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December 11, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 219
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Ghostly Trade

In the former Yugoslavia, the only things left undivided are Sarajevo and a few billion US Dollars worth of property. These two things might not have anything in common, but the fact remains that Milosevic in Dayton agreed to leave Sarajevo undivided to the Muslim-Croat federation, while Franjo Tudjman agreed that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) retain its continuity with the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ).

Before anybody becomes scandalized by such a trade, we should first wait and see if such a deal has really been agreed and what will happen if it has. Interpretations from Zagreb say that the agreement on continuity does not mean that Croatia is renouncing its share of the SFRJ legacy on behalf of the FRY. But, judging from reactions in Slovenia and Macedonia, which did not have their people in Dayton, there is real fear there that the Serbs and Croats made that deal and that Milosevic has, possibly, succeeded in winning the right to succession. That issue was something the FRY insisted on from the very beginning, evidently not merely out of sentimental and Yugo-nostalgic reasons.

Think about it: would Tudjman really be the first to recognize that continuity, if it wasn't part of the agreement? Further, would Milosevic really strike such a deal and demand continuity if it was only symbolic and immaterial? Finally, what type of an agreement would it be between the two of them, if it wasn't at the expense of a third party?

Therefore, since the issue is money, and since other interested parties exist, we should expect legal complications and wrangling. In deals like this and with partners like these it is customary for the parties involved not to know if they will come out with everything that was promised them. Nor will everything that Milosevic has delivered, such as eastern Slavonia and, especially a part of Sarajevo, end without problems.

It turns out, if I'm right, that the negotiations in Dayton were even more complex than they seemed.

Besides the lifting of the sanctions, Milosevic asked for the whole of, or the lions share of SFRJ property, which then had to be included into the deal in order to see whether it is to be paid in territories, constitutional principles, minority rights or better cooperation with the Hague tribunal. That bill would most certainly be handed to Karadzic and the Bosnian Serbs, which Milosevic probably sees as just compensation for all the help he gave them during the war. Most likely, he has counted on that since the very beginning.

Now, everyone who is disgusted and horrified by the deal has to answer the question where those reserves of disgust and horror come from? How is it that they have some left over? Why did they save them at the beginning until now? Has everything so far been just for practice? There were plenty of good opportunities and reasons even during the times that Borisav Jovic describes in his diary. Besides that, it wasn't too late then. Afterwards came all that blood, death, tears and the refugee tragedy. Could that have been ended elegantly and to everybody's satisfaction and joy? No deal struck in Dayton was in any way dirtier than the exchange of citizens and territories we saw to date, and the people who were able to preserve some revulsion, don't need to squander it even now.

Even in Serbia, Milosevic is criticized most for leaving Sarajevo undivided. Further, he is claimed to have told Izetbegovic that the people who had suffered so much in it deserved it. This sole generous sentence which he has uttered in all these years, seems to be taken as his greatest sin. I believe, however, that we should forgive him for it, since it is only a question of form. He didn't give away anything that he didn't have to, and he thought, probably, that it doesn't cost anything to sound gentlemanly in the process.

The re-uniting of Sarajevo is at this moment the biggest problem for the implementation of the peace agreement. Karadzic, in his part of town, is organizing demonstrations, scheduling a referendum, threatening a Serb exodus, while General Mladic stated his readiness to shoot at NATO. On top of that, if anyone should want to arrest either of them, bloodshed would follow, as predicted by Karadzic. It is not impossible that, since the trading has already gotten off to a good start, these two are intensifying the Sarajevo problem in order to get a better price for themselves. Which would mean that further guarantees for the Sarajevo Serbs should include guarantees that no one shall be looking for Karadzic and Mladic, and anyone who does spot them should pretend that they didn't recognize them. If they could strike that deal, they could throw in the release of the two French pilots as a bonus.

I believe, however, that the fear of the Sarajevo Serbs is realistic. They didn't fare well in the war, but they most certainly know that they were much better off than Sarajevans on the other side, where the price of water at times equaled the price of blood. Sarajevo's majority won and is now obliged to show restraint, in the name of that multinational tolerance which they spoke of constantly as the basic virtue and ideal of that city. The war criminals are a minority on all sides, even among the Serbs, just as certainly as the fact that with the exodus of all Serbs, Sarajevo would finally become a Muslim city.

That should never be allowed by the international peacemakers or all the forces that shall be coming, since the whole peace agreement would turn into a mockery. Who would be able to speak of the return of the refugees anywhere, if at the very beginning of the plan's implementation the opposite thing continued and tens of thousands of people left their homes? Who would ever believe in the quality of international guarantees? As far as they're concerned, the Sarajevo Serbs must accept a certain risk and endure certain unpleasantness, if for no other reason, then solely to prove that they too can suffer and fight for their city. I don't say that I would exactly like to find myself in their shoes, but to be able to face the people from the other side and to face up to yourself is a challenge worthy of any man. Of course, we could easily comprehend the wish of the people who have sat out the war protected by a superior force, to flee and avoid meeting the victims of that force, but I wouldn't like to listen to somebody boasting of it.

I have some free advice for the Serbs as well as for all those who are disappointed by the peace agreement which failed to give them all they believed belonged to them, and are now preparing for a long and persistent bout of self-pity. For a change they should try to feel pity for someone else. If they manage to do that, I am certain that they'll find that is much nicer and healthier. All of a sudden, they'll feel that they're better people, and will be able to adapt to peacetime thinking and cope in a much better way. For the people in Bosnia, it is practically a survival issue. Until they learn to understand and sympathize with people on the other side, they shall remain imprisoned by their feelings of hostile surroundings and the claustrophobic horizon of the corridor.

For Serbia and Montenegro, it is too early to let out a sigh of relief and rejoice, even if it turns out that Milosevic really managed to make off with the lions share of SFRJ property. We must first see what he shall do with that money. He might first wish to pay off his military-police-party elite, and as for the rest, we'll see how much remains. Maybe his priority shall be to finance the elections and ensure his position for the next few years. Or he might invest in a new program of resettling Serbs in Kosovo, or in toppling the disobedient government in Montenegro.

Finally, there are great possibilities that his wife might demand that that money serve as a material base for her vision of world justice and happiness. Therefore, it would be good if Milosevic fails to report this income to her. And it would be even better if international factors do not allow him to freely handle that money, unless he promises to invest in a major program which would make this country more understandable to others as well as to us. Which means, to abolish the discrepancy between the written and actual laws, between formal and realistic government, and generally, to make everything become what it pretends to be. Meaning, that we start practicing the simple and dull life without a false bottom.

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