Events

Serbia Transformed? Western Integration and Trans-Atlantic Security

October 07, 2003 // 12:00am

October 7, 2003

Overview
Summary of Conference Remarks
by Susan M. Spencer
Writer and Sr. Editor, Western Policy Center

Panel I: The Political Dimension
Moderator: Dr. Martin Sletzinger, Woodrow Wilson Center

Damjan De Krnjevic-Miskovic
Senior Fellow at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and Assistant Managing Editor, The National Interest
"Is Kosovo Ready for Final Status?"

The United States shares Belgrade's view that Kosovo is not ready for a decision on its final status. The absence of war in the region should not provoke the international community into declaring Kosovo a nation-building success.

Serbia and Montenegro is well on its way to full integration into the key institutions of the West. Since the fall of Milosevic, it has reformed its military and security sectors, privatized its economy, established the rule of law, and strongly cooperated with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The warm reception given Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic and Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic in Washington in July 2003 confirmed the Bush administration's recognition that a strong, prosperous Serbia and Montenegro is the lynchpin of the United States' security strategy in the Balkans. The recent announcement that Belgrade would like to send at least 1,000 soldiers to Afghanistan is another indication that relations between Belgrade and Washington are improving greatly. The relations have never been set on firmer ground since both sides have now begun to trust each other's intentions.

On October 14 in Vienna, talks between Pristina and Belgrade are scheduled to begin on practical issues such as energy, missing persons, refugee returns, and telecommunications, though the Kosovo parliament is delaying granting authority to senior Kosovar Albanian officials to attend the discussions. The issue of Kosovo's final status will not be addressed at the talks. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 reaffirms Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo. The U.N. interim administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) has made it clear that the final status issue will not be considered until certain benchmarks are met.

Pristina must recognize that it is bound to Belgrade before it can present an argument for becoming independent. The legal and political burden falls on Pristina to convince Belgrade and the international community than an independent Kosovo can be a viable state. There is now little evidence to support such a contention.

In late August, the Serbian parliament adopted a declaration stating that no debate on Kosovo's final status may be launched until the provisions of Resolution 1244 are implemented. These provisions call for establishing "standards before status," which include representative institutions of government authority, civil society structures and human rights, institutional transparency and accountability, the rule of law, judicial impartiality, and the return of Kosovar Serbs to the province.

The declaration also states that an agreement on cooperation between Belgrade and UNMIK must also be honored, which would put Serbian forces in positions in Kosovo where they can guard against vandalism or terrorism against religious and cultural shrines. In addition, the agreement calls on UNESCO to establish protective zones around Serbian monasteries and churches. It also states that the most effective mechanism for resolving the problem of Kosovo is full European and Euro-Atlantic integration, along with the implementation of Resolution 1244.

The State Department has increased the amount of assistance it will provide to programs that facilitate the return of Serbs to Kosovo. Both the Department and UNMIK have outlined return programs that focus on areas where secure returns are feasible.

Paul McCarthy
Senior Program Officer for Southeastern Europe, National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
"Serbia's Struggling Democracy: Who's Up, Who's Down, and Why Kosovo Matters"

The public sympathy and support of Serbs for the government of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic during the 42-day state of emergency following the March assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has largely dissipated due to scandals involving government officials and a series of rancorous political battles. The government has been slow to respond to the scandal allegations and has often given contradictory or confusing responses to these allegations, leaving the public with the impression that they are true.

The unity of the 16-party DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia) coalition governing Serbia is becoming increasingly hard to maintain in the absence of Djindjic's strong leadership. A troubling point is that a number of analysts have pointed to the existence of a wing within the Democratic Party (DS), the party of Djindjic and Zivkovic, that maintains close links with Milosevic-era oligarchs.

G17 has seen its support rise due to the increasing accusations of government malfeasance, while the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), the party of former Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, has maintained its steady base of support by staying out of the political fray. The latest poll by SMMRI indicates the following support for the major parties: DSS, 18 %; DS 15%; G17 13%; SRS (Serbian Radical Party), 10%. Over two-thirds of the electorate is in favor of early parliamentary elections.

One of the few trump cards remaining in the Serbian government's hands is Kosovo. The plight of the Serb minority in the province may be the only issue that can unify the DS with the opposition and stave off early parliamentary elections.

The Serbian government has called an election to choose a Serbian president in November, but both the DSS and G17 have said that they will boycott the election. Two prior attempts to elect a Serbian president failed since the 50 percent voter turnout requirement was not achieved. Most observers agree that the November election will not bring the required turnout, either. Natasa Micic, the speaker of the Serb parliament, is acting president.

The developments in southern Serbia are worrying since the local Albanian population is becoming increasingly radicalized. The Serbian government's only option is to deal with the radical elements with a heavy hand without further alienating the local population, which is a difficult balancing act. The Albanian leaders in southern Serbia want to address the future of the region at the talks between Pristina and Belgrade in Vienna. They are hoping to have Presevo annexed by Kosovo in exchange for northern Mitrovica.

Relations between the media and the DOS governing coalition in Serbia have never been worse. Independent media believe that the government is trying to make the restrictions on the media that were imposed during the 42-day state of emergency permanent. Key media legislation has not yet been passed in Serbia.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have had trouble defining their role in society since the fall of Milosevic. They do not know whether to act as watchdogs or to assist the government. The key question for both NGOs and the media will be how to become self-sustaining when U.S. aid ends.

Valda Vikmanis Keller
Serbia and Montenegro Desk Officer, U.S. Department of State
"U.S. Policy toward Serbia and Montenegro"

Relations between the United States and Serbia and Montenegro are on a very positive trajectory, with the latter being key to a Europe at peace. In addition to the reforms implemented by Belgrade, including movement toward a market-based economy and a strong judiciary, Serbia and Montenegro's environment for foreign investment has improved as evidenced by the presence of U.S. Steel, Philip Morris, and Galaxy Tire and Wheel in the country.

There has also been progress in improving law enforcement, fighting trafficking in persons, and cooperating with the international war crimes tribunal. In September, the U.S. sent a legal advisor to Belgrade to help deal with issues concerning war crimes and human trafficking.

The greatest enhancement of relations between Washington and Belgrade has occurred through the military-to-military relationship, which has included significant reform of the military of Serbia and Montenegro, particularly since the appointment of Boris Tadic as Defense Minister of the country in March 2003. Under his leadership, the size of the military has decreased, officers from the Milosevic era have been dismissed, all members of the military have been asked to report the possible whereabouts of those indicted by the war crimes tribunal, and the special operations unit implicated in the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has been peacefully disbanded. The most significant achievement has been that civilian authority over the military has been imposed for the first time since World War II.

Belgrade wants to become a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) by the end of 2003. The conditions that must be met before it can join PfP include resolving the International Court of Justice lawsuit brought by Belgrade against NATO members for bombing Yugoslavia in 1999 and facilitating the capture of war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army during the war in Bosnia.

Serbia and Montenegro has established a war crimes court and has appointed a war crimes prosecutor in Belgrade, giving it the capacity to develop a domestic infrastructure for trying war crimes. Public discussions in the country on past abuses of government authority are also a significant step forward.

Bruce Jackson
Founder and president of the Project on Transitional Democracies
"Political Issues and Serbian-American Relations"

There are no obstacles in U.S.-Serbian relations. Serbia is an obstacle to itself. Belgrade should have been the first in the region to join NATO and the EU, but, instead, it is last in line for accession to both.

Serbia and Montenegro is one of the most isolated countries in Europe. It is not participating in the institutional development of Europe. The people of Serbia do not have a good understanding of their history over the past 150 years and tend to hold on to a "mythological past." In addition, they have a sense that stasis is positive.

Serbia's interactions with Europe are "defensive and argumentative," exhibiting "Ottoman marketing skills" and "World War II public relations." Domestic politics are being pursued to the exclusion of European or trans-Atlantic politics. Governance is weak, leading to the efforts of Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, to broker the new union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Corruption exists, as it does in all new democracies. The country needs a "Vaclav Havel" for the purpose of "moral education." Djindjic was moving in this direction before he was killed. It will take a "shock" in Serbia to advance the "moral revolution" that is required.

Featured Remarks by HRH Crown Prince Alexander
"The Imperative for Serbia to Normalize Relations with the West"

Serbia and Montenegro, which is a new emerging democracy recovering from the communist era, sanctions, and the "aggression of bombing," needs significant help in all sectors. For example, one-third of all the medical equipment in the country does not work and unemployment stands at 40 percent. The country needs to develop a market economy and gain knowledge on the art of lobbying.

Great strides have been made this year in the relationship between Washington and Belgrade. Serbia and Montenegro needs additional support from the U.S., including the promotion of strong economic ties. Washington should not make demands that will promote the isolation of Belgrade.

The poor economic circumstances of the country after the fall of Milosevic were worsened by the post-September 11 environment. The situation in the Middle East has also had an effect on the country's economy since the focus of non-governmental funds has shifted to Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. investors should be encouraged to look into opportunities in Serbia and Montenegro as have U.S. Steel, Philip Morris, and Galaxy Tire and Wheel. There are now two non-stop flights per week from the U.S. to Belgrade, which will facilitate business travel to Serbia and Montenegro.

Panel II: The Security Dimension
Moderator: Col. Stephen R. Norton (U.S. Army, Ret.)

Vuk Jeremic
Special Envoy for Euro-Atlantic Affairs, Ministry of Defense of Serbia and Montenegro
"Troublemaker to Troubleshooter: Reform of the Armed Forces of Serbia and Montenegro"

Military reform in Belgrade did not begin with the assumption of the Yugoslav presidency by Vojislav Kostunica on October 7, 2000. It was launched by Boris Tadic after he was appointed Serbia and Montenegro Defense Minister on March 17, 2003. A group of reform-minded civilians moved into the defense arena and began correcting the "dysfunctional" relationship between the military and civilian sectors.

Civilian control over the armed forces has been implemented by bringing the general staff and the security services under the Ministry of Defense and making them accountable to the civilian leadership. The work of the military sector has also been "demystified" by holding roundtables where domestic and international representatives discuss military issues, including new procurement rules and corruption.

The country's military has also opened channels of dialogue with the militaries of neighboring countries, which has helped re-establish trust between Serbia and Montenegro and its neighbors. In addition, 16 generals and more than 300 other officers who were representative of the Milosevic-era have been retired from active service because they did not exhibit an understanding of the military's reform goals. Support for this move came from within the army.

The security threats to Serbia and Montenegro no longer come from its neighbors. They stem from terrorism, trafficking, and cross-border crime. Belgrade is seeking membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) and is championing Bosnia's participation in the PfP. Belgrade's offer to send at least 1,000 troops to Afghanistan reflects its desire to join the international alliance against terrorism.

Dr. Roy Stafford
Professor of National Security Policy, National War College, Washington, D.C.
"American Interests and Policy in the Region"

The long-term solution for stability in the Balkan region is simple: European and trans-Atlantic integration. Achieving this goal is problematic. The issues facing Serbia and Montenegro are not the traditional military challenges. They are organized crime and terrorism based on ethnicity rather than religion.

The Balkan region, including Serbia and Montenegro, has historically not been of interest to the United States. The major engagement of the U.S. in the region resulted from the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. But, since the KFOR and SFOR peacekeeping forces were deployed in Kosovo and Bosnia, respectively, the changed security situation in the region has led to a reduction of U.S. forces in both peacekeeping operations.

The priority of the U.S. is now the war on terrorism. The Balkans are significant in this regard, but Washington's primary focus is on Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest of the world is, for the most part, on the back burner, though North Korea and Iran are being watched. China was the key foreign policy issue for the U.S. prior to September 11.

Candidate George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, during the campaign, stressed a desire to remove U.S. troops from the Balkans and turn over the responsibility for peacekeeping there to the European Union. The EU has offered to take over command of SFOR in Bosnia.

The United States is "agnostic" with respect to the issue of holding Serbia and Montenegro together, while the EU is working toward this goal. The U.S., however, is more inclined to support the idea of an independent Kosovo than the EU is. "Kosovars only trust the United States; they do not trust the EU."

John Zavales
Former desk officer for Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic for the Office of the Secretary of Defense
"Regional Security: Challenges and Opportunities"

Over the last few months, a crisis has been brewing in Kosovo due to a deteriorating situation that has included a spate of murders, including that of a U.N. policeman, continued bombings, the killing of witnesses to actions by KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) war crimes suspects, the desecration of churches, and the presence of numerous illegal weapons. In addition, there was an attempt to murder a Serb officer in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia.

UNMIK generally states that the violent acts taking place in the region are unconnected and have no ethnic dimension, but Serbs in Kosovo view the incidents as part of a concerted effort to create an ethnically-cleansed Kosovo and discourage the return of Serb refugees to the province. More hard-line elements in Kosovo are saying that there is "little negotiating space" and are sending a message to the Kosovar Albanian leadership that they cannot accept Serb sovereignty over Kosovo. They are playing a role that is analogous to that played by Hamas in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

International public opinion is admitting that the U.N. mission in Kosovo has not been as successful as was hoped. There is no free movement of minorities within the province, and the Kosovar Albanian leadership is not willing to improve the situation. The proponents of an independent Kosovo are beginning to feel that the goal they took for granted is more distant.

The threat of international terrorism could increase the visibility of the Balkans in the United States. There are armed elements in Macedonia and in the Presevo Valley who are working for a Greater Albania. Some analysts want to link al-Qaeda to these elements, but there is no compelling evidence that international Islamist fundamentalist goals resonate among them. Instead, their goals are irredentist, combined with activities associated with organized crime.

Serbia and, perhaps, Macedonia are trying to overplay the Islamist terrorist card. It is important that Serbia recognize that organized crime could create an environment for al-Qaeda to establish a presence there. It must demonstrate an understanding that the average Albanian is not linked with international terrorism.

Belgrade should expand security talks with the rest of the world. It shares some of the security challenges that India has with respect to Kashmir, and there are some parallels between the situation in Serbia and Kosovo and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The U.S. military presence in Kosovo should remain as long as possible since Kosovar Albanians trust the United States more than they trust the EU. They would be more amenable to a final status for Kosovo that involved "less than independence" if the U.S. military remained in the province.

Maj. Gen. William Nash (U.S. Army, Ret.)
Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations
"Military-To-Military Contacts"

NATO and its Partnership for Peace program constitute the central element of Washington's strategy for fostering democratic and economic stability in Serbia and Montenegro. Professional military education for the country's officers in the United States is also a key element of this strategy.

The U.S. should be more insistent on military-to-military contact with Belgrade. The possible dispatch of Serb forces to Afghanistan is a golden opportunity to improve this contact. If these troops go to Kandahar, it will be a difficult assignment, and the U.S. will need to help the soldiers prepare for the mission. This could include sending them to Germany for training in areas that include intelligence and liaison. If the Serb troops are to be deployed in Afghanistan next year, the training must begin now. In addition, the U.S. should open its military schools to the Serbia and Montenegro military. The country's officers have not attended these schools since the 1980s.

The U.S. also needs to help Serbia and Montenegro develop the capacity to exercise civilian control over the military by fostering management capabilities in this regard in the executive and legislative branches of the country. Training is needed to learn how to conduct civilian oversight of the military budget.

 
Event Documents: 
Back to top

Upcoming Events

Slovakia’s Road to Freedom and Democracy

November 14, 2014 // 12:00pm1:00pm

Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Emily R. Buss // Program Assistant

Wilson Center Photo Gallery

Browse or share photos from the Wilson Center’s events.

To Attend an Event

Unless otherwise noted:

Meetings listed on this page are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required unless otherwise noted. All meetings take place at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Please see map and directions. Allow time for routine security procedures. A photo ID is required for entry.

To confirm time and place, contact Maria-Stella Gatzoulis on the day of the event: tel. (202) 691-4188. Check this page for the latest updates and notices.