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Balkan Report: September 5, 2003


5 September 2003, Volume 7, Number 29

WHAT TO DO ABOUT BOSNIA? The Dayton peace agreements that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict remain in force, and few observers doubt that much progress has been made since they came into effect. The prospect of a new armed conflict seems remote, at least as long as international peacekeepers remain. The question is: where does Bosnia-Herzegovina go from here?

At least four models have been put forward in recent months to offer Bosnia a way forward. None of the models is really new, and each of them has had a variety of supporters and promoters over the years (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 May 2003).

What the models have in common is the assumption that Dayton has turned into a straightjacket. At least three of the models focus attention on the nature of power within Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly in the relationship between the Office of the High Representative (OHR) -- who is appointed by the international community and now has a staff of about 200 foreigners and 580 local people -- on the one hand, and the elected officials at all levels in the cantons, the two entities, and at the Bosnian state level on the other.

The high representative has virtually absolute powers to change Bosnian laws and sack officials, as the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" demonstrated at length in its 30 August issue.

The elected officials, at least since the 2002 general elections, come primarily from the three nationalist parties. They are the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which was long linked to the name of Alija Izetbegovic; the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which was formerly headed by Radovan Karadzic; and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which was an offshoot of the Croatian party of the same name, particularly until the death of President Franjo Tudjman in late 1999. The HDZ is generally linked to the interests of the nationalist Croats living in relatively compact communities in Herzegovina contiguous to Croatia rather than to the concerns of the more moderate Croats of central Bosnia and Sarajevo, who tend to live more integrated with other ethnic groups.

The first model is based on the assumption that the OHR needs to take an even more active role in pushing an agenda based on establishing a single, multiethnic state. Advocates of this approach tend to be among those forces inside and outside Bosnia strongly opposed to the nationalists.

Supporters of the this model argue that the OHR and NATO have brought about most of the progress made since 1995, and that Bosnian political gridlock has resulted in the OHR having had to take all the key decisions, right down to national symbols and license plates.

Those in favor of the first model feel that the voters are still in the grip of the nationalists, who are often rooted in interlocking political, business, security, and criminal structures. Proponents of the first model argue that only a tough and robust OHR can break this stranglehold and create the basis for making Bosnia-Herzegovina a truly modern, European state -- instead of a potential threat to European security that provides a haven to criminal networks.

The weakness of the first model is that it is based on the paradox of imposing democracy and the rule of law by fiat, without transparency, and often in violation of existing Bosnian legislation -- and by an all-powerful foreigner at that. By so doing, the strong OHR approach reinforces a tradition in Bosnian culture of using foreigners for one's own ends, letting them do the work and pay the bills while the local people derive the benefits, without necessarily having to exert themselves too much.

The second model seeks to remedy these problems by first reducing and then eliminating the role of the OHR. Its proponents can be found primarily among the established politicians in Bosnia. This model received much attention there and abroad in early 2003 thanks to an actively promoted NGO report that called the OHR a colonial institution.

The problem with this approach is that it effectively acknowledges that power will rest with the elected nationalists, who will then be left to police themselves and clean up the crime and corruption in their own midst. It is true that precommunist Bosnian political parties tended to be ethnically based and that voters even then cast their ballots along ethnic lines. But the problem now is that many of the people entrenched in the nationalist power structures are responsible for ethnic cleansing, theft, and worse during the 1992-95 war.

The third model proposes replacing the Dayton agreements altogether. Its assumption is that neither an international protectorate nor a weird system of ethnically based fiefdoms can serve as a basis for a modern state that will bring the prosperity and European integration that most everyone in Bosnia seems to want.

An article in the "Wall Street Journal Europe" on 29 August argued that the ballast of Dayton could be set aside by setting up a single state-structure through a constitutional convention.

The problem with the third model is very similar to the problem with the second, namely that elections in Bosnia mean giving power to the nationalists. What might a constitutional convention achieve if dominated by the SDA, SDS, and HDZ? What could they agree on? What kind of state would they set up?

Some observers have suggested that the SDS and HDZ, if left to themselves, would probably agree to partition Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Republika Srpska would then join Serbia and Montenegro, the mainly Croat areas would become part of Croatia, and the rump Muslim state remaining would be left to fend for itself.

This is the essence of the fourth model, which calls for partition. British diplomat Lord David Owen, in particular, has long argued that sooner or later the boundaries in much of the Balkans will have to be redrawn on more or less ethnic lines, and that it is best to get the matter over with early. Nationalists in the region tend to like this approach, which Karadzic once called "tidying up the map."

The problem -- or virtue -- of partition is that it would most likely involve not just Bosnia-Herzegovina but every state in the region. If carried to its logical conclusion, it would set up a greater Croatia, greater Serbia, greater Albania, and smaller Muslim and perhaps Macedonian states. Montenegro would go it alone, as may happen in any event. This would be a brave new world, despite any assurances by proponents of partition that the new states will find a happy future together through Euro-Atlantic integration.

Critics charge that the fourth model would vindicate the results of previous ethnic cleansing campaigns, set off new ones, and preclude any attempt at multiethnic statehood -- which is the basis of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement in Macedonia as well as of Dayton. The fourth model would thus force a small Slavic Macedonia into choosing between a difficult existence as a rump state, joining Bulgaria, or linking itself with Serbia and Montenegro.

The Kosovar, Macedonian, and Albanian Albanians would find themselves in a single state, despite great differences between their respective societies, outlooks, and political cultures. It is worth noting that few, if any, serious ethnic Albanian politicians anywhere in the Balkans include setting up a greater Albania as a realistic goal in their party platforms.

Under the fourth model, the center-left Croatian authorities would acquire the unwanted present of tens of thousands of HDZ voters. The Herzegovinians, for their part, would find themselves largely unwelcome newcomers in a state where many people regard them as bumpkins with criminal tendencies.

And, while many Bosnian Serbs would be happy to join Serbia and Montenegro, others will remember the issue that former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic raised in 1995 to convince Serbs to accept Dayton: namely that only Dayton guarantees the existence of a secure Bosnian Serb state.

The Muslims, as so often before, would find themselves the odd ones out, with some favoring gravitating toward Belgrade, others toward Zagreb. There would be concerns in Washington and elsewhere that unsavory Middle Eastern elements might turn a rump Muslim state into their beachhead in Europe.

It thus seems that there are at least a few flaws in each of the models posed as an alternative to Dayton. This has prompted some observers to suggest that it is perhaps best to stick to Dayton, warts and all, until a better system can be devised. (Patrick Moore)

NEW TENSIONS IN MACEDONIA. Ever since the official end of the interethnic conflict in Macedonia in August 2001, violent incidents -- shootings, killings, and bomb attacks -- have occurred almost on a daily basis. But now, more than two years after the signing of the Ohrid peace accord, the government has been forced by the force of events to undertake a large-scale operation to arrest some of the perpetrators.

On 27 August, an armed group headed by local rebel leader Avdil Jakupi, who is better known to the Macedonian public as Commander Jackal, kidnapped two persons. Jakupi the same day spoke with RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters, saying the two hostages had shot at him and he and his men decided to "arrest" them. Jakupi said his group would not release their captives unless an ethnic Albanian charged with two bomb attacks in Kumanovo was freed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002, 18 February, 9 and 29 May, and 12 August 2003). The two hostages were freed later the same day in what an Interior Ministry spokeswoman called an "extensive police operation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2003).

What exactly happened on that day is not clear, as the initial media reports had to be corrected several times. What seemed to be clear, however, was that one of the captives was a police officer, the other a civilian. Obviously, the "extensive police operation" also involved several high-ranking ethnic Albanian government members of the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), who managed to convince Jakupi to release his hostages.

Following the abduction, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said on 28 August that the government will not tolerate such incidents any longer. "The Macedonian government will have zero tolerance for such individuals and groups [who carry out such kidnappings] and who will face the full severity of the...security forces," Crvenkovski said, adding that the best place for them is in prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2003).

But only hours after Crvenkovski's announcement, several explosions rocked Skopje in the evening of 28 August. Within about 30 minutes, unknown persons fired two rounds from a hand-held rocket launcher at a courthouse, detonated a bomb near the garages of the government building, and then launched another rocket at the Ilinden army barracks, slightly injuring one serviceman.

Although the explosions did not cause major damage, they shocked the Macedonian public.

While the international community condemned the abductions and the bombings, the shadowy Albanian National Army (AKSH) took responsibility for them. In an apparent effort to avoid the notion that any police operation is directed against the Albanian population as a whole, Interior Minister Hari Kostov met with representatives of the ethnic Albanian minority and the international community in the village of Aracinovo on 30 August. They discussed a police operation to arrest Jakupi and the police measures that had already been put in place.

After the meeting, Kostov declared that there was no connection between the Skopje bombings and the abductions, as they were not carried out by the same groups. A statement issued by the AKSH on its website (http://www.aksh.info) after the abductions supported this version, as the rebels distanced themselves from Jakupi.

However, the police operation to arrest Jakupi and other unspecified "armed groups" in northern Macedonia also sparked fears among the local Albanian population, as it reminded them of aggressive police operations during the 2001 interethnic conflict. While the security forces sealed off several villages north of Kumanovo over the weekend of 30-31 August, hundreds of women and children reportedly left the village of Vaksince to avoid being caught in a possible crossfire.

The large-scale police operation also contributed to an escalation of the tensions in the region. In another statement, the AKSH demanded that the Macedonian security forces withdraw from their positions by 4 p.m. on 2 September or else it will "order its forces to act with all means to carry out their patriotic, civil, and democratic duty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003)." As was the case with the kidnappings, it was not the police but rather ethnic Albanian politicians who managed to convince the AKSH to withdraw its ultimatum. On 2 September, a group of lawmakers from the governing BDI -- but also from the opposition Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the National Democratic Party (PDK) -- held talks with the "armed groups" and the local residents in Vaksince, despite the government's announcement that it will not negotiate with anybody.

The negotiations led to the withdrawal of the police to "other strategic locations" and visibly eased tensions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 September 2003). But this approach carries with it the danger that a "division of powers" has emerged within the government -- that the "bad" ethnic Macedonian politicians order police operations, while their "good" ethnic Albanian colleagues negotiate. This, in the long run, could undermine the government's credibility and it certainly could lead to tensions within the government itself. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

SLOVENIAN-CROATIAN RELATIONS TURN BITTER. Slovenian reaction to Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula's blunt statement in Croatia's "Slobodna Dalmacija" on 31 August -- "Slovenia has no contact with the open sea" -- was swift. Slovenia took the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador, Peter Bekes, from Croatia for consultations the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 September 2003).

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel raised the stakes further by stating that Slovenia needs to reflect on whether it ought to continue to support Croatia's bid for NATO and European Union accession. Once Slovenia becomes a member of both organizations in 2004, it will be in a position to exercise a veto over Croatian membership.

Slovenes are defensive about the small size of their country -- "small but beautiful," they usually retort -- but even by Slovenian standards the meager 47 kilometers of coastline is something of an embarrassment. Nonetheless, the small coast (really only 20 kilometers as the crow flies) was enough to secure a full-fledged international port at Koper and add symbolic waves to Slovenia's coat of arms.

No wonder, then, that Picula's comments have raised hackles. For a week the Slovenian press has trotted out experts solemnly affirming that Slovenia had access to international waters within communist Yugoslavia and therefore retains such contact today. Picula has essentially told Slovenia that its territorial water amounts to a cordoned-off wading pool of a few dozen square nautical miles.

Another indication of poor relations is seen in a public opinion poll in Croatia's "Globus" -- 37.8 percent of the publication's readers believe Slovenia is Croatia's worst neighbor. A "Delo" article of 28 August noted with bitterness that Serbia and Montenegro, with which Croatia was engaged in open hostilities not so long ago, was rated "worst neighbor" by only 22.3 percent of those polled.

What has incensed Croatian opinion the most is the perception that Slovenia is trying to dictate whether or not Croatia may unilaterally declare an EEZ. As statements from the Croatian Foreign Ministry have repeatedly stressed, Croatia has the sovereign right to make such a decision without consulting any other state.

Ostensibly, Croatian motivation in declaring an EEZ stems from declining Adriatic fish stocks and a desire to protect the environment, points emphasized by Picula in "Slobodna Dalmacija" on 28 August. Picula characterized the semi-enclosed Adriatic as particularly vulnerable to environmental damage. "If we do not take steps now," Picula warned, "we will be arguing over a saltwater wasteland."

Others have sought motives more economic than environmental behind Croatian plans. Beyond the fishing industry itself, there is speculation that oil and natural gas reserves may lie beneath the Adriatic seafloor (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). The declaration of an EEZ would give Croatia the sole right to exploit these resources. More recently, Croatia has also cited a planned oil pipeline from the Russian city of Samara to Omisalj on the Adriatic island of Krk as a compelling reason to declare an EEZ.

Responses from Italy, which is the key in any potential move to monopolize the Adriatic, have been more reserved. Italy rebutted a comment by its own ambassador to Croatia, Alessandro Grafini, that Croatia had pledged not to infringe on the interests of Italian fishermen in the eastern Adriatic, and rejected a claim by the speaker of the Croatian parliament, Zlatko Tomcic, that the two countries have a unified perspective on the declaration of an EEZ.

The governor of Italy's neighboring Friulia-Giuliana Province, Riccardo Illy, also voiced skepticism regarding plans for an EEZ. The Adriatic is too small for such zones, he stated in a 1 September interview in "Delo," adding that he would be opposed even if all Adriatic countries supported such a measure. On 3 September, "Delo" reported Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini's denial of any bilateral Italian-Croatian plans for such a move.

Both sides are also feigning surprise when the other takes umbrage at its actions. After Croatia refused to respond to yet another Slovenian diplomatic note, citing an escalating "war of notes," the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said there was no such war because such notes are a normal part of communication.

Similarly, after Slovenian Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Jelko Kacin expressed frustration at contradictory messages of reconciliation and provocation coming from Croatia's president, prime minister, and foreign minister, his Croatian counterpart Zdravko Tomac responded that differences of opinion are normal in democratic states.

For the time being, the EU and NATO have declined to take sides in the dispute. A statement on 2 September from the office of European Commissioner Chris Patten stated that decisions on EEZs lie outside its jurisdiction, and expressed faith in regional cooperation, the online newssite "24ur.com" reported the same day. The site also quoted a NATO statement explaining that the alliance does not comment on bilateral relations between countries.

Slovenian and Croatian representatives are scheduled to meet in Ljubljana on 16 September to discuss the impasse. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: The EU military "is not only in a position to contribute to the security of our continent -- as is being shown today in Macedonia and will be shown tomorrow in Bosnia -- but also, as an extension of the Atlantic Alliance, is able to act wherever the Europeans' interests are at stake.... The 'Europe of defense' has been set up to work together with the U.S. as partners. What we seek is to be a compliment but not a competitor....

"At present we do not have the ambition to have a European army. The important thing at the moment is that the Europe of defense makes concrete progress, and we're doing that.... We show this by relieving NATO troops of some of the burden in Macedonia and intervening in the Congo. That does not alter the fact that NATO remains our frame of reference in defining the conditions for the possibilities of engagement among the Allies. I do not see any contradiction [between NATO] and a Europe of defense....

"[The Iraq crisis] has not called either the common history [of France and the United States] into question, nor the fact that we are friends and allies.... The U.S. marched into Iraq without a UN mandate.... [The UN must again assume a central role in international relations.] The U.S. should recognize that the world consists of several centers of power that deserve respect." -- French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie in an interview with the German daily "Die Welt" on 4 September to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Eurocorps. "More broadly, 84 percent of Americans say they believe war can be necessary to achieve justice, compared with 48 percent of Europeans. Big majorities on both sides of the Atlantic say Americans and Europeans have different values.

"Germans in particular have responded to the Iraq war by rejecting strong U.S. leadership, with 50 percent describing it as undesirable, compared with 27 percent a year earlier. The number of Germans who said the U.S. should remain the world's only superpower dropped to 8 percent from 22 percent last year, while the number who want to turn the EU into a superpower rose to 70 percent from 48 percent.

"'The developments of the last year have strengthened a kind of Euro-Gaulism,' [the German government's coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations, Karsten] Voigt, said, referring to the French tradition of favoring a self-reliant Europe acting independently of the U.S. To avoid that hardening into a permanent trend would require much greater care from leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Voigt said." -- The "Wall Street Journal Europe" on 4 September on a new poll on international and trans-Atlantic relations.

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