Serbia Blind to Croat Long-Term GoalsJan 21st, 2013 | By De-Construct.net | In Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Interview, Kosovo-Metohija Crisis
Serbian historian Vasilije Krestić talks about relations between Serbs and Croats, Kosovo and Metohija province, EU, Vojvodina, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU), politicians… “Croatian goal is a large, ethnically clean, Roman Catholic Croatia. We have tied our ship to EU, which is taking Kosovo province away from us”, Krestić said.
“Croatia’s political goals for the last 150 years are: Croatia cleansed of Serbs, border on Drina river, and annexation of parts of Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina. All of our politicians who are negotiating with Croats ought to be aware of these facts. This is a standard Croatian policy and it has not changed”, says Krestić.
Resetting Bad Relations Gets Bad Results
Academic Vasilije Krestić, who has been researching the history of Serbo-Croat relations for many years, points out that Serbian politicians ignore the Croatian political goals, and get uncritically involved in discussions about “improving relations”. Improved relations, Krestić claims, can only be built on the basis of reciprocity – one gets as much as he gives.
“Relations between Serbia and Croatia are at a very low level and one shouldn’t have illusions they can be changed quickly. They are very disrupted and they were being disrupted for such a long time that it is not easy, as our Premier [Ivica Dačić] said, to ‘reset’ them. Because, ‘resetting’ bad relations gives bad results”, Krestić said.
Q: Where do our politicians make mistakes?
A: Every decent person wishes for those relations to be normalized. But the misfortune of us Serbs is that those who endeavored to improve relations on our behalf did not know Croats as partners in politics. They had illusions about them, starting from themselves, from their own aspirations and beliefs, which they projected on to the other side. That is how it was before and during the creation of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, and that is how it has continued since, up to and including present days.
After the Biggest Ethnic Cleansing in Europe’s 200 Years, Croatia Moves Further
Q: What is the “standard Croatian politics”?
A: It is the set of policies towards us that was demonstrated during Franjo Tudjman and the 1990s. Ethnic cleansing [of Serbs from Croatia] was the result of decades-old politics, according to which Serbs are a “disruptive factor”. Genocide and ethnic cleansing [of Serbs in Croatia] are not a coincidence. Further goals involve annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of Vojvodina, especially Srem region. Permanent goal of all Croat politicians in the last 150 years is to make Bosnia-Herzegovina an integral part of Croatian state.
Croatian troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s civil war, German documentary
Q: A recent Russian map of the trends projection of Europe in 2035 shows Bosnia and Herzegovina divided between Serbs and Croats?
A: Croat projection is the largest possible part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but most certainly up to river Drina. Croats have solved the question of Serbs with ethnic cleansing, the scope of which has not been recorded in Europe in the past 200 years. They can now move forward. They regard Bosnia-Herzegovina as a belly which should fill Croatia up like a “croissant”, “crescent Moon” or “hollow bread”. All these are expressions their politicians are using. They believe they must create a rounded whole because, as it is, without a strategic depth, Croatia cannot survive.
Q: You also talked about their territorial pretensions to [Serbia's northern province] Vojvodina?
A: Croats are not hiding their old aspirations toward Srem [Vojvodina region], because up until 1918 Srem was part of Croatia and Slavonija. They don’t hide the fact that other parts of Vojvodina, Bačka first of all, are their goal too. Not so much because of geo-strategic issues, but because Vojvodina is a grain-rich land, and because Bunjevci and Šokci who live there [in Bačka] declare themselves as Croats. Geo-strategic goal, from the earliest times, through Franjo Tudjman and up to today is a large, ethnically clean, Roman Catholic Croatia.
These are the standard goals of Croatian politics and Serb politicians should get them cleared up while attempting to improve relations. Serb politicians need to understand this and have a way to parry them. If they don’t, all the talks about “improving relations” are absurd, because they boil down to us offering and ingratiating ourselves, crawling and apologizing.
During his visit to Serbia, Croat Premier kept using the expression “Serbian” instead of “Serb” [a subtle semantic distinction, imperceptible in other languages, but important in Serbian language: Srbijanski/Srbijanac refers solely to Serbia proper, while Srpski/Srbin has a wider meaning, denoting Serbs and Serb nationality, culture, lands, language etc. anywhere in the world, including Bosnian Serbs, Croatian Serbs et al]. By doing so, he is calling for the tearing of the Serbian state corpus. Tradition of the Croat politics is to exempt Serbs from Vojvodina: we’ll call these ones Serbians, and these are Vojvodina nationals ["Vojvodjani"], and then we can talk.
Q: Recent history has shown that Croatia has an outside support for such plans and designs. We recall Croatian hit “Danke Deutschland”…
A: It is true that, since the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Germany was an important factor in support for Croatia. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that Croatian politicians traditionally have good relations with Britons. Many influential British politicians were more inclined to support Croats than Serbs. Also, in the last civil war a number of retired US generals fought on the side of Croatia and against the Serbs.
However, Germans have no territorial pretensions, they only have big economy interests. Both Vojvodina and Slavonija fit very well in with their industry. Germans don’t have such agronomy region. Long time ago Bismark said that is the “honey and milk” region. It is one of those statements which could be interpreted as having an agenda behind.
Unexpected International Plots Could Blindside Serbia Once Again
Q: At the same time, Hungarians are openly complaining about the Treaty of Trianon, advocating its revision?
A: Hungarians are openly and constantly attempting to overturn that agreement, so the “64 Counties” movement is not created by chance [fascist, irredentist organization advocating unification of all Hungarians living outside of Hungary, overturn of the Trianon Treaty and creation of Greater Hungary; their leader is self-proclaimed fascist Laszlo Toroczkai]. Maps of Greater Hungary are being drawn, the so-called Szent István Hungary which pretends to the old Ugar territories, Banat and Bačka [Vojvodina region]. They are not hiding this. Right now, this is not growing to proportions it would get to if Serbia was even weaker.
Q: It sounds quite ominous, you are citing Croatia on Drina, Hungary in Vojvodina, Kosovo in Greater Albania…
A: At the moment those things can’t happen. But there is a question of what sort of international plots could take place, like they did at the time of disintegration of Yugoslavia. There are already various maps being publicized in media, geo-strategic plans and redrawing of borders.
Q: Do you think Balkan borders haven’t been drawn yet?
A: I’m afraid they haven’t, not definitively. I don’t think they will be redrawn soon, but in future that is quite possible.
Q: How do you see those borders?
A: I can’t draw them.
Q: As an old Vojvodina resident, where do you think the autonomy advocates could take us?
A: Because the autonomy advocates are being the way they are, Vojvodina can’t secede. But the question is who will step behind the autonomy movement. For one, the autonomy movement always suited Croats. Croatian policy is one of the components of Vojvodina politics. Until the end of the Second World War, Vojvodina autonomy movement was fostered from Zagreb. If Hungary stands behind the autonomy movement, if Germany does so, we will end up in a very precarious position, one for serous thought and fear.
Serbian Political Elite Not Up to Task
Q: Does Serbia have a way to withstand those threats?
A: It should find the ways. Nevertheless, I’m not sure our politicians are up to such serious political tasks. I’m afraid they are one sided and discordant, which was apparent yet again during discussions about Kosovo and Metohija platform and resolution. I also fear from their expertise and skills, at least the ones they are exhibiting. Politicians should surround themselves with people who do know. A politician doesn’t need to know everything, but should form a team of experienced and good interdisciplinary experts.
Q: Unfortunately, it is obvious they are kowtowing to immediate party interests…
A: That is the tragedy. Our political scene was always overly partisan and everything depends on whether and to which party one belongs. In addition, our society is not using the potentials freedom offers, our media outlets are often one-sided and run either by political parties or certain foreign tycoons. There is no public opinion which could be used to exert political pressure.
Q: Has the intellectual elite gone silent?
A: It has, and I’m willing to accuse it. There is a fear of responsibility, as well as the inheritance from an era of one-party system, when one was expected to think like the party in power… There are also intellectuals living off state funds who are avoiding public accusations and guarding their chairs. Our society is extremely impoverished, so we are in a checkmate position in regards to politicians.
Q: What is your assessment of the resolution of Kosovo-Metohija crisis?
A: As a historian, I shouldn’t speculate on what will happen. I can only fear from what could be. But keeping in mind our politics regarding Kosovo province, I believe it is a territory that is being taken away from us. The road we have taken is such that we are entirely losing jurisdiction in Kosovo and Metohija, step by step. Our politicians would have to have a far more efficient and long-term strategy. Instead, they sharply criticized their [political] opponents, but once they came to power they continued to do the same, perhaps even faster. Kosovo and Metohija cannot be defended with the kind of policies we are implementing.
Tying Our Destiny to EU Ship – A Self-Defeating Strategy
Q: But do small countries have a choice?
A: The big ones were always making decisions for the small ones. The question is to which ship will the small country tie its destiny, to sail between Scylla and Charybdis. It is up to the wisdom of politicians to find that way. If they are not successful, then they are inept and incapable of steering that ship. By tying ourselves to the EU, I’m afraid we have made ourselves dependent on those who can hardly lead us out of the crisis, but will push us into bigger and bigger problems. In any case, the powers we are tied to are taking Kosovo and Metohija away from us.
Because, what the “integrated border control” means? It is an expression used to find a way to recognize a state border [without issuing an official recognition]. We are giving in and accepting that as a state border. At the same time, formally and constitutionally, we mustn’t recognize Kosovo and Metohija as a separate state. How is it possible for our Premier to say he will give Kosovo a chair in the UN?! By the way, I don’t think it is advisable for any politician to show up in public day after day. A serious politician must think things through before saying them publicly.
Q: Kosovo issue is closely linked with the EU accession. Is EU really that appealing to Serbia?
A: The question is whether the EU is so indispensable for us to make such huge concessions, especially since it is unclear if we will get to join the EU at all.
Five SANU Members Deciding on Behalf of the Academy
Q: Should SANU be more involved in helping resolve the most important state problems?
A: President Nikolić’s speech in SANU was a terrific oration, such as has not been heard from a politician in the past 20 years. Everyone thought it was an invitation to help resolve Kosovo-Metohija issues. Then the Academy’s Executive Board, without asking anyone, without calling the Presidency, and especially not the SANU Assembly, sent a letter of support for the Platform and offered their services. This is the position of Executive Board only, which counts five members. The position of the SANU membership is unknown. In any case, those five members pushed the entire Academy into politics.
I’m very critical of the Executive Board’s behavior. For example, SANU President Nikola Hajdin says he won’t get enmeshed into politics, but then goes to attend Djindjić award ceremony – an award and ceremony of one political party. Isn’t that his political orientation then? I have nothing against Djindjić award, but SANU President should then also attend an award ceremony of a Radical or Serbian Progressive Party. We can’t play around: let’s not get into politics, except when it suits us personally.
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