If you look at the last election mathematically or statistically but also factually, then nothing happened on the state level in Serbia. There was no major change and the power relations remain, more or less, the same. The exception is Vojvodina, which is where a really major change occurred – October 6, 2000 happened there. The first sign that something is changing in Vojvodina was the constitutional referendum, because people in Vojvodina did not vote for the constitution. That was the first sign that Vojvodina’s citizens started to change.

The consciousness of certain parts of the population was changing. I’m talking about the new citizens who came here in the early to mid nineties. After they arrived, they had a strong nationalist sentiment, but during those ten or fifteen years they changed too. First they started to adapt to the Vojvodinian society. This of course is not solely a cultural adaptation, but partly an economical one. What is happening? For instance, there were just over 200.000 people living in Novi Sad in 1991, and now there are over 300.000. That means that every third person on the streets of Novi Sad is a new citizen. Those people gained a new experience in these 15 years. I’m referring particularly to the middle class of refugees, to those more affluent, who saw that there is a work ethic in Vojvodina and that it makes for a satisfying environment for doing business. They felt the sharp teeth of centralism.

A segment of the Radicals’ votering block did not vote for the constitution, because it is too centrist, and now that same part is in doubt whether to vote for the Radicals, who strongly advocate centralization, or to vote for the Democrats who are “soft-centrists.”

This is how people voted for the Democrats, because they are nationalist enough, but are trying to find a balance between the pocketbook and nationalism. A significant part of former rightwing national voters shifted in this direction while the other part is demoralized. That part still does not believe in the European option and they no longer believe in the old one.

There was an evident change in Vojvodina, if you look at the results for the provincial Assembly, which are simply unbelievable, they are too good. There is none of that in Serbia so, regrettably, some tensions are bound to remain, regardless of whoever may be in power.

The government which calls itself democratic and European has been in power for eight years. If you look at the election results after eight years, it is a very unimpressive result. You know, to hold power for eight years and to reach a point where it is Palma who is leading us into Europe, this calls for serious reconsideration on the part of our political elite of what they have been doing for those eight years. That speaks of their failure, that they could not face the real social problems, but that they always made compromises instead. If you leave out the first couple of years after 2000, we have a long line of compromises, a ferocious inclination to create a new unity.

Being in a coalition with the Socialists does not, in any way, mean a national unity. It is a pragmatic issue and it may be a lesser evil, which prevents something much worse from happening. You can only justify it that way, but not in the name of national unity, and for two reasons. One is – the democratic camp and the Socialists do not make a nation and you cannot speak of a national unity without the Radicals. If someone wants a national unity, they are to sit down with the radicals and make an arrangement with them, just like with the constitution.

The second very important issue is the constitution itself, which created a high level of national unity in Serbia, an unprecedented case in Europe. Ninety odd percent of the deputies in the Parliament voted for this constitution.

Serbia can be seen as a paradigm of high-intensity national unity. The constitution is the Holy Scripture of a society, it represents a national unity which we all must obey. Now, if we want an even greater national unity then this constitution brought, then we no longer need political parties. In fact, instead of a national unity we need more defined parties, more defined ideas. Just look at how Europe is being discussed. It is represented as a rich, luxurious bank, which will open up its counters here and start creating jobs.

Nothing is said about the spiritual association with the EU. It will be destructive for the national identity and I find amusing those nationalists without culture. You know, a nationalist should read his national literature and know it well, so when he gets up to speak on the parliament floor, you should be able to tell that he read this national literature. National identity and patriotism are not the same. Patriotism means loyalty to your homeland, and that is not a nationalist thing. Patriotism above all means that a man respects the constitution, the minimal value system of a society, that he respects a tradition and so on, but the constitution above all. And national identity is defended most importantly through culture. Even in the 18th century the intellectuals realized that a nation is created through culture. We should learn something from the 18th century.

Less than a year ago Djelic said that there were two important politicians, Djindjic – a dynamic, pragmatic, European politician and Vojislav Kostunica, who is thoughtful and analytical. The compliment was mainly intended for the latter, because it was implicitly stated that there are more of those like Djindjic and that those like Kostunica are a rarity. The French speak of De Gaulle, the Germans of Willy Brandt. Those are the people who were intellectually resourceful in a time when they were carrying out policy and there really are precious few of those in European politics. Imagine placing Kostunica beside De Gaulle and Willy Brandt. All right, but Djelic today says – never again with Kostunica. What does that mean? That he does not want to work with a politician of a European rank? If he was praising Kostunica for tactical reasons, then he should admit that and explain himself.

Now we’ve got this problem with the Socialists. If I were in parliament, I would vote for this coalition, but the next day I would have deep compunction which would make me correct some things. What is it all about? You cannot say that the Socialists have changed. The party that had a determining role in the nineties can change, why not, but if it holds a convention and adopts a new program. Besides, just like any other party that was in power for a long time and that did wrong to its society, they have to publicly offer an apology to that society. In case they join the government, the citizens have a right to demand that the state amends for the damage they have caused.  Then the government whose members they are has to apologize to the citizens to whom moral damage was inflicted. For instance, the new government should apologize to the minorities in Vojvodina for the severe alteration of the ethnic structure in Vojvodina.

The 20th anniversary of the coup which eliminated Vojvodina’s autonomy is coming up. This was the so called Yogurt Revolution. I can be completely against autonomy, but I do not have to agree with that coup. It can be expressed in those words – I am against autonomy but I am a democrat and because of that we have to apologize to the citizens of Vojvodina and reconsider this issue, but under different circumstances. The great dilemma of the Democratic Party is a question of whether they think that the Socialist Party has changed. If they think it did, then it must state that and come out with clear evidence which confirms this.

The European road demands a high level of consensus. Romania got in this way, this is how it happened in Hungary, Bulgaria, this is the case in Croatia – there is no discussion about it. But this consensus will be achieved only if we face with the anti-European past. There is a major moral dilemma there. The biblical Judith killed Holofernes and Hebbel wrote a play about it. Does Judith have to be punished, if she, as a real Christian, accepted evil to kill a tyrant? She says “If god puts evil between me and good, who am I to refuse that?” In the biblical story it is about the killing of a tyrant and there it is justified for a man to do evil. In the name of grand ideals we can commit a murder, which is morally condemnable. Let us see this thing of ours now: no one says there that they would build a just society. No, no one says that they are to kill a tyrant, no one wants a revolutionary change, but they are making it into a petty political issue. If Judith’s sin is perceived this way, it cannot be acceptable morally.

Morality is often spoken about with derison here, as if it does not matter. What matters are the inter-party deals. If I understand it correctly, that means that morality is not at all important anywhere in society. It is bad to promote this moral nihilism in a society which went through wars, in which virtue and sin are not yet delimited and in which people are still living in chaos and don’t know what the truth is, and there is no one to tell them. And the very cynical moral nihilism is very dangerous, because it can justify everything, including this wild capitalism and the exploitation of the young workforce. Some people should be punished for it, and it is a good enough reason for some ministers to resign.

Just look at the queues when you try to get an ID or settle some land registration issue. The state service, which lives off our taxes, is not even prepared to put up some benches so people could sit down. Maybe we should not speak of morality. Just look at the results – the state is triumphantly humiliating its citizens. You stand there like a slave used to stand before his master and wait for the order at his feet. Humiliation is waiting for the citizen behind every corner each day. The analysts say that we should not be moralizing and I agree with them, morality and politics are not the same, but every politics has to have a moral minimum. This minimum of morality in politics makes public speech trustworthy. We cannot say that something is white if only yesterday we said it was black, without a deep justification and self-criticism. This erodes a society. Then we wonder why there is no solidarity in our society. How is it possible that someone is being beaten in the street, and there is no one to help him?

A political system can be changed quickly, an economical system can change, the army can change, but the health system and the school system are harder to change. And that is exactly what we are neglecting. Two big systems with which everyone is struggling are health and education, governments fall because of those. That is unimaginable here. If good laws are passed, the economy becomes very autonomous. It can develop, but the society is still struggling. It’s an interesting contradiction, on the one hand you’ve got great economic indicators and on the other hand there are citizens unhappy with the government which contributed to it. Why – because the economy is developing autonomously, and what constitutes a state is the politicians’ responsibility. The state – those are the big systems, health and education. If there is privatization, the capitalists will not consider social problems, because this is a job for the state. A serious system thinks about people.

I heard two slogans in the election campaign – Kosovo and more jobs. Both Kosovo and jobs depend on what this state will be like, from health to education. Was the minister of education ever required to face the responsibility for the unfortunate events in our schools. No, we are punishing the principals and other small fry. Now that’s moralizing, just like when you catch small time smugglers and teach them a lesson and big tycoons do whatever they please. That is moralizing in a bad way.

Milosevic had two kinds of oppositions, the European and nationalistic, which simulated an alliance with each other. There is a lot of simulation in this society, but on the other hand, in the small but important part of the intellectual community and in one part of the party cadre, precisely in Milosevic’s time a prime European orientation was created, and this class still exists in this society. This is a class worthy of respect, because it went through moral, political and existential humiliation in the nineties. But after 2000 these people made compromises and I wonder how much compromise one policy can survive.

It is a fashionable slogan now – politics is the art of the possible. This is correct if you’ve got great horizons, big ambitions, but the art of the possible does not mean making small compromises. It’s no art to sit in front of a pig and split up positions. This is not the art of the possible – this is the division of power, these are compromises which can be harmful even with the best intentions. Right now we have a stalemate situation, which we call victory, but never mind. We need to get out of this stalemate and I think all the people who share my sympathies with Europe are walking a tightrope, just to get out of this stalemate. This involves many risks, and we could fall. I personally have often forced myself to maintain certain illusions, but it seems to me that this tightrope act is too intense and that it will last for years.

I think that a modification of the constitution is necessary and if we can get a constitution in the European spirit, this would mean that we have suceeded. Let’s try.

Translated by Ivica Pavlović

Peščanik, Radio B92, 20.06.2008.