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RADIVOJ STEPANOV: Vojvodina will be a state

English 02. апр 2008.
8 min čitanja

Radivoj StepanovA year from the referendum that, at least in a strange way confirmed the Constitution of Serbia, a discussion how much this constitution is good, modern, close to or contrary to the European standards still goes on and especially an open issue is in what measure it has specified well the position of the AP Vojvodina, in which the constitution didn’t get the required majority of citizens’ votes.
– Passing the Constitution of Serbia could have been for the Belgrade’s, centralist, radical government a legal and political (why not also historical) chance to revitalizes again Vojvodina’s long ago acquired essential autonomy! The opposite happened. The Constitution had brought the extremely restrictive, literally penal provisions regarding the autonomy of Vojvodina! Serbia thus showed that for her history is not “a teacher of life”. She continued as before, prolonged practicing the “centralist play(ing)s without boundaries” and for a short time was left without its earlier borders, actually, without one, and as the things are now, it can be left without its other province! – says Radivoj Stepanov at the beginning of the interview for Gradanski List the Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and the expert for constitution law, and continues:
– When it cannot achieve its objectives by the rigid centralization, the current government administration opts for a hypertrophic centralization and ‘belgradizing’, until the collapse of the system. It is quite evident on the “territorial question”. Namely, in defending itself from the so-called statehood of the province “by abolishing its autonomy”, by ruthlessly crushing the acquired rights of the autonomy of Vojvodina, by obstructing regionalization and sneering at the current trends of Europeanization, “nato-ization” etc. this government and the rightist Serbian opposition simply forces the autonomy to become a statehood! With Kosovo this is a finished story! Sooner or later, Vojvodina will due to the “output” of such policy become a STATE! – says Stepanov.
From this viewpoint, it appears that the Constitution, regardless of the position in Vojvodina – is stillborn! And that all those who were warning that passing “such” a constitution in “such” a way – was almost a disastrous mistake!
Since Serbia “holds the statehood” it hasn’t been able to organize anything properly, in Serbia there is a collapse of its institutional system, judicial system, political system, economic system, education system, healthcare system, retirement system, territorial system and the constitution passed a year ago as a means of salvation from all social diseases, nearly immediately proved to be sick itself, turned to be superfluous and sunk into oblivion. Now a legal and political hit is the “constitutional law on putting in effect the Constitution” and in Serbia everything is turned upside down, but not for ‘sparrows and cats’ but for us, its subjects who like small Prometheuses by our fate riveted “for this rock of the land of Serbia that threatening the sun juts into a cloud…”

– You have drawn a parallel between Kosovo and Vojvodina. Would you say that ethnical principle in the case of decentralization doesn’t play the only role or at least the decisive role?

– No, I haven’t drawn any parallel between Kosovo and Vojvodina. I have only tried to compare constitutional reasons “for granting” the essential autonomy to Kosovo and for “taking away” from Vojvodina the autonomy of that quality. I have concluded that Serbia without a reasonable, realistic and in a certain sense futuristic approach to the issue of autonomy and territorial organization falls into serious difficulties, in unsolvable aporias that soon or later, more or less quickly lead to a deep constitutional and political crises. That constitutional crisis in Serbia is already evident, it has already begun! Essentially, the Constitution of Serbia practically installs there forms of autonomy and in this way creates dangerous constitutional vagueness. What three forms of autonomy? This is first of all, unessential autonomy: second, essential autonomy: third, supra-essential autonomy. The unessential autonomy (or limited, restrictive, adolescent, “a supervised autonomy”) has been foreseen for Vojvodina and such autonomy Vojvodina neither wants nor deserves. The essential autonomy has been intended for Kosovo, but Kosovo doesn’t accept such autonomy. Supra-essential autonomy (or the “future autonomy”) is the real situation in Kosovo but Serbian government doesn’t want to hear about it. This is a pure “schizophrenia”. But one thing is clear: the Constitution reveals an open “poisonous” discrimination towards the autonomy of Vojvodian! The Constitution of Serbia can not so arrogantly and unpunished play with the autonomy of Vojvodina! It is perfectly clear that Serbia in Vojvodina systematically and continually kills neither God nor autonomy but – A STATE!

What about the ethnical principle and decentralization?

– To this question one has to look for answer in the sociological researches published in Serbia on this topic. In short, the ethnical principle doesn’t need to play a decisive role in the processes of decentralization. You have today highly decentralized modern states which are practically mono-national. Naturally, multi-ethnicity can be a “strong’ reason for decentralization and this depends on the “political logistic”: political culture, a degree of development of democratic institutions, the rule of right etc. in one state or one society. Multi-ethnical, multicultural, multilingual factor could be an important factor of decentralization in Vojvodina, but in Serbia as it is now, hardly that it can become a respectable reason!

– It seems that international factors in view of this all don’t appear too interested for the position of Vojvodina. Is this because they are not interested for the issue to it simply hasn’t yet been put on the agenda?

– I cannot reply to this question either quite positively but neither absolutely in negative. Actually, behind these questions of yours I am aware of a shorter and more direct question: Why hasn’t the issue of Vojvodina been internalized until now? Would internalization of Vojvodina’s issue (essentially) have the impact on its status of autonomy or its state status? It is not true that EU is indifferent to the position of Vojvodina in Serbia. Remember that at the end of August of 1992, at the London Conference, it was decided to re-establish for “the citizens of Kosovo and Vojvodina all civic and constitutional rights and to ensure the respect of civic rights to inhabitants of Sandžak” and, if Serbia and Montenegro would ignore it, the Security Council would be forced to imply strict sanctions and impose full isolation. Sanctions we had, bombardment we had, and nothing. Vojvodina was lumped together into the constitutional quarantine – bear it and work!

What is it in your opinion that prevents a more significant development of the authentic Vojvodina’s parties and the development of Vojvodina’s social and political scene in general? Inter-party animosities, lack of capacity, lack of means for the election and other campaigns, the influence of Belgrade and Belgrade’s public opinion or something else?

– Let’s for a moment leave aside a series of important questions about relations between parties with a Vojvodina’s sign. For example: when these parties are founded, in what social and political circumstances, under what stigma is Vojvodina in time of introducing the multi-party system, how fierce and ruthless was the campaign against Vojvodina’s “advocates of autonomy”, etc. Hence, take into account that all Vojvodina’s parties are founded predominantly as “defensive” mechanisms around the national or civic corpus. They are attempting to preserve, maintain or save from “cleansing” either ethnical or civic identity! These parties gathered around national corpus are “by nature” hermetic. Their hermeticism is conditioned by the locus, language, confession, cultural pattern, the influence of state of their native nationality and they resort to the additional protecting umbrellas through cultural, personal autonomy. These ethnical Vojvodina’s parties are small and relatively stable. Their life in the province or local self-rule is ensured by the positive election discrimination etc.

– Regarding Vojvodina’s parties of civic provenience, they are open, small, relying on the civic profile of voters in Vojvodina, they don’t find rational interest in Serbian environment and vice versa, and these parties incline to slowly wither away. Their election survival these parties frequently tie with Belgrade’s political parties of predominantly national sign. In this way they not only bring into question their program identity but create confusion among Vojvodina’s electorate and turn the voting confidence of Vojvodina’s population to some other party’s direction or they passivate voters’ decisions.

– As regards prospects of the current Vojvodina’s parties on Vojvodina’s political scene in the forthcoming period, they should seriously think about them if they care for their own future.

In its attitude towards the autonomy of Vojvodina, the Democratic Party shows two faces. Is it a sort of political illusion when it is said that Vojvodina’s Democrats and the Democrats from Belgrade and proper Serbia – have totally different attitude towards Vojvodina’s autonomy? In general, what’s your opinion about the attitude of DP as regards Vojvodina’s autonomy?

– This party, in my opinion, in a great deal brings or has brought into question its democratic and civic or, let’s say, “Djindjić’s” identity! I don’t now recognize this party any more! DP is somehow a bulky party, a clumsy political mechanism thrown into winning power and political control, any power at any level. It must control the presidential power, the power in the Government, in ministries, in Province’s secretariats, the judges of the Constitutional Court, ambassadors, rectors, directors of public toilets, every one is only in the search for power, they have just one will – the will to power. Individuals in it are only after high functions, careers, positions … When you have such a political motivation, then no wonder that in this party ethics and political moral have sunk to low level, if all of them are ready after the model of the first among them to “sell faith for supper” in every moment and for bagatelle. Vojvodina is deceived at the most by this same DP and one has only to remember what the officials of that party used to speak before the constitutional referendum, one has only to remember that “stylistic acrobatics” that for years they have been exercising on the theme of autonomy of Vojvodina etc. My impression is that DP works more and more systematically against the autonomy of Vojvodina then those parties that are not openly against the autonomy of Vojvodina. When they use it in full, when they fully devastate the autonomy of Vojvodina, they will throw it away as a used condom and start looking for a new regional victim!

– When the issue of Vojvodina’s autonomy is being discussed, very often it raises the question of minority parties or political elites of Vojvodina’s minorities. In such cases it can be often seen that there exists a controversy, that publicly they advocate one and that in practice they are sometimes closer to some other political option?

– It sounds paradoxical, but the minority parties, in my opinion, as if “hide” their attitude towards the autonomy of Vojvodina. Every discussion initiated on this topic by Vojvodina’s parties of the civic provenience and the “non party-member intellectuals”, the minority parties label as the “Serbian-Serbian” issue and don’t take part in it. As if they live on Mars and not in Vojvodina. As if it is of no any concern to them! They have their own small autonomies, like ghettos, and within them they temporary feel better and more secure, but from which, in a long run, can crawls out only ethnical Lilliputians and the arrogant ethnical leaders – not free men! Autonomy is – freedom! And when things are so non-transparent, you don’t know anything about the party but you know too much about the leader. In such ethnical parties the party program equals the party leader. And naturally, in such miniscule political enclaves there is no elite, there is no average either, there is no dialogue between them, so Vojvodina’s political parties haven’t sit down to speak about the destiny of Vojvodina which however – however, concerns all us in the area. In the light of experiences we have so far, hardly that one can count on Vojvodina’s minorities to increase the autonomy of Vojvodina, I would like to be wrong in my forecasts

– Though the referendum on the new Constitution of Serbia has been a fiasco in Vojvodina it hasn’t had any political consequences. Why?

– The Constitution of Serbia didn’t pass, and there no any doubt about it, in Vojvodina at the constitutional referendum. Vojvodina said NO to the present Constitution of Serbia, that so-called “Mitrov’s Day Constitution” or “Koštunica’s Constitution” on both the first and on the second referendum days alike! The referendum was an unheard-of, senseless avalanche of lies! In that united “falsification of constitution and reality”, norm and life, in which leaders were the parties from the same party cradle, in spite to the orchestrated pressure from all sides, from all media, via SMS and the Internet, the pressure that was more and more strong from hour to hour, in spite to dramatic calls by almost all political leaders, the Government, the President, in spite of the announced global apocalypse if the referendum proved fiasco, in spite to that unique “referendum marathon”, Vojvodina didn’t accept the referendum-served Constitution of Serbia!

– Inhabitants of Vojvodina however didn’t politically capitalize on this catastrophic fiasco of the Serbian Constitution. I however don’t rule out of question that, as the reaction to this fact, perhaps in Vojvodina will be formed a sort of the “constitutional movement” that will as the Pannonian and rural “Sinn Féin” (We Ourselves) contribute to bringing a modern and democratic constitution in this country in which “we shall not be born and die with Kosovo in head”, as one our indisputable political mythomaniac said.

Nedim Sejdinović (Interview published On November 10th, 2007, by Novi Sad’s “Gradjanski list”/Civic Newspaper/)