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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

    FRI, 21 NOV 1997 22:06:09 GMT

    New Trends among the Ruling Political and Economic Elite in Yugoslavia


    The episode with the resignation of Kosta Mihajlovic shows that in the federal government cadre is appearing which is in favour of a more flexible dialogue with the international community. This more liberal faction expects help from the new Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic, so that a future split would not take place along the Serb-Montenegrin line, but along the conservative-liberal demarcation line

    AIM Belgrade, 13 November, 1997

    Ever since the dissolution of former SFRY, the Serbian regime has stuck to its strategy of "ignoring the world", although it yields no results, except that a great majority of the population is dropping deep into poverty. Concerning that, the European Union issued a declaration a few days ago making it clear to the Serbian public that Europe and the international community were not guilty for the crushing results of nationalistic policy pursued by the Serbian leadership.

    Will anyone draw a lesson from this?

    The first signs of cracking of the persistence in resolving controversial questions with the former republics of SFRY about its inheritance appeared when the formerly unquestioned head of the Yugoslav negotiating team, academic Kosta Mihajlovic, announced that he would submit resignation to his post. Although he is 80, Mihajlovic proved to be a tough, but futile negotiator. He would not concede a point to anyone, but could not make the others agree to any of his either. That is why negotiations about inheritance of the former state by its republics ended up in a blind alley.

    Departure of Kosta Mihajlovic who is one of the authors of the controversial Memorandum (of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts), expected to serve as evidence of subordinated economic and political position of Serbia in former Yugoslavia (and therefrom as a pretext for its Greater-Serbian policy), was accepted as a sign that something was changing in Serbian attitude to succession. The academic, however, quickly changed his mind and explained his hasty resignation by anger with the much younger Danko Djunic, federal vice prime minister, who advocates more flexibility in negotiations with the institutions of the international community.

    Mihajlovic who has got used to receiving instructions from Slobodan Milosevic alone, was taken by surprise by Djunic'e disobedience, and by threatening with his resignation wanted to show who was the senior in hierarchy. As nothing happened to Djunic, it became obvious that Milosevic had handed over old Mihajlovic to the "young lions" like Djunic, to oppose him and help him understand how things stand in order to leave of his own free will and enable Milosevic to remain neutral in the conflict.

    Mihajlovic's departure would make the practical Slovenians the happiest, since economy is their priority, and head of their negotiating team Miran Mejak has already issued a statement in this sense. However, the submitted and then withdrawn resignation of Kosta Mihajlovic had greatest repercussions in Serbia the public of which is less and less inclined to having the isolationist wall against the outer world erected. That is why the shaken post of Kosta Mihajlovic was interpreted as a tangible sign of abandoning of the former policy which proved to be catastrophic for the economic situation in Serbia and its international position.

    Ministers of the federal government in numerous negotiations with representatives of the international community have not succeeded in resolving a single issue. After return to the country they usually gave explanations according to which reasons for such outcomes should be sought in political relations of Yugoslavia with the world. The federal government is in charge of pursuing foreign policy and internal economic development. Among the ruling team commitment has appeared to accelerated economic development, because it is the only way to ease internal tensions resulting from increasingly difficult life of an enormous majority of the population. More than half of the working age population is unemployed, and those who are employed are on paid leave.

    The head of the Serbian coordination team for development, Dragan Tomic, declared with great satisfaction that for the first time in September, employment of production capacities reached 50 per cent of what it used to be in 1990. Federal ministers, however, do not seem to be able to ensure favourable conditions for a dynamic economic development according to which annual social product would increase by ten per cent. Only with that growth Yugoslavia would be able by 2005 to reach economic development of 1990.

    The key reason why the federal government is not successful in ensuring an accelerated economic development is the lack of domestic financial resources, while borrowing from abroad is prevented by the outer wall of sanctions. The international community explains, however, that causes of the ban of access to foreign financial sources lie in the unacceptable political activities of Yugoslavia which are contrary to the established international rules. Conditions were clearly stated which Yugoslavia had to meet if it wished to return to the international community: institution of democracy, respect of human rights, establishment of good neighbourly relations, resolution of the status of ethnic minorities primarily in Kosovo, enabling freedom of the media, implementation of conclusions of Gonsales' commission concerning the election procedure, cooperation with the Hague tribunal, effecting of economic and social reform.

    So far the regime, personalized by Slobodan Milosevic, has persistently refused to seriously deal with any of the listed conditions. That is why the ministers of the federal government are tired of having futile talks in the world because the outcome depends only on the political readines of the regime to change its attitude which is persistently explained by the struggle for preservation of independence, and at the same time the country has never been as dependent as nowadays. That is why among some ministers it is possible to feel increased aversion to such hard-core policy. As they are still insufficiently strong to oppose Milosevic directly, they decided to gradually wipe out his obedient pawns. Kosta Mihajlovic belongs in the group of people it is necessary to get rid of in order to enable Yugoslavia to show a higher degree of cooperativeness in communication with the world.

    Persuaded by Milosevic, federal prime minister Radoje Kontic nominated Zoran Lilic new vice prime minister. Whether Lilic was fitted into the cabinet to make it easier for Milosevic to control the ministers who are trying to put politics in the service of the economy or to encourage them further because Lilic proved to be a person with greater sense for cooperation than Kosta Mihajlovic and the like of him who the head of the federal state relied on as loyal obedient followers, will very soon be seen.

    Regardless of the role intended for Lilic, it is almost certain that the federal government will undergo big personnel changes and have to make a big shift in playing its constitutional role which gives it broad authorization both internally and externally. Reasons for such changes are contained in the result of presidential elections in Montenegro. The new president of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic announced that he would be persistent in the effort to move the taks of pursuing foreign and internal policy from Milosevic's office to the competence of the federal government. Radoje Kontic, although from Montenegro himself, did not even congratulate Djukanovic for the election which can be understood as his continued fidelity to Milosevic. For this he will probably have to leave his post.

    The possibility should not be eliminated that after personnel changes in the federal government an interesting situation may occur in which some of its ministers from Serbia, like Danko Djunic, will have a less hard time coming to terms with the new Montenegrin team in the federal government than with the Serbian regime. Should something like that happen Milosevic would find himself in a new unpleasant situation because he would have to face the opponents from his own ranks. Djunic is not a member of Milosevic's political party, but he did become a member of the federal cabinet by recommendation of the Serbian leader.

    Although everything is taking place behind closed doors, based on what leaks into the public from "innocent statements" od representatives of the liberal group, an interesting squaring of accounts may occur on the federal level in which the conflicting parties would not be the Serbian group on one and the Montenegrin on the other side, but the division would be between the hardcore and the moderate faction. The former insists on self-isolation, regardless of the cost, while the latter is ready to accept a more flexible strategy in communication with the world, that is, to find a way to come to terms with the international community in order to enable economic revival and faster development. It is interesting that this more liberal faction does not belong to any of the parties on the Serbian political scene, but mostly consists of free-thinking people and professional experts. It remains to be seen whether some political party will receive them, in other words whether their program will acquire political support.

    Ratomir Petkovic