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Balkan Report: January 21, 2005


21 January 2005, Volume 9, Number 3

EU'S BUSEK SAYS KOSOVA NEEDS 'EUROPEANIZATION.' Austria's Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Prague on 18 January that the EU should have a greater role in Kosova even though it does not yet have a clear policy for the province. It remains to be seen how this idea will play among the province's ethnic Albanian majority, who generally favor a strong, continuing U.S. presence.

Busek's speeches and writings usually attract attention in the region and among outside experts because the Stability Pact is a clearinghouse for a wide variety of aid development projects. Busek himself, moreover, is a senior Austrian political figure with long years of experience in Balkan affairs (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2003, and 21 May and 11 June 2004).

He believes that the EU needs a clear strategy on Kosova in the run-up to discussions on the province's final status widely expected later in 2005. Busek nonetheless stressed that the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) should be "Europeanized" because Kosova is of far more importance to the EU than it is to countries on other continents. He argued that the processes of the Europeanization of Kosova and developing a EU strategy for the province will go hand in hand and that there is no contradiction in his proposal.

Busek sees some very practical reasons for moving forward on clarifying Kosova's political future. "If you improve [performance on] standards, you also create a little bit of status. I will give you one example. We [in the Stability Pact] are obliged to [conclude] trade agreements between neighboring regions. If we set up trade agreements between Kosovo and Macedonia, Kosovo and Bulgaria, etc., we certainly create a little bit of status [in the process]. And here we need a clear line. As long as it is not possible for Albanians and Serbs to sit together in Kosovo, and as long as it is not possible for Prishtina and Belgrade to sit down together, I don't think we can succeed" in completing many practical projects.

Like many Balkan experts, he feels that the region has been wrongly neglected in the years since the conflicts of the 1990s, arguing that "everybody [in the EU] is looking at Turkey, but nobody is looking at Southeastern Europe.... We will not have peace in an enlarged Europe if we do not have it in Southeastern Europe."

Busek called on the EU to come up with a joint strategy lest it find itself lagging behind the United States again. He believes that "if the Europeans do not move, then it is typical for the United States...to lose patience" and act "unilaterally." Recalling some history from the 1990s, he noted that the "Europeans negotiated concerning the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina for four years and the result was nothing. Then the United States intervened. We tried to put pressure on [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic concerning Kosovo for a very long time, and nothing improved. Then NATO came in, the Americans together with others. And concerning Macedonia, it's a minor case, but the United States didn't ask the Europeans" when it recently recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June and 5 November 2004).

He argues that tackling Kosova's huge social and economic problems "should be a European responsibility, of course with the assistance of the United States and others, but mainly...by the Europeans. The reason is clear. First of all, if we do not deal with the Kosovo problem, we might have more migration, more organized crime, more concerns regarding the stability of Southeastern Europe, and more obstacles on Serbia's path towards the EU. All these issues directly affect Europe."

In short, Busek believes that UNMIK contains officials from "too many states" and that "too many cooks spoil the broth." He did not, however, address the view of many observers that the province's ethnic Albanian majority trusts Washington much more than it does Brussels and would be suspicious of any attempt by the EU to elbow the United States out of Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2003, and 3 March, 20 August, and 10 September 2004).

In dealing with issues on the ground, Busek said that he wants Kosova's elected "provisional government to take more responsibility concerning security in the country, which means the security of the Serbian minority as well." He stressed that 2005 is when the EU -- with the help of the international Contact Group for Kosova and the UN Security Council -- must try to "bring together" the Serbs and Albanians in Kosova and the governments in Prishtina and Belgrade.

Regarding the Serbian minority and Serbia, Busek believes that it was wrong for the minority to boycott the 23 October parliamentary elections and for Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to encourage them to do so. Busek expressed his thanks to Serbian President Boris Tadic, who had urged the Serbian minority to vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2004).

Busek argued that there are two "open problems" in the Balkans: one is "Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo," and the other is Bosnia-Herzegovina. He feels that the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro must be made to work efficiently soon or else the two republics must "separate." Busek is more optimistic about Bosnia, where, he believes, High Representative Paddy Ashdown has moved matters "in the right direction" by sacking obstructionist officials.

Turning to Croatia, Busek believes that the imbroglio over war crimes indictee and fugitive former General Ante Gotovina "is hopefully nearing a solution." Busek notes that Croatia's economy benefits much from tourism but adds that the country still needs to enact many reforms, including privatization. Limited refugee return to Krajina and eastern Slavonia also remains an issue affecting Croatia's overall stability, if not its admission to the EU.

Busek believes that Macedonia was off to a good start after independence in 1991 but that the ethnic conflict of 2001 slowed its development. He called for the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement ending that conflict and for an "Ohrid Two" pact to promote social and economic development.

Albania, he feels, has made progress in reforming its political culture and halting migration and human trafficking across the Adriatic, but it still has a long way to go in overall development. "The real problem for Albania is that it started from a really low level [of development] and has a very high unemployment rate. Sometimes I have the impression that the rest of Europe has wrongly forgotten Albania," which, in any event, will take longer than Croatia did to qualify for EU membership. (Patrick Moore)

POLITICAL PARTIES IN MACEDONIA JOCKEY BEFORE LOCAL ELECTIONS. Political parties in Macedonia are gearing up for the 13 March local elections. The focus at this early stage is on strategy and tactics rather than on programs or agendas.

Governing and opposition parties alike hope to improve their chances by signing accords with new coalition partners. The two largest ethnic Albanian parties -- the governing Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) -- recently signed an agreement defining and providing for fair play during the campaign and on election day.

The parties belonging to the Coalition Together for Macedonia, which includes the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and several ethnic minority parties -- representing smaller groups such as the Serbs and Bosnians -- met in Skopje on 11 January to discuss their joint election platform. Two new members of that coalition also attended the meeting: the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization - Macedonian (VMRO-Makedonska) headed by Boris Stojmenov, as well as the Democratic Center.

SDSM Chairman and Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski had already signed an agreement with the VMRO-Makedonska on 10 January. Buckovski said the current agreement with Stojemenov's party is only temporary, but could grow into a strategic partnership, which some observers take to mean that the party might be granted a ministry or at least a deputy minister's portfolio (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 December 2004).

For his part, Stojmenov stressed the ideological aspect of this partnership. "For the first time, a left-wing party and a right-wing one have entered a coalition aimed at national reconciliation to promote the strategic and national interests of Macedonia," he said.

In most administrative districts, the Coalition Together for Macedonia will have its own candidates. However, it will support the candidates of the SDSM's ethnic Albanian coalition partner in the central government, the BDI, in districts with an Albanian majority such as Tetovo. In return, the BDI is expected to support LDP Chairman Risto Penov in his bid for reelection as Skopje mayor.

For the conservative ethnic Macedonian opposition parties, forming new alliances is not so easy. This is mainly due to the rift between the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), which is headed by former Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski, and its splinter group, the newly founded VMRO-Narodna, which is unofficially headed by former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, who is also the former leader of the VMRO-DPMNE. The two former allies do not communicate with each other and are unlikely to cooperate before the local elections.

As things stand, the VMRO-Narodna will support an independent mayoral candidate in Skopje. The candidate, wealthy businessman Trifun Kostovski, won a parliamentary seat on the ticket of the Coalition Together for Macedonia in 2002. But in 2004, Kostovski broke his ties with the governing coalition over the administrative reform and subsequently tried to form a political party with the help of intellectuals. The attempt failed, but Kostovski's political aspirations remained.

The VMRO-DPMNE has yet to decide whether to support Kostovski or put forward its own candidate. There has been some speculation in the media that VMRO-DPMNE Chairman Gruevski himself might run. At the same time, it seems that Gruevski's ultimate political goal is still to become prime minister rather than mayor of the capital.

Whether he can achieve this goal by renewing the VMRO-DPMNE's partnership with some smaller parties is another question. On 16 January, Gruevski signed an accord for a strategic coalition with the leaders of the Party for the Movement of the Turks, the Party of the Vlachs, and the Forum for the Integration of the Roma -- Adnan Kahil, Mite Kostov, and Bajram Berat, respectively.

The second-largest ethnic Albanian party, the PDSH, announced that it will cooperate with its former coalition partners of the VMRO-DPMNE since Georgievski's VMRO-Narodna is still too weak to present a serious alternative. Nevertheless, PDSH Chairman Arben Xhaferi hailed Georgievski as a "solid politician" who always keeps his promises. Xhaferi added that he has a special relationship with Georgievski, with whom he has long worked.

In order to avoid the violent incidents that overshadowed previous elections, Xhaferi and BDI Chairman Ali Ahmeti recently signed an agreement defining fair play during the campaign and on election day. The agreement seeks to avoid hate speech during the campaign and includes a deal for the distribution of seats for BDI and PDSH on local election commissions.

Some commentators, however, criticized the agreement. Ismet Ramadani of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) said the agreement is a mistake in that it gives the impression that the BDI and the PDSH have teamed up with a hidden agenda. In response to such accusations, Ahmeti said he would agree to a similar joint declaration that also includes the ethnic Macedonian parties. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "I don't feel we have made today the kind of progress on some very important issues that should have been made." -- Kosova's UN chief civilian administrator Soren Jessen-Petersen, after meeting Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade on 17 January. Quoted by Reuters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2005).

"The horrible crimes committed following the fall of Srebrenica [in 1995] are well-known. These crimes were committed with a level of brutality and depravity not previously seen in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and are among the darkest days in modern European history." -- Judges of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, in passing sentence on two former Bosnian Serb commanders on 17 February. Quoted by RFE/RL (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2005).

"The $10 million is not a sum we should really get worried about, but problems arise when you do not have the goodwill of the United States. The consequences are quite unpleasant." -- Mladjen Kovacevic of Belgrade's Institute for International Politics and Economics. Quoted by Reuters on 17 January in reference to the recent U.S. decision to block $10 million in assistance to Serbia and Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2005).

"Serious companies are not happy about going into a country which is under sanctions or is threatened by them." -- Kovacevic in ibid.

"The United States can't be interested in consecrating a Europe that could well turn out to be a Righteous Power, instructing, pontificating, and limiting its responsibilities to what Robert Zoellick, Condoleezza Rice's future deputy secretary of state, said was Europe's predilection for endless negotiations in excellent hotels in pleasant locations." -- John Vinocur in the "International Herald Tribune," 18 January.

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