Milosevic questioned by Belgrade media chiefs on all aspects of policy
Radio Television Serbia - November 3, 1993

Text of recorded interview with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by the editors of the main Belgrade media in Belgrade on 3rd November, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Tanjug news agency; sub-headings inserted editorially

Summary: Milosevic fields questions on second peace conference and Croatian President Tudjman's peace proposals; Serbia and its relations with the world; possible conflict in Kosovo; Serbia and Montenegro; relations with Croatia and his relations with Tudjman; the character of Serbian people and rejection of foreign masters; the objectives of foreign powers in the Balkans; the sanctions against Yugoslavia; Serbia's internal situation, including crime; Greater Serbia; the media and the elections; financial and monetary policy; the situation of the middle class; political control of the media; the return of socialist parties in other countries; the Belgrade transport system

[Unidentified studio announcer] Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic held talks today in Belgrade with the chief editors of the main Serbian media. This meeting was arranged on Tanjug's initiative, as it is celebrating its 50th anniversary. President Milosevic responded to the request of the chief editors to reply to the current internal and foreign political issues that are of vital interest to the citizens of Serbia.

President Milosevic held talks with Slobodan Jovanovic, director of the Tanjug agency, Dusan Zupan, chief editor, Zivorad Minovic and Hadzi Dragan Antic from 'Politika', Mile Kordic from 'Ekspres politika', Rade Brajovic from 'Vecernje novosti', Slavko Curuvija from 'Borba', Dragoljub Milanovic from Belgrade Television, Momir Brkic from Belgrade Radio, Dragan Kojadinovic from NTV Studio B [independent television] and Aleksandar Tijanic from Television Politika.

[Milosevic] Well, fine, I am glad to see you on such an important anniversary, 50 years of Tanjug. Yes, please?

[Jovanovic] As you know, Tanjug is marking half a century of existence, 50 years since this national agency was formed. On this occasion, we have asked President Slobodan Milosevic for an interview . In its form, this interview might be a bit unusual. We have invited our colleagues, chief editors of all the media, all the most prominent and influential media in Belgrade, in Serbia, in Yugoslavia . They are here. I would first like to thank President Milosevic for coming, and I would also like to thank our colleagues for taking part in this interview. We will all be equal in this. I, as the host, or a kind of host, will have the advantage of asking the first question.

Peace conference and Tudjman plan

Mr President, this week, the most topical issue is the issue of the peace conference on the former Yugoslavia. We have been informed, we have read in the press, that you have set conditions for this conference in your talks with Mr Stoltenberg. Could you tell us more about these conditions?

[Milosevic] Two conditions are involved. Namely, you know very well that the FRY and the Republic of Serbia have tried to make a constructive contribution to establishing peace in Yugoslavia. In principle, we think that the peace conference with a sort of global approach that is being mentioned now may be a useful road towardss solving the Yugoslav crisis on the whole.

However, in our opinion, and from our point of view, there are two conditions for this conference. The first is to respect the principle of the equality of the participants, which is, after all, a basic principle of international relations. This means that if this principle is not respected, the Serbian side will not take part in such a conference. So, the implication is that it would not be acceptable and, I hope, not logical either, for the Serbian side to go to the conference with sanctions and the Croatian side with privileges. So this first principle, the principle of equality, I believe should not only be understood, but also respected by everyone in the international community.

The second condition is that this international conference cannot discuss our internal questions. It cannot deal with our internal questions. Every country deals with its own internal questions. So an international conference whose agenda might include proposals to solve the questions of Kosovo or, as they also add, those of Sandzak and Vojvodina and some other things is, in our view, an unacceptable approach. I think that these conditions are perfectly logical, and that they are conditions understood by all our citizens, conditions that every citizen of ours would set himself.

However, there is another thing here, which you have not asked me about, but which I would like to say. Setting a global approach at the moment when, according to the statement of Stoltenberg himself, it is only a matter of 2.7% of the package, is practically an excuse for the international community to avoid completing the work on the peace agreement on Bosnia, which has been 97%, or whatever, completed . It is illogical to abandon this work when 97.5% - according to them - has been finalized, in order to beat about the bush now with some kind of global approach. It would be logical first to complete this job. That is why we believe that the international community should not avoid becoming directly involved in this job and exerting, if it so wishes, positive pressure on those who are attempting to continue the war and avoid peace on the territory of the former Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

[Jovanovic] Mr Stoltenberg said in Oslo, pardon me, in Stockholm, today that he rejected Mr Tudjman's initiative, that it was unrealistic to hold the conference this year, and he set five conditions for holding the conference. The first is that it should be well prepared; second, that the platform and concept are established; third, that part of it involves the lifting of the sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, that is, Yugoslavia; third, [as heard] that economic aid should be given to all the former Yugoslav republics; and five, that a way is established to help Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the humanitarian sense.

How would you comment on his conditions?

[Milosevic] The essence lies in relation to the broad proposal put forward by President Tudjman, which has only one novelty in comparison to former stances of the Republic of Croatia, and that is the idea of broadening the circle of outside participants. I do not think that this is a good approach or that the Yugoslav crisis can be solved by broadening the circle of outside participants. It could be solved sooner and more efficiently by reducing the circle of outside participants. After all, the crisis would not have flared up in this way had it not been for some of the many outside participants who brought about the crisis, the war and the escalation of the war.

[Milovanovic] Mr President, if I may: Can you tell us what is the greatest obstacle to concluding the peace negotiations on Bosnia?

[Milosevic] The greatest obstacle is undoubtedly the position - which I would no longer call the Muslim position, since, regarding the Muslims'approach to the settlement of the Bosnia-Hercegovina problem, you have seen that there are different approaches - of a section of their leadership, that is, the leadership under President Izetbegovic . They believed for many months, I would say, that they would provoke military intervention, foreign military intervention with their behaviour. They needed to find a way for someone to come from outside to win the war that they had lost. Now that it is realized that there is to be no intervention, since no one is willing to wage a war for them that they have lost, they are hoping that they will soften the Serbs by prolonging and dragging things out, by exhausting Yugoslavia, on which the Serbian people in Krajina and Bosnia rely.

They are simply trying to prolong this situation in which they could still provoke a more serious intervention, a more serious move by outside elements, who could turn things in their favour. While doing so, however - and as you know, this is not solely my opinion; it is evident that many foreign papers have been reporting on this - they are completely disregarding the position of the Muslim people in Bosnia-Hercegovina. They simply do not care about the suffering of this people. They have this obsessive idea that they have to establish this state in Europe, and they simply do not care for victims, they do not consider the price to be paid.

I hope that the processes that have been initiated - and we have seen this in the case of Western Bosnia, and there are signs in many other parts of this Muslim republic that are obviously in favour of peace - will help them to a much better position, that is, a position that will enable them to overcome these war options that, I hope, will be represented by an ever-decreasing circle of extremists in future months [sentence as heard]. I am certain - not only in the case of the Serbian people in Bosnia-Hercegovina, but also in the case of the Muslims and the Croats - that an overwhelming majority of Muslims, Serbs and Croats want peace. I believe that precisely this option will prevail among the Muslim people and in the policy that they will conduct.

[Unidentifed reporter interjects] May I - [does not finish sentence]

[Milosevic] Wait your turn.

Serbia and the world

[Antic] What is - in your opinion - Serbia's current position in relation to the outside world?

[Milosevic] I would say that this is a very general question. The outside world is not homogeneous. The outside world cannot be qualified as a unified entity that has a unified policy towards us. I suppose that you have in mind the international community's, the Security Council's and the European Community's policies towards us.

My impression is that our position is improving day by day with the same speed with which it is being realized that Serbia and Yugoslavia, and the Serbian people in the former Yugoslavia in general, are not the factor perpetuating the military clashes, but, above all, as the recent months have demonstrated, a factor that is working towards peace.

I am certain that the arguments given for imposing the sanctions on our country are losing their credibility, even in those countries that were the fiercest advocates of imposing the sanctions, and, I would venture to say, the greatest manufacturers of untruths regarding the situation in our country, and the main protagonists of those already known and admitted errors that the international community committed in the course of the entire Yugoslav crisis, starting with the abandonment of the Hague conference principles, to the premature recognition of first Slovenia, Croatia and then Bosnia-Hercegovina; you remember that Carrington himself - who chaired the conference - said, as soon as he left this post, that the greatest error was actually the recognition of Bosnia-Hercegovina; that this was what caused the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Therefore, a whole series of these arguments that were fabricated are now crumbling according to the domino principle.

I am certain that - although a number of countries in whose interest it was to break up Yugoslavia will insist on keeping the sanctions in place in order to cripple us - they will continue to lose ground for persisting with them. The world will have to face the truth sooner or later when it comes to Yugoslavia. Of course, it would suit us better if this were sooner, but this sooner or later is not such a relative term, and it does not involve a long time. We believe that at the moment there is an increasing trend towards correcting the attitude that has been taken towards our country.


[Kordic] Many mass media in the West are predicting that the war in Krajina and Bosnia-Hercegovina will spread to Kosovo and Metohija. How realistic is the danger of that happening? How do you see the solution to the crisis, particularly in Kosovo and Metohija?

[Milosevic] This danger is not very realistic. Not because those who are predicting it do not want it to happen. They very much want it to happen. This danger is not very realistic because the extremists in Sandzak, of whom I must say there are not many, are not strong enough to do it. Similarly, the separatist movement in Kosovo is not able to do it either without substantial support from outside, about which I am doubtful, because such outside support would also be a very, very risky operation for anyone who would venture into it. They would know that we are not giving up our country. So what you said is more of a public declaration of what they wish to see than a prediction of what will happen in Sandzak and Kosovo. I do not of course rule out the possibility of someone trying to cause an incident, even a major incident, but the chances of such moves succeeding are non-existent.

Serbian-Montenegrin relations

[Brajovic] As I am from a paper that is primarily concerned with internal political issues, I would like to turn to that. The relations between Montenegro and Serbia are frequently not on a par with common wishes and commitments. The differences that appear between the ruling political parties sometimes cannot be considered usual. There are sometimes sharp differences between the deputies of these two parties, between the deputies of the parties from the two republics in the Yugoslav Assembly. There are sharp differences, as we have seen these days, within the church. The events at the border, blockages of trade, traffic and so on, all this is cause for concern. In any case, the consequences are clear, and one of them is the spread of Montenegrin separatism.

[Milosevic] I believe that the differences between Serbia and Montenegro are exaggerated when it comes to the attitude to the common state, the FRY. I am certain that the citizens of Montenegro are as interested as the citizens of Serbia in preserving Yugoslavia. I am also certain that the Montenegrin leadership shares that view, and expresses that will of the citizens of Montenegro. There are of course a number of factors on the political scene that are working in a different direction, some of them are justified and founded long ago - you are aware of these divisions - some of them have aspirations rooted in the ideas of those who broke up Yugoslavia - which was best described in that Hague document we rejected for those very reasons, as it implied the implementation of that plan to liquidate any kind of serious and independent state in the Balkans. [sentence as heard]

Some of these factors lie in the problems that stem from this serious economic crisis. However, not to elaborate at great length on all these elements - including the latest scandal with the so-called quasi-priest [Serbo-Croat: raspop] that was appointed there - these are still marginal issues from the point of view of the long-term historical interests of both the Serbian and the Montenegrin people and their common state. I am certain that, for both the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro and their leaderships, there are no significant differences when it comes to the attitude towards our common state.

Serbian-Croatian relations

[Brkic] Mr President, I would first like to thank you on behalf of Radio Belgrade for receiving us. I would also like to thank the colleagues from Tanjug, congratulate them on their anniversary, and to inform you that the cooperation between Radio Belgrade and Tanjug is - in our opinion - extremely good, that the fact that Radio Belgrade is current, informative, in the right place at the right moment, is due to many Tanjug journalists, primarily the correspondents abroad. Now allow me ask one question. We are discussing internal relations: how do you assess present Serbian-Croatian relations, is the normalization of these relations in sight, and what are the main obstacles to a speedier normalization of these relations?

[Milosevic] First of all, the main issue, the issue of the normalization of Serbian-Croatian relations in the Balkans is the key issue for stability in the Balkans. Relations between the Serbs and the Croats in the Balkans are, I would say, the key relations for the stability in the Balkans. Thus, in a historical sense, if I may say so, every serious Croatian politician, and every serious Serbian politician who thinks about the future of his country and his people, should try to strive for the normalization of Serbian-Croatian relations.

However, there are many obstacles to this normalization and they are very great at this moment. They primarily lie in the fact that, as a consequence of the third consecutive attempt to carry out genocide on the Serbian people in Croatia, a war of fluctuating intensity is still going on there. There will be no solution unless we return to the basic principle of the equality of peoples and the right of all peoples to self-determination. So I think that the direction and path along which the settlement of these relations in practice and the current war between Krajina and Croatia should be moving is first to find an agreement on a general end to hostilities. After that, they should establish and solve, on an equal footing, some concrete problems concerning transportation, infrastructure, oil pipelines, long-distance communication lines, energy supplies and so forth. After that, in a state of peace, conditions would be created for the main problems concerning a political settlement to be discussed.

As you have seen, this process that has been starting and then withering, that has been starting and withering from the very beginning of the implementation of the Vance plan, this process has been being pushed back to its initial position. This was primarily due to Croatian policy and the Croatian Army with the offensive that took place on 22nd January, then in the Maslenica region and Peruca, before that on the Miljevac plateau, and recently in September in the Medak pocket, where, as had been the case in the previous offensive, they carried out a real massacre of civilians. It would be senseless to talk about some other approach in these circumstances, other than an approach that will first ensure the end of hostilities and then all the other conditions, so as to arrive at a position at which a final political solution can be discussed.

This is why we have supported the negotiations between Knin and Zagreb from the very beginning. You will remember that several months ago in Geneva, Tudjman and I jointly supported the agreed Erdut Agreement, which specified that the Croatian forces should withdraw from the territory in the vicinity of Maslenica, the Miljevac Plateau, and the Peruca dam, that the Serbian police should enter Islam Grcki, Kasici and Smokovic in the western part, and that normal traffic should be established for the Croatian side over the Maslenica bridge, because it connects the central part of Croatia with Dalmatia, and that they should not be forced to remain in this position where Dalmatia is like an island.

However, although both Tudjman and I supported this agreement, although the Serbs implemented this agreement entirely, the Croatian side did not implement it. Simply, after several days of procrastinating with the implementation, they announced that it was no longer valid. So they have to go back to this type of agreement, and after that, they have to make sure that these agreements are observed. Only then will they achieve an atmosphere in which they can discuss further steps. Before that, it is very difficult to say more about this.

[Tijanic] Mister President, it is nice to be able to meet on this jubilee as, otherwise, we from the smaller television stations would not have the opportunity to put some questions to you personally. My question to you would be: Would you assess the relations between yourself and General [as heard] Tudjman as better than the political relations between Serbia and Croatia, that is to say, to what extent can Mr Tudjman be trusted in the talks?

[Milosevic] Well, I could not separate the relations between Serbia and Croatia and the relations between President Tudjman and myself. In the numerous talks that we have had, I have gained the impression that he is also interested and determined to finally start resolving these issues in peace. Also, you have seen that, regarding our engagement in the resolution of the Bosnia-Hercegovina crisis, we have reached, I would say, not to use this word, almost full agreement on this plan that, as you know, the Serbian and Croatian sides have accepted.

At this moment I cannot judge how much everything that has changed in the political structure of Croatia has strengthened this option with President Tudjman, namely, to resolve the existing problem primarily between Krajina and Croatia, and how much the military option is still on the agenda. The military option would be a fatal and tragic mistake, which has been proved by the few recent offensives, which have shown that each of them made peace more remote and returned the process to the starting point.

I would like to believe that Tudjman, as a realistic politician, is determined to resolve this in a peaceful manner. If this determination is confirmed by the behavior of the Croatian side, then our side will try to use all our influence over the Krajina leadership to embrace peace negotiations and a peaceful resolution. If we, again, speak of trust that can be betrayed in the way it was betrayed at the beginning of January or in September 1993, then we will face the same problems again and return to the very beginning. In any case, I want to believe that a determination for peace exists, until events prove the contrary.

[Tijanic] Thank you, Mr President.

Serbs have never tolerated foreign master

[Curuvija] For the first time during these six years of your term of office, 'Borba'now has the opportunity to ask you a question directly . Thank you for this possibility. I personally believe that you would help the Serbian citizens very much in overcoming this dramatic crisis in which they are and the increasingly dangerous international isolation, if you did three things: Give the opposition a mandate to form the government, irrespective of the election results; suggest to the Serbs in Croatia that they find a stately form of coexistence with Croatia; and prosecute all those Serbian citizens who, during the war years, committed crimes in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Are you willing to do this?

[Milosevic] Naturally, I am not. I am not, on the basis of principle. How can you actually say that a political decision should be made regardless of the election results, may I ask? Do you think that the citizens of Serbia wonder or not, express their will or not, or, as you suggest, we must do what foreign countries tell us to do regardless of their will? You must realize one thing, namely, that this people will never accept slavery. These people want to elect their authorities themselves and not have foreign countries elect them for them. Regardless of what these authorities are, the people will elect them and the people will change them. It will not be the Germans, the English, the Americans, or anyone else, that will elect their authorities.

This people, you see, has no master in Europe, in contrast to some other nations of former Yugoslavia, and has never tolerated one. Even when this people did have masters temporarily, they did everything possible to see the back of them and, by God, none of them lasted. I am sure that there can be no talk of taking such key decisions regardless of the will of the Serbian citizens.

I must tell you that I am sometimes worried when major decisions depend on politicians. However, when major decisions depend on the citizens I sleep soundly, because I am sure that the citizens do not make mistakes, despite whatever uncertainties, pressures and persuasions, they do not make mistakes.

Regarding the other question referring to a mode of coexistence, well, we have just been talking about that. The peace process and an agreement must be embraced. We all live in the Balkans, and so will our children and our grandchildren. We must do everything so that there is no more war here. However, it must be clear to everyone that there can be no agreement on unequal terms, and there can be no peace by force. Peace can take place through mutual consensus and protection of the interests on both sides.

Regarding the criminal responsibility of the Serbian citizens who have perpetrated criminal acts, this is a part of our firmly determined policy, and there is no reason to discuss this at all. It goes without saying that, so far as the Serbian citizens who have perpetrated criminal acts are concerned, sooner or later, depending on the evidence that will be available to the prosecution organs, they will have to account for it. There is no argument about that.

[Kojadinovic] Mr President, I would like to thank you that Studio B, as a representative of the alternative media, so to speak, is also taking part in this interview. It is the first time for us, too, and I hope that it will become a new practice.

Naturally, in the light of what you have been saying, numerous questions arise. I believe that a great majority of the people, on all three sides, is already saturated with war, that everybody has had enough of war. Numerous people legitimately wonder to what extent peace is in the hands of any of the warring sides or the leaders of those warring sides. This, therefore, gives rise to a question of international factors and the global interests of the superpowers.

Several opinions that are very debatable and perhaps more topical than some others exist on this. For example, in the talks with some officials at my level, I have sensed that no type of Muslim state in Europe and in the Balkans would suit the West. We have often witnessed times when everybody was saying how we were only a step away from peace, while threats were coming from all sides and, instead of peace, the clashes actually escalated. Naturally these threats were always aimed against the Serbs. So, to what extent is peace in the hands of the three warring sides, how much is it dependent on the will of the peoples and the leaders of the warring peoples, and how great and crucial is the influence of the West, because it is obvious that the crisis zone in Bosnia is primarily a potential encouragement for all other possible crisis zones that numerous people in this country do not wish at all? So, the fear continues to be just as great as the desire to restore peace as soon as possible.

To ask another question, to what extent are the people who are coming to see you the envoys of peace, or are they perhaps also the envoys of unrest?

Foreign powers and the Balkans

[Milosevic] As regards the other question about the extent to which peace is in the hands of the three sides, the key answer is that there will be peace to the extent to which it is in the hands of the three sides. There will be no peace if it is in the hands of people abroad. Let me try to explain that very simply: The powers who wanted to break up Yugoslavia and who caused its break-up, who committed a crime against a UN member country, violating all the norms of international law, have the same aims today as they had at the time that they began the disintegration of Yugoslavia with all these moves of theirs, some of which I listed at the beginning.

This aim is to create a large number of small countries in the Balkans, which will have puppet governments formed under the influence of foreign factors, so that these powers may freely use the region of the Balkans which has huge significance for the development of the European economy, and therefore, great political significance as well.

We are practically the only land bridge between two continents. The most important communications routes run through this territory. It has great energy potential. Just take the example of the Danube: billions of German marks have been invested in the Rhine-Main-North Sea-Danube canal, but what does it all mean without control over the main and most important section of this communication, of over 500 kilometers running through our country? Not to speak of the Morava-Vardar valley and communications routes over which kingdoms have warred for centuries for the same interests for which the Balkans continue to be very attractive.

Therefore, these forces do not want a single independent and autonomous country here, that is its own master and a serious military and political factor in the Balkans. And we are the greatest military and political factor in the Balkans. So this concept of breaking Yugoslavia into several statelets that will be ruled by some puppet governments was established at the very beginning and is still in force.

For those who could read, this option was clearly contained in Carrington's document and that is why I rejected that plan. Just remember, first the six states and then the partitioning of Serbia - Kosovo, Sandzak, Vojvodina, and so forth. So - the partitioning of Yugoslavia into tiny bits that could then be manipulated. What does this mean? From the standpoint of the historic interests of the Serbian nation, this means a total massacre and disintegration into so many countries that it will never be able to unite again. Therefore, here our interests are colliding with the interests of those who wanted to break up our country, disintegrate Yugoslavia, and who, even nowadays, work on the same scenario they have worked on since the very beginning.

Therefore, we have brought the peace process in Bosnia to an end. With great effort, but successfully, we have defined in this peace package that the sanctions must be eased simultaneously, that means the UN Security Council, at the same time it acknowledges the peace agreement on Bosnia, should pass a decision on lifting the sanctions parallel to the implementation of the peace agreement.

So far as the military paper is concerned, we know that the implementation is going very quickly. So the process of lifting the sanctions according to this agreement should have gone very quickly, but, of course, this does not suit the forces I am talking about. That is precisely why pressures, messages and suggestions have been made to the Muslim side to wait longer.

However, they got caught in a political trap that they will not be able to explain. They must now show, before the entire world, that they care more about the sanctions against Yugoslavia than the peace in Bosnia. This hypocrisy must be made clear to the world now. All their concern for peace in Bosnia has simply been a backdrop to continue with pressures upon our country. Just as they have had completely wrong assessments since the beginning of this crisis, they now also have wrong expectations that we will, due to the pressures and economic difficulties in which we have found ourselves, sell our state and national interests and leave it to be washed away in the muddy Morava River.

So, to return to the beginning of my answer, peace will be established very soon to the extent to which the issue of peace is really in the hands of the three sides and in the interests of the peoples of the three sides. Peace will be established very soon. The more that peace is in the hands of the foreign element or the exponents of the foreign elements in the three sides, it will be harder to reach. I am an optimist in this respect, I am convinced that peace can be reached in Bosnia much faster than is now expected, but we will see. Time will tell.

Sanctions against Yugoslavia

[Jovanovic] Since we are talking about the sanctions, they are unfortunately our reality - uncivilized, inhuman and deeply unjust, but still our reality. We think about them, we talk about them, we listen to talk about them, we live with them, but some questions still remain. For example, what are the conditions for the sanctions to be lifted? What are the real conditions for the lifting of the sanctions? Are there any new factors there? How do you see the package of these conditions for the lifting of the sanctions? Connected with that, would you dare predict when the sanctions will be lifted? How do you see the development of this country that has been, I would say, looted by the sanctions, after the sanctions?

[Milosevic] The real condition for the sanctions to be lifted - as regards the position of those who were the first and real protagonists of their imposition - is that we persevere in the defence of our state and national policy; they are living under the illusion that they are going to break up this nation with the sanctions and that, because of the sanctions, this nation is going to leave its state to the mercy of foreign factors, and as long as they think this, they will try to prolong the sanctions. This peace agreement should remove the sanctions. All the important political factors that have been communicating with us on behalf of the international community have given us assurances to that effect.

However, what is written on paper is one thing, and what the real aim is, is another. We have just exchanged a few words about that. It must become clear that we have no alternative to this policy of preserving our state and national interests, regardless of the pressure to which we are exposed, and regardless of the continued exertion of the pressure. Since they can see that they cannot break up this solidarity just like that, that is why they are attempting to create some internal confusion.

Why are we in a difficult economic situation? They now constantly stress the social problems. Why are there queues? Why is there poverty? All of you, I suppose, have families. All of you should ask yourselves: What would happen if, for example, you took in two more families to support when, for example [word indistinct]? Can the wife and children ask tomorrow: why can't we go on holiday, why can't we buy new shoes, and so on, under these circumstances?

The same applies to the country. Our entire people and the citizens of Serbia in general have decided on solidarity with the Serbian people on the other side of the Drina. We have the difficulties simply because of that and have the sanctions on top of that. Plus, we have refugees from those two countries, from the republic of Serbian Krajina and the Serb republic, that is, from the territory of the former Bosnia-Hercegovina. So you as the people dealing with the public word must not allow a constant replacement of theses. [Sentence as heard] Involved here are state and national interests that we are talking about, not an issue of this or that measure of economic policy, which can be criticized as much as you like. There are many such wrong economic measures, but that is marginal when it comes to the main issue, the situation that we are in. However, everyone has to go back to the main issue: will we abandon our state and national interests and place them in the hands of the foreign factor in order to avoid this situation? Do the people want to accept such a price for abandoning their state and national interests? I am convinced that nobody wants this - even today, despite the fact that it is difficult and that there is a crisis - and particularly so when it is clear that these aims have made real, real progress in their realization.

[Milosevic] After all, no one will ever be able to abolish the Serbian Republic, regardless whether the negotiations are returned to the beginning or of the various empty games by various political factors from Europe and the world. Not to mention all the other things that come with this. So we must not allow stances to be substituted and to be sold a pig in a poke; every citizen is clear on this point, and it should be clear to all the media people.

Serbia's internal situation

[Milanovic] Without Serbia's internal stability, the people would certainly not withstand the sanctions and such pressures. What, in your opinion, is of decisive significance in maintaining this internal stability?

[Milosevic] I believe that, when talking about our economic potential, we are now at a level at which we can stabilize very quickly, halt further deterioration, stabilize the economy, and even start initiating certain positive trends, because the time of that first organizing and reorganizing due to these pressures and sanctions has passed. Conditions are being created for doing many things much better. However, this economic body, this economic sector, is extremely sensitive and has to be elaborated separately. That is why I wish to say, briefly, that our economic conditions and our economic potential allow - when supported by clever measures of both the federal and the republican governments - a normalization and stabilization.

The sanctions have removed our incompetent leaderships and incompetent managers; all this has been erased by the fact that everyone has gained the right to say: it's the sanctions; just take a look at public transport in Belgrade, what an embarrassment; what does it resemble? what does this have to do with the sanctions?; trams and trolleys do not need fuel to be able to run; it just so happens that I know that the republic has secured all of the diesel fuel for public transport; the ones that come in a group of ten, all at once, and then they are nowhere to be seen for the next couple of hours, they too, use fuel, I suppose.

This is an embarrassment, and it is quite obvious that this is extreme incompetence on the part of those authorities whose duty it is to deal with this. Therefore, there must be a lot more responsibility for the duties carried out by people at all levels. It is truly shameful that someone should justify the humiliation that the Belgrade citizens are exposed to with the sanctions imposed on our country. And so forth. So, let us put this sector aside; a lot can be done on it and a lot of explaining can be done.

The other sector - the political one - is important. What is the condition for stability? The condition for stability is that Serbia must show, among other things, at these coming elections, that it is not vacillating as regards the policy of protecting its state and national interests. This is the best way to deter outside pressures and the aspirations on which these pressures are based.

[Antic] Mr President, you have mentioned the unfavourable economic situation that, understandably, results in crime. I have the impression that the action aimed at fighting crime - which is taking on increasing proportions - has faltered somewhat, precisely because of the situation. What do you think, and what is the Serbian state going to undertake in fighting open crime and looting in society?

[Milosevic] First of all, this action must not falter, it must gain momentum. However, it calls for a better establishment of certain things in the state, several factors in the state.

At the moment, we are having extreme problems with the entire criminal law; had we been lucky, we would have had a much clearer criminal law that would have been much more coordinated with the criminal law of European countries that everyone looks to and claims are examples to be followed. The situation here is, so that we can see and face the facts, that the police arrests a criminal who shot a citizen or a policeman for example, one day, only to arrest him again three days later, because, owing to these regulations, or weaknesses in the judiciary, he was free again.

Order has to be imposed in many such things, just as it has to be imposed on another, I would say, just as important sector of the issue regarding the looting of property owned by society that has been created by generation upon generation of workers in our country. Looting that is being carried out in an almost semi-legal fashion through the so-called purchase of companies. Some people call this privatization, but this is not privatization, it is looting; privatization is when you pay for what you are turning into private property; it is not privatization when you do not pay for it.

However, among other things, it is good that we are going to have elections and, I hope, a stable assembly and stable government. Experience has shown that, when the government proposed to stop this [the privatization process] for the duration of the sanctions and the current chaos, and when it proposed to pass a law, it could not pass it in the assembly, because none of the opposition parties were willing to vote for it. Neither the Radicals, nor the Democratic Movement of Serbia, nor any of those others whoever they may be. It simply could not get through.

Such things, putting a stop to the looting, must be solved both institutionally - in a democratic manner, of course, through the parliament's decisions, which means passing laws that regulate this - but also through the appropriate activities of the authorities and the police. You can rest assured that as far as this action, fighting crime, is concerned, it has not faltered, and it will most certainly be intensified. We want present and future generations to live in a free and safe country; we do not want people, citizens, even children to be exposed to violence or any type of humiliation. So the state will - despite the war, the circumstance, the enormous number of refugees, the grave economic situation that (?predictably) gives rise to crime, and many other social-economic and other elements - have to fulfill its role, successfully and without any wavering, I hope.

[Antic] Thank you.

[Kordic] Mr President, there has recently been much talk about humanitarian corridors for Bosnia-Hercegovina. Serbia and Yugoslavia have offered corridors from Belgrade to Sarajevo and from Bar to Sarajevo. But, as one Tanjug correspondent said, Europe is avoiding that, as it thinks that it would mean the backdoor recognition of Greater Serbia. Why is Europe so afraid of Great Serbia when there is Great Britain and Great Germany, and other great countries? What, in your opinion, is the role of the Vatican in all this?

[Milosevic] I hope that I explained a while ago that it is not a question of Europe being afraid of Greater Serbia in the sense that a Greater Serbia will attack someone. I would not describe that Europe as unified in its approach towards Serbia and Yugoslavia. Europe consists of Greece and Great Britain, but also Germany, and, in a way, Turkey. So this is a question of the strategic interests not of Europe but of those powers that wanted to control this region and use it as they please, the powers that came up with that Carrington plan to break up Yugoslavia into bits and pieces, and then break up Serbia in the next phase in order to establish, through various puppet authorities, a situation in which there would be no serious, independent, free and militarily significant state in this region. That is the reason, and not because they are afraid that we will attack them. They know that this nation has never waged a war of conquest. It has always fought defensive wars. But they also know that, in all these defensive wars, this nation has always emerged victorious.

So, from your question, it is clear that the humanitarian dimension is not primary here, but rather the political one. When they think about it, they think more about the political dimension than about those about whom they are supposedly concerned, those who have no medicine, no food, who allegedly need help. After all, please, does anybody have the right - I would say that the politicians who imposed sanctions on this country, who imposed sanctions that represent an act of genocide against this nation, who wage war against our children, against three million children in the FRY - they have lost every moral right to speak of humanitarian reasons, of humanitarian projects. Interests and politics are in play here, not humanitarian reasons. This minor example of an offer of a safe corridor that is being discussed as if it is something that might explode in their hands if they touch it, this example shows that best.

The elections and the media

[Brajovic] In their attempts to show that the conditions at the coming elections will be unfair, the opposition party leaders and some analysts, some colleagues, are using the element of your personality, your charisma, your influence with the voters, and your function in your party that, as head of state, you have put on ice, and so on. Other elements are also used, for example, unfair conditions for using the state television, and so on. What is this all about? Will the conditions be equal for all, and will this be a democratic contest?

[Milosevic] Well, believe me, I think this question is superfluous. Equal conditions absolutely must be ensured in the presentation of all the parties that will participate in the elections. I simply do not see the way - after all, you have all these television stations, Television Serbia, Politika, Studio B [changes thought]. I hope that they will have the same approach to the elections. It would be not only rude, but dirty if an equal amount of time was not provided for all the parties to present themselves in an adequate way.

Now that you have mentioned the activities of the parties, we are in an economic crisis, I even think it would be indecent if the parties were to spend a lot of money on the presentation of video spots and advertisements, and to scrounge from various companies, regardless of whether they are state or private companies. If they have extra resources, I would suggest - and I will say it on this occasion - that they give it to the social funds, for medicine, for the refugees, instead of again inundating us with all that bad taste that can be crammed into those advertising spots.

If everybody does the same, everybody will have equal conditions, and they can use the time equally, I am committed to that and I believe that the government will do so, and the state television, they will make sure that everyone gets the same amount of time. Then, within that time, they can say whatever they want on the behalf of their party, their programmes, they can address their voters and give them the explanations that they think are needed. I think that, under the conditions of the economic crisis, these political parties should behave in a more modest, more rational way, and not throw away money on massive advertising and campaigning. This can all be done if they all agree on an equal treatment, which I am sure will be completely indiscriminate, on the state television.

[Unidentified journalist] Mr President -

[Milosevic] Pardon.

[Brajovic] Your role as the head of state and the influence on the mood of the voters, which is often used as an element -

[Milosevic] In what sense? Do you think that I should go to agitate -

[Brajovic] As an element of the automatic advantage of the ruling party?

[Milosevic] Well, I am a member of the Socialist Party. I cannot say that I am not. I am. I am stating facts.

[Antic] But you cannot head the candidates list, as you tried to interpret it, wrongly.

[Milosevic] This is my political right. I hope that this question has completely been removed from the agenda, considering that there is a constitutional provision according to which the president of the republic does not have the right to perform other public functions. For that reason, the congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia has made a decision that the function of the president of the party be performed by the general secretary of the party. Therefore, the function of the president of the Socialist Party is performed by the general secretary.

However, this does not rescind my political right as a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia and its president.

You jumped the queue [Milosevic addresses one of the correspondents present]

[Unidentified correspondent] Mr President -

[Milosevic] I am not being careful enough, because I am too much of a parliamentarian, which is my fault.

Financial and monetary policy

[Brkic] Mr President, can we return to some topical economic issues that the outcome of the December elections and our future depend on to a great extent. One of these issues is financial-monetary policy. Who is, in fact, in charge of financial-monetary policy in Serbia at the moment? The impression is that policy has left the government's institutions and is on the streets. The national currency is being rapidly debased. The German mark has become the measure of value. What is being done to stop this process, to bring this policy back to the government and other relevant institutions?

And just one more sub-question. Criticism is heard that the funds from the primary issue of money are not being used sufficiently to finance production projects and are used more for financial manipulations and transactions.

[Milosevic] We would need a lot of time to explain this issue, but you have hit on the most painful point of our economy. This point is the monetary system and monetary policy.

We had several handicaps. Two weeks after he had been appointed, the governor [of the national bank] fell ill and was hospitalized. This put a stop to a job that had been started. But that apart, simply some order must be introduced in the entire monetary sphere by consistently implementing the law on the national bank, by eliminating all places for issuing money, unauthorized places for issuing money, of which there are many, except the issuing central bank. You saw that we pursued the idea that the republics would not have national banks. There would be one National Bank of Yugoslavia that would be in charge of issuing money and act as a monetary authority.

This monetary authority should start performing its duties. As far as I know, the most responsible people from the republican and the federal governments, the current acting governor of the National Bank of Yugoslavia, that is the deputy governor, and the board of governors are in fact working on this. I hope that, in the next few weeks, they will be able to finally devise a method of work of the monetary authorities as a whole, and at the same time put together this fairly simple model of a foreign currency market; a unified foreign currency market in the National Bank of Yugoslavia, which will abolish this nonsense of having such a great discrepancy between the so-called official rate of exchange and the black market exchange rate, make it possible for the transactions on this unified foreign currency market, and, on the basis of these transactions, establish a rate of exchange that should fluctuate and absolutely push the black market to the margins.

The chaos, the 95% of the transactions that are causing the chaos, pass through the banks. Only 5% of these transactions are made out on the streets. Once the chaos that is created in the banks is impaired by the efficient work of the monetary authorities, the situation facilitating the black market for foreign currency will marginalize itself and become unimportant.

This would then indeed become a job for the police. However, this institutionalized work of the monetary authorities cannot be solved by the police regardless of how efficient they were in dealing with such activities on the streets. These activities are growing like mushrooms, not by themselves, but just because of the problems in the functioning and a lack of efficiency of the monetary authorities in the central bank, which I hope will finally stand on its legs and start functioning. The republican, both republican governments and the federal government, as well, as I mentioned, as the board of governors, are making efforts in this direction.

The handicaps that appear quite marginal - I know, of course, that not much can depend on individuals - were the factor that postponed the settlement of some issues, for several issues. This is very significant in these conditions. Sometimes several weeks, even several days, is a very long time in such conditions.

I hope that they will succeed, because the concept that they drafted is contained in the Law on the National Bank of Yugoslavia. This concept is well proven by competent, expert people and I think that this concept can establish a usable system, within all the constraints. This cannot eliminate inflation completely, of course. This cannot stop this grave economic situation, but can introduce much more order and slow down the negative trends in this sphere. That is certain.

The middle class

[Tijanic] Mr President, you are at the head of a state in which the middle class has been killed off.

[Milosevic] I do not understand you. Killed? Who has killed what?

[Tijanic] The middle class.

[Milosevic] Yes.

[Tijanic] I would like to find out from you the reasons for the extinction of the middle class, bearing in mind that I consider the following question to be valid: Can Serbia create a democratic and civil society without honest and industrious doctors, lecturers, teachers and clerks who can no longer provide for their families, while simultaneously there is an ideal personality role-model being created and propagated everywhere which looks boastful, rich and armed. Good hosts, teachers, doctors and lecturers are no longer the ideals for our children, but rather the other role-models. What shall we do to preserve the class of middle-class citizens as the basis for tomorrow's Serbia?

[Milosevic] For our country to function, and for all of you, and others who are not present here right now, really to help this country to function in the best possible way, everybody in Serbia must take a little portion of the burden and responsibility on his shoulders in order to contribute towards the functioning of his country and his state.

I can assure you that such role-models will not be typical for long. Once this state starts to function normally in the circumstances in which other countries and more lucky societies live, these role-models will no longer have currency, but the very models that you have singled out and which were an ideal to my generation, numerous generations before mine, and, I hope, will also be an ideal to numerous generations after me.

A role-model of a criminal cannot be formed as a role-model personality towards which any sort of decent personality would aspire, regardless of the difficult situation in which this country has found itself. However, this involves everyone striving to fulfil his share of responsibility in this respect, even with the smallest contributions.

[Curuvija] Your dissolution of the Serbian Assembly was the subject of debate and criticism, primarily from the opposition. However, even your biggest and most merciless critics abroad have admitted that this was a masterly move. I agree with them, however, I am still interested in why you did not allow the confidence debate in the government to end? Secondly, in the explanation that you gave on television, you expressed hope that the Serbian citizens and the Serbian people would have a more united assembly. How should this united assembly look and how can we achieve it?

[Milosevic] Do not push me into election campaigning, as I do not want to be biased, however, it is certain that in the coming elections the citizens are going to meet the challenge that these difficult times are imposing on them. They must express their orientation at the elections as well, and I believe that this orientation is to oppose fascism, violence and crime, so they are not, I am sure, going to support the advocates of darkness, fascism, violence and crime. I am sure that, for the sake of the present and future generations, they will turn to those options that will safeguard the policy that defends this country's state and national interests, freedom and the development of democracy in this country.

I think that this is the fundamental task that the citizens are faced with before the elections and I do not doubt that the Serbian citizens are mature enough to meet this task and this challenge.

[Curuvija] Excuse me, but the first part of the question was why you did not allow the confidence debate in the government to be concluded?

[Milosevic] It was quite impossible to see when this debate would be concluded. The previous two weeks of torture of the assembly and the Serbian citizens had promised nothing of the kind. Also, I really cannot recreate for you the extent to which the atmosphere that accompanied all this was sharper in its qualifications than the qualifications that I have used. I tried to use polite language about the situation that had emerged in the Assembly. As you might have seen, the citizens supported this. At the end of the day, they are the best judge, and it makes no sense to indulge in intellectual speculation as to what would have happened if something had happened. It has evidently won the support of the citizens and I am sure that speculations along the lines of what would have happened had something else taken place is pointless.

Control of the media

[Kojadinovic] Your decision about the elections is naturally enigmatic in numerous aspects. However, I will only single out one: Numerous people expected, and others wished that perhaps on this occasion you would take a stance and use these elections as president of everybody in Serbia, that is, use them to distance yourself from the party that has nurtured you. Many people believe that you have repaid any moral debt you had towards this party, if one can speak of this at all, in the previous elections.

We now realize that you perhaps do not think so and that you will not act like this. We would like to know how you would assess the chances of the Socialist Party of Serbia if you were to take the option of being the president of everybody in Serbia.

Second, the long-announced demand of some opposition parties, primarily Depos, which you have either received today, or it has been dispatched to you today, that, in order to make the elections as honest as possible, a breakthrough should be allowed to certain alternative media, primarily electronic, throughout Serbia. One demand refers to the duration on the state television while the other speaks primarily about the territorial coverage of information and electoral programmes. Studio B and Television Politika are primarily mentioned.

Many of those who decide on this often imply that you are the one who makes the decisions regarding this, so we would like to know what the mood is, since Studio B has nothing against being broadcast throughout Serbia, even if this means that Television Politika will also be broadcast [throughout Serbia]. Technically this is very simple and much more natural. For example, why should we in Studio B negotiate with satellite companies to broadcast via satellite - which, besides being unnatural is also very expensive - in order to reach our potential viewers in some parts of Serbia where Studio B cannot be seen right now.

Our intention is to cover these elections honestly, to introduce the candidates from both sides, the position and the opposition. Here I would also add that Studio B is encountering a big practical difficulty when it comes to being the host of the representatives of the Socialist Party of Serbia on Studio B; they are very reluctant over deciding to come to us, and that is precisely why Studio B, which truly wishes to be independent and is independent, is gaining the epithet of being an opposition television. Some of the people we have invited, but who never came, claim that without your approval they are not allowed to do so; that there are very few people who could come without your approval. I do not believe that this is the case; I think that they are avoiding Studio B for reasons of their own.

Therefore, I would like to know whether there is at least a hypothetical chance, that is to say, are you at all thinking of meeting this demand of the opposition, not so much a demand as a possibility for ensuring that these elections are quality elections, not to say honest?

[Milosevic] As regards the first part of your question, I have been in this post for quite some time now, and I believe that nobody can find any reason to remark that I have given any advantage to anybody or that I have not behaved as the president of all the citizens of Serbia in my every gesture, regardless of whether we are discussing those that voted for me, or the others who did not. With my election, I became the president of all the citizens, by majority vote and the will of the voters, and I consider it my moral obligation to behave as such, and I am convinced that I do. There is nowhere in the world, in the democracies which I suppose are an example to Studio B, not a single politician, president of the republic, or prime minister, who does not head or represent a political party which participates in political life. I do not see why Serbia should be any different from the rest of the world in this respect.

As for the fact that I am asked to grant permission - you yourself laughed at this - for someone to appear on Studio B, there is absolutely no sense in me even commenting on this. As for people's reluctance to appear on Studio B, if I were in your place as director or editor-in-chief of Studio B, I would think about why people are reluctant. In addition, when you mentioned that you are considered as an opposition station, I believe they not only consider you an opposition station, there are much worse descriptions, but, if I were in your shoes, I would also think about why the citizens think this when they watch a programme where it is evident from a long way away what the political orientation is in many of these cases on your television [sentence as heard]. However, this is something that you and your viewers should consider, not something that I - [changes thought] By following your question, I can really only casually comment on this. [Sentence as heard]

I have not received, I do not know which of the opposition's demands you are talking about. I read a few days ago that the opposition was demanding - actually, not the opposition, but the Democratic Movement of Serbia, there are a lot of opposition parties - to enjoy equal conditions and so forth. If you say that I am the one to decide whether parties at elections will have equal conditions, if I can say so, then I appeal to those who make this decision to ensure that the political parties are treated completely equally on state television, radio and other media.

I also appeal to you at Studio B and TV Politika to try the same scheme, so that you are not in a position to be accused of discriminating between the parties or individuals that appear. As for whether you are going to use someone's network, please leave me out of this, or above this, if possible, I really do not know what this is all about, but there are authorities on television, in the Information and Communications Ministry, who can make decisions about this. One thing is certain: the parties will be treated equally in all the media over which the state has influence. There can be no discussion about that.

[Unidentified reporter interjects] The editor-in- chief says that if they pay, then there can [be discussions].

[Milosevic] Okay, you can discuss this among yourselves on some other occasion.

[Zupan] Can I from the second row ask something?

[Milosevic] Well, since you are from Tanjug. [Laughter among reporters]

[Zupan] Mr President, I would like to thank you - Slobodan [Jovanovic, director of Tanjug] has probably already done so - for finding the time to receive us on the occasion of our anniversary, and I would also like - and I believe that I speak in the name of all my colleagues - to pay tribute to the idea that you have actually used this anniversary to summon all the representatives of the Belgrade media to come here for this interview. For me, this means that - maybe you share my opinion - Tanjug has a kind of ecumenical role, so to speak, in our information system. We wish to retain this role of being a service for all our press, and more than that, a service for the state and the economy.

Here is a question connected to this: How do you see the place and role of the media - we have touched upon this topic - in the electoral process; however, I would like to broaden the question to include how you view the role of our media in the development of democracy in our country?

[Milosevic] The question is much too exhaustive for a very exhaustive answer. There can be no doubt that the role of the media is of paramount importance in the development of democratic relations. Everyone who is involved with the media knows this, and so does every citizen. In our concrete situation, I, unfortunately, if you allow me, and we are all here together, would not be able to give a very high mark to the role of the media in principle. When it comes to the Yugoslav crisis, the media - particularly in some Western and overseas countries - have been used in a real, dirty, well-paid and well-organized media war against our country. I believe that this will remain marked in the history of journalism as both a moral and professional lapse of your profession, because a part of the responsibility in the crime against a country which did not, and does not want anything else other than to solve its own affairs by itself, without having someone interfere, and that its citizens can have the right to govern their state precisely to the extent of citizens of those countries whose media have demonized Serbia.

As for our media, I have to say that in this case too, I would not be able to award a flattering and high mark, because my impression is - regardless of how unilateral this is, but it is not possible for me to elaborate on many things which could be said about the media on this occasion - that the media in our country have played quite an extensive warmongering role, not uniformly, and not all of them, but that, with certain oscillations, in many cases the effect has been the same. They not only played a warmongering role, but one that was a generally unprincipled confrontation, and I believe, one that was overly receptive to outside influence on its behavior, regardless of whether it was motivated by direct political, financial, or some other motive.

However, this should not tarnish the reputation and responsibility of the journalists'profession, which, I am convinced, the majority of journalists have defended with honour in these troubled times. Moreover, I hope that this shadow looming over the media, will, in this respect, which I have tried to describe in a few words, disappear with the shadows and phantoms of war from these territories, and that the media will increasingly contribute to the development of democratic relations in our country. Who is next?

[Unidentified reporter] I believe that TANJUG has exhausted its third question, so I propose that -

Return of socialism in Europe

[Milanovic, interrupting] Respected Mr President, how would you explain the return of the left-oriented and socialist forces on the political scene of Europe? I am particularly referring to the great election victories of the left in Poland and the Socialists in Greece?

[Milosevic] The pendulum is swinging back. Things went to extremes. The anticommunist wave that has been acting destructively cannot last long. After all, you do not have anywhere in the world a genuinely democratic country in whose parliament there are no communists. Only fascist countries ban left-oriented parties, communist parties. Simply, these are the countries that are at greatest variance with democracy, democratic values, the views of the people. These countries should not be a model to anyone, the countries that ban the left-oriented, above all, communist parties.

The wave denoting the creation of the basis for a new society is coming back. This society will certainly not be the old capitalist society nor the old socialist society. This society, I hope, will be a society based on the positive and most important values of capitalism and socialism that existed hitherto, because both societies, in their development, endowed mankind with many values, some less and some more, but in any case with values that mankind and society in development should not deprive themselves of.

I hope that this balance, which is beginning to be formed, will be established in the interests of a more rapid social development. I understand the phenomena you mentioned as harbingers of creating such a balance.

[Antic] One more question connected with the economic situation. As president of the Republic of Serbia and head of state, what can you do specifically and quickly for the life of people to be made easier to some extent?

[Milosevic] First of all, some things would have to happen quickly. The political situation in Serbia needs to be stabilized and one needs to have an efficient and honest state apparatus, competent in performing its functions. I hope that the conditions for this will be created within a couple of months.

On the other hand, if we create the conditions for a competent circle of responsible people to form the government and for the assembly deputies accountable to the people who voted for them to combine forces with a view to benefiting the development of the republic, many of these difficulties could perhaps be eliminated despite the fact that due to foreign pressures and difficulties the room for manoeuvre has been considerably narrowed. Many things can be done in a much better, much better organized and much more efficient way and I hope that it is now clear to everybody that Serbia represents a motive, that Serbia, Serbia's interests, and the interests of its citizens represent a motive for uniting all these democratically oriented forces in making the changes in Serbia that will accelerate its development and make life better, happier, more democratic and safer both for the present and future generations.

These are the steps that must be taken. We must maintain our priorities. They are peace, economic development, and fighting crime. These are the priorities that this state has to keep in the very centre of its attention and its conduct.

Belgrade's transport system

[Kordic] Mr President, this evening you also mentioned the problem of the Belgrade city transport. We at 'Politika ekspres'have learned about some reports that what is involved is not only idleness, incompetence and sloppiness, but also an intention to create anxiety in Belgrade and in Serbia. What are these forces who are creating this anxiety?

[Milosevic] Well, I must tell you that I do not know the details and that I have not dealt with these details. I think that all competent city authorities can organize city transport in Belgrade. This is no great philosophy, one only has to make an effort.

If there are really some such political forces then it is a great shame that somebody is playing political games on the backs of these citizens who are suffering from this political crisis anyway by making problems in the city transport system, slowing it down and making it less efficient. And the city transport is a vital need. If there are such forces, such phenomena and such cases, then I think you will all have to make a big effort to try to make such phenomena known to the public, so that these Belgraders would face these additional reasons for their trouble and humiliation in the city transport system.

However, let me go back to the beginning: What else are the responsible and efficient authorities in the city supposed to be capable of doing if they are incapable of organizing the city's transport under the conditions in which there is no limit to the use of energy. This is a republican affair, this is what the republic must provide for them. However, the republic, the Sainovic government, certainly cannot draw the time table or discipline in such an enterprise. However, if such things really exist, you, as the most responsible people in the media, should make an effort to help citizens see and learn that. Then, if there are such really shameful things that can honour nobody, one should create the conditions to eliminate them.

[Brajovic] Why have, let me put it this way, the political cooks of the new world order decided to test their project exactly in this geopolitical and strategic region? Is this perhaps the result of a historical heritage, the assumption of the weakness of the state that used to exist here, or is something else involved - outside interests exclusively?

[Milosevic] Well, I would say that from our point of view and from our perspective, it seems to you that they are testing that only here . Everybody exposed to some trouble thinks that it is happening to him alone. They have been testing that throughout the world. After all, your newspapers also write about that.

However, much more significant than this is the fact that this checking is unsuccessful in this region and I do not only hope, but I am certain that however much these people carry their tests, these people here will never endure being somebody's slave. Having this fact, these other people will have to understand that further experiments are only a waste of time and money and no way to attain certain aims in the territory of the former Yugoslavia populated by Serbs.

[Note: At this point the programme was briefly interrupted in accordance with satellite feed schedule]

[Brkic, Belgrade Radio] I would like to take the opportunity of this meeting and conversation with you to ask you a question referring to an exceptionally numerous and exceptionally important layer of our society - our farmers who feed us. Under the economic sanctions, they too are faced with many and very difficult problems. Could you tell me, how do you see our village today, what is the republic doing, and what will it do to ease their life, to enable them to sow the fields and improve next year's harvest?

Agricultural policy

[Milosevic] The republic's priority in economic policy is agriculture . Regardless of the difficulties and the politization of certain measures, you have to admit that agriculture has been a priority even in these years of crisis. The latest reports say that the harvest has been completed on 90% [of fields].

Unfortunately, your media cried wolf: there is no fuel, the fields will not be harvested. To be honest, it was not the first time I had watched and listened to that. The same thing happened last spring, before the spring harvest, and last autumn. Every time this circle here broadcast, I would say, the expressions of hopelessness claiming that we would run out of food. We have not run out of food, we have not run out of energy; we have increased our production of energy, we have even increased the production of coal for mass consumption, we have increased agricultural production during a season of drought.

Unfortunately, in many respects the farmer has found himself in a difficult situation due to, among other things, certain mistakes in economic policy, especially in the policy on the production of milk and certain cereals. Agriculture is reflected in the production of milk because there is no milk without large livestock, and there is no livestock without cereals - that is the basis of it all. I myself could not understand, and I intervened - I would almost say severely which I usually do not like - in these issues which were so obvious and demanded appropriate intervention.

Let us not talk about these failures for the moment. Agriculture is one of the greatest comparative assets of our economy and it has to have priority. With such an agriculture and power industry, with such a transport system, with a considerable number of very successful enterprises that show that we have a strong basis for modern industrial development, we can surmount these difficulties very quickly. As you can see for yourselves, despite sanctions unprecedented in the history of the contemporary world, our economic situation is better than in some countries that are receiving lavish foreign aid to keep their economies afloat. Not only are they not suffering under sanctions, on the contrary - they are in a privileged position in many ways. Let me make a digression in this direction. So, as far as the economy is concerned, it will remain, and must remain, a lasting priority of every government.

[Tijanic, TV Politika] I have two questions. One is for the president of the Socialist Party, the other for the president of the Republic. The first: is the impression wrong that you have often been unlucky with, or insensitive towards, the people you are surrounded with, that some of your people in responsible posts fail to stand the test of time and difficulties? The second question is for the president of the Socialist Party: who in the opposition do you think you could collaborate with in dealing with the parliament and in the implementation of policies geared towards building the Serbia we all need?

Socialist Party of Serbia, personnel questions

[Milosevic] As far as the first question goes, I can immediately give a positive reply. Yes, there have certainly been some personnel changes, very much so. This is no secret, and I also believe that it is perfectly logical for such things to happen in life. As for the second question, I believe that we should cooperate with all democratic forces, with all those working on the preservation of the state and national interests of our nation, the development of democracy in our country, the development of a sound market economy, national and social security and equality, in other words, with all those turned towards the future. Certainly not with the forces of darkness, fascism, violence and crime. The demarcation line is right there. I cannot single out political parties because I do not wish to do that, you must have noticed that I avoided to qualify parties when answering your colleague's question, it would not be good for someone in my position to assess political parties.

[Curuvija, 'Borba'] Some indications, in a certain way plausible, suggest that the Socialists will lose the forthcoming elections and that the opposition, if it acts wisely, will come into power. Are you ready to face a situation in which you would be president of a state in which Mihajlo Markovic of the SPO [Serbian Renewal Movement] would be the police chief, and say, Danica Draskovic the director of the state television?

[Milosevic] Well, I think that your question is not really a question, but a roundabout way of voicing your own wishes. Whether these wishes of yours are fulfilled or not - that is a matter for the citizens of Serbia to decide. So let's not the two of us decide on their behalf. The decision is their right, so let them decide freely.

[Kojadinovic, Studio B] The situation is clear and very difficult for everyone. The question is not for how long we will be able to hold on ; the basic problem is, as many perceive it, that we are going back many years. Many people blame the Socialist Party of Serbia for that - we will not debate now whether or not they are justified in doing that - and many people are now, when we are approaching new elections, wondering what changes the SPS can offer the people who are in such a difficult situation that they are often, let us say it, hungry, and who cannot ensure normal life for future generations. Could you tell us which changes could inspire many people who are perhaps not even members of the SPS to hope that a better future will be here soon?

Of course, we know that the cadres are a problem. I hear very often from many people that one of your personal problems is that your associates are not good enough. We also know, at our level, that it is difficult to find good associates, which is possibly one of the general problems in Serbia, but many people would not like to see in the assembly certain faces which, they believe, do not represent well enough the people of Serbia. Therefore, are there new cadres and new promises, that is, new hopes which the SPS could offer?

[Milosevic] I do not wish to discuss party affairs, especially not now with the elections coming up, but I believe that you are returning to what I described as a substitution of causes. You should explain to your viewers, correctly not mistakenly, why exactly these lines are forming and why the economic situation is as difficult as it is. The people should know why. Certainly not because of the reasons you have mentioned but because of the sanctions, of course. The sanctions were imposed because we refused to allow two million of our compatriots to be slaughtered there. So do not attempt to convince people that this was due to some mistaken economic policies. Much bigger countries, with much more developed economies - the most developed Western European countries, for instance - would certainly be much worse off under sanctions than we are.

Therefore, the way out of this situation lies in the preservation of policies aimed at protecting our national and state interests and, under such circumstances, in the rallying of forces that are genuinely patriotic, not pseudo-patriotic. Each and every one of us, in his own right, should make his contribution to this country and its unification. I hope that the upcoming political activities will make a contribution to this. It is now up to the citizens to make their decisive contribution. I also hope that they will do this regardless of whether or not this will be to the liking of someone outside or someone here whose heart is somewhere outside. I am truly optimistic in this respect and I hope that you will soon become convinced as well.

[End Milosevic; passage of thanks to Milosevic by editors omitted]

Copyright 1993 The British Broadcasting Corporation  
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts


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