|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
19 - 25 October 2000
Issue No. 504
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Elections Palestine International Economy Opinion Culture Focus Features Travel Sports Profile People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
To rebuild a nationBy Zorka Visnic
Two weeks after former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic lost the presidential elections, people in Belgrade and around the world are still celebrating the overthrow of the man who was officially proclaimed as a war criminal by the West, and more importantly as "an enemy of the state" by ordinary citizens in Serbia. After more than 10 years of international isolation, the Yugoslav people were determined to tell the world that it was time to clear the country's name and to prove that Yugoslavia is a democratic nation.
However, everyone is acutely aware that it will take time for things to get back to normal. The newly-elected president, Vojislav Kostunica, will have to work hard if he is to live up to his promises and fulfill the aspirations of the Yugoslav people who elected him. Yugoslavia, it is hoped, would soon return to the European fold. What makes Kostunica's task more difficult is that Milosevic still poses a threat, especially since the Serbian Secret Service headed by General Rade Markovic, the Yugoslav police as well as the army, have not yet decided if they want to remain behind Milosevic or they want to join the new team.
Marko Nicovic, the former Belgrade chief of police decorated several times by Interpol, says, "Many of these men are no longer loyal to Milosevic, and opposition stands a good chance of having Milosevic arrested by his own men." What adds credibility to this statement is that once more Kostunica has the upper hand. But it is estimated that Milosevic could muster some 20,000 men who are still loyal to him, Kostunica is expected to have a force of about 125,000.
Another major issue on Kostunica's agenda is Kosovo. It is obvious that the main concern of the world, mainly the United States and Europe, is how Kostunica will handle the Kosovo situation. The unresolved problem of Kosovo is bound to poison Serbian politics for years to come, and despite the fact that Western leaders have been queuing up to welcome Milosevic's successor, Kostunica will have to play his hand very carefully if he wants to keep the world happy. But Kosovo Albanians are already making things difficult, fearing that most of the European money will go to Serbia instead of them. They are also worried that the Serbian police will now cooperate with the European one, as well as with Interpol, and by doing so, will damage the Albanian connection which, according to German diplomatic sources in Cairo, smuggles five tons of heroin into Hamburg each month. The Kosovo Liberation Army is demanding autonomy and the release of 2,000 war prisoners.
In addition to Kosovo, the status of Montenegro (Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav Federation) also remains unclear for the time being. Will Montenegro also continue to demand independence, or will it now, with the new government installed in Belgrade, recant?
Kostunica expresses his gratitude to the hundreds of working men who helped him end the 13-year reign of Slobodan Milosevic
The crucial issue concerning the Serbian people is the ailing Yugoslav economy. With democracy instituted in Serbia, the Yugoslav economy might well emerge as a very attractive investment destination. The strategic geographical position of Yugoslavia in the heart of southeastern Europe is of immense importance.
To show its goodwill in welcoming Yugoslavia back into the European and civilised fold, the European Union is donating $173 million worth of fuel, medicine and food to help Serbs get through the winter. Although for the time being they are attaching no conditions to this aid, the EU anticipates further political reforms. The new Yugoslav government is expected to concentrate on stabilising the currency, creating the legal and institutional framework for a financial market and opening up its economy.
Meanwhile, socio-economic prospects are looking up in Belgrade these days. Prices are dropping, the currency is slowly stabilising and people are looking forward to having a decent job and getting a decent salary.
Finally, Kostunica will have to decide what to do with the ex-president. Will he allow him to go into exile, grant him an amnesty or even let him continue as a Socialist Party leader? Whether he hands him over for prosecution, either internally for rigging the first round of the presidential election last month, or to The Hague, for war crimes, remains to be seen. The International Tribunal in The Hague investigating war crimes in former Yugoslavia said, "It would grant Kostonica a grace period to decide on the extradition of his predecessor. Transforming the country into a true democracy could not be achieved overnight."
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved