Update No: 114 - (28/11/06)
Djindjic widow enters politics, tops ballot list
The widow of Serbia's slain Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic confirmed on
November 16th that she has officially entered politics, topping her late
husband's Democratic Party ticket for the Jan. 21 parliamentary elections in
Serbia. "For me, this is my contribution to efforts to bring about
democratic change in Serbia," Ruzica Djindjic said. "I want the
Democrats to finish the job my husband started."
Djindjic's assassination in March 2004 remains an open wound for Serbia, still
struggling to build democracy and continue reforms he launched as the Balkan
republic's first democratic head of government since World War II.
Ms Djindjic's name is first on the list of candidates the Democratic Party is
fielding for the race for the 250-seat assembly in the upcoming vote, Democratic
Party deputy chief Zoran Sutanovac said. The high placement on the ticket
practically guarantees Djindjic a seat in parliament.
Speaking to reporters in downtown Belgrade, where the Democrats marked the
International Day for Tolerance, an annual Nov. 16 observance declared by the
United Nations, Djindjic said the upcoming elections in Serbia are
The elections are a chance to secure a win for "the kind of democratic
policies" her husband advocated before he was gunned down outside the
government headquarters in the Serbian capital in March 2003, she said.
Djindjic refused to speculate on who would be the Democrats' candidate for the
post of prime minister, saying she did not see herself in that role but would
"be ready" to take it if her party asked it of her. A female premier
would "certainly enforce the position of women in Serbia," Djindjic
Ruzica Djindjic is a close friend and staunch supporter of Serbia's pro-Western
President Boris Tadic, her husband's successor at the helm of the Democratic
The Democrats are one of the largest parties in Serbia, but are not in the
government of conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. The January
elections are expected to pit Serbia's increasingly popular ultranationalist
Radicals and their hardline allies against a range of moderates and democrats,
including Tadic's and Kostunica's group.
Serbia's early parliamentary elections became necessary after the republic
adopted a new constitution this month and after Montenegro, Serbia's last
partner from the former Yugoslavia, declared independence in June. The elections
could also spell the end to Kostunica's minority government which has been
falling apart amid resignations on Serbia's increasingly polarized political
NATO has bad news for Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia
Three Balkan countries that were hoping to take their first step toward
membership in NATO at a summit meeting this month were disappointed. There was
no invitation to Serbia, Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the
26-nation alliance's Partnership for Peace at the Nov. 28 and 29 meeting in
Riga, Latvia, because of concerns about war crimes and timing issues related to
Serbia's future, the diplomats said.
The main obstacle is reluctance by Britain, France, the Netherlands and the
United States to reward Belgrade or Sarajevo while two fugitives indicted for
major war crimes Bosnian war of the 1990s are at large.
Serbian elections in January and a looming decision on the future status of the
breakaway province of Kosovo are also factors, although Serbia's supporters
contend that those are reasons to take Belgrade into NATO's embrace now rather
later. NATO, like the European Union, has made closer ties with the former
Yugoslav republics conditional on their cooperation with the United Nations war
crimes tribunal in The Hague. The chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte,
is pressing both organizations to stand firm until Serbia hands over the former
Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and until the former Bosnian Serb
political leader Radovan Karadzic is captured.
Del Ponte has given Montenegro, which broke from Serbia after a referendum this
year, a clean bill of health. But some NATO diplomats argue that Serbia's sense
of isolation and victimization would be compounded if the alliance moved forward
with Montenegro alone.
NATO recently opened its first military mission in Belgrade, seven years after
it bombed the city to drive Serbian forces out of Kosovo and end Belgrade's
assault on the ethnic-Albanian majority.
Neighbours like Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia argue that giving
Partnership for Peace status to Serbia and Bosnia would bolster military reform,
improve security and help to fight organized crime, terrorism and arms smuggling
throughout the Balkans. "We don't want any security black hole in
southeastern Europe," a senior diplomat from one of those countries said.
Partnership for Peace membership gives access to a wide menu of cooperation,
including joint training, military exercises and political consultations.
Opponents of an invitation to the three Balkan nations at Riga said the
credibility of the Hague war crimes tribunal was at stake. Others added that
NATO could look foolish if hard-line nationalists won the Serbian elections or
Kosovo descended into violence.
The Kosovo conundrum
With the world focused on Iraq and other matters, Kosovo has fallen off the
reckoning. That inattention will end soon; a decision about the province's fate
is looming. The United States and its European friends have repeatedly stated
their intention to make the difficult decision before the end of the year on
whether to separate Kosovo from Serbia. This decision - crucial to the future of
an unstable region - will test Western determination.
Kosovo is inhabited 90% by Albanians, who are 77% Moslem and have little in
common with the Serbs, loyal to The Serb Orthodox Church. The whiff of jihad is
in the air, although the support of the West in the War in 1999 and subsequently
has restrained its emergence.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians have proclaimed that they will not accept any tie to
Serbia, no matter how tenuous. Throughout the 1990's, they virtually opted out
of Serbian-run Kosovo by creating parallel institutions. Their forced mass
exodus in 1999 and Nato's subsequent intervention, which ended Serbia's rule and
established a quasi-state under UN administration, has made anything other than
Negotiations this year in Vienna, brokered by the UN, showed that an agreed
settlement between Serbia and Kosovo on its 'final status' will not happen.
Talks continue but, as UN negotiator and former Finnish president Martti
Ahtisaari diplomatically told the Security Council, they are effectively dead.
No Serbian leader will agree to Kosovo's independence, because nationalism
remains the dominant political force in the country. Indeed, Prime Minister
Kostunica, the apostle of Serbian nationalism, has been trying in every way to
undermine Kosovo's interim government. The main purpose of his new constitution
is its preamble, which enshrines Kosovo as an inalienable part of Serbia.
Sometime over the next month or two, the Balkan Contact Group - the US, UK,
France, Germany, Italy, and Russia - will consider Ahtisaari's recommendations
on Kosovo's final status and possibly propose a solution to the Security
Council, which must make the final decision. In public, all Contact Group
members have tried to leave the question of Kosovo's final status open, but
informally the US and some of its allies have told the two parties that they
will propose independence this year.
Some members of the Security Council - particularly Russia and China - are
opposed to or sceptical of an imposed settlement, and few governments favour
dividing up another country's territory, however compelling the circumstances.
Whether the Security Council will approve independence largely depends on
averting a Russian veto, which will require considerable diplomatic effort.
The nature of the independence bestowed is also important. An independent Kosovo
must be secured and its minorities protected. Northern Kosovo, now largely under
Belgrade's control, must not be partitioned off in all but name. In the interest
of reducing the blow to Serbia, the Security Council must avoid granting
independence in ways that are so contorted that the new state cannot effectively
If the Security Council fails to reach a decision on final status, it will
produce a grave situation: Kosovo would declare independence unilaterally, and
all nations would have to make up their mind whether or not to recognise the new
state. If that happens, it is likely that the Serbs of North Kosovo would
declare their own independence. At a minimum, Serbia would campaign strongly
In fact, Serbia's government is already trying to persuade the West to postpone
a decision until mid-2007. It claims that if Kosovo is granted independence, the
ultranationalist Radical party will come to power in the next elections, and
believes that holding elections as early as this year will cause the contact
group to delay a proposal to the security council. News From Albania is that the
UN's special envoy for Kosovo says that he will not submit his report on Kosovo
until after Serbia's election in January. Moreover, the government has
encouraged the leaders of Bosnia's Republika Srpska to threaten to hold their
own referendum on separation from a still fragile Bosnia. And they continue to
push - unsuccessfully - for Ahtisaari's removal in order to prolong the Vienna
The timing of the constitutional referendum appears to be a part of this
delaying strategy. Some hope that postponement will stimulate violence in Kosovo
and further encourage western reconsideration of independence.
That tactic may be working. Many EU countries are worried about the implications
of taking away a country's territory, as well as the impact of Kosovo's
independence on Serbian democracy. Given Serbia's political instability, they
question the harm of a short-term postponement - albeit mostly self-inflicted.
But delay only offers more room for Kostunica to find ways to make a security
council decision more difficult.
The West must ignore Belgrade's siren song. Serbian politics will be chaotic and
unstable for the foreseeable future, and Serbian politicians will attempt to
present this as an excuse to avoid facing the loss of Kosovo. Likewise, there
will be problems establishing ties between Serbia and Kosovo under any
But failure to proceed definitively now on Kosovo's final status will produce a
worse Balkan situation, one that blocks Serbia's move toward the West and
ultimate membership in the EU, condemns Kosovo's ethnic minorities to dangerous
ambiguity, and imperils fragile states like Bosnia and Macedonia.
No realistic solution exists for Kosovo but independence. If Serbia wants to
join the West, it must not forsake that opportunity by trapping itself in its