Europe has had enough of Yugoslavia and our follies

The same people who did what they did and who are now doing the same for the same purpose – are willing to risk the worst in order to remain in power.

Before the New Year holidays, you publicly stated that according to the current course of government in Belgrade, Yugoslavia expects, in addition to the current outer wall of sanctions, the imposition of sanctions in full. Will 1998 be a year of complete isolation of our country again?

It will not, but not because we should expect greater co-cooperativeness of Belgrade. On the contrary - it is in interest to Belgrade to have a worse relationship with the international community. On the one hand, this guarantees the existence of a villain of the piece, but there is another, more important reason. As far as Belgrade, i.e. the regime in it and the people who are in that regime, is further from Europe and the world, further is the question of their responsibility. Turning to the international community means respecting the rules under which the international community acts, the rules by which it operates. And these rules further imply responsibility, replaceability and business according to the law and economic conditionality. So, isolation is something that the regime constantly wants, in order to avoid what integration carries, without regard for the suffering of the people. On the other hand, isolated Serbia and the FRY are not needed by the international community - they are simply not needed. This international community has clear interests in this area, interests in integrating it, and it is clear to this community that full isolation would only benefit such a regime. I do not believe there is any reason for it to play such a role for it. Besides, here in Europe, people simply have enough of Yugoslavia, both former and present, and they will not and cannot hear any more of our follies and unhappiness into which we have plunged ourselves.

US President Bill Clinton added to the list of conditions for lifting the outer wall of sanctions, the recognition of Milo Đukanović’s election victory. However, "truth rallies" across Montenegro are being announced these days, reminding many observers of the events that started the agony of the former Yugoslavia. Are we on the verge of opening another "crisis hotspot" in the Balkans?

We are not at on the verge of an opening; we are already in a crisis. It’s no wonder, because there is the same pattern, the same hand, the same mindset, the same people who did what they did and who are most responsible for the tragedy in Croatia and Bosnia. They are now doing the same thing for the same purpose – to ensure themselves in power; they are willing to risk the worst, since they have never been interested in the well-being of the people and the state they lead. Why would that change now? At this point, the final manifestation of the crisis may not be visible - whether it will be conflicts, armed incidents, street riots, or something fourth - but the crisis is here - in its full force. The public, however, still does not know enough about how far the crisis has gone and what can happen. You have seen that the circles of the elected President Đukanović mention a possibility of a referendum. In my opinion, this is the last warning to Belgrade to stop pushing things in this direction, the last message which, translated, means: “Don't make us leave Yugoslavia because if we have to leave, then it will cease to exist, and there will be no president who will have a peg to hang his function". But, on the other hand, it is precisely because of this function that I fear that someone will not continue to push them out, and then, by the dynamics of adversity, try to stop them with the same means by which he tried to stop the departure of Slovenia at first and then others.

In the event of war in Kosovo, the US would support the Albanians

You are also the founder and president of the Peace and Crisis Management Foundation, which from the outset has sought to engage intensively to resolve the Kosovo problem. What do you suggest and how close are we to the solution?

We have never been further from the solution to the Kosovo issue. None of those who should think about it - and if Kosovo is part of Serbia, the leadership in Belgrade should think about it first - do not even think about it or have anything to say because they do not understand anything. They keep sticking to the fact that they were for talks but not for negotiations. What does it mean? It is an empty demagogy, and the real question is why it has ever reached the point of being brought to negotiate. The other, Albanian side, showed much greater maturity and the fact is that they could have started acting irrationally much earlier. Nevertheless, thanks to their behavior, they were able to get closer to their goal.

The emergence of terrorism is not in their favor and shows that some among them have lost patience. Now the situation is such that the positions are further than ever from the solution - and again, it is becoming more and more understood that the worst - the war option - is becoming more and more realistic.

And why should Serbian children die because their leadership fails to sit down at the table and negotiate, why should Albanian children die? There is a solution, that is - the path to a solution is quite clear. Our Foundation and I do not pretend to be specialists in the Kosovo issue. We consider this problem should be subject to the same principles we apply to others.

It is a principle that there is no such problem that one should not gather at the negotiating table, look at it from all aspects and seek solutions for. Frames of the solution have been given - given by the international community, given by civilization development - and it consists in keeping Kosovo within the present state borders, without secession, but with the broadest autonomy and guaranteeing not only of human, but also national issues of all people in Kosovo. Such a civilization solution would, over time, lead to the permanent pacification of Kosovo, making the issue of borders, the issue of "blood and soil" finally become a secondary one, and making economic, social and any other development and progress come to the fore. There is, therefore, a solution for Kosovo - it is the fundamental right of the people to decide on their own destiny, the right of both Serbs and Albanians, and to make decisions so as not to jeopardize each other.

You have stated that the Serbian regime "will not shrink from war in Kosovo". What will the international community do to prevent another catastrophe in the Balkans?

The international community will do what is in its interest. If we know that the United States are the ones who lead the international community - it will certainly be in line with American interests. The question, then, is what the American interest in the Balkans is, especially in Kosovo. There are those who believe that the conflict is in their interest, in order to justify the presence of NATO on the ground and its expansion, even the very existence of NATO, which, according to these analysts, with no conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and with the fall of the eastern bloc - would become unnecessary. Personally, I am convinced that Americans are far more responsible than that and that they will do everything in their power to prevent conflict.

The conflict in Kosovo would be too dangerous for the stability of both the Balkans and the whole of Europe, and therefore also for relations in the world in general. If, however, the conflict comes – one should be realistic and understand on whose side the international community led by the US would be. Considering that the Albanians are of Islamic faith, but are far, very far from any Islamic fundamentalism and have nothing to do with Tehran and similar centers, those who think that the US could, by fear of strengthening of Islamic influence, occupy anti-Albanian positions: are wrong.

The start of the new year was an occasion for representatives of the international community to reiterate, with repeated demands for compliance with the Dayton Agreement, their complete determination to arrest and extradite those who have been indicted for war crimes to The Hague tribunal. What will be the consequences for our international position of Yugoslavia's uncooperativeness in this matter?

It's high time to stop the hypocrisy on the issue of war criminals. If they wanted, they could have arrested them right after Dayton, and they still can do so whenever they want - both Karadžić and Mladić and whoever they have to. If they wanted, they could have provided information to The Hague tribunal on those who were the real criminals. Both Washington and London, and Paris have records, they have documents that unequivocally accuse top officials of crimes and have not given any to The Hague; clearly, for political reasons. They think they need these people on the ground, as people who can carry out what they promised. That's why they don't want to arrest Karadžić and Mladić - if they had brought them to court, their testimonies would have raised questions of responsibility for people in Belgrade, Pale, Banja Luka, as well as in Zagreb and Sarajevo, and as a sweater when one of its threads is pulled, their entire peace accord would go to pieces. This is what happens when a peace agreement is conceived by those who are responsible for the war.

Many analysts, and I know you share their opinion, estimate that the Belgrade regime is maintained thanks to the ongoing production of crises. In such a situation, how realistic is it to expect the initiatives of the Foundation you lead to succeed?

The success of our ideas is not that something that Boris Vukobrat or the Foundation say is accomplished- the success is that our views are the result of an analysis of the real situation. When we started, in 1992, they looked at us with skepticism - now the official approach of both the EU and the US to the issues of the former Yugoslavia is identical to our, regional approach. We are not, however, claiming to be clairvoyant - we can only say – either there will be continued unhappiness, war, distress or there will be what we claim. It's time to say ‘’yes’’ – since this cannot last eternally.

The Belgrade regime is doing everything it can - to its own detriment. Its sole aim is to remain in power - and with such results, regardless of all levers of power, ranging from media, through money, to the army and the police - it will not be able to do so for much longer. On the other hand, with this kind of work, this destruction of economy, society, politics, state, morals, culture, of everything it touches, it simply pushes the people more and more toward that limit when they will say, "Enough!” The question then is how things will be resolved - either by some new conflicts or by finding people who can be agents of positive changes and alternatives. Knowing that this regime has so far proved to be successful only in remaining in power, it may be that the one who will look for people and programs is precisely the one to offer an alternative.

Back in 1993, CNN portrayed your arrival as Yugoslav prime minister as a bit of a done deal. In recent months, stories about your appearance on the Yugoslav political scene have been reheating. How much truth is in them?

The truth is that now, just like in 1993, I receive indirect signals, primarily through reporters' questions about rumors. Those who ask, therefore, may know better than I how much truth there is. One thing is certain - the political situation is such that it is not excluded that in some circles there is a working mortgage - if it is formalized, it will be considered. What I consider to be my patriotic duty is that I engage as much as possible in terms of what I see as a solution to the problems that have plagued the country. But given the dynamic of unhappiness, I fear that such a thing will not happen and that anyone who might consider the people of my profile, first of all, thinks about how to manipulate them in their own interest, not in the interest of the citizens. Their desire is to continue to have similar and not capable people, and that communist principle is still at work. Whether and when this will change – remains to be seen.

You criticize the government, but it is no secret that you are skeptical about a good part of our opposition. Is there anyone who can initiate substantive changes or is our situation endless?

Changes are inevitable. The situation is getting worse and worse, and is not far from the moment when we will no longer be able to go the way we have been going so far. Either those same people who brought us here will understand it and be forced to change, or it will all end in chaos. Unfortunately, the opposition is not the one I expect anything constructive to do. They even managed to destroy what they had been offered. American marketing experts have calculated that the cost of positive information issued with protests from a year ago to all world leaders on television, "Together" was at least five billion dollars. And those same experts cannot help wondering how one has ruined so much capital by itself. That protest, that political capital was not even made by the “Together” parties, much less by their leaders - we saw what they were capable of already on the first day when the protests were over.

This capital was made by people, citizens, dissatisfied individuals gathered together, who knew what and how they wanted and what and how they should do. These people still exist and are able to find a way to express their needs, and the current government, as well as the opposition, is pushing them closer and closer to it every day. As for me personally, I want to emphasize that there is no endless situation for me and that it is always a question - what is the way out, how good or how bad it is, and that it is always necessary to find the best one possible. The sooner it is sought - the better the way out can exist.

DEMOKRATIJA – January 10, 1998
By: Zoran Đorđević