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Balkan Report: April 25, 2003


25 April 2003, Volume 7, Number 12

A MAJOR BLOW TO THE PEACE PROCESS IN MACEDONIA. The leaders of the major opposition parties -- the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) -- dealt a major blow recently to efforts to overcome the rifts between the country's Macedonian majority and the large Albanian minority.

On 18 April, former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the VMRO-DPMNE captured public attention with an editorial for the daily "Dnevnik." He claimed that the Ohrid peace agreement, which ended the 2001 interethnic conflict, destroyed Macedonia as a sovereign and unitary state by granting greater rights to the Albanian minority and decentralizing state institutions.

Georgievski struck all the familiar chords of Macedonian nationalism -- the "realization" that Macedonians and Albanians have been fighting each other throughout history rather than living together in peace; that the Macedonians face demographic destruction due to the high birth rates among the Albanians and the unrestricted immigration of Albanians from neighboring Kosova and Albania; that the international community supports only Albanians, while Macedonians face "ethnic cleansing"; that Macedonians pay the taxes, while Albanians are the beneficiaries of state-funded health care and education; that Macedonians obey the law while Albanians are criminals, etc.

The solution to these "problems" offered by Georgievski sounds familiar, as he has said it before. In a curious mixture, he calls on the EU to grant membership to Macedonia by 2005, but then reiterates his demand that Albanians be resettled in order to "save" the cities of Skopje, Kicevo, Kumanovo, and Struga for the Macedonian nation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 June 2001 and 4 April 2003).

Should this and other proposals fail to produce the expected results or should the ethnic Albanian political parties fail to accept it, then the Macedonian side should consider building a wall to separate the Macedonians from the Albanians, similar to the one that the Israelis are building, he added.

But Georgievski was not the only one to claim that interethnic relations in Macedonia have deteriorated to such an extent that living together seems impossible. PDSH Chairman Arben Xhaferi, who is a former coalition partner of Georgievski, told a party congress on 19 April that he has given up hope that Macedonia can become a multiethnic society. "I concluded that my beliefs on the future of multiethnic states are irrelevant since the political concept imposed by the [governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM)] shows [that] it is not prepared to and does not want to build a multiethnic society," Xhaferi said. Menduh Thaci, who is the PDSH's gray eminence, came to a similar conclusion. For him, the Ohrid peace agreement is simply "dead."

To underscore their point, both Xhaferi and Thaci announced their resignations. Xhaferi said the party must either elect a new leadership or "replace its current policy of advocating the...creation of a multiethnic, tolerant, and inclusive society with one of territorial partition."

The resignation obviously took the PDSH delegates by surprise. They refused to accept Xhaferi's and Thaci's resignations and declared a moratorium on party activities. Lawmakers started to boycott parliamentary work, and a five-member committee took over the party leadership to maintain contacts with the international community. With this move, the country's second-largest ethnic Albanian politically party effectively dropped out of the political process.

The government and the international community did not conceal their disappointment with the opposition leaders' call for segregation along ethnic lines. After all, Xhaferi and Georgievski had signed the Ohrid peace accord, and their support was crucial for implementing the agreement at the local level.

Addressing both the PDSH and Georgievski, Prime Minister and SDSM Chairman Branko Crvenkovski made it clear that "the government will use all constitutional means and not permit the further destabilization of peace and stability." And Ali Ahmeti, who heads the SDSM's junior coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, said in response to Georgievski's plan: "This is really disturbing. We are living in the 21st century. Walls between us are not helpful and serve to divide our communities."

In a joint statement, representatives of the EU, NATO, and the OSCE condemned the latest developments. "The full implementation of the Ohrid peace deal is fundamental in order to avoid the tragedies of the past, and a key for fulfilling the political conditions set for integration with the EU and NATO," dpa quoted the statement as saying.

Meanwhile in Tirana, Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta also condemned the partition proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003).

The latest developments could turn out to be a major setback to the fragile peace process. At the very least they are short-sighted and dangerous attempts by out-of-office party leaders to grab public attention. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIA'S NOT-SO-SECRET POLICE FILES. April opened in Slovenia with an exhibition at Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom Congress and Cultural Center titled "Australian Spring." Organized together with the Australian embassy in Vienna, the program highlights the literature, film, and music of "Down Under."

An entirely different sort of Australian spring truly shook Slovenia last week. On 17 April, the news broke that a Slovenian emigrant to Australia, Dusan Lajovic, had released up to 100,000 pages of records from the archives of the Slovenian division of former Yugoslavia's secret police at the Internet site http://www.udba.net

The site's name derives from the UDBA (State Security Administration), the Serbo-Croatian acronym for Yugoslavia's secret police. The Slovenian branch was established in 1966 after the fall of Aleksandar Rankovic (1909-1983), the Serbian head of the federal security service who believed that all of Yugoslavia should be strictly subordinated to Belgrade. The archives were subsequently decentralized and transferred from the Serbian capital, and then maintained and expanded in each separate republic.

The Slovenian State Security Service (SDV) remained active through the 1980s. Half of its dossiers on individual citizens were reportedly destroyed before Slovenia's first multiparty elections in 1990, and the fate of other parts of the archive -- including 17,000 rolls of microfilm -- is uncertain. According to a 19 April "Delo" article, portions of the archive disappeared while Miha Brejc headed the Security-Information Service (VIS), the successor to the SDV. Brejc is now vice president of the conservative Social Democratic Party (SDS) and says that the archives were empty when he took over the VIS, according to a 23 April article in "Delo."

During World War II, Lajovic supported Yugoslavia's Karadjordjevic dynasty, joining the Blue Guards, a movement allied with Draza Mihajlovic's Chetniks. After the war, the Blue Guards -- like all military formations that had not fought within the communist-led Liberation Front -- were branded as traitors.

Lajovic fled Yugoslavia in May 1945 over the Ljubelj Pass into Austria and made his way to Trieste. In 1950 he left Trieste for Australia and returned to visit Slovenia only in 1991, after its secession from Yugoslavia. He now lives in Sydney.

After Slovenia declared independence, Lajovic lobbied hard for its recognition by Australia and New Zealand. In return, he was named an honorary consul of Slovenia in 1992 and, in 1998, honorary general consul in Australia and leader of the New Zealand mission.

Asked why he released the information, Lajovic says he wanted to "expose the crimes that occurred in Slovenia under the communists. How they persecuted, tortured, and killed our people. I want the Slovenes to begin thinking about this," "Delo" reported on 19 April. In a 23 April article in "Delo," Brejc commented that the 78-year-old Lajovic is "getting on in years" and does not understand conditions in Slovenia.

Lajovic has refused to disclose where he obtained the files, but claims to have had them since independence. He denies links to any political party in Slovenia, but admires SDS head Janez Jansa and is 51 percent owner of the company that publishes the weekly "Demokracija," an SDS mouthpiece. Jansa distinguished himself in the years before independence as the only leading member of the Yugoslav dissident movement interested in military and security affairs.

Although the files are extensive, the information they contain is relatively scant, squeezed into four or five lines apiece. Each record consists of birth data (date and place of birth and parents' names, including mother's maiden name), profession, nationality, citizenship, and an SDV code or indication of whether and when the person committed any criminal offenses.

The five-digit SDV codes have aroused the most interest. The site contained a key for interpreting them, identifying SDV employees, regular collaborators, former collaborators, collaborators within the military and Catholic Church, persons under observation, priests, theological students, and others.

The release of the information violated Article 38 of the Slovenian Constitution, which protects the confidentiality of personal data. It was on this basis that Joze Bogataj, Slovenia's chief inspector for personal data, issued an order on 17 April demanding that Internet service providers (ISPs) block access to the site. The majority of ISPs in Slovenia complied, but some chose to risk a 300,000 tolar ($1,400) fine instead.

The Softnet ISP company of Trzin stated that it limits access only to material containing racial or religious intolerance, child pornography, illegal software distribution, and network attacks, "Delo" reported on 19 April. Instead, Softnet argued, Bogataj should direct his efforts to the source of the data.

However, because the material was posted on a server in Thailand, Slovenia was powerless to force the information off the Internet. The website remained accessible outside Slovenia, and within Slovenia one could access the page with a bit of extra work. The weekly news magazine "Mladina" offered readers several tips at its website, http://www.mladina.si. Nonetheless, by 22 April the material had been removed from the site, for reasons as yet unexplained.

Those Slovenes who chose to access the information seem to be taking it with a grain of salt. Although Slovenia's leading politicians appear on the list, the majority of names are those of ordinary citizens. As a "Delo" editorial on 19 April observed, most of them are guilty of nothing, and the majority of the data is simply personal information. Nor can it be assumed, others caution, that the data is entirely trustworthy. (Donald F. Reindl)

ROMANIA, BULGARIA, AND THE EU. Romania and Bulgaria, the two candidates left out of the 2004 wave of European Union enlargement, asked the EU in a statement issued on 14 April for formal guarantees that they will join the bloc in 2007 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 August 2002). The joint appeal by the Romanian and Bulgarian presidents came after suggestions that the two countries' support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq could damage their chances. Disagreements over Iraq have indeed strained relations between Romania and Bulgaria and some EU member states, but many analysts say that fulfilling the admission criteria remains the main condition for EU membership.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and his Romanian counterpart, Ion Iliescu, said in the joint statement that they expected the EU summit in Athens later that same week to provide "categorical confirmation" of their countries' perspectives within Europe.

All of the EU candidates from Eastern and Central Europe have supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq in one form or another and have been subjected to criticism from EU states opposed to the conflict, most notably France and Germany. But Romania and Bulgaria -- the laggards in the EU enlargement process -- attracted the fiercest criticism from French President Jacques Chirac (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 February 2003).

The two Balkan neighbors were invited to open membership talks in 2000, in a move seen by many as a reward for their support of NATO's 1999 air strikes on Yugoslavia, rather than as recognition of their economic and institutional readiness.

On 17 February, Chirac hinted that the two countries may have compromised any chances they had of joining the EU in 2007 by siding with the U.S. on Iraq. Chirac said Romania and Bulgaria had missed "a good opportunity to shut up."

Balkans affairs analyst Joan Hoey of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit says the dispute has highlighted already existing skepticism about the readiness of the two countries to join the bloc in 2007: "I think really what this whole Iraq affair has brought out is the already existing skepticism about Romania -- particularly Romania and Bulgaria's membership prospects within the Union. It's already debatable whether Romania will have satisfied all the membership criteria by that date, given that it has yet to achieve recognition as a functioning market economy. And to stand any chance of joining by 2007, Romania would have to close negotiations on all chapters of the acquis [communautaire] by the end of 2004, which is a pretty exacting target to meet."

With the crucial support of Washington, Romania and Bulgaria last year succeeded in securing invitations to join NATO in 2004. But they were left out of the 2004 EU enlargement because of the slow pace of economic and institutional reforms.

Bulgaria and Romania, among Europe's poorest countries, last year proposed -- and the EU accepted in principle -- that 2007 be set as a tentative date for their accession.

Bulgaria is more advanced in reforms and in EU negotiations than Romania, having "closed" 23 out of 31 chapters, compared to Romania's 16.

Romania also has been singled out for its problem with widespread corruption, with EU, U.S., as well as NATO officials repeatedly warning the government to tackle bribery and graft more seriously (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003).

Hoey explains that Bucharest's relations with Brussels have also been weakened by the fact that Romania -- seeking American support for its NATO bid -- has been caught in the middle in previous trans-Atlantic disputes: "We should remember, as well, that as far as Romania is concerned, this wasn't the first occasion on which the authorities in Bucharest annoyed the European Union. There was the [Romanian orphans'] adoptions issue, which has been a long-running source of contention with Brussels, with the U.S. having a different approach on that issue. And there was also the issue of Romania deciding unilaterally to make an agreement with the U.S. on potentially [not] handing over U.S. personnel to the International Criminal Court, and that issue was also something that annoyed leading politicians in Brussels. So this [Iraqi issue] is the third and most serious instance."

Romania has attempted to mend relations with EU heavyweights France and Germany and reassert its commitment to "Europe."

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana visited Paris the week prior to the Athens summit and said upon his return that Bucharest had "learned a lesson" from the Iraq crisis. Geoana added that Romania needs "a strong Europe."

Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, meanwhile, met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin, where he said that EU membership remains his government's top priority. In an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 9 April, however, Nastase stressed that Romania believes that the EU must be a union of equals and that Romania's security concept most definitely includes close ties with the U.S.

Some EU officials have recently indicated that the integration of the 10 candidates set to join in 2004 may take longer that expected, prompting concerns in Romania and Bulgaria that their accession might be postponed indefinitely.

Germany's EU envoy, Wilhelm Schoenfelder, said in Luxembourg shortly before the summit that the EU "must have a pause" and cannot have "continuous negotiations about expansion." But at the Athens summit, Chirac reassured Romania and Bulgaria that the 2007 date "will be observed" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003).

In any event, analysts say it will be the fulfillment of EU admission criteria that will count in the end.

EU enlargement analyst Heather Grabbe of the London-based Centre for European Reform says the accession mechanism cannot be stopped provided the candidates are doing their homework: "The way the EU's accession process is set up, it's actually quite hard for the EU to refuse membership to countries which have met the criteria. So as long as they can put the ticks in all of the boxes on the accession partnership which the commission has issued, as long as they can fulfill the criteria and be seen to do so, it's actually then very hard for any EU member state to put a spanner in the works of the accession process."

The issue may further be complicated by the appearance of another EU contender, Croatia, which recently applied for membership. Croatia, whose application is to be considered within a year, is seen by many as capable of catching up with Bulgaria in its preparations and even of overtaking Romania.

Croatian officials say they are aiming to join the EU in 2007, together with Romania and Bulgaria, or alone in 2008.

But Grabbe says the three will most likely join at the same time, whether in 2007 or later: "Croatia is expected by many EU member states to be ready to join certainly not longer [than] after Romania is ready to join. It might even move ahead of Romania in its preparations. The EU is unlikely to crank up its whole accession machinery just for one country, so I think the most likely thing is, in the end, that Croatia will join the same time as Romania and Bulgaria."

Turkey, the remaining candidate country, is also requesting a clear date to begin accession talks.

Grabbe says Turkey's bid is unlikely to influence the candidacies of Romania and Bulgaria in any way. But she warns the two countries to avoid what she calls the "Turkey trap" -- that is, not being able to meet membership conditions because of domestic political and economic obstacles. (Eugen Tomiuc)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "All Europeans believe the [Serbian] state of emergency should be lifted as soon as possible." -- French Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro Gabriel Keller. Quoted by dpa in Belgrade on 21 April.

"Zoran Djindjic was not killed by organized criminals but by war criminals." -- Veteran Serbian independent journalist Veran Matic, quoted by "The New York Times" on 22 April.

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