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Nine good reasons:

To Abolish Sanctions Against Yugoslavia

by Aleksandar LOJPUR

Vreme, Belgrade, December 11 1999

1. Sanctions have never been effective in achieving their purported goal

There is not one example in the world in which the target political group changed its behavior because of sanctions. History does not record an example in which a trade embargo or a similar economic measure was successful, regardless of the intentions of those who imposed the sanctions.

An absolute compliance with sanctions has been and remains elusive. Regardless of how strong and powerful the group imposing sanctions may be, the competition of those who are trying to make profit out of those sanctions will always be there.

2. Sanctions are counterproductive

Present day sanctions are imposed in hope that the target regime will either change its policies or be overthrown by its own people. This assumption is wrong. As was noticed by Jiri Dienstbier, a person facing cold or hunger is not very likely to be more successful than a well paid and fed soldier.

Furthermore, sanctions prolong the longevity of undemocratic regimes. Undemocratic regimes that are under sanctions last longer than those that are not. The regime in Vietnam lasted for twenty years because of sanctions. The regime in Cuba has been going on for more than thirty years, assisted by sanctions. Regimes in Romania, Spain, Portugal, Greece would not have changed had they been under sanctions. The change of the regime in the South African Republic was made possible only after a mitigation of sanctions, and an end of their implementation. Undemocratic regime in Croatia will be soon replaced because it hasn't been under sanctions. The regime in Iraq will last longer exactly because of sanctions. The same applies to Serbia.

3. Sanctions only strengthen the regime

That has already been proven in Vietnam, the South African Republic, Iraq, Cuba and now in Yugoslavia. Every target regime likes sanctions, and its officials handsomely profit from them. Wherever sanctions are in place the regime has strict control of business and finances itself from bribes.

4. Sanctions destroy society

Sanctions make every commercial activity illegal and allow the regime to mistreat entrepreneurs and businessmen. Corruption and payment of bribes are the only way to continue business under sanctions. The predominance of gray economy and corruption result in moral destruction of the society as a whole. In such circumstances the regime can only benefit.

5. The opposition believes that sanctions should be abolished

No one wants to weaken the regime in Serbia as much as the Serbian opposition. But there is no single opposition politician, party or coalition, non-governmental organization or a civic activist in Serbia that has supported or still supports sanctions. Nor did anyone ever think that sanctions could weaken Milosevic's regime and topple it.

6. Sanctions violate international law Because of damage inflicted on the society as a whole and individuals, sanctions by their nature contain an element of abuse of political force, which is inhumane and therefore contrary to the nature of justice and law. The price paid because of sanctions in order to achieve a political goal is too high. In Iraq sanctions have already taken thousands of lives because of hunger and weak health care. The mortality of children has reached unprecedented levels. In Serbia these consequences will not be equally dramatic because of more developed agriculture. Nevertheless, increased mortality because of cold, bad health care, and lack of basic medicines in maternity wards will be unavoidable this winter.

Consequences of sanctions are worse than those of any military aggression or any similar act banned by the International Law. The International Law is based on the respect for human life, human rights and society. Sanctions to a great extent destroy human lives. Sanctions establish and promote violations of human rights in undemocratic regimes. Sanctions destroy human society. Therefore, from the point of view of the International Law, sanctions are illegal.

7. Sanctions are anti-European

Officials of all significant European countries, all members of G8 apart from Great Britain, have recently stated that sanctions against Yugoslavia should be abolished.

It would be difficult to realize the unification of Europe if sanctions against Serbia remain in force, since Serbia is located at the crossroads of European trade routes. For example, every Greek product is more expensive because of a higher transportation price. European products are for identical reasons more expensive in Greece or Turkey. Textile and other products from Romania and Bulgaria are also more expensive because of the fact that the Danube cannot be used for shipping. Consequently, consumers in, for example, Germany must pay more for these products.

All that makes Europe less competitive in the global market than would be the case if Serbia were not under sanctions and its roads and railroads were functioning properly and the Danube could be used for shipping.

8. Sanctions prevent transition

There is no transition from closed into open society without direct exposure of the economy of that society to foreign investment and market competition. Sanctions turn every investment of this kind into a crime, and make exports totally impossible. That not only prevents transition, but also destroys the economy of the state under sanctions.

9. Arguments used by the United States of America and some other countries to maintain sanctions are not acceptable

The question why the US and some other countries insist on maintaining sanctions against Yugoslavia must be asked. They claim that they want to see an end of the Milosevic regime, but at the same time have no trust in those that should replace that regime, the pro-democracy forces in Serbia. There is a lot of disagreement between politicians and pro-democracy activists in Serbia but all of them agree about two things: Milosevic's regime should be replaced, and it is necessary to abolish sanctions as a precondition for that. However, the US refuses to accept the assertion of the opposition that sanctions only strengthen the regime.

One of possible answers is that the American administration is dishonest in its claims that it wants to see the Milosevic regime replaced. This is akin to a conspiracy theory contrary to any logic and should not be treated as a real answer. It is possible that a super-power, such as the US, finds it difficult to acknowledge its mistake. All American administrations, since the Cuban crisis, have used sanctions. Based on the conviction that by that they "maintain justice", Republicans are sensitive to attacks by Democrats and the other way round. In this case there were no such attacks.

The correct opinion is that the Americans are convinced that they need to do something about anti-American dictators such as Milosevic or Saddam Hussein (pro-American dictators are not under threat of sanctions, which paradoxically shortens their rule and makes them less protected), but the US is simply not searching for a different solution besides sanctions.

If this theory is correct, I dare offer to the US something faster and more efficient that would hurt Milosevic and Saddam Hussein while at the same time protecting human rights, lives and society as a whole.

How about trying for a while without sanctions?

The author is the coordinator of the Working Group for the Future of FRY, at the East-West Institute in Prague