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Balkan Report: December 21, 2001

21 December 2001, Volume 5, Number 85

The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 4 January 2002.

BOSNIAN DILEMMA. As the Dayton system enters its seventh year, calls can be increasingly heard for its overhaul. The dilemma facing Western policy-makers regarding Bosnia is not easy.

Every week or two, it seems that some non-governmental organization or Bosnian or foreign politician calls for a review of the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war. The thrust of the criticisms is that the nationalist parties in power during the conflict still wield effective authority throughout most of Bosnia, and that central institutions remain weak or ineffective.

Remedies suggested include a variety of measures, usually starting with abolishing or greatly circumscribing the authority of the two entities, namely the Muslim-Croat federation and the Republika Srpska. Some critics also call for the abolition of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) -- which is seen as particularly obstructionist -- and a curbing of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ).

Critics of Dayton concede that the current joint government and Croat-Muslim federal government are dominated by non-nationalist parties. But, the skeptics argue, this is largely because the internationally supervised November 2000 elections were held under rules that favored the non-nationalists at the expense of the nationalists, and that some additional nationalists were disqualified even after they won their respective races. Furthermore, the HDZ boycotted federal institutions for much of 2001 in an poorly considered move that cost the party a say in key decisions.

At Dayton, the international community had banked on the proposition that voters would eventually elect moderate candidates if the grip of nationalist parties on political, business, and military structures -- and links to organized crime -- could be loosened. So far, however, this hoped-for "reasonable" voter has yet to emerge as a Bosnia-wide phenomenon. If the foreigners want the non-nationalists to carry the day, the foreigners have to resort to a number of electoral maneuvers that seem more reminiscent of 19th-century machine politics than 21st-century European norms. Some critics say that this amounts to imposing a dubious democracy by fiat.

According to those critics, the vast majority of Bosnian voters will continue to elect nationalists if left to themselves. Does the international community have a legitimate right to tell the Bosnian voters that they cannot live in three separate, medieval-style mini-kingdoms if that's what they want, or to join their respective "statelet" to a neighboring country?

The reply to this argument is that such mini-states are based on the results of "ethnic cleansing" and pose a threat to the stability and security of Europe as a whole, in that they constitute or have the potential to constitute a center of criminal activity. To put an end to that, the international community has invested a great deal of time, effort, and money to help Bosnia heal the wounds of war and move on toward eventual integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

But the results have been less than impressive. Some observers suggest that Bosnia already has a culture of dependency, which may have historical roots going back to Habsburg or even Ottoman times. Those observers argue that Bosnians have made less progress in helping themselves than many expected at the end of the conflict. Some foreigners who have worked in both Bosnia and Kosova suggest that the Kosovars have proven much quicker at getting back on their feet.

Others say the lack of progress is rooted in the weaknesses of Dayton. No one would deny that Dayton has succeeded in restoring peace, but many observers believe that war could erupt at any time again if the tough foreign peacekeepers were to leave. Even Dayton's critics concede that it was the best deal that could have been hoped for at the end of 1995, but they add that time has come to move on. And that means not just making the complex foreign presence more efficient within the framework of Dayton, but changing the agreement itself.

That leads to the question raised at the beginning of this essay, namely whether Dayton should be revised and by whom. A revision would mean curbing the roles of the nationalist parties -- which the voters seem to prefer -- and of the two entities. It would also mean correspondingly enhancing the position of the joint structures and of parties favored by the international community -- if not by the voters -- in order to promote important reforms in the economy and the legal system above all. It would certainly have to be better equipped than Dayton to enable people to return to their former homes and reverse the results of "ethnic cleansing."

Would the original signatories to Dayton -- which is a treaty as well as a constitution -- have to approve the revision, or would it be the current Bosnian central authorities, or the foreigners, who seem to have the last word in Bosnia, anyhow?

This leads to the heart of the Western dilemma regarding Bosnia. In the interests of promoting stability in the region, is the international community ready, able, and willing to carry out what amounts to colonial rule or supervise a modern-day protectorate for an indefinite length of time, in what is not always a particularly hospitable place? The frequency with which serious observers are raising the question of a revision of Dayton suggests that dealing with these issues cannot be put off indefinitely. (Patrick Moore)

WHAT FUTURE FOR MACEDONIA'S POLITICAL SYSTEM? Since Macedonia became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991, the international community has repeatedly underscored its engagement for peace and development in the tiny Balkan country. Foreigners have been present in the form of legions of consultants, monitors, mediators, facilitators, and even soldiers. Nevertheless, 10 years after its independence, Macedonia just barely escaped a full-fledged inter-ethnic war.

The EU, U.S., and various international organizations tried to convince the domestic politicians -- be they Albanian or Macedonian -- that a political solution had to be found to overcome the crisis.

Western diplomats headed by U.S. special envoy James Pardew and his EU counterpart Francois Leotard successfully brokered a peace agreement in August. EU security policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson spent days and weeks in Skopje before they finally succeeded in persuading the political leaders to make compromise after compromise.

All these painstaking efforts, however, made the international community as well as the domestic public realize that neither the country's politicians nor the political system were able to deal effectively with the country's deeply rooted problems: inter-ethnic tensions, corruption, nepotism, and organized crime, to name just the most important.

The presence of the international mediators and the "foreign factor" in general led -- in the eyes of some domestic observers -- to a major shift in the political system. The parliament as well as parts of the security forces lost much of their power, while the president and his advisers gained power.

At the same time, the ruling political parties lost the confidence of many voters. This is primarily true for the ethnic Macedonian parties, but also for the ethnic Albanian political parties.

Opinion polls led some politicians to the conclusion that the prevailing two-party system (within each ethnic community) will collapse sooner or later. That is why some have been trying to form a new political force, which they describe as the "third path."

One of the protagonists of this "third path" is Gjorgji Marjanovic, the president of the League for Democracy. Marjanovic's main goal is to found a broad party (or coalition) of the political center. In an interview with "Utrinski vesnik" of 18 December, Marjanovic says that the model for Macedonia's future "third path" could be the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS).

Regardless of the fact that the DOS seems about to split, Marjanovic plans to invite some smaller parties to join what he calls the Democratic Opposition of Macedonia (DOM). Among these parties are those representing the Macedonian Muslims, Serbs, Turks, Roma, and Vlachs. For him, the most important thing is that neither those parties nor their leaders have been corrupted by power.

Marjanovic would also be willing to invite the Liberal Democrats, led by Skopje Mayor Risto Penov, provided that they drop their ties to the Social Democrats. For the Socialist Party, he sets the precondition that it get rid of its chairman, Ljubislav Ivanov-Dzingo. "One thing has to be clear: If we form a coalition, this third path will be neither left, nor right, but truly civic [grazdanski].... Macedonia needs honest people who [work] in the national interest, not in the interest of their pockets," Marjanovic said.

But he seems to have formulated his plans for a future coalition without consulting his possible coalition partners. "The Democratic Party of the Serbs (DPS) has not discussed such a political option, even if everybody mentions us as one of their preferred partners," DPS leader Ivan Stojiljkovic said, "Dnevnik" of 18 December reported.

There is also a second option for the formation of a "third path," as "Dnevnik" adds. The nucleus for such a coalition could be the Democratic Union (DS) led by Pavle Trajanov. In this scenario, Trajanov's party would be joined by the "real" VMRO -- a hard-line splinter faction of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. But the "real" VMRO's spokesman, Oliver Romevski, said his party does not have a clear position regarding this question.

There are also rumors that the Democratic Alternative (DA) led by former Deputy Prime Minister Vasil Tupurkovski could walk along the "third path." But given that almost all the DA's legislators have left the party recently, it is quite unlikely that Tupurkovski's group remains a serious coalition partner.

Trajanov himself believes that the coalition of the DS, "real" VMRO, and DA can be successfully formed only in the wake of early parliamentary elections. But it is still unclear whether such parliamentary elections will take place in April -- or whether there will be early elections at all.

Accordingly, speculation about the formation of a third political force remains no more than testing the waters. In any event, any future coalition that does not include Albanian representatives will lead to further divisions within the country. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

FIRST AVAR GRAVE DISCOVERED IN SLOVENIA. The daily "Delo" reported on 11 December that archeologists have unearthed the first Avar grave discovered in Slovenia. The find occurred during roadway repairs in Menges, 20 kilometers northeast of Ljubljana.

Gregor Stibernik, an archeologist from the Menges Museum, announced on 10 December that 16 graves were discovered altogether. Most of them were urn graves from the late Iron Age (7th century BC). Unfortunately, these were not well-preserved. However, four medieval graves from the 7th century AD contained skeletons, and archeologists confirmed the contents of one grave as Avar.

If the other graves -- which appear to contain a family -- are confirmed as Avar, it will be the first evidence of Avar settlement this far west. The Avars, a nomadic Asian people, established themselves in the Pannonian Basin in 578 AD. They made temporary incursions into the Balkans from this base.

At the same time, the Slavs penetrated the Balkans, either as allies or vassals of the Avars -- or as allies of the Avars' opponents. The Franks under Charlemagne destroyed the Avar Khanate in the 9th century. This brought the Slovenes under Frankish rule, beginning their often-cited "millennium of Germanic domination." (Donald F. Reindl)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: Your editor notes that no politician in the Balkans appears to have uttered any statement this past week as colorful as some by EU leaders at their summit at Laeken, Belgium, over the weekend. The juiciest statements emerged in a discussion as to which city would provide a home for certain EU institutions. The highlight was the indignation by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over the awarding of a food agency to Helsinki rather than to Parma:

"Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is. I cannot accept this." -- Berlusconi, quoted by the "International Herald Tribune" on 17 December.

"The gastronomic attraction of a region is no argument for the allocation of an EU agency." -- Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

"I love Parma, but you'll never get it if you argue like that." -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"I'm not satisfied. We got nothing." -- Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.

"This is no easy task. But it's strange that the IT [information technology] agency should go to Spain." -- Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.

"How would it be if Sweden got an agency for training models, since you have such pretty women?" -- French President Jacques Chirac.