We don’t belong in the Assembly together with Milan Radoicic
“The presence of Milan Radoicic as an honorary guest of the President at the sitting of the Serbian Assembly further convinced us that we do not belong there. The suspected person for the assassination of Oliver Ivanovic in the Assembly as well as the police who watch Seselj’s driver hitting a man with a bat and do nothing, are the indicators of the rule of law we are living in. As of June 8, six months after the beginning of protests in Serbia, the opposition should think of the continuation of its activities and demonstrate to the citizens that they will not gamble away their energy because we no longer have the right to do so. I hope Vucic will leave power in fair and impartial elections whereas the revolution mentioned by Jovo Bakic excludes fair and impartial elections. Either thing will happen – we will either have fair and impartial elections or we will have a revolution. It’s really a dilemma, there is no third option.”
Aleksandra Jerkov, the Democratic Party Vice President and the MP, described that for Istinomer’s podcast ““Speak into a mic” in the early morning, when the operation of the Kosovo police in the Northern Kosovo began, while listening to Marko Djuric and semi-information in the media, she thought that “the war began.” She assessed that the terminology used by the Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija “that Shqiptar terrorists and separatists armed to the teeth are forcefully entering into…” is inadmissible, that it “scares the citizens”, primarily those who live in Kosovo. Still, she thinks that “most people think it’s a part of a performance”.
Are you sure they do not believe in that and that they think it’s a performance?
I’m not sure, actually. There are indeed a large number of people who believe everything they see and hear; first they heard the President in the sitting regarding Kosovo announcing that something like this could happen. And that’s why it seems, let’s say, at least weird, that every single thing is happening. Some conspiracy theorists would say – according to some pre-planned scenario. The fact is that this is extremely dangerous. It is extremely dangerous to play in such a way with people’s fears, people’s lives, because people are not toys and obviously some fail to understand that.
When you hear, as an MP, early in the morning, the information communicated by a state official like Marko Djuric “that Shqiptar terrorists and separatists armed to the teeth are attacking…” then what do you do as an MP? Do you shake your head and say, here is my country again fabricating things or do you go to the institution you represent and there agree on what you will do in the scope of your authority?
First of all, it is important to say that as MPs, representatives of citizens and members of the only representative body in the country, we do not have any more information than anyone who woke up in the morning and saw extremely disturbing information on television. So, we do not know anything. We only know what Marko Djuric said, which was later said in the media, just like you or anyone else. So, unfortunately, I don’t have an institution where I could go. Of course, I went to the Assembly this morning, there is nothing unusual happening there, the sitting started with parliamentary questions, I saw that Seselj asks some questions there, probably about that, but we only get answers in two weeks, there is no one who would respond on the spot. The mere fact that it was so carefully and precisely announced both by means of these regime tabloids and through the announcement of Aleksandar Vucic in the Assembly, really casts a shadow of doubt on the whole thing and really gives us the reason to say that this again is some performance, they are again confusing and perplexing people.
And even if that’s true, what would be the function of such a performance in your opinion, if it was a performance?
I think it is obvious that all this together with what is happening in the Assembly, as well as what has been happening in the past few months, even years, intensively, serves the goal of presenting Aleksandar Vucic as a great martyr, and at the same time a great statesman, who is ready to compromise in any way to defend the state, to protect the people, to write his name in the history as the one who succeeded in doing what no one before him could, despite the pressures that no one before him was exposed to.
By boycotting the sitting of the Assembly on Kosovo, to what extent are you from the opposition in fact helping achieve that, because nothing is heard there except for the praise of the President?
The reasons why the opposition is not present at the sitting on Kosovo are not one-of-a-kind to the entire opposition. We in the Democratic Party were among the parties that have been saying for years that the National Assembly should be the place to talk about Kosovo…
And now when this is happening you are not there?
…but, the National Assembly should be the institution that will establish the framework for negotiations on Kosovo, and instead we got Aleksandar Vucic presenting the report of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija. I don’t know to what extent people managed to see the report, it’s available on the website of the Assembly which also contains photographs of cows and goats, gynaecological tables purchased by the Office for Kosovo and Metohija for Kosovo Serbs or for health centres, which is not what we need to be talking about.
But the framework that you mentioned was set by the Assembly in 2013, when the Resolution was adopted authorising the Government, as well as the Brussels Agreement…
However, from everything we could see, what anyone who just superficially follows the media saw, it seems that a few years ago – ever since Aleksandar Vucic began to negotiate with Thaçi about some sort of demarcation – those negotiations had long abandoned that framework of Brussels agreement that is in itself…
The opposition and the Democratic Party could have said that in the Assembly today, couldn’t they?
We said that for several times, but at the sitting, which is what it is, where, Milan Radoicic, who is among the suspects for the assassination of Oliver Ivanovic sits freely in the gallery of the Assembly as an honorary guest of the President of the Republic of Serbia, we really did not have anything to say to Aleksandar Vucic, because he is no longer the addressee.
And who is?
For us, this is now citizens, because it is obvious that what happened in the Kosovo negotiations long ago went beyond the framework of the Brussels agreement, it long ago went beyond the authority of the President of the Republic. Still and all, we have already expressed opinions based on what we have heard in the media that these are extremely dangerous negotiations that can cause new problems.
In what sense?
If what we might have heard was the demarcation…
But we heard that it was rejected, and Vucic himself said that this was a finished story.
We heard that his plan was not accepted, although we did not hear what the plan was and to whom he offered it so that person rejected it. However, from what he had said yesterday, I did not conclude that he had given up the demarcation. If the demarcation implies what it seems to imply – the ethnic division on very strange grounds, for which we are not sure how it is to be negotiated and which side ends up with what. It is a solution that can cause new problems, not only between Kosovo and Serbia, but it seems to me throughout the region.
Yesterday, in his speech, among other things, Vucic said that relations would have to normalize, that we have two options, one is the recognition of the international plan and the way it is understood by the international community and Albanians – Kosovo as a state with its own integrity with certain rights Serbs are entitled to or the demarcation. He said that we can either hear bitter truth or sweet lies. He said that a solution and a compromise need to be found, and that he is supporting that once the taxes are abolished. Isn’t this something that DS could support, bearing in mind that you voted for the Brussels agreement?
We did vote for the Brussels agreement, after all, at the very time when the Democratic Party had responsibility for the work of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, we were the ones to start negotiations with Kosovo Albanians and the dialogue under the auspices of the European Union precisely being aware that any solution must be the fruit of the dialogue, the fruit of the agreement and must be sustainable
But you did not have many dialogues open when the technical negotiations were held headed by Borko Stefanovic.
At that time, framework was being established for what was later transposed into the Brussels Agreement. At that time, the policy was to have standards established before the status.
I am talking about the dialogue and the fact that we didn’t know what the plan was.
At that time, what was negotiated was regularly sent to the Committee on Kosovo and Metohija, which not only reported about it, but was also where the frameworks were established. After all, everything was happening under the EU auspices under Chapter 35; all of the topics discussed at that time are actually defined in this process of accession to the European Union. And later on, after that, we have these dangerous ideas about demarcation. The person who does not realize that by pulling out markers to draw some new borders the weapons will be automatically pulled out, is the same person who never understood anything about what happened to us here 30 years ago.
Now the question is if the opposition is doing enough to prevent it and what is that, i.e. if the Assembly is the place to say that?
Our MPs, people in our parties do a lot through international contacts they have with both Kosovo MPs and officials from Kosovo parties. Now, the fact that we don’t have formal ways to influence what is happening is not really a question for the opposition, but for those who have set up a formal framework of the dialogue, and that is Vucic.
Speaking about the representatives of European countries, don’t you think that they would prefer the opposition inside the Assembly to the opposition outside to show them that you are an alternative and that you are of use?
I think we are showing that we are of use and I think that it is clear to the European Union and its officials, at least when it comes to us from the Democratic Party, that we are not a part of the problem. We are a part of the solution and we will always be, as a partner to the European Union and everyone who cares about the establishment of democracy in Serbia. We had several meetings of the parliamentary club, and with the president of the party talking and thinking about whether we should attend this sitting or not. The decision not to attend this sitting of the National Assembly was made primarily because we believe that our participation would not contribute to any better solution to the problem, but would only give legitimacy to this particular process, which is far from the public eye, for seven years, within which some people like Oliver Ivanovic lost their lives, and the very presence of Milan Radoicic yesterday at that festive gallery of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia convinced us that there was no place in that hall for us. Should we for real have sat there while the man accused of killing Oliver Ivanovic protected by the Republic of Serbia is a guest of honour at that sitting?
Or perhaps you could have said that from the speaker’s platform so that this is heard?
Heard by whom? What would have happened?
Citizens would hear that in live broadcasting.
Citizens have heard that, because we said that at the press conference, our presence in the hall would only give legitimacy to it.
What is the function of this sitting of the National Assembly? Based on the previous statements on both sides, it seems its function is to be battleground between the ones in power and the opposition.
I think that some opposition parties really experience it that way. It’s no secret that there are many differences in the opposition as regards ideology, values, politics, and other. This very competition in nationalism, being a great Serb, or I don’t know what, is one of the things that distinguishes us. Of course we do not intend to race with someone who until ten years ago thought that Osijek was in Serbia and that the borders of Serbia were in Karlovac, or to compete who is a greater Serb, a patriot, precisely because such politics ruined hundreds of thousands of Serbs, left them without a roof over their head and left millions of citizens without any options.
Do you agree that this, as well as “Tijana’s Law”, among other things, is Vucic’s attempt to bring you back to the parliament?
For sure. These are the laws and sittings based on which we need to explain why we are not returning to the parliament. It was also the case with the Law on Financing Vojvodina…
What does the ruling majority need to do for you to return?
We have been very clear about that – our request is for the electoral regulations to be amended, the whole set of them proposed by the organization CRTA, to be amended over the next year to allow for fair elections. We want to talk to Vucic only about this topic.
So, you don’t want to debate at all about the short-term return to the Assembly, no matter whether Maja Gojkovic is there or not, you are no longer interested in that, aren’t you?
Her position is less important, it is much more important that we can return, provided that the topic is the electoral conditions and enabling the citizens to take part in fair and impartial elections, and that Vojislav Seselj would be stripped of his mandate in the manner prescribed by the Law.
Do you personally, as a member of the DS, can stand behind the banner “Betrayal today, jail tomorrow”, which your partners in the political fight against Vucic carried in front of the National Assembly?
No, no. Because due to advocating the views I have been advocating, I have been called a traitor for many times, a traitor of the Serbian people, now out of decency I would not even say all the names I was called, so that rhetoric is not something that I am close to, it’s not something I uphold. And the answer to your question is – no, it’s not something that I could stand for. These are the very differences, and that’s the policy of the Dveri which I disagree with.
But you are fighting for democracy together, and they have a similar rhetoric like Radicals, for example.
We fight with them together for the electoral conditions and I think that this is the point that connects us, and in the first subsequent elections that will be held under these fair conditions, of course we would not be anywhere near the Dveri.
How do you perceive the conflict between Seselj and Bosko Obradovic in front of the National Assembly – as a typical behaviour of two extremist, nationalist, right-wing parties, or is it a conflict between a party close to the authorities and those who are fighting against it?
I see this conflict in a much more significant and much more dangerous framework than the one you have mentioned. For me, this conflict, this story about who is guilty, who is not, who is like this, who is like that, ended the moment the driver of Vojislav Seselj pulled out a bat in front of the police and the entire Assembly security, hit someone who was standing there, regardless of whoever it was, or whether I politically agree with that person, and that person fell down the stairs and the police did nothing. That moment, this conflict for me ceased to be a conflict between the “Radicals” and the Dveri. This conflict has become an indicator of our rule of law. Vojislav Seselj had previously told his driver to hit them by car and at one moment the car of Vojislav Seselj ran into those MPs from the Dveri who were standing with a banner. First of all, there was a verbal conflict and at that moment the driver took the baseball bat, hit somebody and the police did nothing. So from that moment we should stop talking about the Dveri, about the “Radicals”, but we need to talk about the rule of law. This event and Milan Radoicic at the parliamentary gallery are for me stronger indicators in what kind of country we live in, than the Dveri, or for instance what someone said yesterday.
To what extent, in your opinion, is Vuk Jeremic right in saying that Vucic should be prevented from signing an agreement on Kosovo, because it would “solidify” his support in the West, I am now paraphrasing Vuk Jeremic’s words from the interview.
There are two viewpoints – the ones who think that he would thus provide himself with support from the West and the others who believe that this is precisely why he is delaying, to drag on this support, as he is buying time since the moment he signs it, the West will give up on him.
And do you think he should solve this and he should get the support from within, whatever you think of him as a president or a politician, or is it better to trip him up regarding this to weaken him for some reason?
I think this has nothing to do with what we think of Vucic. It’s about what we think of the solution he is offering, and we know nothing about the solution. Our problem, from what we have heard from the media, is that it seems extremely dangerous. He is playing with human rights, with minority rights, he is opening a whole series of questions – the Republic of Srpska, Macedonia, Sandzak, if a community of Albanian municipalities in the south of Serbia is formed, why shouldn’t Orbán ask that very second to do the same? It is an extremely dangerous solution and we cannot say whether he should be supported or tripped up in adopting this solution since we do not know what it is. After the sitting of the Assembly of Serbia, we again do not know what it is and there is no way to find out, had we been sitting there hundreds of times still we would not be able to find out.
Based on what could be heard, do you think there is a possibility that this is “preparing the ground” for signing some kind of an agreement? I recall that a similar tone in the Assembly was related to the Brussels Agreement, when, among other things, the then Prime Minister Dacic told opponents of the agreement they are free to go to Kosovo and take the Constitution too?
It seems that way. Again, we really don’t know anything about this process, which of course opens up the question of its sustainability, and it seems that those who are legally competent also knew as little as we do, every normal person does not mind the sentence “we need to find a compromise and find a solution by means of a dialogue“, but every benevolent person has to mind the way it is done.
The Dveri always have a problem with that, Vuk Jeremic has a problem with that.
I don’t think they have a problem with the need to reach a solution through dialogue. After all, Vuk Jeremic was the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Government that started talks with Kosovo Albanians.
When it comes to opposition protests, what is happening regarding June 8, which is again announced as a kind of “D-Day”?
It’s the day when six months ago the protests began. That day there will be protests in many towns and municipalities in Serbia, more or less in every that had protests. I just hope that we will demonstrate that we don’t intend to gamble with everything the citizens have achieved, and they have achieved a lot, especially those in smaller towns. We have no more chances, we no longer have the right to deceive the citizens, and it is clear that the protests at this stage in which they were until now….
…but citizens’ support is decreasing.
In this form of protest, of course, because you cannot spend more than six months every Friday, every Saturday going out, walking without the number of people dropping, that’s quite normal.
…the opposition should think of something, and they are not doing so…
… this is exactly what we are working on and it is being discussed intensively. We have to find a way from June 8, to otherwise fulfil the expectations of citizens who have proven to be more responsible than some of the opposition politicians and those who need to do it.
Do you have an idea how?
I personally don’t participate in these arrangements, but I know that they are very intense and this is something actively deliberated.
At the beginning of this interview you said that “we no longer want to address Vucic but the citizens”, and citizens say “OK, there is nothing here, let’s go home”?
I think it is very important for the opposition, especially those who were in power, to hear what the citizens had to say at these protests. They had the same number of messages for both the government and those who were already in power, and if we did not understand that, then we wasted these sixth month, and the citizens gave a lot in these six months.
Do you agree with the opinion of a member of your Main Board from Odzaci, Aleksandar Dikic, who yesterday wrote an article in the daily newspaper Danas stating that the opposition seems chaotic, like a broken orchestra, which does not play well, and asks for a tip?
His metaphor is interesting.
Doesn’t the opposition seem that way?
The Dveri in front of the National Assembly, you have your idea about Kosovo, the Alliance for Serbia their own, about the protest … the citizens hardly understand which idea and what exactly the opposition is representing.
Sometimes yes, and therefore, I think it is precisely our task as of June 8 that our rebellion against the regime – because all the parties of the opposition have in common the fact they are against the regime – should be directed that way. We should sum up all our demands into one, and that is the conditions for fair and impartial elections, and that is not only on our behalf.
But the addressee there is Vucic.
And that’s just another thing, since we do have many partners in solving it. The international community is the addressee as well, the Parliament, the citizens, experts and all those who are engaged in free and fair elections. Unlike all Vucic’s supporters, I don’t think – at least we should not think that Vucic is a magic figure that solves all problems with a magic wand.
You see him as someone who controls absolutely all institutions.
This is true, but he himself will not concede, our demands should be very precise in every segment starting from the amendments of labour law, public enterprises, electronic media, these are all the laws that need to be amended in order to get to the fair and free elections, if that is not done, we will not participate in the elections, so they can count the votes themselves.
And then what – you’ll stay on the streets until…?
It is obvious that this has reached a certain peak when it comes to going out to streets. I think that we need a serious strategy that will involve continuous communication with citizens, not waiting for them to come once a week to protest, but in other ways, which will involve serious international activities. I do not think that the European Union, which we talk about so much, as well as about its support of Vucic, is OK with having a single-party and one-party parliament, and that there is no opposition in Serbia.
How does Vucic leave power? After the revolution, as Jovo Bakic says, or after the elections?
One way or the other, they are mutually exclusive. We will either have fair and impartial elections or we will have a revolution. It’s really a dilemma and there is no third option.
What do you believe in?
I hope for the elections, the fair ones.
In what precise way will the Democratic Party convince citizens to trust it again, having first “split” into a number of parts, and now realizing that it should put all this back together and start from the beginning?
We have to demonstrate this. I think we really don’t have the right to expect citizens to take our word for it. We have made many mistakes in the past and the only way to convince the citizens to demonstrate that we are different, not by talking but by showing. We really have a large number of young people who do not have this kind of burden of the past, we have experienced people, who have already given a lot and done a lot in the entire Serbia, in the parties, movements, local initiatives there are many, many young people. I would say a whole new generation of politicians who, I think, can show that they are not all the same and that the responsible politicians exist. I think this would be us, through united Democratic Party but through the cooperation with others too.