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Srbija 2020

Za dobrim konjem.....

First, let me tell you what today's blog isn't about. It's not about Dinkić and G17+ pretending they will resign on October 1st while staying in government and keeping control over the key economic ministries and privatization. It's not about Tadić imitating Koštunica. It's not about Koštunica imitating Milošević. It's not about the Radicals imitating people with low IQ's. It's not about Velja Ilić's eloquent vocabulary and imitation of…..himself. It's not about the amazing physical resemblance between Ivica Dačić and Milošević.

It's not about the fact that Serbia's Constitutional Court no longer functions, even though the Premier is a legalist. It's not about the fact that the police are unable to find the people who assassinated two protected witnesses in the Djindjć assassination case. It's not about the disgraceful fact that the Djindjić assassination trial is starting for the second time and that the Ibarska Magistrala trial is starting for the third time.

Rather, it's about the performance and non-performance of some Serbian Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

If you have ever followed Serbia's NGO sector closely you will have noticed that there are some excellent NGOs….Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Humanitarian Law Centre, Helsinki Commission, and the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights, to name some of the most prominent and active. You can tell that they are good because they are constantly under attack in the government and UDBa-controlled media and by the Radicals. If they are making the UDBaši nervous, then they must be doing a good job and helping Serbia become a better place. This is best characterised by the Serbian folk saying: "Iza dobrog konja diže se prašina"…which means "dust is raised behind a good horse."

There are also some good NGOs engaged in charitable work, particularly involving efforts to help Serbia help itself in terms of making schools and hospitals and other institutions better, and providing better services to the citizens. There are also many informal groups of citizens who are working very hard on the local level to make services available to the handicapped and others with disabilities, literacy efforts, etc. But by and large these types of NGOs escape public notice, receive insufficient funding and end up fighting in vain against the bureaucratic javašluk.

But what about all the other prominent NGOs that are out there working, that are not attacked by the media? Why are they raising no dust behind them? What are they doing? And why is it that they aren't attacked? Does this tell us something about their work, or lack thereof?

A friend once told me that a number of NGOs do nothing but act as fronts for the government or various security organs in an effort to weaken the NGO sector, take money from international donors and confuse the political scene. This same person told me that many of these NGOs and the people running them were prominent in the opposition under the Milošević regime. According to this person, many were Trojan Horses and have kept a low profile since October 5th or have worked against efforts to remake Serbia into a modern European country. Others are in it just for the money and don't want to make political waves. Unfortunately, many of these are prominent names and are often seen in the media. And the media treats them nicely.

Why am I bringing this up now? I just received an email from a friend of mine in Montenegro, Vanja Čalović, who runs an NGO called MANS ( For those of you who have heard of Vanja, you know that she is a true example of čoj'stvo i junaštvo, probably the bravest person in all of Montenegro….which is saying something.

Vanja is tiny, quiet and very unassuming, but her appearance is deceiving. She is highly effective and strikes fear into the hearts of corrupt government officials. If you give a Montenegrin politician the choice between having the Financial Police conduct an investigation, or have Vanja do it, he will always choose the Financial Police.

Vanja is doing something that no NGO in Serbia is doing: she is directly attacking the corrupt oligarchy and government bureaucracy on everything from privatisation to illegal building permits to freedom of information. MANS has already published one highly detailed book with photocopies of documents showing official corruption and has filed numerous law suits on the basis of illegal activities and corruption. MANS has also been brave enough to stand up to problematic privatisations and demand that the government divulge all documents. Take a look at the MANS web site. Look at what they are doing about problematic privatisations, such as KAP and Željezara and Jugopetrol, to name but a few. Although many Montenegrin officials dislike her intensely, her work is moving Montenegro closer to the European Union and reducing corruption by holding politicians accountable for their illegal actions.

By now you are all making jokes about Montenegrins and how they think they are so brave and how James Lyon is completely deluded. But where is the NGO in Serbia that attacks these problems? Does it exist? If so it obviously isn't even the least bit effective, as it is raising absolutely no dust. If it were effective, then it would be under constant attack in the media and it would have a high media profile and be filing lots of law suits and getting the government angry at it. It would raise lots of dust and find lots of popular support.

Or maybe I am looking at things incorrectly. Yes, that must be it….I am wrong. Perhaps there is no corruption in Serbia! Yes, that is the obvious answer… corruption in Serbia….all the privatisations were perfectly legal…..there is no construction mafia….the bureaucracy is wonderful….all public servants do their jobs without asking for bribes…it is not a police state…..there are no kickbacks…..the political parties finance themselves perfectly legally….there is no cooperation between organised crime and the security structures….there are no illegal monopolies….the Radio-Diffusion Agency granted all the television broadcasting licenses perfectly legally…..

And that must be the reason why the NGO or NGOs that deal with corruption in Serbia (if they even exist) are not raising any dust behind them. Or perhaps the Montenegrins -- in true Montenegrin fashion -- are more heroic and brave.