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Balkan Report: August 26, 1998

26 August 1998, Volume 2, Number 34

Robert Farrand Talks to RFE/RL About Brcko. The international community's chief "supervisor" in Brcko recently gave an interview to the South Slavic Service about his view of the town's present and future. Brcko was the one territorial question so thorny that it was left open in the Dayton agreement for future settlement. Representatives of the international community have subsequently postponed that decision, which is now slated for some time early in 1999. The essence of the dispute is that the Serbs need to keep control of the north Bosnian town in order to ensure the free flow of supplies and communications between the two halves of the Republika Srpska. The Muslims and Croats, for their part, insist that it be returned to them, because leaving Brcko in Serbian hands would serve to legitimize the ethnic cleansing of the former Muslim and Croatian majority in 1992.

The issues are thus basic and leave little room for compromise on either side. Some observers feel that if the decision is not postponed yet again, it is likely to somehow be "fudged" by setting up an international protectorate or a multi-national administration or something of the sort.

Farrand, who has held his post since April, 1997, told RFE/RL that he feels that both sides will be "able to live with" the solution he expects will be announced next year, but he did not elaborate as to what the formula might be. He stressed, however, that there are "serious people on both sides" who wish to bring about a "reasonable solution" to the Brcko dispute.

The diplomat was generally upbeat about Brcko, although he did not try to disguise the problems he faces. Farrand noted that the government of Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik understands the importance of promoting the return of the refugees and that the international community has launched a "concerted effort" to that end. Farrand pointed out that foreign donors have pledged a total of $75 million in reconstruction aid, most of which has been delivered. Some 40 percent of the assistance will go toward the reconstruction of the infrastructure of the city center. To date, he notes, some 1,200 non-Serbian families have returned, or about 4,000 people. Brcko, the diplomat continued, is now the only city in Bosnia in which the administration, legislature, judiciary and police are truly multi-ethnic.

His biggest problem, Farrand concedes, is being "distracted" from his main tasks at hand by having to reassure protesting Serbian displaced persons from other parts of Bosnia that they will not be forced out of their current dwellings in order to make room for returning Muslims and Croats. He feels that some of the protests have been spontaneous, others orchestrated. Farrand stressed, however, that "there is no reason why the [displaced Serbs] should feel threatened."

On the balance, the diplomat is optimistic. He sees economic development as the key to the future of peace throughout Bosnia and argues that it is in nobody's interest to raise ethnic tensions there. He also notes that "one cannot feed an empty stomach with a steady diet of nationalism."

'Republika Srpska Model' for Kosova...? Zarko Rakcevic, who is president of the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro, said in Podgorica that the Kosovars should receive the same degree of autonomy within Yugoslavia as the Republika Srpska enjoys within Bosnia-Herzegovina. He stressed that, for Social Democrats, no one people is "worth more than the others, and all peoples must enjoy equality before the law," "Danas" wrote on August 24. Rakcevic added that his party opposes "ethno-centric projects," including Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's call for "all Serbs in one state" as well as Albanian nationalist demands for a greater Albania. The Social Democratic leader said that Milosevic is responsible for preventing a negotiated solution because his policies have led to political polarization in Kosova.

Or Maybe Partition? The idea of partitioning Kosova between Serbs and Kosovars has been raised from time to time as a possible way to end the long-standing deadlock in which the Serbs refuse to grant the province independence and the ethnic Albanians will not accept anything short of that. Proponents of partition argue that dividing Kosova and each side going its own way is perhaps the most realistic approach to dealing with a problem that seems to defy all other solutions.

Opponents of partition feel that it is unworkable because, with minor exceptions, the Serbian and Montenegrin minorities do not live in compact groups in areas contiguous to Serbia proper, as the Croats of Herzegovina do in relation to Croatia. Instead, Kosova's minorities - including Turks and Roma as well as Serbs and Montenegrins - live like the Croats of Bosnia, scattered and intermixed among other peoples. Opponents of partition thus argue that any division of Kosova will either involve ethnic cleansing to set up "nationally pure" areas or the creation of new minorities.

The Belgrade sociologist Milovan Djilas and the Prishtina philosophy professor Ramush Mavriqi recently discussed partition on RFE/RL's "Radio Most (Bridge)." Djilas argues that, while he personally would prefer an autonomous Kosova with equal rights for all ethnic groups, partition might be the only practical step left. He notes that Kosova, unlike Bosnia, has not existed within the same clearly defined borders throughout history, and that the collapse of communism has led to the emergence of new states in many parts of Europe. Ethnic cleansing might result from partition, but it could also take place if Kosova becomes autonomous or independent.

Mavriqi responds that Kosova does indeed have a long history and that it was a single administrative entity in Ottoman times. Partition, he continues, would not solve anything, but rather be a prescription for a long-term conflict. Mavriqi questions the motive that some Serbs may have for dividing Kosova, and points out that the best-known plan - one associated with the writer and politician Dobrica Cosic - involves giving most of the province's mineral wealth to Serbia and its Serbian Orthodox monasteries to the Albanians.

The professor from Prishtina says that an international protectorate over Kosova is the best temporary solution, and that a permanent one could wait until after a cooling-off period of some five to ten years. Djilas responds that a protectorate would violate the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as an "internationally recognized state" with its own army and other state institutions.

Quotes of the Week. "This prison is the only place where the Dayton agreement is carried out." - Milan Simic, indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal, about the jolly fraternization among the inmates of all nationalities at the Hague tribunal's prison. Quoted in "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," August 20. He also said: "I go on the assumption that the other [inmates] are as innocent as I am. War has nothing to do with interpersonal relationships. War is politics."