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Yugoslavia: Prince Calls For Democracy

  • Don Hill

Aleksandar, scion of the Yugoslav Karadjordjevic dynasty, prefers to be addressed as His Royal Highness Aleksandar, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia. With increasing frequency, he has been raising his British-accented voice from his home in London, calling for democracy and equal rights for all in Yugoslavia. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL correspondent Don Hill, the prince says he believes a constitutional monarchy -- with himself at the head -- could be the answer for Yugoslavia.

Prague, 14 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The man who calls himself His Royal Highness Aleksandar, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, has been sounding more and more like the Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel recently.

From his home in London, Prince Aleksandar has been issuing gentlemanly, moderate calls for democracy, equal rights, and a civil society in Yugoslavia.

In a telephone interview, Aleksandar tells RFE/RL that he believes most of the Yugoslav people of Serbia and Montenegro are ready to embrace democracy and international values. They are thwarted, he says, by a regime that has created madness. Aleksandar:

"I find that the [Yugoslav] people in general -- out of the population of approximately ten and one-half million -- are very much in favor of coming into the world, as one might say. It's the regime in the last 10 years that has created madness. And also we have a vicious propaganda machine at work, which is labeling anybody who wants to do good and bring democracy as a traitor to the state. So we still sit back somewhere in the Stone Age and the people are the ones that are the recipients of the suffering owing to this total madness. But I see this cycle coming to an end."

Aleksandar says also that what he calls "mistakes by the West" -- including NATO's "disastrous bombing" in the Kosovo war -- set back prospects for democracy in Yugoslavia. He says he believes, however, that the West will aid and invest in Yugoslavia once the nation demonstrates that it has effective political leaders and can govern itself.

Aleksandar says he bases his assessment of the mood of the Yugoslav populace on three factors. The first is the results of a visit he made to Belgrade in 1991. He says he was besieged by, in his phrase, "a huge turnout of people" who begged him to return democracy to Yugoslavia.

The second was a conference he organized last month in Budapest of various representatives of the Serbian opposition. Despite communication difficulties imposed by the Yugoslav regime, he says, he assembled a number of opposition leaders. He says he believes they heeded his call to set aside differences and to rally against the Milosevic government.

Aleksandar says the third factor is what he describes as the frantic maneuverings of Milosevic and followers. They stirred up, as he puts it, "negative nationalism" in Kosovo and elsewhere and now are turning on Montenegro. He says the regime is exhausting the supply of areas, in his words, "to fire up and use." The descendant of nearly two centuries of Balkan kings says this:

"Over the years, I have maintained my very firm policy and belief in democracy and respect for all and their human rights. I brought together the opposition in Budapest in November. My intention is to continue this and to be the meeting point."

Prince Aleksandar doesn't compare himself to Havel, although he says he's an ardent admirer of the Czech president and his accomplishments. Yugoslavia has a long distance to travel before it can catch up to the Czech Republic, Aleksandar says. But when he speaks of creating a civil society in Yugoslavia, he defines the phrase in Havelian terms.

It requires, he says, a constitution and legal structure, an independent judiciary, an army answerable to the people, a democratic parliament, and economic reform. Aleksandar:

"I would highly recommend that we remove the Berlin Walls, as one might say, that the regime has created -- and the internal walls -- and that the area be revived economically."

In addition, Aleksandar says, he would not be averse to developing a constitutional monarchy in Yugoslavia as a successor to Milosevic's rule, with himself, naturally, being the monarch. After all, he says, half the countries of Europe enjoy this form of governance.

He says, in what evidently is a carefully polished phrase, "The important thing is to crown democracy." His part, he says is to serve as a rallying point, affiliated with no party although irrevocably inimical to the Milosevic regime and anyone connected with it.

A constitutional monarchy has much to contribute to the state, Aleksandar says. Yugoslavia's future head of state, he says, must be someone who remains unconnected with any party. It must be someone who can work with all sides except the current regime, someone who serves as a point where people of diffused views can meet. That's just the way the Yugoslav prince has been describing himself.