Did Serbia Sacrifice Mladic for EU Membership?
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, June 6, 2011
A few years back I visited Serbia. As a Muslim, I was
naturally feeling a bit apprehensive as my expectation is coloured by
the media reports of war and genocide - and I remembered the terrible
Serbs who slaughtered the defenceless Bosnians Muslims in the 90s. Once
I arrived there, to my surprise, they were fully aware of my religious
needs and tried their best to accommodate me. Almost everyone I met was
helpful and polite. I had similar experience in the subsequent visits to
Serbia, and it makes me wonder how this nation produced monsters like
General Ratko Mladic; a former Bosnian Serb commander, indicted by the
Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal in 1995, for murdering 8,300 Bosnian men
and boys, after the fall of Srebrenica.
needless massacre of Bosnian Muslims is a fact; the graveyards are still
there, with the grieving relatives to testify. I remember the clip shown
on the BBC, the Bosnian Muslim men being off loaded from the truck, and
then shot in the back like animals. It is difficult to imagine that the
ordinary Serbian masses would condone such barbaric acts; and if there
is a contrast between the ordinary Serbian masses and the small number
of criminals like Mladic, then it proves the point that a few men can
tarnish an entire nation, just like a few drops of urine can spoil a
glass of milk!
The Serbs as a nation are still unrepentant, one
poll shows 40% regard him as a hero, and 51% are against the
extradition; perhaps itís their sense of nationalism and patriotism,
combined with a defensive mood after the NATO bombings that prevent them
from acknowledging these war crimes. Even individuals who admit the
guilt in their hearts are reluctant, to condemn the war crimes and
genocide as they would be seen as traitors; it does take a lot of
courage to go against popular opinion and express the truth.
So, was it mere luck that Ratko Mladic was found and arrested? For sure,
it was not because the Serbian government feels the need to atone for
their past sins, otherwise they would have made the effort to find and
arrest monsters like Mladic and Karadzic 15 years ago, and compensate
the Bosnian victims.
Serbia needs to cooperate with the war
crimes prosecutors to start negotiation for gaining entry to the
lucrative EU club. The recent arrest prevented the outright rejection of
Serbiaís bid for EU membership, as the chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav
war-crimes tribunal at The Hague, revised his earlier view presented at
the UN. Hence, the real motive for arresting Ratko Mladic lies in
gaining membership of the EU, for the same reason the Serbian regime
also arrested Radovan Karadzic in 2008.
Handing over war
criminals is one of the hurdles Serbia needs to cross. The other hurdles
will be further internal reforms so that it matches the democratic
standards set by the EU, and reign in the nationalists in order to
normalise the relationship with the former province of Kosovo. With the
arrest of the major war criminals almost coming to an end, the EU will
start to consider Serbia as a candidate and start negotiation.
In addition, there is demand from within; one cannot fail to observe the
gap between the young generation on the streets of Belgrade, Novi Sad,
and Nis, who want to be part of the Europe Union, and the status-quo
that reminds you of a country still living in the old communist block of
the 70s. The youths want to transform their nation to resemble the
wealthy nations of Western Europe.
The pressure to join the EU
also arises from Serbiaís neighbours making progress and gaining entry,
which will give them greater opportunity to make economic progress
through movement of trade and labour. Nobody wants to remain poor and
isolated, whilst the neighbours are getting richer. Slovenia is the only
former province of Yugoslavia that has gained membership of the EU since
2004, and Croatia looks to be next, expected to join in 2013. Both of
these nations are culturally closer to Western Europe. In fact, the
Croatians see themselves as the demarcation line between Western Europe
and the outside world. Montenegro is also a candidate.
Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro succeed in joining, it will also exert
pressure on Muslim dominated Bosnia, Albania, and Turkey for membership.
One can only speculate what its impact will be, adding a substantial
amount of Muslim population into the EU which was originally seen as a
fortress for Christian Europe. Will it lead to integration and create
harmony in a cultural melting pot, or will it result in the rise of
xenophobia, hate and conflict? Ideas and values may flow both ways -
these new Muslims of the EU may enhance the case for democracy to the
Arab and Islamic world, which is already feeling the pressure for reform
from the recent Arab spring, and concurrently many more Europeans may
embrace Islam through direct interaction, which would dissolve the
Islamic-demons created by the hostile mass media. Another remote
possibility is the creation of a new Islamic block, where Bosnia,
Albania and Turkey merge with the new progressive Middle East that may
arise from the Arab spring.
Yamin Zakaria (firstname.lastname@example.org)