The man who (doesn’t) form the Government – who is Zoran Korać and why is he meeting with the highest officials of Montenegro

Interview of Zoran Korac, founder and director of IPESE, for the Montenegrian newspaper VIjesti

For the first time, Korać talks about his conversations with Milojko Spajić, Jakov Milatović, Dritan Abazović, cooperation with Gabriel Escobar and Aleksandar Vučić…

Few people in Montenegro know about Zoran Korać, even though he is a native of Bijelopolje. He is talked about mostly by those more familiar with the labyrinths of daily politics, often attributing supernatural powers to him. Because, they know how to say, he forms the Montenegrin Government. Depending on (semi) information or political affinities, Korać is actually Vučić’s secret envoy for Montenegro, but at the same time, he is said to be an “American man”, especially close to Gabriel Escobar.

During that time, Korać mostly wisely remains silent while the most influential figures from the Montenegrin establishment take turns at his table in a local hotel.

“I am a ‘one man operation’. I don’t have a boss, there is no one who can issue me an order, someone can ask me for something, but in order to do it, I have to be deeply convinced that it is the right thing to do. I am carrying out the will of Vučić here? In what capacity, and why? What did Vučić do to me – the principal?“, Zoran Korać responds to such allegations, stressing that he does not have too much influence on the President of Serbia.

The interview with “Vijesta” is practically his first appearance in public, at least in this way. He talks quite openly about meetings with the highest officials from Montenegro, Serbia, the region, but also from the whole world, above all from America.

Interview with Escobar

Phenomenologically, Korać represents the prototype of “the invisible man” in the Balkan variant. He does not appear in public, he does not give interviews, he is only mentioned here and there in some texts. There aren’t even any photos of him, and many are inclined to attach to Korac’s name a mysterious influence in the sphere of politics, and not only in Serbia. Consciously, these stories, indirectly, occasionally give the wind behind Korać himself, as in a recent interview that he personally did, although he is not a journalist, with the special envoy for the Balkans, Gabriel Escobar.

What is known about Korac is that in the 1996s he worked at Geneks, the Yugoslav export giant, as the chief of staff of the legendary Milorad Miki Savićević. Korać came into conflict with the current government and left Serbia in 1998. It appears in XNUMX in Republika Srpska, at the moment when Milorad Dodik became prime minister for the first time. Korać is appointed as Dodik’s advisor for international relations.

Korać actively participates in the creation and operation of the People’s Movement OTPOR, and he returns to Belgrade after October 5, 2000, but remains deep in the shadows for a long time, although in the corridors at that time, stories are seasoned that will follow him to this day as a man with a strong positions in the American administration.

For the first time, his name came into the public spotlight in 2008, at the time of the founding of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

“A certain Zoran Korać took Nikolić to the American ambassador, who invited the British ambassador, and there it was said – give this guest every support, both media and any other,” said the radical at the time Jadranko Vuković.

Korać, according to his custom, did not deny these claims, but in the Belgrade bazaar it is believed that this is when the strong friendship between Vučić and this already, by all accounts, powerful man who would be considered a successful lobbyist in the West, but in Serbia and on In the Balkans, he was considered above all a person who “gets things done”, quietly and elegantly, away from the public eye.

Zoran Korać’s current “Montenegrin mission” can also fit into that context.

“I met with Dritan Abazović on three occasions, I met with Artan Kurti, I guess he is Dritan’s best friend, I spoke once with Boris Bogdanović from Democratic Montenegro, on election night I shook hands with Aleks Bečić, but I believe that the man didn’t even know my name, because I was talking to Dritan, so he told him ‘this is my friend,'” Korać lists only a part of the people from the political spiral of power from Montenegro.

Coffee with Spajić

Still, Milojko Spajić belongs to the place of honor in the value scale of Zoran Korać. According to him, the Montenegrin businessman is the most responsible for their first meeting Željko Mišković Krole with whom, among other things, Korać is a long-time friend, and they share a passion for basketball and KK Partizan.

In a casual conversation, Mišković told his old friend that “there is a guy in Montenegro who would like to have coffee with Korac”.

“Željko, don’t do that to me, let me go, I want to run away from everything, because I like to be alone and talk to myself”, Korać answered him, but still sat down to drink coffee with Spajić.

It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship because Korać was fascinated by the biography of the then Minister of Finance in the Government Zdravko Krivokapić, so drinking coffee turned into a six-hour conversation. Milojko told him that he was from Pljevlja, his father was a dentist, his mother a pediatrician. He also told how he left for the white world, worked at Goldman Sachs…

“I was so proud of that young Montenegrin. It is a photo-robot of a pro-Western politician or a pro-Western business-oriented young man.”

He also asked Zoran Milojka if he had friends with a similar biography and was amazed when Spajić started listing the names of young Montenegrin men and women scattered around the world, some of whom were engaged in business or remained as lecturers at faculties.

“Then I told him that I would try to help him, in the sense of connecting him with people I know well, and for him to continue because I think he is an excellent solution for Montenegro.”

It has already been mentioned that the specifics of Zoran Korać are reflected in the fact that he meets various people from the political scene. The subject of one such meeting was Milojko Spajić. As he says, the leaders of the Democratic Front visited Korac in Belgrade Milan Knezevic i Andrija Mandic, as well as Milo Božović, the currently detained President of the Municipality of Budva.

“It lasted 10 minutes. They wanted to know what my position was on Milojko Spajić.”

These three were troubled by the fact that, as they told Korac, they did not know who Milojko Spajić actually was. Their interlocutor did not help them much. He told them that he only knows about Milojko what is written in his biography, but, regardless of that, he considers Spajić the great hope and jewel of Montenegro and that he will do his best to ensure that Milojko Spajić receives appropriate treatment in the international community, together with Jakov Milatović because that duo, in Korac’s opinion, is a winning variant for this country.

“The meeting ended after 10 minutes. I told them that I have nothing to discuss with them, that I am not interested in anyone else here, except for Milojko Spajić, and that I will not interfere in those matters.”

Korać explains his affection for the current president. He believes that Spajić has the only concrete program, unlike the others, including DPS and Milo Đukanović, who are all in favor of accelerated EU integration and NATO. What is the difference then, asks Korać.

A four-hour conversation with Milatović

Zoran Korać has a good opinion about Jakov Milatović whom he met only once, at the beginning of July this year, in Podgorica. The occasion was the organization of a meeting of the first ladies of the Sahara and the Western Balkans, as well as their wives Benjamin Netanyahu i Volodymyr Zelensky, in Boka Kotorska, in Montenegro.

Korac’s friend actually came up with that idea Maria Nicoletta Gaida, an Italian and American citizen, who has extensive experience in international activities. In more than 30 years, Gaida has designed and implemented more than 150 projects involving victims of conflict, survivors of war, rape and sexual violence, warring factions, grassroots organizations and leading figures in politics, religion, business, culture and the arts. She also founded and managed non-profit associations, cultural centers and foundations.

Korać worked together with Gaida on the establishment of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative, of which Montenegro is also a member, and this influential woman is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Politics and Economics of Southwest Europe (IPESE), of which Korać is the founder.

“And Maria says, come on, it’s good for Montenegro, let’s hold a big meeting of the first ladies of the Sahara countries and the first ladies of the Western Balkans. I caught Krolet (Željko Mišković, Montenegrin businessman – ed. author) and asked if he would give us a hotel for two days, to gather all these women, because it is a kind of promotion of Montenegro.”

That was the immediate reason for Zoran Korac and the then President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, to finally meet. The meeting took place in Podgorica, but after an almost four-hour conversation, the impression is that Korać was not the most satisfied.

“I go to Vučić and present the idea to him. He says his wife will come for sure. Milatović, who doesn’t know me, says – we have three children. I told him, Mr. Milatović, that it was only one day of that intense socializing, and you, as the President of Montenegro, would be the patron of the gathering. And somehow, I thought I had convinced him. I started from that – well, you don’t understand or are prejudiced against me because I’m close to Milojko, and they don’t have a solid relationship.”

In any case, the meeting was not held because in the meantime there was a coup d’état in Niger, but at least Korać and Milatović got to know each other.

Although he does not say so directly, it is clear that Korać used this meeting with the President of Montenegro to try to smooth out the disagreements between Milatović and Spajić, which are already a serious obstacle to the formation of the Government.

“I tried to mediate. I wanted to organize a dinner where the two would talk, but Jakov politely refused for some formal reasons. It was clear what it was all about and I was sorry for that because I believe that the solution for Montenegro lies in the ‘holy trinity’ – Milojko, Jakov and Dritan.”

On the remark that it is Milojko who is determined to prevent the URA from being part of the new ruling majority, Korać explains that Spajić is a very “tame man” but that “the Do Kwon affair killed him”.

“They had a fantastic relationship. When that happened, I immediately came and asked Dritan why he did it. He gave me a rather awkward answer. I don’t know what it was or why he did it, but it permanently damaged their relationship.”

According to Korac, immediately after the affair broke out, Milojko Spajić called him and nervously announced that “they want to arrest him”. At the same time, the mandate holder mentioned Korać’s photo in which Dritan Abazović is sitting with Predrag Šuković, the head of the Special Police Department.

“I tell him to go to the party, so if he is arrested, let him be arrested there and I will raise an alarm at the level of the planet!”

Milojka, regardless of everything, did not hold that anger towards Abazović for long. According to Korac, Spajić told him shortly after the outbreak of this affair with the “cryptocurrency king”: “You know what, Zoki, if I form a government, let’s get him (Dritan Abazović – ed. author) into the government.”

“If I can help something in that situation, I want to do it because I think they need an agreement.”

Korać says that it is of “general benefit”. He believes that Milojko Spajić is happiest when he is at the computer and the only time he comes alive when he talks about whether to sell or buy yen, hedge funds or companies like Blackstone (one of the largest private equity management companies – ed.).

“I can’t imagine him negotiating with the union. What can Milojko say, suggest or influence? Nothing, except some general place. Unlike him, Dritan knows the mechanism of the Government. Unlike Milojko, he knows how the administration works. Imagine that tandem in the government and Jakov as the president of the country!”

Despite the now public disagreements among the “holy trinity”, Korać believes that an agreement between Milojko, Dritan and Jakov is possible, primarily due to Spajić’s “gentle nature”. Illustrating his thesis, he cites a sequence from the inner party life of PES. At one of the party meetings, as Spajić recounted to Korać, Milatović told his party president that he was incompetent, this way, that way, nothing and threatened to destroy him and take over the party. At least that’s what I was told, adds Korać.

“I say to Milojko: “Are you, well, you’re a Montenegrin, why didn’t you throw yourself over the table if that was the case.” He will say: Well, let it go, Jacob is good.”

In Bibi Netanyahu’s cabinet

Milojko, admits Korać, nevertheless made some mistakes, of which the one with citizenship is “big”. Korać, however, explains that Spajić left Montenegro as a young man and made a great career. And he did the same as a bunch of people. At least 100.000 Montenegrins have dual citizenship, Montenegrin and American, Canadian, Serbian… Spajić, Korac adds, took Serbian citizenship because there is no visa regime with Japan. And then it appeared as a problem.

“Did he say in Parliament that he does not have Serbian citizenship? It did, and they took advantage of it. I won’t say who used it, I just know that the body that had other responsibilities declared that he could not run. It is indicative of who voted. DF abstained, and DPS voted that it was a heresy, a violation of the legal norm and did not even have the right to appeal. This is where the suffering of that young man begins.”

In this “suffering” of Milojko Spajić, texts appeared in which Zoran Korac was praised for using his influence and connecting his Montenegrin protégé with Siniša Mali, the Serbian Minister of Finance, who, according to that version, helped Spajić to design the Europe now program 1 and Europe now 2. Korać, however, denies this.

“There is zero truth in that. I have never had a date with Sinisa Mali in my life. I have my own point of view, I have my own criteria. The meeting between Siniša Malo and Milojko Spajić is beyond my knowledge.”

And finally, of course, the question arises as to why Zoran Korać is doing all this.

In helping Spajić, Korać, as he emphasizes, recognized the possibility of helping Montenegro as well as personal satisfaction.

“It was a matter of my pride, to go to a country where I really have a special status, to Israel, to be able to go with Milojko Spajić and say in Bibi’s cabinet (Benjamin – ed. author) Netanyahu: this is a guy from Montenegro, who graduated from university in Japan, who worked at the largest investment house Goldman Sachs, who later went to that fund in Singapore and who speaks French, English, Chinese, Japanese and Russian fluently. He comes from the country where I’m from, these are our kids who make big careers in the big world and then I’m terribly satisfied because that’s proof of who I am.”

Đukanović owes me

As he says, Zoran Korać also helped Milo Đukanović during the conflict with Milošević.

“At that time, whoever was against Slobodan Milosevic was in my heart. It was the same with Milo Đukanović, because Montenegro was the only place of resistance to Milošević. Everyone was running here. We worked together then. And at the level of America.”

At that time, Korac explains, Gabrijel Eskobar was stationed in Dubrovnik. He met with Serbian politicians from the then DOS in Herceg Novi, and before that he stayed in Republika Srpska.

“I worked a lot with Gabe (Gabriel Escobar – ed. author) because he was the director of the office of the American Embassy in Banja Luka and Gabe knows the conditions in the Balkans perfectly. Naturally, I suggested Gabe to do everything he can, not only about DOS, but also about helping Montenegro. There I collaborated with Milo Đukanović. Whether he is grateful to me, I don’t know and I don’t care. Well, I wouldn’t come to Milo Đukanović, like others who came and said “come on, give me something to do”. I am a proud man and if anyone owes anyone, he owes me.”

I do not have excessive influence on Vučić

“I was able to overcome all the differences between Vučić and me because I started from the fact that Vučić was burdened by the suffering of his family on his father’s side and that he entered politics at the age of 22.

Besides, we all change. And now I know where my delusions were. I spent two years with him listening to him. I saw that he was a man of extraordinary education. And what impressed me? If he heard a good thought in the company of my friends from the big world, he did not hesitate to take a piece of paper and write it down on his knee. Unlike other politicians who know everything. And when I saw that his definite decision was to go to the Western world, I said to myself: this guy is going to plow through Serbia. And I said I would help him, in large part because I was disappointed with what was happening with the Resistance, the behavior of the dosovans and the undoing of everything that October 5 meant. Later, however, some of my private matters distanced me from Vučić, so that those stories about my influence on Vučić are mostly exaggerated and baseless.”

Krol and Korac

In the Montenegrin public, like an urban legend, there is a story that Zoran Korać is the most deserving that in January 2019, Mišković’s company Kroling became the owner of attractive and valuable real estate in the heart of Boka Kotorska, in Prčanj. By decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, the real estate of the “Vrmac” Institute in Prčany was exchanged for Krolet’s six-story building in Belgrade, in Mother Jevrosime Street.

“That’s nonsense. I don’t even want to comment on that,” Korać is resolute

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