Serbia 2006The year of final denouement?

Posted in Other | 02-Apr-06 | Author: Zoran Živkovic

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia (2003-2004) Zoran Zivkovic, who took over the leading position in the Government of Serbia after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, presented his positions on Kosovo, the survival of the State Union of Serbia-Montenegro and the co-operation of Serbia with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in his article "SERBIA 2006 – THE YEAR OF DENOUEMENT?". Mr. Zivkovic is one of the leading initiators of democratic changes in Serbia who actively participated in the overthrowing of Milosevic's regime on October 5, 2000. His article is published in full.

Two centuries of modern Serbian state are the period of rise and fall caused by internal and external factors. The external factors played the dominant role in the development of modern Serbian society. Such is the destiny of all small nations, especially if their country is situated in strategically important region which mighty forces are interested in. The period of two hundred years after First Serbian Uprising is marked by struggle for freedom from Ottoman Empire, the labour pains of a young and poor state, fights between dynasties, wars both on the Balkans and in the world, changes of the borders, changes of the state organisation and changes of the state name. The consequence of all mentioned above is illustrated by the story told by a hundred-year-old man, living in some village in the centre of Serbia, who claimed that he lived in nine different countries without ever setting his foot outside his village. The name of my country has changed for 9 times in less than hundred years. Since I was born, my country has changed its name for four times and there are some serious indications that it will happen for the fifth time this year. Of course, the changes of the name are the consequences of much deeper, essential changes which have, too often, changed the body of Serbian society. Living in Serbia has never been boring and it is not even today.

Two-century-long period was characterised by the fact that Serbia, through the decisions of its authorities and opinions of the citizen majority, made correct, just and progressive decisions in all extraordinary situations in the region and world. During both First and Second World War Serbia was a part of alliance which fought against conquerors, fought on the side which conquered evil. Serbia was loyal and valuable ally to those who fought for freedom and peace. It was active participant in all processes, both wars and peace, which made our planet better place for living. Unfortunately, the last decade of the previous century, the reign of Slobodan Milosevic, cast a dark shadow on the history of my country. Ten years of horrors, state disintegration, family disintegration, 10 years of wars, 10 years of crimes and hopelessness threw Serbia into isolation and enmity with former allies. Serbs, as people, were demonised, mostly by their own fault. Milosevic was not the only one to be blamed for state disintegration and war crimes, ethnic cleansing and organised crime did not bear just one national mark, but the amount of blame which should be put on Milosevic and on all those who assisted and supported him is the biggest one.

The opposition appeared with Milosevic coming into power. First of all political parties but NGOs and independent media as well were the gathering place for the people who recognised the coming horrors and wished to prevent them. Savage repression form the regime, inexperience and lack of parliamentarian democratic tradition, lack of understanding from the natural allies in the immediate surroundings and from the world, as well as internal misunderstandings, made the victory of the opposition over the autocrat and the prevention of further state ruin possible only after ten-year-long efforts which culminated in success in October, 2000. The first democratic government was formed led by Mr Zoran Djindjic and this government initiated the process of healing Serbia.

The government expected to face the fact indicating the catastrophic conditions of the state and society segments. But the real situation was even worse. Some of the characteristics of economic situation were technologically ruined industry additionally devastated by sanctions and NATO alliance bombing, huge external debt, shortage of heating fuel, medicines, food and production raw materials as well as experts, high unemployment rate, state debts towards citizens for salaries, pensions, social allowances. The main fists of Milosevic’s regime, police and military forces, politicised up to maximum, together with organised crime could hardly wait without hiding their hatred for new democratic authorities.Corruption polluted completely all public services and made them criminal and inefficient. Several hundred thousands of refugees from former Yugoslav republics and Kosovo, several tens of thousands of people whose homes had been destroyed during NATO bombing, wished for a chance to continue normal life. Non-democratic Constitution and obsolete legislation, as well as a number of corrupted and non-professional judges resisted the reforms. And there were so many other things… The “old” problems were particularly difficult - Kosovo status, relations with Montenegro and cooperation with ICTY. “New” difficult problems - divided ruling coalition and the division itself on non-compromising reformers and grumpy “legalists” who flirted with ex regime.

Zoran Djindjic, who was educated, determined, brave and, the most important of all, ready to tell the citizens of Serbia the truth knowing that it would not bring him popularity and that it would expose him to danger, started the comprehensive reforms. In two years the economic situation improved significantly: inflation was 10 times smaller, the salaries were 4 times higher, the external debt was halved, the privatisation was at full swing. There were no problems with food, medicines and heating fuel. Milosevic was arrested and sent to Hague. Serbia returned to international institutions. The foreign investors came. The image of Serbia was altered and Serbia became the leader in the Balkans. Serbia was on the good road. That road was neither short nor safe but it led to final destination –Europe.

At the beginning of the military and security sector reforms Zoran Djindjic was assassinated by the hand of the organised crime. The retrograde forces did not forgive him the efficiency of the reforms he carried out and the speed of the changes. His assassination activated long-time prepared action whose goal was to finally deal with organised crimes. For a month or so, the police resolved a few thousand criminal offence cases, among them several tens of murder cases and the assassination of the prime minister. Top criminals were in prison. The cooperation with ICTY continued. The privatisation process was at its peak. The reforms continued. Those who were happy to see Zoran Djindjic dead, those different by their political affiliation but united by the idea to stop reforms started the campaign against the government. The opponents to the cooperation with Hague, the defeated forces of the former regime, conservative part of the fifth October winners and all those who would loose their positions by having Serbia healed brought the government down by buying off the Parliament members. After the election, the new coalition was formed where each one of them got the piece of the cake. The reforms were multiply slowed down and the old problems became more complex.

The year of 2006 has been set as the deadline for finding the final solutions to the problems with which Serbia has been faced for a long time. The issues of Kosovo, Montenegro and Hague will probably be resolved this year. United Nations, European Union and United States of America started to mingle a long time ago into finding the solutions to the problems which Serbian political elite missed to do in the past. Undoubtedly, the final solutions are necessary but it is also important for these solutions to be good, i.e. not to cause further problems. I will repeat once again my position which is “my offer of the least bad solutions”.


It is the problem which has existed for over a hundred years. Many generations of the politicians from Serbia, Albania and from the world either marginalised it or overemphasised it. In early 1990’ of the previous century, Milosevic and his Albanian colleagues from Communist League of Serbia had the last chance to find the good solution. The essence of problem lies in the fact that Serbs and Albanians cannot live together on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. There are many reasons to support this fact but I will not analyse them here. Simply, Serbs and Albanians have never lived together. They have always had this division into “our” and “their” part of the city, of the village, restaurant, promenade and etc. Peaceful life of these two nations side by side but never together is the highest degree of cohabitation from which we are separated by decades. What has happened since 1998 and what is happening now have left deep tragic traces which cannot be overcome. Any solution that presupposes multi-ethnicity is actually the generator of the problems. Also, we can observe the severe opposition of two principles in Kosovo. The principle of preserving borders is irreconcilable with the principle of the right to self-determination. Further more, the one excludes the other. Simply speaking, Albanians want independence which means new borders, i.e. change of borders. The silent formula of Serbian politicians, “more than autonomy, less than independence” assumes the preservation of borders and symbolic sovereignty of Serbia over Kosovo and Metohija, which in turn suspends the right to self-determination.

Finally, as it has always been in the history of the Balkans, the final decision is made by those who do not live here. That is why I am particularly appealing to them to reconsider the solution which I deem to be the least bad one – the division of Kosovo into Serbian part, sufficient for normal life of 300 000 Serbs, as it had been in June 1999 in Kosovo and Metohija before international forces, empowered by UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and Kumanovo Treaty, took over the control of that territory and into another, larger part where Kosovo Albanians lived. The first part would remain the constituent part of Serbia while the other part would gain independence. This solution would not be universal and it would not cause the domino effect. I accept all objections to this solution. However, it is the only option which final resolves the issue of Kosovo status. Giving conditional or unconditional independence to Kosovo would mean permanent vital endangerment of the Serbs on that territory or their collective migration from that territory. Returning to the situation before 1999 is impossible and no one is suggesting it. That is why those who are making decisions should divide Kosovo and thus create permanent conditions for peaceful future of the large number of ordinary people. Separate agreements would be needed to regulate the Serbian property in Kosovo and to protect religious, historic and cultural monuments on that territory.


Before the end of First World War in 1918, Serbia and Montenegro were two independent states whose relations were defined to be of brotherly nature. By creation of new state, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, both states entered the new alliance. After Second World War, both Serbia and Montenegro became the constituent elements of new state FNRJ (Federal Republic of Yugoslav Peoples) and they partly regained their independence. By changing Constitution in 1974, all republics of SFRJ (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) gained complete characteristics of independent states. Federal state survived thanks to ideological unity of Communist League of Yugoslavia, the carrier of single-party political system and thanks to the charisma of Tito, the leader of communists. The disintegration of Communist League of Yugoslavia initiated the speeded disintegration of SFRJ. In 1992, a new state, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, had only two member states, Serbia and Montenegro, which maintained high level of independence. According to the Constitution from 1974, these member states had only joint army, diplomacy and monetary policy. However, at the beginning of 1997, the authorities of two member states collided and the collision lasted until the defeat of Milosevic in 2000. During this collision, Montenegro introduced its own currency. The common foreign policy was abandoned. Yugoslav army was foreign institutional body in Montenegro. After the democratic changes in Serbia, both member states, being pressured by EU, were forced to create new provisory situation – State Union of Serbia and Montenegro which did not have any of the original functions, not even the financial aspect. All functions and all decisions are the consequence of agreement reached by both sides. The Constitution Charter for Serbia and Montenegro envisages the right to referendum and May 21 this year will be the date when the citizens of Montenegro will use their rights.

So, Serbia and Montenegro were independent until 1918 and since 1974 they have been practically independent.

Montenegro is deeply divided by many issues, especially by the issue of joint state. On one side there is Djukanovic and his DPS for whom the independence is the crown of long lasting politics. Djukanovic is supported by not much bigger majority of citizens. His opposition is united by single issue – prevention of independence.

Current Serbian political elite could hardly wait for referendum in Montenegro. It gives them opportunity to produce statements about this issue without any responsibility and to use it to hide the big problems in their own state. And, all of a sudden, all political parties, both in power and opposition, agree that joint state have no alternative. The main and practically the only reason for such a position is the claim that Serbs and Montenegrins are two brotherly nations, actually it is one and same nation. Great support to unionists gives the position of EU which claims that State Union of Serbia and Montenegro will more easily meet the standards necessary for continuation and finalization of European integration for Serbia and Montenegro. Nobody from Brussels has ever tried to explain this position. Simply, it is stated as official EU position and being such it has gained the status of axiom. Wrong and irresponsible.

The citizens of Montenegro have inalienable right to make decision in democratically held referendum about the future of their country. It is the obligation of political subjects in Podgorica, Belgrade and Brussels to present the indisputable facts to public in Montenegro.

State Union of Serbia and Montenegro is untenable according to the Constitutional framework by which it is defined. It is the provisory situation without single relevant state characteristics. There is not a single original joint function. The process of reaching agreements actually blocks and robs every decision of any sense. If there is a will of majority to live in joint country, then it is necessary to redefine the state union, i.e., necessary to give her true state characteristics. No political party in both states shows a political will to do so. The votes gained at referendum for common state, regardless of the reasons for voting so, will be the votes given to preservation of unsuccessful constitutional and legal experiment. It is impossible to prove that State Union of Serbia and Montenegro is the easier way for fulfilling standards necessary for continuation and finalisation of European integration. Two years ago, late as always, Brussels chose to lead two track policy regarding integration, separate for each member state. The third track was reserved for Kosovo. This kind of position is the consequence of the knowledge about the huge differences between Serbia and Montenegro regarding the size of states, the number of inhabitants, the industrial structure, fiscal and monetary policies, achieved democratic standards, priorities and goals. All those differences are big and insurmountable.

State Union of Serbia and Montenegro is untenable regardless of the referendum outcome. There is no political will to create constitutionally and legally based union of states. Serbs and Montenegrins are brothers. However, brothers rarely live in the same room. Brothers can respect each other and help one another even if they are living in separate houses built according to their own needs.



Regardless of all controversy, old and new, around the foundation and functioning of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, Serbia has to fulfil adequately its obligations, both legal and ethnic. Current Serbian authorities are obliged not only by international documents but also by national laws. The government of Serbia must do everything to arrest Ratko Mladic, if he is in Serbia.

The authorities in Serbia have to stop glorifying the accused of war crimes.

Although nobody is guilty until proven so and sentenced by the respective court, it is also true that none of them is a hero.


The year which is passing could be the year of final denouement of many issues which keep restraining the reforms in Serbia. Whether it will really happen or not depends on two important factors. The first one refers to authorities in Serbia and their determination and ability to solve adequately stated problems. The other factor refers to international community and to those living in this community, which took the right and obligation as well to influence the events in Serbia. Since I am aware of their power, my appeal goes particularly to them to use their authority, experience and knowledge to help the citizens of Serbia, who are also the victims of the crimes committed at the end of last century. The citizens of Serbia have right to another chance as anyone else in the world. Give them that

chance, especially to the young. Make them feel the right to having future. Enable them to see and feel the pleasures of living in Europe. Make visa regime more liberal by cancelling visa requirement for Serbian graduate and post graduate students. Help them obtain the knowledge and experience needed so much for the process of healing their own country.

Ljubljana, April 03, 2006

International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) – Ljubljana

Bakhtyar Aljaf
Zijad Becirovic, M.Sc.