|INTERETHNIC RELATIONS IN SERBIA/YUGOSLAVIA: ALTERNATIVES FOR THE FUTURE |
© Copyright 1993 by Project on Ethnic Relations
Peace will return to the Balkans only when the Serbs come to terms withtheir neighbors. This will not happen until the Serbs are at peace withthemselves.
The bellicose ultra-nationalism that has turned Serbia into a pariah in theinternational community has all but drowned out the remaining voices ofreason and moderation. Yet it is the moderates who sooner or later will haveto restore Serbia's well-being and reclaim its place in the sun. They needrecognition and encouragement.
Who are the moderates? What is their agenda? How can they be helped? How canthey help Serbia? How can they start to re-build bridges between Serbs andminorities in the new Yugoslavia, to Serbs outside, and to their newlyindependent neighbors?
These questions were discussed at a meeting organized by the Project onEthnic Relations (PER) at the Carnegie Corporation of New York on September27-28, 1993. The participants were Serbs from Serbia, Serbs from Croatia, anAlbanian from the Kosovo region of Serbia, and experts from America andEurope.
There were no easy answers, and no illusions. If anything, the meetingrevealed the unmerciful complexity of the problems and the poor prospectsfor any early resolution. But it also confirmed the urgency of moving aheadwith whatever human resources are at hand.
The discussions were conducted on a not-for-attribution basis. The report,which was prepared by Boris Makarenko of the PER staff, has not beenreviewed by the participants and is PER's sole responsibility. While everyeffort was made to reflect accurately all of the contributions, we ask theunderstanding of participants whose remarks may not have not been fullycaptured in this brief document.
A note on terminology: There seems to be no completely satisfactory way toname the geopolitical space of what was once Yugoslavia. When we use thename in its past meaning, we preface it by "former" or "ex", as distinctfrom the current Yugoslavia, that is, the federation of Serbia andMontenegro.
Allen H. Kassof, Director
The meeting brought together Serbian intellectuals, politicians andjournalists from different parts of the former Yugoslavia with specialistson the region from the United States and other countries. It was convened onthe initiative of the Project on Ethnic Relations to discuss alternativesfor the future of the region, as perceived by those who do not equate thenationalistic designs and practices of the current leaderships with thelong-term interests of their nation.
PER director Dr. Allen H. Kassof welcomed the participants and invited Dr.David Hamburg, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to deliverintroductory remarks. Dr. Hamburg suggested that the current crisis in thegeopolitical space formerly occupied by Yugoslavia should be seen as a partof an overall collapse of the concepts of the nation-states and nationalism.Although throughout the twentieth century, self-determination has beenequated with independent statehood, the recent turmoil and violenceaccompanying the emergence of new states in eastern and central Europe andthe former Soviet Union indicate that the notion of "a state of their own"for each of the three thousand to five thousand ethnic groups in the worldno longer appears to be a practical idea.
The crisis in the former multiethnic state of Yugoslavia is a clearillustration of that point. Yugoslavia's breakup has already created twomillion refugees. The people of its various ethnic groups will continue tosuffer hardships as long as ethnic myths and histories, which underlie"ethnonationalism", are being used to serve the selfish interests of certainpolitical leaders. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the proliferationof ethnic conflicts in an age of lethal technology can provide no decentfuture for humanity. But the international community has yet to find a wayto intervene in a prompt and efficient manner or in some other way to dealwith the consequences of ethnic disputes. Nowadays, peacemakers from theoutside too often take sides in conflicts or pursue their own politicalinterests, rather than offering impartial assistance in stopping bloodshedand violence.
In conclusion, Dr. Hamburg noted that, while general recommendations andinsights may be useful for future experiences, many of them may be too latefor the former Yugoslavia itself, torn by "ethnic cleansing", hatred, andmultiple wars and dominated by nationalistic governments. In all the newpost-Yugoslav states, people have yet to find a way to return to a peacefullife, to construct their states, and to reach accommodation with theirneighbors.
In response, several participants, including both Serbs and Americans,observed that the prevailing atmosphere had given birth to simplisticperceptions of what is happening in and around the former Yugoslavia,blotting out more nuanced opinions about the cleavages and problems.Consequently, a meeting such as this had become vital. One of the Serbianparticipants also remarked that the general attitude toward "Serbs" in theinternational community had become so negative that an invitation toindependent Serbian figures extended by an American organization deservedspecial appreciation on the part of the Serbian invitees.
The participants were asked for their opinions about the prospects forpolicies of moderation and accommodation in today's Serbia. Who are thepeople who advocate such policies? What can the outside world do toencourage and support them? Can their voices be amplified within the regionand abroad? Do they need organizational help and support? Do they have, andcan they project, a persuasive alternative program that would be supportedby other Serbs, by the internal minorities, and by newly independentneighbors?
MODERATES IN CONTEMPORARY SERBIA
In the heat of the ongoing military and political battles, it is not easy toassess the nature of the "transition from Yugoslavia," which, according toone participant, "does not fit any natural perceptions." He argued that themost important evidence of the weakness of the Serbian opposition is that itis simply following the path of the government of president SlobodanMilosevic with programs amounting to nothing more than "cosmeticimprovements" on his policies. The challenge for moderate forces is to finda total and coherent alternative to this course.
Moderate, nonchauvinistic forces in Serbia still lack understanding of whatthe Serbian national identity should be. The process of identity-buildingmay well take years, given the specific configuration and state of Serbiansociety. The socioeconomic structure of this society today is characterizedby the almost complete disappearance of both upper and middle classes, whichelsewhere form the core of a civil society. This loss is a result of severalinterdependent factors: the delay of economic reform, the impoverishment ofa considerable part of the population, and the impact of sanctions imposedon Serbia. The delay of privatization and of a transition to the marketeconomy has also helped to preserve ethnic solidarity, which might otherwisehave been to a great extent diluted by market relations based on privateinterests.
There is no immediate likelihood of improvement in these conditions. Thenarrow stratum of nouveaux riches and war profiteers is no substitute for amiddle class; as many historic examples from other countries show, the firstgeneration of entrepreneurs in a transitional economy is apt to consist of"robber barons" indifferent to the public interest. Since there is noeconomic base for organized opposition activity, no avenues for themanifestation of organized segmental interests are available. Besides, oneof the Serbian participants argued, most of the opposition leaders aremediocrities, unable to rally any meaningful popular support.
Another way in which the forces currently in power in Belgrade maintaintheir predominance in the national political arena is by manipulation of themass media. Much has been said in the international press about the role ofnationalistic propaganda in mobilizing popular support for the government'scourse, but several insights and explanations given by the Serbianparticipants were helpful in understanding this manipulation.
Television is by far the most important of the media, because it serves asthe principal source of information for 90 per cent of the population of thecountry. Most people have no money to buy newspapers nor can they afford tospend evenings out, which leaves them face-to-face with their TV sets. Theinternational press is not readily available. The current regime assiduouslymaintains control over the national radio and television channels, utilizingthis monopoly to boast of its successes, even when there are none. Lack ofobjective information about what is going on seriously undermines theability of the opposition to reach out to the masses and shakes itsself-confidence.
The difficult situation of the media in Serbia was reflected in thediscussion about Vreme, the most visible independent Belgrade publication.Many discussants, Serb and American, paid tribute to this publication forits consistent and resolute opposition to nationalist propaganda and for itsservice in making a channel of communication with the public available toopposition figures and independent liberal intellectuals. The kidnapping ofone of Vreme's leading journalists in early September was attributed by anumber of participants to the government's coercive agencies which weresending the publication's editors a strong signal that the government wouldnot tolerate such open opposition to its policy. However, in the view ofanother participant, Vreme also exemplifies the weakness of the oppositionand its inability to offer a positive alternative to the regime's policy.According to him, in opposing the government, Vreme goes to the extreme ofdenying any legitimate Serbian national interest, a position that is seen bymany as a "serbophobia" that is unacceptable to the average Serb reader. Hebelieved that the opposition journalists had the courage to openly disagreewith the government, but they still have not learned that freedom ofexpression also involves the author's responsibility for the impact of hiswritings on the reader.
Summarizing the discussion on the role of the media, one Americanparticipant noted that the "'Other Serbia' of which we are talking here hashardly been heard of," due in no small part to the de facto blackout by bothdomestic and international media.
Though the conditions described above certainly do not provide a friendlyenvironment for the activity of independent Serbian political, intellectual,and cultural figures, this community is by no means nonexistent or inactive.A number of Serb participants described private associations in Belgradethat try to develop a moderate and democratic political agenda. Among thesegroups are:
The Belgrade Circle of Intellectuals, a social group that holds weeklypublic discussions. Topics of these discussions have included "The OtherSerbia," "Intellectuals and War," and "Nationalism and Racism." Two or threehundred people attend these discussions on a regular basis.
Center for Antiwar Action, a peace movement founded in 1991. The center haslaunched projects on conflict resolution and confidence-building, supportedby the European Community and the Soros Foundation, promoting techniques ofreconciliation and aspiring to reach out to Sandjak, Vojvodina, and refugeecommunities. Programs on human rights undertaken by the Center incollaboration with other Serbian human rights groups) provide a "SOS-line"for people to voice their complaints to lawyers made available by theCenter. This association also developed an educational program entitled"Human Rights for Beginners," and conducted research on school textbooks forsigns of nationalist, racist or sexist speech. As many as two thousandpeople have participated in rallies organized by the Center.
Civil Alliance, a small political party, whose members include ethnic Serbs,and people of other ethnic origins, and which is non-nationalistic in itsbasic positions.
The Forum for Ethnic Relations, which is carrying out a project called"Serbia between the Past and the Future," with assistance from the EuropeanMovement/Serbia. The goal of this project is to develop specific proposalson constitutional and legal arrangements that would allow for the peacefuland just resolution of the ethnic problems existing in today's Serbia.
Another activity of the European Movement in Serbia is the sponsorship of abusiness club with a membership of about a hundred local business personswho urge the view that the prevailing militant nationalism is an obstacle tothe development of business ties with the European countries.
Finally, a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Serbia areunited in a Network on Serbian/Albanian Relations, which was established bythe Soros Foundation and tries to link organizations in Serbia with theircounterparts in Albania and Kosovo. In a broader sense, they are exploringthe integration of the Balkan region in Europe. However, as more than oneparticipant noted, any explicit declaration by an NGO in Serbia that itsobjective is accommodation with the neighboring countries would cause majorobstacles to its work.
AN ALTERNATIVE AGENDA FOR SERBIAN NATIONAL INTERESTS
Though the Serbian participants came from different walks of life, theyseemed not to differ on the basic starting point for any positive process intoday's Yugoslavia. They agreed that the principal objective of the Serbianopposition is to define the Serbian national interest in a way that wouldprovide for democratic development of Serbian society and accommodation withall its neighbors. As of today, there is no liberal alternative to militantSerbian nationalism.
One of the Serbian participants commented that this nationalism is sooverwhelming that a majority of the public, both in Serbia and in the worldcommunity may ask whether the "Serbian national question" really exists. Hestressed the need to design an alternative to the concept of "GreaterSerbia" that would define the Serbian national interest as the building of ademocratic Serbian state and the promotion of democracy wherever Serbs live.
Building a "coherent opposition" to the militant nationalistic policy of thegovernment led by Milosevic is the only viable possibility for defeatingthis course.
Some of the participants were critical of the way in which the Yugoslavfederation was dissolved and the former constituent republics attainedindependent statehood. However, they stressed that, whatever one's attitudeto the dissolution of Yugoslavia, this geopolitical entity in its old formwas dead and the concept of recreating it had no future. New forms ofrelations within this multicultural region will have to be worked out, andthis process is as yet at the very beginning.
The discussion demonstrated the enormous complications involved in definingconcepts of national interests and interstate relations in the region,particularly in the heat of the struggles unleashed by manifestations ofextreme nationalism. Rather than providing well formulated answers, theparticipants tried to elaborate basic principles on which a democraticnotion of Serbian national identity and Serbian interests should be built.These principles probably can be applied to the resolution of all ethnicdisputes on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. They include:
One of the Serbian participants noted that the principal struggle the"moderates" have to wage is for the "modernization of ethnicity" i.e., formaking manifestations of ethnic loyalties compatible with twentieth centuryethical and social norms of behavior. Alongside the entirely "internal"norms referred to above, such behavior should provide for a broadlyinterpreted structure of regional security and for an international"umbrella," or international intervention by political means to guaranteethe rights of minorities. In practical terms, such a structure andguarantees could be assured through a series of intersecting bilateraltreaties between the ex-Yugoslav states. The common denominator of thesetreaties would be an assertion of minority rights, but they may also includeother areas of economic, political and cultural cooperation on which theparties agree.
Trying to apply these principles to the current situation in Serbia, oneparticipant observed that democratic forces face a dilemma. Should theyadvocate protection of their co-ethnics who find themselves living inforeign states, or should they join the demands to redefine borders on thebasis of the ethnic composition of the population? One guideline is thatborders, while not viewed as "carved in stone", should not be changedlightly. However, in this case the guarantees of the human rights ofco-ethnics abroad can be attained only by negotiation with the neighboringstates. The implicit difficulty is that the major political parties inYugoslavia are unable to devise a moderate line on ethnic issues, becauseevery attempt to initiate negotiations with other post-Yugoslav states isperceived as treason. The major parties have to follow mainstreamdefinitions of national interests if they wish to enjoy mass support.
Some of the participants attempted to make more specific recommendations forthe moderate political forces in Serbia. One of them declared that thecollapse of the present ruling coalition between the Socialist party led byMilosevic and Seselj's Radical party was inevitable. He argued thiscoalition was entirely opportunistic and so could not last. The ensuingcrisis might necessitate new elections as early as the beginning of 1994;after these elections, an opportunity will emerge to build another coalitioninvolving the opposition parties.
Another participant propounded the need to unite all political forcesopposing the current regime. Building such a coalition would requirestrengthening the links with Montenegro, where both pro-government andopposition forces are hostile to the ruling coalition in Belgrade. This"moderate alliance" would also need to establish at least a minimum ofcooperation with all the moderate forces in the central European and Balkanregion, stretching from Austria to Turkey, and to assert the "positive role"of the Slav peoples in the transformation of the region into an integralpart of Europe.
Turning to the issue of Kosovo, an ethnically non-Serbian region of the newYugoslavia, one participant stressed the need to explain the realaspirations of ethnic Albanians to the Serbian public. To that end, heargued, a permanent political dialogue with the moderate forces in Serbia isneeded to allow Albanian politicians to become more visible in Serbia.
One of the American participants tried to elaborate a comprehensive conceptof state-building on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, one that wouldbypass the bottlenecks of traditional concepts of statehood. According tohim, these concepts are conducive to moderation neither in majority-minoritynor in interstate relations. Moderation requires appropriate responses fromthe other side. In this sense, politics in multiethnic states demands thebuilding of coalitions. The frequent failures of ethnic politics demonstrateclearly the fallacy of the notion of self-determination, which amounts to ademand for a separate state for each ethnic group. Such "monoethnic" states,particularly if they emerge in an environment of hostility or intolerance,might well become legitimized tools of genocide or racism.
The solution he proposed was to separate the concepts of sovereignty andterritorial integrity which have been inseparable throughout modern history.He put forth a concept of "transparent sovereignty", in which states couldperform a number of government functions for communities of their co-ethnicsliving on the territories of other states. He contended that if a Serbianstate provided for the educational or cultural needs of Serbs living inCroatia, it need not be seen as an infringement of Croatian sovereignty. Heargued that in Germany, for example, the authorities willingly shifted anumber of functions regulating the life of Yugoslav workers there to theYugoslav consulates. That was a de facto deviation from the "ultimatesovereignty" of Germany on its own territory.
Another participant drew attention to the link between two seeminglydistinct questions. What should Serbs' relations with minorities in Serbiabe? And what should Serbs expect from other states that have Serbianminorities? According to him, these were two facets of the same problem.Serbian national identity cannot be defined if the Serbs themselves cannotanswer both these questions. Similar "majority at home/minority outside"situations exist in Russia and in a number of states in eastern Europe,notably in Hungary. The latter has adopted a "model" law on minorities tohave a "moral right" to press Hungary's neighbors to provide to theirHungarian minorities the same legal rights that Hungary promises to itsdomestic minorities.
Defining national interests is a priority problem for Serbian moderates,because there is little hope of achieving anything in negotiations withneighbors if the goals and the limits of compromise in these negotiationsare not clearly defined.
THE INTERNATIONAL FACTOR IN THE "SERBIAN QUESTION"
The crisis of Yugoslavia since its emergence in early 1990s has drawn theattention of the international community. At the same time, it put to aserious test the abilities of external actors to effectively interfere in anethnically based conflict, and to prevent it from unleashing a major scalecivil war. This issue led to a debate on the relevance of the very conceptof the "international community," with Serbian participants divided betweencriticism of the involvement of the West in the crisis and appeals to it toplay a positive part by pressuring the warring parties into a morerestrained and less violent course of action. American participants foundthemselves arguing about the limits of the means available to outside actorsand about the applicability of essentially Western models ofinstitution-building and the legal protection of minority rights.
Speaking of what he saw as a "hasty blessing" of the situation, shaped bythe dissolution of the old Yugoslav federation, one Serbian participantcriticized the West for not ensuring respect for minority rights in thenewly born states. He argued that the international community should notshrink from pushing for a "constitutional consensus" ensuring the adequateprotection of minority rights. The European Community failed to do so inBosnia and left the issue open in Croatia.
In a more generalized assessment of Western policies toward Serbia, anotherparticipant observed that, in the development of a Serbian identity, muchdepends on how the West treats Serbia. So far, according to him, there is ade facto hierarchy of priorities in the Western support of post-Communistcountries: (1) Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, and Hungary; (2) Croatia,and Slovenia (the West treats these first two categories as "belonging" tothe Western system); (3) the rest of eastern Europe; and (4) the formerSoviet Union. Serbia is somewhere near the bottom of this list; Serbsbelieve that the West would not welcome Serbia's incorporation into theEuropean community of nations. Psychologically, if integration into theEuropean system is not available, Serbs will inevitably start looking backinto the past in search of an identity.
The West must be consistent in the conditions it imposes upon post-Communisttransitions, and it should also avoid the application of "collectiveresponsibility," which is the case Serbia.
An American participant remarked that there is no such thing as the"international community." When parties to an ethnic conflict refer to it,they seem to be forgetting that this notion means only specificinternational organizations or states that choose to get involved in acrisis. These organizations and states are not in a position to be theultimate arbiters in ethnic disputes or wars.
Seconding that observation, another participant pointed out a factorconfirming the nonexistence of the "international community." He assertedthat on many issues there is no common position among the external actors.In a case relevant to Serbia, Russia is determined to block any attempt byWestern nations to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia. Without arguing whetheror not such a stand was justified, he said that since the permanent membersof the UN Security Council had a right of veto over such decisions, adissenting position by even one of these members virtually nullified thenotion of an international community.
THE CONTROVERSIAL IMPACT OF SANCTIONS
One of the issues touched upon by every discussant of the "internationalframework" of the Yugoslav crisis was the usefulness of the economicsanctions imposed on Serbia by the United Nations. Many participants voicedtheir concern over the sanctions' impact on Yugoslav politics, though thegrounds of their criticism differed. One Serbian participant asserted thatliberal circles in Serbia understood the objective of the sanctions to be anattempt to halt Yugoslav aggression. However, the sanctions failed to attainthat objective; and meanwhile, their negative consequences were veryserious.
A majority of the population interprets the sanctions as a de facto exerciseof the principle of "collective responsibility." But many Serbianparticipants argued that this principle cannot and should not be used in theWestern approach to Serbia. The sanctions in their present form contributeto the atmosphere of siege and are being increasingly used by Milosevic tostir up nationalist sentiments. To this end, government propaganda alsofrequently uses examples of the one-sided approach to Serbia taken by mostWestern media. The sanctions exacerbate anti-Western sentiments andxenophobia among the public and serve the extremists rather than themoderates.
Another Serbian participant argued that the moderate forces insideYugoslavia need at least a minimum of understanding and encouragement fromthe West, in the form of "rewards" through exemptions from the sanctionsregime. He cited one example of inflexibility of the current policy ofsanctions: The government of prime minister Milan Panic, struggling to windomestic support for its moderate line, appealed to the UN to allow ashipment of oil earmarked for use by hospitals. The UN promised to considerit, but in the end, permission was not granted. Another instance of thisinflexibility is that, although medicines and medical supplies do notformally fall under sanctions, the actual procedure in the UN bureaucracy ofprocessing the applications for their import is so long and complicated thatit is almost impossible to bring foreign-made medicines into Serbia.
A number of American participants supported the criticism of sanctions. Oneof them noted that, while the way out of the crisis lies through promotionof democracy, the sanctions against Serbia are not conducive to democracythere. The history of Germany in the 1920s indicates that if extreme povertyis combined with nationalism, the result is fascism. However, the Americanswere unanimous in warning the Serbian participants that it was not realisticto expect any relaxation of the sanctions in the foreseeable future.
One of the participants commented on the contradictory attitudes toward thesanctions in Kosovo. Most Albanian political figures in Kosovo implicitlysupported the sanctions as a way of forcing change in the Yugoslavgovernment's position on the region's status. Yet Kosovo is the mostisolated part of the country, and so is likely to suffer most from theeffects of the sanctions during the coming winter, when the economicsituation there becomes critical. He suggested that the support of KosovarAlbanians for the lifting of sanctions may be a subject of negotiation withthe Serbian opposition, if not with the government.
SERBS IN CROATIA AND ALBANIANS IN KOSOVO
No deliberation on the future of Yugoslavia would be possible without takingup the issue of the minority populations in the successor states. Since thecurrent meeting was concentrating on Serbian problems, it was the issue ofSerbs outside of Serbia, particularly in Croatia, that most drew theattention of the participants. The situation of the ethnic Albanianpopulation in the Serbian province of Kosovo was also discussed.
One of the participants addressed the problem of the institutionalorganization of Serbs in Croatia. They are divided both territorially andpolitically. The intellectual elite, which is predominantly moderate in itspolitical views, lives in urban localities, and it never cared to buildlinks with the rural Serbian population, particularly in Krajina, to leadthem and influence their political behavior. He concluded that a politicalidentity for the Serbian community in Croatia has yet to be created, andthat that is a precondition for positive cooperation with the democraticopposition forces inside Serbia as well as in the Croatian political arena.
The current situation of the Serbian community in Croatia is worsened,according to another participant, by various forms of discrimination. Notonly are there 200,000 Serbian refugees from Croatia, accounting for 40percent of the Serbian community in that country, but in addition manyCroatian Serbs are forced to give up their ethnic identity to preserve theirjobs and social status. This change of identity is easy partly because ofthe similarity of languages; for practical purposes, a Serb has only todiscontinue the use of Cyrillic script. Nor need he disclose his affiliationwith the Orthodox Church -- no difficulty after several decades ofsecularization of social life in Yugoslavia. While it may not be realisticto expect any change in this situation in the near future, the long-runsolution, as several participants noted, must be the creation of "personalautonomy" for the Serbian citizens of Croatia, i.e., respect for theirindividual human rights and their participation in the political process inCroatia.
Supporting that idea, another participant expressed moderate optimism aboutthe prospects for positive changes in Croatia. If Serbs can attain a basisfor autonomy through recognition of their individual rights, a solutionshould be negotiated along the following lines: The Serbian community wouldrecognize Croatia as its state, while the state would recognize the Serbs asa distinct community with its own political will. The same participant alsoasserted that the Serbs in Croatia need to support democratic Serbian forcesin Serbia proper and in all the dispersed Serbian communities. The reason isthat, if militant nationalism prevails in these communities, they might wellimpede democratic development anywhere in the former Yugoslavia.
One of the participants mentioned a specific form for the participation ofthe Serbian minority in the Croatian political process that was suggested aslong ago as the end of 1990: a consultative "Serbian Assembly" elected bythe Serbian community and attached to the Croatian parliament to advise onpolicies and legislation in ethnically sensitive fields, such as education,language rights, and culture. If dialogue and cooperation between the stateauthorities and Serb representatives are assured, it would then becomepossible to negotiate and implement solutions acceptable to the Serbs inCroatia.
In the context of a discussion of similarities and differences in thesituations of the Serbian communities outside of Serbia, one of theparticipants noted that the "Bosnian model," in which the state is seen as aconfederation of ethnically homogeneous units, cannot be applied to thepredominantly Serbian region of Krajina in Croatia. Nevertheless, he argued,no solution in Krajina is possible if the overall Bosnian crisis remainsunresolved. A solution there should be based on autonomy established throughbilateral treaties with international guarantees. Though a full-scale warbetween Serbia and Croatia is hardly possible, a workable model for autonomycan be built only with active international involvement. One of theBelgrade-based Serbian participants remarked of these proposals thatalthough he realized the need to agree to Serbian autonomy in Croatia, ithad to be realized that no party could take such a stand openly in Belgrade,because in the current configuration of political forces that would amountto being marginalized.
Another specific idea suggested by one of the participants was to found ajournal, with a title such as A Common Language, which would help to teachSerbs and Croats to talk to each other.
Shifting the discussion from Croatia to Kosovo, one of the participantsobserved that the "Serbian national question" has become the key issue inthe Balkans and was greatly influencing the situation of the Serbs'neighbors, particularly the Albanian Kosovars. The nationalistic policy ofthe present Belgrade government has made the Kosovo question almostunresolvable. Milosevic's position on Kosovo is one of the factors thatallow him to retain political power.
One of the participants argued that Milosevic strives to manipulate theelectoral process in Kosovo in order to ensure that ethnic Albanians abstainfrom it, and the Kosovar Serbian voters give his party all the Kosovo'sparliamentary mandates amounting to 20 per cent of the seats in the Yugoslavlegislature. This is exactly what happened in 1992 national elections. Heexplained that most Albanian politicians in Kosovo had concluded at thattime that they were not in a position to bring down the Milosevic regimethrough their participation in the national elections. However, he notedthat, by thus isolating themselves from the national political process,these Albanian politicians were pursuing a "dangerous" strategy, because thepolicies of the Belgrade government, which objectively weaken the state,contribute to their political goal of breaking away from Yugoslavia. But thepresent government has so far not sufficiently dismantled the centralizedstructures to allow those politicians openly try to move for secession.Still, most of them continue to advocate the nonparticipation of KosovarAlbanians in any national elections.
Commenting on that, two American participants observed that, in the 1992elections, Albanians in Kosovo had a voice, but they decided not to use it.Whatever their reasons for such a choice, either one believes in thedemocratic process as the ultimate way of attaining one's political goals,or one does not. Active involvement in national politics at that time couldhave given the Albanian leaders a chance to influence the policies of thefederal government, and that chance was lost. Other participants noted thatit was evident that the Belgrade government could no longer control thesituation in Kosovo by force, and so a dialogue would eventually becomenecessary.
One possible solution of the Kosovo issue, put forth by a Serbianparticipant, is a "package deal" between the present Yugoslavia and Albania.This deal should provide for measures beneficial to Kosovar Albanians ineconomic, cultural, and humanitarian fields, while affirming the mutualrecognition of existing borders. If Albanians continue to advocatedisintegration of the Serbian state, the consequences will be catastrophic.He added that holding local elections in Kosovo might prove helpful, becausethey would produce legitimate local representation with which the federalauthorities would have to deal.
Commenting on the international framework of the Kosovo question, oneparticipant recalled his experience at an international conference organizedby the German Social Democratic Party earlier this year. At that conference,most international participants openly advocated the secession of Kosovofrom Yugoslavia. He expressed concern over such a position, which was boundto influence the outlook of Albanian politicians. He urged thatinternational political forces dealing with the Albanians take a responsibleposition on Kosovo.
Another participant argued that Albanians, wherever they live, have not"made things worse," whether in Albania, Kosovo, or Macedonia. He attributedtheir restraint to "an earnest desire to refrain from open confrontationwith neighbors, particularly in Kosovo," but their adversaries, he said,often interpreted this moderation as a sign of Albanian weakness,particularly in military terms.
An American participant warned against the effects of the idea of autonomyas it is used by political leaders in Kosovo or, for that matter, in otherparts of the former Yugoslavia. Autonomy is an attractive catchword, but itis open to many different interpretations which can be tailored to suitvarying and even conflicting political interests. It is important that boththe people who use the concept as a political slogan, and internationalobservers, have a clear understanding of what it means in each particularcase.
FOLLOW-UP TO THE CONFERENCE
As the discussion progressed, several participants expressed the hope thatthe dialogue started by this meeting would develop into a consultativenetwork of independent Serbian intellectual figures and American experts onthe region. Most of the participants welcomed the initiative of the Projecton Ethnic Relations, as a private American organization, in offering aneutral base for such a development, and they agreed that this generalframework is practical for their future interaction. The participantstentatively named this network the "American-Serbian Working Group."
Several participants sought to elaborate an agenda for this group. Theprincipal objective would be to devise a new approach to the Serbiannational question, that would assist Serbia's integration into the worldcommunity. This "non-greater Serbia" should be demonstrated to the world,and the world should be able to respond to this new form of Serbian nationalidentity. Toward that end, the group should concentrate the formulation ofstrategies to be pursued by Serbs in the states where they live; a rationalefor Serbia as a multicultural and multiethnic state; and principles for therelations between Serbs and their neighbors.
Obviously, this meeting could be only the beginning of the activity of thisgroup. To build it into a working mechanism, one participant noted, it wouldbe necessary to convene a wider forum, with representation of Serbianfigures from Serbia proper, Bosnia, and Croatia, as well as representativesfrom Kosovo and Montenegro. Such a "Pan-Serb" meeting, he pointed out, hasnever taken place before. It would be wise to limit this meeting to ethnicSerbs, because if all the minorities were brought in, Serbian public opinionmight accuse the organizers of ignoring Serbian national interests. Anotherimportant feature of such a meeting would be that, because the Serbs havemore neighbors in the region than any other ethnic group, their positiveexperiences could be of significance to others.
At least two participants were skeptical about the utility of a "Serbian"group arguing instead for the necessity of an all-Balkan perspective onethnic problems. They insisted that representatives of other ethnic groupsbe included; otherwise the body could not claim to be addressing the ethnicproblems in general. However, most of the other participants seemed tobelieve that, given the outlined objectives of the group, an entirelySerbian composition could be useful, at least at the initial stage of itswork. An American participant, for example, observed that, to be realisticand positive, the Serbian project should be seen as a pilot one, which mayeventually broaden out to include other nationalities when appropriate.
Participants tentatively agreed to hold another meeting of Serbs andAmericans within several months in Belgrade. It should concentrate on theproblem of Serbia and should essentially take the form of a dialogue amongSerbian figures, with American participants playing the role ofinterlocutors and interested but impartial witnesses.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Ljubisa Adamovic, Department of Economics, Florida State University
Steven Burg, Politics Department, Brendeis University
Misha Glenny, Author, journalist
Robert Hayden, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh
Dusan Janjic, Senior Researcher, Institute of Social Sciences, BelgradeUniversity; Forum for Ethnic Relations, European Movement in Serbia
John Lampe, Director, East European Studies, Woodrow Wilson Center forInternational Scholars
Skhelzen Maliqi, Vice-President, Social Democratic Party, Pristina, Kosovo
Vesna Pesic, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Philosophy and SocialTheory President, Civil Alliance of Serbia, Director, Center for AntiwarAction
Milorad Pupovac, Associate Professor, Head of Chair of Applied Linguistics,Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb; President, Serbian DemocraticForum
Ljubisa Rakic, Professor of Neurosciences, School of Medicine, BelgradeUniversity, Former Federal Minister without Portfolio
Drago Roksandic, Department of History, Faculty of Philosophy, University ofZagreb
Alan Ross, Director, Kosovo Project for Doctors of the World-USA; Director,St. Petersburg Children's Project, Children's Health Fund
John Scanlan, Vice-President for Eastern Europe, ICN Pharmaceuticals, Inc.;former US Ambassador to Yugoslavia member, PER's Council for Ethnic Accord
Paul Shoup, Professor, Department of Government and Foreign Affairs,University of Virginia
Vojislav Stanovcic, Professor of Political Theory, Faculty of PoliticalScience, Belgrade University; member, PER's Council for Ethnic Accord
PROJECT ON ETHNIC RELATIONS
Allen Kassof, Director
Livia Plaks, Associate Director
Boris Makarenko, Staff Associate
Larry Watts, Senior Consultant
CARNEGIE CORPORATION OF NEW YORK
David Hamburg, President
David Speedie, Program Officer
Patricia Macri, Administrative Assistant