Goran Svilanovic (file photo)
Goran Svilanovic was foreign minister of what is now Serbia and Montenegro from the fall of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 until April of this year, when the Serbian government led by Vojislav Kostunica named Vuk Draskovic to replace him. On 5 June, Svilanovic talked to RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service's Beba Marusic about his years in office.
Svilanovic began by noting that his 3 1/2 years in the job made him Belgrade's longest-serving foreign minister since Josip Vrhovec in communist times. Svilanovic added that his priorities from the start were obtaining membership in the EU, "good and close" relations with the other Balkan countries, "balanced" relations with the major powers, and new development of long-standing Yugoslav political and economic interests in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Looking back, he feels that his biggest success was in promoting good relations with the neighbors. In the cases of Slovenia and Bosnia, political ties had to be built up from scratch. But by the time he left office, Svilanovic argued, Belgrade had developed "very friendly relations with each of the neighboring states."
In the case of Croatia, problems regarding the Prevlaka Peninsula, free trade, visa-free travel, and mutual payment of pensions were cleared up. These and other achievements were fully recognized by the international community, including by the EU, which now stresses Serbia and Montenegro's positive role in regional cooperation to the exclusion of any criticism, Svilanovic said.
Turning to less happy topics, the former minister said that he is sorry that his country has not yet joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program.
Closer to home, he regrets that he got started only in 2003 in pensioning off or laying off large numbers of older employees of the Foreign Ministry. "I think that such people can no longer be of use to our diplomatic service, regardless of how much they know or have learned," he said. He hoped to bring in large numbers of young people, but now has to sit by and watch as large numbers of older employees return to the ministry.
Svilanovic generally refrained from criticizing Draskovic, however, noting that it is too early to pass judgment on a new minister. Svilanovic did say that relations between the various members of the governing coalition seem rather odd, given that they have already taken to feuding in public.
Regarding Montenegro, Svilanovic noted that Podgorica's attempt to establish its own foreign policy came to little because foreign governments tended to treat its diplomats as little more than trade representatives. As a result, Montenegro has closed most of its former missions abroad, except, perhaps, for those in Washington, Brussels, and Ljubljana, he added.
Montenegro's interests are now represented abroad by the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, whose diplomats include 12 Montenegrins as ambassadors and two as representatives to international organizations. In addition, Montenegrins are employed throughout the Foreign Ministry, Svilanovic stressed. Only if the joint state is dissolved at some unforeseeable point in the future will there be a need to create separate diplomatic representations for Montenegro and for Serbia.
Turning to Montenegro's domestic political situation following the recent killing of a leading opposition journalist (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 June 2004), Svilanovic declined to comment in detail. He suggested, however, that Montenegrins' patience with crime, corruption, and the problems of postcommunist transition may be wearing thin. The political alternative to the present government might come from some new force outside the current opposition, he added.