Southeast European Integration Perspectives

Edited by

Wo\fgang Petritsc.h,

former High Re-presentative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

and Special Envoy of the EU for Kosovo

Christophe Solioz,

Secretary-General of the Center for

European Integration Strategies

Wolfgang Petritsch I Goran Svllanovlc Christophe Solioz (Eds.)

Serbia Matters:

Domestic Reforms and European Integration

,The Authors:

Franz-lothar Altmann I Giuliano Amato, Mihail Arandarenko , Judy Batt, Florian

, Bieber I Sonja Biserko I Erhard Busek I Ivan tolovi': , Millca DeleviC I Vojin Dlmitrijevic , Michael Ehrke' Vladimir Gligorov I Eric Gordy, Tim Judah I Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco , Ivan Krastev, Ola Listhaug I Tanja Miscevic I Dusan Pavlovic' Wolfgang Petritsch , Alexander Petritz I Aaron Presnall, Sabrina Ramet I Irena Ristic I Obrad Savic I Christophe Solioz I Milko ~tlmac I G~ran Svilanovic I Hannes Swoboda I Romana Vlahutin I Vladimir

, Vuleti,

, ! ';,",:8,"

. .". :.~.- - , ... '.-

.. '

~. :" ,


sponsored by Immorent d.o.o. Belgrade

Die Deutsche Natlonalblbliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Natlonalblbliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet uber http-J/www.d-nb.deabrufbar.

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1. Auflage 2009

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, Figures and Tables

" , ,Acknowledgements

, List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

, Wolfgang Petritsch / Goran Svilanovic / Christophe Solioz Why Serbia Matters

Serbia in Europe

Tim Judah

Serbia: Is the Good News Old News?

,: i

Hannes Swoboda

Serbia and European Integration

Milica Delevie

Serbia's EU Integration: Unfinished Business, but Who Is to Finish It?

. . Irena Ristic

,Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place: Serbia's EU Integration Process 49

Romano Vlahutin

The European Union, the Western Balkans and Serbia: pm Things Be done Better?

, Florian Bieber

Territory, Identity and the Challenge of Serbia's EU Integration

Franz-Lothar Altmann

Serbia's EU Membership and the Kosovo Issue

Sonja Biserko

Serbia's European Potential Crumbles













Territory, Identity and the Challenge of Serbia's EU

: ! Integration


.- ~:




. ,

; j

Florian Bieber

State-building in Serbia has been reluctant and late in comparison to the other countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia. Only Montenegro's declaration of independence in 2006 forced Serbia to define itself as a nation State. To a large degree, Serbia has come to be shaped passively in the sense that its borders and the kind of Stale it has become have been determined by those who have left the country. While the country lies within the borders of the Socialist Republic of Serbia - without Kosovo - the process of defining the polity has thus largely been carried out in negative terms. Even today, the ambiguities over Kosovo and in regard to ties with the Serb Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina have led nationalist intellectual Rado§ LjU§ic to note that "[n]obody is sure which territories Serbia will control in the future and what kind of State organization it will have".' It is this 'uncertainty', real and constructed, that has shaped debate about what kind of State Serbia should be and how it should define itself towards its neighbours, As a consequence of this delayed and reluctant process of defining the nature of the State, debates about identity and goals, such as European integration, remain contested and controversial.

This chapter will argue that it is this ambiguity regarding Serbia's identity that has rendered support for rapid reforms difficult and made the country a hesitant European Union (EU) accession candidate.

Territorial conception of idemity

The dissolution of Yugoslavia has been a process of linking group identity with territory.2 While this link was already partly established during the Yugoslav period, the empowerment of republics as institutional representations of nations and the exclusive control of territory by national identities became a driving force in the late 19805. The failure of group rights protec-

Rado! LjuJic, "Najbolnjie pitanje: Srbijansko-cmogorsld odnosi," PolitikD, 27 January 2009.

2 See George W. White, Nationalism and Territory: Constructing Group Identity in Southeastern Europe (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) and Denisa Kostovieova, "Republib Srpska and lIS Boundaries in Bosnian Serb Geographical Narratives in the postDayton Period," Splice and Polity, 8 (2004) 3, pp. 267-87.





tion in the eyes of nationalist protagonists of the dissolution of Yugoslavia rendered non-territorial solutions to the supposed or real threat to groups meaningless, and made the re-drawing of borders the only legitimate policy to protect co-nationals. Most notably, this has been seen in the policy of creating Serb para-States in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s. This was reflected by Serbian kin-State policy in the 1990s, but with strong elements of continuity since that time. Unlike in Hungary, for example, political support for this policy in Serbia has largely been limited to Serb communities that enjoy(ed) their own political and territorially defined autonomy. Serb minorities, be they in Croatia or in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, have generally not been the focus of Serbian policy.

Since the early 1990s, international minority rights policy, on the other hand, bas sought to de-link territory from group protection. International standards and instruments, from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe to the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have sought (a) to frame debates over the treatment of minorities within a buman rights perspective rather than as a kin-State, zeroSum game; and (b) to provide finn guarantees to communities in order to prevent kin-States from making legitimate or illegitimate claims in regard to the treatment of 'their' ethnic kin. Of course, the dissolution of Yugoslavia preceded this development (and partially triggered it), but the territorial concept of group rights has persisted in Serbian policy. While this is partly caused by the legacy of the concept of the territorialised 'protection' of groups, it has been reaffinned by the inability of international minority rights standards to provide for adequate protection in zones of conflict or high interethnic tensions, such as in Kosovo.

The territorialised conception of minorities has thus a dual impact First, the protection of Serb minorities and communities outside Serbia becomes a territorial matter, as exemplified by the aforementioned Rados Lju~ic, a nationalist historian and leading member of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), in an article for the leading daily Politika:

In the coming twenty years, the problem will be one of cooperation, special relations and unity among Serbia, Montenegro and the Serb Republic. This Serb alliance, steadier and firmer than it can be imagined today, could lead a firm policy toward the former Yugoslav republics, i.e., States. I believe that then the rights of the Serb national minorities in all neighbouring countries and the rights of all ethnic Serb groups in other countries around the world can be protected, at least to the degree that other minorities have this right in Serbia today.3

Second, the-territorialised understanding of group rights 'leads to the interpretation of all minority claims in Serbia itself as territorial threats. The nation-

3 Lju§ic~ "Najbolnjie pitanje: Srbijansko-cmogorski odnosi,"


alist domino theory thus frames the independence of Kosovo in a larger wave of secession that extends from-the Albanian-inhabited regions in southern Serbia to Sandfak and Vojvodina (despite the latter's overwhelming Serb majority).4

Consequently, the territorial understanding of minorities has often rendered the EU-Serbian dialogue over Serb minorities difficult, as the issue is framed entirely differently in many Serbian debates from the way in which it is presented within the framework of European integration. It has furthermore served as a tool of nationalist discourse for claims against neighbours and about the threat posed by minorities within Serbia. Arguably, this line of argumentation is not universal across the political spectrum, but largely limited to the conservative political parties, i.e., the DSS, the Serb Radical Party and the Serb Progressive Party; the sensationalist and nationalist media, such as NIN, Kurir and Glos Javnosti; state television, RTS; and the daily Politika. Through the backing of a significant part of the intellectual elite, it has received greater credence.'

When the Democratic Party (OS) and the DSS formed a joint gOYernment in 2007, the agreed division of labour assigned EU integration to the Democratic Party, whereas the DSS was responsible for Kosovo. This division reflects the thematic focus of both parties, but also has a greater significance: topics associated with Kosovo, Serb minorities and national identity have been left by reform-oriented parties and political actors to nationalist parties. The consequence has been that Serbia's policies and agenda in these fields have been primarily defined by the nationalist part of the political spectrum. However, as we shall see in the discussion that follows, it has become difficult to neatly separate a reformist EU integration agenda from nationalist priorities towards so-called • Serb territories' .

Difficult European integration

European integration is a popular project throughout the Western Balkans. In fact, it is often argued to be the only unifying political agenda that allows for the pursuit of democratic and economic reforms in the region. Similarly, the debates about reform in Serbia have been driven by the commitment of the country to EU integration since 2000. Whether the issue is the extradition of indicted war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), fiscal reforms or increased human rights, all have been at least in part motivated by the prospect of EU membership. Within five years

4 See, for example, Jasna Vui!ic, "Ddava u dd.avi ne moze da prode!". Glas Javnosli, 12 April 2008. <> and Ugljda Mrdic, "Separatizam: Borba za otcepljenje Vojvodinc," Pe6lI. 16 January 2009, <>.

5 I have discussed this argument in regard 10 ~e 19905 in Florian Bieber, Naliollalismus in Serbien vom Tode Titos bis ZUllI Ende der ..ira MiloJevic (Nationalism in Serbia from the death ofTito to the end of the MiloAevic era] (Vienna: lit Verlag. 2005).


of the reforms, there appeared to be a broad rhetorical consensus over membership, with even the Radical Party advocating membership of the EU alth~ugh under very different circumstance from what would actually b~ possible,

A strong anti-EU discourse only emerged in 2007 in the context of status talks over Kosovo and after the EU bad agreed to establish the EU Rule 0: Law Missio? in !<osovo (EULEX) to support the unilateral imp leme~tat~on of the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo. Graffiti against EU membership or linking EULEX to previous foreign interventions ("41-Hitler. 99-NATO ~8-EULEX") appeared, The political arguments were articulated by the DSS m the electoml campaign for the parliamentary elections in 2008.

The DSS linked EU integration and acceptance of the incependence of Kosovo:

In a situation in which. on the one hand, the country had advanced some distance down the EU accession path, while on the other hand, it was faced with the n~ to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Democratic Party o~ Se~la and New Serbia. as !he parties participating in the Government of Serbia, did not waver. B~th parties have clearly given political priority to the defence o~ t!te country, since that was the only natural thing 10 do, viewing it as a precondition for all strategic relations in the international setting.6

At first it would seem that this new EU-scepticism did not resonate with the electorate, Desp~te Kosovo's declamtion of independence in February 2008 and the protests m Belgrade against this declaration, electoral results suggest that there was no U-turn away from the EU. Both the presidential elections in Feb~ary .2008, shortly before Kosovo independence, and the parliamentary elec~ons tn May 2008 gav.e a su~risingly strong level of support to political parties that supported EU integration rather than a renewed isolationist line.' A pamd.ox emerges, however, from the fact that in December 2008 support for EU .mt~gration among Serbian citizens dropped to the lowest level since the beginning of regular surveys by the EU Integration Office of the Serbian government in 2002: only 61 per cent of those surveyed favoured EU membership, ~?wn. from its peak in December 2003 of 72 per cent.s What appears surpnsmg IS the fact that around the time of the Kosovo independence is~ue comi?g to the fore (November 2007 and May 2008), support rates we~ hIgher: This would suggest that there is no link yet between support for ~U integratlon and th~ !<oso~o issue, as the EU has not set any clear conditions In terms of Serbia s policy towards Kosovo. The main obstacle to inte-


~e'!l0crntic Party of Serbia, MStabilization and Association Agreement - Legal Analy-

SIS, Belgrade, 4 June 2008, <hup:l/>. .

I ~ave di~ the failed nationalist mobilisation in more detail in Florian Bieber, "SerbIen. zWI.schen Europa und dem Kosovo: Politische Entwicklungcn seit der Unabhllnglgke~~Ulrung," Siidosteuropa, 56 (2008) 3, pp. 318-35.

Kancclal!~~ za Evropske Integracije Vlade Srbije, "Evropska orijentaeija gradana Srbije.

Trendovi, Belgrade, December 2008, <>. •




gration and arguably the main source for the increased dissatisfaction is the conditionality policy of the EU, with some 49 per cent of citizens surveyed identifying such conditions as the main reason for slow integration (rather than the country's political leadership, failure to fulfil international requirements, etc.), and these conditions are nearly exclusively those linked with the ICTY (as identified by 86 per cent of those surveyedj," This would suggest the positive scenario that once the issue of cooperation is no longer on the agenda, i.e. after the arrest and extradition of the remaining indicted war criminals, support for EU integration would increase. On the other hand, the attitude to the ICTY can be viewed as symptomatic of the general rejection of conditions that are squarely part of the integration process. Even when the ICTY is no longer on the agenda, other conditions will emerge. In particular, Kosovo appears likely to become the prime stumbling block for Serbia's EU membership. to With the EU unlikely to offer membership to a country with a disputed border and hostile relations with another country (itself a potential EU Member State). recognition ofKosovo is very likely to be a condition for Serbia joining the EU and might present itself as an almost insurmountable obstacle.

The difficulties arising from conditionality and limited support for EU integration are by no means unique to Serbia. Low rates of support for EU membership in Croatia and the difficult accession process in Bosnia and Herzegovina similarly suggest that citizens in other countries are supporting membership of the EU. but not the process of achieving this goal. A comparison with older accession waves is more difficult, as EU conditionality there has been lighter and less concerned with issues that are perceived as 'core national interests' by many. Although Serbia's position is thus not unique per se, the ability of territorial issues to encroach on EU integration has been greater than elsewhere.

Identities adrift: False dichotomies of modernity

Debates over modernisation and Westernisation in Serbia go back more than a century, and the analysis and discussion of this history over the past decade has largely looked at evidence of either the golden era without Westemisation or the obstacles to the country's modernisation thrown up by its antimodernising elites. 11 Liberal historians, led by their doyenne, Latinka Perovic, have argued that conservative elites have been holding back the country

9 J(ancelarija za Evropske Integracije Vlade Srbije, "Evrepska orijentncija gradana Srbije.


10 This is also anticipated by Siobodan AnioniC, "KOSOvo and the rise of Serbia's 'Euroscepticism'," Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija, 13 August 2008, <hnp:/>.

II Olga Popovi~.Obradovi~, Parlamenlarizam u Srbiji /903-1914 (Belgrade: Sluzbeni List, 1998); Dubravka Stojanovic, Kaldrma i asfalt: Urbanlzacija i evropeisacija Beograda 1890-1914 (Belgrade: Udndenje za drustvenu istoriju, 2008).


- the historical parallel to today's experience is by no means unintentional. 12 Conservative and nationalist commentators and scholarsl3 such as Slobodan Antonie," on the other hand, have challenged this view and argued for an autochthonous path towards modernity, which has to reject uncritical Westernisation. More than just a scholarly debate, this controversy reflects the uncertainty about how to combine national identity with Westernisation and, by extension, modernisation. Conservative commentators and politicians have presented the choices that Serbia faces as essentially a zero-sum game. Any Westernisation that is achieved requires 'giving up' a certain amount of identity. Thus, Antonic, in a commentary for Politika, suggests that "[i]n the name of the highest goal (EU), already one of our values (Kosovo) is finished. It would be worse if it now came to [sacrificing] another value - democracy"." Besides the mythical notion that territories are inherently associated with particular values, EU integration is portrayed as requiring the fulfilment of excessive conditions. However, the debate is not framed in terms of opposition to or support for EU integration, but focuses on the terms of the integration process. The option proposed by conservative commentators, and reflected in public opinion as discussed earlier, is thus summarised in the statement "Mi bismo u Evropsku unijiu, ali ~od naiim uslovima" (We would join the EU, but under our own conditions). 6 This logic of integration rests on the assumption that the European integration of Serbia is not only in the interest of Serbia, but also of the EU, because, "if the integration of Serbia into the EU is only a Serbian and nobody else's wish, than something is seriously wrong with the European idea and with European interests" .17

As a result of these debates, EU integration in a technical sense and the larger issue of Europeanisation in Serbia are often understood as finding themselves in intrinsic conflict with 'being Serbian', and this process is often portrayed as a humiliation of Serbia. While representatives of the conservative political spectrum reject this trade-off, liberals in Serbia have often accepted the premise of the debate and sought to portray the conditions as a high, yet worthwhile, price to pay. For example, prior to the extradition of Siobodan Milosevic in 2001, Prime Minister Zoran E>indic noted that "[w]e cannot allow ourselves the luxury of losing the necessary economic assist-

12 Olga PopoviC-Obradovic, "The Roots of Anti-modem Political Culture in Serbia," Bosnia Aeporl. 55-56 (Janual}'-July 2007), <>.

13 Sec debates over the Serbian translation of Holm Sundhaussen's History 0/ Serbia in Politika; Janwuy 2009. e.g., Andelka Cvijic, "Vojislav PavloviC, GamiaDin nije zautnik nacionalizma," Politika, I Febnwy 2009, <llltp:/> and Andelka Cvijic, "Dulan BIlIakovic, istoriw. Tito je umro prelcasno," Politiko, I February 2009, <>.

14 See Slobodan Antonic, Srbi i Evro-Srbi (Belgrade: Cigoja, 2007) and the review by Ivan Colovic, <hUp:l/>.

IS Siobodan Antonic, "Nije Svc 'biti lUI Evropskom pUIU;· Politiko, 10 July 2008, <hUp://>.

16 This statement was coined (lIS a critique of the logic involved) by Milica Delevic-Dilas on the 892 radio talk show Kaiipnt, ''Sukob 'vrednosti'," 9 May 2007, <>.

17 Siobodan AnIoniC, "Srbija i Evropska unija," Politika, n.d., <>.


ance by not cooperating with the Tribunal in The Hague and we cannot escape extraditing Milosevic if we want to not remain isolated"." What this debate over the price ofEU integration (or, here, financial aid) obscures is the actual benefit of the reforms and fulfilment of the condittonality." The goal of both Europeanisation and EU integration is the process, less so the end result. The particular challenge for Serbia arises from the fact that in the debates, Serb identity and Europeanisation are oftcn considered to be in conflict with each other or incompatible. Identity, however, is changeable and not fixed, and discussions about how identity - in particular, national identity - can be made compatible with European integration have yet to make progress.

18 "Elindic: Izrueenjc Milokviea neizbeZno," Tanjug-AFP, 3 June 2001. <>.

19 See, for example, Heather Grabbe, The EU's Transformative Power: Europeanization through Conditionality in Central and Eastern Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2006).


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