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Balkan Report: April 8, 1998

8 April 1998, Volume 2, Number 14

Intellectuals Call for Legal Equality. Four major organizations representing primarily non-nationalist intellectuals adopted an agreement in Sarajevo on April 5 in support of equal status for Muslims, Croats and Serbs in both entities. Representatives of the Council of Congresses of Bosnjak Intellectuals (VKBI), the Serbian Civic Council (SGV), the Croatian People's Council (HNV), and the Circle of Independent Intellectuals (KNI) "99" approved the document, RFE/RL reported. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint presidency, endorsed the move. At present, only Serbs are a "state people" in the Republika Srpska, and only Muslims and Croats hold that position in the Federation.

Transportation Links Restored. For the first time in seven years, a train passed from Serb-held Brcko to Muslim-controlled Tuzla on April 2. Its cargo was grain. In Zagreb, government officials signed an agreement with the U.S. Bechtel Corporation for the construction of part of a highway linking Bregana on the Slovenian border with Zagreb and Dubrovnik via Bihac in Bosnia. President Franjo Tudjman has repeatedly defended the project against criticism from ultranationalists, who want the highway to be located only on Croatian territory. The highway is a major Croatian-Bosnian infrastructure project provided for in the Dayton agreement.

Media Control. Stjepan Kljuic, the president of the non-nationalist Republican Party and former top Bosnian Croat leader, said in Sarajevo on April 1 that the only way to curb the bias of the pro-Muslim nationalist TVBiH is to shut the government-run broadcaster down in the runup to the September general elections.

Albright Foresees Balkan 'Road Back to Hell.' U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington on April 2 that "Kosova is caught up in a vicious cycle. First, there is Serb repression. Then, [Albanian] extremists wage hit-and-run attacks against Serb authorities. Then, Serb special police strike back with summary executions, house demolitions and helicopter gunship attacks. For the Balkans, this escalating violence is the road back to Hell. Unless stopped, tensions will flow out of control. The result could be a full-fledged civil war, putting at risk the peace in Bosnia and spreading conflict like an infectious disease to neighboring states."

Djukanovic Warns Milosevic on Kosova Policy. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on April 3 that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's proposed referendum on foreign mediation "is a serious challenge to international factors and playing games with the destiny of the people." The next day he added that Milosevic follows a "policy of staying in power at any price... [His] only program is to isolate us even more from the world, and chained by the burden of sanctions, we will sink to the bottom." Djukanovic argued that "Kosova is a democratic, not a territorial issue" and warned the Yugoslav president that "playing with the emotions of citizens and inflaming national feelings... is looking for trouble and can really lead to tragedy." Djukanovic slammed Milosevic's assertion that isolation helps Yugoslavia retain its dignity: "we have already tasted how dignity looked on an income of $5 a month [before Dayton] and we do not want to repeat the experience."

NGO's Want Protective Force. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and its affiliates from Kosova, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, and Greece issued a statement in Vienna on April 3 calling for an international preventive force for Kosova on the model of the Macedonia-based UNPREDEP. The statement dubbed Milosevic's call for a referendum "an ominous signal, recalling similar gestures that preceded ethnic aggression in Croatia and Bosnia. We consider that such a proposal is aimed at kindling flames of nationalistic hysteria and xenophobic confrontation, as a prerequisite for increasingly autocratic policies."

'The Hour of Europe' Again? Karolos Papoulias, who heads the Greek parliament's foreign relations committee, said in Tirana on March 31 that Kosova is a European problem. He added that "it would be painful to see that the EU was powerless to intervene" to deal with its own European issue, as happened in Bosnia. Papoulias stressed "that Europe's language is much more understandable for the sides in the conflict than the U.S. language, which is the language of force."