President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic expressed his beleif that elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be held, as planned, in September, as well as that it would not be necessary for Ifor to be replaced by the new troups after December, 20th. In an interview published in todays (June, 10) issue of the weekly "Der Spiegel" Milosevic expressed doubt concering the objectivness of the Hague Tribunal, calling it "a political, and not a juridical institution". Milosevic did not give direct answers to questions regarding the destiny of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Despite critisizing the international community for its policy on "former Yugoslavia", Milosevic avoided repeating his recent criticism of Germany that he made in a Hamburg weekly.
Asked to comment the fact that Europe and America now consider him the most important partner in the peace process, despite until recently considering him as the most responsible for the war in the Balkans, Milosevic said: "The war in Bosnia was not a matter of a single individual, nor a matter of a single nation. The responsibility for the war is shared by all three nations, but the greatest is the responsibility of certain members of the international community. I do my best to contribute to the peace process. And if America and Europe consider me as an important partner, they must be doing so with a good reason."
The President of Serbia said that he, as well as his other contemporaries, learned a lesson from what happened in Yugoslavia: "One of these is concerning the choice of associates and allies. I would never again choose some of them. But in hard times, one cannot immediately see their real face."
To a question what the Serbian nation gained in this war, Milosevic replied: "The real interests of all the Yugoslav nations were unfortunately lost in war against their own nationalism, because their nationalism was not only aggresive, but it was also strongly encouraged from outside. The fact that by creating the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia we managed to preserve a multinational state and prevent conflicts between its nations, is a great success, having in mind all the hostilities in the Balkans. At the same time, during the years of war, the media presented facts that have been distorted to suit the interests of those who encouraged the disintegration of Yugoslavia. We people, that fought for preserving a multinational Yugoslavia have been labeled as nationalists and aggressors. We were subjected to brutal sanctions by the international community. On the other hand, those that utilizing nationalism aimed at secession and creation of ethnically-clean mini-states were called democrats, and have been granted international recognition and aid. In the Yugoslav crisis, Europe worked against itself."
To an explicit question where did the Serbs, despite everything, profit in the war, Milosevic said: "Serbs in Bosnia, that were according to the Constitution one of the three constituent nations of the state, were supposed to overnight become second-class citizens of some Islamic state. In Bosnia, the Serbs finally have their own state - Republic of Srpska." Milosevic said that he: "disagrees with Dobrica Cosic who says that what the Serbs gain in war, they loose in peace", "that is why even now, I beleive in peace. It brings a great opportunity for the interests of Serbia and the Serbian nation."
Milosevic is convinced that "elections in Bosnia will bring radical changes and positive results. The majority of all citizens wants peace. Only representatives of the three nations that are truly committed to tolerance and cooperation, to trade and communication, will be elected." At the question what happenned with "Karadzic and his company" Milosevic said "Even if there are problems with certain individuals, that will not have any consequences for the entire matter. The people want peace." In that respect the plan for foreign troop withdrawal, Milosevic says "remains realistic, unless someone comes up with a reason to postpone the elections planned for the second half of September. Here I am referring to certain factors that are politically motivated to impede or slow down carrying out of the Dayton accord on the eve of the presidential elections in the USA."
To the question whether he beleives that Europe should send its own troops after the withdrawal of Ifor, Milosevic replied: "I am convinced that the Dayton accord will be carried out and that new troops will not be necessary. Important for stabilizing relations in the region is the process of normalizing relations between Yugoslavia and Croatia. This would finally remove all danger of war between the Serbs and Croats. Neither the Serb nor the Croat sides in Bosnia can remain deaf to the categorical attitude of Belgrade and Zagreb. Besides this, Belgrade and Zagreb are the best guarantors for the Moslem side that nobody is going to attack it. This way, only the possibility remains that the Moslems start to fight among themselves, or alone against the Serbs and Croats, which would be equal to suicide."
About the relations of Serbia with the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Milosevic said: "In Serbia, it is considered that all war criminals need to be held responsible for their crimes. Trials against war criminals from Serbia, if any, should not be held outside Serbia. (...) It is in the tradition of the Serbian nation to consider killing a prisoner-of-war or a civilian, and even more so women and children, as the most shameful crime. In our country, you will not find anybody who would have even a single word of excuse for such crimes, regardless of who committed them."
Milosevic said that he "does not beleive that the Hague Tribunal is a slanderous institution. But from its previous public practice it is perfectly obvious that it is a political and not a juridical institution. In the civil war in Bosnia there was no innocent side. Innocent was only the helpless individual, regardless of which nation he belongs to, who suffered the most. Law can be used only if the same standards apply to all. The former practice of the Hague Tribunal, unfortunatelly, offers no basis for such an impression."
Asked why gen. Ratko Mladic has not been arrested during his recent stay in Belgrade, Milosevic said: "Not only in Serbia, but in Serbia more then anywhere, a funeral day is a sacred day. Everyone is free to come and go. Even if Mr. Izetbegovic came to this funeral, he would have nothing to be afraid of."
"Is Belgrade ready to allow Kosovo a higher level of democratic self-rule" asked the journalists of "Der Spiegel". "I do not beleive that any minority anywhere in the world enjoys such rights as the Albanian minority in Serbia. The Albanians have their own schools, radio and TV, at least 20 newspapers and magazines. And these are at times very critical. In one of them I am portrayed as a dog, and yet never was a single issue suppressed. The Albanians are free in our country, and they live in a free country" - said Milosevic. To a comment that Albanians are not a minority, but the majority in Kosovo he replied: "Albanians are in Yugoslavia undoubtedely a minority. By the same token, Mexicans that live in the southern part of Texas would be able to ask for integration with Mexico. No, this is our own internal issue, and there will be no internationalization of the problem of Kosovo. I was happy to hear from Mr. Kinkel here, that this is our internal problem, that we have to solve by ourselves. That is the attitude of Britain and USA, too."
"Just three years ago, according to you, bloodthirsty Germans were responsible for the disintegration of Yugoslavia. What do you think about this today" - was a question that Milosevic answered as follows: "This is a wide field of painful experiences and memories, and it would be better not to go back to those issues again. I beleive that the future of both our countries is in good cooperation. We have to live in the future, not in the past. And we all are Europeans, in the same boat. The responsibility of the wealthier and more powerful countries is more in helping other countries, than imposing their lifestyle on us."
"Der Spiegel": The French and Germans, for example, became good neighbors
and allies, but it took many generations to happen?
Milosevic: It does not really need to take that much time. It is most important to achieve a lasting peace now. After that, many of the consequences of this bloody war can be removed. Normal relationships need to be established again. In Bosnia there are about 30 percent mixed-nationality marriages. Do we have to divide children according to their nationality. Return of the refugees is possible, because people would like to go back to their homes. With the help of the international community we will continue to create conditions for integration, which has to be based on personal and legal security, and security of everyones property.
"Der Spiegel": This may be your opinion, but does that apply to those
hardliners around the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, in Pale?
Milosevic: I do not see anybody in Pale who would be against carrying out the Dayton accord.
"Der Spiegel": Even the chauvinist Biljana Plavsic, whom Karadzic named the
de facto president?
Milosevic: I just met Ms. Plavsic here, and she expressed here absolute readiness to carry out the word of the Dayton accord.
"Der Spiegel": Only in the interpretation of the Dayton accord by the
hardliners from Pale the Republic of Srpska is not to be integrated into
the state of Bosnia?
Milosevic: You know that politicians like to express their attitude to their own people. The Moslem leader Alija Izetbegovic recently in Gorazde gave such an inflamed speech, as if the war had just begun.