Accessibility links

Balkan Report: September 13, 2002


13 September 2002, Volume 6, Number 34

SHIFTING SANDS. The cornerstone of Western security policy in the Balkans is the Atlantic alliance, including the German-American relationship. That partnership is now going through some very turbulent times.

As the U.S. moves its attention farther afield in the war against terrorism, it is inevitably scaling back -- but not ending or abandoning -- its role in the Balkans. Increasingly, the focus on both sides of the Atlantic is on a greater role for the European Union in promoting regional stability and even security (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 16 August 2002).

An article by Morton Abramowitz and Heather Hurlburt in the September-October issue of "Foreign Affairs" raises some doubts as to whether the slow and often cumbersome EU is up to the task or has the vision and judgement to integrate the region into a broader Europe and prevent any re-emergence of armed conflict.

But a greater role for the EU in the Balkans is clearly in the cards, even if only because many of its members are anxious to take on such responsibilities and because Washington is busy elsewhere. The United States will still play a key role in efforts against terrorism and organized crime in the Balkans and in reassuring the Bosnian Muslims and the Albanians throughout the region that they will not be abandoned. The U.S. position in NATO will also remain central, if only because it has technical and logistical capacities that no other country does.

For this cooperation to continue to work, the maintenance of mutual trust between the key players is essential. In recent weeks, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has made almost daily statements to the effect that he rejects any form of German military participation in a U.S.-led strike against Iraq. He has done so, however, not through quiet talks with his old allies, but in the form of speeches and interviews on the campaign trail.

His challenger in the 22 September elections, Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, asked him in their second televised debate on 8 September why he does not discuss the matter personally with President George W. Bush. Schroeder replied simply that everyone's position is clear, though he announced the previous week in a campaign speech that he expects Bush to consult him before making a decision on Iraq.

Something seems wrong here. It has been a maxim in post-1945 German politics that one cannot win an election by running against the United States. Now, however, the leading candidate of one of the two major parties -- and a sitting chancellor at that -- is taking precisely such a tack.

The polls suggest that he is succeeding. Schroeder has struck a chord in much of the electorate by playing on anti-American sentiments that are no strangers to his party, his Green coalition partners, and much of the media. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 10 September that "in order to mobilize the SPD [Social Democratic Party] Left and win voters away from the PDS [Party of Democratic Socialism], Schroeder has paid with Germany's credibility in foreign policy."

In the first televised debate in August, Stoiber suggested that Schroeder was unwittingly making himself a sort of strategic partner of Saddam Hussein. And the Frankfurt daily noted that with his flat rejection of any military role, Schroeder is taking the position of the PDS, the postcommunist successor to East Germany's governing Socialist Unity Party (SED), with which Schroeder's SPD governs Berlin in a coalition.

In the "International Herald Tribune" on 7 September, veteran observer John Vinocur noted that: "for the first time since 1945, Germany's leadership has moved to totally separate its policy from that of the United States on an issue of war and peace.... As the campaign progresses...Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer reiterate daily their commitment to a position that isolates Germany from the United States and its other North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. The German choice takes on the potential of becoming a profound and destabilizing development for both the United States and Europe."

Schroeder did nothing to reassure his neighbors and allies when he dubbed his policy "the German way," which carries unfortunate historical overtones. For that reason, Fischer recently said that he is dropping the term. But Schroeder's few efforts at damage control in trans-Atlantic relations, such as a 5 September interview with "The New York Times," have been unconvincing compared with the vehemence of his statements on the stump.

Some of Germany's allies -- most notably the U.S., of course -- are not happy. "Die Welt" reported on 9 September that some U.S. commentators are accusing the German government of being ungrateful for U.S. support in rebuilding and defending postwar Germany and for supporting German reunification in 1990, at a time when many of Germany's European friends were horrified at the prospect.

Back in Berlin, U.S. Ambassador Dan Coats told the German media on at least two occasions recently of his and Washington's concerns over Schroeder's position and how he presents it. In response, one Schroeder aide compared Coats' behavior to that of any Soviet ambassador to East Germany. It was left to the media to remind the chancellor's office that the right to freedom of speech in Germany applies to foreign diplomats, too.

It is difficult to see where matters will lead. Ugly mutual stereotypes of strange people led by incompetents are resurfacing on both sides of the Atlantic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June 2001).

If Schroeder is re-elected, he may find that Washington regards his government like it did that of Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou two decades ago: an ally in little more than name. If Stoiber wins, he may need to show that he has more interest in, and knowledge of, foreign affairs than has been the case to date. If the left-of-center parties find themselves in the opposition and without the responsibilities of office, it may be difficult to foresee what their genie of anti-Americanism, now out of its bottle, will do. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN THE FINAL HEAT. The last weekend before the 15 September parliamentary elections saw rallies of the major political parties in some of the larger provincial towns. In the final stage of the election campaign that ends on 13 September, most ethnic Macedonian parties will hold large rallies in Skopje's central Macedonia Square.

The ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and its junior coalition partner, the Liberal Party (LP), continued their campaign strategy. They conducted traditional-style party rallies with leading politicians and candidates, during which the achievements of the government were contrasted with the alleged hidden agendas of the opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM). To underscore his achievements, Georgievski continued his tour de force of opening one important infrastructure project or prestige object after another.

The latest infrastructure project Georgievski launched was a water pipeline for Lake Dojran in southeastern Macedonia. In recent decades, the lake has been threatened with drying up. Georgievski hailed the project as an important contribution to the ecological system, as well as an incentive to tourism in the region.

At the rallies in provincial towns, the bigger parties often address local concerns. Former parliamentary speaker Tito Petkovski, who is the SDSM's main candidate in the third election district, told a rally in Stip on 8 September that his party will revive local industries. Many workers lost their jobs after the town's textile factories closed down.

SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski summed up the program of his For Macedonia Together coalition by saying that "on 15 September, [people have the choice] not between political parties, candidates, and front runners, but between war and peace, between the future and darkness, between morality and crime, misery, and poverty, and between 'for' or 'against' Macedonia."

The ethnic Albanian parties, for their part, have stressed other priorities to their electorate. All ethnic Albanian parties have adopted a program demanding more rights for the Albanian minority and the full implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement of August 2001.

The latest opinion polls suggest that most ethnic Albanian voters will vote either for the ruling Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), led by Arben Xhaferi, or for the newly formed Democratic Union of the Albanians (BDI), headed by Ali Ahmeti (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2002). Ahmeti is the former political leader of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK). Many Albanians say he won them more rights with his brief rebellion than the established parties did in a decade.

The Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which is still represented in the government, is divided by internal strife and has lost many of its former supporters. The small National Democratic Party (PDK) of Kastriot Haxhirexha will have a hard time electing any deputies at all to the new parliament.

Fear of losing votes to the BDI has led the PDSH leadership to adopt a more radical position. At rallies, Xhaferi talks of the PDSH as a party "whose mission will be ended only when all Albanians have equal rights in all spheres of life: in politics, the economy, culture, and finance." Some observers also note that the PDSH leadership has repeatedly made statements implying that the party's ultimate goal is one state for all Albanians, brought about through the unification of the Albanian-populated areas of Macedonia with neighboring Kosova and Albania.

At the same time, the PDSH has distanced itself from its coalition partner, the VMRO-DPMNE, in order to open political space for a possible coalition with the Social Democrats.

The BDI, for its part, has been soft-spoken, which seems at odds with its UCK origins. Former rebel commander Gezim Ostreni in a speech in Debar justified the fight of the UCK for greater rights but also stressed that the UCK "never fought against the Macedonians."

The BDI leadership avoids any nationalistic or separatist undertones in its campaign in order to present itself as a possible coalition partner for any ethnic Macedonian party. A Western diplomat noted that the BDI obviously has good campaign advisers. He added, however, that apart from Ali Ahmeti, Deputy Chairwoman Teuta Arifi, and spokesman Agron Buxhaku, the party has no readily discernable membership or structure.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the ethnic Albanian and the ethnic Macedonian electorate is that with the BDI, the Albanian voters have an alternative to the establishment, while many Macedonians feel that neither the VMRO-DPMNE nor the SDSM represents their interests. It is thus quite likely that the voter turnout among the Macedonians will be much lower than that of the Albanians. Whether and how this will affect the overall election results remains to be seen. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

PEACE ON LAND AND SEA: SLOVENIA AND CROATIA REACH A COMPROMISE. September has brought an easing of tensions between Slovenia and Croatia with a truce between rival fishing factions, and with Croatia's release of the Slovenian town councilor Josko Joras from jail. Meanwhile, the search for a permanent political solution to the unresolved issues between the two countries continues.

The fishermen plying the waters in the contested Bay of Piran agreed on 7 September to extend the peace arrangement they formulated four days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 9 September 2002). Under that agreement, both Slovenian and Croatian fishermen agreed on a fishing moratorium in the contested portion of the bay, between the midline, which the Croats maintain should serve as the international boundary, and the Slovenian police observation line, which lies much closer to the Croatian shore.

The original 3 September meeting followed an incident at sea the previous day, in which seven Croatian boats put to sea and surrounded a Slovenian boat fishing in the contested zone. After two Slovenian boats came to the aid of their compatriot, a Croatian vessel cut across the stern of one of the boats, pulling a clam rake and tearing its net. This was reportedly followed by Croatian threats to sink the rival boats. The arrival of the leaders of the local Croatian and Slovenian fishermen's associations, Daniele Kolec and Zlato Novogradec, eventually ended the escalating incident with an agreement for everyone to withdraw, according to a 3 September article in "Delo."

This second meeting between the fishermen, held in the Slovenian town of Piran on 7 September, ended with a call for politicians to resolve the issue, "Delo" reported on 8 September. If they fail to do so, the fishermen will take up the issue again on 15 September in the Croatian town of Umag.

A Slovenian proposal for joint fishing in the contested area was rejected by the Croatian side due to differing fishing legislation in the two countries. However, the fishermen tentatively agreed to observe a line between the middle line and the police line as an "imaginary fishing border agreed internally between the Slovenian and Croatian fishermen that will not prejudice the final border," a 4 September article in "Delo" noted.

In a related development, Croatian authorities transferred Joras (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 August 2002) from the jail in Pula to prison hospital facilities in Zagreb on 3 September to monitor his health during his hunger strike, during which he lost 10 kilograms. On the afternoon of 6 September, he was released, and the following day, he returned to his house in the contested village of Mlini.

According to a 7 September article in the Croatian daily "Vjesnik," the authorities released Joras because of concerns about his state of health. His release was also made conditional upon payment of his fine within 30 days. According to a 9 September article in "Delo," however, Joras has no intention of paying the fine and did not present his identity documents at Croatia's Plovanija border checkpoint as he returned home. Joras says he refused to sign any documents upon entering or leaving jail because they referred to a Josko Joras from Mlini-Skrilje (Croatia).

"It must have concerned another Joras," the councilor said facetiously, "someone with the same name as me. My address is in Secovjle [Slovenia], and I don't open other people's mail or sign such documents," "Delo" noted on 9 September. Asked about his future plans, Joras replied that he will react to pressure with restraint but, if pushed, will respond in the same manner as before.

In the meantime, Slovenian domestic opinion on Joras is mixed. Some have lionized him as a symbol of Slovenian resistance to Croatian actions, whereas others have condemned his behavior as irresponsible. Even among his colleagues on the Piran town council, "Delo" noted on 3 September, Joras has been labeled an extremist, whose actions have added to tension in Slovenian-Croatian relations.

At the state level, both Slovenia and Croatia initially hardened their positions, reaching a low point when Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula rejected an invitation from his Slovenian counterpart, Dimitrij Rupel, for talks at the beginning of September. On 7 September, "Delo" reported that Rupel had sent a letter to Picula, stating that the 113 hectares comprising the four villages under dispute have been under Slovenian jurisdiction since the end of World War II.

A 10 September meeting in Zagreb between the Slovenian and Croatian prime ministers, Janez Drnovsek and Ivica Racan, as well as their respective foreign ministers, resulted in a temporary three-month arrangement allowing both sides to fish in the contested waters, "Delo" reported on 11 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002).

During the meeting, Drnovsek stressed that it would be better to solve the dispute without a third party, but that Slovenia cannot insist on the now defunct 2001 border agreement unilaterally (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001).

Croatian President Stjepan Mesic, with whom Drnovsek also met during his visit to Zagreb, also favors a bilateral solution, "Vjesnik" reported on 11 September. In contrast, Racan stated that he views international arbitration as the only way forward at this point. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

REPORT SLAMS CARE OF MENTALLY ILL IN KOSOVA (Part II). The director of the psychiatric ward at Prishtina Hospital, Dr. Afrim Blyta, complains about the lack of proper medicine and equipment: "You cannot manage the work in a clinic if you are constantly exposed to the incredible lack of [medications], which are indispensable for such an institution. We urgently need medicines that control the behavior of patients. Frequently, we have failed because of the absence of remedies to keep under control and calm down our many patients with psychotic troubles. They become too aggressive. They attack the personnel, and in some cases they have seriously injured our staff members."

The United Nations civilian administration in Kosova, or UNMIK, said the abuses and harsh conditions at these facilities are the result, not of improper management, but of a lack of funds. Manuel argued that "the problem is money, and it is very difficult now to get the money for mental health in Kosovo or to get money for anything in Kosovo. The donors simply are not interested in funding improvements to the mental-health system in Kosovo."

For Dr. Eric Rosenthal of Mental Disability Rights International, or MDRI, this is no excuse. "Number one, protection against physical and sexual abuses does not cost a lot of money, and there is no excuse for this kind of abuse. They're spending money to rebuild the toilet. Why not spend money to put up a locked door that can prevent men from going into the women's ward at night? In May of last year, a social worker from the Norwegian Red Cross said that men come onto the women's ward and have their way with them at night. We asked them at that time, 'Why don't you put up a good, strong locked door?' And they said, 'We don't have money.' That's ridiculous," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal added that reforms must focus on the building of new community-based homes and services, not on rebuilding inadequate facilities.

Dutch psychologist Hilbert Belksma agrees in principle with the need for community-based houses but said money should be spent now so that the current residents of Shtime are humanely accommodated until such time that community houses are opened. "Before we establish these houses in the community, we need to house 230 residents in Shtime. I cannot put them on the street. Nobody is interested in them. They cannot go to families," Belksma said.

He added: "We have a large population of Serbian residents: One hundred fifteen of the 230 residents of Shtime are from Serbia. We are talking with the Serbian government in Belgrade to bring these people back to their own families or to a house or an institution in Serbia. It is very difficult to bring people back to Serbia because the institutions in Serbia are overcrowded. They have the same financial problems we have here in Kosovo, and family members are simply not interested in their family [members] living in Shtime anymore. Lots of residents in Shtime have been there since the 1990s, [some] even longer. So their families are dead or simply not interested."

The MDRI report has been endorsed by the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch and was funded by the Open Society Institute. It said UNMIK deserves credit for responding quickly to an immediate crisis following the war in Kosova at a time when hundreds of people in psychiatric facilities faced life-threatening conditions. But it said that while UNMIK organized an effective response to the medical emergency, "it did not create a framework to protect the human rights of people detained in institutions."

It charges that UNMIK "has failed to abide by its obligations under international conventions or by the UN General Assembly standards to which it holds other nations."

It recommends that UNMIK should commit itself to raising the funds necessary to protect the rights of people with mental disabilities. UNMIK, it said, must take immediate action to create a system of accountability to ensure the protection of people with mental disabilities from violence and sexual abuse.

A 2 million-euro package promised by the Dutch government could provide some of the funds needed to begin making improvements in the lives of the mentally ill in Kosovo (for Part I of this report, see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 September 2002). (Ulpiana Lama)

(The full MDRI report is available on the Internet at www.mdri.org.)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "One year ago the world changed, and now we have to engage ourselves -- and when I say ourselves, I mean the United States and Europe -- to fight together against terrorism, against insecurity, against fear.... [The] U.S. has always helped Europe in the dark moments of history. We have to go on working with the United States against terrorism, we must get rid of terrorists.... Now we have to learn to work together in the daily fight against terrorism and to understand that this is a common destiny. We cannot divide Europe from the United States." -- EU Commission President Romano Prodi. Quoted by RFE/RL from a statement issued in Brussels on 11 September 2002.

"From this same font came 11 September." -- Berlin Catholic Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, likening 11 September to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Quoted by dpa in Berlin on 11 September.

"Crime knows no borders, no ethnic barriers -- and that is why we need regional cooperation." -- UNMIK head Michael Steiner, speaking in Tirana on 10 September. Quoted by AP.

"All the crimes the Serbs committed they committed consciously.... They have not offered a hand in reconciliation." -- Recak villager Hasan Billali, 67, one of whose sons was killed and two others wounded in the 1999 massacre by Serbian forces. He himself was shot in the chest, legs, ribs, and back. Quoted by AP on 10 September at the close of the Kosova segment of the Milosevic war crimes trial.

"We want to bring Macedonians and ethnic Albanians closer and to revive their belief in each other." -- Guerrilla leader-turned-politician Ali Ahmeti. Quoted by AP in Tetovo on 10 September.

XS
SM
MD
LG