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Balkan Report: January 25, 2000

25 January 2000, Volume 4, Number 7

Mesic And Budisa In Croatian Presidential Runoff. With 97 percent of the votes counted, Stipe Mesic of the coalition of four small parties leads the 24 January Croatian presidential election with 42 percent of the votes. Drazen Budisa of the coalition of two larger parties trails him with 28 percent (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 January 2000).

Mate Granic of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which ran Croatia from 1990 until its defeat in the 3 January parliamentary elections, finished third with 22 percent. Granic's defeat ends the last hope of his party to hold on to at least one key office at the national level.

Mesic and Budisa will face a runoff on 7 February. Reuters reported that "there is little love lost between the two and [their] advisers predicted a tough and dirty campaign." Mesic began on 25 January by accusing the secret services of attempting to sabotage his bid for the presidency. "All those who joined the campaign against me will have to account for their action, those in the intelligence services, the generals who behaved in the way that had some of the hallmarks of an imminent coup d'etat," Reuters reported. HDZ hardliners have previously attempted to use the secret services for political purposes.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister designate Ivica Racan spoke in favor of his ally Budisa. Racan stressed that his government will be able to carry out its program more effectively if Budisa is president. For his part, Mesic said that he will work with the government to achieve common goals, adding that he will also make sure that it keeps its promises.

There are few, if any, serious policy differences between Mesic and Budisa. The real issue in the campaign is what the outcome of the race will mean for power relationships between the larger and smaller coalitions in the new government. (Patrick Moore)

What Milosevic's Neighbors Are Saying. The leaders of seven states bordering Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia held a summit on 22 January in the Bulgarian town of Hissar. They called for UN sanctions against Belgrade to be targeted more accurately against the regime in order to minimize their impact on ordinary Serbs and Serbia's neighbors.

The meeting was attended by the leaders of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania, as well as by high-ranking EU and NATO representatives. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said that the sanctions are "hitting ordinary people" while having little effect on Milosevic. He added that the poor, neighboring states in the region are also being hit by the measures.

At the same time, the summit leaders stressed the need to promote democracy in Yugoslavia. Many of them said sanctions against Belgrade are an "important political instrument," BTA reported. Bosnia-Herzegovina's Haris Silajdzic warned that if the current Belgrade regime stays in power much longer, Yugoslavia will remain a "black hole" that the other countries will have to work around. He also emphasized that NATO forces must remain in his country "because Bosnia is a job half done."

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski noted that Belgrade is a source of instability in the region, saying "the internal problems of Serbia have become Macedonian problems." He said he supports the idea of helping Montenegro serve as an example to Serbia of the benefits of democracy.

The leaders at the summit also complained at the slow implementation of the EU's Stability Pact for southeastern Europe (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 January 2000). Kostov said the countries of the region demonstrated a "growing impatience over the pace of progress of the Stability Pact," BTA reported. Georgievski warned that if the upcoming donors' conference in March "fails, the Balkan states will be profoundly dissatisfied."

The EU's envoy on foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, said the EU is making "extraordinary efforts" to stabilize the region but added that regional stability is a "responsibility we must share with the region's states."

The summit leaders also discussed the upcoming meeting of the Danube Commission and efforts to clear the river of debris from the bridges destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign last year. (Victor Gomez)

(In addition to the periodic newsletter published by the Stability Pact secretariat in Brussels, information on future activities and events will soon be available at the Stability Pact website

Royal Row In The Republika Srpska. The Bosnian branch of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia protested plans by Prime Minister Milorad Dodik to meet with members of the Serbian opposition and Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic in the prime minister's office building (Banski dvor) in Banja Luka on 27 January. "Vesti" wrote on 25 January that Dodik is unmoved by the protest and plans to host the meeting as planned.

Aleksandar's office said in a press release that "during the three-day stay [from 26-28 January], Prince Aleksandar with a number of representatives of political parties and cultural institutions of Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia in his continued efforts to help bring about democracy, reconciliation and peace in the Homeland through dialogue." (See also, which carries the message: "The only way forward is through democratic reform and human rights for one and all.") (Patrick Moore)

Bosnian Serbs Want Silajdzic Out. Dodik and the moderate governing Sloga coalition appealed to the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch to remove Bosnian Muslim leader Silajdzic from his post as co-chairman of the central government. Speaking in Banja Luka on 24 January, Dodik said that Silajdzic should go because of his recent remarks calling for the revision of the Dayton peace agreement. Silajdzic had argued that Dayton preserved an order "based on genocide" and ethnic cleansing dating back to the 1992-1995 conflict. By this, he was referring to the Republika Srpska.

Petritsch's spokesman James Ferguson said that Silajdzic's remarks were not "particularly helpful," adding there is a need for further implementation of Dayton rather than a revision of the peace treaty. Ferguson noted, however, that there is "no question" of removing Silajdzic.

Petritsch has the authority to remove officials who he considers to be obstructing the implementation of Dayton. The Bosnian Serb leadership regards Dayton as legitimizing the continued existence of the Republika Srpska. (Patrick Moore)

Better Times For An Albanian Backwater? Following a meeting in Ohrid between the Montenegrin, Albanian, and Macedonian Prime Ministers on 18 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 19 January 2000), legislators in Tirana have expressed hopes that increasing economic cooperation between Montenegro and Albania will boost the development of remote northern Albanian regions. In interviews to the "Albanian Daily News" of 21 January, two legislators stressed that Montenegro will receive political--although not military--support from Albania if a crisis erupts between the local authorities and the Serbian or federal governments in Belgrade.

Sabri Godo, who is chairman of the parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, said that Albania supports Montenegro's policy aimed at preventing a conflict with Serbia. In the event of an armed confrontation between Serbia and Montenegro, he said that Albania "should not get involved. We should give our support to Montenegrin people, sheltering them as refugees. The conflict will be an issue to be resolved between NATO and Serbia." Godo also warned that Albania must not get involved in aggravating tensions between Montenegro and Serbia, stressing that "we should never think that we could benefit from any conflict."

Godo, who belongs to the small opposition Republican party, predicted that "Montenegro will go towards independence within this year, probably in the spring." He added, however, that he is "confident that the West will not allow Serbia to invade Montenegro."

eferring to the relationship between Albania and Montenegro, Godo said that "the opening of the border [between the two countries in 1999] will be to their mutual economic benefit." He stressed that the development of trade relations will bring northern Albania out of its isolation. Godo stressed that "the district of Shkodra will no longer be the last point where all the roads end up; on the contrary, other roads will go ahead. Like Shkodra, other towns such as Malesia e Madhe, Lezha, and Puka will benefit, too. These cities will have new markets for their products. The opening of the border brings only advantages for the two countries."

Luan Rama of the governing Socialist Party argued that "the Balkans are experiencing a new reality, quite different from that of last year." He added that the U.S. and EU "are paying more attention [to the region] than in the past," noting that this "has been reflected in the Stability Pact." According to Rama, "Montenegro figures into this attention and, quite naturally, we [are interested in] the democratization and the development of this small republic. We are...committed to break the ice that has existed between the two countries."

Asked about the possible scenario of a war between Serbia and Montenegro, Rama responded by saying: "We do not think of war as a possibility now that peace has been established in Kosova, after the end of war there. In partnership with the other Balkan states and the Euro-Atlantic community, we want to promote peace, good-understanding, and stability in the region. But by saying that, we do not mean that we are not paying attention and are not prepared for any eventuality." (Fabian Schmidt)

Putting The Brake On Car Theft. Albanian Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli, Public Order Minister Spartak Poci, and Transportation Minister Ingrid Shuli met in Tirana on 19 January and agreed to plan joint action against the smuggling of stolen cars into Albania. They did not release details of their strategy.

The meeting took place about one month after Greek police confiscated Poci's car at the border after discovering that it had been stolen in Italy. The Public Order Ministry had bought the car from a used car dealer in Tirana in 1998. The Albanian minister finally reached Athens with a car provided by the Greek government. Ironically, the purpose of Poci's meeting with his Greek counterpart was to discuss stepping up border controls.

"Albanian Daily News" of 21 January quoted a local car dealer--who asked not to be identified--as admitting that most cars entering Albania from Italy and Montenegro were stolen in western Europe. The dealer added that in many cases the theft actually took place with the consent of the owners and involved insurance fraud.

But recently, police found little evidence to substantiate such reports. In the first week of December, police raided the car market near the port city of Durres to identify stolen cars and force sellers to pay customs duties. Most of the cars had proper documents, even though in most cases no customs fees had been paid. (Fabian Schmidt)

Is Three Years A Fair Stint For Pre-Trial Detention? The deputy speaker of the Albanian parliament and opposition Democratic Party legislator Jozefina Topalli on 20 January harshly criticized amendments to the penal code, which provide for pre-trial detention to last for up to three years, "Albanian Daily News" reported. She compared the new law to communist-era legislation that allowed the government to put people into prison without a sentence for long periods of time.

The Socialist majority in parliament nonetheless passed the law the same day. The socialist chair of the parliament's legal commission, Zamira Caka, justified the amendments on the grounds that they help prosecutors in an environment characterized by rising crime and a need for more efficient punishment of criminals.

She also argued that the amendments are compatible with European standards, adding that the custody periods provided for in the previous code were shorter than those in other European countries.

Caka, furthermore, stressed that the amendments only apply to suspects accused of a range of serious crimes that call for sentences of more than several years. She added that the detention of altogether up to three years will only apply if the suspect goes through all levels of appeal.

"Koha Jone" on 24 January ran a story focusing on an unrelated weakness of the justice system. The daily reported that recently a citizen of Tirana filed charges against the bailiff's office. The grounds were that the bailiff's office failed to carry out court decisions to collect from debtors on that citizen's behalf.

The poor performance of the underpaid, understaffed, and badly equipped bailiff's office has been a major concern for Albanian human rights organizations in recent years. Rights activists have repeatedly warned that the justice system and individual rights are in jeopardy unless the judiciary has means to enforce court rulings. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. "I am definitely different from Tudjman." -- Stipe Mesic, quoted by Reuters on 25 January.

"There was a lot of kitsch culture [during Tudjman's reign]. Medals, pomp, presidential guard. All of that will have to be abolished." -- Drazen Budisa, shortly before the election.

"Those who serve Americans will disappear and only radicals and left parties will compete for the hearts and minds of voters." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, addressing his Serbian Radical Party's 10th anniversary meeting on 23 January. Quoted by AP in Belgrade.

"Only amateurs, ignorant people, or those who have totally dishonest intentions can question the state's determination to enforce the law." -- Yugoslav Communications Minister Ivan Markovic, announcing the latest round of legal measures against the independent media. Quoted by AP in Belgrade on 21 January.