Sky Television / Belgrade TV 1833 gmt 7 Aug 91

Text of recorded interview with Slobodan Milosevic, President of the Republic of Serbia, by Arnot Van Linden for British Sky Broadcasting television - in English with superimposed Serbo-Croat translation

[Van Linden] Mr President, can we begin with a question about the EC mission? The EC has had four missions in Yugoslavia, the last one ending on Sunday [4th August] . They say that they have failed. They said that one side has not agreed to their proposals. After he returned to the Netherlands, the Dutch [Foreign] Minister said that the side to be blamed is Serbia. Are you to be blamed for the failure of the EC mission?

[Milosevic] No, not at all. My explanation is very clear, simple, and it seems to me, short. The morning that the mission arrived, the SFRY Presidency decided to issue an announcement on the cease- fire. At the same time it was to set up a state cease-fire commission, which means that the SFRY Presidency decided that the Yugoslav authorities have to implement the cease-fire. The Presidency made this decision almost unanimously, which means that Serbia, being only one member of the Presidency, cannot be blamed for the decision.

[Van Linden] What, in your opinion, are the reasons for the EC to accuse you?

[Milosevic] It is best to ask them to explain this to you, not me. We had very good, constructive, and long talks. They just asked me why I refused to receive them, and they know very well that we met three times in one day and had very open talks about all questions, without any problems.

[Van Linden] What is then, in your opinion, the reason for the failure of their mission? If you are not to be blamed, who is then?

[Milosevic] If you want me to try to explain my opinion, a sort of mis-step is involved. When they set off for Yugoslavia, they knew that there had been no decision on the cease-fire. However, that morning, the Presidency decided on the cease-fire. The Presidency had decided that we should set up our own, Yugoslav, control of the cease-fire. It was impossible to cancel the Presidency decision. We are an independent and sovereign country.

Also discussed was a kind of foreign military presence in Yugoslavia. We are a free and open country. You can travel anywhere as a journalist, politician, diplomat, tourist. All foreigners are very welcome in this country, but soldiers are not.

In the First World War we lost almost half our population, and almost the same happened in the Second World War, in the liberation struggle, so we do not like a foreign military presence in Yugoslavia, particularly when - as you very well know yourself - such a military presence is not in accordance with the independence of a state.

[Van Linden] The EC has stated that the truce is not a real one because one of the sides involved has not agreed to it, that it voted against it. In fact, one should have a real cease-fire, and the one proclaimed by the Federal Presidency is not that. My next question It seems now that Yugoslavia does not exist as a country, so how can federal authorities which would control the truce exist when the Yugoslavs are clashing with and fighting each other?

[Milosevic] I do not think that anyone from the outside could judge the Presidency's credibility or Yugoslav institutions. We alone must clean our own house.

[Van Linden] That means that, in your opinion, there is no longer any need for any European mediation or for any more European missions, because there is a possibility of Yugoslavs solving that problem among themselves.

[Milosevic] I hope that we will be capable of solving this situation. We want co-operation with the EC, but we do not want interference in Yugoslavia's internal affairs. We want this to be on the basis of equality. It is well-known that we all think that we have the same attitude towards the EC declaration, that the Yugoslav crisis must be solved by the Yugoslav people themselves. Therefore, they must solve this themselves and they are going to do so.

[Van Linden] Is this your answer to what Mr van den Broek said in Belgrade, that politicians here are more tuned to (?the past) than to the future? How would you reply to the remarks he made here in Belgrade?

[Milosevic] It is not good if politicians think more about the past then about the future. I think that we all have to turn to the future in order to solve the crisis, but we have to respect experiences from the past because of the future. We must not repeat the tragic experiences that we had in this country 50 years ago. I think that people around the world are not aware of the fact that we are facing a kind of restoration of fascism in this country. (?It is a fact, you know,) that this is the first example since the Second World War that someone armed his own party. It was in Croatia that someone started organising paramilitary formations and demonstrating his sovereignty by attacking all Serbian villages and towns in the republic. This is something that happened in this country 50 years ago as well, (?for) you know that in the so-called Independent State of Croatia, during World War II, genocide was committed against Serbs. In one concentration camp alone, in Jasenovac, more than 700,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and others were killed. We are now facing a very similar situation.

[Van Linden] But that is past. You were just talking about the past.

[Milosevic] Yes, but this exists in some aspects of the present. There lies the problem. We must be aware of that experience from the past in order to be able to do everything in our power to prevent that tragic experience from reoccurring. We can be a happy, good and successful country if we overcome this crisis of nationalism and nationalist confrontations. Everything in Yugoslavia started when nationalists in Croatia and Slovenia came to power, and the simple result of that was the decision on secession. Everything else followed.

[Van Linden] They say, however, that everything began in 1987 when you became President of Serbia on the basis of a nationalist policy.

[Milosevic] That was never a nationalist platform. Why do you not face the truth? Now as a journalist, you can see for yourself that here in Serbia we have more than 40,000 refugees (?from) Croatia and there is not a single refugee from Serbia in Croatia. There is no pressure here, no broken windows. You can see that peace reigns on every inch of Serbian territory. We are not in conflict with Croatia. This is not a conflict between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia. This is a conflict between the Croatian authorities and the Serbian people. This is a kind of state terrorism against the Serbian population in Croatia. They are incessantly attacking villages, shelling them with 120 mm grenades. They have started slaughtering people. They have slaughtered a peasant in the village of Mirkovci. I suppose you have been informed that a woman has been slaughtered in Krajina. Can you imagine something like that at the end of the 20th century?

[Van Linden] This is happening on both sides.

[Milosevic] No, you cannot put aggressor and victim in the same position. Peasants are only defending themselves in their villages, nothing else. Serbian villages are not on a flying carpet so that they can run after the Croatian paramilitary formations. You can prove this only in those regions in which Serbs are attacked. They are defending themselves using their right to self- defence. Conflicts are happening there. They are fighting, using their right to self-defence which belongs to every individual and every people. You can see ruins and the traces of war. On the basis of this evidence you can judge the possible reasons. Perhaps the Serbs are fighting among themselves, or are they being attacked by troops that had come to their villages and cities. What is the purpose of this?

[Van Linden] Are you saying that the Serbs are not responsible for a single attack?

[Milosevic] They are not. I think that they have always acted in self-defence and nothing else. They have never committed any aggression on the territory of Croatia. By the way, throughout our history, the Serbian people have never waged an aggressive, occupational war. We have always defended ourselves and have done so very successfully. We have always won. I think that no one can defeat people who are defending their homes.

[Van Linden] Are you controlling the Serbian militia in Croatia?

[Milosevic] No.

[Van Linden] Do you have any connections with them?

[Milosevic] We are helping them in terms of food, medical equipment, medicines, money and the like. We (?are doing) a lot for them, but they are defending their own homes and no one has organised groups on these territories.

[Van Linden] If [words indistinct] and if it depends on villages themselves, to what extent can you be sure that the present truce will continue?

[Milosevic] I know the spirit of this people. I know that they will keep their word.

[Van Linden] After the events of the last month, would you accept Croatia's independence?

[Milosevic] Well, this question needs to be explained better. We are living in the country of Yugoslavia. It is one country, one land. It is the only internationally recognised subject. We are not opposing the Croatian people's right to self-determination. If they want to establish their own independent, national state, there is no reason for us to oppose that. However, if they want to leave Yugoslavia, they cannot take a section of the Serbian people with them. This right to self- determination belongs to the Serbian people as well. I think that this is very logical.

We are living in this country. All people in Yugoslavia have equal rights to self-determination. The Serbian people do not want to leave Yugoslavia. They want to remain in Yugoslavia, to live together with all people who want to live in Yugoslavia and with Serbs, and that is all. I think that this is the only democratic and peaceful approach, respecting the will of the people. Let us check their will through a referendum and capacity to act in conformity with the will they express. Nothing will happen. There will be no conflicts, confrontations, bloodshed, or anything else, if no one wishes to hurt the interest of the other side.

[Van Linden] Let us return to what you just said one should hold a referendum and the people should decide for themselves whether they want to be part of Croatia or part of Yugoslavia. Krajina and its people want to be a part of Serbia. However, as far as I can understand, the Serbian Assembly has failed to officially accept their desire to be a part of Serbia.

[Milosevic] This is not a proper interpretation of the will of the Krajina people. The people of Krajina have, first of all, decided to remain within, that is, a part of Yugoslavia and that is all. The Republic of Serbia has no territorial pretensions. The Republic of Serbia wants to (?keep) the integrity of Yugoslavia and to keep together all those people who want to live together with us on an equal footing in our present country. That is all.

[Van Linden] Your opponents claim that you want a Greater Serbia. You claim that this is not so.

[Milosevic] No, it is not so. We want to keep Yugoslavia and that is all.

[Van Linden] However, if Croatia and Slovenia leave Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia will no longer exist.

[Milosevic] (?Listen), why would I not be able to survive if somebody leaves me? In that case, Yugoslavia will be different, within a different framework, but it will continue existing as a state of equal peoples and equal republics. In that case, there will again be republics in Yugoslavia and people in Yugoslavia who want to live together.

[Van Linden] Yes, but for a (?reintegration) one needs a referendum. Serbs in Croatia, Croats in Bosnia, all that is becoming very complicated. You have a problem in Serbia itself. If the people of Kosovo say that they want to be independent, how are you going to react?

[Milosevic] What part of the people? The Albanians? The Albanians are a national minority in Yugoslavia. You know very well that there are no international obligations, UN or CSCE obligations, or the like which determine the right of national minorities to establish their own state. What would happen in Texas if the Mexicans on the Mexican border, for instance, tried to take away a part of Texas and cede it to Mexico? Would they be allowed to do so?

[Van Linden] But the Serbs in Croatia are a minority.

[Milosevic] No, they are not. No Yugoslav people are a minority anywhere in Yugoslavia. We are living in Yugoslavia and we cannot be a national minority depending on the place we are living in. Croats are not a national minority in Bosnia, despite the fact that they are only 15%. They are a people. All Yugoslav peoples in Yugoslavia are equal and not one of them can be a national minority.

[Van Linden] But if you say that there should be the right to self-determination in Croatia -

[Milosevic] Of Croats, but not of administrative territories of the Republic of Croatia which has never been a state within these borders. We were not the side to open the problem of borders. The problem of borders was opened by the secessionists. Had they not done so, no one would have said a word about that. No one would have called these borders into question. If you want to change borders, to create an independent state, to secede, then you automatically create that problem.

Copyright 1991 The British Broadcasting Corporation  
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts

SECTION: Part 2 Eastern Europe; B. INTERNAL AFFAIRS; YUGOSLAVIA; EE/1146/B/ 1; 

Posted For Fair Use Only