Activities - Comments


“For every dollar that the West 'gives' to Yugoslavia, we must pay back ten!"

zikaLast week, “Solidaire” interviewed two activists of Otpor, the anti-Milosevic student movement.  Today, it is Zivadin Jovanovic, Yugoslav Foreign Affairs Minister, and also one of the most important leaders in Milosevic's SPS party. This party, having held onto its share of the electorate, remains the most important political party in the country. In these troubled days, hundreds of international journalists have sought to interview a socialist leader. The honor went to “Solidaire's” special correspondent.


Tuesday, October 11, 2000, 11:30 a.m.   

I entered the grand oval office of Zivadin Jovanovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is probably one of the last times that he will be found here.  Some people say that it's "the end of a reign."  "An eclipse before a likely return," answer those who emphasize the fact that with 40 percent of the electorate (a fixed number), the SPS (Milosevic's Socialist party) remains the most important party in the country, while the present DOS  coalition is quite fragile:  18 parties whose programs contradict one another, and whose electoral promises will be impossible to fulfill.   Jovanovic, who is quite jovial and quick to smile, also has a number of questions to ask himself.  The impassioned interview lasted three hours.

How are you?

Jovanovic:  I'm surviving!  In spite of a very unpleasant visit paid to me this morning by a DOS “troika”. They introduced themselves as members of the “Crisis Committee responsible for institutions” and demanded that I submit forthwith resignation on the post of the Federal Minister. They act apparently on the instructions of the President of FRY Vojislav Kostunica.    

I responded that Mr. Kostunica had just sworn his allegiance to the Constitution and, after that, I called to their attention that, according to the Constitution,  it is not the President of the Republic but the Prime Minister who names and discharges ministers.  However they refused my argument. In public, DOS leaders claim to respect the law and normal functioning of institutions, but in reality, they are doing everything in their power to destroy them!  They are creating chaos in the country.

The DOS leaders claim that it is "the workers who are spontaneously ousting managers and taking over control of factories and institutions. DOS apparently does not have anything to do with massive purges of directors and managers."

Jovanovic: The period when this country practiced "workers self-management” DOS leaders describe as “era of communist dictatorship”.  In reality, today, it is Zoran Djindjic, the executive head of DOS and, I might add, its true master [Editor's note:  Djindjic is a right-wing politician who is extremely unpopular for having supported 1999 NATO aggression], who is in a hurry to seize everything. They are stampeding like hungry jackals.  These politicians are not the people.  They want to seize absolute control of everything right away in order to start selling off the country to their western masters.

One could see on television the Customs Chief chased out of his office and replaced, under threat of arms by a certain "Captain Dragan," who was the leader of a Serbian militia that was active during the war in Croatia.  This was a scene that shook public opinion.
Jovanovic:  The man whom Djindjic placed as the new Customs Chief had been in charge of customs before.  He was fired because of mismanagement and police record.  Now, he comes back by force and takes his old position back!  Is this a "spontaneous” move of masses, or workers!?  People were so infuriated. DOS is quite aware that it was an illegal action, that it is not DOS competence to do install by force new Custom`s director. It is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government which is still in office.

Little by little, the people are going to understand true nature and the real role DOS.   There are honest people who disapprove.  But they are unnoticeable and without meaningful influence.   President Kostunica, whose moral reputation is impeccable, ought to be concerned about what is going on.  He took an oath of loyalty to the Constitution.  These people are scoffing at it now.

But for the moment, most of the population is very happy about the "change."

Jovanovic:  They will understand what really took place when they find themselves without a job, when they see the stores filled with western products which they cannot  buy, when they submit to a system where they can be arbitrarily deprived of jobs, and when they have to pay enormous sums of money for education, health care and so on. They will get sober though it will be late.

Our stores do not look very impressive.  There are few German, French or English products.  But most of the people can buy whatever is essential for them, even modern household appliances.  It will be a rude awakening.  

The West promises to provide Yugoslavia with financial aid.

Jovanovic:  A little money will come from Europe, and the DOS will present it as huge "aid from friendly countries."  In reality, it will be a down payment of the West on the purchase of our entire country.  For every dollar received in aid, we will have to  pay back ten!

In fact, dollars have already found their way into Yugoslavia.

Jovanovic: Yes, the United States publicly acknowledged having spent $77.2 million dollars in order to help the opposition overturn the legitimate Yugoslav government.   And on September 25, the U.S. Congress voted a new “soft“ credit of $105 million dollars.

Have you lodged a protest with the UN against this interference in elections?

Jovanovic:  Of course.  Systematic destabilization of our country was directed firstly from special US office in Budapest, in addition to their special offices established in Sofia, Skoplje and elsewhere around our country. They have been manned with CIA agents, subversive propaganda and other specialists.  The Vienna Conventions forbid such activities but USA do not care, they behave like being exempted from any international laws.  Look at what's happening today.  The American ambassador to Budapest, [William] Montgomery, is coming to Yugoslavia to pay a visit to his subordinates at the DOS! To instruct, to coordinate.

But the United States and Great Britain, who control the UN, have denied all evidence on this.  Some other countries understand what's happening here under US guidance but we can't even get a debate on blatant meddling in internal affairs of our country.

The United States has spent considerable sums of money for the DOS electoral campaign.

Jovanovic:  Yes.  And how would they react if this sort of meddling was done in the United States?

In short, "do as I say, not as I do."

Jovanovic:  (Laughing) Yes, exactly!  For them "democracy" is merely a key to open the gate to dominate the world. Take another example:  they want to impose an ad hoc International tribunal in order to put only Serbs on trial.  At the same time they refuse to accept a universal war crimes tribunal, which would put all responsible, Americans included, on trial for the war crimes.  They know all too well that they would be convicted for what they have done in Vietnam, Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua and elsewhere!

In 1995, in the Assembly General of the United Nations, they voted against a resolution that forbade intervention in the domestic affairs, particularly in electoral processes of other countries.  This resolution was voted in despite American opposition, so they ought to follow the rules of the democratic majority!  "Two weights, two measures" - that's how American-style "democracy" should be understood.

Is Yugoslavia lone targeted, or does this announce other offensives by the United States and NATO?

Jovanovic:  Whatever they have been doing against Yugoslavia is only part of their global strategy. It is not merely the problem of one country whatever importance of its geostrategic position.  They want to put Yugoslavia under total control. If they allow Yugoslav resistance to last much longer, they reason, it would become a dangerous example to be followed by other countries.  We were in the process of acquiring growing support from the Third World and they decided to stop it by all means.

Is Russia the next step?

Jovanovic: If so much energy has been concentrated against Yugoslavia, then it is not merely to gratify the immediate interests of the United States and NATO in our country, nor in the Balkans.  In order to understand, it is necessary to consider it within their global aspirations towards Europe and East.  Whatever United States and  NATO are doing is always a function of their global interests.

First of all, they want to destroy any will to independence and resistance to their domination of the entire world. Secondly, they want to send the message that not a single country is allowed to disobey the will of USA/NATO or invoke principles; everybody must follow perceptions and interests of United States.  Thirdly, NATO is thus drawing closer to the borders of Russia and China, both, from the west and from the east. Washington is working toward breaking them up while planting the seeds of separatism and manipulating Islamic fundamentalism.

All of this while they are massacring people in Iraq and Palestine.

Jovanovic: Exactly! On one hand they are deceiving the Muslims in making them believe that they are their friend. And on the other hand, they are looking for a way to rob Muslim countries of their mineral and energy resources. At the same way they want to control the new markets which are opening up to the east of our country:   the Caucasus, Caspian Basen, Middle East…  Having established their control over Western Europe, the United States now wants to control all the territory of Eurasia as decisive global factor of the development in the 21st Century.

By resisting for ten years, we have provided time for other countries to understand the dangers of USA and NATO strategy of global domination and to prepare to prevent the worse.  Some countries have been awakened but it not enough. No doubt [there was a melancholic note in his voice], the burden Yugoslavia had to carry as the first victim of the so called New World Order, was too heavy.  We have received some support, but far from necessary, most notably from countries that we were counting on.

Are you thinking of Russia?

Jovanovic:  [He did not reply, but merely nodded his head.] Nothing is forever.  Including the present situation in Yugoslavia.  I am convinced that, just as certain people who voted for the DOS are going to regret it, certain European countries will regret for having not supported Yugoslavia more efficiently, in fact, for understanding their own interests too late. [Smiling again]  

And from your point of view, do you think you've made some mistakes?

Jovanovic:  Yes.  I don't want to evade any of our responsibilities.  We did not realistically evaluate the domestic and international situations.  We did not take into consideration the negative factors.

For example?

Jovanovic: Domestically, we did not realistically consider the feelings of the people.  We should have paid closer attention to the effects of ten years long sanctions.  The people survived destruction of previous Yugoslavia (SFRY), civil wars in the neighborhood, hundreds of thousands of refugees, severe sanctions, and on top of all these - NATO military aggression. All this seriously deteriorated their living conditions.
Secondly, after the aggression, we put a great deal of effort and financial resources into reconstruction of the country.  Schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, homes, factories…  This demanded a lot of capital and we had to levy an assessment on salaries and pensions.  The reconstruction was important for the future of the country, but it could not directly improve the quality of life.  We should have been more realistic as far as investments were concerned, and we should have paid higher attention to improving the living condition of the people.
Thirdly, we did not succeed in controlling commerce.  We gave too much latitude to greedy people who stockpiled merchandise, like oil and sugar, which resulted in prices increases before the market was resupplied.  They sometimes sold goods at two or three times higher of the real prices! Imagine the fortunes they accumulated!
I talked about this situation with my colleagues from the economics sectors of the Government. We have done too little, too late to change the situation and mood of the people.  Now, we will all suffer from the consequences.

Translated by Milo Yelesiyevich

Michel Collon is an author of two books on the Balkan crisis and a resolute anti-war and anti-NATO activist.