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August 31, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 506
DOS in Tuxedo

Diplomacy Without Gloves

by Slobodanka Ast

Milan St. Protic's short and tempestuous diplomatic expedition ended with the annulment of his office as Yugoslav ambassador to Washington. In a short notification, the Federal Government stated that it had been a tough decision, that it had nothing to do with our internal affairs, nor is it associated with our relations with the USA. The reason is merely the 'lack of respect towards diplomatic regulations of conduct and ambassador Protic's appearances in domestic media, which prevents him from further occupying that office'. Goran Svilanovic (36), the young Minister of Foreign Affairs, has once more demonstrated that he is an up-to-the-date politician - he accepted his own responsibility in the matter:

'The election of Milan St. Protic was my idea, and it was accepted by DOS leadership and the Federal Government. It was me who initiated the idea of his dismissal from that office, but I did not do it because I was pleased to do so. His statements to the local press surpass the framework of modern diplomatic communication, even when it comes from a person like Milan, who has an incredibly high political rating, and who I have a high regard for...'

The revoked ambassador continued with his accusations towards Kostunica and Svilanovic, declared that what we do was the 'restoration of communist ideas, people, mentality, politics...' and that, of course, in such circumstances there was no place for him, so he would go on fighting for the 'real interest of our country and our people'. After all discourteous and even insulting statements on the part of DOS's spoiled enfant terrible, who is by some also called 'great-grandchild by occupation' (after his famous great-grandfather, politician Stojan Protic), there remain some unanswered questions and estimates about this public affair still to be clarified.

DOS's diplomats are, as the complete coalition, a nothing but a motley crew: there is DOS's colourful spectre in the first place, then a special quota given to their Montenegro partner SNP (the Socialist People's Party), and the old personnel inherited from SPS (the Socialist Party of Serbia) and JUL (the Yugoslav Left). There are also some internal divisions to professionals and amateurs, to old and new staff, among which there are great diplomats, but also those who have mistaken the profession.

When, after the October changes in Serbia, a young member of Otpor (the Resistance), Vladimir Pavlov, turned up at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SMIP), much of the personnel could not conceal the emotion of fear, especially those who were still attached to the former regime. 'They must have thought that they would momentarily be driven out, arrested, or something like that...', the young Otpor activist, now the diplomat in Canada, used to recount.

In the first few months after the change of government, ministers and other officials, some members of the old personnel withdrew to the state of hibernation in fear of being wiped away. They were hardly giving any signs of life: new people were coming from institutes, colleges, non-governmental organisations, there was no pressure 'from the top'... With the arrival of Minister Svilanovic, the old edifice in Kneza Milosa St. became to some extent refreshed. Careful analysts are estimating that the pressure of the new authorities was not immense, and that even the non-party candidates with liberal political orientation were employed.

For example, Nikola Pejakovic from SNP was suggested for the post of ambassador to Poland, though he used to be ambassador to Bellorussia during Milosevic reign (from which he used to come here to run Momir Bulatovic's pre-election campaign!), and also the Minister of Internal Affairs of Montenegro at the time of wars 'in which Yugoslavia did not take part'. Several months after his appointment, there was no sign of the agrement, which was a clear message to our SMIP. In the meantime, ambassador Pejakovic was redirected to Bellorussia!?

One lucid analyst in SMIP says for VREME that he is sincerely pleased with how easily people accept ambassadorial posts, how the diplomatic profession is getting more and more relativised; some even agree to change countries as if it is about the change of gloves.

When the old staff of SMIP became assured that there was not going to be a great sack, then followed the 'reanimation': some remnants of Milosevic's diplomacy are still 'at the disposal', protected by the law, receiving their salaries on the regular basis, and managing to 'change their outfit' and walk along the corridors of the Ministry giving lessons on professionalism. For instance, Zoran Janackovic, the former ambassador of the FRY to Macedonia, one of Milosevic's most infamous players. There was also the influential Danilo Pantovic, until he was taken into custody due to some embezzlement in DIPOS (Foreign Ministry Housing Company).

New personnel in SMIP are trying to operate competently, patiently and gradually, to improve and modernise the current situation in the Ministry. They are facing a very complex task: one part of the professional staff is discredited: they endorsed Milosevic's politics, while others remained silent and neutral. Now those former ones, devoted to their former boss, give lessons on professionalism and send claim that nobody 'aside' knows the secrets of diplomacy like they do. Naturally, there is the question how and why did those 'highly professional diplomats', watch their country fall into a total decadence.

One of VREME's interviewees says that it is good that a great sack did not take place, but regrets that there has not been at least an overall refurbishment!'

There are huge challenges before the Yugoslav diplomacy: the affair around the dismissal and return of Milan St. Protic only covers the far more serious problems, from the smaller local ones to the very important global issues. Montenegrin Minister of Internal Affairs, Branko Lukovac announced the break in communication with his Serbian colleague Svilanovic. Lukovac stresses that Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not in communication with Belgrade ambassadors abroad and requires from SMIP not to 'obstruct the international engagement in Montenegro'. The Government of Montenegro does not take part in appointing Yugoslav ambassadors abroad, as well as in defining the shape of foreign policy of the FRY.

Kostunica's frequent references towards 'some persons in political and public life, who have simply changed their loyalty to Moscow with that to Washington. In other words, Americanism replaces Communism. However, Serbia needs neither of the two - Serbia needs a normal democracy and a normal political life. Serbia needs to be in collaboration with the West and America, but not to be under the West and America. That is my earnest political conviction', said Vojislav Kostunica in Cacak, last Wednesday.

Can we hear the sounds of patriotic drums again? When we add the president's meditations over the excavation of mass graves by saying 'that it is horrifying example of manipulation which arouses the sense of collective guilt...', and also that 'those who were dismayed at the Eighth session (of Communist League when Milosevic got on power) had the severest attitude towards Milosevic', there is the question whether after the October change there was any serious shift or not, and if we are in position to get rid of the inherited xenophobic, ethnocentric, administrative and populist formation that was left behind the former regime?

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