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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

Loznica, June 8, 2011.

The Helsinki Committee's bimonthly "The Helsinki Charter" was presented in the local library "Vuk Karadzic" and the event itself attracted a rather large audience. Apart from the magazine's editor-in-chief, historian Latinka Perovic, foreign policy editor of "Politika" daily Bosko Jaksic and sociologist Ivan Kuzminovic of the Helsinki Committee delivered keynote addresses.

On this occasion too editor Seska Stanojlovic spoke about the magazine's consequent editorial policy and its focus on facing the recent past as a crucial precondition to the change in the socially accepted value system. In this context she referred to the project dealing with promotion of transitional justice which was realized with the assistance of and in cooperation with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and included, among other things, seminars in transitional justice for students. In this context, she pointed out, authors for the Charter have been studiously dissecting the phenomenon of Serb political and intellectual elites opting throughout Serb modern history for territorial expansion rather than for modernization and democratization of state and society. Here she quoted the inspirational book "The Origins of Serbia's Anti-Modern Political Culture" by late historian Olga Popovic-Obradovic, published by the Helsinki Committee. Copies of this major edition were presented to the local library in Loznica.

Broaching the same issue, Ms. Perovic said that it was only now that modernization and democratization were placed on Serbia's agenda, as they precondition membership of EU. Modernization and democratization aspired after by a smaller part of Serbia's elite throughout history has always been deep in the shadow of the current advocating the policy of "all Serbs in a single state." From 1961 till 1991 Serbia has waged eight wars, while the toll in human lives amounted to two million people just in the course of WW I and II. "This national ideology remained untouched, the same as the project itself, preventing us to this very day from acknowledging the reality," concluded Ms. Perovic.

Bosko Jaksic spoke about ongoing trends in Europe, including neo-fascism, the trends that are not necessarily just "trendy." He warned against the extreme rightist groups in Serbia, as legacies of the 1990s wars, but also the consequences of today's ideological confusion when it comes to anti-fascism. "Because the partisan movement was led by communists Serbia has actually negated anti-fascism, despite the fact that modern Europe rests on anti-fascism," he said, adding, "The phenomenon in Serbia there are no leftist groups or organizations to counterpoint the rightist ones usually assembling young people."

Ivan Kuzminovic provided a number of examples indicative of Serbia's "years-long stagger on the road to Europe." To illustrate his thesis that Serbia actually doesn't want to become a part of Europe he told a story about his young nephew's competing experience his swimming club. As soon as he took a plunge he jumped out of water saying the water was - too cold.

The lively debate ensuing these keynote addresses was mostly focused on the sum and substance of university education. According to some participants, university should be free and autonomous, which implies the freedom of expression including such slogans as "Knife, barbed wire, Srebrenica." The others, including the panelists, argued against such freedoms, indicating the threats such understanding of freedom and autonomy entails.









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