Accessibility links

Balkan Report: February 28, 2003


28 February 2003, Volume 7, Number 7

NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will be published on 28 March.

BALKAN MESSAGES FROM LEIPZIG. Outside the region itself, the Balkans have largely slipped to the fringes of public attention in the post-11 September world. Some German experts warn that ignoring the Balkans could inadvertently prepare the way for more trouble in the future.

Germany's Suedosteuropa-Gesellschaft (SOG), which is that country's primary organization for Balkan studies, held its annual meeting in Leipzig on 21 and 22 February. In addition to several hundred of the society's 750 members, diplomats from many of the Balkan states, as well as from the United States and France, attended the meeting.

But why Leipzig? The SOG has long been based in Munich, which is understandable given Bavaria's traditional links to the Balkans. And in recent years, Bavarian investments in Southeastern Europe have come to exceed those from all other German states combined.

But Leipzig also has an impressive history of ties to the Balkans through its traditional trade fairs, its university, and its publishing business. In fact, the first Romanian and Bulgarian newspapers were published in Leipzig, not in the home countries, according to Professor Frank-Dieter Grimm of Leipzig University, who helped host the conference. It is thus not surprising that the first chapter of the SOG to be set up in the former East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall was in Leipzig.

On the first day of the conference, a panel of German experts discussed the evolution of Balkan studies in Germany in recent years. The panelists generally agreed that interest in the region on the part of the academic and policy communities has declined since the Balkans disappeared from the headlines. The continuation of academic programs has often been dependent on the efforts of individual professors rather than broader objective criteria, and the prospects for employment for young specialists have dropped.

Jobs are still to be had, but students must plan carefully, the experts agreed. Those wanting to join the policy community should have not only solid historical and linguistic backgrounds but should also be versed in writing succinct political analysis. CVs centering on culture or religion are less marketable now than once was the case.

There was less agreement as to what students should do to prepare for a career in business centered on Southeastern Europe. Some speakers felt that it is best to study a specialized field such as banking or engineering and learn a regional language along the way.

Other experts argued that business professionals still require a thorough grounding in the history and culture of the region lest they make mistakes out of ignorance of their surroundings. Professor Grimm mentioned that this lack of regional expertise was a reason why many of the former East Germany's aid projects in developing countries did not succeed.

Still other speakers suggested that Western businesses operating in the Balkans are unlikely to need personnel from their home countries and will find excellent candidates locally. Some German businesses in the region now have few, if any, German employees there.

Finally, several speakers also pointed out that flexibility and adaptability are important in planning one's future. It would be wise for anyone contemplating a career in regional affairs to broaden their options and develop several areas of expertise, and not just in Balkan matters. Again, the ability to express oneself clearly and concisely and display good analytical skills is always in demand.

Gernot Erler, who is a member of the Bundestag for the governing Social Democrats (SPD) and chairman of the SOG, urged his German public not to neglect the Balkans but to persevere with programs already in place. He reminded his listeners that Germany's commitment to peace and security in the region is still underscored by the presence of 17,000 German NATO troops in the Balkans, even if words like Bosnia, Kosova, and Macedonia no longer dominate the evening newscasts. He suggested that it would be wrong to think that dangers have disappeared from the region or could not emerge again.

Erler stressed the importance of the international community's remaining engaged in the Balkans. He warned against what he called a caravan mentality, by which he meant the moving of public interest from one region of the world to another, with previous areas of concern being largely forgotten as attention shifts elsewhere. He pledged that the SOG will continue to pursue programs designed to foster links to the region and across the Atlantic in a variety of fields (see http://www.suedosteuropa-gesellschaft.com).

The guest speaker on the second day of the conference was Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK). Steiner stressed that his contacts with ordinary people of all ethnic backgrounds there have convinced him that they are more concerned about jobs, security, corruption, and crime than they are with issues involving the political status of the province, which is primarily the interest of politicians. He dismissed the recent demands by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic for talks on the status of Kosova as being motivated by the minister's domestic political considerations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 February 2003) .

In discussing what he considers the often negative lessons of Bosnia and the more positive ones of Kosova, Steiner made several points. He cited the need for the international community to have a clear mandate, the means and authority to execute it, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, such as shifting attention from enforcing a cease-fire to pursuing the fight against organized crime.

The international community must also be able to set its priorities wisely and follow through on what it has started, Steiner added. He also stressed that while the foreigners should not attempt to "clone" Western institutions in a place like Kosova, the international community should work to uproot what he called local "bad habits," such as corruption and discrimination against women. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA'S ARBEN XHAFERI REAPPEARS. Arben Xhaferi is one of Macedonia's most prominent, but also most controversial, politicians. For most ethnic Macedonians, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) seems to confirm all the negative stereotypes they have of ethnic Albanian politicians. They believe that Xhaferi is an Albanian nationalist, that he is a radical, and that he is someone who cannot be trusted, as he may have "a hidden agenda" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2003).

For many ethnic Albanians, he used to be an intellectual party leader who formulated their interests clearly, until he joined a coalition government with the similarly nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) in the fall of 1998. It was in this government that Xhaferi reinvented himself from a radical into a moderate.

In an interview with the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" on 22 February, Xhaferi described his shift from radical to moderate as due to considerations of Realpolitik. "In certain situations, a person or a party must take a firm stand, or, if you like, a radical position, if it wants to avoid dissolution." He denied that the PDSH dropped its basic demands as soon as it assumed power. It was merely a change in the way to achieve the party's aims, he argued. "In the [coalition] government...we sincerely tried to find the long-sought formula for cohabitation, mutual respect, and, above all, for a constructive approach to the [various postcommunist] transformations."

This rational approach nonetheless disappointed the PDSH's electorate because it did not yield the expected results. When the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) staged its uprising in spring 2001, its demands resembled those propagated by the PDSH before it joined the government. But unlike the established ethnic Albanian political parties, including the PDSH, the UCK was successful in forcing the ethnic Macedonian politicians to accept demands for greater rights for the Albanians and their better integration into state institutions (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001).

The former UCK leaders subsequently formed a political party, the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which defeated the PDSH in the September 2002 parliamentary elections. And while the BDI had to adopt moderate rhetoric before it could join the Social Democratic-led government, the PDSH returned to its previous, radical positions (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 and 25 October and 1 November 2002).

Xhaferi, who admitted in his interview that he enjoys being in the opposition, is now the one to criticize the BDI leaders for their failure to defend the Albanian minority's interests. He accused the BDI of destroying everything the PDSH had achieved while in government (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 February 2003). He argued that "among other things, we insisted on and succeeded in freeing the political prisoners. We greatly increased the number of Albanians in the state administration and managed to handle the refugee crisis [during the 1999 war in Kosova]. We [replaced the poor-quality] Tetovo University [with an internationally sponsored one]," Xhaferi told "Dnevnik."

He added that "during the [2001] conflict, we insisted that...[the conflict] was not [the result of] imported terrorism but that it had domestic roots. We demanded that the conflict be resolved by changing the legal definition of the state and proclaiming an amnesty. Our program carried the day."

From Xhaferi's point of view, being in the opposition must be very attractive. He can criticize the BDI for its failure to fulfill its electoral promises and can watch (and sometimes contribute to) emerging rifts within the BDI. BDI leader Ali Ahmeti is reportedly facing growing criticism from disappointed party members for failing to achieve quick and tangible results and for not getting them enough jobs in the state institutions and state-owned companies.

However, Xhaferi's PDSH still controls many municipal councils in the Albanian-populated areas. It is therefore the PDSH that holds the key to jobs and resources that the BDI members seek there.

Political animosities between Ahmeti and Xhaferi do not keep them from maintaining good personal relations. However, when asked about a recent meeting between him, Ahmeti, and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano in the eastern Albanian town of Liqenas on Lake Ohrid, Xhaferi reacted sharply because the question implied that Xhaferi was disloyal to the Macedonian state by holding such a closed-door meeting on foreign territory.

Xhaferi argued that "in Macedonia, the stereotype stubbornly persists that the Albanians and their leaders are constantly planning [some kind of action against the state]. [In reality,] the Albanians do not mind the existence of a Macedonian state.... [What] they do mind is the inequality of the Albanians and the Macedonian politicians' constant efforts aimed [at preventing the Albanians from getting their share of the pie and excluding them from decision making]. Such are the tendencies that created and fuel Albanian radicalism -- and not some secret ideas, projects, or conspiracies." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIA TO AMEND ITS CONSTITUTION FOR EU AND NATO ACCESSION. In preparation for joining the European Union and NATO, Slovenian lawmakers have been busy with last-minute constitutional changes to make accession legally possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2003). In the works are amendments to four key articles of the constitution, popularly referred to as the "European articles." The constitution is available in English translation at http://www.us-rs.si/basis/consten.html.

Articles 3, 8, 47, and 68 deal with sovereignty, the National Assembly's role in international decision making, extradition, and foreign ownership of property, respectively. Under the current procedure, an expert group, coordinated by Miro Cerar, first drafts the amendments. The Constitutional Commission endorses them and then sends them to the National Assembly for confirmation.

Article 3 declares "the permanent and inalienable right of the Slovenian nation to self-determination." The planned changes clear the way for Slovenia's accession to NATO by permitting entry into a defensive alliance with states that "respect the principles of democracy, a state based on the rule of law, and human rights and fundamental freedoms." The planned changes also pave the way for joining the EU, which will involve the transfer of some sovereign rights to an international body, "Delo" reported on 13 February.

Because Article 3 must answer basic questions relating to an international alliance and cooperation, specific provisions connected with the upcoming 23 March referendum on NATO and EU accession must also be addressed. These include recently defined details, such as its binding nature for the National Assembly, the idea that it cannot be repeated, and how to deal with invalid ballots, "Delo" reported on 15 February.

Article 8 defines the hierarchy of legal acts. Rather than adding to Article 8, lawmakers have transferred its provisions on international decision making to a new Article 3a, "Delo" reported on 21 February. In working out the new article, lawmakers were particularly concerned with preventing situations in which the National Assembly could paralyze the government's work in international bodies, "Delo" reported on 22 February.

Article 47 states that "no citizen of Slovenia may be extradited to a foreign country" and limits the extradition of noncitizens to instances covered by valid treaties. Lawmakers decided not to make specific reference to EU citizens or the International Criminal Court. In brief, the revised article affirms that Slovenian citizens cannot be extradited, except as required through obligations stemming from international treaties, "Delo" reported on 15 February.

The case of the Kosovar Albanian legislator Fatmir Limaj, whom police detained in the ski-resort town of Kranjska Gora on 18 February, recently highlighted the issue of extradition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2003). Limaj, a former member of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), has been charged by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in connection with 23 killings at the Llapushnik prison camp in 1998. Limaj is currently vice chairman of Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK).

On 20 February, Slovenian officials received an official request for Limaj's extradition from the tribunal, "Vecer" reported on 22 February. Slovenia is bound by law to hand over suspects to The Hague, and Limaj will be the first person indicted by the Hague to be extradited from Slovenia.

Article 68, previously amended in 1997, states that noncitizens may own real estate only "under the condition of reciprocity." The revision strikes out the reference to reciprocity, "Delo" reported on 13 February. Originally, the article prohibited noncitizens from acquiring land at all, except through inheritance. The restrictions Slovenia places on foreigners acquiring property reflects a widely held fear that wealthier foreigners -- especially Germans, Austrians, or Italians -- will buy up prime real estate and drive overall property prices higher (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2003).

Strongly debated was whether to include an "escape clause" in Article 3a that would allow Slovenia's withdrawal from NATO or the EU (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 January 2003). By a vote of 11-9 in a late-night session on 25 February, the commission rejected the clause proposed by France Cukjati of the conservative Social Democratic Party (SDS).

The expert group advised that such a clause is not necessary because states retain this right under international law. Some other experts argued that it would negatively impact on Slovenia's commitment to NATO and the EU. But proponents of the clause pointed out how the legal question of secession from Yugoslavia degenerated into war in the absence of a clear legal provision for disassociation, STA reported.

On 23 February, "Delo" quoted the leader of the SDS, Janez Jansa, on the issue: "Constitutional changes will also apply to future generations, and we must therefore be aware of the responsibilities and long-term consequences these entail. We would do our descendents a disservice if we did not include in the constitution a provision on Slovenia's withdrawal from international organizations and defensive alliances."

The concern underlying the escape clause is mirrored in the latest figures for public support for NATO and the EU published in "Delo" on 25 February. From January to February, the percentage of those supporting NATO entry fell from 44 to 37 percent (compared to 36 percent opposed), while those supporting EU entry fell from 65 to 62 percent (compared to 15 percent opposed). In both cases, the percentage of undecided respondents increased considerably. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "I constantly criticize people in the European part of NATO for allowing public opinion to go at an anti-American way, which is a betrayal of the steadfast links that the Americans have had with Europe and indeed the role played in liberating Europe by the United States." -- NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, quoted by RFE/RL in Washington on 20 February.

"I think on both sides of the Atlantic people need to cool down, get things into perspective, [and] recognize that the values that unite this alliance in this island of stability in a very dangerous and volatile world are worth protecting. And that means that tempers and emotions must be kept under control at this time. And we have got to recognize that there are nastier, more brutal enemies out there who are going to attack us if we get divided in the future." -- Robertson, quoted in ibid.

"When [former Yugoslav republics] hand over applications for [EU] membership, they should also consider handing over some war criminals." -- Unidentified EU diplomat, quoted in the "International Herald Tribune" on 24 February.

XS
SM
MD
LG