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Balkan Report: November 1, 2002


1 November 2002, Volume 6, Number 40

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND ALBANIA. The involvement of the international community in Albania over the past decade stems from a desire to bring stability, democracy, and prosperity to one of Europe's poorest countries. What most Albanians seem to want now is a positive, goal-oriented program aimed at integrating their country into Euroatlantic institutions.

The traditional model of involvement by the great powers -- the forerunners of today's international community -- in the Balkans was one of rival states competing among themselves and using the Balkan peoples as their pawns.

The situation could not have been more different following the collapse of communism in the region and during the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession from 1991 to 1995 and again in 1999. In those cases, the problems were largely made in the region itself. The U.S. and the EU (formerly the EC) intervened reluctantly and with the goal of containing and preventing damage. In short, this was intervention aimed at preventing fires in the Balkans from engulfing the rest of Europe, not an exercise aimed at redrawing the map of Europe's southeastern corner.

There has been, moreover, more than enough work for all to do. With the exception of some occasional rivalry with Russia, particularly during and after the conflict in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001), relations between the foreign powers have been characterized more by cooperation than by competition. Indeed, acrimony has generally arisen not because of conflicting goals but due to differing views as to how to achieve mutually agreed aims.

But what brought the international community to Albania, which had previously been Europe's most isolated country? The first and foremost problem was the mass migration of people that accompanied the collapse of communism in 1991 and 1992. Tens of thousands went to Italy by ship, while others sought work in Greece. Both of these trends have now been regulated through agreements, the most notable being the 1997 Italian-Albanian agreement on repatriation.

But human trafficking remains a problem, both of Albanians fleeing to the EU and of persons from other countries using Albania as a transit route. In the summer of 2002, the Albanian authorities carried out Operation Puna (Work) together with Italian and Greek officials to show that they mean business in stopping the traffickers.

Critics, however, charge that the campaign involved more theater than substance. In any event, the problem remains, as does the smuggling of drugs and the development of links between organized crime in Albania and other countries, especially Italy. But Italian customs and other officials continue to patrol the Albanian coast and maintain a presence in Durres and elsewhere on land.

And what else has the international community sought to do for Albania to make it a more stable, secure, and prosperous country? After all, as the relations between the U.S. and Mexico have shown, a key factor in stemming unwanted mass migration is to provide potential migrants with the opportunity to work and enjoy the fruits of their labors without having to leave home.

One important task has been to help build a tolerant political culture and democratic institutions. This has not been easy, given the tendency in Albanian politics towards polarization. But in June 2002 the European Parliament succeeded in brokering an agreement between the major political parties that led to the election of Alfred Moisiu as the consensus candidate for president.

It remains to be seen whether Moisiu will serve as an integrating factor or is simply the least common denominator on which all could agree. It is also unclear whether Prime Minister Fatos Nano will be willing and able to work in the long term with his rivals in his own Socialist Party (PS), not to mention with former President Sali Berisha and his other old enemies in the Democratic Party (PD).

The EU has nonetheless made a start in ending the deadly polarization by brokering the presidential election through the efforts of Doris Pack and others in the European Parliament. The EU has called for strengthening government at the local as well as central level, and for changes in media legislation.

The efforts of the foreigners have not, however, always been tactful or appreciated. The foreign governments, NGOs, international institutions, and others present in Albania have been represented for some time in a loosely organized body called the Friends of Albania, which has about 35 members. It has come in for sharp scrutiny by the Albanian media in the course of 2002.

Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 29 April that the OSCE chief of mission in Tirana, Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, has been widely criticized by Albanian leaders and the media from across the political spectrum for not giving Albania credit for what it has achieved in recent years. He and other Western leaders are regarded as more inclined to complain about corruption and other issues than to give Albania a precise guide as to what it must do to achieve integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

One press commentary at that time argued that the Friends of Albania are not only short on constructive advice but behave as arrogantly as did the representatives of the great powers at the 1913 London conference, which set up a foreign-administered Albanian state over the heads of the Albanians themselves.

By the summer, Nano and other leading politicians were saying openly that time had come for the Friends of Albania to close up shop. By September, it was clear that the old Friends of Albania would be replaced by a successor organization, but it was not immediately clear how it would differ from the one that had come to alienate many Albanians.

What the Albanians want, in fact, is not to be lectured on corruption or other issues but to be given a clear road map for entry into NATO, the EU, and other Euroatlantic bodies. They are under no illusions that they can aspire to membership in either of the two Brussels-based organizations at any time in the foreseeable future. But they want spelled out exactly what they have to do.

The EU may open talks as early as the fall of 2002 to lead to a stabilization and association agreement for Albania. The EU foreign ministers indeed agreed in Luxembourg on 21 October to begin such talks. Many Albanians will be closely watching to see how serious these negotiations are. The EU would be well advised not to give the impression that it is simply stringing the Albanians along and has no intention of granting them membership.

Matters seem clearer where NATO is concerned. Albania did exactly what the Atlantic alliance expected of it during the crises in Kosova in 1999 and in Macedonia in 2001. It has, moreover, cultivated good neighborly relations with Serbia, Montenegro, and other states in the region. NATO has acknowledged Albania's constructive approach and admitted it to the Partnership for Peace program already in 1994.

In August of 2002, Albania sent an elite unit of 30 commandos to Afghanistan to help with peacekeeping efforts there. For November, President Moisiu has agreed to join his Croatian colleague Stipe Mesic and Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in a discussion about NATO and regional security at RFE/RL's headquarters in Prague after the NATO summit. All three countries hope to join NATO in the next round of expansion after Prague.

In short, what Albania now wants from the international community is not an exit strategy for the foreigners but an entry strategy for Albania to join NATO, the EU, and other Euroatlantic institutions. (Patrick Moore) (This presentation was delivered at a symposium organized by Germany's leading Balkan studies association, the Suedosteuropa-Gesellschaft, at the German Embassy in Tirana on 27 September 2002)

BOSNIA BANS ARMS TRADE -- UNDER INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE. Bosnia-Herzegovina's self-imposed ban on arms trading is the latest in a series of moves by authorities in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Belgrade, responding to international pressure to halt illicit weapons trading with Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002).

The scandal spotlights the absence of adequate export controls and the inherent unreliability of Bosnia's system of administration in its two entities, the Muslim-Croat federation and Republika Srpska. It also threatens to hamper Bosnia's declared intention of joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program.

Peacekeepers of the NATO-led Stabilization Force, or SFOR, recently raided a state-owned factory in Bijeljina, a Bosnian-Serb administered town on the border with Yugoslavia. The raid confirmed U.S. intelligence reports that the Orao factory was exporting parts for Iraqi MiG-23 fighter aircraft. A Yugoslav state-owned foreign trade company, Yugoimport, which facilitated the deal through its Baghdad office, was also implicated.

The U.S. Embassy publicly accused Orao in September of supplying the parts to Iraq. The subsequent SFOR raid revealed an attempt to cover up the activity. The Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje" recently reported that SFOR found a document dated 25 September telling five Orao staffers in Baghdad to remain there and remove all traces of Orao's involvement in Iraq.

Since then, the Republika Srpska has fired the defense minister, the chief-of-staff, the commander of the Bosnian Serb air force, the director of the Orao factory, and the head of a Bosnian Serb military equipment and weapons transport agency.

Bosnian Minister for Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Azra Hadziahmetovic said the ban on arms trading will remain in effect until Bosnian authorities begin issuing licenses at the state rather than the entity level.

The international community's principal deputy high representative, Donald Hays, said he "totally supports" the ban on weapons exports. "Until Bosnia can get appropriate controls in place, the risks of having a repetition of the Orao affair are immense.... We demand that the two entities immediately work with the state to put together a functioning control mechanism that will bring this whole area of trade under appropriate controls."

However, Hays issued a stern warning to both of Bosnia's entities: "Let me emphasize for those of you who don't understand how serious the situation is. Effectively, Bosnia-Herzegovina is in breach of international agreements with the United Nations, OSCE, and other international bodies. It is Bosnia-Herzegovina that will be held responsible, and it is Bosnia-Herzegovina that has to make this right."

The commander of SFOR in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General William Ward, says SFOR will be monitoring the situation: "We will be very closely watching what's going on, what action [the Republika Srpska] takes, and if we deem the actions not fully appropriate, I'm prepared to take actions as required."

Ward specifically called for a single functioning defense ministry at the all-Bosnian -- that is, state -- level, rather than separate ministries at the entity level.

Unconfirmed media reports from Bosnia say SFOR has intensified its patrols along the boundary line between the two entities in recent days after reports of nighttime truck shipments heading for Adriatic ports in Croatia.

Meanwhile, the head of the Bosnian Serb government's Public Information Office, Cveta Kovacevic, said the Republika Srpska government has adopted a plan to set things right in the wake of the Orao affair: "This plan contains 20 very specific measures with specific tasks and deadlines. The entire plan has to be realized by 27 November of this year and is subordinate to measures taken for financial control over the Orao plant. This includes a complete review of all deals which the factory had with enterprises in Yugoslavia, lists of equipment that has been delivered, lists of destinations."

Authorities in Belgrade, meanwhile, have been quick to dissociate themselves from the affair, professing ignorance and accusing political rivals of involvement. The Yugoslav government has dismissed a deputy defense minister, Ivan Djokic, and Yugoimport's director, Major-General Jovan Cekovic, and has ordered the closure of the Baghdad office of Yugoimport.

Federal President Vojislav Kostunica has accused Yugoimport of "gambling" and of undertaking what he terms "an entirely irresponsible business move" that he said will be punished. But he insisted the Yugoimport affair is an isolated incident that should not be interpreted as Yugoslavia's position.

However, Kostunica's foreign policy adviser, Predrag Simic, suggested the affair is symptomatic of a broader problem of the continued presence of Milosevic-era officials in the defense industry: "People who have access to the ministry and the Yugoslav arms industry are maximizing their gains, while not being part of any state policy."

For his part, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said the affair is a matter for the federal president to resolve, since it involves the military. He accused Kostunica of being unprofessional by refusing to dismiss senior military holdovers from the Milosevic era.

Nevertheless, Djindjic has all but ignored his own responsibility in the affair since his interior minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, is a member of Yugoimport's board of directors and claims that he knew nothing.

Meanwhile, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, a member of Djindjic's government, said exports to Iraq are not in Yugoslavia's national or state interests. He wants a thorough investigation of the matter: "It would be very dangerous if there were any attempt to hide something. Plenty of questions are being raised about many deals dating back to the period when Milosevic and [Vojislav] Seselj were in power and which are still being applied. Meanwhile, the appropriate organs have yet to uncover them, to reveal which firms have been operating [in the arms trade], which of them are private companies, whether permission was issued by one side or the other, and whether papers valid for Bosnia were applied on Yugoslav territory."

Covic concluded by saying that cover-ups are "dangerous, as they risk losing the international community's trust." (Jolyon Naegele)

ASHDOWN AND KLEIN TAKE A MESSAGE TO THE UN. The international community's leading representatives in Bosnia told the UN Security Council on 23 October that the gains of nationalists in recent elections were more a protest vote over stalled reforms than a sign of new ethnic divisions. Paddy Ashdown and Jacques Klein urged the council to support a tough new stage of reforms to strengthen the rule of law and revitalize the Bosnian economy. Ashdown also vowed to offer his powers, if necessary, to crack down on those exporting illegal arms to Iraq.

Ashdown, the fourth high representative for Bosnia, was speaking to the council for the first time. Klein was making his final address as UN envoy. He will transfer the mandate of police and judicial improvements to the European Union at the end of the year after overseeing the largest police reform and restructuring operation in UN history.

Ashdown expressed alarm at Bosnia's debt and falling aid levels. He vowed to move against corruption and an entrenched bureaucracy, which he said are robbing the country of economic initiative, as well as hundreds of millions of euros in revenues.

He told reporters in a news conference later that one example of Bosnia's problems is that it takes 36 separate actions to establish a business: "It takes 100 days to establish a legal business in [Bosnia], three in Slovenia. We have got to take a bulldozer toward bureaucratic regulations to open up Bosnia-Herzegovina to enterprise, to small businesses, to release that internal human talent in [Bosnia] and indeed the investment capacity, internal investment capacity, and when we've done that we'll be in a position to bid for external private investment, which is the only means by which we can fill the gap of declining international aid."

The weak economy, he said, is undermining one of the country's great successes -- the high number of returning refugees. Nearly one million refugees have returned to Bosnia since the end of its civil war seven years ago, including 350,000 to areas where they are minorities.

About 60 percent of claims for the return of property have been solved, the high representative said. But news reports from the region say many owners are not returning to their properties but are selling them.

Klein said that in some cases, refugees returning to areas where they are ethnic minorities have shown courage and resilience but are unable to cope with the economic deprivations: "You have right now donor fatigue, compassion fatigue, and political fatigue. At the very time when UNHCR has done a remarkably good job at facilitating refugee return, the refugees come back without the economic infrastructure assistance they need to convince them to stay."

Klein also expressed frustration in his efforts at tackling organized crime and the country's problem in stopping the trafficking of women. Last week, 11 local police officers assigned to a special squad combating human trafficking and prostitution were dismissed by the UN for aiding the rings.

But Klein said there has been less publicity for the successes in the antitrafficking program. He said it has led to the closing of half the country's brothels and repatriation of more than 200 victims.

Trafficking in women remains a tough problem in the Balkans, he said, because of the economic troubles of countries like Ukraine and Moldova, the origin of many women lured to Bosnia with the promise of good jobs:

"When we raid a bar, three of the women say, 'Help us get the hell out of here. We didn't know what we were getting into.' But five or six say, 'Leave me alone. I'm making good money here. I don't need your help.' Then what the hell do I do, especially if they often have legal documentation?"

During the Security Council hearing, a U.S. diplomat asked Ashdown if he would use his powers against those found to be transferring arms to Iraq. That was a reference to the sales to Iraq of weapons parts by the Orao defense firm, which the government of the Bosnian Serb entity has admitted (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002 and the article above).

Ashdown said the issue was a matter mainly for UN officials and the NATO-led peacekeeping force but that he was prepared to use his powers to help end such activities: "If there is anybody in Bosnia-Herzegovina who is participating in breaking UN Security Council resolutions, then that is a matter of the very gravest importance which has to be dealt with immediately and powerfully -- and will be."

The international high representative was given the authority to impose laws and dismiss Bosnian officials under agreements that ended Bosnia's interethnic war. Ashdown said at the UN that his goal is to make Bosnia a business-friendly, politically efficient country, with the most trusted legal system in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002). (Robert McMahon)

MACEDONIA'S PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE TALKS ABOUT HIS COALITION. In the run-up to the swearing in of the new government on 31 October, the daily "Vest" published an exclusive interview with Prime Minister-designate Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM). The interview appeared on 26 October and provided some insight into the relations between the SDSM and its coalition partners of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which is led by Ali Ahmeti, the former political leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK). Crvenkovski also talked about his decision to nominate Commercial Bank Director Hari Kostov as interior minister (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002).

Asked why the coalition talks took so long, Crvenkovski countered that the SDSM and the BDI needed only 17 out of the 30 days allowed by law to reach an arrangement. The outgoing government has only caretaker functions, and that may have to contributed to a general feeling of a power vacuum, he argued.

Crvenkovski said that "[one] has to keep in mind that most of the time after the first session of the parliament [on 3 October] was taken up with talks with the BDI.... We could not predict the [electoral] results of the [ethnic Albanian political parties prior to the 15 September elections], and we did not know with whom we should talk" prior to the vote itself. He added that for the SDSM, the BDI was an unknown quantity as a political partner.

Crvenkovski defended his decision to grant four ministries to the political newcomers of the BDI because that number corresponds to the size of the vote garnered by the BDI. During the coalition talks, the BDI demanded at least one power ministry -- the Ministry of Defense, the Interior Ministry, or the Foreign Ministry. But the Social Democrats did not agree -- and reserved these ministries for their party.

Crvenkovski underscored that for him, it is more important that the government functions as a whole than which party holds which portfolio. "What if [some future ministers] have bad intentions? In that case, every ministry...is powerful enough to cause great damage," Crvenkovski said.

He also said that he still feels uneasy about his cooperation with the BDI. The new prime minister seems to be confident that his cabinet will work together well while recognizing that it is too early to tell. He stressed, however, "that the alternative [to a government of the largest ethnic Macedonian and Albanian parties] is much worse -- interethnic confrontation with all consequences."

Crvenkovski confirmed rumors that he hesitated as to whether he should become prime minister at all. "It is not a secret.... My idea was to divide the functions of party leader and prime minister," suggesting that he obviously preferred the party chairmanship. In the end, his party convinced him to accept the mandate on the grounds that it would be unwise to disappoint the SDSM voters. It is not clear, however, whether Crvenkovski's hesitation had something to do with the prospect of heading a coalition with the BDI.

The prime minister-designate also talked about his decision to nominate Hari Kostov as interior minister. The daily "Dnevnik" described Kostov as a very well organized, almost pedantic person with a brilliant career. After graduating from Skopje University in 1983, the young economist became an assistant to the government. Between 1986 and 1994 he worked as an adviser to the government, and from 1994 to 1995 he was deputy finance minister. Kostov became assistant to the executive director of the World Bank in 1995, before he took his current position as director-general of the Skopje-based Commercial Bank in 1996.

In Crvenkovski's eyes, the interior minister must be a person who will be able to cope with the complicated situation in a ministry inherited from hawkish Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). Crvenkovski looked for a person "who is willing to take risks, who does not have a record [of stubbornness], and who, at the same time, is not afraid of making decisions, who sticks to his principles, and who is decisive."

Kostov -- who is not an SDSM member -- shares Crvenkovski's reservations about the BDI. He nonetheless acknowledged that most Albanian voters preferred the BDI, which won two-thirds of the Albanian vote. "That is why the future of the country depends on the fact that the BDI has honorable intentions," Kostov told "Dnevnik." He added that he will give his final verdict about his future colleagues from the BDI as soon as he had the opportunity to see them in action. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "The mood of the people in this country is absolutely not to return to nationalism. These elections were for more reform and faster reform." -- High Representative Paddy Ashdown, referring to the 5 October Bosnian elections that returned the three main nationalist parties to power. Quoted by AP at the UN on 23 October.

"Officials in Washington readily acknowledge that modern Romania is not what usually comes to mind when the phrase 'NATO ally' is uttered." -- Robert G. Kaiser in the "International Herald Tribune" on 24 October.

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