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Balkan Report: January 30, 2004


30 January 2004, Volume 8, Number 4

MACEDONIA'S ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY IS LEGALIZED. After weeks of controversial discussions, the Macedonian parliament on 21 January adopted a law transforming the Albanian-language underground university in Tetovo into the country's third state university (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2004). Because the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Liberal Party (LP) staged a walkout to protest the law, it was adopted with the votes of the governing coalition only.

By legalizing the Tetovo university, the government hopes to improve the educational chances for the country's large Albanian minority, which makes up about one-quarter of the total population. So far, Albanian students had a choice between the underground university, the diplomas of which were not recognized, and the private, multilingual South East European University in Tetovo, which was founded in 2001 with the help of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and international donors. However, many Albanians did not regard the foundation of the South East European University as a solution to their demand for higher education, since tuition there is not free of charge as it is at the state universities.

To improve the situation, Education Minister Aziz Pollozhani of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) announced in June 2003 that the government would make the underground university a state university, thus legalizing its diplomas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 18 July 2003).

After the 21 January vote, BDI Chairman Ali Ahmeti expressed his high expectations linked to the new university. "It is important that the Tetovo university be autonomous," "Dnevnik" on 22 January quoted Ahmeti as saying. "We want it to be a high-quality university, so that our citizens will not go to Cambridge to be educated. Instead, Cambridge must be in Tetovo."

Pollozhani, for his part, was less enthusiastic. For him, the new university is simply a means for implementing the Albanians' right to a higher education in their mother tongue.

Jani Makraduli of the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM) shared Pollozhani's cautious optimism: "[The legalization] is a big step forward, and I think that it will contribute to the resolution [of the problem of Albanian-language higher education]." But Makraduli also added that he hopes that the leadership of the Tetovo university will be replaced, reflecting the perception of many Macedonians that the leadership has long promoted "nationalism" and "separatism" among the students.

Although the ethnic Albanian lawmakers of the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) supported the law, they also doubt that the new university will solve all questions affecting the Albanians' higher education.

During the debate, the PDSH proposed strengthening the South East European University -- which it helped found -- rather than legalizing the underground university (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 February 2003). "We advise [Prime Minister] Branko Crvenkovski not to think that the [problem of] Albanian-language higher education is now resolved," "Vest" quoted Zamir Dika of the PDSH as saying.

The walkout staged by the ethnic Macedonian opposition parties was their final effort to prevent legalization. The weeklong debate preceding the vote was overshadowed by a series of attempts by the VMRO-DPMNE and the LP to hamstring the work of the legislature by filibustering and using other obstruction tactics.

After the vote, the VMRO-DPMNE summed up its unsuccessful efforts. "We tried to show that damage will be done if the law is adopted. We tried to convince the government to withdraw the bill in long marathon discussions. We tried to impede the vote by [proposing] amendments. With all this, the party had exhausted all means allowed by the parliamentary rules," a statement quoted by "Dnevnik" said. By staging the walkout, the VMRO-DPMNE wanted to signal that it refuses to bear any "historical responsibility" for what it regards as a mistake.

Former Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule of the VMRO-DPMNE once again warned that legalization could only be the beginning of further demands by the Albanian minority. "We will soon face an even bigger problem," Casule said. "What about the other universities? Eventually, you will see that [the Albanians] will insist on [bilingual education] at the existing two universities [in Skopje and Bitola]."

The passing of the law was only the first step in founding the new university. The next steps will be as crucial (and difficult) as the first. Given the country's financial problems, there are serious grounds for doubt that Ahmeti's dream of an elite university for Macedonia's Albanians will come true any time soon. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIA SEEKS TO PRESERVE ITS SOUTHERN MARKETS AFTER JOINING THE EU. Slovenia is anticipating the economic advantages that European Union membership will bring, especially easier access to EU markets. However, EU membership will also result in disadvantages for a number of sectors of the Slovenian economy. As of 1 May, Slovenia's free-trade agreements with other former Yugoslav republics will be automatically cancelled, and new tariffs as high as 30 percent will apply to Slovenian goods, "Delo" reported on 28 December.

The tariffs will apply to all EU members, but Slovenia will be affected disproportionately because of its strong trade ties and traditional markets in Southeastern Europe. In comments in "Delo" on 3 January, Agriculture Minister France But pointed out that the Slovenian food industry will be most affected by the new rules. The EU has no trade agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina, and has asymmetric agreements with Croatia and Macedonia, allowing tariff-free export of certain goods to EU markets.

Before the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, Slovenia enjoyed a privileged position in the internal Yugoslav market due to its relatively robust manufacturing capacity and well-trained workforce. Raw materials from elsewhere in Yugoslavia were sent to Slovenia for processing, and the finished goods were then exported to the West or sold at a profit in the other Yugoslav republics.

As early as 1949, communist ideologue Edvard Kardelj and Economy Minister Boris Kidric -- both ethnic Slovenes -- decided to industrialize Slovenia at a pace faster than the rest of Yugoslavia, taking advantage of its already comparatively advanced level of development. This and later decisions propelled Slovenia to the forefront of economic modernization in Eastern Europe.

Nationalist tensions began to destroy this internal system even before Yugoslavia disintegrated. As prosperity increased, Slovenes became more disgruntled when they saw their wealth redistributed through the federal budget to less-developed republics, invested in outdated industries, or simply siphoned off by Belgrade.

Accusations of exploitation came from both sides: Slovenes charged that they were being deprived of wealth that they could better invest themselves, while other republics complained that Slovenia was growing rich at their expense. Economists Mojmir Mrak and Joze Damijan describe how quasi-import taxes were then slapped onto Slovenian goods, causing Yugoslavia's internal market to slowly collapse (see their paper at http://www.wiiw.ac.at/balkan/files/Mrak+Damijan.pdf).

Since independence, Slovenia has restored many of the economic ties that it enjoyed in Yugoslav times. Although Slovenia's greatest import and export partners are Germany and Italy, substantial amounts of goods are also exported to Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro. Imports, however, are a different matter. Croatia ranked as Slovenia's fifth-most-important source of imports in 2003, but none of the other former Yugoslav republics managed to place in the top 20.

Slovenia has massive trade imbalances with the other former Yugoslav republics, ranging from 200 percent to nearly 600 percent. Because of lower-quality demands, Southeastern Europe is an attractive market for Slovenia's less competitive sectors, such as agriculture, food, chemicals, and wood. As only one example, 30 percent of Slovenia's milk production is exported -- and 85 percent of this to former Yugoslavia, "Delo" noted on 3 January.

However, these economies have little to offer in return. A 28 December article in "Delo" pointed out that in 2003 Montenegro imported $51 million worth of Slovenian products, but that exports to Slovenia totaled a mere $78,000. The problem is that Montenegro can offer little more than tourism, wine, and distilled spirits.

Slovenia and Macedonia have a similar imbalance, with $23 million worth of mostly bottled water, canned meats, and sausages flowing south, but only $6 million worth of wine, tobacco, and tomatoes making their way north. Macedonia would like to increase Slovenian interest in its metals and chemicals.

One way that Slovenia has sought to redress the trade imbalances is through direct investment. Last year, 220 Slovenian companies or offices were registered for business in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The solution is finding favor with Slovenia's trading partners as well. In September 2003 Dragan Covic, the chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, took advantage of his official visit to Ljubljana to invite Slovenian businessmen to attend a February 2004 investment conference in Mostar. Slovenia is currently one of the most important foreign investors in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The other former Yugoslav republics view the changes coming with Slovenia's EU entry as an opportunity to rectify the trade imbalances. "Delo" noted on 28 December that importers are often criticized in the Macedonian media for increasing the country's foreign trade deficit. However, Slovenian businesses are concerned that Serbian producers could take advantage of the new situation to increase their market share at Slovenia's expense.

Slovenia's clear economic interest in protecting its southern markets also helps explain its consistent policy of promoting the continued southeastward expansion of the EU. Slovenian products will enjoy a temporary advantage over other EU products because of brand recognition, Silvester Cotar of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce observed in comments in "Delo" on 12 January. Combined with the benefits of language and cultural familiarity, reconnecting can only mean economic opportunity. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu).

UGLY TIMES FOR CROATS AND JOURNALISTS IN SERBIA. The Vienna-based NGO South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) said in a statement on 15 January that a Subotica-based magazine for Serbia's Croatian minority, "Hrvatske rijeci," recently received several threatening telephone calls, including death threats. The statement described the calls as anti-Croatian in tone and part of an unspecified campaign directed at the Croatian minority in Vojvodina that began after the 28 December elections, in which the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) won the most votes (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 December 2003 and 9 January 2004).

SEEMO called on the appropriate authorities to investigate the matter and arrest those suspected of involvement. Later on 15 January, Vojvodina provincial administration head Djordje Djukic condemned the intimidation of members of ethnic minorities, including RFE/RL's Novi Sad correspondent Marini Fratucan. Vojvodina Croatian leader Petar Kuntic called on local Croats not to let themselves be provoked by the threats.

But the tensions continued. Television Novi Sad (TVNS) refused on 26 January to broadcast the latest installment of a program for Vojvodina's Croatian minority -- "TV divani" -- because local Croatian leader Tomislav Zigmanov made comments in the broadcast linking TVNS to recent anti-Croatian incidents in the Serbian province, Hina reported.

Dusica Dulic, who is editor of "TV divani," called TVNS's attitude "unacceptable." This is reportedly the third time that TVNS has refused to broadcast one of the Croatian-oriented programs, which have been aired twice monthly since 2001.

Nor are the problems confined to the media. Unknown persons damaged an unspecified number of tombstones in a Roman Catholic cemetery in Subotica over the 24-25 January weekend. Hina reported that this was is the eighth anti-Croatian incident in Vojvodina since the 28 December Serbian parliamentary elections.

Serbia's Association of Independent Journalists (NUNS) drew attention in a 21 January statement to what it sees as a growing danger to journalists because of threats and pressures from nationalist politicians and local kingpins, among others.

Referring to the case of "Hrvatske rijeci," NUNS concluded that it shows that "open season" against journalists has come to Serbia. It called on the police and judicial authorities to deal with those responsible for threats against or maltreatment of journalists.

The statement recalled an incident in 2003, in which Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic physically assaulted a journalist in a television studio after the newsman asked questions about Ilic's brother's business dealings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). NUNS also pointed to cases of politically motivated pressure against journalists by their publishers, and of the continuing tendency of some politicians to retaliate against critical journalists by filing legal charges against them. (Patrick Moore)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "We have documents enough in the OSCE. We have visions. We have strategies. We have papers. We have agreements. We have strategies. And really what we need today is to implement these documents. Because producing new documents without implementation is not worth it." -- OSCE Chairman in Office and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, addressing a session of the OSCE Permanent Council. Quoted by RFE/RL on 21 January.

"You keep on scaring us, like children, that we will not enter democratic Europe unless we accept those undemocratic proposals as the solution for [Mostar], i.e. that the democratically elected majority [party] must not govern, that the electoral and city council majorities must not be recognized, nor the democratic principle of that very Europe applied -- as though we were somewhere in the primeval forests of the once colonized India or some African jungle instead of in Europe, from which we are taking democratic criteria." -- Mostar-Duvanj Roman Catholic Bishop Ratko Peric in an open letter to High Representative Paddy Ashdown regarding Ashdown's proposal for a unified administration in Mostar. Quoted by Hina on 24 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2004).

"The events of the 1990s, in the former Yugoslavia and [in] Rwanda, are especially shameful. The international community clearly had the capacity to prevent these events. But [it] lacked the will. Those memories are especially painful for the United Nations." -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, quoted by RFE/RL in Stockholm on 26 January.

"In Rwanda in 1994, and in Srebrenica in 1995, we had peacekeeping troops on the ground at the very place and time where genocidal acts were committed. But instead of reinforcing the troops, we withdrew them." -- Annan in ibid.

"We believe that the development of a strategic global partnership between China and France is in line with the developments that we expect to take place in the field of peace and security." -- Chinese President Hu Jintao. Quoted by RFE/RL in Paris on 27 January

"China has always supported the process of integration of Europe, and assigns great importance to the growing role that the [European] Union should play in international and regional affairs. We expect to see the European Union play an even more important role in the maintenance of peace in Europe and the world." -- Hu in ibid.

"[Unnamed EU leaders] often ask me whom do we prefer, Europe or America. It reminds me of the question: Which wheel on a bicycle is more important, the front one or the rear one?" -- Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller. Quoted in the "International Herald Tribune," 26 January.

"Encouraging the spread of freedom and democracy is the right thing to do, and it is also very much in our collective self-interest." -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, in Davos. Quoted by "The Wall Street Journal Europe" on 27 January.

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