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Balkan Report: January 18, 2002

18 January 2002, Volume 6, Number 5

AN END TO THE SPLIT IN DOS? A rift in Serbia's ruling coalition may be on the verge of being healed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2002). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's party is welcoming an offer to rejoin the Serbian government.

The current crisis was sparked last August when Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) withdrew its ministers from the Serbian government after alleging that some members of the ruling coalition were linked to organized crime.

At the time, Kostunica announced that the DSS would remain outside the Serbian government but would otherwise continue to cooperate at all levels of power, including in the federal government. Meanwhile, the ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) -- which defeated former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists in parliamentary and presidential elections in September 2000 -- remained a coalition of 18 parties.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and other ministers denounced Kostunica's allegations of criminal links as a smear campaign that Djindjic said undermined the country's credibility and slowed economic recovery.

Now, five months later, the wounds appear to be healing. Djindjic said on 14 January that if an agreement can be reached between Kostunica's DSS and the 17 other parties in the ruling coalition, the DSS could have three ministers and a deputy prime minister in a reconstructed Serbian government.

Djindjic added that he is aware of the DSS's alleged skepticism about the integrity of the country's police force and is willing to offer the party the post of general inspector of the police, as he put it, "to control police activities while representing the DSS" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2002).

But Djindjic argued that all of this depends on mutual agreement. It is not entirely clear what Djindjic will demand of the DSS. He nevertheless appears satisfied that a solution is in sight. "I consider this to be a very fair concept. It has two elements. One is expanding the number of posts in the government and giving some minister posts to the DSS. The other is giving them back the speaker's job in the parliament so that the DSS will again be a kind of party in power and not an opposition party."

The deputy chairman of the DSS -- and ousted speaker of the parliament -- Dragan Marsicanin, welcomed Djindjic's offer to resolve the crisis. "It's the first good signal that they are thinking about this issue and creating the possibility of achieving something through this agreement and not least of all increasing the number of ministerial posts. It's good that a signal has come from them [DOS], that they are changing their minds about the Democratic Party of Serbia."

Marsicanin, who made the remarks at a news conference in Belgrade, said the DSS is, above all, interested in fundamentally changing the way the government works and in a return to the DOS's original principles.

But he reiterated the DSS's opposition to restoring the autonomy of Vojvodina prior to regulating the whole issue of regions in a new draft constitution, which he says his party will soon make public. Milosevic dissolved multi-ethnic Vojvodina's autonomous status, along with that of Kosova, in 1989. A significant pro-autonomy movement in Vojvodina is demanding home-rule for the province.

Marsicanin, reflecting Kostunica's views, wants a new constitution adopted before proceeding with any other changes: "Promulgating a constitution and holding elections which will follow the ratification of the new constitution are predicated on a genuine, fundamental implementation of fundamental reforms by the state. Without a new constitution as the foundation of a democratic state, of a state of law, there will be no real, essential, appropriate reforms which we are obliged to carry out." Marsicanin said passage of a new election law and the holding of new federal and republic-level elections are likely within a year. (Jolyon Naegele)

POLICE DEPLOYMENT DEBATES IN MACEDONIA. The implementation continues of the so-called general plan for sending ethnically mixed police units into the areas previously held by Albanian rebels of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK). The government claims that it has restored police patrols in 26 villages. Zoran Tanevski, who is the spokesman of the government's Coordination Body for Crisis Management, said that some 60 villages still remain under the control of the Albanian rebels, AP reported on 15 January.

In recent days, convoys made up of Macedonian police, international monitors of the EU and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as NATO soldiers of Task Force Fox faced difficulties in entering some of the villages, as villagers blocked roads and denied the convoys access (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 January 2002).

The villagers demand the removal of police checkpoints, which prevent them from moving freely in and out of their villages, especially if they want to go to larger communities like Tetovo to work, shop, or visit. They also demand that an amnesty law for former UCK members be adopted by the parliament.

President Boris Trajkovski has pardoned individual leading guerrillas and promised a statement granting amnesty to others. Former UCK members still in prison are to be released immediately. But "until these conditions are met, [the villagers] will not allow" the deployment to continue. This was the message of ethnic Albanian politician Abedin Imeri of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), as quoted in the Albanian-language daily "Fakti" of 14 January.

Macedonian hard-liners see the blockades as a new kind of warfare. "The January campaign is being conducted with blockades on the line separating the occupied territories from the rest of the state. This is perhaps the new strategy of the terrorists, with which, it seems, they plan to build a new Berlin wall.... [This will] delineate a border between the state authorities and the 'authorities' of the new blackshirts [the UCK wore black t-shirts].... What they did not achieve with guns in their hands, they now continue to do with barricades and by threatening the Macedonian population to leave their homes" in order to promote ethnic cleansing, according to Ljube Profiloski in "Nova Makedonija" of 15 January.

In a reaction to the blockades, the government is considering revising the deployment plan. An expert team was formed to assess various possibilities but has not produced any proposals yet.

It seems clear, however, that the government will opt for a more flexible approach than before. Trajkovski's office has suggested that there will be a case-by-case approach rather than a master plan. Both the international community and the domestic media support this approach. At a press conference, NATO Ambassador Klaus Vollers said: "[The plan] is not sacrosanct," "Utrinski vesnik" reported.

In a comment for the daily "Dnevnik," Zana P. Bozinovska wrote that it took the politicians one month to realize that the general plan is not working as it should. In the meantime, they engaged in infighting. The hard-liners thought that any modification of the plan or any other concessions would look like a sign of weakness. In the end, it was the foreigners who suggested that revising the plan would be the best approach.

Former Interior Minister Ljubomir Frckovski mocked the hard-liners and their opposition to withdrawing the checkpoints. "Do you know what 'our' Milosevices are defending with their defense of the checkpoints and their delay in sending round-the-clock police patrols into the villages? They are defending the interior border checkpoints at the demarcation line between 'our' territory and 'theirs.'"

According to Frckovski, the nationalist politicians want the current situation to continue as long as possible. After all, Georgievski recently predicted a "spring clash" between security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2002).

But Frckovski also sees the international consequences of Georgievski's policies, predicting that just as Milosevic's policies weakened Serbia's international position, so Georgievski's policies will weaken Macedonia. Frckovski concludes: "It is our eliminate this possibility.... Let us defend our democracy and the opportunities that independence provides, and let us throw these local figures...onto the 'rubbish heap of history.'" (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

SLOVENIA AND ITS WORLD WAR II LEGACY. The daily "Delo" reported on 14 January that a record 7,000 people gathered in Drazgose the previous day for the annual commemoration of a battle between Tito's Partisans and German forces. This time it was the 60th anniversary, and President Milan Kucan was among those attending. He spoke of the necessity of resisting the Axis occupation of 60 years ago, the logic of declaring independence in 1991, and Slovenia's obligation to participate in the campaign against international terrorism today.

Drazgose, a small village of 285 people, lies 60 kilometers northwest of Ljubljana in the foothills of the Julian Alps. It entered history during World War II in 1942 when it witnessed fierce fighting between the Cankar Battalion of the Slovenian Partisan forces and German forces, many of which consisted of Austrians. The battalion had entered the village with the intent of wintering there, despite the misgivings of the local population. This decision followed several engagements with enemy forces -- including the ambush of a police patrol, in which 45 of the enemy were killed at Rovte, only 7 kilometers south of the village.

German forces attacked Drazgose on 9 January, killing nine Partisans and wounding 11, and losing 27 of their own troops. An additional 12 Partisans fell after withdrawing to the hills north of the village. The remainder survived in the mountains in temperatures of 30 below zero centigrade, while the occupiers burned the village, killed the livestock, shot 41 villagers in revenge, and drove the rest out.

Kucan spoke of two legacies that burden Slovenia today: collaboration with the occupying forces and the postwar killings of those suspected of collaboration (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 November 2001). The killings, said Kucan in his conciliatory speech, "are a crime, as is the crime of collaboration. I believe that the investigations taking place will answer the questions regarding the motives, guilt, and responsibility for these actions -- that they will confirm the greatness and purity of the Partisan resistance. Both the collaboration and the killings have caused great damage to our nation."

A number of walks traditionally accompany the commemoration, including an overnight hike from the former Yugoslav military facility at Pasja Ravan to Drazgose that commemorates the route of the Cankar Battalion. This year a record 537 persons participated in the hike, up from 379 last year, when Kucan himself made the 40-kilometer trek on his 60th birthday. (Donald F. Reindl)

OUT OF AREA: SHADES OF THINGS TO COME? The United Nations has finally completed drafting a document formulating the future division of constitutional competencies between Abkhazia and Georgia within a single Georgian state. That document is intended to serve as a basis for resolving the conflict between the central Georgian government and the leadership of the breakaway unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia.

It requires Abkhazia to acknowledge it is a constituent part of Georgia, recognize Georgia's present borders, and allow the return of Georgian displaced persons to their homes in Abkhazia, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 14 January, according to Caucasus Press. He added that as a "historic compromise," Abkhazia will be permitted to preserve its constitution and state bodies for an unspecified time period.

But Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba rejected Shevardnadze's statements the same day as mutually contradictory, pointing out that Abkhazia's existing constitution defines the Republic of Abkhazia as an independent state, and that Abkhazia does not envisage becoming part of a larger state.

Georgia lost control of Abkhazia in the fall of 1993 after a 13-month war precipitated by the spontaneous incursion into Abkhazia in August 1992 of the Georgian National Guard. Almost all the region's Georgian population, who prior to the fighting were the largest ethnic group in Abkhazia and constituted some 43 percent of the region's total 500,000 population, fled during the fighting. In April 1994, Georgian and Abkhaz representatives, together with UN and Russian officials, signed a declaration which the Abkhaz insist is tantamount to official recognition by Tbilisi that Abkhazia is a separate entity. An appendix to that declaration stipulates that, "Abkhazia will be a subject with sovereign rights within the framework of a union State to be established as a result of negotiations after issues in dispute have been settled."

The Abkhaz repeatedly reaffirmed their readiness to enter a confederation with Georgia, a proposal that Tbilisi consistently rejected. Instead, Tbilisi proposed the model of an "asymmetric federation," in which Abkhazia would presumably enjoy a greater degree of autonomy than would the similarly unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia.

Georgia's intransigence finally impelled the Abkhaz leadership to hold a referendum in October 1999 in which voters overwhelmingly endorsed the breakaway republic's 1994 constitution. That document defines Abkhazia as an independent, democratic republic. (Liz Fuller)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "The crime in Recak was a historic turning point for Kosova. The international community recognized what the Serbs were doing in Kosova, and we got their support." -- Mayor Fehmi Mujota of Shtima. Quoted by Reuters in Recak on 15 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2002).

"We have not yet reached this so-called point of no return where Bosnia-Herzegovina is indeed a viable and self-sustaining state." -- High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch. Quoted by Reuters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 16 January.

"NATO remains absolutely committed to a safe and secure environment in Bosnia-Herzegovina." -- NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. Quoted by AP in Brussels on 16 January.