EU knows that war criminals are glorified in Serbia, but does no pressure to stop it




EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (R) greets Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic ahead of an EU-Balkans mini summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on October 25, 2015. European Union and Balkan leaders faced a make-or-break summit on the deepening refugee crisis after three frontline states threatened to close their borders if their EU peers stopped accepting migrants. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS

The EU does not say anything about how the situation in Serbia will reflect on accession negotiations even though processing of war crimes is one of the key conditions.

As Croatia is remembering victims of crimes in Vukovar and Škabrnja and many are still looking for their family members whose fates remain unknown, with growing hope that war crimes will be processed in cooperation with Serbia, war crimes are again being glorified in Serbia. This is not Croatia’s position or the position of one of the countries that suffered Greater Serbian aggression, but the EU is aware of this as well. Many EU internal documents show the EU is concerned about relativization and glorification of war criminals, and JUTARNJI LIST inspected several such documents.

To get the impression that war criminals are granted amnesty again or even glorified, one does not need access to internal documents - following public appearances is sufficient. Several months ago, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called late Serbian President Slobodan Milošević 'a great leader' in his speech in Kosovska Mitrovica and later criticized those who criticized him for it, claiming that 'they did not understand him'. Serbian President criticized Milošević for assessing the situation in the world poorly, rather than for the crimes his policies led to.

As some EU documents note, confirmation that 'victimization and glorification' of war criminals convicted by the Hague Tribunal lies in the fact that convicted war criminal Veselin Šljivančanin has been appearing regularly for years at events organized by the ruling party. The second convicted war criminal, gen. Vladimir Lazarević held a lecture at the Military Academy in 2017, while convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj is still an MP. The most recent evidence includes promotion of a book of war memoires of convicted war criminals Nebojša Pavković and Lazarević at the book fair in Belgrade, with the publisher cooperating with Serbian Defense Ministry.

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin supported this publicly. The EU is aware of this and notes that it is cause for concern, but does not want to condemn Serbia publicly. As for processing of war crimes, the EU is of the opinion that Serbia is sluggish in this regard, that many ongoing cases were taken from investigations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that Serbia still has to present evidence of results in the form of indictments based on own investigations and final rulings

As many as four out of five indictments that were raised were result of investigations in BH. When processes start, they are dragged out and late for different reasons. EU reports note that the Hague Tribunal has been warning frequently that Serbia has not been doing anything with regard to extradition of people accused of contempt of court.

It called on Serbia to cooperate fully with the Tribunal and to convict the people in question in Serbia or extradite them to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić recently denied that the genocide in Srebrenica took place and gave her definition of genocide even though several rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) show that genocide took place in Srebrenica. The EU does not only condemn genocide denial, but insists on legal sanctions for relativization and denial of such crimes.

In such an atmosphere it is not realistic to expect Serbian authorities to investigate missing person cases honestly because that would mean revealing the perpetrators and processing them. Even though politicians say this should be left to the courts to process without political pressure, experience shows that the responsible were brought to courts in most cases after significant pressure, mostly international and from the EU.

It is not clear why the EU, even though aware of what is going on in Serbia, is not doing anything in this regard other than repeating old messages that it expects 'leaders and State institutions in the region to respect victims of conflicts from the past, secure rule of law and honestly work on reconciliation in the region, which is necessary for stability, peaceful future and prosperity'. The EU does not say how this will reflect on accession negotiations even though processing war crimes is one of the key conditions.

European Commission (EC) spokesperson noted that “publication of war memoires of generals Pavković and Lazarević presents a step in the wrong direction,” and added that 'Sebia cannot ignore the principles as an EU candidate'.

- It is true that many EU member states and EU institutions are headed by new generations of politicians who do not remember war crimes from the recent past. For the EU, which rightfully respects victims of WWI and WWII, it is important not to allow forgetting the relatively recent crimes in former Yugoslavia and non-processing of the responsible even though processing such crimes can sometimes be politically incomplete - he said.

Many EU member states as well as EU institutions are headed by new generations of politicians who do not remember war crimes in the recent past.