On the future of Yugoslavia (problems in Croatia)

1991-06-30 - Slobodan Milosevic




Respected deputies, there is no citizen of Yugoslavia today who is not concerned for his own future and the future of his children. The country has been weakened by the deep and long economic crisis and the increasing national conflicts. We have been subjected to open foreign pressures and threats. Outside factors are already openly giving support to forces of disintegration in Yugoslavia. Such actions can no longer be concealed with statements about extending support for its unity.

Great outside pressure on Serbia has been present in the last few days. These pressures have so far been primarily political, but they are increasingly acquiring an economic character. Their aim is to influence the organisation of relations in Serbia and Yugoslavia. These relations should be organised according to a recipe written outside Serbia and outside Yugoslavia.

This is not the first time that we are faced with the aims of great and powerful forces and that, in relation to them, we are put into an extremely unequal and dependent position only because we are a small country and because we are not behaving in a way that they find appropriate. This will not be the first time that we resist these pressures. What hits us and what should disturb all peoples is the unique absurdity that at the present time of great democratic and humanist achievements, political violence is being applied, economic violence is being announced, and this does not discount physical violence, against peoples and people who care about their independence and autonomy.

We have been faced with an escalation of a change in the stand of some outside factors regarding the integrity of Yugoslavia, which has been visible for a long time already. This fact undoubtedly increases the difficulties in resolving the crisis.

I would like to be able to believe that US representatives in Yugoslavia have deceived their own government regarding facts about Yugoslavia and Serbia with the help of politicians from the north- west part of our country who have, under the guise of democracy, sold secessionism to them. However, even if this harmless, not to mention naive, explanation were acceptable, not even this would be justification for the crude interference by foreign countries in the internal affairs of an independent country, which goes as far as interference in the election of personalities to political posts. This particularly could not be a justification for support for Albanian separatists in Kosovo-Metohija.

The citizens of Serbia and the Serbian people have already responded to this because every child here knows the truth about Kosovo and Serbia. Precisely because of this, I do not have any need to speak about this, and I would say to those who think that there is a need that I will not speak about this because I will not agree to justify to anyone why the Republic of Serbia is not allowing the Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo-Metohija to be killed again and why we are not willing to conduct dialogue on the possibility of creating an Albanian state on the territory of Serbia. So that there is no confusion, I want to openly say that everyone who demands a deviation from the stands on these issues can only achieve this by bringing down the present leadership of Serbia.

If the human rights of Albanians really were threatened in Kosovo-Metohija, we certainly would not hesitate to protect them. We are proud that Serbia is not conducting a nationalist policy and that no one in Serbia is discriminated against for being a Slovene, Croat, or a member of another peopleor national minority. No one in Serbia is or will be a second-class citizen, apart from Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo-Metohija if we accept the ultimatums and pressures that we have been subjected to.

Through the latest events and above all the serious conflicts and acts of state terror in Croatia, the state and political crisis in Yugoslavia, which has for a long time involved intra-national conflicts, has acquired the form of an armed showdown with elements of a civil war. The number of dead and injured is growing, as is the number of women and children who are refugees. Interruptions in traffic and supplies are increasing, too. Thus, apart from the already existing situation of the suspension, violation and blockages in the federal legal order and the work of the federal bodies, these occurrences show that the present political, legal and economic situation in Yugoslavia contains more and more danger of violence and anarchy.

Through conflicts and victims, through pressures and one-sided acts against the Yugoslav Constitution, attempts are being made to set up independent, autonomous and sovereign national and nationalist states from the existing Yugoslav republics. The nationalist aims of the leaders of these republics threaten the interests of the whole country, all Yugoslav peoples and all citizens of Yugoslavia. They particularly threaten the interests of the Serbian people because a third of the Serbian people live outside the present-day Republic of Serbia.

Historically superseded nationalist concepts of a state structure and the territorial pretensions characteristic of them are being manifested as, among other things, the denationalisation of other peoples or as their deprecation. Under these conditions, what is involved is the natural and legitimate self-defence of a people which stems from their historical dignity. Attempts to use a great and well-organised propaganda hullabaloo to portray this as banditry and lawlessness are the best sign of the lack of constructiveness and impotence of a chauvinist and pro-fascist concept which has an impact on the popular interest and the dignity of people and peoples and their just struggle for civil and national equality. In this respect, the authors of the insults about banditry and lawlessness simply overlook the fact that one cannot be a bandit or outlaw in one's own back yard or on the threshold of one's home.

Under these conditions, the negotiations which we have held in an endeavour to secure peace and reach an agreement on the solution to the crisis have increased in significance and intensity virtually to the same extent that their results have been shown to be only differences.

The experiences of our history form the basis of the awareness that it is the right of all citizens, and therefore the citizens of Serbia too and the Serbian people, to refuse to be victims of the nationalist, political and personal interests of their supposed saviours and supposed fighters for democracy. Therefore, we have been constantly advocating that the conflicts and crisis be resolved as a whole in a peaceful and democratic way based on the Constitution.

We do not consider this to be weakness on our part, so we are therefore not setting up military formations or national guard units and we are not arming citizens and we are not banging at the doors of world capitals begging for political and material aid and to buy weapons and military equipment. Neither do we consider this weakness on our part because there is absolutely no doubt that we know how to protect our interests and to defend them from any violence, as we have done numerous times in the past.

Everyone knows that we in Serbia, both in all our documents and in our entire political life, have committed ourselves to the stand that Serbs must live in one state and, of course, we want that state to be a Yugoslavia in which Serbs should live together with other Yugoslav peoples who want the same thing. The public knows that the stand of Montenegro and the Montenegrin people is identical in this respect and that on this basis we are jointly conducting the incipient negotiations on the future of the Yugoslav Federation. Therefore no one can abolish it.

It is in our interest that Yugoslavia be a united, free, democratic federal state and that all peoples in it be on an equal footing and all citizens be equal. As is well known, this is not just our ideal but our political orientation, which expresses the spirit of changes in Europe and the world in general.

This is why all those people who are today holding scissors above the map of Yugoslavia should be aware of the fact that different peoples in nationally mixed states can preserve their identity and integrity only if this state ensures their national equality. Hence the efforts aimed at abolishing one state with a view to creating several nationalistic states or, to put it better, mini-states,something that represents a serious contradiction of the modern trends in the world and expresses unhistorical and conservative views. Particularly in Europe in which borders are now disappearing even between states with 1,000 years of tradition, turning borders between the Yugoslav republics into state borders represents an absurd idea.

We are aware of the fact that Yugoslavia has so far not been set up in the best way, but consequences of, and particularly blame for this cannot be borne by the present generations. We know that changes are also necessary in its internal set-up in conformity with economic, technological, cultural and democratic achievements in the world, which is in the interest of our own development, but these changes should be made in a peaceful and legal way and through Yugoslav institutions. This is why we advocate that Yugoslavia be preserved and not abolished. It will certainly not become democratic and rich if it ceases to exist.

It is known that during the talks about the future of the country as concerns its constitutional set-up, we advocated the following principles First, Yugoslavia should be a democratic federation, that is, a federal state and not a confederation, that is, a union of states. A union of sovereign states would above all mean that Yugoslavia would disappear and be abolished as a joint state of equal Yugoslav peoples. The abolition of Yugoslavia would threaten the vital interests of the peoples living in it and particularly those peoples who are living in several present republics and have economic, political, national, cultural and historical interests in staying together.

Second, the federal state should be composed of peoples, republics and citizens who stand on a completely equal footing and are completely equal. Therefore, the state should be built upon the sovereignty of citizens - which is an element of cohesion - and upon the joining of republics - which is an element of uniqueness - as well as on special guarantees that national equality will be realised.

Third, the state would have to guarantee a market economy, a unified market, full freedom of movement of labour, goods and capital and a fully equal and free position of economic subjects. It would also have unified functions of defence, foreign affairs and defence of human and civil rights. This means that for the state to be democratic, modern and based on the rule of law, the Yugoslav bodies would have to have power when it comes to the spheres of market and economic operations, foreign affairs, civil freedoms and rights, defence and security.

Fourth, a joint state of Yugoslav peoples and republics implies that its bodies are formed and work in a democratic way, which implies that they are elected in direct and multi-party elections, that they work efficiently, which implies that they are acting in a timely fashion and without the possibility of being blocked, and that they work in a constitutional and legal manner, that is, exclusively according to the law and Constitution and responsibly.

Fifth, the organisation of authority should be based on the distribution of power into legislative, executive and judicial power, because such an organisation makes it certain that the authority is democratic, legitimate and responsible. Legislative power should be executed by a bicameral assembly consisting of a chamber of citizens or a federal chamber elected directly according to the number of citizens and a chamber of republics, to which every republic will elect an equal number of members. The chambers should make decisions on an equal footing.

As is known, a proposal contrary to this one has been defined involving a union of sovereign states. This is in fact a proposal to abolish Yugoslavia and turn it into several sovereign states in the form of the present republics. Considering this, it was only natural and to be expected that the result of the present talks among the presidents of the republics would be to conclude that there is a need to hold a referendum, because nobody could openly oppose the simple request that the fate of Yugoslavia should be decided upon by the people living in it.

However, in the very first move towards carrying out a referendum, this result was undermined because of opposition involving artificial dilemmas, that is to say, issues that are not in the least bit debatable nor, in our opinion, could they be debatable. It has turned out that, in fact, there is no desire to decide about Yugoslavia on the basis of the interests of its peoples and on the basis of the principle of national equality, but on the basis of decisions that are made in advance and on the already existing nationalist confrontations, which have after all been shown to be the most effective means to destroy and abolish Yugoslavia. Therefore it is not surprising that the artificial dilemmas relating to different referendums in the republics and different procedures, the question of whether citizens or peoples vote, and the role of Yugoslav bodies, have been created.

I will briefly explain why I think that we are talking about artificial dilemmas and contrived issues. Firstly, for the referendum to have any meaning at all, it must produce results that can be compared for all republics, that is to say the voting must be organised with the same questions, on the same day, and according to the same procedure in all republics. If this is not so, from the point of view of the content of talks we have had, the achieved results would not have any value and they would in fact only represent confirmation of the stands that the representatives of certain republics have so far advocated.

Secondly, the dilemma over whether citizens or peoples vote is artificial because people vote on these issues both in their capacity as citizens and their capacity as members of a people, that is to say in their capacity as both. There is no contradiction in this respect. That is to say, if the aim of continuing the union in Yugoslavia is discredited, then this issue must be voted on by the two basic factors of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav peoples and the republics. This proceeds directly from Article One of the Constitution of Yugoslavia which says, and I quote The SFRY is a federation of states of voluntarily unified peoples and their republics. End of quote.

The expression of the will of all Yugoslavs in their capacity as citizens and in their capacity as members of a people ensures that decisions are not made through national majority strength in the republics. That is to say, the right to self-determination of any of the Yugoslav peoples is not violated or denigrated. If there were no threat to the separation of parts of a people which live in several republics into an independent state, which undermines their interests and turns them into national minorities, there would be no justification for voting by peoples as well as citizens. That is to say, only citizens would vote on the form of the state for one state. However, in this case, every Yugoslav people as a whole and not in parts throughout the republics have the right to self- determination, which also means the right to vote.

The third dilemma, which is connected with the role and existence of the Federal Constitution and Federal bodies in the procedure for resolving the constitutional and political crisis, is artificial - if a peaceful, democratic and legal solution to the crisis is desired - because the talks and even agreements between the Presidents of the republics and the results of the referendum in the republics cannot be abolished or changed by the existing Constitution of Yugoslavia. We think therefore that even if the result of the referendum expresses the will of the peoples to leave Yugoslavia, this decision can be legally implemented only by changing the Constitution of Yugoslavia, and no-one will oppose and no-one will challenge such a decision if it is not to the detriment of other republics or another Yugoslav people.

For all these reasons, I think that the best thing is for a referendum to be scheduled by the Assembly of Yugoslavia, as the organ responsible for changing the Constitution of Yugoslavia, and on the basis of the provisions of this Constitution, for the sake of a preliminary vote on the issues in the Assembly's jurisdiction, as this is after all set down in Article 146 of the Yugoslav Constitution.

I therefore do not see one single reason for going the illegal way rather than the legal way, particularly if it is borne in mind that under the existing circumstances, the legal way is the only way to guarantee the resolution of the crisis peacefully. As far as we are concerned, the peoples who want to leave Yugoslavia can do so, but in a legal way and without violence. This is a way out that should be acceptable for everyone because in this way the danger of armed intra-national clashes and the outbreak of civil war can be avoided.

The question of the survival or the abolition of Yugoslavia as a common state is the essence of all disagreements in the talks so far, and all these disagreements can be reduced to this issue. Neither political pluralism nor the market economy are in dispute. This is a question of the struggle for the survival of the Yugoslav state on the one hand and separatist aspirations on the other. I think that the preservation of Yugoslavia represents our vital aim, and Serbia should use all means to help all those throughout Yugoslavia who want to maintain this aim, so that this aim is realised.

I am personally convinced that not one citizen who cares about Yugoslavia will allow his homeland to disappear just like that, both because of everything that has been put into Yugoslavia and because of the peace and freedom which Yugoslavia can, by existing, ensure for future generations. There can therefore be no formal agreement on the present secessionist demands because they are at variance with the Constitution of Yugoslavia and no actual agreement because the right of a people to self-determination has always been limited by the same equal rights of other peoples. Therefore, what is unacceptable in the present confrontations is that those people who are striving to preserve Yugoslavia are blamed for the crisis within it. Besides, I think that the orientation of the Serbian people towards preserving Yugoslavia together with other peoples who would wish to do so is not to the detriment of any of the Yugoslav peoples nor does it calls into question the right of any of them to leave Yugoslavia.

It is an undisputable fact that the right of a people to self-determination in a multinational state cannot be territorially limited to existing administrative borders between republics. The borders between the republics within Yugoslavia have never been state borders. It is well-known that they were drawn in the past arbitrarily and without objective criteria - that is, disregarding the ethnic composition of the population, the consequences of the genocide suffered by the Serbian people, or the norms of international law. Therefore, the right to self-determination cannot be reserved only for a majority people in a nationally-mixed republic. If that were so, the interests of those peoples who constitute a smaller number in a part of Yugoslav territory within the borders of individual republics would be violated on the pretext of civil democracy.

The Serbian people in general wish to continue life in Yugoslavia and have the right to advocate the realisation of this legitimate aim. Yugoslavia exists and we need nobody to consent to this fact. Yugoslavia simply cannot cease to exist because some Yugoslav peoples want to leave it, just as it would not cease to exist if some new peoples wanted to enter it. The question of borders is not an issue for the people who advocate Yugoslavia. This problem will have to be confronted above all by those who want to leave Yugoslavia. It is only logical, and also just, that those who put forward a problem must make an effort to solve it, considering the fact that solutions cannot be sought or found to the detriment of others and can be both sought and found on the principles of respecting a people's will and right to self-determination.

Therefore, those people who wish to constitute new states should - in their own interest and as soon as possible - clearly realise the fact that entire sections of those Yugoslav peoples who favour the survival of Yugoslavia cannot be pulled by force into their future national states. This fact clearly points to numerous and serious difficulties that should be solved, but the burden of solving these difficulties and the consequences of tearing Yugoslavia apart, of unilateral acts, and of the failure to recognise the rights of other Yugoslav peoples must be borne by those people who decided to secede from Yugoslavia and not those who want to preserve it.

I am convinced that a way out of the crisis is possible if the freely expressed will of all Yugoslav peoples is respected. It is our stand that the fate of Yugoslavia can be decided upon only by the Yugoslav people directly and that as long as the SFRY Constitution is not changed, the legality and legitimacy of Yugoslav institutions must be respected. This is a condition for peace in the country. The Republic of Serbia guarantees peace for all the citizens and peoples who live in it, but it demands this from others too. We believe in peace and we are committed to a democratic solution. This means that Serbia and the Serbian people will respect the rights and freedoms of other peoples and respect their will.

Finally, in reply to the question of what kind of policy to proceed with and in which direction the negotiations should continue, I think that we should advocate the following quite specific proposals, I will present them briefly in five points

One, that all political institutions in the country and the JNA guarantee peace. This implies that the existence of any military formations should be prevented, apart from the JNA and the regular militia.

Two, that a constitutional law be adopted immediately which will determine the way to exercise the right of peoples to self-determination, in the same way for everyone, so that the peoples who want to separate and set up their own separate states be allowed to do this in a peaceful way without violence. The regulation of the way of exercising the right to self-determination through a constitutional law in the same way for everyone, avoids the danger of this right being abused and thus violating the equal rights of another people or other peoples.

Three, that a referendum be carried out on the basis of a decision by the SFRY Assembly in the same way, on the same day, and with the same questions, and that its results give a clear picture of the will of citizens and of the will of the peoples of Yugoslavia.

Four, that proceeding from the results of the referendum, the will of the peoples of Yugoslavia be realised in line with the adopted constitutional law, and the fixing of boundaries be carried out.

Five, that free, multi-party elections be scheduled and held for the SFRY Assembly.

Respected deputies, as many times before in the history of our people, its freedom has been threatened. This time, the strongest forces against us are among us. Perhaps, therefore, the battle for the freedom of Yugoslav peoples and particularly for the community of Yugoslav states is more difficult. However, it will certainly rally together the most progressive and humane people in our country.

The Serbian people and all citizens of Serbia should take part in this battle for Yugoslavia in line with their best traditions and most progressive achievements, bearing in mind their interests but also considering the interests of all others, that is to say, of those with whom we should share our life together. We are ready to offer the best that we have for the sake of Yugoslavia goodwill and the willingness to share good and evil together. Of course, in this respect we expect the same goodwill and willingness from others. Any other solution and particularly a solution which would be the result of selfishness and aggression could momentarily calm selfish and conceited politicians, but it would not bring peace and tranquillity, and it would not bring progress to the peoples and citizens of Yugoslavia. It would particularly not bring this for future generations. Therefore, all political decisions in our country, and thus in Serbia too, should be guided by these aims peace, tranquillity and progress for all people who live in Yugoslavia.

Thank you for your attention.