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William B. Taylor

Friday, March 15th 2002.

Guest: Ambassador William B. Taylor

Host: Irena Milojkovic

Ambassador Taylor presides over the allocation of US resources to the eastern European region.† He directs and coordinates† development funding and the implementation of all US Government bilateral assistance, trade and investment programs related to the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

B92: I would like to begin with a question about the approach of March 31 and the conditional financial support of the United States.† Previous conditions were related to the extradition of our former president, now this one is related to cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. †Can you tell us why there are always conditions?

Taylor: The United States people are very concerned about what goes on in this part of the world.† The United States has some strong interest in stability, in democracy and economic progress in this part of the world and the American people, through their elected representatives have made it clear that they do care about this and they really want to see democracy make it in the Balkans and, indeed, in Serbia.† And so our Congress has put some general conditions on this assistance because they do have an interest in these provisions.† And there are three.† There is, as you say, the cooperation with the Tribunal in The Hague but there are also others that have to do with human rights of prisoners, it also has to do with support for Republican Srpska under Dayton, the Dayton Agreement, so there are several general conditions which the Congress has put on, and the answer to why is because the Americans do care about democracy in this country as do people in Serbia.† Weíve heard the prime minister make these same points.† He wants to take steps to improve human rights and democracy, economic development, because itís the right thing to do.

B92: Youíre talking about the concerns of the American public but, as we know, there are two senators in particular who talk constantly about conditions.† Are conditions really such a sound way to ensure progress?

Taylor: If a country is moving forward and making progress and taking the steps toward economic reform, democratic reform, human rights, then conditions would not be necessary.† Our Congress is the one that is actuallyÖ as a whole, the group of Congress has actually put these conditions on.† There are two senators who have written a letter recently, as you are well aware, and they have stated their view.† These are influential senators, it is true but still itís two senators and the person who will make the determination is the secretary of state, Collin Powell and he will get advice from a lot of people, he will certainly listen to the senators because they are important representatives of the people, at least of those two states and he will come to a conclusion.† The secretary of state, Collin Powell, will come to a conclusion, make a determination, based on all the evidence and based on all the progress.† But again, if a country is making progress itself, then these conditions will not be necessary.† Even these two senators have said that they donít want to put these conditions on.† If Serbia, other countries, are making progress on their own, without the prod of the international community, or without the prod of the sanctions legislation, then they wonít put this legislation in next year, so theyíre wiling not to put it in.† But they have to be convinced, and our Congress has to be convinced, that there is progress being made.

B92: What must our government do in order for the US Administration to confirm that thereís been progress.† Our minister for justice said today that there wonít be any law on Hague cooperation by March 31.† Will that have negative consequences?

Taylor: Well, let me answer two questions.† First is you asked what has to happen and the second question was will there be negative consequences.† Okay, so what has to happen?† There is no specific set of actions that has to happen.† The American Government has not put a list together.† I donít think that there is any expectation that any particular set of actions would have to happen.† Iíve mentioned the three areas: prisonersí rights, Dayton and the Hague Tribunal.† There does need to be progress.† There does need to be progress. There has been progress.† Thereís been progress of course in cutting off support for Republika Srpska, and so that is one of the three conditions, generally described, that is, that seems to be satisfied.† There are these other two conditions that as of today, as of the fifteenth of March were not satisfied.† So if the secretary of state had to determine today if the conditions were met, he would have to say no.† He would have to say no.† Thereís fifteen more days.† Sixteen more days, so we still have time, but there does need to be action.† Thereís no doubt about that.† There needs to be action.

Then your second question.† What would happen?† What would happen would be the secretary would do nothing.† That is, if he canít make the positive determination, he just does nothing, and then we have to reduceÖ we have to stop obligating new assistance programs, new assistance dollars, new assistance resources, we have to stop making new obligations under our legislation that has now been passed.†

If by April 15th or the first of May there is progress in those other two areas, then we could resume.† How much are we talking about?† Weíre probably talking about assistance on the level of forty million dollars or so.

If thereís no certification, then that forty million would be put on hold, would be paused.† There would be a gap, there would be a lull in the programs.† And this would be a problem for us because we are very interested in providing this assistance.† It would be a problem for the people who are receiving the assistance.† As I say it could be a temporary lull if there is progress.†

There is another aspect.† We would be constrained not to vote for programs in the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.† We could not support those programs when they came up after March 31 if there hadnít been a certification.† So it would be a problem, and I think itís clear it would be a problem.

B92: This is not a very optimistic outlook for our people.† Itís always the politicians who are responsible but the people who are the victims.† Do you think this is right?

Taylor: Again, we very much find it in our own interest to help improve democracy and economic development and the state of local government in all of Serbia, so this is important to us.† Itís also important to us that progress be made on human rights and concrete steps to show that there is a responsible democratic government that is responsive to the needs of the people as well as international norms, international standards.† So this is important.† This is painful, this would be painful if this assistance were to have to cease.† So weíre hopeful that some steps can be taken in the next sixteen days.

B92: Is there any alternative?† If there is no confirmation by the end of March, is there an option for that funding to go to NGOs or other projects, perhaps?

Taylor: There is some flexibility in the law that the House and the SenateÖ that our Congress has put in place.† It does not necessarily applyÖ the constraint, the restriction does not necessarily apply to humanitarian assistance and to democratic assistance.† So part of the assistance that would go to provide humanitarian support, whether itís in medicines or whether itís helping vulnerable groups or democracy, so that for example we do a lot of support for independent media, and weíre very pleased to put together support and to provide assistance for independent media.† I think that is a democraticÖ that is definitely a democratic thrust, support for democracy in Serbia.† So those kinds of democratic and humanitarian programs could go forward even if thereís not a determination on March 31st.

B92: Letís talk about the Hague Tribunal.† Despite condition with the Tribunal being set as a condition for Belgrade, the Tribunal has many critics.† How do you see the trial of our former president, and what does the American public think?† Are they paying enough attention?

Taylor: They are paying attention.† Theyíre very interested in the trial.† Iím very pleased that at least one station, maybe two, are showing the full trial as it goes on right now, in Serbia.† I donít think itís the caseÖ I donít know that thereís any place in the United States where you can find gavel to gavel, back to back full coverage of the trial.† But there is very strong interest.† Weíre seeing today that Lord Ashdown is on the stand and Iím very sure that he will make a very strong case.† I am very sure that other witnesses as the trial unfolds will make a very strong case and Iím very sure that the truth, which a fair trial is designed to pull out, that the truth will be convincing, and that people in Serbia, people in the Balkans, people in Europe, people around the world, will understand what really went on and what the guilt of this man is, and IÖ so I am sure that this will come out.† Itís not easy.† A trial is a difficult thing to put on, Iím sure.† So Iím glad I donít have to do this.† But itís important that it be done in a fair, thorough manner and I think thatís taking place now.

B92: Iím sorry but you havenít answered about the critics of the Tribunalís work.

Taylor: There are critics, certainly, let me be more direct on answering your question about the critics.† There are critics and there will be critics on either side no matter what happens.† As I say, the trial is starting off now, weíre really just at the beginning.† This is going to be a long term.† There will be, and have been, some critics of the beginning of the trial, of the presentation, of the witnesses.† There are going to be critics at the end.† Thereíll probably be critics today of Lord Ashdown.† But thatís not the real point.† What is the real point is that in a democratic system critics are allowed, you know, critics are fine.† This is what itís like to have freedom of the press and freedom of expression.† This is important.† So criticism is not important for anyone.† What is important is that the trial proceed thoroughly, that all of the witnesses are heard and that the truth eventually come out and people can make up their own minds.

B92: We have heard that the Hague prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, is to meet the Secretary of State.† Do you think there will be more pressure on the US Administration for extradition from Serbia?

Taylor: I have no way of knowing what they will talk about.† I am sure that the general topic of the Hague trials, of the Hague Tribunal, will be high on the agenda.† And Iím very sure that Secretary Powell will be very will informed and will ask her specific questions about her intentions and Iím sure she has some questions for him.†

In response to your question about the pressure, there is great pressure now, there is great pressure, as youíve earlier indicated, on the government.† We express the pressure, we feel the pressure.† So I donít think thereíll be anything brand new coming out of this discussion in terms of that kind of pressure, but Iím sure that theyíll have a good, frank discussion about this.

B92: There is a lot of discussion about closing the Tribunal down, but this will not happen until Karadzic and Mladic are handed over.

Taylor: I think thatís right.† I think thatís right.† It is very important that the key indictees are apprehended, sent to The Hague and tried.† And there is no doubtÖ there is not a rush to make this happen.† There is not a rush to make this trial end, or the Tribunal end. †Thereís a lot pressure to get these two and others.† Itís not just these particular two, but there are a group of key indictees that itís very important to get to the Hague and get their processÖ get their TribunalÖ get their trial going on this thing.

B92: The United States didnít approve of independence for Montenegro so in that sense yesterdayís agreement on a new federal union is something in line with the general process of integration.† Can you comment on that agreement?

Taylor: Sure.† We were excited to be here in Belgrade when this all happened.† This was a great time for our visit and so on and I was glad to talk to people who were involved in these decisions and people who have watched these events unfold, both on the Montenegrin side as well as on the Serbian side.† So this has been a fascinating time.

We have always said that we look forward to having a democratic Montenegro in a democratic Yugoslavia.† And it looks like something like that is coming about.† Because thatís similar to what we saw yesterday, to what came out.

Weíre also pleased that the two sides could agree.† There was clear participation by the European Union, by Mr Solana.† And thatís fine.† We are very supportive of Serbia, Montenegrin, Yugoslav, Balkans movement toward Europe, toward the European Union, toward membership, weíre very supportive of that.† Indeed our assistance programs, our policies, are designed to support that movement toward accession to the EU.† So we are very glad to see Mr Solana, representing the Commission, the European Union, playing an active role.† We think that the Commission and the European Union ought to play an active role here in Serbia, here in Yugoslavia, here in the Balkans.† And they are.† And so we are supportive of that.

B92: But many believe that this agreement has only postponed the separation.

Taylor: But I guess the agreement is for the next three years to give it a try.† And for three years, people can focus on other things, I hope.† People can focus on economic recovery.† People can focus on how to make economic growth real to everybody in Serbia, so that real incomes go up, so that real standards of living go up, so that real democracy can be achieved, so that democratic forms of government can be at the senior level, at the top level of government as well as all the way down to local governments.† We think this is a very important pause.† We can kind of avoid all ofÖ we hope, if all of these wranglings about the structure of independence for Montenegro or a referendum, if they can all be put aside for at least three years, then other Ė in our view, more important Ė steps can be taken.† Energy can be focused on the more important things, on economic recovery and then, after three years, if things are working fine, or not, they can make a decision.† But in any case, both Montenegro and Serbia working together, moving towards Europe, moving towards accession to the European Union is going in the right direction.† And that theme, harmonisation of economic systems according to European standards is part of the agreement as I understand it.† So, in general we think this is a positive step.

B92: On the subject of independence, how do you see the position of Kosovo?† There are those who think this is the perfect route for Kosovoís independence while otherís point to the clause which says in the case of Montenegro becoming independent, Serbia is the successor.

Taylor: Montenegroís a complicated situation as you know better than I.† Iím looking forward to my next visit to Pristina sometime in the next couple of months.† Iíll have a more informed answer to your question, Iím sure, at that time, and Iíll come back and we can have this conversation.† But Kosovo is in a difficult situation, obviously, and the relationship between Kosovo and Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro now, may be affected somehow by this agreement, but that is something that can be fleshed out over time.† I donít have an answer for you on how this will affect Kosovo, but weíre watching this very closely.† As you know, we have forces there, we have an assistance program there.† Weíre trying to increase the economic development and the democratic development of Kosovo and we think, even in Kosovo, that the eventual goal is European membership, European integration, so that in the end, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, others, will all be part of that bigger Europe.† And so thatís the overall goal and we think that people are keeping their eye on that ball.

B92: Despite the changes in this country, our media situation is still not resolved.† There is still no media legislation and the protťgťs of the former regime still have the broadest coverage.† Do you have any suggestions for the Yugoslav authorities?† Any comment the present situation?

Taylor: Again, these are decisions for Yugoslavia and Serbia to make.† So part of our assistance has been to support independent media.† We think this is very important, we think this is a key part of democratic development and weíre glad to see that there are independent stations that exist.

We have also worked with our Serbian colleagues and our Yugoslav colleagues on, as you say, on this law.† And weíre very pleased that itís made as much progress as it has and we hope that this law will be passed very soon.† Iíve had conversations while Iíve been here in Belgrade about this law with very senior people in the government who assure me that this will happen sometime soon.† I know, I know, †weíve heard this, but it is important that there is a commitment to move this law forward, thereís a recognition that this is important.† People recognise the problems of there not being a law, problems thatÖ The current situation is not good for the strong stations, the good stations, the stations that will make it under a more rational system, so it is important that we move forward, that the governmentÖ that the parliament move forward quickly on this and Iím encouraged that we have a commitment from very senior people that they will move this forward within a short period of time.

B92: So was this perhaps one of your topics of conversation with the prime minister?

Taylor: I know heís interested.† I know heís interested.† And this is the themeÖ with several people that weíve had conversations with.

B92: Can you tell us what your main themes were with the prime minister?

Taylor: Well the main theme that we talked about today wasÖ I mentioned this conference that we were both at, which had to do with local government and we both made our points that local governments in Serbia are very important.† That thatís where, at the local government level, is where real problems are resolved, real problems come to the fore.† Thatís where citizens come into direct government with the government.† Thatís the first place citizens come into contact with real problems, whether itís streets or whether itís water supply or whether itís clean water, whether itís electricity, schools, health clinicsÖ thatís what matters to people, thatís what matters as they live their lives.† And thatís where local government can really make contributions to the peopleís lives, to the quality of peopleís lives. †So he talked about that, I talked about that, and we thinkÖ Both of us believe, and stated for this conference that USAID is hosting on this topic, that this is an important component of economic development as well as democratic development, that democracy at the local level is a key part.† So we talked about that.†

We always talk about political issues.† Iím sure itís no surprise to anyone that we talked about the requirements of our law and there are some deadlines that weíve spoken about earlier and this is a constant topic of our conversation.†

But weíre also looking beyond those immediate issues and we were very interested, Ambassador Montgomery and I were interested in the prime ministerís view of the steps that were taken yesterday, the signatures that were put on the document yesterday and how that would change things for the various levels, and so this was a very useful conversation for me to have.

B92: Youíve mentioned local government as one of your current projects.† Can you tell us, in your role as coordinator for American assistance to Eastern Europe, what other projects youíre working on here?

Taylor: Sure.† The local government area is one where we actually work with mayors and councillors so thatís part of it but also at the local level, not just with the governments but with non-governmental organisations at the local level weíre working on some very concrete things, some very specific things, like rebuilding schools, or rebuilding playgrounds.†

Yesterday we were on a playground that was just opened, that was the result of both local action and local resources: people in this town actually did the first layer of the schoolyard Ė and then we were able to come in through USAID and US Government resources and put the asphalt on top of that first layer so that these kids could go out there and play basketball and play soccer and play football, in this context, and play volleyball.†

So itís those kind of things that are not specifically with the local government but are with local institutions and non-governmental organisations.† There was a group, just on this schoolyard, that got together and decidedÖ of local citizens, a group of local citizensÖ that got together and decided how to spend this money, what were the top priority projects.† And these discussions led both to the decision about the schoolyard but also to conversations about other things that are important in the community.†

So itís this development of civil society support for independent media weíve already talked about, the whole non-governmental side.

An area that we havenít talked about which is very important is economic development.† And so this isÖ there are two aspects of that:† both direct support for entrepreneurs who are looking for training, who are looking for credit, who are looking for assistance in opening new businesses.† Thereís those kind of things.†

And then thereís the whole business climate, the investment climate which makes it attractive for an investor in New York or in London, in Tokyo or Berlin, to put his or her money into Serbia to develop a particular enterprise.† Itís that business climate that will attract resources that will build institutions, build private sector institutions, entities, that will hire people.† And so people will get jobs.† This is the kind of development that weíre very much interested in supporting.†

So those areas in democracy, in economic development and civil sector are the three general areas that we have worked on real hard.

B92: Letís talk about the Balkans in general and Serbia in particular.† How does the United States see economic development in this region and especially in Serbia?† As far as investments and so on go?

Taylor: We see that thereís great potential in Serbia.† Great potential.† Thereís great potential for other people to invest, I mentioned investors around the world, to bring resources and expertise into this country, to work with existing firms or new firms.† But also, at the local level, small businesses.†

We are absolutely convinced that small business development is the way for people to get good jobs. In fact most of the jobs in the United States, most of the jobs in Western Europe, most of the jobs in Japan are in small businesses.† The small business sector creates many more jobs than the very large companies, the very large steel mills or the very large pharmaceutical companies.† Those are the big names and theyíre widely recognised around the world, but the big employment, the bulk of the employment is in the small business sector.† So this is an area that we want to work with and to improve the investment climate, and specifically for small business, means making it easy for someone to start a small business, making it easy to get a licence, making it easy to pay taxes, so a simplified tax code is an area thatÖ and Iíve had conversations with government officials on this trip as well about both of these things, about making it easier to open a small business and making it easier to stay in business and to actually make money and to hire people and bring them on there, so we think this is important for Serbia.

Weíve had conversations about this in other parts of the Balkans as well and thereís a common legacy, that youíre very familiar with, of people havingÖ of bureaucracies having control over the licensing, over the inspections, over the tax payments, that is hard to change.† But it must be changed if the small business sector is going to blossom and there are going to be a lot more people working in this sector and we think thatís very important for the people of Serbia, for their well-being.

B92: Do you think there will be a general blossoming in this region in the future?

Taylor: I do.† I do. I absolutely do.† Part of it is what we were talking about earlier.† Part of it is a movement toward Europe with those standards and those lack of boundaries, that is the free flow of goods and services and jobs and capital.†

As Europe expands to include the Balkans, the prosperity that once can see in Western Europe will come to the Balkans, I am absolutely convinced.† This can happen.† So I am very optimistic that this will happen, that we will see, in our lifetimes, that we will see and our children will benefit from this expansion, this blossoming.

 


© B92, 2002