G17 'Experts' Ponder The Big Problem - What About Milosevic?

A group of economists have come up with an idea to steer Serbia back to normality and international acceptance. The church, the opposition and the Montenegrins all support it in principle. But how will they deal with Slobodan Milosevic?

G17 'Experts' Ponder The Big Problem - What About Milosevic?

A group of economists have come up with an idea to steer Serbia back to normality and international acceptance. The church, the opposition and the Montenegrins all support it in principle. But how will they deal with Slobodan Milosevic?

A group of Serbian and Montenegrin economists, the non-governmental Group 17 (G17), have come up with a plan - the 'Pact on Stability in Serbia' - intended to end the economic, political and legislative chaos in the country.

Th draft text proposes the forming of a 'government of experts' for national salvation. It would give itself a year to bring about economic reform and clear the way, in a year, for Belgrade's eventual accession to the putative Pact on Stability for South Eastern Europe, which the West hopes will bring peace, development and the free market to this troubled region.

The government of experts would have much to do: a complete revamp of the law, a rearrangement of the federal and republic systems under which Serbia and Montenegro coexist as Yugoslavia (FRY) and call free and fair elections at all levels under the eye of a free media.

And not least, it would have to ensure the departure of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. It is this last wish that presently links the broad range of political, religious, community and academic groups that are supporting the call for change. All, however, are divided on how Milosevic's ouster should be brought about.

The G17 made the call for a government of national salvation in answer to this problem, but specifically in response to a call by the Serbian Orthodox Church for the president's resignation. The Church was backed in principle by the opposition parties gathered in the Alliance for Changes (SZP), the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) of Vuk Draskovic, the New Democracy party and intellectuals previously politically involved in the DEPOS coalition.

Influential academics in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) have won enough support within their membership to put the group behind the Church. Solid sources also say the group of military and secret police around the former Army chief-of-staff General Momcilo Perisic and the former Serbian secret police chief Jovica Stanisic have also backed the call.

Montenegro's present leadership is in support. One the authors of the G17 draft and a candidate for the role of 'transitional mandate holder' - the de facto prime minister that will head the government of experts - is Belgrade professor Dr Mladjan Dinkic.

He has already been to Montenegro to meet its president Milo Djukanovic.

Apart from Dinkic, who has already signalled his willingness to take the job, the alternatives include Dr Dragoslav Avramovic, former governor of the National Bank of Yugoslavia. The elderly Avramovic won national fame for halting record-breaking hyperinflation in Serbia in 1993, only to be replaced by Milosevic after they disputed economic policy.

A third candidate, economist Dr Miroljub Labus, has much support within the G17, but unlike the others, has a party political identity, as a member of the Democratic Party led by Zoran Djindjic.

The precise mechanism of a potential hand over is being worked out by the G17 in association with the lawyers gathered as the Independent Society of Judges of Serbia.

The G17 gathers some 20 of Yugoslavia's top economists and is led by Dinkic, of the University of Belgrade and the author of the local bestseller Economics of Destruction, and Veselin Vukotic, the chief architect of economic reforms in Montenegro.

The G17 spares little in detailing the present plight of the country in its draft: "Serbia is in a worse situation now than it was at the beginning of the century. Within the past decade the has been moral and financial collapse, wars, political instability, legal uncertainty, the many-fold plunge in standards of living, the loss of personal and property security. It has brought the state to a life on the edge of survival and left the nation in a position where its human existence is imperilled."

The G17 believes that their plan could turn this around. The almost unthinkable now could become a reality: Yugoslavia could even join Poland and Hungary as associate members of the European Union, in the queue for full membership. The protests and public

confrontations that have led a few to fear military clampdown on opposition in Serbia and Montenegro would also be wound down: the G17 wants the opposition groups to stop planning a take-over and their leaders to support them in the transitional government instead.

The transitional authority would set up first in Serbia, before agreeing with Montenegro on a matching body for the federation. A provisional deadline for finalising the process has been set for September 1. The only obstacle, it seems, is Slobodan Milosevic.

Milosevic has been indicted for his involvement in the commission of war crimes in Kosovo. He has nowhere to go, little to lose and nothing to gain from cooperation with the G17. So according to a well placed source the G17 are planning to find a way of allowing him to 'abdicate' and ensuring that he is not extradited to The Hague.

The comparison made is with Radovan Karadzic, indicted by the Tribunal for crimes in Bosnia, who stepped down as president under domestic and foreign pressure, but still has not been extradited or arrested, and is apparently likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Milenko Vasovic is a journalist based in Belgrade.

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