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Serbia: The Controversy of the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded this year's peace prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who could not attend the Dec. 10 ceremony in Oslo because he is serving his 11-year prison sentence.

A few days ago, the Chinese authorities sent an official diplomatic note to many countries around the world and called them not to attend the award ceremony in Oslo. Nineteen countries – including Russia, Serbia and Ukraine – chose to skip the Nobel peace prize event.

In one of his first statements after the media broadcast the government’s official decision, Vuk Jeremic, Serbia's minister of foreign affairs, gave a brief explanation of some of the reasons for making it:

All our decisions, like the decisions of all others governments, concern national interests and the priorities of the state.

Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said:

This is Serbia's tactical move aimed at maintenance of strategic relations with China.

NGOs, political parties, mainstream and citizen media discussed the government’s attitude, demanding that minister Jeremic submit resignation.

Pescanik website published a statement of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM). Among other things, YUCOM wrote:

Boycotting this year’s ceremony of the Nobel peace prize award, the Republic of Serbia confirmed once again that it is very far from the truthful fight for human rights and all the values that characterize a modern, European, democratic society.

After the horrible things of the 1990s, we are supposed to show that we are the first ones who will support those people whose rights are endangered and who risk their lives for world peace. […] Serbia needs the politics of respect for human rights, not the politics that makes that one bridge* more important than one human life. […]

* Author’s note: The Chinese government gave a cheap loan to Serbia in order to build a bridge in Belgrade, the so-called “Chinese bridge.”

In an editorial, E-novine wrote:

[…] From the list of countries that are boycotting the Nobel peace prize ceremony, it’s clear that we are talking here about the non-democratic regimes which, like China, have problems with their own dissidents, or about countries that are under strong influence of Beijing. […]

On Dec. 8, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia published a petition, which was signed by many Serbian human rights activists, intellectuals, journalists and politicians:

With this petition, we, the undersigned human rights defenders and democracy activists, speak in the name of thousands and thousands of citizens of Serbia, eager to see their country firmly committed to European course and the highest values of the contemporary world.
Hence, we, the undersigned, strongly disapprove our government’s decision to place Serbia in the circle of democratically disputable countries the representatives of which will boycott the ceremony of The Nobel Peace Prize bestowal on Liu Xiaobo, the man whose years-long, consistent and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China earned him the respect of the civilized world.
With this petition we wish the Nobel Committee and the world public to know that really many citizens of Serbia would not back this latest, shameful decision by their government, that they strongly oppose its “political barters” so characteristic for the nationalistic Serbia before and after the wars of 1990s, and that because of these wars’ and other bloody traces of autocratic rules and “greater-nation” policies – subjugating individual rights to “national interests” – they raise their voice against any form of servility to the country that, in the 21st century, commits a human rights activist to prison and holds his family and colleagues under house arrest to prevent them from traveling to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace award on his behalf.

Blic, a Belgrade daily, published an article titled “Government for the boycott, Tadic against it,” emphasizing a discord among the high-ranking state officials on the issue and citing a statement by the spokeswoman of European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuehle:

It is expected from a country aspiring to join the EU to share the EU values.

The disputed decision divided not only President Tadic and minister Jeremic, but also readers who left more than 250 comments on the article, mainly discussing its foreign policy consequences.

Below are some of the comments:

NenadRu:

[…] Therefore, none of the European countries decided to boycott the ceremony, only Serbia and its “pro-European” ministers. […] Awful, can we know what the national politics is?

Zele:

Just one question: what kind of benefit do we have from that? When we become a member of the EU, then we will vote like others, but what kind of obligation do we now have toward them? They make pressure on us to renounce Kosovo, don’t allow us to integrate in the EU, they bombed us and haven’t paid any war reparation. […]

TZTTZ:

Honestly, I don’t know what is better for us: to go or not to go [to Oslo]. […] But, China didn’t recognize Kosovo, while the EU did.

In his guest post on Srecko Sekeljic’s B92 blog, Milos Bogicevic wrote:

[…] The question is whether some future generations will proudly emphasize the fact that Serbia, on the Human Rights Day 2010, boycotted the Nobel peace prize award, or whether they will be ashamed of it. Maybe we should be ashamed already today.

On Thursday evening, December 9, one day before the award ceremony, Serbia's Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic seized the initiative and decided to travel to Oslo as an independent representative of the Republic of Serbia, having realized that the Serbian government was not going to change its official decision. Then, due to public pressure, PM Cvetkovic asked Jankovic on behalf of the government to give his personal congratulations to the Nobel Committee and Liu Xiaobo.

5 comments

  • Truth Lover

    The Soros-funded author conveniently omitted that the vast majority of Serbs have been disgusted by the “Nobel peace prize” in recent years because it has glorified the roles played by war criminal mass murderers such as Richard Holbrooke (real last name Moos) and Marrti Ahtissari. Enough said!!!

    What a laughable “democracy” you preach, whilst ignoring the majority Serbian population, whom are patriotic and Christian conservatives.

  • Velibor

    The nobel prize has become a joke in the recent years…Obama got a nobel peace prize practically before he even managed to unpack his coffers at White House…Richard Holbrooke???are you kidding me??? They’re the ones who made the rules such as 1244 and they’re the ones attempting to break those same rules they made completely contradicting their own policies…
    Oh and Marrti Ahtissari needs a paragraph of his own being one of the leaders of the biggest terrorist organisations in Europe…
    Now a Chinese prisoner convicted of treason and corruption is getting the “biggest achievement award”…
    Just like Marrti Ahtissaris Nobel Prize is a complete spit in the face to all Serbs troughout the world giving a nobel prize to a Chinese prisoner is an open insult to all Chinese out there…

  • Mili

    The once proud organisation that has issued it’s prizes for peace is nothing more than a political vessel aimed at coaching world opinion. Credibility over the last decade has been reduced to little above a house of ill repute. Gloss over some award recipients and their acheivments to gain an understanding.

    Marti Ahtissari

    In 1999, when he was the President of Finland, Marti Ahtisaari’s government wanted to honor and to commemorate the 3,000 Finnish Nazi Waffen SS volunteers that served in Heinrich Himmler’s SS. The Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal found all SS members to be war criminals who committed crimes against humanity. Finnish Nazi SS troops were involved in the Holocaust and in genocide.

    Richard Holbrooke

    Hayden accompanied U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on a trip to Croatia in November 1994, during which Holbrooke told the Bosnian government that the U.S. would encourage third-party countries to make covert shipments of arms and supplies for the use of al Qaeda’s Bosnian network, in violation of a U.N. embargo.
    Three months after the meeting, mysterious nighttime airlifts of arms and supplies to Bosnian Muslims began to pass through Hayden’s intelligence apparatus unhindered, prompting U.N. observers to accuse the U.S. of deliberately allowing the so-called “black flights” to pass. The official representing Bosnia at the November 1994 meeting (in which Holbrooke gave explicit approval to violations of the embargo) also sat on the board of a Vienna charity funded by Osama bin Laden. That charity – the Third World Relief Agency – directly shipped arms from the Sudan to Bosnian militants and also sent more than $40,000 in cash to the New York terrorist cell responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

    Barak Obama

    Jagland has clearly indicated that the award was a deliberate intervention by the committee, appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, to influence global debate. This is not unprecedented: in 1971 the Prize was given to Willy Brandt, then Chancellor of West Germany, and in 1990 to Mikhail Gorbachev. In both cases the Prize was a clear indication of political support for their initiatives, in Brandt’s case to establish better ties with East Germany and in Gorbachev’s case to create perestroika.

    Alfred Nobel founded the Peace Prize with the best intention and the highest moral standard. The 5 members of the Prize Committee, appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, are all retired politicians lacking the credentials and credibility to convince the world they are acting in good faith. The prestige of the Prize has sharply depreciated. The only way to restore its standing is to transfer the Prize institute to the United Nations under the supervision of the General Assembly. Serbia did a good thing not going as did the other countries should be more of them until we return some credability to this old institution. Sheesh a Nazi, Terrorist and a Sock Puppet all got the top prize.

  • Fed Franz

    I can’t really say any better than these guys before me except to echo my wonder at that fact that people choose to take this occasion to bash Serbia rather than commenting on the fact the the Nobel Peace Prize has become, at best, totally worthless.

  • Serbia’s government to go to the Peace Prize ceremonies? Give me a break! they are too jealous megalomaniacs to do the right thing!

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