Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 4
31 January 2000

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
Serbian News Round-up
News from Serbia since
23 January 2000

Vana Suša

On Sunday, 23 January, big snow storms hit almost the entire country, causing a drop in the temperatures. Due to strong winds and low temperatures, shipping on the Danube was completely stopped and many roads in Yugoslavia were not passable. The southern city of Niš was hit with 38 cm, but the main roads there were cleared of snow. However, due to the low temperatures, roads were coated with ice during the nights. All of Montenegro was hit by storms and intensive rain, especially in mountainous areas. In the capital, snow storms caused the complete collapse of public transportation. Temperatures in Belgrade were between -18 and -20 at night, although the temperature climbed to -6 during the day. Public transportation in Belgrade ran on the holiday schedule, with considerably less vehicles on the road. Passengers had to wait approximately 50 minutes for buses and trams.

After the temperatures sunk to -35 in some parts of the country, consumption of electricity exceeded production, thus Serbian Power Company (EPS) was forced to reduce their distribution. Two hour restrictions on electricity were introduced. Since the low temperatures sparked a greater demand for electricity, EPS imposed two-hour power cuts in most of the cities in Serbia.

On Monday, 24 January, the Serbian Radical Party (SRP) held it's fifth "Patriotic Congress." Several thousand delegates, members of the SRP and guests came and cheered the leader of the SRP, Vojislav Šešelj. Šešelj stated that the Serbian people have suffered and lost territories, but these are only temporary losses. Šešelj continued by saying that SRP will never give up its fight to free Republika Srpska and Kososvo. It will be a "hard fight, which will go till the last breath," Šešelj said (Danas, 24 January). He also stated that NATO did make concessions, but not enough to satisfy the SRP, which will force the Alliance to back down in future. According to Šešelj, NATO gave up their "criminal plan" from Rambouillet, where they planed to occupy all of Serbia.

Furthermore, in his speech to the "Fifth Congress," Šešelj estimated that over the last ten years SRP has grown into the largest party in Serbia, with 250,000 members. Šešelj explained that coalitions between parties from the left and right are not natural in normal conditions, however, in situations like the one Yugoslavia finds itself in, they are a priority in order to forge unity among the people. The Yugoslav example of resistance against "American totalitarianism" should serve as an example to other countries, Šešelj said. According to Šešelj, Montenegro should not be allowed to secede and American "plans" to occupy Montenegro, Sandžak and Vojvodina will not succeed.

A meeting of European Union (EU) ministers did not meet the expectations of Yugoslavia. Ministers from the 15 EU member states met on 24 January to discuss the lifting of oil import and air travel sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia. According to one official, the lifting of the sanctions was opposed, as was expected, by Britain and Holland. Before the official meeting, British officials announced that they will pursue their belief that "sanctions do not need to be lifted, as it is not the right time for such a step" (Blic, 25 January).

The final vote was 13 to two, in favor of lifting the sanctions. Reuters reported that the members who openly advocated the lifting of sanctions were Italy, France, Germany and Greece. The Portuguese Minister stated that the "necessary consensus failed to be reached," and added that the ministers will be considering this question again at the next meeting scheduled for 24 February, 2000.

The Yugoslav opposition declared that the EU decision to keep the sanctions on oil imports and air travel in place was wrong, however, the opposition is determined to continue their lobbying. Zoran Đinđić stated that, since Britain and Holland objected to the lifting of sanctions, "certain expert groups should be sent to those countries, in order to explain the problem." Vladan Batić, the coordinator for the Alliance for Change (AC) said that the "opposition is disappointed, but I am an optimist... it is not the end of the world since sanctions were not removed [to]day, we should wait a couple more weeks."

Goran Svilanović, president of the Civic Alliance (CA), stated that it is important for the citizens of Yugoslavia to understand that the problem is not with the sanctions but with the current regime. Vuk Obradović, president of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), believes that the EU officials made a mistake by not easing the sanctions, since "there is not one single reason to punish innocent people." SDP president Vojislav Koštunica explained that Yugoslavia has again witnessed that 15 European "YES" votes are not worth as much as one American "NO." Spokesman for New Democracy (ND) Rebeka Srbinović estimated that the "EU decision will put the Yugoslav opposition further from their mutual goal - the democratization of Serbia" (Blic, 25 January).

The suspects in the Željko "Arkan" Ražnatović murder case still have not had their hearing. On 22 January, police revealed the names of the three suspects involved in the murder of Arkan. According to the information that police have collected, there is evidence of additional people being involved in the crime. The investigators suspect that some of the participants and organizors of the attack have escaped from Yugoslavia.

As Tanjug news agency reported, Dragan Nikolić, 33, nicknamed Gagi, and Milan Đurić, 28, nicknamed Miki, are still at large and suspected to have to fled Yugoslavia. Police have not revealed what their roles were in the killing. The public is still confused with the fact that the two suspects in custody, Gavrić and Pitulić, were members of the police forces until recently. The question remains as to who is the real murderer, as the person who fatally wounded Arkan shook his hand prior to shooting him, according to eye witness accounts.

The Montenegro government was reshuffled by naming four new ministers and a new prime minister. The changes were approved of by the votes of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialist members of parliament, and by two members of parliament of the ruling DPA-DSA (Democratic Albanian Movement-Democratic Albanian Alliance) coalition. The opposition coalition, Socialist People's Party (SNS)-Liberal Alliance (LS), walked out of parliament before voting. Before leaving, SNS-LS requested the resignation of Filip Vujanović's cabinet. The new cabinet consists of Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac, Deputy Prime Minister Ljubiša Krgović, Minister of Urban Planning Rade Gregović and Cultural Minister Radojica Luburić. All of the new ministers are members of the Democratic Party Of Socialists, except for Budimir Dubak, who is a member of the National Party and will be in charge of religious affairs.

Vojislav Šešelj's bodyguard was wounded on Friday, 28 January. According to police reports Petar Panić was wounded after a short dispute with Ljubomir Jovanović. Panić was transported to an emergency room, were he was treated, as Blic reported, for stomach wounds. The SRP did not comment on the event, but the police released a report. Panić has an extensive police record, but he has not been convicted of the majority of offenses which he is alleged to have committed.

Vana Suša, 29 January 2000



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