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Saturday, 30 June, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Analysis: Milosevic's legacy
Supporters of Slobodan Milosevic
It may take decades for Milosevic's influence to disappear
By Tim Judah

Zarko Korac, Serbia's deputy premier, is delighted that Slobodan Milosevic is now behind bars in The Hague.


One of the immediate results of the extradition of Mr Milosevic is that it has provoked a government crisis in Yugoslavia

Even though he had fallen from power last October, been in gaol since 1 April and was, as Mr Korac put it, "politically dead", he continued "to suck our blood like a vampire", Mr Korac said.

One reason for this was because of the pressure exerted by western countries on the authorities in Belgrade to extradite him.

At least on this score Serbia's reformists can now breathe easy.

But, even though Mr Milosevic has gone, it will be years, decades even, before the legacy of the former Serbian leader has worked itself out.

Once rich and free

Ten years ago, just before the wars of the former Yugoslavia began, the old country stood at the gates of EU membership and its people took foreign holidays.

Support for Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic: 'Politically dead'
Yugoslavia was the richest, freest and most economically advanced of all the communist countries.

With the exception of Slovenia, all parts of the former Yugoslavia are now way behind other former communist countries, like Hungary and Poland, which once envied the Yugoslav standard of living.

Serbia itself is home to 800,000 Serbian refugees from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Bosnia remains a fragile state held together by foreign troops and administrators.

Kosovo's status

Kosovo, which will vote in elections in November, will neither be as independent as its ethnic Albanians want it to be, nor returned to Serbian sovereignty for the foreseeable future.

Today, Kosovo is governed by the United Nations and its security provided by Nato-led troops from K-For, who, more than likely, will remain for a generation yet to come.

Serbs and Albanians in the province live in separate parts, and except in the north, Serbian and other minority communities have to be physically protected by K-For troops from attack by ethnic Albanians.

While elections to Kosovo's parliament and the beginning of a period of self-rule may take the pressure off demands for independence, it is certain that dealing with the final status of the province, which technically speaking, is still part of Yugoslavia, can only be postponed for a short time, a few years at most.

Bizarre construct

One of the immediate results of the extradition of Mr Milosevic is that it has provoked a government crisis in Yugoslavia.

Above all this has served to demonstrate what a bizarre construct this state has become.

Milosevic handover
The Milosevic handover may trigger yet more political instability
In principle Yugoslavia is made up of two republics, Serbia and Montenegro.

In fact, real power lies with the governments of each republic.

In Montenegro the authorities have long since withdrawn from all federal institutions.

But still, as recent elections showed, the republic is deeply divided between those who favour full independence and those who want to retain a formal union with Serbia.

Political crisis

Ironically the Montenegrins who have now pulled out of the Yugoslav government are those who favour retaining the common state.

However by provoking a crisis, they might set in train a process that ends in divorce.

To extradite Milosevic, once a process had begun to stop this move in the Yugoslav courts, the Serbian authorities simply invoked a clause in the Serbian constitution that gives primacy to Serbian institutions over Yugoslav ones in certain cases.

This goes to show that Serbia, just as much as Montenegro, is interested in asserting its rights and that a federation between one republic of some 10.5 million people and one of 600,000 is extremely difficult to run on the basis of equality.

The current Yugoslav crisis may yet be overcome, or at least papered over, but if the end result is independence for Serbia and Montenegro, this will only serve to recognise the current political reality.

Macedonia on the brink

Meanwhile, Macedonia continues to teeter between low-level conflict and all out war.

Of course Mr Milosevic cannot be blamed directly for this, but the fact is that the possible disintegration of Macedonia is simply another legacy of the break-up of Yugoslavia, in which he played a leading role.

Nato has approved a 3,000-strong force to enter the republic in the wake of a peace deal.

But this week, senior European Union officials will examine a plan for a far larger force to go into Macedonia, not after a deal, but before a bloodbath, in order to try and prevent one from happening.

Refugees return

It is not all bad news from the Balkans though.

Yugoslavia may be in the throes of a political crisis, but despite the odd act of violence at pro-Milosevic rallies, it is likely that one way or another the crisis will be resolved without the sort of upheaval that has characterised politics in the region for the last 10 years.

Despite its deep political problems, more refugees have returned home in Bosnia in the last year than any time since the end of the war in 1995.

Serbia and Croatia are rapidly normalising relations, and both countries are beginning to face up to crimes committed during the wars.

Tourism boost

This year, tourists are expected to flock back to Croatia's beautiful coast in the first really large numbers since the collapse of the old Yugoslavia.

In Serbia too, there is little doubt that the $1.3bn pledged at the international donors conference in Brussels on 29 June will go a long way to helping it rebuild its shattered economy.

It will however, have to clamp down on corruption and crime for this to be certain.

With Mr Milosevic in The Hague, he may no longer be able to suck the region's blood "like a vampire", but there is little doubt that his political ghost will continue to haunt it for generations yet to come.

Tim Judah is the author of The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia


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