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Human Rights in Serbia 2000


VII - Social and Economic Rights


1. Overview

Economy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is still in a deep crisis, originating from the SFRY disintegration and wars waged by Serbia in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although this catastrophic economic situation is most often attributed to international sanctions, it is quite certain that reasons of the crisis lie in a collapsing economic system, obsolete and inadequate economic policy and above all a notable delay in implementing key reforms needed for the kick-start of the transition process and the long-standing war policy.

Several statistical indicators can best illustrate the depth and extent of the economic crisis which engulfed the country, and which continues to generate a widespread social crisis and consequently to undercut and threaten social rights. According to the data for 1987-1999 period disclosed by the Group 17, gross social product (GNP) in 1987 amounted to nearly US $ 31 billion, in 1998 to US $ 17,5 billion, and, according to their estimate, in 1999 fell under 8 billion. GDP per capita fell from US $ 3,000 (1987) to US $ 800 in 1999.

In 1987 a total of 2,790,000 people were employed, in 1998 there were 2,500,000 fully employed people, while that figure for 1999 was only 2,200,000. According to the Federal Statistical Bureau report no. 259, in October 2000 figure for fully employed work force stood at 1,701,590. Number of jobless rose from 607,000 in 1987 to 838,000 in 1998. It is estimated that in 1999 there will be 1,100,000 jobless. The unemployment rate in 1987 was 17.9%, while in 1999 it was well over 25%, which in statistical terms means that one fourth of the labour-fit population is unemployed. However that percentage may be even higher in view of the fact that between 800,000 and 1,000,000 employees are on forced leaves and receive only guaranteed pay.

Compared to the 1987 figure, the physical volume of industrial output declined by 62.7%, though some signs of recovery were noted in 2000. According to Dr. Jovan Rankovic, 1,413,444 employees in the first six months of 2000 received pays totalling 30,000 million dinars. This indicates that in the said period average net pay was 1,760 dinars or DM 70 (Institute of Economic Sciences, MAP, no. 11, 2000). As an average family needs about 7,000 dinars, or DM 230 for so-called monthly consumer basket, it can be concluded that only a small number of employees, mostly working in power-generating, coal, gas, crude oil, oil derivatives and non-ferrous metals industries, can meet their basic needs. According to the Federal Statistical Bureau report no. 258 for November 2000, average October 2000 pay was 3,200 dinars, while average pays in the aforementioned industrial branches were 7,600, 9,900, 9,300, 10,000, and 10,280 dinars respectively.

According to the Economic Instituted analysis, published in December 2000 issue of the "Economic Barometer," general macro economic conditions in October 2000 worsened when compared to the previous month. In October there were dramatic price hikes, resulting from suspension of the state control over prices of some products. Is it assessed that this suspension was orchestrated by the old Serbian government to cause chaos in the market. Costs of living rose 23.9%, while industrial production declined 11.5%. Retail prices were up by 26.4%

In the late 2000 there were drastic outages Serbia-wide. Dimitrije Boarov (Vreme 28 December 2000) wrote that electric power shortages were a legacy of the old regime. Outages lasted on an average 8 hours, but in some areas households were without electricity for 36 hours. Srboljub Antic, the Republican Energy Minister, stated that the crisis in the power supply would last several years. Hospitals with aggregates used their internally generated power only in surgical and emergency wards. Those undergoing house-dialysis were deeply traumatised by fear of sudden outages. In fact in its first days in power, the new authorities of Serbia faced a total collapse.


2. Status and problems of social protection

a. Right to welfare and allowances

According to Dr. Gordana Matkovic, Labour and Social and War Veterans Rights Minister of the Republic of Serbia (Politika, 3 November 2000), three million people currently live under the poverty line in Serbia. Officially the poor citizens figure has doubled since 1990, while the number of welfare beneficiaries has halved. In the territory of Central Serbia and Vojvodina about 30,000 families with about 90,000 dependants, receive monthly, much-delayed (26-36 months) welfare to the tune of 25 DM per family. According to the aforementioned ministry some beneficiaries received their last welfare in August 1999, while in Belgrade, most received their last social protection assistance in October 1999. Many of them are yet to receive assistance for the entire 1998, four months of 1999 and 10 months of 2000. Hence the Republic owes to those beneficiaries a total of 520,4 million dinars.

b. Right to pension

Average pensions are DM 77, but two-thirds of retirees receive even less. Pensions are usually overdue (a month or two). Currently the state owes to citizens DM 160 million. In 1999 retirees received only 9 out of 12 pensions, which relativised the aforementioned average. There are 1,260,000 retirees in Serbia, and their growing number is dangerously nearing a total number of employed persons. In Serbia about 440,000 people receive so-called disabled persons-pensions. Retirees are one of the most vulnerable groups of population, left to their own devices, and only occasionally helped by their children and families. In Serbia there are 31 old people homes, and on average monthly accommodation in those homes is 2,529 dinars or over DM 80. Some retirees are beneficiaries of soup-kitchen operating thanks to the International Red Cross and other foreign donations. According to Dr. Mirosinka Dinkic from the Economic Institute, 50% of retirees receive guaranteed pensions of 1,280 dinars, 10% of retirees get every month between 1,280 and 1, 588 dinars, 7.4% receive average pensions, and 21.5% receive 2,500 dinars. 5.3% of retirees receive 3,000 dinars and 4.1% of retirees receive between 3,000 and 4,000 dinars. The highest pension is 5,164 dinars (Danas, 5 April 2000)

Authors Boris Lazic and Vladimir Miljkovic in their book "Retirees demand payment of their overdue pensions" for the first time disclosed data on unlawful spending of the funds for retirees' insurance -a total of US $ 25 billion- in the post-WWII period and between 1990-1999. (Glas javnosti, 26 April 2000)

Economic Institute research established that one fourth of retirees is compelled to renounce one or two meals a day, and that one third cannot buy meat and fruit. Humanitarian assistance was also bitterly contested. Namely the regime-controlled Alliance of Retirees of Serbia, affixed posters cautioning retirees against foreign assistance labelled as "the NATO-distributed aid in kind." This undercut Independent Trade Union of Retirees efforts to get that aid in the first place (Glas javnosti, 26 April 2000)

In the course of 2000 trade unions and retirees organised a series of massive protests against overdue and low pensions. Trade union "Nezavisnost" was a most prominent firebrand of those protests. (Glas javnosti, 14 April 2000)

As expected, on the eve of elections, namely in August and September, retirees, being an important group within the electorate, received a negligible pension hike and several overdue pensions. In the past ten years pension payments were always accelerated during the election race and plans were floated as to the more regular payment of pensions. (Zoran Popov, Blic, 16 August 2000)

As in the past decade many large companies failed to make their pension and health contributions, coffers of the Pension Fund of Serbia are empty. The Fund established in the late 1999 and early 2000 that outstanding debts of 2,242 companies stood at 2,15 billion dinars for the year 1996. The Fund managed to forcibly effect payment of 922 million dinars, but due to the blockade of the very companies their debts still remained very high-1,2 billion dinars. (Vecernje novosti, 3 April 2000)

When DOS took over power in October 2000 pensions became more regular thanks to international humanitarian assistance. Fundamental reforms of the pension and health insurance system are urgently needed, but not at the expense of beneficiaries of those funds.

c. Right to accommodation in social protection institutions

In Serbia there are 22 institutions for abandoned children and orphans, 3 institutions for autistic children, 12 institutions for persons with stunted physical and mental development, and 31 old people homes. Average price of accommodation is 2,529 dinars monthly, and beneficiaries without income are subsidised by special budgetary allocations. Those institutions received last assistance in cash in April 2000. Due to 38 million debt of the Republican Institute for Health Insurance, many of the aforementioned institutions are underfunded.

Recent appeal for help by the Labour, War Veterans and Social Issues Ministry best illustrates a dire situation in the aforementioned institutions. Hardest-hit are orphanages, whose roofs are leaking and windows are without panes. But so far the only assistance came from international humanitarian organisations, donors and the Red Cross. In the institution for mentally retarded children, in Kulin, there are 500 children, some suffering from the gravest forms of dementia. According to journalist Ivana Filipovic (Danas, 26 December 2000) "corridors with their dirty walls look like sewerage. Beds are without mattresses. Until recently windows were unpaned. A terrible stench spreads from bathrooms, or premises which are supposed to serve as bathrooms." According to the Federal Statistical Bureau data (Statistical Almanac for the year 2000) in the FRY there are 4,000 children stunted in physical and mental development. They are accommodated in 24 institutions, employing 1,780 people, half of whom are health and other professionals. However during their tour of those institutions journalists reported that many of those institutions were understaffed. For example in one of those institutions, in Vojvodina, only one woman takes care of all persons accommodated there.

d. Right to social centres services

All citizens are entitled to free of charge services of social centres. Those services are financed from budgetary allocations. There are 142 social centres employing a total of 2,500 people, mostly jurists, pedagogues, psychologists and social workers. But low income of those employees (2,200 dinars or DM 70) impairs the potential and quality of services. In fact the very employees are potential beneficiaries of such centres.

e. Right to children's and maternity leave allowance

The aforementioned right is exercised under the Act on Social Care. But the first allowance was 27 months overdue and the second one - 23 months, in 1995-2000 period. In lieu of allowances the Republic of Serbia issued to all beneficiaries long-term bonds. This issued bonds covered children's allowances in arrears from 1 April 1998 to 30 June 2000, and overdue maternity leave allowance for 1 August 1998 to 30 June 2000 period.

Bonds were issued thanks to assistance of foreign donors, notably Norway, which guaranteed payments of the first and second coupon. Thus the new authorities managed to effect the following payments in the area of social care of children (by 23 December 2000): 33 children's allowances of which 27 were in shape of bonds; 24 of maternity leave allowance in bonds; 12 pay compensations for maternity leave effected through income tax reductions; 25 allowances for infants, 12 payments for implementation of educational programs for the third child and three-hour programs for children with stunted development. Thus, judging by facts and figures released by the Family Care Ministry, all obligations towards 850,000 beneficiaries of the right to social care of children were met.


7. Women's rights

Last federal, republican and local elections best illustrate inadequacy of women's rights and status in Serbia. Although women make up slightly over half of population (52.2%), their share in parliamentary seats is as low as 5%, that is, women hold only nine of a total of 178 verified mandates. All 15 ministers in the federal government are men. In the Vojvodina Parliament of 120 MPs only 8 are women (6.6%), while in the Executive Board of the Assembly of City of Belgrade of 15 members, only three are women. Women's political network on the eve of December parliamentary elections launched a campaign for major participation of women in parliamentary work, but their efforts met with a defeat, because of a low percentage -14%- of female candidates. Only Dr. Zarko Korac, President of the Social Democratic Union and one of DOS leaders gave his mandate to a woman, the party colleague.

Women face an uphill struggle for political and other rights in a family-oriented and very patriarchal and tradition-minded milieu of present-day Serbia. Re-emergence of the rightist, nationalistic forces and their political and social rise in Serbia in the past decade, negatively impacted that struggle. In fact women faced a retrograde phenomenon, the one of relegation of their role to family nurturers. Vojvodina government set up a special ministry for women, the first of its kind in Yugoslavia. According to Mr. Jelica Rajacic Capakovic, a provincial minister, her ministry is tasked with implementing a comprehensive equal opportunity policy in all areas, notably in appointment of women to management and leadership positions. (Vecernje novosti, 19 December 2000). She states that her second priority is women's empowerment. In the past women kept silent, fearing for the future of their children. All research works and analysis indicate that in the past decade women shouldered the burden of the economic and social crisis, by simultaneously doing the house chores and often engaging in odd, 'black market" jobs. But in want of leisure time, women started neglecting their personal education and growth..

Under the Serbian constitution and laws women are equal with men in all areas, and consequently in the right to labour. Women make up 40% of total work force. But women are paid less than their male counter-parts, although official data fail to mention that fact. They are paid less allegedly because of their maternity leaves, leaves taken because of illnesses of their children, and frequent sick leaves. According to the findings of a survey carried out by the Labour Market, women on an average were 11% less paid that their male colleagues.

A series of laws provide for the special protection of employees, expectant mothers and mothers of small children. In recent years those allowances wee overdue and rather small. But maternity leave lasts a whole year. If a child is ill, maternity leave can be extended up to three years. But there are also downsides to this regulation, as women can rarely find jobs in private sector. Namely owners of private companies and entrepreneurs often require prospective female applicants to sign a document binding them not marry and not to have children in the next few years.

Under the Serbian Constitution private family-planning is considered a fundamental human right. Although abortion was legalised in 1952, under pressure of conservative, religious and nationalistic forces, notably the Serbian Orthodox Church, the right to abortion was restricted by an intricate Act on Abortion. Namely that Act prescribes in which cases and under which conditions abortions may be carried out by medical staff in specialised health institutions. This in fact means that women have delegated their right to bearing children to-the state and other persons.

According to women's NGOs in 2000 violence against women, notably at home, increased significantly. There are no relevant, official date, for this is considered to be a "private matter." As regards rape, which is rarely reported, there is a widespread opinion that it is usually provoked by women themselves. State and society fail to perceive rape as a specific form of violence against women, and accordingly, to devise adequate punishments thereof. Over 30 NGOs today deal with women's rights. They are the only organisations which have engaged in raising awareness of the women's rights among women themselves, in the society as a whole and in 'elevating' the issue of violence against women from private to social plane.

Women in Serbia by and large are not divorce-inclined. Even when they file for divorce they do it for the sake of their children and not with their own protection in mind. Due to across-the-board poverty and difficult housing conditions even 42.56% of divorced couples continue to live under the same roof. In Serbia there are two shelters for battered women and their children. Women can stay there as much as they want. As those shelters were discovered on several occasions, they had to move to new locations (according to the SOS Telephone Line for Women)

b. Prostitution and white slavery

Even recent extensive coverage of this phenomenon, has not spawned initiatives for amendments to relevant provisions (of the Penal Code of Serbia) sanctioning this criminal offence, namely article 155 ("establishment of slave-like relations and transfer of persons in a slave-like relations.") As this offence is on the rise, the said provision should be brought into line with the latest international acts from this province. Much needed is also international and regional co-operation leading to the arrest of criminals engaging in white slavery and raising awareness of this dangerous 'trade' among threatened population groups, notably younger women. During the existence of the SFRY Serbia was an attractive area for women from former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe ( mainly from Ukraine, Romania and Russia) later sold into white slavery. It had a good standard of living, as well as other amenities, and a porous border. But in the wake of several wars, a deep economic and political crisis and long isolation Serbia morphed into an ideal transit zone, for these women are easily smuggled from Serbia into other European countries. Various escort agencies, waitresses and personal (marriage offers) ads are the main bait for potential victims. Only in Belgrade there are 40 operating escort agencies, while ads with suspicious job offers abound in all the papers. KFOR representatives in the early December stated that Kosovo Polje had become a prostitution and white slavery centre. According to available information both the Serbian and Kosovo mafia are involved in the international white slavery. But there are indications that some members of KFOR may as well be embroiled in that illegal trade. (Vecernje Novosti 2 December 2000). It was ascertained that some under-age girls, young girls and women working in Kosovo had been brought from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldavia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Some were kidnapped. Some of detained girls did not have a single ID. This illustrates that official bodies and NGOs should co-operate with international and regional organisaitons with a view to solving this problem. In the early December 2000 the Belgrade police arrested two traders of white slaves, who illegally ferried Romanian and Moldavian girls and women via Belgrade to Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is Republika Srpska and sold them to the local night bars owners. In a police raid 17 under-age and adult foreign girls were found in their flat. Each of them was to be sold for DM 500. ( Politika, 5 December 2000). Police involvement is suspected, as the indicted traders confessed that "letters of invitation and false passports were obtained through acquaintances." Seriousness of this problem is best indicated by the case of a girl I.J. who committed suicide after being tortured and beaten by two pimps. Arestees, brothers Danijel (35) and Predrag (19) Markovic admitted that the girl was bought for DM 600, and that she was forced to carry out all their orders. After six-month long proceedings they were sentenced to three years in prison, but the elder brother managed to escape. (Glas Javnosti, 14 December 2000). This case does not fit the "classic scheme," because the police usually fails to track down such merchants and solve pertinent cases. The aforementioned lenient sentence and delayed procedure reflect the prevailing attitude on women and their rights in Serbia. According to an activist of project ASTRA, who wanted to remain anonymous, a large mafia network is involved in white slavery, and due to lack of police co-operation it is very difficult to grapple with this problem and gain any inside information. In a bid to counter this increasingly massive trade in women, ASTRA NGO launched a project in 1998. The project included guidelines for the fight against organised crime, education of women and prevention of white slavery. The ASTRA report stated that "women mainly brought from Romania. Moldavia and Ukraine, are replaced every two months in the Belgrade brothels, and are 're-sold' to bar owners in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Novi Pazar.


Abuse of women and children

In a predominant war-mongering mood, and under circumstances of a total collapse of old set of values, families and morals started breaking apart. At the conference "Child Abuse and the Media"organised by the Yugoslav Centre for the Rights of the Child, Institute for Mental Health" and the Belgrade office of UNICEF terrifying facts and figures on the child abuse were made public (Glas javnosti, 3 December 2000). Child abuse counselling services were set up in 1996. Since then this organisation received 3,000 appeals or complaints of abused women and children every year. Moreover 30% of those distress calls are repeated. The conference analysed the child abuse phenomenon, its features and extent and protection of children.

A whole range of inhumane relations, like neglect, abuse, torture and other forms of violence, is characteristic of the Serbian society. Most common is the psychological abuse of children at home and in kindergartens for the sake of their alleged "disciplining." Many participants stressed that contrary to popular belief, mothers, notably single mothers, and not fathers, are often ill-treating their children.

Although in Serbia a more massive occurrence of the child prostitution was not registered, the child pornography related to paedophilia is on the rise. But such problems in both the tradition-minded and amoral Serbia are glossed over. Society often fails to react to such phenomena by ignoring the problem, passively accepting it or 'transferring' it to 'others...competent bodies.'


4. Overview of social situation

In the past decade the Serbian society was drastically stratified. Research of the Social Sciences Institute indicates the emergence of about 200,000 extremely wealthy people. On the other hand most recent analysis points to a growth in the number of very poor people and decline in the number of rich people. Besides a large strata of pauperized domicile population, Serbia has to take care of 500,000-700,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and about 225,000 displaced persons from Kosovo, mostly Serbs, Roma and Muslims. Gordana Matkovic, Labour, Veterans and Social Issues Minister of the Republic of Serbia, stated that the middle class had disappeared, but that a genuine insight into the economic status of the nation cannot be gained because of a bustling "grey economy." Moreover refugee population is not homogenous with respect to its financial status. In order to preserve the social peace the regime turned a blind eye to the obvious growth of the grey economy. Hence there are no data as to the number of people moonlighting on a daily basis. Their "employers" do not pay taxes and contributions for such 'temps.' The Minister maintains that one of the top priorities of the new authorities is stabilisation of system of the social protection.

According to the ICRC information the biggest food distribution program is being implemented in Serbia. Currently 13% of total population of the FRY directly depend on humanitarian aid. Beneficiaries of foreign aid are refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (360,000), displaced people from Kosovo (200,000) and local population (800,000).Moreover, according to pertinent estimates, the need for such foreign assistance is likely to increase. The ICRC has also established that 33% of population lives under the poverty line, with average pays of DM 80, while 40% of population subsists on less than DM 44 every month.

In the course of 2000 the ICRC, some national Red Cross societies and the Yugoslav Red Cross tried to meet the needs of the most vulnerable social strata through the soup-kitchen program. The number of beneficiaries at one moment reached 100,000 people. In 12 months of the program's implementation 22 million hot meals were prepared in 115 soup kitchens and distributed in 310 locations in Serbia. Today 70,000 people get a meal a day, and 27,000 people in Serbia and 5,000 in Montenegro get lunch packages. The latter have been provided by the World Food Program, since 1 November 2000.

According to the ICRC officials in charge of this program, it is increasingly difficult to determine the poverty line, as a continuing inflation and price hikes generate new indigents every day. Beneficiaries priority lists are drawn up together with the municipal Red Cross organisations and the Social Labour Centres.

It bears mentioning that the ICRC and national Red Cross societies plan to finance soup kitchens in place until June 2001. All the aforementioned organisations are trying hard to facilitate self-financing of soup kitchens, that is their work on a commercial basis, without foreign donations. This in turns means that the Serbian authorities should make efforts to assume responsibility for the most vulnerable groups by actively supporting the revenue-making project of Red Cross soup kitchens.

But vulnerable groups and social cases would be affected fatally if foreign donations were reduced or scrapped, as the country is yet to kick-start its production and launch market economy and transition process. "G 17 Plus" experts estimated that it would take Serbia about 19 years to recover. Without donations, the current crisis would turn into a humanitarian catastrophe since completely devastated and ruined country would not be able to provide food and heating for its population this winter. Catastrophic electric power supply was somewhat improved by the foreign-funded electricity purchases from neighbouring countries.

Joint ICRC and Yugoslav Red Cross program since June 1999 ensured humanitarian assistance to displaced persons from Kosovo. Refugees from Croatia and Bosnia were covered by the UNHCR programs. Of 225,000 registered displaced persons from Kosovo, 185,000 are beneficiaries of the aforementioned program. Namely under the program they get a monthly food package per person and bimonthly hygienic parcel per family. Food package contains 10 kilograms of flour and 10 kilograms of other victuals.

The ICRC shall for the first time introduce criteria for distribution of individual packages on 1 January 2001. This will limit the number of beneficiaries, that is earmark the assistance for the most needy. Food package shall consist of 12 kilograms of flour, 1 kilogram of beans, 1 kilogram of sugar, 1 kilogram of pasta, 1 litre of cooking oil, 500 gr. of slats, 250 gr. of canned meat, 250 gr. of canned fish and 100 gr. of yeast. This will help meet monthly food needs of one person. Hygienic packages to be distributed twice a month are intended to meet individual needs. In the past period this ICRC-Red Cross program was boosted by hefty donations by some Red Cross national societies, namely the Finnihs, French, Italian, German and Swiss RCs.

But all humanitarian organisations, notably the ICRC, are increasingly pressured by local population to provide for more assistance in kind. For example among beneficiaries of soup kitchens, aside from retirees there are many jobless, Roma, employees on forced leaves. According to some researches most threatened are middle-class members..

Stratification and fragmentation of the society is followed by the family bust, which in turn leads to a growing juvenile delinquency. The young ones are attracted by new heroes, notably criminals and war veterans, and they want to emulate them. Very young people are becoming regular substance abusers. Some start using drugs at the age of 10, thus entering a vicious circle of drugs-criminality-drugs. Children perceive their middle-class parents as losers, failed people. And children want to admire the brave, the successful ones, those who belong to the circles close to the former regime, criminal gangs and shady business circles. Zoran DJindjic, the Prime Minister-designate told weekly Blic News (27 December 2000) that only those who were closely associated with Milosevic's regime were allowed to engage in profitable private business.


5. Corruption and criminal activities as preconditions for survival and business success

a. Generating poverty

The FRY tops the list of the most corrupt European countries and is the second most corrupt country in the world. Corruption in the FRY was intentionally generated by the regime, and it is one of the most 'successful' upshots of 13-years long Milosevic's reign. All public services and all facets of daily life are steeped in corruption. Thus developed system economically exhausts citizens and threatens their very survival.

Milosevic era was characterised by arbitrary rule, oft based on discretionary prerogatives of the top power-holders and their friends, in other words, of the newly-emerged financial and political oligarchy. Bloody disintegration of the FRY, war and sanctions, collapse of the old system based on totalitarian oligarchy, sudden pauperisation of the society, disappearance of middle-class, popular fear caused by across-the-board repression, created a milieu propitious for the new accumulation of capital.

Members of the top establishment and their associates used imposition of the trade embargo on 31 May 1992 as a pretext to end the law-abiding practice. They stated that "laws can become an obstacle in salvation of the people" and that "the state and people must be saved at any cost." This was tantamount to a call to destroy an already precarious legal system, and heralded an intense process of destruction of the existing set of moral and ethical values in Serbia.

Under the newly-emerged circumstances, people from the underworld in an eyeblink became respected members of the society. They came to represent a model of 'decent' citizens, on whom the new set of values and a social and cultural matrix of the society were modelled. Ordinary smugglers became "businessmen" and sponsors. They took part in important affairs of the state and were often vested in official titles. They became reliable organisers and executors of any business they were entrusted with by the top leadership.

Teams for "sanctions-busting" were set up. They were composed of high political officials, customs officials, criminals. Together all those shady personalities designed and realised purchases and imports of vital raw materials, semi-fabricates and produce. They simultaneously laundered money and sold goods in short supply (cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, etc.) Thus outlines of a new social-economic system emerged. That system was propelled by strong interests of political groups and protected by the very anti-crime structures. New business empires were born. All the national wealth was sucked into those empires. In turn poverty of broad population strata was generated.

In that global framework new relations within the very business and political establishment were created. The top leadership generously rewarded its associates, thus creating a system of dependence. At the same time anti-corruption bodies failed to launch investigations into financial affairs of both the top leadership and criminals. Massive criminalisation of population creates dependence and facilitates manipulation. This in turn kills off motivation for the reform of society and any idea about changes.

New strata were created on a lower level. Local monopolies were created through the right to management of urban building land and business spaces, granting of building licenses, legalisation of otherwise unauthorised building ventures, distribution of street stalls operating licences. Those close to the regime and the opposition parties amassed their wealth by running various private companies and engaging in real estate transactions. Diaspora donations ended in coffers of opposition parties, though their reports failed to indicate such misappropriations. Corruption is not a new phenomenon in Serbia, but in the past decade it grew beyond expectations and out of all proportion. In fact it became a system of rule.

Popular belief had it that the top circles of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia forgot "their " people and promises, or that the party was a good 'provider' of its membership. Hence the loyalty of the SPS members, and even of its defectors. But this "good care of the party loyalists" has not been a haphazard result of circumstances, but rather a program orientation. In the years of big promises Slobodan Milosevic wrote a book called "The watershed years" in which he spoke about "a socialism with a human face." Milosevic thus depicted a modern Serbia: "$ 10,000 income per capita which consequently generates modern plants, scientific and cultural institutions, schools, streets, hotels, shop-windows, clothes, work habits, leisure, expectations... But it is our future, whereas we must find solutions for the present time. Both the state and citizens should carry out this counter-revolutionary task through institutions. But facts, reality, the very life have demonstrated that institutions function slowly, in a contradictory fashion, and sometimes do not function at all."

An important factor of the corruption-based rule, was an unstable exchange rate of YU dinar. Planned and orchestrated inflation, which peaked in 1993, not only helped bankroll the war, as then assessed, but also helped effect re-distribution of capital, that is its amassing in hands of a narrow circle of the ruling oligarchy. Everything was run and controlled by a narrow circle of people. Ministers of the republican and federal governments were simultaneously directors of large enterprises, and prominent members of the ruling parties sat on many management boards. All those functions and posts were very profitable.

Both the ruling parties and opposition were corruption-minded. How 'corruption-friendly" was the opposition became very manifest after its victory (Coalition "Zajedno") at the local elections in 1996.

b. New financial elite

Despite the fact that the whole society was steeped in corruption there were only two major corruption-busting cases or scandals. The first one was a trial of Sava Vlajkovic and V. Mihajlovic, ministers in the republican government headed by Radoman Bozovic . They were charged with embezzlement of DM 2 million through gasoline trading. Lawsuit which commenced in 1993, lasted several years, because it was intentionally protracted (evidence disappeared from the court on several occasions!) and watered down.

Businessman and the ruling family friend, Bogoljub Karic was involved in the second scandal. During the 1996/1997 massive protests Karic made public his intention to run for the President of Serbia, for the end of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic seemed to be very near. In a bid to discredit him the Serbian print media, notably daily Politika, then launched a smear-campaign by extensively probing into Karic's shady business deals and operations, and misappropriations of citizens' contributions to the Popular Loan for the Recovery of Serbia. After a prolonged pressure Karic renounced his candidacy and went back to Milosevic's fold.

In the wake of its local elections victory in 1996/97 the opposition started emulating business (mis)conduct of the regime. It engaged in many law-breaking deals, uncontested by its otherwise bitter political opponent, the regime.

Broad population strata were corrupted through a long-standing practices of greasing MPs for the purpose of securing the parliamentary majority and regular, albeit minimal, payment of salaries and distribution of staple victuals to workers on forced leaves. Such a corruption eroded all the social strata, made them incapable of registering the phenomenon, let alone mount any resistance to it.

After the October coup Serbia embarked upon the road of transition, but unfortunately on the road of a negative transition. Namely it is likely to morph from a totalitarian and undemocratic state, based on a monopoly of one-party ideology and rule into an equally totalitarian and undemocratic state based on unchecked power of a small group of members of the financial-political oligarchy, who had amassed their wealth thanks to plunder of the national property. Until Milosevic'' ouster the new authorities had close ties with the then regime. Thanks to those ties the ruling oligarchy was able to directly control important institutions and engage in rampant theft.

There are indications that members of that oligarchy played a decisive role in toppling of Milosevic, having assessed his rigidity as a main obstacle for preservation of their capital investments and gains. They were also worried that they might lose all their wealth in a popular unrest or rebellion of impoverished masses. In other words they realised that the time was up for effecting changes and that a legal state, an with allegedly pro-Western and democratic government could be a guarantor of their "private property." They are very likely to try to retain a dominant role in the political and economic scene of Serbia. Judging by the post-5 October developments, they shall relatively smoothly succeed in achieving that objective of theirs. It is expected that the new Serbian authorities shall swiftly embark upon economic and political liberalisation. One of their priorities shall be privatisation of companies and banks. Members of the new money elite shall probably be appointed directors of those companies and banks. Thus legalisation of the massive robbery shall be effected: old thieves shall become new owners of big capital and members of a new elite.

Experts talk about two kinds of corruption: "captivating (winning over) the state" one and administrative one. The first presupposes actions of individuals, groups or both the state-owned and private companies taken with a view to establishing influence over adoption of laws, decrees and other government's moves favouring their business operations. Moreover the prime movers of such action tried to place their loyalists and stooges in top management and governmental posts. Administrative corruption presupposes arbitrary enforcement of legal provisions to suit financial and other gains of individuals, companies and groups. The best example of the aforementioned is the Anti-Monopoly Law adopted by the Serbian Parliament. In line with the Law the government forced butchers and bakers to raise prices, and "Progres Gas Trading Company" headed by the then Prime Minister of Serbia, Mirko Marjanovic, had an exclusive right to gas imports from Russia.

Corruption generates poverty, prevents investments, limits trade, give a false picture of public spending, weakens the financial system and encourages grey economy. According to the data from countries undergoing transition, foreign investments in countries with high corruption rate are 20% lower than in other, low-corruption countries.

c. Corrupt state

Spread of corruption was orchestrated by the regime. For example only party loyalists were elected judges. The state continued to corrupt them by giving them flats, loans, promotions. Judges also received kickbacks from parties to a lawsuit, or criminal proceedings. Collusion between the police underworld and judiciary is best illustrated by the following statement of a criminal: "Courts of law! People lost faith in them, now they are allegedly democratic, but fixed fees for certain services are still in place. Judges still receive kickbacks from parties to a lawsuit or criminal proceedings."

Milosevic's regime did not fight the all-pervasive corruption for the latter helped delay the collapse of society and institutions. The regime only punished its political opponents by staging criminal and misdemeanour proceedings against them. The opposition was often charged with treason of the country, mercenary services, co-operation with foreign intelligence services.

Corruption helped destroy the University in Serbia. The 1998 University Act placed appointment of professors, deans and rector in hand of the republican government. This enabled the regime to place its appointees in the top university positions and thus quell any criticism at the university. In the light of the aforementioned over 200 professors left the university. After installation of the new university authorities, acting deans were faced with the following situation: all students who had failed to pass admission exam were nonetheless enrolled in all faculties.

Although the media since 5 October were awash with information on various misuses of prominent members of the past regime, the new authorities shilly-shallied about bringing to justice many individuals suspected of financial and other wrongdoing. This is due to the fact that some members of former establishment helped the coup probably in exchange for some benefits and guarantees that they would be able to keep their wealth.

After the 5 October coup the new authorities tried to establish the amount of money taken out of country during a decade of Milosevic's rule. Governor of the National Bank, Mladjen Dinkic says: "My estimate is that during the 1992 and 1993 hyperinflation about DM 6 billion, or $ 4 billion were taken out of country. Part of that money was spent, part returned to the country, and part is stashed away, mostly in private bank accounts (...) interestingly enough the bulk of that money made up foreign currency savings. It was taken out as cash in sacks with lettering " foreign currency savings of citizens". After passing through Cyprus the money was transferred elsewhere." (Blic, 20 December 2000).

Data collected by Western intelligence services and their colleagues from Russia indicate how "the surplus of capital" was created in impoverished Serbia, and how it was taken out. Western intelligence services, in the document titled "The Serb Criminal Corporation", maintain that chief executors of that operation were politicians close to Milosevic and bankers with a privileged position in the financial structure created by the regime."

Investigation related to smuggling channels of the Serb money (apart from Cyprus where since 1990 over 7,500 off-shore companies with Serb capital were founded,) focuses on the "Russian connection," notably "Veksi Bank" headed by Milos Mirkovic. It was discovered that share-holders of this bank were directors of the largest banks in Serbia and nationals of Serbia. Among the founders there were several Russian banks, but next to their names in the founding capital column no figures were entered.

According to some information by the end of 2000 DM 2-3 billion were taken to Russia and thereafter distributed to various destinations in the USSR former member-countries, and elsewhere in the world. Under the police escort money was sent via diplomatic pouches, and was picked up in Moscow by the Yugoslav diplomats and officials of "Veksi Bank." It is widely believed that Borisav Milosevic was appointed the Yugoslav Ambassador to Moscow in order to oversee this operation.

Members of Milosevic's establishment also handled lucrative imports (crude oil and other raw materials in short supply) and exports (gold, copper, nickel, iron sheets and -electric power) operations. After the economic embargo was put in place (1992) many Yugoslav companies, notably those registered in Cyprus, took part in the aforesaid operations. ATL Company from Nicosia through its mixed-property company established in Serbia handled exports of most precious raw materials and commodities.

Although bankruptcy proceedings were launched as early as in 1995, nobody knows who in fact ran that bank, as directors of the Yugoslav branch of ATL are not alive. Namely its financial director committed suicide, and Milenko Isakov, founder of ATL died in 1997. Added to that Zoran Todorovic Kundak, who had numerous business connections with ATL and according to judicial documentation was entitled to reimbursement of all expenses, was assassinated.

According to the media coverage ATL partners were the largest business systems in Serbia: Power-Generating Industry of Serbia, Mining Basin Bor, "Sartid", NIS Jugopetrol, Feronikl. All the aforementioned indicates that ATL was in fact run by a very powerful person. Documentation submitted to the Belgrade Commercial Court indicates that top politicians were involved in the company's operations.

Dafina Milanovic, owner of a notorious "Dafiment Bank" vowed never to disclose the exact operations of her bank. Until recently it was widely believed that "Dafiment Bank" was established to lure through its high interest rate policy (25%), foreign currency savings of citizens and bankroll the war in Croatia with that money. But motives behind "Dafiment Bank" operations might have been of different nature. "I shall never say what has really transpired. I know exactly the kind of money involved in reputation-buying," says Dafina Milanovic. But the conventional wisdom has it that Milanovic has co-operated with the top leadership, and that her closest associate was Miodrag Zecevic, Director of JUBMES Bank and director of the French-Yugoslav Bank in Paris.

Zecevic was arrested in 1998 and remanded in the Parisian prison "Sante" on misappropriation charges. Namely he was accused of "misusing the bank's funds, forgery and use of forged documents and abuse of trust. "The French financial control discovered that Zecevic sent a FF 350,000 invoice (instead of approved FF 150,000 annually) to Beogradska Bank in the name of compensation for insurance costs of his wife and children. Added to that he forged the signature of the then director Ljubisa Igic on all the invoices and cover letters of Beogradska Bank.

It was proved that Zecevic, as Director of the Yugoslav-French Bank, spent DM 250,000 for receptions, gifts to business partners and trips to Serbia. The French Prosecutor also established that Zecevic embezzled FF 5,17 million debt of the National Bank of Yugoslavia. The bulk of that money ended in a Zurich account, which is thought to be Zecevic's private account.

Although under the French regulations Zecevic committed major offences entailing high prison sentences, the Belgrade top leadership took care of Zecevic. Namely he was remanded on bail of DM 650,000 under the following conditions: to stay in France, to hand-over both his French and Yugoslav passports, to report to the judicial control office twice a week and to avoid seeing a determined number of persons relevant for the judicial proceedings. Soon afterwards Zecevic turned up n Belgrade and was appointed director of JUBMES Bank.

Authorities accorded a special treatment to so-called old foreign currency savings, which were simply seized from citizens on grounds of "lack of cash." Under the public pressure and on the eve of every elections banks paid to the poorest citizens and those with smaller savings meagre amounts every month. At the time of such payments-maximum amount of DM 150 for the whole year, and in YU dinar counter-value- Mirko Marjanovic, former Serbian Prime Minister, drew out DM 75,600. Photocopy of this payment effected by former Kreditna Bank indicates that Marjanovic had Swiss Francs 35,364.25 and DM 30, 960.25 in his savings account. That money was drawn out in DM in July 2000.

Milosevic's regime took good care of its representatives in the biggest media houses. They were richly rewarded for their loyalty. Hadzi Dragan Antic, former director of "Politika" Company owes to Komercijalna Bank, Beo Bank and Slovenian and Czech paper suppliers DM 45 million, and YU dinars 40 millions to Inland Revenue Services. After fleeing the "Politika" building on 5 October 2000, Hadzi Antic left behind a "Mercedes" car worth over DM 100,000 and a large number of compensation lawsuits filed against him by sacked workers. Former director of "Politika" also has two flats in downtown Belgrade and a villa in Tocidersko brdo. Antic bought his first flat for YU dinars 7. 193, 854, in 1992 as Deputy Editor-in-Chief of "Politika," on the basis of 20-installment credit. Monthly instalment was YU dinar 40,295, but no payments were entered in relevant documents. Thanks to subsequent inflation Antic bought the flat for several hundred DM.

Four years later, Antic bought a new 90 square metres flat, by taking a 20-installment, DM 270,000 worth flat. His monthly instalment was DM 2,1000, half of his then salary, but in relevant documents there are no records of effected payments. In 1997 he was granted a DM 856,000 loan by Komercijalna Bank for the purchase of villa in Dedinje, Bulevar Mira no. 20. After extensive restoration works Dragan Hadzi Antic, Marija Milosevic, daughter of Slobodan Milosevic and Dr. Nikola Antic, head of Gynaecological Clinic moved into several 100 square metres large villa.

After a probe into financial operations of "TANJUG", state-controlled news agency, competent bodies filed charges against Zoran Jevdjevic, "Tanjug"'s director for embezzlement of DM 2 million originally allocated for the purchase of PCs. During his mandate Jevdjevic bought four flats and one house in Belgrade and a villa in Zlatibor. Newspapers also reported that Jevdjevic sold his 100 square metres flat in Internacionalnih brigada street for DM 200,000. Jevdjevic had been given that flat by the federal government after complaining about his miserable housing conditions. After purchasing the flat for DM 16,000, he sold it immediately. Nine TANJUG employees, before the financial auditing, had accused Jevdjevic of misappropriation of two "Canon" photocopiers, several vehicles, computers and other technical equipment of the agency. He also illegally drew out DM 100,000 which were to be paid out as a holiday bonus to TANJUG employees. But no lawsuit was taken against Jevdjevic. In fact after leaving TANJUG he was appointed editor-in-chief of Educational Program of Radio Television Serbia.

Privileged companies were most prominent tax-dodgers. According to a list drawn by the relevant republican bodies, 674 companies on 30 September 2000 owed to the state over 10 billion dinars in unpaid taxes. Outstanding debt is 5.8 billion, and 4.2 billion are accrued interest rates. Crude Oil Industry of Serbia (901 million dinars), Petrohemija (762 million), Agricultural Combine (537 dinars), the Belgrade-based Electric Power Distribution Company (509 million) top the debtors list.

A special form of fraud was building of villas for the highest state officials in the exclusive residential area of Dedinje. Representatives of Democratic Alternative disclosed that in Uzicka 8, a 450 square metres villa registered in the name of Milan Milutinovic, President of Serbia, is worth DM 2 million. Fairly close to that villa, in Uzicka 28-30, a 900 square metres palatial residence, worth between DM 5-7 million, was built by the Yugoslav Army and the republican government. It is believed that Nebojsa Pavkovic, Head of Chief of Staff, is the villa's owner. Next to that palatial house, in no. 30 is an 800 square metres house owned by the Socialist Party of Serbia. In Uzicka 34 there is a 120 square metres house registered in the name of Slobodan Milosevic and connected to a 250 square metres house in the stage of reconstruction in Tolstojeva 33. Interestingly enough on the eve of NATO bombardment it was disclosed that 1 square metre of that house was paid DM 99.49. Mirko Marjanovic, former Prime Minister of Serbia has in Uzicka 36, a 600 square metre house. He has another house (600 square metres) in Uzicka 40. Borisav Milosevic, brother of former FRY President, has a palatial house in Kacanicka 4. Radomir Markovic, former head of the State Security Services has a luxurious villa next to the "Crvena Zvezda" football stadium. He previously had a grand house in Banovo Brdo suburb. Borislav Milacic, former republican Treasury Secretary, had broad prerogatives and his signatures were found on many documents related to property ownership of the highest state officials. Thanks to his position he amassed a large wealth. In addition to a 100 m 2 flat in Vojvode Milenka street no. 38, he has a 50 m2 flat in Taduesa Koscuska street no. 16, a 250 m 2 flat in Njegoseva street no. 2. registered in the name of his mother of law. Milacic also has a house in Koling settlement in Mackov kamen. It is a four-story building of 900 m2. His wife bought two thirds of a family house in residential area Lipik-Umka. Milacic's two children are studying in London. Annual tuition for each child is DM 50,000.

Zivka Knezevic, Secretary of Government of Serbia, took decisions on flats and loans, as well as on multi-million dollar deals, for example, construction of palatial residences in the upscale neighbourhood of Dedinje. She was considered an informal head of government, with whom many ministers and even Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic had to curry favour in order to be greenlighted certain 'contracts.' She became an all-round power-broker after joining the Associated Yugoslav Left. She negotiated contracts with only few privileged construction companies. For herself she negotiated the following property: an 86 square metres flat in Cara Urosa 36, a 147 m2 flat and garage in Internacionalnih brigada 8 for her daughter Simona. In the vicinity of Sv. Sava Churh many members of former financial, political and police elite have their residences: for example Nada Popovic-Perisic, former Culture Minister and ambassador to UNESCO has a 142 m2 flat, built by the Serbian government, but bought by family Perisic ( in fact they are only paying the upkeep, and not the rent). Zivka Knezevic bought a 142 m2 flat in Strahinjica Bana street no. 51 for her son-in-law, Vukasin Erdemovic in May 1998. Two months later she bought another flat ( 142 square metre flat )in Strahinjica Bana street. All the purchase were effected through Komercijalna Bank. Building of the aforementioned flats was swiftly completed by "Koling Company," co-owned by Borisav Milacic. That company has a monopoly over construction sites in Dedinje area. "Koling" adapted both the antique shop and gallery owned by her son-in-law.

But new authorities have not reacted to the aforementioned unlawful deals. By the end of 2000 only Mihalj Kertes, former Director of Federal Customs Services, was detained and interrogated. Kertes was a long-standing associate of Slobodan Milosevic. He was totally independent in all his dealings. Milutin Cekic, Chief Federal Inspector, stated: "Mihalj Kertes was more powerful than the whole federal administration. We sent petitions to the Finance Ministry, to Justice Ministry and finally to the federal government to allow us to do the auditing, but to no avail. Our inspectors are still waiting to get a green light to do their job." (Blic, 20 December 2000)

As early as in 1995 federal administration was informed of misuse of prerogatives by the Federal Customs Services, for "large sums of money were paid back to legal persons as tax reliefs. Our repeated petitions for auditing were all turned down. Hence Kertes was able to pay in cash DM 900,000 to Zivadin Jovanovic, former Foreign Secretary, for alleged accommodation expenses of foreign delegations, in summer 2000, on the eve of the SPS Congress. According to his much-publicised confession Kertes bankrolled the police, army and health institutions, but also the pre-election campaign of the SPS. He also gave money to Uros Suvakovic, a strongman of the State Security Services.

Serbia ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world. As Zoran DJindjic has put it: "Hospitals, local self-rule bodies, schools, customs offices and state institutions are steeped in corruption." (Blic News, 27 December 2000). It can be in fact maintained that all state institutions and areas of social life have been 'contaminated' by corruption. It became a 'manner of living and communication" with tacit consent of both former regime and the opposition. The corrupt city officials generously granted operating licences to street vendors and stalls owners in exchange for hefty kickbacks. Venal mafia-like state introduced a centralised system of export and import licences and quotas, thus forcing all businessmen to co-operate with the state officials in charge of trade. Large kickbacks were given to all the ruling parties and their officials. Public companies, exclusively headed by members of the ruling parties, bankrolled from company funds the ruling coalition. Several directors, notably former President of Chemical Combine Kostana and his close associates from Vranje are sued for "giving money from the factory's funds and the cash received from the Fund for Development of the Republic of Serbia to the SPS municipal committee." (Danas, 3 November 2000). Such misappropriation cases were reported in many industrial branches and banks.

Corruption and nepotism were also features of the University life. According to Marija Bogdanovic, Acting Rector of the Belgrade University (Vecernje novosti, 10 December 2000): "University in the past period, when the state appointed its loyalists to top faculty positions, was brought to the brink of disaster. It was degraded, quality of classes deteriorated, dignity of professors and students was impaired." Under the then University Act over 200 professors and assistants were sacked.

The state in fact encouraged criminality and corruption in all segments of the society, notably in health and education. The new authorities are yet to deal with this outstanding problem. If they are indeed bent on introducing genuine democracy and the rule of law in Serbia they will first try to root out both aforementioned social ills. However, general impression is that the new authorities are delaying such moves. For example no indictments were raised against those responsible for having plunged the country and society in chaos and crisis.


6. Role and status of trade-unions

In the early 2000 it was obvious that population in Serbia was on the verge of economic and biological disaster. After a decade of economic decline and falling industrial output, and NATO bombardment which totally destroyed infrastructure and badly impaired industrial plants, hopes were dispelled as to the possibility of an early jump-start of the remaining production. But instead of tackling in the right way a mounting social discontent and complex economic and social problems the regime launched another campaign of repression. Although the repressive apparatus has long-played a key role in protection of Milosevic's regime, the year 2000 shall be remembered as a year of the most brutal campaign of terror in which an indeed large number of people bore the brunt of frayed nerves of a disintegrating state-party apparatus.

The long-established practice of media disciplining continued unabated throughout 2000. Draconian fines economically depleted and threatened the very media existence. But they simultaneously filled up empty coffers of state administration and banking accounts of the ruling parties.

Such a media stranglehold had a negative impact on standard of living of employees, notably those living outside Belgrade. Additional pressures were brought to bear on independent media. For example paper-producing and supplying companies were banned from selling paper to free media, many companies were 'dissuaded' from advertising their products and services in such media, and the free media equipment (contrary to laws in place) was frequently seized. Amid mounting tensions in society, journalists and photo journalists were taken for "interviews" to police stations. Harsh sentencing of journalist Miroslav Filipovic was a clear sign that the regime intended to defend its survival with all the means available. The regime-controlled judiciary in most cases adhered to political instructions and not to their professional rules and criteria. Protest rallies did not produce a desired effect, and public at large, despite its condemnation of the regime's repression, remained on the sidelines, disinterested and apathetic.

Most successful was the regime's showdown with its judicial and educational opponents. Newly-elected deans and rectors at the Serbian universities, in an unprecedented show of one-upmanship or possibly competition with authors of the infamous University Act, quickly got rid of all the remaining "undesirable" professors. Some Belgrade faculties (Electrical Engineering, Law, etc.) were guarded by private security teams and their professors were banned from entering them. But university professors did not muster up enough courage to organise themselves and mount resistance to vandalism, ignorance and rigid management which characterised universities after appointment of its new deans and rectors. Barring some individual actions and those taken by few university associations and organisations at some faculties, all the other intellectuals succumbed (or sold out to) initially euphoric nationalism of the early Nineties and later to a collective despair of the decade-end.

The process of 'disciplining' the judiciary was continued. In mid-July the Serbian Parliament relieved of their duties another 18 judges, accusing them of "the opposition political work." In other words they were blamed for failing to deliver harsh sentences to, for clearing of charges, or not instituting proceedings against the regime's political opponents.

Once the federal and presidential elections were called, the repression against political opponents and seditious employees striking on social grounds or disclosing numerous irregularities in companies and institutions operations, was stepped up. Many top health experts (working in hospitals and institutes in Novi Sad, Beograd, Kragujevac, Nis, Pozarevac, Vranje, Petrovac na Mlavi, etc) were sacked. Doctors and health personnel were fired, transferred to inferior positions, or fined on grounds of their political leanings and professionalism (for example, for taking care of citizens roughed up by the police and issuing medical certificates indicating the degree of injuries sustained). As the elections approached many employees were increasingly intimidated or pressured to join some of the ruling parties (the SPS or the Associated Yugoslav Left.) Added to that white collar employees were compelled to sign petitions backing the presidential candidacy of Slobodan Milosevic or MP lists of the SPS and the AYL.

Brutal repression against young activists of "Otpor" backlashed. Thousands of impoverished workers, employees, intellectuals, jobless and peasants at the pre-election rallies of DOS and G-17 Plus manifested their readiness for changes at all levels. Their clear orientation towards the break with a corrupt and criminal regime and readiness to embrace radical economic reforms mirrored above all their hopes that the new authorities would jump-start the production and put an end to a rapidly declining standard of living.

Simultaneously the failure of trade-unions to animate or unite the aforementioned population categories to fight against many salient social and economic ills, spoke volumes about their weak role in the social life of Serbia. Independent Trade Union in the early years of the Socialists rule took over the role of former communist organisations (the Socialist Alliance of the Working People and the League of Communists) and acted as a protector and guardian of the regime. Even during the pre-election campaign when its membership clearly and massively backed the opposition block, the Independent Trade union officials continued to act as the regime's stooges by organising manifestations of support to the state leadership, its reconstruction campaign and "grand economic successes." Like in previous election races model employees were compelled to take part in the ruling parties pre-election rallies: that is, workers were on several occasions ferried by buses from their workplaces to the rally venues to lend a picture of massive suppo.





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