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Balkan Report: December 5, 2004


5 December 2004, Volume 8, Number 42

MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NAMED NEW PREMIER. Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski nominated Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski as new prime minister on 26 November. Buckovski will replace Hari Kostov, who resigned the post on 15 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 16, and 29 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 November 2004).

Buckovski's nomination came as no surprise. His administration is unlikely to initiate any major shift in the government's priorities in either foreign or domestic affairs. Buckovski will, however, have to address the political problems that triggered Kostov's resignation -- alleged nepotism and corruption within the state administration, as well as the government's failure to tackle the country's economic problems.

Before Crvenkovski nominated Buckovski, he was endorsed by his party, the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), which elected him chairman. Apart from Buckovski, potential candidates for party chairman and prime minister were Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska, Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, Finance Minister Nikola Popovski, and former parliamentary speaker Tito Petkovski. With the exception of Petkovski, who is an outspoken critic of the government's policies, all candidates are politically close to former SDSM Chairman Crvenkovski (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 April and 21 May 2004).

When Kostov resigned, the four ministers agreed that an extraordinary congress of the SDSM should first elect a new chairman. That position has been vacant since Crvenkovski had to resign from all party offices when he assumed the presidency earlier this year. Buckovski, Sekerinska, Mitreva, and Popovski also agreed that the new party chairman should also become the next prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2004).

The SDSM congress took place on 26 November, and Buckovski managed to win most votes in both rounds of voting. In the first round, he ran against Sekerinska and Petkovski, and in the second, only against Sekerinska. Immediately after the congress, Crvenkovski nominated Buckovski as prime minister-designate.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 28 November, Buckovski said he expects to announce his cabinet by 7 or 8 December and that the parliament will confirm it between 15 and 18 December.

Asked whether there will be a cabinet reshuffle, Buckovski said there will be talks on changes in the government's structure, including the composition of the cabinet. "This means a redistribution of the cabinet positions among the three coalition partners," Buckovski said, but declined to divulge any details of the possible changes.

Somewhat surprisingly, Buckovski said that talks are in progress with some political parties that are not currently members of the governing coalition. He mentioned discussions with Boris Stojmenov, who chairs the small VMRO-Makedonska party. "We have been working with this party since 2001, when we offered it one of our posts in the broad coalition government" formed at that time, Buckovski said. Asked whether the VMRO-Makedonska will be offered a position in the new cabinet, Buckovski said the talks are focusing on cooperation at the local level, not in the central government. Local elections are due in the spring of 2005.

Buckovski also said that fighting corruption and nepotism will be among the priorities of his government. "We have to take all accusations made by former Prime Minister Kostov seriously," Buckovski said. "I intend to hold talks [with the other coalition partners] about all anomalies that occurred during the past two years. There will be no escape from the main issue, the fight against corruption...[especially because we are obliged to weed out corruption] as we draw closer to the EU and NATO." Buckovski agreed with Kostov's view that there is corruption within the government, but added that he cannot assess the extent of graft among government officials.

In response to recent reports about an armed group of ethnic Albanians allegedly patrolling in the village of Kondovo outside Skopje, Buckovski said that, according to his information, the group is not big enough to pose a threat to the stability of the country as a whole. He added, however, that "the existence of armed individuals or groups must not be tolerated for too long a period." Buckovski said both the Interior Ministry and the EU's police mission are actively working to resolve the problem.

In initial assessments, most political analysts in Skopje said they do not believe that Buckovski's nomination will cause any major shift in the government's overall policies. Ibrahim Mehmeti, an ethnic Albanian publisher, told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters that the government's priority must be the economy. But the question of nepotism and corruption must also be addressed in a transparent way in order to restore public confidence and avoid creating the impression that the problem is being swept under the rug. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

KOSOVA'S 'MANDELA' SAYS THAT INDEPENDENCE IS THE KEY TO THE FUTURE. Adem Demaci, who is known as "Kosova's Mandela" because he served nearly 30 years in Yugoslav communist prisons, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service recently that Kosova's new parliament is likely to be much more lively than its predecessor. He also stressed the importance of independence as the key to Kosova's economic recovery (http://www.danas.org/article/2004/11/19/30a1271c-156b-482c-99ed-ee9ecfd8056f.html).

Demaci became a great moral authority in Kosova because his long years in prison never dampened his spirit or drove him to hatred. Albin Kurti, a leader of the Kosovar student movement in the 1990s, once told "RFE/RL Newsline" that Demaci has always maintained the enthusiasm and energy of a teenager. Demaci himself said to "Newsline" that the several years he spent in solitary confinement were the happiest ones in his life "because I was never closer to God."

Now advanced in years, Demaci until recently held a largely honorific post at Kosova's largest public broadcaster, RTK. Although there have been periodic reports in the media that he might enter active politics, he seems to prefer to remain on the sidelines, exerting his moral authority and making often biting comments on the absurdities and injustices he sees around him.

Speaking to RFE/RL, he said that there is no point wasting words regarding the formation of the new coalition government between President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK). Demaci argued that the LDK, which is the strongest party in the parliament, chose the AAK as its coalition partner because the AAK is only the third-largest parliamentary group and therefore presumably much easier to manipulate than would be Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), which is the second strongest legislative party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2004).

Demaci added that it is probably no great loss to Kosova that the former broad-based coalition will be replaced by a smaller coalition and an opposition. He said that if the opposition is active and critical, "we will learn about many things that were previously swept under the rug." Demaci added that he is confident that Thaci and Veton Surroi, whose Ora party is the fourth largest parliamentary party, will provide a robust opposition.

Demaci believes that it remains an open question whether Haradinaj, who is prime minister designate, will do well in that office. Demaci pointed out that there is strong suspicion that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal might soon indict the AAK leader in connection with his role as a commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) during the 1998-99 conflict, and that the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) and some Western diplomats are trying to block his appointment. In any event, Demaci concluded, Haradinaj's immediate political future is more in the hands of "outside forces than of domestic ones."

The former political prisoner also discussed the need for Kosova's independence, stressing that many important issues cannot be dealt with before the province's final and independent status is clarified. "We have 100 problems here, but everything is linked to the question of independence. For example, we cannot engage in economic and financial cooperation with the outside world because everybody tells us 'you're not a state and have nobody to guarantee our investments,'" Demaci noted.

He added that Kosova currently lacks the authority to make the most basic decisions regarding its future, including its finances, the economy, or holding elections. He argues that it was an unjust imposition by the international community to require that the 23 October parliamentary elections be conducted with closed party lists, since this prevented the full exercise of democracy and the right to choose individual or independent candidates.

What Kosova needs, Demaci believes, is the opportunity to create its own state based on the rule of law, which will include not only the ethnic Albanian majority but also "the minorities who live and who will decide to live with us."

He does not have a high opinion of the international community's "standards before status" formula, however. Demaci agrees that the standards -- including the right to security and freedom of movement -- represent a noble ideal to which all peoples, societies, and countries should aspire. But he also notes that "in Kosova there are no means to realize such aims" at present, adding that "there are many countries in Europe that have not realized them," either.

Demaci suspects that the requirement for meeting standards was imposed on Kosova as an excuse to put "pressure on the Albanians" and eventually partition the province along ethnic lines as a sop to Serbia. He regards this as unacceptable and an impediment to progress, which he equates with independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2003).

In fact, Kosova has a European future only as an independent country, Demaci argues. His remarks contrast with some recent proposals from German opposition politicians to make Kosova an EU protectorate, and with recent remarks by Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic that Kosova should become what he called a "European region" within the boundaries of Serbia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 July and 20 August 2004).

"Kosova's Mandela" nonetheless retains his optimism regarding people and the possibility of Serbs and Albanians to live together. "All nations and all people are good people. There are no bad nations. I do not agree with those Albanians who say that there are no good Serbs and that all of them are bad. I'm someone who believes in man and believes that if we create [real] conditions for living together on the basis of equality and without meddling or violence...then we can achieve it." (Patrick Moore)

NEW SLOVENIAN LEADER MEETS THE BALKAN NEIGHBORS. Slovenia hosted the Central European Initiative's (CEI) 2004 summit in the coastal town of Portoroz on 25-26 November, providing a convenient opportunity for Prime Minister-elect Janez Jansa to meet with political leaders from southeast Europe while outgoing Prime Minister Anton Rop officiated. Jansa won a surprise victory in general elections held on 3 October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 October 2004).

The origins of the Trieste-based CEI go back to 11 November 1989, only two days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the "Quadrilateral" was founded as a platform for cooperation at various levels between Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, having grown out of the earlier Alpine-Adria regional cooperation project. The four members multiplied to 17 over the next decade. Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine are currently members of the CEI.

Before 1 May 2004, the CEI could be characterized as EU-member "sponsors" Austria and Italy plus 15 former communist countries sandwiched between the EU and the Russian border. With an additional five of its member states in the EU since 1 May 2004, today the CEI is better viewed as a regional organization of EU and non-EU countries. Some of the latter states -- such as Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania -- have realistic prospects for joining the Brussels-based bloc in the coming years, while others -- such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Moldova -- remain far from that goal.

Jansa's most widely anticipated talks were with Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, with whom he met on 25 November. Bilateral relations between Slovenia and Croatia have been bedeviled by a number of unresolved issues dating back to their secession from former Yugoslavia in 1991 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 August 2004). The most intractable of these is the undefined maritime border between the two states, which erupts into a war of words (and fishermen) centered on the tiny Bay of Piran every summer.

It was therefore fitting that Jansa's meeting with Sanader took place in Portoroz, with a clear view of the disputed bay and Croatia's Savudrija Peninsula in the background. The two prime ministers agreed to hold more extensive talks as soon as the new center-right Slovenian government is installed. Jansa and Sanader agreed that the otherwise good relations between Slovenia and Croatia should not be harmed by frontier disagreements. Both men head conservative parties with solid nationalist credentials and hence are in a politically strong position to negotiate a bold deal that others might shy away from.

In contrast to previous bilateral statements, the two prime ministers steered clear of mentioning the moribund 2001 draft agreement initialed by former center-left Prime Ministers Janez Drnovsek and Ivica Racan. The agreement -- which would have given Slovenia a greater share of the Bay of Piran and direct access to international waters in exchange for some concessions on land -- was later repudiated by Croatia, although Slovenia continued to insist on it.

Instead, Sanader repeated Croatia's proposal for arbitration of the maritime border as a fitting solution, arguing that such a step would not signal the failure of bilateral talks. He was quoted in a CEI press release as saying that "if arbitration can be used by big countries such as the United States and Canada in cases regarding their maritime border...why can't Slovenia and Croatia [also] turn to arbitration?"

Jansa was typically less enthusiastic about arbitration, confirming only that it remains a possibility if negotiations fail, and that other avenues should be considered first.

Croatia has been eager for arbitration of the maritime border as a distinct issue (which would likely result in a 50-50 split of the contested bay), while Slovenia would prefer any arbitration to address ambiguities in the land border as well. At the same time, Jansa confirmed that Slovenia will continue to support Croatia's efforts to join the EU and NATO, later stating at a press conference, however, that Croatia will have to fulfill the same criteria as any other applicant country.

The summit was also an opportunity for Jansa to meet with Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic. Jansa assured Terzic that Slovenia will offer assistance to Bosnia-Herzegovina in meeting requirements for EU membership, which is also to Slovenia's advantage in that Slovenian businesses are eager to maintain and expand their roles in other former Yugoslav republics.

Although the summit was intended to reflect on the organization's future role in promoting economic development and regional cooperation, growing concern over the Ukrainian election crisis dominated discussions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2004). Rop spoke about the tension in Ukraine following the 21 November presidential runoff election and the CEI's wish for a peaceful and democratic resolution to the ensuing crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2004).

Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka was particularly critical in his remarks regarding the situation in neighboring Ukraine, while Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda warned that Europe cannot "remain silent or hide its head in the sand," Slovenian media reported.

Rop voiced his support for further EU expansion once applicants fulfill membership criteria, explicitly referring to the countries beyond the EU's current eastern border. In his speech on 26 November, Rop also expressed Slovenia's concern over the irregularities in the 15 October elections in Belarus, and he called on the CEI to continue cooperation with Belarusian nongovernmental organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004). (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "We have not come to avenge an old injustice with a new one. We have come to heal old wounds. [We Donauschwaben]...come in peace and friendship as old natives of Vojvodina who have since become Europeans. Our ancestors came here 200 or 250 years ago with one-way tickets to settle. We have round-trip tickets." -- Herbert Schoen, who heads a group of an unspecified number of Germans from Vojvodina who recently returned on a Danube cruise to visit their former homes. Some 200,000 Donauschwaben fled their homes in October 1944. On 21 November of that year, the Yugoslav communists confiscated their property and took away their citizenship. Quoted in Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" of 23 November.

"I did not receive any cooperation from the international community on this investigation." -- Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, referring to her investigations of unnamed former Kosovar Albanian guerrilla leaders. Quoted by Reuters on 24 November.

"They threaten that if [Serbian] President [Boris Tadic] and [Serbia and Montenegro's] Minister of Foreign Affairs [Vuk Draskovic] come to Vienna, they will go home in their coffins." -- Nina Dobrkovic, counselor of Serbia and Montenegro's Embassy in Vienna. She was referring to a fax received by the embassy and Austrian police from a hitherto unknown "Serbian Patriotic Organization" threatening that Tadic and Draskovic will "soon join [assassinated Prime Minister] Zoran Djindjic" because they support cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal. Quoted by Reuters on 24 November.

"I am repealing this law in order to assert the rule of law." -- High Representative Paddy Ashdown, quoted by dpa in Sarajevo on 26 November. He was referring to a law passed "unanimously" by the Bosnian parliament in July but never published. It allows the three-member Presidency to pardon anybody without any explanation or public announcement. Critics charge that the law would allow the three governing nationalist parties to protect their supporters from crime or corruption charges.

"Networks of criminals pervade Bosnian society, and my aim will be to provide the security environment in which the police can act against these people." -- British Major General David Leakey, who commands the new EUFOR military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which came into being on 2 December. Quoted in London's "The Times" of 29 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2004).

"[Lifting the EU arms embargo on China] would confirm a willingness by the EU consciously to take decisions that the Americans consider to be contrary to their strategic interests. If a pattern of such decisions were to emerge, it would mark a real rupture in the western alliance. Powerful forces still pull in the other direction. NATO [and thus the Americans] has infinitely more credibility as a guarantor of security than the EU; this matters to countries such as Poland or the Baltic states that still worry about the Russians." -- "The Economist," 19 November.

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