Diaspora, the fifth pillar

UPDATE (09 April 2010)

Vreme have indeed published my text below under not too bad a heading "Tax and Government (or Power)" and, lo and behold, the original author felt the urge to respond. Well, respond is not quite the right word to use. Spill bile and shower me with invectives would be a much better explanation. (Un)fortunately for you, I have no intention of fouling my mind with an attempt at translation. This may be a good reason for you to start learning Serbian. Mr Kreculj's reply is here, and you can expect to read my own response to that in the next issue of Vreme. I have sent it off already, and will publish it in its entirety on the Serbian language version of this page. Again, I have no intention of translating it. It's too long, and the whole polemic probably does not really hold any interest of English speaking readers. In the worst case you can try asking Google to translate it for you. Good luck with that...


Belgrade political weekly Vreme has, on 25 March 2010 published and article where certain Miodrag Kreculj, from Munich, Germany, proposes a reform of the Serbian Parliament which would see it include 25 MPs from "diaspora" (i.e. Serbian citizens living outside Serbia, ex-pats in other words) in his reformed Parliament of 175 seats (the current one has 250). Since I have certain opinions on the matter I decided to fire off a reader's comment. I have no idea if Vreme will publish my comment. If they do, I will update this page. Until then, here is what I wrote (to the best of my translation skills)...

The Parliament in which one in seven delegates represents precisely nobody living in the country in question (and who themselves live somewhere else) is at best unfair, and at worst a dangerous place.

Practical problems: How do MPs living abroad take part in the working of the parliament? Should they move back to Serbia for the duration of their mandate? Would they still be "diaspora" in that case? Or should the state cover their (astronomical) travel expenses just like for all the other MPs? How many sessions they'd be able (would have to) attend? Maybe their attendance (and I'm afraid contribution, too) will be entirely virtual? They could watch sessions on TV (are they still televised in Serbia?) and then e-mail in their vote. Or they could empower someone else to vote for them (it has been done, albeit for "tourists", and no, it is not legal)?

Isn't 15% of "foreign" MPs patronising for the "natives"? A group of 25 MPs is a force to be reckoned with, especially if acting in unison, and can easily become a "king maker". It could easily prop up or demolish governments, vote in or sink laws. All the while none of them would be in any way affected by any of their actions in parliament (they would risk not being re-elected, but then all MPs do). Their lives are governed by the laws of entirely different countries!

All in all, a system unfair, impractical, and prone to all sorts of foul play. To say nothing about the feelings of the "natives" whose lives are suddenly (hugely) influenced by people who decided to live theirs elsewhere (in a presumably "better" place").

It is one thing acting as an (unpaid) ambassador, cultural, scientific, or economic attaché, and entirely different having (demanding, even!) the right to rule the life of a country we left thinking the other one will be better (for any given value of "better"). I did it myself, and it has now been almost a decade in which I have been doing the former, hopefully well, while the latter I wouldn't wish upon anyone, not even myself. Especially not myself. I certainly wouldn't stand for ex-pats sitting in British parliament (luckily they can't, as far as I know). In exactly the same way I wouldn't wish upon Serbian people to be ruled by someone living in United Kingdom, even if they are a hundred times Serbian, too. And especially if they're like me. I think they wouldn't like me as a Serbian MP at all.

Now, since I mentioned UK, it may be good to remind of, and quote, that slogan used by American colonists in their protest against British rule at the end of 18th century: no taxation without representation. I am fully convinced that in a modern and fair world the opposite must hold true as well: no representation without taxation, where "taxation" also stands for "residence". Power hungry, and some obviously are, should move to the country they aim to lead. Otherwise, they are running a risk of being seen as an "occupying" force by their own people....