CSCE :: Statement :: The Serbia and Montenegro Democracy Act of 1999
United States of America
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 106th CONGRESS, 1st SESSION
Washington, Wednesday, March 10, 1999
House of Representatives
THE SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO DEMOCRACY ACT OF 1999
Wednesday, March 10, 1999
THE SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO DEMOCRACY ACT OF 1999 HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH of New Jersey
Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing the Serbia and Montenegro Democracy Act of 1999,
a bill which will target much needed assistance to democratic groups in Serbia and Montenegro. I am joined by
Representatives BEN GILMAN, STENY HOYER, JOHN PORTER, DAN BURTON, ELIOT ENGEL,
DANA ROHRABACHER, LOUISE SLAUGHTER and JIM MORAN, all strong promoters of human rights
worldwide and the original cosponsors of this Act.
It is fitting that this important piece of legislation be introduced today, as a high-level envoy for the United States is in
Belgrade to seek the blessing of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for a political settlement which hopefully will
restore peace to the troubled region of Kosovo. We are dealing directly with the man most responsible for the conflict in
Kosovo, not to mention Bosnia and Croatia. Milosevic has maintained his power from within Serbia throughout the
1990s at the cost of 300,000 lives and the displacement of 3 million people. He has relied on virulent Serbian nationalism
to instigate conflict which will divide the people of the region for decades.
The most fundamental flaw in U.S. policy toward the region is that it relies on getting Milosevic's agreement, when
Milosevic simply should be forced to stop his assaults on innocent civilians. It relies on Milosevic's dictatorial powers to
implement an agreement, undermining support for democratic alternatives. In short, U.S. policy perpetuates Milosevic's
rule and ensures that more trouble will come to the Balkans. There can be no long-term stability in the Balkans without a
Moreover, we need to be clear that the people of Serbia deserve the same rights and freedoms which other people in
Europe enjoy today. They also deserve greater prosperity. Milosevic and his criminal thugs deny the same Serbian
people they claim to defend these very rights , freedoms and economic opportunities. Independent media is repeatedly
harassed, fined and sometimes just closed down. University professors are forced to take a ridiculous loyalty oath or are
replaced by know-nothing party hacks. The regime goes after the political leadership of Montenegro, which is federated
with Serbia in a new Yugoslav state but is undergoing democratic change itself. The regime goes after the successful
Serb-American pharmaceutical executive Milan Panic, seizing his company's assets in Serbia to intimidate a potentially
serious political rival and get its hands on the hard currency it desperately needs to sustain itself. The regime also goes
after young students, like Boris Karajcic, who was beaten on the streets of Belgrade for his public advocacy of
academic freedom and social tolerance.
Building a democracy in Serbia will be difficult, and it is largely in the hands of those democratic forces within Serbia to
do the job. However, given how the regime has stacked the situation against them,--through endless propaganda,
harassment and violence--they need help. This Act intends to do just that. It would allocate $41 million in various sectors
of Serbian society where democratic forces can be strengthened, and to encourage further strengthening of these forces
in neighboring Montenegro. It would ensure that this funding will, in fact, go to these areas, in contrast to the
Administration's budget request which indicates that much of this funding could be siphoned off to implement a peace
agreement in Kosovo. Another $350,000 would go to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and its
Parliamentary Assembly, which could provide assistance on a multilateral basis and demonstrate that Serbia can rejoin
Europe--through the OSCE--once it moves in a democratic direction and ends its instigation of conflict.
This Act also states what policy toward Serbia and Montenegro must be: to promote the development of democracy
and to support those who are committed to the building of democratic institutions, defending human rights , promoting
rule of law and fostering tolerance in society.
This funding, authorized by the Support for East European Democracy Act of 1989, represents a tremendous increase
for building democratic institutions in Sebia and Montenegro. This fiscal year, an anticipated $25 million will be spent, but
most of that is going to Kosovo. The President's budget request for the next fiscal year is a welcome $55 million, but,
with international attention focused on Kosovo, too much of that will likely go toward implementing a peace agreement.
Make no mistake--I support strongly assistance for Kosovo. I simply view it as a mistake to get that assistance by
diverting it from Serbia and Montenegro. We have spent billions of dollars in Bosnia and will likely spend at least
hundreds of millions more in Kosovo, cleaning up the messes Milosevic has made. The least we can do is invest in
democracy in Serbia, which can stop Milosevic from making more problems in the future.
Building democracy in Serbia will be difficult, given all of the harm Milosevic has done to Serbian society. The opposition
has traditionally been weak and divided, and sometimes compromised by Milosevic's political maneuvering. There are
signs, however, the new Alliance for Change could make a difference, and there certainly is substantial social unrest in
Serbia from which opposition can gain support. In addition, there are very good people working in human rights
organizations, and very capable independent journalists and editors. The independent labor movement has serious
potential to gain support, and the student and academic communities are organized to defend the integrity of the
universities. Simply demonstrating our real support for the democratic movement in Serbia could convince more people
to become involved.
Finally, Montenegro's democratic changes in the last year place that republic in a difficult position. A federation in which
one republic is becoming more free and open while the other, much larger republic remains repressive and controls
federal institutions cannot last for long, yet Montenegrins know they could be the next victims of Milosevic. It would be a
mistake to leave those building a democracy in Montenegro out on that limb. They need our support as well.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I am today introducing the Serbia and Democracy Act of 1999 because I feel our country's
policy in the Balkans has all too long been based on false assumptions about the region. Granted, social tensions,
primarily based on ethnic issues, were bound to have plagued the former Yugoslavia, but it is an absolute fact that
violence could have been avoided if Slobodan Milosevic did not play on those tensions to enhance his power. As we
prepare debate the sending of American forces to Kosovo to keep a peace which does not yet exist, we must address
the root cause of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to today. This Act, Mr. Speaker, does just that, and I
urge my colleagues to support its swift and overwhelming passage by the House. The Senate is working on similar
legislation, and hopefully the Congress can help put U.S. policy back on the right track.