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Balkan Report: August 3, 1999

3 August 1999, Volume 3, Number 30

Demaci And Trajkovic Talk To RFE/RL. Two of Kosova's leading political figures recently discussed the province's future with the South Slavic Service's Omer Karabeg. The two concluded that Serbs and Albanians can live together if they treat each other as equals and look toward the future rather than the past--a tall order, indeed.

The ethnic Albanian Adem Demaci spent long years in Tito's prisons and was known as "the Kosovar Mandela" for his conciliatory attitude. In 1998, he became more militant in the face of Serbian atrocities and briefly served as the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). The Serb Momcilo Trajkovic is the foremost political leader of the province's Serbs through his Kosovo Resistance Movement. He works closely with Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije, who also opposes Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Demaci and Trajkovic began their discussion on a note of agreement. Both feel that the recent conflict served to strip away old myths of "brotherhood and unity" and show bilateral relations for what they really are. After this "sobering up," as Trajkovic put it, Albanians and Serbs can now plan a joint future based on democracy, prosperity, and peace.

After that point, however, the two men turned to the central issue in Serbian-Albanian "discourse" on Kosova--the burden of guilt in the past and present--and promptly disagreed. Each man--Demaci in particular--marshaled facts to "prove" that his own people had suffered more at the hands of the other, rather than vice-versa. The two men made references to the Middle Ages and the various Balkan Wars of the 20th century alike.

Turning to the present conflict, Demaci stressed that Serbian atrocities were systematic and involved many perpetrators. Trajkovic responded that the violence may have involved "tens but not hundreds of thousands" of Serbs. Now, he argued, all Serbs are being forced to pay for the crimes of the Milosevic regime and flee the province--unless they are killed first.

Trajkovic pointed out that the key issue is to put the past aside and look toward the future. To this end, Serbs and Albanians alike should seek to oust Milosevic and establish a democratic, peaceful society.

Demaci responded that although he himself has spent many long years in "Serbian prisons," he can still envision a joint future for Kosova with Serbia and Montenegro "under one roof." (In an essay published over one year ago, he called his state "Balkania.") His key point is, however, that all three states must be "independent and equal" (perhaps on the model of the Benelux countries). Demaci stressed that the most important change that needs to come about is that the Serbs must accept the Albanians as equals with a right to exercise the prerogatives of majority rule in Kosova. Only a partnership of equals, Demaci concluded, can lead to a lasting peace in the region. (Translated and summarized by Patrick Moore)

Serbian Minister Admits Loss Of Kosovo. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic said that the June peace agreement meant that "Kosovo was taken from Serbia," the Belgrade weekly "NIN" reported on 29 July. He compared Serbia's agreement to the loss of the province to the decision of an injured person to have a leg or arm amputated in order to save his life.

This is the first time that a top-ranking Belgrade official has publicly admitted that Serbia lost Kosovo as a result of the recent conflict. Officials generally claim that Serbia won the war because Kosovo legally remains part of Serbia and because the administration there is in the hands of the UN and not of NATO or the UCK. (Patrick Moore)

Germany Builds Ties To Serbian Opposition. In mid-July, officials from the German Foreign Ministry met in Budapest with unnamed members of the Serbian opposition, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported recently. A ministry spokesman said that Bonn wants to "intensify" the contacts but did not elaborate. He added that Germany wants its help to be low-key lest it provide the Milosevic regime with an excuse to brand the opposition as "foreign agents." (Patrick Moore)

Rocky Road To Reconstruction. "The Daily Telegraph" of 2 August warns that those foreign businessmen who expect fat profits from Kosova reconstruction projects will be disappointed. The article points out that the region is poor and lacks both a banking system and clear rules of ownership. (Like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosova has missed out on ten years of transition from communism.)

The London-based daily notes that "there are business opportunities in abundance for the brave, but they must be taken in a commercial environment where only the laws of the jungle apply."

One key area of activity will be in housing reconstruction. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 26 July that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on his recent trip to the region that German aid money will place emphasis on self-help. He thereby dashed the hopes of the German prefabricated housing industry for lucrative government contracts, the daily added.

One German nonetheless observed to "RFE/RL Balkan Report" that he would be very happy to have the Kosova franchise for one of Germany's biggest do-it-yourself companies, whose huge stores are a familiar part of the Central European suburban landscape. (Patrick Moore)

Brussels Turf Wars. Bodo Hombach, who is Chancellor Schroeder's political appointee to coordinate EU aid for Kosova, recently lost a battle in which he sought to acquire a large staff of his own, the "Berliner Zeitung" wrote on 29 July. Instead, he will have to be content with a smaller staff of officials seconded from existing institutions, as well as with a salary of about $190,000 per year.

The fight over Hombach did not center on his staff or salary, however, but rather on his role in Brussels, where he apparently has rivals. Austria still has not forgiven Schroeder for elbowing aside its more experienced candidate for the job. Other small countries similarly feel marginalized. Britain, France, and Spain, moreover, want to be sure that Hombach does not overshadow EU Commissioner Chris Patten, Kosova administrator Bernard Kouchner, or "Mr. Gasp" Javier Solana, respectively.

But Hombach will make his influence felt. He won a battle to maintain his headquarters in Brussels rather than with the EU mission in Thessaloniki--to say nothing of Prishtina. (Patrick Moore)

Did Russia Export Missiles To Yugoslavia? Valentin Zapevalov, spokesman for the arms export firm Rosvooruzhenie, on 2 August denied a report in "Jane's Defence Weekly" that Russia exported up to 20 S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Yugoslavia in early 1999. The magazine reported that Russia shipped missile parts to Yugoslavia hidden in railway cars carrying scrap metal and in fuel tanks. Zapevalov argued that "S-300 parts are impressive in size. ...Their deliveries by air, sea, or rail to Yugoslavia would have been detected by NATO intelligence services," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the report contains "non-scientific fantasies" and stressed that "if we suppose that such deliveries had taken place, NATO aviation would have lost several dozens of its planes in each raid." The S-300 is a mobile radar and missile launching system designed to hit both airplanes and cruise missiles. (Fabian Schmidt)

France Dragging Heels Regarding War Criminals? In the early hours of 2 August, French and German SFOR troops arrested Radovan Kovac and sent him to The Hague. He is one of several Bosnian Serbs believed to be living in Foca, in the French sector, whom the court has indicted for his role in the forced rape of Muslim women during the Bosnian war.

But "The Daily Telegraph" suggested that Kovac may be only a small fish by the standards of some of Foca's residents. One is reportedly Radovan Karadzic. French officials allegedly believe it would be "too dangerous" to move against his well-guarded home, which is also surrounded by a minefield. The other most famous Bosnian Serb war criminal, General Ratko Mladic, is reportedly at least an occasional visitor to Foca.

French troops in Bosnia (and elsewhere) have been dogged by reports over the years that they are partial to the Serbs. Some critics have charged that individual French officers have provided the Serbian military with NATO intelligence in order to help war criminals avoid capture. (Patrick Moore)

Albania's New Environment. Following the end of the war in Kosova, Albania has begun to return to normality, but its perceptions of both itself and its surroundings have changed. The post-war order offers Albania a serious prospect of long-term regional development and prosperity, and it is up to the Albanians to make sure that prospect becomes reality.

The Albanian public's friendliness and hospitality vis-a-vis the refugees throughout the Kosova crisis and Albania's support for the international military and humanitarian effort gave the country a very good image abroad. This contrasts sharply with its reputation before the crisis of being crime-ridden, impoverished, and politically polarized.

Since early 1997, Albania had become notorious for its Kalashnikov-waving adolescents who dominated scenes of civilian unrest that broke out after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes. But Albania's political leaders seized the Kosova crisis as a unique opportunity to show the international community Albania's maturity.

Now the country finds itself on the winning side in what is in effect a large international alliance and has some very powerful friends. Plans for regional cooperation in the Balkans are not new, but the presence of the U.S., the EU, the UN, and other key international figures instrumental in ending the Kosova conflict has removed numerous practical and psychological barriers that were blocking the country's regional integration with its neighbors.

The largest barrier to fall was that between Albania and Kosova. This development's significance compares to the fall of the Berlin Wall, despite some differences. While before 1989 the Berlin Wall served only the East German regime in helping it prevent its citizens from fleeing to the democratic West, the Albanian-Kosova border, for most of its post-1945 history, was a border between two dictatorships that were highly suspicious of each other. Furthermore, the border dates back to the creation of the Albanian state in 1913; therefore, it had a more profound impact on the cultural and social development on either side of it than did the relatively short-lived Berlin Wall.

The Rambouillet accord specifies that there must be free movement of goods, services, and people from and to Kosova. With the border now open, regional integration between Albania and Kosova can take place quickly in terms of economy, trade, culture, and other sectors. More so than Kosova, Albania will profit from that integration, which will allow the remote and underdeveloped mountainous northern regions of Bajram Curri and Kukes to link up with their Ottoman-era markets in Gjakova and Prizren. Albanian legislator Neritan Ceka has already suggested that the government draw up plans to build a highway to Kosova.

Similarly, closer integration with Montenegro is now possible. In late June, the Yugoslav federation withdrew its border controls between Montenegro and Albania, thus opening the way for free movement of people. Now it is up to Tirana and Podgorica to regulate the border and customs regime in a mutually beneficial way. Both sides have already made clear that they want to promote a liberal border regime.

To the south, Athens is interested in linking its Adriatic coastal region with central Europe through a highway via Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, agreed in Athens in early June to put that project high on the agenda of the Sarajevo stability summit that began on 29 July. The two met shortly thereafter with their Macedonian counterpart, Aleksandar Dimitrov, and agreed to launch a smaller-scale regional project designed to facilitate cross-border travel for people living in the frontier region.

Another result of the crisis has been the substantial strengthening of many Macedonians' trust toward both their own ethnic Albanian minority and towards Albania. Many Macedonian politicians and voters long feared that an explosion of the Kosova crisis could lead to a breakup of Macedonia. During the crisis, almost a quarter of a million Kosovar refugees entered Macedonia. This, however, did not lead to any moves by Macedonia's Albanians against the Macedonian state, which remained stable. In return, Skopje has shown itself willing to make concessions, including permitting university education in the Albanian language, which the previous Macedonian government had rejected for fear of fostering "separatism."

Albania thus faces a much friendlier neighborhood than it did only a short time ago. But Albanians will have to show that they are capable of taking advantage of the new opportunities. Albania's opposition Democratic Party took a first step toward ending the political polarization that has long bedeviled Albania. On 17 July, an extraordinary party congress voted unanimously to end the party's 10-month boycott of the parliament, which the Democrats had launched in response to the killing of one of their legislators.

Party leader Sali Berisha told the delegates that: "Fulfilling the request of the U.S. government to return to the parliament is the least we could do, after all that they did for Albanians," indicating that the move was linked to the U.S. involvement in ending the Kosova crisis. Berisha added that "the Democratic Party commits itself to creating a new political climate where nobody will be excluded anymore."

But not all Albanians have proven responsible enough to promote a vision for a common future. Another Albanian way of returning to "normal" was evident in Vlora on 10 July, when local citizens armed with machine guns stormed and looted an Italian-run refugee camp. If Albania remains unable to tackle the problem of crime, it will be difficult for its neighbors to take the next large step of relaxing the border regime or establishing a customs union. (Fabian Schmidt)

An Ironic Twist for the Beograd-Bar Line. Rajko Medenica, who heads Montenegrin Railways, said in Podgorica on 29 July that the Belgrade authorities are "deliberately blocking" Montenegrin proposals to revive traffic along the Belgrade-Bar railway line. The Montenegrin authorities want to quickly restore transportation along the bomb-damaged line by introducing a combination of rail and bus connections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

The communist authorities built the line linking Belgrade to the coast in the 1980s at great expense. It involves many complex engineering projects through difficult territory. Critics at the time charged that the government built it as a pork-barrel concession to greater Serbian nationalism. (Patrick Moore)

A New Tribunal in the Making? Serbian Environment Minister Branislav Blazic blames NATO for his country's recent spate of heavy rainstorms and other unseasonable weather. He said on 29 July that he wants to set up an international tribunal to indict the Atlantic alliance for damaging Serbia's environment during its bombing campaign. (Patrick Moore)

Ancient Hatreds. Britain recently decided to send 60 members of Northern Ireland's Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to Kosova. Alex Maskey, who is chief whip of the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein, said in Belfast on 2 August that "nationalists find it offensive that the RUC is being described as the best police force to police a divided society," Reuters reported. Republicans regard the RUC as a brutal instrument of British rule.

But Ken Maginnis, who is security spokesman of the loyalist Ulster Unionist Party, argued that the RUC's experience in Northern Ireland fully prepared it for policing the peace between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

The previous weekend in Prishtina, two members of the British army's Royal Irish Regiment "rescued a terrified Serbian family being held hostage by ethnic Albanians," AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "Never again will thieves and murderers rule this country." -- Serbian Civic Alliance leader Goran Svilanovic, in Sabac on 26 July.

"He is a European-style Liberal in the Serbian context." -- Balkan expert Chris Cvijic, on Zoran Djindjic, to the BBC on 28 July.

"It's a damn good question." -- senior banker Dragoslav Avramovic, in response to AP reporter on 1 August, who asked how the opposition will oust Milosevic.

"The impunity of the [UCK], which is carrying out illegal violence against local Serbs [will lead to danger for peacekeepers]. We demand urgent and effective measures to force the [UCK] to adhere to all conditions of the peace process." -- Russian Foreign Ministry statement, 1 August.

"I didn't expect we'd have to act like riot police here. But we have to, since although the Albanians are really nice people, when Serbs show up, they go crazy. They forget that Serbs are people too. It's really sad here." -- U.S. Second Lieutenant Robert Kimmel, from Gail, Texas, to Reuters on 1 August. He and his men were providing protection to Serbian villagers fleeing north.

"We're a bit bitter that the Americans allow these Serbs to leave with their whole households whereas we had to flee with only the clothes on our backs. But the Serbs were able to do a deal with the Americans to get out unscathed. That's the biggest surprise of peacetime." -- local Albanian, at the same scene.

"Russia managed to stop the Balkan war. We worked as mediators, as a country which could speak with both sides. We were not tied up by anything and convinced both parties." -- Balkan envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, upon giving his resignation from that post to President Boris Yeltsin on 3 August.