2. What is the International Crisis Group (ICG)?
3. ICG-report of Serbia
3.1 Situation in Serbia
3.2 Outcome of the 11 May 2008 elections
3.3 Issues of concern
3.4 ICG’s recommendations
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This term paper critically reviews the International Crisis Group report “Will the Real Serbia Please Stand up?” from April 2008. The report was published two months after Kosovo declared its independence and the subsequent rioting and looting in Belgrade. Section 2 briefly introduces the ICG and presents two main criticisms which concern the institution’s organisational structure as well as its reports. In Section 3.1 I will summarise the situation in Serbia according to the above-named report and portray the conflicts about the Kosovo-question and Serbia’s EU-membership. The two opposing camps of pro-EU and anti-EU-parties will be presented and the viewpoints of their respective leaders Tadic and Kostunica will be discussed. As the report was published before the early election in May 2008, Section 3 will be complemented with the outcome of it and an analysis of the results. What follows is an analysis of ICG’s issues of concern and the resultant policy recommendations; in particular the recommendation to the European Union not to sign a Stability and Association Agreement with Serbia. Section 4 will summarise the paper and add concluding remarks.
2. What is the International Crisis Group (ICG)?
The ICG is an international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation whose designated aim is to prevent and solve deadly conflicts all around the world. Founded in 1995, ICG describes itself as the world’s leading independent Think-Tank that provides information and gives advice to governments and intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the World Bank. Its permanent staff comprises of 130 persons from 46 countries on five continents with knowledge of 53 languages at total. The ICG covers over 60 conflict and potential conflict situations and publishes over 80 reports annually.1 The organisation considers itself as a “private foreign ministry” who supports national governments by taking over tasks which they cannot accomplish by themselves.2 Generally, the country reports are seen as high-qualitative, solidly investigated analyses that provide prompt on-the-spot information for policy makers. However, the recommendations have often been subject to criticism. The two main points of criticism are lack of neutrality and their tendency to fight symptoms rather than causes.3
Many of the ICG board members are nameable (mainly from Western countries stemming) personalities: former state presidents, ministers, national political advisers, ambassadors, U.S.-senators and many other high-level and well connected figures. Only few researchers are represented in the ICG and its leadership. This predominance of Western politicians is regarded as influential on the work of ICG and its policy recommendations. The neutrality is also being challenged for funding issues. As a non-profit organisation the ICG funds its budget (2009: U.S. $ 15.5 millon) by donations of governments (51%), institutional foundations (26.5%) and others (22.5%).4 As Bliesemann de Guevara points out, ICG competes for these funds with other political consulting institutions. Therefore, it could not be ruled out that Crisis Group takes economic aspects into consideration when choosing topics and deciding about emphases.5 By choosing the topics which the ICG considers as important it already exerts influence on the international perception of a conflict, concludes Bliesemann de Guevara (2007:1). Since the funds mainly come from Western governments and institutions, the reports and recommendations are potentially ‘pro-Western-biased’. Oberg (2005) states:
“Isn't it a bit hard to believe that those who pay the piper would continue to do so, if reports were critical of government policies - Western governments and their conflict ‘management’ in particular?”
In this more drastic article Oberg (who is the leader of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research) calls ICG a “clearly near-governmental” organisation and accuses the organisation of “commentarism and piecing together data from interviews with representatives of formal power, such as politicians and readings of newspapers.”6
The second main criticism is ICG’s emphasis on fighting symptoms rather than causes in their recommendations. Bliesemann de Guevara alleges that the ICG promotes a visionless and reactive “emergency policy” by concentrating on topicality and paying less attention on historical embedment. She asserts that it is not the organisation’s concern to deal with the more profound, in a global society context standing causes of the crises and conflicts. Thus, sustainably fighting the causes and establishing political visions cannot be based on the recommendations provided in ICG’s reports.7
In conclusion, the country reports published by the International Crisis Group serve as an informative basis for policy makers and the interested public. Nevertheless, the recommendations should be handled with critical scrutiny and require further analyses and comparisons to other sources.
3. ICG-report of Serbia and Kosovo
The ICG-report was released on 23 April 2008, 19 days before the early elections in May 2008. The information-gap for events that occurred after that date will be filled with other sources, especially newspaper-articles from German and international quality press.
3.1 The situation in Serbia
Directly after Kosovo’s independence declaration Serbian premier Vojislav Kostunica of the nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) announced that “the government and parliamentary parties will organise together peaceful protests across Serbia as well as the first big protest in Belgrade.”8 Although in his announcement he opposed mob violence, Kostunica used the word violent and violence several times to describe EU’s and U.S.-American policies.9 Soon after this, hooligans rioted through Belgrade’s streets and attacked the Slovenian and U.S. embassies. The DSS-controlled police seemed to have been ordered to remain passive and did not arrest any rioters.10 While the Democratic Party (DS) clearly condemned the violence and questioned the behaviour of the police, infrastructure minister and close Kostunica-ally Velimir Ilic defended the attacks on the Slovenian embassy and justified them by calling the attacks an expression of democracy.11
1 ICG 2009
2 Bliesemann de Guevara 2007: 2
3 Bliesemann de Guevara 2007: 1, 4
4 ICG 2009
5 Blieseman de Guevara 2007: 5
6 Oberg 2005
7 Bliesemann de Guevara 2007: 1, 5-6
8 ICG 2008: 2
9 ICG 2008: 2
10 ICG 2008: 2
11 ICG 2008: 3