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Balkan Report: January 15, 2002

15 January 2002, Volume 6, Number 4

WHAT NOW FOR KOSOVA'S PRESIDENCY? Ibrahim Rugova failed to win the presidency in two rounds of legislative voting on 10 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2002). He received 50 votes in the first round -- when he needed 81 votes to win -- and 51 in the second, when just 61 votes would have given him the top office.

The problem was that he and the leaders of the two next-largest ethnic Albanian parties -- Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj -- were unable or unwilling to cut a power-sharing deal. Thaci's and Haradinaj's supporters boycotted the vote. Speculation now centers on the possibility of a dark horse compromise candidate, such as veteran publisher Veton Surroi.

Rugova's supporters may be very reluctant to see anyone but their leader in that office, however. He campaigned in November on the slogan: "President Rugova. Who else?" But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 11 January suggests that some of his followers have become impatient with his "autocratic" leadership and are anxious for a change.

In fact, the German daily blames Rugova for the breakdown in talks with Haradinaj and Thaci. The paper believes that Haradinaj has developed into a pragmatic, liberal politician, and that Thaci was willing to withdraw his demand to be made prime minister if it would break the political logjam.

For her part, Serbian Deputy Rada Trajkovic said in Prishtina that she expects that "all parliamentary groups" will soon start negotiations with the 22 Serbian legislators. But the Serbian Povratak (Coalition) has long opposed any deal with politicians who call for independence -- which is the one point on which all Albanian parties agree. Nonetheless, there seems to be movement in the Serbian ranks, and Povratak may be preparing for a deal with Rugova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002).

John Menzies, who heads the U.S. diplomatic mission in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 10 January: "We are a little impatient of the time it is taking to form the government. We hoped that there would be a president today. I am sure there will be one within a few days -- I hope," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 January 2002). It is not clear when the 120-member assembly will meet again. (Patrick Moore)

A DUBIOUS ANNIVERSARY. Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic said in Banja Luka on 8 January, "[W]e accept Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state. We have accepted it because we got the Republika Srpska [as part of the 1995 Dayton agreement]. The interests of the Serbian people [have been satisfied] through Dayton, [by creating] a functional and decentralized state" consisting of the Republika Srpska and the Croat-Muslim federation.

He added: "Looking back, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Our way was the right way, and we would do it the same way if we had to again." Sarovic stressed, "[W]e must turn to real patriotism to avoid future problems stemming from the abuse of power by aggressive patriotism."

The Republika Srpska marks the anniversary of its founding on 9 January 1992 as an official holiday. To some observers, this is indicative of the Bosnian Serbs' main problem in integrating into Europe of the 21st century, namely their refusal to break with the legacy of war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

What was founded 10 years ago was a Serbian parastate backed by the political and military muscle of President Slobodan Milosevic's Belgrade (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 10 January 2002). The declaration sounded ominously like the one that preceded the outbreak of the Serbian rebellion in Croatia about a year earlier. And the Bosnian Serb move came in apparent disregard of efforts by Muslim leader and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic to find some kind of formula to hold a Yugoslav state together.

The four years that followed 9 January 1992 witnessed bloody ethnic cleansing and other genocidal policies under Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. It seems less than encouraging that this is the legacy that today's Republika Srpska considers part of its proud past. Perhaps a different message could have been sent had Banja Luka selected a date associated with the 1995 Dayton agreement, which Bosnian Serb leaders then and now have hailed as the document that granted full legal status to the Republika Srpska -- as well as to the Bosnian state. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA'S FUZZY SECURITY SITUATION. Immediately after the winter holidays, Macedonian politicians once again went to work trying to solve some of the most delicate problems. The re-entry of police forces into the areas previously held by the ethnic Albanian rebels of the self-styled National Liberation Army (UCK) was among the issues on the agenda.

According to the so-called general plan, the deployment of ethnically mixed police patrols will be completed by mid-February. Macedonian media often refer to it as "reconquering the occupied territories." As a confidence-building measure, EU and OSCE monitors as well as NATO soldiers from Task Force Fox accompany the police patrols. These measures are necessary because large parts of the ethnic Albanian population still distrust the Macedonian police. Some of the villages the police are now entering were no-go areas for Macedonian security forces even before the outbreak of the inter-ethnic violence in February 2001.

Deputy Prime Minister Dosta Dimovska of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) heads the government coordination body for crisis management. She is responsible for organizing the re-entry.

In close cooperation with international monitors and the local authorities, a schedule has been agreed for sending in the mixed patrols. It provides for the removal of police checkpoints on the roads to chiefly Albanian villages. Many Albanians regard these checkpoints as provocations.

In some cases, coordination between local authorities and the government did not seem to work as it should. During the first redeployment of the new year, the convoys of police, international monitors, and NATO soldiers faced problems. In Tetovo, unarmed ethnic Albanians blocked entry to a Dervish monastery, the Tekje. As it turned out, the police had planned to enter the Tekje only on 17 January.

In other cases, villagers blocked roads to prevent convoys from entering their settlements. After these barricades were removed, NATO forces patrolled the roads together with OSCE monitors.

At its 9 January session, the National Security Council planned to discuss the police redeployment. The council is chaired by President Boris Trajkovski, who is a close political ally of Dimovska. The session ended, however, without any concrete results.

There are different versions of what happened during that meeting. The Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported that there were loud discussions between Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and one of Trajkovski's advisers, Ljubomir Frckovski. Frckovski, a former cabinet minister and a law professor, had written in a column for the newspaper that Boskovski is a "moron."

According to Defense Minister Vlado Popovski, there were heated discussions about the plan to remove the police checkpoints. Boskovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski proposed that they should not only remain but also be reinforced. Trajkovski and Popovski said they should be removed -- as had been agreed in the deployment plan.

As no immediate solution could be found, the Security Council agreed on forming teams of experts from the ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs. The teams will examine possible solutions and then present proposals to the council.

Another controversy reportedly arose when Boskovski and Georgievski demanded that the Unified Antiterror Unit be placed under the control of the Interior Ministry. The unit, which was formed last summer, is made up of special police and army units. At that time, the government overlooked matters pertaining to its command structure. While the interior minister commands the police forces, the president is the supreme commander of the army. Furthermore, on several occasions Georgievski demanded the introduction of a "state of war" -- which would have given him supreme command over all security forces (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June and 21 September 2001).

In an interview with the opposition daily "Utrinski vesnik," the defense minister called reports of bitter controversies during the session exaggerated. "The fact that neither the constitution nor the laws on defense and internal affairs regulate the command and use of the...Unified Antiterror Unit makes it necessary to prepare legislation [in which these questions are resolved]," the newspaper quotes Popovski as saying.

The Macedonian public was busy sorting out what really happened at the Security Council session when, on 11 January, AP received what claimed to be a warning from the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 14 January 2002). The statement said the UCK is reorganizing and re-arming its units because the Macedonian government has not complied with the peace agreement of 13 August 2001.

Leading figures of the disbanded rebel organization subsequently said the warning was a fake, or at least not an accurate reflection of UCK thinking. The leaders suggested that unspecified people want to destabilize the country, "Dnevnik" reported on 12 January.

But there may be yet another threat to the security situation. On 13 January, dpa reported that the shadowy Albanian National Army (AKSH) announced plans to reinforce its units. "The AKSH will intensify preparations for an adequate response to a possible Macedonian offensive against Albanians," the agency quoted an AKSH statement as saying. But it is not clear whether this message is authentic, either. In any event, the AKSH previously took responsibility for some of the bloodiest attacks on Macedonian security forces in recent months. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "It was not a sign of political maturity." -- The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 11 January, commenting on the inconclusive presidential vote in the Kosovar parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 January 2002).

"It marks progress in our society. People obviously have had enough of politicians making trouble that ordinary people would answer for -- and getting away with it." -- Mirjana Krizmanic, a psychologist who studies public reaction to political issues. Quoted by AP in Zagreb on 13 January. She was referring to the case of Mayor Milan Bandic, who has come in for condemnation after involvement in a hit-and-run accident while drunk.