Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 6
14 February 2000

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Serbia
News from Serbia since
6 February 2000

Vana Suša

On Saturday 5 February in Kosovska Mitrovica, eleven French soldiers were wounded in a clash with Albanians. More than 1000 Albanians gathered at the south end of the bridge that divides Kosovska Mitrovica into the southern section, where Albanians live, and the northern part where the Serbian population resides. Reuters reported that several hundred Serbs gathered at the northern end of the bridge. Between the Albanians and the Serbs, the French and Italian peace-keeping troops secured the bridge. Albanians started to throw rocks at the peace-keeping troops, which led to a two hour clash between KFOR soldiers and Albanians. Eleven French soldiers were wounded, and three were kept in hospital for further treatment. Bernard Kushner, chief of the civil mission of the UN, said that he is shocked with this series of the incidents The "international community that is in charge of keeping peace in Kosovo will not allow the extremists to win in Kosovo," Kushner said (Danas, 7 February).

Opposition parties in Serbia have voiced their support of the proposal of the Serbian Renewal Party (SPO) to stage a demonstration meeting on 17 February in front the Sava Center in Belgrade, where the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) will hold its congress. The Democratic Alternative Party (DA) joined the SPO in extending an invitation to everyone who is "sick of lies and deceit about war victories, country reforms, renewals and developments" to join the rally. The Democratic Party has also expressed its support of the SPO's proposal, calling all citizens to come and address the ruling regime for all "the troubles and misery" that the ruling regime has inflicted upon the population. On 17 February, the Sava Center will be closed for any other usage. President of the Serbian Democratic Party (DSS) Vojislav Koštunica scheduled a meeting of opposition parties, during which they are to discuss the rules of the demonstration as well as their further actions and meetings.

Opposition leaders have reached an agreement about their mutual relationships and co-operation. They agreed to hold an open speech to be organized by the Alliance for Change (SZV) in Belgrade on 16 February. According to the rules of the co-operation, meetings between opposition leaders will be held at least two times per month, while working meetings will be more frequent. Furthermore, according to the rules of the co-operation, parties will be represented by their presidents and coalitions by the presidents of the coalition parties. It was decided that all decisions will be made on the basis of a consensus and that all opposition parties will unite in order to fight for early elections at all levels. However, this agreement also allows all parties to pursue their own individual programs and political agendas.

The Yugoslav Minister of Defense, Pavle Bulatović, was shot dead. The director of the Yuguarantee Bank, Vuk Obradović, and the owner of the restaurant where Bulatović was shot, Mirko Knežević, were also wounded in the attack. Bulatović was killed on Monday 7 February, while dining in the restaurant. The still unknown assassin fired an automatic rifle from outside the restaurant, hitting Bulatović in the heart, wounding Obradović in the stomach and also injuring Mirko Knežević. As Blic reported, the assassin shot three rounds through the windows of the restaurant and then escaped in a blue Ford with stolen license plates. According to unofficial reports, there were four people in the car and motives for the murder are still unknown. The Yugoslav government went into emergency session and then issued a statement saying that Bulatović was victim of a terrorist act. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević and Serbian President Milan Milutinović sent their condolences to the Bulatović family. [Click here for a full article on the assassination.]

A service of commemoration for Pavle Bulatović was held on 8 February. In attendance were President Slobodan Milošević, Prime Minister and leader of the Socialist National Party (SNP) Momir Bulatović, Nikola Šainović, Zoran Lilić, Milan Milutinović, Mirko Marjanović and General Dragoljub Ojdanič. Other high ranking members of the government as well as members of the ruling Serbian Socialist Party, the Yugoslav Left, the party led by Milošević's wife, and the Serbian Radical Party were also in attendance, along with family members.

The EU has announced it will lift the ban on Yugoslav Air Transport (JAT) flights. Mark Kent, a spokesman for the British Foreign Affairs Ministry , stated that British policy was always trying to "tie a string around Milošević and his regime, but at the same time to try to help the process of democratization in Serbia," however, as Kent said, "we do not want to do anything that would help Slobodan Milošević" (Blic, 9 February). Explaining the agreement, Kent stated that the ban on air travel will be removed only for six months and said that this was part of the agreement between the European Union and Serbian opposition parties. The EU will also extend its list of the 180 persons who are banned from obtaining visas. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook traveled to Washington, where he will meet Madeline Albright to try to get American support for the removal of sanctions.

Vojislav Šešelj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), and the deputy Serbian Prime Minister have threatened independent journalists and members of the independent media in Yugoslavia. On Thursday 10 February Vojislav Šešelj stated that the assassination of Yugoslav Defense minister Pavle Bulatović was an act of terrorism organized by the West. "This is state terrorism by the United States, Britain and France and their foreign mercenaries in Yugoslavia, who want to destabilize the country," Šešelj said. He continued, "State terrorism is the only means left to the West. With terrorism, the West wants to impose instability in Serbia and provoke a civil war in order to remove the present government and to impose its foreign mercenaries - pro-American people... Bulatović was not in confrontation with anybody. He was far from any criminal activities and he was not a politically compromised person." Furthermore, Šešelj addressed journalists from all independent media, saying that they are working against their own country and are being paid with American money. "The gloves are now off; he who lives by the sword can die by the sword, and everyone should keep this in mind," he said. "You are very wrong in believing that you can kill statesmen off like rabbits here and remain safe. Whoever works for the Americans will bear the consequences," Šešelj concluded (Blic, 11 February). On the list of those accused by Šešelj are Radio B-92, dailies Danas, Blic, Glas Javnosti and Novosti and the Associated Network of Electronic Media (ANEM).

NIN (Weekly Informative Newspaper) was fined a total of DIN (Yugoslav dinars) 150,000 (DEM 7500). Municipal Judge Miladin Ugrešić fined NIN itself DIN 100,000 (DEM 5000) and its editor, Stevan Nikšić, DIN 50,000 (DEM 2500). Former Rector of the law faculty at the University of Belgrade Dr Dragan Milkov sued NIN because Professor Gašo Knežević claimed in an article published in NIN that Milkov removed Dr Tibor Varadi from his position at the law faculty. Milkov stated that he is "sick of stories of this kind," and he claims that Varadi left the law faculty on his own accord. This is the first time that NIN had lost such a case, said Nikšić. He added that there were several suits in the past, however, the charges were always withdrawn. Nikšić emphasized that, in spite of the fine, NIN will not censor any statements in the future.

Vana Suša, 12 February 2000


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