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Serbia: In Search of a Kamikaze

Serbia: In Search of a Kamikaze Can Karpat, AIA Balkan section

Last Friday, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN representative and mediator for Kosovo visited Belgrade and Pristina to present his proposal on the final status of Kosovo to the Serb and Albanian officials. The reactions coming from the two capitals are not surprising. While Pristina is satisfied, Belgrade is totally outraged. However, there is a big difference between the two: the latter, which has no government for the moment, has to form one, which is entitled to accept officially the loss of Kosovo. So the question of the day is: Who is willing to be the Kamikaze?

Last Friday, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN representative and mediator for Kosovo visited Belgrade and Pristina to present his proposal on the final status of Kosovo to the Serb and Albanian officials.

Although the proposal does not mention independence, it would make it possible for Kosovo to have its own flag, national anthem, army and Constitution. Kosovo would also be able to seek international recognition, which will eventually provide the province with state sovereignty. According to the plan, a NATO-led peacekeeping force will remain in the province and an international representative will be appointed to monitor the government's actions.

Could anyone, who is even slightly acquainted with the Kosovo question, claim that this proposal came as a complete surprise? No way. For months, experts predicted this outcome: independence - in the long run. Martti Ahtisaari had the courtesy not to insert the word "independence" into the document. That is all. The reactions coming from the two capitals are not surprising either. While Pristina is satisfied, Belgrade is totally outraged. Yet, there is a big difference between the two: the latter, which has no government for the moment, has to form one, which is entitled to accept officially the loss of Kosovo.

As predicted, the proposal made the formation of a government in Serbia most improbable. In theory every party (except Liberal Democrat Party) is against the proposal. Even President and leader of Democrat Party (DS) Boris Tadic vowed not to recognise an independent Kosovo. After he met Martti Ahtisaari last Friday, Tadic stated: "I told Mr. Ahtisaari that Serbia and I, as its president, will never accept Kosovo's independence" . Tadic's DS is known as the most moderate and pro-Western element in Serbian political scene.

The outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica declined to meet with Ahtisaari on Friday. And after the proposal became public, he denounced it as "illegitimate" . His party, Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) insists on the negotiations platform for Kosovo, which, among others, foresees the serious aggravation of diplomatic relations with those countries that would recognise Kosovo in the future.

For DS, the most probable coalition partner of DSS for the moment, this clause is risky. Any reaction of this kind would condemn Serbia to diplomatic isolation as it was the case in the Milosevic era. For a party, which supports Serbia's integration into the EU and NATO, such defiance is unacceptable. Therefore, we can conclude that since 2nd February, the dispute over the office of premiership between DS and DSS has no longer any concrete sense. Serbian politics, as Danas put it, became the hostage of Kosovo.

On the other hand, however, Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which is firmly against Serbia's integration into any Euro-Atlantic alliance, would like to pursue this thorny path. Yet, there is one small problem. It is as clear as mud in the eye that the new government will be the one, which, as long as the Kosovo status is concerned, will also sign its own death sentence. There is no other way.

On the one hand, the international community considers Martti Ahtisaari's proposal as "stable and sustainable" , which may be the case indeed. Russia cannot be fully trusted, for she would always cherish her own political interests over Serbia's - like any standard state in the great international chessboard. On the other hand, however, no politician who yields Kosovo would survive thereafter in Serbia. So who will be the Serb Matthias Erzberger? This German politician, who headed the German delegation that signed the Armistice after the First World War, and thereafter advocated acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles, a.k.a. the "Diktat". He ended very dramatically, since he was assassinated in 1921 by members of the Freikorps, the extreme right militia.

Under these circumstances, we can reasonably argue that the Radicals would never accept to be dragged into such Kamikaze-like government. The Radicals are wily enough not to let themselves seduced by Vojislav Kostunica's new Kosovo pose.

The possible coalition scenarios imply DS and DSS as usual. However, the recent Kosovo proposal shook the fragile political balance. No party is willing to commit suicide, for now it is obvious that a clear death awaits them all in Kosovo.

Some analysts predict new elections. This is quite possible indeed. However, if held, the turn-out of these elections would be the most miserable one that the Serbian plural democracy has ever seen. This could definitely suit the Radicals the best, for their electors are very disciplined. And it is almost sure that neither DS nor DSS would ever be able to make the same score.

It seems that unless a political Kamikaze is found, Serbia is in an impossible situation. The Kosovo proposal may be a stable and sustainable one. But at what cost?

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