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Balkan Report: January 28, 2000


28 January 2000, Volume 4, Number 8

Croatia Turns Its Back On Tudjman Legacy. The ruling Croatian Democratic Community's (HDZ) resounding defeat in the recent parliamentary and presidential elections signals a turning point for Croatia. The country's citizens flocked to the polls to vote out the HDZ with the same sense of urgency and enthusiasm they had in 1990, when they voted out the communist regime and supported Croatian independence. Only a few weeks have passed since the death of President Franjo Tudjman, but the citizens of Croatia have already turned their backs on his legacy with breathtaking speed (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 November 1999).

It is telling that the candidate who gained the most votes in the first round of the presidential elections, Stipe Mesic, has also been the most uncompromising in his criticism of Tudjman's regime. In fact, the three major candidates--including the HDZ's Mate Granic--all promised to reduce the extensive powers of the presidency, to cut aid to the Herzegovinian Croats, and to support the return of Serbian refugees who fled Croatia during the war--policies that Tudjman would have regarded as treason.

Even Granic sought to distance himself from Tudjman's legacy. When he did speak about Tudjman during the campaign, he sought to emphasize the role he himself played as foreign minister in moderating the late president's nationalism and anti-western policies. Meanwhile, the HDZ has been paralyzed by Tudjman's failure to organize an orderly succession before his death. Instead, the party shows every sign of rapid fragmentation and may not last as a unified party much longer.

Tudjman was very much an old-school nationalist and authoritarian at heart. He believed in the sanctity of the nation and nation state. He regarded the continuation of HDZ rule and his grandiose project to annex a piece of Bosnia-Herzegovina for Croatia to be matters of national survival. Tudjman surrounded himself with a motley crew of radical emigres (many of whom had ties to the fascist World War II Croatian regime), mediocre nationalist writers, regime journalists, and other opportunists and yes-men whose loyalty to him was unquestioning. For years, this new elite was able to bully and manipulate the public into backing Tudjman's policies and voting for the HDZ. Anyone of any prominence who opposed these goals was labeled a traitor and could expect to be hounded by the loyalist state press or spied on by the secret police.

Ten years ago, Croatia voted in Tudjman and the HDZ on a wave of nationalistic euphoria. Most Croats wholeheartedly welcomed Tudjman's drive for Croatian independence and even accepted his xenophobic and paranoid statements about foreign anti-Croatian conspiracies during the 1991-1995 war. They found a welcome audience among those who were frustrated with the West's unwillingness to intervene against Serbian aggression.

Yet Tudjman's nationalist message began to lose its appeal in peacetime. People became dissatisfied with his autocratic and arrogant style of rule. They were also angered by the financial scandals that dogged the new ruling elite, including Tudjman's own family. But despite the system's increasing public unpopularity and the growth of support for the opposition Social Democrats, the system continued to function so long as "the old man" was still alive. But it came crashing down like a house of cards when the main player--the man whom it was all designed to serve--left the political scene.

In retrospect, Tudjman�s system of values probably was never really accepted by a majority of Croatian citizens. The hopes and dreams of most of Croatia's citizens focus on economic prosperity and acceptance as a normal European country. In the end, voters realized that Tudjman's regime could not offer them anything more than economic misery, corruption, and international isolation.

The international community now has high hopes for Croatia. The country is the first of the big three that were involved in the wars of the Yugoslav succession--Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia--to vote out its nationalist regime. The EU and U.S. hope that democratic and economic reforms in Croatia will provide a shining example for Serbia, Bosnia, and other countries in the region that have lagged behind in the reform process.

The road ahead will be difficult. The HDZ has left a myriad of social and economic problems behind. The new government will have to maintain its unity and focus if it wants to solve these problems and keep the confidence of the citizens. If the government falters, Tudjman's political successors may benefit from a public backlash.

Nevertheless, there will be no going back. The arrogant and intractable policies that proved to be an obstacle to the country's democratic development have apparently been laid to rest with the late president. (Andrej Krickovic) (The author is a Zagreb-based writer who may be reached at akrickovic@aol.com)

What Future For The Small Parties In Albania's Government Coalition? Albania's Socialists formed a coalition government in 1997 even though they have a comfortable majority. At least one of their partners is now having doubts about the wisdom of belonging to that coalition.

Prec Zogaj, who is one of the senior leaders of the small liberal Democratic Alliance Party (PAD) in the governing coalition, told "Shekulli" of 26 January that he believes his party should go into opposition. Zogaj, whom Prime Minister Ilir Meta sacked from his cabinet on 11 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 12 January 2000), made the remarks after a party congress on 25 January. He argued that the factors that held the coalition together after the widespread anarchy in 1997 do not exist anymore. Zogaj stressed, however, that a possible decision by the party to go into opposition is not linked to his sacking.

Zogaj said that the PAD should now play the role of a constructive opposition party. He noted that the Socialist Party (PS) is not dependent on PAD votes in parliament, since the PS holds an almost two-thirds majority in the legislature. He added: "The factors that held the coalition together have disappeared. These were the impact of the crisis of 1997, the [task of drafting a] constitution, and the Kosova war. Now, development programs are high on the agenda.

"Realistically, I see little cause for a joint government, and this seems clear also from the behavior of the PS towards us. There is no reason to pretend that two different things belong together. There is also no reason why the PAD should take responsibility for a policy over which it has no influence.... The PAD can and will become another opposition party focusing on overcoming the problems of today through a clear development program," Zogaj added. He noted that a National Conference of party leaders will decide about the future of the coalition in a few weeks.

Zogaj, who was also the chairman of a government commission on corruption, stressed that one of the main challenges for Albania remains fighting corruption both through the legal system and also structurally: "I believe that it is very important that the country, the government, the parliament, and the political parties have a detailed program of measures that must be taken to reduce the opportunities for corruption.... Corruption must be fought on two levels. The first level involves catching individual corrupt officials, which is the responsibility of the State Control Commission, the prosecutors, and criminal investigators. The second level involves legal and political measures. On that level we need the involvement of politicians and legislators.

"For this reason, I have always been an advocate of cooperation between the government and the opposition, and with the civil society and free entrepreneurs. Even though I am not anymore in the government, I believe that this principle must be maintained. We have to make efforts to find common ground to decide on a package of measures...and [agree on] changes to laws that have led to monopolies [for particular companies], such as the procurement law."

Besides Zogaj, Prime Minister Ilir Meta also sacked Privatization Minister Zef Preci after only two months in office. Meta charged Preci with irregularities in privatizing oil companies, and has since charged him with corruption. "Shekulli" asked Zogaj whether he believes that the independent economist is merely a scapegoat in the fight against corruption, especially in view of the fact that Preci does not have powerful political friends as other cabinet members do.

In response, Zogaj strongly criticized Meta for his accusations against Preci. He stressed that "no prime minister in a normal democratic country can declare someone corrupt. Only a court can do that." Zogaj also said that Meta was putting pressure on the prosecutors to launch investigations against Preci. He added: "The case against Preci should make us reflect...about the state of affairs in Albania. He came from the civil society, and it appears that he was pretty much hurt by the structures of the groups, lobbies, and clans, both within the government and outside it.

"Preci began to apply liberal policies promoting equal opportunities, which is the core of democracy. He did so without prejudice, against nobody, because that is what the market economy is about.... But then the harsh and dishonest response against Preci followed.

"His case...illustrates the...danger of policies that encourage monopolies.... The case also should remind Albanians of the reasons for their poverty and real backwardness. These have first of all to do with the deformation of the markets, and with a lack of development policies that could lead to the emergence of real Albanian entrepreneurs." (Fabian Schmidt) (The author is an analyst for the former Yugoslavia and Albania at Munich's Suedost-Institut. He may be reached at fabian.schmidt@snafu.de)

Crown Prince Aleksandar Calls For Democracy, Reconstruction For Peace. On 25 January, on the eve of his first visit to the Republika Srpska, Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic of Serbia issued a statement in London. He called for the democratization and reconstruction of Serbia as the key to peace in the Balkans. The text contains statesman-like language that is rare among the politicians in the region. It reads as follows:

"This is a historic moment for my family and I to be with the people in Republika Srpska. My primary concern is the replacement of the regime in Belgrade with a democratic government that respects all citizens regardless of their ethnic origin or religion.

The preservation of today's Yugoslavia--Serbia and Montenegro--is vital, and the establishment of proper relations with all neighboring countries is imperative for survival and peace. Yugoslavia must join the brotherhood of nations.

I also appeal to all government officials throughout Bosnia Herzegovina to rise above it and make a big effort to solve the existing problems and ill feelings for the sake lasting peace, democracy and prosperity. No nation or people can survive in perpetual isolation.

Today my fellow countrymen in Serbia suffer in isolation under terrible sanctions. The arrogance and greed of the regime in Belgrade is shocking, but the West cannot continue to punish the ordinary citizens who suffer painfully whilst the Belgrade regime and its mafia flourish.

The truth is that the Belgrade regime wants the people to suffer and be at its mercy. The Belgrade regime's only concern is about its survival at the cost of all citizens' and the region's progress.

There will be no lasting peace in the region until Serbia is at peace with itself. We must take charge of our destiny and crown democracy once and for all.

The Serbian democratic opposition will be meeting with me in Republika Srpska for continuing discussions. I stand up for democracy in Belgrade and I will work to help rebuild my country, and the health and welfare of its people.

For these things to happen, the Belgrade regime must go now. The West has the responsibility to implement a modern Marshall Aid Plan ensuring the reconstruction of what they destroyed during the bombing and ensure the economic revival of Yugoslavia and the whole region, thus ensuring democracy, peace, and prosperity for one and all." (Taken by Patrick Moore from: http://www.royalfamily.org)

Djindjic Blasts EU. Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party and Alliance for Change coalition told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 27 January that the EU has proven "a catastrophe as a partner" for the opposition. He said that the EU makes big promises but does not deliver on them. Djindjic urged Brussels to pledge in the future to do only what it is willing or able to do.

Djindjic noted that the EU recently refused to lift sanctions prohibiting oil shipments or direct air flights to Serbia, both of which would benefit ordinary Serbs and not the regime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2000). He said that by refusing to make this minimal concession to the Serbian opposition, the EU made the opposition look ineffective in the eyes of voters.

The opposition will now begin "a pause" in its relations with Western Europe, Djindjic added. He said that the opposition must, in any event, change its tactics in Serbia and stress domestic social issues in order to mobilize popular support against the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "The previous government did not manage to integrate Croatia into Europe. The task now lies with us, and we have to respond with a well thought-out system." -- Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, to Reuters on 27 January.

Q: "Have you got enough jokes to see you through the second round?" -- HRT journalist, to Croatian presidential candidate Stipe Mesic, 25 January.

A: "Well, I have always thought that it is better for a person to tell jokes than to be the butt of the nation's jokes." -- Mesic's reply.

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