by Zoran DJINDJIC
In 3-4 years we could, if we do not make any serious mistakes, become the most dynamic economy and society in the south eastern Europe, and some time around year 2010 a natural candidate for the European Union. All of that based on the improved efficiency of our system and productivity of our people, companies and institutions. Competitiveness is measured by the strength of the society and the economy, quality of basic institutions (education, health case, social security…), quality of products and services, quality of infrastructure and life style. Ultimately, we are competitive if people come to our country to work, study and live as much as our citizens go to other countries.
On the road to this strategic goal we must make a detour around some obstacles or destroy them and, in parallel, unblock and develop our own potential, to the high level demanded by the European league.
The first important condition for accelerated development has to do with our international status. Our international status must not become disputed for any reason, because otherwise we would be pushed to the slow lane. In that case there would be no chance of passing. If we did make some progress it would happen at snail’s pace. That is all that needs to be said about cooperation with the Hague, arms trade and other potential controversies with the so-called international community. The other condition has to do with efficient resolution of status issues, above all the relation between Serbia and Montenegro. Our common state should promote accelerated development, because both we and Montenegro have lost too much time looking for the “golden fleece” of the ideal state form. Consequently, one of the priorities for the next year is to enable undisturbed functioning of the basic joint competencies.
The question of Kosovo is among the issues that are gradually coming to the agenda. Next year, we should initiate a political-diplomatic offensive with the goal of forcefully and openly raising the question of rights, sovereignty and future, but not on paper or in some new resolution. We need to raise those questions in reality. The Serb nation in Kosovo is not a collection of citizens who survive more or less successfully in impossible conditions but is a constituent factor that naturally must have its collective rights and mechanisms for efficient promotion of its interests and protection of its rights. Only under those conditions we can pull Kosovo out of current constitutional limbo and close the Pandora’s box of new disintegration in the Balkans.
The third unavoidable task has to do with the decisive continuation of the initiated process of modernization of our society and economy. A new constitution for Serbia should provide a framework for undisturbed continuation of this process and, consequently, is one of the priorities for the next year. However, the essence of the changes is in the changes in daily life, in tens of thousands of places where people work, study, seek justice, protect their rights. We can have the best constitution and laws but the question of our competitiveness is resolved in daily life. What can we do to improve the quality of our roads, our energy sector, our schools and hospitals, education of our workers, technology in our companies? How can we create enough “healthy” [well paid, secure] jobs for all those who seek employment, so that all those members of our society who have ambitions can get chance, how can we make sure that law and order are respected?
The answer is simple, although it may not be easy to implement. We must remove all that is inefficient or malfunctioning. First of all, we must get rid of socially-owned [state-owned] enterprises, which are based on collective irresponsibility. The more privately owned companies we have, the more initiative, entrepreneurial energy, investment, secure jobs we’ll have. Then, serious transformation of public companies and state administration. Those institutions should be a service for citizens who at any time must know what they get for their money. Then, we must establish the rule of law, including harsh sanctions for those who violate laws, especially for violent offenders.
Thus, the three key priorities for the coming year are: first, continuation and acceleration of privatization of the existing state-owned companies and nurturing of the existing privately-owned economy for the sake of improving competitiveness of our companies and creation of healthy jobs for our citizens; secondly, restructuring of public companies and state administration, so that they can successfully service and follow a modern and dynamic Serbian society we are creating; third, strengthening of the activities in the police and judiciary with the goal of draining of the last criminal swamps, left over from the previous regime. We want to be a society full of energy, optimism and initiative. With citizens who are self-confident and believe in their country, who work hard, readily face problems, instead of avoiding them, with citizens who do not give up in front of every obstacle and do not get disappointed after the first failure. We want to be a society free of fear and free of poverty. With citizens who do not have reason to fear for their life and property, or for independence and safety of their country, on every inch of its territory. Also, with citizens who live in a society full of solidarity, the society that takes care of its less fortunate citizens. The coming year is another chance to come closer to the vision of the society we want to have in Serbia.
We should become better people; we should care about other people’s troubles; we should share pain, injustice inflicted on others; we should realize that no one can be happy in a sea of misery.
Zoran Djindjic’s answer to the question “what is to be done?”, on December 30, 1999.