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Balkan Report: August 9, 2002


9 August 2002, Volume 6, Number 29

THE BALKANS: HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL? This fall is a bumper election season in the former Yugoslavia. In addition to the local elections in the Presevo region that already took place on 28 July, the Macedonian parliamentary ballot will be held on 15 September. That will be followed by the Serbian presidential vote on 29 September, the Bosnian general election on 5 October, and then the Montenegrin parliamentary vote (with local elections in Podgorica and Tivat) the next day. Kosova goes to the polls in a local ballot on 26 October, and Slovenia is expected to choose a successor to President Milan Kucan on 10 November. In addition, there is always the possibility that general elections will be called in Serbia or Croatia before the end of the year.

All of these elections mean campaigning and political noise. In the process, it is sometimes difficult to sort out what is electioneering and what is a sign that some political cultures may becoming dysfunctional.

A commentary by Wieland Schneider in Vienna's "Die Presse" of 1 August argues pessimistically that, though the guns are by and large silent in the Balkans, the calm is deceptive. The article notes that poverty, corruption, organized crime, instability, and imperfect democracy characterize many of the somewhat shaky states in the region. Human trafficking is no rarity, and the drug industry is well established. The political class leaves much to be desired by European standards, and a new and presumably more competent generation has yet to emerge.

Schneider observes that the power struggle between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic threatens to destabilize what is already a very unsteady democracy (see the article below). Indeed, many observers have suggested that even if most of the parties associated with the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic do not win any seats in the new parliament, a legislature consisting of the allies of Djindjic and Kostunica could prove dysfunctional. Walkouts and boycotts could become the order of the day, while normal parliamentary life could become as scarce a phenomenon as it has been in Albania in recent years.

The same might be the case in Montenegro, where President Milo Djukanovic and his allies face an unlikely new coalition of pro-Belgrade and pro-independence forces. Once the new balance of power is established after 6 October, it should soon become clear whether a proper parliamentary democracy is possible, or whether acrimony and discord will make serious political life difficult.

Another question mark is Albania. For some years, it has been known as perhaps the most politically polarized country in the region. But recently, the European Union -- in the form of the European Parliament -- pressured the leading parties into selecting a consensus candidate for president, namely former General Alfred Moisiu. He was regarded as a particular favorite of Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha.

The Socialists, meanwhile, seem to have reached a modus vivendi among themselves as well. Fatos Nano has become prime minister for the third time, but key cabinet positions remain in the hands of ministers from the last government. Two of his rivals, former Prime Ministers Ilir Meta and Pandeli Majko, are included. Meta is a deputy prime minister and foreign minister, while Majko holds the defense portfolio. All in all, it seems that there is something for everyone. The question is whether the new power sharing will function, and, if so, for how long.

In Macedonia, polls suggest that a coalition of the Social Democrats and some parties representing the smaller ethnic minorities will dominate the new parliament, but this coalition will also need an Albanian partner if it is to be representative and stable.

It is not clear whether such a broad-based coalition is a realistic possibility in the immediate future (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 August 2002). Specifically, it remains to be seen whether the Social Democrats can reach an understanding with what is likely to be the largest Albanian bloc in the new legislature, the recently founded Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) of former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti.

As for Kosova, Michael Steiner -- who heads the United Nations civilian administration (UNMIK) -- has optimistically argued that refugee returns could become as much a reality there as they have in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 5 August 2002). He has also stressed that it is up to the Kosovars to prove that they can manage their own affairs. Whether this is possible will depend to a large extent on what kind of people the Kosovars choose to run local governments on 26 October.

But Bosnia remains at the center of attention for many. Should it fail to overcome the stigma of being an inherently failed state, there is a danger of its becoming a permanent ward of the international community and a lasting source of tensions as politicians in each of its three communities pursue rival agendas (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April 2002).

Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 6 August that he does not understand why "Europe" always takes a dim view of trends in Bosnia and feels compelled to lecture Bosnians on how to run their affairs. He added that Bosnia has achieved much more in many fields -- including refugee return -- in the past few years than Northern Ireland managed to do in 30 years.

Ashdown noted the links between political leaders and organized crime in Bosnia, but added that the situation there is no worse than it was in Western Europe after World War II, where the problem was subsequently overcome.

He stressed that the international community must continue to help Bosnia lest it become a "vacuum" and open to terrorist elements, as happened in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime. But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported from Sarajevo on 6 August that Bosnia remains in danger of becoming a long-term dependent of the international community as long as meaningful change is brought about only by decrees of the high representative.

The role of the foreigners will indeed remain central in much of the Balkans for the immediate future. But as Ashdown and others have noted, the U.S. has made it clear that it wants to give up its former leading role in the region to a willing EU (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May and 15 June 2002).

If Brussels is to be more credible as a force for stability and security than it was in the past, it will need to keep the Macedonian and Serbian-Montenegrin settlements on track. Its role in the two international protectorates of Kosova and Bosnia is now central, and these will test the EU's vision and perseverance as well as its budget. Nor can Brussels forget that all the countries in the region want to join the Euro-Atlantic institutions and that they seek clear guidelines for attaining EU as well as NATO membership.

The EU, moreover, will need to show that it can meet its own long-standing goal of keeping order in its backyard by successfully taking over and managing what is now a NATO-led mission in Macedonia (provided, of course, that the mission is continued). If the EU fails to show effective leadership, its credibility as an international actor will be further thrown into question, and not just in the eyes of the peoples of the Balkans. (Patrick Moore)

DJINDJIC TALKS TO RFE/RL. Visiting RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 3 August, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that Serbia has just two to three years to resolve its most serious issues or face possible disillusionment that he says would result in serious delays in European integration. "[Failure to maintain the current momentum] will create huge problems to motivate our people...because the clear goal and clear consensus that exists within the nation is that we want to be part of Europe."

Djindjic said that he hopes the political leadership in the West understands that, "if we lose the fast track that we're on now through unresolved structural problems, it will create problems for the future."

His attempts to reform the economy have been stymied by opposition not only from parties affiliated with the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic but by opposition from Yugoslav President Kostunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). The DSS blocked reforms in a failed bid to force early elections and hinder cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Djindjic noted that since DSS deputies had repeatedly boycotted parliamentary sessions, the 18-party Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) electoral coalition finally had no choice but to expel the DSS from its ranks. He argued that if a party is excluded from the coalition it has to be excluded from parliament, which is why he says DOS deputies recommended on 26 July ousting all 45 DSS deputies.

However, Djindjic said Serbia's problems are not only domestic but also involve Kosova, the future status of which remains unclear. This also applies to its fellow Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, and neighbors Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He described all these as "weak states with divided societies and governments lacking legitimacy."

Djindjic was particularly critical of the situation in Bosnia and Kosova, where tens of thousands of NATO-led troops are stationed for what he said could be 100 years. "In the Balkans, there are two protectorates and there are foreign troops there. It's the only region [in Europe] where there are large numbers of foreign troops and that's a real problem," Djindjic said.

Moreover, Djindjic complained about the extensive powers of the international community's high representative in Bosnia -- currently Paddy Ashdown -- to abrogate laws and replace government ministers. All that, he said, makes Bosnia a protectorate.

He argued, however, that since the citizens of Bosnia and Kosova are able to elect their authorities and live in conditions of stability, "no one perceives this as an unresolved issue since nothing [serious] is occurring in Bosnia or Kosovo."

Djindjic added that: "Neither in the case of Bosnia nor in the case of Kosovo do we have any intention of raising the issue of changing their status. But we as people who live here have the right to pay attention to the problem because we want to be involved in [its resolution]."

He called on the international community to let him open direct talks with Albanian leaders in the province. Djindjic said that, "we should start to talk, define our interests, and set priorities," but did not say whether the Albanians are willing to talk to him or anyone else from Belgrade.

Djindjic argued that Kosovar Albanian leaders should understand that Serbia can serve as a bridge to Europe and to integration with Europe. By contrast, what Serbia wants from Kosova is for it to stop having problems. He said that he hopes for greater stability there and the return of what he says are 180,000 displaced persons -- Serbs, Roma, Bosnian Muslims, and Gorani -- from Kosova who are still in Serbia more than three years after the end of the NATO air strikes.

Djindjic repeated that returnees need to have guarantees for their human rights, as well as security and access to hospitals and schools. Without their return and without a dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, Djindjic says Kosova is "now a time bomb."

Djindjic said not only Kosova's Albanian political leaders but the business community, intellectuals, and religious leaders should be involved in finding a solution, adding that he would like to hear what they all have to say. He noted that last year, the UN chief administrator, Hans Haekkerup, barred him from visiting the province and added that he hopes the current chief administrator, Michael Steiner, will let him do so.

Yet Djindjic did concede that Serbia itself is part of the problem. Djindjic said the prevalence among Serbs of an outmoded 19th-century national identity is a key problem that must be resolved.

He claimed that Serbs are close to finally finding their identity, but that many Serbs are still torn between building an open society and adhering to the traditionally closed society that he said is marked by negative attitudes and suspicion.

Djindjic feels that a resolution is finally possible thanks to the active participation of the international community. "It's about whether we look at the problems with our eyes wide open and resolve them even if they are unpleasant or else run away from them, stick our heads in the sand, and deny they exist," Djindjic said. "For the first time we have the active support of Europe." That support, he predicted, will contribute to the further stabilization of peace, stability, and economic development in the region. (Jolyon Naegele)

THE MACEDONIAN MULTIPLE HOLIDAY. Among the many national holidays in Macedonia, St. Elijah's Day on 2 August is one of the most important. Despite its religious name, St. Elijah's Day, or Ilinden, is not only a religious holiday. It marks the anniversary of two historical events that are of major importance for the Macedonian national identity.



The first Ilinden event took place in 1903. A group of Macedonians staged an uprising against the Ottoman authorities in the mountain town of Krusevo and proclaimed the short-lived Republic of Krusevo. Only 10 days later, the uprising was violently suppressed by the Ottoman army.

Nevertheless, Macedonian writers and historians have kept the memory of the insurgency alive and interpreted it as the first organized uprising of the Macedonian nation against centuries-old foreign oppression.

The second Ilinden event took place in 1944, when the communist-dominated Partisans held the first session of the Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) on 2 August in the southern Serbian monastery of St. Prohor Pcinjski. This date is widely accepted as the founding date of the modern Macedonian state.

The ASNOM hammered out the political and legal framework of the People's (later Socialist) Republic of Macedonia within communist Yugoslavia. Again, the date symbolizes the Macedonian struggle against foreign oppression -- this time the Bulgarian, German, and Italian occupiers.

Neither the first nor the second Ilinden has served as a national holiday for all Macedonian citizens. As is the case with most events from Macedonian national history, it is celebrated by the ethnic Macedonians alone, while the ethnic minorities are, if not excluded, not included, either.

Usually, the main Ilinden festivities take place in Krusevo, where a huge futuristic monument recalls the 1903 episode, and in the St. Prohor Pcinjski monastery, where there is only a commemorative plaque.

The two celebrations were equally important under communism, but after Macedonia became independent in 1991, the Krusevo celebrations attracted more attention.

Because Serbian authorities and nationalist groups repeatedly hindered Macedonian delegations from celebrating in Prohor Pcinjski during the 1990s, that part of the annual festivities became ever smaller. After this year's celebrations, however, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac announced that there will be no more obstacles from the Serbian side to the Macedonian celebrations.

In Krusevo, there is not only the huge commemorative meeting on 2 August but also a cultural festival called the 10 Days of the Krusevo Republic. It features classical and rock concerts, theater performances, and art exhibitions.

Before this year's celebrations, newspaper editorials called for national unity during the celebrations because the festivities during the past decade were often used by politicians for conducting political propaganda and making accusations against their opponents.

But the commentators' calls for unity were in vain. The parliamentary elections slated for 15 September are drawing ever closer, and Ilinden provided the political parties with a great opportunity for campaigning.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski delivered one of his typically anti-Western speeches in Krusevo. Apart from his customary references to the Western anti-Macedonian conspiracy to help create a greater Kosova at Macedonia's expense, Georgievski argued that the only true friend of the Macedonian people during last year's crisis was Ukraine. It was Ukraine that provided the Macedonian Army with helicopter gunships, fighter jets, and pilots.

Georgievski's speech came somewhat out of the blue, as only two days before, on 31 July, he had welcomed a French and German proposal to replace the NATO-led Task Force Fox by EU military contingents and underscored Macedonia's hopes for integration into both the EU and NATO.

Whatever one might think of Georgievski's nationalist rhetoric, it was typical and probably predictable. What was not expected, however, was that Georgievski's major political opponent, the chairman of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), Branko Crvenkovski, would miss the chance to make an appearance during the Ilinden celebrations.

Surprisingly, Crvenkovski paid a visit to Bulgaria instead. This was all the more unusual because over the past decade, Crvenkovski has stood for a strict anti-Bulgarian line in Macedonian politics.

But now he was received like an official guest by President Georgi Parvanov, who is the former chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), and by incumbent BSP leader Sergey Stanishev. Even Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski asked for a meeting with Crvenkovski.

If there was a clear sign of improving relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia, it was Crvenkovski's visit to Sofia on a day so important for Macedonian national identity. Supporters of the Third Ilinden -- a nationalist ideology calling for the creation of a Greater Macedonia at its neighbors' expense -- seem further from their goal than ever. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

TAKING STOCK OF ILLICIT DRUGS IN SLOVENIA. Across from the high school at the St. Stanislav Institute -- popularly known as the "bishop's gymnasium" -- in Ljubljana's northern suburb of Sentvid, graffiti boldly proclaims: "Smoke weed every day." Among the other graffiti -- the usual artwork, "Janez loves Marija" declarations, and vulgar expressions -- it is undistinguished except for the fact that it advocates violating the law by using illicit drugs.

The use of illegal drugs is nothing new in Slovenia, but there is concern that usage rates may be increasing. A 26 July column in the daily "Delo" noted that experts estimate the number of heroin addicts in Slovenia. at between 5,000 and 10,000. But there were 7,781 participants last year in Slovenia's disease-prevention needle-exchange program, which suggests that the problem may be greater.

Among university students, 25 percent report smoking marijuana, and 7 percent admit to using other drugs. Dance clubs are particularly singled out, where reported use of a range of drugs is high: marijuana (93 percent); ecstasy, or MDMA, (86 percent); amphetamines (72 percent); cocaine, LSD, or psilocybins (50 percent); and sedatives or heroin (24 percent).

Popular attitudes run the gamut of opinions encountered elsewhere in the world, with some advocating various degrees of legalization and others faulting youth for having too much time on their hands. A "Delo" poll published after the 11 May Million Marijuana March in Ljubljana's Congress Square, which advocated legalization of marijuana, found that 75 percent of the newspaper's readers would support medical prescriptions for marijuana -- but that the same percentage also believes marijuana use damages one's health.

Aspects of the drug culture have made their way into advertising as well. A recent billboard campaign by a Slovenian mobile-phone company featured a model with her tongue stuck out as if taking ecstasy at a rave party, with the company's name emblazoned on the tablet. Not to be outdone, a breath-mint company launched its own set of billboards -- and managed to position four mints on their model's tongue. Mercifully, the ads have finally run their course, relieving commuters on Celovska Cesta and other thoroughfares from this daily barrage of tongues.

The greatest drug-related problem in Slovenia may not be addiction levels or the spread of disease, but Slovenia's unfortunate status as a transit country for drug shipments. The country's geographic position at the edge of the Balkans and on the doorstep of the European Union contributes to this. The discovery and confiscation of drug shipments has become almost routine, and the hauls are often sizable.

In January this year, 842 kilograms of marijuana were seized in the port of Koper on board a ship that had arrived from Albania. The cargo was reportedly on its way to Western Europe. This catch is dwarfed by the 2,400 kilograms of marijuana that Slovenian customs officials and police seized at the Karavanke border crossing with Austria in a single week in August 1998.

In addition to marijuana, various reports note that heroin is smuggled from Turkey to Western Europe through Slovenia, and cocaine from South America to Western Europe via various northern Adriatic ports, including Koper. So-called precursor chemicals for manufacturing other illicit drugs also make their way through Slovenia, whereas other drugs -- particularly ecstasy and LSD -- flow southward from Western Europe.

Slovenia participates in a number of international initiatives designed to stem the flow of illegal drugs. As a Yugoslav successor state, Slovenia is a party to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. In 1999, Slovenia participated in a UN drug-law enforcement program for Southeastern Europe with the twin goals of preventing drug use and addressing the damaging consequences of drug use. More recently, Slovenian representatives attended the 14 June meeting of the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Sofia, Bulgaria, where an information-sharing program was announced to help disrupt drug-trafficking networks in the Balkans (see "UN: Seven Balkan Countries To Swap Intelligence On Drug Trafficking," rferl.org, 17 June 2002).

A few years ago, one of Slovenia's most popular singers, Adi Smolar, released his album titled "Saj te prime -- pa te mine." The title song relates how he refuses marijuana at a party, with the chorus, "Cause it takes you -- then forsakes you / So just steer clear / You're much better off / When you stick with beer" Considering that about half of the singer's repertoire alternately lauds and rues the effects of alcohol -- especially beer -- this advice hardly comes as a surprise.

It does, however, also have a certain cultural resonance. Strolling through Sentvid in the evening, one is apt to encounter locals slowly succumbing to beer or wine in streetside cafes and corner bars rather than stumble across junkies in a dark corner. More likely than not, most of the pupils up at the bishop's gymnasium are also taking Adi's advice to heart and indulging in alcohol -- which, in addition to being legal, is also cheaper. Next to the graffiti extolling marijuana, another person has conferred upon himself the title of "Beer Killer." (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATION OF THE WEEK. "Milosevic's support would mean a lot to me; it would bring in the votes of all patriots to my side." -- Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj regarding his bid for the Serbian presidency. Quoted by AP in Belgrade on 2 August.

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