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Analysis: Serbia's President Calls For Realism

Serbian President Boris Tadic (file photo) Serbian President Boris Tadic told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Belgrade recently that his country must observe its international obligations and meet the expectations of the most developed countries if it wants to escape its chronic poverty and improve its standard of living. He added that this in no way means that Serbs must renounce their traditions or national goals (see

Tadic argued that the government must cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal because Serbia's own laws oblige it to do so. "This country has a law stating that all who have been indicted for war crimes by The Hague tribunal must be arrested and extradited" to that body, he noted.

Moreover, it is in Serbia's own interest to do so. "Non-cooperation with The Hague tribunal will hold us up from achieving [international] integration for political and security purposes as well as the economic development of our society. Without economic development and without political and security integration, we cannot resolve the problem of Kosovo and Metohija, or that of [the joint state of] Serbia and Montenegro, or any other vital question facing our country.... That is the point," he stressed.

In a similar vein, Tadic argued that Serbia's pursuit of EU membership is aimed at achieving concrete goals, namely economic benefits and a standard of living "similar to that of the most developed countries.... And until we gain EU membership...we must work toward that goal."
"Kosovo must not become independent." -- Boris Tadic

He noted, moreover, that there is no alternative to joining the EU. Tadic warned that those Serbian politicians who say that Serbia does not need EU membership are seeking to manipulate uninformed voters. He added that there is no political future for such anti-EU doctrines. Tadic also stressed that some EU states have ethnic and human rights problems similar to Serbia's and pointed out that these issues are more easily dealt with once a country is inside the EU and has achieved a certain level of prosperity.

Referring to the joint state with Montenegro, which was set up in 2002-03 under strong EU pressure, Tadic said that Montenegro's "demand for a redefinition of relations [between the two republics] is fully legitimate." On the other hand, he added, each state has its own interests to pursue, and Serbia's interest lies in European integration. To that end, Serbs -- and Montenegrins -- should respect the EU's wishes that the joint state be preserved as the best vehicle for achieving European integration. "Montenegro will not be able to become a member of the EU ahead of Serbia [as some of its pro-independence leaders suggest], because that is a matter for the EU to decide," and Brussels' position is clear.

Turning to Serbia's relations with the United States during the second administration of President George W. Bush, Tadic charged that it is a "tragic fact" that most Serbian "politicians, citizens, and even experts" do not have a good understanding of the United States, its institutions, or its decision-making processes. He stressed that Serbia cannot expect any special treatment from Washington. This, Tadic argued, is because "America does not retreat from its demands or principles, and that means cooperation with The Hague tribunal and observing international standards...which are European standards and part of the Western civilization in which we live because we want to share in the economic benefits of that civilization."

Tadic noted that many of Serbia's difficulties in reaching its goals are of its own making. "Many people involved in politics in Serbia...demonstrate on a daily basis that they understand absolutely nothing about how the modern world functions." Furthermore, he called his countrymen's attention to the progress that Croatia has made in recent years in breaking with its own nationalist past, a development that he "greatly respects." He argued that all the former Yugoslav republics can improve their economies and standards of living by working together more closely.

But what about Serbia's own specific traditions and political goals? Tadic noted that he himself has no difficulty in reconciling his Western political orientation with his cultural roots in the East and his Serbian Orthodox faith. He pointed out that Greece has long been a member of the EU and obtained more than $130 billion in economic assistance from Brussels over the years while preserving its strong national and religious identity.

Turning to Kosovo, Tadic said that Serbs are deluding themselves if they think the clock can be turned back to the years before 1999. At the same time, he stressed that "Kosovo must not become independent" because that would "destabilize one part of the Balkans and Southeastern Europe on a long-term basis." The Serbian president argued that the only solution for the province is through European integration, which "is not an empty phrase" but the only serious option for the future.

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