MILOSEVIC ON FEDERAL REPUBLIC, SANCTIONS,
CROATIA, BOSNIA, KOSOVO, ELECTIONS
Radio Television Serbia - Belgrade TV - October 9, 1992
Text of recording of interview given to Milorad Vucelic, Director-General of Serbian Radio and Television, in Belgrade by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic
[Question] Mr President, there is a widespread view that your public appearances and speeches are too rare. Do you share this view, and could you tell us why you do not make public appearances? Why are your appearances not more frequent? Do you think that this is correct, or is this simply the way you understand your state duty and the role of a statesman?
[Answer] One cannot say that I am not making public appearances. I am here. Ask me whatever you want. I think my public appearances are sufficiently frequent. I also think that excessive appearance on television by politicians is even impolite. I think that it is uncivil to appear every day and brainwash people with what they think. Therefore, I believe that I appear sufficiently.
[CREATION OF FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA]
[Q] Respecting your belief and your intention to answer the questions that we are going to ask you, I would like to start this conversation with the following question Many of your political opponents claim that your crucial contribution to the creation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [FRY] is not a particular success. This is allegedly something that would have occurred anyway. The question is Why is the world, or the overwhelming part of it, working so hard to destroy this alleged creation, and why is the creation of this state being denied with so much political and physical pressure? How can we overcome the difficulties that accompany this denial parallel to the great pressure on Serbs in the Krajinas and the Serbian Republic [in Bosnia-Hercegovina] ?
[A] Your question is long. There are perhaps several questions in it, but let us start with the end. I think that we can overcome difficulties only if we insist on the policy that we have been conducting, the policy with which, despite enormous external pressure and very strong opposition at home to the survival of Yugoslavia, we succeeded in preserving Yugoslavia, in preserving its continuity and, parallel to this - you spoke about the Serbian Krajinas and Bosnia-Hercegovina - help, succeed in helping the Serbian people in the Krajinas and Bosnia to be a negotiator on an equal footing, to have their legitimate representatives in the talks on their future, to feel safe and protected on the basis of the plan drafted by the United Nations, and as regards Bosnia, as we can all see, to even lead a successful initiative at the conference that has finally assumed a regular course and in which all primary aims of the Bosnian Serbs could be presented successfully. Therefore, we are talking about Bosnia, the Krajinas, and the FRY. The FRY represents the only support they have; the FRY is the only thing they can rely on and, in the affirmation of their basic human, national, and all other interests, count on.
It is obvious, therefore, that those who deny that only this path, which is taking into consideration the affirmation of the new Yugoslavia and the affirmation of the regulation of the position of the Serbian Krajinas and Bosnia, offers ultimate solutions, because under the horrific pressure of the interests of the powerful and greedy and the revanchism of those defeated in some former wars, we simply found ourselves in circumstances under which it looked as if nothing of that would succeed.
Yugoslavia was created, however, and the status of the Krajinas and Bosnia is going through legitimate international negotiations, which is why we have, in fact, found ourselves under such strong pressure. We found ourselves under such strong pressure because we succeeded. Who would exert pressure on those who failed, on those who lost and those who no longer matter? This is yet another indicator of the reasons why this is being done. Therefore, a precise answer is that the way out of the situation in which we have found ourselves lies in our insistence on the primary aims of this policy and the policy itself at this stage of normal and peaceful international negotiations.
[Q] You refused to sign the erasure of Yugoslavia from the map and international life in The Hague on 18th October last year. Since then you have been the target of numerous accusations. You and your policy have been subjected to a real demonisation. Was this a wrong move? To what extent was your behaviour in The Hague a consequence of a rational and well-considered policy, and to what extent was this a matter of honour, of not only one man but also the entire nation?
[A] This is not only a question of honour, not even the honour of the entire nation, but of the honour and vital interests of that nation. If we had agreed to Yugoslavia being simply erased, if we had agreed to separate in the way suggested, we would have not achieved what has been accomplished in terms of protecting the interests of the Serbian people outside Serbia. We found ourselves in the situation of having over two million people being simply cut off and prevented from enjoying the kind of true support they have found in the new FRY. After all, would it have been logical for us to ask for voluntary partition under the circumstances in which it was clear that the aspirations of the seceding republics did not reflect the same interests and the same position of Serbia, Montenegro and many people throughout Yugoslavia? I simply think that if the situation were to repeat itself, I am sure I would act in the same way.
[Q] You also mentioned honour. You have not only mentioned interests. There are many people, including some federal ministers, who claim that honour is something that belongs to the times of mediaeval knights and that this is not exactly a commodity that can be traded in these days.
[A] I only agree that honour is not a commodity that can be sold.
[CONTINUITY OF YUGOSLAVIA]
[Q] Another question that is perhaps a continuation of what you have already said Why did you insist so strongly on the continuaity of Yugoslavia? Or, to be more precise, why are you still insisting so much on it when it is obvious - or at least it appears to be obvious - that the international community is not willing to recognise and respect this continuity? Do you think that we can continue to adhere to this view? What are the real reasons for this insistence? Have we perhaps gambled away or lost the chance of preserving and carrying on with the continuity of Yugoslavia because of the Federal government or something else?
[A] Again, you have asked me many questions, but I will tell you that in my view we should insist on this position. Second, I think that the Federal government is in no position to gamble away our continuity because it is not empowered to do so by our Constitution. You must know, and I am sure that the citizens of Serbia know, what the view of the Federal Assembly is. This position is founded on the Yugoslav Constitution, which contains provisions on continuity, and on the declaration that was adopted by the Yugoslav Assembly on the day the Constitution was promulgated. This declaration also contains provisions on continuity. There are many reasons for this.
I cannot mention all the reasons here tonight, but it is clear, not only because of history, that no one sensible would throw out 120 years of state continuity. Not just because Serbia and Montenegro, as the only recognised countries in this area before the creation of Yugoslavia, had fully enjoyed this continuity, but also because of the present and future. We would lose the right to invoke the thousands of international obligations and agreements in whose creation we participated as a state, lose the right to fall back on membership in international organisations and lose a series of vital benefits arising from the continuity of one country. Let us not mention all the reasons why we should not place ourselves in the same position as the republics that wanted to secede, and why we should go all the way to the beginning just because they began to exist independently for the first time.
There are indeed no reasons for that, and I think that one should absolutely stick to this position. Allow me to add another very practical argument. Much is being said about whether we will be recognised or not. We are practically recognised. Dozens of countries have publicly said so. After all, how many embassies are there here in Belgrade and to which country are they accredited if our country is not recognised, if it does not exist, and with whom are they therefore maintaining relations?
Let us not talk about all the other conditions and reasons why it would be completely senseless to opt for discontinuity. Choosing discontinuity only serves the interests of the forces that were breaking up Yugoslavia, both external and internal forces. I am referring to the republics that decided to secede. It is in our interest to preserve what belongs to us and this is continuity. We do not have a single reason to abandon it.
[Q] Let us briefly return to The Hague. Momir Bulatovic [President of Montenegro] agreed to the EC demands. As is known, he accepted Carrington's document and the republican borders. Was this the real reason, the true reason or cause for the current state of Prevlaka?
[A] The answer to this should be somewhat more complex. First of all, Carrington's document, as a political document that was supposed to solve, among other things, the issue of borders, cannot be without influence on politics or political solutions, and thus on the current position of Prevlaka. For the sake of the truth, however, I must say that on that occasion, or on several occasions when he stressed at plenary sessions of The Hague conference that Montenegro had accepted the document in principle, Momir Bulatovic was always expressing reservations concerning the border on Prevlaka.
Therefore, he always singled out this issue and always had reservations about it. This should certainly be stated on his behalf. By expressing reservations and by singling out this issue as a special one, on the other hand, he was at the same time informing the conference that Montenegro and Croatia were in the process of negotiations aimed at resolving the issue through bilateral relations. This is therefore where, I would say, a mistake in tactics arose, because the issue was pushed to the margins of the political process of resolving the Yugoslav crisis. Because of this, one could not deal with this issue through some other political activities or deal with it in a way parts of other territories in Yugoslavia were treated in Vance's plan, and so forth.
As I said, this must be stressed and one should know this for the sake of the truth. The Montenegrin leadership continues to raise the question of Prevlaka, regardless of the handicap that arose from the fact that by accepting the political document that was in fact defining these issues, they placed issues in a relatively unstable stage.
[YUGOSLAVIA VERSUS SERBIA]
[Q] You staked much of your political reputation and authority on the creation of the FRY. You still speak with full commitment about the continuity of that state, its existence and its value. Our impression today is that the Federal authorities and Federal organs are in many ways not doing what they should if this state is to function successfully. The Federal government is behaving as if it is in opposition to Serbia and the ruling party.
[A] You see, we are speaking of brief experience. The Federal government has been functioning for about a couple of months. This is machinery that has been functioning for decades in the way we thought would not repeat itself. I hope that the way in which it is functioning will be eliminated in the future, because, as you know very well, over many decades all those who found themselves at the helm of Yugoslavia were bothered by a strong Serbia. For a long time Yugoslavia was a means for controlling Serbia.
This Yugoslavia has not created Serbia, just as the previous one did not do so. However, a certain situation I would describe as stable was created on the basis of balance, conflicts and the principle of divide and rule. Therefore, such a Yugoslavia created out of Serbia and Montenegro must function in the interest of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro, of course. Therefore, it cannot function in any kind of confrontation. I expect our Federal state and all its institutions to function in the same way. I mean here not only the government, I also mean all other institutions, the central bank and other state institutions because, objectively speaking, in such a joint state there is no longer any basis or, I would say, possibilities either, for the Federal top leadership to dictate a political position to Serbia, to solve properly the problems of some of its provinces; for example, problems in Kosovo and some other problems and many other things that were being solved in such a way for many years. I think that this should be relinquished to the past and that our Federation should be achieving a new and fully constructive practice. After all, really, how can a federation confront 95% of its own body, which is what the Republic of Serbia represents? What would that look like?
[Q] This is, of course, rather clear, but there are obviously certain tendencies. You would claim, of course, that they are not long-lasting and that they are not principled, but that they are something [word indistinct] .
[Milosevic, interrupting] They may be such. Let us call them personal inclinations. Let it be an expression of certain personal inclinations. Inclinations of individuals, but certainly not something at an institutional level. That is not possible.
[Q] Your policy is still accused - and (?I insist that) this is where a point of disagreement with Federal organs and Federal ministers lies - of being the policy of Greater Serbia. A member of Milan Panic's Federal government, Ljubisa Rakic, Minister without portfolio, said that the policy of Greater Serbia has been given up. Have you and the authorities in Serbia really ever favoured, been inclined towards, and advocated the concept and strategy of creating a Greater Serbia?
[A] Perhaps they had this idea and this concept and are now informing the public about the fact that they have given that up. The official policy pursued by Serbia has never had this idea of Greater Serbia and, as is known, we have stressed this publicly on several occasions and in the most official way possible. I know that the memory of political events tends to be short, particularly in times of crisis, but it must not be so short as to ignore the fact that it was official Serbian politicians who insisted very categorically that this approach never existed, either as a concept or as a policy we advocated. Those people who have given up this policy have the right to do so. Only, they had no influence on the policy in Serbia, so their acceptance or abandoning of this policy has no significance for us.
[Q] Speaking of a short memory, it is too often stressed that the policy of the new Federal government, or generally, the policy of some new political factors is the policy of peace and that, being such, it represents a radical break with the previous policy. I have the impression that one of the more significant aspects of continuity of your policy was that very continuity of peace and that Serbia, along with you yourself and the Serbian leadership, has never advocated a war option.
[A] I am glad to hear that you are reminding the citizens of Serbia about that. It would perhaps be good if you made a review - I have seen some very successful ones - that could refresh even this short memory of the last year and a half with the real order of political facts and events. Not only did Serbia support a policy of peace, but I hope that it is evident that Serbia did not support the break-up of Yugoslavia, that Serbia fought for its preservation and that, when the crisis began, we ourselves said and pointed out that Serbs and Serbia have never waged a war of aggression, but that they have waged wars of defence and that they will know how to defend themselves, something that, after all, they have already demonstrated.
Simply, in that country in which some people wanted to go away, to secede and to create those small nationalist states of theirs, we supported continuity. Serbs in fact supported peace. However, in these regions where they were subject to genocide for the second time in this century, they could not accept dying to achieve peace. If somebody expected that of them, or if somebody expects that or something similar of them in the future, he can be sure that they will not accept preserving peace under this condition.
Therefore, the basic right that everyone should enjoy is the right to defend himself, to protect his country and to protect his people. Everything that we have been insisting on was only aimed at a peaceful settlement of the Yugoslav crisis. After all, a few days ago, I saw an interview in a foreign newspaper with the former chairman of the conference, Lord Carrington. This interview confirms that the first mistake was that the Yugoslav crisis was approached from outside, that it was internationalised before an agreement was reached.
You must remember very well, I am sure that our citizens remember well that during our talks with the Slovene delegation and with the Croatian, Bosnian and Macedonian delegations we clearly spelled out our political position that we do not deny any people the right to self-determination, and that therefore we would not set up obstacles to peoples wanting to leave Yugoslavia and set up their own independent states. We insisted that in order to facilitate this solution we amend the Yugoslav Constitution and regulate the people's right to self-determination in the same way for all Yugoslav peoples so that the crisis could be resolved peacefully rather than violently. What our position assumed is still logical today, and that is that this right to self-determination, which belonged to and was brandished by the Slovenes and then the Croats, should also be enjoyed by the Serbian people.
From a very early age, from the start of primary school, we were all taught that Yugoslavia was a state of first five and then six equal peoples and that the Serbs were among them. There was never any doubt about that. Therefore the problem was in the fact that such an approach, which profoundly showed that Serbia and the Serbian people were in favour of peace, simply did not fit in the plans and interests of those who wanted to take what did not belong to them. This is why we initially had those unilateral acts - and these unilateral acts were not the unilateral acts of Serbia but of Slovenia and Croatia - then the use of force in order to secede and all the other causes that the whole world recognised at that time as the causes of the hostility, clashes and bloodshed in Yugoslavia.
Therefore, a turn in the current policy of peace, towards peace, is something I cannot understand, because it is evident that we have done everything to preserve peace and settle the Yugoslav crisis in a peaceful way.
[Q] You are obviously being accused of being a hard negotiator, as we hear, because of these views. At the same time some of our people, above all those who support the opposition, and other countries are stressing the values and advantages of the so-called soft negotiators. What in your view is the difference between soft and hard negotiators? Does this perhaps mean that you have rejected everything, and that the soft negotiators have agreed to everything in advance, or are ready to accept everything in advance?
[A] This does not imply either of these two things. I have not rejected everything and they have not accepted everything. I have always been prepared to accept what does not threaten our state and national interests. Compromises that do not threaten our state and national interests are possible. Compromises that can endanger state and national interests, in my view, are not possible and I could never accept them.
Some negotiators perhaps think that all this is provisional, that all this is without any significance. I heard someone say recently that Tsar Lazar made a mistake in fighting the Turks 600 years ago. Correcting history in retrospect could devalue or ridicule many things.
[Q] Actually, Murat was on our side, but Tsar Lazar, it appears, did not understand this, and the clash occurred because of this misunderstanding.
[A] I do not know what they had in mind when they made these claims. In any case, if softness means going beyond the bounds of national and state interests, then this is not softness but the betrayal of national and state interests. Therefore, things should be called by their true names. One cannot talk about being soft or hard but about the limits to which one may go in political negotiations.
[Q] Since we are already talking about rigidity, may I ask you whether you expected or whether you could have anticipated that Yeltsin's Russia would have such a rigid attitude towards us? I would say it is unsatisfactory and at times even hostile towards Serbia and Yugoslavia.
[A] I would not say that they have a hard position towards us. They have a soft position towards the big superpower. This is what is happening. For reasons known to them and the international public, we, I, and I believe others feel almost embarrassed to see how conditions are being dictated to a country that until yesterday was proud and large, and how its foreign policy is being conducted outside it. This is not a case of their hard position towards us, but their attitudes towards others. I am convinced that this policy, however, especially the policy on relations with Serbia and Yugoslavia, does not reflect the views of the Russian people. On the contrary, I am convinced that the position of the Russian people is to support Serbia and Yugoslavia.
[Q] Mr President, until recently we thought that we all knew why the sanctions were introduced against the FRY. Because of various manipulations, increasingly fierce and inconsistent pressure, blackmail and many other things, we appear today not to know really why the embargo was introduced. It would be good if you could tell us what, in your view, led to the introduction of the sanctions, to explain us the formal and real reasons for the introduction of embargo and sanctions.
[A] I think that we started off with this question. The external pressure aimed at dismembering Yugoslavia is presently concentrated on the Serbian people. One can see with the naked eye that it is not true that the sanctions are directed against the regime and not against the people, because pressure is, in a way, also exerted on Serbian Krajina, Serbian Bosnia, the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro.
There is shooting and killing there, but there was no excuse for introducing them here. Yet the sanctions were applied. It is obvious that it is the Serbian regions and Serbs that have found themselves under this negative pressure. If the international community, perhaps even correctly, wanted to intervene in the clash among the Yugoslav peoples and in this drastic way teach them a lesson or convey a message to stop fighting, then it would have been logical for the sanctions to be applied against all. What we see now is the attempt to prevent Serbia from showing solidarity with the Serbs outside Serbia through the blockade of Serbia and Montenegro, and to weaken it so that it does not survive the pressure and demands for the fragmentation of its own territory on the one hand, and the violation of the UN embargo on importing weapons and the UN decisions banning mercenary armies that are conducting the most brutal crimes against the Serbian civilian population, on the other.
One cannot help thinking that this is further pressure, in another form and with different means, aimed at finishing what had been begun - to totally break up the former Yugoslavia and make the Republic of Serbia a weak state by reducing its authority [Serbo-Croat relativizirati] in parts of its territories and reducing its sovereignty in, for instance, Kosovo, Sandzak, Vojvodina and various other demands, which were we to list them would most certainly be infinite.
Therefore, the reason why sanctions were introduced is clear. Not even children in Serbia believe that the sanctions were introduced because Serbia has carried out aggression against Bosnia- Hercegovina. Everyone now clearly sees that there is no aggression there on the part of Serbia. This cannot be even denied by all these official representatives of the United Nations, EC, CSCE and hundreds of other organisations that are daily roaming this country.
Therefore, it is obvious that pressure is being stepped up because such a state of affairs cannot last a long time, because the truth is gradually penetrating the barriers of the blockade that have hitherto been impenetrable. The picture is gradually beginning to be more balanced. The general situation in Yugoslavia is becoming clearer. Therefore, it will not be long, and the current picture cannot be kept in front of their own people for a long time, nor can the attempts be prevented to remedy this picture with the elements of truth and objectivity in all this matter. Thus, the internationalisation has in a way had a very bad influence on Yugoslavia. On the other hand, it has in fact made an opening for the flow of information that will destroy the artificially created, unjust and politically and morally untenable pressure against Serbia and Yugoslavia.
[Q] Although you have partially already answered this question, I will nevertheless insist upon it. Namely, it is increasingly rumoured that the real reasons for the introduction of the sanctions are precisely in Serbia and that the Serbian authorities and your policy are to be blamed for them.
[A] Well, it is obvious that after the contradictory behaviour of the international community and individual countries - they were at first opposed to unilateral actions and later favoured unilateral actions, were first against the use of force and secession and later in favour of secession, they not only recognised but also rewarded these republics with a speedy and premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by the international community. Even Lord Carrington, former chairman of the conference on Yugoslavia, admitted that this was a mistake in the statement that I have mentioned. Therefore, when such mistakes are made and when pressure that is breaking up a free country that is a UN member is applied, and for which there were no reasons except for the interests of the mighty, of course - the pressure from outside and by their supporters in Yugoslavia - then it is logical to look elsewhere, to try to put the blame on someone else rather than on themselves.
Those who expect that the EC will accept this blame, despite the fact that the chairman of the conference referred to the enormous mistakes to which we have been pointing all this time and had rejected, not only abroad but also by some of our opposition parties precisely on those issues where the chairman of the conference on Yugoslavia now says the mistakes were made - well, you probably do not expect that they will say yes, we have made a mistake by breaking up Yugoslavia, we did not know that these were our interests and aims, and so forth [sentence as heard] . Somebody else must be found to be the scapegoat. However, even more absurd, those who were struggling for the preservation and integrity of Yugoslavia are now declared responsible for its break-up. Neither the Serbs nor Serbia wanted the break-up of Yugoslavia; on the contrary, they fought to preserve it. Why then and how can it sound logical that those who fought for Yugoslavia are now being held responsible for its break-up? Those who wanted to resolve the Yugoslav crisis through peaceful measures are now being held responsible for the fact that those who wanted its break-up used force to achieve this. These claims are so contradictory that no rational person could believe them or accept them as valid arguments.
[SUPPORT FOR SERBS]
[Q] Mr President, it sometimes seems that one of the conditions to overcome the sanctions that might be worth complying with and that some superpowers perhaps want is to stop helping - naturally, in a humanitarian and any other manner, I mean, taking care of that which is our constitutional duty - that is, to stop looking after the Serbs in Krajina and the Serbs in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Is such a political turnabout possible in Serbia while you are President of the Republic and while the current government is running Serbia?
[A] This is absolutely out of the question. They have nobody else to rely on but us. If we had even reduced the aid to them they would have found themselves in a very difficult situation. We do not have the right to do such a thing. These people are a part of our nation whom we are absolutely obliged to help. All these stories that some individuals are telling, namely that we can live well and happily and what concern of ours is it what is happening over there - well, if a nation is destroyed, then there is no freedom, prosperity or anything else for an individual either. All in all, we know to which individuals freedom, prosperity and other benefits might have applied, while they used to apply to the nations that were being destroyed or a subject of aggression, and they found an excuse for the aggression and for not offering resistance and for treason - not to use this overtly exploited word of our political vocabulary - therefore, I really do not see how this could be possible in Serbia. I believe that not a single government in Serbia should even think about it if it has even the slightest idea about state and national interests.
[Q] In any case, it is certain that while you are the President of the Republic this cannot happen and while there are the current authorities in Serbia, this change, the betrayal of the Serbian people in the neighbouring -
[Milosevic, interrupting] I do not believe that anybody would even think of it. Furthermore, if you would allow me to say so, I think the question is too sharp.
[Q] Of course.
We have recently heard that the bombing of Belgrade was also ordered, just as if it were an (?opera) performance. Do you know anything about this, or was this a secret that was hidden from you?
[A] I really know nothing about it. It is obvious that it was ordered in the same manner in which it was cancelled. This whole story does not seem very plausible to me.
[Q] It seems that all the important political protagonists in the world agree that the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina is the central problem of the Yugoslav crisis and a direct reason for the introduction of the sanctions. Suddenly, the problem has been transferred to Serbian-Croatian relations, that is, the relations between Serbia, that is, the FRY, and Croatia. Is the insistence upon Croatia's recognition and resolving this conflict the beginning of the creation of conditions after which all those reasons that you have already mentioned would follow - Kosovo, Sandzak and so forth? What is the reason for the shift of focus of attention to Serbian-Croatian relations?
[A] You see, the focus of attention in the Yugoslav crisis is constantly shifted from one issue to another. When those who want the continuation of war conclude that conditions exist for the war to die down, they immediately open some other issue. This has been demonstrated in numerous examples in Bosnia. Whenever it appeared that the war would die down several other, secondary issues were opened to maintain the crisis until the realisation of the final aims, presenting new demands and exerting pressures. Therefore, the answer to this question cannot be black and white, one or the other. It is the one and the other, and the third, and the 10th reasons. I even believe that if we remain soft in the sense of one of your previous questions and accept something that goes beyond the border drawn by our state and national interests, we will face the situation that the list of demands will become endless, and that as soon as some of the demands are fulfilled new ones will follow immediately, and all this for as long as we have some significance as a country and any sort of control over the issues where it is desired that control falls into somebody else's hands. Regarding Vance and Owen, my impression is that they are men of personal integrity, men who want to be objective and who want to help resolve the Yugoslav crisis in a constructive manner. Therefore, from the viewpoint of the UN measures and what depends upon them, I expect some positive changes in this respect. I hope that I will not be wrong in this expectation of mine.
[Q] Mr President, in all former diplomatic negotiations you favoured the stance that the Serbs in Krajina and in the former Bosnia-Hercegovina, now in the Serbian Republic to be precise, are the only ones who can decide about their future and that it is their right to decide with whom they will live and how. Is Yugoslav diplomacy now stepping back from this stance, and if so, on what basis and why? Do you have any major objections to the Cosic-Tudjman agreement that was reached in Geneva?
[A] Well, I believe that there cannot be any discussion about whether the Serbs in Krajina or in Bosnia are the sole negotiators on their future. Who else but their legitimate representatives should negotiate their future? How else could these people feel certain that their interests will not be betrayed but by depending on their legitimate representatives? Naturally, this is one of the elements. The other element is that international guarantees must be given for what their legitimate negotiators will negotiate. They have explained thousands of times that they do not have any trust in Croatia. How could they trust the current authorities that first erased them from the constitution, then exposed them to genocide for the second time in this century, and then for the irony to be even greater declared that they will give amnesty to the Serbs who did not participate in the war? Why give amnesty to those who did not participate in the war, except just for being Serbs? What can the Serbs expect from a government like this?
Regarding the question whether I have any major objections to the declaration that was signed by President Cosic and Tudjman, yes I have, but I expressed them to President Cosic.
[Q] What are they, if you could -
[Milosevic, interrupting] Well, I would not enumerate them now. I stated them to President Cosic.
[Q] Then answer this question I would like you to say whether you would have signed this document.
[A] No, I would not.
[Q] Do you have an explanation?
[A] Well, if you really insist. I have one very serious reservation. There cannot be a document between Yugoslavia, or Serbia, and Croatia that would leave out the issue you have just raised, that is, the solution for Serbian Krajina. Only they can negotiate their future and destiny, and the international guarantees must be secured for the result of these talks. I believe that the Croatian side, of course, maliciously omitted this from the document and the Serbs are mentioned in the document exclusively as refugees. We know very well what position Serbian Krajina is in, and we also know that we expect, and we have already reached this level in our talks, that the definition you have used at the beginning of your question - that only the representatives of the Krajina residents, their legitimate representatives, can be the sole negotiators about their future - must be acknowledged.
[Q] Mr President, a general impression is that we are recently becoming increasingly more skilful in diplomacy and that we are scoring more spectacular successes, everything is being done in a much more attractive manner, with acclamations and applause, but it seems that the results are getting worse. It seems that we - not us, not all of us - have forgotten what the game is all about and where one should apply the skill. They forgot about the aims around which the political skill is being developed. Do you share this impression?
[A] Well, to answer briefly, I do. We discussed the reasons for which the sanctions have been abolished [as heard] . It is definite that the lack of doors we knocked on worldwide is not one of the reasons. Therefore, the sanctions definitely will not be overcome by knocking on the doors in all sorts of countries but primarily by resolving the problems in our country and, I would say, through affirmation of our country, the FRY, regarding its internal peace and stability, and only later by the effects of foreign affairs, which are as a matter of rule always an expression of the internal situation in a country.
[Q] You have already stated this on several occasions, but I insist that you say it again How do you see the resolution of the conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and how do you see the possibility of stopping this truly horrific war that is going on there?
[A] My personal position, and the position of the Republic of Serbia on this, are unchanged. I would like to remind you that we, before the clashes broke out in Bosnia-Hercegovina, here across the road in the National Assembly, took a very clear stand regarding Bosnia-Hercegovina. Our stand at that time was that the Bosnian crisis must be solved peacefully and that not only will we respect, but also support all solutions that the three equal peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina agree on. They have entered the phase of their mutual negotiations. Unfortunately, it seems to me that I cannot judge to what degree the internal and outside pressures motivated Izetbegovic's leadership for secession.
But one thing is sure, the interests of the Muslim people were not the motive for this secession. I also drew attention to the fact that Muslims live in Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. Therefore, if we talk about the interests of the Muslims, I do not see one single reason for Bosnia- Hercegovina to leave Yugoslavia and for the Muslims to live in four different countries, instead of one. This could in no way serve their interests. However, it was in the interest of those forces that were breaking up Yugoslavia and that motivated the Bosnian Muslims to create a new state at the expense of the others and in the conditions and circumstances in which Bosnia was known for decades as little Yugoslavia, and anybody who thought logically had to ask himself what would happen to little Yugoslavia if the greater Yugoslavia was broken up. It must have been obvious to anybody, even to the politicians around Izetbegovic and to him also, that the secession of Bosnia-Hercegovina would inevitably trigger major upheavals. Therefore, it seems to me that the real reasons for resolving the problems lay in the understanding of these very major mistakes that were made at the very beginning. Then, it should be made possible to counter them from the outside, but not so that the world would help one side against the other, as such aid escalating the war clash, but so that we would all encourage all three sides to sit at the negotiating table and together resolve the key issues of a mutual agreement, which must equally acknowledge the interests of all three constituent peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Therefore, I believe that some of the reasons that motivated Vance and Owen to concentrate on Serbian-Croatian relations, the Yugoslav-Croatian relations - I owe you this answer from the last, or the penultimate question - they were led by good intentions and the belief that if they resolved this conflict between the Serbs and the Croats it would have an adequate positive reflection on the Serbian-Croatian relations in Bosnia-Hercegovina and facilitate the solution of the entire Serbian- Croatian-Muslim crisis in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Well, in any case there is no other solution but this one. This is the only peaceful solution. We insisted upon it long before the clashes, and we are very sorry that our insistence was not acknowledged and that the conference - and Carrington has recently called this the biggest mistake - recognised Bosnia-Hercegovina in the conditions in which one did not know where and what this country is that does not have an assembly, government, presidency, or clearly defined territory, or any other attribute of statehood, which are, I would say, sort of elementary conditions for the recognition of states.
In practice, this premature recognition was also used as a reason to fight among the Yugoslav nations. We have seen how one very prominent German diplomat, the former German Ambassador to Yugoslavia, I believe he was called Horst Graber, recently said that premature recognition was used as a weapon in the fighting between the Yugoslav nations. Therefore, this is becoming obvious and apparent even to objective and benevolent Western politicians. This confirms me in my belief that such a different, distorted, or wrong vision cannot persist in resolving the conflict in Bosnia, either. There is no other solution for the clashes in Bosnia but to stop the fighting immediately and to reach immediately a final solution at the conference on Bosnia-Hercegovina based on the principle of equal acknowledgement of all three nations. I cannot see any other solution.
[Q] Two options exist about Kosovo-Metohija that are relatively recent - namely, that the problem of the Albanians in Kosovo can be resolved by restoring to them the rights of the 1974 constitution, and the other opinion, on which I would like you to comment, about the partition of Kosovo. Certain political circles believe that the partition of Kosovo would perhaps be a far-reaching solution that would prevent the spread of the Albanian population throughout Kosovo. Do you believe that the partition of Kosovo is something that is at all feasible?
[A] What partition are you referring to, in Kosovo-Metohija, or what?
[Q] That Kosovo be divided between the Serbs and the Albanians. That a part of Kosovo leave Yugoslavia and be left to the Albanians.
[A] This is out of the question. This is absolutely out of the question. I could never support such an approach and such an idea.
[Q] What about restoring to the Albanians the rights of the 1974 constitution, as mentioned in the EC, the CSCE and some commissions?
[A] The 1974 constitution was the recipe for the break-up of Serbia. We changed this constitution in the most legal possible manner, without any pressure, force or violence, legally and peacefully. We would never accept this constitution, which at the time caused a real ethnic cleansing, when 40,000 Serbs fled because of the violence that was undertaken on the basis of this so-called constitutional independence of the Province of Kosovo, as it was called at that time. Besides these 40,000 Serbian refugees, crimes were committed based on the authorities' power to implement such a constitution under what was in this country a well-known slogan of an ethnically pure Kosovo. We heard it for the first time then and wondered how somebody could come to such insane, nationalist and chauvinist ideas.
I think that anybody who ponders the reasons for which this constitution had to be changed, the catastrophic consequences that this constitution might have had and did have, especially concerning Kosovo and Serbia, will not continue to advocate that the provisions of this constitution be reapplied. It is also out of the question to reapply the decrees of this constitution. Somebody has served up this idea from their separatist kitchen, and this idea appeared attractive and they embraced it probably in the absence of any other ideas. However, this is out of the question.
Finally, this is Serbia's internal matter. The residents of Serbia will decide about the Serbian constitution. No conference, be it London or Geneva, can decide about it or will decide about it. Human rights are another matter. This is not merely an internal matter, as these are universal rights, and we accepted in the CSCE that we will guarantee the highest CSCE standards. This cannot be debated or disputed. However, all other issues are absolutely Serbia's internal issues, and they will not be resolved anywhere other than in Serbia.
[Q] I would say that this view of yours had until recently sounded completely natural and normal, and it seemed easy to agree with. However, I have the impression that an atmosphere has been created recently and that a feeling and readiness are being formed in certain political structures that to take orders issued by foreign states and even foreign services is legitimate, something that is a matter of demonstrating our good-will, and that all that represents interference into one's internal affairs, even a constitutional set-up of a republic, well, something that, well, can come as an order from outside.
[A] We unfortunately do not share such a view, so we are not going to accept such orders from abroad.
[SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO WITHIN FEDERATION]
[Q] Serbia and Montenegro have entered the Yugoslav federation with an agreement on the continuity of Yugoslavia. Can this agreement be violated, and how can that happen? How can it be violated from the Serbian side, and how can it be violated from the Montenegrin side and particularly now when this continuity is being denied at the international level?
[A] Serbia and Montenegro have not created the FRY through an agreement, but, as I would put it, on the basis of a fully clear interest of the two republics and the Serbian and Montenegrin peoples in having a joint state. Therefore, I do not see a serious possibility for this agreement to be violated, either from the Serbian nor the Montenegrin side. Only individual politicians can have possibilities to violate this agreement or have ideas about violating and disrupting this agreement. There are politicians in Montenegro and Serbia who would do such a thing. However, I am sure that the people both in Serbia and in Montenegro would not allow ideas of such politicians to be realised as a kind of plan that could pass either in Serbia or in Montenegro. Therefore, tremors of that kind on the political stage of entertainers are possible, but it seems to me that in the historical sense they are impossible. That is, I am convinced that they are impossible.
[Q] You think that separatist parties in Montenegro and those who support an independent and autonomous Serbia cannot win the people's confidence, and that this interest is nevertheless stronger and more powerful?
[A] I think that they cannot do so, and this is why I said not on the political stage, but on the political stage of entertainers.
[Q] While we are speaking about the political stage, rumour has it that the Cosic-Panic tandem represents a pair and that you are rowing in a single boat. Is that a pair without a coxswain, and how do you feel in a single boat?
[A] First, I do not think that they are a pair. Regarding the coxswain, one of them claims that his coxswain is in Washington. As for the other, we will see. I hope that he does not have one. Regarding the question of how I feel in the single boat, first, I do not think at all that I am in a single. This what I am doing, and I am making an effort to do it in such a way that I deem to be in the interest of the citizens of Serbia and our people; therefore, it cannot be a single boat, as it has many rowers.
[MILOSEVIC - A LEGALIST OR VOLUNTARIST?]
[Q] President, one acquires an impression that in your activity in general you are too much of a legalist. You have a reputation - and your political opponents have stressed this many times - of being also inclined towards voluntarism, while at the same time the greatest democrats and leaders of the opposition are constantly invoking extraordinary circumstances because of which one should deviate from the letter of the law and constitution. Or they publicly state that they are not going to obey laws. How do you explain this paradox and inversion, and are they really an inversion and a paradox?
[A] You have again asked many questions, but I will try to answer some of them. First, my opponents will have to decide whether I am a legalist or a voluntarist. It is impossible to be accused of being both. Since we are talking about accusations, second, it does not seem reasonable to me thatyou quote the stands of individual leaders of the opposition, because it does not seem to me that on the basis of their stands in the last year and a half one can establish with certainty what any of them thinks. That is, they have so frequently changed their views about the same things that only if one introduced a rule of taking their last view about a thing as their real view can one possibly establish their views. Therefore, there are many unknown quantities, and one thing is completely clear everybody doing this work I am doing, everybody who is occupying the post of President of the Republic would have to be a legalist, for how could one realise the policy and aims of a state based on the rule of law; how could this country function on the basis of rule of law if its top officials do not obey the laws and the Constitution?
[Q] Here is, for instance, one example, the last example. The referendum path to elections is being criticised. It is claimed that because of the extraordinary circumstances, the elections could have been agreed on through some more flexible or arbitrary or some other interpretation of the constitution, that there was a need to organise the referendum [sentence as heard] . This is one of the objections to the excessively legalistic form.
[A] I have heard various claims, and much fuss has been raised about it. I even heard the claim [changes thought] - someone raised the question of who had invented this referendum now. It is not that this referendum has been invented now or this year. The citizens know very well that the referendum was decided upon when we were drafting the constitution. The constitution states that the constitution can only be changed through a referendum.
The constitution envisages the length of the term of office of people's deputies and the President of the Republic. It did not envisage early elections. Therefore, we have to amend the constitution if we want to hold early elections. The constitution cannot be amended without a referendum. So, no one had to invent it, nor could anyone bypass it. The claims by some politicians that changing the constitution through a referendum is not good as a constitutional solution are, in my view, unfounded; in other words, I would never be able to agree with such views, because if we want to have a democratic society, then we must proceed from the fact the citizens of Serbia must be consulted about the constitution and its amendments.
How can anyone say that he is a democrat and yet be opposed to the citizens of Serbia being asked to express their view on their highest act, the constitution? What is more democratic, to consult the citizens, or not? How could those who advocate the view that the citizens should not be consulted about the alteration of the constitution be considered democrats in comparison with those who are in favour of respecting the constitution?
In all this fuss I would say people are most confused by the possible outcome of the referendum. I think that in the heat and temper of the political discussion various party leaders are forgetting that neither their parties nor they themselves are the most important thing in the world, that the world does not revolve around them, and that the citizens of Serbia are more important than all of them.
After the last elections we heard some of those who lost in the elections saying that the people disappointed them. Now, before the referendum is held, we hear concerns about whether the people will make a mistake, and yet we do not known in what sense the people could make a mistake. In my view it is logical that things should follow their course the Assembly has said what it had to say; the parties have said what they had to say; everyone has agreed on that, and now when things are presented at the referendum, this is beyond any discussion. We are talking about the will of the people.
What the citizens decide must be respected. That is all. That is why I indeed do not see why all this fuss was necessary and why it was necessary for anyone to question the constitutionality of the referendum, or to wonder whether the people will make a mistake, or whether the citizens will make a mistake or not. Citizens will decide the way they decide. This is their right. They are asked to decide, and no one can impose any solution on them. I think this is quite outside the actual discussion.
Regarding the question of whether constitutionally valid elections could have taken place without the constitution having been amended, of course they could have. However, this would have taken place in circumstances in which the provisions of the constitution would have virtually been abused.
Early elections could take place if the President of the Republic, in this case me, dismisses the Assembly. According to the constitution, I have to do that at the proposal of the government if the Assembly is unable to function, or if the Assembly finds itself in some kind of a stalemate position. It has always been thought that if this is proposed by the government, which is in fact a result of the Assembly majority, this means that the Assembly is unable to function. If we did that, we would in fact abuse a constitutional provision, which was not made for fabricating elections when parties agree among themselves to do that. It was made to prevent the possibility of the state mechanism being blocked. The head of the government would be performing his duties in an extremely dishonest and incorrect way, if I may say so, if he proposed to the President of the Republic to dismiss the Assembly for those reasons, just as it would be incorrect for the President of the Republic, in exercising his constitutional powers, to dismiss the Assembly so that early elections could be held.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to another notorious fact. I think that in the heat of their mutual discussions and confrontations, the political parties completely forgot about the citizens and the entire electoral body and the fact that 80% of the citizens are not members of any party. Political parties cannot assume the right to decide on what belongs to all the citizens of the republic, regardless of whether they are members of political parties or not.
If we are to have a democratic society, we cannot divide our citizens on those who are members of political parties and those who are not, so that those who are members of political parties enjoy greater political rights than those who have not been politically active in terms of membership or leadership in political parties, but only as people, citizens that are choosing programmes and politicians that these parties represent. I think that this is the most important aspect of the question you raised.
[Q] As President of Serbia you agreed to early elections and you will go into elections before your term of office expires if, of course, this was decided by the people at the referendum. Was your decision connected with the embargo with which Serbia was punished?
[A] It has no connection with the embargo, nor would we accept such political decisions. We are not a banana republic that decides to call elections in agreement with foreign agents because it is being sent a message to do so or because embargos are introduced against it. We discussed elections because there was a prevailing feeling early elections were necessary. After all, as my memory serves me, the Serbian Assembly had discussed elections as one of the possibilities long before the introduction of the embargo.
[Q] Therefore, this does not, of course, have any connection with the embargo.
[RESPONSE TO CRITICISMS]
[Q] Your opponents claim that you frequently make errors in the cadre policy and that your choice of associates is very poor. Your political supporters and the politically like-minded people also criticise you for errors in the cadre policy and for major cadre mistakes. Do you consider yourself guilty regarding these issues, or do you think that those who are criticising you are wrong?
[A] Well, I can tell you that they are more or less right.
[Q] Mr President, it is also noticeable that you rarely, no, not rarely, but never respond to attacks by your opponents and their often serious accusations and insults. At the same time, they accuse you of not doing this because you are arrogant. What are the real reasons for your reluctance to respond?
[A] Certainly not arrogance. You know very well how many absurd accusations have been levied at my expense in the last three or two or, let us say, five years. If I had responded to all of those accusations I would have simply had no time to do anything else. On the other hand, the bulk of these accusations was so absurd that they were self-explanatory and clear by themselves. Life itself, if I may say so, provided answers to these accusations, and there was no need for me to do so. Why should I?
It is difficult to cheat citizens. You can cheat a group of people, you can cheat some organization, in some way, but I think that under the present circumstances of our crisis, when political life is under the constant and intense attention of the citizens, those politicians and speculators who think that they can deceive people with fabricated tricks and accusations - this is very difficult to do.
[Q] Do you honestly believe that the people
always distinguish between justice and injustice, and between truth and lies?
[A] Not always, of course. They cannot. These things are difficult to establish, but in the historical sense, yes. In the historical sense, yes, I am convinced of that.
[Q] Mr President, do you think that the Serbian reporters and media have done enough for the benefit of Serbian truth and justice, or not?
[A] I have a view on this, a very firm view on this. Unfortunately, they have not. Some of them, in fact, did many things against Serbian truth and justice. However, this is a question for your profession, for your moral code and, I would say, your - when I said your, I mean your reporters' - patriotic feelings.
All in all, the situation today appears to suit most those who have catastrophic predictions. It appears that everything is against us and that we can only rely on truth and justice. The truth is coming to the surface but with a great deal of difficulties. Justice is, as people say, always slow. Some people also add that Russia is far away. What should we, in your view, rely upon and lean on, and where should we look for the reasons for self-confidence?
[A] First, I would say establishing peace and stability in our country. We have enough strength for this and we can accomplish this. In such circumstances everything else can be directed in a logical and constructive way.
[Q] Finally, Mr President, some statesmen in the East have dismembered their countries to the applause of the big powers. To what extent do you miss the applause and recognition of other countries? Do you perhaps intend to achieve this in the future?
[A] I have not been involved in the dismembering of states, but I have invested all my energy in uniting Serbia and preserving our state. Therefore I could have not been a candidate for this kind of applause.
[Q] Thank you, Mr President, for the interview on behalf of Serbian Radio and Television.
[A] Thank you.
Copyright 1992 The British
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
SECTION: Part 2 Eastern Europe; C. SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT; FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA; EE/1511/C1/ 1;
Posted For Fair Use Only