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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    MON, 19 FEB 1996 21:17:47 GMT

    The First Agreement on British-Serb Academic Cooperation

    IT IS TIME FOR ODYSSEY TO REPLACE THE ILIAD

    AIM London, February 18, 1996

    In the beginning of nineties, when nationalism was in full swing in Serbia, history of human foolishness was adorned with a new "gem": a witty citizen of Serbia mocked at his nationalism-intoxicated fellow-citizens by founding an Association for Reversing the Flow of the River Sava! Nothing coming from Croatia is of any good, so how can a river be?! Instead of flowing from Croatia towards Serbia - should members of this association be persistent in their demands - the river will start flowing upstream, from Serbia towards Croatia. Telephone lines of the association became red-hot from calls of those who believed that massive membership was directly proportionate with the possibility of reversing the flow of the Sava.

    The previous story sounds absurd, and yet sociologists have diagnosed the illness which results in such developments a long time ago. "We must take quite seriously the warning of Karl Popper (*) that the ideas of new collectivism and old tribalistic logic keep us clenched within 'closed society', society founded on the idea of organic community, whose basis in the case of almost all former Yugoslav republics is - the nation", says Dr Vukasin Pavlovic, professor of the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, whose book translated into English has just been published: "Repressed Civic Society". The book is a part of a project two leading world sociologists also worked on, British John Keane and George Schopflin.

    Professor Pavlovic has recently signed a three-year contract on cooperation with Westminster University, London. It refers to a joint study in the sphere of political sciences and international relations.

    Serbia was a part of a closed society for decades, and interruption of its cultural and economic exchange with neighbours and the world caused by the war and the sanctions of the international community, pushed it further away from the model of "open society", which Professor Pavlovic advocates and defines as a society of tolerance where all forms of social and human communication exist, and where there are no illusions about perfection of institutions and ideas.

    The project these two academic institutions will work on has manifold significance for the Belgrade partner: it will enable exchange of scientific personnel, it will create opportunities for exchange of experience and accomplishments and, most of all - it will provide support to young, pro-European oriented scientists from Belgrade for establishment of contacts with colleagues from Britain.

    Professor Margaret Blunden, dean of Westminster University, explains her reasons for signing the first British contract on cooperation with an academic institution from Serbia since the beginning of the war: "We can do more by working together than by working apart from each other. This is not the first cooperation of this kind with a university abroad. In case of Belgrade University - their interests are very close to ours. Our Centre for Democratic Studies has specialized in political theory and theory of democracy. At the same time, this is something our colleagues in Belgrade consider to be a burning theoretical issue at this moment in Serbia." Due to similar interests, they will cooperate in two more fields - studies of security and studies of European integration. "European integration is an enormous political issue in Britain, but since a large portion of former Yugoslavia has separated into independent states and since the war has finally ended, these independent states will show an increasing interest for rapprochement with the European Union or even integration into it", Professor Blunden says.

    Professor Vukasin Pavlovic sees longterm effects in increasing prospects for development of political thought in Serbia and creation of preconditions for development of theory of democracy, which would contribute to democratic changes in Serbia.

    The first step in realization of the project was a discussion at the round table in London on the subject: Transformations of War - Violence and Civil War in Former Yugoslavia. The discussion was organized by Professor John Keane and professor Vukasin Pavlovic.

    "It is high time to replace the leitmotiv of the Iliad with the leitmotiv of Odyssey - return home, if peace takes root, of course. The way home is paved with two kinds of mines - political-administrative and real ones - in Bosnia alone, six million unexploded mines. As concerning the first kind of mines - obstacles, assistance of our British colleagues is exceptionally significant, they will help us to acquire a more objective assessment of ourselves and our society", Professor Pavlovic says, expressing, together with Professor Blunden, hope that the cooperation will last longer than three years.

    Milica Pesic AIM London