Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 5
7 February 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
30 January 2000

Vana Suša

On Monday, 1 February, owners in the private public transportation sector protested, causing a transportation collapse in the capital. Private transportation entrepreneurs did not run their buses on Monday, as they were demanding a rise in the price they are allowed to charge for public transport tickets from DIN (Yugoslav dinar) three (DM 0.15) to between DIN five and eight (DM 0.25-0.40). The owners stated that transportation prices have not been risen for the past four years, and, in the mean time, general prices have risen, causing a discrepancy between the price of tickets and the cost of gas. State-run public transportation provided 462 vehicles on the day of the strike (320 buses, 80 trams and 62 trolleys-buses). Despite this effort, the citizens of Belgrade had difficulties reaching their destinations. On Tuesday, private entrepreneurs provided 600 buses and charged citizens DIN five for tickets, in spite of the official prohibition against raising prices and the possible penalties. The Belgrade city government has promised to submit a proposal outlining new policies and prices for public transportation to the proper officials.

On Friday, 5 February, the Ministry of Trade decided to keep prices for public transportation as they were - DIN three per ticket. Minister of Trade Zoran Krasić stated that prices will not change, in accordance with the policies of the Serbian government, which are based on stable, fixed prices (Danas, 4 February). The penalty for private bus owners that charge DIN five for tickets is up to DIN 200,000 (DM 10,000).

The Independent Association of Serbian Journalists (NUNS) protested on Monday against the repressive information laws. A list of judges, who have convicted journalists in accordance with these laws, was symbolically placed on a "pillar of shame." Gordana Suša, president of NUNS, spoke to the journalists and citizens, who gathered in protest. "One year ago, we had seven daily newspapers that were not under the control of the government, and today we have three. The systematic exclusion of the Glas Javnosti newspaper and the printing house, ABC Grafika, exemplify the aims of the regime to put every newspaper under their control," Suša said and added that, between the judges, there are those who are ashamed of their colleagues, and she appealed to the judges not to act according to the repressive laws of the regime, but to act just and professional (Danas, 1 February).

On Tuesday, 1 February, police, together with a court official, raided the ABC Grafika printing house, without a written court order, and seized ABC's equipment. Dragan Vlahović, co-editor of the Glas Javnosti newspaper, which is printed by ABC Grafika, said, "This is one more attack on the Glas Javnosti newspaper, but this attack targeted ABC Grafika printing house" (Danas, 1 February). According to Vlahović, this is an act of outrageous violence by the court and police, but in spite of this, the newspaper will continue to be published. Dušan Abramović was named the new director of ABC Grafika, while ABC Grafika's equipment was put under the control of an armed group from the so-called "protection team." Journalists from Studio B, Danas, B-92 and Reuters there to report on the events were brutally prevented by police from taking any pictures or conducting interviews. Legal representatives of ABC Grafika submitted an appeal to a higher court, but they fear that the appeal will not be processed soon. In the meantime, 284 workers have been left out of work.

The President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, stated that Montenegro "will be forced" by the end of this year to aim towards independence, unless the ruling government in Serbia does not accept a plan to redefine relations within the federation. Đukanović said that Montenegro will not compromise its strategic plans. "If Belgrade wants to co-operate with Montenegro, then there is a chance for the federation to be kept in tact. However, if Belgrade wants to continue to be antagonistic towards the international community, then Montenegro will definitely aim towards independence." Đukanović said that one can expect all kinds of evil when a president such as Milošević holds power, but added that he hopes military intervention will not be necessary. The "Yugoslav army learned some things from the previous wars and the army will not let itself be manipulated again. An attack on democracy and stability in Montenegro would be a de facto attack on the European Union and United States," said Đukanović. He also expressed his hopes that the international community and NATO will protect their policies in the Balkans (Blic, 1 February).

The beginning of the new semester in the primary and secondary schools in Serbia began with a strike. Radovan Pavlović, president of the Serbian education administration, stated that the requests of the teachers are based on material necessity, meaning small and irregular payment of salaries are the problems. However, as Pavlović said, "That is only one segment of the problem, as the crude centralization of the education system is the cause of all the problems" (Glas, 2 February). The President of the Education Syndicate announced that 497 schools from inner Serbia, 176 from Vojvodina and 191 from Belgrade are not in session because of the strike, and it is expected that, until the beginning of the next week, more schools throughout Serbia will be affected. This means that all classes will be 30 minutes instead of the usual 45. Wages in the education sector range from DIN 450 (DM 22.5) a month for school staff to DIN 1800 (DM 90 DM) for teachers. The average wage in the education sector is DIN 1300 (DM 65), which is 35% less than the average wage. School directors are using different means to stop the teacher strike. In some cases, directors are pressuring teachers and even threatening to fire them.

Vana Suša, 4 February 2000




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