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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 08 OCT 2000 01:59:27 GMT

    Slovenia and FRY

    Hope in Changes

    Although majority of media and the official politics are following the election results in Yugoslavia and the victory of Vojislav Kostunica with much benevolence, there are commentators who are terrified of Milosevic's departure. Until now it was easy to mark the culprit for all the problems in the region, and now it is necessary to review the whole environment and see how the land lies in new political circumstances...

    AIM Ljubljana, September 30, 2000

    Official Ljubljana is following closely the post-election developments in FR Yugoslavia with great interest. The first to report about the developments after September 24 was STA (Slovenian News Agency) which has three permanent offices of correspondents - in Brussels, Zagreb and Belgrade. The first lines of direction concerning the elections in Yugoslavia were set by Bajuk's government on the eve of Sunday elections when it issued a special statement. The tone of this and official statements that followed is truly something new, at least when Yugoslavia is concerned. In the past ten years from the circle of Slovenian politics mostly criticism, warnings or protests arrived due to developments in FR Yugoslavia.

    “The government of the Republic of Slovenia assesses that the citizens of FRY in the elections on September 24, 2000 will be faced with one of the most important political decisions on their future… The government of the Republic of Slovenia is convinced that, regardless of the circumstances and the manner in which they are organised, the elections will offer the Serb people and all the citizens a possibility to resolutely and in a peaceful way remove Milosevic’s totalitarian and authoritarian policy of manipulation and violation of human rights and freedoms which is leading Serbia into increasing poverty and misery. Choice of democratic changes will mean the change of the policy of the international community towards Serbia which will be joined and supported by Slovenia, including lifting of the sanctions against FRY, support to necessary economic and political reforms in Serbia, as well as provision of the needed economic aid for its reconstruction. The government assesses that the victory of democracy will give a possibility for laying new foundations for normalisation of relations and cooperation among friendly nations. Slovenia wishes democratic FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) as a state which contributes to stability in the region to find its place in the European and world family of nations”, it was written in the statement of Slovenian government before the elections.

    This was not the end of the hearty signals for suddenly “friendly Serb people”. On Monday, September 25, after the first results of the victory of DOS had arrived, foreign minister Lojze Peterle gave a special statement to Slovenian electronic media: “Independent observers from Serbia report that the Serbian people declared themselves in favour of democratic changes. We welcome this decision in Slovenia… We are convinced that this is the beginning of changes after which Serbia will become again an important factor of stability in the region”.

    At the same time the foreign ministry issued an official statement in which it is stressed that, despite the fact that official results of the elections have not been stated yet, based on reports of independent sources “it is possible to conclude that by high turnout in the elections Serbian people have taken their destiny into their own hands” and “clearly expressed their will to introduce democratic changes and mark the end of the policy which led into isolation of the state”. Slovenian foreign ministry concludes that democratic forces in Serbia have rejected the former authoritarianism and “chose politics which will contribute to safety and stability in Europe and the region in South-East”. It is interesting that the statement was issued immediately after the big campaign launched by Slovenian diplomacy in coordination with the USA and the United Nations aimed to expel FRY from OUN. The elections in FRY were a turning-point. After them nobody in Ljubljana talks about it any more.

    Immediately after the first public congratulations because of the change of the situation in Serbia, Slovenian media followed in the footsteps of its ministry. At first the reactions were rare, since they were all waiting for the statement of the Federal Electoral Commission and the official results, as well as for Milosevic’s reaction. It is interesting that the correspondent of Ljubljana daily Delo from Belgrade, in one of his commentaries suddenly came to the conclusion that last-year’s NATO bombing was a boomerang for democratic forces and that bombing was the reason why it was so difficult to overthrow Milosevic. He added that “democratic forces in Serbia” put them “in an impossible position in which the possibility of changes on the political scene was on the level of science fiction”.

    In Ljubljana Dnevnik it was concluded that “the election turmoil in FRY continues”, that we will “probably be the witnesses of the second round”, that “regardless of rumours on fraud, Kostunica collected a sufficient number of votes” and that “Milosevic’s wall has cracked”. In another text (with the title worthy of any tabloid: “Circus Serbia”) the authors criticises the West because of hasty estimates about the victory of the opposition and lists arguments why it is necessary to wait for official results, because “nothing is clear yet” and similar, in the characteristic style of writing of certain Slovenian media on the Serbs and Serbia. It is obvious that not all commentators could see how the land lies in the new situation, and that the possibility that Milosevic is not there any more causes nervousness due to a radical change on the political scene. Kostunica and a different Serbia is not to the liking of those who are used to dealing with an easy opponent who was easily disqualified from the ring in the first round with accusations of totalitarianism, “innate inclination towards violence” and communism.

    In the meantime, support to colleagues from Serbia was expressed by students’ organisation of Ljubljana University which warned against non-democratic circumstances in Yugoslavia and added that it “supports the struggle of Otpor”. That is why the students from Ljubljana organised a campaign titled Support to Otpor. Right after the politicians, commentators and students, the economists also issued statements.

    The change of the regime and democratic changes in Yugoslavia is seen by many Slovenian entrepreneurs as an “extraordinary opportunity for Slovenia”. Miroslav Kert, former director general of Abanka (former Jugobanka), believes that democratic changes in Serbia will take place despite efforts of the regime to prevent them. Kert thinks that cooperation with FRY will be opened on “parallel tracks”, but for Slovenia the question of succession of former Yugoslavia is still crucial. That is where “the true intentions of the opposition will be seen”, Kert says, “whether it truly wishes to regulate relations with the states of former Yugoslavia or not”.

    Slovenian entrepreneurs are eagerly waiting, organised already and prepared, for opening of Yugoslav market. When Yugoslavia is concerned, Slovenia does not wish to experience the same destiny like in Croatia where it missed a few good opportunities. It is known that Slovenian and Serbian economy are complementary and that there are plenty of possibilities for cooperation. These assessments are based on knowledge of facts. Slovenian economy remained present on Serbian market despite numerous obstacles, and it has succeeded in that by ensuring supply of spare parts and servicing of appliances made by Slovenian manufacturers. Even when there was practically no chance for importation. This primarily refers to Gorenje, Tomos, Iskra.

    A big opportunity for Slovenian economy would be establishment of a firm banking system which is nowadays falling apart in FRY. The first step in this direction Slovenia sees in the move made by Montenegrin government which has already given the first licence for rendering banking services to a foreign bank. This is Euromarket Bank in which, along with Soros’s, a part of the capital is Slovenian. There are calculations already that Slovenian enterprises will move a part of their facilities to FRY because of lower prices of labour power, which would make it more competitive in the world market. But all these big plans have one drawback – they are unilateral and moreover they will have to wait for the second phase. “First it will be necessary to send aid to Serbia to move production from the standstill”, Miroslav Kert warns.

    Political and economic opening of Serbia is good news for Slovenia, both because of the conditions in the region, but also because of numerous crippled, but never completely interrupted connections. A considerable number of Slovenians understand Serbian language and still remember the time before Milosevic when the relations between Serbia and Slovenia were friendly. Commodity exchange between the two republics was once enormous, and then it almost died out.

    In the first seven months of this year, the exchange amounted to about one hundred million dollars. This is much less than almost two billion dollars in the end of the eighties but it is still more than just 45 million dollars of exchange between FRY and Slovenia last year. Unstable conditions, political disagreements and administrative limitations were not a good foundation for business. Since July last year, applications for just three investments from Slovenia arrived at the address of the Ministry of Finance in FRY. The biggest exporters from Slovenia are still Gorenje, Samson, Videm Krsko, Sava Tires, Radece Papir, Lisca, Trimo, Iskra Transmission, Krka and Jelovica, and the biggest importers are Upimol 2000 from Slovenska Bistrica, Lisca, Fructal, Talum, Moris, Samson, NBM, Delo Prodaja, NJM and Kovinotehna. Democratisation of Serbia and Yugoslavia would mean expanding of this list, intensified cooperation and benefit for both, once interwoven economies.

    Svetlana Vasovic

    (AIM Ljubljana)