Milošević to get another term?
After both Yugoslav houses of parliament passed controversial constitutional amendments Thursday, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević appears poised to bid for a second term in office when his present term expires next year.
The move provoked immediate outrage from Serbian opposition groups, the international community and Serbia's Western-leaning sister republic of Montenegro.
Among the amendments' numerous changes, widely reported in international media, were provisions that removed term limits on the office of the president, opened the presidency to direct popular election, provide for the direct election of members of the Federal Parliament's upper house (the Chamber of the Republics) and reduced Montenegro's status within Yugoslavia.
There were no changes to the electoral system for the lower Chamber of Citizens, whose members will remain directly elected.
Dragoslav Hiber, vice-president of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, said the changes transformed Yugoslavia from a "parliamentary to a presidential system" and guarantee "political and public violence."
Hiber added that "the primary goals of the changes are the broadening of the powers of the president and the downplaying of Montenegro's role as a federal unit."
Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) Secretary General Gorica Gajević contended the changes were "pro-Yugoslav" and "necessary because the work of some federal institutions was being obstructed." In a thinly veiled reference to Montenegro, she later added that the source of the "obstruction" was "the desire of some forces for a union of Serbia and Montenegro as independent states instead of as the federal state of Yugoslavia."
The move was widely condemned by Serbia's fractured opposition. Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) leader Vuk Drašković said it amounted to "legal terrorism and an attack on the constitution," while former Constitutional Court of Serbia judge Slobodan Vucetić told Blic that the changes "amounted to the end of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
Meanwhile, Social Democratic Union leader Zarko Korac told a press conference in London that there was "no viable candidate" the opposition could reasonably field against Milošević, and SPS spokesman Nikola Sainović said that Milošević would be the party's only candidate in the upcoming direct election.
Sainović added that federal elections due this year "will be held within the legal deadline," while presidential elections "will be scheduled before the end" of Milošević's term next year.
At press time Friday, President Milo Đukanović said an emergency session of the parliament would "overwhelmingly reject" the constitutional changes.
Milošević was elected to what was to have been his first and only term as Yugoslav President in 1997.
Jailed journo wins Euro award
While his visibly moved children accepted his NetMedia European Online Journalism Award for Internet Journalist of the Year on Thursday night, Miroslav Filipović languished in a Serbian jail on charges of espionage.
Prior to his arrest, 40 year-old Filipović was a regular reporter for the internet-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and a correspondent for the Belgrade daily Danas. Despite international criticism of his arrest, Filipović has been held in a jail in southern Serbia for over a month. He is slated to be tried by a military court, having won the ire of the regime for his investigative reports about Yugoslav Army (VJ) atrocities in Kosovo.
"This award means a lot to our family, and it will mean a lot to our father in prison," said Filipović's son Saša who, with his sister Ivana, accepted the award on their father's behalf.
"It proves that what our father was doing was journalism, and that there is real journalism in Serbia."
IWPR Executive Director Tony Borden said that "Filipović undertook exactly the kind of truth-telling the international community has urged the people of Serbia to begin. He deserves support in his own right, and to help ensure that his case does not become a pattern."
Anti-terrorism law debate postponed
Debate on the much-feared federal anti-terrorist law was postponed last Friday after Vojislav Šešelj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS) refused to support the measure as it stood.
Opposition leader and parliamentary deputy Dragoljub Micunović said that it was the "first sign of conflict among the ruling parties," adding that "it was clear that the law would not get support, so the government did not want to risk putting its authority at stake."
"Withdrawal of the law means a kind of failure for the government. It is also obvious that the ruling coalition has been brought into question by its clashing interests," Micunović said in an interview with Blic.
Blic said a "source close to the government" claimed the postponement followed "intense backroom bargaining" between the SRS, Milošević's Socialist Party and the United Yugoslav Left (JUL), the party of Milošević's wife, Mira Marković.
JUL spokesman Živko Soklovački said, "It was not a matter of any disagreement with the Radicals, but of some very useful suggestions to make this law more perfect than it was in this phase."
Local commentators were wondering this week whether Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) leader Drašković had lost his political nerve in the wake of an attempt on his life.
Earlier in the week, Drašković warned opposition parties not to go to the polls in this year's potential elections, saying it would "legitimize major election fraud." The SPO chief, who was widely criticized by Western analysts for "validating" the Milošević regime by himself participating in previous elections despite opposition calls for boycotts, added that other oppositions were "running a campaign" against his party "for the benefit of Milošević."
Near the end of the week, Drašković accused the united opposition parties of "provoking" the Milošević regime into an "increased state of terrorism by agreeing to take part in elections under any conditions."
Serb and Montenegrin commentators alike speculated that Drašković has been "spooked" away from politics by the recent attempt on his life near Budva, Montenegro, from which he is still recovering.
"Spider" trial continues
Belgrade municipal court continued this week to hear an espionage case brought against five members of the so-called Pauk (Spider) intelligence ring alleged to have been in the pay of French intelligence agencies during last year's NATO bombing campaign.
The five stand accused of terrorism, espionage and the murder of two Kosovar Albanians.
The case remains closed to the public, Blic reported, ostensibly because state security secrets and methods will be revealed in testimony from police, military and intelligence officials.
Vote for opposition at UN?
At a conference in Brussels, Bosnia-Hercegovina's ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammed Sacribej, proposed that the Serbian opposition be granted a seat at the United Nations. The proposal was made public in Belgrade by New Serbia head Milan St Protić and sparked mixed reactions among opposition parties.
Milošević looking for his Putin?
Two different columnists are claiming credit for the theory, but one way or another Banja Luka media are speculating that despite changes to the constitution allowing him a run for a second term in office, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević is paving the way for a safe exit from political life.
Two separate reports claimed that Milošević met twice in the last two weeks with former State Security Service boss Jovica Stanišić, offering him three months as Serbia's minister of the interior, after which he would become either president of Serbia or, more likely, Yugoslavia.
The most recent report appeared in the weekly Reporter, although Belgrade-based analyst Aleksandar Tijanić claimed in a Radio B2-92 interview that he had advanced the same theory some days earlier in Nezavisne novine, also based in Banja Luka.
According to Reporter, Milošević and Stanišić met twice in two days at mid week, where Milošević made the offer in return for amnesty from prosecution, iron-clad personal security guarantees and a promise he will not be extradited to face justice at the Hague Tribunal, which has indicted him for war crimes.
Opposition politician found dead in Hungary
Police in Szeged, Hungary, found veteran Vojvodina Reform Party activist Nenad Mirović dead in his hotel room last weekend. Police officials told Radio B2-92 that the death was a "clear case of suicide" by hanging.
Yugoslavia "champion of regional cooperation"
According to Yugoslav Foreign Minister Živadin Jovanović, Yugoslavia "remains a champion of important initiatives for promoting neighborliness and regional cooperation in the best interests of the region."
Speaking on Monday, Jovanović said that Yugoslavia has proposed a Balkan free-trade zone to permit the "free movement of goods, peoples, services and scientific and cultural values" despite the "narrow interests" of "exclusive groups or clubs" that seek to isolate rump Yugoslavia.
"Yugoslavia resolutely condemns and denounces all behind-the-scenes games and the policy of fait accompli [dealing] played and pursued at the expense of its national and state interests," he said.
EU to add 50 companies to White List
At the release of the "White List" of 190 companies permitted to trade with EU firms, European Commission representative Gunar Vigand said another 50 firms would soon be added to the roster of those allowed exemptions from EU sanctions as of 1 July 2000.
A commission statement said the exemption list would sharpen the sanctions' bite on the Yugoslav and Serbian élites, noting that the door was open to other firms who could prove they do not trade with, or have connections to, the Milošević regime.
More than 100 of the 300 companies that applied for the list were disqualified on the basis of ties to the Belgrade regime.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party President Zoran Đinđić said the White List is an "inappropriate approach" to isolating the regime, saying that Milošević would "use the EU list as the basis for his own Black List, which will only contribute to the further polarization of Serbia."
Paper shortage forces closure of dailies
A shortage of newsprint forced Blic, Glas javnosti and Danas, Belgrade's three independent dailies, to suspend publication this past weekend.
Matroz, Yugoslavia's only domestic newsprint manufacturer, generally sells the three independents rolls surplus to the needs of state-run papers, but claims it presently has "no paper available."
The federal ministry of trade has consistently refused to permit the import of newsprint, saying there is more than enough available on the domestic market to meet publishers' needs.
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