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Protests in Serbia Archive
Students letter to European Union

Students Protest 96/97 ODDU

Independent Student Organization

To the Presidency of the European Union
Drs. W. Kok, Prime-minister of the Netherlands
The Hague

Belgrade, 5 February 1997

Dear Mr. Prime-minister,

We represent students of Serbia, and do appreciate very much the close attention of the Dutch government, the European Union and the whole international community, given to the post-electoral events in Serbia. After years of war, constant repression, political and economic crises and outrageous totalitarian dictatorship of the present Serbian powerholders, a civic spirit and desire for democratic changes in our society finally took the opportunity to raise its voice against the violation of basic human rights.

The present situation in Serbia - usage of armed police forces, water cannons and teargas, beating up peaceful citizens in the streets of all major cities, spread of violence and intolerance - has forced us to speak out openly and appeal to the European Union and the whole international community to increase their pressure against the non-democratic regime in Belgrade.

We request from national governments, the European Union and the international community:

  1. to use all means to force the Serbian authorities to fully accept and act by the OSCE report regarding the local elections held on 17th of November, 1996, and to refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. Facing parliamentary and presidential elections later on this year, we ask the OSCE to send monitors to Serbia, right from the beginning of the election campaign, in order to check whether the elections can and will be fair and free.

  2. to pressure the Serbian regime to solve the media-problem as soon as possible and before the upcoming election campaign, by reforming the existing state-owned electronic media and press, and by supporting the independent media and independent media-projects throughout the country.

  3. to put pressure on the Serbian government to drop the existing University Law, in order to enable democratic changes to take place at the universities in Serbia, as well as a reform of the educational system. A special visit to Serbia of the ministers of education of the so-called EU-Troika should serve this purpose.

  4. to recognize the new student and civic movements in Serbia being of fundamental importance for the emergence of a strong civil society, and to support them through different projects and concrete actions.

  5. to isolate internationally persons from the ruling structures, who disregard democratic rules and international laws. This especially applies to president Milosevic and his closest circle. This isolation should not affect the life of ordinary citizens from Serbia.
We sincerely hope that Europe and the international community will become more aware of the importance of emerging democratic civic and student movements in the Balkans. With your support, we want to be able to continue our struggle for an open society and a full democracy.

Belgrade, February 5th ,1997

The members of the student delegation:

Uros Bobic
Students Protest 96/97
Dimitrija Koturovica 42

Danilo Drndarski
Moravska 16

Aleksandar Jankovic
Independent Student Organization
Brace Jerkovic 163

Goran Pavlovic
Students Protest 96/97
Dorda Miladinovica 14


  1. More than 75 days passed since the outbreak of protests in Belgrade. They were caused by the abuse of power and disrespect of electoral law by the Serbian authorities. Since the 18th of November 1996, an incredible amount of peacefully expressed, positive energy, creativity and democratic behavior towards all kind of problems, as well as a strong desire for immediate change of an autocratic, closed-minded dictatorial regime has been shown by the demonstrations.
    On the one hand, police violence is being used more and more often in the streets of Belgrade and other cities. The police is breaking into University buildings (whose autonomy is protected by law). The repressive behavior of president Milosevic, ministers in the Government of Serbia and local authorities is still going on. And the unbelievable negative influence of state-owned media on public opinion in Serbia can be faced day after day. On the other hand, there is a positive and promising democratic atmosphere noticeable among the citizens of Serbia, creating a clear contrast.
  2. We invite all countries in the EU and the international community to force the Serbian authorities, by all means, to obey the OSCE report and the European Parliament resolution, and to accept the electoral results from November 17th. After that, the liberation of state-owned media and a dialogue of political parties on the Serbian scene could start. We find it necessary too, that the OSCE should monitor the republic and presidential elections in Serbia that will be held in the course of 1997.
  3. We understand that the international community is rather concerned regarding the guarantees for the Dayton peace agreement, after a possible resignation of president Milosevic. Our opinion is that president Milosevic himself, as one of the persons who played a crucial role in starting the war in former Yugoslavia, can not present a real guarantee for peace in the Balkans. We find the new democratic atmosphere, created by the emerging civic movements in Serbia, the only real guarantee against any war on these territories. No matter what party will present the state of Serbia and Yugoslavia in the future, more than ten million citizens of Yugoslavia did feel that the world respects their desire for democratic changes They will form a much better guarantee for peace than just one single person - the present president of Serbia, who has lost almost all support from the people of Serbia.
    (We have already made a number of contacts with students from surrounding countries - Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania- as well as with students from Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. We look forward to further dialogue and cooperation within the region, as it is a highly important step to European integration in the future.
  4. A complete reform of the existing University Law (it was issued by the Serbian Parliament with the Socialist Party in majority, after the Student Protest in 1992) is a precondition for further progress and development of student activities and the establishment of a modern educational system in our country. It would enable the formation of various independent student organizations and associations (some of them already existing illegally, while some others were formally registered but practically forbidden), which is now prohibited by the law. Those organizations would link the students in Serbia with other similar organizations in the world and with their colleagues from European countries. They would embark on a variety of projects, on student exchanges, scholarships, investing in modern university literature and educational programs. They would also protect the development of a democratic atmosphere among the students, renew the student life at all Serbian universities and transform the energy of the existing Student Protest into a real student movement - a new democratic force in Serbian society;
  5. The isolation, including economic sanctions, against the representatives of the Belgrade regime and in particularly `the royal Milosevic family` should comprise a blockade of personal bank accounts outside the country, the failure to issue visas for EU countries to persons closely related to the ruling structures in Serbia, up to a pulling out of the ambassadors from Belgrade.
    These sanctions should in no way harm ordinary citizens of Serbia. It was shown during the time of the UN sanctions, that the existing blockade did not affect the authorities at all, and that the main parts of society suffering from the sanctions were the lower and middle classes, while several thousands of higher-class representatives got even stronger and more powerful in Serbia. These sanctions were strengthening the Milosevic` regime!
  6. The democratization of the Serbian society and the process of opening up towards Europe and the world should result in a more liberal visa policy for the citizens of Serbia (the visa policy was, besides the outrageous role of the state-owned media, one of the main reasons why the xenophobic atmosphere spreaded throughout the country successfully during the past couple of years), better connections with economic, cultural and academic institutions and the possibility for cooperation in a number of projects that would bring the new Serbia closer to the modern world.
  7. The media problem remains the main problem in Serbia. We find it absolutely necessary that the EU and international community support the independent radio and TV stations, especially outside Belgrade, in the so-called `free cities` where the opposition won the local elections. Also, the B92 and Index radios in Belgrade proved to be the only objective support for the democratic forces and peaceful protests until now. Therefore, their demands for support should be considered with great attention.
  8. Many faculties of the Belgrade University and the University of Arts, the Universities of Novi Sad, Subotica, Kragujevac and Nis have started their own newspaper project. Some of them are printed daily in the form of bulletin, some are issued weekly, or twice a month, all since the beginning of the Student protest. Before the outbreak of the Protest, such activities as publishing a student newspaper, were completely impossible at most of the faculties. Many students are willing to continue publishing magazines and bulletins after the Protest is over, and it is very important to support each of these projects separately because by doing so the students will remain informed and stay alert after the political situation is cleared out.
  9. The students and professors of the University of Arts in Belgrade have prepared a project for a new, student-run radio station. (NB: Radio Index, formally the University-owned radio, did not receive a single dinar of help either from the state or from the University, and it will probably be transformed into an independent radiostation decoupled from the University.) In the beginning, this new student-run station would broadcast its program on the territory of Belgrade, while in the future its signal might reach Nis, Kragujevac, Pristina and other university centers in Serbia. After a change of the University Law, it should become rather easy to obtain a legal frequency for such a radio-station, which is now absolutely impossible. With quick, objective and independent informative editorials, modern educational programs and shows, urban multicultural approaches and pro-European orientations, such a `student-run media` project would surely play an important roles in the student community of Serbia and the whole society.
  10. We would really appreciate being informed about the possibilities for starting projects among a variety of student unions and associations, as well as student media projects under the protectorate of EU, and about concrete financial and other support that EU could offer.

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