Skip to main content
May 7, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 239

Electricity Bills

by Dragan Nedeljkovic

Few people understand what happened with electricity this winter but most consumers are angry with the final bills over the past six months and warnings that they have to pay them within a week. The lines in front of the power company building are longer than ever. People usually think there's been some mistake and the people who do accept their bills plead for an extension of the deadline or payment in installments. Their final bills stand at between 600 and 2,000 dinars and some even run up to 10,000.

Most of the trouble was caused by the block-rates, introduced last autumn. The population is angry with the power company especially because it's threatening to cut their supplies and restoring power lines costs 123 dinars although the power company didn't really take part in the imposing the block-rates.

The power company, primarily its production plants, wanted to preserve power plants and lines over the winter and suggested block-rates. The state (the government which confirms all decisions) accepted and seems to have wanted to frighten the population. Everyone - the government, power company and consumers - did not take the effects of block-rates seriously and what's worst they completely missed the mark. The government accepted block-rates from October and the limit for monthly consumption was 750 Kwh. That billing period didn't even begin and the rules changed: the measure was postponed to November and the limit increased to 1,000 Kwh. The reports about the change were worded to create the impression that the government was trying to take care of them and that the block-rates might not ever be imposed.

Power company experts who expected lower consumption under the block-rates were wrong: consumption was higher than ever. The winter was one of the longest and coldest this century with 48 days of temperatures below freezing and an average daily temperature below 0 Centigrade. We got through winter without power cuts thanks to the fact that the economy wasn't using its capacities much and imports of about one billion Kwh. Consumption was about 25% more than the previous winter; the block rate didn't seem to exist.

Characteristically, pensioners and the poorer parts of the population were the ones who didn't fall behind in their payments. Of the 620,000 consumers registered by the Belgrade power company, 150,000 paid more than they were due. The people who didn't pay their bills include some who hoped for inflation, delayed payments and consumed more power than they needed. Some justification can be found in the unfortunate wording of statements on price rises and the block-rates. Why don't they say exactly what their decision is and what the consequences are? One example are last year's extra payments for maintenance work: the constitutional court ruled after months of deliberation that the decision was illegal. So it's the government's fault again: they had to get the money together and price rises are unpopular. Not only that but the extra payments are not included in statistics on inflation which they claim is under control. Consumers don't care what obligatory payments are called when it's included in the price. Now the money they spent long ago has to be repaid and the administrative costs alone will eat up the profits.


Sarajevo: The Media

by Radenko Udovcic

Is Bosnia going to get a Soros TV? The new TV will have to provide equal treatment for all political options and parties

Media circles in Bosnia were excited by reports that Carl Bildt is going to secure 20 million USD for an independent TV net in the republic covering both entities as an alternative to the state TV stations in the Moslem-Croat Federation and Bosnian Serb Republic. It's been three months since then and the plans for the station haven't even been drafted. The opinion now is that it's too late for that project since the elections are getting closer.

Talks between foreign investors and independent stations in Bosnia discussed many versions of the complex project. Initial proposals (which were doomed from the start due to local media opposition) were based on a completely new network financed from abroad. Under a second version, suggested by local independent stations, they would join in a new net and exchange programs without foreign tutorship. WTN also came up with an interesting proposal; programs produced in one center would be transmitted via satellite. If that proposal is accepted thousands of satellite receivers would be distributed across Bosnia.

George Soros showed the greatest interest in creating the independent net. Reliable reports said up to 50% of the money needed for the project would be secured by his foundation. Soros sent an expert group (engineers, businessmen and journalists) to Bosnia and after a number of meetings they drafted a proposal for the final version of the project. Although that proposal hasn't reached Bosnia yet, it will probably be accepted because the powerful financier is behind it.

Access to the net will be granted to every station that meets programming and technical standards and respects the OSCE media code of behavior for the elections. Theoretically, the state TVs will have access to the net along with the independents and producers who want to air their programs. Training will also be organized for journalists and technical staff and help will be provided for technically deficient stations.

The OSCE and Bildt's office said agreement in principle was reached with both entities on setting up the net although Pale officials warned that they aren't counting on access to it. The Bosnian Serb state TV is working on linking all its transmitters in a single system and intends to start satellite broadcasts. The TV network across Bosnia won't be complete unless at least one Serb station joins it. There is an idea to provide financial support for an independent station in Banja Luka.

The second stage requires greater cooperation from the state TVs in both entities. It includes the use of existing transmitters and relays on mountain ranges and replacing some mobile transmitters with more powerful equipment. Negotiations are underway with the Bosnian state TV but the prospects of the Bosnian Serb state TV agreeing are slim.

The third stage is long term and depends on the development strategy for transmission systems in both entities. The international community will pick up its equipment after the elections and the net will stop broadcasting. But, if the second stage is completed, including the reconstruction of Bosnian TV channel two, that frequency could be used by independent local stations or even foreign commercial investors.

Estimates are that the net could produce six hours of programming, probably from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. That programming would be transmitted by all the network members who would also produce shows for it. The idea is to set up a central news desk in Sarajevo under the editorial control of the OSCE.

UNESCO support for the Bosnian media comes with this project. The seven million USD in aid will be provided for both entities to support independent stations. The state TVs will also get some aid if they become public services not government and party propaganda machines.

The final decision on the project is being expected with great interest in Sarajevo. TV sources don't think the short deadlines will allow the setting up of the network and raising quality levels and they see no prospects for the network after the OSCE picks up its equipment and leaves but the OSCE is counting on IFOR and that will be enough to achieve the impossible.


Art and the Police: Arresting The Phallus

by Uros Komlenovic

The street performance that "symbolized" Serbia's creative might came to an expected end

The huge red phallus (80cm by 20cm) with a photograph of a smiling President Milosevic stuck to it managed to get through all of central Belgrade's Knez Mihajlova street on Monday, April 29 but didn't get to its planned resting place in the park outside the president's cabinet. The police arrested the phallus, author of the FaluSerbia project Miroslav Popovic, three of his colleagues from the Magnet group and a young man who dared whistle at the police.

Just 15 minutes earlier the unusual procession went down the street preceded by a man who was passing out leaflets and calling people to feel, stroke or kiss "the symbol of Serbia's creative power". Another man pushed the phallus in barrow while a girl wearing a T-shirt with the colors of the Serbian flag and the word User on it danced around it. The T-shirt had holes for her breasts and she wore a black cap with eye holes and black pants with a phallus of normal size on them. At the end of the procession was drummer.

The street performance certainly drew attention. Besides some 30 reporters and photographers, the procession was joined by elementary school kids who were more interested in the actresses bare breasts and a happening than in the fate of artists and art in society which the author said was the reason behind the happening. Some young people joined in as well as some older people and a priest. The procession drew smiles, approval and confusion but no condemnation.

The police intervention came amid understandable disapproval with several elderly ladies trying to explain to the police that this is art and not banned.

A big policeman grabbed the young man who whistled and either slapped him or threatened the crowd. The phallus was loaded into a police car along with everyone who was arrested.

Popovic told VREME before the event that he wasn't out to insult the president but protest the status of artists in society. He and his friends intended to walk to the presidency building leave the phallus there with a copy of Magnet magazine and ask to be received by the president because they feel "he is the man to talk to about raising the level of dignity and justice for the art community". Popovic intended to inform the president of the goals of his coming events but instead he ended up in the police and they have some specific views on art.


The Serb Knight in the Obituaries

Warning Shots

by Jovan Dulovic

The killing of Belgrade and Bar Mafioso Vaso Pavicevic

Vaso Pavicevic (33) and Jovo Vujicic (23) were killed on the Podgorica-Petrovac road on the night of April 24-25. The Montenegrin police discovered their bodies in an Opel Cadet with Belgrade plates on Thursday morning. The killing was a precise hit: Pavicevic's head was almost blown apart by several weapons of different caliber. Vujicic's body was also riddled although he was wearing body armor and the police counted 150 bullet holes on the car. They hadn't been robbed of the kilo or more of gold they were wearing.

Pavicevic used to head the so-called Bar crew which was believed to be the largest and most dangerous in Belgrade because it included several lunatics, as slightly more refined criminals called them, who shot without warning. Many unresolved murders are being blamed on them. Pavicevic was a target several times but somehow survived.

He also survived charges of murder several years ago in Belgrade. The key witness who was wounded in the shooting was later killed in Italy. That trial will be remembered in Belgrade's halls of justice. The hearing was attended by some 30 criminals who all left their pistols and automatic weapons with permits outside the courtroom. No one ever asked where they got their weapons from or why the permits were issued. During the hearing Pavicevic's friends gestured at the witness to threaten him and the frightened defence lawyer left the courtroom. The judge, who has to small children, dismissed the case due to a lack of evidence which many doubted was the case. There were other explanations but all of them were just speculation.

It would be a miracle if Pavicevic's killers are discovered because this killing has all the hallmarks of a murder that will remain unsolved. It's a public secret in Montenegro and Belgrade that he worked for state security and "served the country patriotically". That can only mean he did delicate jobs, eliminations for the state.

Experts assessments are frightening that there are at least 2,000 people in the country with a license to kill.

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.