Serbia lands in Brussels, Skopje ends up in Strasbourg

Serbia lands in Brussels, Skopje ends up in Strasbourg

By Gjakush Kabashi

Serbia has demonstrated that politics is indeed the art of the possible. Thirsty for any successful story in the Balkans, the European Union rewarded Belgrade for the agreement with Prishtina, the effects of which are yet to be seen. Serbia is currently ruled by the former ultra-nationalist subordinates of Slobodan Milosevic, yet, its image and position changed radically within the past 13 years.

Clearly, difficult changes come at high price: an assassinated PM killed at the doorstep of his cabinet, hundreds of police actions against the powerful criminal syndicates, and plenty of cases of encountering the bloody past. Along with the state rebranding project, these are just some of the dramatic developments that Serbia went through. Whereas crime and corruption remain rife, the country has reached the stage of revealing that some of the most gruesome crimes have been ordered and executed by the Serbian state itself.

It is now publicly known that it was the Serbia that murdered six young Serbs in the coffee-bar Panda in Peja (Kosovo), in December 1998. The propaganda had exploited this case to blame the Albanian fighters who were fighting the Serbian forces back then. Fifteen years later, the truth was acknowledged by the Serbian Deputy PM, Aleksandar Vucic. The murder of Slavko Curuvija is another case of facing the dark past when journalists were executed by the state. There are numerous other events where Belgrade needs to accept the truth, including that of Kosovo’s independence, where the European Union needs to lead by example.

Notwithstanding the downsides, Serbia is now facing its miserable past. Pursuing its own interests, EU rewarded Belgrade by giving it a regional leadership position; it will soon dry out through the chapter on relations with Kosovo. At this point, it appears logical to wonder about Macedonia – the former regional champion, back when Milosevic was still on power.

One needs to look no further than the major news reported in Macedonia, on the very day when Serbia was celebrating in Brussels. Given that Macedonia was not mentioned in a positive context, the numerous pro-Government media brought us the key report from Strasbourg: a European Parliament resolution had been changed by deleting the provision recommending the ethnic communities to learn the language of the other.

At least here, the difference between Serbia and Macedonia lies precisely in the courage to resolve the critical issues. Belgrade has been facing enormous pressure in the past. Finally, after losing all the battles, it was forced to face the reality on Kosovo. In contrast, Macedonia’s leaders have skilfully avoided the tackling of our essential social problems.

As if we’re not aware that our children will have far less chances to communicate in the language of the other, we see a great triumph that saves Macedonia’s existence by avoiding such instructive recommendation. Instead of resolving the language problem at a national level ten years ago – by giving all the students a chance to learn the language of their fellow citizens – the Government makes things worse. The only shift after the 2001 conflict is the reported lack of will among ethnic Albanians to learn the Macedonian language, joining the ethnic majority in its erroneous practice of not knowing the second biggest language in the country.

One day, when Serbia becomes EU  member, Macedonia’s children will be paying the price of their timid leaders, who were not bold enough to accept the reality and guide the nation on the road of knowledge. Instead, they take cover behind nationalism and institutional hatred, or compensate their impotence and street incidents by patriotic rhetoric or TV shows aired from Tirana.

Busy with historical debates (on the era of antiquity, Enver Hoxha or Kosovo’s National Movement), we will watch Serbia progressing on its EU path, opening the difficult chapters on judiciary and home affairs. Applying the Serbian model home, it’s likely that Macedonia will have to face its own state crimes – difficult to imagine at this point of time. This is what drives the resistance against the EU negotiations, which would open many issues and hence jeopardise the established political and material landscape. Everything else is just an alibi for the murky governance.

(Graduated law in Skopje in 2008. MA (Distinction) Intl Relations and Security, University of Westminster, Chevening scholar 2011/12. Assistant Political Advisor at the EU Delegation in Skopje (2008-11) and Political Advisor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Skopje (2011). Over ten years’ experience of translation/interpretation in Albanian, Macedonian and English, worked with over 70 clients in the country and abroad)