The Washington agreement is the culmination of Serbia’s submissive position. It thus renounced the only positive activity, and that was the policy of annulling the recognition of “Kosovo”. It was Vučić’s gift to the Kosmet Albanians, and everything else in that agreement was a gift to Trump. An early Santa Claus came to Washington from Serbia at that time – says Slobodan Samardzic, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences and a former minister for Kosovo and Metohija in the second government of Vojislav Kostunica, in an interview with Direktno.rs.
Professor Samardzic is one of the few true intellectuals in politics, and with his rich professional and practical experience, for Direktno.rs, he analyzes the international position of Serbia in the light of the continuation of negotiations with Pristina, the quality of the foreign policy course and relations with the European Union.
What is the current position of Serbia before the resumption of negotiations with the temporary institutions in Pristina?
– The position of Serbia has not changed for years, practically since 2013. It is, in short, passive and reactive. Official Serbia has not provided any of its own initiatives since then. It just followed the rhythm set by Brussels (read: Berlin) and Washington. If there was a stalemate in the meantime, it was the result of obstruction by Kosmet Albanians for two reasons. The first, when they demanded that the talks be stopped and Belgrade recognize “Kosovo” without any concession, and, the second, because of their unstable political situation and almost permanent elections. I don’t know when the talks will continue, but when they do, we will be afraid of the final outcome.
Has the Washington agreement weakened Serbia’s negotiating position?
– Serbia’s weak negotiating position is a consequence of the absence of any policy, not to mention the strategy of official Serbia. If it were not so, it would at least have its own negotiating platform as its own landmark, and it never was. The Washington agreement is the culmination of Serbia’s submissive position. It thus renounced the only positive activity, and that was the policy of annulling the recognition of “Kosovo”. It was Vučić’s gift to the Kosmet Albanians, and everything else in that agreement was a gift to Trump. An early Santa Claus came to Washington from Serbia at that time.
Who will take the lead in resolving the EU or US issue of Kosovo?
– It will again be a close alliance with the Biden administration. The division of labor will be such that Brussels will conduct the so-called negotiations, and Washington will strictly monitor them. But it is a good circumstance that even their combined activity will not be easy. On the one hand, the Albanians are asking for everything and are not ready to give anything, which technically complicates the solution, since the Western leaders have to extort something for Vučić, which he would manipulate in Serbia. On the other hand, Kosmet Albanians are not able to ensure even a minimum of internal stability in order for someone to represent them.
Will the new US administration headed by Joseph Biden further complicate Belgrade’s room for maneuver?
– It is clear that they will do that, but we should keep in mind that the government in Serbia has never expanded its room for maneuver, not counting the activity related to the annulment of recognitions. Now it has given up on that as well, thus reducing its room for maneuver in the international framework. Biden’s administration is coming to a model meadow as far as Serbia is concerned. She will not miss this “momentum” as Trump did. Its only current problem is the situation among Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija.
How do you view the accusations of Aleksandar Vučić that the Government of which you were a minister is responsible for the independence of Kosovo?
– I do not remember that the then radicals, led by Nikolić and Vučić, and today’s progressives, criticized our Kosmet policy a lot. What Vučić and his people are doing now is just diverting the public’s attention from their active policy of handing over Kosovo and Metohija. It is not a problem that they handed over Serbian municipalities, police, judiciary, civil protection, telecommunications, electricity, international area code and that they signed an agreement which says that everything that was agreed will be implemented according to Albanian laws. But the problem seems to be that we didn’t do it. In our time, it would not have occurred to Western managers to offer us something like that, and the general situation was far more difficult than it is today. These facts are burdensome for today’s authorities, and that is why they are trying to erase them with their magical stories.
Vučić twice bet on the wrong candidate in the American presidential elections. Will we bear the consequences?
– I will be a little sarcastic: the American policy towards Serbia is so constant that we should neither rejoice in the improvement nor worry about the worse. Vučić’s betting is only a part of his colorful performances in which he does not think about the consequences for the people. I say that in the specific case, there will be no consequence due to the fact that the consequence here precedes (Vučić’s) action. The problem is that he behaves in this way even in internal circumstances.
How do you comment on the fact that Serbia has not opened any chapters in negotiations with the EU this year? How sincere are the relations between Belgrade and Brussels?
– These negotiations are a path to the horizon for several reasons, and the strongest is the one according to which the European Union is not able to expand for objective reasons. Accession negotiations have long since lost their true purpose – the country’s entry into the EU – and now serve something else entirely. It has been known in the Union for a long time, but last year they came up with a proposal for a new methodology of “accession”, although this new policy is not yet ready for implementation. This is the moment for Serbia to open the issue of revision with Brussels in accordance with some ideas from the new methodology, and not to follow the current path. But, for something like that, a different political mentality is needed, and by God, knowledge as well.
Who are Serbia’s natural foreign policy partners?
– There are no natural (in the sense of permanent) partners, or, to be more precise, only superpowers have them. The one you choose is natural for you, but small countries can’t do that almost by definition. At the other extreme are completely dependent countries and Serbia belongs to this group. It is interesting, however, that for Serbia, this type of dependence grows with the change of the world in the direction of a certain balance of power, especially in the last fifteen years. So, when there is still a possibility for a small country like Serbia, the government gives it up. Today, it is possible more than in the last thirty years for Serbia to strategically diversify its partners according to different criteria: economic, security, cultural and others.
How do you assess the foreign policy of Serbia and what would you possibly change?
– Foreign policy depends on domestic policy and external circumstances. Since the regime of personal power is flourishing in Serbia, it is understandable that foreign policy cannot be an exception. This is best seen by the fact that foreign policy is determined and led by a constitutionally incompetent person, and that is the President of the Republic. If you ask me, what would I change, I would change so much that every policy, even foreign, is conducted in accordance with the Constitution. And that would be a revolutionary change in Serbia, because the new situation would replace the existing constitutional counter-revolution. I am not saying that what I am saying is promising, but without such a direction of change, our foreign policy will continue to float like a cork on a rough sea.
What is the future of the EU after the coronavirus epidemic, bearing in mind that the crisis has revealed deep divisions and different views among its members?
– I have the impression that after the initial shock from last spring, when the Union simply disappeared as an actor in anti-pandemic policy, it is stabilizing, but exactly to the extent that the health systems of the member states are stabilizing. So, without any merit of his own. This is also natural, because the Union has almost no influence in health policy, that is. jurisdiction. It will remain so with the fact that, after great hardship, the Union still found a formula for material assistance for member states in eliminating the consequences of the pandemic and further fighting against it. It is about a huge 750 billion euros intended for those purposes. Honestly, nothing more could be expected from this rather damaged alliance of states.
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