Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999 22:28:32 -0600 (CST)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: YUGOSLAVIA: Ten Years of Milosevic Bring Transition to Dead End
Article: 52358
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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/** ips.english: 411.0 **/
** Topic: YUGOSLAVIA: Ten Years of Milosevic Bring Transition to Dead End **
** Written 3:05 PM Jan 16, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Ten Years of Milosevic Bring Transition to Dead End

By Vesna Peric, 13 January 1999

BELGRADE, Jan 13 (IPS)—The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) is a country overshadowed for 10 years now by its controversial leader, president Slobodan Milosevic.

Himself a by-product of declining communism in the 80s, he has presided over the disintegration of the country and faces an internal revolt in Kosovo. He has also become one of the West's official villains, along with Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Ghadafy.

During that period, Yugoslavia has travelled the road from a prosperous society to the bottom end in Europe.

Unlike other former socialist countries of Eastern Europe, the transition in Yugoslavia has not seen its own people as protagonists, but as secondary actors in a play directed from elsewhere, in the corridors of power both within and outside the country.

The transition process, in the sense of the transition witnessed in the Eastern European countries, is yet to be seen here, while the developments we have seen in the last 10 years can only be described as 'a dead end', says a recent study by 14 independent sociologists in Belgrade.

The group works at the independent Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) in the Yugoslav capital.

The study is the first of its kind in the 10 years since Milosevic took office as president of Serbia, in the then Federative Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, which unknowingly was on the brink of disintegration and war.

The authors' stated aim is to expose the nature of the changes that have taken place since 1991, when Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia, quickly followed by Croatia. War then erupted in Bosnia and economic sanctions were imposed by the West.

The group blames Milosevic and the leaders of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman and Slovenia, Milan Kucan, for the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Today's society in FRY, due to the wars that took place from 1991 to 1995 in its neighbourhood, together with the international sanctions (1992/95), followed by concentration of power in the hands of a circle close to one man, is heavily burdened with economic, social and political problems, the essay says.

Overall poverty of the nation, unemployment, deteriorating life standards and ageing of population, followed with high criminality rate, are quoted as the most important social problems.

The sociologists believe that there are no signs that the current regime has any social policy or the intention to tackle the problems in any significant way.

But the ruling Socialist party feels it has been competent in overcoming adversity: We have succeeded in the impossible—surviving years of sanctions and keeping this country going, Parliament speaker Dragan Tomic, says.

Milosevic was loudly supported by the West at the beginning of his career in the 80s, as a nationalist and reformist who challenged the grip of the Communist party that had ruled the five Yugoslav republics since 1945.

But he quickly became a villain in Western eyes, when upheavals in the former republics began and he stuck with the country's old structures.

Milosevic is neither a communist nor a Serb nationalist, he is only extremely skillful in manipulating those ideas in public. He never had and does not have a clear political stand or belief. He is only a man pathologically obsessed with power, says Nebojsa Covic, once his close associate.

Covic left the Socialist party two years ago to organise a group called Alliance for Changes, which is gaining popularity among younger and educated people.

Milosevic first became president of Serbia in 1989, while Yugoslavia was still a one-party state. To the world's surprise, he was confirmed in his post in the country's first multiparty elections in 1990, and then again in early 1993.

As though he has been internationally seen as the ruler of Yugoslavia—now composed of Serbia (9.5 million) and Montenegro (650,000)—he became federal president only in July 1997, a post elected by both houses of the federal parliament, controlled by the Socialists.

The social regression of the 90s has deeply traumatised the 10.5 million Yugoslavs, says sociologist Marina Blagojevic from CPS.

According to the relevant statistics, more than 350,000 people aged 25-40, most of them highly educated and skilled, have left the country in the 1991/95 period. Among them, there were more than 1,500 high-level experts, she says.

Inaccessible data from the ethnic Albanan-dominated province of Kosovo could not be included in the survey, but the experts believe that it would have just made the country's social figures look even worse.

The latest statistics say that GNP has fallen by 50 percent in the 1990-96 period, with annual per capita income barely reaching 1,500 U.S. dollars.

This makes Yugoslavia part of the poorer side of Europe, only surpassing war-devastated Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Moldova and Romania.

The sociologists try to explain why in adverse circumstances and in spite of promises of substantial increase of aid from the West, most still vote for Milosevic and his party.

One of the authors, Berislav Sefer, explains the support for Milosevic in terms of media campaigns, which quite deliberately have created an atmosphere to make people believe that without the help of the state, things would be even worse, people would even die of poverty.

Such a state of mind is born in times of social catastrophes, during and after long and bloody wars, disintegration of states and traditional systems of values, says in turn Zoran Vidojevic, a Belgrade psychologist.

We have seen such state of mind among people in the newly created states of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. As a rule, even when they can vote for a democratic option, people tend to elect dictators, he says.