The citizens did not like the 6 % tax and they said – now we want to see you make some sacrifices. This was the public outcry – let’s see you deal with your civil servants first, you have got 28.000 government employees. Cut down the ministries, let’s have 15 instead of the 25 we have now, but do it in a way so we can see that you did let some people go. Someone said on the TV – but a lot of people will lose their jobs, and a worker told him: “We lost our jobs too.” When the factories were bought up a lot of people were fired, now it is time for those government employees to be let go. The trouble is that the government cannot fire those people because they created a corrupt class which they need in order to stay in power. When this last budget was passed I saw, purely sociologically speaking, by the structure of this budget, that they had created a new class, and they themselves compose this class.

There is practically no economy in Serbia. I was in Kovin on Sunday, there is nothing there, there is nothing in Zajecar, in Kursumlija, all is devastated. The government needed to create a new economy in which people could start finding jobs. But because only a very small percentage of them managed to do that, because the private sector – the healthy middle class – was tiny, then they decided to construct their standing ground and create a middle class out of nothing. Therefore, the government had created jobs, which are unnecessary, but which are politically valuable.

It is my impression that the people are mostly offended by the fact that the government refuses to take any responsibility. Well I would have taken some responsibility, I would have said – all right, we made mistakes, we made mistakes with the tycoons, let’s fix some institutions, let’s do away with this kind of political party funding, let’s repent. This Democratic Party has proven to be nothing more than a state-owned business eterprise and the primary source of corruption and of tycoons and of the faint-hearted politics which we cannot count on. But at the same time, we have no other choice. We could say – see, when Obama won the elections in the US, all the CEO’s were fired, none of them remained untouched. Meryl Lynch, AEG, the insurance companies, they were all fired, heads rolled.

If Boris Tadic really means to change something in Serbia, he needs to take a hard look at this chessboard of his and replace some ministers. If Jeremic is his friend and student, let them remain friends, but he needs to tell him – I’m sorry, you and your Borko, your chief of staff, are responsible for this mess with Miladin Kovacevic. I don’t care about the consul or vice consul, the two pawns who were ordered what to do by someone higher up. Sorry, Jeremic, you need to pay a price, you can no longer be a minister. You too, Ms. Malovic, you cannot be a minister, Homen cannot be secretary of state, you, Djelic, cannot remain in this position. How can we deal with this crisis with Djelic and Dinkic – it is impossible. I think it is the only constructive thing they could now do – to demonstrate that some people must go. But no, they are saying – we are not giving up our civil servants, we are not giving up our tycoons, our ministers, members of our party. The minister of foreign affairs does not think he should bear any responsibility for us not making any progress, he is still telling his nationalistic stories. He wants to become prime minister, so he’s trying to win people over through nationalism.

What would help in overcoming this crisis is if we were to show some resolve when it comes to at least some of the reforms, if we would end this thing with Mladic. We should show the world that something did happen here, that we learned some lessons. But we did not learn anything and now this crisis is here and we demonstrated that we are not willing to learn any lessons and that we do not want to pay for anything. They say the crisis had hit Croatia, but at least they built this highway. We don’t have bridges, we don’t have highways, we don’t have anything. They were hammering some sidewalks in Belgrade for a while, they painted a few buildings, but they did not build a single institution. In fact, they are blocking all the institutions.

We do not have a government in the true sense of the word. It cannot make any decisions. They probably negotiated with the IMF without Tadic and made some decisions which they had to back away from, because Tadic told them to. Now, those ministers and this government have no legitimacy, they have no credibility, these people don’t even have any serious political weight. When people with a certain political weight confront each other, they show regard for one another. And when you are nobody, you can only run around asking for permissions, because you do not dare do anything. The authoritarian syndrome we have here is fascinating. It is unbelievable the way serious people agree to be relegated to positions of unimportance.

Our elite have disgraced themselves. Any country’s elite have led their society to progress for at least some time, and when the crisis hit they have some results behind them. And they were destroying the country for decades and now they are saying – it’s the crisis. Hold on a minute, what was that before the crisis? Then you were destroying it alone. Well, when is the situation right: when you are destroying or when the crisis hits? When it is all nice and dandy in the world, you start destroying – we went for total devastation. Now we are in a world crisis, and once that blows over you will start destroying again. This is the problem, because no one in their right mind does that. You are making progress for a while then something hits, so you lag for a bit, because in the end those crises occur periodically, this is not the first time, but you did do something before it hit. And we have done nothing before the crisis. It’s always – I will sell Mobtel to buy the civil servants, and then I’ll create another ministry. Instead of investing in infrastructure, paying back loans, finding something to produce and export. If we were closer to the EU I think we would not have been where we are today. But they did none of that, and I don’t think they will. They have no substance, no sincerity, no drive, nothing. But I still insist – Tadic could project a new starting point and he could say – now I have inspected the ministries and I believe this guy, that guy and that guy must go. I insist that we come to our senses, and I will be the first one to do it, my best friend Vuk Jeremic must go, we gave away a million bucks because he made a mistake, he must face responsibility. And if our coalition partners do not understand this message and get rid of their rotten apples I will immediately call the elections and there will be no coalition. I don’t think Tadic will do that, but this is what I would advise – sacrifice someone who did not do their job well. The citizens expect this balance. Hello! We gave a million dollars for Kovacevic! Why did we give that money, why wasn’t he tried in the US, what is all this mockery with Kovacevic? Sacrifice this guy Jeremic, you can still be the best of friends.

They don’t know how to behave, how to deal with this crisis, because they are morally bankrupt, they cannot make the balance and they are asking us to tighten our belts, to make sacrifices. So we are to tighten our belts and they cannot make a similar gesture by setting a balance of sorts, by saying – here, we too are making sacrifices. I don’t think this will stand, and it could just happen they do not survive.

Peščanik, Radio B92, 03.04.2009.

Translated by Ivica Pavlovic

Pešč, 12.05.2009.

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Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).