Geert Lovink on Sat, 10 Apr 1999 07:20:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Dissent and Criticism of the Europeans


Internal dissenters are keeping their heads down, and not because of NATO
bombs. But the real concern is after the air strikes end, and the internal
reprisals begin.

By a Journalist from Belgrade *

Right up until the evening NATO launched its offensive against Yugoslavia,
the country had never been entirely behind its president. But this is no
longer the case. Today Serbia is cast in the image of one man: Slobodan

This is not to say that Milosevic has succeeded in persuading all Serbs
that his is the true path. Rather, overnight, he acquired a most potent
ally, namely fear. It is all-pervasive and has silenced every dissenting

Milosevic has always had to expend roughly an equal amount of time and
energy on the enemy within, that is the domestic opposition, as the enemy
without, be they the other peoples of the former Yugoslavia or the West.
As long as Serbia proper was spared direct involvement in war, the
internal battle remained largely civil. Dissidents were branded traitors,
fifth columnists, foreign mercenaries and the like, but rarely harmed

Now, however, potential dissidents are acutely aware that the price for
raising their voice against the regime may be much dearer. It may even
cost them their lives.

Following the first NATO bombs, my neighbour ran out on the balcony,
looked up in the sky and unleashed a torrent of abuse. He cursed NATO for
what he considered an unjust and illegal bombing. And he cursed his
president, whom he had never voted for, asking rhetorically: "Where are
you now, Slobo? I'll bet you're somewhere safe, unlike the rest of us."

This frustration echoed throughout the apartment block. The second night
of bombing went by, the third, and the fourth, by which time my neighbour
could no longer be heard voicing his double-pronged anger. He continues
watching the skies from the balcony, but has decided it would be prudent
to keep his opinions to himself.

My neighbour is a professional, long critical of Milosevic, but not
especially political. His only public expression of opposition to the
regime came in winter 1996-97 when he joined the daily protest marches,
which brought Belgrade to a standstill for the better part of three
months. He is therefore used to keeping quiet. Not so the human rights'
activists and opposition politicians who addressed the crowds during those
protests. Yet they are equally silent.

Although logically it should be feasible to oppose both the NATO action
and the Serbian regime at the same time, in reality this is no longer an
option. The air strikes have effectively destroyed what opposition
existed, even more efficiently than the repression of the past decade.
And, with the dissidents silenced, Milosevic has truly emerged as Serbia's
supreme and unchallenged ruler.

Where does Serbia's former opposition go from here? The views of some I
have spoken with have come as a greater shock to me than the air strikes
themselves. Even those who used to argue that Milosevic should be bombed
for the suffering he has caused not only to Croats, Bosnians and
Albanians, but also to Serbs, have, publicly at least, lined up behind the
regime. Moreover, their newly articulated position becomes ever more
entrenched with each day of bombing.

Many Belgrade analysts had warned of the "day after" in Kosovo, predicting
prophetically massive reprisals against the province's Albanians in the
event of air strikes. Ominously, the same individuals are now increasingly
fearful of the "day after" in Serbia. They fear that after NATO's bombing
campaign stops, the regime will turn against the remnants of Serbia's
opposition. As one good friend says: "As long as the NATO air strikes
continue, we're fine. But god helps us when they stop."

As for me, I was never a political figure. But I used to view myself as a
dissident--opposing the dominant political view in Serbia and arguing in
public against the regime. As of Wednesday evening, when the sirens began
to wail and when my flat shook from the first explosions in the distance,
I joined the ranks of the "yes-men". Instead of doing the talking, I have
begun listening. Even when I find what I am hearing totally unpalatable, I
say nothing. I just nod in seeming agreement. It's something I never
thought I would do.

With censorship tightened and no opportunity to hear any alternative
opinion in the media, I wonder how many like-minded remain. I almost
rejoiced when, one evening last week in the company of old friends, we
gradually plucked up the courage to criticise Milosevic and his regime.
Sadly, however, the prospects of this particular anger spilling out into
the public realm are minimal. Indeed, as we dispersed, I wondered whether
it was wise for me to have been so frank.

The author is a journalist and writer from Belgrade, who recently left the
country. The name is withheld to protect his family from reprisals.


H. E. Mario Soares President International Organization of the European
Movement P - 1200 Lisbon Rua.. S. Bentos 176 Fax: (351-1) 396-41-56

Belgrade, March 31, 1999

Dear Mr. Soares,

The European Movement in Serbia condemns the violence of Europe and USA in
Yugoslavia! We did not believe that it would ever be possible for this
sentence to be written.

We are addressing you, as personification of all the best in the European
tradition, as a man who has performed the leading role in creation of
peace, stability and democracy in Portugal, a small imperial power, whose
colonial strength was destroyed in a dirty war. A war that had exhausted
the country and ruined the grounds of the Salazar's authoritarian regime.
We are addressing you as a man who has helped his country in joining
proudly the European community of people, after all the disasters.

Today, you are the head of the European Movement, the organization that
has just last year celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The European
Movement in Serbia has, since 1993, been a part of this giant and noble
effort of generations of Europeans who found strength in them to confront
the war and the destruction on their continent and to bring it to peace
and prosperity.

Please help us, Mr. Soares. We are asking for help from the International
organization of the European Movement, to which we also belong. Help us
understand why Europe has accepted to solve the crisis in Yugoslavia in
such manner. Have the numerous European institutions not had any
possibilities to act in another way?

The ongoing NATO action is destroying the fragile fiber of democratic
values and institutions - which were built due to efforts of many NGOs and
other democratic forces in Serbia and Yugoslavia, over the past years,
within highly unfavorable conditions. There are over 20,600 different NGOs
in Yugoslavia today. Among them, there are about 1,000 new, autonomous
NGOs dealing with the deep social crisis, promoting social activism and
social change, addressing new social issues, mobilizing various social
groups. Their number dramatically increased in the nineties, focusing on
anti-war, humanitarian, human rights and feminist issues, as well as media
strengthening, alternative educational, research and cultural activities.

The enormous energy which emerged in the civic protests against the
electoral fraud at the local levels, during the winter of 1996/97 has not
been lost, despite great frustration and dissatisfaction with the
political leaders of the opposition parties, who were not able to channel
the wide-grass roots support and benefit from it. The reaction was the
flourishing of genuine local third sector led by many dynamic,
imaginative, young NGO managers.

The European Movement in Serbia has played a significant role in the
process. We have cooperated with the Association of Free towns and
municipalities, where the opposition has won the 1996 elections. We use to
have a friendly and sincere cooperation with many organizations and
individuals of Kosovo, Montenegro and of the neighboring countries. The
wide, yet fragile structure had predominantly been built at the local
level - and is now destroyed by the NATO intervention. We are constantly
being questioned - "Where is your Europe now?" - by all sorts of skeptics
and doubters in good intentions of the European institutions and of the
countries mediating in the Yugoslav crisis, since 1991. How could we
preach now the faith in the European institutions and good intentions in
this region? Is Europe aware of the fact that what is going on now in
Yugoslavia represents the seed of the new wars?

Does Europe believe that this helped the Albanians? Or, did it help the
democratization of Serbia and Montenegro? Have a look at the revolt and
absolute homogenization of a defending nation! How do we confront the
growing anti-European and anti-American mood? Is there something you could
do to make Europe help Serbia the way it helped your Portugal to overcome
the difficult period of transition to democratic society and to modern
market economy?

In 1905 Miguel de Unamuno stated: "If the 20th century is to be a century
of struggle among the great nations, and not the century of their tempered
dissolving in order to prepare for a universal federation based on ethnic
units, it is better not to witness this century. I, on the contrary,
believe that it is the surplus of evil that will bring the cure". Europe
is entering the 21st century with horrid wars on the Balkans, while the
cure remains the same.

Is Europe capable of preserving its complex being or will it be arranged
to fit the new monoliths of the "clash of civilizations"? We are asking
you to struggle for, and not against us. Do not let the monster-states
ruin the being of the Europe we all loved so.

Mr. Soares, please address the nations of this country, first of all the
Serbs and the Albanians living in the inferno of mutual conflicts and
devastation, now encouraged by the NATO intervention. As the country is in
war, the laws of war are in power. And still, the idea of the European
Union emerged during the war and saved Europe from further wars. Make us
believe that the new Europe will not be a new imperial power, executor of
a discretionary justice.

Conscious of the arduous state of affairs, confident in the fact that
peace and democracy here require a remedy other that the lethal one,
please, grant the words of encouragement to us. To us who, in spite of
everything, see our future in Europe and in peace with our neighbors.

Dr Jelica Minic Secretary General

Greek Helsinki Monitor
P.O. Box 51393
GR-14510 Kifisia
Tel. +30-1-620.01.20
Fax +30-1-807.57.67

    PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, April 5 (AFP) - Moderate Kosovo Albanian leader
Ibrahim Rugova said Monday that NATO "bombings should be halted" in
Yugoslavia and called on Belgrade to be "more cooperative with the
international community."
   Rugova was speaking with reporters after a meeting with the Russian
ambassador to Belgrade Yuri Kotov in his house in the Kosovo capital
   "There should be an end to the situation in Kosovo, the bombing should
be stopped and monitoring put in," Rugova said in French, without
elaborating further.
   "I hope this will be discussed on the international level. This is not
a question just for me. I am here without my people," he stressed.
   Already last Wednesday, during a brief meeting with journalists in his
house in Pristina, Rugova had called on NATO to stop the air raids and
asked Belgrade to "cooperate."
   Rugova said he had asked the Belgrade authorities to allow him to go
   "I told Kotov that I am interested in leaving Pristina to go to Skopje
(Macedonia) and other countries to contribute to the process and stop the
actual situation, because I am here without my associates," Rugova said.
   "I cannot work and contribute here in Pristina. I can do more outside
Kosovo ... I told Serbian authorities of this request. I am waiting for a
response," Rugova said.
   Kotov said he had raised the issue with Yugoslav deputy premier Nikola
   "Sainovic confirmed to me that your movements are free and that they
(the Yugoslav authorities) are concerned about your personal security. I
believe this situation will be solved," Kotov told Rugova.
   Asked whether he actually met with Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic in Belgrade last Thursday -- a meeting shown on Serb television
and whose authenticity has been questioned -- Rugova simply said, in
English: "This is speculation. I was in Belgrade."
   NATO officials had doubted that Rugova was at the meeting, saying that
the footage shown by the Serbian state television may have been "two years
   After Thurday's meeting, Milosevic and Rugova signed a joint statement
in which they committed themselve to solving the problem in Kosovo by
"political means," Serbian state television reported.
   Rugova thanked the Russian ambassador for his "engagement on the Kosovo
issue" in the current circumstances which "are very difficult."
   "A solution should be found to this situation. It is very serious and I
ask Belgrade to be more cooperative with the international community,"
Rugova said.
   He reiterated that the problem should be tackled politically, adding:
"Everything should be done to find a solution for all people in the
Balkans region and Kosovo."
   Kotov said that the "Russian position is well-known."
   "The bombing should be stopped immediately and (one should) return to
the political track, because ... the problem in Kosovo is too complicated
and cannot be resolved, except by political means," Kotov said.
   "I am very satisfied that Mr Rugova shares this opinion," he said.
   The Russian government, Kotov said, "has made an official decision to
organise humanitarian aid to all the regions of Yugoslavia, to send a
hundred trucks with purely humanitarian aid."
   "We are positive that Kosovo inhabitants should return," he said, "but
I also believe that returning under bombs, demands lot of courage."
   Kotov expresssed admiration for Rugova's courage in choosing to remain
in Kosovo.
   Rugova's and Kotov's brief meeting with journalists was organised by
the Serb Information center in Pristina. Some 15 reporters, among them
Greek, Turkish and Serbian television journalists, were present.
   Serbian television broadcast footage of the meeting, with a brief
report saying the Russian ambassador reaffirmed Moscow's position that
"the bombing should stop immediately and political dialogue should be
   Kotov said "he was satisfied that Doctor Ibrahim Rugova has the same
view," the TV reported.

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