This report was written before the NATO air campaign began against the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" ("FRY") on March 24, 1999. Some of the contents of this report, however, remain important regardless of the outcome of the current conflict. The profound need for democratization throughout the "FRY" to ensure long-term stability in the region has been made clearer in these past few weeks.

Summary

  • The possibility of finding solutions to the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's" long-standing and complex problems, including Kosovo, would be vastly enhanced if the "FRY" were a democracy, governed by the rule of law and open debate.
  • Democratic transition in Serbia has been blocked by the Milosevic regime, which remains the major threat to regional stability in the Balkans. This regime has created an atmosphere of fragmentation, fatigue, and fear in Belgrade and Pristina.
  • The United States must develop a consistent and coherent strategy for the Balkans that takes into account the effects that developments in one country or region have on neighboring states.
  • The United States and its allies and partners need to focus on bringing about a democratic transition throughout the "FRY," one based on civic institutions and not on the empty ritual of elections that are neither free nor fair.
  • Additional spending of $35 million this fiscal year (over and above the planned $18 million) could contribute to the democratic transition by making resources and expertise available to those who seek to establish democracy in Serbia. Important targets are Belgrade and other Serbian cities. Spending should focus on institutions and coalitions--not individuals--and on long-term grassroots efforts rather than instant results.

About the Report

This report is based on meetings of the United States Institute of Peace's Balkans Working Group and a subgroup working on democratization in Serbia. This work was previously presented in abbreviated form on December 10, 1998, by Daniel Serwer in testimony before the United States' Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at "The Milosevic Regime vs. Serbian Democracy" hearing. That testimony was also presented on January 12, 1999, by Serbian Deputy Prime Ministers Vojislav Seselj, Ratko Markovic, and Milovan Bojic, as an allegedly "top secret" Central Intelligence Agency document. On January 14, 1999, the Institute issued a statement clarifying that the document is a publicly available discussion paper prepared by an Institute fellow, and emphasizing that the Institute has continually made an effort to reach out to all sides of the conflicts in the Balkans in order to facilitate a constructive dialogue on moving the region toward peace.

The Balkans Working Group, composed of employees of various government agencies, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), acting in their personal capacities, meets frequently to address issues of Bosnia peace implementation and Balkans stability. Ambassador John Menzies, former ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina and currently a senior fellow at the Institute, chairs working group sessions. The opinions and recommendations of the working group sessions on Serbia are summarized by Senior Fellow Daniel Serwer, Program Officer Lauren Van Metre, and Research Assistant Kristine Herrmann, with further research by Intern Jenet Redfern.

For an earlier report on the current debate regarding Serbia and its future, please refer to the Institute's June 1998 Special Report "Serbia: Democratic Alternatives."

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policies.

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