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Balkan Report: August 22, 2003


22 August 2003, Volume 7, Number 27

POLITICS AND VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA. Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 18 August that the Serbian authorities have been carrying out "diplomatic attacks on Kosova" in recent days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 18, and 20 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 8, and 15 August 2003). Rexhepi appealed to the UN Security Council, which held a special session on Kosova, not to allow itself to be manipulated by Belgrade.

The Serbian authorities have responded to some recent unclarified violent acts in Kosova, including the killing of two Serbian teenagers, with strong rhetoric. Belgrade has also reaffirmed Serbian claims to the province, which has a more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority that wants nothing to do with Belgrade. One can only guess what the Serbian authorities would do with this large and hostile population if the province were now returned to Belgrade's control.

But the reason for the "diplomatic attacks" is likely to be closer to home for the Serbian politicians than Kosova. Elections are widely expected in Serbia within the next 12 months, and competition is keen for nationalist votes.

Some politicians may also be seeking to distract attention from Serbia's main problems, which are poverty, corruption, and organized crime. Miroljub Labus and Mladjan Dinkic -- who are the two top leaders of the G-17 Plus political party that competes with the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition for the pro-reform vote -- recently exposed two alleged cases of corruption in high places (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July and 8 August 2003).

That scandal further tarnished the image of the government, which has been trying to portray itself since the 12 March assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic as honest and the victor in the war on organized crime (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May and 25 July 2003).

Nobody has been more outspoken on the Kosova issue than Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is also Belgrade's point man for Kosova and a politician with at least his share of rivals both inside and outside the DOS.

Addressing the special UN Security Council session on Kosova on 18 August, Covic said that the international community must improve the security situation in the province lest it be forced to assume "a historic responsibility for the growth of fascism" there.

This was the second time in a week that he used the term "fascism" in connection with still unexplained incidents of violence in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2003). Most Serbian and Macedonian nationalist politicians use the terms "terrorism" or "organized crime" when seeking to slam ethnic Albanians, much as some Western politicians talk about "law and order" when calling for a crackdown on their own ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile at the UN, Covic accused the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) of involvement in unspecified recent violent incidents and demanded that it be investigated and disbanded. He stressed that "Albanian extremist and terrorist groups represent the main threat to the stabilization [of the province] and the region as a whole."

Covic also appealed for closer cooperation between security forces in Kosova and those elsewhere in the region. He did not provide evidence for his charges of who is responsible for which acts of violence.

Kosovar Albanians are likely to regard his remarks as unacceptable and an attempt to promote the return of Serbian forces to the province (which Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic subsequently advocated in remarks in Belgrade). Covic's comments are also likely to reduce the chances that EU-backed Prishtina-Belgrade talks could take place at any time in the foreseeable future -- especially since nobody but Brussels has shown much enthusiasm for them (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13, 20, and 27 June 2003).

Also at the UN Security Council's special session, several council members deplored the recent violence in the province, RFE/RL reported. Many speakers said it is important for leaders in Prishtina and Belgrade to renew their efforts to cooperate in building a multiethnic Kosova.

British Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry was one of the few to respond directly to Covic's criticisms. He rejected Covic's charges of inaction by the international community, stressing that the recent violence in the province must still be considered as isolated acts of extremism and not be allowed to polarize society in Kosova any further. He also argued that "those in responsible positions have a responsibility to ensure that their rhetoric actually matches the gravity of the situation."

Not one to yield the stage to Covic, Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 18 August that the recent acts of violence in Kosova show that "Albanian extremists want war and are afraid because of the recent favorable policy changes toward Serbia on the part of the international community, especially New York, Washington, and Brussels."

He added that he expects that the recent appointment of Harri Holkeri as head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) will lead to new policies in Prishtina aimed at better enforcing Security Council Resolution 1244 and enabling refugees and displaced persons to go home.

But the same day as Zivkovic and Covic were blaming ethnic Albanians for various acts of violence, UNMIK announced in Prishtina on 18 August that two incidents took place during the previous 24 hours involving attacks by Serbs against cars driven by ethnic Albanians. One incident took place in the Gracanica enclave, leaving the Albanian motorist slightly injured. The second attack was made on two cars driven by Albanians on the Prishtina-Gjilan road.

In addition, a UN police spokesman said in Prishtina on 19 August that an unnamed 21-year-old Serbian male was just arrested in the village of Slatina in conjunction with the killing of UN police Major Satish Menon of India on 3 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). The spokesman noted that police have a "strong case against the suspect," who offered no resistance to arrest, but have not yet determined a possible motive.

This was the first killing of a UN police member in Kosova since Serbian forces left the province in 1999. There are 4,000 UN and 5,000 local police officers in Kosova. The UN says that 921 people have been killed there since 1999, which is at odds with the figure of 1,173 victims of "Albanian terrorists," which Belgrade police claim.

Some observers have suggested that criminal gangs could have been involved in the Menon murder or other recent incidents. This raises a caveat that needs to be kept in mind when dealing with violence in Kosova or any other area in which ethnic tensions are rife.

The point is that not all violence is ethnically related. Some is criminal, while other cases may be random or involve business, family, personal, or romantic problems.

Some incidents, moreover, may not prove to be what they seemed at first glance. This was the case in 1985 with Djordje Martinovic, a Kosovar Serb civilian employee of the Yugoslav People's Army. He appears to have manufactured a tale of ethnically motivated violence to explain what was really a self-inflicted injury with a broken beer bottle in his anus. When he first told his story, Martinovic became a hero among Serbs. But after further evidence came to light, he became a laughingstock among Slovenes, Croats, and Albanians, who chanted his name at soccer matches against Serbian teams.

No government anywhere can ensure absolute security at all times, even though much progress has been made regarding security in Kosova since 2001. There is no total cure for the problem of violence in Kosova, any more than there is for that in Belgrade, London, or Detroit.

A start could be made, however, by clarifying the final status of the province, which would remove a lot of political, social, and economic uncertainty from the picture. Based on the principles of self-determination and majority rule, this can only mean independence.

A second point involves social discipline within each ethnic community in Kosova. More efforts could be made in those close-knit worlds, particularly where the socialization of young males is concerned. It is ultimately up to the people of Kosova themselves to determine if they will tolerate violence and other forms of crime. (Patrick Moore)

MIXED FEELINGS IN MACEDONIA TWO YEARS AFTER OHRID. In Ohrid on 13 August 2001, the leaders of Macedonia's four major political parties signed the so-called Framework Agreement, which ended the hostilities between the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and the Macedonian security forces. Today, the internationally brokered agreement is better-known as the Ohrid peace accord (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001).

The signing of the peace deal brought about relative stability and prepared the ground for far-reaching improvements in the country's minority rights.

But as time has moved on, perceptions of the Ohrid agreement have changed, partly because the peace deal changed the political landscape.

The ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) -- the leaders of which signed the Ohrid agreement -- have lost many of their followers. Many Albanians feel that the National Liberation Army's (UCK) short uprising won them more rights than the PPD's or PDSH's participation in successive governments in the course of a decade.

These two parties were also blamed for the delay in implementing the Ohrid agreement. Consequently, Albanian voters preferred to support the newly created Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which is headed by former UCK leader Ali Ahmeti, in the September 2002 parliamentary elections.

As a result, the BDI became the strongest ethnic Albanian party and subsequently formed a government together with the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), which replaced the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VRMO-DPMNE) as strongest ethnic Macedonian party (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 September 2002). The new SDSM-BDI-led government headed by Branko Crvenkovski committed itself to the full implementation of the peace agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2003).

The country's major political players -- the government as well as President Boris Trajkovski and (with some reservations) the opposition VMRO-DPMNE -- still back the peace deal.

On the occasion of the peace deal's second anniversary, Local Self-Government Minister Aleksandar Gestakovski told "Utrinski vesnik" of 16 August that only two or three laws related to the Ohrid agreement have yet to be approved by parliament -- the law on a national ombudsman and the law on national symbols, and possibly a law on languages. Gestakovski did not mention, however, that key elements of the peace agreement -- the administrative and territorial reform - are still under discussion.

But in mid-August 2003, not all comments on the government's achievements were positive. In a 10 August interview for RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters, PPD Chairman Abdulmenaf Bexheti warned that -- should the government fail to meet its own deadlines for implementation -- the PPD might call for the self-determination of the Albanians in Macedonia.

Although Bexheti acknowledged that the security situation in the country has improved, he also demanded economic reforms. "As long as the interior minister is more important than the economy minister or the finance minister...one cannot talk about economic development," Bexheti said.

Already in April, PDSH Chairman Arben Xhaferi had declared the Ohrid agreement "dead." Xhaferi told a party congress that the PDSH must either elect a new leadership or "replace its current policy of advocating the...creation of a multiethnic, tolerant, and inclusive society with one [based on] territorial partition." (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 April 2003).

The journalist Iso Rusi wrote that the government's delay in implementing the Ohrid agreement is responsible for radicalizing the positions of the PPD and the PDSH. In an article for the Albanian-language weekly "Lobi" of 8 August, he wrote, "We believe that the greatest danger comes from those who are in power and should take the only chance to build a prosperous Macedonia...but they do not do [so], for reasons that are not easy to figure out." He added, "It was precisely the inefficiency of those in power [meaning the PPD and the PDSH prior to the 2001 crisis], the wasting of time, [and] the inactivity...that led us to the verge of the abyss."

For Rusi, the government's failure to improve the Albanian population's situation quickly will contribute to the radicalization of those Albanian opposition politicians who seek to profit from the voters' dissatisfaction. "The new [radical] political orientation of the PDSH and the PPD has no chance as long as the governing coalition does its work. And vice versa," Rusi concluded.

Other commentators, such as Darko Janevski in the weekly "Puls" of 15 August, say that one should not believe that implementing the Ohrid peace agreement alone will remove all threats to peace and security in the country. Janevski argues that the Framework Agreement can guarantee stability for a certain time, and that this time should be used to improve economic relations among the various ethnic groups, because this is the best way to avoid interethnic conflicts. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIA AND CROATIA AT LOGGERHEADS OVER AN EEZ. Croatia continues to move toward declaration of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea despite Slovenian opposition (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2003). In a 17 August article in "Delo," Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop pledged to use "all legal and political means available to protect Slovenian economic and fishing interests."

The Slovenes base their case on three key arguments: presumed EU disapproval, lack of precedent for a Mediterranean EEZ, and Croatia's undefined maritime borders.

Slovenian pundits have repeatedly warned that the EU will not look kindly on the declaration of an EEZ. At the same time, however, the EU is also inclined to support initiatives for greater commercial and ecological management of European waters. On 18 August, the news website 24ur.com reported that Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel and Agriculture Minister France But have asked Franz Fischler, who is the European commissioner for agriculture, rural development, and fisheries, to make known the European Commission's point of view on the matter.

The Slovenian daily "Dnevnik" analyzed the second point on 16 August. To date, no European country has established an EEZ in the Mediterranean. Egypt, Libya, and Morocco declared such zones in the 1980s, but these are not enforced. France and Spain have declared EEZs, but only in Atlantic waters.

Finally, the papers note, Croatia has no officially defined maritime border with Slovenia to the north or Montenegro to the south. In the absence of such agreements, the limits of the EEZ also cannot be clearly defined.

Most worrisome for Slovenia is the prospect of a bilateral Italian-Croatian declaration, splitting the sea down the middle and cutting Slovenia off from international waters. On 16 August, the Croatian daily "Vjesnik" reported that Croatia is entering final negotiations with Italy on such a joint declaration.

While such a scenario would help lend some legitimacy to Croatia's move, others point out that Italy would gain relatively little. In fact, it could even represent a net loss, as Italy would thereby surrender its fishing rights in the eastern half of the Adriatic.

From a legal standpoint, however, there is little that Slovenia could do to block Croatia's plans. In a "Vjesnik" article on 14 August, legal expert Davorin Rudolf reminded readers that any coastal state has the sovereign right to declare an EEZ. Miha Pogacnik, a Slovenian specialist in international law, stated in "Delo" on 17 August that Slovenia retains its right to access to international waters from the Yugoslav era, and that Slovenia could also declare its own EEZ.

Pogacnik's first assertion carries more moral than legal weight, because the territorial waters claimed by Croatia clearly block Slovenian access (see map available at: http://www.lawofthesea.net/images/m_granica.jpg). The second is even shakier. Although there are international waters within 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) of Slovenia, according to Article 55 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (see http://www.un.org/Depts/los/index.htm), any EEZ must be adjacent to territorial waters.

"Vjesnik" noted on 16 August that an official note from the Slovenian Foreign Ministry on the issue explicitly stated that Slovenia has "territorial contact with the open sea." This claim is based on the still unratified Drnovsek-Racan agreement of July 2001 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001).

Most provocative have been the proposals advanced by Zmago Jelincic, head of the right-wing Slovenian National Party (SNS). Quoted on Slovenian radio on 13 August, Jelincic reminded Croatia that Slovenia will be in a position to block the country's future accession to the European Union, if necessary.

In further comments reported in "Delo" on 14 August, Jelincic repeated his contention that the Istrian Peninsula should "rightly" belong to Slovenia, that Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have a right to access to the sea, and that Zadar (awarded to Yugoslavia in 1945) should be returned to Italy (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 August 2003).

As for the Croatian claims that the plans for the EEZ are motivated by environmental concerns, Jelincic pointed out that Slovenia is disproportionately burdened by traffic passing through to Croatia. He has proposed a ban on foreign vehicles without catalytic converters and collection of an ecological tax on all other vehicles crossing Slovenia's southern border.

Under the circumstances, one wonders if it was merely coincidence or wishful thinking on the part of "Delo" that caused the paper to run an article on 14 August titled "Croats Threatened with Extinction?" The article points out that the present Croatian fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman (2.1 is needed to maintain a given population) means that the population of the country will fall from 4.3 million today to 3.5 million by 2050.

Even so, Slovenes had best not match themselves against Croatia on demographic projections. The 2001 United Nations Population Fund study ascertained that Slovenia's fertility rate is even lower, at only 1.1. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Standing behind the terrorists are bands of organized criminals, who are thieves and people who live from smuggling weapons, drugs, people, [and] cigarettes. They want wars and conflicts...because they make money off them." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic to the BBC's Serbian Service in New York on 18 August.

"Our approach is not 'the worse, the better.' We don't go for that sort of thing. Our approach is what is best for the citizens is best for all." -- Covic in ibid.

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