SUN, 29 OCT 2000 22:54:35 GMT
Reactions to the developments in Serbia vary between two extremes – from ridicule to restrained enthusiasm. Despite benevolence for the people who have defended their election victory in Serbia, fear is increasingly felt in Slovenia that Slovenian “story on success” will – move to the south.
AIM Ljubljana, October 22, 2000
“Unexpected change of the regime” in Serbia has at first somewhat confused both the Slovenian public and its politics. Majority of commentators has followed the developments with incredulity and reservations, with proverbial remark that everything was “solved in the streets” once again in Serbia. Here and there one could feel the affinity for the people who defended their right to a different way of living.
To what extent the new situation is difficult for creators of public opinion is best illustrated by the question of a journalist from Ljubljana POP TV who in the midst of the central daily news show asked Slovenian foreign minister Lojze Peterle: “Is Slovenia threatened by the developments in Yugoslavia?” It was not less absurd to hear the information that the Ministry had already established a special “crisis headquarters” because of the developments in Yugoslavia.
Handy Serbophobia on the basis of which a part of Slovenian politics, media and social life in general (both from the left and the right part of the political scene – with honourable exceptions which could be counted on the fingers of one hand) has for a decade built its image - has done its bit. And the poor state of intelligence sources of Slovenian diplomacy is best described by the fact that “Yugoslav crisis headquarters of Slovenian foreign ministry” obtained information about “street events” on the territory of Yugoslavia (primarily) from its diplomatic offices in Budapest, Zagreb and Athens! Similar was the case with Slovenian national TV whose reporter, along with "war correspondents from Kosovo" of other commercial TV stations, at first reported on developments in Belgrade from Podgorica.
Then CNN made the decisive breakthrough by showing the scenes of conquest of the parliament building and that of Radio-Television Serbia. The message was clear – the world liked what was going on in Belgrade, the world respected Kostunica and wished the Serbs welcome to the society of European nations – where “the Serbs have always belonged”. The intonation of the new position of the Serbs and Belgrade in Washington and in London and Berlin induced Slovenian diplomacy to take over the similar tone. It issued a statement on the need to respect the will of the citizens of Yugoslavia expressed in the elections and stressed hope that the change of the regime in Yugoslavia would bring progress to the relations between official Ljubljana and Belgrade frozen for ten years already.
All the media have published the news that president of Slovenia Milan Kucan had sent his personal congratulations to Vojislav Kostunica already after the first round of the elections, and prime minister Andrej Bajuk had done the same expressing wishes that the crisis would be resolved peacefully. The reaction in the media, however, followed the previous course, the course of doubt, suspicion, disbelief that "anything can be changed in the south”, which disclosed a pile of dilemmas Slovenia was faced with. Analysts continued for some time estimating in newspapers that Milosevic had “once again drawn (Western states) into the Serbian reel” in which the West “always stumbles, because it does know how to dance it”.
In search for the “reason” for the overthrow in Serbia, on October 5, Delo haughtily concludes that “the people were forced to the barricades primarily by poverty”. A day later Slovenian political daily with the biggest circulation (in its prime article titled “Belgrade in Flames”) reports that “Yugoslav Reichstag was set on fire”, wondering “what will happen to the state and its fuhrer?” The developments, however, took their course. Commentators reveal to the readers (what majority of them had already seen on CNN via cable TV) that the Serbian “people took over power and put it in the hands of the winners in the elections”.
“The leader’s regime tumbled down like a house of cards”, Vecer from Maribor writes. Dnevnik from Ljubljana reminds that Milosevic “surfed on the waves of nationalism for thirteen years”. The short-lived adoration quickly died down and the media and politics went back to their routine attitude towards Serbia. The analyses are shallow and stereotypes unchangeable. ”These are just high-sounding words about nothing… Last week Serbian voters were not pulling down any Berlin walls, they had just voted against their unbearable standard of living. Had they really wanted political changes they would have elected a charismatic leader, an Anti-Milosevic. As it is, it is just a matter of apathy…”, comments Boris Jez.
Similarly intoned comments of other authors, “connoisseurs of circumstances in the Balkans” are permeated by fear that Serbia will be “forgiven for everything” and that it will play an important role in the region again, at the expense of Slovenia and other smaller states. Correspondent of Delo from Croatia reports about it: “Sanctions were lifted from Serbia, international financial several billion worth aid was announced and its joining of the international community, all this as an award because they got rid of Milosevic. There were no other conditions. The fact that Kostunica has not condemned Milosevic’s politics and Greater-Serbian aspirations of the former regime, make the frustrations of Croatia because of sudden overturn in Serbia even greater”. The correspondent from Zagreb estimates that European capitals should in the future be “more pragmatic in indulging Belgrade”.
Commentators reproach Vojislav Kostunica for not having condemned the massacre in Srebrenica and for having had his picture taken with a Kalasnykov machine-gun in his hands. Nevertheless, nobody put an equation mark between the former and the present president of FRY. “Kostunica as a romantic, that is, a civic or, more precisely, an academic nationalist – as a few days ago Timothy Garton Ash called him in the New York Times – has never believed in achieving his goals in a battlefield. On the contrary”, reports correspondent of Delo from New York. In the same newspaper there is the statement of Slovenian negotiator on issues of succession Miran Mejak, who with his finger raised, after Kostunica’s inauguration, appealed for caution because of impending danger. “We should know that the story with Milosevic is still far from being over. I would not rejoice until we learn the results of the elections for Serbian assembly in December. These elections are very important. There are still same old faces in that assembly now. For as long as the elections in Serbia do not prove otherwise, Milosevic and his cronies will continue being very influential”, Mejak warns.
The presented reservations – along with the pre-election euphoria in Slovenia – are the reason why it did not even occur to any of prominent politicians to go to Belgrade to visit Kostunica and to comment tartly that foreign diplomats are holding doors of Kostunica’s office to each other and for the awareness that Slovenia is once more behind its time on the diplomatic field. Dini, Hombach, Petritsch and others have already travelled to Belgrade, and Slovenia has sent a secretary from Peterle’s foreign ministry, Mitja Drobnic. The envoy of Slovenian government met president of FRY Vojislav Kostunica in the Federation Palace, and (according to the words of Mitja Drobnic) Kostunica expressed interest for improvement of Slovenian-Yugoslav relations. Drobnic also stated that he was told that the question of “exclusive continuity of Yugoslavia will not be the limiting factor any more which has until now prevented normalisation of relations between the two states”.
The visit of Zarko Korac to Slovenia was somewhat more significant. Near the Slovenian-Croatian border, in Mokrice castle, Korac met Peterle and broke the ice with the statement that Slovenia “has friends in Belgrade” from now on. In the talks with new representatives of the regime in FRY, Slovenian party was interested the most in economic cooperation. As far as business deals with FRY are concerned, the greatest obstacle is the fact that Slovenian Export Foundation (SID) cannot insure business deals with enterprises in FRY until Slovenia and Yugoslavia do not establish diplomatic relations. In the first eight months of this year, according to the latest data of the Chamber of the Economy of Slovenia, this country has exported 239.4 million of dollars’ worth of commodities to Bosnia & Herzegovina and imported 34.2 million of dollars’ worth from it, it exported 452.9 million of dollars’ worth of commodities to Croatia and imported 20.1 million of dollars' worth from it, its export to FRY was worth 91.8, and import from it 25.4 million of dollars. It should not surprise why at a session of its government Slovenia has already lifted all the sanctions imposed on FRY (primarily on export of petroleum and fuel) and that it expects that similar bans will be abolished by FRY.