International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

March 14, 2003

March 14, 2003





** Global media viewed the assassination of Serbian PM Djindjic as "an attack" on Serbia's democracy and a warning that the "demons" of the Balkans' past had not been vanquished.

** Most dailies, particularly in the Balkans, were pessimistic that Serbia could continue on the path of reform and worried that the "chaos" in Belgrade could reignite instability in the region.

** Honoring Djindjic as "the most talented man in current Serbian history," Serb dailies pledged support for their government's efforts against organized crime.

**West European papers admitted that the EU's "negligence" may have enabled the tragedy.




'Assassin fired the last bullet in the Serb future'--  Editorials were universally pessimistic about Serbia's future, arguing that Djindjic's death "destroyed the illusion" that the Balkans' troubles have been resolved.  With a sense of foreboding, a Belgrade writer in independent liberal Danas feared that the "shots that killed Djindjic" might also kill "any Serbian hopes for normalcy."  Nearly all expected Djindjic's death to set back Serbia's democratic reform.  Many echoed Bucharest's independent Ziua in judging the murder a "serious attack" against Serbian democracy, eradication of corruption and "integration into western civilization." 


Best way to 'avenge' Djindjic's death is to 'persevere with reforms,' fight criminal enemies of democracy--  While recognizing that Djindjic was not exactly "as white as snow," nearly all credited him with renouncing Milosevic's "Mafia-type model of government" and for "giving hope" to the Serbian people.  "Djindjic was the personification of European values and the stability achieved by Serbia," declared a populist Belgrade daily.  Bosnia's Croat-language Mostar Dnevni List insisted the "best way to pay tribute" to Djindjic is for Serbian leaders to continue his reforms and "thus prove that no criminal act can defeat democracy."  Indignant that "war criminals have become the idols of Serbia," Belgrade's pro-government Politika stressed that "we cannot be calm" and "the architects of evil" must not be left "untouched." Serbia's neighbors worried about the spread of Serbian crime and the "phenomenon" of "illegal power."  Croatia's Novi List preached that Djindjic's death was a "lesson about what can happen if the task of settling accounts with crime and mobsters is neglected." 


Balkans were 'forgotten' by the international community--  Djindjic's murder reminded West European outlets of the "never forgotten dangers...smoldering on the other side of the Adriatic" and an "alarming signal" that the situation was "even more dangerous than many were willing to believe."  While some faulted the international community for its "neglect," Paris's left-of-center Le Monde directly blamed the U.S., dismissing its policy as one of "limited financial... assistance" and sending "a high ranking official every six months to brandish a new ultimatum."

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This survey is based on 56 reports from 23 countries, March 13-14.  Editorial excerpts from each country were listed from the most recent date.




SERBIA:  “He Secured His Place In a History”


Pro government Poliitka published an op-ed by Dragoljub Micunovic, SAM Parliament’s president (3/14): "Zoran Djindjic left behind history and myth. He knew, as a philosopher, who read Hegel that on the historical scene there are no light plays but dramas and tragedies. He stepped into a historical scene well aware of a possible tragic end, and brilliantly played his role.… He saw possibilities to modernize Serbia but was frequently disappointed by the passivity and resistance in society.  Modernity was an obsession for him. He tried to distant us from passivity.… He was a typical Balkan politician because he did not search for excuses but for decisions... Apart from being a visionary, Djindjic possessed creativity. He wanted that modern world, modern Europe to come to Serbia… He was a courageous man, ready to take personal risks, but most importantly, to take important decisions.… What is Serbia’s future without Djindjic? Maybe similar to the one we could have with him, maybe completely different. That depends on Serbian citizens and their willingness to support in this sad moment Djindjic’s idea on a brighter future.  A healthy, democratic the current political elite and its ability to forget differences and animosities.…We would betray Djindjic if we hesitate and if we wait to reach a decision. There should be no more hesitation about cohesion of our forces to continue the prosperity of Serbia...Zoran Djindjic was the best face Serbia could offer to Europe in order to integrate with it.” 


“The Youth Got Its Hero”


Populist Vecernje Novosti published an op-ed  by former Yugoslav president, communist dissident and according to some, the 'Serbian father of the nation' Dobrica Cosic (3/14): “We, Serbs, are one unfortunate nation. Our best young men are killed in wars for freedom and delusions. Now, the best among us is killed by us, by Serbs. Zoran Djindjic’s killers are Serbs, no matter that they are criminals. This crime brings the darkest mark on our national and civic concept. The most talented man in current Serbian politics is killed. From my experience, I know that there was no more modern, more strong, more pragmatic, more politically intelligent, more energetic and more persistent man than Zoran Djindjic, who could succeed in democratic and civilization renewal of Serbia… In this generation, in this time, no one did so much in politics and achieved so much as Zoran Djindjic did. That was a unique political career in times when there are many unsuccessful people in politics.  He shared the destiny of all great reformers: glory belongs to the dead. The youth of Serbia got its hero.” 


"Assassination As Destiny"


Slobodan Reljic, independent NIN's Editor-in-Chief wrote (3/14): "In crucial moments he was expected to do more than a man can possibly do and carry out changes quicker than they could be carried out....The PM's problems came primarily from two interest groups: One consisting of the residues of the old state establishment with whom he had to work and confront.  The Hague Tribunal, as the exposed instrument of Western pressure on Serbia, created directly and indirectly the PM's other group of unrecognizable opponents....  That pressure united the war-profiteers because their income and existence had been endangered....   At the same time the Western recognition and serious support of the PM was becoming more vague.  The government's position on Kosovo was ruined, the verbal support [of the West] was becoming scarcer, followed by news reports that Serbia would be left at the threshold of Europe.  For those reasons statements [after PM's assassination] that 'Europe lost its big friends,...or 'Serbia made a big step forward thanks to people like Djindjic....' sound cynical.  His opponents took Europe's backing from Djindjic as a weakening of his positions.  After him, Serbia is faced with a dramatic institutional crisis.  A state of emergency has been introduced, shock is turning into fear.... Many things depended on Djindjic.  Now, the government without its PM is expected to work efficiently and to return to normal life. The assassination of the PM in downtown Belgrade is a terrible and crucial moment for Serbia.  Either the terror stops now, or Serbia will become Europe's Colombia." 


"Hostage to the Dark Forces":


Independent weekly Vreme carried the commentary (3/14): "Assassination of PM Djindjic makes us feel that we are hostage to the dark forces that are not even hiding carefully.  When the first assassination attempt took place, the assassin was arrested, released and then  disappeared, it should have been concluded then that in Serbia, power is held not by those people who we can see, but by a criminal-political underground that has huge influence on police, attorneys and courts.  Zoran Djindjic ran as quickly as he could and pushed for reforms and a modern Europe as best as he knew how.  No one in Serbia in a very long period of time expressed so much energy, power willingness, capabilities and organizational skills. No one spread so much hope and belief for a better future in a very long period of time. There can be no replacement for such a personality....  The only thing that the government can do now is to declare a total war on the underground. Police claims it knows everything about the underground but it has no evidence. They should first arrest every suspect and we will wait for the evidence; too many killers are walking freely around because of lack of evidence....  Serbia must win, and Djindjic must not become a victim in vain.  Serbia must become a country ruled by law and democracy, and open to the world..... Let the state of emergency serve to that cause and no other."


"Symbol Of Resistence To The Darkness"


Vojin Dimitrijevic, Director of the Center for Human Rights wrote in independent liberal Danas (3/14): "Zoran Djindjic resembles John Kennedy.... People like Djindjic and Kennedy became legends instantly because they were symbols... Their open political enemies lacked the radiance and their hidden political enemies looked ugly and dangerous in the daylight..... The most important thing is what they symbolize in the political sense. Their symbols satisfied the public need for development, change, enlighten and education - they become the symbol of the struggle against the 'old.'  Such symbols encompass their political programs, their party programs and their tactics. Their human imperfections were forgiven while they were alive and forgotten after they passed away.... Djindjic was a serious danger to the conglomerate of fake fighters for Serbia, killers of non-loyal Serbs, sadist torturers of non-Serbs and all those who gained material profit form their alleged national efforts.  That axis emerged under Milosevic and called itself the 'legal-state' but was in fact organized 'lawlessness.'... The DOS leaders believed that October 5 was the point from which return to the old was not possible and hoped that the time of democracy had come.....  However, the original DOS was wrong when it had such a belief.  Djindjic's death is a tragedy...which however should not lead to apathy.  This tragedy should inspire his supporters and opponents that are not connected with corruption to use their political responsibility to finish the job that the deceased Djindjic is symbolizing even more now than when he was alive."


"Shots Into Serbian Hope"


Aleksa Djilas, novelist and a prominent Belgrade opinion maker wrote in independent liberal Danas (3/14): "The shots that killed Djindjic...maybe killed any Serbian hope for normalcy.... Is Djindjic's assassination announcing a new era of killings?...  Milosevic's toppling was tumultuous but nobody was killed and Serbs had a right to be proud for ending a dictatorship in a democratic and peaceful manner as they also handed over Milosevic peacefully and without incidents. The relations in the region and with the West were becoming normal and Serbs began feeling that they finally came to terms with themselves and with the world.... Most Serbs believed that elections became the dominant means of politics.... The immediate consequences of his death are going to be tragic.  Djindjic was seen by the West as a reformer and reforms may stall now.  Will Western assistance stop coming and will Serbia again look like a country without rule of law and control?  Although Djindjic was not very popular, only extreme nationalists and Milosevic's cronies could take joy over this.  They see the assassination as justified punishment for the 'traitor' who turned over Milosevic and other Serbian 'heroes' to The Hague.  The worst consequence is belief that only authoritarian regime is good for Serbia..... Djindjic's death showed the volatility of the situation, and that [foreign] assistance should not be conditioned. For one short moment, extreme nationalists and Milosevic supporters may feel triumphant...but they will never return to power.


“Democracy And Violence: At the Height of Challenge"


Pro-government Politika’s journalist Ljubodrag Stojadinovic wrote (3/13): "The assassination of PM Djindjic is the culmination of a trend of killings that have been going on in Belgrade for a long period of time..... The rule of crime and criminals has continued and they have been attempting to be the masters of [life and] death and to be patriots at the same time..... The regime tried to ignore the violent signals from the past, quieted down the rebellion of Red Beret Special Units who wanted to control democracy in Serbia.  The case of Legija, a retired member of the Special Units, indicated an extremely high level of arrogance and the importance of violence.  The crisis of values has been threatening to annul all wisdom and creativity; the war criminals have become the idols of Serbia.... If the regime doesn't start haunting the assassins, they would haunt the regime..... Now, we are in a state of emergency which does not bode happiness or tranquility....  It would be normal to expect that special units would move to disarm the most important private armies today.  If they do not do it, it would be too late again.... It would not be good if the state of emergency would affect only innocent people and leave the architects of evil untouched.  The political wisdom of Serbia is now passing the test of diplomacy.  We cannot be calm, because a very bad thing has happened, life in Serbia has become very cheap.... However, a state of emergency has been going on in Serbia for a long period of time, only it has not been declared.... It is high time to capture the executioners in Serbia because it is too dangerous to await their next move." 


“Shots In Serbia”


Populist Vecernje Novosti published an editorial on assassination of Serbian PM (3/13): "Two and a half years after October 5, and a decade after the break-up of 'big Yugoslavia,' Serbia is still in a spasmodic state and at war - to purifying itself.   Serbia became the land where heads roll - heads of a PM and generals, politicians and businessmen, as well as ordinary citizens - as if it’s a haunted state. Mafia make open threats and almost every day shoot people on its black list.  No one can be safe or secure regarding one's life or regarding the state.  The shots that killed the PM are shots on Serbia, not only because Djindjic was the personification of the stability achieved by Serbia and European values,... but also because the assassination of a democratically elected PM is de facto an attack on the whole of Serbia, its democratic institutions, on its attempts to break with violent past and to enlist European democratic values and to become a normal state.  Djindjic was decisive and pragmatic, warned several times that most of the towns in Serbia have been run by mafia, announced that time has come for 'us to get them [mafia], or else they would get us' and stressed that organized crime has been a cancer in the Serbian tissue, that it would be hard for Serbia to move forward until it untangled that knot. .... If there could be anything encouraging in the tragic act of assassination of PM Djindjic, it is the clear message by those who supported him and those who didn't always agree with the PM, that this is the moment in which Serbia must overcome all divisions and all games and truly, without hesitation and dilemma, to act to fulfill his words which he left as a testimony: 'Either we get them, or they would get us.'" 


BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: "Is Organized Crime Destroying Serbia?"


Miso Relota observed in Croat-language Mostar Dnevni List (3/13): "This murder has been assessed as a criminal and cowardly act.   It was stressed in the first reactions that this assassination was an act of terrorism and insanity and that the best way in which Serbia could pay tribute to Zoran Djindjic was to continue the changes that he had commenced and thus prove that no criminal act can defeat democracy.   The international community representatives said that they would continue cooperating with the Balkan countries in order for this region to purge those who think that the future lies in weapons, not in ballot boxes....  The assassination is an attempt to stop Serbia's development and democratization and to turn Serbia into an empire of criminal groups.   Serbia's leadership has a huge responsibility now to continue down Djindjic's road for the transformation of Serbia and to persevere with reforms.   This murder is an attempt to stop Serbia on the road toward Europe and at the same time is proof that the situation in the region is not stable yet.... Serbia was going through a difficult period and it is quite certain that this murder will slow down its progress toward democracy."


"Shot In The Future"


Mirjana Kusmuk held in privately-owned with close ties to the Independent Social Democrats of the Serb Republic, Banja Luka Nezavisne Novine (3/13): "The assassin fired the last bullet in the Serb future yesterday.   Serbian Prime Minister [Djindjic], who was the only one carrying in his pocket the last ticket for the democratic world, which ticket the Serbs bought at least 10 years too late, was murdered yesterday.   The man who knew how to play the game for his people has been murdered.   He played wisely, honestly, and comprehensibly for the whole world.   He was killed perfidiously, with a sniper bullet from behind, but how else could it have been?   Only a wretch and a coward could shoot at Zoran Djindjic.... In all the assassinations that have taken place in Serbia in the past 10 years the murderers have been insiders infiltrated in the victims' security forces several months before the 'D day.'   All of them won their superiors' greatest trust very quickly.   It is hardly likely that it will be discovered who the insider in Djindjic's case was.... There were many reasons for the murder of the Serbian prime minister and one was mentioned by everyone.   That was his resolute intention to enter a showdown with organized crime and the announcement of an imminent start of that showdown.   Criminals were faster in that last race.   They killed him in hope that their empire would last forever, but, mafia, you should not rejoice, because Serbia is full of such personalities.


CROATIA: "Postponement Of Balkans Peace"


Zagreb-based government-owned Vjesnik in commentary by Zoran Vodopija argued (3/14): “With Serbia and Montenegro, because of the completely unpredictable future, once again a threat just like they were in 1995, it is up to Croatia to quickly redefine its position in Southeastern Europe.  It must also redefine its economic and geopolitical interests and secure support for a faster arrangement with NATO and the EU, even though it is still far away from formal membership.  Its role in the region is now stronger, but also more vulnerable, because Serbia and Montenegro are no longer a Mecca for foreign investments, but a black hole in which everyone who has invested there, is trying to find traces of what belongs to them.


"Army In A Chase Through Serbia"


Inoslav Besker commented in Zagreb-based mass-circulation Jutarnji List on (3/14):  “When the army, even when invited to do so, gets involved in running a country, it isn’t a good symptom of its health, especially its democratic health....  Time is not on the government’s side (with Kostunica, Djindjic’s main critic and the most probable candidate for the President of Serbia, waiting just around the corner), nor is it on the side of stability and democracy.   Djindjic’s orphans in power have played a ‘win or lose’ game by announcing total war on the ‘Zemun group.’   The waste of time has already boomeranged on Djindjic himself, and every additional wasted day will open space for new disturbing scripts on our eastern border.”


“Non-Democratic Outcome Hurts Croatia”


Zagreb-based mass-circulation Vecernji list in commentary by Zeljko Kruselj held (3/14):  “If the outcome of political events in Belgrade was heading toward a non-democratic option, it is easy to assume that the international community would respond by imposing economic sanctions.   Experience has already shown that not only would investments in that country fall through, but Croatia would suffer significant indirect damages from such a blockade.  That’s why official Zagreb should invest effort into assisting in continuation of Serbian reforms.”


"Yesterday Belgrade, Zagreb Tomorrow?"


Jelena Lovric commented in Rijeka-based Novi list (3/14):  “In Serbia, it has proven mistaken the assessment that removal of Milosevic and arrival of the new government will be enough for transition of the society.  The international community made a big mistake there.  They have been waiting for things to start moving into the right direction on their own.  However, the hurdle of crime and Mafia, formed during the war times, has spread throughout the society, taken the positions, and now, obviously, doesn’t want to give them up....  A country cannot stabilize itself on reconciliation with crime and Mafia.  Because it is being built on rotten foundations.  Serbia is the example that implosion follows sooner or later.”


"Serbian Time Of Settling Accounts"


Zagreb-based government-owned Vjesnik carried a commentary by its Foreign Affairs Editor, Jurica Korbler asserting (3/13):  “Crime and politics have in the past ten years gone hand in hand in Serbia.  What politicians haven’t been able to accomplish (publicly), mobsters have completed (secretly).  Political ideology has served only as a screen for gaining power and money, while both politicians and mobsters have enriched themselves....  The next few days will show what Djindjic’s murder means for Serbia today.  Will it strengthen those forces which were defeated with Milosevic’s departure for The Hague, and which are still pulling strings?  Will Serbia sink even deeper into uncertainty and apathy and allow the mobsters to lead the dance?  Does Zoran Djindjic’s physical disappearance also mean the end of reforms and cooperation with the West?  As history has taught us, Serbia, obviously easily, remains without leaders, and Zoran Djindjic is just one in a row of those who have ended their political careers with of a bullet.”


“Djindjic’s Assassination Is A Threat To Croatia Too”


Zagreb-based mass-circulation Jutarnji list in commentary by its Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Davor Butkovic held (3/13):  “After Djindjic’s death, Croatia no longer knows who its neighbor is, and what it can expect from this neighboring country.  What we have in mind isn’t something that could happen today or tomorrow, but rather a more permanent situation of uncertainty in relations between Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro, a country which we have to consider as one and for which we don’t know who is in power and what its policy is....  Chaos in Serbia once again shows that it is necessary for Croatia to join NATO as soon as possible, because joining the alliance will guarantee the long-term security of borders with Serbia and Montenegro....  In the end, after all the geopolitical and economic questions provoked by the assassination of the Serbian Prime Minister, we have to face one important fact.  Namely, we cannot exclude the possibility that criminal organizations which are ruling in Serbia, will expand part of their criminal-business activities into Croatia, as a neighboring, linked, and undoubtedly, more affluent market.  Zoran Djindjic’s assassination is certainly a serious threat to Croatian national security too.”


“Shot At More Normal Serbia”


Jelena Lovric judged in Rijeka-based Novi list  (3/13):  “Serbia is paying the price of the war it led.  And the price of government which led the wars.  During the thirteen years of his rule, Slobodan Milosevic turned Serbia into a black hole....  Djindjic’s assassination is bad news for Croatia as well.  Serbia is its first neighbor, and it is not unimportant whether our first neighbor will be a stable and decent country, or a powder ked.  Chaos or a state of emergency in Serbia could become a source of new instability for the entire region.  It will, at the least, stop its process of normalization.  Within the international community, it could provoke new reservations, not just toward Serbia, but toward countries in its neighborhood as well....  At the same time, Djindjic’s assassination is a lesson about what can happen if the task of settling accounts with crime and mobsters is neglected.  Or, what’s even more dangerous, if one enters into agreements and arrangements with them behind the scenes....  There are forces in Croatia which are trying to provoke implosion into chaos and emergency.  The recent bombing in Zagreb, and the general impotence of the police in locating the killers and stopping mobsters, leads to the conclusion that the problem will be taken seriously only when politicians become victims.  It is high time for the Croatian government to start contemplating if it really wants to wait for that moment.”


KOSOVO: “Djindjic Was Killed By Serbia”


The leading independent, mass circulating Koha Ditore had a comment by its publisher and editor in chief Veton Surroi (3/13): “In the coming days there will be different interpretations as to who killed Zoran Djindjic, the first prime minister of Serbia after Milosevic. I believe that among different conspiracy theories it will not be easy to accept my own interpretation, that Djindjic was killed by Serbia. He was a key man in removing Milosevic from power and the key man in establishing a new order in Serbia. Milosevic was removed but not the people who supported his idea, and they were the majority.... Djindjic’s policy was projected not to deal a lot with the past, especially because he personally participated in the dark side of that past, by eating meat with Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic while the Serb forces pounded with cannons the civilian population in Sarajevo. He was certainly focused on the present, wanting to create his own line for an independent Serb state, by reaching an agreement with Montenegro, removing Kostunica from public functions and buy taking the initiative on Kosovo issue. And he had a projection about the future, with a European orientation, at least pro forma. His assassination only proves how difficult it is to deal with the problems of today’s Serbia, even if superficially....  For Kosovo it will not be easy after Djindjic’s assassination. These days he became a negative figure in our public life because of a well thought offensive for uncovering the Kosovo issue in a way that will favor Serbia’s interests.... However, this dramatic departure of Djindjic does not mean stability, neither for Serbia nor for Kosovo or any of Serbia’s neighbors. For a long time to come Serbia will face an internal transformation and for a long time Serbia will not be a stable country.  Instead of stability Serbia will consume instability, and even export it, primarily to Kosovo.”   


“Who’s Shooting There”


The leading independent, mass circulation Koha Ditore had a comment by the director of Kosovo Action for Civic Initiative Ylber Hysa (3/13): “Djindjic’s assassination marks the return of the situation that favors conservative forces.  These forces are incapable of seizing the power...nor will allow the consolidation of reformist authorities. This means that there will be a time of instability as Covic attempts to establish a state of emergency. But, even if the latter happens, it will be a fragile authorities and a transitional solution that will challenge the shaky consensus within DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia) itself. This condition of a coalition with security forces (still unreformed)...will inevitably result in early elections.  In that period conservative forces could try consolidate themselves by launching a leader that would attempt to seize power. In this way, the vacuum that is created will serve to the axis of organized crime and to the conservative structures so they can strengthen their positions in the political life. From the aspect of the democratization of Serbian society, this would be a waste of time full of risks. On the other side, the assassination of Djindjic is a victory of the organized crime in the region....  This is happening now that Europeans are trying to take a greater role in projecting a more stable future for the Western Balkans and when the Americans should be dealing with Iraq and are very sensitive about the schemes of the organized crime and the penetrating channels of Mafiosi in this part of the world.... So, from the aspect of Serbian society trauma, the assassination of Djindjic creates a sort of ‘Serb Kennedy” case and at the same time marks a divorce of the forces that jointly completed 'The velvet revolution' of October 5 when Milosevic was ousted. The confrontation of these two forces...will take long and will be painful.”          


“Return Of The Balkans In World Headlines” 


Independent, mass circulation Zëri had a column by its publisher Blerim Shala (3/13): “A country in which the prime minister is killed in that way cannot avoid assessments that hit the very spine of its stability. So, Serbia continues to be a country that is further away from creating a democratic society than the West imagined. Moreover, with Djindjic’s assassination, the West has lost its key partner in the process of reforming Serbia, a country that was responsible for 9 years of wars and suffering in the Balkans. After this murder, Serbia will enter a deep crisis of legitimacy....The prime minister of Serbia has had a primary role in the relations of Serbia with Montenegro. After him, the chances for the existence of such a Union (that were slim anyway) are almost none. Finally, in the recent three months Djindjic was the politician who led an aggressive strategy for the ethnic federalization and partition of Kosovo. It was an obnoxious and dangerous policy. This policy will, most likely, continue to dominate among Kosovo Serbs who are still refusing to recognize the reality of Kosovo. The last consequence of this assassination is the delay (unspecified in time) of Pristina-Belgrade dialogue.”


"Serbia Commits Another Crime Against Itself"


Pro-LDK, mass circulation Bota Sot had an editorial stating (3/13): “Serbian prime minister Djindjic was killed yesterday in a series of assassinations that have characterized Serbia in the recent years. This is another crime that Serbia is committing against itself, with its own hands.... After year 2000, prime minister Djindjic engaged a very fierce conflict with the last President of what was called ‘Milosevics Yugoslavia,’ Vojislav Kostunica, especially after Djindjic organized the arrest and handover of the chief criminal Milosevic to the Hague. In that time Kostunica attempted to have Milosevic stand trial in Serbia. As a result of the creation of Serbia-Montenegro Union, Vojislav Kostunica lost his post on March 4, 8 days before Djindjic was killed. The Serbs will also not forgive Djindjic for the handover of the main butchers, Milosevic and Seselj to the Hague. In Serbia always triumphed the pro-Russian political campus and this fact has become a rule in its history that resulted in endless series of assassinations at the top of the Serbian leadership. The international community should take appropriate lessons from this and from all other developments in Serbia, this Mafiosi country that has no way out. As soon as the international community finally understands that only a Serbia tha t looks simply after its own business; a Serbia that does not ride roughshod on its neighbors; a Serbia that gives up of the strategy for the Greater Serbia; Serbia will be accepted in the future by its neighbors in the Illyrian Peninsula. With Djindjic’s assassination Serbia finally returns in the era of the main butcher, chief criminal Milosevic.”         


“Assassination As Political Means”  


Independent, urban magazine Java had a comment by the head of the Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo Baton Haxhiu (3/13): “One thing is clear, the Balkans has lost a courageous, open and charismatic politician. On the other side, Kosovar politics has perhaps lost a potential interlocutor, a politician who was nationalist maybe, but open to discuss all problems. He is the first politician who openly said that he was ready to talk even about Kosovo independence. But also about Kosovo’s partitioning. It looks like this readiness of his has cost him his life. After this assassination the Balkans remains a place of conspiracies. A place of political eliminations. A place that has killings in its blood, not dialogue. A place that overturns every initiative that has to do with dialogue.. In the end, one must say this as well: Djindjic’s assassination is not only about killing the democratic process in Serbia, it is also a reflection of the political process in the region. This naturally reflects in Kosovo too. From now on, the most difficult will be to continue the process of the Albanian-Serbian dialogue. We are going to face now a Serbian Byzantine-ism and a process that will have a different outcome. Not to mention that it will be much different and much difficult for the Albanians.”   


MACEDONIA:  "About Djindjic"


Evridika Siskova commented in privately-owned, critical of both government and opposition Skopje Makedonija Denes (3/13):  "Serbia is literally beheaded.   After the two unsuccessful attempts to elect a president, that country is now left without a prime minister.   A dangerous political situation for its stability.   But the destabilization of Serbia and the impact of its internal situation on the region probably benefit most of all the network of organized crime stretching nearly all over the Balkan peninsula.   Crime is currently flourishing in Serbia.   All attempts to crack down on it, which Djindjic personally pledged to undertake, have been taken very seriously by the Mafia bosses.   There are suspicions that even some people in the Serbian police may be well as some foreign structures which absolutely did not like his insistence on a solution to the Kosovo problem....  But the first question that arises is: who is responsible for the heinous act?   Not as a direct perpetrator -- for it does not take much intelligence to figure out that these people have been recruited from low criminal groups -- but for the phenomenon in general which scandalously started in Sofia less than a week ago with the two murders of well-known businessmen.   And, finally, who will raise the low value of a person's life in the Balkans, no matter if that is the life of a statesman or an ordinary human being?"


ALBANIA:   "Post-Milosevic Serbia Shaken"


Mustafa Nano commented in major independent  Tirana Shekulli (3/13):  "Djindjic wielded enough power, but the illegal power there is more powerful than the legal one.   This phenomenon can be seen in many Balkan countries.   Speaking of it, in Albania, too, we have many powerful people, but the power that they control in an alleged legal way is much smaller than the power they do not control or that is controlled by the others.   In these circumstances, the more intransigent the legal power, the more threatening the hidden power.  Precisely because of this way of behaving and acting, Djindjic never became a popular figure even though he became the most powerful man in Serbia.   Was his assassination an act of revenge for all the things he did?   Was it a desperate move by the Serbs' as a reaction to his efforts to reform Serbia?   The answer is difficult to tell.... Yesterday's murder seems to be one of those events that can have unpredictable effects in the internal political plane (in Serbia) and in the external plane (in the region).  A Western diplomat said right after the assassination, 'Djindjic's murder has blown up the card of Serbia's Europeanization.'   In my view this is not an exaggerated statement. It is not surprising either that this event might have an impact also on the region in general.  We do not say this because we want to play up the existing panic and raise any false alarm, but it is not unlikely that the Serbian policy may fall into the wrong hands and for things to return to where they were before the democratic reforms began.  All of us must wish for Serbia to pass this hard and sensitive moment in its history successfully.    We must wish that legality wins over illegality, democracy over the nostalgia of the Milosevic regime, and law over organized crime."      


BELGIUM: "The End Of A Shock Democrat"


Christophe Lamfalussy in independent La Libre Belgique (3/13): "At the moment when the United States and a few allies are considering overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime by force, it would be useful for the international community to wonder what it did of the countries where it used the cannon policy. NATO strikes in 1999 ended the Yugoslav war but they did not lead to Serbia's democratization. The latter is the result of a much more patient effort, restoring all a country's vital functions -- its economy, its justice, ands its Parliamentary institutions. Yet the West -- including its media -- tends to consider that simply changing a regime is sufficient to solve a problem. That is clearly not the case in Serbia -- nor in Kosovo -- where much still needs to be done. That won't be the case in Baghdad either."


BULGARIA: "More Bad News From The Balkans"


Center-right, pro-West Dnevnik (3/13) commented:  "With its new name--Southeast Europe--the peninsula attempts to find  its place on a united continent and in a predictable and orderly world. The Balkan countries have come a long way, but despite that, they still have a long way to go to reach the standards of democracy and civility which would make sure that murders like Djindjic's murder would be the exception rather than the rule....  The weak statehood, organized crime's  power over the rule of law, and an underdeveloped civil society are still the characteristic traits of the whole region despite the up-beat political declarations and the obvious advances of the civilized  world."


"Djindjic's Murder -- A Setback For The Region"


Center-left Sega held (3/13):  "For the time being  the Balkans remain a no man's land on the map of a United Europe.  Political murders are a sign that no matter how good the political elites' ideas are, the opposition to these ideas could be overwhelming, especially when these societies are impoverished to the extreme and believe in  political charlatans."


FRANCE: "Forgotten Serbia"


Left-of-center Le Monde in its editorial (3/14): "Djindjic's death must force those who have deplored his assassination to honestly wonder about how they are serving Serbia's democratic process. It seems that Serbia has been somewhat forgotten. While President Bush paid tribute to the fallen prime minister, what does Washington's policy towards Belgrade consist of? It is made up of limited financial and material assistance and the sending of a high-ranking official every six months to brandish a new ultimatum about sending new faces before the International Crimes Tribunal.... While Djindjic was not a liberation hero as the West knows them, he managed to surround himself with men above suspicion and defended his nation's cause to the fullest. He may have died for it. Let us not forget Serbia."


GERMANY:   "Serbia Thrown Back Toward Abyss"


 Peter Muench noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/14):  “Serbia, which moved a few steps away from the abyss under Djindjic, has now been thrown back.  By quickly presenting a few murder suspects, [the interim leaders] want to suggest that the fatal shots caused a salutary shock, but there are serious doubts about this, since the quagmire surrounds the entire state.  Those who want to move something in Belgrade, must also be willing to enter into a pact with the devil, as Djindjic said; and he called it realpolitik.  A change will now become even more difficult than before.  Where is the new political leader who is willing to tell the truth to the people about the penetrating links between crime, political corruption, and war mongering?  And where are the people who want to hear this and be confronted with their own guilt of the wars in the Balkans?  The investigation of the assassination will not turn things to the better.  At issue should be the discussion over Serbia’s past.”


“Neglected Balkans”


Martin Winter judged in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/14):  “The shots from Belgrade destroyed the illusion that the Balkan cause had been basically settled.  For the EU, this development comes at the worst possible moment.  At odds with each other about Iraq, it does not have the time and the leisure to dedicate sufficient time to the successor states of Yugoslavia and its neighbors.  Following the Kosovo war and the promising start of the Stability Pact, everything seemed to have been settled.  First, the Balkans disappeared from the headlines and then from the radar screens of big politics....  This was a mistake not only because the situation in the Balkans is more dangerous than people wanted to believe, but because it is a testing ground for the foreign and security policy skills of the EU....  Excessive expectations and a negligent ignorance will mix up into an explosive situation in the western Balkans if the EU does not understand the assassination from Belgrade as an alarming signal to pay full attention to the problematic region again....  The fact that the EU made the second step before the first can no longer be changed.  But now it must develop ways and means to fill the room in between.”


"The Killing"


Paul Georg Hefty had this to say in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/13): "Djindjic's murderers have finally prevented him from realizing his dream: to make Serbia mature enough to join the EU.  The prime minister knew that the requirements for an accession could be met only in the long run.  Nevertheless, he set himself and the world this goal, because goals are all the more attracting, the more distant they are, and because he rightfully feared that his real goal would be of no interest for anybody outside of Serbia's borders:  the political, economic, and moral consolidation of Serbia.  His violent death is tragic evidence of the fact that he has not reached this goal either.  All indications are that the killing of the prime minister is symptomatic for the state of the country."


"Murder In Belgrade"


Karl Grobe opined in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/13): "The assassination attempt, which killed Serbia's government leader Zoran Djindjic, is bringing to a standstill efforts to create a stable order in the heart of the former republic of Yugoslavia.  Djindjic, a nationalist who was able play different political roles, had committed himself to creating a democratic new order, but he had never had reliable allies.  Djindjic inherited the structural weakness of the Serbian, post-Yugoslav society.  Under former communist Slobodan Milosevic, who turned to a tough nationalist and who played his intriguing games with the existing democratic institutions, the society was atomized and exploited by demagogues from the extreme right in particular.  In such a social atmosphere, criminals grow."


"Demons In The Balkans"


Michael Stuermer had this to say in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/13): "The shots fired in the Balkans have the tendency to make history.  The killing of Serbia's Prime Minister Djindjic is of this kind.  This political murder has implications that go far beyond Serbia's neighborhood.  Those who have the say in the Balkans, do not determine Europe's weal, but Europe's woe.  This political murder must remind Europeans and Americans that they will succeed or fail together in the Balkans.  The great reconstruction work of the Europeans will be at stake if the old demons will come to the fore again."


HUNGARY:  “In Memoriam Djindjic"


Senior columnist Endre Aczel viewed in leading Hungarian Nepszabadsag (3/13): “What makes Djindjic’s case different from President Kennedy’s case is that the Serbian man ‘at least’ received a warning earlier.  It wasn’t even a month ago that a truck with an Austrian number plate attempted to hit Djindjic’s car. The truck driver then happened to be a well-known mini-gangster from Belgrade, called ‘Bugsy’. Previous attempt(s) already suggested that the Serbian gangster world had some problems with the Serbian Prime Minister. But the whole issue is more complex.  It was most probably the [Serbian] organized crime network that carried out the assassination.  Because after Milosevic’s ouster it became a question, whether these elements could continue to do whatever they want or face elimination. In a country, that, forgive my words, has become so utterly chaotic in morals, a premier ought to expect a ‘challenge’ like the most recent one.  If you say that this challenge is a South American type of challenge, I agree.  I have no knowledge though that any drug cartels [in South America] for instance, would shrink away from assassinating one, who is in the way.”


IRELAND: "Foul Deed"


The center-right, populist Irish Independent judged (3/13): "His killers may have acted from a variety of motives, but their crime will assuredly not serve the interests or the region. Although Djindjic has been accused of corruption and dirty tricks, his record was on balance benign. Of all the major Serbian political figures, he was the most committed to democracy. He had insisted on sending Slobodan Milosevic to justice. He had negotiated a peaceful settlement of the Montenegro question.  At the moment, the region stands at a crossroads...This is an exceptionally bad time for the bloody removal of a freely elected leaders. One moderately encouraging sign is that the dangers are appreciated in EU capitals. The Union can have an important part to play in Serbia and throughout the Balkans." 


ITALY: "The Cold Peace And The Man Of The West"


Prominent foreign affairs commentator Franco Venturini wrote on the front page of centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/13): "The assassination of Zoran Djindjic...shows that terrorism has many different faces, it shakes up our memory and it recalls the never forgotten dangers that are smoldering on the other side of the Adriatic Sea.... The Serbian Prime Minister's murder is the last one in a series of 'excellent murders' (never really clarified) that for years have filled with blood the 'pacified' Serbia.  It would be totally useless, at this point, to try to understand whether the hand of the assassins was armed by a political rival or by the very powerful organized crime, or, instead, by General Mladic's supporters.... What is more important is to understand which symbol and which political flag have been attacked....  Djindjic was considered 'the man of the West' since he did not mind dialoguing with Washington and he had put Serbia's fate within the European framework....  It is this symbol of the change, it is the 'man of the West' who was killed yesterday in Belgrade."


THE NETHERLANDS: "Djindjic Assassination"


Influential liberal De Volkskrant has this editorial (3/13): "The problems in Serbia are still humongous.  Milosevic might be gone but Serbia is still wrestling with his legacy and had only just started to clean up under leadership of pro-West leader Djindjic....  The international community never clearly dealt with the problems and fancy plans for a Marshal Plan II disappeared from the agenda after September 11.... Rebuilding stable democratic states, so-called nation building, is an extremely complex process which requires full attention and input from the international community.  This process is not running smoothly in the Balkans and also not in Afghanistan. This gives us reason for concern about the rebuilding of Iraq after a possible war."


POLAND: “Serb And European”


Editor-in-chief Adam Michnik wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/13): “Not only Belgrade is in grief. The death of Zoran Djindjic has made the entire European democracy mourn.... Zoran Djindjic was the pride of Serbian democracy and its priceless treasury. Men like him are not born every day.”


“The Specters Of The Past”


Bronislaw Wildstein opined in centrist Rzeczpospolita (3/13): “The Balkan powder keg-the term coined in the early 20th century-described a bloody chaos which is impossible to bring under control. The term became even more apt after the collapse of Yugoslavia.... The death of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic suggests that it can barely be consigned to the dustbin of history....   Paradoxically, his death is evidence that his policy was right.”


ROMANIA: "Region Marked By A Lack Of Trust"


Political analyst Cornel Nistorescu commented in the independent Evenimentul Zilei (3/14):  "We don't know exactly what the reason was behind this horrible assassination, but this attack shows us clearly that Serbia is far from having found its way toward European normality.  After Djindjic's death, the whole region is marked by a lack of trust."


"Attack Against Serbia's Orientation Toward Democracy"


In the independent Ziua, political commentator Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici wrote (3/14): "One of the most disgusting and despicable acts that may take place during political confrontations is, obviously, murder.  In addition to that, the killing of Zoran Djindjic is a serious attack against Serbia's orientation toward democracy, eradication of corruption, and integration into western civilization.  It is also the expression of the traditional violence in the political life of our neighbors, such the assassination in Sarajevo of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, but also the ethnic cleansing ordered recently by the Milosevic regime."


"Situation In Belgrade Draws Attention Of Western Europe"


Editor in chief Ioana Lupea wrote in the independent, centrist Cotidianul (3/13): "The Belgrade tragedy points out to the entire world the fact that the mafia structures of the Balkans are not led by Grga and Zarije, the two amusing and grotesque characters in Emir Kusturica's 'Black Cat, White Cat.'  Arms trafficking, drugs, networks of beggars, prostitution, coordinated by people from the Serbian secret services, raised the money with which powerful rings were built, that are capable of controlling the entire Balkan region.... The situation in Belgrade also draws the attention of western Europe, which is focused on the dispute with the United States over Iraq, that again something is rotten in the Balkans, and that they have a black cat in their yard."


RUSSIA: "Djindjic Miscalculated"


Official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta concluded in a report by Konstantin Chugunov in Belgrade (3/14): "Djindjic attempted to play by his own rules, possibly thinking he could become another Milosevic, even though he called himself a democrat.  He had the reputation of a pragmatist.  But he severely miscalculated and had to pay for the mistake with his own life.  He will stay in Serbia's history as Milosevic's dethroner."


"Serbia's First 'Regular' Leader"


Vitaliy Portnikov said on page one of reformist Vremya MN (3/13): "Djindjic, admittedly, was the first 'regular' leader, 'one of our guys,' who, liked or even loved by many, inspired no fear or owe in anyone.  The Djindjic government, for all the hard changes Serbia has been through, gave hope to the people.  It also renounced the Mafia-type model of government Milosevic built carefully and cynically for years, turning the nation into a hostage of his criminal regime.   Under Djindjic, Serbia started moving back to the geographically close but politically distant Europe.   Following that path and breaking with the criminal past entails sacrifices."


"More Instability In Offing"


Maksim Chizhikov remarked in reformist youth-oriented Komsomol'skaya Pravda (3/13): "Djindjic's death will make the situation in the Balkans and Serbia even less stable.  Up to now there has been no elected president in that country.  As if this is not enough, it has been left without the Prime Minister. 


SPAIN: "More Than The Assassination Of An Important Person"


Left-of-center El País carried a signed piece by Hermann Tertsch statined (3/13):  "The poisoned legacy of Milosevic's criminal and 'kleptocratic' regime has ended with Djindjic's life.  One can only hope that it will not also end the democratizing aspirations he embodied. Because there should be no doubt that this is the intention of the killers."


"Assassination in Belgrade"


Left-of-center El País  wrote (3/13): "The assignation yesterday showed that the Serbia transition is far from being concluded.... The regeneration of Serbia, a scared and ill society, and its incorporation to the Western system of values have much greater reach than the police fight against organized crime, or the orthodox practices of a representative Government.  It is related to a intimate and essential collective settling accounts with History, which is still pending."


SWEDEN: "The Gunshots Against Serbia"


The independent, liberal morning daily Dagens Nyheter editorialized (3/13): "The gunshots against Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in Belgrade removed a force that symbolized modernization and adjustment to the West. This was the image of the man who opposed the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and who two years ago reached his goal--to remove Milosevic....  The former Yugoslavia to a high degree still remains-- seven years after the Dayton agreement and massive international support--in a post-war state...The murder of Zoran Djindjic occurred at the moment when the new state Serbia-Montenegro is to be formed. This process will now be more difficult and more uncertain. The murderers likely will not object to that."


 "The Enemies Of The Open Society"


The conservative Stockholm morning Svenska Dagbladet editorialized (3/13): "Considering Serbia's blood-stained traditions and the previous assassination attempts the murder of Djindjic was not a total surprise, taking into account that politics in the Balkans still is stained by showdowns between various corrupted interests and gangsterism....  Disregarding the motives the deed is a strike against the reform forces, a destabilization of an unstable nation in an exposed region, which in the last decade has suffered regular wars and ethnic cleansing."


"The Gunshot In Belgrade"


The independent, liberal Stockholm tabloid Expressen commented (3/13):"The murder of the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic sent waves of shock all over the world. An unstable Balkans is the last thing needed before the deciding moment in the Iraq crisis....  Like many Serbian politicians Djindjic was not white as snow, but he played an important and decisive role in the democratization process of his country....  The murder is a step backwards, but continued democratization is the only way for Serbia to become a normal European country."


TURKEY: "Djindjic Was Victimized By Foreign Intervention"


Ferai Tinc commented in mass-appeal Hurriyet (3/14): "Djindjic was killed on the eve of a meeting to shape Kosovo's future structure.  Although a decade has already gone by, the process of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia has not yet been concluded.  Djindjic was one of the victims of the 'divide and restructure' process..... Djindjic had found himself trapped between his efforts to clean out the country's underworld figures and organizations on the one hand, and foreign pressure about Kosovo on the other.  The internal situation also did not help him, as some ultra nationalist movements continued to flourish at a time of economic difficulty.  The demise of Djindjic opens a new page in the Balkans story.  It also shows that none of the Balkan-related problems, including Bosnia, has been resolved."




INDONESIA:  "Djindjic Assassination And Determination In Upholding Reform"


Leading Independent Kompas commmented (3/14): "For countries in transition such as Serbia and Indonesia, the determination to eradicate the bad practices inherited from the old regime should indeed be clearly visible.  We here also see how such practices not only still remain but will also prevail if they are not dealt with firmly.  On the other hand, the new regime has also to learn that those who have already enjoyed facilities do not wish to lose what has thus far made them rich and powerful.  They will certainly use any means to defend their privilege." 


THAILAND: "Is Enough Done After The Bombs Fall Silent?"


The lead editorial in top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post read (3/14): “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization elected to intervene in the Balkans in 1999 after a prolonged conflict in Kosovo which included allegations of ethic cleansing and other atrocities over a period when Slobodan Milosevic was the leader of Serbia.  When the bombing stopped, the United Nations and NATO were left with the task of establishing a new hierarchy.  Politically, the region has been, until this week, a partially democratic and redefined area with some ethnic groups refusing to participate in elections.  Re-establishing the Balkans has been at a cost.  European peacekeepers have been accused of allowing mass slaughter to take place under their noses.  Killing by ethnic groups continue and many who fled their homes have not been allowed to return...  The Balkans remain pitifully poor and, judging by Wednesday’s assassination, politically unstable…  With the absence of a prime minister in Serbia adding to the political unheaval and the lines dividing communities, one wonders if this generation will ever enjoy the aftermath of NATO’s intervention.”




CANADA:  "Serb Hope Shot dead"


The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (3/14): "Since the fall of Mr. Milosevic, Serbs have been politically apathetic. Twice they have failed to turn out in democratic elections in sufficient numbers to elect a president. Serbia now has an acting president, an acting prime minister, an acute political crisis - and a challenge to ensure that the good that Zoran Djindjic accomplished is not interred with his bones, that his dream of a free, democratic, prosperous Serbia does not die with him." 


"A Murder In Serbia"


The leading Globe and Mail (3/13): "We hope the world sees this [assassination of reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjicas] more than just another in a line of troubles that have historically made the Balkans a powder keg. We hope its concern is for the country as it is today, for the reforms and constitutional rule taking shape, and the well-being of its people."


"Serbia's Reformer, R.I.P."


The conservative National Post opined (3/13): "Mr. Djindjic was a controversial politician who often had bitter disagreements with his own democratic-minded colleagues. But he will no doubt be remembered as a democratic hero. The best way for Serbians to avenge his death is to continue with Mr. Djindjic's political reforms and anti-crime crusade. As Mr. Djindjic himself noted in a tragically prescient interview following a botched assassination attempt against him last month, the death of the reformer need not necessarily spell the death of his reforms."


CHILE:  "Forces That Oppose Democracy"


An editorial in conservative afternoon La Segunda noted (3/13): "Recent events in Serbia highlight the survival of forces that oppose democracy...and thus, oppose strengthening ties between the former Yugoslavia and the European Community, as Djindjic had intended to do."


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