Failing Mark: Serbia’s 100 days of new government – By Boba Borojevic – November 19, 2008

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Failing Mark: Serbia’s 100 days of new government
By Boba Borojevic
November 19, 2008

Trifkovic: „You simply cannot get very far with the powers that want to obtain further concessions from you by saying that come what may, you will regard them as your only possible strategic partners. If the Serbs were a little bit difficult, if the Serbs were creating a little bit more problems to Brusseles and Washington, they would be respected more and they would obtain better deals.“

„Basically, after and if general Mladic is arrested who knows what other conditions will be imposed on Serbia by the EU including for instance: the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, the reparation to the alleged victims of Serberenica, or for instance the freezing of Serbia’s proceedings to obtain legal judgement at the ICJ.“

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The decisions made in the first 100 days of government in office are seen as crucial indicators of a country’s future course. At the end the hundred days, by an unwritten rule the opposition can start pointing out to the government and the public at large any unfulfilled promises.

When reporting to the Parliament beginning of October, PM of Serbia Mirko Cvetkovic and his cabinet ministers listed as their greatest achievements “the arrest of Radovan Karadži?, improved cooperation with The Hague, UN General Assembly adoption of Belgrade’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) resolution on the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo–Metohija (rebel Albanians), establishing a contract with Fiat car manufacturer, ratifications of the strategic energy agreement with Russia and the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU.”

Srdja Trifkovic, director of the Center for International Affairs at The Rockford Institute, believes that there is far less than meets the eye to the new government’s first 100 days.

“The fact that the SAA was adopted by Parliament can hardly be called a success of the government. For as long as they have a majority in Parliament it is only to be expected. We should add at the same time, that the application of the agreement was blocked by the Netherlands and Belgium for as long as General Mladic and suddenly remembered fugitive, Goran Hadzic, remain at large. It is obvious that it is not in the power of this government to apprehend Mladic and Hadzic, otherwise they would have done so long time ago. So, the adoption of the SAA by the Serbian government remains a dead letter and a perfectly meaningless gesture for as long as the EU itself refuses to countenance the application of the Agreement, putting it into force pending the arrest of the remaining two fugitives from the Hague’s quasi justice.

The Energy Deal with Russia

As far as the agreement with Russia is concerned, Trifkovic points out to a “problem with constant attempt by some people of the Serbian government, notably the finance minister Mladjen Dinkic, to renegotiate that deal by re-evaluating the oil industry of Serbia public company NIS (Naftna Industrija Srbije). It is tantamount to saying to the purchaser of a car, for instance, who has already signed the contract and payed the deposit, that you want to have it reappraised because you believe you didn’t make a particularly good deal. The energy deal with Russia is binding and it is totally irresponsible for the Serbian government to pretend that it can be retroactively negotiated.

The overall strategic importance of this deal is such that the dispute over the price seems almost trivial by comparison. It is perfectly clear that if the Russians decide that the Serbs are reneging on the deal, they can still opt to go through Romania into Hungary from Bulgaria and Serbia can end up being completely bypassed.

And then, Mladjen Dinkic’s favourites, the Hungarian MOL and the Austrians, will end-up buying the Serbian Oil company ostensively for more money but ultimately only in order to liquidate it and to ensure that they have monopolistic position in the South-East-European market,” opinionated Trifkovic.

The Fiat Deal

The Fiat-deal is not as bright as it looks. Trifkovic stressed that Serbian side doesn’t have “a clear number of vehicles that are projected to be produced there. It also remains to be seen if this is a simple a route by the Italian manufacturer to take advantage of the Serbian privileged access to the Russian market. Let’s not forget that even from the Milosevic’s years there is an agreement that is still in force that gives Serbia duty-free access to the Russia’s markets and whether the investment into new plant and production will indeed yield the level of rush employment that has been advertised.

Stabilization and Association Agreement Prime Minister Cvetkovic, not only seems to be playing politics by presenting the record of the government as brighter than it really is, but also is being disingenuous in a deliberate manner. According to Trifkovic, PM Cvetkovic “knows as well as most other thinking Serbs that the Agreement with the EU may remain frozen for many years to come and that even if it is applied then there will be further years of strenuous negotiations if and when Serbia gets the candidate status.

So, the relationship with the EU is almost demeaning. On the one hand the EU is not applying any of the agreements that have been heralded as major breakthroughs and on the other, the Tadic – Cvetkovic tandem keeps pretending that the European path is not only immanent but wide open and has a clear time-table. Neither of which is the case.”

The performance of Tadic-Cvetkovic government in Serbia reflects in some sense the overall western/ EU countries’ way of dominance over small countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet block. They show disregard for the existing positive law of these small sovereign countries and openly demonstrate that any kind of national politics is not favourable. Trifkovic doesn’t believe that this can be any major obstacle for the Serbian government to work on strengthening Serbia ’s economy and image at home and abroad.

“When it became clear that in spite of the victory of the so–called pro European forces at the Serbian general election on 11th of May the application of the Agreement would have remained frozen they should have not proceeded with its ratification. If one party to the contract tells you that the contract will not be regarded as valid then the other party, by proceeding on its path to do what is necessary to make it active, is put in an inferior position.

The International Court of Justice If the proceeding comes, when it comes and it may take years, it has an entirely advisory function. It is not binding on any of the parities and it is not regarded as something that has strength of verdict in the legal sense. In other words, the countries that have recognized Kosovo can simply shrug their shoulders and say this is an opinion of the court not a ruling of the court.

Trifkovic says that “in order to obtain the proper ruling, Serbia has to take to court the countries that have recognized Kosovo. That is what the former Prime Minister of Serbia Dr. Vojislav Kostunica wanted to do. For reasons that remain unexplained the Democratic Party which now holds the rains of power and the Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic have refused to do so.”

Meaningless victory Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic reiterated that the adoption of the Resolution seeking and advisory opinion on the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo in the UN General Assembly is among “the biggest diplomatic successes of Serbia ’s government in the previous decades.”

Trifkovic, however believes that: “The so-called victory at the UN General Assembly is perfectly meaningless. Even if the ICG rules in Serbia’s favour, which can happen in two or three year’s time, by that time the effect of such ruling will be rendered almost irrelevant. The countries that have recognized Kosovo by that time will be under no obligation to break relations or to retroactively derecognize Kosovo. As long as the ICJ gives an opinion rather than a ruling, the whole exercise is for domestic politics to create the illusion that the government is doing something useful. Whereas, in fact, it is very careful not to upset the powers that be in the Western world and to act as if it is already accepting partition of Kosovo at best or its complete loss at worst. The current victory at the UN General Assembly is meaningless because in the long term it is more song and dance for domestic consumption then a truly weighty and meaningful diplomatic victory that would enter the calculus of the great powers,” concludes Trifkovic.


The abject inferiority of the DS party which is the dominant partner in the coalition vis-à-vis the western powers are harmful and detrimental to Serbia’s national interest. You simply cannot get very far with the powers that want to obtain further concessions from you by saying that come what may, you will regard them as your only possible strategic partners. If the Serbs were a little bit difficult, if the Serbs were creating a little bit more problems to Brusseles and Washington, they would be respected more and they would obtain better deals.


Basically, after and if general Mladic is arrested who knows what other conditions will be imposed on Serbia by the EU including for instance: the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, the reparation to the alleged victims of Serberenica, or for instance the freezing of Serbia’s proceedings to obtain legal judgement at the ICJ.

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