NEWS

Lack of democracy and the rule of law are the main problems

Are you satisfied with the way things are in post-Milosevic Serbia? I am partly satisfied with some things, but not everything. I am most pleased with the restoration of relations with the international community, particularly Europe, and to a much lesser extent with relations on the domestic front. It might seem strange but I am far more satisfied with the «Serbia-Montenegro» relationship than I am by the situation within Serbia. Could you be more specific? Relations with our neighbors – I mean Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina – have normalized and are developing. Meanwhile, Serbia-Montenegro has become a member of one more international organization that the former Yugoslavia belonged to, the Council of Europe. Relations have been restored with the UN administration. In fall 2001, an important agreement was signed with UNMIK in Kosovo, and state entity was safeguarded by the constitutional amendment of Serbia and Montenegro. However, because Serbia-Montenegro is formed out of two states, to a great extent the situation depends on that prevailing in each of the two component states, particularly in Serbia, which is far larger than Montenegro. This is where the greatest problem lies, since Serbia does not yet have all the democratic institutions, a developed legal system or rule of law. Many laws that should have been passed after the fall of the Milosevic regime, have not yet been passed. It seems incredible, but in Serbia reforms are being implemented with Milosevic’s old system. The present ruling coalition in Serbia, DOS, is opposed to passing a new constitution because this would automatically mean declaring premature elections, an idea which absolutely terrifies the current government. Because the institutions are weak and because there is no rule of law, corruption and organized crime are rampant. People appear to be indifferent, disillusioned with politicians. I will give you just one indication of that – the fact that they did not come to vote in the presidential election. What happened? Why did they lose hope in their new leadership so quickly? The presidential elections in Serbia last year, which were held twice – the first time there were two rounds – failed not because the people were against them but because the ruling coalition was against them. In fact, the ruling DOS coalition tried at all costs to retain Milosevic’s constitution and not to pass some important laws, such as the ones on conflict of interests, and others limiting corruption. So, keeping the 50 percent minimum participation in the presidential elections ensured that there was no result. We can only imagine what the elections in the US would be like today if they had that minimum participation requirement. In Montenegro, it was abolished. It has to be abolished here too, but it has not been, not even for the next elections. In Serbia, the fact that the new constitution has not been adopted, with presidential elections scheduled for November, but which will not take place, the parliamentary elections are being pushed even further into the future. Those who are in power are saying to the people: «You wanted elections, so here you are, you have presidential elections.» If I could describe the people’s mood, I would say it had gone past simple disillusionment to rage. The economy is paralyzed, the number of jobless has risen to 1 million, there is widespread corruption in the privatization process, a lot of dirty money. Many people have gotten rich illegally, gangsters who got rich under Milosevic are now richer. You spoke about delayed reforms. Many claim that one of the reasons, perhaps the main one, was the political conflict between yourself and the late Zoran Djindjic. There was conflict, but it was between two different approaches. Djindjic and the ruling DOS coalition believed that reforms could be implemented irrespective of the legal framework, even by violating the law. In many areas, DOS behaves not in a reformist but in a revolutionary way. The Communists used to think that the principle of revolution was above that of law. Today the ruling DOS coalition thinks that the principles of reforms are above that of law. I was in favor of strengthening the rule of law in a head-on confrontation with corruption and the Mafia, not in association with the Mafia. What were your real relations with Djindjic and who do you believe had a motive to kill him? It is hard to answer the second part of that question, but the trial has not yet begun. As for my relations with the late prime minister, I had known him for years. We worked together at the same institute of philosophy and social theory at the University of Belgrade. We both participated in the founding, at the end of 1989, of the then united Democratic Party. But differences had already begun to appear. Djindjic believed that in politics, under prevailing conditions, one had to be a realist and that respect for law was often an obstacle to pragmatism. Although I do not doubt the need for pragmatism and compromise in politics, I believe that laws are there to be respected and not to be violated by those in power whenever the need arises. However, a society, particularly a post-Communist society, can break up, can dissolve into anarchy if there are no strong institutions, good laws and the rule of law.