Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: September 25, 2001

25 September 2001, Volume 5, Number 67

DJINDJIC AT RFE/RL. On 21 September, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic concluded a two-day visit to the Czech Republic, during which he discussed political and economic cooperation with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and President Vaclav Havel. Djindjic also spoke at RFE/RL headquarters and discussed, among other topics, what opposition movements must do to successfully oust authoritarian regimes, such as that of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Djindjic said that in Serbia, after failed attempts that lasted almost a decade, the goal of ousting the Milosevic regime was finally achieved only after the Serbian opposition movement instituted several changes in its strategy, universal approaches that could be used in similar circumstances elsewhere, such as, perhaps, in Belarus.

The first was to unite the opposition within the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Djindjic said that as long as opposition forces are unable to unite, they are part of the problem rather than the solution. Dictatorships, he said, rely not on their own strength but on the opposition's weakness.

Djindjic added that an opposition needs to offer people a clear choice between good and evil, and that this can be achieved by presenting the situation in a country in simple "black-and-white" terms.

Authoritarian regimes, Djindjic said, always present themselves before their people as the guarantors of the country's independence and sovereignty, often in the face of an imaginary international conspiracy. People are told "stories" that they have to put up with hardships because the "rest of the world" is allegedly against them.

The prime minister added that opposition forces must be prepared to come up with what he called their own credible "stories" to counterbalance a regime's propaganda: "The opposition must have a story about how the world is perfect and that we are in a prison, and it is not a fight for independence. It is corrupt people who are protecting their interests."

Djindjic went on to say that a second change in the opposition's strategy was to switch public discussion from politics to issues of greater concern to ordinary people, such as the economy and personal living standards. He admitted that this is a difficult task since, in most cases, members of the opposition are not directly involved in the running of a country's economy. But Djindjic noted that people must be convinced that a win for the opposition is, in the end, a victory for them, too: "It is not the question why it is good that I [the opposition candidate] win against the government. It is important why it is good for you [the voter] that I win against the government."

A third change, Djindjic said, was to attract to the opposition movement groups and individuals with credibility in the society, such as the church, non-governmental organizations, and independent personalities.

Lastly, the prime minister argued that opposition forces must clearly show they are ready to use violence to fight back in case of repression. He said that winning democratic elections sometimes is not enough to take power -- as happened in Serbia after the DOS opposition alliance won last September's elections. He said security forces must realize they cannot resort to violence without risks.

As for the future of Yugoslavia, Djindjic said the federation in its current components -- Serbia and the much smaller republic of Montenegro -- must undergo radical reforms in order to survive as a state: "I think that Yugoslavia does have a future -- not [as] this kind of country, [but as a] very, very reformed [one]."

He argued that Yugoslavia should be represented as a single state in international relations but for its own internal purposes become a loose confederation of two individual states, each with a large degree of autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001).

However, Djindjic said the future of the Yugoslav Federation is not one of the Serbian people's top priorities. He said Serbs are currently more concerned about economic troubles and crime, and that they will accept any decision Montenegrins might make about their independence. He said Serbia is ready to reform the Yugoslav state, and that it is willing to wait two or three more months for Montenegro's decision.

Commenting on allegations in the Western media that Serbian paramilitary units from Kosova and other parts of the former Yugoslavia were involved in the overthrow of Milosevic's regime last October, Djindjic said such paramilitary groups did not play a "very active" role in the popular uprising that led to the collapse of the regime. He argued it was of critical importance that the 800-strong special security forces decided not to intervene in Milosevic's favor.

He admitted that a controversial security official -- General Sreten Lukic, who has been accused of involvement in the repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosova in 1999 -- is now holding a senior position in the Interior Ministry. But Djindjic said Lukic was promoted only after it was proven that he had not been involved in repressive acts against Kosovar Albanians.

The prime minister added that under the new democratic leadership, Serbian security forces are behaving differently in crisis areas, such as in the buffer zone in southern Serbia, which they were allowed to re-enter this spring. "It was proved that under democratic conditions, with clear goals, with clear responsibility and hierarchy, this police can be used as a normal tool to conduct peace and order."

Djindjic also said the current international economic situation -- in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and amid signs of a global economic recession -- does not look favorable for Serbia, which badly needs foreign investment to patch up an economy largely destroyed by a decade of war and an infrastructure damaged by NATO's 1999 air strikes. [Editor's note: he might have added that it is a aging, communist-style economy, virtually untouched by reform and made worse by close links to the criminal underworld.]

Djindjic said that, because of war and Milosevic's dictatorship, Yugoslavia has missed favorable opportunities to attract foreign investment. He pointed out that despite the democratic changes, Yugoslavia over the last 10 months has not benefited from substantial economic support from the international community. He said he expects future levels of foreign investment in Yugoslavia to be rather modest. [Editor's note: and it is likely to remain that way until Serbia introduces far-reaching free-market reforms, transparency, and the rule of law. Until it does, neighboring countries will remain more attractive to most investors except those from the Serbian diaspora or established foreign investors anxious to recapture their pre-Milosevic market share.] (Eugen Tomiuc)

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT OK'S FIRST CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. In a lively 21 September session, the Macedonian parliament, or Sobranie, approved some of the amendments specified in the Ohrid peace agreement (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001).

The leaders of the two main ethnic Albanian and two largest Macedonian political parties signed the peace agreement on 13 August in its original English wording (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 August 2001). Now the Sobranie has to decide upon the Macedonian translation of the proposed constitutional amendments. This is the second step of the ratification of the peace accord (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001).

The amendments discussed and decided upon included the new wording of the preamble to the constitution, provisions regulating the use and status of the Albanian language, and provisions regarding the equitable representation of ethnic Albanians in state institutions.

A vote on the amendment to reformulate Article 19 on religion did not find the necessary majority in the parliament on 21 September. After a secret vote produced a majority against the new wording, the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) raised doubts about the electronic voting mechanism and asked for a break in the session, after which the party called for a public vote on the issue. The article regulates the status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. It alone now has official status, but in the amendment the Islamic Religious Community and the Roman Catholic Church are included as well.

The parliament passed the amendments about the preamble, the language question, and state jobs with a bare majority of 62 votes in favor and 40 against out of a total of 116 deputies in the 120 seat parliament. Two deputies abstained from the vote.

As the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 22 September, the amendments were supported by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), the PPD, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the Liberals (LP), one member of a tiny party, one independent deputy, and 10 deputies from the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE).

The legislators from the "Real" VMRO (VMRO-VMRO), the Democratic Alternative (DA), New Democracy (ND), one deputy of the LP, the representative of the Roma Union of Macedonia (SRM), and about 30 VMRO-DPMNE deputies voted against the amendment. The two abstentions came from the ND.

The original wording of the preamble -- which said that "Macedonia is the national state of the Macedonian people" -- will be revised because the 23 percent Albanian minority felt that it made them second-class citizens. The Albanians were named alongside the Turks and other minorities as "nationalities." The new wording avoids any reference to minorities or nationalities, thus giving them a more equal status. (The legal distinction between "peoples" and "nations" on the one hand and "nationalities" and "minorities" on the other dates back to communist times.)

While the main Macedonian newspapers reported on the outcome of the vote in a factual manner, the comments and editorials focussed on the discussion preceding it.

Branko Gjorgjevski wrote in his editorial for "Dnevnik" of 22 September that it is quite understandable that the VMRO-DPMNE deputies were nervous and disappointed over the results of the peace agreement. He added that one can also understand their disappointment in having to vote "against" their party leader -- Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski -- who had only half-heartedly supported the peace agreement.

What Gjorgjevski criticizes is the fact that those deputies are complaining only now. If they disagreed with Georgievski's decision, he reasons, they should have told him earlier. At the present crucial moment, when any delay in the parliamentary procedure could block the whole peace process, it is not the time to come forward with counterproposals and demands for a referendum, Gjorgjevski writes. Alluding to the behavior of some VMRO-DPMNE before the outbreak of the crisis, Gjorgjevski asks whether a referendum should be held regarding members of parties in power breaking the law, setting up businesses, buying banks, etc.

Other comments in the press criticize the deputies' behavior. Under the headline "Primitivism in parliament," Olivera Vojnovska in "Utrinski vesnik" of 22 September describes the manners of some deputies as "cowboy-like." She singled out Aleksandar Florovski of the VMRO-DPMNE, who demanded that President Boris Trajkovski, who proposed the constitutional amendments, be present in the Sobranie. She disagreed not so much with the demand as how Florovski put it: "I want to see him turn up here, across to the right of me," the deputy reportedly said in a threatening way.

Both such threats and the turbulent, televised discussions -- during which deputies swore at each other and demanded that opponents undergo alcohol tests or consult psychiatrists -- were, according to Vojnovska, beneath the dignity of the parliament. She added that it shows the disrespect of certain deputies for even the highest state institutions.

In an editorial for the VMRO-DPMNE-controlled "Nova Makedonija" of 22 September, Vesna Nikodinoska offered a totally different view of the session. Nikodinoska wrote that the SDSM hid behind the ethnic Albanian deputies and did not show any "patriotism." She argued, "While the VMRO-DPMNE fights for the national identity of the Macedonian state, the SDSM ingratiates itself with the international community," which supports the amendments.

The reason for both parties' tactics is clear, she adds. "The most numerous party in the parliament scored points with the people with its patriotism. The Social Democrats 'beg' for support from the EU and NATO, which call the shots for our state when the politicians fail [to do so]."

She then gets to the matter at the heart of the whole discussion, namely the upcoming parliamentary elections: "On 27 January, the voters will have to decide who was right, who defended the state, who sold out the state, who 'fought' for [our] national identity and sovereignty, who courted [the international community], and who was a patriot...." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "I wish to present my assurances that he is indeed a man who keeps his word." -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, of former Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik, in a letter to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Krajisnik requested to be allowed to leave the prison in Holland until his trial begins. Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle also sent a letter on behalf of the indicted war criminal. Quoted by Reuters from The Hague on 20 September.

"Balkan political culture is full of posturing, obfuscation, fragmented and hidden agendas, and disregard for procedure." -- Unnamed Western diplomat in Skopje. Quoted by Reuters' Mark Heinrich on 23 September.