News for January 17th, 1997
Students of the Belgrade University and today walked with their pets down the streets of Belgrade. An announcement on behalf of the pets was read aloud. It says that animals have always supported their masters, i.e. humans in their fight for the truth and progress. According to the announcement, animals suggested that they will make a massive noise in the time of the main news bulletin on the RTS television with their barking, meowing, crowing, neighing in order to incite their masters to join the protest.
Several thousand Student Protest participants accompanied by Judges from the Municipal Court began "breaking the cordons" at 19:30 hours tonight. Their aim is to defy a ban on marching through the streets of Belgrade by facing police cordons until the riot squads back off and allow them to proceed. Around 21:00 hours, the 30 judges heading the students attempted to break the cordon in Kolarceva Street. A public address system was quickly set up. According to Radio B92's reporters in the field, students were having fun in front of the riot squad lines, just as they did the last two times they broke the cordons.
On today's protest rally of the coalition Zajedno in Belgrade, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, informed the crowd of the talks that Zajedno leaders had while in Rome. Draskovic said that Italian government expressed its suport to the peaceful protests in Belgrade, and that no one can say that the world has an anti-Serb attitude, for possible isolation of Serbia depends only on Milosevic.
A few thousand citizens protested tonight in Pozeska street in Banovo Brdo, one of Belgrade's suburbs, from 19:30 to 20:00, which is the time the news program of the public television is being broadcast. The citizens walked the busy Pozeska street and made noise by blowing whistles and trumpets and by banging pans, which is typical for the protest bearing the name "Belgrade, hit the rhythm, make them hit the road", which began on January 2nd.
Leaders of the coalition Zajedno, who had a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, today held a press conference in Rome. President of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic said he believes this is the last year of Milosevic's rule, and added: "Many people are against Milosevic. Majority is against Milosevic."
"We express our grave concern over the contradictory decisions of the UofB Council with regard to the demands of the Student Protest 96/97. The Council has publicly and fully supported all demands of the Students Protest only to vote against the demotion of the UofB Chancellor and Student Dean, which is a part of the demands of the Student Protest. Great damage has thereby been done to the reputation of the UofB. We warn the authorities and the general public that this has made the resumption of teaching even harder," said today's statement signed by the deans of 14 schools of the UofB.
Thousands of Kragujevac citizens attended the 49th protest gathering in the city center, and on the account of the annulment of the local elections' results. Ljubomir Madzar, professor at the School of Economy in Belgrade, said at the protest rally of the "Zajedno" coalition that "faith and hope are the basic motive of the protest in Serbia". He said that faith in freedom which has appeared in the citizens of Serbia "is the greatest value of all and it needs to be fought for" and that it has turned out that there is "a different Serbia, believed by the world to be extinct" after all. The citizens were addressed by the former journalists of "Studio B" radio and television, Lila Radonjic and Zoran Ostojic, the latter saying that the autorities are "finished; the only decision for them to make is how to leave."
The staff of the University in Nis announced that they insist on "speeding up all the official decisions regarding the November 17th elections, in order to create conditions for the lectures to restart". "For the purpose of normalizing the process of education, the schools have made plans for the compensation of classes which will be brought into effect after the causes of the protest have been removed", the staff of the University in Nis concluded.
Approximately 2000 students of the University in Nis protested before before the Chancellor's office building, against the disrespect for the results of the local elections. After the gathering, the students went for a protest walk, performing an action by the name "I love television", thus expressing gratitude to the independent TV station "Nais", which has been reporting on the students' protest from the beginning.
Zoran Zivkovic, Vice President of the Democratic Party, notified the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition, gathered at the protest rally in Nis today about the decision of the Municipal Court in Nis. By this decision, the appeals of the City Board of the Socialist Party of Serbia to the latest decision of the City Electoral Committee, were overruled. Milan Komnenic, Vice President of the Serbian Renewal Movement, called to the citizens to be relentless critics of every action of the new local authorities in all the liberated cities and municipalities in Serbia. Sinisa Kovacevic, dramatist, said that there is no difference between "a banana-republic and Serbia, except for the fact that they grow bananas and we grow creepers".
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Miltinovic today talked to the Special UN Envoy for the Human Rights, Elisabeth Wren, report Belgrade media. "Both sides expressed conviction that all open questions can be solved only through a dialogue. Meetings like this should continue for the sake of further development of mutual cooperation," says the announcement of the Federal Foreign Ministry.
Italian Government annouced today that the Serbian authorities must recognize the November 17 local electoral results, as recommended by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has once again issued an urgent appeal to the Serbian authorities to immediately acknowledge the opposition's victory at the November 17th elections. "We reappeal to the Serbian authorities to conduct all the recommendations contained in the report of OSCE representative Felipe Gonzales on the local elections in Serbia, without hesitation and holding back", Yves Doutriaux, spokesman for the Ministry announced. He informed the press that some controversial decisions "have seemingly been accepted" from the part of the local electoral committees in some Serbian cities mentioned in Gonzales' report.
On Jan. 16, 1997, chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Kathy Marton, wrote a letter to Slobodan Milosevic urging him to do everything in his power to facilitate the creation of an independant public TV channel.
The Nis Municipal Court rejected as groundless the appeal by the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) against the electoral commission's decision. The decision granted 41 out of 70 Nis City Assembly seats to the coalition Zajendo. The SPS can now appeal to the Supreme Court of Serbia, but this appeal cannot postpone the taking of power by the new City Assembly.
Ratko Markovic, Vice-President of the Serbian Government has described the latest decision of the Belgrade Electoral Commission recognizing Zajedno's victory for the Belgrade City Assembly, as "a nightmare of sheer nonsenses and untruths," reports Serbian state media. He described the decision as "a legal monster dreamed up by somebody who wanted to deride the law and justice."
The Legal Council of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno" estimated today that the City Electoral Committee (GIK) of Belgrade has essentially confirmed that the "Zajedno" coalition was right in the whole legal procedure regarding the local elections. For this reason, the latest decision of the GIK, confirming that the "Zajedno" coalition holds 60 seats in the Assembly of Belgrade, is acceptable. "The 'Zajedno' coalition has no legal interest for complaints to the part of the report regarding the 60 mandates set by the preliminary decision of the GIK from November 19th", Chief of the Legal Council Dragor Hiber told the Beta news agency. He added that the opinion of the GIK on the remaining mandates (10) is not clear, and that the Legal Council will decide when the GIK declares itself on this issue.
Radomir Lazarevic, President of the City Electoral Committee (GIK) stated for the today's "Vecernje Novosti" that all possible complaints to this committee's decisions are now in the jurisdiction of the First Municipal Court in Belgrade, which is to consider them in the next 48 hours. The GIK annulled 45 verdicts of the First Municipal Court reached after the second rounds of the local elections, and reestablished the preliminary results according to which the "Zajedno" coalition attained 60 representative seats, the socialists and the Yugoslav Left got 23, the Radicals 15, and the Democratic Party of Serbia got 2, out of 110. Expert teams were formed in 10 electoral units, to establish the events in the third and fourth rounds of the elections, because the GIK decided on November 18th and 19th that in them the elections should be repeated, "Vecernje Novosti" point out.
One of the best basketball coaches in Europe, Bozidar Maljkovic, sent a supportive message from Athens to the Belgrade Student Protest today, proclaiming the students European champions in beauty, democracy and enthusiasm. Thank You, it is written in the end of the message by Bozidar Maljkovic, who is presently living in Athens, where he coaches the European basketball champion "Panatheikos".
The students of Electrical Engineering from the School of Technics in Brno, which is located in the Czech Republic, have supported the Belgrade students in their struggle for freedom and democracy. In their open letter to the Student Protest the students from Brno express their solidarity with the students of Belgrade.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has sent a letter to the U.S. congressman Bruce Vento, the head of the U.S. congressorial delegation which recently visited Montenegro, reports Slobodan Pavlovic of Fonet. Reiterating Montenegrin support for freedom of the media and the statement that Montenegro is implementing all its commitments under the Dayton peace treaty, Djukanovic said in his letter: "The members of the U.S. congressorial delegation have severely criticized the Serbian goverment for voiding the November 17 local electoral results. I myself have made statements similar to these and was very satisfied to get the full support of the Montenegrin Parliament."
The members of the Independent Syndicate of Education of Serbia from the Belgrade's elementary school "Ivan Goran Kovacic" will hold a protest class tomorrow at 14:00 at Republic Square, in order to point at the terrible social status of the employees of this school.
Free Television of Trstenik started its broadcasts 19:30 hours today using a new transmitter and with a new editorial policy. FoNet has learned from the information service of the Democratic Party that TV Trstenik's programmes can be viewed in 4 towns in central Serbia. The new transmitter was funded by citizens' donations, after the old one was taken down by the former general manager of TV Trstenik, who is also a Socialist deputy.
The president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, is making, attempts, still futile at the moment, to make a quarel between the students and the supporters of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno", so that he could afterwards separately deal with these two pillars of the democratic movement in Serbia, it is estimated by the German journal "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ) today. FAZ ascertains that the Serbian authorities, despite their constant assurances to the world that they have "good will", have made almost no concessions to the opposition, which is protesting the "alterations" of the local elections results.
No fresh U.S. statements are expected in Washington before January 20. The U.S. Administration has its hands full at the moment with the Inauguration of the U.S. president on January 20, when Madelene Albright will officially become the new chief of the State Department, reports Slobodan Pavlovic. Representative of the State Department Nicholas Burns has announced that the U.S. will only believe in the desired outcome of the crisis in Serbia when the elected representatives of Zajedno are able to take their seats in the Belgrade City Assembly and elect its new president.
The Russian Parliament has expressed grave concern over the chronic political crisis in Serbia resulting from the conflicts between the opposition and authorities over local election results. The Russian Parliament fears this destabilization of the situation in Yugoslavia could affect the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, reports Branko Stosic for Fonet.
After the latest hardening of the Serbian authorities' position towards the student and opposition demands, European reporters conclude that the hard line has won the struggle within the ruling party in Serbia, reports for FoNet Mirko Klarin.
Nebojsa Jevtic has resigned from the position of the Chief of Protocol for the Student Protest, due to "organizing errors made by students", during the celebration of the Orthodox New Year on Belgrade's Republic Square. "The students don't have much of an organizing experience, but that doesn't justify those in charge. As an honorable and honest man I give my irrevocable resignation", maintains Jevtic, student of philosophy. He points out that "as a student and citizen, will persevere in the rebellion against the obstinacy of the regime, until all the students' demands are finally met".
Vojin Dimitrijevic, a leading member of the management of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, will leave for Prague tomorrow. He will meet top officials from the Czech President's office, including the Vice Czech foreign minister and representatives of the Czech parliamentary foreign affairs commission, reports FoNet.
German Foreign Minister Claus Kinkel will meet Zoran Djindjic, one of the Zajedno leaders and head of the Democratic Party on Sunday, announced the German Foreign Ministry today. This will be the first official contact between the German government and the coalition Zajedno, reports Milenko Babic for FoNet.
The Yugoslav United Left (JUL) issued a statement today on the recent assault on the Chancellor of the University of Pristina. "Secure and peaceful living of the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as of the whole Serbia have been brought into question recently. Jeopardizing anybody's life in Kosovo and Metohija, in Belgrade or anywhere else is a terrorist act. Such acts, regardless of the national, religious, political or professional option must be promptly and severely punished," said the statement.
Approximately 1000 Leskovac residents protested the annulment of the local elections' results tonight in the city center, as usual, accompanied with numerous police forces. Bojana Ristic, parliament representative of the Serbian Renewal Movement, appealed to the workers of Leskovac to come out and protest the newly adopted Law on Labor which will, when put into effect, cause 800 000 workers to lose their jobs. The new gathering of the "Zajedno" coalition is scheduled for tomorrow at 18:00.
Some 3000 citizens protested in the Jagodina town center for the 60th time tonight, expressing their strong disapproval of the annulment of the electoral results. President of the Executive Board of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Milan Komnenic appealed to the policemen to "execute the sorry orders from their present commanders in peace, but to, as of tomorrow, arrest those who stole voters' voices". Actors Branko Vidakovic and Gojko Baletic also spoke at the gathering, as well as Sinisa Kovacevic, dramatist, who suggested that the "Golden Turkey-cock" award on the upcoming "Days of comedy" festival in Jagodina be given to the "judiciary and the electoral committees in Serbia".
More than 5000 citizens of Kraljevo gathered again tonight to protest the theft at the local elections from November 17th. The protesters were addressed by the professor of the School of Economy in Belgrade, Ljubomir Madzar, and former reporters of the "Studio B", Lila Radonjic and Zoran Ostojic on their 60th protest evening organized by the oppositional coalition "Zajedno". After the gathering, the citizens took their daily peaceful protest walk through the main streets.
Another protest took place today in Pirot, assembling some 3000 people who are revolting the alteration of the electoral results, and the blocking of local organs of self-government. Mica Nikolic, one of the oldest members of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) in Pirot, publicly tore his party membership card, protesting the behavior of Vojin Veljkovic, President of the SRS in Pirot, who didn't vote in the Municipal Assembly, thus thwarting the establishment of the oppositional government in Pirot.
On the fifth protest evening in Svilajnac, approximately 600 people gathered at the rally of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno". The police cordons disallowed the demonstrators from walking the town streets.
Dusan Mihajlovic, President of the New Democracy (ND) stated that this party's opinions on what is to be done in FR Yugoslavia and in its internal and foreign policy are almost identical to those of the Montenegrin leadership. The leader of ND said that this party will not interfear with other parties' internal conflicts, but expressed hope that "reformative and democratically oriented forces will gain domination in the Socialist Party of Serbia, which would be of much use for the situation in the country altogether". Mihajlovic repeated his party's attitude about the need for the Government of National Unity, because he feels that coalitional governments are a better solution for the democratic future of Serbia "than one-party, one-mind reigns". Mihajlovic quoted Vatslav Havel, the Czech writer and statesman, who said that "the only thing that's worse than communism is anticommunism".
The Hungarian press, in its reports on the letter by the leadership of Montenegro to Slobodan Milosevic, warns of a possibility for the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation, informs Dragan Jakovljevic, correspondent of FoNet. Referring to the sources in Belgrade, the Budapest journal "Magyar Hirlap" writes that the leaders in Montenegro are threatening to turn the presently unified country into a lose confederacy with two separate currencies, if the regime doesn't obey the demands of the OSCE concerning the November elections and if it doesn't immediately return the black-market exchange rate of the dinar to its last year's level.
Zoran Djindjic, one of the leaders of the Serbian opposition, made a statement to the Spanish newspaper "Pais" , saying that the latest concessions of the Serbian regime are merely a "trick", and that "hopes for establishing a dialog with it (the regime) are negligable". The Spanish newspaper printed the statement of the Democratic Party President that Serbia is determined to come as close as possible to the European Union. "Pais" describes Dindjic as "someone suited to be the next prime minister", and says that, according to polls, he is the most popular politician in Serbia.
Vuk Draskovic, one of the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, told the Spanish newspaper "Pais" that "Milosevic's fall from power" should be conducted "through ballot boxes, and not on the street". When asked whether Milosevic may "be tempted to set the gunpowder plant that Kosovo represents on fire in order to be able to play the role of the great savior again", Draskovic said that it is "quite possible for him (Milosevic) to try solving the electoral crisis by causing one on Kosovo". "First of all, we want him (Milosevic) to recognize all the results of the November elections; then we will cease the protests and start negotiations about liberation of the media and establishing democratic conditions for the December elections", Draskovic said.
Vuk Draskovic, president of the Serbian Renewal Movement, told the French newspaper "Le figaro" that the parties in the "Zajedno" coalition have composed a "unified program" considering "reentrance of Serbia into Europe" and the minding of the Dayton agreement. "The authorities are detirmined to stall as much as possible, so that the media are liberated just shortly before the upcoming elections, and that the interior parts of Yugoslavia, which are presently constantly being bombed by the official propaganda, cannot be given the opportunity to learn about democracy", the newspaper says. The French journal claims that "Milosevic is giving in and withdrawing, but in the meantime, the econmy is faling apart".
The spokesman for the Democratic Party, Slobodan Vuksanovic, estimated today that the latest personel changes in the Socialist Party of Serbia are a sign that the authorities have opted for straining relations with the opposition and that they will not acknowledge the electoral results. He added that, by recognizing the victory of "Zajedno" in some places, and not doing so in others, the authorities are trying to pacify the protest of the citizens, and stressed that, however, such tactics are doomed, because the people, after two months of protesting, are not even in the long run considering giving up their demands.
Milan Nikolic, one of the 14 journalists of Belgrade's newspaper "Politika" who demanded the resignation of the company's manager Hadzi Dragan Antic, was given notice. Nikolic is in the group of journalists of "Politika" who were sent to leave on December 14th of the previous year, after which they pressed charges to the First Municipal Court. The trial is set for January 31st.
The bishop of Raska and Prizren Artemije, and the President of the Serbian Resistance Movement, Momcilo Trajkovic, announced that an All-Serbian Church Synod will take place on January 25th and 26th in the sports and cultural center "Boro and Razmiz" in Pristina. They informed the press at a conference in Belgrade that approximately 250 personalities involved in the spiritual, political and cultural life of Serbia, including the Student Protest representatives, leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, and Nebojsa Covic, the mayor of Belgrade, will be invited to the Synod about "Kosovo and Metohija, and what is to be done about it". The Academy member Dobrica Cosic has also been invited. When asked whether the Serbian President will attend the Synod, Trajkovic said that "all talks with Milosevic have ended last June, when he wouldn't address the people in Gracanica".
The Belgrade media report that, at the today's meeting, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and the Prime Minister of Serbia, Milos Milutinovic discussed the situation in Serbia and the preparations for structural and proprietory changes. Political differences shouldn't cause any kind of blocking in the economical or general way of living, and the political and inter-party conflicts should be solved in a constructive and democratic way. The Government and its Ministries must have a special role in this process, Milosevic told Milutinovic in the course of their conversation. Marjanovic informed Milutinovic about the Government activities, which included the most significant steps towards adaptation of the economical legislature to a more effective way of operating and the accelerated integration of our economy into the international economical trends.
Predrag Bulatovic, Chief of the Parliamentary Club of the ruling party in the Montenegrin Parliament, and President of the Democratic Party of Socialists in Podgorica, estimates today in his interview to today's "Pobjeda" that Montenegro will not take sides in the conflict concerning the local elections in Serbia. "We insist on the following principle: nobody has the right to alter the will of the citizens, expressed at the elections in Serbia. Therefore we demand that the conflict be justly solved. The solution is to be found by the Republic of Serbia, despite all the negative influences and reflections it may cause to others, outside Serbia", Bulatovic stated precisely.
Nebojsa Covic, mayor of Belgrade, made a statement to today's "Vecernje Novosti" that he will summon a constitutive session of the new City Assembly, 20 days after the time limit for complaints to the final decision of the City Electoral Committee has expired. He stressed that he is still mayor of the Yugoslav capital, chosen by the people four years ago, despite his recent exclusion from the Socialist Party of Serbia.