macedonia has slowed down: in addition to the tensions between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, who make up a quarter of the country's population, the main parties also fight a lot. The Macedonians 5 went to the polls on June and, according to preliminary data, re-elected their pop-premier Nikolu Gruevsky, although this time he obviously received less seats in parliament. Kosovo is also not in a hurry to Europe. An indicator of how far the country is from the EU is the fact that the Kosovars are the only Balkan people who cannot travel to the Schengen zone without visas.

Bosnia has been rolling back five years ago. Last October elections were held there, but there is still no government. Recently, we managed to avoid a crisis with the Serbian part of the country - the Republika Srpska. Bosnian Croats complain that they are being pushed to the side of the Bosnians. But if both Serbia and Croatia will move in the direction of the EU, Bosnia will undoubtedly also take over the mind. Any new conflict can turn into a disaster for the whole region. No leader in Belgrade or Zagreb will allow his Bosnian cousins ​​to destroy his own future.

Albania, which has remained paralyzed since the dubious 2009 elections of the year, is the most worrying. Local elections held on 8 in May, it seems, only worsened the situation: the competition for the post of mayor of Tirana ended in a draw. The candidate of Prime Minister Sali Berishi would win only if he took into account the ballots thrown in the wrong boxes. But, according to supporters of Eddie Rama, who has been the mayor of the city since 2000, and the head of the opposition Socialist Party, this is against the rules. The election commission, which met on June 3, refused to invalidate CEC decisions from 18 and May 23. Albania’s movement in the EU has stopped, business confidence in the country suffers, but a culture of impunity prevails. Corruption scandals multiply, but no one is punished.

Brussels hopes that the arrest of Mladić will serve as a springboard for all the Western Balkan countries on their way to Europe. In June, the 2014 of the year will be a hundred years since Franz Ferdinand was killed in Sarajevo, why the First World War began. If you're lucky, this day will be celebrated in a region where peace reigns again.
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