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Balkan Report: August 10, 1999

10 August 1999, Volume 3, Number 31

Montenegro Sets Its Terms. The Montenegrin authorities have laid down tough terms for continuing a joint state with Serbia. The regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is unlikely to accept those terms, but democrats in Serbia might find them attractive.

On 5 August, the Montenegrin government approved a detailed plan that would abolish the Yugoslav federation and recast Podgorica-Belgrade relations as a loose association (zajednica) of two equal and sovereign "member states." The Montenegrin parliament is slated to approve the measure soon.

It is unclear whether the government intends the proposal as a basis for negotiations with Belgrade or as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Top Montenegrin officials said recently that they will hold a referendum on independence if the Serbian authorities do not respond to the proposal by late September.

The plan calls for establishing an "Association of Montenegro and Serbia" with a unicameral legislature. Montenegro and Serbia would have equal representation, while legislators would be subordinate to the parliament of their own member state.

The positions of president and prime minister would rotate between Montenegrin and Serbian officials. The president would be from one member state and the prime minister from the other, while both would belong to either the governing political party or coalition in their own state. "Bureaucratic" administrative structures would be small. There would be a maximum of six ministries with small staffs. Each republic would, in effect, have its own foreign policy and army, which would be loosely coordinated with those of the other.

The two sides would have to agree to joint foreign and economic policy goals aimed at integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Each republic would have economic independence and the right to introduce its own currency. Any joint currency would be freely convertible and would be backed by a currency board and protected by strict legal safeguards. Each republic has a veto on joint decisions, including the election of the joint president and a declaration of war.

There would be a Constitutional Court to rule on the validity of legislation passed by the association's legislature. Montenegro and Serbia would have equal representation on the bench.

The text, in fact, reads more like a dull legal document than a ringing declaration of political principles. Podgorica's intent was to make very sure that its rights and privileges are carefully protected and that it would no longer be Serbia's junior partner.

Nor would this be a new Yugoslav federation to which constituent "republics" would be subordinated. Power clearly would rest with each of the two member states and not with the central authorities, as was the case under the monarchy and under Tito. The joint state would exist solely to further the specific interests of each member and not as an end in itself. It would not be called Yugoslavia.

The basic political principles are that the association would be based on democratic values, the rule of law, and human rights. Economic policy would rest on the pillars of a market economy, free trade, and a convertible currency. There are several references to developing ties with the EU and integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. There are no references, however, to the proposed union of Serbia, Russia, and Belarus, which the Belgrade hard-liners have so warmly embraced.

The Belgrade regime is, in any event, unlikely to accept the Montenegrin proposal, which would greatly limit the powers that Milosevic enjoys within the current federal structure. On 8 August, Ratko Krsmanovic, who is a top official of the pro-Milosevic United Yugoslav Left, called the plan "an attempt to destroy our country and to provoke conflicts. It would create a situation for foreign intervention." The Radicals' Vojislav Seselj has blasted it as "illegal secession."

It could be argued that any Serbian politician would have difficulty endorsing a plan that gives Montenegro's approximately 600,000 inhabitants political weight equal to that of the roughly 7 million people living in Serbia (excluding Kosova). And a spokesman for the G-17 group of independent economists said that the economic provisions of the Montenegrin plan are so unrealistic as to make the proposal harmful to the cause of democracy in Serbia.

But initial reactions of several politicians suggest that many members of the democratic Serbian opposition have responded positively to the Montenegrin proposal. For example, both the Democrats' Zoran Djindjic and Vladan Batic of the Alliance for Change see it as a step toward the democratization of Serbia.

If the Milosevic regime remains silent on the Montenegrin proposal or rejects it outright, Montenegro is likely to declare independence. But if Serbia in the coming months acquires a democratic leadership that is willing to accept Podgorica's principles, the outcome could be a democratic state with a sound and growing economy. In such a case, might not the association become attractive to some of its neighbors, such as Macedonia or Bosnia--or even Albania or Kosova? (Patrick Moore)

Growing Rift In Belgrade? Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Lilic said on 5 August in Belgrade that "we must speak the language the international community understands and seek compromises that will allow Serbia and all our citizens to be citizens of Europe." Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic stressed, however, that the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France must pay war damages to Belgrade. He added that reparations "are their legal and moral obligation. That, as well as the lifting of sanctions, are important preconditions to reestablishing diplomatic relations." Reuters reported that the discrepancy between the two men's respective remarks reflects "growing differences" within Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's leadership.

"The Daily Telegraph" noted that several leading figures in Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia are planning to oppose him openly. One report suggests that former security chief Jovica Stanisic could be among them. Some observers feel that growing rifts within his own party will prompt Milosevic to rely all the more on his wife's United Yugoslav Left and Seselj's Radicals. (Patrick Moore)

General Perisic Launches New Political Movement. Former army chief-of-staff General Momcilo Perisic has founded a Movement for Democratic Serbia, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 9 August. He stressed that his movement is open to all political parties and is not itself a party.

In a first reaction, his fellow former General Vuk Obradovic, who now heads the Social Democrats, said that he wishes Perisic well. He added nonetheless that he is sorry that Perisic founded yet another opposition group instead of joining an existing one.

Milosevic fired Perisic and replaced him with General Dragoljub Ojdanic (see below) in November 1998 following public and private criticism by Perisic of Milosevic's policies in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 1998).

Perisic has now given to the press the text of the remarks to a military audience that led to his firing in November, "Vesti" reported on 9 August. In his speech, he stressed that the West has a strategic interest in Yugoslavia, which lies along its supply route for Middle Eastern oil. The U.S. seeks to control the region by enrolling Serbia's neighbors in the Partnership for Peace and destroying rump Yugoslavia by inciting its ethnic minorities against the Serbs, Perisic continued.

The general noted that Serbia is unable to wage an effective war against NATO. Serbia is small and its economy cannot endure a prolonged conflict. It's people have no stomach for a war, and several of its leaders have further undermined morale by keeping their own children out of the military (a possible reference to Marko Milosevic). Serbia has no allies, moreover, and nobody should expect any help from Russia.

Perisic concluded that Serbia lacks the means to fight NATO, and that anyone who seeks such a conflict must be "crazy."

More recently, Perisic told the Belgrade-based weekly "NIN" of 22 July 1999 that the government seriously mismanaged the crisis in Kosova. He charged that the army leadership is now openly politicized on the side of Milosevic and Mira Markovic, who is the president's wife. Perisic added that all democratic forces in Serbia must unite if they want to get rid of Milosevic. (Patrick Moore)

Two Parties Turn Down Posts In Bulatovic Government. Leaders of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and of the League of Vojvodina Hungarians said in Belgrade on 5 August that they have rejected an offer of cabinet posts from Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Officials of the SPO added that Bulatovic should resign in favor of someone from Montenegro's governing Democratic Party of Socialists, who are Bulatovic's rivals. Representatives of the SPO and the Vojvodina Hungarians rejected an offer of posts in the Serbian government the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). (Patrick Moore) Bulatovic, Milosevic Appeal To Diaspora.

Bulatovic appealed to a 4 August Belgrade gathering of 225 Serbs living abroad to invest in Serbia. He stressed that the government is carrying out "dynamic economic reforms, price stabilization measures, and an accelerated privatization program," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Milosevic later told the gathering that the Serbian opposition are "corrupt politicians" who are seeking to help NATO conquer the country. The Frankfurt-based diaspora daily "Vesti" covered the conference but without showing Milosevic's picture. (Patrick Moore) Want To Buy A House?

General Ojdanic, who is the Yugoslav army's chief of staff and an indicted war criminal, is having difficulty selling his home and property in Bar, Montenegro. The house was constructed without a building permit and hence lacks the necessary papers for a smooth sale, "Danas" reported on 9 August. (Patrick Moore) UN Commissioner Urges Kosovars To Speak Out Against Violence.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said in Geneva on 4 August that "Serbs, Roma, and others have suffered and continue to suffer grave violations," AP reported. She added: "Reports from my staff on the ground speak of kidnappings, forced expulsions, murder, physical abuse, and violent appropriation of other people's property. ...Community leaders in Kosova must have the courage to call for a stop to this vicious pattern." Robinson also called for urgent action on behalf of an estimated 5,000 ethnic Albanians reportedly detained or abducted in Yugoslavia. (Fabian Schmidt) Large Influx Of Serbs From Kosova Into Serbia.

A spokesman for the UNHCR said in Geneva on 5 August that some 176,753 people have left Kosova for Serbia and Montenegro since the Belgrade authorities and NATO reached an agreement on the province in June. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin stressed that NATO seeks to protect the rights of Kosova's remaining Serbian minority. He added, however, that "people should not have exaggerated expectations of what the result of 10 years of conflict and repression by Milosevic against the Kosovar Albanians will be. ...NATO never could, nor can the UN, guarantee that people stay" in the province, Reuters reported. (Patrick Moore) Serbian NGO Says Paramilitaries Were Part Of Regular Units...

Natasa Kandic of the Humanitarian Law Fund (FHP) told Reuters in Belgrade on 5 August that most of the killings in Kosova were done by paramilitary units, which were "established by orders from a very high level," and attached to regular forces. She stressed: "Their task was to expel people from villages, and to kill," adding that they included Bulgarian and Russian mercenaries. Kandic called on Serbs to "start talking about responsibility, to support the UN war crimes tribunal, and the investigation and punishment not just of perpetrators, but also those responsible at a high level, starting with Milosevic." The FHP was the only Serbian NGO to investigate Serbian war crimes during the conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service noted. (Fabian Schmidt) ...And Warns Of Albanian 'Culture Of Blood Feuds.'

Kandic on 5 August also urged the Kosovar Albanians to "face up" to the wave of revenge killings of Serbs since June. She added that the revenge attacks are rooted in the Albanian "culture of blood feuds," and warned that if left unchecked they could "spiral out of control." Kandic stressed that "this is not revenge in the usual sense--'you robbed me, I'll rob you.' Nothing like this happened in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. It is part of the Albanian mentality." She urged "new discussion on it. Otherwise it will go on till the last minority [in Kosova] is eliminated." (Fabian Schmidt) Kosovar Albanians Protest Russian Base.

About 1,000 Kosovar Albanians marched towards a Russian base near Kamenica on 4 August to protest the deployment of Russian troops there. The crowds dispersed early the following day without incident, AP reported. (Fabian Schmidt) Former Soviet Premier Investigates 'NATO Crimes.'

Nikolai Ryzhkov arrived in Belgrade on 8 August. He is a former Soviet prime minister and chairman of the State Duma's commission collecting information on alleged NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia. Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS that his delegation will collect "materials on the harmful effects of the NATO aggression on the [population] of Yugoslavia and to draft a plan for our parliamentary commission [for] sending documents to [the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia]." He added that "we do not want to be guided by...the cooling or warming of the bilateral relations with NATO. ...We are an independent commission. ...Our aim is to establish the truth and to submit the collected materials to the State Duma." Ryzhkov stressed that "we are not all that satisfied by the objectiveness and impartiality of [the Hague-based tribunal]." (Fabian Schmidt) Links Between Russian Troops in Kosova and Serbian Paramilitaries?

"Scotland on Sunday" of 8 August quoted Captain Michael Taylor of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division as saying in the village of Dobercan: "We have had numerous reports, which we are investigating, of Serb paramilitaries operating in Russian uniforms." The weekly added that its reporter witnessed Russian military convoys crossing the border between Kosova and Serbia in a move forbidden under the KFOR rules of deployment, AP reported. The reporter also saw Serbian paramilitary police waving the Russian forces through. UCK leaders have charged that Russian ranks include both Serbian paramilitary troops and Yugoslav army soldiers in Russian uniforms. The guerrillas also believe that some Russian "volunteers" who fought on the Serbian side during Operation Horseshoe have slipped into Russian army units. (Fabian Schmidt) Russian Diplomat Says Moscow 'Sick and Tired of Milosevic.'

Senior Russian diplomat and Rambouillet negotiator Andrei Zagorskii told the "Frankfurter Rundschau" of 7 August that "Moscow has long been sick and tired of Milosevic and would be extremely happy if the Milosevic regime were to fall." He added, however, that "in the [Kosova] conflict Moscow saw the old world order in which Russia had a say falling apart. ...The quintessence...was for Moscow not Milosevic but the change in the world order." Zagorskii said that Russia's main aim was stopping NATO from acting as "the decision-making body in European affairs" at the expense of the OSCE and UN. He stressed that "Russian doing all in its power to strengthen the UN Security Council's position." He acknowledged, however, that "unofficial bodies" such as the Balkans Contact Group are necessary and that the G-8 is acceptable as a substitute. (Patrick Moore) Quotations of the Week.

"We shall be pleased if under [Secretary-General-elect George] Robertson NATO relies more on military diplomacy and not on military force in matters of cooperation, and especially in dealing with conflict situations. [We hope that NATO] will take into consideration the opinions of other states." -- Unnamed top-level Russian Defense Ministry official to Interfax on 4 August. "The Serbs were waiting for the Russians as though it were the Second Coming and when they arrived nothing happened, the situation only got worse." -- Canadian-Serbian doctor in Kamenica, Kosova, to "The Daily Telegraph" of 5 August. A local man added that the Russians only "sit behind their checkpoints and oil their engines." "Under the Yugoslav Constitution, neither of the two federal units is entitled to secede. If someone tries to secede by force, they should know what's coming to them." -- Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj on 6 August, commenting on the Montenegrin program. "It's a good feeling to be able to say what you think." -- Leskovac television worker Ivan Novkovic, after leaving jail on 5 August. His unauthorized call on the air for a protest led to the 5 July demonstration, which attracted 20,000 people in a town not previously know for anti-Milosevic sympathies. Quoted in "Vesti" of 7 August.