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Balkan Report: November 20, 2001


20 November 2001, Volume 5, Number 77

PRIDE AND DIGNITY. Yugoslavia's "constitutionalist" president has publicly endorsed a mutiny by an elite paramilitary police unit that was close to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. At issue is something much more serious than a possible momentary lapse of judgement by one top official.

Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 15 November that the members of the elite paramilitary police, known as the Red Berets, have "understandable" and "legitimate" demands in their protest against the government's policy of cooperating with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, 15, and 19 November 2001). Kostunica agrees with the police that cooperation first requires a special law, which the authorities have not enacted during their year in office.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic argues that no domestic legislation regarding The Hague is necessary, since the tribunal has a UN mandate, which takes precedence over Serbian or Yugoslav law. But Kostunica stressed that "a law is necessary not only for the preservation of our state's sovereignty, but also our stability." He added that it is necessary to "address the cause of the protest, not its symptoms."

The Red Berets issued a statement in Kula on 15 November in which they said they are proud of the way they "defended the Serbian people in [the recent] wars" and denied "rumors" that they oppose cooperation with The Hague in order to avoid the extradition of many of their own members. The Red Berets served in Milosevic's wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova, where some of them have been linked to atrocities. They also reject a recent decision by Djindjic to transfer them from the security forces to the civilian police. (The matter was settled on 17 November by making the Red Berets an "antiterror" unit subordinated directly to the interior minister.)

It is not clear why the president, who prides himself as a champion of the rule of law, should be sympathetic to illegal actions by an elite formation that was a pillar of the Milosevic regime. But as some critics have suggested, some laws seem more important to Kostunica than others. He has reluctantly acknowledged -- in principle -- the legal obligation to cooperate with the tribunal, but has done nothing in practice to bring this about. He still regards the court as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy and has sought to score political points at Djindjic's expense by challenging Djindjic's policy toward The Hague.

At the root of the problem is that, after starting and losing four often grisly Balkan wars in the past decade, Serbia has yet to undergo the kind of soul-searching that Germans underwent in the years and decades after World War II. Some Serbian writers have referred to this as a need for Serbia's own "de-Nazification," or need to break with a nationalism given to narcissism and self-pity.

Until that break is made, one is likely to see again scenes in which a "constitutionalist" or "reformist" leader defends the rights of paramilitaries from the old regime to flaunt the law. And one will hear him and the uniformed law-breakers using words like "pride" and "dignity" to defend their actions (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October and 22 December 2000, and 5 and 23 January 2001).

Of course, Serbia's "de-Nazification," like that of Germany, will be a long, drawn-out process -- once it begins. Until a break is made with traditional nationalism, Serbia will retain a potential for producing aggressive and expansionist leaders and legions of a kind unimaginable in Germany today. And just as a modern, progressive Germany was a precondition for lasting peace and stability in post-1945 Europe as a whole, a similarly reformed Serbia is a prerequisite for development and security in the Balkans. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS PEACE PACKAGE, BUT... Leading western politicians expressed their satisfaction on 16 November when the Macedonian parliament finally passed the constitutional amendments foreseen in the Ohrid peace agreement after a two-month delay (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2001).

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson spoke of a "historical decision...which will bring the country closer to the European standards." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said: "This courageous decision shows the strength of the Macedonian democratic institutions, as well as the determination of the people's representatives to use peaceful means to promote stability and prosperity."

Walter Schwimmer, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, stressed that, "This important decision will lay the foundations for a better protection of the civil, political, and social rights of all individuals living in the country, regardless of their community and ethnic background."

But the adoption of the constitutional amendments, which grant the Albanian minority greater rights, is just one more step toward a stable peace in a stable democracy. Whether this aim can finally be achieved depends on whether a number of pressing problems can be solved.

Even before the parliament voted, it was clear that international mediators had to offer something to the deputies of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) to gain their support for the constitutional changes (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 November 2001). The price that EU representative Alain Le Roy and others had to pay was to support the PPD's demands regarding the amnesty question as well as for state funding of Albanian-language higher education.

Immediately after the vote, President Boris Trajkovski issued a more explicit version of his earlier amnesty decree for former guerilla fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK). But the PPD and international community alike want a formal amnesty passed by the parliament, rather than just a decree (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 November 2001).

Another pressing issue is the return of refugees. At present, it seems unlikely that many of the refugees and displaced persons will return home before winter. On the contrary. In the wake of the latest outbreak of police-led violence, and the kidnapping of dozens of Macedonian villagers by Albanians (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 November 2001), it is probable that still more people will leave their homes out of fear.

Most observers agree that all armed guerrilla fighters of the UCK or the shadowy Albanian National Army (AKSH) must disband and disarm immediately. The Interior Ministry, for its part, should refrain from any action that might be interpreted as a provocation or a violation of existing agreements.

It will be up to the members of the international community in Macedonia to help create a climate of confidence so that displaced persons and refugees can go home. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and EU monitors are closely observing the situation; and NATO troops will physically protect the returnees. But this cannot be a long-term solution.

Many Macedonian commentators -- like Zoran Markozanov of the weekly "Zum magazin" (16 November) -- fear that the international community will treat Macedonia as another protectorate, like neighboring Kosova. There are also fears that the NATO forces that are part of Operation Amber Fox will in practice set up a dividing line between the Macedonian and the Albanian populations, thus laying the ground work for a carve-up of the country.

And there are doubts whether the domestic politicians -- Macedonians and Albanians alike -- are willing or even able to work for a common future. The events of recent months make it clear that the political system has to undergo serious changes [see quote below]. Politicians regularly engage in nepotism and private feuds, regarding the state chiefly as a source of wealth for their respective clans (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 May 2001).

As Mirka Velinovska put it in another article for "Zum magazin," Macedonian politics (and politicians) suffer from a congenital defect -- politicians understand their business as the rivalry of irreconcilable positions. One has to support (and do) the exact opposite of one's rival. Under these circumstances, it is impossible for politicians to think in broader terms, like nation-building or the common good.

The most dangerous situation could arise from the tendency of many ethnic Macedonian politicians to sit back and wait for the Albanians to show that they are willing to do something for the common future.

As an editorial in the leading daily "Dnevnik" says: "Now [the Albanians] have everything they demanded. Now we expect them to be satisfied. Now we expect unconditional peace, as there are no more...reasons for fighting.... Peace? But it looks like that is not possible" after all, the author writes.

And then he resurrects the old Macedonian fear of further Albanian demands, which are now -- in his view -- unjustified. In his view, Macedonia now must prepare for the next round of war. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Now, toward statehood for Kosova!" -- Headline in Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" on 18 November.

"'So far as I know,' President Boris Trajkovski smilingly informed me, 'world leaders are all praising Macedonia.' Well, I have news for President Trajkovski (who is a nice, decent, personally uncorrupt, and well-intentioned man, but not perhaps possessed of the world's strongest intellect or character). They're not. In private, many of them are cursing it. -- Timothy Garton Ash in "The New York Review of Books," 29 November [sic].

"I remarked to a very senior Western negotiator who has had much to do with Macedonia that I had never encountered a more pigheaded, shortsighted political elite than the Slav Macedonian one. 'Amen to all that,' the negotiator said, 'except that I would question your use of the word elite.' -- Ibid.

"Just as they fought the war against the [UCK] in a way that rebounded against themselves, so they are still -- at this writing -- pigheadedly holding out against amendments to the constitution that most international observers regard as wholly reasonable." -- Ibid.

"The fact that nothing has been solved in the Balkans should serve as a warning that when the war ends in Afghanistan, peace cannot be assumed. There appears to be a single preeminent superpower in the post-Cold War world, but there is no Pax Americana. Rather there is a sinister emptiness, or entropy, which requires the injection of energy on an organized, international scale to forestall disintegration and distress. -- Flora Lewis in the "International Herald Tribune," 16 November 2001.

"No country or group of countries knows best how to run the world. But it is also true that no country or region can pull up the drawbridge, lock the gates and live happily ever after. This is another part of what globalization means. No amount of firepower can substitute for perseverance." -- Ibid.

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