Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Travel Bans Are More Effective Than Most Sanctions

Economic sanctions against Yugoslavia have hit disproportionately against ordinary Serbs. Travel bans, by contrast, are successfully targeting Milosevic's elite.
By Milenko Vasovic

Before the German soft drinks machinery manufacturer KHS invested 4.2 million German marks this summer in the Montenegrin mineral water plant Rada, it checked whether any of the company's directors were among the Yugoslavs who are now banned from entering the European Union.


None were, and the deal - a rare post-war foreign investment - went ahead.


KHS's caution typifies western business dealings with rump Yugoslavia and is making life increasingly difficult for Milosevic political and business elite. Moreover, the EU travel ban, which has been imposed on these individuals, has for the first time targeted the regime and not the wider, impoverished population.


In total, according to a list published in the Belgrade daily Danas, roughly 300 leading Yugoslavs are now banned from travelling to the European Union. And if the rumours are true, at least 300 additional names will soon be added to the list.


Lawyer Vladan Batic, a coordinator of the opposition Alliance for Change, says that about 250 people from this list are ready to sever ties with Milosevic in return for the lifting of the travel ban. "The only interest that links them with the ruling socialists is money, not ideology," he says. "Their capital is now frozen, their life has stopped. If the system collapses, it would be better for them not to be here."


In addition to Slobodan Milosevic and his family, all senior Yugoslav and Serbian government officials are on the list, as are a number of journalists in state media, directors of banks and large Serbian firms, Yugoslav Army officers, senior police, various ruling party officials and the owners of private companies closely linked to the regime.


Meanwhile, Milorad Vucelic, a former vice president of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), and Jovica Stanisic, a former chief of the secret police, have been removed from the list. Stanisic is known abroad as the man who mediated the release of the French pilots captured towards the end of the Bosnian war over Republika Srpska.


Many of the individuals whose names appear on the list are reported to be willing to do virtually anything to have the travel ban lifted. Some are believed to have used intermediaries to plead their case with the European Union. Others have employed British barristers to take their case to the International Court of Justice, claiming that their human rights are being violated.


This EU list effectively amounts to an incomplete catalogue of Serbia's wealthiest people. Vice President of the Serbian Government, Dragomir Tomic, for example, is director of the state-owned enterprise Simpo and his son has recently become joint owner of a steel production plant in Macedonia.


Many of these individuals have already had their bank accounts frozen. Though reliable information is hard to come by, speculators believe that more than a billion dollars in foreign accounts belonging to Serbian and Yugoslav officials are currently frozen.


The resignation of the businessman Bogoljub Karic, a minister without portfolio in the Serbian Government, has been attributed to the appearance of his name on the EU list. During NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Karic attempted to visit Cyprus with his wife Milanka, but was barred from entering. In total, five members of the Karic family appear on the list, only one less than from Milosevic's family.


The list gives some indication of the extent to which the regime controls the banking system. As many as 20 bankers are now banned from entering the EU. Of these, the largest contingent, 11 in all, work for Belgrade Bank. Four more work for the National Bank of Yugoslavia (NBY), including the governor Dusan Vlatkovic.


At the top of this list of bankers is Borka Vucic, the 73-year-old Belgrade Bank director. Known as Milosevic's private banker, she is said to know details of all private and state accounts in Cyprus. She says that she is not concerned by the fact that she can no longer travel.


In addition to bankers, some 33 officers appear on the list. In addition to the chief-of-staff, Dragoljub Ojdanic, and his closest allies, many field commanders also feature on the list, including the commander of special forces and the commander of the 63rd parachute brigade from Nis.


Several lesser-known individuals, who do not appear to have any decision-making role, also feature on the present list. Others used to be in positions of responsibility, but no longer are.


The names of journalists on the list have caused the greatest confusion, since they include insignificant editors of a number of low-circulation weeklies and a former presenter of TV Politika, yet they do not include the most senior individuals at Radio Television Serbia.


Dejan Milenkovic, executive director of BK television, a private station owned by Bogoljub Karic, is on the list, despite being a member of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia and the International Association of Journalists.


"I can only guess why and under what criteria my name appears on that list. I don't belong to any party," he says. "If it's because of my editorial function, then many chief editors should also appear on the list, but they don't."


Milenko Vasovic is a regular IWPR contributor from Belgrade.


More IWPR's Global Voices

Why Did Cuba Jail This Journalist?
Rights defenders say that unusually harsh punishment reflects wider troubles for Havana regime.
Under A Watchful Eye: Cyber Surveillance in Cuba
Cuba's Less Than Beautiful Game