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Balkan Report: October 23, 2001


23 October 2001, Volume 5, Number 69

MACEDONIA STUMBLES ON THE ROAD TO PEACE. When the so-called Ohrid peace accord was signed in Skopje on 13 August by the leaders of the main Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political parties and the Macedonian president, few observers believed that it could be implemented easily (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17, 21, and 24 August 2001, and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 23 August 2001). Developments have proven the doubters right.

The tight time schedule for the various steps of the implementation -- such as disarmament of the rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK), the ratification of the agreement by the Macedonian parliament, and the implementation of constitutional changes -- did not allow for any delay in the process. But once the UCK, the parliament, and NATO had taken the first difficult steps, (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 and 18 September 2001), the parliamentary procedure seemed to move along smoothly for a while.

There were, however, some obstacles that threatened the implementation of the peace accord. It was primarily the Macedonian nationalist hard-liners, led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, who nearly brought the peace process to a standstill when they demanded a referendum on the Ohrid agreement. As international pressure against a referendum mounted, the parliament delayed a vote on it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001).

In recent weeks, the situation became ever more complicated, and it seemed that Macedonia once again was slowly lurching towards a total blockade of its fragile democratic institutions. In the end, the political process was not blocked by the scandal that followed after Georgievski repeatedly told U.S. special envoy James Pardew that the Americans are the biggest terrorists in the world. Instead, it was blocked because there were misunderstandings and disagreements about problems closely related to the peace agreement and its implementation.

One set of problems related to the work of the parliament. Speaker Stojan Andov demanded that some 12 or 15 persons allegedly kidnapped by the UCK should be released before the parliament could decide on the constitutional amendments. But the UCK denied responsibility for the disappearance of those ethnic Macedonians.

The ethnic Albanian political parties, for their part, demanded that President Boris Trajkovski submit all the envisaged constitutional amendments together, so that they could be discussed as a package to speed up the process. Leading members of the ethic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) accused the president of delaying the political process by refusing to agree to that request. In the end, the PPD boycotted the sessions of the parliamentary committee for constitutional questions and thus blocked the work of the parliament until the PPD legislators took their seats on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 22 October 2001).

Meanwhile, Macedonian politicians pressed for a change in the wording of the preamble of the constitution. The original preamble made a distinction between the Macedonian people as the constituent nation of the Macedonian state on the one hand, and the national minorities on the other. At the Albanians' insistence, the Ohrid peace agreement stated that any reference to specific ethnic or national groups should be deleted from the preamble. But Macedonian politicians and large parts of the Macedonian public feared that this could lead to the denial of the "national character" of the Macedonian state and the Macedonian people.

Trajkovski's office is still working on a compromise on that issue, which would include the Macedonian people as well as the Albanian and other national minorities on an equal basis, thus avoiding any conflict over the constitutional status of the various ethnic groups in the country.

The third matter that endangered the peace process was the government's delay in declaring a promised amnesty for those UCK fighters who in the meantime had disarmed. There have been lengthy discussions as to whether the current solution -- a restricted amnesty proclaimed by a cabinet decree on 8 October -- will be sufficient to protect UCK members from criminal prosecution. The Albanians want a broad amnesty approved by the parliament.

As the situation deteriorated in recent weeks, the international community looked on with growing concern. Finally, it once again decided that only a concentrated intervention by leading Western representatives could move the Macedonian politicians towards a compromise.

On 18 October, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana arrived in Skopje to unblock the political process.

Robertson gave an exclusive interview to the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" of 18 October, in which he stressed that his main objective is to remind Macedonian politicians of all parties to stick to the Ohrid peace agreement and the promises they have made: "This agreement was supported by the EU, NATO, OSCE, and even Russia.... That means that every change of the agreement has to be agreed to by all those involved in its elaboration. It was a solemn agreement, and now it is [the Macedonian politicians'] obligation to turn it into law. The international community expects a mature nation that wants to become a member of the EU and NATO to cling to the promises it made in public."

Pressure from the international community once again brought results. On almost all points, Solana, Robertson, and Geoana succeeded in persuading the leading Albanian and Macedonian politicians to find a viable compromise (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2001).

It remains to be seen whether the Macedonian political scene will degenerate once again into infighting now that the international representatives have left Skopje -- as has happened time and again in the past. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz)

ALBANIA'S MASSIVE BRAIN DRAIN. Eleven years ago, Albania's foremost writer, Ismail Kadare, while on a visit to France declared he would not return to communist Albania.

Kadare justified his decision as an attempt to accelerate change in Albania, which in 1990 was taking its first shaky steps out of decades of self-imposed international isolation. But as he noted in a recent interview with RFE/RL, "the collapse of the dictatorship nearly a decade ago went only halfway" and was never completed.

Kadare's public dissatisfaction with the communist regime after decades of having been published and officially sanctioned served as one of several catalysts in unleashing massive waves of emigration in 1991, 1992, and 1997.

The outflow, particularly of the country's intellectuals, has not eased, as Kadare notes: "Unfortunately, this is an escape and sure, it is a brain drain. But I understand it should function like everywhere else, with people leaving and people returning. But in Albania the dimensions of this phenomenon were exaggerated, so I hope this phenomenon will decline as time goes by."

A sense of despair is pervasive in Albania in spite of a variety of signs of increasing prosperity, including the presence of new shops and new housing units.

Among the most recent to depart Albania for a new future abroad is one of the country's leading archaeologists, Apollon Bace. After the fall of communism, Bace worked as a senior Albanian diplomat in Germany, but quit after a falling-out with Albania's Socialist-led government three years ago. He subsequently worked as editor in chief of a Tirana daily, "Dita." Last month, Bace, who is now in his early 50s, left Albania with his wife for a new life in Canada, saying he has no illusions about life in Albania: "It's interesting that 2,500 years ago, Aristotle said about Apollonia (in present-day Albania) that it is a town of freedom, in a democratic country with good laws that are well implemented. Today we have good laws but applied badly. I've become disillusioned. I worked as a diplomat in the Embassy in Germany and as a journalist.... [But the state of affairs in Albania] has created an identity crisis for Albanians. I don't know at this moment if I'll return [to Albania]. I'm tired and quite pessimistic."

When Albania's Institute of Statistics conducted a census in April 2001 -- the first in 12 years -- it found that instead of growing by a projected 22 percent, the population had shrunk by 3 percent because of emigration.

The director of the institute's demographics department, Emira Galanxhi, concludes that well over 600,000 Albanian citizens are living abroad. Nearly 400,000 Albanians are estimated to be working in Greece and 200,000 in Italy, with tens of thousands working elsewhere in Western Europe and North America.

A recent report by the World Bank concluded that, "like many developing countries, Albania is experiencing a brain drain. Many of its best students who move on to universities in the cities do not return home. A significant portion moves out of the country altogether, depriving Albania of some of its best minds."

The World Bank report says the medical system is paying a steep price for emigration as doctors and nurses leave and are not replaced. No precise data, however, are available.

The World Bank report says the chief reasons given for emigrating are unemployment at home, insufficient income, a desire to obtain a better future for one's children, and economic insecurity.

The report says emigration imposes heavy social costs, including stress on the children, parents, and grandparents of those who go abroad to work. And it notes that school standards are decreasing because qualified teachers are emigrating.

Zef Preci is the executive director of the Albanian Center for Economic Research, an independent economic policy institute. Preci served briefly as minister for the economy and privatization in 1999-2000. He says the loss of intellectuals and professionals is severe and must be seen in terms of the money Albania spent to train them in the first place: "Albanian society, the Albanian government, and international financial organizations spent millions of U.S. dollars to train them, to prepare them for a new type of economy, society, and development. So we are losing not just [the present], but we are losing the future in this regard. It [will have] a long-run, negative impact on the growth and development of the country."

Nevertheless, there are some benefits to emigration. The International Monetary Fund estimates remittances from abroad may contribute as much as $430 million to the national income. The central bank, the Bank of Albania, estimates that remittances total even more -- $530 million, or about 1 percent of GDP.

Albanian President Rexhep Meidani says the remittances help ease social problems: "These people working abroad are contributing to the development of Albania and also to softening the social problems in Albania and to helping their families. And if we consider that the same situation [obtained] in Sweden at the beginning of the [20th] century, I can say that this is the most positive side of this phenomenon."

But Meidani agrees that despite the income, Albania's intelligentsia is suffering. "We lose cultivated people. So this is a kind of brain drain [that is taking place] not only in Albania, I think, [but] in all countries in transition. But hoping that having more rapid progress from the economic and social point of view, a part of these people will return with new experience, with a new democratic spirit, and also with different friends in different countries -- and this will help also the progress of Albania."

Meidani says it is too early to discuss what percentage of Albanian citizens working abroad will return to Albania. He predicts the returns will be a slow process and will accelerate only when conditions in Albania improve sufficiently and salaries are increased. (Jolyon Naegele)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "Russia has repeatedly warned its partners that Terrorism International has become a reality.... [The threat is present in] the Philippines, in Indonesia, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and the Balkans.... The recent reports about contacts between [Osama] bin Laden and Albanian extremists do not surprise Moscow." -- Vladimir Chizhov, a special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Quoted by ITAR-TASS at a Venice conference on Balkan issues on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 September 2001).

"I am going with the conviction that I will prove my innocence in The Hague, and that it is also an honorable court as any court in Yugoslavia. I am not a criminal. I expect a just court and that I will prove I am an innocent man." -- Retired Lieutenant General Pavle Strugar, on boarding a plane from Podgorica to The Hague on 21 October, as quoted by Reuters. The tribunal indicted him in conjunction with the 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik by Milosevic's forces. Three other men -- including Admiral Milan Zec -- are also wanted but remain at large.

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