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March 2, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 480
Economic (Non) Equations

Cement and Scrolls

by Dimitrije Boarov

In fact, Marsicanin only obediently repeats what his party boss and President of the FRY, Vojislav Kostunica said in a more ‘oblique’ form in Novi Sad, on February 15th, on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the foundation of Matica Srpska in Pesta, in 1826. Probably moved by the pathos of one of the oldest national institutions of the Serbs, Kostunica vigorously called upon the ‘resistance to centrifugal aims, which threaten to separate us, make us less significant, and tear apart more and more bits of our patrimony, causing a direct damage to the essence of our state and our nationality’. This sentence, which is old-fashioned in its definition of the national ‘essence’ of the patrimony, i.e. the state, was understood as an invitation to an uprising against Nenad Canak and the Parliament of Vojvodina, and it was followed by great ovations.

I’m afraid that the colossi of the democratic turn of events in Serbia opted for a wrong solution for Vojvodina, and that it is the citizens of that province themselves who would have to make their ideas come true. Some consider Nenad Canak to be an unfortunate figure in that process, particularly after his injudicious attempt of putting the ‘redefinition’ of relations within the FRY on the agenda of the Vojvodina Parliament. In my personal opinion, the latest affair a propos Canak is not founded on his pretentious attempt to ‘interrogate’ both Djindjic and Vujanovic in Novi Sad, making them have their say about how they see the future Yugoslavia (as if it cannot be perceived even from the Moon), but it is rather based upon profound discrepancies regarding the constitutional-conceptual relations within one democratic Serbia, including the real and financial relations – they are frequently censored by the mystified role of the state and the province in the overall economy. Those who intercede in favour of the state as a supervisory body in the economy, should not be surprised at the intensification of ‘centrifugal forces’ in the state, since the province imposes itself as a unique embankment to the redistributional ‘centripetal seat’.

A direct cause of Marsicanin’s ‘wise speech’ is Canak’s ‘illicit’ inauguration of some new laws in the Parliament of Vojvodina, by which he wished to remove the burden of ‘responsibility’ from Serbia, as far as the salaries of the officials, teachers and doctors, as well as the pensions of the elderly in Vojvodina are concerned. However, that initiative was thus ‘deciphered’ in Belgrade: if we remove the burden of responsibility from our backs, here in central Serbia, then the autonomous forces will soon find another reason to blame us when, for example, we want to sell the Beocin cement factory (Lafarz promised Mirko Marjanovic 95 million DM for it), while some already claim back the ownership over oil and other infrastructure economy (which Milosevic had nationalised in 1990). As a matter of fact, as soon as the question of ‘who gets the money from privatisation’ emerges as politically important, the ‘trustworthy unitarists’ see the only possible remedy in returning Serbia to the policy of the ‘national spirit of St. Sava’ (which had actually been invented in Vojvodina, at least in its modern meaning of the term, following the model of Lajos Kosut), since the meaning of the nation is priceless and only the ‘national goals’ can tolerate brutal economic and other deprivation on the part of the citizens. Hence, Canak says with irony: “When I hear the word ‘patriotism’, I immediately lay hands on my wallet!”

As I mentioned the Beocin cement factory, I have to notice that that firm can boast with the history long as that of the Matica Srpska, and that it has been twice nationalised by its major shareholder, the Cementia Holding from Zurich (in 1918 and 1942), and once confiscated (in 1945), and there is nothing extraordinary in its resistance being privatised.

The Beocin cement factory was first ‘fictitiously nationalised’ in 1918 (such qualification was given by the leadership of the Diocese of Sremski Karlovci, (within the Serbian Orthodox Church – SPC), complaining to the ministerial council. Namely, although the Trianon agreement did not permit the Kingdom of SHS (the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians) to take over the ownership of Hungarian citizens on the newly acquired territory, the owners of this cement factory, the Cementia Holding from Zurich (the Jews from Pesta), considered it better to make a deal with the superstructure in Belgrade, than to pursue a court trial in an international court. Thus, a huge and astounding transaction was contrived and put into effect – the Beocin cement factory was nationalised with the consent of the owner, so that they were ‘paid off’ with some 60% of shares of the ‘new’ Beocin cement factory stock company. In order to avoid the losses of the old share holders, and to enable them use the new ‘proprietor’s space’ – the share capital was virtually increased from 10 to 20 million crowns – and the difference was ‘divided’ between the Radicals in Belgrade (led by Natasa Petrovic and Milos Savcic). Hence the bizarre circumstance, according to which the self-government-orientated citizens of Vojvodina do not seem to have a strong argument to complain that the sale of the Beocin c… would go hand in hand with the sale of the property of Vojvodina – since, apart from the Cementia Holding and Croatia stock company from Zagreb (which used to possess 16,261 shares out of 27,000) – among the other 34 joint owners, 25 were from Belgrade, one from Novi Sad, etc. Who enabled the cement factory to increase its capital ten times than the initial resources, is a completely different story.

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