B92.net INTERVIEW: "It's a competition who is dumber"

We must defeat the government by its rules - now or later, but never in their way, Gordana Comic, a candidate on the UDS list said, in an interview with B92.net

Source: Dragana Plazinić
Foto: EPA-EFE / Grzegorz Momot
Foto: EPA-EFE / Grzegorz Momot

Are there any problems with ultra-right policies in Serbia and do some political organizations from Europe give them wind in their sails?

- When I hear that Serbia is not racist because it has nothing against blacks, then I immediately ask - and Roma, how intolerant are you towards Roma? Intolerance towards Roma is racism and is based on skin color. Not to mention intolerance towards Albanians.

Before the upcoming parliamentary and local elections, she spoke for our portal about the opposition, the Kosovo problem, women's rights in Serbia and their violation, racism, coronavirus...

In the explanation before the adoption of the declaration on the official website of Serbia21, it is written - "Experience painfully reminds us that in the life of every country and society, there are crucial political moments and processes that require action." Why is this a turning point and what does the action specifically mean? Does that action also mean joining the United Democratic Serbia (UDS)?

- United Democratic Serbia was created with the desire to revive the European idea, to revive democracy, to establish a dialogue and to stop endangering the freedoms and rights of people. That's why we came into being. Why is it critical - because the Assembly of Serbia has two periods so far: the 1990s, which represent an epic fanaticism and fatalism, followed by 2000s, which represent normative optimism, because we only wanted to adopt laws to be in accordance with the modern world. Dialogic realism is before us and we will not fail to participate in that dialogue.

Do you expect to pass the three percent threshold and what are your expectations when it comes to the results of these elections? What results do you expect at the local level?

- We will do everything we can to win that number of votes, to gain the trust of those people with the awareness of the difficulties we have. We are a list that was created three months ago, as we are aware that if we do not go to the polls, there will be no real bearers of the European idea in the Assembly of Serbia, and that it will be bad for everyone. The least bad for us if we fail to reach a sufficient number of people, we will do everything we can and I really urge them to give us confidence - we will not embarrass them.

If you enter the Parliament, is the plan for the UDS to function as a single group? Is there a possibility to cooperate with other parties and movements after the election as a UDS?

- United Democratic Serbia will not be in a coalition with the Serbian Progressive Party. That's for sure. We have no reason for such a coalition. Will other opposition groups that enter the Assembly do that - I cannot speak on their behalf. Coalitions are always formed out of necessity - everyone likes to rule alone. If you already have to form a coalition, then you must have a clear reason why a coalition government of some parties would be successful. We have the experience of a coalition with the SPS from 2008 to 2012. There were also reasons for that coalition and that coalition was essentially successful. Lately, it has often been stated that, if the opposition has only one vote more than the SNS list, it will unite so that the currently ruling party remains in opposition. That was also said by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.

Do you think that this is possible, considering that parties and movements that are ideologically very different are running in the elections?

- If it were possible and you had people who could come together and unite - that would have happened before the election. We have gathered and united around the idea and we are open to cooperation with similar ones in this opposition work. We intend to build a candidate for the President of Serbia if we gain the trust of the people that we are needed through the work of the Assembly.

Why is there a story about fake opposition?

- The reason for it is the following - in order to be able to slander us. It entertains them. And the fact that they can't stand for someone to know what they are fighting for. I know what I'm fighting for. I want to return the good news to Serbia and make it together with the people, I want to diminish that violence in the public sphere, I want to wipe off the attitude of people that because you are from the SNS, you are entitled to torture one of your employees. It cannot be done, it just can't. I want to delegitimize the mockery of the rule of law, the mockery of procedures, that is a common damage. If you find this entertaining, it's your problem. Find something else to be entertained with.

During the presentation of the Declaration of Serbia 21, you said that "we live in a time of paradox: we have never been closer to the European Union, and there has never been more anti-European propaganda." Does that mean that Serbia is going in the right direction or do you mean the current circumstances and the EU's interest in the Western Balkans?

- Propaganda is everyday tool of the government, primarily the Serbian Progressive Party, and the propaganda has been reduced to spitting on Europe for five days, on everything that is European, and on the sixth day shouting "Europe for our children". That's not normal. We strongly oppose this. The UDS knows that we must defeat the government under their rules - sooner or later, but never in their way. Now we want to change that way. If you are for Europe - act European.

You have already said that the Serbian Progressive Party copied the European idea, what exactly does that mean?

- Democratic Party has been the bearer of the European idea since the 1990s and a fighter for that idea and a sufferer for that idea, and the Serbian Progressive Party copied that idea. But they did not understand that it is not enough to shout that you are for Europe in order to get votes, because they are in power only because they have accepted European integration. You have to do it every day.

One of the conditions for joining the EU is resolving the Kosovo problem. What do you expect from the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina?

- Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina with the support of the European Union is good news that has been undermined. That is good news for the region, for Serbia. We have more good news, that is Goran Rakic and Dalibor Jevtic became ministers in the Kosovo government. I expect an independent agreement on the future of relations between Albanians and Serbs. And I express my disbelief that many people in Serbia think that someone from the EU, someone from United States, someone from Russia knows better than us who live in Belgrade and Pristina what our future should look like. It is a competition for who is dumber, not a search for a solution.

What do you think would be the solution?

- The solution is to agree on the content of what we have already accepted in the dialogue with the EU as support, and that is a legally binding document. An agreement must be made that no one will call a victory and no one will call a defeat, but an agreement on the future. To rule out extreme solutions and to understand that you cannot change geography.

You can change the borders of the state, but the people who live there - they lived there and will live there, and you have to find that in a legally binding document that excludes the recognition of independence - because Serbia cannot do that - and includes everything else. If you do not do that, then the children born today will hate each other in the same way in 2040, just as today the children hate each other and have intolerance, and they were born after 1999. We have a problem with the transition of hatred and sabotage of peace projects. If you are just waiting for time to solve the problem, you should not be involved in politics.

"If you have a strong opposition leader with 35 percent vote, a boycott would not be a means for you"

The Democratic Party, at least officially, has decided to boycott the elections - what do you think about that move and the boycott in general?

- Everything I think I said two years ago, before the Democrats entered into an agreement with Dveri, I said that Dveri and DS have nothing in common. When the decision was made, I respected that decision. I wrote the text "1,600,000 people who need the opposition" and today that text is still valid - who are the people who should support the opposition? I have made it clear and public that a boycott is a means, not an end. And I said - to have an opposition leader who has 35% of vote was not a means for you then. So the problem is not in the boycott, it is not a problem in the government either, the problem is that we do not address people who are otherwise ready to give support to the opposition. We were informed by a tweet that we should leave the Assembly, then I said that I do not vote under the bell and the tweet command. And I am not surprised that, two years later, everyone is saying the same thing as I did two years ago, without any apology, or letter, nothing. I understand all that, that's what I expected.

Your proposal to have 40 percent of women on the electoral lists was adopted, but the question is whether a larger number of women in parliament will make a difference and improve the position of women in politics, and what else needs to be done?

- You know what wise women say - when a woman enters politics, she has to change everything in herself, her behavior, her attitude… When thousands of women enter politics, they change politics. And a society that has a sufficient number of women in all decision-making positions, that society is no longer female - that society is more human, because half of the future of every society is female. And to be in politics, to fight for some women to be in the assembly means to create space for her to say in dialogue with men - that future is also mine, I don't want you to inflict it on me. So 40 with the hope that there will be 50 percent of them.

There are political organizations that want to go to parliament, and they are in favor of abolishing some women's rights, such as abortion - how do you comment on that?

- When I heard several times in a row from the representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church about how evil women are because they do not give birth, I answered each of them and I will repeat - it is their right as monks to refuse to have children. Women have the same right, and those who do not understand that right, do not understand what freedom and rights are. If I want to give birth - I'll give birth, if I do not want to give birth - I won't give birth, if I cannot give birth - then it is my right to choose that the state is obliged to support my decision. A woman disposes of her body and has the right to choose, and whoever wants to return women to the position of goods used for childbirth will have the same answer - "no, my friend". It is necessary to reduce the number of abortions, not to forbid a woman from having the right to choose, but because of the woman's health. It is not just a cut we are talking about, it is a serious psychological and physical decision. In order for you to protect a woman's health, the state must do an awful lot of work, respecting the woman's right to choose and enabling her to make her choices in a timely manner.

"Nothing will be the same as before coronavirus epidemic, but life in a new form deserves to be fought for"

How did the state deal with the coronavirus? Another thing - many say that because of the epidemic, elections should not be held. What is your position - are there any conditions?

- The epidemic passed with, fortunately, the presence of experts, and unfortunately with the government, which was more annoying to the people than explaining what it should do, so we all felt humiliated, closed, as if we were incapable of making some decisions. All in all, these are measures that had to be taken and saved many lives. What I deeply regret is that we didn't manage to act united even in that troublesome time. I hope that we are now at the stage that the health system can handle the number of people who will get sick - because they will get sick, and the number of people who will die - because they will die. Now is the time to take responsibility for oneself and these are the circumstances in which elections are held, borders are crossed, people work indoors, travel, fly, public gatherings are held. Nothing will be the same as before the epidemic, but life in a new form deserves to be fought for.

How do you comment on the decision of the Constitutional Court that the introduction of the state of emergency did not violate the Constitution?

- I didn’t just dispute the decision. The Constitution says that the President of Serbia, the President of the Assembly and the Prime Minister can make a decision. What is disputable in the Constitution is who decides that the Assembly cannot meet - that is disputable. So, I cannot comment on the decision of the Constitutional Court in that part because it says so in the Constitution, a precise procedure who bears the responsibility for scheduling the Assembly session is missing - it is it only up to the President of the Assembly, as it is now. She held online meetings with vice presidents and heads of parliamentary clubs, but I think it will remain that there should have been a session as well.

Has the coronavirus epidemic been used by both the government and the opposition to collect so-called cheap political points?

- Probably, because especially men find it irresistible. It is less common in women, because it is paradoxical. This epidemic was very similar to our usual female life - you constantly take care of someone no matter what, and that was done by women in health care, in education, at home. So the pandemic was supposed to imprint the stamp of how important caring for others is. I am not sure that it succeeded, because I do not see any politician who said that it was important. I wouldn't blame him for collecting points if he understood how important it is to take care of others.

So, you think this virus hasn't taught us anything?

- I'm afraid not.


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