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Public debate within the project "Promoting a Social Climate Propitious to Transitional Justice and Culture of Non-impunity" realized with the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

Sabac, March 28, 2011

Public promotion of the Helsinki Charter magazine, seventh in the row since debates on its topics have been launched throughout Serbia, was held in the Sabac Cultural Center on March 28, 2011.

Explaining the editorial policy of the magazine that has always been highlighting the significance of "facing the past," its editor-in-chief, Seska Stanojlovic, said that Serbia was still hostage to the nationalistic, Greater Serbia project. In the past twenty years this strategy of Serbia's political and intellectual elites has only changed form but was basically always the same. To illustrate her point, she spoke about the recent manipulation with Serbs in neighboring countries (on the eve of the upcoming regional census), particularly with Serbs living in Montenegro and Croatia. The same strategy is also mirrored in the popular thesis about the statehood of Republika Srpska, the thesis that has been undermining Bosnia-Herzegovina, she said. Referring to EU's benevolence vis-a-vis Serbia's candidacy, reflected in its occasional readiness to "turn a blind eye" to Serbia's failures to meet the necessary standards, Ms. Stanojlovic said she hoped Serbia would obtain the candidate status by the end of the year.

Speaking of the necessity for Serbia to join NATO as a value system, Zoran Dragisic, professor at the Faculty of Security, was mostly focused on Serbia's attitude towards Russia so clearly manifested once again during Premier Vladimir Putin's visit this March. Serbia's disposition towards Russia is "a fruit of imagination and wishful thinking" and has nothing to do with the realities. Dragisic expressed his doubts about Putin's "threat" that Russia would direct its nuclear missiles towards Serbia shout it join NATO - the threat that was extensively quoted by the Belgrade-seated media. For, Russia has more substantive relations with Bulgaria as a Balkan country /than with Serbia/ and is not at least bothered by the fact that Bulgaria is both a EU and a NATO member-state, he reminded.

Historian Latinka Perovic further spoke about "self-humiliating manifestations of support for a foreign prime minister" (accompanied by insults thrown at the head of state and the premier of "one's own state'). "We are unaware of Russia, historically and actually." The delusion about a special relationship with Russia derives from the fact that Serbia has "turned its back to the time" and "role-plays Cold War," said Ms. Perovic, adding, "Serbia does not understand that Russia is a big country, which hardly changes its strategic interests (surely not focused on Serbia) with the change of regime. Serbia's place in Russia's strategic interests is as marginal as its size and position at international scene."

Ms. Perovic stressed the significance of magazines such as Helsinki Charter that are "voices of reason and make no bones about the challenges facing the country." Serbia's potential for change is small because it has "turned its back to the time," she said.

After introductory addresses all the three panelists were answering questions from the audience. The questions posed to them mostly dealt with actual affairs at the political scene, the rise of right-wing organizations and extremist groupings and clericalization of "the state and the society."

Reporters of the local broadcaster, TV Sabac, interviewed the panelists after the debate.



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