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South Slavic: February 6, 2003


6 February 2003, Volume 5, Number 3

COULD WE LIVE TOGETHER AGAIN? -- AN RFE/RL CALL-IN PROGRAM.

Part I.

A recent program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Rade Radovanovic.

RFE/RL: We have asked our listeners to comment on three questions. The first is what they think of the recent call by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou for a Balkan federation. The second deals with the proposed new state of Serbia and Montenegro. The third possibility is to comment on anything the listeners have heard in one of our previous phone-in programs.

Svetlana Rasic (from Azanja): I was born in Bosnia but have been living in Serbia for 30 years. I have chosen a subject to which your listeners have not paid sufficient attention, namely the need to openly face up to the recent past of this region.

We should not try to sweep the issue under the carpet. Until we confront our recent past, no outsider will believe that we have learned our lesson and will not make the same mistakes again. Facing up to the past is even more important for ourselves, in order to make us understand the causes and the consequences [of what happened], as well as to enable us to rebuild our relations with our neighbors.

Obviously, the government, the media, and many institutions avoid discussing the issue, especially where war crimes and war criminals are concerned. They think the public is not ready for such a discussion. As a former journalist and writer, I find it particularly troubling that the media also avoid the issue.

RFE/RL: What do you make of the fact that nationalists in Serbia, who can be found just about everywhere, consider war criminals their heroes?

Rasic: The dominant forces are still those dreaming their war dreams. They have not accepted their defeat or the consequences of it. Many of them still think that the conflicts in this region are not over.

Too many journalists have failed to do their part towards presenting a comprehensive picture of what happened. Some simply repeat other people's statements and have not sought a new approach to their profession. Others just try to please the public.

What worries me most are the journalists who used to enjoy a good reputation but have now -- in practice -- taken up the cause of Slobodan Milosevic's defense before The Hague-based tribunal. They take his tricks and his blustering at face value, and do not prepare their readers for the truth that they will have to face some day.

Rade Milekic: I have been living in Greece for more then 10 years now. I would rather skip the first subject, the Balkan federation, because I find it out of date. Too many things have happened here in the past 50 years for it to be feasible.

This is a fault line where three religions come together. There is not enough capital for the most important and basic thing: to create enough jobs for people. Huge amounts of money have been given to Bosnia, Serbia, and everybody else in the region, but the results are few. Can you think of one single building, one company producing something new that is sponsored by the government of Serbia? It has received [huge sums] in recent years.

RFE/RL: There have been five or six governments in the past 10 years. I suppose you are talking about the present one?

Milekic: Yes, I am talking about this government. Has any new factory been built under their leadership? Have we seen something like that on TV? What about new technologies, or approaches to production, or new jobs? Have you seen or heard anything?

RFE/RL: I have not seen it, but I have heard about it. Things like that actually have appeared in Serbia, in spite of an almost catastrophic economic situation. Some brave people did take risks and start new businesses, but, unfortunately, there are not enough of them.

Milekic: Let us say you are right. However, people who did start businesses are members or at least supporters of some political party or other. Everywhere in the world -- and that includes here -- your business cannot be successful unless you belong to one of the leading parties, or have close relations with bankers and can get money easily.

The only way to forget about the past is through business and hard work. When people are working, they have no time for gab. When living standards start rising here, people will think differently than they do now.

RFE/RL: But what about those in power here whose interests do not correspond with what is normal in Europe?

Milekic: The governments in all these countries are temporary. I do not expect them to be on the political stage in two to five years from now.

They have had a dirty job to do, like, for instance, to extradite war criminals and to sell all the state-owned firms that were created over the past 50 years. My father, my mother, and I together have some 100 years of service in such firms. What will eventually happen to what we built up?

RFE/RL: In the meantime, some people have squandered that capital. Are you aware of the cost of the wars and all the destruction?

Milekic: I understand that without the creation of new values, there will be no development, progress, or anything else. Serbia has become a huge flea market. There is no progress without production, especially without production using the most modern technology.

Our policy in Serbia is completely wrong; let us not speak of the other countries of the region. Why are we in this shape? I have heard some old people talking about two things the Serbs can never learn: how to strike a deal with their enemy, and how to pick the best leaders. That is the greatest misfortune of the Serbs.

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