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Balkan Report: June 11, 2004

11 June 2004, Volume 8, Number 20

BUSEK SAYS NO TIME TO LOSE ON KOSOVA. Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 8 June that the unstable situation in Kosova affects the entire region and hence must be dealt with quickly.

He briefly outlined four points that must be addressed without delay. First, he said that someone must soon be appointed to succeed Harri Holkeri, who recently resigned as head of the UN's civilian administration in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Second, Busek called for the EU to take the lead in "Europeanizing the problem," by which he apparently means proposing a solution for the political and economic issues affecting Serbia as well as Kosova, especially since the EU expects Serbia to join the Brussels-based bloc in the long term.

Third, the EU must give Belgrade an unspecified "clear sign" even before the second round of the Serbian presidential elections, which presumably will follow soon on the heels of the first round scheduled for 13 June.

Fourth, Busek wants UNMIK's mandate "tightened."

He did not go into details on any of the four points, but it is clear that he believes that time is of the essence and that Brussels must offer the region specific pledges and conditions regarding eventual EU membership ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2003 and 21 May 2004).

Many observers have long warned that a continuing lack of clear possibilities for Euro-Atlantic integration could lead to politically dangerous frustration in Kosova, Serbia, and Bosnia. Other observers go a step further, saying that those three countries, and possibly some of their neighbors, could eventually become failed states or "black holes" in an otherwise united and prosperous Europe (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 August 2003, and 2 and 16 April, and 28 May 2004).

But undeterred by gloomy scenarios, representatives of many countries of Southeastern Europe belonging to Busek's EU-led Balkan Stability Pact met in Portoroz, Slovenia, on 8 June with officials from donor countries to mark the pact's fifth anniversary. The Stability Pact is a clearing house for a wide variety of aid-development projects to promote peace, stability, and cooperation in the region with the backing of the EU, United States, Russia, Japan, and foreign NGOs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2004).

It has achieved a high degree of cooperation between the countries of the region, more so than most people in the region realize, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. The pact helped conclude 21 free-trade pacts within the region to promote self-help and end dependency on countries outside the Balkans.

Many observers of Balkan affairs have long lamented tendencies in the region to look for trade and political ties first and foremost with the major powers. As a result, links between the Balkan countries have often been neglected. It is much easier to find people in the region who speak Western languages and have traveled extensively in Western Europe or the United States than to find people who know other Balkan languages and countries.

At the Portoroz gathering itself, Busek noted that democracy has become firmly rooted in the region. He added, however, that the pact will no longer be needed only when all the Balkan countries have joined the EU. He said that the prospect of joining not only the EU but also NATO has been the key force in promoting regional stabilization in the five years of the pact's existence.

Speaking on behalf of the host country, Slovenia's Janez Potocnik, who is a co-commissioner in the EU's Directorate-General for Enlargement, noted that EU membership is an ambitious goal but that it remains the only option for the countries of the region. He stressed that there are no shortcuts to membership, adding, however, that it is in each country's own interest to attain European standards.

Shortly before the Portoroz meeting opened, Busek warned against complacency over what the pact has already achieved. He also criticized tendencies in the postcommunist region to see the role of the state as paramount in building a better future. The pact itself takes pride in being small and efficient, employing only just over 30 full-time employees with an annual budget of $2.3 million. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER TAKES STOCK. On 4 June, Ali Ahmeti, the chairman of the governing ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), addressed a press conference to mark the second anniversary of the BDI's foundation. The press conference highlighted a remarkable transformation -- from an armed rebel organization to a moderate governing party.

In June 2002, the National Liberation Army (UCK), which had conducted an insurgency against Macedonian government forces in early 2001, transformed itself into a political party.

The BDI's founding marked the end of a transition from a rebel organization demanding greater rights for the large ethnic Albanian minority to the major political force among the country's ethnic Albanian parties. Ahmeti decided to form a political party of his own after the failure of his attempts to bring together the existing ethnic Albanian political parties in the Coordination Council of the Albanians in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 February 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2002).

"The party will stand for a multiethnic Macedonia, decentralization of power, eradication of corruption and organized crime, and for a stable Macedonia that is integrated in the Euro-Atlantic structures," Ahmeti said in his opening speech before the founding convention in Tetovo on 5 June 2002.

Only three months after its founding, the BDI scored a victory in the September 2002 parliamentary elections, becoming the country's strongest ethnic Albanian party. However, the new party's past as a rebel organization made it difficult for the victorious, mainly ethnic Macedonian Social Democratic Union (SDSM) to accept the BDI as a coalition partner.

This reluctance mirrored widespread dislike of the former rebels among many Macedonians, who felt that the UCK/BDI had forced the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement upon the majority, who allegedly received nothing while the Albanians obtained a package of new rights. But in the end, the SDSM agreed to form a government with the former rebels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October and 1 November 2002).

For Ahmeti, the formation of the coalition government, which also includes the Liberal Democrats (LDP) and some smaller parties, was the result of a confidence-building process. "The way [to forming the coalition] was not easy; we put together a coalition of two elements that did not know each other," "Nova Makedonija" of 5 June quoted Ahmeti as saying. "We needed time to build confidence among the partners and to provide stability throughout the country," he added.

But it was also necessary to build confidence among the ethnic Albanians themselves, Ahmeti said, that they "will not be discriminated against by the state, and that they should have confidence in [state] institutions."

Underscoring the positive achievements of the BDI's participation in the government, Ahmeti mentioned the voluntary disarmament of the rebels and the civilian population carried out in two separate operations in late 2001 and in late 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November and 1 and 5 December 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 August and 18 September 2001 and 29 August and 19 December 2003).

As another positive result of the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement, Ahmeti noted that the representation of Albanians in the state administration has become closer to their share of the overall population. And he announced that further improvements will be made. "The Finance Ministry has approved [money] to employ more than 400 Albanians as doctors and administrative officials in the health-care system," Ahmeti said.

However, sometimes the BDI's efforts to improve the representation of Albanians in the state administration require a very liberal interpretation of the existing laws. Thus, the Albanian-language weekly "Lobi" on 4 June slammed the BDI's announcement that it has reached a "political agreement" with the SDSM over the nomination of three ethnic Albanian secretaries of state in as many ministries. Such a "political agreement" contradicts legal provisions that are designed to protect the administration -- and the secretaries of state are the highest-ranking officials in the ministries -- from political influence, "Lobi" wrote.

It also remains to be seen how the cooperation between the BDI and the new prime minister, Hari Kostov, will develop. In September 2003, when Kostov was still interior minister, he clashed with leading BDI members over the handling of a crisis set off by the kidnapping of police officers. The disagreements within the Interior Ministry at the time led to a government crisis (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5, 12, and 19 September 2003).

Ahmeti, for his part, said the government's agenda can be realized. He said key issues will be the decentralization of the state administration and carrying out the government's redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 20 February and 22 April 2004). For the BDI, the laws on the use of languages and state symbols will also be important, Ahmeti said. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

GORAN SVILANOVIC LOOKS BACK. Goran Svilanovic was foreign minister of what is now Serbia and Montenegro from the fall of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 until April of this year, when the Serbian government led by Vojislav Kostunica named Vuk Draskovic to replace him. On 5 June, Svilanovic talked to RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service's Beba Marusic about his years in office.

Svilanovic began by noting that his 3 1/2 years in the job made him Belgrade's longest-serving foreign minister since Josip Vrhovec in communist times. Svilanovic added that his priorities from the start were obtaining membership in the EU, "good and close" relations with the other Balkan countries, "balanced" relations with the major powers, and new development of long-standing Yugoslav political and economic interests in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Looking back, he feels that his biggest success was in promoting good relations with the neighbors. In the cases of Slovenia and Bosnia, political ties had to be built up from scratch. But by the time he left office, Svilanovic argued, Belgrade had developed "very friendly relations with each of the neighboring states."

In the case of Croatia, problems regarding the Prevlaka Peninsula, free trade, visa-free travel, and mutual payment of pensions were cleared up. These and other achievements were fully recognized by the international community, including by the EU, which now stresses Serbia and Montenegro's positive role in regional cooperation to the exclusion of any criticism, Svilanovic said.

Turning to less happy topics, the former minister said that he is sorry that his country has not yet joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program.

Closer to home, he regrets that he got started only in 2003 in pensioning off or laying off large numbers of older employees of the Foreign Ministry. "I think that such people can no longer be of use to our diplomatic service, regardless of how much they know or have learned," he said. He hoped to bring in large numbers of young people, but now has to sit by and watch as large numbers of older employees return to the ministry.

Svilanovic generally refrained from criticizing Draskovic, however, noting that it is too early to pass judgment on a new minister. Svilanovic did say that relations between the various members of the governing coalition seem rather odd, given that they have already taken to feuding in public.

Regarding Montenegro, Svilanovic noted that Podgorica's attempt to establish its own foreign policy came to little because foreign governments tended to treat its diplomats as little more than trade representatives. As a result, Montenegro has closed most of its former missions abroad, except, perhaps, for those in Washington, Brussels, and Ljubljana, he added.

Montenegro's interests are now represented abroad by the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, whose diplomats include 12 Montenegrins as ambassadors and two as representatives to international organizations. In addition, Montenegrins are employed throughout the Foreign Ministry, Svilanovic stressed. Only if the joint state is dissolved at some unforeseeable point in the future will there be a need to create separate diplomatic representations for Montenegro and for Serbia.

Turning to Montenegro's domestic political situation following the recent killing of a leading opposition journalist (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 June 2004), Svilanovic declined to comment in detail. He suggested, however, that Montenegrins' patience with crime, corruption, and the problems of postcommunist transition may be wearing thin. The political alternative to the present government might come from some new force outside the current opposition, he added. (Patrick Moore)

GALBRAITH OFFERS YUGOSLAV LESSONS FOR IRAQ. Peter Galbraith is the son of famous economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith, but became a household name in his own right in Croatia during its early years of independence following 1991. Galbraith was U.S. ambassador to that embattled country at a crucial time in its history, rarely hesitating to discuss his views in the local media. He did so even if his opinions sometimes offended the nationalist political establishment, including his occasional tennis partner, President Franjo Tudjman. Galbraith and his girlfriends became a favorite of local gossip writers, which added to his image as a wise and worldly representative of a powerful and friendly country.

On 8 June, Voice Of America's Croatian Service broadcast its latest interview with Galbraith. He suggested that the breakup of former Yugoslavia offers some lessons for policymakers dealing with the current situation in Iraq.

First, Galbraith argued, it is best to set up a loose confederation rather than a centralized state when organizing a multiethnic polity. It is incorrect to speak of an "Iraqi people" today just as it was incorrect in the past to speak of a "Yugoslav people," simply because individuals are loyal to their own respective ethnic groups rather than to an artificial polity. Had former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic recognized this and yielded to Slovenian demands for a loose confederation, Yugoslavia would never have split up in 1991 and gone to war. Instead, Galbraith stressed, that country would today be united and a member of the EU.

Galbraith's second point is that the lesson of the Bosnian and Kosova conflicts is that the United States must act in close cooperation with its allies if it wants its policies to succeed. He noted that many people criticized U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke for his allegedly aggressive behavior in putting together the 1995 Dayton peace accords, but Holbrooke nonetheless constantly consulted with all concerned. As a result, Holbrooke was successful because everyone was on board for the Dayton accords, Galbraith argued. (Patrick Moore)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "He thought everybody wanted to be free." -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, on the late President Ronald Reagan. Quoted by RFE/RL on 5 June.

"I think he has already gone down in history as a person who made an immense contribution to creating conditions for ending the Cold War, maybe even the decisive contribution." -- Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Quoted by RFE/RL in Moscow on 6 June.

"We saw what forces and circles Reagan represented, and we also believed he was a hawk. But at the same time we believed that this person had the support of the nation, and that was the most important thing for us." -- Gorbachev in ibid.