Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Serbia, EU sign SAA in Luxembourg

LUXEMBOURG -- The European Union has today in Luxembourg signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia.

The document was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Božidar Đelić, DS, on behalf of Serbia, EU's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and EU chair Slovenia's Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The signing was attended by President Boris Tadić, DS, and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić, DS.

The ceremony was also attended by EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the foreign ministers from the 27 member states.

Previously, they agreed to allow Serbia to sign the agreement, initialed last November.

The document was today signed in the form in which it was initialed, but its implementation will depend on the Council of Minister's appraisal of whether Serbia has achieved full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

The Council today welcomed the singing of the SAA and the Temporary Agreement in conclusions issued for the press.

"In line with this, the ministers have agreed to send the text of the SAA for ratification to their parliaments, while the Union has decided to implement the Temporary Agreement as soon as it concludes that Serbia is fully cooperating with the Hague Tribunal," the announcement said.

However, Jeremić told B92 earlier that the agreement would come into force immediately, while the actual implementation "will depend on the outcome of the May 11 elections in Serbia".

But Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Bart Rijs confirmed for Tanjug that the deal will not be implemented automatically.

"We will sign the SAA and the adjoining agreement, but the Council has just reached a decision that the documents would not be automatically put in effect," he said.

The agreement's ratification and implementation will begin only once the Council has decided that Serbia has realized a full cooperation with the Hague, the Dutch spokesman added.

Dimitrij Rupel told reporters earlier in the day that the implementation of the temporary accompanying document – which was signed together with the SAA and which makes it possible for Serbia to use almost 90 percent of the benefits the SAA offers even before all the EU member countries ratify the document – depends on the Council's assessments of the fulfillment of Serbia's cooperation with the Hague

Also earlier in the day, spokeswoman Javier Solana, Cristina Gallach, told the state television RTS that "Serbia's citizens should know that the European Union wants close relations with Serbia".

According to Gallach, "this is an important message that should be sent out now", because the issue of the European Union is "so strongly present in the pre-election process".

Back in Belgrade, a bitter row is developing over the signing today – the details are in a separate article.

Even though the outgoing government initialed the agreement last November and gave authority to Đelić to sign the agreement, ministers of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and New Serbia (NS), led by DSS leader and Prime Minster Vojislav Koštunica, are strongly opposed to the signing, saying it effectively recognizes the Kosovo Albanians' unilateral declaration independence.

Solana: Important day

"Today is an important day for Serbia and for the European Union," Javier Solana said, according to a statement from his office this Tuesday.

"The signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia is a powerful signal to the people of Serbia that their future lies in Europe. The people of Serbia will share the security, prosperity and freedom of movement that is already enjoyed today by the citizens of the European Union."

"Achieving this objective will take hard work and tough decisions, and it will take some time. However, the signing of the SAA is an important milestone on the way, bringing you significantly closer to that goal. Now it is fundamental that Serbia remains on track and firmly committed to the values which underlie the European project," Solana said.

"Today is also an important day for the European Union. Serbia is an enormously important partner. It has great economic, cultural and intellectual potential and this can make it a powerful motor for the progress of the entire region. Cooperation and genuine partnership between Brussels and Belgrade, including on the difficult issues, is vital for the success of our joint efforts to promote stability and prosperity," he continued.

"The European Union will not be complete until the countries of the region have joined the family. Today, we have taken an important step towards this objective," Solana believes.


And Reaction from the DSS to the Signing --"Judas Tadic"

BELGRADE -- The caretaker government is deeply divided in its reactions to the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).

While the ministers from the Democratic Party (DS), along with party leader and Serbian President Boris Tadić were preparing to sign the document, Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) used strong words to condemn the move.

While Tadić insists the deal will not jeopardize Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and is in essence a trade agreement, Koštunica says the signing will be tantamount to Belgrade's recognition of Kosovo's secession.

He today reacted to the news by saying that "Tadić, with his signature to Solana's agreement, will not bring shame on Serbia, but only on himself", and added that the new cabinet and parliament will swiftly annul the deal signed today in Luxembourg.

According to Koštunica, the signature is "an anti-constitutional and anti-state act, and therefore illegal and utterly illegitimate".

"We are saying to NATO and all the EU state that have recognized Kosovo: this illegal signature by Tadić should not be interpreted as Serbia's signature for Kosovo's independence," the prime minister said in a statement for Tanjug.

Earlier, DSS spokesman Andreja Mladenović said in a statement sent to Tanjug that regardless of Tadić's plans to sign what he referred to as the Solana Agreement, Serbia will never accept this signature, and that the new parliament and government set to be elected in under two weeks' time, will annul it.

"We are sending a message to Boris Tadić that his signature is not the signature of Serbia. He is in fact putting a seal of Judas of his party coalition to the Solana Agreement," Mladenović said.

Yesterday, he told B92 that should the Democrats decide to sign the SAA with the EU, Tadić will face procedure to determine whether he violated the Serbian constitution.

Kosovo has no price, while the EU, by sending its mission there, is indirectly trying to create a new state on Serbian territory, he said.

"Did the EU ask Serbia to recognize Kosovo's independence? No, it did not. But if the Slovenian foreign minister, who presides over the Council of Ministers, and the future chairman Mr. Kouchner says so in a letter, if Mr. Rehn, who is in charge of enlargement, says Serbia will have to develop good neighborly relations with Kosovo, what does that mean?"

"We must react now, two years down the line will be too late – it will be a state, they will create a state down there," Mladenović said.

His party colleague and education minister, Zoran Lončar, also reacted today by saying that Tadić "could be brought to answer" for the anti-constitutional signing of the deal.

"Tadić can sign whatever he likes with Solana, but that signature will bind only Tadić, Čanak and G17. We reject with contempt this seal of Judas Tadić has placed on Solana's paper. Solana will not rule Serbia, nor will NATO and their boys Tadić, Čanak and Dinkić," Lončar said.

Strongly worded criticism was also heard from the largest opposition party, the Serb Radicals (SRS).

Deputy president Dragan Todorović said today that Tadić will be called to face charges of violating Serbia's constitution if he signs the SAA with the EU.

"The new parliament, once it convenes after May 11, will initiate proceedings for Tadić's recall, because he violated the constitution and betrayed Serbia,” Todorović said in an interview with Tanjug.

He compared the signing of the SAA with that of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia's failed Axis Pact, signed ahead of the Second World War:

“This will not be the first time that such an agreement is made. A similar agreement was signed on March 27, 1941, and the people had their say afterwards,” Todorović said.

But Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić, DS, sees things differently. He said today the signing of the SAA represents a historical act and a diplomatic victory, pointing out at the same time that the document's implementation is closely linked to the forthcoming Serbian elections.

"The EU has reached a decision on signing, and the people of Serbia will decide in the May 11 elections whether they want the SAA to be fully implemented," he was quoted as saying in Luxembourg.

"After a long night and negotiations, we have made a diplomatic breakthrough," Jeremić said, and added, "I am very pleased with the fact that the SAA will be signed."

"From today on, the path towards Serbia's full EU integration is irreversible," the minister added.

When asked whether he found the agreement void since it would not be possible to implement it until full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal has been achieved, Jeremić answered that he did not.

"The implementation of the SAA is closely linked to the May 11 elections," he said.

In case that Serbia gets a pro-European government, we will very soon be in a position to fully realize our cooperation with the Hague Tribunal," Jeremić concluded.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Čedomir Jovanović said that the offer for signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union is "great news".

“I am glad that the readiness of Europe to help has been confirmed and the understanding it has for our people, even if they do not have such understanding for politicians in Serbia,” he said during a trip to Sarajevo.

“We will do everything we can to help the president and protect him from pressures which he will face for protecting the interests and the future of our society. We have all done so much in order for something like this to happen that I think no one has the right to take responsibility,” Jovanović was quoted as saying.

"We have said this before, let Đelić sign this agreement every day, and we will be happy."

“This makes Serbia a normal country, and our future better than our past. Every step closer to Europe is a step further from the problems which are destroying the lives of millions of people. The policies of Koštunica and the Radicals are policies of parties that are destroying their country, and they are policies which we cannot have an understanding for, and which we cannot compromise with,” Jovanović said.


8 comments:

Antal Dániel said...

Association and later the accession process helped a lot all over Central Europe to change the economy from planned and state controlled to a prospering market economy and to form a more or less sustainable democracy. I think in the long run this transition is more important for the people of Serbia than the current debates.

SerbBlog.com said...

The difference, Antal, is that other countries that joined the EU, did so voluntarily --they didn't have a gun to their head and weren't in the process of being dismembered at the time.

If the EU had any goodwill toward Serbia, why didn't the make the offer to join BEFORE ripping off Kosovo and then have many of their members recognize it's "independence"? I am American, but if I put myself in Serbi'a shoes, I wouldn't listen to anything that came out of Solana's mouth or out of any EU countries that recognized Kosovo.

I have spent a lot of time in Western & Central Europe over the years (although ironically have never set foot in Serbia). I've always loved Europe for it's beauty, culture, traditions & people -- much like one enjoys a fine French meal that is made with a precisely planned aesthetic to appeal to every sense.

But most recently -- and I hate to say this -- my experience is that the EU seems to have turned that "perfect meal" into a bad stew. It's like by trading in real politicians and diplomats from your countries for Eurocrats, you've traded in "fine chefs" for "cooks" at McDonald's. Instead of the "real feel of Europe", I now feel like I am in some bad Disneyland of cultures.

OK, I am only a visitor to Europe and your lives were not designed to please me. But I will say, that no one I talked to in Italy or Greece seems happy -- or even sad, anymore. They just seemed miserably resigned to being cogs in a machine that is chewing them up and there's nothing they can do about it.

And, truth be told, here in the US, it is not much different. It's as though we all know that something is very wrong -- or everything is very wrong -- and we can't put our finger on the root of it to stop it. But we know that this ache it is a longing for freedom and a need to make sense of the senseless propaganda that we are being fed.

So if Serbia unwilling to surrender to our collective "disease" -- and is fighting your particular EU strain of it --then I say more power to them! They have always been a proud and independent lot, why force them to turn into what they are not?

Antal Dániel said...

I have just visited Serbia a few weeks ago. Of course I am a stranger there, but seeing Belgrade, some of the country-side, talking to people I had a sense that this country belongs to Central Europe. I just cannot imagine why would Serbia exclude itself out? I come from a country that had its traumas in the 20th century but I tell you the EU membership did a lot good to us.

I just can't believe that it will do good for the Serbian people if they will be the only Europeans who need a passport or even a visa to visit an event in Serbia, who are denied to work, study and retire in an part of the EU, and who cannot participate in European decision-making.

I do think that the European offer is sincere and honest. The problem is that many people in Serbia are pre-occupied with Kosovo and last decades wars, while the rest of your is talking about the future.

SerbBlog.com said...

As I said before, Antal, I am an American, so it is not my choice to make. But, I think that all the Europeans have truly underestimate what Kosovo means to Serbia and to Serbs the world over. This is not Croatia or Bosnia, this is Kosovo -- Serbia's heart.

Ultimately, this EU business is their choice to make and not ours. But because I see both sides of the argument--and the price to them whatever they chose--I understand and will respect their decision.

Antal Dániel said...

It looks that Americans have a big say in the Balkans. Anyway, I think things are going into a very bad way, I think Kosovo will be like Cyprus in the past three decades. I think that will hurt the Serbian minority most.

SerbBlog.com said...

The Bush Administration has "a lot of say in the Balkans" but Bush isn't listening to America or Americans. He's a lame duck president who no longer cares what Americans want. Bush's voter disapproval ratings are over 70%. We have to put up with him for another 8 months, and unfortunately all three of the supposed "presidential choices" we have for voting in November are as bad or worse than Bush is re the Balkans.

You sound like you think that Serbs have some choice in "resolving Kosovo", they really don't. I don't know of one country on the face of this planet which would allow 15% of its territory to be ripped away and just say, "OK. That's done. Next. Join the EU? (Who bombed them, helped rip away that territory & much of whose member countries recognize "Kosovo independence") Sure! We are in! More demands? Just let us know how much more you want us to humiliate ourselves and we'll do it!" I am sorry, but that's crazy, Antal, independent of the consequences.

You probably won't like my opinion on this because it will sound "nationalistic" to you. But I see Cyprus and Kosovo problems as being the result of the International Community trying to throw Christians and Western civilization under a bus to please the Islamic world.

Cyprus was Greek, period, until Turkey invaded and occupied their land. The UN froze the conflict and complicated the situation because now you have a generation of Turks who were born into this frozen limbo and who can be called "Cypriots".

Kosovo is much the same. There is no such thing as "a Kosovar", those calling themselves that are Albanians, period. They speak Albanian, they carry the Albanian flag (the new flag is a joke) and they look to Albania for guidance Yes, they have been there, in smaller numbers, for a long time. But communism -- and now the International community -- have turned them into "THE people of Kosovo" AKA "Kosovars". And they aren't done yet, Macedonia, Northern Greece and Southern Montenegro are next.

What you are witnessing is a new form of "warfare". Want to invade an adjacent country & take its territory, here's how: 1. Get in any way you can, jump the border legally or illegally, doesn't matter.2. Have as many children as possible even if you can't afford to feed them. Just breed like rabbits until you can't breed anymore. 3. Get on the public assistance and get as much money as you can from the government, until you nearly bankrupt the government of that country. (Communism and socialism are your political friends in this endeavor.) 4. When you have sufficient numbers, start making trouble -- trouble for the locals who aren't of your tribe, trouble for the government as the locals demand assistance in managing you. Start driving out the indigenous population. As you start becoming a majority, demand autonomy & start plotting your "independence". Hire Washington lobbyists to make your case and find champions in the internatioanl community. 5. Get the international community involved and show how you are being "persecuted". Demoize your opponents with wild claims. Provoke government attacks on yourselves by shooting police men and killing more if the indigenous population. Show the internationals what's in it for them if you get what you want. Demand independence & get it!

This, Antal, is a diagram for new wars -- no more just crossing the border with arms. Send "civilians" instead, because any attempts by the government of that country to fight back will appear one-sided and "genocidal".

Seems to me that all our politicians, if they want to prevent senseless wars and death, better figure out how to address this new form of warfare before we start seeing wars of real genocide. Because once these demographic wars are started, demographical warfare can result in no other response but these: 1. Surrender of territory by a country's government 2. Or, real genocide and ethnic cleansing. Not because anyone wishes it so, but because those are the only choices.

Antal Dániel said...

I don't know of one country on the face of this planet which would allow 15% of its territory to be ripped away and just say, OK. That's done.

Compared with the former Kingdom of Hungary, the population of post-Trianon Hungary was reduced from 20.8 million to 7 million and its land area decreased by 72%. After 75 years can freely travel, work, learn, vote within Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania within the EU. It is a remarkable experience.

SerbBlog.com said...

Antal,

You are discussing losing "an Empire" after a war that Hungary lost. There is a difference. The majority of what Hungary lost post-WWI was what it had conquered or stolen, it was not Hungary proper -- and certainly not Hungary's birthplace.

And you lost it to other Christian countries, not to Islam and not to a minority who you let in and who then overwhelmed you & took your land.

The situations are non-comparable, regardless of whether or not Serbia chooses the EU or not.