Action Alerts | PMA's newsletter | What's on | Links | How PMA can help you
Help PMA grow | Petition forms | Site map | PMA main page


Action Alert picture

Aid for reconstruction and transition in Yugoslavia

17 September 1999



INTRODUCTION This is the Executive Summary of a proposal for AID AND RECONSTRUCTION IN YUGOSLAVIA - NEED AND NECESSITY, which was prepared by the expert teams of five Belgrade independent, think tanks and NGOs:

CENTER FOR POLICY STUDIES (coordinating body focused on social and political part of the project); GROUP 17 (reformist economists focused on economic aspects); PALGO CENTER (Center for Public Administration and Local Government: in depth analysis of case studies of several Serbian cities); EUROPEAN MOVEMENT (working on developing concepts and relations with neighboring countries); AAEN (Alternative Academic Educational Network: preparation of maps and data bases); ECOLOGICAL CENTER (ecological research and mapping).

Work on this complex project was initiated while NATO bombing was ongoing. In difficult conditions, the authors found this task as the best way to give some sense to their professional responsibility and to contribute to the efforts of a regional future looking approach. This is work in progress and we expect to finish the first stage by September. The Group 17 has completed and published its contribution. We find that the key message concerning the post-war situation in Yugoslavia is: positive incentives to actors and advocates of change rather than isolation of the whole society. Namely, comprehensive sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia (May 1992) proved productive for the survival of the regime and detrimental to the forces of democratic change. This is the opportunity for a change in policy toward Yugoslav society (not the regime) and to introduce a long-term, sustained strategy. Political change, implying reform and democratization cannot be achieved through isolation and castigation of the whole society. It is of the essence at this moment in time to find creative and effective alternative ways in aiding all those, be it NGOs, independent media, or local governments, who are already fully involved in the struggle for democratic change.


There are several substantial reasons why Yugoslavia should not be left out of the project of a RECONSTRUCTION IN SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE. The most important are:

1. Stability and peace in the region depends to a very large extent on stability and peace in FR Yugoslavia. Without a democratic, prosperous and open Yugoslav society there is no guarantee that peace and stability can be achieved in the region as a whole. The past years have been unfortunately proof of this.

2. Many doubts that Yugoslav society is capable of a turn toward a democratic, prosperous and open future if the present Milosevic regime stays in power. NATO-s intervention in Yugoslavia has made Milosevic more stable in power given the rally around the flag phenomenon. Milosevic's political future can become finite only if the EU and US are willing to engage in and help the process of reconstruction and transition in Yugoslavia. In other words, were Yugoslavia to be fully left out of the regional reconstruction project it would clearly reinforce only Milosevic, because isolation and poverty could prolong his regime.

3. If left isolated and without aid for reconstruction Yugoslav society could also become embittered and revanchist. The feeling of victimization could be reinforced so as to strengthen retrograde tendencies throughout society.

4. FR Yugoslavia's geographical position in the Balkans makes it impossible to effectively isolate this country without hurting the interests of the whole region. Greece, Macedonia and especially Kosovo would economically suffer if their continental connections to Western, Central and, partially, Eastern Europe were not open to lead through Yugoslavia.

5. Electric power lines, waterways, oil pipelines and other infrastructure and existing economic ties make it impossible to divide and separate out Yugoslavia from other neighboring countries. Were Yugoslavia to be isolated many established regional communications would have to be abandoned and new ones built costing considerable sums of money and requiring time.

6. The situation with Kosovo is similar to that of FR Yugoslavia as a whole. Here interconnectivity is even more present. It is impossible to undertake the reconstruction in Kosovo while leaving the rest of Yugoslavia ruined. Simply, most electrical, water supply, railway and road infrastructures are interconnected to such a degree that functional separation would be highly detrimental.

7. The possible further marginalization and ghettoisation of FR Yugoslavia could become a burdening source of economic as well as criminal emigration toward Western and Central Europe countries. As is well known from the cases of Mexico or Albania there are no secure borders that can stop desperate people in their search for jobs and a better and more secure life. According to experts if a new perspective is not opened in the year to come as many as one million people could leave Serbia only.

8. An ecological disaster has emerged as a consequence of NATO bombings that have destroyed numerous oil refineries and chemical industries. These ecological consequences cannot be geographically contained within a country the size of Yugoslavia. Air pollution is already also endangering the health of citizens of neighboring countries. The heavily polluted Danube River passes through Romania, Bulgaria and Black Sea area. Agricultural goods from polluted Serbian soil as well as meat products grown in Serbia and Montenegro will find their way to the European market, though in limited quantities.

9. There are substantial cultural and political reasons for the inclusion of Yugoslavia in the project of southeastern Europe reconstruction. The Yugoslav cultural space is an integral part of a European cultural identity. Culture and cultural diversity are the foundations of a shift to a democratic change and a nascent democratic political culture. The survival of Milosevic's authoritarian rule, an ex Communist ruler who survived a NATO attack on his country, could be a bad example for potentially similar nationalist, populist or communist leaders in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in some ex-Soviet republics. Only a reconstruction effort accompanied by a transition Milosevic could be, finally, out of the power.

10. The difficult time of reckoning with the tumultuous past decade can only be postponed with further isolation and marginalisation of the country. Opening channels of communication for the free flow of people, goods and ideas can foster the necessary and fundamental process of society's confrontation with itself and its recent past: self-isolation and retrograde political, economic and social dynamics. A reversal of the anti-modern societal and political trends is only possible in an opening to the world and the world's opening to this weary and weakened society and country.

11. The positive incentives of an economic and societal reconstruction can bring about a broad future looking project, which can rally all those forces necessary for political and social change. There is still a great social capital in this country (well educated, often at the best western universities, creative individuals), a strong entrepreneurial potential, as well as hundreds of thousands of young urban professionals who left the country since 1991 (many of whom would be ready to return if a positive perspective for development were to open up).

12. Reconstruction is meant here in the broadest sense. It would be, in the FRY, tantamount to a full-scale political, economic and social transition leading to the growth of a democratic political culture and a market oriented economy.

13. Yugoslavia (i.e. Serbia and Montenegro) with a population of 10 million is an important market with significant economic potential and in great need for investment and rebuilding. If isolated from the West other economic actors will seize the opportunity to come in which always carries its politi cal influence.


After the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (more Serbia and less Montenegro) the need for humanitarian aid is great. This is coupled with the need to understand of specificity of the Yugoslav humanitarian situation. NATO's intervention has led to:

- - More then 2000 civilians killed and several thousands wounded. More dead and wounded are expected due to the fact that about 11000 cluster bombs and mines are still unexploded in the cities and in the fields. - - The infrastructure of roads (along with over 100 bridges and fly-overs), railways (with crossings and stations) and waterways has also been destroyed as well as substantial part of electrical and water supply systems. - Several thousand houses and tenant buildings are destroyed or uninhabitable as well as hundreds of schools, hospitals, cultural and other public buildings. - Most of the metal working industries along with chemical and oil industries has been destroyed leaving additional 250.000 workers unemployed. - Large stretches of agricultural land as well as several rivers used for watering are made unusable due to pollution caused by bombings or by pollution coming from destroyed chemical or oil industries. - The air over Yugoslavia has been greatly polluted due to the close to 1300 NATO planes flying daily during 78 days. All together, the estimated total direct damage caused by NATO's intervention amounts to about 4.1 billion US dollars while total (direct + indirect) damage is 29.6 billion US dollars (figures of Group 17). Still part of the damage remains hidden because data are not yet available on the damage to the natural wealth nor to the historic and cultural monuments which value is impossible to appraise.

It should be noted that during the NATO bombing and ethnic cleansing about 130.000 Albanians, Serbs, Romas, Muslims/Bosniacs, Turks, Gorans, fled Kosovo to Montenegro and Serbia. After the retreat of the Yugoslav forces from Kosovo at least another 50.000 Serbs and Montenegrins left the province. Those people are now mostly in Southern Serbia and Southern Montenegro. This new refugee flow compounds the 500.000 Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia, in Serbia, of whom many are still considered non-citizens in Yugoslavia and continue to live in appalling conditions. Humanitarian needs are an immediate priority including the reconstruction of electricity, water supply and communal heating systems as well as some key bridges and roads necessary for humanitarian supply transportation. It is believed that humanitarian needs total 1,2 billion US dollars (196 million US dollars for refugees, 275 millions for power supply and public heating, 201 million for reconstruction of private households, 300 millions for key bridges and fly-overs, 200 millions for medical and social aid programs according Group 17 recent report). It is important to understand that these needs should be addressed immediately. Three months remain for construction work before the autumn and winter set in. If electricity, water supply and communal heating systems are not repaired we will face a major humanitarian catastrophe throughout the country. Medical experts also expect post-trauma increased demand for medical services and hospitals in which there is a great lack of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies. Providing the necessary humanitarian aid to Yugoslav society through NGOs and local governments wherever possible could be a serious incentive for the rejection of new xenophobic myths and the feeling of victimization.


If there is a complete denial of reconstruction aid to Serbia the still remaining democratic structures will be most severely curtailed. There are many ways to use reconstruction efforts so as to social and political pro-reformist organizations and institutions in Yugoslav society without at the same time helping the regime in any way. First and foremost forms and channels for horizontal aid and cooperation should be developed: City to city cooperation could be easily and effectively developed between Yugoslav cities governed by opposition parties or by coalitions of the opposition parties. It is important to say here that all major industrial cities are in the hands of democratic opposition, i.e. SPO (Serbian Renewal Movement of Vuk Draskovic), DS (Democratic Party of Zoran Djindjic), DSS (Serbian Democratic Party of Kostunica) and GS (Civic Alliance of Vesna Pesic now led by Goran Svilanovic), end some smaller opposition parties.

There are such examples already. Dortmund, Germany, announced that it will rebuild one of Novi Sad bridges and formed a coalition of German cities in order to repair schools, medical facilities, etc. Similarly, Moscow decided to rebuild another Novi Sad bridge. There could be more such examples in the near future which would greatly reinforce the status of the opposition municipal governments. Institution to institution: such as university to university, school to school, library or publisher to the library, NGO to NGO, TV station or journal to TV station or journal, etc. It is not necessary to provide only monetary aid because other forms of aid such as education or training, study trips abroad and attending professional meetings, Internet access, books, video-tapes, journals, electronic data banks, educational and other CD-s, etc., could be equally useful for Yugoslav partners. Of course, all kind of combinations of cooperation and aid are also possible such as a local community in providing necessary books and journals for AAEN (Alternative Academic Educational Network) or support to AKCIJA (an 52 NGOs recently organized network). Similarly, cooperation and aid is possible between political parties of similar orientation from EU countries (and/or US) and democratic parties in Yugoslavia. Professional associations could also provide the suitable channel for cooperation and aid in certain important domains of social life. For example, western association of judges and lawyers could be very helpful in the future reform of the judicial system in Yugoslavia providing their Yugoslav partners with experience, documents, books, journals, research funds, travel and conference money as well as with political support. The Independent Association of Judges should for example be helped immediately. Independent media in Yugoslavia could receive aid through donation of different programs (TV and radio), through press services as well as through on job training of young Yugoslav journalists in the editing rooms of western media. Also, western news media could become sponsors for some independent Yugoslav media.

Clearly, the independent media will need a continuous financial support as well; otherwise they will not be able to survive in extremely adverse conditions. Without independent media we cannot expect any political change to happen nor the society to be engaged in so much needed public debates over key issues. All kind of conditions for aid and cooperation could be developed through the presence of the private foundations in Yugoslavia if they would come in numbers. The case of the Fund for an Open Society (Soros) in Yugoslavia is an example of how much can be done through this channel to assist those endeavoring for change of the system and helping civil society.

Other foundations could find here a ready source of information and advice on how to work in Yugoslavia in order to be effective. Last but not the least is the fact that in Yugoslavia one can find a large number of well educated experts who know not only they country and its society but also modern methods in many fields of their expertise. Those experts could be a reliable source for information and professional advice for all those who want to come to Yugoslavia be it foreign foundations, media, NGOs or Western municipalities. Independent think tanks are a source of a large number of domestic experts in different fields.


Serbia should not be left in isolation. Through a creative and imaginative approach to reconstruction the regime could be weakened and the democratic forces strengthened. The following steps are proposed:

1. Humanitarian aid should be provided for Serbs as well as for other ethnic groups without any segregation. This humanitarian aid should be at least partially delivered through some humanitarian oriented NGOs and through municipalities run by opposition in major Serbian cities. Reconstruction of the electricity, water supplies and communal heating systems for humanitarian reasons should be part of the humanitarian aid. This should convince Serbian people that there is no hostility toward them in the West as Milosevic's nationalist propaganda is trying to convince them.

2. Support for democratic opposition parties and NGOs should be substantially increased through a plethora of programs from education to fund raising help for the electoral campaigns. This could bring out considerable existing pro-democracy and pro-reform potentials in Serbia.

3. Renew and substantially increase support for independent media in Serbia including projects like quality news satellite TV in Serbian language as a part of ANEM structure. Similarly, at least, one existing or new national daily and a few weeklies should be supported until they can survive on the market on their own. Encourage independent media mergers as well in order to achieve a broader and more resistant information network.

4. Facilitate the opening of channels for the free flow of ideas and people who are struggling for democratic change and professional excellence.

5. Offer to Milosevic's regime to be accepted back in OSCE in return for democratic election and demand full control of this election. Bring in Yugoslavia a thousand OSCE controllers before the campaign starts, make it fair especially in the domain of public media use and, finally, make impossible electoral fraud.

6. Make sanctions permeable for private investments that go directly to private SMEs in Yugoslavia and avoid government control as much as possible. A solid and well-established foreign private bank is much needed in Yugoslavia to provide services for all this and more.

7. Make clear that there is no collective guilt of the Serbian people but only guilt of perpetrators and those in the chain of command who should be brought to trial as soon as possible.

8. Encourage as much as possible the arrival to Serbia of EU and US foundations, NGOs and other institutions ready to cooperate with Serbian partners - pro-democracy and pro-reform organizations, institutions and individuals. In the same manner encourage and finance travel of journalists, NGOs, scientists and academics, artists of all kinds as partners of the Yugoslav independent media, NGOs and other pro-democracy actors.

9. EU should consider opening its PHARE program and others for all NGOs, independent media and democratic opposition forces in Serbia with special rules for them and less bureaucratic red tape. Citizens of Serbia should be convinced that they are considered as Europeans and welcomed in all existing domains of cooperation. Wherever possible existing initiatives (such as the Stability Pact) in southeastern Europe should include NGOs and local authorities from Serbia at least as observers.

Balkan Academic News

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

Return to the 'NATO Bombing - has it brought peace to the Balkans?' Alert.

Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Click here
Action Alerts PMA's newsletter What's on where Peace links Help PMA grow How PMA can help you Petition Forms Site Map