His political career reached its current peak in March 2003, only a few days after the assassination of Djindjic, when he became deputy prime minister in the new government formed by Zoran Zivkovic.
He is now fiercely opposed to both Kostunica's government as well as the Democratic Party (DS) headed by Boris Tadic. Dissatisfied with Tadic's policy of moderation, he set up first the Centre for Contemporary Policy and then the Liberal-Democratic fraction within the DS, which plans to become a new political party in the autumn of this year.
His political credo can best be described as the most radical rejection of Slobodan Milosevic's legacy. His most prominent opponent is Vojislav Kostunica, who in Jovanovic's view is nothing but "Milosevic's alter ego", as he stated last year at one important political gathering. His uncompromising stance has led to attacks on him by Serbia's leading tabloid press as well as to death threats. He has survived several assassination attempts.
Recently, former Minister of Police in the government of Serbia, Dusan Mihajlovic, in an interview to news magazine Evropa stated that Jovanovic "is a rough stone that requires a lot of work", and "good raw material that could be turned into a good corner stone for our construction project - modern Serbia".
HUDELIST: In your book you state repeatedly that Djindjic was killed five days before the formation of the council of ministers of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, i.e. on the eve of its "assumption of control over the army and its security services, which were behaving as if Milosevic was still in power and Mladic sitting in a tank above some Bosnian town". Do you mean to say that the murder happened in order to prevent this?
JOVANOVIC: Yes. Were it not for the conflict with Kostunica, which lasted practically from the moment of Milosevic's arrest [April 1, 2001], Djindjic would be alive today. The murder took place on Wednesday, March 12. There was a plan to arrest the Zemun gang, including Milorad Ulemek Lukovic "Legija" and the commanders of the JSO [Unit for Special Operations]. The witness-turned-collaborator Ljubisa Buha Cume made a statement at the NATO base in Slovakia on Monday, March 10. On the basis of that statement, one of the special prosecutors went to Belgrade and signed the arrest orders. The arrests were planned for March 13. Never before was our society so close to its essential transformation, the kind of transformation which it has been seeking and failing to achieve during the last two hundred years of its history, than in March 2003. Zoran Djindjic's policy was about to succeed. That's why they killed him.
If the council of ministers had been formed on March 17, 2003, Zoran Zivkovic would have become minister of defense and the Serbian government would have taken control of the army.
Correct. It was a decisive moment. The army, together with its intelligence services, was and remains our church. The army was and remains the bastion of the most conservative forces in our society.
What would Zivkovic have done?
He would have dismissed the chiefs of the general staff and of military intelligence, i.e. Branko Krga and Aca Tomic. This was widely known. Kostunica had appointed Tomic head of military intelligence even though he did not have the necessary qualifications. He appointed him because on June 28, 2001 the military intelligence service, which at that time was headed by General Djakovic, did not prevent extradition of Slobodan Milosevic, although it was instructed to do that by Kostunica's order.
You are very critical of Kostunica, Serbia's current prime minister.
Our society sees Kostunica as Milosevic's alter ego. He stands for continuity with Milosevic's era. Thus, for example, he is more concerned with the destruction of Silerova [the headquarters of the Zemun mafia] than with that of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Prizren, Pec and Pristina; with the death of Djindjic's murderers Dusan Spasojevic and Mileta Lukovic "Kum" rather than with the tragedy of the eight thousand murdered people of Srebrenica or the two hundred of your countrymen killed at Ovcara, the thousands who lost their dearest or perished in this crazy war - a war which he refuses to condemn. The fact is that Belgrade and Serbia have become the places of refuge for all the war criminals from the area of the former Yugoslavia. They are here among us, celebrated as heroes, whereas anywhere else they would be handcuffed.
But Kostunica is cooperating with The Hague; and every now and then he delivers a Serb general.
True, this society, following Kostunica's policy, is cooperating with The Hague. But how? Soldiers, former cannon fodder, are being ordered to move to a new front line, in The Hague. Yesterday they fought in Srebrenica, today they fight in the Hague. Everything is done in order to avoid the issue of political responsibility for the crime. Serbian society is determined to avoid coming to terms with the past. It simply does not want to know. The whole of the police turned against us (Djindjic's government, D.H. remark) as soon as we started to investigate the mass (Albanian, D.H. remark) graves in the suburbs of Belgrade. Those people did not understand when I told them that we cannot become a normal European capital city while allowing thousands of Albanians to be destroyed in that manner a few kilometers from the place where we live and work. Similarly, the whole army was against us because we were searching for Karadzic and Mladic, and because we delivered Ojdanic and Milosevic. The Hague, in fact, is a red herring! Legija does not care for The Hague or the recent war. He's prepared to fight for whomever, Fikret Avdic, Karadzic or Milosevic. Legija can be a friend of Anto Gotovina and hide with him in Hercegovina...
Do you have specific information about their friendship and them hiding together?
That is mafia. And they are doing great. The more trouble there is, the more significant their role. A low ranking bloke from the French Foreign Legion became a General of the Croatian Army, while on the other hand, Legija, even worse than Gotovina, became a commander of a special police unit. It's been said a while ago - some people do well in war. Legija and Gotovina had a great time together in 2003 in Herceg-Bosna. After the assassination of Djindjic, of course, when both of them were on all sorts of arrest warrants. They hid at the place of their friend Mafioso Dinko Slezak.
How come you know that?
I had a conversation with representatives of the French intelligence service and asked them if it was true that former members of the French Foreign Legion always stay in touch with their former unit and thereby also with the French intelligence service. We discussed that since the manner in which Legija disappeared in thin air indicated the high degree of efficiency of the organization behind him. I told them that in Serbian government circles some suspect the French intelligence service. Their answer was that it is true that most former French Foreign Legion members maintain links with their old units and the French intelligence service, but that the same does not apply to Milorad Ulemek Legija because he deserted from the French Foreign Legion, he is an outlaw. And regarding where he was hiding, their hint was that the answer should be sought in the "out of control segments of the Croatian intelligence service"! That was their answer.
You'll have to sort this out with your intelligence services. You also have your Bracanovics! The politics of war crimes and wartime business are holding together that brotherhood of blood. This is not a Serbian invention. Similar groups exist in Croatia and Bosnia as well, in every society that has been or is going through an agony similar to ours. But let me be clear that I do not think that Croatian intelligence services participated in assassination of Zoran Djindjic. I was only referring to their criminal links. I think that Croatia and Bosnia both lost tremendously on March 12. If Zoran were alive we would be talking about different topics now.
I came to Croatia a day after visas were abolished, in June of 2003. As far as I was concerned that was a cool event. I accepted an invitation from Croatia and set off. We drove on the Belgrade-Zagreb highway and had tons of fun. Unfortunately, you always feel as if you're moving in the shadow of that madness that we went through as nations in the nineties... Since the year was 2003 and only a year separated us from the Olympic Games in Athens - and given that I was the deputy Prime Minister in charge of European integration - I was contemplating the project of Olympic Gates in Serbia that would be used to promote Serbia globally. My idea was that Serbia and Croatia together become Olympic Gates. That marketing campaign would be used to send a message to Europe that we want to live like French and Germans. When they travel they have no idea where the border between France and Germany is located. Therefore, my idea was to use the highway, get funding from Brussels, finish the last 30 kilometers of the highway, build a modern border crossing and announce to everyone that Serbia and Croatia are new Olympic Gates of Europe. The message was supposed to be - travel through Croatia and Serbia, get to know two nations, two societies that have learned a lot, which are extremely interesting; on the eve of and during the Olympic Games on many spots along the highway, for 700 to 800 kilometers, we would plan numerous shows, spectacles, events...
Who did you talk to about that idea?
First to Prime Minister Racan. However, he left the impression of a bad communicator, a stiff politician. After all, he is a former Communist Party official. He was also stiff since he feared possible reactions in Croatia to abolishment of visas [for citizens of Serbia]. As soon as we started our conversation I mentioned visas and said that that was cool, but he did not share my optimism. "I don't know how our opposition will react to that; they'll definitely use that against me!", he said. I responded by saying: "That is a big step and it does not really matter what your political opponents will say. The opposition never praises the authorities!" However, he was still thinking about trade offs: "Fine, I have to do that because of Europe, but I am concerned how the opposition will react!" Then I told him my idea about Olympic Gates. I said: "Forget about visas. Let's move on to Olympic Gates! That would be awesome!" Racan seemed dumbfounded. As if he was trying to say: "I've just done this with visas, and you want me to start such a campaign!" He kept looking at me funny, said something polite and that was that.
After that a meeting with Presidnet Mesci was planned, in his office. However, as I was stepping into his office he started laughing.
He told me, laughing: "What are you going to do now, Ceda?" I asked: "What do you mean?" He said: "Forget that stuff about the highway and Olympic Gates. What are you going to do tonight once you finish meetings in Zagreb? I suggest you not go back to Serbia but instead head west. You are young, smart and you are right! You possess three characteristics that will destroy you regardless of if you're involved in politics in Croatia or in Serbia. What gave you the idea to talk to Racan about Olympic Gates? Since this morning he has been hyperventilating about visas - he's afraid that Serb partisans are going to march across the border!"
Legija has recently been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the attempted assassination of Vuk Draskovic in 1999. What do you think will be the verdict regarding his involvement in Djindjic's murder?
I don't doubt that the court will pronounce the maximum sentence. But I don't doubt either that Legija will show no contrition. On the contrary, he will walk out of prison in the same manner in which he arrived in May 2004 - accompanied by half of Kostunica's government, after making a deal with Kostunica and his people.
In other words, as if nothing had happened?
Correct. He has helped Kostunica to fight us, to fight the remaining politicians who are promoting the policies favored by Zoran Djindjic. The Earth is round, but they insist it is flat, so sooner or later they will take the step that carries them over into the void.
I asked Jovanovic to reveal the identity of that "crude old man".
JOVANOVIC: I'd rather not. He makes me sick, although he is very influential.
Is he a well known personality?
Yes he is. He was even influential in the past. He still wields a lot of influence.
Perhaps - Dragoljub Micunovic?
No, it wasn't him. He was active in "awakening" the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, in establishing political parties, in bringing Milosevic to power and making sure he stays in power...
Than it must have been Dobrica Cosic?
You said that.
Do you hold Cosic responsible for the current political situation in Serbia and the region?
I hold him greatly responsible. Our intelligentsia is in thrall to the 19th century. Unable to perceive the future, it has been pushing the society towards the past. The national intelligentsia bases its power on our national flaws. Consequently, in mid-eighties they published their concept (SANU Memorandum, D.H. remark), unsigned, although it is clear who was behind that Memorandum, which criticized all but one institution - the army - which insults all nations, Slovenians, Croats, and even Serbs, while Albanians are described as "vermin". Watch, that's how Serb academicians speak - "vermin"! Academicians shaped those policies, Milosevic implemented them and Generals assisted with their artillery and expulsion of population. The [Serbian Orthodox] Church demonstrated special understanding for the project by giving it the patriotic, national component, blessing Arkan, a war criminal, or Scorpions, before they went to do their "important job", which they did in three shifts in July 1995 in Srebrenica.
You promised not to extradite him to the Hague...?
No, it wasn't that. I offered him a life jacket, something he grabbed as if his life depended on it. I pointed out that Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano had been in prison and again had become Prime Minister after serving his prison term. That moment was crucial, as well as the fact that he was indicted on embezzlement charges and in theory could not be kept in custody for more than 60 days.
That got him to cooperate?
Not really. It influenced his view of the situation. He even started believing that he could benefit from the whole incident.
You fooled him?
I think that was the same type of insincerity [sic] as when a physician, if you are gravely ill, does not tell you the whole truth.