Serbia and United Europe

in English, in italiano
It was a historic day for Serbia, October 25, 2010, when the European Union accepted the candidacy of the Serbian pro-European government. Years will pass before Serbia becomes an official member of the EU, and yet, from today onward, life will radically change for us Serbian citizens.

Already, a year ago, when the Schengen visas were first abolished, the Serbian situation transformed. Serbs were treated better at the European borders, in European banks, even in daily encounters with minor officials such as ticket-checkers on metros. After two decades of sanctions, isolation and legalized crime, Serbia is at the doors of the Union, the fortress of western democracy. Europe is a political structure with human rights, a functional legal system, relative monetary stability, and an abhorrence of racism and war crimes. In short, an empire with civilized standards, which the new Serbia has tried, with great difficulties, to implement in recent years. One step forward, two backwards.

Zoran Djindjic successfully deposed Milosevic, the butcher of the Balkans, but Djindjic himself was assassinated in 2003. After this grievous loss, another Serbian nationalism emerged. It no longer clung to the dusty Communist rhetoric of Milosevic, but rushed for the doors of the newly-fundamentalist Serbian Orthodox church. Church officials had been deeply involved in the war crimes of the Bosnians Serbs during the ethnic cleansing. A transition from totalitarianism to fundamentalism was not a difficult step.

This new nationalism has subsumed the former allies of Milosevic, who are now yesterday’s men. It’s entirely similar to other ultra-right-wing modern European parties, in that it speaks to Serbian pride against ethnic, sexual, and religious diversity, and in the name of a mythical purity of culture and blood cradled in the south Serbia, in the lost province of Kosovo. Kosovo, which has a ninety percent Albanian population, has proclaimed its independence from Serbia two years ago.

Kosovo has now become the core grievance issue for a right-wing population demanding the impossible. This is the paradoxical leap of faith that unifies all contradictions in modern Serbian nationalism. All the real and symbolic battles for the Serbs today are fought in a mythical Kosovo. When they beat gays in the streets or harass their own football players in Italian stadiums, Serbian hooligans rally to the cry “Kosovo is Serbia”.

Very few of these new young nationalists have ever visited Kosovo. They would never choose to live there, and they know next to nothing about it, but they are ready to kill and be killed to wave a flag over Kosovo.

In a very shrewd way, President Tadic managed to steal the clothes of the right wing and carry that national flag as his own. Sinister superstar warlords are replaced by perky Serbian tennis stars. This was a brilliant re-branding effort, but all Serbian factions are still united in Europe to diplomatically fight a lost war over a stray province. Everyone knows it has merely symbolic importance, but the idea has become sacramental.

Speaking with my Montenegrin, Croat, and Bosnian friends we remembered how back in 1989 before the burst of all the Balkan wars which ruined our lives, and killed many, Yugoslavia with the short government of Ante Markovic was in fact anticipating the EU.
In 1989, it was common knowledge among Yugoslavs that integration with the EU was a practical idea. It would mean re-positioning Yugoslavia once again — no longer as the cushion-state between East and West in the Cold War, but as an adjunct to a huge European superstate, like the once-thriving Austro-Hungarian Empire. With intelligent diplomacy and some political will, Yugoslavia might have been a European state a generation ago. It is difficult to explain why Yugoslav history took a darker road: an unfortunate coincidence of events: nationalism, religious fanaticism, economic failure, ethnic cleansing and lack of appropriate diplomatic international interventions.

Same interventions that were carried out: international sanctions. When my mother died in 1999 in a Serbian hospital after the NATO bombings of sepsa, I understood that the last enemy of Milosevic was his own people. That the sanctions imposed by the international community because of him amounted to a killer without a face, which would leave traces for decades on the generation that grew up in war. A lost generation: that of my daughter. Today Serbia has finally the possibility to recognize its illegitimate children, but only if it cuts its visible and invisible ties to the criminal past.

Until now Ratko Mladic, responsible for the genocide of Srebrenica, has not been arrested and his friends live in my city while some of the police and army are still protecting and hiding him.
The United Europe with all its problems is the last chance for Serbia to deal with an internal long-term evil. Call it homophobia, hooliganism, war crimes, corruption. The red thread takes us to the international tribunal of the war crimes in The Hague, which today has given the green light for Serbia

That it is not an easy decision, or it would have happened long ago. Yet it is wise, and not just for Serbians. When it comes to turmoil, the Balkans are the historical leader of Europe; a place creating so much local trouble that they have to export it. Far easier to make Serbia European, than to run the risk that Europe becomes ever more like Yugoslavia.

È una data storica oggi per la Serbia: la candidatura del governo pro europeo serbo a far parte dell’Europa Unita è stata accettata. Anche se passeranno un paio d’anni prima che la Serbia diventi membro della UE anche ufficialmente, da oggi la vita per noi cittadini serbi cambierà radicalmente. Già un anno fa, quando è stato abolito il Visto Schengen le cose sono cambiate: alle frontiere, nelle banche europee, perfino nei tram in Italia, quando i controllori ti chiedono il documento personale. Dopo l’esperienza ventennale di sanzioni, isolamento e crimine legalizzato la Serbia è alla porta dell’Unione, della fortezza della democrazia occidentale con i suoi standard di leggi sul razzismo, sul sistema giudiziario, monetario, sui diritti umani, sui crimini di guerra ecc.
Standard che la nuova Serbia sta tentando di implementare con grandi difficoltà negli ultimi anni: un passo avanti, due indietro. Dopo l’assassinio nel 2003 del premier democratico Zoran Djindjic, che aveva deposto Milosevic, il macellaio dei Balcani, le cose hanno preso il verso sbagliato. È nato il nuovo nazionalismo, da non confondere con il nazionalismo della retorica comunista di Milosevic. Un nazionalismo nuovo basato sui valori tradizionali della chiesa ortodossa, i cui sacerdoti erano profondamente coinvolti nei crimini di guerra dei serbi bosniaci della pulizia etnica. Il novo nazionalismo propagato dal partito forte dei radicali, una volta alleati di Milosevic, propugna l’orgoglio serbo contro le diversità etniche, sessuali religiose, in nome di una purezza secolare nata nel sud del paese, la provincia di Kosovo autoproclamatasi indipendente dalla maggioranza albanese due anni fa.
Paradossalmente, tutte le battaglie reali e simboliche oggi si svolgono per i serbi in Kosovo. Anche quando picchiano i gay per le strade o i calciatori nello stadio puntano le tre dita, urlando “Kosovo è Serbia!”. Nessuno dei questi nuovi giovani nazionalisti è mai stato in Kosovo, ma sono pronti ad ammazzare ed essere ammazzati per quella bandiera. In maniera molto accorta il presidente Tadic è riuscito a strappare dalla mano dell’estrema destra questa bandiera per portarla lui stesso. Ha svuotato il nuovo nazionalismo del contenuto politico, dandogli quello sportivo, le star serbe del tennis. Poi tutti uniti in Europa, per combattere diplomaticamente le battaglie perdute. Parlando con i miei amici montenegrini, croati e bosniaci ci siamo ricordati del 1989, prima che scoppiassero tutte le guerre balcaniche che ci hanno rovinato se non tolto la vita, quando la Yugoslavia con il governo di Markovic ha di fatto anticipato la UE, come un tempo l’Impero Austroungarico, oppure facendo da stato cuscinetto fra l’Est e l’Ovest ai tempi della guerra fredda.
È difficile spiegare perché poi la storia sia andata diversamente: una concomitanza di eventi poco fortuiti: nazionalismi, fanatismo religioso, pulizia etnica, mancanza di appropriati interventi diplomatici internazionali.
Quando mia madre, un medico, morì nel 1999 dopo i bombardamenti della NATO per mancanza di antibiotici in un ospedale serbo, ho capito che l’ultimo nemico di Milosevic era proprio il popolo serbo, che le sanzioni internazionali imposte grazie a lui sono un killer senza viso che lascerà tracce per decenni sulla generazione cresciuta in guerra. Una generazione perduta: la generazione di mia figlia. Oggi la Serbia finalmente ha la possibilità di legalizzare i suoi figli illegittimi, ma solo però se taglia i fili visibili e invisibili con il suo passato criminale. Finora Ratko Mladic, responsabile per il genocidio di Srebrenica, non è stato arrestato e i suoi amici vivono nella mia città, e polizia ed esercito lo proteggono e nascondono. La UE con tutti i suoi problemi è l’ultima chance per la Serbia per far fronte al male interno decennale. Chiamalo omofobia, hooliganismo, crimini di guerra, corruzione. Il filo rosso porta al tribunale di guerra internazionale dell’Aia, che oggi al Consiglio dell’UE ha dato luce verde alla Serbia. È una decisione saggia, perché la Serbia è collocata in mezzo all’Europa: è più facile far diventare Europa la Serbia, che rischiare che tutta l’Europa diventi Serbia.

About jasminatesanovic

Jasmina Tešanović (Serbian: Јасмина Тешановић) (born March 7, 1954) is a feminist, political activist (Women in Black, Code Pink), translator, publisher and filmmaker. She was one of the organizers of the first Feminist conference in Eastern Europe "Drug-ca Zena" in 1978, in Belgrade. With Slavica Stojanovic, she ran the first feminist publishing house in the Balkans "Feminist 94" for 10 years. She is the author of Diary of a Political Idiot, a war diary written during the 1999 Kosovo War and widely distributed on the Internet. Ever since then she has been publishing all her work, diaries, stories and films on blogs and other Internet media.
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