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Balkan Report: August 25, 2000

25 August 2000, Volume 4, Number 64

Dignity And Legitimacy. One of the week's more bizarre stories involved Montenegro's arrest of two Yugoslav army officers for human trafficking in Chinese emigrants. The incident symbolizes what has befallen the legacies of the communist states founded by Josip Broz Tito and Mao Zedong.

Montenegrin police arrested two Yugoslav army officers near Budva on 19 August, the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" reported. The officers were driving a Yugoslav army van in which some 25 Chinese citizens were hidden. Police said that the officers intended to smuggle the Chinese to Italy, for which each Chinese had paid the two some $230. The army is investigating the charges.

There have been numerous reports in the Western press in recent months suggesting that Belgrade has become an important destination for Chinese seeking to enter Western Europe illegally. There are some 40,000 Chinese in Yugoslavia, most of whom are traders. "The New York Times" wrote on 22 August that the Yugoslav embassy in China freely issues visas to Chinese citizens, who then simply have to pay between $500 to $900 for a Belgrade plane ticket to get to Europe. The rest of their journey westward involves people like the two officers, or perhaps an air-tight Dutch cargo container.

In 1945 and 1949, respectively, two headstrong young dictators proclaimed Yugoslavia and China communist countries. Both Tito and Mao promised a new era of dignity, social progress, and conditions for the formation of a new socialist man. Both men shed the blood of numerous other human beings in vain pursuit of their goals.

Several decades later, both men's legacies are in tatters. Tito is fondly remembered by many former Yugoslavs for providing a period of peace and relative prosperity, but his dictatorial and inflexible political system proved to be the Achilles' heel of his state. Several republics eventually chose a democratic course and broke off from that joint state. What remains is a rump Yugoslavia ruled by a new dictator, who himself has little use for Tito or his memory.

In China, the system proved to be as bloody as Stalin's. Eventually--after Mao killed millions in the name of his utopia--his successors settled on a new form of social contract (albeit while still paying lip-service to Mao's memory). One astute observer of contemporary China, namely EU Commissioner Chris Patten, has summarized this social contract as: "Shut up, and I'll let you get rich."

China has thus turned into an economic free-for-all in which the Communist Party strives to maintain political control. As the "Far Eastern Economic Review" has noted, the People's Liberation Army has gone into businesses that include brothels and protection rackets, while street children and beggars can again be seen in the cities and towns. Many workers have come to lose their "iron rice bowls" of job and social security, and must fend for themselves on a rather Dickensian labor market.

Five decades after Mao declared that "China has stood up," many people flee his workers' paradise for the dream of a new life abroad--as many Chinese did in the decades before 1949. The hopes of some of those new emigrants ended in the back of a van driven by officers of what was once Tito's Yugoslav People's Army. (Patrick Moore)

Bosnian Un Mission Making Progress--Like The Country It Serves. For the past six months, Bosnia-Herzegovina's UN mission has been led by a Muslim and a Serb. Their differences reflect the fledgling state they represent, but they believe they also serve as a potent symbol for ethnic co-habitation. RFE/RL's UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's top two diplomats at its mission to the United Nations represent another crucial experiment in the country's move to statehood. Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey is a Muslim. His deputy, Milos Prica, is a Serb. They are very aware of their ethnic constituencies in Bosnia but are also aware of the responsibility of representing a unified state at its most important forum--the United Nations.

Prica was an advisor to the moderate prime minister of Bosnia's Serb entity, Milorad Dodik, when chosen to fill the No. 2 post at the mission in March. As the first Serb at the mission, he saw his role, in part, as representing Bosnian Serb interests while at the same time seeking to strengthen the state as a whole.

The UN and NATO missions working in Bosnia say the country has clearly progressed in the five years since the Dayton Accords. The UN mission is trying to build a rule of law by reforming the judiciary and police structures and combating corruption. There is also pressure for Bosnia's three main ethnic groups to combine their armed forces.

But Prica says the internationally community must realize that reforms cannot be rushed: "Reconciliation is a process which couldn't be so quick. You couldn't deal with the emotions, of course, and I think any step... undertaken prematurely may jeopardize what we have done so far."

Sacirbey says the co-existence of the two has not always been easy because of deep-rooted positions about the partition of Bosnia. But he says he and Prica have established a working relationship based on goodwill and a desire for a strong Bosnian state: "I think if there is one point on which he has accommodated my view, it is the view of a reintegrated Bosnia and a real commitment to the one [unified] country. I'm very proud of the way that he shows that commitment without making distinctions in terms of ethnicity and different parts of Bosnia."

It helps that both Sacirbey and Prica feel at home on American soil. The ambassador became a U.S. citizen in 1973 and received his education there. He played football for Tulane. Prica was born in Chicago.

A recent review in the UN Security Council of the situation in Bosnia was generally positive, but there was concern by some council members about continued high levels of crime and corruption.

Both Sacirbey and Prica say the key catalyst for meaningful change in the country is engagement by the European Union toward eventual integration. That is a step, the ambassador says, that would create a strong climate for investment. Until that happens, he says, his country will feel marginalized: "Certainly Bosnia doesn't look like Western Europe, nor does it look like even some of the accession countries--Hungary or Slovenia. Therefore, we don't have much capital, and the world doesn't bring in much capital, and I think that is the major, major focus."

The two diplomats are closely following developments in neighboring Yugoslavia, where presidential and parliamentary elections are planned for 24 September. The change in government in Croatia earlier this year played a major role in improving the situation in Bosnia. EU and U.S. leaders have repeatedly said that a similar change is needed in Yugoslavia before Bosnia and the southern Balkans as a whole can shake off the effects of several wars in the 1990s.

Prica, too, says it is time for Milosevic to leave office: "I think in Serbia as well as Montenegro, everybody is sick and tired of him, and [unless there is] a huge fraud, Milosevic is going to lose the elections."

Prica's colleague Sacirbey says that despite its recent history, Bosnia has traditionally had an ethnically integrated population. Its division now, he argues, is artificial and is not likely to be supported by its people. And for the Bosnian mission, at least, integration is now evident in a very public way. (Robert McMahon)

Albania To Fight Brain Drain With Stipends. Officials from the Ministry of Education told "Albanian Daily News" of 19 August that they will issue special stipends for students from the country's underdeveloped northern regions--under the condition that they return to work there for at least five years after receiving their diplomas.

Thus the officials hope to reduce the devastating impact that the brain drain had on the local administrations and on economic development in those areas. This winter semester, a total of 50 students from the regions of Has, Kukes, and Tropoja will benefit from the special program.

The officials did not disclose details of the benefits for the students. Besides the brain drain of experts leaving the country to work in the EU or other Western countries, there are also huge regional disparities within Albania. Most of the specialists from the underdeveloped regions have moved to larger cities such as Durres or Tirana. The government has serious difficulties in finding university graduates willing to work in local administration.

Data from the Center for Economic and Social Studies in Tirana show that about 35.8 percent of all teachers and researchers left Albania between 1990 and 1998. According to an opinion poll conducted between March and June 1998, the number of those planning to leave Albania was about twice as high as the number of those who had already left. (Fabian Schmidt)

Counseling For Girls And Women In Albania. Officials from the Network for Democracy Program told "Albanian Daily News" of 19 August that they plan to set up centers offering support to girls and women in Shkodra, Pogradec, Korca, and Puka.

The offices will give counseling to traumatized women and also launch an awareness campaign to combat violence in the family, trafficking in prostitutes, and other social issues. The projects will also provide legal assistance to women and advocate better employment opportunities for them. (Fabian Schmidt)

Tirana Airport To Receive New Passenger Terminal. A spokesman for Prime Minister Ilir Meta told "Albanian Daily News" of 19 August that the government has approved a master plan for the reconstruction of Tirana's main airport in Rinas. This opens the way for the government to announce public tenders.

The officials presented a feasibility study, which estimates the costs for the entire reconstruction of the airport at around $101 million. Of this, $25 million will go into a priority project, namely the construction of a new passenger terminal to replace the aging structure dating from the Mussolini era. The total construction will take about 15 years. In the end, the annual capacity of the airport will be around 1.5 million passengers, which is equivalent to half of Albania's current population.

"Albanian Daily News" described the current arrangement: "Rinas airport is tiny, as it has only one runway and a very small passenger terminal. The baggage claim area is a nightmare," where all manner of dubious characters go in and out.

Observers also note that at the check-in counter, recently introduced conveyor-belts for the luggage end abruptly behind the wall behind the counter, not unlike in a Potemkin village. Behind that facade, employees load the luggage onto antiquated carts.

The airport has a modern lighting system for the runway, recently completed by the German Siemens company. The communist government designed the runway for only a few landings per week, and goats have been known to graze beside or even on it. Currently about ten flights land and depart each day. During the Kosova crisis, the number of cargo and military flights increased to over 60 per day.

The government anticipates an annual increase in passenger traffic of up to 13 percent through 2005. In the second half of the decade, an annual rise of 7 to 8 percent is forecast. (Fabian Schmidt)

Slovenia's Hidden Moment At World Youth Day. Pope John Paul II closed the Roman Catholic World Youth Day in Rome last weekend with a call for young people to attend the next such meeting, which will take place in Toronto, Canada, next year.

The Ljubljana daily "Delo" pointed out on Monday that the host of that gathering will be Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, or, as it added, Lojze Ambrozic to Slovenes. According to "Delo," Ambrozic is not just the only Slovene to wear scarlet at present, but only the second in all Slovenian history. (Patrick Moore)

Bulgaria Expels Eight Yugoslavs. Bulgaria's National Security Service (NSS) on 22 August ordered the expulsion of eight Yugoslav citizens for "conduct threatening the national security and interests of Bulgaria," Reuters reported. In a statement, the Interior Ministry in Sofia said Milivoje Radulovic will be banned from the country for 10 years; the other seven received five-year bans.

The expulsions come after last week's banning of five other foreign businessmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). Georgi Ganev, an analyst at the Center for Liberal Strategies, an independent think-tank, said "it is important for Bulgaria to start paying more attention to the origin of capital entering the country and the quality of investments, rather than quantity." (Pete Baumgartner)

Quotations Of The Week. "If some of us are guilty, let them hit on us, not on our kids." -- Serbian mother of one of nine children hit by hand grenades on a basketball court at Crkvena Vodica, Kosova, on 18 August. Quoted by AP.

"We are not a private people and we do not have a private language." -- Tetovo University Rector Fadilj Sulejmani, demanding that parliament recognize his Albanian-language university as a state school and not as a private institution. Quoted in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 23 August.

And from "out of area": "We cannot punish the fleet command unless it is clearly shown it made a mistake." -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, after his tense meeting with the relatives of the "Kursk" crew on 23 August.

I can "testify to the deep grief that has gripped Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin over this tragedy.] I am sure that the president and the government will do everything to help the families of the dead. Have courage and forgive." -- Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, the previous day.