“Kurti is not the main problem in the dialogue with Pristina, Belgrade is. Belgrade thinks that Kurti is provoking them, and in my opinion it is not a provocation, but he is just trying to implement some things that have already been agreed. This means that Belgrade has exposed its intentions to the end, because it has no intention of entering into this dialogue at all, and it is still standing on the position of partitioning Kosovo, as is clearly evident from all the recent reactions and behaviour of Belgrade, from raising the army to a higher level of readiness, and, moreover, all the time these kinds of tensions are being created, because they are militarily superior compared with Kosovo. But if they cross the border, NATO is waiting for them, not Kurti,” Sonja Biserko, President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, told the Belgrade Media Centre.
The problem with the Association of Serb Municipalities, she said, is that it cannot be a first step, because Kosovo has no guarantee that the second step, Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo, will take place.
“There is no evidence that Belgrade is serious about implementing the provisions of the Brussels and Ohrid agreements, and we have heard from the President that he does not recognise this and that he has not signed anything, and immediately after Ohrid he questioned all these commitments that are there”, Biserko stresses.
She recalls that Serbs already had ten guaranteed seats in parliament and were in the institutions, and that the main problem is that Vučić pulled them out of these institutions and prevented them from taking part in the elections, and now they are demanding new elections.
“Elections will inevitably be held soon, obviously under the auspices of KFOR, the only question is whether Belgrade will be rational enough to allow Serbs to participate in these elections.” Serbs in Kosovo are the biggest hostages there, because the policy pursued by Belgrade is directed against their interests, against their integration into this society, and it is up to Belgrade above all how they will behave in the future, because unfortunately they do not have the freedom of choice,” said Biserko.
She pointed out that she hoped that the international community would intervene more strongly in Kosovo to prevent a conflict, “given that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine there has been talk of opening another battlefield in the Balkans and that their security return to these areas is motivated by this possibility and that they continue to follow events in Bosnia and Kosovo with devotion”.
Belgrade expected Russia to win the war and to recompose the Balkans
She added that Belgrade expected that the war in Ukraine would have a different outcome and that notwithstanding the destruction of Ukraine and the tragedy of that country, the authorities expected that Russia would emerge from that war as the victor and that in the context of that victory, the recomposition of the Balkans would be possible.
“We are aware that at the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Dodik was preparing secession, but it was thwarted due to the failure and fiasco of the Russian army, and at the same time, the invasion of the North of Kosovo and its division were on the agenda, which is still ongoing. We have seen the frustration of Serbian elites in power with what has been happening in Russia around Prigozhin and his attempt to ‘do what he wants’, and we still do not know what the outcome of all this is in Russia itself, and it is very likely that this is the process that is leading to the end of Putin. However, it is very difficult to say from the outside where Russia is going and what is going on behind the scenes, and it is very important who and from which structures was involved with Prigozhin. “Serbia feels that it is losing this support or that its importance is diminishing, given that Russia is entering a phase where the outcome is unknown to us and the political elites are again alarmed by those events in Russia and I think they are adapting to the new reality,” says Biserko.
She believes that Russia has occupied the media and public space in Serbia in a very simple way.
“Serbia traditionally has feelings towards Russia and this is not controversial, but this level of Russification of society has never been represented. The result is visible in the fact that 80% of the citizens believe that America is to blame and that Ukraine launched an aggression on Russia. This orientation does not open up space for what Serbia officially advocates, that is, membership of the European Union. The EU is perceived as having a duty to help us. “Unfortunately, this campaign and the media content put Russia and China first as friends”, Biserko stresses.
She believes that the promotion of the European Union and the values on which it is based is too technical and therefore means little to people.
“All this needs to be reaffirmed so that every citizen understands why the rule of law is important, why a free media and pluralism are important, but also the concept of human rights, and that it is not just platitudes that do not reach the citizens. The fact that the EU is a concept of peace is also very important for this region, because these countries have not even consolidated. Serbia is the main problem in this context in establishing regional cooperation and normalising relations, and Serbia has severely damaged its relations with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro over the last ten years, but it has never had relations with Kosovo. Regional relations have been brought to a level where we can expect not only tensions but also outright conflict,” Biserko stresses.
Under these circumstances, the opposition should not agree to the elections
Commenting on current socio-political developments, Biserko says that the tragedies that took place in May have caused shock and brought people to the streets because “they are the result of the toxic atmosphere in which we live and the violence that prevails in society and that has been encouraged through the media and through the statements of various political leaders and intellectual representatives of the authorities”.
“It is a spontaneous reaction of society to a terrible tragedy that has happened and through which many problems have come to light. It is also an indication that the absolute control of one man in Serbia is slowly breaking down, and this is the biggest result of these protests. There has been a gradual release of fear and an articulation of demands that concern, above all, Serbia’s internal politics. These demands still do not touch on some of the key issues that could be on the agenda, but there is a huge legacy from the past decades that are key to opening up some perspective for Serbia”, Biserko explains.
In her opinion, the opposition should not have agreed to elections in such circumstances and she believes that it is a trap that would have ended with a Vučić victory, but perhaps not so dominantly.
“There are also problems within the ruling structure, given that the formation of a state-building movement has also been delayed and it is possible that there is resistance within them to drowning in that movement. These parties have their own identity, which they obviously want to preserve. I think that what is happening in Russia has also contributed to the delay”, says our interlocutor.
Biserko believes that Serbia has collapsed to such an extent that it is very difficult to see which internal forces could initiate a social dialogue, which is currently not possible between the government and the opposition.
“Some parts of the opposition are aware of some things, but they are still cautious on some issues, expecting a relentless media campaign which they believe would contribute to their underperformance in the elections. However, as long as they do not come before the public, not only with a condemnation of this policy, but also as long as they do not raise the question of the past and the responsibility of this and all previous governments, and as long as they do not repress the national ideology that has ruled this society for a long time for 40 years, and to bring in some other values and to give a vision of the future that is not imperial nationalism or some destructive ideology that has destroyed the whole region, there will be no improvement,” Biserko concluded./N1/