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Balkan Report: November 30, 1999

30 November 1999, Volume 3, Number 50

Three Interviews From Around The Region. KOSOVA. On 27 November, the Lucerne-based weekly "Zeri" published an interview with Azem Syla, who is defense minister of the Provisional Government of Kosova. This is the state body backed by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). The UN Mission in Kosova (UNMIK) has not officially recognized the provisional government, but in practice it cooperates with its representatives in the field of local administration.

In the interview, Syla avoids admitting that the UCK has been disarmed and that its successor organization, the Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), is only a lightly-armed, non-military structure. Instead, he implies that the TMK is the beginning of an army of Kosova. That position, however, is in contradiction to that of UNMIK and the international community.

Zeri: Mr. Syla, you have been one of the founders and highest leaders of the UCK. Now you are defense minister of Kosova. Do you believe that the UCK and our people have reached their goal of freedom and independence?

Syla: Partly. The main desire of our people--the withdrawal of the military and police forces of the Serbian occupiers--has been achieved. That victory was a result of the liberation struggle of the UCK and NATO's help. We have attained freedom, but that freedom is still limited because the international community has placed Kosova under international protection. Now we are on the way towards the consolidation of that freedom. Only after that we can go towards the full consolidation of our independence, which will be the resolution of the Kosova question.

Zeri: Is the defense structure of the TMK similar to military structures in Western countries?

Syla: Western military structures are regular armies, with all the necessary components, starting with logistics and including tank units. Also, these forces include all kinds of ground forces, air forces, navy, etc. The TMK in contrast is an initial transformation of the UCK, somewhat helped by the arms it obtained during the war. The transformation is a result of the joint agreement between NATO and us. Consequently, the TMK cannot be compared with the armies of the independent Western countries, which have been developed over many years.

Zeri: What is being done to increase the professionalism of the TMK?

Syla: In the agreement of 20 September [between the UCK and NATO], there are also provisions for raising the professional level of the TMK. This process has begun with the training of two groups of officers in a European country. Later, a third group will receive such training. On our side, we have started to consolidate and reestablish military schools.

Zeri: What kinds of aid have the Western countries pledged to give after the transformation of the UCK into the TMK?

Syla: The budget of Kosova for the last month of this year has just been published. It has an overall total of 125 million German marks, of which the TMK will receive 4 percent, which is about 5 million German marks.

Zeri: The TMK is supposed to be open to members of the minorities of Kosova. How many of them are included in the TMK so far?

Syla: It is true that the TMK will also include people from the minorities. Their participation will be according to their percentage of the population, because Kosova belongs to all people who live there. We will determine those figures after the International Organization of Migration has concluded a selection of candidates in cooperation with the TMK leadership. In the second group of 16 people that went for training to Europe, there were members of the Serbian and [Muslim Slav] minorities. They have been living and training together with [ethnic Albanians] without any problem.

Zeri: How is the relationship between TMK, KFOR, and UNMIK?

Syla: Our relations with UNMIK are in accordance with UN Resolution 1244, and in accordance with the agreements that our ministry concluded with KFOR. In general, the relations are good.

Zeri: What problems do the TMK and your ministry face?

Syla: Our problems are manifold, such as accommodation, food, clothing, and supplies for anything, including maneuvers. All of these problems are a result of the post-war situation and the lack of money. Thanks to help from the people, help from former fighters and intellectuals who support us, we can cope with these difficulties. But we do not pretend that everything is perfect.

Zeri: How do you explain the rejection of the TMK by the Serbian minority and their intention to create a "Serbian Defense Corps?"

Syla: It is unfortunate that the Serbian minority has not accepted that the dream of a Serbian empire has ended once and for all. They do not want to accept that only democratization has a future for the people in the Balkans and that killings and suppression of another people have no future. But very soon they will also realize and accept the new realities. Recently some members of the Serbian minority went to Western countries to train jointly with our boys. That is only the beginning.

Zeri: What is the role of the TMK now and in the future?

Syla: After the TMK is completely set up, within the framework of KFOR it will participate in the protection of Kosova from any kind of violence. The TMK will help the population in eliminating the effects of the war and any natural disasters that come along. In the future our men will be trained to handle even more complicated tasks.

Zeri: Mitrovica is one of the most complicated issues and one of the greatest tasks for your government and for the people of Kosova. What have you done to help solve that problem?

Syla: The Defense Ministry is part of the provisional government of Kosova and it cannot do differently than what the government decides. So far we have tried to solve that problem through political and diplomatic negotiations and through KFOR, which also has an obligation [to end the stalemate between Serbs and Albanians]. The most recent visit of [provisional government] Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to Europe was intended to obtain support for a solution. It could be that in some international diplomatic circles there may not be such good intentions regarding Mitrovica. But we will not accept any imposed solution, because Mitrovica is a part of Kosova and must never be partitioned.

Zeri: Do you believe that after the withdrawal of the international forces the TMK will be able to protect Kosova and guarantee its territorial integrity?

Syla: Yes. The aim of the creation and the continuing strengthening of the TMK is the protection of Kosova. Otherwise, why did we fight?

Zeri: What is your message to the people of Kosova?

Syla: My message is to turn to work for the reconstruction of Kosova, to increase love for one another, to stop all kinds of excesses, and to live in peace. We must create a climate of understanding and free our minds from hate.

(Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

CROATIA. Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan heads the strongest single opposition party. If recent polls are anything to go by, he is also one of the two top contenders--along with Foreign Minister Mate Granic--to succeed Franjo Tudjman as president. He recently spoke with Vienna's "Die Presse," which published his remarks on 26 November.

Presse: Will you run for president?

Racan: It is well known that I am not going after that office. But in view of the current economic and political situation, I will not attempt to shun my responsibility.

Presse: What would head the agenda of a government led by your party?

Racan: We will put through all of our proposed legislation on topics ranging from privatization to budget cuts. We must normalize political life and show solidarity with those people in a difficult social situation. We need trust, a new start, and to realize that Croatia is just a small country. Only by doing this can Croatia enter the first ranks of the post-communist reform states.

Presse: What about cooperation with the Hague tribunal?

Racan: A key aspect of our foreign policy is absolute clarity regarding the independent state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We want to end the ambiguity [that has characterized Tudjman's policy]. We also want to show that it is in Croatia's interest to cooperate with Europe and not to feud with it. Finally, we feel that all people who have committed crimes must be punished. This also applies to those who fought in the War for the Homeland [against the Serbs in 1991-1995].... We are convinced that tensions with the court will disappear once Croatia becomes a state based on the rule of law.

Presse: And what about the economy? Would the Social Democrats introduce austerity measures?

Racan: It will be necessary to do so, but not at the expense of the neediest! A reduction in the salaries of state officials would be a sign of solidarity [with those living near or below the poverty level]. We are a small country with ample resources. We have to introduce the rule of law into economic life. We must also attract investors and reduce expenditures.

Presse: Will the kuna be devalued?

Racan: We will establish the true value of the kuna. We want liberalization and privatization.

Presse: Would a coalition with [Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community] the HDZ be better than having to deal with its likely obstruction tactics?

Racan: Let me tell you clearly: There will be no coalition with the HDZ! The HDZ must stop identifying itself with the state.

(Translated by Patrick Moore)

SERBIA. Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic recently gave an interview to "Vesti," which is published in Frankfurt and is the largest daily of the Serbian diaspora. The interview appeared on 18 November.

Aleksandar is not actively seeking the restoration of the monarchy but has frequently said that he will serve his people if called. He has recently been in close contact with many leaders of the opposition and helped organize meetings of the opposition and the diaspora. The eldest son of Yugoslavia's last king believes that the monarchy should stand above partisan politics and notes that he has not allied himself with any one party.

A key point that he made in his interview--but which is often missing from statements by the opposition, to say nothing of the regime--is that Serbia must become a civil society. Yugoslavia and Serbia, he stressed, must become states of all their citizens "regardless of religion or nationality." There must be no mutual recriminations between members of differing ethnic groups, because "every citizen is important."

Serbia, he noted, has witnessed nothing but catastrophe for the past 10 years. Krajina, Bosnia, and Kosovo have all been lost. The way out for Serbia is through regeneration, which can only come about through democratization. Serbia needs economic renewal and reintegration into the international community. If Serbia continues as it has in recent years, it risks becoming "the North Korea of Europe," with only pariah states like Iraq for allies. For Serbia, the real "enemies of the state" are those who are currently in power, Aleksandar concluded. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the Republic Dr. Franjo Tudjman is alive." --Croatian Deputy Speaker of Parliament Vladimir Seks, quoted by "Jutarnji list" on 25 November.

"There were 40 years of communism and 10 years of apartheid [in Kosova]. People are discouraged; they've come out of hell. I'm sick of hearing people coming [from outside] and saying we have to move faster. Never have things moved so fast. What we've done in five months has never been done so fast." -- UNMIK's Bernard Kouchner, to France's Europe 1 radio on 24 November.

"Tonight I hope the people of Serbia can hear our voices when we say: If you choose as Bulgaria has chosen, you will regain the rightful place in Europe that Mr. Milosevic has stolen from you. And America will support you, too." -- U.S. President Bill Clinton, in Sofia on 22 November.

"There can be no talk about democracy in Kosovo at present. Albanian terrorists kill Serbs every day, kidnap and rape Serbian women. Would something similar be possible in the Czech Republic, the United States, France, or Serbia? At the end of the second millennium after Christ, the greatest crime against the Christian civilization is happening under the protection and under the banners of the leading Christian countries of Europe, headed by the United States." -- Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic, to the Czech daily "Pravo" of 23 November.

Radovan Karadzic "is great. He did a lot for the Serbian people." -- Elderly man in Foca, where the unemployment rate is over 60 percent. Quoted by Reuters on 22 November.

"Where Milosevic sends in tanks, the Serbs leave on tractors." -- Belgrade's "Danas," on 23 November.