March 16, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 25

Interview: Gianni de Michaellis

by Svetlana Vasovic

* What would Serbia have the EC withdraw its sanctions against that part of former Yugoslavia?

The European Community only wishes to solve the Yugoslav crisis by peaceful means; that is the reason we are prepared to accept any kind of peace agreement between the warring parties. That is the reason we view the position of Serbia the same as the position of other republics and ethnic groups in Yugoslavia. However, it should be stated again before the Serbian public and the Serbian political leadership that the EC will not accept a solution which would be based on the use of force or the violation of the basic Helsinki or Paris principles, which also implies that forcible redrawing of borders is not possible. We understand only too well the fear Serbia has with regards to ensuring human rights of the Serbian minorities scattered throughout several republics... But, as it says in the proposal of Lord Carrington, the protection of minorities is an unavoidable part of the political solution. At the same time we have condemned - and we shall do that in the future as well - the use of violence on the part of any of the parties involved, including Serbia. We could soon be prepared to abolish the sanctions against Serbia, if the deployment of the UN peace-keeping troops goes according to the plan, or if Carrington's peace conference proves to be successful. Also, if the demonstrations of the Serbian people in Bosnia don't turn into a civil war.

* Do you think that Milosevic is the right person for the talks concerning these political problems?

It is not up to us to make such judgments. We look upon Serbia as one of the Yugoslav republics. And it is up to the people of Serbia to decide who the best politician is for leading the country in these difficult times.

* Do you trust a politician who is for war one minute, and for peace the next; another time for negotiations and, finally, violating every agreement?

The Yugoslav crisis is very complicated, so that question can apply to Tudjman as much as it does to Milosevic. I think that Milosevic knows perfectly well that his contradictory statements can only work against him.

* What will become of the Osimo Agreements?

That was a very important agreement between Italy and Yugoslavia, which resolved some unresolved issues dating from the World War II. We won't dispute the Osimo agreements and bring up the issues which were resolved by it, such as the question of borders... True, we will have to settle certain issues from the Osimo agreements with the heirs to Yugoslavia. Some of those regulations do not make any sense any longer, since they refer to the relations between Italy and Yugoslavia. The regulations dealing with the creation of a free customs zone in Trieste were important for Yugoslavia, and it is important to address the issue once again now, with Slovenia. We are prepared to sign some of those agreements with Slovenia and Croatia right now, and later with other republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and if such situation should present itself, with some kind of reduced Yugoslavia.

* In the midst of so many paranoid ideas concerning various conspiracies which are clouding the Yugoslav political skies, what did it look like to negotiate with certain national leaders?

I have met almost all the Yugoslav politicians, both federal and republic ones. In my opinion there have been few examples of critical situations in the world where personal contacts between the politicians played such an important role, as was the case with Yugoslavia. I have had more contacts with various Yugoslav politicians in the past eighteen months than with the politicians from the entire world. The Yugoslav politicians, on the whole, are aware of the real problems. Most of them are good politicians too. They are faced with what could be the most important question of today - how to transform a totalitarian, communist society into a democratic system. Some of those politicians, who were a part of the communist system, such as Gligorov of Macedonia and Kucan of Slovenia, are adroitly facing the traumatic consequences of the changes of the political system. They were lucky to be dealing with democratically minded people who survived the strong emotional reactions of their compatriots. In my opinion, most of the politicians to whom I have spoken have opted for rational, peaceful and sensible decisions.

* Have you thought what you would have done had you been in Milosevic's shoes?

I have to admit that I consider Milosevic to be one of the wisest and brightest politicians not only in Yugoslavia, but in the entire Eastern Europe...

* Do you sympathize with his politics?

Yes, and that goes for his arguments as well. But he made one mistake - he underestimated the power of the unanimous reaction of the European Community. There was a moment, on December 16 of last year, before the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, when Milosevic was sure that the Yugoslav issue would divide Europe. That was a mistake. I told him: "You cannot count on the division of Europe, since we will, in the end, pass a unanimous decision, and you cannot keep the Serbs isolated from Europe for decades".

* You have also had many contacts with president Tudjman...

The same goes for him. He has got to realize that he has to behave in compliance with the European rules.

* How do you explain the fear Serbia has concerning its independence?

The same problem is present in the Soviet Union, where Russia is independent and at the same time wishes to be the heir to the Soviet Union. Serbia is facing a similar problem, although it is unlikely to be the heir to Yugoslavia. That problem has to be solved very quickly, so that the Serbian politics does not get crushed in the process.