October 5, 2000
Opposition forces in Yugoslavia took over the parliament building and state-run media in an effort to oust President Slobodan Milosevic. Following a background report and an interview with National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, a panel of experts on the Balkans assesses the significance of the events.
|RAY SUAREZ: And to continue our discussion on Yugoslavia, we turn to Louise Branson Branson, co-author of the biography "Milosevic", and former Balkan correspondent for the Sunday Times of London. James Hooper is a former foreign service officer. He is now executive director of the International Crisis Group. And Aleksa Djilas, a scholar and historian at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He is a citizen of Yugoslavia.|
|Is Milosevic finished?|
RAY SUAREZ: Aleksa Djilas, we just heard the national security adviser being very careful to say, "We don't know if he's finished." What do you think? Is Slobodan Milosevic finished?
ALEKSA DJILAS: I know he is finished. Yes, that is the end of Slobodan Milosevic. He is first of all, defeated by Kostunica was so overwhelming that even the remnants of Milosevic's legitimacy became shaky. Had he, however, been a gentleman and found enough courage to congratulate Kostunica and let him win, it is conceivable that somehow Milosevic could have stayed in politics because, you know, there are ways in which his party still has influence in the parliament of Yugoslavia and in the parliament of Serbia. But now, after what actually happened today, when it was decided to annul elections and then to postpone them... to continue with Milosevic through for another nine months, that provoked such wrath and anger of masses of Serbian people that Milosevic could never be in any leadership position at all. So it's now just a question of days or perhaps a week when he will be finally gone from the political life.
RAY SUAREZ: Now, Louise Branson, as recently as a couple of days ago in the pages of The Washington Post, were you saying, "Not so fast. Don't count this guy out." What do you think?
LOUISE BRANSON: I think this is the end, but whether it's the beginning of the end or how he's going to go is the question. We have seen him in the past face down massive demonstrations on the streets of Belgrade. I've stood in the crowd. 1991, 1992, three months in 1996, convinced he was finished, and he wasn't. But there is a difference this time. We have never seen these acts of civil disobedience as you have in the coal mines, garbage collectors and so on. And what's also now happening is people are taking over his pillars of power. He has three pillars of power, he's on a three-legged stool: The three pillars are his Radio Television Belgrade, which has been a master of propaganda, big brother-style propaganda, his party and the police and army. We've seen Radio Television Belgrade go. I think the big question is: Can he still bring somehow his police and his army against the people? Is there going to be bloodshed? But I think Aleksa is right, he is over, but are we going to see bloodshed before he goes?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, if we were going to see it, James Hooper, wouldn't we have seen it in the last 24 hours with some of these confrontations when, if the backlash was beginning -
JAMES HOOPER: Yes.
RAY SUAREZ: -- that would have been the place to begin?
JAMES HOOPER: Yes, he's finished. This was the moment of truth for the Serbian people and for Serbian democracy today, and I think they faced up to it and they passed. I now see the opposition, the democratic opposition really is becoming the democratic government. The transition has already begun. The military, even if the generals give the order to attack, the military is not... The colonels, the captains, the corporals, they're not going to carry this out. The police have already effectively gone over to the opposition. The special ministry of interior police, some of them may still be loyal to Milosevic. They're being chased out of Belgrade now. So I think really this is it. This is the end for Mr. Milosevic. Now we just have to see, is he going to go into sanctuary, or is he going to be apprehended and sent to the Hague?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, even if this is the end, isn't this a time that's also fraught with danger for your country, unsettled, unclear who's in charge?
ALEKSA DJILAS: I'm not worried for my country. I'm very optimistic that democracy will prevail. I'm worried that there may be some victims, that some people may get killed or seriously injured. As far as I know, there were only several people with gun wounds, and these were not very, very serious and not actually caused by the police. So in that sense, events are developing in the positive in that action, so I'm not worried.
RAY SUAREZ: We just heard Samuel Berger be very, very clear about keeping the United States out of this. Why was that, Louise Branson?
LOUISE BRANSON: That was a very good point that he made. It's because there is a lot of anti-American sentiment, and this is one of the reasons that you haven't had a movement to overthrow Milosevic like this so far. It's because the people's anger was divided between Milosevic and U.S.-led NATO. People are very angry about the bombing of Serbia. So I think it is important, as he said, that the people of Serbia should do it themselves.
Now, Kostunica has been talking very much about the French taking a lead. Now, the French are the head of the European Union. And Jacques Chirac, the French president, has already made a bold suggestion of perhaps even convening a Balkan conference to look at all the remaining issues, particularly once Milosevic is out of power, as to how to put this region back together again. And of course the first step, which the European Union has already promised, is the lifting of sanctions, and then Yugoslavia should be welcomed back into the international community.
But beyond that, there are a lot of questions to be answered. Kosovo, for example, the Albanians feel that they're being denied their own country. Kosovo is still a province of Serbia. How can that be sorted out? A lot of Serbs in Bosnia still feel they should be part of Serbia. So there's, you know, questions of borders and then economic cooperation. The European Union can't take all of these countries in. And it's already bursting at the seams. It already has people waiting. You know, perhaps there could be some sort of mini European Union, which could be put together to... because I think people in the region really need to feel that they belong to a larger group, something that gives them a sense of identity beyond nationalism.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, a lot of these things that Ms. Branson was just talking about, James Hooper, were always in the last several years, talked about as, "Well, we can talk about that after Milosevic. He's got to go and then we can start thinking about these things." Does the arrival of Kostunica allow for a really wide open conversation about new borders, new countries?
JAMES HOOPER: Well, I think it's... I'd be very careful about new borders. But I think this is a time of enormous opportunity. But the West has to keep in mind that, as Serbia now moves into a relationship with Europe and with the transatlantic security and political and economic organizations, that the Serbs have to deal now with fundamental issues that have been left unresolved under Mr. Milosevic.
First, the indictment issue from the Hague tribunal. One of the reasons that Mr. Milosevic was undermined was because of his indictment. It was the Serbian people saw that he was damaged goods, that there was not going to be any relationship with the West as long as he was its leader.
Secondly, the Dayton peace agreement, Bosnia. Is Mr. Kostunica and the new Serbian democratic government going to establish a new relationship, as the new democratic government in Croatia did earlier this year, with Bosnia in which, just as the Croats told the Bosnian Croats, "You're a part of Bosnia, don't try to act like a part of Croatia;" he needs to make the same point to the Bosnian Serbs, that you're part of Bosnia, you're not part of Serbia; you're not going to be part of Serbia. We can have a good cultural and commercial relationship, but you've got to stay part of Bosnia.
And also on Kosovo, and this I think is going to be the most difficult issue to deal with -- he wants Kosovo, Mr. Kostunica wants Kosovo to remain part of Serbia. He says the Kosovo Albanians want independence. They're very nervous. They are looking now to see if the international community tries to delay their movement toward independence. This is going to require very constructive and very adept diplomacy I think to assure the Kosovo Albanians that they're not going to be undermined and, therefore, that there won't be an increase in violence in Kosovo.
|Kosovo and Montenegro|
RAY SUAREZ: Well, when you look at a future Yugoslavia, do you see Kosovo being part of the map? Do you see Montenegro as being part of the map?
ALEKSA DJILAS: Well, Kosovo may also... become part of Serbia. Again, I think legitimate Serbian claims, as far as Kosovo is concerned, is for Serbian minority and other non-Albanian groups, like... Muslims, like Roma [gypsies] who were expelled by Albanian extremists under the eyes of NATO, for them to return and also Serbian holy sites, monasteries, to be preserved to perhaps get some autonomy. And in some sense, Kosovo should be under Serbian sovereignty but at the same time have a very large autonomy. I think these are the goals of the Serbian opposition. But the crucial thing is it doesn't really matter if we consider certain goals legitimate or not. We may say Kostunica's goals are, you know, too much Serbian. But nevertheless, the important thing is what kind of [methods] is he going to use? And there we have to remember Kostunica is a constitutional lawyer. He's very much opposed to violence. And he believes in political matters, in negotiation, in compromises, in legal matters. And, therefore, whatever the final solution is, independent Kosovo or Kosovo with large autonomy but inside Serbia, the struggle for that Kosovo, as far as Serbia is concerned, is not going to be by violent means anymore.
RAY SUAREZ: One of the things, Mr. Kostunica said in the last several days that got a lot of attention in the West was that he wasn't concerned about getting Slobodan Milosevic into a courtroom in the Hague. Do you think Slobodan Milosevic will ever stand trial?
ALEKSA DJILAS: That's a difficult thing to predict. I would guess no. Let me give you a slightly longer answer. If you're asking my opinion if Milosevic is guilty or not, my opinion is that he is guilty. However, Mr. Berger was wrong when he said that Milosevic has to answer for the last ten years. Milosevic has only been accused of crimes committed in Kosovo, not for anything that happened in Bosnia and Croatia. Also, these crimes are much, much smaller than NATO claimed during the bombing, but, nevertheless, they are real and I think, as the president, he is responsible.
But there are many problems with sending Milosevic to the Hague from the Serbian point of view. The first problem is how fair is the Hague tribunal? The second problem is, you know, that intelligence agencies, basically CIA and British intelligence, gathered evidence for the prosecution. Then many Serbs will ask, "Why was the president of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, who expelled hundreds of thousands of Serbs from Croatia, never indicted?" And then we must not forget that Milosevic lost a very large majority of people... a much larger majority of people voted for Kostunica than for Milosevic.
Nevertheless, 1.7 million people did vote for him. So, therefore, to put on the agenda extraditing Milosevic to the Hague now, when democracy is just beginning to kind of establish itself, to stabilize itself, would be a very, very great pressure, and that's something that I would avoid. So I mean it's a kind of moral dilemma, you know, what is more important, sending one guilty guy to the court or preserving stability in a country which has not seen stability for a long time?
RAY SUAREZ: Guests, thank you all very much.
ALEKSA DJILAS: Thank you.
JAMES HOOPER: Thank you.
LOUISE BRANSON: Thank you.