March 23, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 26
Point of View
by Dragan Veselinov, regular VREME commentator and professor at the Faculty of Political Science of Belgrade
The very fact that the parties from Belgrade and Zagreb agreed to the immediate release of prisoners of war, to the return of refugees, to an estimation of human loss and damage, to the ensuring of political independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to deciding that borders cannot be forcibly redrawn, to the realization that political problems can only be solved by peaceful means - served to encourage the public at home
There has been a turn for the better. The agreement between the parties from Zagreb and Belgrade in the Vienna parliament, which was reached on March 18, has weakened stand of the hard-liners on both sides. The hard-liners' attitude is that "I have to think the worst of you because you think the worst of me".
The parties from Zagreb have realized that their insistence that the Belgrade parties recognize the independence of Croatia, and the aggression of Belgrade towards Croatia, make any kind of dialogue impossible. The tactic - first recognize what I want and then we can talk - has prevented any kind of communication for a while. The ultimatum was not conducive to the mending of the relations between Croatia and Serbia within the Brussels peace conference on Yugoslavia. Apart from this, the Belgrade parties could not recognize the independence of Croatia even if they wished to, since this is the responsibility of the Serbian state, whereas the declarative condemnation of Belgrade for aggression would unjustifiably save Zagreb from responsibility for Croatian state nationalism and the mistakes it has made with regard to local Serbo-Croatian relations. There is no doubt that the core of the destruction of Yugoslavia and the destruction of Croatia lies in the Great Serbian militarism as well as the abuse of the national feelings of Serbs in Croatia. Serbian nationalism undermines Serbia too, but Zagreb must take its portion of the blame for the situation in Croatia. Serbian state nationalism was countered with Croatian nationalism, without too many complaints from the opposition, so that the cold war has turned into a bloody conflict. Many in Zagreb wrongly thought that Croatia was a welcome newcomer to Europe and that it would continue to be the "darling" of the world media. The regime of Franjo Tudjman does not enjoy the support of the democratic community, since it clearly belongs to the rightist radical wing in Europe and degenerate neo-socialist politics. The European recognition of Croatia did not stem from the desire of Brussels to destroy Yugoslavia, as some Belgrade socialists claim, but from their desperate attempt to stop the Serbian attack on the borders of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia. The Austrian Social-Democrats are already visibly dissatisfied with the Croatian regime. That should be the first clear signal to the opposition in Croatia that it is time to distance themselves from Tudjman. Any connection with Tudjman now could take them further away from Europe. It would also severely affect their ability to settle the internal affairs of Croatia as well as any kind of cooperation within the Yugoslav space. In regulating the status of krajinas in Croatia, Europe will be governed by the solutions which are conducive to keeping the peace in Yugoslavia as well as to the preservation of the formal integrity of Croatia. Brussels will not lean towards a quick return of Zagreb command over Knin and Beli Manastir. This is unlikely to happen in the course of a lifetime, and maybe not for longer. The Croatian democratic opposition would therefore be wise to help Croatia by offering territorial, personal and cultural autonomy to the Serbs and by nurturing friendly relations with the political intelligentsia of urban Serbs. The time has now come to consider the complex future of both Croatia and Serbia as well as for restoring economic life in former Yugoslavia. If the shrunken democratic opposition in Zagreb were in permanent coalition with the Croatian Democratic Union, it would be hindering the imminent divisions within that party in the name of the worn out "national interest"; it would assume responsibility for its mistakes and get only a fraction of praise for its possible successes.
Even now in Vienna it was obvious that the unified stand of the coalition concerning various issues did not have the necessary negotiating flexibility, while the Belgrade opposition parties are each maneuvering for the attainment of generally accepted aims. The Belgraders exhibited no particular skill in negotiating: it is just that they see the terms "unity" and "concord" as pointing to a one-party state in which the party in power rules in the name of classless, national or state interest. Had Serbia been attacked it would probably have formed a unified defense front, but when considering peace and negotiations concerning the future framework of the country and its international standing, firm coalition represents a hinderance to successful negotiations rather than an advantage. It brings about the loss of identity of each party, and makes the parties mere decor and palace entourage to the ruling party.
The very fact that the parties from Belgrade and Zagreb agreed to the immediate release of prisoners of war, to the return of refugees, to an estimation of human loss and damage, to the ensuring of political independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to deciding that borders cannot be forcibly redrawn, to the realization that political problems can only be solved by peaceful means - served to encourage the public at home. Declarations on the independence of the Yugoslav states are the product of the bloody political circus at home. They represent an extreme answer to an extreme challenge. This is the reason there is no more economy, trade, traffic, the protection of civil and national rights, free circulation of newspapers and exchange of television programs. And the time has now come for the new beginning.