I temi della globalizzazione occupano poco spazio sui media serbi. Viene dato più spazio al World Economic Forum di New York che al World Social Forum di Porto Alegre, ed inoltre, tra le stesse ONG il Balkan Social Forum di Kraljevo addirittura non è nemmeno conosciuto. (testo in inglese)
Big words have never been understood too well in Serbia. This goes even for those more common ones, such as 'democratization', 'denationalization' or 'transparency', all three mentioned often lately. When one mentions 'globalization', however, one cannot expect much understanding in the ears of ordinary Serbs. Perhaps this is normal - amidst the domestic problems of the last ten years severe enough to disturb virtually the entire world, the John Does of this part of the Balkans simply could not be bothered with global issues. When you are jobless and have two hungry kids to feed, when you are a member of the most despised nation in the world, humiliated and hopeless, when all the ideals you used to live upon shatter to smithereens in a matter of months, and, finally, when you end up bombed to bits and pieces by your traditional allies, you hardly have time to sympathize with the fact that, for instance, the gross national product in Brazil, Bolivia or Argentina is endlessly low as compared to that of the United States, due to its bullying policy or power of multinational corporations.
"Inevitable Globalization" and the position of a small, poor country
Some attention has been given to the problem in the Serbian media in the previous months, however. Mostly for two reasons - the partly eased pressure and forgotten war hysteria which opened up the way to foreign news in the local media, and the global outrage at the results of the Seattle Summit and the Summit in Genoa in July 2001. During the following period, Serbian world economy experts for the first time gave interviews on issues of globalization and the future Serbian position on this problem.
Member of the Forum for International Relations and an expert in international economic affairs, Ljubisa Sekulic, gave an interview to NIN weekly last autumn, pointing out "globalization was inevitable and without alternative. It is in progress in two streams: that of scientific and technical development, which is virtually interminable, and that of decisions of people and representatives, which can be influenced somehow." "Major economic institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and International Bank have crucial influence on the world economy, and one cannot deny that they are fundamentally influenced by the big powers of the world - the USA in particular." "Globalization gives benefit to all", Sekulic thinks, "but it doesn't manage this benefit equally - the big ones get most of the profit, and I see no way how to avoid this in the future."
Whether we like it or not, the Serbian position is that of all small and poor countries - fit in, or stay out. Since staying out is what we experienced during the Milosevic period, with well-known results for the country, we just need to accommodate to the world standards - and try to elbow some room for ourselves among the big countries and their interests, Sekulic claims. "True, even if we enter the EU in the next ten years, our role will definitely be secondary, but isn't it so today - Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy are leading, and all the rest have to comply with their demands. This is what the world is like.", this expert concludes bitterly.
As for the global protests against globalization, Sekulic expresses doubt they will eventually turn into a strong global movement against the New World Order. "The demonstrators are not a united movement. In Seattle, American labourers and trade unions feared they would lose their jobs if cheap goods are imported from developing countries. Others protested against the protectionist policy of the EU. The third group shunned mass production in Latin America. In some developing countries, students protested since America had been blocking all developing countries proposals in world economic institutions. You can see their positions are often quite contradictory. I find it hard to believe they could in the near future function as a strong, unified anti-global block, similar perhaps to the antiwar movement of the late sixties."
The World Economic Forum vs. the World Social Forum
Since last autumn when this interview was published, little attention has been given to the issues of globalization, either in the media, or in the world of politicians and NGOs in Serbia. The problem came back only a couple of days ago - with two opposing manifestations in the distant parts of the world approaching - the World Economic Forum, traditionally held in Switzerland and this year moved to New York for security (and perhaps symbolic?) reasons and the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The pro-globalist New York meeting hosts a small, but relevant delegation from Serbia - the prime minister Zoran Djindjic, finance minister Bozidar Djelic, and economic relations with the foreign countries minister Goran Pitic. The anti-globalist Porto Alegre also hosts a Serbian delegation of three - members of the Kraljevo based Balkan Social Forum.
The New York meeting is given extensive coverage in the media, mostly due to the high-level makeup of the Serbian delegation. The global coverage insists on the general pressure on America to try out fighting terrorism by helping develop the economy of small countries and giving hope to the youth of the third world - rather than bombing them down to the last man alive. Around a 1,000 anti-globalist demonstrators led by the powerful AFL-CIO trade union leader John Sweeney are also mentioned. However, the most extensive coverage is given to the Serbian delegation and its meetings with important names in the world economy. Premier Djindjic gave a short interview to CNN, which was repeated at least ten times on the state television in the last two days. Minister Pitic met a successful Canadian businessman and the former prime minister Brian Malroonie who expressed readiness to support more extensive Canadian and US investment into Serbia in the following months. The delegation is to meet representatives of the American Eksim Bank, which should help give necessary guarantees to the American investors in Yugoslavia by March, 22. Prime minister Djindjic will also take part in the panel discussion "The Future of Europe and Hard Options Ahead of It" with a dozen other European leaders. Djindjic will also participate in the session named "From Conflict to Peace" with foreign ministers of Israel, East Timor, and the deputy American defense minister Paul Wolfowitz.
The World Social Forum in Brazil is, however, given little or no attention in the Serbian media. Extensive research of all the relevant Belgrade-based daily and weekly papers in the last two weeks gave almost no results at all. Scarce mention in the midst of stories about the events in New York is about the best one could get. Finally, only today (Saturday, February 2) there was at least a distinct peace of news covered by the biggest Tanjug news agency. It goes as follows. "In Porto Alegre, south Brazil, there takes place the World Social Forum, simultaneously with the 32nd World Economic Forum in New York. It hosts around 50,000 participants from all over the world. The conference is attended by 13,000 official delegates, however the organizers rejected the requests for participation by the Basque separatist organization ETA and the Columbian guerilla organization FARC. The forum was opened with a protest walk of participants who loudly (with drums) but peacefully expressed their dissatisfaction with aggression, globalization, neoliberalism and free trade, demanding social and economic justice. Many carried flags with pictures of Ce Guevara." And that is all.
Anti globalization on the margin
The size of the coverage is not the only thing that shows the general neglect of antiglobalism around here, however. In today's Politika daily, an entire page is dedicated to the New York meeting, and there is only the above text about Porto Alegre in the small squared paragraph. The very mention of ETA, for instance, makes an inadequate image in the mind of the reader. Although it was rejected, the mention of its willingness to participate in such a short paragraph immediately denounces the manifestation as unserious, or even worse. The familiar image of "ultra-left Italians and Latino Americans, along with some violent trade unions" rings a bell, and hardly anyone bothers to give it some more thought. Of course, the recent experience with the Americans does not make the other position any more attractive either. "NATO led the war in Yugoslavia to preserve its credibility and disrupt the true unification of Europe", historian Trajan Stojanovic said recently, "and this is what American globalization really means!" But, verbal denouncement of real American intentions soon gives way to compliance, when an average Serb realizes America is where money is. And so sycophantism gives way to traditional Serbian rebelliousness and puts the antiglobalist issues on the fringes again.
The same thing happens in the NGO sector. The wishes of the Kraljevo-based Balkan Social Forum to somehow gather more antiglobalist forces in the region and eventually fully integrate into the Social Forum of Southeast Europe are currently just wishes, at least as far as Nis is concerned. The meeting in Kraljevo in December saw no participants from Nis (with the author of this text failing to arrive for his local NGO activities and the only invited Nis representative - the LDA coordinator - simply 'having more important things to do'). During the preparation of this text, the author tried to ask some questions on whether someone from Nis is currently interested in the issue. Upon mentioning 'Balkan Social Forum' the response was always "And who are they?" (at least this was so in the CCI, Civic Forum and Open Club, some of the most prominent Nis NGOs).
The situation on globalization is therefore grim in Serbia at present. Reintegration into the world community, at any cost, seems to be a priority around here. However, once bought by foreign companies and underpaid in comparison to their Western counterparts, Serbian labourers will perhaps start thinking about frequenting social forum meetings or protests much more often. But this will take another few years.