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Balkan Report: June 20, 2003


20 June 2003, Volume 7, Number 19

TALKS ABOUT TALKS: KOSOVARS AND SERBS TO MEET IN THESSALONIKI? Kosovar Albanian leaders have not held direct talks with their Serbian counterparts since 1999, when NATO established a de facto protectorate in the province. But now Prishtina and Belgrade look set to reopen dialogue -- but one that will focus on practical matters and avoid the status question (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 June 2003).

The margins of the June 19-21 summit, where the EU's commitments in the Balkans will be high on the agenda, was seen as an appropriate setting for Prishtina and Belgrade to hold their first talks in four years.

But on 13 June, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said the talks would start soon -- but not in Thessaloniki. Zivkovic, speaking following a meeting in Belgrade with Michael Steiner, the outgoing head of the United Nations Mission in Kosova (UNMIK), said the dialogue could open at the end of June or in early July. The EU headquarters in Brussels was suggested as a possible venue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003).

Zivkovic said the Serbian government wants to discuss "serious issues" with the Kosovar Albanians, "rather than just being photographed."

For his part, Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi predicted "a difficult process." He said that any talks between his government and that of Serbia will have to be thoroughly prepared and center only on "concrete issues" like infrastructure and border crossings.

No agenda has yet been set for the talks. But the dialogue is expected to focus on practical issues of mutual concern. Belgrade is hoping to discuss the return of over 200,000 Serbs who fled the region fearing revenge attacks.

Naim Jerliu is vice president of Kosova's Democratic League (LDK). He told RFE/RL the goal of ethnic Albanians is an independent Kosova. "The position of Kosova institutions and Kosova Albanian political parties on final status is the position of [needing to] recognize the will of the people of Kosova. And it is well-known that the will of the Kosova people is for an independent and democratic Kosova. So any possible solution that we see through the mediation which will be led by the United States and the European Union, we see in that direction," he said.

There seems to be no consensus, however, on how to achieve that goal. Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), earlier this year proposed setting a moratorium on all discussions of final status until 2005. But that idea was rejected by the LDK and Kosova's third-biggest Albanian party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK).

The Serbian side also lacks a unified strategy.

Nebojsa Covic, the Serbian deputy prime minister in charge of Kosovar affairs, acknowledges that Belgrade can do little to influence the development of the province. But he says Serbia will not give up Kosova without a fight. "I think [when the agreement on Kosovo was reached], some spoke of a victory. If that is victory, I don't know what defeat would be like," Covic said. "We as politicians should not be giving anyone false hopes, but that does not mean we will not fight to restore the right of the Serbian republic over Kosovo and Metohija as well as to restore and secure the individual and collective rights of the Serbian community and all other citizens. But we must not delude ourselves."

On 17 June, Covic told Reuters in Belgrade that any serious talks between Belgrade and Prishtina will have to await the appointment of a new head of UNMIK. "There won't be the start of a dialogue on Kosovo in Thessaloniki [at the EU summit]. I think that the talks should start after Steiner leaves and a new representative comes. I don't think the problem of Serbian-Albanian relations should be turned into a spectacle, even if Mr. Steiner wants that at the end of his mandate," Covic said.

In more conciliatory remarks, Prime Minister Zivkovic has suggested he favors a dialogue. In an interview with "Glas Javnosti" earlier in June, Zivkovic said there are two ways of solving the problem: "To wage war or talk." He added: "Someone has tried the former and we saw the outcome. I keep insisting on solving the problem through negotiations." Zivkovic also acknowledges that Serbia cannot become fully democratic and stable as long as Kosova's status remains unresolved.

The international community insists that before there can be any talk on Kosova's final status, a set of standards for the development of local institutions and democracy has to be achieved, which is known as "standards before status."

Simon Haselock, the head of UNMIK's press and information division, told RFE/RL: "The question is that before anybody can talk about what that status may be, there needs to be an organism which can carry that status. And that means what [UN Security Council Resolution] 1244 requires as a [prerequisite], if you like, to the status discussions, and that [prerequisite], is basically establishing substantial autonomy and [a proper] government. That means that the institutions that we have established have to function, they have to function in a way that they can carry autonomy or anything else they have to deliver."

Haselock says the EU, which has made what he described as "huge investments and commitments" in the region, recognizes that stability in the Balkans is inextricably linked to stability in Kosova. "Europeans are fully committed and understand they have to come to some resolution, that this issue [of Kosova's status] can't be left forever. And of course at some stage, when the conditions are in place, the status will be discussed. The question, of course, is how fast can we arrive at that time," Haselock said.

Some analysts say there are signs that time may come sooner than initially thought. Veton Surroi, the editor in chief of Kosova's biggest daily, "Koha Ditore," told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that people in Kosova have reached a phase of disillusionment which, if the current situation continues, could turn to fear for the future. Surroi said that any talks between Prishtina and Belgrade, regardless of what issues they start with, will very soon have to turn to the issue of Kosova's status. (Julia Geshakova, with RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and Patrick Moore)

KOSOVA FOUR YEARS LATER. Sokol Rama, the editor of the leading Albanian-American weekly "Illyria," interviewed "RFE/RL Balkan Report" editor Patrick Moore for the 19 June issue. We offer our readers the text as it appeared in "Illyria."

Illyria: This week Kosova marked the fourth anniversary of its liberation and the return of about a million Kosovar Albanians forcibly expelled by Yugoslav and Serbian military to neighboring countries. How would you assess Kosova's achievements and failures in these four years of UN rule?

Moore: I would leave a detailed answer to this question to those of your survey's respondents who are more involved than I am with the situation on the ground. The most important achievement has been the setting up of elected institutions, however imperfect they may be. The voters have spoken freely for the first time in Kosova's history, and there is now a president, a prime minister, a government, and a parliament.

But this is only a start. Even before the status issue is settled, more functions need to be turned over by UNMIK to the elected officials. One cannot expect Kosova to stand on its feet some day if the international community treats Kosova's citizens like children or a colony.

The Kosovars, for their part, should realize that nobody will hand them independence on a silver platter. They must earn it, and they will do so by their treatment of the Serbian and other minorities and by their tough stand on crime and corruption. If Kosova fails to make the grade on these issues, there will be little support for its independence from abroad.

Illyria: Despite claims that Kosova's final status would not be addressed in the near future, the EU is clearly trying to impose a solution tied to its future, which foresees Kosova in the EU but most likely not as a sovereign country. How do you interpret the "stick" and "carrot" policy towards Kosovars, most recently witnessed in Javier Solana's and Michael Steiner's efforts to use the Thessaloniki summit as a stage for opening talks between Prishtina and Belgrade?

Moore: As I suggested in my last answer, the international community -- in this case the EU -- will not do anyone a service by treating the Kosovars like children. The Kosovars have made it clear that they will talk with Belgrade only about practical issues and only in due time and after careful preparation.

What is going on in Kosova is the culmination of two irreversible processes. The first is the worldwide post-1945 process of decolonization on the basis of self-determination and majority rule. The second is the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. Anyone who tries to hold back these processes is simply displaying arrogance and is eventually doomed to failure.

Illyria: In that context, how would you interpret the latest statement of Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta that he sees Kosova's future in Europe, without explicitly mentioning its independence? This comes at a time when his boss, President Alfred Moisiu, recently said that he sees no other option besides independence.

Moore: If any regional leader in the Balkans is trying to win points in Brussels by making such statements, he is welcome to try, but I don't think he will achieve much back home in the Balkans. Such formulations are vague and consequently invite suspicions by people on the ground.

I read Mr. Meta's recent interview with Deutsche Welle in which he said that classical forms of sovereignty are now history. That may be very well for a minister of a country that is already independent to say, but one should not attempt to deny the same right to self-determination and majority rule to the Kosovars that their neighbors enjoy.

The Serbs and Montenegrins know that they can reclaim their sovereignty in 2005 or 2006 in a referendum, but nobody has given the Kosovars such a precise road map. This uncertainty and lack of equal treatment is a potential source of future trouble, not a cure for it.

Illyria: Kosovar Albanians are adamant that the road to EU runs via Kosova's independence. And yet, the EU calls for reconciliation between the aggressor and the victim, although Brussels knows too well that Serbia, which tried to exterminate Albanians in Kosova, has lost any moral claims to rule 2 million Kosovar Albanians and has not yet publicly even attempted to apologize for its ethnic-cleansing campaign four years ago. In your view, what guides this European policy?

Moore: Like many people on both sides of the Atlantic, I have come to reevaluate my views of the EU in recent years. Many critics now stress that the EU is less than democratic and transparent, and that this has bred the corruption that caused an entire commission to fall in 1999 and still may be far from eradicated.

The EU also seems to have become something of a vehicle for French and German policies, in which the other states are often bought off with political or economic concessions once Paris and Berlin have struck a deal. It is no accident that politicians and the media of France and Germany in particular are given to public statements about what "Europe" or "the Europeans" are and want. I doubt that these statements are always cleared with the Danish government or with my Czech neighbors here in Prague.

As far as EU policies in the Balkans are concerned, I think they can often be summed up with one word I heard from a leading member of the Montenegrin parliament: arrogant. This was evident in Brussels' policies towards Serbia and Montenegro in forcing the two into a joint state that neither public clearly wanted. There was no popular referendum despite the importance of the issue. Is this the EU's idea of providing the postcommunist Balkans lessons in building democratic institutions?

In recent months the EU's confidence seems to have grown, reinforced by the myth that the EU -- and not the EU and U.S. together -- brought about the Ohrid peace settlement in Macedonia in 2001. Of course, the Macedonian Albanians would never have accepted any deal without the Americans.

A less-than-democratic fate now appears to be in the works for Kosova, over the heads of its citizens. Nobody in Brussels tells the Kosovars precisely what's in store for them, recalling colonial practices from a previous century. And the behavior of some EU officials on the ground unfortunately reinforces the colonial image.

Brussels seems to have a fixation that any further disintegration of the former Yugoslavia is a threat to European stability. I would argue the opposite, namely that the threat comes from denying peoples the right to determine their own futures democratically.

Illyria: The United States, despite taking the lead in the 1999 intervention to halt the attempted genocide against Albanians, seems to increasingly give a more leading role to Europeans. Isn't it time for the United States to reclaim its leading role in the Balkans, which after all would have had a different configuration right now, if it were not for the United States?

Moore: Your respondents in Washington will certainly know more about this than I do, but I have the distinct impression that a reevaluation of attitudes toward the EU and the U.S. role in the Balkans is in progress [see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2000, and 7 February and 16 May 2003].

Until 11 September 2001 and until the diplomatic altercations of the past year -- when France and Germany actively opposed the United States on a vital question of war and peace, accompanied by an anti-American field day in much of the European media -- many in the U.S. foreign-policy community would have happily turned over to the EU the international community's role in the Balkans.

Two years ago, it was difficult to find many Americans who appreciated the need to keep troops on the ground in Bosnia and Kosova, where the Muslims and Albanians do not take seriously any military presence except the American one.

Now things seem different. One hears more voices stressing that the U.S. must remain in Bosnia and beyond in the Balkans as part of the war against terrorism. And one hears fewer voices ready to trust the EU to do the job or to act as an ally. After all, when somebody says that they want to build up a new military force and that you are excluded from it, you start to have your suspicions [see the essay "Hitler War Wenigstens Ehrlich" (Hitler Was At Least Honest) by Ralph Peters in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 15 May 2003].

Illyria: What is your view of the "standards and/or status" debate currently going on in Washington?

Moore: As I suggested, some reconsideration is in progress within the U.S. policy community. Several prominent German academics have been saying from the start in 1999 that any delay in independence contributes to insecurity and hence to instability and crime. Even if their own government is not paying attention to those German scholars, some other people have taken the point [see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 December 2000, 23 February 2001, and 13 June 2003].

My own view is that of President Ibrahim Rugova, namely that progress on standards must go hand-in-hand with progress on status. This is the only recipe for security and stability that has any chance of success.

VISIT PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON U.S.-SLOVENIAN RELATIONS. The president of Slovenia's National Assembly, Borut Pahor, paid a three-day visit to Washington beginning on 9 June. He was accompanied by the chairman of the National Assembly's Defense Committee, Rudolf Petan, and the chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee, Jelko Kacin.

The goal of the visit was to discuss current issues and to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. Their itinerary included meetings with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee Henry Hyde (R-IL), and the senior director for European and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council, Dan Fried.

In general, ties between Slovenia and the United States are good, and it is rare for disagreements to become the focus of popular debate. Two noteworthy exceptions this year have been Slovenia's reluctance to fully back the war against Iraq (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 February and 4 April 2003) and a refusal to sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the U.S. on the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 June 2003).

To the casual tourist, there is little to suggest any substantial feelings of anti-Americanism in Slovenia. Admittedly, one finds the usual graffiti -- "Amerika naj ostane kjer je!," essentially, "Yankee, stay home!" -- and other, coarser sentiments adorning public places like Ljubljana's downtown Tivoli Park. Still, the tone of these messages does not differ from that directed by the vox populi at Slovenian targets, such as the governing coalition led by the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party.

Graffiti is expected to mirror the mindset of disaffected adolescents. For a broader sampling of young people's attitudes, I informally solicited opinions on the topic from students at Ljubljana's Faculty of Arts.

The students broadly agreed that, at a personal level, they like Americans for their openness, friendliness, and sense of humor. In addition, they appreciated the entertainment value of much American film, music, and literature.

On the other hand, their greatest criticism was the superior attitude they saw expressed through U.S. foreign policy and a feeling of entitlement to manage events abroad. U.S. environmental policies were faulted, and many criticized politicians for creating a climate of fear among Americans at home and abroad in order to secure backing.

During the Iraq war, some Slovenes also decided to join in the informal boycott of American goods promoted elsewhere in Europe, "Delo" reported on 15 April. However, economic evidence reflected little popular enthusiasm for such a move. Marko Jare of Slovenia's Chamber of Commerce said that no businesses marketing American products showed any decrease in demand.

This was also true for the most visible American products on the Slovenian market: Coca Cola suffered no decrease in sales, while McDonald's even reported a 5 percent gain over the same period the previous year. The management of both companies was quick to emphasize that any such boycott would have chiefly affected their Slovenian staff and suppliers.

One of the more unfortunate attempts to boycott American products, the "Delo" article reported, was made by an inn in the Krsko region. Instead of the more traditional whiskey-cola, guests were offered a schnapps-Cockta mix. For the uninitiated, Cockta is an herbal soft drink developed in Slovenia in the 1950s.

In Pahor's view, the difference of opinion on Iraq has had no lasting effect on U.S.-Slovenian relations. "Some of our colleagues here no doubt recall these differences, but it is significant that no one mentioned them," Pahor was quoted as saying by "Delo" on 12 June. Also on the topic of Iraq, the delegation stood by U.S. claims that Iraq had possessed weapons of mass destruction. Petan quipped that "they haven't found Saddam Hussein yet either, but there is no doubt that he existed."

The Slovenian delegation themselves broached the issue of the ICC with their U.S. colleagues, who unanimously expressed opposition to the court. Pahor denied, however, that any of the congressmen he met with tried to pressure Slovenia into signing a bilateral agreement on the issue. "We made it clear," Pahor said, "that Slovenia has very strong reservations about signing any such bilateral agreement."

Pahor summed up the visit by observing that disagreement does not equal opposition, and that all Slovenian political parties agree on strengthening relations with the U.S. "Despite certain differences of opinion, our alliance and friendship [with the U.S.] is a matter of national consensus, and not party politics," Pahor was quoted in "Delo" on 11 June. "Differences of opinion on current events," he continued, "are completely legitimate between friendly countries, and are not an impediment to the normal development of relations." (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

GREECE SET TO OPEN BORDERS FOR ETHNIC MACEDONIAN CIVIL-WAR REFUGEES. Fifty-five years after the end of the civil war that ravaged his country between 1946 and 1948, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos gave a remarkable interview to the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia" of 8 June. In the first-ever such statement by a Greek official, Loverdos signaled that his government is set to change a 1982 law on political emigrants so that Greek-born ethnic Macedonian civil-war refugees would be allowed to re-enter the country. The announcement came just in time for the preparations for the third international meeting of civil-war refugees, which will take place in the northern Greek town of Florina on 15 July.

The Greek civil war, in which communists backed by Tito's Yugoslavia fought against royalists and anticommunists supported by Great Britain and the United States, marked the "beginning of the Cold War," as the historian Dan Diner put it. During the course of the war some 100,000 people died and more than 1 million persons were displaced.

For the German historian and Balkans expert Stefan Troebst, the war was not only about the question of who will be in charge of the government. It was also about the future position of minorities within Greek society. The royalists promoted a nationalist position, according to which groups speaking a language other than Greek or belonging to a religious community other than the Greek Orthodox Church would at best be tolerated. It was therefore no wonder that many ethnic Macedonians joined the communist guerilla fighters, who promised them greater rights.

During the war, both sides carried out large-scale internal resettlements, the biggest of which took place in 1947, when the royalists forced some 700,000 persons from the northeastern districts to live in other parts of Greece. The war ended in 1948 after Tito's decision to stop supporting the Greek communists; but the end of the war also brought about an emigration wave.

A smaller number of both ethnic Greek and ethnic Macedonian refugees had already left northern Greece for Yugoslavia at the end of World War II. By 1950, some 100,000 refugees -- many of whom were children without their parents -- were resettled, not only in Yugoslavia, but also in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Soviet Union. The largest single group of civil-war refugees -- some 30,000 people -- ended up in Uzbekistan.

From the 1960s, ethnic Macedonian refugees in general were invited to live in Yugoslav Macedonia, where they were given accommodation in the overwhelmingly Albanian-populated towns of Tetovo and Gostivar.

The Greek refugees, for their part, could return to their homeland in small numbers only after the end of the military dictatorship in 1974. A larger re-migration took place after 1981, when the socialist government of Andreas Papandreou issued an amnesty to those refugees who had been sentenced in absentia and stripped of their Greek citizenship.

It was Papandreou's government, however, which in 1982 also issued the law mentioned by Loverdos. As it allowed only ethnic Greek political emigres to return to Greece and reclaim their expropriated property, ethnic Macedonian refugees continued to be barred from entering the country. In the eyes of many Macedonians, the unresolved property question was one of the reasons why Greece refused to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name when it broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991. That may be why Loverdos in the interview also cautioned against linking Greek concessions on refugee return with its policy on the name dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002 and 2 April 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 June 2003).

The overall response in Macedonia was nevertheless positive. "I do not believe that historical injustice can be corrected," Metodija Tosevski of the Association of Child Refugees from Aegean (Greek) Macedonia said. "Thousands of lives have been lost, tens of thousands have been forcefully resettled, and families have been torn apart. However, the new generations of Greek politicians cannot be held responsible for any wrong policy [in the past], and that is why we want to see [Loverdos's interview as] a new beginning for new relations with new people who have other views [than those of previous generations]."

It remains to be seen whether the Greek government manages to lift the travel ban in time for the Florina meeting. Yorgos Papadakis, a journalist for the Athens daily "Express," told "Utrinski vesnik" of 10 June that the government may need more time to change the law on citizenship so that ethnic Macedonian refugees could again become Greek citizens. "I do not believe that this will happen soon. It will take four or five months before the parliament can decide on a new law," Papadakis said. "That is why I do not expect something drastic to happen before October or November." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "The NATO-EU relationship must be based on transparency and confidence. If some people are permanently suspicious, we will not be able to be effective in our common work for peace and security." -- French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, quoted by Reuters in Brussels on 12 June.

"American industry is in a logic of economic war. This attitude is not connected to the Iraqi episode. European industry must regroup to be in a position to resist them.... We must be vigilant and better foresee risks and [problems]." -- Alliot-Marie, quoted in "Le Monde" on 14 June.

"The worst mistake we made in Bosnia was insisting on early elections. They just confirmed the results of the war in political terms." -- Senad Pecanin, editor of the Sarajevo weekly "Dani." Quoted in "The New York Times" of 17 June.

"We're young, and we don't know anything about the war. Our history class ends with World War II." -- Marko Jurocivic, a 17-year-old Serb, quoted in Brcko in ibid.

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