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Balkan Report: April 15, 2005

15 April 2005, Volume 9, Number 12

BELGRADE GETS GREEN LIGHT FROM BRUSSELS FOR TALKS... Serbia and Montenegro is now slated to begin formal negotiations that will take it down the long road to EU membership. The decision in Brussels is one of several signs that many do not want a Balkan "black hole" to emerge on the European map.

The European Commission recommended on 12 April that the EU begin talks with Serbia and Montenegro on preparing a Stabilization and Association Agreement for that country. The negotiations could begin later in 2005 and last about one year. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that "this is the beginning of the European road for Serbia and Montenegro. The country has achieved a great deal over the past few years and it is time to move on."

Turning to the main issue that has held up Belgrade's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, namely Serbia's failure to arrest and extradite people indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Rehn argued that "Serbia and Montenegro has finally made significant progress in cooperating with the Hague tribunal," having encouraged about a dozen indictees to turn themselves in since the start of 2005.

But some commentators suggested that NATO, for its part, is still unlikely to admit Belgrade to its Partnership for Peace program until all indictees are in The Hague. Former Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic and former Serbian commander in Kosova General Nebojsa Pavkovic are still at large (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 February, and 5, 6, 11, and 12 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 November 2004). In Brussels, Rehn denied charges that the EU is using different standards for Serbia than for Croatia, whose final leg on the road to EU membership is blocked by Zagreb's failure to find and arrest fugitive war crimes indictee and former General Ante Gotovina. The commissioner said that requirements are tougher for obtaining full EU membership than they are for starting Stabilization and Association Agreement talks.

Turning to regional matters, Rehn noted that "this feasibility study [about starting talks] is a positive signal at a critical moment when we need to engage Belgrade in constructive discussions on the future status of Kosovo. The progress of Serbia and Montenegro will help to stabilize the region and work for the security of all of Europe."

Montenegro's policies have generally not been an issue in the joint state's pursuit of Euro-Atlantic integration. Croatia is the farthest advanced of the five western Balkan countries in a bid for EU membership but is held up primarily by the Gotovina issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2005). Albania began negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Agreement over one year ago but has made little progress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002, 26 May 2004, and 2 February 2005). Macedonia has formally applied for EU membership but many in Brussels consider the move premature (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 October 2004 and 25 February 2005). Bosnia-Herzegovina has yet to start talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement but a feasibility study, like the latest one for Belgrade, has already called for talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2005).

The results of the European Commission's feasibility study regarding Serbia and Montenegro was received in Belgrade "with satisfaction but without euphoria," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The joint state's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said that "we are now on the ground floor of the building, and it depends on us alone when we will get to the top floor [of full EU membership]...and whether we will slowly take the stairs or use the elevator."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that "we have arrived at the European road that will take us to EU membership." He noted that this path will not be easy but stressed that Serbia is up to the task. "I am convinced that we as a state have enough strength and work together to protect Kosovo and Metohija, to strengthen the joint state [of Serbia and Montenegro], to work for the fastest possible membership in the EU, [and to develop]...our political and economic system," Kostunica added. He argued that "Serbian citizens are unreservedly oriented toward the EU...and we regard the EU as our common home." Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus said that the feasibility study will lead to quicker and better access for Serbian goods to EU markets.

Montenegrin leaders also welcomed the news from Brussels. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said that he was pleased and is optimistic about the path ahead. President Filip Vujanovic expressed similar views, adding that the study does not stand in the way of transforming the joint state into the "union of independent states" that the Montenegrin leadership wants (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 February 2005).

While much attention was focused on Brussels and Belgrade, Serbian President Boris Tadic said on 12 April that he plans to invite Kosova's President Ibrahim Rugova to talks in the Serbian capital as a prelude to the multilateral negotiations on Kosova's final status that are widely expected to start later in 2005. But in Prishtina, Rugova's adviser Muhamet Hamiti said that "there can be no direct political talks with Belgrade." If there is eventually an international meeting to finalize the issue of Kosova's independence, neighbors can take part but without a right to veto," Hamiti added.

Tadic's move more likely reflects his flair for public relations with Western policymakers rather than a serious overture to Rugova. Belgrade and Prishtina have held sporadic talks in recent years under international mediation on technical but not on political issues. All Kosovar Albanian political parties support independence based on self-determination and majority rule, arguing that Serbia lost any right to the province by its "ethnic-cleansing" policies there in 1998-99. Tadic recently paid a controversial visit to Serbian enclaves in Kosova but did not meet any ethnic Albanian officials (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 February 2005). (Patrick Moore)

...AND A PLAN EMERGES FOR KOSOVA. Meanwhile in Washington on 12 April, the 16-member International Commission on the Balkans headed by former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato presented a report titled "The Balkans in Europe's Future" aimed at, among other things, resolving Kosova's status question by granting it formal independence in four stages, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported ( see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 December 2004).

The commission has long argued that the status quo in the Balkans is unacceptable because it could lead to one or more "black holes" emerging in the European political landscape. Instead, that body wants status issues settled by the fall of 2006, a clear EU road map for each country by the end of that year, NATO membership for Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia at the 2006 summit of the Atlantic alliance, and better U.S.-EU coordination in the region ( The latest report also calls for replacing the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina with its sweeping powers and in favor of an EU negotiator linked to the enlargement commissioner in Brussels.

Amato stressed that "stability, peace, and economic growth in the Balkans is a must for the security of Europe and has implications for the entire eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea region and indeed the United States. The absence of immediate disasters in the region should not lead to neglect or complacency."

The four-stage plan for Kosova starts with it ending its current status as a UN protectorate under Security Council Resolution 1244 with a formal tie to "Yugoslavia." The second stage is called "independence without sovereignty," during which the international community retains powers regarding human rights and minority protection. This is followed by a third stage known as "guided sovereignty" while Kosova negotiates with the EU, and finally by a fourth stage with Kosova in the EU. The report also notes that "the lack of leadership in Belgrade has contributed to the plight of the Kosovo Serbs, and the Serbian community in Kosovo has to a large degree become hostage to the political struggles in the Serbian capital."

The BBC's Serbian Service suggested that the report will go down well not only in many EU capitals -- enlargement fatigue notwithstanding -- but also in Washington. It remains to be seen, however, what the Kosovars will think of it. To many, it is likely to sound like yet another expensive, colonial-style project to sanction halfway-house status for Kosova for years to come. Critics are likely to note that such a complex arrangement was not required of other former Yugoslav states prior to independence, and that foreign attempts at creative statecraft in the region -- namely Bosnia-Herzegovina and the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro -- have fared less well than traditional nation-states with strong guarantees for minority rights -- Slovenia, Croatia, and possibly Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 March 2005).

Furthermore, many Kosovars are likely to suspect that anything less than full independence is a EU maneuver aimed at eventually forcing them back into some sort of state with Serbia and Montenegro, which all Kosovar political parties reject. Such critics tend to argue that Brussels is still smarting from its inability to stop the post-Yugoslav wars of the 1990s without U.S. leadership, and that the EU sometimes appears eager to find opportunities to prove that it can indeed manage things in its own Balkan backyard. In any event, to meet the Kosovar Albanians' and Bosnian Muslims' frequently expressed security concerns, any European plan for those regions will need to include a continuing role for the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March and 20 August 2004, and 7 and 21 January, 25 February, and 25 March 2005).

Brussels nonetheless has a powerful incentive to offer under the four-stage program, since the plan does include eventual EU membership. Joining that bloc has great gravitational pull throughout former Yugoslavia for at least three reasons. First, membership means a place at the table where decisions affecting Europe's future are made. Second, joining the EU holds out the promise of subsidies and other material benefits. And third, it helps overcome the psychological barrier of having been consigned in the 1990s to the bottom of the European pecking order after decades when Yugoslavia enjoyed worldwide prestige and influence, and its citizens were the only Europeans whose passport was valid for visa-free travel to both the East and West. (Patrick Moore)

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN MACEDONIAN-GREEK NAME ROW. Since late March, a growing number of reports in the Macedonian press suggest that movement may be in the offing in the long-standing dispute between Skopje and Athens over the name of Macedonia. Under Greek pressure, the United Nations and other international institutions recognized Macedonia in 1993 under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) rather than under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia.

Greek politicians argue that the name Macedonia implies territorial aspirations towards the northern Greek province of the same name. Successive governments in Skopje have always denied such allegations. To avoid using the name Macedonia, Greek authorities and media prefer to call Macedonia either FYROM or Skopje (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002, 2 April and 3 July 2003, 17 March, 8 April, and 9 July 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 and 27 June 2003, and 25 February 2005).

Greece's view of Macedonia as a potential threat to its territorial integrity is not shared by all UN members. Some countries -- including the United States -- recognize the constitutional name in their bilateral relations with Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 2, and 5 November 2004).

Most Macedonians, for their part, regard the formula Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM -- as well as Greece's insistence that Macedonia change its flag and its constitution -- as humiliating and insulting. The more sober supporters of Macedonia's constitutional name -- including the government -- argue that Greece breached international law when it forced the term FYROM and the constitutional changes upon Macedonia. (The flag was changed in 1995 to remove a symbol that the Greeks considered Greek. The constitution was amended in 1992 to specifically exclude "territorial pretensions.")

Since Macedonia did not accept this Greek formula, it asked the UN to help resolve the dispute shortly after its recognition as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Ever since, talks have been under way in New York, which have so far have yielded little or no results. A number of proposals and compromise formulas, such as "Upper Macedonia" or similar constructions have been rejected by Skopje, while Athens continues to refuse Macedonia's constitutional name. The biggest concession Skopje is ready to make is to accept a double formula -- one for its international relations, and one for its bilateral relations with Greece.

This situation is unlikely to change with the latest proposal, allegedly made by UN mediator Matthew Nimitz. According to Macedonian and Greek media, Nimitz proposed the formula "Republika Makedonija -- Skopje." The crucial point of the proposal is the fact that it is to be used in its Macedonian form only and not be translated as "Republic of Macedonia -- Skopje."

Both Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis welcomed the new proposal, according to the public Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT). Molyviatis, who met with opposition leaders to discuss the new proposal, said on 8 April that it could be the basis for a new round of negotiations with Skopje. He stressed, however, that the proposal does not fully satisfy him. Papoulias, who as Greece's foreign minister signed the preliminary agreement with Macedonia in 1995, also expected the proposal to be a good basis for further negotiations.

The fact that Molyviatis met with opposition leaders to discuss the issue also shows that the name dispute is as much an issue in Greek domestic politics as an international one. After Macedonia declared independence in 1991, Greek politicians sparked nationalist protests against the alleged territorial claims of the new state. As a result, Greece's biggest parties -- the governing conservative New Democracy and the opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) -- are reluctant to accept any compromise solution, since this would be seen as a defeat.

Meanwhile, the Macedonian leadership reacted to the media reports with a mixture of skepticism and resolve. Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski suggested on 8 April that it could be a Greek media hoax. "Our media must not be part of the game [of the Greek media]," Buckovski said. "We shall quietly wait for the talks in New York to continue on [11 April]."

After meeting with Nimitz late on 11 April, Macedonian Ambassador to the United States Nikola Dimitrov refused any comment, thus leaving open the question as to who proposed the latest formula. President Branko Crvenkovski also said he did not know whether the latest proposal indeed came from Nimitz. "The term 'Republika Makedonija -- Skopje' is a good basis for constructive talks on a solution for the bilateral relations between...Macedonia and...Greece, that is, as a possible way for Greece to approach us," Crvenkovski said.

But the president also made clear that Macedonia will not accept anything but the name Republic of Macedonia in its dealings with the rest of the world. "This is the constitutional name, and [in that context] the proposal that was presented to the Greek public is unacceptable for us." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "If Albania wants to be a member of Euro-Atlantic structures, it must live up to its obligations, depart from the bad practices of the past, and consolidate its democracy through having good and orderly elections" in the parliamentary vote expected later in 2005. -- OSCE Chairman and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel. Quoted by Reuters in Tirana on 11 April.

"I think that was a big oversight [not to have invited Pope John Paul II to Serbia]. What were we afraid of? Are we Serbs so weak that a visit by the pope could shake our Orthodox faith, our church, and the Serbian people's positions in terms of statehood, culture, and religion?" -- Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb, Ljubljana, and Italy Jovan Pavlovic. Quoted by Hina on 10 April.

"While the process for gathering relevant documents for his beatification was open, everybody had the right to give their opinion in favor or against. After the conclusion of the process of beatification they had no right to make objections," -- Metropolitan Jovan, on Serbian critics of the beatification of Croatian Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac by Pope John Paul II in October 1998. Quoted by Hina on 11 April. The cardinal, who died under house arrest in 1960, is regarded by most Croats as a martyr for his country and faith at the hands of the communists. His critics charge that he did not do enough to rescue Serbs, Jews, and opposition Croats from death at hands of the pro-Axis Ustasha regime during World War II. The Vatican has rejected those charges.

"All services and police forces are looking for where [fugitive war crimes indictees] are." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus. Quoted by "The New York Times" on 13 April.