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July 3, 1999
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 17-Special
Interview: Zoran Djindjic, President of the Democratic Party

Milosevic is Already Clinically Dead

by Roksanda Nincic

Convinced that his departure from the country at the time of the NATO bombing did not damage his reputation, Ph.D. Zoran Djindjic is getting ready to raise Serbia to its feet.  Before going to his first post-war appearance in Uzice, the Democratic Party President gave an interview for VREME.

VREME: Under what sort of conditions did you leave the country during the war?

DJINDJIC: I went to Montenegro during the first week of May.  I spent the first six weeks of the war in Belgrade and occasionally showed up in public.
Since the beginning of the war I was warned that the war will not only be against NATO, but also against the opposition in Serbia.  This was clear already after two- three days when alongside the American flag, the Democratic Party flag was also burnt on Belgrade's main square, the Square of the Republic.  Footage of this was shown three times on Radio Television Serbia (RTS).  Four to five days later it was announced that I am in Germany and that I am working closely with NATO there on coordinating targets and placing missile locators, and that my return to the country should be prohibited.  I also hear that one and the same story circulated through bomb shelters in Valjevo, Pirot, Belgrade and I believe Sabac, also   something along the lines of why do you think that the cities which are being bombed the most are the ones where the Democratic Party is in power?  Because they are placing missile locators.

I also got very concrete information regarding the fact that my life is in danger.  I received this information from Slavko Curuvija and we spoke about it several days before he got killed.  Neither he nor I took this quite seriously, but we only believed that a plan exists for eliminating certain people when something very dramatic happens   for instance, the coming of ground troupes.  However, when he was killed I realize that the dynamics of the battle against the enemy from within does not follow the dynamic of the battle against the outside enemy, but that if they cannot down an airplane   at least they can eliminate me.  At that point I became quite worried and went into hiding in Belgrade and did not live at home.

VREME: Did you get open threats over the telephone or through some other method?

DJINDJIC: No, not at all, there were no threats.  Neither myself nor Curuvija received open threats.  We got this information from a sympathizer.

Curuvija told me that he was told that he should flee and that even whole families advised him he to go.

VREME: Are you thinking of the ruling family?

DJINDJIC: That was not the only problem.  The main problem was in the impossibility of any kind of relevant action.  All media were under censorship, including VREME, whose first war issue required a good stomach for mere putting up with.  My influence on political life was equivalent to zero.  My influence on international interests was also zero.  There were no suggestions in the way of stopping the bombing which was only helping Milosevic, in the way of changing tactics, of beginning some new kinds of negotiations did not meet with any response.  Everyone was convinced that they were in the right   NATO stuck to its guns, Milosevic to his.

VREME: How did it happen that you and Mr. Djukanovic mostly appeared in tandem during your international travels while the war was going on, given that he's the President of Montenegro and you are the leader of a parliamentarytary Party in Serbia?

DJINDJIC: Milosevic put a stop to all institutions and to all norms upheld by this society.  The only thing existing here is a seeming situation, there are people here who have some intentions and who are associating on the basis of this.  Parliaments, government have no meaning here, and they mean little to this world.  The world is demanding a democratic Serbia and someone who has a reputation in Serbia who will say   we do not think the way you say that Serbia thinks.  There are many people who disagree both with NATO and with Milosevic, but their voices are not heard.  For instance, I one of those people.

This is sharing of common goals and intentions, and it is evident that it was necessary for the world to hear some other voice in Serbia, and not to create a formula in the treatment of Milosevic, Serbia and the Serbian people.

VREME: Do they not have that sort of treatment?

DJINDJIC: No.  If you are talking about the past, we all carried the burden of our president jointly.  If we are talking about the future, then we have a chance.  If he end us representing the country, his lack of a future will also become our lack of a future.  Now this is up to us.  And I only think this is fair.  We must demonstrate that we do not want Milosevic, and then the world will be put to the test in whether it will treat us the way it did thus far.  I am sure that they wont.  If I'm wrong, if Seselj's prognosis that the treatment of the Serbian people will be identical regardless of who's in power, I will withdraw from politics.  But I would like to live to see that moment in order to come out before Europe with on modern project.  In any case, Montenegro is proof that different treatment is possible if you have a different government, while Montenegrins are not exactly anti-Serbs.  They are part of the Orthodox Christian, Balkan makeup and if the world were to decide to deal with us, it would also have to deal with them.

VREME: Were you the personal guest of Mr. Djukanovic during your stay in Montenegro or did you have some other status?

DJINJDIC: I was under the protection of the Montenegrin Government.  I got the treatment of a political ally who is in need of help.  I could not travel without police attendance because there were too many police check points where travelers were being examined, but the police got free passage.  It was not simple.  During those days it was not clear how events will unfold   whether there will be war in Montenegro.  I was not in Podgorica all the time but stayed in several cities.

During that time I met with Mr. Djukanovic and we talked about what at all can be done by a democratically oriented politician in the Balkans who is not acknowledged by anyone.  We concluded that if there is any sense in working on anything, than it is on preparing for the situation after the war, and in the meantime to pretend that the present does not concern us because this war broke out without our influence and is being waged without our influence.

We agreed to organize the conception of a new strategy in the country, but also of a strategy of the world toward us, and to try to contact the most important people in the world and to ask them whether they have any intention of changing anything in their behavior.  If they do not respond to us or tell us that they have no such intention   than it's the end of the story.

We put together a longer text regarding what went wrong in the international community's strategy toward the Balkans in the past ten years, and how the future should look.  We personally sent this letter to Clinton, Chirac, Blaire and Schreder and waited to see if any reaction will appear.  It appeared first in the way of an offer that it should appear in a slightly modified form in some world media.

Second, they established contact with us and asked for suggestions for a plan on stabilizing the region during the war.  Our idea was the idea of Marshall's Plan.  We said   if you don't promise money to the people here but merely make threats and say, if you misbehave once again we'll put you into quarantine...

VREME: Isn't that precisely what they are doing?

DJINDJIC: They are doing this to a certain extent in Serbia, but the policy in the rest of the region is quite clear: this region will become part of the European Community in ten years.

VREME: But we are living in Serbia.

DJINJDIC: I think that chances exist for Serbia also.  There is still a certain absence of skill in this approach   you should blame Milosevic, but gradually the positive aspects of the plan will win out, that is to say, a certain, concrete amount of money will be allotted, sources and expenditures will be clearly defined, and it will be said, let us say   there are 30 billion dollars.  Such and such an institution gave so much and so much.  10 billion dollars from that amount will go toward infrastructure, for roads, and the rest for long-term favorable credits in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, the banks which will service this are such and such.  It is necessary for you to fulfill your conditions, and that is to have a government which will not steel that money, which will not spend it on a new war, a government with which we can negotiate.  Than that becomes a fair offer.  Giving money to Milosevic in the name of humanitarianism would only mean the prolongation of the agony.

VREME: You demanded that citizens overthrow Milosevic by force, given that his mandate lasts up to 2002, or to go hungry in the interim?

DJINJID: It need not last up to 2002.  Federal elections are coming up next year and they will change the Federal Parliament.  If the makeup of the Federal Parliament changes, he could be recalled.  This should be done now, for his job description includes the information that the President will be recalled if he is unable to fulfill his duties.  Given that he in on the Hague Tribunal list, he is not able to fulfill his duties of representing the country in the world.

VREME: O.K. is there some more precise definition of that condition   for Milosevic's departure.

DJINDJIC: No, they are leaving that up to us.

VREME: What do you propose?

DJINDJIC: I propose that millions of people in Serbia go out into the streets   until Milosevic leaves, we wont leave also, and for this to last ten days.

VREME: A general strike?

DJINDJIC: Yes.  That's the only way.

VREME: That was never successful in Serbia up to now...

DJINDJIC: We also did not have such a criminal in power of the sort that he is.

VREME: He has been in power for over ten years now.

DJINDJIC: O.K., every candle must burn out at some point.  I think that there's no other way, for an election which he would organize would always have one and the same result.

VREME: Do you believe that there are politicians here who could bring out millions of people into the streets?

DJINDJIC: I believe that we have progressed from ballroom politics into the theater of putsches and that the people has become the politician.  In Leskovac 20 thousand people responded to a meeting call by an amateur who entered a TV station and called the people to come out in the streets.  It is clear that people the people have grown tired of waiting for politicians and that they have taken the matter into their own hands.

VREME: Isn't that too chaotic?  Is it not better when there is at least some coordination of the people's spontaneous need to protest?

DJINDJIC: It could be done like two years ago.  I don't see why the parties which make up the Alliance for Changes would be any weaker than the Coalition "Zajedno" in the past.  On the contrary, I think that they are stronger and that things are more clear to people, but unfortunately at a high price.  Two years ago, there was talk about local elections   of what use is local authority if Milosevic controls you from the Serbian Government seat, but even that motivated people to fight.  Now it's a matter of life and death.  If we meet the winter without any funds, without medication, without pensions   many of us might not survive.

VREME: Since you have supporters who inform you what is being prepared, do you expect to be arrested?

DJINDJIC: No.  During the war my fate was a private affair which had no barring on politics.  In all those tragedies, one fate more or less could not mean much.  But now it's a political matter.  That's why I'm at peace, because this is a balance of fear.  Milosevic is afraid of provoking discontent among the people with some careless move, lest that should finish his career.  It is now known what sort of reactions my arrest might cause   perhaps no reactions at all, but maybe very unpleasant ones for him.  I think he loves himself more than he does not love me.

VREME: What are your immediate plans?

DJINDJIC: To initiate of chain of protests across Serbia, to see how prepared people are, to try raise one to two million people by the end of the month who will send a direct message, and to finish this mechanical part of the job.  After Milosevic's departure the most logical thing would be for a political, non-party government to be established which would not include us, politicians, and which would only have one task   to secure economic aid in the shortest period of time, to establish relations with the IMF, the World Bank, with the European Community, and when all of that begins, to set the ground for elections in which parties would appear.  To be dealing with elections when you are not sure how you will head your home in the winter is absurd.  A people which is prone to radicalism, a people which is hungry, cannot play a part in normal elections.

VREME: Do you think that there's danger of civil war?

DJINDJIC: No, but I believe that there is the possibility of repression as the final phase in the defense of an undemocratic government.  We can prevent civil war, because Milosevic is weak if an enormous number of people shows up against him.  He is only strong if he has against him a group of people which he can manipulate, but and corrupt.  If he has millions of people against him, his finished.  I know this from the civil protests.  When there were hundred thousand people, we were as secure as a white bare.  When there were only one thousand of us, the special units appeared.  There are no policemen who could carry out repression against huge numbers of people.  They don't want that.  My information from police sources are that they absolutely don't wish to participate in the protection of Milosevic's Government.

VREME: How long do you believe all that could last?

DJINDJIC: Until September of October we should be able to force Milosevic's resignation.

VREME: Can you envision his peaceful leaving of power?

DJINDJIC: Yes.  I can also envision his cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.  It seems very logical to me.  He's already clinically dead and he knows it.

VREME: Why then did he not offer cooperation thus far?

DJINDJIC: I think that he's convinced that he could persuade the Hague Tribunal that he's innocent.  Perhaps he could prove that he did not issue a single order.  I doubt that he ever said   kill so and so.  He merely said   solve the problem, you know how.


VREME: Do you know how the fact that you were not here during the better part of the war was reflected on your rating?

DJINDJIC: My very rational estimate at the time was that I could be popular in Serbia at the price of canceling my human and rational principles, for popularity in Serbia was connected with participation in a masked ball which was organized by Milosevic.  If you did not participate in it, than it matters little whether you were here or not.  Had I not started causing problems by going abroad with Djukanovic, RTS would never have mentioned my name.  Under such conditions it makes no sense to be talking about any kind of rating.

VREME: Does it make sense now?

DJINDJIC: Now it does.  Now the real question is   who did what during the war.  Was it better to be in Belgrade, to give two statements and to consider that sufficient, or to be outside of Belgrade, to visit 12 countries, to organize some 50 opinion polls, to influence international public opinion?  For me it was a matter of choice   whether to be popular in Serbia under such pathological conditions, which means lying to people in order to appear on TV, for there is no other way, or to invest into some future, to work on real credibility, to have influence in order to help that people, for if there is any way to help it, it is only through opening ties with the world.  Now I am able to do that.  Had I stayed in Belgrade and had I participated in that circus together withe the rest of them, I would be equally suspect...

VREME: It is doubtful whether the residents of Surdulica, Aleksinac, Pancevo, Novi Sad, Valjevo, Belgrade and millions of others over whom bombs were being dropped here would be able to share your opinion about having participated in a circus.

DJINDJIC: Being a private individual is one matter, and it is quite another to be a public figure.

VREME: Don't you think that under such tragic circumstances a politician has the obligation to be with his fellow citizens?

DJINDJIC: I do not agree with that.  I had been in Belgrade for six weeks.  Did you know that I was here?  If you did, then you were in the smallest minority.  Most people who met me looked at me as if I were a ghost.  I think that public figures have an obligation to do something for their fellow citizens, and not to suffer with them.  If one is a private individual, then he tries to survive with his fellow citizens with the least amount of tragedy.  A public figure must do something.  If he is not able to do anything, then he should submit his resignation.

VREME: Does that mean that you believe that you did not lose public support in Serbia by having left in the middle of the war?

DJINDJIC: No.  On the contrary.  I don't think that it is the right question.


VREME:  You say that you worked in the interest of the people.  What specifically did you achieve?

DJINDJIC: I visited nearly all Western and Central European countries.  I did not visit Bielorussia.  I managed to achieve an exception in several of my visits to the rule that as long as Milosevic is in power there will be no money for Serbia.  At issue are cities where there is control of resources   Nis, Novi Sad, Cacak.  They said   O.K. we will build a bridge in Novi Sad, the heating plant in Nis, and electrical distribution center in Cacak, but outside of direct cooperation the central Government, but only between, let us say, London and Nis.  Even with Cook, who was a hardliner in that policy, I managed to get agreement for finding funds for the cities of Serbia, and not only for opposition cities, but for all cities which have actual housing projects which they are ready to implement outside of the participation of the central Government.  For instance, Vienna would give a bridge to Novi Sad, with the condition that Austrians would install it.  Ambassador Petrich was fairly instrumental in this, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Shishel.  This was negotiated around June 20, and they wanted to send five technicians to survey and measure what their companies could begin work on, but they did not get visas, even though they wrote down the purpose of their visits.

This concrete projects are being worked on and several conferences will be held in July, with the representatives of these cities participating.  They will also be invited to the meeting on the pact of stability in the Balkans, which will include Clinton and Blaire.  On the diplomatic front, this is truly a great success, for this will be the first time that Serbian representatives who are not part of the regime will show up.  But Serbia will not be an empty seat, and instead the mayors of Nis, Novi Sad and Cacak will make specific demands.  That was my objective   to secure concrete support for these cities, and the other objective was to create support for democratic Serbia, in order for them to begin thinking about us, in order for it not to be forgotten in this phase of returning refugees to Kosovo and the rebuilding of Kosovo, that three quarters of Serbia represent a humanitarian problem, that in solving the problem of one and a half million Albanians it should not be forgotten that the problem of eight million people in Serbia is being created.

VREME: Did you mention the Serb refugees from Kosovo?

DJINDJIC: Yes.  I spoke about it with the Austrian Government which is neutral, not being part of NATO, and there could be some sort of coordinator for creating a special fund for helping Serbs refugees.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs is ready to take this on.
On Thursday we will meet with Serbs in Kosovo and representatives of the Church.  I think that it's best for a joint body to be created consisting of the Church, Serbs from Kosovo and international institutions, in order for a proposal to be made for this fund and an offer to be made to Serbs from Kosovo to return there.  It is important to have organizations in Serbia which can speak to the world about protecting Serbs in Kosovo without any pangs of conscience, without making excuses and brushing the past under the carpet for they were not warmongers and they did not demand ethnic cleansing.  The Church and the Alliance for Changes have the credibility for this.

VREME: During your travels abroad did you encounter any difficulties in crossing the Yugoslav border?

DJINDJIC: We were never stopped.  We always passed through as a special convoy heading to the airport in Cilipi.

Why has he left

"I got very concrete information that my life is in danger.  I received this information from Slavko Curuvija and we spoke about it several days before he got killed.  Neither he nor I took this quite seriously, but we only believed that a plan exists for eliminating certain people when something very dramatic happens   for instance, the coming of ground troupes.  However, when he was killed I realize that the dynamics of the battle against the enemy from within does not follow the dynamic of the battle against the outside enemy, but that if they cannot down an airplane   at least they can eliminate me."

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