OpEd

Today's Serbia does not want distance, but justification of Milosevic's policy

Expectations from the year 2000 that Serbia would move away from the dark past of the Milosevic period have not only not been realized, but today's Serbia has gone backwards. And for this Belgrade is orchestrating a unity of the Serbs in the region in an attempt to relativize the crimes, historical revisionism and create the impression that only the Serbs were the victims and Serbia had not done anything to anyone. This "struggle for a better future" of Serbia is also exploiting the indifference of the international community

These days, Croatia marked the anniversary of the most important event in its history, that of the operation "Oluja" (Storm), with which in 1995 it liberated a large part of its territory, which had been occupied by Serbian forces. Although then and today, Belgrade claims that the conflict in Croatia was either a "civil war" or "Croatian repression against innocent Serb citizens", the fact is that the Serb military and police structures in Krajina were created, financed and led by Belgrade. . For this, a full sentence for war crimes was recently announced against Jovica Stanisic, the former head of Serbia's security. In this verdict, it was confirmed that Serbia had a role in the crimes committed by Serbian forces in Croatia as well.

Croatia proudly marks this date, remembers the heroes and those who gave their lives for the liberation of the homeland. But he is increasingly analyzing the circumstances that led to this operation and the consequences. A successful military operation in Croatia was tainted by those who committed crimes against Serbs after this operation, burning the houses of some, killing and persecuting some Serbs who had decided to stay in their homes. For this, Croatia suffered major consequences, including long political sanctions during which the West refused to meet Croatian political leaders, while Croatia's European journey was blocked. The most advanced in the European integration processes were Albania and North Macedonia.

Serbia and Serbs in the region mark this date differently. They want to present it as the darkest period in the history of the Serbs. They do not mention at all what had happened to others in the wars started by Serbia itself, how many victims there were of the crimes committed by the Serbian forces, including the destruction of Vukovar and Dubrovnik, the genocide in Srebrenica and the massacre of Albanians in Drenica. As if these had not happened at all. They even go so far as to claim that they are fictional. Such a behavior of today's Serbia proves that it is neither ready nor willing to face the past for the benefit of the future in peace and good neighborliness with its neighbors.

Expectations from the year 2000 that Serbia would move away from the dark past of the Milosevic period have not only not been realized, but today's Serbia has gone backwards. And for this, Belgrade is orchestrating a unity of the Serbs in the region in an attempt to relativize the crimes, historical revisionism and create the impression that only the Serbs were the victims and Serbia had not done anything to anyone. This "struggle for a better future" of Serbia is also exploiting the indifference of the international community.

In the fall of 2000, when the first joint summit of the countries of the region and those of the EU was held in Zagreb, where the European perspective was promised for these countries of the region, it was said that with the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic's policy, paves the way for a bright European future and leaves behind the dark past of the region.

But the situation in Serbia changed so much that today the "pro-European force" is considered to be the government headed by former associates of Slobodan Milosevic, starting with the current president, Aleksandar Vucic, the foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, and up to the chief of the intelligence service Aleksandar Vullin. They are joined by politicians representing Serbs from other countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro. In all these countries, Serbia claims that "violence and repression against Serbs is continuing". Any attack on any citizen of Serbian ethnicity is exaggerated, even when those attacks occur simply as incidents that do not have an inter-ethnic background. And when the question of Serbian crimes is raised, then the campaign of their denial or relativization begins.

Inclined to believe that the European future of the region must be built through reconciliation, which must have a dose of forgetting the crimes, even some Western politicians prefer not to talk too much about the past. Not only do they not mention the crimes of Milosevic's regime and the need for today's leaders of Serbia to distance themselves from them, but they are irritated when others, especially from Croatia and Kosovo, mention such a thing. It especially bothers some EU officials when Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and President Vjosa Osmani mention Serbia's crimes. Although they do not say it publicly, they think that such an approach "does not contribute to the creation of an atmosphere of reconciliation".

The approach to today's Serbian leadership is all the more incomprehensible when the EU structures themselves have compiled reports that prove that the current regime in Serbia relativizes war crimes, denies the genocide in Srebrenica, and glorifies convicted war criminals. It gives space to convicted criminals in the media, in the political scene and in state structures. The friendship that the president of Serbia, Vucic, continues to have with his former political mentor, Vojislav Sesel, proves that this is so. The party in power, that of Vučić, invites as guests of honor convicted for war crimes.

When the EU knows about Serbia's efforts to distort historical facts, denying or relativizing Serbian crimes, it seems like hypocrisy when it calls for such a thing not to happen. There have been no consequences for those who deny the crimes and genocide. The EU and the United States also continue to treat them as important partners, even as responsible and constructive politicians. They ignore the fact that such politicians in Serbia have created the atmosphere in which opinion is very pro-Russia and anti-West.

It would be good for the whole region, and for the EU, if Serbia was really oriented by the EU, which would condemn Slobodan Milosevic's policy and work for reconciliation with the neighbors, respecting the victims of crimes. But a Serbia where Milosevic's policy continues to be justified cannot be a catalyst for the creation of peace, stability, tolerance and good neighborliness in the region.