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Balkan Report: June 4, 2004


4 June 2004, Volume 8, Number 19

MYSTERIOUS KILLING ROCKS MONTENEGRO. Montenegrin authorities and German forensic experts are continuing their investigation of a killing that has mesmerized the small mountainous republic since late last week. Dusko Jovanovic, who was the chief and responsible editor of the opposition Podgorica daily "Dan," was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his offices late on 27 May. It is not known who killed Jovanovic or why, but speculation is rife in a country where talking politics is a national passion.

Shortly after the killing, investigating Judge Radomir Ivanovic said that he has several people in mind as suspects but did not elaborate. Montenegrin police found a car containing an automatic weapon in Podgorica on 29 May, both of which are believed to have played a role in the killing. German forensics experts subsequently arrived to help with the investigation. At least two individuals were taken into custody, both of whom appear to be linked to the car and its history and might not necessarily be suspected of involvement in the crime itself.

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic, journalists' professional associations, and opposition leaders were quick to condemn the killing, calling for the killers to be brought to justice. Interior Minister Dragan Djurovic offered a $1.2 million reward for information leading to solving the case, adding that he will resign if it remains unsolved. The government seemed to be at pains to show that it means business lest its reputation at home and abroad be damaged.

Montenegrin opposition parties held a candlelight vigil at the site of the shooting on 28 May. The previous evening, the opposition parties agreed they will continue to work to bring down Djukanovic's government, which they accused of corruption and involvement in criminal activities.

Jovanovic's funeral took place on 30 May, and the next day more than 100 journalists attended a memorial gathering in his honor.

Speculation among the public at large and in much of the media turned to possible political motives behind the killing, with members of Jovanovic's own family hinting that unnamed people close to Djukanovic might have been involved. Lidija Bozovic, who handles the newspaper's legal affairs, said that Jovanovic had asked for police protection on several occasions but did not receive it. The police are known to be firmly under Djukanovic's control.

"Dan" generally reflects the views of the opposition, especially the Socialist People's Party (SNP), which was allied to the regime of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In the early 1990s, when Montenegro was a staunch ally of the Serbian leader, lawyer Jovanovic headed the Financial Police and then the Department of Public Revenues.

By 1997, Djukanovic decided that his and Montenegro's futures were best assured by breaking with Milosevic and appealing for Western support. When Djukanovic then solidified his grip on the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), Jovanovic and his allies, led by Momir Bulatovic, left it and founded the SNP. That party in turn split in 2001, following which Jovanovic left active politics.

In recent years, Jovanovic, "Dan," and the YU Media Mont company have been the object of at least 30 lawsuits stemming from charges published in the daily that Djukanovic has been involved in cigarette smuggling and human trafficking.

A Serbian court issued an arrest warrant for Jovanovic on charges that he embezzled $400,000 in 2000 from the Zastava plant in Kragujevac. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted him for contempt of court for publishing in 2002 the name of a secret witness who testified against Milosevic, dropping the charge after Jovanovic apologized.

In short, Jovanovic was not quite the typical poster boy readily embraced by NGOs and Western governments in supporting crusading journalists in countries with questionable democratic credentials. His killing nonetheless seems to fit a pattern well known to observers of Serbian politics, where many killings before and after the fall of Milosevic -- including those of some journalists -- remain unsolved (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March, 9 May, and 12 December 2003).

But in Montenegro as in Serbia, caution is certainly in order in considering who might be behind a killing. Throughout much of former Yugoslavia, the worlds of politics, business, the security forces, and organized crime mix and move together in ways hidden from public view. What might seem at first glance to be a crime with an ethnic or political motive behind it, for example, could eventually prove to be rooted in murky business dealings or long-standing personal feuds. What does seem sure in this case, however, is that no one is likely to have undertaken lightly the killing of such a prominent individual as Jovanovic.

Whatever the motive for the crime, his fellow journalists tend to see his killing as a direct attack on the freedom of the press. Mili Prelevic, who is an editor of "Dan," said that the daily will continue to publish and to write about topics that interested Jovanovic. He told RFE/RL that the killing was a "terrorist crime," adding that the government must surely know who did it because Montenegro is a small country in which everyone knows everyone else's business.

Elsewhere, the Association of Journalists of Montenegro said in a declaration that Jovanovic's killing was an attack on the media as a whole. Association President Savo Gregovic stressed that the killing is a deathblow to freedom of expression in Montenegro, which has long been under threat. He told RFE/RL that this "serious crime" shows that Montenegro is nothing like the solid democracy that the government claims it is.

European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin told MINA news agency by telephone that the report of Jovanovic's killing was "shocking news." (Patrick Moore)

NEW MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER PRESENTS OLD GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister-designate Hari Kostov presented his government to the parliament on 31 May for approval. Kostov replaces Branko Crvenkovski, who was elected president in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 April and 21 May 2004). There were no changes in the composition of the new cabinet, with one exception; as Kostov had been interior minister, he had to find a new candidate for that post.

However, this one new appointment to the cabinet was met with criticism by the media. The fact that the Interior Ministry will now be led by one of its own officials, Siljan Avramovski, was seen as a breach of the rule that civilian control of the security forces can only be achieved through naming politicians to head them. Avramovski, a high-ranking police officer, until recently headed the country's Administration for Security and Counterintelligence (UBK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004).

For the Albanian-language weekly "Lobi" of 28 May, Avramovski's nomination also shows that Kostov will be a hard partner for the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM) to deal with. Neither Kostov nor Avramovski are SDSM members.

Kostov himself is widely regarded as an economic expert. This is not justified, "Lobi" notes. After all, Kostov started as an "apparatchik," and his only connection with the economy was his role as a banker before he became interior minister in Crvenkovski's government.

The weekly is quite critical of some other government members, too: Minister for Environment and Planning Ljubomir Janev is referred to as a "modest person" whose achievements as minister were equally "modest." "Lobi" also doubts that Economy Minister Stevco Jakimovski is qualified for the job and notes that Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi has yet to prove whether he is capable of leading the newly created body to coordinate the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace accord.

On the other hand, the weekly sees some positive signs in the new power lineup. With Crvenkovski as president, Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva might be given a free hand in the necessary reform of the country's diplomatic service. Mitreva complained that late President Boris Trajkovski had hampered such reform efforts. Similar differences or misunderstandings had also hampered the cooperation between Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Trajkovski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January and 5 February and 15 March 2004). (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

MACEDONIAN CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION ENDS LEADERSHIP STRUGGLE. A long-standing feud between the chairman of the conservative opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), Nikola Gruevski, and his predecessor, former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, ended on 28 May with Georgievski's resignation as honorary chairman of that party.

At least for the time being, the moderate wing within the VMRO-DPMNE led by Gruevski has thus prevailed over the more radical, nationalist membership around Georgievski and hawkish former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski.

The latest conflict between Gruevski and Georgievski broke out when Gruevski and his supporters in the party leadership nominated the relatively unknown Sasko Kedev as presidential candidate, while the radicals would have clearly preferred Boskovski. When Boskovski was barred from running for president on legal grounds, he and Georgievski called for an electoral boycott that contributed to Kedev's defeat ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26, 29 and 30 April and 12 and 17 May 2004 and Balkan Report," 19 March, 9 April, and 21 May 2004).

In an interview with "Dnevnik" of 29 May, Gruevski slammed the boycott and denied Georgievski's claims that it could have led to the defeat of the governing Social Democrats' candidate, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski. "In the first place, [the boycott] would have defeated us as a [political] party," Gruevski said.

But he also expressed his hope that the time of political infighting within the VMRO-DPMNE is over. Gruevski seems to be aware that political unity within his party is hard to achieve. "There are many people with unrealistic expectations who demand too much," Gruevski said. "We are dealing with strong egos formed in the course of serious conflicts." Gruevski nevertheless believes that it is possible to convince the party members to pursue a common aim once it has been agreed upon.

Gruevski, a former finance minister in Georgievski's cabinet, replaced Georgievski as party chairman in early 2003. The reshuffle in the party leadership was a consequence of the party's defeat in the parliamentary elections in fall 2002 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 February 2003).

Back then, Gruevski's election raised hope among the international community that the VMRO-DPMNE could be transformed from a Balkan-style nationalist party into a European-style conservative one. Other parties in the region -- such as the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of late President Franjo Tudjman -- have successfully mastered this transformation. As things stand, the Macedonian case seems to be tougher than expected. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIA TO LEGISLATE LANGUAGE PROTECTION. On 18 May, Slovenia's National Assembly gave preliminary approval to a bill designed to promote the public use of Slovenian. The move is in part a response to a 2002 declaration by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) encouraging legislation to preserve the official use of Slovenian following EU accession (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 April 2002).

Some characterize the bill as a line of defense against external influences on the language -- today most notably English, although the specters of German, Italian, and Serbo-Croatian influence have all been raised in the past. Others portray the legislation as an opportunity to further develop the language to meet the demands arising from Slovenia's integration into international organizations such as NATO and the EU.

The spirit behind the bill is in line with the opinion recently expressed by the Slovenian Writers Association, which called upon members of the European Parliament to speak Slovenian while on the job in order to assert the language as an equal to others in Brussels and Strasbourg. (In practice, knowledge of English is virtually a requirement for the positions, and contenders for Slovenia's upcoming 13 June elections to the body have been brushing up on their English skills.)

Article 19 of the bill, which deals with company names, is the most controversial. Unless the provision is changed, all new Slovenian companies will be required to register under Slovenian names, while established companies will be encouraged to adopt Slovenian names. Even so, it is unlikely that well-known companies such as Adria Airways or the Union brewery would decide to change their names to, say, "Jadransko zrakoplovstvo" or "Zveza," which would be the literal translations.

Slovenia already has dozens of language-related laws -- ranging from proficiency tests for citizenship to the regulations regulating the ubiquitous (and occasionally inaccurate) translations pasted onto imported grocery items. The new law would provide an overarching legislative framework for all of these regulations.

In addition, the draft bill stipulates that university lectures, tests, and thesis defenses take place in Slovenian. Lecturers from abroad will be allowed to teach in other languages, but translation services will be required for public presentations and guest lectures not delivered in Slovenian.

Although the bill received broad support from a spectrum of government and opposition parties, it came under fire from a group of lawmakers from the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party, who argued that the potential renaming of companies would represent lost investments in promoting brand names.

Sharper criticism came from some who say the bill is based on the misconception that Slovenian is an endangered language (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 October 2002). Still others have suggested that language specialists should instead focus on raising reading skills -- a reference to disastrous literacy levels in Slovenia reported by the OECD (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 January 2002).

Concerns over the fragility of Slovenian are never far below the surface, and are most often coupled with apprehensions over preserving Slovenian identity. In comments reported by STA on 28 April on the eve of EU accession, Miha Brejc -- who heads the opposition Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) ticket for the European Parliament elections -- commented that within the EU "Slovenes will have to pay special attention to the identity of the Slovene nation, particularly its language."

The Slovenian model of statehood is based on the standard modern European notion of a nation-state, uniting all of the speakers of the language into a single political unit. The fact that some Slovenian ethnic territory remains outside the Republic of Slovenia is considered by many to be a failure of 20th-century attempts to achieve the political consolidation of all Slovenes.

During the discussions in parliament, Veliko Celigoj of the Democratic Party of Retired Persons of Slovenia (DeSUS) emphasized that the existence of a Slovenian state would be inconceivable without the language for a basis. Unlike English, French, or German conceptions of national identity, Slovenian consciousness subscribes to a one-to-one relationship between language and state. It is a concept generally shared with other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but Slovenia is among the very smallest (and most ethnically homogenous) of all these nation-states.

As the national language of an independent state of 2 million people (plus a significant diaspora community), Slovenian is, by all accounts, a robust and firmly entrenched language. However, historical memory runs deep in Slovenia, and people are quick to point out how the language was banned from public use by various Italian and German-speaking authorities in the not-so-distant past.

Others are more sanguine about the need to protect Slovenian. An editorial by Janko Lovrenci in the 25 May edition of "Delo" recommended a laissez-faire approach to nurturing the language, comparing it to a cactus on an apartment balcony -- just water it occasionally, ignore it, and it will prosper on its own. Ultimately, Lovrenci observes, the fate of a language depends on the will and national consciousness of its speakers, and not declarations or legislation. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Multilateralism is a demand of our times. States cannot simply be satisfied with ad-hoc alliances or coalitions. The world village must be organized as a new political society." -- French President Jacques Chirac at the Guadalajara summit of EU and Latin American countries. Quoted by dpa on 28 May.

"In a world with ever more apparent ruptures, the European Union shares with Latin America and the Caribbean -- in contrast to what occurs in other regions -- a common underlying [basis]." -- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in ibid.

"European anti-Americanism is fueled by Europe's resentment, jealousy, fear, ignorance, anti-Semitism, left-wing ideology, right-wing ideology, and a European identity crisis. Taken together, these factors are like the confused emotions of teenagers. One day Europe will grow up. In the meantime, European politicians will continue to appeal to this adolescent syndrome in order to get elected." -- Reader's letter from Ernest Yates of Philadelphia, to the "International Herald Tribune" of 29-30 May.

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