Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 13
3 April 2000

Serbia newsC E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N    N E W S:
News Round-up for Serbia
News since 25 March 2000

Vana Suša

Unity within the democratic coalition is of crucial importance for the coming elections. Goran Svilanović, the President of the Civic Citizen Alliance (GSS), in an interview with Blic, talked about the coming elections. Svilanović stated that the Alliance for Change believes that the opposition should run in the early local elections, however, they believe that it is too early to consider this matter, since any decisions on early elections have not been made. The united opposition agrees that all decisions pertaining to the elections should be made on the basis of consensus, and they agree that the election list should be made. Due to this, the Alliance for Change has already started considering future coalition candidates.

Zoran Đinđić, the leader of the Democratic Party (DP), stated that the opposition needs to be clear and needs to say whether the opposition will run in the elections, which could be held in May, and if they do that, the opposition will need to issue an agreed upon election list.

This stand was criticized by Ognjen Pribižević, an adviser to Vuk Drašković, the Serbian Renewal Party leader, who said that the DP needs to control itself and respect the agreement from 10 January, when the united democratic opposition agreed to act as one unanimously. When asked about a possible split within the united opposition, due to the tension between the leaders of the Serbian Renewal Party and Democratic Party, Svilanović stated that other opposition parties within the coalition view these schisma as something that is normal within the coalition and worth talking about.

Due to strikes in the education sector, the influenza epidemic and the lack of heating, one third of all classes were cancelled. Several weeks of protests in the education sector, due to low salaries, have deprived primary and secondary students of regular schooling and have disabled them from completing their full class schedule. Also, the independent education syndicates have announced that they will continue with their strike, even if that means jeopardizing a whole academic year for students. Since the beginning of the second semester, classes have been shortened from 45 minutes to 30 minutes in more than 920 schools (60% of the total schools), while 300 other schools and independent syndicates are still striking.

The lack of the heating during the winter has also forced schools to stay closed, and the flu epidemic also delayed the beginning of the second semester. According to Nenad Gromović, the president of the independent education syndicates, this represents a big loss.

The Ministry of Education has requested school deans to make plans to make up classes. However, this seems difficult, as some of the schools are still on strike and are refusing to consider class substitutions until all of their requests are fulfilled. (Blic, 27. March).

A Serbian protest leader has made a dramatic reappearance three weeks after he escaped from detention, newspapers said on Tuesday. Bogoljub Arsenijević, also known as Maki, who is an artist, was jailed for three years for leading violent protests in the western Serbian town of Valjevo in July. On 8 March, he disappeared from a Belgrade hospital, where he was being treated for facial injuries sustained during his arrest. Maki told the story of his escape during a live television broadcast in Republika Srpska. He said that he had been planning his escape for the past seven months. While being treated in hospital, Maki was "acting weak, so that no one could imagine that he could escape in such condition." Arsenijević was one of several local leaders whose protests were of great concern to the government, as he played a critical role in the opposition as well. "The opposition gave Milošević time to recover after the air strikes," Maki said in the interview, which was carried by opposition media in Serbia. "I have the feeling they are doing it consciously, they are postponing any conflict with him, because they are not ready for it, as they have already dealt with him for ten years." (Glas, 21 March)

Slobodan Miošević is getting ready for war, warned Montenegrian President Milo Đukanović. In an interview with the Austrian newspaper, Standard, Milo Đukanović said that the events that occurred in the past several weeks need to be observed closely. "One can see clearly that something is going to happen... He will abuse the military with his unsuccessful politics... We know that he will not attack Montenegro openly, but rather by causing inner conflicts that will lead to another civil war," Đukanović said. "The regime...has made us accustomed to bloody springs. Miošević's term as president of the two-republic Yugoslav Federation is due to end in the middle of next year. That post can only be held once, and he has already served the constitutional maximum of two terms as president of Serbia. If he loses power, however, he faces possible trial and imprisonment at the UN tribunal in The Hague," he concluded (Glas, 21 March). Miošević's only hope, according to Đukanović, is to change the Yugoslav constitution.

A Belgrade court began criminal proceedings on Thursday against seven Serbian opposition leaders and one activist, including Vladan Batić, Zoran Đinđić, Goran Svilanović and Vuk Obradović, who allegedly slandered government ministers. Serbian Deputy Health Minister Milan Bojić and Borka Vužić, a minister widely believed to be Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević's private banker, sued the leaders for statements they made during the opposition rallies held across Serbia between September and December 1999. Vuk Obradović, the president of the Social Democratic Party, said that this legal procedure is a "political farce... This is not criminal procedure. This is a confrontation with people who think differently from the ruling regime and a typical abuse of the legal system." Vladan Batić said the proceedings were part of a wider campaign of repression by the government. "All these attacks on independent media and political trials of opposition leaders are part of the same campaign of sowing fear across the country," he said. If found guilty, the leaders could face up to three years in jail (Reuters).

Vana Suša, 31 March 2000

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