Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Listen now
... to both sides of the debate
 real 28k

Monday, 16 October, 2000, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Is it too early to lift sanctions against Yugoslavia?

In a show of support for the new Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica, the European Union is expected to ease the sanctions they imposed on Serbia during the rule of Slobodan Milosevic.

An oil embargo and air-travel ban are due to be lifted, while other sanctions - on financial investment and visa restrictions - are expected to remain.

But the new leadership in Serbia is only just beginning to consolidate its grip on power, Milosevic's allies remain in influential positions, and Mr Kostunica has said he does not plan to hand over Mr Milosevic and other indicted war criminals to the Hague Tribunal for trial.

What do you think? Is the West acting too hastily by lifting some sanctions now? Is it too early to do business with Mr Kostunica?

Or is it being too circumspect by leaving some of the sanctions in place and does this risk undermining Mr Kostunica in the critical early stages of his presidency?

For this week's Europewide debate, Europe Today's Laurence Zavriew spoke to Walter Schwimmer, the secretary-general of the 41-nation Council of Europe, and to Tony Borden of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Listen to the debate and tell us what you think. HAVE YOUR SAY

Tears fill my eyes every time I read about Yugoslavia's revolution. I think Kostunica should be given a chance. The West has to risk. The good should not be repelled. Isn't this what we are fighting for?
Anna Karkovska, Bulgaria

Sanctions NEVER work

Vasili N. Liarakos, Austria

Let us not forget that Yugoslavia is a democratic country. Stood by the allies in both WW's. Dr Kustonica is the best possible choice. He has the right to be a nationalist as much as Chirac, Clinton, Blair and every nation's leader. Sanctions NEVER work. The ordinary people of Yugoslavia have paid dearly and this was great injustice. They have been lifted much before this.
Vasili N. Liarakos, Austria

The sanctions should be removed only after a clear sign from Belgrade that the country is undergoing a democratic change. The sheer change of power means nothing, should Kostunica prove to be nothing more but the successor of the former President.
Mirsad, Croatia

The sanction were against Milosevic, not against Yugoslavian people

Ilija Radisic, Mexico

Yes, sanction has to be lifted. As West was always saying, the sanction were against Milosevic and his regime, not against Yugoslavian people. We can just imagine how ordinary people, old and young survived last 10 years. Yugoslavia belongs to Europe now much more than last 10 years. The West has to help and lift the sanctions.
Ilija Radisic, Mexico

The sanctions should be lifted immediately! The people of Yugoslavia have suffered long enough because of their government's mistakes. The Yugoslavs have shown the world they want democracy, and they have proven this by doing the impossible, ousting Milosevic. They should be generously rewarded for their time of suffering under the Milosevic regime. The least the international community can do for these tortured people is LIFT ALL SANCTIONS! It's easy for people from other countries to say, lets see what happens next and we'll take it day by day. To those people: You try living in poverty and then see how fast you'll eat your words. The world should be talking about rebuilding Yugoslavia's economy and sending aid, and lifting all sanctions!
Sonja, Canada

Sanctions imposed against Yugoslavia should be kept for a while

Moataz M. Abou-Eita, Cairo, Egypt
Sanctions imposed against Yugoslavia should be kept for a while. It's too early to take a move to ease such sanctions. Yes, perhaps Milosevic's era is over, but a new one is about to begin, a new one of which we know nothing. Until we know of its intentions, only then can sanctions be lifted.
Moataz M. Abou-Eita, Cairo, Egypt

The sanctions against Yugoslavia should be lifted after the new government decides to co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The healing process will begin after all war criminals (no matter which nationality they belong to) are arrested and sent to the Hague, where they belong.
Jure, Croatia

Rather than "lift" sanctions, we should suspend them. Until Milosevic is provably removed from all levers of power, the ability to quickly re-impose sanctions without having to build another consensus may reduce the chances of him staging a successful coup.
Brian, UK

Sanctions should be lifted, if nothing else, than for the simple reason that the West, especially the USA, promised that they would, once Milosevic was out of power. Considering that the West always wishes to set the pace, and give a good example to the rest of the world, then they should keep their promises.
Jelena Nikolic, Australia

I think The West and America have intervened too much in the internal affairs in Yugoslavia. Please let them settle their own problems on their own.
Tomnguyen, Vietnam

Political issues should be discussed separately from the country's economy

Drazenka Kovrlija, New York, USA
Sanctions need to be lifted in order for Yugoslavia to start from the bottom of its economy. Political issues should be discussed separately from the country's economy. Otherwise the Yugoslavian people will see no benefits of democracy at all. The West needs to help now otherwise Milosevic's party could thrive on the fact that it is destroying Yugoslavia and win the next elections easily.
Drazenka Kovrlija, New York, USA

It is never too early to extend the hand of friendship or to attempt to repair bridges - be they over the Danube or between warring parties.
Don Anderson, Wales

I think it is too early to lift all the sanctions, even though it is understandable that Europe and the rest of the world want to show its support for democratic changes in Serbia. What should be remembered is that Mr Kostunica never once condemned Mr Milosevic and his policies of war and ethnic cleansing. Furthermore he supported them, so it remains to be seen if there will be real change in Serbian politics especially towards Kosovo, which I doubt very much.
Petrit, Kosovo

A lot of people, when discussing Yugoslavia, have regarded the West's intervention there as 'butting in'. Far from it; Democratic nations are duty-bound to voice their concerns and otherwise sanction oppressive regimes. Just where would democracy be now if we didn't fight for it, tooth and nail?
Simon, Norway

Let us not forget that though the leader has changed in FRY, the pro-chauvinist sentiment of the majority of Serbs and their (old/ new) leadership remains the same.
Arsim, Macedonia

Sanctions don't ever work. They didn't work against apartheid in South Africa, they haven't worked against Iraq or Cuba. The new bloke needs support and it doesn't cost us anything, so why not ?
Domini Connor, UK

Sanctions should not be lifted until Belgrade hands over all indicted war criminals for trial in the Hague. Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina handed over their indictees and failure to enforce this policy in Yugoslavia will mean double standards in western policy that could be harmful to fledgling democracies in the Balkans.
Karl, Australia

We need to show them and the whole world that there is an immense future in democracy, fairness and humanity

Harry, Germany
These people have taken a very brave step forward - it could all so easily have gone disastrously wrong. We need to show them and the whole world that there is an immense future in democracy, fairness and humanity. Yes, now is the time to lift sanctions.
Harry, Germany

Yes, to soon, as long as Slobo and his henchmen or still free! But, one good thing has happened, Slobo's son wasn't allowed into China. What the new president should do is start getting all the money these crooks stole from the Serb people!
Eddie, USA

Kostunica is a man of principles. Do not judge him by few headlines that come through to you. Martians have no reason for worrying with Kostunica as president. He simply do not use courtship in his public relations.
Branislav Jovanovic, Yugoslavia

NATO governments have bought the Yugoslavia elections freely and fairly. If they wish to capitalise on their success, they will need to press ahead quickly on taking over Yugoslavia economically, and that means that they must remove the economic sanctions. If they are too slow, they will find that the Yugoslav people will return another left-wing government that will continue to thwart NATO plans.
Conal, New Zealand

It truly is amazing how the West can just open their arms to a people who both supported and were involved in the genocide both in Bosnia and Kosova

Vahid Goga, Australia
It truly is amazing how the West can just open their arms to a people who both supported and were involved in the genocide both in Bosnia and Kosova. Milosevic did not go on a murderous spree all on his own you know. Although Kostunica was 'democratically' elected, by the people who were directly involved in genocide, he has not shown or spoken of any regret for what his country was involved in. Although there is a new face at the top, everything else is still the same, especially in regards to the ill feelings Serbs harbour for Albanian and Bosnian Muslims.
Vahid Goga, Australia

It's too early. The old regime still occupies key positions of power. A federal election should be called in Serbia first, and then if the democratic forces win sanctions can be eased. PLUS autonomy should be guaranteed for Kosovo. In addition, Milosevic should be tried either by the new regime or by the ICC (Hague)
Mark R Vrooman, Canada

Sanctions helped Milosevic stay in power

Andrej, Russia
Sanctions helped Milosevic stay in power: they isolate the nation economically, which gives the domestic magnates unlimited power. Sanctions breed paranoia and can turn any Serbian president, especially a nationalist like Kostunica, into another Slobo.
Andrej, Russia

The one sure way to build public confidence in the new government is to help revive the Serbian economy, and the only way to do that is by lifting sanctions and normalising trade and business links with the rest of the world.
Tom Byrne, USA

President Kostunica has expressed Serb nationalist aims of holding onto Montenegro and Kosovo. Both policies could result in violent confrontations within the Balkans and thereby draw in another Nato intervention. Sanctions would seem to be the only leverage to bring about a redefinition of Serbian relations with their de facto neighbours. The hope that Kostunica is a liberal democrat is extreme optimism in a Serbian context. He should be negotiated with on the basis of his actions and not Western misperceptions.
Keith Milton, Canada

The sanctions should've been lifted a long, long time ago. Sanctions are stupid. They NEVER hurt those in power as they are way too rich already. They'll always have enough of everything regardless of the circumstances. It is the people that suffer. The poor get poorer, the middle class gets wiped out and the rich grow even more rich.
Dragan Cvekic, Zrenjanin, Serbia

The international community should act appropriately to make justice smile at the citizens of Yugoslavia.

Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda
Justice has had victory over injustice. People seem to have faith in the new leadership. The reign of dictator Slobodan Milosevic has come to an end. The citizens of the country have suffered a lot during his rule. Now the European Union acts in time to lift sanctions. It is good news not only for Serbs but for others too. Slobodan Milosevic and all those who were involved in destroying the humanity in that part of the world should be punished. The international community should act appropriately to make justice smile at the citizens of Yugoslavia.
Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda

I think that the world has forgot that there are thousands of Albanians in Serbian jails what about them has Kostunica in mind to release them or maybe to treat them as prisoners, or how the Kostunica has think to solve the Kosovo problem. I think that Kostunica its good for Serbian people but not for the other nations in Yugoslavia.
Avdyl Burrniku, Denmark

Sanctions would be lifted on the condition that Milosevic was ousted. Now that this condition is met it's only fair that the West keeps it's side of the bargain. Any additional aid by the West should depend on Mr. Kostinica's performance in the coming months.
Ben, Netherlands

It's humbling seeing history being made

George M. Ortiz, United States of America
I think all governments should lift sanctions in phases. Start with the basics so that food, medicine and fuel can be readily obtained. Offer support in setting up and repairing infrastructure to the country. Offer support to those undertaking such a Herculean task of setting up a new government. Give them time to work through the transition without too many external demands. I applaud the Serbian's. Would we be willing to sacrifice and fight for the integrity of the votes they cast? It's humbling seeing history being made.
George M. Ortiz, Texas/United States of America

I think a partial easing of sanctions is appropriate. I'm a free trader -- I think you stimulate change in other countries by engaging them in exchange of goods, services, and ideas, much more easily than you can do by a stance of moral indignation. The West has to send a signal to Serbia now suggesting that we're ready to work toward accepting them as democratic brethren. They'll respond to that.
Barry Lawson, USA

No, it is not too early. Now is the time; actually "yesterday" was the time

Mike Simonovich, Canada
No, it is not too early. Now is the time; actually "yesterday" was the time. The USA/Canada/EU must lift sanctions against Yugoslavia as soon as possible. This is going to stabilise the economic and political balance on the Balkan. For more than 10 years Yugoslavia has been suffering, I think that is enough. The biggest damage was done on the ordinary people and citizen of the Serbia. Now, it is ours duty to help them.
Mike Simonovich, Canada

I knew it. The promise of lifting sanctions is a carrot on a stick which is impossible to reach. Do you think for a second that hungry, unemployed people living on $50 a month are looking for it? EU behaviour will eventually bring Milosevic back so that West can keep up with their policies in Balkans for last 10 years. A lot of money is at stake, NATO expansion, profitable peace-keeping missions etc.
Dan, Canada

This is a good move. As long as the new government really does have the power, it is important to show that the West really does want to help the new democracy, and "extend the hand of peace".
Phil W, UK

If anyone in the world is keeping in mind that there are a lot of Albanian people who are still in the jail's of the Serbia, nobody will say that the sanction should be lifted
Eshref Beqiri, KOSOVA

Serbian people are free of communism after 55 years, it will take a bit of time for things to settle in

Dragomir Mihailovic, US
Serbian people are free of communism after 55 years, it will take a bit of time for things to settle in, as well for visas and other things - they don't think about that right now. The leadership is, finally, the most appropriate one, and West recognises that. I have no doubts about Mr Kostunica's ways of "taking care of business"... God bless Serbia!
Dragomir Mihailovic, US

I feel that we are moving to quickly. We should let the dust settle and see what happens. Anyway we should not even be butting into this country's business. Let them figure things out for themselves.
Maria, USA

Send us your comments:

Your E-mail Address:



Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

08 Oct 00 | Europe
Yugoslavia looks to the future
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Talking Point stories