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Balkan Report: June 20, 2005

20 June 2005, Volume 9, Number 19

The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 1 July.

NO ROOM IN THE EU FOR THE BALKAN STATES? The draft of the final declaration of the EU summit held in Brussels on 16-17 June made no specific mention of the accession plans of Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, or Turkey. People in the western Balkan countries are likely to regard this omission of more advanced candidates as a sign that their own EU aspirations are now on hold, if not altogether dead.

One of the casualties of the recent French and Dutch votes against the proposed EU constitution appears to be the enlargement process, although few leaders were willing to say so in public at the summit. Unnamed diplomats from Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU chair, told reporters that the references to the four countries were omitted because enlargement was not a topic at that gathering, adding that the EU's policy on enlargement has not changed. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that Brussels will honor its agreements with the applicants. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg pointed out that Bulgaria and Romania can count on accession because "the treaties have been signed [and] will be respected in full."

He also argued, however, that EU member states need time to "think about the rhythm and extent of enlargement. There is no conclusion on this point for the moment." French President Jacques Chirac also suggested that the EU might not be able to cope with additional members for a while (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005).

The draft communique also said that the future of the western Balkan states lies with the EU but did not give any of them a timetable for further integration, adding that each country will be judged on its own merits. The text encouraged Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to improve on their existing efforts toward European integration and stressed the importance of cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The declaration ruled out any return of Kosova to the pre-1999 situation and added that the EU will accept no political solutions there imposed unilaterally or by force.

Unnamed diplomats said, however, that the membership prospects for all the Balkan countries could already be severely damaged as a result of the recent rejection of the proposed EU constitution by French and Dutch voters and the ongoing EU constitutional and budget crises. The summit did not include the customary meeting with heads of the candidate countries. Although the prime ministers of Turkey and Croatia were initially invited to meet EU leaders on 17 June, the meeting was called off in a move many observers in Zagreb regarded as ominous.

In the days leading up to the summit, there were already hints of what was in the offing. At the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on 13 June, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner suggested that it might be time for the citizens of the EU to "breathe" before proceeding with a new round of enlargement.

Rehn said at the same meeting that his "message to the peoples and governments of the western Balkans is that the stabilization and association process is on its rails, it is moving on." He added that "the door to the European Union is still open to those countries that meet the criteria of accession or association, depending on which stage they are in this process."

He nonetheless made it clear that Brussels is in no hurry to admit Croatia. Rehn said that the "Commission is committed to the new membership of Croatia. We have noted some progress as regards cooperation with the Hague[-based war crimes] tribunal. But it is clear that Croatia needs more time to achieve cooperation with the Hague tribunal." He suggested, however, that Croatia could start admission talks with the EU "on the day" that war crimes indictee and fugitive former General Ante Gotovina goes to The Hague.

Rehn sent an urgent signal to all applicants on 8 June, when he told "Spiegel-Online" that countries that want to draw closer to the EU should try to meet their prerequisites as soon as possible in view of the "enlargement fatigue" affecting much of the Western European public.

At least one leader of a major EU member state indicated before the summit that he remains committed to enlargement, stressing that its benefits far outweigh its costs. During a joint news briefing with Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Berlin on 8 June that unspecified "populists" are seeking to destroy the EU by attempting to prevent the western Balkan countries from joining that body. Asked if the EU can afford to fund further enlargement in that region, Schroeder replied, "Instability is much more expensive." He added that "you would be amazed if I told you how much the current situation in the Balkans with European soldiers costs." He argued that "Macedonia's example without any doubt...shows that the region's stability is linked to its European perspectives." He also warned that eliminating these "perspectives" would fuel instability in the region. At the same time, the chancellor refrained from naming concrete dates for the EU accession of the countries in the western Balkans.

The results of the Brussels summit indicated that Schroeder's pro-enlargement views are in the minority. Regional leaders were not slow in reacting to the unpleasant news but generally sought to put on a brave face. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said in Brussels on 16 June that members of the European People's Party, which is a coalition of conservative parties active in European affairs, have given "full support" to Croatia's bid for EU membership. He added that negotiations could start now and last two to three years, during which time all outstanding problems between Zagreb and Brussels could be resolved.

Elsewhere in the Belgian capital, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that the EU should not close it doors to the Balkan countries, adding that he will soon submit a "strategic plan" for Serbia and Montenegro to join the EU in 2012.

In Zagreb, Croatian President Stipe Mesic warned that negative signals from Brussels will "strengthen Euroskeptic and nationalist forces" in Croatia and the region.

It now remains to be seen what the impact of Brussels' cold shower will be in the Balkans. In a region where strength and the ability to translate wishes into action command respect, the EU's internal confusion and apparent repudiation by French and Dutch voters will be widely regarded as evidence of weakness, which invites contempt in most Balkan cultures. The EU will still be welcomed in the region as a source of funding, but its political admonitions are likely to fall on increasingly deaf ears.

By blocking the enlargement process, moreover, the EU has deprived itself of its most important "carrot" in influencing the region, namely the prospect of European integration, as Schroeder suggested. Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, said in Washington on 14 June that Brussels' insistence that cooperation with the tribunal will help determine whether former Yugoslav republics will progress in the EU admission process was the main leverage used on those states to get them to cooperate with The Hague. She noted that the EU's decision on 15 March to postpone admission talks with Croatia was an effective wake-up call for the Zagreb authorities. But she might have added that, conversely, the absence of a clear prospect of admission is likely to weaken Brussels' ability to influence Croatia or any other country in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March and 20 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 24 September 2004).

This does not necessarily mean that the EU will give up or even scale down its ambitions in the region. Rehn told the EU foreign ministers on 13 June that he finds it "desirable that also in the light of the forthcoming standards and status process of Kosovo that we could be able to start negotiations for a stabilization and association agreement with Serbia and Montenegro this autumn, so that these negotiations would be conducted in parallel with the status process of Kosovo."

For his part, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said that "when we talk about standards [in Kosovo], we are talking, in a different manner, about the rights of minorities. Therefore, all of those issues are going to be under a microscope of the European Union, to see how they develop." Solana stressed that the EU wants a "fundamental" role in determining Kosova's future.

But the EU is not the only show in town. Denmark's Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), told the Berlin-based daily "Die Welt" of 9 June that the EU's internal crisis is affecting the countries of the western Balkans. He stressed that Belgrade needs a clear "EU perspective" if the region is to become truly stable, adding that a similar perspective is crucial if Kosova is to implement the international community's standards. He nonetheless added that the recent U.S. efforts aimed at resolving the status issue in Kosova are welcome because "no problem" in the western Balkans can be solved without the full involvement of the United States. The Danish diplomat said that he wishes that Brussels were as involved in Kosova as much as Washington is (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 14 June 2005).

Furthermore, the EU is hardly the only European actor in the Balkans. Germany, Austria, and Italy have strong ties to the region and continue to be influential as individual states. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia are qualified to play special roles in the Balkans because they themselves are successful postcommunist states. Matthias Rueb, who formerly covered the Balkans for the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" and is now that daily's Washington correspondent, noted in the 16 June issue of that paper that the EU's "identity crisis is likely to lead to a renaissance of...the national states in Europe."

Some people do not regard that as a bad thing at all. A central thesis of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's 2002 book "Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World" (New York: HarperCollins Publishers) is precisely that nation-states are and will remain the most serious factors in international politics. Referring to the Balkans, she noted (page 318) that "the European Union can never pursue sensible policies towards the countries of the Balkans for a very simple reason. The EU, or more precisely the class which rules it, cannot accept the validity of nationhood -- for that would be to make nonsense of the European idea itself. So rather than try to encourage nation-states to develop and advance, the EU will always try to suppress or undermine them. This bodes ill everywhere. But particularly in the Balkans, it risks creating more intense and destructive -- because vilified and frustrated -- national passions" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 March 2005). (Patrick Moore)

HAGUE TRIBUNAL JUDGE SAYS TRIALS TO EXCEED 2008 DEADLINE. The president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Theodor Meron, said it is likely trials will continue beyond the deadline into 2009. Meron and chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte also urged intensified efforts to bring the three main at-large war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, and Ante Gotovina, to justice.

A surge in transfers of war crimes suspects -- 22 indictees have arrived since November -- has made it doubtful that the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) can finish its work according to a mandated timetable.

The UN Security Council's "completion strategy" calls for the court to end all trials by the end of 2008 and all appeals by 2010. But Meron told the council on 13 June that it will now need to continue trial work well into 2009.

Meron said up to seven months could be added to trial schedules in the event of the arrest in the near future of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic and former Croatian General Ante Gotovina.

Meron repeated that the court must try the three top fugitives before finishing its work. "Our historical mission will not have been accomplished and we will not close our doors before Karadzic, Mladic, and Gotovina have arrived at The Hague and have been tried according to the whole panoply of due process and human rights protection that our jurisprudence affords," he said.

Mladic and Karadzic have been charged by the court with genocide in connection with their actions in Bosnia's civil war, including the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. Gotovina is charged with war crimes allegedly committed by Croatian troops retaking territory from ethnic Serbs in a separate conflict.

There have been recent media reports, denied by the Serbian government, that Mladic is on Serbian territory and negotiating his surrender to the tribunal in exchange for security and financial assurances for his family.

The ICTY's heavy caseload and complicated timetable result from a significant improvement in cooperation from former Yugoslav states. Those states have been under considerable political and economic pressure from the European Union and Washington to cooperate.

The ICTY's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, cited this in her comments to the Security Council. But she said leaders in the region need to improve efforts to ensure the handover of the three top fugitives plus seven other indictees.

"We have seen in the past months dramatic improvements in the external conditions impacting heavily on the completion strategy. Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, and Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina are not yet cooperating fully with the ICTY. However, all of them have shown considerable progress in their cooperation," Del Ponte said.

Del Ponte also said she believes two fugitives are in Russia: Vlastimir Djordjevic, a Serbian police general indicted for alleged atrocities committed in Kosovo, and Dragan Zelenovic, a military police officer indicted for crimes against humanity during the 1992 Bosnian Serb assault on the Bosnia town of Foca. Del Ponte said Russian authorities have told her they are ready to assist the probe.

Council members stressed the importance of sticking to the completion timetable for the courts and pressed states to cooperate to bring the final fugitives to justice.

The envoy of Japan, which is a major donor to the tribunal, expressed concern about Meron's comments on extending the timetable for trials and his request to add facilities to process cases.

"Security Council Resolution 1534 emphasized the importance of full implementation of the completion strategies, including the completion of all trial activities at first instance by the end of 2008," Japanese envoy Shinichi Kitaoka said.

"The ICTY should take all possible measures to meet this goal." But France's deputy UN ambassador, Michel Duclos, said the council should not allow a strict timetable to result in "impunity by default" to at-large fugitives. (Robert McMahon)

MACEDONIA: A POLITICAL PACT TO REGULATE DEMOGRAPHY? The age-old issue of the relationship between politics and birthrates has reemerged in Macedonia. During a conference on recent demographic developments at the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU) in Skopje on 3 June, Ilija Aceski -- who is a professor for social sciences at Skopje university -- triggered a controversy over whether demographic trends can be regulated through political agreements.

Discussions about the possible negative impact of some demographic trends in modern societies are not confined to Macedonia. In some western European countries such as Germany, politicians face the problem that decreasing birthrates and aging societies will inevitably undermine the current state-regulated pension systems. Mainland China is well-known for its one-child policy to curb population growth.

But references to "problematic demographic developments" in Macedonia almost inevitably pertain to the fact that the country's 23 percent ethnic Albanian minority continues to grow due to a high birthrate, while the ethnic Macedonian majority's birthrate continues to decline (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 April, 17 October, and 12 December 2003).

Macedonian nationalists have -- just like their counterparts in neighboring Serbia -- long warned of demographic trends favoring the Albanians across the Balkans. In Serbia, it was the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) that played an important role in promoting this idea. With its 1986 memorandum on the alleged grievances of Serbs in Yugoslavia, the SANU facilitated Slobodan Milosevic's ascension to power, ultimately paving the way the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova during the 1990s (see "RFE/RL East European Perspectives," 5 March, 30 April, and 14 May 2003). Aceski's presentation in Skopje should be viewed against this backdrop; he reportedly worried aloud that ethnic Albanians would consolidate their majority in certain parts of the country and ethnic Macedonians would leave those areas.

In order to slow this trend, Aceski proposed that the government work out a "demographic agreement" to help curb such developments. The measures proposed by Aceski include tax relief and other state subsidies for families from those ethnic groups in the minority in areas with a different ethnic majority. According to Aceski, such measures would provide incentives for Macedonians to stay in the overwhelmingly Albanian-populated parts of western Macedonia.

At the same time, Aceski also proposed that the state reduce its subsidies to families by cutting support for school costs, health care, and welfare benefits. Aceski apparently hoped that this would effectively reduce the incentives for families to raise more children than they can financially afford. (He did not mention that Albanians are generally known throughout the Balkans for having large families.)

Aceski's final aim is to avoid "ethnically clean" territories in Macedonia, which, in his view, could negatively affect the functioning of the state. That is why he called his proposed pact an "antisegregationist" agreement. The document itself should be drafted by a state body that includes representatives from all ethnic groups in the country. It should be a "political answer to the low birthrate of Macedonians and the high birthrate of Albanians."

Already during the conference at MANU, Aceski's proposal was met with skepticism. Former Prime Minister Nikola Kljusev said the Macedonian government cannot introduce measures to regulate population growth like China, but should nevertheless consider defining a population policy.

Abdylmenaf Bexheti, who is a former chairman of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity and a professor at the private Southeast European University in Tetovo, said that such an agreement is not feasible. Bexheti argued that even the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, which ended hostilities between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the Macedonian security forces -- has not yet been fully implemented.

But perhaps the most pointed criticism came from an ethnic Macedonian. In an editorial for the daily "Utrinski vesnik" of 11 June, Ivica Bocevski slammed the conference at MANU as a "pseudo-scientific" event. Bocevski wrote that MANU followed its Serbian counterpart's footsteps in promoting nationalist ideas. Instead of being a stronghold against "quasi-scientific" views, "we saw MANU as the 'avant-garde of Macedonian nationalism,'" Bocevski wrote.

For him, the problem was not only Aceski's presentation but also the widespread and often uncritical media coverage of his proposal. Bocevski said that because of this publicity he was forced into a discussion by his friends, but resolved the problem with a computer. By entering the current growth rates of the Albanian and Macedonian populations, he showed his friends that even if the Albanian population continued to grow at its current pace, it would be a matter of centuries rather than decades before Albanians were in the majority in Macedonia.

Nonetheless, given the widespread anti-Albanian feelings among ethnic Macedonians, Aceski's proposal is likely to attract more supporters among the majority population than is Bocevski's debunking of it. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "It is not up to foreigners, Americans and Europeans, to decide the future of Kosovo. The people of Kosovo should decide their future." -- U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns in Prishtina on 8 June. Reported by RFE/RL.

"No one has the right to score political points on issues such as these." -- Serbian parliamentary speaker Predrag Markovic, after abandoning efforts to pass a resolution explicitly condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 mainly Muslim males by Serbian forces. Quoted by Reuters from Belgrade on 15 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005).

"We in Croatia are aware of the fact that the results of the referendums are a big reason for introspection and thinking. There is no doubt that the EU is in a crisis. Despite the crisis, we believe that there is no need for stopping the enlargement process." -- Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. Quoted by Hina in Brussels on 16 June.

"Something like a middle-age crisis." -- Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on developments in the EU. Quoted by the "Financial Times" of 17 June.

"The future of the British [rebate] check after 2013 should, under no circumstances, be linked to a reform of farm expenditure." -- French President Jacques Chirac. Quoted by Reuters in Brussels on 17 June.

"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text." -- Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, of the proposed EU constitution, of which he was the main author. Quoted by the "International Herald Tribune" in Paris on 15 June.

"In the end, [the constitution] will pass. There is no better solution." -- Giscard in ibid.