Exert more pressure on Belgrade to democratise

Shirley Ms Cloyes DioGuardi
Financial Times

From Ms Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi.

Sir, With reference to your editorial "Squeezing Belgrade" (March 10), how much longer will we have to listen to the argument that the US and the European Union must compromise with Belgrade to ensure the stability of Serbia and the Balkans? This argument has driven the disastrous foreign policy that aided and abetted Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian dictator, now indicted war criminal, as he waged four wars of aggression in the Balkans, leaving more than 300,000 dead and 4m displaced. Since Nato ended Mr Milosevic's genocidal march across Kosovo in 1999, this argument has prevented the west from using its financial leverage to dismantle the Milosevic system. Foreign aid has continued to flow into Belgrade's coffers, even though Serbia has flouted democratic principles and the rule of law at every turn. The Belgrade government has repeatedly refused to co-operate with the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, was caught selling weapons to Iraq and has been exposed for its complicity in the March 2003 assassination of Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian prime minister. If the west is serious about bringing stability to Serbia and the Balkans and preventing the Serbs from remaining "isolated and resentful people, prey to ultra-nationalism and crime", it must become serious about helping Serbia to democratise. With the resurgence of the racist and xenophobic political parties led by Mr Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj, another indicted war criminal, in the recent parliamentary elections, the time has come to intensify, not relax, international pressure on Serbia to confront and transform its past. Until the west insists that Serbs shed the mythology that they are victims - a myth that has allowed them to justify their acts of aggression against Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians and shield themselves from the atrocities committed in their name - Serbia will continue to be the greatest threat, not the key, to stability in the region. Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser, Albanian American Civic League, Ossining, NY 10562, US