IBNA / Interview : Čedomir Antić, historian and Progressive Club President
By Miloš Mitrović – Belgrade
“Serbian government believes that it is not challenged by the right-wing opposition; at the same time, the government is leaded both by the populists and the autocrats, which have been preserved the regime of Slobodan Milošević from 1998 to 2000. Given the fact that the current government took a dishonest policy towards Kosovo, I am not convinced that they would make different approach with regard to Republic of Srpska/Bosnia-Herzegovina”, Čedomir Antić, historian and President of NGO Progressive Club said in the interview for IBNA.
According to its Statute, Progressive Club promotes the modernization and reformation of the Serbian state, its politics, economy and the culture. It also monitors the rights of ethnic Serbs in other Balkan countries.
How would you comment on recent protests against placing the Serbian Cyrillic plates on public buildings in Vukovar and other towns in Croatia?
“I would like to stress that those protests are not affiliated with the heritage of wars from 1990s. If this would have been the case, it would be impossible to hoist a flag of Republic of Srpska in Srebrenica, or Croatian flag in any Serb-populated town in Krajina (where in few days of August 1995, 1,980 people were being killed); NATO soldiers would have been beaten in the streets of Belgrade. Phobia of Serbs is deeply rooted in Croatia; this phobia is so strong because Croatia did not deal with its own past – fascistic Ustashe regime and the fact that this regime had been supported by the majority of Croatian people as well. Finally, numerous internal asperities and frustrations –Military Frontier (mostly populated with Serbs) exemption from the Habsburg`s feudal organization from the 16th to 19th century, as well as the absence of counter-reformation terror that would have been leading to creation of modern Croatian state, and the ideological conflicts of the 20th century – all of this in Croatia had been associated and justified by the maltreatment of ethnic-Serbs that lived in this territory.
The position of the United States and Germany, also confirmed by the Hague Tribunal, which suggests that war crimes commit by ethnic Croatians during the latest war could only been acts of individual pathology, while the crimes committed by ethnic-Serbs were the consequence of the defect in Serbian culture – good example for such an approach was given by German historian Holm Sundhaussen`s book Geschichte Serbiens. 19. – 21. Jahrhundert, promoted by Goethe-Institut – contributed the fact that the part of Croatian public and the majority of political elite postured openly negative relation towards Serbian people and Serbia. This should not be acceptable in the relations between nations and between the states in the modern Europe”.
Do you think that Serbs who live in Croatia should believe that their status will be improved once after Croatia entered the EU on July the 1st?
“Although 400,000 Serbs had been banished from Croatia, EU granted this country full membership. Croatia entered EU despite the fact that the murderers that have killed 35 percent of war victims virtually avoided the prosecution (this percentage originated from prewar Serb citizens of Croatia which had comprised just 15 percent of overall population). At the same time, Croatia, unlike Bosnia-Herzegovina, did not returned flats and apartments that belonged to at least 100,000 Serbs. Croatia has abolished autonomous counties of Knin and Glina and Erdut Agreement was not implemented. Croatian political elite and media are spreading hatred towards Serbs permanently; EU did not even note this, not to mention any reactions in this regard. For instance, Croatian media systematically offend Serbs from Serbia by calling them “Srbijanci” (a pejorative expression for “Serbians”), which evokes dissolution of Serbia, given the fact that citizens of Vojvodina, Serbian Sandžak or Preševo and Bujanovac are not named as “Srbijanci”. The most of Serbs from Croatia have no illusions: they would enjoy autonomy if FR Germany wanted so; the war would have different course with less number of victims. Perhaps war would have never even happened.”
Do you believe that Serbia, under the possible pressure from the West, would support unitary-oriented reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina?
“I certainly do. The present Serbian government believes that it is not challenged by the right-wing opposition; at the same time, the government is leaded both by the populists and the autocrats, who have been preserved the regime of Slobodan Milošević from 1998 to 2000. Given the fact that the current government took a dishonest policy towards Kosovo, I am not convinced that they would make different approach with regard to Republic of Srpska/Bosnia-Herzegovina.
German, French and British media also indicate this. Recently, Deutsche Welle reported about the position of Serbian NGO sector supported by EU; Aleksandar Popov, Center for Regionalism president, suggested that pressure should be put on Serbia in order to make Bosnia-Herzegovina a centralized state. He argued that this should follow “Brussels Agreement” model that deprived the Serbs from the Northern Kosovo.”
Do you find that Republic of Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik and his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) equate themselves with the RS preservation? Would it be feasible for some other political option to protect the RS constitutional position?
“Republic of Srpska was founded by Serbian people from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The fact is that all elected ethnic-Serb Members of Parliament left Sarajevo in 1992.
If the objective of United States and EU was to sack Dodik, they would not put the pressure on RS; they would rather focus their attention at Dodik and SNSD. I am convinced that there are other politicians that would protect RS even better than Dodik. However, I am sure that Dragan Čavić, Mirko Šarović and Mladen Ivanić are not among them; we have already witnessed their performance.”
By your opinion, should Serbia be involved in resolving the dispute between Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) and demand the release from prison Archbishop Jovan as well?
“These are two separated issues. Serbia and Macedonia have inter-mediated in negotiations between SPC and MPC, and the result was the Niš Agreement of 2002; however, nationalistic Macedonian government gave up from this agreement. With regard to Archbishop Jovan VI, Serbia should raise its voice in order to support the protection of his human rights which are trampled. According to Helsinki Watch and Freedom House, this Macedonian is a prisoner of conscious. Serbia had been condemned because our representatives did not attend Nobel Prize awarding to a Chinese dissident and now we are to be decried due to the fact we do not want to turn blind eye to religious prosecution and clergy imprisonment in the country which is close to EU membership!?”
The official relations between Serbia and Montenegro had been improved after political changes in Serbia in 2012. Do you think this would lead to improvement of both Serbs and SPC status in Montenegro?
“Certainly not. Current Serbian Government misused and betrayed the leading political party of Serbs in Montenegro – New Serbian Democracy. It is not only ethnic-Serbs whose rights in Montenegro are jeopardized – though they comprise at least 29 percent of overall population, the military is one single state institution that encompasses more than 5 percents of ethnic-Serbs among its employees – the rights of all citizens of Montenegro had been trampled by both fraudulent presidential elections and forged national census. I can understand passivity of Serbia in this regard, but how can one explain that both OSCE and Council of Europe are keep themselves silent?”