Serbia burst into Georgian political space
04/06/2012 17:29
Irakli Tskitishvili

A statement that was made by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic during visit to Moscow last week that the Serbian Parliament may consider the issue of recognition of the occupied territories of Georgia - Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region - was like a thunder from a clear sky. He also added that Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region can be independent states while Kosovo and Metohija cannot. Apparently, he thinks that’s how matters stand according to the international law.

Until September 7th, 2008 Tomislav Nikolic was a deputy leader of the Serbian ultranationalist Radical party that he practically led since leader of the party Vojislav Seselj has been detained by the Hague tribunal. In 1998 he became a vice president of the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic who is accused of crime against humanity by the Hague tribunal. Now Nikolic is a leader of the progressive party that he himself formed.

One thing is when the puppet regimes of Russia are recognised by countries that are barely visible on the world map and another when this is done by a state situated in the heart of Europe. Though Nikolic’s statement did not cause too much anxiety. Georgian diplomats showed restraint and assessed the statement of the Serbian President as misunderstanding. At the same time, hopes were expressed that this misunderstanding would disappear after official Tbilisi provides Belgrade with relevant information and consult with Serbia within the framework of the European Union.

In connection with the statement of Nikolic we can consider several interesting questions. First one that is most striking is that the Kremlin uses the same exact methods both with Nauru and Serbia. We refer here to "checkbook diplomacy". "Rapture" of Nikolic at the Russian occupation of the Georgian territories was due to the Kremlin's promise to provide an additional loan of 800 million dollars to Belgrade. The Kremlin also reminded that the year before the last 200 million dollars were already allocated. Apparently, Nikolic’s statement was an expression of gratitude to Moscow.

Undoubtedly, Serbia is an independent state and under international law it really has ability and right to consider a question of recognition of the occupied territories of Georgia. But the process cannot be based solely on rights and everybody, without exception, will have to take into account real-politics. And here things are relatively more complicated. Serbia is located in the heart of Eastern Europe, and is not adjacent to Russia. Serbia is surrounded by countries that share the ideas and values of the European Union. Against this background, 22 countries of the European Union that recognized Kosovo's independence will not allow Serbia to become "red". The first signs of that were voiced in congratulatory statements of the EU towards Nikolic. A statement of May 21st of the head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and president of the European Council Herman van Rompuy contains a direct call to Serbia not to turn away from the European path, which primarily implies regulation of relations with Kosovo (independence of which was officially recognized by 88 states).

In this context notable is a speech made by Tomislav Nikolic on his inauguration ceremony to the presidential office in the Serbian parliament on May 31st. The President said that Serbia should become a full EU member without abandoning its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

"I want Serbia to be a country free from the fear of tomorrow, which will be a fully-fledged member of the EU and which will never give up Kosovo and Metohija," - said Nikolić and vowed to fight until Serbia becomes a "legal and fair democratic state. " And this, above all, implies recognition of the principles of international law (with which the former ultranationalist will have to get acquainted) that protect human rights, territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries, do not support legitimization of separatism and ethnic cleansing that has been carried out in Georgia by Nikolic’s partner - Russia and its puppets several times over the past 20 years.

Statements of Nikolic made in Moscow are devoid of any solid foundation in terms of present realities. First, the statement made by Nikolic in the rank of the leader of his party aimed at pleasing the Kremlin does not mean that he will be supported by his government in this, in fact - to put his statement into action he will have to overcome a major barrier in the face of parliament. And there the situation is not in favour of Nikolic, because his party, though has won more seats than other parties (73), still in the end may appear not just in the minority, but even in constitutional minority since its rival parties - the bloc of democratic parties of Serbia For Better Life led by the now former president Boris Tadic and the Socialist Bloc led by Ivica Dacic have won respectively 67 and 44 seats. Both of these blocks are planning to form a governing coalition. If they accept some small party into their coalition they will have a serious majority. It is difficult to say how the socialists will behave, but we know that Tadic is a follower of Western values and will not break the principles of international law in favour of Russia.

Another, and perhaps the most important question is how the recognition of independence of the Georgian territories can help the Serbs in return of Kosovo. It will not! It should be noted that, despite the fact that Kosovo's independence has been recognised by half of the world, Tbilisi has not recognized it, though few would have criticized this step. But it would not be right from a moral point of view, since Georgia itself has two territories that are occupied by Russia. Accordingly, the Serbian support of the occupation of our territories and separatist movements will further strengthen the independence of Kosovo. What moral may Serbs be led by if the question of recognition of our occupied territories will appear on their political agenda? In addition, they will have no political or economic dividends in terms of return of Kosovo. And money that Russia will allocate to them is a loan. It will evaporate before their eyes even before they themselves understand where it went and why they took such big political liabilities. Only Russia will benefit from this loan.

Thus, there is a very little chance that Serbia will consider the issue of recognizing independence of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. Nikolic, I'm sure, understands this very well. So then why did he make this statement? Was it just to thank the Kremlin for the promise of the loan? We think that the statement of the Serbian President a clear example that the vector of confrontation between Russia and the West runs through Georgia today.

Some may think this statement an exaggeration, but the fact that everyone who sends a message to the world about their getting closer to Russia and in confrontation with the West, for some reason, threatens with recognition of the occupied territories of Georgia. When Belarus did not succumb to this adventure of Moscow, relations between Minsk and Moscow immediately deteriorated. The "Georgian issue" is gradually becoming means of affirming of loyalty to Moscow. That's what the Kremlin buddies – the leaders of Venezuela and Nicaragua do. With everything else Nikolić’s Statement was aimed at repaying the U.S. for Kosovo, which is the main core of the foreign policy direction of Moscow.

Against this background we should noted political impotence of today’s Europe. Just the fact that former ultranationalist, even if with slightly modified political aspirations, wins in the heart of Europe does not really has a good impact on the image of Europe. Recent tendency shows that the EU has broken off from the world's political processes, and is mainly focused on its own economic problems that could lead the European Union to absolute ruin. As a result very important decisions are made spinelessly, or an impression is created that it is governed by Putin. This is reflected difference between Europe’s attitude towards, on one hand, Belarus and Ukraine and, on the other hand, Russia. Towards the latter the European Union keeps silent about daily violations of human rights in Russia not to mention avoiding sanctions. Such behaviour on the part of Europeans has already returned Belarus into the sphere of influence of Russia, and Ukraine cannot shake off this influence. Strict policy against Serbia has caused the victory of nationalists in this country. All this gives Russia opportunity to act in relation to Europe as it pleases, to easily pursue its interests, to impose its position on Europe and to easily promote its own aggressive policy on the European arena. And if it is to last, it will be Europe itself they might appear under the threat of great reformatting, which can cause serious political upheavals in this part of the world. And it is not difficult to guess who might benefit from this...

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