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          In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, which spent the last ten years fearing of non-controlled armed forces, it is usual to believe that civil control of the army, intelligence secret services and police simply cannot have weak points. This question is extremely important for Serbia and Montenegro, where military and police forces used to guard rulers more often than the people, but that is also the reason why these processes are to be approached very cautiously. This conclusion is also based on the experience of the post-Milošević’s Serbia in which the political elites were frantically fighting for the control over police or military centres of power, leaving an impression that only those civilians who belong to "the proper" parties can control the armed forces. On one hand, the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić and his allies controlled police and State Secret Service very firmly while the parliamentary control of these services has remained a bad mask for conserving the situation in these sectors.

          On the other hand, the first democratic president Vojislav Koštunica was severely criticised for keeping Nebojša Pavković at the position of the chief of General Staff. Namely, Pavković did his best to present the Army as the personal guard of President Milošević, during the last phase of his regime. Playing the role of the promoter of the lowest political poltroonery, Pavković tirelessly defended "the supreme commander", seeing all his political opponents as the NATO agents who are destabilising the country "for a few dollars more". However, when Koštunica decided to dismiss Pavković, he faced the confrontation and protests of his main rivals in the ruling coalition, who suddenly made friendship with the cast out general. They even collected the signatures for Pavković’s president candidacy, as well as the money for his campaign.

          In the period from October 2000 until the new state union of Serbia and Montenegro was created, certain changes in the Army had occurred (the number of Army of Yugoslavia members had been reduced from 108,000 to less than 80,000; military service had been reduced from 12 to nine months; the organisation of the AY had been changed since the armies had been abolished and the corps introduced; almost one half of the generals had been retired and the Army kept away from the daily policy) but still there remained the public impression that the real changes have not started yet. That impression was based on the unpleasant knowledge that the Army, as well as the police, still remains a kind of alienated and self-satisfactory mini-state, still questioning if it should incorporate within the state which employs it and hence accept a whole set of the new rules. One of the basic rules is the civil control. There hardly was any of it.

          In the period from October 5th until the state union was created, the federal parliamentary committee, which was to control the AY, had met only several times within almost 30 months. The additional obstacle to the parliamentary control was the fact that the president of that committee was the retired general Momčilo Perišić, who had been the chief of General Staff by the end of 1998. Until the moment Milošević said his final "thanks for cooperation", Perišić had not believed that the Army should have give an account to taxpayers and he had mostly supported the Titoist understanding of the Army "which is guarding the state while the citizens are sleeping soundly". In the institutional confusion, which was present in Serbia then as it is now, he was the federal MP and the president of the Committee for Control of Armed Forces at the same time. In March 2002, when Perišić was caught in an obscure restaurant, handing classified documents to an American diplomat, he resigned from the Serbian government but kept heading the parliamentary committee, avoiding the trial twice thanks to his immunity.

          The main objection of local non-governmental organisations and the parties of ruling coalition supporting the late Prime Minister Djindjić was based on the fact that the Army and General Staff were not subordinated to the federal Defence Ministry. However, until Boris Tadić became the minister, this Ministry had hardly been able to perform the civil control of the Army adequately since a great number of officers had been employed here also, influencing the Ministry’s policy in a great deal, while the minister himself had only had a formal position. Finally, the only institution which had fulfilled the duty of controlling the Army in the last period - Supreme Defence Council, reflected the depths of the crisis in the state which has been swaying for two years between transformation of the federal state into somewhat loose state or creation of two completely separated states, along with the possibility that the Serbian province Kosovo leaves for independence. Beside Koštunica, the members of the Council were Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović, who did not recognise the federal state in many ways and Serbian President Milan Milutinović, who was not recognised by the state for many reasons. The whole democratic process, the armed forces reform included, was simply chained by totally undefined relations between Serbia and Montenegro, by old-fashioned constitutional and legal regulations which, on the other side, were kept on standby until the basic dilemma has been solved - if the state would survive at all.

          When the Constitutional Charter was adopted and new government of the state union was formed, after the marathon negotiation, it looked as if all the obstacles on the way to the complete civil control were removed. Soon the decision was brought that General Staff was to be subordinated to Defence Ministry; the opinion that we should enter Partnership for Peace Programme and NATO in future was more clearly formulated although the public opinion polls show that NATO and the Hague Tribunal are on the top of the most unpopular international organisations. New civil controllers of the Army, first of all Defence Minister Boris Tadić and the state union President Svetozar Marović, made it clear that no member of the Army may protect those indicted by the Hague Tribunal, implying certain structures, primarily in the military intelligence, had been doing that in the previous period. However, such statements can be interpreted as a part of the usual instrumentalisation of "the Hague issue" in the conflict between Koštunica and the part of the ruling coalition which describes itself as a reformational part of former winning coalition.

          New ruling coalition is, therefore, determined to start profound reforms of military structures quickly and without hesitation, announcing the new steps leading to reduction of the Army. The President Marović’s advisor for military issues Blagoje Grahovac even questioned the sense of keeping army at all if the country is going to lead peaceful policy and intends to join the Western military alliance. A little bit later, in his programmatic text "Defence Problems in the West Balkans" (with a poetic subtitle "Facing Future"), Grahovac says the Army should have up to 25,000 members and needs no Navy. Completely different view is shared by Defence Minister Tadić and his advisors - he has made it clear that the Army should have 50,000 members, Air Force and Navy included. Such a bargaining on the numbers before the national security strategy was adopted or at least defined at the state level speaks for itself about certain political immaturity of parts of the ruling coalition.

          The main problem in establishing civil control of the army is very simple - it has to be a democratic one, at the same time. Speaking more precisely, along with establishing such a control, the control of controllers must be done in order to determine if they had democratic legitimacy for performance of this social mission. Second essential question could be - whether it was possible to establish democratic civil control of the army, police and secret services unless strong institutions of democratic society had been established.

          Here I first refer to the fact that the parliament of the state union was established after the indirect, delegate elections (parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro sent their delegations to the federal parliament) which is not very appropriate according to the heritage the modern Europe democracy. Cynical observers would say that this is far closer to heritage of Josip Broz Tito but this point is not the weakest one in civil control of the army. Somewhat graver remark refers to the legitimacy of Serbian parliament giving the authority of the Serbian part of ruling coalition since it does not even closely reflect the mood of public opinion. Even more serious problem is that Supreme Defence Council consists of only one directly elected president - Filip Vujanović (before his election, we had two temporary presidents and a delegated one - federal President Svetozar Marović).

          Although the new government uses democratic vocabulary very convincingly and, probably, sincerely wishes to become a member of European family, numerous are the examples of political practise which lead us to the conclusion that we still face a long journey toward democratic society. One of the examples of neglectful treating institution is the decision that Serbia and Montenegro finance those parts of the Army which are situated in each territory, leading us to the conclusion that two armies will soon be formed within a formally single state. On the other hand, the decision on separate financing of the Army would not necessarily have serious consequences for the stability of the state if democratic society would function according to completely transparent rules. But it could be very dangerous in the country which is still swaying between national romanticism and European integrations.

          In their history, Serbia and Montenegro experienced the whole range of authoritarian orders but managed only in very short intervals to feel the benefits of democratic society. Therefore, political elites - but the citizens as well - still favour "strong hand" policy, neglecting fundamental rules of democratic society, feeling contempt for parliamentarianism and lawful authority of the state which "only makes obstacles or delays rapid development of the country". Experience teaches us that the security forces "of all types" can certainly be misused against not only neighbouring nations but also against the citizens who are financing these forces. Therefore, all weak points of the civil control of the army should be considered, since they are almost inevitable in the society still being formed but also stays chained by certain parts of Milošević’s political testament. In Turkey, one of the countries willing to join EU, the army repeatedly saved secular democratic order, endangered by the parties which had previously won democratic elections. This unhappy example is mentioned here only because we have been influenced by Osmanli policy. We have less experience with the influence of Western, European countries.

        • Tags: civil control, Serbia, post-Milošević, military, FRY, General Staff, armed forces, Defence, Defense Ministry
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