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LOOKING AHEAD
05.06.2008

May 29, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Sobko

A NEW "BELGRADE SPRING" IS AFOOT?

The Eurovision show in Belgrade does not help Boris Tadic to consolidate his political success

In summer 2007, Serbian singer Maria Serifovic won the annual Eurovision prize in Helsinki, and Serbia thus acquired the right to host the same musical competition in 2008. Traditionally, the result of this contest is determined not only with the vocal talent but also with political considerations, though officially, the winner of the prize is supposed to have got the highest number of SMS letters. In any case, Maria's success was popularly viewed as an invitation for Serbia to the common European home.

At that time, the obvious political bias of Eurovision’s jury was unnoticed by Western media. But in this year, prominent British TV host, Sir Terry Wogan, who had been covering the Eurovision contest for BBC for almost 30 years, complained of manipulated injustice. Disappointed both with the poor performance of the British singer Andy Abraham and the triumphal success of Russia's Dmitry Bilan, Terry cracked upon the jury, declaring that the outcome of the Belgrade competition was seriously influenced by the "Balkan, Soviet and Scandinavian lobbyists". The renowned commentator, regarded as "BBCs genial stalwart", is going to quit his Eurovision role. The fury of Sir Terry is perfectly understandable: the very fact that the opinion of Baltic TV audience, even in the sphere of pop music, could be determined by Russia, is perceived as unacceptable.

For Serbia, the Eurovision show is more than a musical competition. In 2006, the same event contributed to destabilization of then agonizing Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, as each of the two parts of the federal state was promoting a band of its own. In 2007, the popular attention to the show superseded a dramatic political shift that actually determined the further agony of the country, including the secession of Kosovo. Right at the time when the fans were busy making their choice, Tomislav Nikolic, chair of Serbian Radical Party, voluntarily abandoned the post of Speaker of the Parliament (Skupscina). This happened after the radicals failed to strike a deal with Vojislav Kostunica and the Serbian Democratic Party (DPS). A day later, Kostunica agreed to team up with the Democratic Party (DP), chaired by Boris Tadic.

Today, Boris Tadic is steering Serbia to the declared paradise of EU membership. However, Belgrade's smooth travel to the unified Europe stumbles against unpredicted occasions. First, the lovely picture of the Balkan democratic transformation was smeared by Carla del Ponte, former chair of the Hague Tribunal, who attracted attention to herself in a rather unusual way, disclosing unpleasant truth not only about Albanian brutalities in Kosovo but also about the "protection" Kosovars enjoyed from the UN mission.

Secondly, the musical symbol of European integration appeared to be double-bottomed. Maria Serifovic, the winner of last years competition consequently selected by the EU as one of the fifteen European "cultural ambassadors", indiscreetly expressed her sympathy not towards the pro-European DP but to Tomislav Nikolic's Radical Party!

The interpretation of Tadic's 38% result as Serbia's "resolute choice of the European way" looks today even more biased than before. A year ago, the same European media blacked out Nikolic's election success, instead hyping the marginal advantage the so-called democratic coalition of Tadic and Kostunica.

However, Kostunicas choice of 2007 played a bad joke with his party: in the 2008 elections, its popularity plummeted, and the coalition of SRP and DPS cannot gain a majority in the Skupscina. To reach this goal, they have to ally with the minor Socialist Party of Serbia – the succession of the once powerful party once headed by Slobodan Milosevic. Meanwhile, Tadic is also interested in a deal with SPS. Thus, the "golden share" of the voted, owned last year by Kostunica, today belongs to SPS.

Last week, SRP and DPS announced that the deal with SPS is already signed. However, Boris Tadic is still trying to pull the socialists back into his camp, despite ambiguity of the situation. Serbian daily Politika echoes The Independent, which writes that "Milosevic must be smirking in his grave". Using the same allegory, one could suggest as well that Milosevic is rolling in his grave at the news that his successors have agreed to cooperate with the very political force that had given him away to The Hague.

Tadic and his foreign backers are now frantically trying to prevent the ascent of nationalist forces in Belgrade. Not surprisingly, Otpor, the youth movement that was once designed as an agency of a "colored revolution" in Serbia and assisted to Milosevic's arrest, was recently revived.

Tadic and his allies actually confess in public that the political situation is likely to develop in a similar way. "In case the Democratic Party fails to form a Government, it will organize massive street protests", said Bozidar Djelic, Tadic's protege for the Prime Minister's post, in Kiev.

Making this declaration in the city of the "orange revolution", Tadic's associate is obviously delivering a strong intimidating message to the Radical party. In fact, Djelic hints at the probability of reproduction of the "Belgrade spring" of 1998, when the artificial Otpor, trained by US intelligence veterans and sponsored through the "non-governmental" agency of Freedom House, initiated the process that resulted in a coup d'etat and later to the second stage of Yugoslavia's disintegration.

In the same way as during the "Belgrade spring", political pressure on the Serbian population is imposed through mass media and street propaganda. During the election campaign, major liberal papers warned the Serbs that SRP's success would result in political isolation of the country. Already after the campaign was over, thousands of posters, distributed in Belgrade, denounced or ridiculed the probable alliance of SRP, DPS, and SPS. The propagandist machine of the Belgrade spring demonstrates its readiness to reproduce a similar political paralysis in case Tadic's party fails to gain the desired majority.

The economic background of this effort is reflected in the April decision of the Serbian Government to sign an agreement on partnership in the Constanca-Triest oil pipeline, which had been designed, from the beginning, as an alternative to the Russia-sponsored Burgas-Alexandrupolis link.

Meanwhile, Serbia's participation in Gazprom's South Stream gas transport project is still sabotaged. Thus, the agreement on mutual intentions on the pipeline, signed in Moscow months before, on the eve of the presidential vote in Serbia, appears to have been nothing but a tactical trick used by Tadic in order to achieve support from the pro-Russian part of the electorate.

The economic advantages from South Stream are much higher than the perspective of an economic disorder resulting from the massive unrest being in preparation. A new version of a "colored revolution" is unlikely to solve the mounting economic and social problems of the country. For the European Union that is far less obedient to Euroatlantic strategies than a decade before, a new political destabilization in Belgrade would rather serve as a pretext for postponing Serbia's integration in the EU for an indefinitely long period.

By today, Tadic's political line, pushed under the motto of Serbia's integration in Europe, has brought nothing but increasing political instability, social polarization, and loss of confidence in the country's future. Not surprisingly, the Eurovision contest, supposed to distract the attention of Serbs from the real problems of the nation, has not brought great joy. Politika daily sadly jokes that the worst possible implication of the Eurovision show for the Serbs might be one more victory, after which "everything may be repeated again". This hint does not sound optimistic.


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