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Balkan Report: May 2, 2003


2 May 2003, Volume 7, Number 13

THE MIXED RECORD OF BALKAN PROTECTORATES. What might an international administration mean for Iraq? The examples of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosova suggest that the record is mixed -- at best.

Even as the conflict in Iraq was in progress, discussions took place in the media in many countries as to whether Bosnia and Kosova could serve as a model for Iraq. At first glance, there is the overriding similarity of post-conflict administrations in multi-ethnic environments.

But that is where the similarities end. Bosnia and Kosova are international protectorates, albeit ones with elected officials from the local populations. The victorious coalition in Iraq, however, has no intention of setting up an international protectorate and explicitly seeks to hand full power over to the Iraqis as soon as possible.

In Bosnia, by contrast, foreign experts and local opinion polls generally agree that the departure of the foreigners would sooner or later result in a resumption of conflict. Polls also suggest that Bosnians consider foreign officials and institutions -- such as the Office of the High Representative (OHR) -- more honest and effective than their own people.

These and other aspects of how Bosnians view their country were discussed in a roundtable held by RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 28 April. Many intellectuals and politicians nonetheless lamented the fact that Bosnia is politically and economically dependent on the international community. Some of the political leaders suggested that they could do much more for their country if only they were given the chance. And more than a few Bosnians argued that the foreigners are in Bosnia only to serve their own interests and that they profit by their presence -- observations that should come as no surprise to students of traditional Bosnian political culture.

And the foreigners themselves? While recognizing that Bosnia is effectively a protectorate in which all the important decisions have had to be taken by the OHR, some foreigners point out that they do not intend to stay in Bosnia indefinitely, adding that the Bosnians would do well to take more initiative in solving their own problems themselves.

Many foreigners argue that the Bosnians are partly responsible for having developed a culture of dependency, particularly where the economy is concerned. Again, one often hears foreigners say that it would not hurt for the Bosnians to accept ownership of their problems and work to solve them instead of waiting for the OHR to impose a solution (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 April 2003). And ultimately, it will be the Bosnians themselves who will determine whether mafia structures will dominate politics, business, and the security field, or whether transparency and the rule of law will prevail.

Similar choices face Kosova, but there are important differences as well. The UN civilian administration (UNMIK) had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the international mission in Bosnia, which is more than three years older. UNMIK, moreover, may have to deal with the legacy of the National Liberation Army (UCK), but it does not have to operate in an environment that includes three ethnically based armies.

And finally, while the OHR is forced to take decisions that Bosnian politicians cannot or will not make, UNMIK is proceeding to devolve at least some powers to eager, elected Kosovar officials. Eventually, of course, the Serbian minority's representatives will have to involve themselves in the process, and UNMIK will face the difficult task of granting the Serbs a measure of self-rule that does not lead to a de facto partition of Kosova along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002).

But Kosova is generally not considered a relevant example for Iraq. UNMIK chief Michael Steiner told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 3 April that Iraq is roughly10 times the size of Kosova, which would mean that 450,000 troops and 160,000 civilian employees would have to be stationed there if the Kosova model were to be duplicated.

Moreover, Bakhtiar Amin, who heads the Paris-based International Alliance for Justice, which brings together 275 NGOs from 120 countries, told Kosovars in Prishtina on 4 April that a Kosova-style UN administration is not desirable for his country.

Amin, who is originally from Kirkuk, Iraq, argued that "we are bitter as Iraqi people about the position of the UN [and] the position of [its] regional organizations because of their [past] indifference...to our suffering." He added, "I don't want...to see my country ruled by the UN...which for me is a bureaucratic, inefficient organization.... Iraqis are capable of ruling themselves."

And what do Kosovars themselves think? RFE/RL's Albanian Language broadcasters have noted that many Kosovars are skeptical about the UN and wonder aloud why the Americans waste their time on a "talking shop" in which America's rivals try to trip it up. Those Kosovars also ask why some West Europeans criticize the United States for not having solved all of Iraq's problems in a fortnight, when UNMIK has not managed to keep the electricity on in Kosova after nearly four years. (Patrick Moore)

BULGARIA'S STRONGMAN GIVES UP. In a surprising move that could have far-reaching consequences for the Bulgarian government, General Boyko Borisov, who is the Interior Ministry's chief secretary in charge of Bulgaria's police forces, resigned on 25 April, immediately after his return from an official trip to Moscow. Borisov declined to comment on the reason for his resignation, but it is widely believed that it was prompted by the reactions to his allegations five days earlier that some politicians and magistrates have dubious ties to the underworld.

Borisov's announcement that his ministry has prepared a report on alleged links between politicians, magistrates and prosecutors, and members of organized crime structures was made on Bulgarian National Radio on 20 April. The report in question was to be presented to Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and President Georgi Parvanov the following day.

But the hand-over was delayed, as Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov insisted that the report be revised before it was made available to Parvanov and Saxecoburggotski. That, in turn, fueled media speculation that the report had to be purged of compromising material. And while Borisov went to Moscow, Saxecoburggotski established a new Coordination Center for Combating Organized Crime consisting of Borisov's critics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 24 April 2003, and "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003).

Broad public support apparently led the 43-year-old Borisov to overestimate his position within the government. He is a graduate from the Interior Ministry's academy, who spent much of the post-communist period as head of a private security company. In that capacity, he served as a bodyguard to Saxecoburggotski, who in August 2001 appointed him to the top position in the Interior Ministry. From that moment, Borisov quickly gained popularity both thanks to his media presence and by openly identifying corruption and organized crime as the country's most pressing problems and criticizing the courts for their tendency to free suspects soon after their detention by the police. In an interview for the daily "Sega" in late 2001, Borisov confessed that he would rather allow violations of the existing "useless" laws than refrain from cracking down on criminals.

For much of the population, he stood for law and order as well as for a heroic and romantic approach to politics. And he seemed to have the authority that the public thought was necessary to cope with the evils of society. That is why some media described Borisov as a mixture of Rambo, Batman, and 19th century Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski.

This popular (and populist) approach, however, also gave rise to problems with his superior, Interior Minister Petkanov, who is a law professor, as well as with other Interior Ministry officials. At times, it seemed that the contacts between Petkanov and his chief secretary had been broken off altogether.

Borisov certainly did not make friends either, when he complained in January 2003 that neither the country's leadership nor the judiciary supported him in his efforts to combat organized crime. "In Bulgaria, we have a lot of authorities" who have a say, Borisov said. "The president is an authority, the prime minister is an authority, [parliamentary speaker Ognyan] Gerdzhikov is an authority, [Prosecutor-General Nikola] Filchev is an authority.... All are independent and everybody does what he likes. There is no uniting figure.... Who has constructed the state in such a way that it has resulted in such chaos?" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 2003).

Thus, the latest controversial Interior Ministry report was just the most recent move in Borisov's fight with the centers of power. No wonder, then, that the reactions to his resignation were mixed. Saxecoburggotski said: "His resignation has been prompted namely by statements, which he made maybe somewhat hastily, and he, himself, decided that this is an adequate reason to resign from such a responsible position."

Opposition Socialist Party (BSP) leader Sergey Stanishev predicted that Borisov's resignation would lead to a further fall in public support for the government, as Borisov was one of the government's pillars. And Nadezhda Mihailova, who chairs the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), said Borisov's resignation is less important than the answer to the question -- whether the current government has ties to organized-crime structures or not.

Now that the government has lost a symbolic figure who embodied its struggle against organized crime, it will certainly have difficulties selling its policies. However, some analysts note that the impact of Borisov's resignation should not be overestimated. After all, his 20 months in office did not change much -- high-profile killings, smuggling, and racketeering are still common in Bulgaria. It will take much more than one Borisov to overcome such underlying problems as the judiciary's inefficiency, or widespread corruption. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIAN WINE INDUSTRY FACES EU CHALLENGES. European countries are sometimes divided into those favoring beer versus those favoring wine as the national beverage. With its Alpine-Mediterranean character, Slovenia has the happy distinction of being both a beer and a wine country.

Beer advocates might claim statistical precedence: the average Slovene consumes 103 liters of beer annually and only 41.5 liters of wine, according to a 2 February article in "Delo." However, wine production is better developed in Slovenia. Two rival domestic brands, Lasko and Union, dominate the beer market, whereas the wine market offers consumers hundreds of labels.

The Slovenian wine industry will face several challenges with accession to the European Union. The EU currently comprises nearly half the wine-growing area in the world, and accounts for the majority of global wine production, consumption, and exports. With this come a great number of laws covering planting, production, packaging, and other areas.

Slovenian wine laws are equally complex. Although they have much in common with those of Germany, France, and Italy, ironing out the differences remains a major task. A small bureaucratic victory was scored recently when Brussels recognized Cvicek, a wine from the Dolenjska region, as a traditional vintage (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April 2002).

The EU has tried for over two decades to reduce the acreage cultivated for wine production. The EU wine industry is plagued by overproduction, and the excess product is distilled into industrial ethanol. In 1978 this prompted a ban on new plantings, and the end of the 1980s saw increased incentives for giving up vineyards.

With EU accession, these restrictions will also apply to Slovenia. The approaching moratorium has resulted in a surge in planting, as vintners labor to get their vines in before the legislation takes effect.

Even so, the 22,000 acres of land devoted to vineyards in Slovenia is less than half of what was cultivated before the Phylloxera plague hit Europe in the 1850s, according to an English-language guide by Miso Alkalaj (available at http://www.matkurja.com/projects/wine). One still comes across the overgrown terraces of these long-forgotten vineyards today.

The EU system of classifying wine-growing regions into zones will also affect wine production. Traditionally, Slovenia has three wine regions: Podravje in the northeast, Posavje in the southeast, and the southwest coastal region of Primorje. Vintners agreed with classifying the first two into Zone B (comparable to Austria), but objections arose over designating Primorje as Zone C II (comparable to northeast Italy).

The zones are based on sunlight and natural grape sugar levels, restricting the additional sugar that can be added in poor years. Had Primorje already been classified C II in 2002, 20 percent of that year's vintage would have been consigned to the distillery, a "Delo" article lamented on 4 November last year.

Packaging will also be affected. A gift of wine is de rigueur when making a social visit, and a Slovenian friend once described the art of choosing an appropriate wine -- not by variety, but by the shape of the bottle. "A bottle with a long or tapering neck, that's the kind," he recommended. "Those stubby ones," he sniffed, "are for rednecks."

Slovenians currently have a wide range of bottles to choose from, with the high-end wines appearing in the most graceful and elongated bottles. For the less discerning, a variety of drinkable wines are offered in simple one-liter bottles, stubby necks and all. These are returnable and sealed with a bottle cap, and the clerk's question at the corner grocery -- "Any bottles?" -- is a familiar one.

This will change, however, when EU legislation takes effect at the end of 2004. The new laws stipulate that wine sold in one-liter bottles must be sealed with a stopper (cork or cork substitute) or a screw top, and that only non-returnable bottles may be used.

Connoisseurs might disparage using metal caps on wine bottles, but with cork taint reportedly affecting up to 10 percent of corked wines (cork advocates claim the rate is closer to 0.6 percent), vintners are investigating alternatives to natural cork. Although it lacks the mystique and romance of the cork, the screw top is increasingly gaining acceptance as a cheap, reliable alternative.

Some welcome these changes. In a 28 April article in "Delo," enologist Zdravko Mastnak says that Slovenia has become an anomaly in Central Europe by continuing to use bottle caps. He also points out that, although wine producers are reluctant to adopt non-returnable bottles, the expense of washing old bottles adds to the final cost.

The Leskovec Wine Cellar of Dolenjska is pleased with its decision last year to adopt screw tops, the same article reports. According to a company spokesperson Leskovec sells 88,000 to 96,000 bottles of Cvicek every month, and last year's vintage was already spoken for by the time the grapes were harvested. Mastnak encourages other producers to follow Leskovec's lead, warning that procrastination will only weaken their market positions. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "We all have different interests. But we don't want two different Europes. There has to be integration in Europe, but an integration built by all the players, not by one or two." -- Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, quoted in "The Guardian" on 28 April.

"You can't entrust your purse to Europe and your security to America." -- European Commission President Romano Prodi, quoted in ibid.

"They [the East Europeans] will fit in and not make the same mistakes again. They know only too well where their markets are and where their money's coming from." -- EU commissioner for enlargement Guenther Verheugen, quoted in ibid.

"France has made it quite clear to some of the nations that did support us, especially some of the aspirant or the candidate nations, that they were going to pay a price for supporting us." -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Quoted by "The Daily Telegraph" in Washington on 30 April.

"This summit is in no way anti-American nor is it an exclusive one." -- Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, quoted in the "Financial Times" on 29 April. He was referring to the summit that day of France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, dubbed by some German critics "the Belgian chocolate summit."

"We are not putting the Atlantic alliance into danger.... We are reinforcing it." -- French President Jacques Chirac in Brussels on 29 April after that gathering. Quoted by dpa.

"Belgium and France will not guarantee our security. Germany will not guarantee the security of the Netherlands. I cannot imagine a world order built against the United States." -- Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, quoted in the "International Herald Tribune" on 30 April.

"For too long, Washington has looked benignly on European integration; we should awaken to the potential danger before a Brussels bureaucracy robs us of our remaining allies on the continent." -- journalist Max Boot in the "Weekly Standard" of 5 May.

"The fundamental reason why you won't see France, Germany, Russia, and other jealous states ganging up on America militarily is that they know America presents no security threat to them...and actually serves their security interests." -- ibid.

"The 'camps' that divide Europe aren't at all 'of peace' and 'of war.' The real camps group those stuck in the world of September 10 and those awakened by the events of the 11th.... The first camp, France-Germany-Russia, dreams of a 'multi-polarity' of sovereign powers...and to Saddam Hussein are left his people.... On the other side, with Britain at its head, stands the group that understands that a tyranny far away can strike at the heart of New York, with the power to do great harm and with no respect for frontiers or limits.... The question of questions is not multilaterality or unilaterality, but nihilism or civilization." -- French philosopher Andre Glucksmann, writing in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" of 28 April.

"...There is an issue that we have to resolve here between America and Europe and within Europe about Europe's attitude towards the transatlantic alliance.... The danger of rival poles of power is that you end up reawakening some of the problems that we had in the old Cold War with countries playing different centers of power off against each other, with countries who really should be together falling out over issues, and that destabilizes the world....I want a stronger Europe, more capable of speaking with a unified voice, but I don't want that Europe setting itself up in opposition to America, because I think that won't work, I think it will be dangerous and destabilizing." -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an interview with the "Financial Times" on 28 April.

"The United States is the only ally providing Tokyo with deterrent power against any foreign country that could threaten regional security, such as North Korea, and the Japanese people should never forget it." -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, quoted by Max Boot in op. cit.

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