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Balkan Report: July 16, 2004

16 July 2004, Volume 8, Number 25

EU PEACEKEEPING IN BOSNIA: WHAT'S IN A NAME? EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on 12 July to step up "planning and preparations in consultation with Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities and with NATO" to take over Bosnian peacekeeping responsibilities from the Atlantic alliance at the end of 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 2004).

The 7,000-strong EU force will be known as Althea and will include many soldiers already serving in NATO's SFOR. Unlike the previous EU missions in Congo and Macedonia, this one does not have a time limit. Like its two EU predecessors, Althea has a name of classical mythological origin that eliminates problems in translating its name and acronym into the many languages of the EU.

The mission will presumably enable the EU to show that it can bring military as well as civilian resources to bear, maintaining order and promoting reform in an unstable part of Europe without a central role for U.S. forces.

Althea will nonetheless have much overlap with NATO. Assets will be shared under a formula known as "Berlin plus," and the mission's headquarters will be at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Germany's Admiral Rainer Feist, NATO's deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, will be the EU's operation commander. Britain's Major General David Leakey will be the force commander.

For its part, NATO will retain a smaller mission in Bosnia to promote reforms in the military, apprehend indicted war criminals, and combat terrorism, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 13 July. The United States also plans to maintain its base near Tuzla out of concern for possible terrorist activities in Bosnia, the broadcast added.

Some voices in Germany, France, and elsewhere in the EU have called for the United States to leave Bosnia and perhaps other Balkan regions in favor of the EU (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). Many Bosnian Muslim and Kosovar Albanian leaders, however, consider a continuing U.S. military presence crucial for regional security. They welcome EU aid and investment but believe that only the United States has the necessary military muscle and determination to keep peace in the area and deter would-be aggressors.

Washington has sought in recent years to scale down its military presence in the Balkans. It has nonetheless shown renewed interest in the region since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks because of possible Islamic-extremist activity in the area. Some American critics of the EU, moreover, have become increasingly wary of an organization in which some members define themselves in opposition to the United States, or seem to take particular delight in challenging the United States in international courts or forums, or boast like former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev about overtaking the U.S. economy by a certain date (in this case 2010).

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said in a statement in Brussels on 12 July that Althea should learn from the mistakes of SFOR. "The EU should not fall victim to the same lack of safeguards shown by SFOR, including the failure to adequately address violations of detainees, human rights," Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty International's EU office, said. "It is more important than ever to ensure the highest standards of behavior of troops on foreign soil, with real accountability to match," he added.

Among its many recommendations, Amnesty International called for civilian control over the peacekeeping operation and "a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual exploitation, including prohibiting through disciplinary and criminal sanctions, the use of women and girls trafficked into forced prostitution."

Whatever might come of the new mission, the name Althea seems a curious choice. She was a tragic and not particularly well-known figure in Greek mythology, the aunt of Castor and Pollux and of Helen of Troy, and the mother of Meleager. Enmeshed in family violence, Althea brought about her son's death in revenge for his having killed her two brothers. Meleager had slain his two braggart uncles in retribution for their having killed Meleager's paramour Atalanta, of whose hunting skills the two men were envious. In the end, a grief-stricken Althea committed suicide in a violent fashion. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA'S ECONOMY IN THE DOLDRUMS. In his keynote speech to the second annual meeting of the National Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness Council (NSPK) on 10 July, Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov told the audience of mainly businessmen an unpleasant truth. Acknowledging that the state administration is slow, ineffective, and corrupt, Kostov complained that many businessmen prefer to bribe officials rather than to contact the relevant anticorruption bodies.

When Kostov's predecessor, Branko Crvenkovski, took office in late 2002, he tasked his Social Democrat-led government with fighting corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 January 2004). As a first step, a special body -- the state Anticorruption Commission -- was set up.

It seems, however, that Crvenkovski's administration concentrated on hunting down corrupt high-ranking officials of the previous government led by Ljubco Georgievski of the conservative Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). Within several months after Crvenkovski's accession to power, a number of high-profile cases were made public. The government's focus on the now-opposition VMRO-DPMNE further weakened that party and ultimately contributed to a reshuffle in the VMRO-DPMNE's leadership (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 December 2002 and 30 May 2003).

But apparently the government did not manage to reduce the widespread, everyday corruption in the state administration and the education system, which affects ordinary citizens and the business climate alike (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 July 2003).

Alluding to alarming reports that Macedonian industrial production fell by some 30 percent in the first months of 2004 (compared to the same period in 2003), Kostov, a former banker, said he wished he had more time to concentrate on economic issues. "Yet, however much the government is concerned about falling industrial production, [the government] does not produce anything. It is the enterprises that have to find out the reasons for the decrease...and identify measures to [revive] production," "Utrinski vesnik" on 12 July quoted Kostov as saying.

Kostov said the government will help improve conditions for businessmen and entrepreneurs, adding that this includes cutting red tape to improve the business and investment climate.

In an 11 July interview with RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters, economist Vanco Uzunov drew a rather pessimistic picture of the economic situation. Uzunov agreed that statistics show a fall in industrial production. He cautioned, however, that the data are not consistent in that exports have risen at the same time. "This means that there is an apparent inconsistency in the data which...distorts the [overall] picture," Uzunov said, adding that there can be no therapy when there is no diagnosis.

He said he believes that Macedonia's major problem is the lack of structural changes in the economy. Asked whether the reason for the problems is that Macedonia is still in a period of transition, Uzunov said the transition is over in legal terms but not in fact. "The reality is that we have been in a transition period for 13 years. We changed some things but did not complete the changes," he argued. He suggested that it will now be necessary to make the best of a continuing transition period in which the changes still might not be readily apparent.

For another commentator, "Utrinski vesnik's" Nina Nineska-Fidanoska, it is up to the government to take the necessary measures to revive the economy as quickly as possible. Nineska-Fidanoska accused the government of having failed to recognize the seriousness of the ongoing economic crisis. Instead, it has either claimed that the statistics are "distorted" (and even sacked the head of the state Statistics Agency) or, as can be seen in Kostov's statement above, blamed the entrepreneurs and businessmen.

Nineska-Fidanoska noted that the politicians do not have to reinvent the wheel to make the economy work, but to look at foreign experience and to apply it. "If our complacent ministers cannot do this, then they should call in foreign experts and pay them as much as they demand to help us out of the crisis," Nineska-Fidanoska wrote.

She said she believes that there are enough possibilities for the government to intervene in the economy, proposing that the government should focus on loss-making state-run companies that have found no buyers; at the tax rates and customs tariffs; at the strict monetary policy; and at the slow and ineffective judiciary. Nineska-Fidanoska stressed that the government has no time to lose and will have no grounds for excuses if it fails. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

SUMMER HEADACHES AHEAD FOR SLOVENIA AND CROATIA? It has become a tradition for tensions to flare between Slovenia and Croatia during the summer months, focusing on some central issue or other. Last year it was Croatia's unilateral declaration of an exclusion zone in the Adriatic Sea (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2003). Two years ago it was fishing rights in the Bay of Piran (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 August 2002).

Despite these problems, Croatia remains the top summer destination for Slovenian vacationers. Few are traveling to see the sights of Zagreb -- let alone the baroque towns of Slavonia, the wild countryside of Gorski Kotar, or the dozens of ruined castles that ring the Bosnian frontier. Instead, it is the 1,778 kilometers of Croatian coastline that draws Slovenes south -- to the marbled villas of Opatija, the ancient streets of Dubrovnik, the seaside villages of Istria, and the unspoiled beaches everywhere in between.

However, politics puts a damper on these summer getaways. Many Slovenes say they feel unwelcome in Croatia, and virtually everyone complains that prices have soared out of control. Quizzing Slovenian politicians about their summer vacation plans is also a traditional sport among journalists. Those who do not intend to spend time at a domestic attraction -- an alpine getaway or a thermal spa -- generally give furtive answers, mumbling something about going to "the coast."

On 1 July, the daily "Delo" published the results of an opinion poll that gauged public sentiment in both countries on the most divisive bilateral issues, beyond the usual stereotypes of Slovenes as "drunken workaholics" and Croats as "arrogant seaside swindlers."

The researchers agreed that five issues have a real political basis: Slovenian access to the open sea; the unresolved border in the Gorjanci Mountains; Croatia's "exclusive fishing and ecological zone"; disputes over the Krsko nuclear plant; and frozen hard-currency deposits by Croatian customers of the former Ljubljanska Banka.

The five alleged other issues -- discrimination against Croatians at Slovenian border crossings, Slovenian willingness to assist Croatia's bid for EU membership, the low priority for completing the Ljubljana-Zagreb superhighway, Croatian disregard for Slovenian tourists, and negative coverage of both countries in each others' media -- are more subjective.

Public opinion is most divided on Slovenia's claim to a corridor to the open sea (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003) -- strongly supported by Slovenes and rejected by Croats. Slovenia has insisted on direct sea access based on practice from Yugoslav times and, more recently, the unratified 2001 border agreement signed by former Prime Ministers Janez Drnovsek and Ivica Racan. The agreement has little hope of being revived, and the recently declared Croatian exclusion zone is a de facto negation of direct Slovenian access to the open sea.

Slovenes and Croats also disagree regarding alleged media bias -- both feel that Slovenian media coverage of Croatia is largely fair, but Slovenes do not share Croats' assessment that their media portrays Slovenia fairly.

Two topics stood out as least contentious -- the division of expenses and revenues from the jointly-run Krsko nuclear power plant (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001) and the slow pace of highway construction between the two capitals (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 July 2002). Citizens of both countries largely agree that these issues are being handled fairly.

The Slovenian government remains supportive of Croatia's EU candidacy -- a position recently reaffirmed as a strategic interest by Slovenia's new foreign minister, Ivo Vajgl (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2004).

However, repayment of the hard-currency deposits is at an impasse, with Slovenia insisting that it be treated as a post-Yugoslav succession issue. In March, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina rejected an EU proposal that Yugoslav successor states set up a joint fund (including EU contributions) to cover the lost deposits, insisting instead that Slovenia bear full responsibility.

The summer is still young, but there are already signs of tension brewing. Slovenian Internet news site reported on 9 July that Croatian fishermen have expanded an existing mussel bed -- hardly a momentous event, but one that precipitated statements from politicians on both sides.

Jelko Kacin, the head of Slovenia's parliamentary foreign policy committee, characterized the action as breaking the agreement on border traffic and cooperation, and as a violation of ministerial-level agreements to avoid actions that could damage bilateral relations ahead of the tourist season.

The right-wing Slovenian National Party (SNS) condemned the act as another example of "Croatian expansionist and unilateralist policy directed against Slovenian territory." The Croatian ambassador to Slovenia, Mario Nobilo, downplayed the event as "a few buoys in the Croatian part of the bay."

Slovenian Foreign Minister Vajgl, eager to avoid another summer of animosity, commented that it is "grotesque" that such an issue "has become a factor in international relations." It remains to be seen whether 2004 will be remembered as the summer of the mussel bed. (Donald F. Reindl,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "An irresponsible organization that makes the lives of Muslims in Europe very difficult." -- Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa Ceric, who heads Bosnia-Herzegovina's Islamic community, referring to Al-Qaeda. Quoted by Hina in Mostar on 12 July (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 April 2004).

"Contrary to the common belief that Muslims cannot adjust themselves to European values, we can see that Muslims of [various backgrounds] know how they should work and live in a European environment, and they do so successfully." -- Ceric in ibid.

"There's no true understanding [in Serbia] of the profound need for civilian control of the armed forces as a precondition for civil and democratic society." -- Serbian President Boris Tadic, to the "Financial Times" of 12 July.

"Kosovo is not lost. If Kosovo is ever lost for the Serbs, it will also be lost for Europe." -- Tadic in ibid.

"In this way we can come closer to European values. Otherwise, we will drown again in Balkan history, and that means death." -- Tadic in ibid., discussing the need to reduce the importance of frontiers.

The country's "underlying challenge is to create a society ruled by law rather than by corruption, clientelism, and populism. It needs to reconstruct its public administration so that it provides the services its people have a right to expect. Those include infrastructure, in which public as well as private investment is needed." -- "The Economist" of 5 June. The country in question is Argentina.