The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. In view of the announced visit of the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the current situation in which the visit is taking place. The most relevant and interesting sections from the analysis entitled “BiH - Serbia: Aleksandar Vučić as the factor of (in)stability for BiH and Europe” are published below.
The visit of the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, scheduled for 7 and 8 September 2017, which will be officially hosted by the BiH Presidency, is unfoundedly and exaggeratedly presented by certain political circles as the top political event of major importance for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.
During his long career in Serbia’s political leadership, Aleksandar Vučić has done nothing visible for the political stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the contrary, his opposing to BiH accession to NATO and his support to the government of the Republika Srpska (RS) which has constantly been blocking the Euro-Atlantic integration process of Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly show that Vučić has constantly, significantly and actively undermined peace, stability and political security in BiH, the region and the EU.
While most of the Balkan leaders including Vučić repeatedly use the cliché statement that the states in the region should focus on peace and stability, future and cooperation, Vučić’s actions are primarily oriented towards blocking BiH on its way to NATO and EU full membership and supporting the currently secessionist government of the Republika Srpska entity of BiH. However, this attitude not only represents a threat to the region and the EU, but also undermines the interests of Serbia and the Serb part of the BiH population.
Vučić’s destructive politics is based on the following foundations: ● lack of willingness to face the past while preserving and promoting the military ideological structure which is hostile towards the West and NATO ● schizophrenic foreign policy which mostly relies on the Russian Federation and causes instability in the region and in Europe ● autocratic ruling regime which is mostly reflected in media control and unprincipled political support to Serbs living outside Serbia, thus causing crises in the states in the region. This kind of policy can only lead to continued instability and new conflicts in the region and in Europe.
Moreover, daily political malversation is performed not only by Vučić but also by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić (SPS) in their relations with the EU member states, mainly Germany, and EU representatives. The strong support expressed so far by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has turned to be a problematic issue and very soon she will have to answer to German taxpayers whether the money invested by Germany in Vučić and in Serbia is actually bearing results or is it only a veil for destabilising the region and the EU. It is expected that Chancellor Merkel will not be regarded as Vučić’s political and financial sponsor who is already marked by some as the “21st century Milošević”.
The situation with EU representatives is similar or even worse. For example, David McAllister (EPP/CDU), the European Parliament (EP) rapporteur for Serbia, has taken an uncritical, superficial and biased approach in reporting on the current political situation in Serbia and its foreign political activities in the region and the EU.
Serbian President Vučić will be hosted in Sarajevo by the three members of the BiH Presidency (Dragan Čović, Bakir Izetbegović, Mladen Ivanić), each of them taking a different approach to Vučić’s visit. Mladen Ivanić (PDP) represents Serbian interests in BiH, so he is trying to use this visit for the exchange of territories in the border area between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ideas and military attempts to exchange the territories have even led to the attempts to displace the population, which represents the revival of the dark past when such political projects were carried out by Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman, which led to ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide. Ivanić is now trying to revive that idea. Bosnia and Herzegovina has signed the border agreement with Montenegro and has never brought up the Sutorina issue in order to ensure regional peace and stability. But now Ivanić has brought up some concrete proposals on the exchange of territories. Ivanić is trying to act as Milorad Dodik’s (SNSD) political “copy paste”, and they are both responsible for Serbia’s destructive policy towards BiH. At the same time Ivanić acts as the “Trojan horse” of the Union for Change. Namely, he has moved to Dodik’s side some time ago, while formally representing himself as one of the key politicians of the Union for Change which he is destructing from the inside. Dragan Čović (HDZBiH) is more relaxed regarding Vučić’s visit as they have compatible policy towards BiH. Vučić is not against the formation of the so called third entity, while they both declare themselves as the promoters of European values and international cooperation between countries in the region, but in fact, they are the promoters of Russian interests in BiH and the region. Thanks to Čović the Croats in BiH are increasingly turning into Catholic Serbs according to Garašanin’s Načertanije (the first idea of greater Serbia from 1844). Čović is intensively working on setting up the so-called third entity’s embassy in Washington (US). Influenced by the international community, Bakir Izetbegović (SDA) has to make an impression that the follows the regional agreement and solutions, so he is expected to act as the proper host who will not open difficult issues and who will turn a blind eye to Vučić’ destructive politics.
Aleksandar Vučić is coming to BiH as a politician who involved Serbia in the destabilising events in Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo and BiH and he has proven this politics by announcing the adoption of the Declaration on the survival of Serbia and Serbian nation, which means that Serbia will guarantee the protection of Serbs living outside Serbia and to that end it will institutionalise or legalise and legitimise its political interference in the states in the region.
Vučić is coming to BiH as the President of the state which has a double surplus in trade with BiH. He is also coming as the President of the state which has sent guarantees to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague to release Ratko Mladić a few months before passing the verdict. Serbia is a state that has protected war criminals for decades and at the same time submitted guarantees to ICTY and to the international community for war-crime suspects, while refusing for years to apprehend and extradite Šešelj’s co-workers who obstructed the judicial process before ICTY by publishing the names of protected witnesses and undermining the process against Šešelj. Even ICTY’s official reports to UN Security Council cannot force Vučić to extradite Šešelj’s supporters to ICTY.
In his political manipulation and deception Vučić has gone so far as to praise himself as the only Serbian politician who has not extradited any Serb to the Hague, while on the other hand he forgets to mention the fact that the Hague Tribunal stopped issuing indictments already in 2005 and that since then no requests for new extraditions have been made. Vučić is coming to BiH as the President who has during his political mandate increased the alleged danger and threats against Serbia and the Serbs posed by “external and internal enemies”, but also as the politician who regards the relations with the Russian Federation as the highest personal and state priority. On 7 and 8 September 2017 Serbian President Vučić, who denies the genocide in Srebrenica, will visit Sarajevo - a city that was under unprecedented siege for almost four years (44 months) by those who are today under Vučić’s alleged protection. He comes as the President of Serbia - a state which issued guarantees for the war crimes suspect Ratko Mladić who is one of the key persons responsible for the war crimes and genocide in BiH and for the siege of Sarajevo.
What can be expected from Aleksandar Vučić’s visit? That he will show compassion for Sarajevo citizens and express regrets for the past events and the suffering; that he will express apology while at the same time negating the committed genocide and giving guarantees and protection to Ratko Mladić and Vojislav Šešelj (SRS) for the war crimes committed in Sarajevo and BiH?
Aleksandar Vučić’s visit is therefore irrelevant and hypocritical as well as useless for those who are sincerely and decidedly willing to cooperate for the benefit of states, communities and nations in the region.
With his visit to Sarajevo Aleksandar Vučić will definitely lose the label of the reform politician and regional leader that he has been granted by the international community. Should the EU wish to continue giving support to Vučić, it will obviously enter the same vicious circle as it had been in with Slobodan Milošević, whom it eventually had to eliminate by submitting an indictment for war crimes committed in Kosovo and starting the proceedings before ICTY.
The opposition in Macedonia led by Zoran Zaev (SDSM) succeeded in defeating the former pro-Russian and criminal government (VMRO-DPMNE). With the aim to discredit the new Macedonian government Vučić malevolently and falsely accused it of allegedly wiretapping and endangering the interests of Serbia. Zoran Zaev, who is often referred to as “light at the end of the tunnel” in the region and the symbol of the new spirit of regional cooperation, has become Vučić’s target. Other targets are or will soon become the Chairman of BiH Council of Ministers of Denis Zvizdić (SDA), the most popular Albanian politician Albin Kurti (LVV), as well as all those who work for the benefit of their countries and nations, who support regional cooperation and who promote Euro-Atlantic integration. Another open issue is that of Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (HDZ), who could be one of the pillars of future regional cooperation if only he manages to get rid of the influence from the so called generals lobby, the intelligence underground and the conservative part of the Roman Catholic Church. If he fails to do that, Plenković will soon end his political career as a politician who failed to initiate any positive process in Croatia and who was involved in and shares the responsibility for destabilisation of BiH and the region.
Unless he makes some fundamental and radical changes in internal and external politics regarding the countries in the region, Aleksandar Vučić will represent nothing but a factor of instability, and together with Ivica Dačić they will act as the “travelling Balkan theatre of (in)stability”.
The announced visit of “Aleksandar Vučić travelling Balkan theatre” to Sarajevo is haunted by the ghosts of Srebrenica and by the uninvestigated circumstances of the incident in Potočari on 11 July 2015 during Vučić’s visit to the Memorial Center where the Srebrenica genocide victims were buried.
An independent investigation has shown that the Potočari incident in which Vučić was involved was not a coincidence and that it was obviously staged.
According to official announcements from Serbia 20 police officers were escorting Vučić already when he entered Bosnia and Herzegovina on 11 July 2015. Unofficially and illegally the number of Serbian police officers that entered BiH was much higher than it was officially stated. The general practice is that the delegation is escorted by 4 to 5 police officers, while the host country takes care of other safety measures.
The official investigation was made in the wrong direction. Was that accidentally or on purpose? Independent investigators have raised the questions as to why there was no judicial process against persons who performed security services and especially against persons who opened the umbrella for Vučić at Potočari/Srebrenica and who are even visible on video recordings and photographs. Why was there no process against persons such as Darko Đošić, Bratislav Petrović, Dragoslav Rabrenović, Dejan Sekulić and Miladin Mužemić? According to certain information sources from the field, those persons were involved in the incident in Potočari on 11 July 2015. Why were they not heard, brought before court and some of them even apprehended? Perhaps Vučić’s visit to Sarajevo will be an opportunity to deal with those questions and learn the truth about the incident in Potočari on 11 July 2015.
Ljubljana, 7 September 2017