Mr. Vuk Obradovic,
president of the Socialdemocracy of Serbia
hCa: Could you please tell us more about
Party of Socialdemocracy is one of the youngest political parties
in Serbia. On July 12, we will celebrate the second anniversary. In
March of 1997, we were talking about our "come back" to
politics. All of us were very active in politics in the 80s-90s, then
for years we were dissociated from any political and public engagement.
(Note: Vuk Obradovic was the youngest general
of the Yugoslav Army and its spokesmen until the beginning of the
war in Slovenia (1991). He resigned from his position after his public
promise to soldiers mothers that their sons would return from
Slovenia was not fulfilled. He has been stripped of rank.)
There were two options. First to join
some of the existing political parties, and second to create
a new party. Our estimate was that none of the existing political
parties in Serbia, both in the ruling and the opposition corps, deserved
our confidence, because we were aware that Serbia should turn to new
There was no dilemma about the profile of a
new party; it was enough to look to the political map of Europe and
to conclude that socialdemocratic parties dominate in modern European
nations and states.
Since 1997 Socialdemocracy has had a dynamic
and stormy development. Now it has 20,000 members with a wide network
all over Serbia, excluding Kosovo and Metohija. In the meantime, the
party has been recognized as the party of responsible people with
the principle political opinion on all vital questions of Serbian
and Yugoslav political life.
We strongly believe that when Serbia and Yugoslavia
finally return to the family of modern European states, our party
will be a part of the future of our country.
hCa: How do you see the development of the
political situation in Serbia and FRY in next two-three months?
God knows what the near future will bring to this unhappy country.
The outcome of events could take such directions that even the best
political analysts cannot predict at the moment. For example what
if ten protests suddenly erupt within Serbia, similar to Krusevac
Krusevac was considered to be a bastion of
SPS and JUL (Note: Milosevics and his wifes parties) and
one day, completely unexpected even for the democratic opposition,
six thousand citizens went out to the streets and started to run after
policemen and soldiers with the sticks.
I just learned that a similar protest will
happen in Cacak, on the 28th of June. (Note: It did happen, with more
than 15,000 protestors demanding Milosevics resignation.) We
will do our best to control the people, but we cannot guarantee that
something unreasonable will not happen. What if workers rise up against
the regime, what if the Serbs refugees from Kosovo start
What if someone in the Army stands up and says
stop, it cannot go in this way anymore. Maybe Milosevic will do something
with himself, who knows? What if Montenegro decides to separate from
FRY? There are so many questions that can hardly be answered.
The task for all of us who are active in politics
is to prevent violence and bloody confrontations. In short, the near
future will not be easier than the previous period, the only difference
will be the fact that people will not be killed and the country will
not be further destroyed.
hCa: What is the opinion of your party on
the Kosovo issue and on the NATO intervention?
VO: Milosevic did not create the Kosovo
problem. It is a problem, which for decades has burdened Serbia and
ex-Yugoslavia. But, Milosevic and his nationalistic politics and practice
have had a crucial role in the escalation of the Kosovo problem, in
the way it has escalated.
He abolished autonomy, he minimized the significance
of Kosovos problems, and he even did not want to recognize that
Kosovo problem existed.
On the other hand, Milosevic inflamed this
problem. Our party on 26th of June last year issued its plan for the
peaceful and democratic solution for Kosovo. This plan was distributed
to the republic and federal authorities, as well as to Kosovo Albanians
and all international leaders.
In our plan there were two main points: the
solution for the Kosovo problem should be reached in the frame of
respect to the territorial integrity of Serbia; and the full recognition
of all minority rights to Kosovars, in accordance with the highest
We also made a model for Kosovos large
autonomy. Even though we got verbal support from European leaders,
like Kinkel, this plan has not been used as the basis of negotiations.
Unfortunately nobody wanted to listen to us,
neither the International Community nor our governments, that every
solution was better than war. When the war started our main goal was
to stop it, to save even one life, to shorten the war even for one
minute - it was our patriotic duty.
Because of this approach and our statements
that Milosevic is responsible for the war we were accused as traitors,
fifth column and CIA agents. We, of course, have no single word of
excuse for what the International Community has done to our country.
NATO strikes at some point were without any
reasonable purpose, it was just punishing and destroying of one nation.
Unfortunately, we cannot replace Clinton, Blair, Schroeder and the
Our duty is to find out how much we contributed
to the tragedy of our country and who is responsible for it. Our answer
is clear - it is Slobodan Milosevic, and he must go away. He has fixed
up all the tragedies he should, except one - a civil war in Serbia.
We must stop his insane, nationalistic and
inhuman politics, which can provoke our people to kill each other.
hCa: All of us are witnesses of the celebrations
of the "victory over NATO". How do you see it?
big tragedy happened in Kosovo. The Albanians were touched the most
and we are very sorry about it. But, in the name of truth, it should
be said that all citizens of Yugoslavia were touched as well. Several
thousand people died, more ran away. Material losses are such that
Serbia is turned back 50 years. We welcomed the Belgrade agreement
because killing and bombing were stopped.
Now, Milosevic and his allies are celebrating
the victory. There is no victory in this war. We are all loosers.
The biggest are the Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo, then
Serbia and FRY, but the International Community as well. If someone
thinks that he has the victory in his hands then it could be only
On the other hand, this is not the defeat of
either the people of Serbia nor of the Army of Yugoslavia, they were
very brave in the war. This is the defeat and capitulation of one
kind of politics, this is the capitulation of the Yugoslav and Serbian
authorities with Milosevic at the head.
hCa: What are the demands of your party?
demands are clear. First, we ask the suspension of martial law, as
well as all decrees especially those connected to media and political
parties. This is the first thing that should be done. If the regime
decides not to fulfill this demand we will not obey these rules.
Second, we demand the resignation of Milosevic
and other responsible officials of Serbia and FRY.
Third, we ask for establishment of transitional
republic and federal governments. The transitional governments should
be composed of politically un-discredited persons.
The new governments should have three main
tasks - to take part in the negotiation process on the future of Kosovo,
which should start as soon as possible; to schedule premature general
elections on the republic and federal level in October/November of
this year, and to create new relations with the International Community.
We also demand the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the
USA, Great Britain, France and Germany.
hCa: Why elections in October/November?
think that until this time it is possible to adopt a new Election
law and the new Law on media, and to have a successful pre-election
campaign. The elections should be under strong international control.
Everything that Milosevic is doing now looks
like a pre-election campaign, all these celebrations, speeches about
reconstruction and other stupidities that can be seen on TV. It seems
that he wants to have elections in September.
The regime is very afraid of the winter, they
are aware that at that time people will be completely out of money,
there will be no heating, electricity, etc. So they will force elections
before the winter.
hCa: How do you see the future of Serbia?
must start reform in all fields, from the economy, the health system,
education, to the military and police forces and state organisation.
This reform should have four basic directions.
First, Serbia needs political reconstruction
and democratisation, which means a lot of things from the passing
of a new constitution to a different approach regarding the national
question, as well as decentralisation and regionalisation of the country.
Second, Serbia needs full economic reconstruction
with a free market, enterprises, and trade unions as well as with
a good tax system and stable currency.
Third, we need complete reform in the social
field, a reduction of bureaucracy, military and police forces, creation
of cheap, modern state structures which should be replaceable and
Fourth - integration into international institutions
hCa: What is the position of the opposition
Serbian opposition, before the 24th of March, was in the phase of
reaffirmation and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, this war punched
us very strongly. Every single newspaper is under a strong censure,
we cannot travel even to Novi Sad or Nis, to speak to the people.
On the other hand, our members ask us what
kind of democracy they should fight for they do not want to
fight for the Western type of democracy, which was bombing them. So,
the position of the opposition is very delicate and very difficult.
Mr. Nebojcajovic, president of the Democratic
Alternative of Serbia
hCa: How do you see the current political
we are in the phase of pre-culmination of the crises that started
ten years ago. I do expect culmination this year, but I hope very
much that civil war will not happen, although all factors are going
in that direction.
Milosevic used Kosovo from the very beginning
to come to power. He misused citizens of Kosovo, who were voting for
him and his allies, and he got votes for 40 representatives in the
parliament of Serbia and 20 representatives in the federal parliament.
For Milosevic it was the best solution to do
nothing with the Kosovo problem.
The status of Kosovo has never been clear,
de jure it was a part of Serbia and FRY; de facto Kosovo functioned
as a parallel state.
Milosevics main mechanism for manipulation
is the media, and he still manipulates with all these ceremonies
every day one can see and read about the festive laying of cornerstones
of pontoon bridges, and phantom factories.
In the first seven days of the war Milosevic
was waiting for the natural homogenisation of the people, which was
very normal when a country is attacked it is normal that people
unite in its defense.
Then Milosevic, via the media, identified this
homoganisation as support for his politics.
On the other hand, the economic situation is
catastrophic. Only 10% of the factories are working. A large number
of people are unemployed. In such circumstances it is very hard to
expect any political or economical perspectives for the country.
I am afraid that the international community
will again trade with Milosevic as they did last year.
(Note: Greek and Italian companies bought "Telecom"
and gave 900 million DEM. With that money Milosevic calmed down the
social tensions, when people openly protested demanding their pensions
hCa: Could you tell us more about the Alliance
the middle of last year we, as the democratic opposition, created
the Alliance for Changes, with six opposition parties and two individuals.
Our party was one of the founders of this alliance. We were trying
to unite all opposition democratic parties and the beginning of our
work was very good.
But, NATO aggression and the war provoked a
division in our attitudes. I support the opinion that, no matter what
Milosevic has done, and for sure he has done a lot of terrible things
to all of us, it is not justification for NATO to bomb Serbia and
FRY. All destroyed bridges, factories, hospitals and buildings are
not the property of Milosevic.
To justify the bombing with the explanation
that the people in Serbia must change their minds and must correct
themselves regarding Milosevic is counterproductive. Generations of
ex-Yugoslavians were very enthusiastic about American and Western-European
democracy, we wanted to copy this model and to have such democracy
in our country.
But, after the aggression of the NATO countries
things have changed, and it will be very hard to explain to the citizens
of Serbia and FRY which kind of democracy our country should reach
hCa: How do you see the involvement of the
last meeting with internationals was in London, 15 days before the
war started. We told them what military aggression would bring to
Serbia and FRY. Unfortunately, we were right, the international community
made a big mistake, their estimates were wrong.
They were counting that for them the easiest
way to get rid from Milosevic was aggression. It is true that Milosevics
political days are numbered, but it could be done without so much
blood and destruction.
But the decision-makers did what they did.
They are now in Kosovo and both Kosovo and Montenegro have the good
prospects for the future. Serbia has been left in the lurch, with
hCa: Last days the hot issue is the Stability
Pact for South Eeastern Europe. What is your opinion on it?
NC: The Pact will bring us a better future.
I have learned from this document that Serbia has an important role
in this project, but not with Milosevic in the power. Even not with
a new leader who is similar to Milosevic.
I support the Pact, but Milosevic started a
new manipulation by saying that this document will deprive Serbs national
identity. It is the regimes new game.
We will not lose our national identity if we
will have 30 thousand dollars per capita, we will anyhow lose it with
one thousand dollars per capita, as is case now.
hCa: What do you think about demands for
already started his campaign. He counts that, if he will be forced
to have premature elections, the best time is when the people are
in the phase of drowsiness.
When the war was over, the people were in the
phase of relief, now they are in depression and this phase will last
Then we will have a hangover, when people do
not care about anything, and this would be the best time for Milosevic.
Because of that, I am against having elections
before the adoption of a new law and before we have free media and
freedom of expression.
Of course, any elections in this country must
be under the control of the OSCE. But not with the OSCE I have experience
with, when Milosevic obtained the monitors.
hCa: You were a part of Milosevics
politics for a long time. Why did you split up with him?
NC: I started
to do politics in 1991. It would have been better if I broke my legs
instead of that, because politics is some kind of drug. I left the
Socialist Party because I could not accept the election fraud in November
1996. At that time I was a mayor of Belgrade.
When Milosevic continued to molest me I said
I would be back, especially because I worked off my mandate honestly
in the very specific period of sanctions, and I was not politically
I admit that Milosevic was smarter then I was,
so he used me. The big problem is that he is very intelligent and
he is excellent in putting the puzzle together in order to remain
Mr. Goran Svilanovic, president of Civil Alliance of Serbia
hCa: How do you see the current situation
we, the Civic Alliance, analyze the current situation in Serbia we
are, on the one hand, optimistic, but it is hard to tell how far is
this all going to go (especially the new role of Milosevic and Seselj
But, in spite of all the optimism, there is
a hard period in front of us, elections and also the poor state of
civil (and citizens) rights in post-war Serbia.
hCa: What are political alternatives in
is a strong radical lobby around Milosevic, they are unhappy for being
beaten in yet another war, and are looking for a new one. These people
are following Seselj and his policies.
Seselj is the man behind the law on media and
the law on the university. The radical lobby has grown stronger with
Seselj entering the coalition government, and with his help they will
eventually be able to replace Milosevic.
The prospect of living under Seselj s
rule is horrible. A somewhat better scenario would be temporary government,
or the government of experts, which would be too much for Milosevic.
This temporary government would consist of
a "coalition" between the Serb Radical Party (Seselj) and
the Serb Renewal Movement (Draskovic), with the eventual replacement
of the republic and Federal parliament (with Djukanovic).
Nowadays, Seselj rules Serbia or said in better
way he is "asked to rule Serbia", and he is getting more
and more support because Seselj is not making compromises like Milosevic.
hCa: How do you see ideas about premature
the elections take place in this year, that would be a catastrophe
from our point of view. Regular elections for local and federal institutions
should take place in November of the 2000 (republic elections in 2001).
Many people suggest that elections on all the
levels should take place in 2000. Milosevic has already started his
campaign, but that does not have to mean that he is going to shift
elections to an earlier period.
This winter is going to be really harsh, so
he will maybe decide to have elections before winter, or if his analysis
shows that the winter would not be such a bad period, then in the
spring. It depends a lot on the energy situation, but they have better
information than we do.
hCa: How fast will the situation in Kosovo
there is a massive campaign for returning Serbs to Kosovo. I am skeptical,
about this campaign, all of Serbs wanting to move. The Serb problem
is also that they have lived up to the role of being the dominant
group in Kosovo, and they can not realize that this has changed.
Serbs had power, Albanians had money, I do
not think they will want to live there with a situation as such. Up
until now, Kosovo, at least, did not have war, revenge and the genocide
experiences that they have now, so this credit of a more or less peaceful
coexistence has been spent now.
hCa: Do you think Albanians from Kosovo
would want to enroll in political life in Serbia?
met with Bakali, Agani, Malici and others before the war. They have
always been strongly opposed to any elections in the frame of Serbia.
I suppose they oppose such an idea even more strongly now.
Albanians want only the elections organised
by the OSCE and only Kosovo-wide elections. They were not interested
in the situation in Serbia, when we met in Paris, in November of last
year, so I do not suppose they are more interested in it now.
hCa: Tell us please some more information
about the Serbian opposition.
Serbian opposition is strongly divided, not only Slobodan Milosevic
is a problem, but also divisions among us.
Although Milosevic is going from one political
defeat to another, we are not able to take him down. Citizens of Serbia
would welcome a solid and respectable organisation, instead of Milosevics
corrupted regime, but none of the opposition has had a chance.
There has always been a distance between the
opposition and ordinary people, and we have to work in order to change
that, to create an atmosphere of trust between the people and us.
There is hopethe last local elections saw the opposition getting
a grip on power in certain regions, cities and towns.
Opposition representatives have stayed, in
spite of many difficulties, in power. But in order to accomplish more,
the opposition has to make personal changes, as we already did when
I have replaced Vesna Pesic; the same people can not take us any further.
The Alliance for Changes, of which our party
is a member, is a good thing, but we need a complete unification of
all the democratic opposition forces in Serbia.
hCa: What do you think about the condition
that Serbia will not get any help from the International Community
until Milosevic is removed from the power?
GS: I think
this decision is wrong. Isolating Milosevic through embargo suits
him and helps him stay in power.
It is possible to help cities and towns directly,
where the opposition is in power. There are 46 municipalities where
the opposition is in power.
All kinds of humanitarian help and support
should be distributed to these municipalities directly--not over any
Federal or republic structures, but through non-governmental organizations
or non-governmental companies.
Mr. Zarko Korac, president of the Socialdemocratic
Union of Serbia
hCa: How do you see the current political
situation in Serbia?
estimate is that Serbia is in a state of agony and dangerous instability,
some kind of detrimental boiling pot.
How the situation is dangerous could be seen
from the example of Belgrade, where the SPO (Serbian Renewal Movement)
is officially in power, but cannot rule without SPS (Socialistic Party)
because the SPO has no absolute majority in the city assembly.
That means that if SPS decides to pull the
rug out from under Draskovic's feet, he will lose Belgrade in 24 hours.
It could be predicted that in the next weeks a coalition between Milosevic's
socialists and Seselj's radicals would try to take over power in Belgrade.
What Draskovic will do then, no one knows.
Maybe he will ask people for a demonstration, like in the winter 96/97.
I must say that I will not be glad if the transition
of power happens in the streets - Serbia is full of weapons; almost
all people are very passionate; aside from 700,000 refugees from Croatia
and BiH, there are now more than 40,000 refugees who fled Kosovo and
who are in a traumatized psychological state.
It could be very dangerous and bloody.
I want to defeat Milosevic with democratic
tools - he has to suffer a real defeat.
On the other hand, someone must lead the street
protest; the masses as such could not reach transition.
This leading person could be someone completely
unexpected, like Iliescu in Romania, and I am afraid of it. I would
prefer this person to be someone I know, rather than someone who will
rise from the street to the stage, and you do not know what is his
In short, I do not agree with those people,
especially internationals, who think that in Serbia things could not
In Serbia things could be worse than now, there
still exist very strong nationalistics right forces here. Seselj,
for example, is a permanent sword of Democles over our heads.
hCa: What is the rating of particular political
parties after the last events?
recent very respectable poll shows an incredible fall in the popularity
of the ruling SPS party; they have got only 20%.
On the other hand, Vuk Draskovic and his SPO
- for the first time have got an incredible 14%. (The best results
that party ever had was 9%).
The fall in the popularity of other parties
is also very evident, especially of the Democratic Party and its leader
Zoran Djindjic, who is politically dead in my opinion.
This is not only Korac's opinion, almost all people we spoke with
shared this attitude. Djindjic left Belgrade at the beginning of the
NATO air-strikes and moved to Montenegro.)
It is very characteristic - this fall of both
the position [ruling parties] and the opposition parties. It means
that most of the election body is in favor of change, but this body
also has not recognized any alternative option.
The attitude of the Socialdemocratic Union
is to create circumstances like in Slovakia and Croatia and to unite
the opposition as the first step to the definitive transition.
hCa: You stressed the divisions among the
opposition, as well as the fact that Vuk Draskovic, as the most popular
politician, is not strong enough to fight alone against Milosevic.
Keeping in mind all differences in the opposition, how it is possible
to create any opposition block against the ruling regime?
are several alliances among the opposition. There is the most known
Alliance for Changes, but we created the Alliance of Democratic Parties.
The name of this alliance, SDP - clearly shows that our final aim
is to create a new, Socialdemocratic party of Serbia, uniting all
hCa: What do you think about the ICTY indictments
against Milosevic and his allies?
are very disappointed with some things regarding the indictment. The
Hague Tribunal has lost its credibility in Serbia because this court
is just a political instrument. When we were asking for indictments
they did not happen. They appeared when somebody was interested in
We have some indications that the ICTY will
change the indictments from crimes against humanity to genocide.
There is the list of 300 people from Serbia
who cannot enter the Europe, as well as a large list of companies
the internationals are forbidden to trade with. We hope these lists
will be enlarged; this is also a way internationals could help in
the transition of the power.
hCa: How do you see the recent activities
of the Milosevic's regime?
regime has already started with its propaganda. Milosevic, in contrast
to his custom, visited Novi Sad and Aleksinac. He and his allies promised
the reconstruction of the country without any international support.
Milosevic openly said that they made secret
plans for the reconstruction even before the war started. Now they
are desperately trying to stop the exodus of Serbs from Kosovo.
On the other hand we have the Orwell media
rules in the country for the first time -- every evening all TV stations
in the country must broadcast the main state TV news.
hCa: How do you see the role of the Serb
is the second time in last two years that the Serb orthodox church
openly asked for the resignation of Milosevic and his regime. The
Kosovo myth was the only thing that was politically connecting them.
Because of that fact it is impossible they are going to reconcile
hCa: There were many ideas about solving
the status of Kosovo. What is your opinion on all this?
of the ideas for solving this issue was the idea of exchanging Kosovo
for Republika Srpska. It would mean, give Serbs Republika Srpska in
exchange for Kosovo, which they have already lost ethnically. This
idea was supported by Henry Kissinger, among others, and as you know
it was refused.
The second idea was the one about the division
of Kosovo, one aspect was also this confrontation between NATO and
The idea of division was also supported by
the Orthodox Church, and because the West opposed this idea it was
I think there will be many problems with Kosovo,
and I am not optimistic about that situation.
Leaving the Kosovo-Albania border completely
open is a great mistake; there is no control of who is entering Kosovo.
I think that this crisis has landed in Macedonia, and it is possible
that the Albanians will start creating their parallel state there.
Macedonia will maybe turn into BiH, only without
war, although many Macedonians are not sure if it is going to be peaceful
We have made an analysis of the resolution
of the Security Council and we have come to the conclusion that it
is very weak in many aspects.
One of the things that is not mentioned at
all, if you have at least the formal sovereignty of Yugoslavia, is
allowing presence of, at least, symbolic number of Yugoslav Army troops
on the border of Kosovo.
Nobody is trying to find a permanent solution
for Kosovo, this problem has been shifted to a five or fifteen year
hCa: What do you think about Rugova's position
after this war and how do you see the political situation in Kosovo?
supporting the KLA the West is eliminating Rugova from the position
of being representative of Kosovo Albanians. I did everything I could
to convince the West not to eliminate him; Rugova cannot even return
to Kosovo because KFOR would not guarantee him safety if he did so.
I think that Rugova has not lost as much support
as he is considered to have lost. Many Albanians are aware that they
have twice elected Rugova to be their president.
Rugova has never given up on the idea of an
independent Kosovo, even when he was taking a lot less radical positions,
and was ready for compromises.
Nobody can predict the behavior of the Albanian
election body, in Kosovo, in the coming period. We do not know if
it is going to become more and more radical or just partially radical,
but I think a chance is being given to a group of people that lead
the KLA; it is a group of young and radical people unsatisfied by
the situation in Kosovo.
I do not think that this organisation or these
people represent the interests of the majority of Albanian people
in Kosovo. The statement made by some Albanians, that they would live
with the Serbs, also should not be underestimated.
Things are very confusing there right now,
it is understandable after all these killings, Agani for instance,
and all the other things that had happened. Relations between many
Albanian politicians in Kosovo are very hostile; the opinion that
all the Albanian politicians are united is wrong.
Along with that there has been a serious twist
in Albania as well, Sali Berisha now supports Rugova, and Majdani,
the president, supports Taci. So we are not sure how will the situation
develop, because support from Albania is also an important factor
for Kosovo, they watch TV Tirana etc.
We have to stop the possibility of repeating
the BiH scenario, you know very well, once the shifting of ethnic
groups occurs there is no going back. So it means it has to be stopped
before it starts. There are already many cases of robbery, revenge,
killings and such things.
KFOR has also made many fundamental mistakes,
their plan is a military plan; they do not account for civilians [in
their mandate] and are not flexible, they do not adapt to the situation
on the field.
Orders are given and they have to be fulfilled;
they should instead try to make some changes, and protect the civilians.
Mr. Milos Grabundija, member of the head body of the Yugoslav Action
Group from Vojvodina
(Note: the Pancevo municipality
has 127,000 inhabitants. During the NATO intervention this town was
severely destroyed because of its chemical and petroleum industry.)
hCa: Could you please tell us something
more about the Yugoslav Action Group and its activities?
MG: I would
like to start in chronological order, because I was one of the founders
of this NGO. We wanted to make an organisation where all of the initiatives
would come from people, and an organisation that would work, in a
first place, to satisfy the needs of our citizens.
Creating such an organisation would be our
contribution to creating civil society in Serbia. That is very hard
to accomplish, or to be more precise it is impossible to accomplish
such a goal, with the current system in our country.
YAG is lobbying to change certain passages
in the Constitution. We have already started to work on our proposal
for these changes, or even for adopting a new Constitution.
Our organisation also wants to change a law
about local structures and their role in the political system. In
other words, we want to work on the decentralisation of power and
expanding the competence and responsibilities of local governing structures.
hCa: Can you comment on the current situation
in Serbia, and describe actions that you are planning?
MG: The coming period is going to
be very hard, there is lot of persecution--for instance one of our
colleagues has been arrested; two men-refugees who have fled Kosovo
have been arrested under the charge of not "informing the police
about the change of their place of residence," etc.
We think these things do not suit modern civil
society. Yugoslav Action Group wants, on the basis of public opinion
and the wishes of our population, to put pressure on the government,
in the name of these citizens, to start solving these problems-- these
arrests--along with all the problems concerning or endangering the
rights of our citizens.
We do not want to take over the role of state
institutions; we want, in the name of our citizens, to monitor the
activities of these institutions. These institutions have to deal
with the problems that are under their competence, they have to fulfill
their constitutional obligations.
We are also of that opinion that some kind
of Marshall plan should be adopted by the International Community,
not only for Serbia , but for the whole territory of ex-Yugoslavia,
as this territory is a compact area.
We have also been against the war, against
martial law and against the practice that has taken place during this
war of ruling the state by regulations and decrees.
The Yugoslav Action Group also works on enlarging
its network that would cover all the state. We want to adopt a regional
policy for the YAG because the different regions of this country face
their specific problems.
The situation, and the problems in Novi Pazar,
for instance, are different from the situation in Vranje, not to mention
those in Kosovo.
We want to show the presence of a positive
force in Serbia and to support every party or NGO which has declared
creating a civil society as their main goal.
We, the Pancevo people, in the frame of the
Yugoslav Action Group, are also making projects in order to create
new employment positions, opening small businesses, repairing destroyed
ones, etc., and developing the local economy and attracting foreign
investors to our region.
hCa: Can you comment on the situation during
the war in your region and the damages caused to your region?
war has been a great catastrophe to our city and our region as a whole.
During the bombing campaign, much of the cities industry and
infrastructure were destroyed, including many non-army facilities.
The much bigger catastrophe, that will not
have influence just on this region but to the whole of Europe, is
the destroying of three factories producing chemical products: a petro-chemical
factory, a petroleum refinery and a fertiliser factory.
A great threat occurs by combining the poisons
that have been released into the atmosphere by destroying these facilities.
Many other facilities, military and non-military, have also been destroyed,including
the buildings of airplane factory Lola-Utva, which has been out of
use for seven years.
This bombing has left more than 7000 people
without work, the 3000 people that worked in Lola-Utva are not included
in this 7000.
We are very well aware what this game of world
powers and our government has brought to us; it has brought only bombs,
poison and unemployment.
hCa: How can we, the hCa, help Pancevo?
can be helped through connecting Pancevo with the other structures
of your organisation. We want to be informed and in synch with European
and world trends and policies.
The concrete help you, the hCa, could give
to us is in organising seminars that will help us co-ordinate our
policies with the policies of the European Union.
We are in Europe and we see our future only
in the frame of the European Union.
These seminars would, of course, require the
presence of representatives of the European Union, and you, as a influential
NGO, could maybe help us with that.
We are willing to be a part of the Helsinki
In matters of global policies we would like
to consult with the hCa.
We are also prepared to give our contribution
to the work of the hCa through different actions, seminars, and campaigns,
organised by our activists.
Mr. Vlada Deanovic, president of the Assembly
of the Independent trade union of pensioners of Serbia
hCa: Can you please tell us your opinion
on the last events that took place in Serbia?
have to work towards changing the current government structures. That
has to be done in the first place for the welfare of the younger generations;
there are no good prospects for them. We do not want to be a "social
case of Europe", to depend only on the humanitarian aid for years
and years to come.
Our wish is to get into Europe so that the
people could see that we are not all beasts. There are many beasts
here; we know that better than anyone, and we do not question that,
but we do not want to pay for the crimes of Serbs that have behaved
We also think that it is necessary, after all
that has happened, to ask the West many important questions.
They, the West, have created Slobodan Milosevic.
He, Milosevic, was entitled, by the West, to sign the Dayton agreement,
a peace agreement in another state. So they have considered him to
be someone who could sign that agreement, but when he does something
against their wishes we get bombs.
I think that they, the West, have their share
of the responsibility in all this and they have to admit it to themselves.
hCa: Can you please, as a president of the
Assembly of the Independent trade union of pensioners of Serbia, tell
us something about the current situation of pensioners in Serbia?
has 1,270,000 pensioners, 70 percent of them have income of 70 DM
per month, on average. These pensions are, after paying the rent,
telephone etc., too little to live a semi-normal life.
After all this, even these small pensions are
coming late and the people are in a big crisis, they do not have money
for food and medicine.
Last year in Serbia 40,000 pensioners passed
away; suicide was a very frequent cause of death. I fear that, after
all this, this already large number will dramatically increase.
Last year we, the pensioners, had 18 protest
meetings in Belgrade and 11 in Pancevo, but until the rest of the
population starts complaining about their life conditions--workers
get approximately 200 DM, which is also terrible--we can not do anything.
Mr. Dusan Janjic, president of Forum for ethnic relations
hCa: What do you think happened during the
DJ: A completely
new phenomenon, I call it "new patriotism" appeared then.
It was horrible at the beginning. For example, some intellectuals
explain that the USA is the originator of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
People are shaming their professions, their
approaches and everything; and their conversion mostly ruined the
chances of the so-called democratic opposition and touched even the
The fact is that people who were connected
with American funds and foundations the most, are becoming the biggest
Serbs. Probably because of fear they started to protect themselves
Can you imagine that Sonja Licht has become
a patriot? That was funny in every way but really tasteless, you know
"those barbarian strikes, caused by
One part of the political leaders and individuals
went that way; the other part, like Vuk Obradovic who counted on NATO
too much took another way. Obradovics statements were brave
and clear, but there was a problem - the timing, his members did not
like this brave attitude only against Milosevic, they wanted the same
statements against NATO.
This group of people believed that everything
would be over in 15 days, that Milosevic's regime would fall, and
they would come into power.
The same way Sonja Licht and the others believed
that NATO is going to lose the battle here, and that Milosevic is
staying for the next 200 years.
hCa: What happened with the non-governmental
sector in Serbia?
NGO sector was particularly divided. One part, those who were well
informed, ran away, and they did it in a panic, believing that Milosevic
would fall quickly. And then two sorts of behaviour started.
Behaviour that was supposed to prepare money
for the return of the people who ran away, immediately. With, of course,
the main stories that there is nothing to do in the country.
And the other behaviour which is really marginal,
in few cases it broke an organisation. For example, Sonja Biserko,
she fell into the propaganda machine of NATO.
Madeline Albright welcomed her, The New York
Times published that Serbian voice that asks for continuation of the
strikes appears, while she did not inform, and not to mention, she
did not organise her organisation to work.
That means that generally the non-governmental
sector is ruined, even such strong anti-regime organisations as the
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Humanitarian Law Centre.
hCa: Tell us something about the work of
the beginning, 16 organisations came together, to see what to do.
It started on March 28, and already on April 1 we had 40 organisations.
Then we started with the appeals.
Our general opinion was: we are against violence,
the regime caused the situation that led to war, but also we say no
to NATO strikes and we say no to ethnic cleansing.
That means we always held to those three things:
criticism of the regime, criticism of NATO strikes, and criticism
of ethnic cleansing of the Albanians.
So we already in the second announcement, on
April 13, wanted our place, that means YAG, as a representative of
civil society in future negotiations about the implementation of a
political solution for Kosovo and participation in implementation.
For that reason there is our Civil house in
The second thing we want is to form a Permanent
conference of NGOs from the Balkans about peace, reconciliation, development,co-operation
and security, with the idea that the conference should have different
shapes of work, but there is one basic goal: to reach the Stability
We only can articulate this idea to the level
we did and to fight out strongly. Realisation must be carried by much
more factors, including non-Balkan NGOs.
Two things happened. When we started to do
that, local movement parties started to join us and the large anti-war
There are three fields we are going to work
on: human rights, trade unions and social rights, and ecology.
When the elections come YAG has two possibilities.
Either to lobby and give our votes to one of the parties or to demand
to lead some parties itself. We are closer to the second possibility;
we think that the YAG has more a mature leadership than the parties.
hCa: How could the hCa support YAG?
DJ: I think
you could be interested in two possible projects. Civil houses in
Kosovo and Sandzak. Specially Sandzak because the hCa was very active
in that area. You can have your own offices, your own projects as
well as common projects with the YAG or other NGOs.
Particulary, Sandzak is a very important area
because we still can prevent the conflict that could arise there.
We want to organise the Civil houses as the
main point for different purposes -- to make counsels for human rights,
a center for reconciliation, a center for civil education, but we
slowly want to make friendship through those public places, cafes
and so on.
We already have a Serb-Albanian workshop, inside
the house, but in the beginning it would be just relaxed book promotions,
a few scientific discussions, etc.
Then we are going to try to do some projects
on reconciliation, mutual understanding, multi culturalism, etc. We
have the same plan for a Civil house in Sandzak, and I think that
the role of hCa International is crucial in that issue.
hCa: What is your opinion on premature elections?
DJ: I am
against the premature elections. I have worked a lot with America
and Europe, and I know it is in their interest to have the elections
in three months, but it can only harm the opposition.
I am saying that premature elections are just
the Americans excuse that democratisation is not possible, to
make new military escalation and to stay in this region for a long
Mrs. Biljana Kovasevic Vuzo, coordinator of the Yugoslav Action Group
hCa: What do you think about this after-war
period and especially about the amnesty for deserters from the Yugoslav
is one of our main projects, a main political campaign of the YAG.
Right now we are examining the public opinion on this issue; we cannot
address the population with this yet.
Our organisation is doing a survey, in Belgrade,
in order to see whether the population of this city agrees with amnesty.
We do not present this proposal as a political
amnesty, as in BiH, for all the actions in the war, but we only want
this amnesty for the deserters.
We are awaiting the results of our survey and
we are quite sure that the results will be disastrous.
hCa: How can we, the hCa, help your organisation,
the YAG, with this campaign?
this amnesty campaign, the help of an organisation such as yours is
very necessary and wanted. We would like to have your support in the
lobbying and your help with this campaign. You should convince the
International Community that this amnesty would be in their interest
If this law is passed then, the people could
return safely to their homes and that is one of the goals that the
West has declared to be their priority.
We would also need your concrete help for creating
a budget for this campaign, consulting and to help us with acquiring
top priorities so we could start our work to the fullest, because
in the current situation we are able to be involved only in personal
Our colleagues are doing this in their free
time and, because of the lack of support, we are unable to launch
a massive campaign.
Mr. Miljenko Dereta, president of the Civic
hCa: How do you see a role of foreign NGOs
in these recent events in Serbia?
MD: They, the foreigners, have made many serious
mistakes and have shown an absolute lack of information about the
situation. And I have to say that the actions of many foreign NGOs,
for instance statement of Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights--as
a reaction on our appeal, had meant a serious blow to us as an organisation.
The HCHR is a respected and influential organisation
and their position made many of our friends insecure. We were forced
to answer many questions and give many explanations over and over
again. We have to work on changing the view of the situation issued
by many foreign NGOs.
This binary view, one is bad, the other is
good, is the main problem we are facing in our relations with foreign
NGOs. If one is against the NATO intervention it does not mean that
he/she is Milosevic supporter. On the contrary, the more common opinion
was and still is to be against both NATOs methods and Milosevic.
Mr. Milutin Matic, coordinator of Forum
for ethnic relations, Kragujevac
hCa: Can you please tell us about the new
situation in Serbia, after this war?
MM: I think
the situation in Serbia is now completely different and nothing is
the same as it was before all this. A lot of things have changed,
and we have to take full advantage of that.
That means we have to change the way we act
and behave and to change, or modify, many organisations and to change
the people in power, not only government but also the people leading
the opposition forces.
Our political organising in Serbia has to be
different. I think that after all this, all the parties, the ones
in power and the ones in the opposition have spent their credit, and
we have to look for new forms of organizing.
A party is no longer satisfatory, we have to
go towards a mass movement. There is a good time for it now, there
was a war and the people have shown great solidarity and unity over
issues of defending the country, defending freedom and defending Kosovo
and many other issues.
Now while this unity is still strong I think
is the right time for a movement to be born, a democratic movement
that would replace everything we had, on the political field, in Serbia
up until now.
We need to change the leaders, left and right,
and new, politically educated and un-discredited leaders should take
their places. We need people from the top all the way to villages
hCa: How could the International Community
help you achieve such a goal?
International Community has to change their stand towards our country,
the IC should welcome such an initiative and realize that a movement
as such would like to co-operate with the IC.
We need two major approaches. First, that this
Yugoslav Action Group has a chance to grow into the democratic movement,
with clear political ideas. And the second is a financial approach,
or that all the finances for the Serbia go under our movement.
If that would be accomplished I think the situation
in Serbia would change rapidly and soon we would have a completely
different picture of Serbia.
hCa: What do you think about lobbing for
change of the Law of media?
MM: I think
that is only a partial solution. My belief is that the only way is
to set elections for a Constitutional Assembly, and meeting the requirements
for it to start from the beginning.
That assembly would create a new Constitution,
which would be different from everything that we had until now, and
would legalize a new political organisation and set new economic relations,
including also freedoms and rights of all citizens according to international
practice and all the other things that the Constitution should contain.
In the frame of the Constitution Kosovos
status should also be included, because this status is now very unclear.
This process should start right now.