On June 24, 2007 in Zagreb, the Serbian President Boris Tadic made a public apology to Croatians for the Serbian army „causing disaster by some of their actions in the Serbo-Croatian war in the 1990s”. The gesture was at that time interpreted as a positive and sensible political step, which could influence improvement of the relations between the states of former Yugoslavia, especially between Serbia and Croatia. However, these were only the initial reactions. Others also pointed out that similar steps have been already taken in the past, but they did not have any considerable influence on the dynamics of re-establishment of trust between the two „brotherly” nations of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. A similar step was taken by President Tadic in 2004 in Sarajevo. In 2006, the Montenegrin politician Svetozar Marovic, former President of the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, apologized to Bosnians and Croatians during his visit to Srebrenica, and just after that the Croatian President Stjepan Mesic made a declarative apology to Serbians.
After a few moments like this it seemed that such „state apologies” became a new fashion in politics. In other words, that they are used as political marketing with no actual effect in practice. Yet we have to believe that Tadic`s apology did not result from the pressure of Zagreb journalists, because Tadic also stated that he, as the head of state, takes on the responsibility for the war crimes of his fellow citizens, but mainly because of his downright statement on television that „General Ratko Mladic represents one of the darkest chapters of Serbian history”.
The most recent apologies, similarly to the preceding ones, in fact shift the polemics concerning their intentions and aims. We could discuss to what extent could this act be an expression of individual attitude of a politician in a high political position and to what extent it is an expression of a speculated and principled state policy of a country, which thus in fact expresses its will to admit its own guilt. However, in several media interviews Tadic repeatedly stated his belief that mutual reconciliation of nations and states of former Yugoslavia is a key to overcoming the tragic past. His recent visit to Srebrenica, as well as the newest statements for home press, where he criticised the continuing denomination of war criminals as heroes, incurring national hatred and intollerance and relativization of the character of previous wars and crimes commited during the wars in general – all this guarantees his authority as a modern and democratically oriented politician, who is by no means inclined to continue the nationalist confrontation of the Balkan nations in any form.
Yet some doubts appear when analyzing the current official policy of Serbia from the point of view of reflecting the events that accompanied the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia. Considerable part of political elites of Serbia has not abandoned the discourse of the former President Slobodan Milosevic, that it was civil wars going on in the territory of the former joint state, not wars concerning re-deviding of the territories. Cyclical sharpening of relations with the international society and with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Haag, which is designated as a markedly politically oriented court, as well as obvious obstructions from the Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, especially after the murder of his predecessor Zoran Djindjic, rather strengthened the attitude of the majority of Serbian public, according to which their country did not do anything wrong in the wars against Croatia and Bosnia. Under these circumstances it is understandable that the genocide in Srebrenica is ignored or that its extend is minimalized, and the verdict of ICTY that „Serbia is guilty of not precluding or preventing the genocide” is supressed. On the contrary, General Mladic is appraised for successful solution of the Muslim issue in Serbian territories. Although it is a fact that in the meantime Serbia intensified its cooperation with the Tribunal, still a paradoxical situation can easily occur: if the „Tribunal story” comes to a conclusion, if all the other Serbians accused of war crimes (Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic, Goran Hadzic, Vlastimir Gjorgjevic, Stojan Zupljanin and Zdravko Tolomir) are put in prison, Serbia will still avoid a deep and fundamental confrontation with its own past.
Although Serbian non-governmental organizations such as the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, the Fund for Humanitarian Law, the Belgrade Circle, the Center for Cultural Decontamination and the Lawyers` Committee for Human Rights welcome the step taken by Boris Tadic in Zagreb, they are sceptical about it as for bringing any striking changes in relations of Serbia to its own past and to the wars. For instance, the Prime Minister Kostunica did not express a complete agreement with the action of the President, and also the very fact that Tadic`s Democratic Party is a coalition partner in Kostunica`s government does not allow to expect a catharsis in the Serbian society in the nearest future. The Prime minister Kostunica for example accepts only suffering of the Serbians and he would be willing to accept the massacre in Srebrenica only if the crimes commited on the members of the Serbian nation were recognized to the same extent. On the other hand, similar nationalist attitudes appear in Croatia as well.
In actual life rather opposite processes occur; because of Kosovo Serbia still more quickly and loudly returns back to the rhetorics and the atmosphere before 1999, even though these demonstrations are formulated more carefully with the awareness that Serbia must not find itself in an international isolation again, as the Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic stated recently. It is Kostunica who gives the lead in this process, but often he is assisted by the President Tadic and the military circles supported by the Serbian Radical Party and the Socialist Party of Serbia.
While on the one hand President Tadic speaks of apologies and gives signals of reconciliation from Zagreb, the high official of the Democratic Party of Serbia (lead by the Prime Minister Kostunica), the Secretary of State in the Ministry for Kosovo Dusan Prorokovic does not exclude the possibility that in case of recognition of the independence of Kosovo Serbia would proceed with Pristina just as Turkey proceeded with Cyprus. Does that not associate a rise of a new conflict in the Balkans?