Nations in Transit - Serbia and Montenegro (2003)
|Author||Gordon N. Bardos|
|Publication Date||29 May 2003|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Nations in Transit - Serbia and Montenegro (2003), 29 May 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473aff2a50.html [accessed 30 April 2016]|
Polity: Parliamentary democracy
Private Sector as % of GDP: 40%
Life Expectancy: 72
Religious Groups: Orthodox (65 percent), Muslim (19 percent), Roman Catholic (4 percent), other (12 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Serb (63 percent), Albanian (17 percent), Montenegrin (5 percent), Hungarian (3 percent), other (12 percent)
|Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Framework||4.25|
The year 2002 laid to rest more optimistic hopes that the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), the political coalition that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic on October 5,2000, could quickly pull the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) out of the darkness of the Milosevic years.* More than anything else, the year was characterized by stalemate and deadlock on a variety of fronts: the relationship between the two most important political leaders in the country, Yugoslav federal president Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian premier Zoran Djindjic; the relationship between the two republics of the Yugoslav federation, Serbia and Montenegro; and the future of the disputed province of Kosovo. Owing to this state of affairs, the post-Milosevic reform process in the FRY ground to a halt in many respects during the year.
Disagreements between the Kostunica and Djindjic camps, as well as the significant power of organized crime groups together with their allies in the former Communist security services, prevented faster political, judicial, and constitutional reform within Serbia itself. On the Yugoslav federal level, disagreements among Kostunica, Djindjic, and Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic dragged out implementation of an agreement on the formation of a new state entity between the two republics, despite significant mediation and support by the European Union (EU). On the issue of Kosovo, the year 2002 again made it abundantly clear that no one, whether in the region or in the international community, has a workable solution for ending the international community's involvement in the province without causing widespread regional instability.
This stalemate and deadlock in the reform process, moreover, significantly contributed to another notable phenomenon during the year: citizen apathy. Presidential elections in both Serbia and Montenegro in 2002 failed to draw the number of voters required for elections to be valid, leaving both republics by year's end without duly elected chief executives. In Serbia, this problem in the executive branch of government was compounded by a crisis in the legislative branch for much of the year. In the spring and summer of 2002, Serbian premier Djindjic dismissed over 40 members of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) from the Serbian National Assembly, charging them with absenteeism.
Djindjic's move brought to a head the struggle between the two men, which had been festering since the first days after Milosevic's overthrow. Kostunica was by far the most popular political figure in the country; yet given the limited authorities of his office, he was inferior in position to Djindjic, whose control of the Serbian government made him de facto the most powerful politician in the country. Thus, while Kostunica had a popular mandate, Djindjic had actual political power. Moreover, given Djindjic's skills as a political infighter, he was able to stymie most of Kostunica's attempts to influence reform strategy in a meaningful way. The Kostunica camp's efforts to call for early elections to redress this imbalance were consistently rejected by Djindjic and his faction during the course of the year, ostensibly because they would slow the reform process, but in reality because Djindjic would stand to lose considerable power in any electoral contest. The end result of this state of affairs was that each camp turned increasingly to extra-institutional means to pursue their power struggles, which would have significant implications for the future of democratization in the country.
Relations between Serbia and Montenegro exhibited similar problems. Since 1997, President Djukanovic's government had been distancing itself from the Milosevic regime in Serbia, and by September 2000, the Yugoslav federation in many ways existed in name only. Ironically, however, Milosevic's overthrow did little to bring Montenegro more fully back into the Yugoslav federation. Meanwhile, Montenegro itself remains seriously divided between a pro-independence faction (which comprises roughly 45-50 percent of the population, including Montenegro's ethnic minorities) and the segment of the population that favors continued union with Serbia (again, roughly 40-45 percent of the population). Thus, any attempt to secede from the FRY and create an independent state posed some danger that the violence associated with earlier periods of Yugoslavia's disintegration could be repeated.
Mindful of this fact, the international community, primarily in the form of the European Union, took an active role in mediating negotiations between Serbia and Montenegro in 2001 and 2002. The effort culminated in March 2002 with the signing of a Constitutional Charter outlining future relations between the two republics. Despite this success, however, the devil proved to be in the details, and passing the implementing legislation for the new agreement required another nine months of work. Few observers, however, have strong hopes for the new state, and many Montenegrin politicians have already publicly announced their intention to seek a referendum on full independence within three years as allowed for by the agreement.
Lurking in the shadows of these problems in both Serbia and Montenegro has been the continued influence and importance of organized criminal gangs, many with ties to the former Milosevic regime. Organized crime had assumed considerable power in the 1990s, when, as a result of the breakdown of the former Yugoslav state, war, and international sanctions, criminal groups reaped tremendous profits by providing goods and services to an isolated population. The profits, moreover, bought political influence as well as politicians, and deals made with organized crime figures were important factors in the overthrow of Milosevic in 2000. Nevertheless, their activities and power contributed significantly to the obstruction of reform efforts during the course of the year.
The problem of the future of Kosovo adds to the continued uncertainty concerning the Yugoslav federation. The year 2002 witnessed increasing disagreements between local Albanian politicians and international administrators in the province over rights and responsibilities each side had in Kosovo's governing. Kosovo itself continued to have the worst human rights record in Europe, despite the presence of more than 25,000 international peacekeeping troops and several thousand international civilian administrators.
* In March 2002, the two remaining republics of the Yugoslav federation signed a Constitutional Charter renaming their joint state "Serbia and Montenegro." As of the end of the year, however, the new state had yet to be formally established. Consequently, this report will continue to refer to the joint state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Electoral Process (Score: 3.75)
During 2002, Serbia tried and failed three times to elect a new president. Similarly, presidential elections in Montenegro in December also failed to draw the required number of voters to the polls to make the elections valid. Such electoral instability contributed to overall institutional instability, and at various points in 2002 the Serbian presidency, legislature, and constitutional courts were all functioning with dubious degrees of legitimacy.
The electoral laws throughout the FRY allow for a free competition of political parties. Numerous political parties compete for and share power at all levels of government in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. There is considerable transparency in the organization and conduct of elections and sufficient safeguards to protect the security of the ballot box. However, criticisms of current electoral legislation note that the proportional representation formula adopted by the FRY (the d'Hondt model) favors larger parties at the expense of smaller ones and tends to preserve the dominance of the majority party. There are also problems concerning the vagueness of certain provisions in the electoral laws and on the rules regarding campaign financing. Parties competing in elections must obtain at least 5 percent of the vote to gain parliamentary representation.
Political parties and party life in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo continue to be dominated by charismatic individuals rather than specific political ideologies or party programs. Moreover, in ideological terms, debate among rival political leaders on different ends of the political spectrum for the most part continues to focus on "the national question" – that is, defining and defending national interests. Although in recent years social, economic, and rule of law issues have increasingly become topics of political debate, unresolved issues such as the status of the Yugoslav federation, of Kosovo, and of Serb refugees from Bosnia and Croatia continue to make one's position on national interests the primary topic of political debate.
The Constitution of the FRY does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of ethnicity or religion; consequently, ethnic minorities are free to form their own political parties or join other nonethnic political groups. Both Muslims from the Sandzak region and Hungarians in Vojvodina have formed ethnically based parties that provide important swing votes in Parliament, and several politicians from these groups have assumed prominent positions. For instance, Rasim Ljajic, a Sandzak Muslim, is currently the minister for human and minority rights in the federal government.
The most recent national legislative elections for the bicameral Yugoslav Federal Assembly occurred on September 24,2000, concurrently with the elections for the FRY federal president. The Council of Republics is the popularly elected upper house, in which Montenegro and Serbia have equal representation. The lower house is the 138-member Council of Citizens, elected according to a complex formula in which 108 delegates are assigned to Serbia and 30 to Montenegro. In each case, some delegates are popularly elected (in Serbia, 54; in Montenegro, 24), with the remainder chosen according to constituency majorities. Delegates in both chambers serve four-year terms.
Pro-Milosevic parties controlled the composition of the Federal Assembly elected in November 1996. In the September 2000 elections, the DOS had to campaign under very unfavorable circumstances. The regime refused to allow the opposition access to the most important media, and the DOS coalition was frequently subjected to harassment from state security organs. Nevertheless, this opposition grouping scored a significant victory against pro-regime parties. Together with a reformed Socialist People's Party (SNP), the DOS coalition took a strong majority (see tables).
2000 FRY Federal Assembly Elections: Council of Citizens
|Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS)||58|
|Socialist Party of Serbia/Yugoslav United Left (SPS/JUL)||44|
|Serbian Radical Party (SRS)||5|
|Union of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM)||1|
|Socialist People's Party (SNP)||28|
|Serbian People's Party (SNS)||2|
Source: Official Web site of the FRY, available at www.gov.yu
2000 FRY Federal Assembly Elections: Council of Republics
|Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS)||10|
|Socialist Party of Serbia/Yugoslav United Left (SPS/JUL)||7|
|Serbian Radical Party (SRS)||2|
|Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO)||1|
|Socialist People's Party (SNP)||19|
|Serbian People's Party (SNS)||1|
Source: Official Web site of the FRY, available at www.gov.yu
Elections were also held in December 2000 for the unicameral Serbian National Assembly. The DOS again scored a significant victory over Milosevic's SPS, which was decisively trounced in the first post-Milosevic parliamentary elections.2000 National Assembly of Serbia Elections
|Christian Democratic Republic of Serbia||7|
|Civic Alliance of Serbia||9|
|Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians||1|
|Democratic Party of Sandzak||2|
|Democratic Party of Serbia||45|
|League of Vojvodina Social-Democrats||6|
|Liberals of Serbia||9|
|Party of Serbia Progress||2|
|Vojvodina Reform Democratic Party||4|
|Serbian Radical Party||23|
|Serbian Resistance Movement – Democratic Movement||1|
|Serbian Unity Party||13|
|Social Democratic Party||13|
|Socialist Party of Serbia||32|
|Socialist People's Party||5|
|Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians||6|
|Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions||1|
|Peasants' Party of Serbia||2|
|League for Sumadija||1|
|Movement for a Democratic Serbia||2|
The composition of the Serbian Parliament, and in fact the entire DOS coalition, underwent a significant revamping in the summer of 2002, when Serbian premier Djindjic removed the 45 representatives of Kostunica's DSS from the Serbian Parliament. The alleged reason for doing so was a boycott by DSS representatives in Parliament, but Djindjic had no constitutional authority for such a move and in fact ignored a ruling by the Yugoslav Constitutional Court to reinstate the DSS representatives.
The latest elections to the Montenegrin Parliament were held in October 2002. Disagreements among the various Montenegrin political parties over controversial amendments to the Law on Elections cast some shadow over the run-up to the elections and forced them to be postponed, but eventual compromises allowed them to proceed in early fall. The elections were deemed essentially free and fair, but the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did criticize several aspects of the Montenegrin vote, including the ability of political parties and coalitions to control the mandate of individual representatives and the low percentage of women running as candidates. The outcome of the elections, moreover, showed that a serious divide remains in Montenegrin society between pro-independence forces and those favoring continued union with Serbia.
Even in the post-Milosevic period, the character of relations between the government and the opposition has been turbulent to an extent that exceeds such usual conflicts in older democracies. This is the result of several factors. First, in general terms, compromise is not a widely respected notion in the political culture of the region; hence, there is a strong tendency among political actors to play zero-sum games without seeking a more moderate course. Second, the democratic rules of the game are still not well established in post-Milosevic Yugoslavia; consequently, the competencies and responsibilities of the government and the opposition, or of the different branches of government themselves, are still not clear. This was shown in the above-mentioned unwillingness of Serbian premier Djindjic to respect the rulings of the FRY Constitutional Court to reinstate DSS parliamentarians.
Elections for the Serbian presidency took place in 2002. In three separate attempts to elect a president – two rounds in September and October and a third in December – Yugoslav president and DSS party leader Vojislav Kostunica clearly emerged as the strongest candidate, outdistancing his opponents by an almost two-to-one margin. However, lack of the required 50 percent turnout caused each set of elections to be declared invalid. Although international organizations and monitoring groups deemed the elections free and fair, there were several complaints (primarily from the DSS) about voting procedures and voter lists. For instance, DSS officials claim that there may be over 400,000 extra voters on Serbia's voter's lists (compiled during the Milosevic era), a fact that artificially inflates the number of voters required to make an election valid.
2002 National Assembly of Montenegro Elections
|PARTY/COALITION||% OF VOTES||MANDATES|
|Liberal Alliance of Montenegro||5.7||4|
|Bosniak Democratic Coalition||0.7||0|
Source: OSCE-ODIHR Election Observation Final Report, November 28,2002
Registration requirements for presidential elections in Serbia are generally considered to be in accordance with contemporary standards. Candidates for the Serbian presidency may be nominated by political parties, political organizations, or groups of citizens or run as independents. In all cases, candidates must receive 10,000 voter signatures. As the failed elections of 2002 show, one of the most urgent tasks facing lawmakers is amending the rule requiring a 50 percent turnout for elections to be deemed valid.
The 1992 Law on Presidential Elections governs Montenegrin presidential elections. Theoretically, the law was conceived to allow for elections to be held within a democratic framework; however, as in the case of the Serbian presidential Law on Elections, the 50 percent turnout requirement caused the failure of elections in December. Another provision needing revision is one that requires the same candidates to run in repeat elections if the first round does not attract sufficient voters.
As noted above, 2002 was a bad year for voter participation throughout the FRY. In the votes in 2000 for the Yugoslav federal presidency pitting Milosevic against Kostunica, and then again in the Serbian parliamentary elections that soon followed, voter turnout was over 70 percent. By 2002, however, public apathy and disappointment with the slow progress of reforms resulted in voter turnouts lower than 50 percent. A similar situation occurred in Montenegro. In Kosovo as well, voter turnout for the October 2002 municipal elections declined considerably from previous elections, with only 54 percent of registered voters casting a ballot. Among Kosovo Serbs, turnout was significantly lower amid claims that the security situation did not allow them the freedom of movement to travel to polling places. A boycott by some politicians also contributed to the lower turnout.
Civil Society (Score: 2.75)
There has been tremendous growth in the number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) active in the FRY over the past decade. In Serbia, throughout the Milosevic period the relationship between most NGOs and the government was hostile. Since the DOS came to power, though, a new era of cooperation, or at least acceptance, has begun. In Montenegro, although the government's attitude toward NGOs has been more tolerant, economic difficulties and a lack of local talent have made the operating environment somewhat more difficult. Nevertheless, as of February 2002 some 1,550 NGOs were registered in Montenegro. Similar problems hold true for Kosovo, where since 1999 an average of 380 new NGOs have been registered annually. Most estimates, however, suggest that less than 20 percent of these organizations are active.
Traditionally, NGOs in the region have suffered from the fact that such forms of social activism are not traditional. Consequently, the local population in Serbia and to some extent in Montenegro has often viewed NGO activists as "mercenaries" working for foreign interests. The Milosevic regime contributed to the problem by disseminating propaganda that was hostile toward NGOs. Although there has been a sea change in the attitude of government officials in Serbia toward NGOs, groups have yet to establish strong ties with the business community. Likewise, society at large still does not understand the role that NGOs are supposed to play in the country's life. For their part, local NGO personnel often lack basic skills in lobbying or promoting their activities. Both independent and official media now present NGOs in a positive light.
In Montenegro, the Djukanovic government has generally been supportive of NGO activity, and this has been reflected in media coverage as well. The Montenegrin government also has encouraged the involvement of NGOs in the policy formulation process. In Kosovo, international organizations such as the OSCE and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) have been very supportive of the NGO community and on numerous occasions have solicited the advice of local NGOs in developing new policies. Throughout the 1990s, the NGO sector in Kosovo benefited from the Albanian population's extensive involvement in civil society initiatives, but fatigue has apparently set in there as well. Recent reports claim that the level of volunteerism in Kosovo is now near zero.
The activities and focus of NGOs in the FRY has varied over time according to the country's most pressing needs. In the aftermath of the NATO bombing campaign, most NGOs focused their efforts on humanitarian assistance, psychological services for displaced persons from Kosovo, and educational activities for displaced children. After elections were announced in the summer of 2000, most NGOs shifted their focus to organizing local and national campaigns to mobilize voters. Throughout the region, however, economic difficulties often make it impractical, if not impossible, for people to engage in significant levels of volunteerism.
NGOs in the FRY are considered by many to have made a decisive contribution to the overthrow of Milosevic. Currently, the most influential NGOs in Serbia are involved in civic education, economic development, and human rights activities. Especially prominent are Group 17, an organization of independent economists, and Otpor, the student's group that played a large role in mobilizing youth opposition to the Milosevic regime. Several women's rights groups are also active. Among the most prominent are the Belgrade-based groups Women in Black, Krajina and Tara, Tera, and Woman; and the Pristina-based groups Mikya and the League of Albanian Women.
Throughout the region, churches and religious organizations play prominent roles in organizing philanthropic activities. The Serbian Orthodox Church, which has emerged as one of the most trusted institutions in Serbian society, is active in providing charitable assistance to refugees and the poor. The role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbian society, however, is not limited to that of charitable or spiritual institution, for in recent years it has taken on an increasingly important position in the country's political life. Although some church hierarchs supported the Milosevic regime, most church leaders were openly hostile to Milosevic and his regime, and the overthrow of Milosevic in October 2000 could scarcely have been carried out without the support of Serbian patriarch Pavle. The Serbian Orthodox Church has also, and more controversially, supported Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the recent wars in those states. The Roman Catholic and Hungarian Evangelical Churches and the Islamic and Jewish communities are also engaged in charitable work.
The legal and regulatory environment for NGOs in Serbia has improved drastically since the DOS came to power, and the new authorities consider drafting new NGO legislation an important priority. In July 1999, the Montenegrin Parliament passed a new Law on NGOs, replacing the earlier Law on Citizens' Organizations. The new 35-article draft legislation was written with the help of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Podgorica and was reviewed by other NGOs in Montenegro. The legislation simplified registration procedures, detailed taxation benefits, and granted foreign and domestic NGOs equal status. In Kosovo, UNMIK has implemented regulations creating a favorable legal environment for NGOs. However, the NGO registration office in Kosovo is considered to be suffering from both a lack of qualified staff and limited funds. In Kosovo and Montenegro, there are simple registration procedures for NGOs.
In Serbia, NGOs do not receive any tax exemptions, apart from grant funds, while in Montenegro a separate tax law allows for corporate donations to public benefit, sports, or religious organizations of up to 3 percent of the corporation's total income. Individual donations to these organizations are deductible up to 10 percent of taxable income. In Kosovo, organizations with public benefit status must submit an annual report with programmatic and financial information in return for exemptions on customs duties and excise and sales taxes on imported goods.
The organizational capacity of most NGOs in the FRY is generally poor. NGOs in Serbia are considered to be the strongest, yet even there 50 percent of NGOs do not have a single computer, and 77 percent have no paid staff. In Montenegro, poorly defined missions, limited staffing, equipment shortages, and a lack of effort in trying to build larger or broader constituencies are frequently cited problems. In Kosovo, there is a wide gap between the organizational capacity of older, more established NGOs and those that have sprung up since 1999. Hundreds of NGOs have been created in response to announcements of grant programs and quickly cease to function after the money runs out. Older NGOs have more permanent and better-quality staff, but even in this category the stronger NGOs still have problems retaining their best people. Internal management structures are considered weak, with most NGOs dominated by one or at most a few dynamic leaders. In all three areas, however, there is a core of experienced local practitioners and trainers, and information is available in local languages for purposes of training and instruction.
As should be expected, poor economic conditions significantly affect the viability of FRY NGOs, leaving them dependent on the international donor community for the foreseeable future. Most NGOs operate on shoestring budgets throughout Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo, make do from grant to grant, are dependent upon a single donor, and rely on volunteer support for much of their activity. Activists generally lack fund-raising skills. Some NGOs have received in-kind support, like the use of office space from reform-minded municipal authorities in cities and towns previously run by the opposition. Another way for NGOs to raise funds is by charging for services and engaging in other revenue-raising activities, but it is difficult for NGOs to earn income from their products or services because their customers or beneficiaries cannot afford to pay.
Workers in the FRY have a constitutional right of association, and many free trade unions are active. Some 60-70 percent of workers in the socially owned state sector (approximately 1.1 million to 1.3 million workers) are union members. In the private sector, only 4 percent of workers are unionized, and in agriculture, 2-3 percent. The Serbian government passed a new Law on Labor in December 2001 that won the approval of the International Labor Organization.
Public opinion surveys conducted prior to the change of power in Belgrade showed that only 12 percent of the population had much faith in either the official governmental or independent trade unions. During the Milosevic era, the Savez Sindikata Srbije (SSS) was in a highly favored position visavis the government, which allowed the group to inherit all of the property belonging to trade unions from the Communist period and let it distribute scarce consumer goods as well. The Milosevic regime also considered the SSS its only official interlocutor in labor negotiations. Labor activists claimed the government had turned down some 300 requests to officially register other potential unions. The FRY's trade union movement has assumed increased importance since the independent United Branch of Independent Labor Unions became an unofficial 19th member of the DOS coalition in 2000. In Kosovo, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo represents 24 unions with some 250,000 workers.
Articles 39 and 41 of the FRY Constitution grant citizens freedom of assembly and the freedom to form political parties and organizations. There are numerous organized interest groups in the country representing ethnic constituencies, business interests, women's rights, and other issues. Public policy institutes such as Group 17 often play a visible role in policy making in the FRY. A similarly prominent organization in Montenegro has been the Center for Democracy and Human Rights, which is frequently involved in policy formulation.
The educational system has been in a deep crisis in the FRY for the past decade. Throughout the Milosevic years, the regime regularly violated academic freedoms by dismissing critical voices from the academy and installing regime favorites. In April 2002, the Serbian government passed a new Law on Universities that attempted to address many of these problems. The new law confirms the university's place as an autonomous scientific, artistic, and educational entity; guarantees its freedom of creativity and expression; and forbids political or religious organization or activity on the university's behalf. There were no reports of attempts by the government to restrict academic freedom in 2002. In Kosovo, the most serious problem regarding education remains ethnic minority access to educational institutions. In September 2002, the coordinator of UNMIK's science and education efforts announced he was leaving his post after complaining that it was proving impossible to stop discrimination against Serbs and other local ethnic minorities in educational institutions.
Independent Media (Score: 3.25)
All of the constituent parts of the FRY boast very lively media. Although the media had been persecuted in various ways under the Milosevic regime, ironically, the same period also witnessed the rebirth of independent media in Yugoslavia. Legal protections for freedom of the press are guaranteed by the Yugoslav Constitution, the respective Constitutions of Serbia and Montenegro, and the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government of Kosovo.
By and large, the media throughout the FRY are editorially independent. Nevertheless, the fact that many electronic and print media outlets are affiliated in some fashion with different political parties affects their coverage of various issues. Another problem facing media in the FRY since the fall of Milosevic has been the uncertain legal environment in which they operate. One of the DOS government's first acts upon coming to power was to repeal the much hated Milosevic-era Law on Public Information. However, the difficulties in drafting and passing new legislation governing the media in the interim created a legal vacuum in which the rules were unclear. Critics of the media in the FRY have accused various journalists and state-run outlets throughout the country of being unduly loyal to the DOS government – in effect, of having traded their subservience to the Milosevic regime for uncritical coverage of the new authorities.
As of 2001, there were over 600 radio and 300 television stations in the country, along with hundreds of daily and weekly newspapers, tabloids, and magazines, published in a variety of languages. The vast majority of these are privately owned, but under current regulations it is easy to conceal the real owners of media outlets. This in turn makes it difficult to determine the political and/or business connections between various political factions and different media outlets. Given the economic condition of the country, electronic media have become the main source of public information throughout the country; newsprint, satellite, and Internet access are too expensive for most individuals. The largest and most influential source of electronic media in Yugoslavia remains the state-run Radio Television Serbia (RTS), whose signal covers most of the country. When Milosevic was in power, RTS's editorial policy was strictly pro-government. In the run-up to the September 2000 elections, for instance, RTS news programs devoted 9 1/2 hours to covering SPS/JUL activities and only 21 minutes to those of the DOS.
The Belgrade-based Politika (estimated circulation 60,000-80,000), the largest print daily in Yugoslavia, is one of the oldest and most respected papers in the country. Milosevic had gained control of Politika in the late 1980s and made it the semiofficial mouthpiece for his regime until the events of October 5,2000, when Politika's editorial staff revolted against management and demanded a complete overhaul of its leadership. Other important dailies include Danas and the tabloid Blic. The Belgrade-based news weeklies Vreme (portrayed as having a civic, non-nationalist editorial policy; circulation 15,000), NIN (with a more traditionally Serbian/ conservative editorial stance; circulation 15,000), and Reporter (also more civic oriented; circulation figures unavailable) are popular throughout the country, as is Nedeljni Telegraf, a tabloid-style weekly (circulation 85,000).
Apart from RTS, the most highly watched stations include BK Television and TV Pink. BK television is run by the Karic brothers, who own what might be the largest business empire in the country. TV Pink, mainly an entertainment channel, was close to the Milosevic regime. Both stations have changed their editorial positions substantially since October 2000 and currently are considered closest to Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS). Perhaps the most important radio station in the country is Radio B92, which gained international renown for its opposition to Milosevic. During the Milosevic period, B92 organized a network of 24 opposition radio stations throughout Serbia, Vojvodina, and Montenegro. All told, the network's program reaches 70 percent of Serbia's population. Another prominent Belgrade radio station is Radio Index.
Apart from government harassment, the main problem facing independent media in the FRY over the past decade has been making a profit. With the exception of BK Television and TV Pink, practically none of the independent media outlets are financially viable, and most, such as Vreme and Radio B92, depend on foreign donations to survive. Few radio and television stations are expected to survive the transition to a market economy. Most media outlets lack experience and skill in selling advertising, and a recent study found that over 50 percent of the estimated US$15 million spent on advertising in Serbia went to just two television stations.
Officially, Articles 36 and 38 of the FRY Constitution guarantee freedom of the press and prohibit censorship, with one stipulation: Media outlets enjoy these freedoms only if they are registered with the government. Independent or alternative media were frequently subjected to harassment during the Milosevic era, especially under the infamous 1998 Law on Public Media, which provided the government with a variety of weapons, including extensive libel provisions, for attacking them. The DOS government rescinded the 1998 Law on Public Media and drafted several important pieces of legislation intended to more clearly protect freedom of the press, including a new Law on Telecommunications, Law on Broadcasting, and Law on Public Information. However, factional disagreements in Parliament prevented these laws from being passed as of December 2002. Libel laws remain in the criminal code, but media analysts support current efforts to have them removed and incorporated instead into the civil code. One important effort by the new authorities to make up for the mistakes of the previous regime came in June 2001, when several independent media outlets were reimbursed for the huge fines the Milosevic regime had imposed upon them.
The main journalists organizations in Serbia include the Independent Association of Journalists (NUNS), which was founded in 1994 and has a current membership of 2,100. No information is available on the number of women within NUNS, but the president is a highly regarded female journalist from Belgrade. Other important professional journalistic organizations in Yugoslavia are the Association of Independent Electronic Media, the Association of Independent Print Media, and LOCAL PRESS, an organization of independent local magazines in Serbia. Information on the proportion of women in their membership is not available.
Montenegro and the provinces have their own state television services as well. The government has announced its intention to reform the state-run broadcasting system, with the goal of turning state-run TV and radio into public service broadcasters. Montenegro has 5 daily newspapers, several weeklies, and some 30 radio and television stations, the majority of which are privately owned. The most important newspapers are the pro-government Pobjeda (scheduled to undergo privatization soon) and Vijesti and the pro-opposition Dan. The most prominent Montenegrin news weekly is the Podgorica-based, privately owned Monitor. (Circulation figures for print media are unavailable, but, as throughout the Balkans, an estimated four to five people read every newsstand issue sold.) The most important television station is the state-run TV Crna Gora, whose signal covers the entire republic. Montena TV is another popular station. The most important radio stations include Radio Montena, Antenna M, and Radio Niksic. Media outlets from Serbia proper also attract a large audience among some segments of the population. Few privately owned media outlets in Montenegro are financially viable. Poor financial management, unfair competition from state-run media, and limited advertising possibilities combine to make it difficult to turn a profit.
Legally, the media in Montenegro enjoy considerable editorial independence through the 1998 Montenegrin Law on Public Information, which guarantees the right of citizens to free speech, access to information, and the freedom to set up media enterprises. The law also stipulates that editorial policy is completely up to publishers and owners of these enterprises. Nevertheless, the government, political parties, powerful businesses, and other types of organizations have numerous ways of manipulating both state-run and independent media. These include releasing privileged information to more "cooperative" media enterprises and influencing the distribution of indirect state subsidies that are available to independent media. There is also a range of topics that journalists have been reluctant to cover in Montenegro, including corruption among state officials, smuggling, mismanagement, and abuse of power. Concerns over personal safety often result in a certain degree of self-censorship. Over the past several years, state-run media have assumed a more and more blatant pro-Djukanovic, pro-independence editorial position. This was especially clear during the April 2001 parliamentary election campaign, when pro-Djukanovic dailies such as Vijesti and Pobjeda were found to have "gravely violated journalism ethics." Similar problems arose with the state-run electronic media.
Libel remains a criminal offense in the FRY. Although there were no reported cases of the government using libel laws to harass the media in 2002, former Milosevic associates and some members of government individually took advantage of the low threshold defining libel to obtain court settlements against various media. In 2001, the Djukanovic regime in Montenegro made extensive use of libel laws, most prominently with the prosecution of the editor in chief of the daily Dan, who was sentenced to three months in prison for republishing a series of exposes, originally published by a Croatian news weekly, on Djukanovic's involvement in organized crime and cigarette smuggling. Among the major journalists organizations in Montenegro are the Association of Young Journalists, the Montenegro Media Institute, and the Union of Independent Media of Montenegro. Information on the number of women in these organizations is unavailable.
The Internet has become very popular in the FRY over the past decade. There were 13.38 Internet hosts per every 10,000 people in the FRY in 1999, and 20.7 personal computers per 1,000 people. Official statistics claim that 80,000 people have access to the Internet, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is much greater. Limited access to the Internet is the result more of a lack of computers than of government restrictions. Many individuals have access to the Internet through academic and governmental institutions or through various business enterprises; according to some informal estimates, the total figure stands at approximately 300,000 people. Most larger towns and cities also have numerous "cybercafes."
Ethnic minorities in the FRY are generally considered to have adequate media in their native languages. In Kosovo and Vojvodina, there are RTS broadcasts in Albanian and Magyar, respectively, but the editorial slant had traditionally been pro-Milosevic. Yugoslavia also has print media for ethnic minorities, published in their native languages. Novi Sad's Magyar Szo, for example, is a Hungarian-language daily with an estimated circulation of 26,000.
Kosovo today has numerous media outlets. The province's approximately 90 television and radio stations are mainly privately owned. The most important of these is Radio-Television Kosova (RTK), the public broadcaster, which holds one television license and two radio licenses. Other important television and radio stations with licenses to broadcast provincewide include Radio-Television Pristina, KohaVision, and Radio Dukagjini. The main print media in the province include Koha Ditore, an Albanian-language newsmagazine edited by the well-known Albanian activist Veton Surroi; and Koha Sot, another daily that began publishing in 1998 and whose editorial line tends to fall between the more militant Koha Ditore and segments of the Albanian population who support Ibrahim Rugova, the head of the Democratic League of Kosovo. Kosovo currently has another 4 dailies and 11 periodicals. There are no Kosovo-based television stations for the Serb population, but RTS's signal reaches many parts of the province. A small number of Serbian-language news and information programs are produced in Kosovo.
With so many media for a relatively small population, most of the existing media in Kosovo are not considered viable in the long term. They likely will cease to exist once foreign donations run out. Since local journalists have little knowledge of the business side of managing media operations, sales and advertising are hardly developed, and there is considerable competition for what little advertising revenue is available. Of Kosovo's 17 print publications, only 2 (Koha Sot and Koha Ditore) are considered sustainable without foreign donations.
Under the current UN administration of Kosovo, UNMIK and the OSCE control much of the media environment in the province. Although media are generally editorially independent, most journalists feel that they are charged with supporting a political party or viewpoint and thus are unable to function as unbiased news reporters. Added to this is the fear many Kosovo journalists and editors have about investigating issues such as the widespread, endemic nature of organized crime. Legal protections for press freedom are guaranteed in various OSCE and UNMIK proclamations, such as the May 2001 Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government. Nevertheless, many local Albanian journalists frequently express their dissatisfaction with UNMIK or the OSCE in their handling of the media situation in the province. Kosovo does not enjoy a tradition of independent journalists organizations.
Koha Ditore established Kosovo's first e-mail system, Zananet, in 1994. By March 1999, there were four service providers in the province: Pronet (owned and managed by Albanians), Eunet, Co.yu, and the PTT. Prior to the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Pronet's staff frequently had to hide its equipment from police raids. Pronet was estimated to be serving several hundred users. Radio 21, an independent Albanian radio station based in Pristina, also broadcast its reports via the Web. Currently, Internet access and usage in Kosovo are considered limited.
Freedom House rated Yugoslavia "Not Free" from 1991 to 1999 in its annual Survey of Press Freedom. Since then it has been rated "Partly Free."
Governance (Score: 4.25)
The governmental system in the FRY has shown precious little stability over the past decade. During the Milosevic years, the FRY's political space slowly disintegrated into three separate entities, with Montenegro going its own way, Kosovo falling under international administration, and Serbia proper (along with Vojvodina) being held hostage to Milosevic's erratic and idiosyncratic rule. Assassinations of leading political figures became commonplace in the 1990s, and the corruption of public institutions became widespread. Although significant progress has been achieved since October 5,2000, disagreements among different factions in the anti-Milosevic coalition over proper reform strategies for the country, together with continuing difficulties in reaching a meaningful agreement on the future of the federation with Montenegro, have significantly stymied progress toward improving governmental efficiency, capacity, and transparency.
Political forces close to Serbian prime minister Djindjic have favored faster reforms and have been willing to ignore legal and constitutional niceties to obtain results. The Djindjic camp has also tried desperately to avoid new elections, ostensibly because they would slow the reform process, but in reality because Djindjic and his allies would face political defeat at the polls. Forces closer to FRY president Kostunica, on the other hand, have favored a more evolutionary and slower approach to reform. The Kostunica camp has laid more stress on achieving a fundamental constitutional and political reform of Milosevic's system as a way of laying the groundwork for the evolution of a democratic polity and market economy. This strategy, however, has had significant drawbacks, not least being the fact that slower reform has meant keeping more Milosevic-era cadres in positions of authority. It also forced Kostunica and the DSS to adopt a strategy of boycotts of Parliament and political obstruction, since they were unable to influence in any meaningful fashion Djindjic's chosen political and economic strategies.
As a result of the struggle for power between these two factions of the DOS coalition, many aspects of the reform process in the FRY came to a halt in 2002. Although Kostunica was by far the most popular politician in the country throughout the year, and despite the fact that Kostunica's DSS probably would have scored a notable success in parliamentary elections, Djindjic's skill at political infighting and controlling the Serbian government made him the country's most powerful politician, albeit one without democratic legitimacy.
A concomitant result of the Kostunica-Djindjic struggle for power has been the breakdown of political institutions governing the country. During the course of 2002, several events contributed to the instability. First, Serbia and Montenegro were unable to resolve their differences over the future of the Yugoslav federation. Second, neither republic was able to elect a new president. Third, the legitimacy of the Serbian National Assembly was brought into question when Djindjic dismissed the elected representatives of Kostunica's DSS from Parliament. Even the authority of the Yugoslav federal court system was brought into question by Djindjic's refusal to reinstate the dismissed DSS deputies. Thus, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government in the FRY all failed in 2002 to function with any degree of normality.
Legislative bodies in the FRY have not been effective rule-making institutions. The parliamentary systems in both Serbia under Milosevic and Montenegro under Djukanovic have generally assured that the legislatures provide rubber-stamp approval of executive decisions. With Milosevic's overthrow, however, the federal and Serbian legislatures began assuming a more prominent role in formulating and enacting legislation. President Kostunica's dedication to "constitutional legalism" made him more respectful of Parliament's authority, and in any case he did not have the power to rule as autocratically as Milosevic did. Similarly, in Serbia, the inability of any single political party to totally dominate political life as Milosevic's SPS had in the 1990s has meant that parliamentary deliberations have assumed more meaning and importance in the policy-making process.
Another legacy of the Communist and Milosevic eras is that the legislatures do not have established traditions of investigative and oversight authority of executive actions. Here again, however, Milosevic's overthrow has opened up possibilities for much more legislative freedom. Over the past year, legislative committees in the federal Parliament have been very active in overseeing government policy toward Kosovo and investigating various crimes and corruption involving the previous regime.
In Kosovo, UNMIK has almost unlimited authority to govern the province on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244 (June 1999), which made Kosovo an international protectorate. Most executive authority in Kosovo is vested in the special representative of the UN secretary-general, a post currently held by German diplomat Michael Steiner. The UNMIK special representative, however, must formulate policy by taking into consideration the interests of a variety of other parties, including the FRY, neighboring countries, the EU, the United States, and Russia. In May 2001, international officials and representatives of local Albanian parties agreed to a Constitutional Framework for Local Self-Government. (Serb political bodies refused to participate in the process to protest their belief that the process was leading to the independence of the province.) The constitutional framework established a Parliament of Kosovo, which in turn has the power to elect a president for the province. Several other important powers, such as those pertaining to the security environment and judicial review, remain the prerogatives of the special representative, who also has the right to overturn parliamentary decisions not in compliance with UNSCR 1244. This includes, for instance, any possible declaration of independence for Kosovo by the Parliament. The Kosovo Parliament was elected in November 2001, and over the course of 2002 most observers were disappointed with its performance. On several issues (such as a vote rejecting a border agreement between the FRY and Macedonia and an attempt to establish a special regime regulating relations with Albania), it has tried to adopt legislation that it is not legally authorized to do, and in each case the special representative has had to declare such moves null and void.
FRY parliamentary bodies, both at federal and republican levels, operate with some openness and transparency. Parliamentary proceedings are frequently televised live and sometimes draw large audiences. Draft legislation is published in newspapers and on government Web sites, and government officials make frequent appearances on TV talk shows to lobby for new policies. A new Law on Freedom of Information has been drafted but had not passed by the Serbian Parliament by year's end. In Kosovo, under UNMIK there is considerable public transparency and discussion about proposed legislation.
The constitutional and legislative environment regulating subnational levels of government in the FRY can be described most succinctly as being conflictual. Even in the post-Milosevic period, Montenegrin authorities continue to refuse to recognize the authorities of federal institutions. Under the FRY's federal structure, substantial power is decentralized to subnational levels of government, primarily the republics and, to a lesser extent, Serbia's two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina, and Kosovo (the latter of which is under UN administration). The republics enjoy all residual powers and authorities not specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution. The republics themselves, however, are highly centralized. For instance, the republican Ministries of Education design school curricula and textbooks, which then have to be implemented throughout the republic. Similarly, prices for various utilities are determined at the republic level, not at the federal or municipality levels. Most important, control over police forces is the responsibility of the republics, and in both Serbia and Montenegro authority over these institutions is highly centralized.
Given this level of centralization, local (that is, municipal) governments in the FRY do not have many autonomous sources of revenue at their disposal. All told, local government spending accounts for only 10 percent of all government spending in the FRY (excluding Montenegro). Although municipal governments do raise some revenues autonomously, most rely on supplemental funding from the central government.
Civil servants in the FRY are on the whole competent and professional. However, as with much of the country, they have suffered from the general economic deterioration of the past decade, which has affected the government bureaucracy's ability to modernize with state-of-the-art computer technology. Another element of this problem is the fact that the Milosevic regime was very adept at co-opting members of the civil service. The general economic malaise of the country also has made it fairly common for civil servants to engage in bribe taking. Since core wages in the civil service are extremely low, as are salary differentials, it is difficult to keep highly skilled professionals in government service. Reform of public sector employment is considered a pressing issue.
Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Framework (Score: 4.25)
The FRY's official system of checks and balances comes in two forms: the division of powers between the federal government in Belgrade and the republican governments of Montenegro and Serbia; and the division of authorities among different governmental institutions at both the federal and republican levels. According the FRY Constitution, the federal government is responsible for maintaining a common market and foreign and defense policies. In reality, however, since 1997 the Djukanovic regime has de facto been running its own affairs. It also has stopped contributing to the federal budget, despite its legal obligations to forward customs duties and other taxes to Belgrade.
At both the federal and republican levels, there is formally a division of power among executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. A legacy of the past 50-plus years of communism and Milosevic, however, is the accumulation of powers by the executive. Charismatic authority, centralized party discipline, and an unwillingness to compromise with the political opposition have provided leaders like Tito, Milosevic, and Djukanovic with powers far in excess of their constitutional prerogatives. Since Milosevic's removal, critics on either side of the Kostunica-Djindjic divide have been accusing the two men of setting up extraconstitutional parallel institutions of power to bypass normal channels of parliamentary procedure. In addition to this legacy of reliance on strongman rule, events in 2002 showed that behind-the-scenes maneuvering among rival political factions continues to be more important than open legislative debate and procedures in determining policy and setting forth the rules of the political game.
Since the fall of Milosevic, constitutional reform of both the federation between Serbia and Montenegro and of the Serbian republic itself has been among the most pressing issues on the political agenda. On March 14,2002, under intense pressure from international mediators, the governments of Serbia and Montenegro and the Yugoslav federal government agreed to form a new, loosely knit common state to be known simply as "Serbia and Montenegro." Drafting the Constitution of the new state entity, however, dragged on to the end of 2002. The new state will have a unicameral legislature, a presidency, and a Council of Ministers (including five ministries: foreign affairs, defense, international economic relations, and protection of human and minority rights), but separate economic, fiscal, and monetary policies. Three years after final ratification, each republic will be allowed to hold a referendum on total independence. Early estimates of the chances for survival of the new state are not optimistic.
Serbian premier Djindjic's dismissal of parliamentary representatives of Kostunica's DSS provides an example of the confused legal and constitutional state of the FRY in 2002. Although the Yugoslav federal Constitutional Court ordered that the dismissed representatives be reinstated, the republican-level Serbian Constitutional Court ruled that the move had been legal. To make matters more complicated, due to a lack of judges this was the first ruling the Serbian Constitutional Court had made in over a year. With the DSS representatives dismissed from Parliament, however, Djindjic allies were able to vote in six new judges to the Constitutional Court, who promptly ruled in Djindjic's favor. Thus a deadlock ensued, as there was no higher judicial authority in the country that could resolve the dispute. (Djindjic did back down in November 2002 and allowed the DSS representatives to retake their seats following Kostunica's strong showing in the September-October rounds of Serbian presidential elections.) The case of the dismissed judges was indicative of larger-scale issues confronting the judicial system in the FRY: continued political interference in the work of judicial organs, poor cooperation and coordination among judicial bodies and other branches of government, and the large number of incompetent, corrupt judges left over from the Milosevic era.
The Kostunica-Djindjic struggle manifested itself in several other aspects of public policy, such as reform of the criminal code and criminal law. Although a substantial amount of legislation has been passed on reforming the judicial system in the FRY, the political deadlock has prevented the implementation of many new laws. At the federal level, a new criminal procedure code came into effect in March 2002 that analysts say provides better guarantees to suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings. According to the new code, citizens may be arrested only after a judge has issued a warrant. Torture and other forms of cruel punishment are prohibited by Yugoslav law; however, there were reports of police beating detainees on a few occasions in 2002. The judicial system throughout the FRY is still plagued by an excessive backlog of cases, and it is not uncommon for it to take years to resolve cases brought before the courts.
The FRY Constitution provides for a strict separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government (Article 12). Justices in the Yugoslav federal Constitutional Court and federal court and the federal public prosecutor are not allowed to belong to political parties (Article 42). In practice, however, on matters of political importance to the Milosevic regime the judicial system often acted as an adjunct of the SPS. When the DOS came to power, it launched a purge of the judiciary, and by March 2001 several leading judicial figures from the Milosevic era had been dismissed. Seventeen judges dismissed by Milosevic also were reinstated.
The Ministry of Justice has considerable influence on the legal system through its financial and administrative control over the courts. In practical terms the minister of justice is believed to have extensive control over the judicial appointment process. Public confidence in the court system is considered to be eroding based on the decreasing number of cases brought before the courts since the early 1990s.
In Kosovo, there is little judicial independence to speak of. Local judges are afraid to rule against the interests of powerful organized crime bosses or local political leaders (who are often one and the same) or to prosecute crimes against non-Albanian ethnic minorities. To overcome this problem, foreign judges have been brought in to try some cases, but investigations conducted against leading Kosovo Albanian politicians are frequently blocked by international officials at very high levels for fear that they could "jeopardize the peace process" or lead to retaliatory attacks against international personnel.
Court proceedings throughout the FRY are conducted in public, unless there is a perceived need to protect government secrets, public order, or public morality. An important exception to this rule is the military court system, which operates with little transparency. According to the new Constitutional Charter agreed to by Serbia and Montenegro in 2002, the civilian judiciary is to take over the responsibilities of the military court system in the first half of 2003. Throughout the FRY, the state is obligated to provide public defenders for individuals unable to provide for their own legal representation. Accused persons also have the right to have court proceedings translated into their native language.
For much of the past decade, enforcement of judicial decisions has depended upon the consent of executive bodies. Since the courts rarely ruled against the interests of the Milosevic regime, law enforcement and security institutions did enforce rulings made by the courts. This general rule became more complicated, however, by the Djukanovic government's drive to increase Montenegro's autonomy from Belgrade. The federal Constitution declares that it is up to the constituent republican authorities to enforce decisions of the federal Constitutional Court; however, since the Djukanovic government stopped recognizing that Court's rulings, it has also refused to enforce any of its decisions.
The FRY Constitution guarantees Yugoslav citizens all human rights and civil liberties, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, religion, or political creed, in accordance with international practice. Citizens are guaranteed freedom of assembly, a free press, the right to own property, and the right to engage in the profession or vocation of their choice. National minorities have the right to use their own language in educational institutions and in legal proceedings. Since the DOS's assumption of power, these rights have been recognized and respected. However, differences have been reported in the human rights records of Serbia and Montenegro, as the latter's security apparatus has been found to be "relatively clean – since 1995."
Kosovo's Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government provides for all human and civil rights endorsed by most international conventions. In practice, however, ethnic minorities in Kosovo must deal with a considerable degree of oppression, which international officials believe is tacitly accepted or even sanctioned by local Albanian leaders. Freedom of movement for ethnic minorities in Kosovo is a particular problem that prevents them from participating in everyday activities such as finding employment, going to hospitals, and attending schools. This state of affairs is believed to contribute to the continuing outflow of ethnic minorities from the province.
Constitutional documents throughout the FRY have all the standard antibias and antidiscrimination laws, including measures protecting ethnic minorities and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender. Articles 44 to 48 of the FRY Constitution guarantee national minorities the right to education and information media in their native language, the right to form educational and cultural institutions, and the right to foster relations with co-nationals outside the borders of the FRY. Article 50 renders unconstitutional the incitement or encouragement of national, racial, or religious hatred and intolerance. During the Milosevic era, these rights were frequently abused, but the situation has improved considerably under the new authorities. One symbolic indication of this has been the appointment of Rasim Ljajic, a Bosniac from the Sandzak region, as federal minister for ethnic minorities. Women's organizations have complained that during the period of nationalist mobilization, the rights of women as a group were frequently ignored. In many rural parts of Kosovo, medieval Albanian clan codes of conduct still allow women to be treated as chattel property.
In Serbia and Montenegro, traditional religious groups function freely, among them the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Islamic community, the Jewish community, and several smaller Protestant and Evangelical organizations with long histories in the region. Restitution of church properties nationalized during the Communist period has yet to be resolved. Religious persecution has been a particular problem in Kosovo over the past decade. During the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, Serbian forces destroyed numerous mosques used by the Albanian community. In the period since NATO occupied Kosovo, over 100 Serbian Orthodox churches and other church buildings, including valuable medieval monasteries, have been destroyed or seriously damaged, and Serbian clergy are frequently the victims of public harassment outside of small Serb enclaves.
Corruption (Score: 5.00)
Under the Milosevic regime, the FRY was considered one of the most corrupt states in the world. The DOS government came to power promising to quickly change this state of affairs, but the past two years have shown that corruption is so endemic, both in the FRY and in Balkan political culture, that tackling it will be a long, arduous process.
As a consequence of half a century of communism and a decade of Milosevic's rule, legal and ethical standards and boundaries between public and private sector activity in the FRY have been blurred considerably. In the past decade especially, activities such as black marketeering, illegal trade in hard currencies, employee theft, illegal construction, and bribery had all become so commonplace, public opinion polls showed that most citizens did not consider these activities to be serious moral or legal offenses. Many leading governmental officials in Serbia, such as the current minister of the interior, continue to directly operate their own businesses or to sit on the boards of various economic enterprises.
Much the same holds true in Montenegro. Many members of the political establishment in Montenegro, up to and including President Djukanovic, have well-known links to businesses and organized crime. Djukanovic himself is reported to have profited considerably from his ties to cigarette smugglers in the Balkans. In Kosovo, the situation is perhaps even worse. The intricate ties among the political leadership, the guerrilla leadership of the now formally disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and organized crime figures is so great that one U.S. military official serving in Kosovo remarked, "We call it a thugocracy. The Mafia, the politicians, and the so-called freedom fighters are all connected." UNMIK has yet to pass regulations requiring financial disclosure for public figures or disallowing conflicts of interest.
Prior to the DOS's assumption of power, financial disclosure laws for politicians did not exist; nor did laws on conflict of interest that would force them to declare gifts, investments, credits, and other sources of income. There are laws on the books prohibiting racketeering and other forms of organized crime; however, owing to the fact that such activities had become an integral part of the Milosevic regime's structure of rule, little effort was spent to thwart such activities. Similar problems have emerged in Kosovo as well, where international officials claim that the former KLA leadership is deeply involved in extortion, racketeering, smuggling, and kidnapping. Although international organizations such as UNMIK are trying to curb such abuses, lack of personnel and funds has made corruption in Kosovo difficult to investigate or control.
The fight against corruption has been prominent in post-Milosevic Yugoslavia. One of its primary thrusts has been reform of the customs service, which under Milosevic had been a major source of revenue for his cronies. This effort has included a thorough reform of the operating procedures of the Ministry of Customs, a purge of many of its officials, and a public awareness campaign carried out with the NGO Otpor named "Let's Return Dignity to the Customs Officer." The Serbian government has also cooperated with Transparency International (TI) in developing new legal regulations for public tenders, and the Belgrade director of TI is now a member of the working group for public tenders. The Serbian Ministry of Justice has instituted an ombudsman's office to protect citizens against arbitrary interference from government officials. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce is participating in anticorruption efforts by drafting proposals for streamlining and downsizing Serbia's bloated state bureaucracy. Finally, the Serbian government has formed a Committee for the Fight Against Corruption that includes members of prominent NGOs.
In 2001, corruption charges were brought against some 1,216 policemen. In 2002, a further 220 police officers were charged, and of these, 42 were convicted and 70 dismissed from active duty. Serbia has also formed 26 anticorruption teams to collect information through telephone hot lines.
There have been no major anticorruption cases against leading government officials of the DOS government since it came to power. There have been, however, investigations of individuals from the Milosevic regime, including the former president himself. In April 2001, the federal public prosecutor announced charges against Milosevic for a variety of crimes, including embezzlement of state funds, involvement in political assassinations, and electoral fraud. In October 2001, Serbian government officials announced criminal indictments against 47 other individuals associated with the former Serbian government for illegal expenditure of government funds.
Montenegro has also been engaged in what is on the surface a broad effort to put together an anticorruption legislative program, but the Djukanovic regime's deep involvement in various shady activities leaves many analysts skeptical of its true desire for reform. Measures recently undertaken to combat corruption include the passage of a law establishing an independent anticorruption agency. The political opposition in Montenegro, led by the SNP, has repeatedly called for an investigation of allegations of corruption against President Djukanovic, but his alliance's control of the Parliament has prevented serious work.
Given the size of the public sector in the FRY (approximately 60 percent of gross domestic product), the scope for corruption in the country during the Milosevic years was considerable. In public surveys from this period, respondents consistently claimed that customs officials and managers of socially owned or state-owned firms were among the most corrupt in Yugoslav society. A study completed in the first half of 2000 showed that one out of every five citizens in Serbia proper (that is, excluding Montenegro and Kosovo) claimed to have been asked for a bribe. One out of every four citizens claimed to have offered bribes on various occasions to doctors, potential employers, customs officials, and others. Overall, they believed that more than 75 percent of government employees were involved in some form of corruption. Surveys also indicated that business operators had to pay 1 to 10 percent of their yearly income in bribes. With Milosevic's overthrow, popular expectations that the DOS authorities will clamp down on corruption have been considerable. Some surveys show that up to 60 percent of the population considers a campaign against corruption to be among the main tasks confronting the new authorities, alongside healing the economy, resolving unemployment, reforming the health care system, and improving the state of interethnic relations.
Gordon N. Bardos is the assistant director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. He has published widely on the problems of nationalism and ethnic conflict in southeastern Europe and is a frequent commentator on Balkan developments for American and European media.