- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

The Serb people are the last Europeans to be liberated from communist dictatorship. The election of Vojislav Kostunica as president brought an end to the corrupt, vile, totalitarian communist-run dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic. The scars left on the future of Yugoslavia by Mr. Milosevic are deep. Losing three wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo represented a remarkable failure, and with it the isolation of the dictator and his country. Mr. Milosevic and his police regime have fallen, but he is still a contender for political power as the head of the so-called Socialist Party, i.e., communist. The "One-Hour Revolution" calls for jubilation, and certainly the beginning of the march by Yugoslavia into democratic Europe. But this is still a far-off dream.

If you look back over the last 10 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, the eradication of dictatorships and the restoration of democracy and democratic institutions in areas where they were either non-existent or defunct in the last 60 years indeed has been a daunting task. East Germany is still a second class territory within a united Germany. Its citizens have not reached the economic prosperity of the West. In Russia, economic reform has failed and the country now is ruled by the junior aparatchiks. Certainly, both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin were democratically elected, but democracy is only the first step toward freedom. The rule of law is not yet established in Russia, or for that matter in the corrupt dictatorships of the Central Asiatic states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Romania and Bulgaria, since 1989, have been run by former aparatchiks. Bulgaria is a corrupt state. More than half of its population is unemployed. It is a basket case. Romania is not in much better shape.

What then are the problems facing Mr. Kostunica's regime? To establish a transitional government that will lead to a viable system; to restore the institutions of democracy: parliament, the judiciary, and above all, the reform of the police that has been the mainstay of power for Mr. Milosevic. Mr. Kostunica heads a fragile democratic coalition of 18 parties. Ambitious rival politicians seem to get along now that Mr. Milosevic is out. Without Mr. Kostunica they would not have been elected. The fact is that Mr. Milosevic called for elections, believing these rival leaders and opposition parties would cancel each other out as they had in the past. Whether they will remain loyal to Mr. Kostunica is yet to be seen.

A more serious problem for Serb nationalist Vojislav Kostunica is obviously the future of the lost and near-lost provinces of Yugoslavia. Like Mr. Milosevic, Mr. Kostunica has been consistent in defending Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia. He will certainly not tolerate an independent Kosovar Albania. As a constitutional lawyer, he has a clear-cut case that the United States and the European Union (EU) always recognize Kosovo as an integral part of the Yugoslav Federation. Mr. Kostunica has no love for NATO's action in Kosovo, and in that sense he represents millions of Serbs. He will not accept NATO occupation of Kosovo or Albanian independence. Here he represents resentment of Serb nationalists over what the Europeans and Americans have done to them. All the opposition parties support him on the issues of Kosovo and Montenegro.

In Montenegro, the Milosevic Serb party won because the Montenegrins chose to boycott the federal election. So Mr. Kostunica will have to deal with the Milosevic party in Montenegro and Kosovo, which will end the pipe dream of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the EU and the United States, all anxious to bring Mr. Milosevic to trial for war crimes. The Serbian people resent NATO, the United States and the EU coalition for what they perceive as the injustice inflicted upon the Serb population, and the new president has pledged to support Serbs everywhere. Mr. Kostunica's government is likely to call for the reunification of the Serb Republic of Bosnia with Serbia. The Croat and Muslim populations of Bosnia will resist. Will NATO go to war against a democratic Belgrade if Mr. Kostunica calls for uniting all the Serbs?

The economic reconstruction of Serbia is an immediate goal now that the sanctions have been lifted. In order to succeed, Serbs need to be integrated into Europe. There are three models that could be followed by the EU. One is an enlarged EU made up of independent states. Another is the idea of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer for a European Federation that would function like a United States of Europe, with shared executive and legislative powers. The third model is a two-tiered European integration. This is a division of southeast and central Europe into two Europes: in one, the more backward Balkan states that will take longer to join the EU; in the other, the central east states (Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine) that are more advanced economically and will have priority in entering the EU. Under the most perfect conditions, Serbia will have to wait a long time before it can enter the EU.

We should congratulate the great achievement of the Yugoslavian constitutional lawyer and his intellectual friends now in the cabinet for bringing an end to the last communist dictatorship in Europe. But the dream of a completely free Europe is still decades away. And let's not forget there are two dictatorships still in Europe called Albania and Kosovar Albania, a ward of NATO.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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