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May 7, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 239
Serbia in a Broken Mirror

The Tested Technique

by Milan Milosevic

What Yugoslav National Bank (NBJ) Governor Dragoslav Avramovic is doing right now is a miracle in the current political system because it introduces the principle of sharing power, a system when one set of authorities stops another. There is an anecdote about a mayor in a town in Vojvodina who was called to hand his keys over to a successor who was appointed by the new authorities when the Germans were driven out in World War II. He said: "No Way!". Avramovic said the same in late April when he was called to give a 500 million dinars (15% of the overall money mass in the FRY) loan to the Serbian pension fund.

The March 9 coalition of Serbian Renewal Movement, Democratic party and Civic Alliance of Serbia (SPO, DS, GSS) and other parties like Democartic Party of Serbia (DSS) support Avramovic in his intention to negotiate with the IMF and keep the dinar stable. All those parties lent support openly and the SPO even urged its local party boards to support Avramovic.

On the other hand, the ruling Socialist Party and Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party seem to be joining in a new silent coalition.

The governor illustrated the confusion among the ruling party elite very effectively when he said they were waiting for Clinton to loose the elections.

They remembered him, unwillingly, on the FRY statehood day and invited him to a reception in the presidential residence. The opposition was not invited. In normal countries, an invitation to the presidential palace is in honor of the government and its political opponents with the understanding that both are working for the good of the nation and in an effort to pacify political clashes. That is not one of the local customs here.

The Belgrade district court expanded its investigation of Democratic Party (DS) leader Zoran Djindjic "on charges of harming the reputation of the Republic of Serbia" through a paid advertisement by his party. Djindjic did not invoke his immunity as an MP and refused to name the people who provided the DS with the figures given in the ad. He said later that the autonomy of the judiciary is very limited and that he expects formal charges to be raised against him. The state media are obviously pressuring the court and attacking Djindjic for daring to suspect the government of selling wheat through ministerial companies. An interesting political trial is looming which will illustrate the conflict of interests when a minister also runs a company. In most democratic countries that practice is impermissible and most European countries force their ministers and MPs to allow public control of their businesses.

The authorities are introducing some changes only under pressing needs. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic said last week in Pozarevac that the federal parliament session in May will debate key system laws on companies and privatization and annexes to the law on foreign investments. "As soon as the federal law on ownership transformation is adopted, we in the Serbian government will offer specific solutions in a republican law with respect for efficiency, democracy and justice", he said.

In some other country facing the same situation when the exhaustion is at a level that allows almost nothing to get started, the government would turn to the public and appeal for a so-called social compromise between all political forces, the government, employers and unions.

Instead, the authorities have decided to use the tried and tested technique of controlling social tensions. They promise money when a strike looms, break up the strike from inside and announce a new development cycle or renewal program as they are promising now in the metal working complex.

They're actually keeping the corporate system in place with the employers associations and unions serving as the extended arms of the economy ministry with specific jobs to do. For example, last week, Marjanovic pointed out the need for the government, economic chambers and unions to work together and added that "we need to realize a big export deal as soon as possible which we're negotiating with partners in China and that would be a real source of financing new production".

The reconstruction of the government was announced long ago and will probably amount to nothing.

It's irrelevant who will replace who since key decision will be taken at a higher level and that higher level is not ready to take those decisions. In many fields the government is caught between two choices and unable to make one. Two completely opposed reports were published in a single day: one that the FRY could join the Council of Europe and another that fresh sanctions are looming because the FRY never issued arrest warrants for alleged war criminals and did nothing against Karadzic and Mladic.

Even in the potentially most inflammable region of Kosovo there are no signs of change in the current political technology. Terrorist activities in Kosovo complicate matters and delay a possible start to the talks the ethnic Albanians are rejecting more than official Belgrade. Luckily, the terrorist attacks were not overly dramatized by Belgrade or the Albanians and that could lead to a lowering of tension. The authorities can't say the opposition is obstructing it in that field. The DS called for the functioning of the state of law in Kosovo and a suppression of terrorism but stressed that a lot of time was wasted for a dialogue with ethnic Albanian representatives and added that Serbian and FRY officials have to start that dialogue as the only way to solve the problem. The SPO and GSS have also voiced similar requests.

The authorities can't find an excuse for hesitating and postponing the inevitable in a situation which could become a catastrophe.

Five months after Dayton and all the promises, nothing has changed and the over exhaustion is growing.

The resistance is coming from the nomenclature itself, its profiteers and its ideology. Mainly because it is not interested in the future as it claims but only in power.

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