Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Serbian premier's diplomatic drive may have come too late - commentary

Excerpt from commentary by Djordje Vukadinovic entitled "Turn of events or swan song" published by the Serbian newspaper Politika on 18 July

The next few days and months will show what kind of impact the Serbian government's most recent diplomatic campaign will have. But the agility with which Prime Minister Kostunica dashed through practically all the world's major capitals in just a few weeks and the determination that he demonstrated during his tour are surprising and rather at odds with the image that the prime minister and his party have had for years - not entirely justifiably but also obviously not without justification. A cynic might remark that perhaps things in Serbia and around it would have been much better if such a vigorous campaign had come earlier - and in connection with many other issues. But someone less familiar with the dimensions of our state and national defeat and our diplomacy's naturally resulting "reputation" could ask himself what kind of success it is if our officials and the arguments they presented at all those meetings were "listened to carefully" and why people here regard the expressed elementary diplomatic and civil courtesy as practically a cause for celebration.

Unfortunately, things are just about like that. While prior to the year 2000 attention has been paid to messages from Belgrade if for no other reason than so that they could be effectively parried, for years now no one has been paying any attention to what official Belgrade has been saying and thinking. Even though it has not become a "dull" country, in other words, a well organized and peaceful country as Vojislav Kostunica had promised during his election campaign, Serbia has managed to slide to the margins of the world's media focus and political attention, from where it was pulled out temporarily only over the deaths of Djindjic and Milosevic, the pogrom of the non-Albanian population on 17 March 2004, and during the recent Montenegrin referendum.

It is difficult now to say in advance whether this tour (Moscow, London, Rome, New York, Washington, Brussels ... [agency ellipses]) will turn out to be Kostunica's "crazy summer dance" [alludes to the title of a song] which could make a last-moment drastic change, reversing the unfavourable course of the Kosovo talks, or whether it will be the "last dance of the butterfly" [also alluding to the title of a song], in other words, a swan song for the Serbian prime minister, Serbia's diplomacy, and the Serbian state on the issue of the Kosovo cycle. (Realistically speaking, the chances of the latter are still incomparably greater) But regardless of the outcome, one thing is beyond doubt - and that is the basic issue and moral of this story. In politics, as in life, when you know clearly what you want or do not want, and when you say that with determination and when you present your arguments that are unequivocally in support of your views - then that cannot be ignored completely. Or rather, it can - but then that is simply a case of blatant rudeness which, in principle, is avoided in communication between civilized people and democratic nations.

Of course, this does not mean that you will necessarily always get what you want and possibly even deserve. The end result depends on the balance of power and a host of circumstances over which, more often than not, we have no control. But in order to even have something to cling to we first have to know what we want, and we need to have at least a general and realistic ("action") plan on how to achieve the desired goal. Regardless of the almost banal character of these beliefs, they represent a pipe dream and an unreachable strategic ideal when we consider the policy of Milosevic's Serbia and post-Milosevic Serbia.

We can only ask ourselves what would have happened if this already decisive diplomatic and political drive had been launched earlier, or rather when the time was right. For example, immediately after 5 October, or at the start of Bush's presidential term, before the international representatives transformed Kosovo from an international protectorate into practically an independent state, before our army was not in such shambles, and before the favourable foreign political effects of destroying Milosevic and even his controversial extradition, had been frittered away in the tussle for the best possible positions in the internal political struggle revolving around money and power.

[Passage omitted]

Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 18 Jul 06

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