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Balkan Report: August 20, 2004


20 August 2004, Volume 8, Number 30

UN RETHINKS POLICY ON KOSOVA. The United Nations is facing some of its most intense scrutiny over the administration of Kosova. Serbs and ethnic Albanian leaders -- barely in dialogue with each other -- both see the UN as unfit to run the province. UN Security Council members are pressing for policy changes to maintain their goal of a multiethnic entity. A number of outside experts, meanwhile, regard the council's mandate for Kosova as an inherent contradiction that must be revised soon (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 29 July, and 6 and 13 August 2004).

When Soren Jessen-Petersen took over on 16 August as the UN's sixth administrator of Kosova, he made it clear that "there can be no stability, peace, and perspective for the...Balkans without solving the Kosovo issue" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, and 18 August 2004). He said two days later that the next few months will be crucial for resolving Kosova's final status, and warned the international community against continuing complacency.

He now faces some of the UN's most daunting challenges in five years of running the province. The Danish diplomat will need to prove to skeptical local actors that the United Nations can credibly guide Kosova through reforms in the aftermath of the worst ethnic violence since 1999. He must try to revive the dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina at a time when local Serbs are threatening to boycott the October provincial elections. Jessen-Petersen also needs to find a sustainable way to safeguard minority rights, an issue his predecessors could not resolve.

At the same time, UN officials face calls from some UN Security Council members and nongovernmental experts to reduce the size and scope of the Kosova mission. Top UN officials are currently weighing a possible shift in strategy involving the transfer of more authorities to local bodies.

One of the UN's sharpest critics in recent months has been the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, an independent conflict-prevention organization. It has been in the forefront of groups calling for more clarity on Kosova's final status, saying UN rule is now hindering more than helping the development of the province.

Nicholas Whyte, director of the group's Europe program, told RFE/RL that the UN's bureaucracy is to blame for a failure to provide even simple services. "Infrastructure such as electricity and water actually run slightly worse than they did under Serbian rule," he said. "There are real problems, and the UN hasn't made itself look as if it's a credible international administrator in Kosovo in that respect."

The UN operates under the mandate of Security Council Resolution No. 1244, which puts it in charge of areas such as police and courts, setting economic policy, and controlling power and telephone services.

The March outbreak of violence involving attacks by ethnic Albanians against Serbs and other minorities has focused attention on UN security shortcomings. But White and others say the UN's biggest mishaps have been in running the economy, particularly privatization.

An article in "The Wall Street Journal" earlier in August called the UN-run privatization program a "showcase for the difficulties and dangers of trying to heal a fractured society through a lumbering international bureaucracy."

Privatization problems could be at least partly responsible for the province's high unemployment rates, especially among the young. Whyte said the UN's reluctance to hand over responsibility for economic matters to Kosovar Albanians has led to a breakdown in trust between the two sides on such matters.

"It would be a different matter if the UN was manifestly more competent in running this side of affairs than the local actors were, but that actually isn't the case. The UN economic pillar has been a byword for incompetence and corruption more or less since its creation," Whyte said.

Responding to widespread criticism from Kosova's ethnic Albanian majority and some foreign NGOs that the privatization process supervised by UNMIK and the EU has been badly handled, Katja Wallrafen, a spokeswoman for the UN mission department in charge of reconstruction and economic affairs there told RFE/RL on 19 August that the UN-run Kosovo Trust Agency is moving forward with a third round of privatization and is preparing for a fourth round. There is a 15 September deadline for bidding in the third round on 13 companies, including a large metallurgical complex, printing plants, and a bottling plant. The UN agency had suspended the privatization process after two rounds in October 2003 because of concerns about its legality. The privatization process is complicated by the unresolved status of Kosova.

But the controversy over the privatization agency continues. Daniel Serwer, a Balkans expert at the U.S. Institute for Peace said that, regardless of the Kosova status question, the provisional institutions of self-government should be put in charge of the process.

On 2 August, "The Wall Street Journal in Europe" ran an article critical of the UN's performance in Kosova entitled "Balkan Mire," noting that Germany's Count Nikolaus Lamsdorff, who heads the EU's "pillar" of UNMIK, has been "wary of experts paid by the U.S. government, whom he termed 'hired guns.'" The article suggested that the UN and EU economic project in Kosova has been characterized by incompetence, corruption, cronyism, confusion, and a tendency to elbow Americans out (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March and 29 July 2004).

Serwer also said more effort should be made to hand over security responsibilities to ethnic Albanians. "The UN has to not just be leaner and tighter and better run, it has to surrender authority over everything it can possibly surrender authority over. It has to stop worrying about whether the provisional institutions of self-government are going to make a mistake. They have to be allowed to make mistakes, because that's how people learn things. Now, there are limits in [Resolution No.] 1244 on how much authority can be turned over -- especially in the security area -- but within those limits there's a great deal that can be done by way of bringing Albanians into the process of law enforcement," Serwer told RFE/RL.

Such proposals are likely to arouse strong opposition from Kosova's Serbs and officials in Belgrade. They note that more than 2,000 local Serbs remain displaced as a result of the March violence.

Serwer agrees that the rights and safety of minorities remains a central issue. "The only thing that stands in the way of a discussion of final status is the treatment of the Serbs and other minorities, and frankly this is not a matter of getting a few dozen people back to their homes and saying 'look what we did.' This is a matter of changing the atmosphere and the environment in which minority Serbs and other minorities are living in Kosovo, from one that is quite hostile all too often to one that is, at least, one of indifference, if not of welcome," he said.

Overall, nearly 200,000 Serbs cannot return home to Kosova, primarily out of fear for their safety. Most fled directly after the 1998-99 conflict, many fearing retribution from their ethnic Albanian neighbors for the role some local Serbs played in former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's "ethnic-cleansing" campaign.

Belgrade and local Serbs want conditions created so that Serbs can return and live in safety, calling for the creation of pockets of self-rule in the province, which Albanians fear will be a first step toward partition. The UN has already rejected Belgrade's "cantonization" proposal.

Meanwhile, there is clearly support among some key Security Council members -- such as the United States and Britain -- for accelerating the handover of some authorities to ethnic Albanian-led institutions in Kosova, while maintaining pressure for key reforms.

This also seems to be the thrust of the 70-paragraph report by Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which was dated 15 July but released to the media only on 12 August. Eide calls for streamlining the role of UNMIK and transferring more of the international community's role to the EU, which, he feels, should appoint its own high representative for Kosova. At the same time, Eide stresses that NATO peacekeepers and all members of the international community will continue to play an important role and should not plan on reducing their presence.

Referring to the violence in March, he notes that the international community failed to understand the depth of the ethnic Albanian majority's frustration with the lack of a clear perspective for the future. Eide concludes that the UN's present "standards-before-status" policy needs revising to give the majority a clearer road map according to explicit priorities, while providing for decentralization and other measures of concern to the Serbian and other minorities.

In an effort to meet a key Albanian demand for more self-government, Eide suggests more professional training for Kosovars and that "powers and competences that are not attributes of sovereignty" be increasingly transferred to Kosova's elected officials.

It is not clear to what extent his recommendations will be implemented or whether they go far enough to ease the impatience and frustration that led to the March unrest. But if Jessen-Petersen's initial remarks in Prishtina are anything to go by, it seems that he has read Eide's report and is likely to act on it. (Robert McMahon and Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA THREE YEARS AFTER THE PEACE DEAL. On 13 August 2001, the leaders of what were then Macedonia's four governing parties -- Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), and Imer Imeri of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) -- signed what was called the Framework Agreement. It is widely known as the Ohrid peace accord, named after the lakeside town in western Macedonia where it was hammered out with the help of the United States and the EU. The pact ended months of fighting between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) and the government's security forces (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001).

The Ohrid peace accord granted the Albanian minority -- which makes up about one-quarter of the total population -- greater rights in many spheres. Through constitutional amendments and other legal changes, Albanian will become the second official language in those administrative districts where the Albanians make up more than 20 percent of the population. Members of ethnic minorities are guaranteed equal opportunity in higher education was well as equal representation in the state administration and security forces.

However, many Macedonian citizens remain opposed to the Ohrid agreement, for various reasons. Even some of those politicians who signed it have withdrawn their support for the peace deal, most notably former allies Georgievski and Xhaferi. Some ethnic Macedonians claim that the Albanian minority was rewarded for starting a "civil war," whereas the Macedonians were those who "lost" the peace that ended the conflict. For the more radical ethnic Albanians, the Ohrid peace deal was flawed because it did not go far enough.

Three years after the deal was signed, the Macedonian parliament is debating the last legislative changes stipulated in it -- a package of laws that will transfer more powers to the local administrations and reduce the number of administrative districts from 123 to 80 in 2005 and to 76 in 2008 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 August 2004).

The deep-rooted reluctance of the ethnic Macedonian population to accept the terms of the Ohrid peace agreement provided fertile ground for the protest movement against the government's decentralization and redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2, 23, and 30 July, and 13 August 2004).

But the memory of the interethnic conflict still upsets many Macedonian citizens for other reasons, too. The conflict took the lives of at least 80 people -- soldiers, police, civilians, and rebels. Some 120,000 people fled their homes during the violent clashes; currently, there are still some 1,900 internally displaced persons, according to "Dnevnik" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002 and 3 June 2003).

In addition, 19 people -- 12 ethnic Macedonians, six Albanians, and one Bulgarian citizen -- disappeared during the conflict and are presumed dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2003, and 19 February, 19 and 26 May 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 16 November 2001).

These figures may not seem impressive, especially by the standards of the conflicts elsewhere in former Yugoslavia. But in a small country like Macedonia, which has only 2 million citizens and where society is based on face-to-face relations, many people know families of victims.

And there is the question of the unresolved war crimes committed by both the rebels and the government forces. Most UCK members were pardoned in an amnesty following the peace deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 November 2001 and 15 March 2002). But the worst cases of war crimes and human rights violations were to be investigated by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The Hague prosecutors recently heard the testimonies of some high-ranking police officials in one of the most controversial cases, the alleged killing of some ethnic Albanian civilians in the village of Ljuboten between 10 and 12 August 2001 by Macedonian security forces, an incident that Macedonian officials firmly deny took place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 13, and 28 August 2001, 27 November 2002, and 4 and 10 August 2004, and the accounts provided by Human Rights Watch at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/macedonia/ as well as the official account by the Public Prosecutor's Office at http://www.jorm.org.mk/ang/inf.18-11-01.shtml).

At present, it is impossible to predict whether the investigations into this case and others will result in any cases coming to trial. Not only do the prosecutors face highly contradictory testimonies from victims and suspects, but they must also deal with the problem that one of the most prominent suspects, former hawkish Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, fled to Croatia after parliament lifted his immunity in connection with another case. He is a Croatian as well as a Macedonian citizen and has settled down to running a restaurant in Istria with his wife (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 May 2004). (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIA AND CROATIA: THE POLITICS OF DIVISION. To outsiders, Slovenia and Croatia appeared to have much in common in 1991. They were both relatively prosperous, Western-oriented Yugoslav republics that sought independence as a last resort when moves toward increased democracy were blocked in a federal system paralyzed by Serbian nationalism and the accumulation of power under former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Some sort of alliance between the two and a coordinated exit from Yugoslavia would have been a reasonable expectation -- perhaps like the Baltic states, which left the Soviet Union in 1991, established economic and military cooperation agreements, and joined NATO and the European Union together in 2004.

Instead, rivalries between Ljubljana and Zagreb appeared from the start. The two countries agreed to declare independence on 26 June 1991, but Croatia jumped the gun and announced its independence on 25 June. Not to be upstaged, Slovenia did the same and beat the Croats by a few hours.

Over the years, petty incidents have continued to sour relations, ranging from disputes over the ownership of small plots of land to alleged discrimination against each other's citizens (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 August 2002 and 16 July 2004). There is also a host of issues relating to Croatian citizens' pre-1991 deposits in the Ljubljanska Banka and to the Krsko nuclear power plant, which is on Slovenian territory but was built in communist times, partly with Croatian funding.

However, nothing symbolizes bilateral animosities like the tensions over drawing maritime borders in the Bay of Piran -- or, as Croatian media now call it, the Bay of Savudrija, to remove any association with the Slovenian town of Piran.

The area in question -- less than 20 square kilometers altogether -- is not even visible on most maps of Europe. However, the angle of the demarcation line has become a sticking point for the national pride of both countries. Under a draft agreement in 2001, Slovenia would have received 80 percent of the bay (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001). The deal was never ratified, and now Croatia is pressing for a 50-50 split. In either case, Slovenia would be cut off from international waters unless it obtains Croatia's agreement for a special access corridor.

While politicians in Ljubljana and Zagreb use the issue to score points with voters, the locals bear the consequences. Croatian fishermen resent dealing with Slovenian police patrols south of the central dividing line, while Slovenian fishermen feel they are being forced from waters they have fished for generations. A fresh round of diplomatic notes has been exchanged, and preelection posturing in Slovenia may increase tensions.

Lojze Peterle, a Slovenian member of the European Parliament, commented on matters in a 14 August interview in "Delo." He observed that Croatia has a very long coastline, but "to press [Zagreb] for magnanimity would be unstatesmanlike." (Croatia's 1,778 kilometer coastline surpasses that of any other Balkan country except Greece, and all but blocks access to the sea for Bosnia-Herzegovina.) Croatia and Slovenia, Peterle said, need to establish a credible policy of mutually advantageous good relations, instead of falling back on what he called unilateral moves and accusations of bad faith. It is especially detrimental that local fishermen, rather than diplomats, are being used to play out national policies.

A 14 August article by Peter Zerjavic in "Delo" examined the misconceptions and stereotypes about Croatia that cloud perceptions on both sides. Slovenes feel that Croats are growing rich off coastal tourism. Prices for visitors to Dalmatia are exorbitant, and the standard of living in Zagreb is equivalent to the Slovenian average -- but Croatia's per capita gross domestic product is only half that of Slovenia's, and in war-ravaged areas many Croats live in abject poverty.

Since the late President Franjo Tudjman's death in 1999, Croatia has made steady progress in Euro-Atlantic integration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 January and 25 June 2004). However, it seriously lags behind its northern neighbor, which is no small source of resentment in Croatia. (Indeed, Zerjavic might have added that throughout the former Yugoslavia there is a widespread feeling that the Slovenes owe their recent progress in joining the EU and NATO to the economic and social benefits that they formerly derived as part of Yugoslavia -- a country that Slovenes now mock as "Balkan.")

There have been, however, quiet successes in bilateral relations. Every year since 1994 Slovenia and Croatia have renewed a school protocol permitting pupils to study tuition-free in the other country -- including funding for Slovenian-language training in Croatia and vice versa. Slovenian and Croatian police have established joint border patrols to reduce illegal border crossings and human trafficking (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 April 2003). Slovenia also provides work for some Croats: among the 97 countries of origin for foreign workers in Slovenia in 2003, Croatia ranked third, just after Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro.

Zerjavic also lists ties that bind Slovenia and Croatia: linguistic similarities, intermarriages, and shared appreciation of each other's media, sports, and music. Given the political will for a rapprochement, politicians might be surprised to find popular support for it as well. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "There will be no normalization, no stability in the western Balkans, unless the issue of Kosovo is resolved." -- Danish diplomat Soren Jessen-Petersen, who is the new head of the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), in Prishtina on 15 August. Quoted by RFE/RL.

"There is a limit to how long you can keep a place in limbo. It is incumbent on me to try to lead the process [toward resolving the status question] with a greater sense of urgency." -- Jessen-Petersen in Prishtina on 17 August. Quoted by Reuters.

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