Monday, May 16, 2011

From my class journal, May 16

Today we visited the Foreign Ministry and the Helsinki Commission for Human Rights.  At the Foreign Ministry we had two meetings, the first with NAME Amb. Stefanovic, the Deputy Foreign Minister and State Secretary, the second ranking individual in the ministry.  He spoke about the foreign policy priorities of Serbia.  They were in order of importance, EU ascension, Kosovo, regional cooperation and stabilization, and economic cooperation.  He was very positive and put a good face on everything.  He claimed, in response to my question, that the Serbian failure to hand over Mladic to The Hague is the result of not knowing where he is.  He also made the point that 44 or 46 indicted war criminals have been handed over, and that no one should doubt Serbian cooperation with the ICTY because of two failures.  I agree with this point, but remain skeptical that they do not hand him over for other reasons.  He was also vehement that Serbia would attain EU candidate status within the year.  This is something that I also doubt, and his evidence of why this would happen was not substantial.  However, his optimism is as well founded as my pessimism.  Time will tell.  The second speaker was the head of the office of Neighboring Countries.  He spoke first very briefly in general terms about Serbian foreign policy goals and how they relate to the region – obviously, the surrounding states will be any nation’s closest partners in trade and such, and the region needs to be stable for all of the states to achieve their goal-in-common – that of EU ascension.  He stressed that  Serbia is engaged in promoting bilateral relations with surrounding states and that strides have been made in that area and that the state enjoys good relations with many of its neighbors, especially in regards to support in efforts to join the EU.  He then went over Serbia’s neighbors individually and spoke on each regarding the condition of their relationship with Serbia and what issues are those of dispute or negotiation.  Our third meeting in the afternoon was with the woman who runs the Helsinki Commission in Serbia.  She spoke at length on the current political situation.  Topics covered involved EU ascension, democracy in Serbia, ethnic minorities including Roma, nationalism, Kosovo, BiH, and of course human rights.  Her opinion on Mladic is very different: “I don’t know whether they are unwilling to arrest him or whether they cannot arrest him. Both are disturbing.”  Obviously she believes that some cadre in the Serbian government or elite is protecting him from arrest and extradition; however, she believes that it shouldn’t matter.  She also made the point that 44 of 46 criminals have been arrested and brought to The Hague, and so that a clear picture of Serbian complicity in the violence of the 90’s has been established.  There is no need to add to this, so the EU should adopt Serbia as a candidate nation regardless of his arrest.  This would ensure Serbian ties to the EU, push Russian influence from the region, and end the “dilemma” that is plaguing the nation over whether EU membership is indeed the future for Serbia.  Though her viewpoint differed from Stefanovic’s greatly on many points, both stress that the EU is the only real path for Serbia’s future.

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