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Balkan Report: July 9, 2004


9 July 2004, Volume 8, Number 24

KOSOVA'S PARLIAMENT SET TO CHALLENGE UN'S AUTHORITY. Kosova's parliament voted on 8 July to adopt several constitutional changes, including one establishing the right to hold a referendum on independence. Other measures call for switching responsibility for international relations and public security from the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) to Kosova's own officials.

UNMIK has repeatedly warned the parliament that it is not competent to make changes to the Constitutional Framework. Only the UN Security Council, which adopted Resolution 1244 in 1999, has the authority to make such changes, UNMIK stresses. One unnamed international official called the parliament's vote a waste of time.

But in the wake of the ethnically motivated unrest in March, many political leaders in Kosova have called for speeding up the transfer of authority from UNMIK to Kosovar officials (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004). In a well-publicized editorial, publisher Veton Surroi suggested in the 17 June issue of "Koha Ditore" that the next head of the international administration would do well not to bring any grand plan along. Instead, he should simply let the elected Kosovar officials get on with governing, intervening only when absolutely necessary.

In fact, many Kosovars argue that the violence showed that the province is a time bomb waiting to explode so long as the status issue remains unresolved. They stress that time has come to end what is essentially a colonial administration in a postcolonial world, moving toward independence based on self-determination and majority rule, as has been the standard in the post-1945 process of decolonization.

These and other scenarios regarding Kosova were discussed on 17 and 18 June at an off-the-record conference in Berlin sponsored by the German Foreign Ministry, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and the Munich-based Center for Applied Policy Research, titled "Rethinking the Balkans" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 June 2004).

Many of the Western participants at that gathering stressed that the Kosovars must first meet internationally mandated standards before there can be movement toward clarifying Kosova's final status.

Serbian participants, for their part, were generally keen to note the importance of all minority rights, including freedom of movement and the right of all refugees and displaced persons to go home. Several Serbs stressed that they will measure the Albanians' sincerity by the extent to which they protect the Serbs' rights, adding that few Serbs are optimistic on this score following the March violence.

Instead, many Serbs argued for some form of administrative partition. One Serb said that dividing Bosnia into two ethnically based entities in 1995 might not have been a perfect solution, but it has worked. Besides, he wondered, how can one charge that Bosnia is a weak state when it has the might of the international community behind it?

Some of the Kosovar Albanian participants took the opposite approach, arguing that one reason for the frustration that led to the March violence was the tendency of UNMIK to try to build a multiethnic society on basis of ethnic divisions. Instead, Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) told "Balkan Report" on the margins of the conference that Kosova needs a solution resembling Macedonia's 2001 Ohrid agreement, which would reconstruct Kosova on the civic principle rather than on an ethnic basis. This, Thaci continued, would mean an end to enclaves and parallel structures by treating Kosova as a single country. Serbs would have the right to dual Serbian and Kosovar citizenship and to contacts with Serbia. Their cultural and historical monuments would be protected, Thaci stressed.

But at least some of the Westerners at the Berlin conference called for recasting rather than ending the foreign administration in Kosova. Some participants close to Germany's opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) repeated their party's call for replacing UNMIK with an EU administration, while maintaining NATO's security presence.

One FDP member of the German parliament told "Balkan Report" on the margins of the conference that the EU is more knowledgeable about Kosova's affairs than are many international officials from Africa or Asia, adding that the EU is in the best position to offer the Kosovars incentives to meet the necessary standards. When asked by "Balkan Report" what the EU would do if the Kosovar Albanian majority wanted a political as well as a military role for the United States, his FDP interlocutor replied "we'll see" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004).

For their part, many Serbian participants eagerly leaned forward in their seats when the subject of EU rule in Kosova was raised.

But the Kosovar Albanians tended to be skeptical, sensing that the project is more an attempt by some in the EU to show that Brussels can solve Balkan problems than something that will truly benefit Kosova. One Kosovar remarked that it seems strange that foreigners want to leave Iraq at the first sign of violence, but when unrest breaks out in Kosova, some foreigners seem more intent on staying than they were before. (Patrick Moore)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT SLAMS INTERNATIONAL FAILURE TO PROTECT MINORITIES IN KOSOVA. The human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) says clashes in Kosova on 17-18 March showed that international forces have failed to protect ethnic minorities in the protectorate, which is administered by the UN civilian administration (UNMIK), with security provided by NATO-led KFOR.

In a report published on 8 July, the London-based group also says that five years after the international community took control over Kosova, Serbs and other minorities remain as vulnerable as ever. AI calls for those responsible for crimes committed in March to be brought to justice and for the international administrators of the region to investigate why peacekeepers failed to protect those minorities (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004).

AI's report centers on the March violence, which mainly involved attacks by ethnic Albanians on local Serbs and some other minority groups, leaving 19 people dead and some 950 injured. The report demonstrates what it calls the "failure of both domestic and international forces to protect ethnic minorities."

The violence in March reportedly involved some 51,000 people in 33 incidents throughout the region. More than 4,000 people were forced to flee their homes, and there also was large-scale destruction of property.

Sian Jones, one of the authors of the report, told RFE/RL that the high number of people killed and injured shows the lack of a coherent and consistent response on the part of the international community: "There was no real coordinated or coherent response across Kosovo by either UNMIK police or by the [local] Kosovo force to the public-order incidents that occurred."

The report blames KFOR and the civilian police for failing to provide security and public safety for the minority communities. Jones explains that Serbs were not the only ones attacked: "In areas where Albanians are in the minority, in the northern provinces around Mitrovica and Zubin Potok, certainly, Albanians were forced to leave their houses, and our particular concern is for a group of [ethnic] Ashkali, who were living in Vushtrri who found themselves burnt out of their homes."

The report says some 1,000 people from the Serbian and Ashkali communities remain homeless and are living in poor conditions as a result of the latest violence. It goes on to recommend that a civilian command structure for KFOR "would help ensure greater accountability for human rights violations committed by KFOR personnel."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway to investigate the violence and its political implications, and to recommend how the ethnic Albanian and Serbian communities can live together again peacefully. Details of his findings will be made public after he has briefed Annan.

AI's Jones says her organization's report calls on international and local officials to establish who was responsible for the failure to prevent or contain the violence: "We're calling on KFOR and UNMIK to make the results of their internal investigations public, so we can actually establish what actually happened and where the failure to protect actually occurred along the chain of command. We're also calling on NATO and the French and German governments to conduct inquiries themselves [about the reported failure of French- and German-led KFOR troops to respond appropriately to the violence]. We're also calling on the authorities to put as much energy as they can into finding the perpetrators."

The report urges UNMIK to bring to justice all of those believed to be responsible for murder, arson, and incitement of violence. In June, UN police said they had arrested about 270 people in connection with the violence and that international prosecutors have begun dealing with 52 of the most serious cases.

AI also warns that the continuing uncertainty over the final status of Kosova has contributed over the past year to what it calls "the rising inter-ethnic tensions." The international community has conditioned negotiations on the province's final status with progress on a set of standards on protection of minorities, the rule of law, and the economy, and has set the middle of 2005 as a review date.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, who was in Kosova on 7 July, urged local leaders and the UN administration to "move fast, comprehensively and successfully" to implement the standards. Grossman warned that the deadline for implementation is "right around the corner." Implementing the standards, Grossman said, "gives us the best chance to create a multi-ethnic, democratic, prosperous, and peaceful Kosovo." (Eugen Tomiuc)

NEW CONSERVATIVE PARTY FOUNDED IN MACEDONIA. Followers of former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski founded a new party in Skopje on 4 July. It has yet to be registered with a Skopje court but will be called Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- People's Party (VMRO-Narodna or VMRO-NP). Vesna Janevska, a medical doctor and close ally of Georgievski, was elected as the party's first chairwoman.

The new party was reportedly founded as an attempt to replace incumbent Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) Chairman Nikola Gruevski with Georgievski, his predecessor.

In some respects, the move came as a surprise. In recent weeks, reports had indicated that the ongoing leadership struggle between Georgievski and Gruevski had been resolved, at least for the time being (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 June 2004). Georgievski, who leads the more radical, nationalist wing of the VMRO-DPMNE, seemed to have stopped his attacks on Gruevski, who heads the party's moderate wing.

In fact, the latest stage in the conflict between Gruevski and Georgievski dates back to the spring, 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 hawkish former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. When Boskovski was subsequently 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 "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 March, 9 April, and 21 May 2004).

Meanwhile, the rift among the VMRO-DPMNE's members deepened further. Georgievski's followers within the VMRO-DPMNE's Executive Committee even set up a parallel Executive Committee, which they claim is the legitimate one. Marjan Dodovski, one of Georgievski's allies in the new executive committee, told "Dnevnik" of 5 July that "we are the committee which owes its legitimacy to the members and which has the support of the party's rank-and-file." He added that, "in the coming days, we will step up pressure on the ground to isolate Nikola Gruevski and his followers."

Gruevski, for his part, repeatedly rebuffed his opponents' demands for an extraordinary party congress to resolve the leadership struggle, arguing that such a congress can only be called by a 51 percent majority of the party's central committee members.

In an interview with the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" on 3 July, Gruevski described the atmosphere within the VMRO-DPMNE as poisoned, adding that the time will come when his opponents will be ashamed of their words and actions. He said some of his former allies have changed drastically, "as if the devil had taken hold of them."

As a result of Gruevski's refusal to call a party congress, his opponents decided to found the new party, the VMRO-NP. According to the Macedonian dailies, their plan was to defeat the VMRO-DPMNE in the fall local elections, thus forcing Gruevski to resign. Then, the VMRO-NP members could rejoin the VMRO-DPMNE, with Georgievski as its old-new leader.

In one of her first interviews, VMRO-NP Chairwoman Janevska told "Dnevnik" that the new party will not be simply a safe refuge for Georgievski. "Our aim is to hear the voice of the Macedonian people," Janevska said. "Those members who join us feel that the [VMRO-DPMNE] has been [hijacked] by its current leadership.... The policies of Nikola Gruevski and his followers will lead us astray from the VMRO-DPMNE's principles."

The newly founded VMRO-NP adopted a party program that closely resembles that of the VMRO-DPMNE. The VMRO-NP's statute also allows dual membership in both parties.

However, VMRO-DPMNE Deputy Chairwoman Ganka Samoilovska-Cvetanova said that the VMRO-DPMNE statute explicitly forbids simultaneous membership in other parties. "But at the moment, we have more important priorities and will not take any measures against those who join the VMRO-NP," Samoilovska-Cvetanova told "Dnevnik" of 6 July.

Georgievski and his followers among the VMRO-DPMNE members of parliament have not joined the VMRO-NP. They reportedly fear that they will lose their legislative seats if they leave the VMRO-DPMNE. Tanja Karakamiseva of Skopje University's law school told "Dnevnik" that if elected members of parliament change parties, they immediately lose their right to a seat.

In a first reaction to the founding of the new party, Gruevski told "Utrinski vesnik" of 5 July that the new party seeks to weaken the VMRO-DPMNE in the local elections and ultimately to destroy it. But Gruevski also signaled his readiness for a "peaceful" resolution of the leadership issue. "We are still prepared to talk to our opponents and calm things down, but if they want to [destroy the VMRO-DPMNE], then I wish them good luck with their new party," Gruevski said. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

NO MORE 'HATE SPEECH' IN SERBIA? One of the venerable icons of the postcommunist Serbian media scene believes that the ugly days of "hate speech" are over in that country. Veran Matic, who heads the alternative Radio B92, told the "Southeast European Times" on 17 May that the abusive language associated with the Serbian media during the rule of Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from the late 1980s until 2000 surfaces from time to time but is not used on a large scale any longer (http://www.setimes.com).

Matic pointed out that aggressive language emerged in some Serbian media at the start of the17-18 March violence in Kosova but then was toned down following the burning of two mosques, one in Belgrade and the other in Nis, by Serbian crowds on the first day of the unrest. Nonetheless, he added, damage had been done that will take time to repair.

He said that the fall of Milosevic on 5 October 2000 did not mark a clean break with the practices of that regime, and that at times it is easy to feel that Serbia is still stuck back in 1993. Matic stressed, however, that ethnic hatred is no longer government sponsored or centrally directed.

Nonetheless, sometimes there are chauvinistic responses to events such as those that occurred in Kosova in March, which in turn contribute to the tensions in region in question. In short, "one type of extremism feeds another," Matic argued.

Referring to continuing pressures, threats, and even physical violence directed against journalists, the head of B92 does not think that the government is behind it, unlike in Milosevic's time. The current authorities "very much want to appear in the public's eye as a protector of freedom and the rule of law."

Instead, Matic suspects that there are various political, economic, and criminal interest groups that "for one reason or another want to inflict damage upon the media and journalists, to control and threaten the media scene, and to use such acts to destabilize an already unstable government."

Although Matic does not expect Serbia to return to the intense nationalism of the early 1990s, he warns that radicalism could reemerge in politics and society to some extent. In that case, he adds, developments in Serbia could help destabilize delicate balances in Kosova, Montenegro, and especially Bosnia.

He also considers progress made in improving the professional standards of the media in much of former Yugoslavia to be delicate as well. Matic pointed out that the recent violence in Kosova was accompanied by the emergence of "patriotic passions" in some of the media there, thereby enabling professional standards to "disintegrate."

In short, Matic expects the role and importance of the media in former Yugoslavia to increase but believes that the development of professional standards still has a long way to go. (Patrick Moore)

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