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Balkan Report: July 23, 2004

23 July 2004, Volume 8, Number 26

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA AND THE LEGACY OF GAVRILO PRINCIP. The 90th anniversary of the assassination of Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb student, Gavrilo Princip, was marked on 28 June. A series of seminars and symposia took place in Central and Southeastern Europe to mark the anniversary and draw a balance sheet for what has always been a controversial event. RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service featured a program in Omer Karabeg's Radio Most (Bridge) series, which brought together Professor Zijad Sehic of Sarajevo University's History Department and Predrag Markovic of Belgrade's Institute for Contemporary History.

Someone once observed that the Balkans in general and former Yugoslavia in particular produce more history than can be consumed locally. Similarly, how former Yugoslavs and their neighbors evaluate a given historical development or single act in the region -- such as the assassination that set off the events that triggered World War I -- often reflects their political viewpoint.

It is thus no surprise that Austrian and German historians since 1914 have generally regarded Princip as a terrorist who mercilessly killed the heir to the throne and his wife, a young mother. Such historians tend to regard the period of Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia (1878-18) in a positive light, stressing the material, economic, and administrative progress it brought to what had been an Ottoman backwater.

Conversely, many Serbs have regarded Princip as a national hero who killed an archduke symbolizing the foreign occupation of Bosnia, which those Serbs feel should be part of a Greater Serbia. To them, Franz Ferdinand added insult to injury by being in Sarajevo on 28 June, which is St. Vitus Day or Vidovdan, the most important date in the Serbian historical calendar and the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389.

In communist Yugoslavia after 1945, Princip's Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia) organization was lionized as Yugoslav rather than purely Serbian in nature, partly because its ranks included some Bosnian Muslims, even if they chose to call themselves Serbs (many Muslims of that day identified themselves politically as Serbs or Croats). Princip's purported footprints were set in cement in the pavement where he is believed to have stood when he pulled the trigger. A Mlada Bosna Museum was opened in the neighboring building. The official interpretation was that Princip and Mlada Bosna helped speed the creation of a united Yugoslav state, a project that was allegedly supported by the leading political forces in Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia as well.

Many questioned this view. Professor Charles Jelavich of Indiana University argued that Serbia's goal -- and that of Mlada Bosna -- was to establish a Serbian national state on the model of the other nation-states formed in 19th-century Europe. The Yugoslav idea, Jelavich notes, was created and promoted primarily -- if not exclusively -- by Croats to put an end to their people's division between the Austrian and Hungarian halves of the monarchy and increase their political weight in the region (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 February 2003). And even among Croats, Yugoslavism, as it was known, competed with one movement seeking to create a large Croatian unit (including Bosnia) within the Habsburg monarchy and another movement favoring the establishment of a Croatian national state (also including Bosnia).

For his part, Sehic in the RFE/RL program stressed that Mlada Bosna sought to establish a Greater Serbia rather than a multiethnic Yugoslavia. He argues that Princip was a terrorist, adding that this view has come to be embraced by many Bosnian Croats and Muslims following the breakup of former Yugoslavia and the wars that accompanied it. If Princip was a hero to those enamored of the Yugoslav idea in the 20th century, he was a terrorist to those who subsequently grew disillusioned with Yugoslavia or never accepted that state to begin with, Sehic believes.

Markovic concedes a sentimental admiration for Princip's heroism, noting that assassination was a favored tool of European revolutionaries of that era. Markovic nonetheless emphasizes that the young man was a tragic figure. Princip's actions led not only to his own death in prison but to the destruction of an entire generation on the battlefields of World War I. On a deeper level, Markovic asks whether any violent, allegedly heroic act can be worthy of respect, be it in Bosnia in 1914 or 1992-95, or in Afghanistan or Iraq in 2004.

Markovic denies the theory long put forward by many Austrian and German historians that Serbs or Serbia were responsible for World War I. He argues that Princip's gunshots simply set off a tragic series of events that had long been in the making and was simply waiting for the right catalyst to set it in motion.

In 1914, Markovic continues, Serbia had just emerged from the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, in which it lost 50,000 people. Consequently, "no sensible [Serbian] politician" (as opposed to the extremist circles in the army behind Mlada Bosna) sought a conflict with Austria-Hungary. Because Princip's "fanaticism" unleashed yet further suffering for the Serbs at that particular moment in their history, the young man was a tragic figure as far as the fate of his own people was concerned.

And what of the future? Sehic feels that history has passed its verdict on Princip as a terrorist. Markovic is not so sure, arguing that the young man's deed must be seen in its historical context and that it would be wrong to say that the demise of former Yugoslavia discredited him and Mlada Bosna forever. Instead, Markovic calls for more scholarly research, unfettered by political considerations.

On a more concrete level, Sehic notes that there are efforts under way in Bosnia to return a monument to Franz Ferdinand to the public place in Sarajevo where it stood from 1917 to 1919. He does not say so specifically, but this campaign is part of a post-1992 tendency among many Bosnian Muslims and Croats in particular to look back at the Austro-Hungarian period from 1878-1918 as a golden, progressive age when the best benefits of European civilization of the day came to Bosnia, including a fairly honest administration and modern public works.

Another issue is what to do about the now decrepit building that was formerly the Mlada Bosna Museum. Princip's cement footprints are long gone, as is the heroic relief of patriotic young people on one side of the building. Should it be reopened as a museum devoted to the Austro-Hungarian period in Bosnian history? Or as a museum dealing with Mlada Bosna and other aspects of the origins of World War I, but in a much more balanced way than was the case with the communist-era museum? And what about the former museum of contemporary history near the university, which stands as an empty shell? (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA'S REDISTRICTING IMBROGLIO. After six weeks of intensive talks behind closed doors, the coalition partners in the Macedonian government -- the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) -- reached a deal on 14 July on the government's plans to cut the number of administrative districts and increase the powers of the local administrations in the fields of primary school education, health care, and financial planning. Representatives of the international community welcomed the move as an important step toward the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace accord, which ended the interethnic conflict between the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and the Macedonian security forces.

However, the major opposition party -- the conservative Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) -- and many ethnic Macedonians fear that the redistricting could ultimately lead to a division of the country along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 15, and 16 July 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July 2004).

The opponents of the redistricting plans argue that merging some districts with an overwhelming ethnic Albanian majority with districts mainly inhabited by Macedonians could result in Albanian domination of those districts. Other critics charge that the local administrations are ill-prepared for the greater powers they will gain.

Under the draft plans, which have yet to be approved by the parliament, the country's 123 administrative districts will be reduced to 80 in 2004, as Local Self-Government Minister Aleksandar Gestakovski explained on 15 July. In a second step envisioned for 2008, four rural districts will merge with the urban district of Kicevo, thus further cutting the overall number of districts to 76.

"The average size of the [districts] will be 25,000 inhabitants. The biggest district will be Kumanovo with 105,484 inhabitants, the smallest Vranestica with 1,322," Gestakovski said.

The new administrative borders of the capital Skopje, and of Struga and Kicevo in western Macedonia were the sticking points in the deadlocked talks on the redistricting plans.

The district of Struga, which was previously overwhelmingly Macedonian, will get an Albanian majority. Struga Mayor Romeo Dereban told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 15 July that the citizens of that town will protest the government plans by not paying electricity bills, by not showing up for military service, and by not obeying court rulings. In January, Struga was among the first towns to hold a referendum against the redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October, 13 November, and 12 and 18 December 2003 and 22 April 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 February 2003).

The VMRO-DPMNE announced that it will resume its protests by setting up road blocks. Earlier protests led to clashes between demonstrators and police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 July 2004).

The Albanian-language daily "Fakti" on 11 July also reported a distinct anti-American sentiment during these protests, the United States being widely seen by some ethnic Macedonians as the main force behind the Ohrid agreements, which increased the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority.

Some politicians, like former VMRO-DPMNE Chairman and former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, called on the population to support a referendum against the redistricting plans. However, some pundits recall that it was Georgievski who promoted a plan to partition the country outright along ethnic lines in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 April 2003).

What especially enrages not only the VMRO-DPMNE, but other nationalist commentators as well is the fact that the redistricting plans also affect the ethnic composition of Skopje.

By adding two rural districts with an Albanian majority -- Saraj and Kondovo -- to the existing urban districts of Skopje, the Albanian share of Skopje's population will rise from about 15 percent to more than 21 percent. Under the constitution as amended under the terms of the Ohrid agreement, districts where a minority makes up more than 20 percent of the population must introduce the language spoken by that minority as a second official language. This means that not only the city administration of Skopje will be bilingual, but also road signs and signs marking official buildings.

In response to the protests, President Branko Crvenkovski tried to calm tempers. Lauding the government decision as a "courageous move," he warned that "what worries me is...rhetoric...[involving] expressions like 'giving and taking,' 'ours and theirs,' 'treason' or 'high treason' if we have not learned anything from what happened [to us] in the past."

Prime Minister Hari Kostov will nonetheless have a hard time explaining the decentralization plans to its opponents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 21 July 2004). Passing the decentralization legislation in the next few weeks may be necessary if the government does not want to jeopardize the timing of local elections slated for mid-October. But it is even more important that the government ensure the thorough preparation of the local administrations for their new tasks and duties if it is to avoid chaos. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

NATO'S CHIEF TALKS TO RFE/RL. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was interviewed by Djeracina Tuhina of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 14 July in Brussels.

RFE/RL: Secretary-General, NATO has always promised that it won't leave the missions in the Balkans until all the problems are solved. The fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina wasn't accepted in Partnership for Peace [PfP] in Istanbul shows that there are still some unsolved problems; yet again, you decided to leave. How can you justify this transition from NATO to the European Union forces?

De Hoop Scheffer: First of all, I do not think NATO leaves. You are right, the EU is going to run an operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but NATO will stay; NATO will have a headquarters, NATO will have a general, NATO will be involved in defense reform, NATO will -- together with the EU -- hunt the persons indicted for war crimes. You can't say NATO is going, that NATO is leaving.

RFE/RL: But EU troops will be visible, not NATO troops.

De Hoop Scheffer: Well, you must realize first of all that if you look at SFOR, the present operation, 85 percent of the forces are European. So that will not make such a dramatic or tremendous difference. But, the allied leaders in Istanbul have said that the time has come for SFOR to end, and I am glad, we are glad that the European Union is going to take over, because -- as you rightly say -- not all the problems are over yet. So I think it is also the wish of the authorities that "a force" will stay in Bosnia and that will be a force under the leadership of the European Union, which I think is a good development and NATO is not going to leave, let me stress that again.

RFE/RL: But how many numbers, how many NATO personnel will be in Bosnia?

De Hoop Scheffer: I can't give you numbers on NATO personnel, but I can tell you that the EU is taking over responsibility for the mission, but that NATO will go on having a number of responsibilities. I mentioned [to] you the headquarters, the general, advisers, advisers on defense reform.... So you cannot say NATO is leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina, because NATO isn't.

RFE/RL: It is not disappearing.

De Hoop Scheffer: It is not disappearing. But have trust, I say this on behalf of the United Kingdom as a lead nation, I think the U.K. is a country which is extremely capable and competent of being a lead nation of such a mission. The nations who are now participating in SFOR for the greater part will stay. So the change is not that fundamental. Let's look at it from the positive side and let's conclude that SFOR, which started with 60,000 troops, is now going down to a level of around 7,000. That is a very good sign of development in the country; it is a very good sign indeed.

RFE/RL: Yet again, problems are there. The most serious one is the question of the cooperation with the Hague [war crimes] tribunal.

De Hoop Scheffer: I agree. And when the NATO ambassadors under my chairmanship were in Sarajevo not too long ago, we seriously discussed these problems with the leadership and I think the leadership realizes, as NATO does, that a lack of full cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague is the reason why Bosnia and Herzegovina did not get the Partnership for Peace status in Istanbul. There are a few people, perhaps more than a few, in the Republika Srpska who don't understand that collaborating with Mr. [Radovan] Karadzic and covering for him means that Bosnia and Herzegovina is paying a high price for not, I hope not yet, having Partnership for Peace, because I am very much in favor [of] Bosnia and Herzegovina getting Partnership for Peace, but everybody knows that the full cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague is an essential condition for that.

RFE/RL: But [Bosnia and Herzegovina] has become sort of a hostage of Republika Srpska. While the leadership already fulfilled all the required conditions, including the Ministry of Defense and everything, now the question of The Hague that belongs, as you said, to Republika Srpska, makes the whole territory the hostage of this part.

De Hoop Scheffer: We discussed this and I discussed it extensively with the parliament in Sarajevo and they of course used the same arguments. And then my reaction was -- listen, dear friends in parliament in Sarajevo, you also have your responsibilities, you also have to see to it, I mean, we are discussing [Bosnia and Herzegovina], we are not discussing entities, let's not discuss entities, please, we are discussing the sovereign country Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is still having the problems, that within its territory, within its borders we have Karadzic and we have others. Let's see that we can solve this problem as soon as possible, as far as I am concerned, this afternoon, rather tomorrow than the day after tomorrow. I sincerely hope so, because I think, and let me repeat this again, I think that [Bosnia and Herzegovina] should qualify for Partnership for Peace. The same, by the way, goes for Serbia and Montenegro, where I will also go soon and my story there will be the same -- cooperate, show full cooperation, do it, it can be done and do it.

RFE/RL: I guess you don't agree with some kind of skeptics that say that [the] Istanbul decision not to accept Bosnia and Herzegovina is a consequence of a general mood in the alliance that [Bosnia and Herzegovina] goes in a package with Serbia and Montenegro in PfP.

De Hoop Scheffer: No, such [a] general mood I have not found in the alliance over the past six months [since I became] secretary-general. Definitely not. The mood in the alliance, I think, vis-a-vis [Bosnia and Herzegovina] and Serbia and Montenegro is a positive one. NATO, as I said before, is very much committed to the Balkans. Let there be no misunderstanding, NATO is, was, and stays committed to the Balkans. Also the EU is going to take over the mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So that commitment is there, that commitment stays. I would like to see, I say that again, rather today than tomorrow, that full cooperation with the [International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia] in The Hague is there and then I will be the first to tell the NATO ambassadors and the NATO nations the moment has come to seriously address the question of PfP. Because I realize what a [disappointment] it is and it has been that Istanbul did not decide for PfP for [Bosnia and Herzegovina], but I say again, everybody knows what conditions should be fulfilled.

RFE/RL: Has Karadzic won the war against NATO? It has been almost a decade of hide and seek.

De Hoop Scheffer: But you know in wars the last battle is the most important one. And I say again, he can hide but he will not be able to run forever. And SFOR, as you know, has done everything in its power -- let's realize that the authorities are the first responsible, I mean, not SFOR, the authorities are the first responsible for getting Karadzic and others -- SFOR has done and is doing everything it can to assist as much as it can, so will EUFOR, Operation Althea as it is called, the goddess of healing, which is nice because there is still some healing necessary of course in [Bosnia and Herzegovina] as you also said. "So let's get them" is my parole, and is my mantra. And SFOR will do everything it can to assist.

RFE/RL: Yes, but you decided to conclude the operation before catching him.

De Hoop Scheffer: First of all, let me repeat, NATO is not leaving, the EU is taking over the responsibility, the force level will be as it is when SFOR is going to end, so I cannot see any strong argument, a convincing argument that the fact that Karadzic is not yet in The Hague would lead to a nondecision about SFOR. The decision about SFOR has been made, NATO is not going to leave [Bosnia and Herzegovina] as I said, and Operation Althea -- EUFOR -- will as much as SFOR has done [to] support the authorities in getting Mr. Karadzic. I can assure you that that will happen.

RFE/RL: Sooner rather than later?

De Hoop Scheffer: As far as I am concerned tomorrow rather than the day after tomorrow; so sooner.

RFE/RL: You have received harsh criticism from the Hague tribunal, from [prosecutor] Madam [Carla] Del Ponte's office, not you personally but SFOR. Do you have any comment concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Karadzic and why the operation of the arrest was delayed?

De Hoop Scheffer: I do not. The only thing I know is that SFOR has done and is doing everything it can to assist in getting Mr. Karadzic. So I do not accept any criticism or take any criticism on SFOR. SFOR is doing everything it can. I do not know in this very moment I am talking to you, I would wish I did, where Karadzic is hiding. But SFOR will do everything it can to assist the authorities in getting Mr. Karadzic.

RFE/RL: I have to go back to the more or less beginning. There is a lot of confusion among the population on how will Bosnia look like after the EU or Althea take over. Will it be the same soldiers, almost the same uniforms, but different flag, or how will it look like physically in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

De Hoop Scheffer: Well, as you know, I will visit Sarajevo with Javier Solana, the high representative of the European Union. I think this visit shows, by the way, how much the two organizations are committed to [Bosnia and Herzegovina]. Two organizations -- the EU and NATO. The soldiers, the men and the women, will still wear uniforms, what patches they are going to wear I do not know, I heard yesterday that the operation is going to be called Operation Althea, we labeled it EUFOR up to [a] day ago. So how the details will exactly look like I do not know, but I can assure you as secretary-general of NATO I have a European vocation as well, that the European Union is more than able and competent to do this mission as good and as well as SFOR has done it.

RFE/RL: But in any case do you have a "Plan B" for the worse-case scenario, if EU mission fails in certain elements? Does NATO has a "Plan B" to jump up in order to help in certain situations?

De Hoop Scheffer: Yes, NATO has. May I refer to the unfortunate incidents in Kosovo in mid-March, where we saw a flare-up of ethnic hatred and ethnic violence, as I say, NATO is not leaving, NATO is of course at this very moment discussing with the EU exactly the question you are asking me about the reserve forces. We hope that they won't be necessary, but I take your point, you can never entirely exclude it, but you can rest assured that NATO will go on to play its role in this respect.

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "I cannot possibly comment on this, because I do not know where Mr. Mladic is. The only thing I know is that he should be in The Hague. But I don't know where he is." -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, regarding the whereabouts for former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. Quoted by Reuters in Belgrade on 19 July.

"Something strange is going on with sugar in Bosnia." -- Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic, in reference to alleged fraud involving importing sugar from the EU -- and then reexporting it to the EU as a Bosnian product at a windfall profit. Bosnia imported 230,000 tons of sugar from the EU over the past 18 months, of which 200,000 tons then "went missing." Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation consumes about 35,000 tons of sugar annually. Five companies from the federation and four from EU countries are believed to be involved in the scam. Reported by dpa on 21 July.