Steps in Different Directions - 2000

Slobodan Milosevic was setting himself up as dictator for life, having passed a law allowing him to serve yet another term as President. The representatives gathered in Bratislava, Slovakia knew this was another step towards the creation of an authoritarian regime, and Serbian democrats and human rights activists had already seen too much. With the assistance and cooperation of EWI and the Slovak government, Serbian opponents of Milosevic organized a series of summits to rescue their country. These meetings would come to be known as the "Bratislava Process", later giving birth to the 'Community for Change' within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).


Lending a hand from the earliest days when Western governments declined interaction with Serbs, even those opposed to Milosevic, EWI helped encourage Yugoslav leaders gathered in the Slovak capital to develop a holistic strategy, thereby increasing the pressure on the ruling Socialist Party. Providing an open forum in a neutral environment, the Institute played an important role in letting Yugoslav democrats know they were not alone in their fight and that the West had not abandoned the Serbian people. At a time when many Serbian citizens felt that the outside world was treating their country as a civic desert, EWI offered an unusual space - a friendly forum - for the forces of peace and democracy in the country to network and design strategies toward a new beginning.


The EWI Task Force on the Future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is perhaps the most remarkable example of the Institute's ability to network and allow various action groups the opportunity to contribute toward democratic, peaceful, social changes. Chaired by Sonja Licht of the Open Society Fund in Belgrade and led by Aleksander Lojpur of EWI, the Task Force on the Future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia provided technical assistance, study trips and networking contacts for the leaders of pro-democracy forces in the Balkans. Within a year of the founding of the Task Force on the Future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a democratic wave swept across the country ushering in the Vojislav Kostunica presidency. That the decisive end of the Milosevic regime came from the Serbian people, without direct outside intervention, justifies the EWI philosophy that stability and prosperity can be achieved through local actions and institutions if conditions for honest dialogue and civic participation are made possible. Many other EWI efforts in the Balkans could be singled out as well. The Canadian government convinced EWI to help rethink a new strategy for the Stability Pact (SP) and this resulted in a key report to the SP members on the next phase of European approaches to the FRY and funding priorities for the Balkan region as a whole.



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Idea No. 21