Saturday, March 08, 2008

Serbia's government crisis

In economic matters nationalism pays. For example, Japan and Korea developed by being selective in allowing Western companies access to local markets and by protecting local companies were they considered that necessary. Of course this is a strategy that requires wisdom. In other countries similar strategies failed because the wrong sectors of the economy were protected or the support was wasted in corruption. But a strategy of surrender to international economic interests on the other hand usually doesn't work either. Most companies and countries are somewhat greedy and if you give them a chance to exploit you they will not pass it.

The strategy is to find a middle road. That is difficult - in Serbia too. And while many Radicals and Kostunica seem to err on the conservative side the "pro-Western" parties seem to ignore that too much generosity to international interests is an invitation to be exploited.

Until now these "pro-Western" parties have been used to getting their inspiration from foreign diplomats. And that places them in an awkward position towards Kosovo's independence. They can keep following the wishes of their Western minders or they can try to find a compromise that unites their own wishes with those of the majority of the population. The first strategy is a collision strategy that probably will bring new elections and that they very well might loose - leaving Serbia to the Radicals. The compromise strategy would try to modify the present anti-European resolution in such a way that life can go on.

Such a compromise is certainly possible. An EU membership is something for the long term. And if Serbia doesn't want to become an EU membership it should do wise to strive for a similar status towards the EU as Switzerland. And that would still mean implementing many of the EU regulations. So a compromise would consist of some restrictions of talks with the EU with a commitment to specific economic reforms. And it would involve a time limit after which it should be reviewed.

But for this the reformers will need to think for themselves. And they will also needf to explain it to their voters who tend to be just as naive when it comes to international relations.

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