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South Slavic: August 29, 2002

29 August 2002, Volume 4, Number 29


Part I.

An interview with Zoran Djindjic, prime minister of Serbia, conducted by Branka Mihajlovic in Prague on 4 August 2002.

RFE/RL: Are your reforms more appreciated abroad than in Serbia?

Zoran Djindjic: For understandable reasons, people...have little patience left. After 10 years of crisis and four years of war, after their foreign-currency savings were stolen from them, and after so many family and collective disasters, people want some peace, to spend some money, to attend to their own business, and to take care of their families.

We say that 5 October [2000] was not the end but just the beginning of a process. I must disappoint those who think that we have finished with our job: this is just the beginning. There will be new efforts and new things to endure, and I can fully understand people's reactions. People have no more energy [for new projects]....

The audience abroad is watching us and admires our efforts. Congratulations are coming in from very high and respected places, and from very important international institutions. These include expressions of surprise regarding and respect for our country's achievements.

RFE/RL: Apart from the compliments, are you also given concrete financial and political support, as you expected?

Djindjic: To tell you the truth, yes. There were some misunderstandings, however, since our initial enthusiasm was often bigger than our final results. This is why some people say that we promised more than we delivered....

What we have done so far is not so bad. We will not become a country financed by donations. It would not be realistic to let somebody else pay for our pensions and our salaries. It would not be realistic to expect overnight another $10 billion in financial aid in addition to the $10 billion of debt that was already written off for us.

Things don't work that way, except maybe in Israel and a couple of other places in the world, [where there are] some strategic reasons that I'm glad to do not apply to our case....

RFE/RL: There were two news items this week from the U.S. that were seen as contradictory in Belgrade. One of them was the announcement of an important donors conference of American investors this fall. The other is that Yugoslavia will be required to cooperate fully with The Hague-based tribunal and end financing of some parallel police forces in Kosovska Mitrovica if it wants further financial aid. Are we talking about a stick-and-carrot policy here?

Djindjic: No. It simply means that America is a complex state reflecting the different interests of different groups of people. There are differences between the Senate, the State Department, and the Congress. Different businessmen have different views about our country. If we are trying to rank the level of sympathy for our country, then I think the businessmen are those with the highest level of understanding, and that the State Department has quite a lot of understanding, as do some of the congressmen.

Those with the least sympathy are some nongovernmental organizations and some groups within the Congress and the Senate. They are sufficiently influential to prompt committees to pass laws such as the one about certification that will be adopted and will present us with a 31 March deadline for next year.

To be honest, we have no more problems with the IMF and the World Bank. We have already solved our structural problems within the international community.

What the 31 March deadline means for us is American financial aid worth up to $100 million and our good relationship with the U.S. Matters will not be as difficult as they were on 31 March this year, and especially not as bad as on 31 March last year [in the run-up to Slobodan Milosevic's arrest and subsequent extradition].

RFE/RL: But before 31 March there is the end of September, when Yugoslavia is scheduled to join the Council of Europe. Do you think this could be threatened by the slow pace of writing the Constitutional Charter of the future commonwealth of Serbia and Montenegro?

Djindjic: Things are not moving that slowly. We are going to accelerate the pace of writing during the summer, and I think that everything will be finished on time. I am quite sure that a version of the charter will be agreed on and presented to the parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro by mid-September. If the charter is implemented, we will have a viable state.

RFE/RL: By mid-September?

Djindjic: Yes. We promised to have the text of the charter ready by mid-summer, and it will be presented to the parliaments at the beginning of the fall.

As serious people, we have to stick to the plans we set down in March. There are no obstacles except those we create for ourselves.

Serbia and Montenegro should write their own text.... It will be a great political embarrassment for us, the politicians in Serbia and Montenegro, if we fail to do so.

RFE/RL: Serbian politics have become extremely lively in the run-up to the presidential election [on 29 September]. The president of Yugoslavia and potential presidential candidate in Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica, said that the presidential race will be a clash of two political concepts: one that defends the law and one that is prepared to break it. What do you think will decide the election?

Djindjic: I agree that there will be a competition between two concepts. It has nothing to do with the law, however, but rather with the future of Serbia.

The point is whether we will look for our future in the future or in the past.... Do we face our problems head on and solve them, no matter how unpleasant they are, or do we live in denial and avoid facing them? The two concepts are easy to differentiate on the political stage of Serbia, and you can easily see who advocates which one....

It is not possible to claim to be an agent of change and keep Milosevic's legal system in place as though it were something sacred. That sort of legalism means that nothing will change unless change somehow happens by itself.

For me, that is the passive and defensive position of a loser. We have already lost so much time doing things of no use for our country. If we want to achieve something, we have to be energetic, responsible, effective, and ready to face difficult decisions instead of running away from them.

RFE/RL: Is the [governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition] DOS going to have one or more presidential candidates?

Djindjic: I do not know. The point is that there is no longer any risk of an undemocratic candidate being elected. This is why I do not find the election as dramatic as some people do....

The position of president of Serbia is not an executive one [and has perhaps even] less authority than the president of Yugoslavia. The president of Yugoslavia appoints the members of the General Staff, and this is why he has such a strong influence on the army.

By contrast, the president of Serbia has no influence on any single institution. That is a representative function that Milosevic was able to abuse [because his party controlled all the top offices]. But those days are over.

RFE/RL: Professor Dragoljub Micunovic has been recently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate of the DOS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002).

Djindjic: I do not know about that. He certainly cannot be the DOS candidate since Mr. Miroljub Labus has already announced that he will run for president -- and the Democratic Party (DS) is naturally supporting him. [Editor's note: the DS is Djindjic's own party and the largest single one in the DOS.]

The DOS might have more then one candidate. What is important is that there is no more risk of a candidate who would bring shame on Serbia [by] winning the election....