By Daniel Serwer
To his credit, Serbia’s President Vucic is acknowledging the “Serbian world” concept as his own. Serbia’s borders are inviolable he says, and “we don’t care about other people’s borders.”
Vucic wants Serbs to be united in a single political space and state, without violence. Fat chance. Serbia has eight immediate neighbors. All have Serb minorities, though Bulgaria’s is small. Six are NATO members (Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Romania). Two others host EU and NATO troops committed to their territorial integrity (Bosnia and Kosova). What happened when Serbia tried in the 1990s to extend its political space and unite some of those minorities in one state? War with Slovenia, war with Croatia, war with Bosnia, war with Kosova, and war with NATO. The result: Serbs fled to Serbia from neighboring countries, but not a square inch of the neighboring countries was ceded to Serbia.
The German analogy, of which Vucic is fond, is nonsense. Germany was not re-united by absorbing the territory of a neighboring state. East Germany was not part of another state. It was part of Germany occupied by the Soviet Union, which was unable to maintain its autocratic control. Reunification did nothing to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Germany’s neighbors. Everyone in Belgrade forgets to mention Austria, which lives happily as a separate, German-speaking state, despite Hitler’s ambitions. Not to mention German minorities in several other European states.
Vucic’s avowal that not a single shot will be fired in his effort to unite Serbs in a single state is as hollow as the German analogy. If he believed it, he wouldn’t be re-arming Serbia with Russian and Chinese weapons. Serbia faces no military threat from its eight neighbors. He is figuring that if Serbia gets strong enough and creates enough brouhaha, its neighbors will cede territory rather than risk a fight. There is no reason to think that will happen, or that Serbia will not resort to arms if it thinks, like Milosevic, that it can win.
One of the requirements of EU membership is good neighborly relations. Not caring about other states’ borders is the epitome of bad relations with neighbors. Vucic is ready to give up on retaking all of Kosova and all of Bosnia. All he wants are the Serb slices, 15% or so and 49% respectively. He would be happy for a slice of Croatia as well. Eastern Slavonia? He wants all of Montenegro. It is high time Brussels told him the EU will no longer pretend that membership is a possibility for a country harboring territorial ambitions and disrespect for its neighbors’ borders. And it is time for Washington to signal clearly that NATO will defend all of Serbia’s neighbors from Belgrade’s unneighborly intentions.
It is time for the EU and NATO to get real with Serbia.