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Balkan Report: December 12, 2000

12 December 2000, Volume 4, Number 87

Kucan Talks To RFE/RL. Slovenian President Milan Kucan recently gave an interview about the current situation in the former Yugoslavia to Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service. Here are some of the highlights:

"I think that Montenegro is in a similar situation to that in which Slovenia was in the 1990s.... Nobody can deny the Montenegrin people the right to freely decide themselves about their own future. It is their own decision as to what kind of future they will choose and which path they will take. Whatever they decide will be good for them, and I believe for the Serbian people and for everyone in the Balkans and in Europe....

"The Montenegrins have now proposed that relations with Serbia be redefined in such a way that two independent, internationally recognized states examine which are the interests that link them, and accordingly determine the new legal basis of their relationship. And that is their business....

"The collapse of [former] Yugoslavia did not begin with the departure of Slovenia in 1991. Instead, it began a lot earlier, at a time when one could sense changes coming in Europe. At that time, multiethnic Yugoslavia was not able to redefine the reason for this living together in such a way as to convince all the peoples who lived in it that there was a reason for living together, and that they could accept [Yugoslavia] as their common state. One could sense this change coming already in 1983, when the so-called Krajger Commission came to the conclusion that it would not be possible to introduce economic reforms without radical political reforms, and that the country had no future if it could not open itself to Europe [with a reformed economy]....

"The Montenegrins have now reached a situation in which they no longer recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as their country.... They have sufficient reason to seek a redefinition of relations and a dialogue with the appropriate partner, and that is the leadership of the Republic of Serbia that will be chosen in the [23] December elections. "As I see it, Kosovo is in a completely different situation. Kosovo is a protectorate of the United Nations, but formally it still has the status of an autonomous province within the Republic of Serbia, which is part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

"For this reason, I think it is historically and politically wrong to put the questions of Montenegro and Kosovo on the same level. The Montenegrins are a people who had their own state and who voluntarily united with the Kingdom of Serbia [in 1918. The Montenegrins and Serbs] are not the same people or the same country. [It is wrong that some people support independence for Kosovo but deny Montenegro the right to redefine its relations with Serbia....]

"[Some foreign diplomats, whose name I will not mention,] say that it would upset the Serbs and the emotions of the Serbian people to grant Kosovo independence [outright], and that Serbia should accordingly be compensated with the Republika Srpska. It is clear what that would mean for Bosnia and Herzegovina.... But the fate of so many people must not depend on what is [decided] in some room....

"[Those advocating this solution] not only say that the Republika Srpska should belong to Serbia, but they add that the ethnic Albanians of Macedonia must not consider such an option [of succession] for themselves. To my way of thinking, this is not a serious approach....

"The national question has not been solved in the Balkans.... One can establish an ethnically pure state only by transferring many hundreds of thousands or even millions of people...[and that] would in itself hold the seed of a future conflict....

"What is necessary for the Balkans and what I have--unfortunately, unsuccessfully--proposed several times is the firm application of the [1975] Helsinki declaration and principles.... Times have changed since [1975], but those principles remain valid....

"[I reject the idea of holding a new international congress on the model of the 1878 gathering in Berlin to redraw the map of the Balkans.] Those who advocate this approach should remember what happened in the Balkans after the Congress of Berlin. That congress was, in fact, the biggest cause of all the bloody developments that took place later in the Balkans and in southeastern Europe." (Edited and translated by Patrick Moore)

Rugova: NATO Must Stay In Kosova. Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova told the Hamburg weekly "Der Spiegel" of 11 December that the province is independent in fact if not in name. He suggested that it is only a matter of time before the international community and especially the EU reach a consensus to recognize Kosova's independence.

Rugova added that any talks with the Serbian authorities must take place only at a "low level" and after the 23 December Serbian elections. He ruled out any agreement with Belgrade on autonomy for the province, adding that "any past agreement with the Serbs led to tragedy for us." Rugova stressed that "Belgrade recently waged a 10-year-war against us, in which thousands of Albanians were killed, robbed, and beaten."

He added that any union of the ethnic Albanians in the Balkans is a long-term project that can be realized only in the framework of a united Europe.

In any event, NATO must remain in Kosova in order to ensure regional stability. The alliance could maintain bases to guarantee security for the Balkans as a whole, Rugova added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2000). (Patrick Moore)

Albanian Prime Minister Calls For Reforms In Kosova. Ilir Meta told the Kosova Transitional Council (KTK) in Prishtina that democratization in Kosova and Albania is important for broader regional development, "Koha Ditore" reported on 9 December 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2000). He stressed that Albania has made great progress in its institutional and economic reforms, that it has opened its trade to the neighboring countries, and that there is a favorable investment climate. Meta stressed that Kosova could learn from Albania's good and bad experiences in pursuing its own reforms.

But he also highlighted the role of UNMIK, KFOR, and the OSCE in helping the institution building process. Meta warned that there is an "institutional vacuum" in Kosova. He added, however, that he expects "this to change [in the medium term] and the situation to stabilize." Meta also promised to deepen cooperation between the Albanian police, UNMIK, and KFOR in fighting organized crime.

Furthermore, he noted that "we support those Albanians who are contributing to democracy and peace in the region. Someone must start the dialogue between Serbs and Albanians." Referring to the problems and rights of minorities in Kosova, he stressed that "democracy can not be measured in percentages [of the population] but in the common values that we all respect."

Rada Trajkovic, who represents the Serbian National Council, slammed Meta's visit as "a provocation against our state [Yugoslavia]." UNMIK officials dismissed the criticism. Meta replied by stressing that "relations between the [ethnic] communities must not be built on the past but on the future." (Fabian Schmidt)

TMK Launches Refugee Relief. Ramadan Qehaja, senior officer of the Kosova Protection Force (TMK), said that the TMK has begun to provide refugee relief to several hundred Albanians who fled from southern Serbia into Kosova, "Koha Ditore" reported on 9 December. The refugees fled in recent weeks after tensions built up between Serbian forces and separatist guerillas of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) (see RFE/RL "Newsline," 7 December 2000).

Qehaja told refugees in Gjilan on 7 December that "I hope that very will able to return home." He stressed the resolve to help the refugees "with all capacities that we have, even though we have limited equipment." The TMK has also launched a collection for school supplies for refugee children.

Meanwhile, an unnamed KFOR-commander told the KTK on 8 December that KFOR is resolved to prevent destabilization of the border region. He pledged to stop the flow of illegal arms into the Presevo Valley and warned: "any kind of violence will reduce the support of the international community" for Kosova.

Elsewhere, "Koha Ditore" ran an article saying that with the winter beginning, there are 3,500 families left in Kosova who lost their homes in the wars of 1998-1999 and who still live in tents. About 50,000 family homes throughout Kosova are still in ruins. At the same time, a representative of the UN's Provisional Administrative Council (KPA) said that in 1999 UNMIK rebuilt 12,000 homes, together with an additional 20,000 this year. The European Agency for Reconstruction expects to complete another 8,000 homes by the end of the year. (Fabian Schmidt)

International Officials Present Kosova Budget. Juergen Voss, who is the UNMIK deputy special representative in charge of reconstruction and development, and Tony Preston-Stanley, who heads the Central Fiscal Authority (AQF) of Kosova, expect the province's budget to rise by 50 percent next year. The two officials presented the draft budget for Kosova to the KTK on 8 December, "Koha Ditore" reported. The budget for Kosova in the year 2000 reached 201.6 million German marks (about $91 million), whereas it will amount to 303.9 million German marks ($138 million) in 2001.

Preston-Stanley stressed that Kosova needs to collect more taxes and customs fees to make the state more independent from foreign donors.

The highest budget categories include social insurance, which will increase from 75 million to 81 million German marks ($34 million to $37 million). Other large expenditures are for education, police, the judiciary, and funds for infrastructure maintenance. UNMIK employs 4,000 police officers, 450 support staff, and over 200 judges. Local governments will receive a budget increase of 40 percent to cover the costs of the newly elected community- and city councils. All together, the local authorities will receive 6 million German marks ($2.7 million). (Fabian Schmidt)

What Future For Albania's Election Law? Albania's parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi said that the government should negotiate with the opposition about changes in the election law before the upcoming parliamentary election in summer 2001, "Shekulli" reported on 9 December. Experts of the OSCE-chaired round-table Friends of Albania called for negotiation after a dispute between the government coalition and the opposition Democratic Party (PD) over the recent local elections.

PD officials complained that they have not been allowed to appoint the deputy heads of the Central Election Commission and the local election commissions. PD officials were only allowed to monitor the elections as observers. Government officials countered that the members of the election commissions should be professionals and not political party representatives.

Gjinushi did not make concrete proposals for a compromise but urged dialogue: "all coalition parties are ready to listen to all suggestions of the international community and of all other political forces seriously interested in improving the electoral process." (Fabian Schmidt)

The feature on Srebrenica scheduled for this issue will appear on 15 December instead.

Quotations Of The Week. "People do not want to face reality. People are hoping for a magic wand to annul 10 years of history." -- Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic. Quoted in "The New York Times" on 8 December.

"The game is over for the Serbs. Forever." -- Rugova in "Der Spiegel" (see above). He was referring to Serbian attempts to regain leverage lost in the 1999 conflict by stationing troops in the demilitarized zone in Presevo or by exchanging populations in the region.