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August 10, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 253
Interview: Vojislav Vukcevic

Unlearned lessons

by Filip Svarm

"I resign all functions in the Serbian Democratic party (SDS). My decision is the consequence of scathing attacks against me, the use of lies, interference from a distant power-source and the increasing influence of individuals whose beliefs have been long overcome, and who are of low spirituality and ability", wrote Dr. Vojislav Vukcevic in April, 1991. The letter of resignation also says that "without any desire to argue with them, and particularly without any desire to listen to their instructions which are contrary to my democratic and humane orientation, I live it to time to evaluate and pass judgment on their actions as well as my own".

One of the founders of the SDS and its former vice-president, friend and close associate of Dr. Jovan Raskovic, and former dean of the Law Faculty in Osijek, Dr. Vukcevic is today the general secretary of the Serbian renewal movement (SPO) and solicitor in Belgrade. Five years after Dr. Vukcevic's above mentioned resignation, in many respects time has passed its judgment- at least when it comes to the reasons behind his resignation.

"Vreme": How do you evaluate the current situation faced by Serbs in Croatia?

Vukcevic: The situation faced by the Serbian people is too complex and hard to be explained in one sentence. The current situation was preceded by many events only some of which the Serbs were directly responsible for. Everything before that was the result of the past and its abuse by certain individuals. Unfortunately, there was also the absence of the possibility for those who held different opinions to express themselves and suggest that different lessons are drawn from the past.

You used to be the vice president of the SDS and its leading activist in Osijek and Slavonia. How do you look upon your past political engagement?

I could never understand the desire and need for violence and armed conflict. I never believed that the war was required or necessary.

As an activist of the Serbian movement, a movement which has always been something very special and previously unseen in the history of Serbian people, I was always committed against any kind of violence or war. I must say that at the time most activists shared my views. However, very quickly, increasingly difficult developments, saw an insrease in the number of those who held opinions opposite to mine. Those people thought that aggression and insults are most important, that attack is inevitable, negotiations redundant, and agreement unnecessary and pointless.

My other "shortcoming" and the "shortcoming" of others like me was that we did not lie but spoke the truth. I was astonished by the behaviour of individuals whose statements were predominantly lies. I was even more astonished by the fact that a substantial part, if not the whole of Serbian people, actually believed the invented promises and lies. When I saw how many people believe those lies, I realized that the truth has been sentenced to death and that all those who carry it inside them and preach it will be killed. I stepped aside in order not to be killed.

How do you see the future of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srem, that is the territory under temporary administration of the UN?

Since the beginning of the current events, there has been a thought for which I never had much understanding. It says that you must ask for more in order to get less.

The problem however lies in the fact that these people do not know what they want, and when they are offered something, they do not know how to take it. I am afraid that tactless statements and actions of Goran Hadzic and the leadership in Eastern Slavonia, are simply a repetition of what happened to Serbs in Krajina. Representatives of those people ought to know their capabilities and exactly how much they can ask for. The UN Security Council extended the Erdut Agreement until July 1997, and one should not expect that this deadline will be extended any further. Therefore in the remaining twelve months, they must adapt their demands not only to the mood of the other party, that is Croatia, but also the interests of the international community which will not go back upon its word.

You said that you are from Osijek. Is there a possibility that you might once again become politically active in the region of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Slavonia?

It is impossible to escape one's fate, so I don't think I will have that privilege. I am therefore susceptible to my own fate. I will accept the demands of my fate and oblige.

If it ever comes to that, what will be your first steps?

There is so much to be done that one does not know where to begin.

I would say that the first step in the resolution of the present situation and establishment of a normal state of affairs is similar to the step that brought on the present situation in the first place. First of all, I think that the media, most of all TV ought to regain the confidence of the people by identifying those who were responsible for what happened. The next step ought to be the election of those who will speak in the name of all three people in that region- people who live there or are determined to return. If we all worked towards the reestablishment of confidence, I think confidence could return. I see the whole situation in Krajina as a sick and unnatural and one which we must change soon.

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