In the Focus
The decision of the Council for National Security to issue awards for the four remaining Hague indictees who are at large was a serious step forward in the process of concluding cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, assessed Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac in talks with reporters during a recess of the Seventh Economic Forum of the Republic of Serbia.
Commenting yesterday’s statement of Carla del Ponte that Serbia was not sufficiently cooperating with the Hague court, Sutanovac underlined that the Defense Ministry was doing everything to conclude it.
We hope that in the following period we will be able to dissuade and show that we are doing everything in order to conclude cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said Sutanovac not hiding his surprise and disappointment with the report submitted by Del Ponte. ‘I had expected the report to be if not positive, then at least neutral, so that we would have enough room to work in’, he said. The Defense Minister also assessed that Del Ponte does not decide independently about the assessment of cooperation of Serbia with the Hague Tribunal, underlining that the ‘context was much broader than is visible now’.
Sutanovac said that he guaranteed that his ministry and the Serbian Army are not assisting Hague indictee Ratko Mladic to avoid arrest, underlining that the Defense Ministry and the Army are not ‘wasting a single dinar to protect Ratko Mladic’. I am certain that Mladic is not in army facilities and that no one is spending Serbian taxpayer money to protect him, he said adding that he still cannot guarantee that no member of the army is ‘privately helping’ Mladic. ‘This is something which is hard to control as we have 40,000 army members and 55,000 retired members’, explained Sutanovac.
Vuk Jeremic at ECONOMIC SUMMIT OF SERBIA
I believe in the negotiating process and finding of a compromise solution regarding the future status of Kosmet, acceptable for Belgrade and Pristina, stated Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic at the 7th Economic Summit, dedicated to the development of Serbia. The report from Mladen Bijelic.
The Head of the Serbian Diplomacy has reminded that on Sunday, during the second round of negotiations in Brussels, the Serbian delegation presented the plan for the essential autonomy of Kosmet. “We believe that it is an acceptable solution, as there are already examples like that in the world that are functioning successfully”, said Jeremic, adding that that plan gives Kosmet Albanians, as the majority people in the Province, the widest autonomy, i.e. the right to decide on all issues related to the local self-government. “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia is the only thing that we cannot negotiate and where we cannot make any concessions”, Jeremic pointed out. “We are ready for maximum compromise and we are extending a sincere hand of reconciliation, but the widest autonomy in Kosmet must only be realized within the framework of Serbia, and later EU”, ha stated, adding that the negotiating process is largely impeded by statements of international officials that are always presenting a prospect of Kosmet independence if the compromise solution is not found by December 10. “In those conditions, we might ask if there is at all good will of the Albanian delegation to look for the compromise”, said Jeremic, while emphasizing that he is constantly pointing to that in his meetings with European and world officials, as well as the significance of the political situation in Serbia for the general stability of the region.
Jeremic explained to participants in the summit that Serbia was fully committed to the full cooperation with the regional countries on its road to European integrations, and underlined that the association with the EU is a strategic goal of the Serbian Government, without any doubt. With regards to Serbia’s joining NATO, in answer to a question form reporters, Jeremic has pointed out that there are differing stances on that issue within the ruling coalition.
After insisting of foreign reporters to answer what would be the reaction of the official Belgrade if the Albanian authorities in Kosmet should proclaim independence, Jeremic expressed belief that it will not happen. However, if such a scenario would appear, Serbia would render that proclamation invalid, and in diplomatic circles it would use all means to dispute that decision. The Foreign Minister especially stressed that it would slow down the European path of Serbia, as well as the process of European integrations in the entire region, and that it would reflect on the regional stability. It would also mean that the democracy, peace and prosperity of the West Balkan countries had lost to some values completely opposite to what the EU is based upon. The force and imposing of unilateral solutions are in discord with European values that Serbia is striving for in building its pro-European society. It would be a negative signal with a heavy impact on the future of the West Balkans, concluded Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic.
‘ENVIRONMENT FOR EUROPE’ CONFERENCE IN BELGRADE
The sixth ministerial conference ‘Environment for Europe’, held at the Belgrade Sava Center, has gathered high representatives of 56 countries and several international and non-governmental organizations, to discuss the directions of environmental protection policy in the following three to five years in Europe and the world. More by Sandra Pekic.
Speaking at the opening of the conference Serbian President Boris Tadic underlined that the issue of environmental protection should be treated as a question of great political importance, as respect of the environment implies the respect of ourselves. Tadic pointed to the importance of encouraging the economy to invest in environmental protection, as this is of special importance on the global as well as the regional level. ‘I believe that developed countries should help transition economies to bear the burden of the reorganization of the economy which respects the standards of environmental protection, because this is an issue important for a dynamic and even development of southeast Europe, as well as other parts of the world’, assessed Tadic. The Serbian President said that there was an initiative for greater use of motor vehicles with minimum emission of exhaust fumes. Tadic announced the founding of a regional virtual center in Belgrade for monitoring climate changes in the region of southeast Europe. He underlined that our country has a long tradition of studying climate changes, reminding of the achievements of Milutin Milankovic.
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Marek Belka reminded that the first ministerial conference as part of the process ‘Environment for Europe’ was held 16 years ago. Assessing this as a process which is focused on promoting and preserving the environment in Europe, Belka added that only with a partner relation can bridges be built towards an environmentally sustainable future of the region and the world.
Minister of Environmental Protection Sasa Dragin said at the first session of the conference ‘Environment for Europe’ that with the establishing of the system of information and gathering data the national environmental protection policy will be more efficient. He pointed to the necessity of support of state institutions in education on the environment and influence on public opinion, in order to raise public awareness of the need to protect the environment. Also there is a need to continue the implementation of existing and establish new multilateral agreements, aimed at improving the condition of the environment in Europe, underlined Dragin.
Executive Director of the European Environmental Protection Agency Jacqueline McGlade said that according to the report of that agency, in the past 15 years, there has been visible progress in environmental protection in 53 countries. As regards to the quality of water, air and soil, data considerably differ between European countries, said McGlade and added that according to data over a hundred million people do not have access to clean, free drinking water. According to her, air pollution shortens the average life expectancy in western and central Europe by a year and endangers children’s health. She added that the report shows that over 700 European animal species are in danger of extinction.
Immediately before the official opening of the conference, Minister of Environmental Protection Sasa Dragin, Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic and Minister of Agriculture Slobodan Milosavljevic together with participants of other countries, participated in a promotional bicycle ride before the Sava Center.
In the work of the three-day conference in Belgrade, besides ministers of environmental protection and education of countries of the Economic Commission of the UN for Europe, Canada and the US, also participating are representatives of other UN member states, international and non-governmental organizations and the media. At the gathering three categories of documents will be discussed, including ministerial statements on education, the Belgrade Statement on Biodiversity and the ministerial declaration which will be passed at the end of the conference.
In the territory of Belgrade there are 380 foster families, and the number is growing daily. In the city Center for Social Care they are working intensively to prepare and train future foster parents, so that the children would go to the families where they will have optimum conditions to grow up. Jelica Tapuskovic talked to coordinator of that program Vesna Argakijev.
Since few years ago, the adoption and complete care are provided for the children without parental care. That way, in an adequate family that has fulfilled all the conditions of the Center for Social Care, children have natural conditions for development and growth until they are fully professionally and socially able to lead the independent life. The procedure is much simpler than in cases of adoption, so the children are getting the accommodation much faster. The life in foster families goes on under the supervision of the Center for Social Care, which also decides on the choice of foster families. Coordinator of this program Vesna Argakijev told our radio that the applicant must submit all the documents to prove that the legal conditions are met, i.e. that they are materially secured and have not been prosecuted by any court. After that, an expert team of psychologists, pedagogy and social workers assesses candidates’ psychological capabilities.
“The next step is the preparation and training of foster families, which actually serves to enable the candidates to learn as much as possible about fostering and characteristics of children without parental care. It means to make them capable of making a decision whether they will engage in fostering, based on all those information, so that way, we can assess their ability to be foster parents”, underlined Argakijev for the Radio Serbia.
Therefore, in December 2006, the project entitled “Fostering for children of Belgrade” has been started, with the goal of stimulating the interest of potential foster families for this new form of taking care of children, and promoting this approach. Owing to that action, 55 families have applied so far, and new offers are under scrutiny.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Issues is supporting the fostering and is pledging for this type of taking care of children without parents to get bigger donations and prime spot in the opening of new centers.
RELIGIOUS MOSAIC OF SERBIA
As part of “Days of European cultural heritage” in Belgrade, representatives of three biggest religions – Christian, Islamic and Jewish – have gathered and exchanged experiences, while trying to improve the dialog among citizens. Ljiljana Sindjelic Nikolic has prepared report on this and related topics.
At the end of September, under the auspices of the Serbian Ministry of religion, the “Days of European cultural heritage” have gathered many participants and visitors of various programs. Films on various subjects were screened, photo exhibitions displayed, concerts and spiritual panel discussions held. Very interesting part was the display of a copy of “Miroslav’s Gospel” in St. Sava’s temple in Belgrade, which is the oldest Serbian medieval manuscript and one of the most beautiful Slavic written monuments in general. During three days of display, several craft and art workshops were held, with icon and fresco painters, masters of mosaic, calligraphy and woodwork, as well as stone-cutters were working in the temple. That way, this even has in a specific manner pointed out the religious, civilizational and historical significance of one capital monument of the Serbian culture, which is included in the UNESCO list of the world cultural heritage.
During the “Days of the European cultural heritage” the spiritual speech contest was held, entitled “Everybody different, everybody the same”, with the participation of students of the Belgrade Faculty of Theology, Theology-Catechesis Institute from Subotica and Faculty of Islamic Studies from Novi Pazar. After the contest, the participants had joined for a dinner, while exchanging their religious experiences through dialog and mutual understanding. It was concluded that there should be more such gatherings, as they would contribute to overcoming of tensions in these parts, caused by war conflicts in the territory of former Yugoslavia.
Belgrade Arch Bishop Stanislav Hocevar talked about that topic at the International conference in Berlin. “I am coming from the territory that is still in certain sense a crisis territory in Europe. Sociological issues are complex, and large part of the population lives on the verge of existence. That is a meeting point of three civilizations and three long traditions – Orthodox, Catholic and Islamic”, said Hocevar, adding that in Serbia church is separated from the state, and their relations he described as positive, but he concluded that “the church has not enough presence in the society and is treated by the state as a collocutor, not as a foreign entity”. The Belgrade Arch Bishop has especially underlined the “intensive cooperation with the majority Serbian Orthodox Church”.
“For the Church, for us Christians, the most important right that the state should protect is the freedom and uniqueness of personality, the undeniable value of a personality and human dignity, because of the image of God within us”, stated in Berlin Bogoljub Sijakovic, professor of the Belgrade Faculty of Theology. The freedom is not just a form and coincidence, the freedom exists in order to confirm the good. Today, when democracy should be a universal good, it is exceptionally important for us Orthodox in Serbia, and Christians in general, to defend the ideal of personal and joint life. In that sense, the Church has an important role in defending the ideals of democracy, so that it would not be brought down to a form and technology of rule. The Church preserves the borders of meaning, and through the Church, every right and every freedom can have its meaning. The freedom should be realized as the love for others, reminded professor Sijakovic.
According to the latest census, majority of the population, more than 90%, has described itself as believers, so the good news is that features of religious character are starting out on the national broadcasting network. While signing the agreement on cooperation with the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation, highest representatives of the traditional churches and religious communities have emphasized that the implementation of this agreement puts Serbia among those European states that have a resolved issue of properly representing churches and religious communities and their teachings through the public broadcasting service. Besides reports and direct broadcasts of mass and liturgy services, also planned are dialog-type programs with pertinent topics, so expected soon is the discussion on the “Church and intellectuals”.
MARKING OCTOBER 5TH
In Serbia, October 5th is marked as the day of democratic changes. On that day, seven years ago, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) organized in Belgrade and in other Serbian towns demonstrations ending the regime of former Serbian and FRY president Slobodan Milosevic. Jelica Tapuskovic has more.
Between 600,000 and one million citizens took part in mass demonstrations in Belgrade. The reason for the rally was the non-recognition of the returns of the presidential elections of Sept. 24, at which the candidate of the DOS, Vojislav Kostunica, won. The returns were not acknowledged by the Federal Election Commission, under the control of Slobodan Milosevic, who ordered a second election round, which caused discontent and anger of citizens all over Serbia. DOS organized rallies and strikes daily, which culminated on October 5, 2000.
On that day, despite police measures, DOS leaders called on citizens to join the central demonstrations, organized in the Serbian capital. People arrived from all over Serbia, breaking through police blockades on roads. Thousands of them gathered in front of the Federal Parliament (today Serbian Parliament) building and wanted to enter there, but the police threw teargas at them. However, they managed to break in and to set the building on fire, as it was a symbol of Slobodan Milosevic’s rule. After that, they headed towards the Radio Television Serbia building, which was a bastion of propaganda during Milosevic’s rule. The police tried to stop them, but failed. After the RTS building, they occupied other state media, which started reporting on the fall of Milosevic’s regime, and soon policemen joined the demonstrants. 65 people were injured in the demonstrations and two died – Jasmina Jovanovic, an activist of the Democratic Party of Serbia from Cacak, who fell under a truck, and Momcilo Stakic, who died of a heart attack.
In the evening, the DOS presidential candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, addressed the demonstrants from the City Hall building, and on the next day, October 6, Slobodan Milosevic publicly acknowledged defeat, congratulated Kostunica and announced withdrawal from political life. Thus his rule, which lasted more than a decade, ended. Kostunica immediately took over the office of FRY president and DOS, Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia and the Serbian Renewal Movement formed an interim government pending parliamentary elections, which were held in December and at which DOS won. The new and the first democratic Serbian government was formed on 25 January 2001, with prime minister Zoran Djindjic at the helm, who was assassinated on March 12, 2003.
In 2001, Milosevic was arrested and extradited to the Hague Tribunal, where he was tried for war crimes. Five years later, he died of a heart attack in a prison cell, on 11 March 2006.
According to historians, the events of October 5, 2020 were among the most important in modern Serbian history, but it is too early to speak objectively of their true outcome and achievements.
In Belgrade, no large-scale events have been organized on this occasion. The Democratic Youth laid wreaths on the graves of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Belgrade Mayor Nenad Bogdanovic, who died recently. A delegation of the Democratic Party of Serbia, led by Vice-President Aleksandar Popovic laid flowers on the monument where their activist, Jasmina Jovanovic, died on October 5.
CONFERENCE ON THE BAN OF CLUSTER AMMUNITION
An ambassador in the Serbian Foreign Ministry, Bratislav Djordjevic, spoke at a two-day conference in Belgrade on cluster ammunition. He said that Serbia had given an immeasurable contribution to the expansion of the Oslo process, which ought to lead to a ban on the use of this ammunition. The conference was attended by representatives of 40 countries and 10 NGOs. Mladen Bijelic has more.
After the Belgrade conference, it became clear that the Oslo process would be completed successfully with a binding resolution, which would include an explicit ban on the use of cluster ammunition and would bind countries to attend more to the victims of that ammunition, Djordjevic said and added he believed the process would be completed by the end of 2008. Meanwhile, another two conferences will be held – one in Wellington, in February, and the other in Dublin, in May. The final conference will be held in Oslo towards the end of 2008 and a binding convention will be adopted then.
Steve Goose, the co-president of a coalition combating the use of cluster ammunition, praised Serbia as the host of this untypical diplomatic gathering and the resolution of the Serbian government to destroy all the supplies of this ammunition produced during the former Yugoslavia. He assessed that the process would be intensified even more if big powers, such as the USA, Russia and China, were included in it. The coordinator of the same coalition, Thomas Nash, emphasized that the countries that used that ammunition should bear more responsibility and the obligation to be involved in the field demining process and rendering victims capable of normal life with considerable financial funds.
CONFERENCE OF COUNTRIES – VICTIMS OF CLUSTER AMUNITION
I expect that the two-day gathering in Belgrade will be play an important part in the final ban of the use of cluster ammunition, underlined Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic at the opening of the International Conference of Countries – Victims of Cluster Ammunition which began today in Belgrade. More by Mladen Bijelic.
Minister Jeremic reminded that Serbia knows first hand the destructive power of this ammunition and its consequences as during the NATO air strikes it had been hit with this type of ammunition. NATO has recently submitted data about locations where containers with this weapon had been thrown, which along with the securing of necessary funding, will contribute to the intensifying the process of demining the area, said Jeremic. He reminded that 350 thousand cluster bombs had been thrown on Serbia and local experts assess that over 23 kilometers square in central Serbia have not been cleared of unexploded ammunition. Innocent civilians still die as a result, said Jeremic. This is why the Foreign Ministry has set in motion an initiative to declare a moratorium on the production and use of this weapon. Jeremic told reporters that the remaining amounts of cluster ammunition produced in the former Yugoslavia, and which are located in warehouses of the Serbian Army would be destroyed, expressing expectations that other country would follow this example.
Jeremic underlined that the main goals of the Belgrade conference were to help victims of cluster ammunition, to clear the area contaminated with this ammunition and above establish international cooperation and mobilize world public opinion in order to create an environment in which any use of cluster ammunition should be banned. I believe that the conference in Belgrade will achieve this goal and that this will prepare the terrain so that at the next conference in Vienna, at the end of the year, a convention be passed on the ban of the use of cluster ammunition, concluded Jeremic.
MINISTER CUBRILO ON HER VISIT TO CROATIA
The diaspora minister in the Serbian government, Milica Cubrilo, talked with Croatian officials during her recent visit to Croatia about the presentation of the Serbian culture in that country and the problem of the return of Serb refugees. However, this official visit was primarily aimed at envisaging the current position of the Serb community in Croatia and at establishing a model for the strengthening of cultural, artistic and other ties with Serbs in Croatia, Minister Cubrilo told our radio. Sandra Pekic has more.
Assessing that during the three days of the visit of the Serbian Diaspora Ministry delegation to Croatia it was impossible to envisage the whole situation, Minister Cubrilo emphasized her impression that the position of the Serb minority in Croatia has improved considerably in the past several years. In talks with Croatian Minister of Culture Bozo Biskupic, Minister of the Sea, Tourism, Traffic and Development Bozidar Kalmeta and State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Hidajet Biscevic, Cubrilo focused greatest attention to specific issues, important for the Serb community in Croatia. According to her, the constitutional law of Croatia on the protection of minorities and cultural autonomy guarantees rights to Serbs in that country, but the problem lies in the fact it does not apply at lower levels, in municipalities and towns. Namely, the Constitutional Law stipulates that Serbs in Croatia are to be given state employment in proportion with their number. However, these provisions do not apply at the local level and Serbs can hardly exercise any employment benefits, she says and adds that leads to a high unemployment rate among Serbs there – only 5% of them are employed in the regions to which they have returned. The application of the provisions of the Law at the local level as well would enable Serbs to be employed in health care, judiciary and the police, Cubrilo says, adding that would also mean integration or reintegration of the Serb population in Croatian society.
Cubrilo also emphasizes that, with a view to acquiring a clear picture, the Ministry’s delegation also visited Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, then returnee regions in Vojnic Municipality in Kordun and the region towards the Serbian border, which was much affected by war, including the town of Vukovar. According to her, Serbs living in ex-Yugoslav states do not want to be labeled as the diaspora in Belgrade, as they became a minority only when the countries they live in became independent.
The classic definition of the term diaspora means that someone has voluntarily left their homeland, which is the case with people who left Serbia and went mostly to West European or overseas states. The Serbs living in the region of the former Yugoslavia did not leave their state, but it was state that metaphorically left them, and therefore they cannot be treated in the same way as the Serbian diaspora in Germany, Austria, Canada or Australia, Minister Cubrilo said. She says that the Diaspora Ministry is investing efforts to, in cooperation with the whole Serbian government, help those people improve their position in the countries they live in. In this case, that will be done through partner relations with Croatian institutions and representatives of Serbs in Croatia, she underlined.
During her visit to Zagreb, Minister Cubrilo proposed some cooperation models in order to promote the Serbian culture in Croatia as well as possible. She pointed to the possibility of more actively engaging Serbs in Croatia themselves in that field, especially those who have already affirmed themselves.
Numerous drives promoting children’s rights and assistance to the poor are being held worldwide and in Serbia as well from 1 to 7 October. All these activities will be held under a slogan WE ARE CHANGING THE WORLD. Jelica Tapuskovic has more.
The children’s week in Serbia has a long tradition and was defined twenty years ago by the Law on Social Care about Children. The event is aimed at turning public attention to the true position of children in society, to lead to cooperation between the state and organizations in the promotion of children’s rights, to point to injustice towards children and to the responsibility the state, the family and the educational system have for the healthy development of children. This year’s programme has been conceived in cooperation between the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and NGO Friends of Children in Serbia, in accordance with international and national conventions Serbia is bound to.
Serbian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Rasim Ljajic emphasized the fact that there are many poor children in Serbia and worldwide, children who are undernourished, uneducated or have been victims to torture represents a sufficient reason for the state to respect and implement the rights of children defined by international laws. According to him children’s rights are the same as general human rights guaranteed by international documents and can be summarized in four basic principles – the right to life, survival and development, the right to non-discrimination, the right to participation and the right to children’s interests. A lot has been done in Serbia in that respect, both in the field of implemented measures and in the legislative field, Ljajic emphasized.
In 2004, the government passed the so-called National Action Plan, which represents a strategic state document in the state’s policy towards children, which document contains short-term, medium-term and long-term goals which the state has to fulfill in order that children’s position in Serbia be protected, realized and promoted, Ljajic said.
The director of NGO Friends of Children in Serbia, Ivan Ivic, said that the programme of activities of this year’s Children’s Week would also be directed to the inclusion of a large number of municipalities in Serbia, mostly through the drive – Mayors – Protectors of Children, whereby the heads of municipalities are to contribute to those activities. In addition to that, round tables will be organized, as well as a reception of children in the Serbian government, where they will talks with ministers. A literary prize, NEVEN, will also be awarded and so will a prize for the best toy produced in Serbia. An exhibition of children’s works of art will also be staged and aid will be collected for the poor. Besides, through media, organizers will be promoting children’s rights and showing promotional spots.
Besides the Ministry of Labour and this NGO, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports have also taken part in this activity programme and support has also been given by UNICEF.
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