MON, 27 NOV 1995 22:32:41 GMT
Welcome to the "Peace-maker" from Dayton
When the understandable joy due to the announced peace and the end of the sanctions quiets down a little, and when (and if) the "parade of drunkenness and kitsch" boils down to just the "normal" proportions of the tv daily-news program, someone might remember the thought of Duke of Wellington uttered such a long time ago that "only the war itself is worse than the end of the war". It seems, nevertheless, that the current regime has among its media potentials quite sufficient stocks of optimism which can cover up all unpleasant truths, bitter reminders or rough edges of reality.
AIM, Belgrade, November 23, 1995
Presidents of Serbia and Croatia, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman, according to numerous assessments "the best of friends" during the entire war in former Yugoslav space, have finally reached a phase in their mutual relations in which, apart from the extent of the territories, they may compete in the number of decorations, awards and credits they have won. When speaking of decorations, Mr Tudjman seems to have an unattainable advantage. Last summer, in a single day he was awarded nine highest Croat medals for all the "Flashes" and "Storms", so that there is hardly any room for more on his uniform now.
After his return from Dayton, only the first proposal for an award welcomed Milosevic: his Socialists from the Belgrade municipality Palilula believe that the Serb President deserves to be proclaimed the first "hero of poeace and freedom" in the FR of Yugoslavia. Tudjman considerably lags behind in the number of titles of "honorary citizen", because Milosevic started collecting these titles right after the "historic 8th session" (of the League of Comunists of Serbia, when he practically grabbed power having got rid of his moderate predecessors), so that there are just a few local communities left he can get it from. After Dayton, things appear to have moved dramatically in favour of Milosevic. The President of the branch of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) from Nis, Mile Ilic, M.S., initiated the procedure for awarding Slobodan Milosevic the Nobel prize for peace. Mr Ilic has thus become not just the first man in Serbia who has come up with this ingenious idea, but who has beat all the Committees of the Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) in making a similar proposal for their President Tudjman. And the proposal for the Nobel prize, everyone must admit, is worth more than all the medals in a single day.
Socialists from other cities and regions around Serbia followed suit of Ilic immediately. The Committee of the SPS of the Region of Zlatibor and the workers of the Cement Plant in Kosjeric were just a few hours late with the same proposal, the Socialists of Krusevac have organized fireworks, but all the glory, nevertheless, goes to Nis. It will remain noted for all times that it was Mile Ilic who was the first to tell Milosevic bluntly in the face: "With your principled, persistent, continuous, courageous, and patient policy, you have finally led the Serb nation into the harbour of peace..." And while the others are also trying to catch up with him and think of another thunderous fine-sounding phrase, the proud Ilic continues to play the avantgarde role of expressing loyalty to the President of Serbia. As he explained to the journalists, he is studying the procedure for proposing candidates for the Nobel prize in order to eliminate any possibility of a surprise.
Such reactions to signing of the peace agreement and suspension of the sanctions were quite expected, after all. The way in which Slobodan Milosevic was seen off to Dayton, with a wish "to let him bring peace to us across the ocean and border", clearly suggested what would be happenening when his plane landed once again at the Surcin airport. Some even expected a welcome in the style of Tito's times - workers and pupils in the streets and overjoyed elederly retired people waving flags to salute the President who has returned from a peace mission. (In Tito's time, it would have been "from another peace mission", which does not refer to the President of Serbia who is still "new" in the peace business).
Instead of all that, Milosevic's welcoming party consisted of several tens of retired persons carrying his photographs and flags, who were described as "numerous citizens" in some of the regime media. It was too cold for the children, and for a long time now it is not recommendable to call the workers to come out in the streets. State media, however, did their best to make everything else look like in "Tito's times". Apart from the quick and quick-witted Mile Ilic from Nis, a whole gallery of characters never stops marching through programs of the Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) and across pages of the press loyal to the authorities, participating in a new game called "who will be the first" and "who will be more authentic".
Workers and peasants are wiping sweat off their faces delighted with peace, citizens in the streets are day-dreaming about life without sanctions, managers of big firms claim that foreign partners are on their way to Yugoslavia (or they are even here already) with prepared contracts for reestablishment of business cooperation. A reporter of Pristina Television welcomes the miners of "Stari trg" mine near Kosovska Mitrovica telling her spectators that this is "the first shift coming out to the face of the erath after suspension of the sanctions". To the original journalist's question - "what next" - a puzzled miner answers in a refrain that thanks to the efforts and success of Slobodan Milosevic, we will be able to sell coal abroad again.
There will also be gas at the gas stations again, and money in the banks. There are, of course, the politicians who are all with no exception whatsoever repeating the fact that these are historical days and that Milosevic has after Dayton definitely married Serb history. In honour of the signed peace, for the first time in his presidential career, the President of the FR of Yugoslavia, Zoran Lilic, managed to give a special statement for the Yugoslav public by saying it by heart and not reading it. In the adjoining office of the federal Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, a journalist asks him how he feels after 1237 days of living under the sanctions. Kontic says that he is very excited and that he has not slept for two nights waiting for the good news from Ohio.
Some of the statements that could be heard in the past few days, as well as certain newspaper articles and commentaries deserve to be saved from falling into oblivion. For instance, a reporter of the RTS from New York, a day after the sanctions were suspended came to the conclusion that they were lifted in "a record time". It remained unclarified what he meant was the record, whether it had anything to do with the famous declaration President of Serbia gave a long time ago that the sanctions could do us no harm because we can endure them even if they lasted for a thousand years. Radio Belgrade foreign policy commentator claimed that "our country was given credit as the brightest point in the South of Europe" in Dayton. President of the World Serb Community, Misa Milosevic, "in the name of four million Serbs in diaspora", sent a congratulations telegram to the President of Serbia which, among other reads as follows: "We are well aware how much effort, persistency and skill you have invested from the first instance into protection of the Serbs, regardless where they live..."
Socialists of Novi Sad, deputies of Municipality Assembly Uzice and Municipal Committee of the SPS Prokuplje, although quite distant from each other, thought of identical formulations in their telegrams of support to President Milosevic: "Your contribution to signing the peace agreement in Dayton is immeasurable, and your political wisdom ranks you among the greatest statesmen in the world..." In the name of the youngest, teachers of Serbia congratulated Milosevic, and in the name of the oldest citizens of Serbia, the Association of Veterans of Yugoslavia. Certain journals even found representatives of ethnic groups in Sandzak and Vojvodina who sent word to Milosevic - "we support you". According to the same, well-known and so many times verified pattern, workers of Bujanovac "Gumoplastika" firm, signed as the Serbs, the Albanians, the Muslims, and the Turks, pay tribute to the President for everything he has done for peace in this space.
In the fierce competition of all kinds in the attempt to somehow recall Tito's times, along with the Nis "Nobel", Ilic, Milan Rodic, director general of "Srbijasume" enterprise pushed his way to the top. "Foresters of Serbia organized in the 'Srbijasume' enterprise, sincerely greet you, Mister President, overwhelmed with the signing of the peace agreement and success of our delegation you have so wisely headed at the negotiations in Dayton", Milan Rodic says in his letter and informs the President that even at the time of the sanctions, foresters worked to carry out the plan of tending, protecting, growing and exploiting forests. On the eve of Dayton, they even worked at record pace and produced, in October, 254 thousand cubic metres of wood, announcing, as Rodic says, the capabilities and success for the time after the sanctions. In the end of the letter, he writes: "We promise you, Mister President, that under your leadership and our slogan 'FOR SERBIA BREATHING WITH FILLED LUNGS', we shall take care about our forests and the environment and preserve it for the generations which will be born and grow in peace." Malicious persons noted immediately, however, that if this directror and his workers continued to work at such record pace, in a month or two, Serbia will have no forests to breathe with.
When news on lifting of the sanctions arrived, Srboljub Vasovic, Director of Kragujevac "Crvena zastava" which will this year most probably manage to produce just a few thousand cars of the quite out-dated type "Yugo" (capacity of the factory is more than 200 thousand vehicles a year), declared briefly: "We have flown out of the cage". Once all the prominent directors and managers had their turn in the media, exploitation of the event turned to border crossings. Correspondents of Tanjug state news aganecy sent word from there: cage keepers are leaving, borders are wide open again.
The atmosphere of general ecstasy because of signing of the peace agreement, combined with a fireworks of kitsch and bad taste in expressing love and loyalty to the Serb President will probably continue dominating the space in Serb media during the next weeks and months. Some even believe (and their number is increasing among the opposition leaders), that this celebration on tv screens will gradually and imperceptibly turn into a long election campaign of the Socialists in which their most powerful trump card will be the peace agreement and suspension of the sanctions. In that case the elections would have to be scheduled in spring next year at the latest, since the post-Dayton euphoria could gradually be replaced by "post-Dayton blues" and emptiness due to unfulfilled expectations. Especially if it turns out that the return into the world is neither quick nor simple as claimed in the first immoderate reactions.
Once the understandable joy caused by the announced peace and the end of the sanctions quiets a little, and when (and if) the "parade of drunkenness and kitsch" boils down to the "normal" proportions of the tv daily news program, someone might remember the thought of Lord Wellington expressed such a long time ago that "only the war is worse than the end of the war". It seems, nevertheless that the current regime has quite sufficient stocks of optimism which can cover up all the unpleasant truths, bitter reminders or roughness of the reality.
In case any obstacles appear on the road to the bright future, the optimistic pattern will be activated like in the declaration of the Montenegrin Minister of Culture Gojko Celebic published by Belgrade Politika on November 23: "Literature after the war will differ from the literature of before the war. New psychology of creation is penetrating into it now". Of course, other, somewhat more popular forms of instilling optimism in the discouraged people are also possible. This too is deja vu in a newspaper report just after Milosevic left to Dayton. Optimism was instilled through farmers who were, in the report, at first a little worried about the destiny of the negotiations and Milosevic himself, and then convinced about success, told the singing journalist: "Just let Sloba bring us peace from Dayton, and then we will have a snowball fight".
Nenad Lj. Stefanovic (AIM)