Skopje informal summit
Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica addressed this week's informal summit of Southeast European leaders in Skopje as the first Yugoslav leader to talk to his regional peers for ten years. "With reasonable and well-intentioned dialogue, without accusation and self-accusation in advance, by gradually releasing ourselves from prejudice, we shall be able to settle problems that will resolve our relations," Koštunica said in his address to participants at the summit.
"The peoples of the Balkans should live in peace," said the Yugoslav leader. "After these changes, Yugoslavia is facing numerous problems, but our people are more than up to such an historic challenge. Some of these problems will be settled more rapidly, some more slowly, but none will be settled overnight and hurriedly … We do not need radical revolutionary cuts, as they would have disastrous consequences on our still fragile democracy."
Koštunica went on to say that "EU [European Union] support is encouraging," as is the EU's understanding that Yugoslavia's request for urgent help "is not limited to humanitarian needs only. We need to reanimate our industry and to be able to rely on ourselves as soon as possible, but always remain open for bilateral and multilateral co-operation."
A transitional Serbian government was elected this week by deputies of the Serbian Parliament and will function until early parliamentary elections are held on 23 December. The government was established on the basis of an agreement signed on 16 October between the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO).
The agreement confirmed that the three parties would collectively manage the ministries of police, finance, justice and media. Milomir Minic was elected the new Prime Minister, and the government will consist of 18 SPS members, nine DOS and nine SRM members. Minic explained that the transitional authorities will have two primary tasks: to stabilise the economy and to settle the most urgent issues of concern to Serbian citizens—namely prevention of inflation, payment of salaries and pensions, and market supply of basic goods, pharmaceuticals and energy.
Serbia and International Bodies
Stability Pact: Yugoslavia will take its first step back into the international community by joining the Southeast European Stability Pact. The republic will formally become a member of the Pact at its regional round table in Bucharest on 26 October.
In an official statement, Pact Co-ordinator Bodo Hombach said that the people of Yugoslavia had voted for Europe. Hombach emphasised that the Pact's promises and demands were not empty words, but were supported by the EU and international financial and other institutions.
"I am sure that during the Bucharest meeting we shall take the first historic steps of Yugoslavia's reintegration into the international community," he said.
World Bank: A delegation from the World Bank met the federal president's economic adviser, Dragan Đuric, and members of G17 Plus to discuss Yugoslavia's possible membership in the Bank.
World Bank delegation head Christian Portman told reporters that the group had visited Belgrade to see the situation first hand, and said there would be further meetings with representatives of the republican and federal governments.
Portman emphasised that the bank was keen to assist in the recovery of the Yugoslav economy and to strike an agreement with Yugoslavia on membership. He added that Yugoslavia's current debt to the World Bank was USD 1.7 billion.
European Union: Koštunica received the European Union's external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, in Belgrade this week. Patten told journalists after the meeting that several weeks would be needed for delivery of the EUR 200 million in aid earmarked for Yugoslavia by the recent EU meeting in Biarritz, but that he hoped assistance would begin to arrive in November. He added that the EU had teams in Belgrade discussing how the assistance could best be delivered.
IMF: A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expected to arrive in Belgrade at the beginning of next week to hold talks with Koštunica and other members of the new federal administration, G17 member Nebojša Medojević announced this week.
Medojević said the visit was linked to the agreement regarding Yugoslavia's speedy reintegration into the International Monetary Fund and other international financial organisations.
The executive director of G17 Plus, Mladen Dinkić, said legal consultants were working on the technical details of preparing for membership in the IMF. Yugoslavia's outstanding debt to the IMF amounts to USD 128 million, which will be repaid with a loan from the Norwegian government.
"If everything goes according to plan," said Dinkić, "Yugoslavia will be a member of the IMF by 14 December."
Sarajevo: High Representative Jacques Klein said Koštunica's visit to Sarajevo marked a historic moment, showing that Koštunica recognised that the relationship between Bosnia and Yugoslavia was the key to stability in the region, and that Milošević's era has finally come to an end. Koštunica met with Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency member Živko Radišić for brief talks on his return from Trebinje, where he had attended the burial of Serbian poet Jovan Dučić.
Moscow: Koštunica was scheduled to visit Moscow on Friday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksej II. Beta quoteed diplomatic sources in Moscow as saying that he would also meet Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
And in other news...
- Most central heating plants in Serbia are still without fuel, the Ministry for Energy announced this week. The director of Belgrade's heating plants, Predrag Vasic, told media that the basic problem was lack of fuel, adding that neither funds nor suppliers were available. A spokesman for Serbian Oil Industries, Lazar Ponorac, said this week that Serbia needs 350,000 tons of crude oil. He added that the main cause for the heating fuel shortage was the refusal of Russian suppliers to provide natural gas. As an emergency measure, heating gas is now coming to Yugoslavia from Hungary. A permanent solution was expected after Koštunica's visit to Moscow.
- Revolutionary forces "liberated" 494 pieces of weaponry, including rifles, pistols and six chemical guns, from Belgrade's Stari Grad police station during the mass uprising on 5 October, Belgrade police administrative head Slobodan Živković announced, calling on citizens to return the weapons to the police.
- The European Commission has proposed to the EU Council of Ministers that sanctions against Yugoslavia be narrowed to those directly affecting the family and associates of former president Slobodan Milošević.
- At a closed session of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) Central Committee this weel, a vote of confidence was taken in party leader Vuk Drašković. Drašković's resignation as party president was rejected by a vote of 73 for his remaining in office, five against and a large number of abstentions.
Eleanor Pritchard, 28 October 2000
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