In the U.S. political advisors as a rule are professionals who protect their clients but also their own prestige and reputation. Their work is public to the extent that those who are in a position to maintain the services of political advisors for the most part also follow their advice. Clients are a sort of living, animated advertisement for the advisor. Consequently professionals in this branch do not necessarily share the political fortunes of their clients: they do not fall from and rise to power together with them. There are regular "leaks" to the public on how a politician ignores good advice to his own detriment; this is not considered disloyal on the part of the advisor but an understandable measure of self-protection.
As early as last year Simic and Pribicevic were the top stars of Serbian political consulting (Milosevic's team from the shadows - Goran Milinovic, Bojan Bugarcic - was part of an anachronistic, bureaucratic political apparatus which functioned more like Slobodan's technical service). They shared the fate of numerous intellectuals in Serbian history who served as advisors with the ambition to help in state affairs; their ambitions as a rule remained unfulfilled. There is a Serbian legend that Nikola Pasic appeared at the Versailles conference surrounded by the most eminent Serbs of the time; however, a more careful reading of the reports of the day demonstrates that the presence of the elite from the Academy [Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences] did not have especially great influence on the making of political decisions. (Ljubinka Trgovcevic in her work "The Academicians of Serbia and the Creation of Yugoslavia" observes that "many of the academicians in the Yugoslav delegation were not equal to their position in the decision process", that "their suggestions did not obligate the political delegation" and that the greatest political thinker of his age, Slobodan Jovanovic, with seven months' membership in the Yugoslav state delegation participated in the meeting of the political delegation only nine times.)
In post-October Serbia it is to be expected that the advisors' profession, like everything else in politics and society, will become modernized and hopefully, more professional. The change in the government has already led to the profiling of a new type of political advisor; this new model is best represented by two women, Ljiljana Nedeljkovic (45) and Maja Tasic (35) [killed in a car accident on March 11, 2001], who are carrying out the duties of chief of staff for Vojislav Kostunica and Goran Svilanovic, respectively. Their common characteristics are that they are both journalists; they matured politically in the parties of which they are presently members (the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Civil Alliance of Serbia, respectively (GS)); they worked closely for years with the men whom they advise; belong not only to the same party but also to the same political sensibility; and share equally with them the feeling of pride and merit for everything they have achieved in politics so far.
Because of the degree of confidence prevalent in these state-political teams, Nedeljkovic was in a situation to conduct several confidential personal missions for Vojislav Kostunica that at that time had to remain secret from the public (for example, quiet journeys to Kosovo and meetings with the recently departed envoy of the international community in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner), while the agile and communicative Maja Tasic in the first months after October 5, thanks to earlier frequent meetings with foreign diplomats, was in a position to replace by personal contacts the sluggishness of the state apparatus, which at first was slow to adjust to the changed role of Yugoslavia in the world and the exit from the isolation to which it had become accustomed. Finally, they share the joint characteristic that in the history of Yugoslavia the positions they now occupy - in otherwise very hierarchically organized and somewhat old-fashioned segments of the state apparatus - have never before been filled by women.
There are other similar examples of well-rehearsed teams of party leaders and their chiefs of staff tempered together during harsh opposition struggle in the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. The new federal Minister for Telecommunications, Boris Tadic, took with him from DOS the flexible and likable Ivana Djedovic as chief of staff; as far back as the Alliance for Changes she was of precious assistance to reporters. The new Minister of Internal Affairs Zoran Zivkovic similarly employed Irena Dukanac, also from the Alliance for Changes, as his chief of staff. It is an interesting tidbit that Ivan Djordjevic, the long-time chief of staff of Dusan Mihajlovic (who will serve in the capacity of Minister of Internal Affairs as well as a deputy Prime Minister of the Serbian government), is the son of the former head of the state security of Serbia, Obren Djordjevic.
In addition to Dr. Simic, who is a recent arrival, and Jevremovic, who is coming soon, here we can also find economic affairs advisor Dr. Dragana Djuric (who is also leaving soon for a diplomatic post), political affairs advisor Dr. Slobodan Samardzic of the Institute for European Studies, refugee advisor Petar Ladjevic, an attorney, the deputy chief of staff Aleksandar Nikitovic (who holds a master's degree in philosophy and is the youngest member of the staff, born in 1968) as well as the most recent but by no means the least important member, media advisor Aleksandar Tijanic.
The newest storm in the Belgrade journalistic coffee cup broke out over Tijanic's appointment; some colleagues had the opportunity last week to personally, albeit unsuccessfully, complain about the matter to the president. He on his part likes to say that he believes that a political era ended in Serbia on October 5 and that people from now on should be valued and employed first and foremost by what they know and are competent in, as in every modern society that we may seek to emulate. It is with this conviction that he selected his staff, headed by his long-time close party associate who shares his ideology. Ljiljana Nedeljkovic has been in the Democratic Party of Serbia since its inception. In her 45 years she has never been a member of the League of Communists, not even during the time she worked in Tanjug as a translator before transferring in 1994 to Beta to the position of editor-in-chief.
However, neither Kostunica nor Nedeljkovic necessarily sought people ideologically similar to themselves as colleagues. The staff includes experts who differ from Mrs. Nedeljkovic and her boss not only by their membership in the former Communist Party, but also by their ideology and party preference. As a rule they have just one trait in common - prestige in the profession which they represent.
Vojislav Kostunica's statement of November 5 (I neither requested nor will I request the resignations of key people in the army and the police... On the contrary, I asked of the army and the police to work with devotion in the service of the people and the state. And that is what they are doing... The democratic and nationally responsible state for which I have fought for my entire life and which I offered to the electorate in my pre-election program must be firmly rooted in legal principles, the legal protection of every citizen, respect toward institutions which are the foundation of every normally organized state...) demonstrated, however, that there was no discrepancy between president's view and his staff's statements. Chiefs of staff exist for the purpose of deflecting arrows away from politicians, even by serving as a target themselves if necessary; they are the last line of defense toward the statesman or political official, and sometimes they must act like political bodyguards who position themselves to take the blows intended for their bosses. As far as fundamental political ideas are concerned, from that moment on, readers, editors and coalition partners were forced to make the same conclusion: if Mrs. Nedeljkovic is mistaken, then so is her boss. From that moment on the attack targeted Vojislav Kostunica personally. On November 6 Momcilo Perisic said that President Kostunica "is not really familiar with the situation in the army and the police and the demands of the people for faster and more effective changes" while Zarko Korac on November 11 publicly stated that the FRY president "is increasingly ignoring the views of the DOS leadership".
Kostunica in the past was known for certain squeamishness with regard to every form of collaboration with Milosevic's regime, a squeamishness which was occasionally even interpreted as political and moral prudishness. This squeamishness stopped him in the past from many potentially profitable political alliances while with respect to Tijanic, Vesna Pesic recently wrote that he "was Milosevic's minister, a close friend of Mira Markovic, then the friend of another powerful lady" (she was alluding to Danica Draskovic). Not even his bitterest enemies dispute Tijanic's journalistic talent and skill, effective and provocative style, nor his organizational capabilities (TV Politika and Televizija BK are good examples along with the columns in many leading Yugoslav and ex-Yugoslav publications); however, many are surprised that Kostunica would select a man still employed by the company of the Karic brothers as his media advisor. Every connection with Bogoljub Karic in these circles is considered suspicious a priori (many are watchfully following how people from the business elite in the Milosevic era will "cope" with the new circumstances, that is, will they attempt to buy influence among the new political elite the old-fashioned way), and this indirect connection with the Karics via Tijanic is even more suspect.
Those are, therefore, all the president's men. And the premier's men? Zoran Djindjic was never surrounded by advisors: by his own admission, he does not like a lot of intellectualization. If you know how to do something better than me, go ahead and do it - just don't subject me to a long explanation: that how recently he explained his practical approach to the concept of political advice on one of the television programs. The man whom he trusts is Cedomir Jovanovic, the leader of the student protest in 1996/97 for whom Djindjic, in a NIN interview, described as one of the future leaders of the Democratic Party and who is now performing an important political task as the leader of the DOS parliamentary bloc in the Serbian Parliament.
His economic advisor is banker Branko Dragas (formerly of BK Bank, later Kredibel), who recently made frequent public statements in the capacity of Djindjic's advisor. Djindjic, who does not like advisors, likes to employ experts in certain fields to carry out concrete practical tasks for him. Aleksandar Tijanic at one time during one such arrangement, not as someone who shared the party ideology but as a paid expert, did an excellent job on the media and marketing advertising campaign for Zoran Djindjic and the Democratic Party in the 1993 elections (you remember it: led under the slogan "Honestly"). Times have changed: Tijanic is now in charge of media for Kostunica, while Djindjic entrusted media affairs in his government to a man who last year was the greatest journalistic victim of the Milosevic regime and because of whom the greatest amount of political and media dust was raised both at home and abroad before the elections. Miroslav Filipovic, a reporter from Kraljevo and a correspondent for Danas, as a result of his on-line collaboration with the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) was sentenced to a military prison after being accused of spreading false news and spying.
The circumstances of Mr. Filipovic case, however, point to the fact that his appointment should be subjected to at least the same degree of scrutiny by his colleagues and the public as Tijanic's although for completely different reasons. At the time when Miroslav Filipovic was the subject of persecution by the Milosevic regime, some of his colleagues practiced self-censorship with respect to his journalistic works, refraining from commenting on his articles for IWPR in which he, citing witnesses, discovered horrific Serb war crimes in Kosovo. (One article made the claim that the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo killed at least 800 Albanian children under the age of five and that an internal study of morale among officers and soldiers of the Yugoslav Army, conducted in preparation for the threat of a military conflict between Serbia and Montenegro, established and documented testimony of Yugoslav Army personnel that the Army led a systematic campaign of terror and extermination of innocent Albanian civilians. This article was published in April 4 2000 and contains details of the following type: a Serb reservist takes a three year-old boy from the arms of his grandfather and cold-bloodedly decapitates him; he then takes the head away, carrying it by the hair, while the body remains in the throes of agony at the feet of the grandfather. A second soldier informs Filipovic that he saw another reservist execute 30 Albanian women and children whom he first ordered to line up against a wall. Filipovic informs the readers that the anonymous sources with whom he personally spoke were witnesses to these crimes, that they are suffering from pangs of conscience and that they hope for the moment when the perpetrators of these monstrous crimes will be brought to justice.)