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February 21, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 126
The Byzantine Abacus

What Are The Similarities Between The Karadzic Case And The Babic Case?

by Milan Milosevic

As tensions grow during NATO's countdown and the US, Britain, Holland, Germany and Japan evacuate their embassy dependents from Belgrade as the place dangerous to live in, almost all political parties in Serbia have reacted to the ultimatum in their statements, more or less restrained. On Wednesday, Kostunica talked about the (West's) determination to strike. Vojislav Seselj repeated his threats of retribution strikes on Italy and Arkan put Tigers on alert...

Milosevic obviously tried to persuade Karadzic to persuade Mladic not to make a show around Sarajevo, but to pull out his troops and cooperate with the UN He chose not to spurr public passions at home and the public in return did not show much concern although everyone realized that this is a full combat gear game.

In a way, all this was the repetition of January 1992although in more dramatic circumstances and with less dramatizationwhen the acceptance of the VanceOwen plan prompted Milosevic to send a letter to Milan Babic: ``You have disregarded the explicit stands of the Yugoslav Presidency and the leadership of Serbia, giving yourself the right to make decisions whose price is unfortunately be paid with the blood of the entire Serbian nation... Citizens of Krajina should know that we have lost all our confidence in You.''

Slobodan Milosevic (on February 7, 1994): ``The people that were killed and injured in Sarajevo are not the victims of war, but of war criminals. We all expect that in the shortest time possible those criminals will be found and brought to justice.'' The warmongering campaign was waged also on TV Bastille, especially the studio in Novi Sad, the profascist Vecernje Novostiwhich is the case of stupidity mixed with inert greediness and criminal negligence.

As with Babic two years ago, some opposition leaders competed in "flirting" with Karadzic. The most successful one was Miodrag Perisic, the new vice-president of the Democratic Party. Kostunica expressed his understanding for Karadzic and Seselj again threatened to bomb Italy. But Karadzic was not encouraged to an adventure of a kind.

Milorad Vucelic, the new head of the SPS club of MPs in the Serbian Parliament, has said the SPS has decided to put off a parliamentary debate on NATO's ultimatum, initiated by the Radicals, in order to avoid an avalanche of selfpraise. Parliament Speaker Dragan Tomic came up with a trickier explanation, saying the Parliament was not yet constituted, committees not yet formed... And this is the next similarity with the Babic case when, for instance, Milan Paroskiwho was the custodian of national interests in Serbia's Parliament before Seseljurged his fellow MPs to recognize Krajina.

Foreign policy does not come within the competence of the Parliament anyway, and the situations like this one are only unmasking the ``national rhetoric'' campaigns as a mere deception of ordinary people. The Parliament, elected in the third patriotic elections, was not expected to say its say about what will happen in the Moscow-New York-Sarajevo triangle in the February 1020 period, but to discuss the taxes which were introduced without its approval and the standard of living of its impoverished electorate...

Like in 1991, the Serbian government asked the Parliament to hold a special session two weeks before the regular one (scheduled for March 1) to pass a number of economic regulations and thus legalize the governments interregnum activities.

Zoran Djindjic on Wednesday protested over the Speaker's failure to call the special session. Miroljub Labus stated on February 10 that the opposition would suggest that respective regulations be discussed at a special session. Ninety-six opposition MPs insist that the Parliament should revoke the regulations on special taxes, corporation revenue taxes etc. Serbian industry minister Momir Pavlicevic on February 1 announced reduced taxes and the Yugoslav Chamber of Trade opposed the taxes after some 900 firms were closed in one day alone. The ruling of the Constitutional Court is still expected.

The Parliament could also be the place where the fate of Avramovic's dinar will be decided. The often used game, in which all earlier reforms had failed, has obviously begun. Or as economic expert Milan Zec explained last week the program is based on a budget deficit, and the deficit will trigger a new hyperinflation.

Big firms with strong influence are asking the state to resolve their problems. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday hailed Avramovic's program, asserting that it has managed to improve the offer but failed to revive the production and stabilize the market. The Chamber proposed injections in the form of ``commercial credits'' and the government pledged money to the producers of tractors, washing machines, television sets, farm machines...

Avramovic's program is on a serious trial and its future depends on the fate of the middle management class. As workers' protests have been reported in many firms, the managers facing frequent calls for resignation are washing their hands, advising the disgruntled workers to address the government. The President of the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce says that ``at least half the enterprises in Belgrade expect help from the state.''

The Belgrade-based Zmaj factory went on strike early this month and the IMT strike, announced for February 15, was frozen until February 23 after the government promised to reduce the prices of city transportation and PTT services. Medical workers continued their marathon protest, while the government is trying to appease them with ``hygienic packages.'' Their talks with the government resumed after a protest outside the government building on Tuesday, and new rallies have been announced. Professors of the Belgrade University are warning of the bad situation at their institution, and the employed in other public services will probably soon come out with similar complaints.

Two weeks ago, the three prime ministers (Kontic, Sainovic and Djukanovic) accused the banks for impeding the program. Bank directors strongly rejected the accusation ten days later and Nickel Stanic told a meeting at Investbanka that the ``revival of the self-management bureaucracy was the biggest obstacle to new measures.''

The Yugoslav Trade Union is continuing to undermine Avramovic's program (which it says ``does not guarantee the minimum subsistence level for the workers who are to be laid off'' which, it adds, is the weak place in the program and an acid test for the entire concept).

Radomir Micic, the director of Zastava, recently said the Trade Union's demands could not be met before the production is revived. He said that any concessions at this stage would seriously damage the stabilization.

As for the politics, the program never obtained a political consensus between political parties, the Trade Union, managers and the state. Such a consensus the consensus on deprivationwould require a stable regime with moral credibility and strong authority.

The regime is shaken by many scandals, motivated rather by greed than whim of some of its weird insiders. Sinisa Batalo appoints his son-in-law director of Pancevo radio, Aleksandar Bercek triumphantly declares on the ruins of the National Theater in Belgrade: "I am not the SPS exponent, I am its high official.'' In the Students' Cultural Center in Belgrade, director Slavoljub Veselinovic is being accused of signing a contract with a firm which employees his brother. The Youth Center in Belgrade is organizing protest soirees over the governments intention to appoint a director of its choice.

The opposition itself is ridden by arguments, misguided moves and mutual suspicions all this effectively described in Milan Bozic's hyperbole that time has come for the ``Byzantine poison trade.''

The story about "shared responsibility" and a great coalition is all that President Milosevic needed as an introduction to say: ``It's true that I have only 123 deputies. but its also true that you don't have 127.'' The elections were held two months ago, but no consultations have been made ever since on a new government. The names mentioned as possible prime minister-designates are Boris Vukobrat, a Yugo nostalgic businessman, Mirko Mrjanvoic (director of Progres), Milomir Minic (director of the railway company and the SPS General Secretary). Zoran Djindjic keeps adjusting his statement that he would accept the seat of the prime minister only if not tied down to certain preconditions or to a prearranged list of ministers.

"What can the parliamentary minority do, if anything at all,'' say most of the opposition MPs.

There was a time when it could. Nikola Pasic, the head of the parliamentary minority or the so-called Nis oppositions, wrote in a letter, published on May 2, 1880:

"First: The People's Radical Party is aware that the people of Serbia had grown poor and financially weak in the past two years.

Second: The national spending rose, but not in proportion with the enlargement of land or with the projected economic growth..."

The People's Radical Party, taking into consideration the given situation and wanting to see Serbia recovered and ready to defend its existence in case of the escalation of the eastern crisis, endeavors to the following:

"First to heal and soothe the wounds and losses suffered during the wars second: to help recover and revive and prepare the people to wait peacefully in their homes to see the future development of the eastern crisis."

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