1 July 2005, Volume 9, Number 20
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 15 July.
ARE THE BALKANS' 'EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES' GROWING DIMMER? Signs are increasing that one of the casualties of the EU's current crisis will be its expansion into the western Balkans. It is not clear whether all concerned have faced up to the implications of such a development (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 and 17 June 2005).
The EU has entered into what many consider the most profound crisis in its history. The defeat of the proposed constitution in referendums in France and the Netherlands and the subsequent failure of the member states' leaders to agree on a budget have led to much soul-searching throughout the bloc.
French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker have called for a period of reflection with the apparent hope that the "deepening" of the EU that they regard as a natural and inevitable process will resume once emotions have cooled down in a year or two. They regard the constitution as essential and the French and Dutch votes as a temporary setback to be undone at some future point when voters in those countries will perhaps be given a fresh opportunity to "get it right."
On 29 June, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin published an article in several European dailies in which he called for launching a fresh batch of political projects almost as though the French and Dutch votes had not taken place. Some other prominent figures have suggested that selected parts of the constitution could be put into force without further ado or voter approval.
Some other leaders, such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country replaces Luxembourg in the rotating EU chair on 1 July, have suggested that the current crisis indicates that the EU has reached a dead-end in its existing course and must rethink some fundamentals if it is to survive and prosper. Blair calls, for example, for turning away from agricultural subsidies -- which consume 40 percent of the EU's budget and benefit primarily French farmers -- and other forms of redistributing wealth and instead reorienting the bloc toward promoting growth, technological development, and innovation. He does not share Chirac's and Schroeder's hopes for transforming the EU into a super-state that can take on major international roles, and rejects their charge that the only alternative to the super-state is a free-trade zone. Some of Blair's soulmates, such as Czech President Vaclav Klaus, make it clear that they consider the draft constitution already a dead letter that should be treated accordingly and forgotten.
As the debate over the EU's future takes shape, many of the participants have addressed the question of enlargement. Some people believe that all enlargement must be put on hold until the EU clarifies several fundamental points regarding its scope and purpose. Chirac, moreover, has said that there is no legal basis for integrating new members without the constitution, a stand that some observers consider a form of pressure aimed at keeping the document's prospects alive. Some top EU officials, including European Commission Vice President Guenter Verheugen, who supervised the record admission of 10 new members in 2004, have suggested that the enlargement process might be held up or slowed down in response to the crisis.
Most people who have addressed the enlargement issue have stressed that the EU has already made formal commitments to Bulgaria and Romania, which it must honor. But there the consensus, such as it is, breaks down.
The main issue regarding enlargement was and remains Turkey, with Ukraine also figuring into the picture. Schroeder continues his support for Turkish EU membership, while Poland prides itself on being Ukraine's tribune in Brussels. Blair considers continuing enlargement vital for the EU's growth and survival.
But it seems clear that xenophobia and fear of enlargement played at least some role in the French and Dutch votes, a point not lost on politicians in those countries and elsewhere in the EU. Germany's opposition conservatives, who seem likely to come to power if early elections take place in September, have long opposed Turkish EU membership and have responded to the current EU crisis in part by stressing their opposition to giving Turkey anything but a "privileged partnership," which Ankara has rejected as second-class status.
But if many politicians are willing to honor their commitments to Romania and Bulgaria while ruling out consideration of Turkey or Ukraine, what about the western Balkans? Of those countries, only Croatia has had a serious chance of beginning admission talks in the foreseeable future -- it had planned to launch them this past March -- and Brussels has long held out a "European perspective" to Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and ultimately Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 April and 6 May 2005). For those countries, the prize is a seat at the table where decisions are made, membership in the rich man's club, and generous aid benefits.
But Angela Merkel, who opinion polls suggest will succeed Schroeder as chancellor if the elections take place in September, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 24 June that she feels the EU's enlargement commitments end with Croatia. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who makes no secret of his wish to be Chirac's successor, said in Paris on 27 June that there must be a pause in the enlargement process after Romania and Bulgaria are admitted, but he did not mention Croatia.
Many people would argue, however, that offering a European perspective leading to eventual EU membership has been Brussels' and the international community's most effective bargaining tool in encouraging reforms in the western Balkans, together with sponsoring a similar integration process into NATO structures (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May 2004). If anything, many critics have charged that the weakness with the Euro-Atlantic integration process is not that it is moving too fast but that it often does not provide the countries of the region with a clear road map or timetable that would encourage them to institute reforms more quickly or systematically.
Were Brussels to take the position that the enlargement process will be on hold after Romania and Bulgaria join in perhaps 2008, the international community might be denying itself important leverage in the region. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has noted, moreover, that the EU could undo much of what it has already achieved in the western Balkans were it to give that region negative signals now.
More importantly, by closing off European perspectives or by offering only a halfway house instead of full membership to the countries of the western Balkans, the EU runs the risk of creating a "black hole" in its midst. Is it realistic to talk about excluding the western Balkans from a EU that includes Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Italy, which encircle that region? And does it make much sense to bar Albania and former Yugoslav republics with a total population of perhaps 25 million people with the same arguments used against membership for Turkey and Ukraine, which are much larger and farther away?
These and other questions will need to be addressed in the ongoing European debate in the coming months. There are already signs that the current crisis has served to generate a lively discussion and break down old taboos and conventions of political correctness in many countries. In Germany, for example, where almost anything with the label "European" was once embraced virtually without question, it is now much easier to find views critical of the Brussels establishment and of traditional thinkers such as Chirac and Schroeder than it was perhaps a year ago. One German journalist summed up his reaction to the crisis by saying that "it's time to put an end to the dogma of the inevitable super-state decreed from on high and in constant combat with the United States. Let's move away from it and the old-fashioned program of redistribution of wealth by concentrating on what the EU does best: trade, growth, and harmonization of laws." Those are issues that would find broad appeal in the western Balkans, too. (Patrick Moore)
SERBIA'S AMBIGUOUS RESPONSE TO SREBRENICA. Thousands of Serbs were shocked by the 2 June television broadcast of a video proving that the Serbian paramilitary police unit called the Scorpions took part in the July 1995 massacre of about 8,000 mainly Muslim males at Srebrenica in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. The reaction of official Serbia to the "smoking gun" of Serbian involvement in the killings has nonetheless been mixed.
The video showing members of the Scorpions abusing and killing six Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica first came to public attention on 1 June, when it was screened in The Hague at the trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In reality, the video already had a long saga behind it. Natasa Kandic of the NGO Humanitarian Law Fund acquired it in December 2004 in a roundabout way with the help of former Scorpions living in Sid, where the group had been based.
The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" on 19 June described how former Scorpions contacted her and the difficulties she and they encountered before she actually acquired the video. Even then she did not make its existence public but instead waited until her informants safely left Serbia with, as she put it, "a little bit of help" from unnamed sources.
On 23 May, she gave a copy of the video to the Serbian authorities, asking them to find and arrest the Scorpions shown on it. She let three days pass, during which the authorities apparently did nothing. Kandic then told the audience at a Belgrade podium discussion about the existence of the video, which she promptly made available to the various television stations in the capital. When the liberal broadcaster B92 showed the film on 2 June, the state-run RTS decided to follow suit.
The official reaction was swift, although none of Serbia's leaders apparently admitted that the authorities had a copy of the video as early as 23 May. The day after the broadcast, Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said in Belgrade that several people were arrested after being identified in the tape. Legal charges were subsequently filed against 10 people, most of whom are in police custody.
"Serbia is deeply shocked," Serbian President Boris Tadic said of the video. "Those images are proof of a monstrous crime committed against persons of a different religion.... All those who committed war crimes must be held accountable; only in this way will we be able to have a future. We must not close our eyes to the cruelty that took place." He added that he is ready "to go to Srebrenica to pay tribute to innocent people of another nationality."
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said, "It is important for our public that we reacted immediately, and that based on this shocking and horrible footage several of those who were involved in this crime have been arrested and will be brought to justice." Most observers took particular note of Kostunica's remarks because he has a much more pronounced nationalist profile than Tadic.
In the following days, Tadic stressed his determination to go to Srebrenica for the 11 July commemoration marking the 10th anniversary of the killings despite protests from some families of the victims. Speaking in Bucharest, Romania, on 23 June, he said that "as the president of Serbia and Serbs, I want to pay our respects to the victims of the war crime that took place in Srebrenica." "This vicious circle in the Balkans has to be broken so that the Balkans can become part of Europe and not a European province," Tadic added.
The president noted that the massacre was carried out by some of his fellow Serbs, but stressed that "the entire Serbian people cannot be made responsible for it" and that the individuals responsible must be brought to justice. But only a few days earlier, he declined to attend the opening of an exhibit on Srebrenica in Belgrade, at which some of the victims' family members were present.
The government of the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, which is far less powerful than the governments of its respective constituent republics, issued a statement on 15 June condemning the massacre. The document said that "the Council of Ministers strongly condemns the war crimes committed against Bosnian prisoners of war and civilians in Srebrenica in 1995." The statement added that "those who committed those crimes and the ones who ordered and organized that massacre did not represent Serbia or Montenegro, but an undemocratic regime of terror and death, which was opposed by the majority of people in Serbia and Montenegro."
Hours before the government of Serbia and Montenegro issued its declaration, however, the Serbian parliament abandoned attempts to pass a resolution on war crimes because the political parties could not agree on a text. In particular, leaders of most parties rejected any version that mentioned Srebrenica without citing specific atrocities committed against Serbs. Milos Aligrudic of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said that "it would have been irresponsible...to fail to mention all crimes, because they are equally grave and heinous." He stressed that Serbs were the "greatest victim" of conflicts in former Yugoslavia throughout the 20th century. Many people in Washington and European capitals criticized the parliament for failing to come to grips with Serbia's past and explicitly condemn the massacre.
Then "The New York Times" reported from Belgrade on 24 June that "for the first time, [Serbian] government officials...confirmed that they had sought contact with the secret support network that has helped to keep [the Bosnian Serb commander at Srebrenica and war crimes indictee] General [Ratko] Mladic in hiding for at least eight years." Serbian government spokesman Srdjan Djuric said that efforts are under way to contact members of Mladic's support network to convince him to surrender. "Considering how highly sensitive this is, the Serbian government does not announce results before they have happened. Any detail could jeopardize the whole process," Djuric added.
The support network reportedly consists of two parts, one of Bosnian Serbs and the other of members of the former Yugoslav intelligence community. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who visited Belgrade recently, told the daily that he believes that the Serbian authorities "want to find [Mladic] for the first time in 10 years."
Reactions to the video also came from outside the government. In the video, a Serbian Orthodox priest is seen blessing the Scorpions and praying for their victory. More than one week after the broadcast, on 10 June, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) issued a statement condemning the killing of the six Muslims. The statement was entitled "Our Lord, May It Never Happen Again" and referred to "the cold-blooded killing of unarmed, defenseless civilians." Many Muslims and Croats, and also some Serbs, have charged the SPC over the years with failing to criticize war crimes carried out by Serbs in the conflicts of the 1990s.
Some NGOs prepared for the anniversary in their own ways. Kandic's Humanitarian Law Fund and the local office of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal organized a conference on the massacre on 11 June in Belgrade. The gathering passed without incident and amid heavy police presence, although there had been fears of potential violence at the hands of organized soccer fans and nationalistic Belgrade University students. Kandic stressed that it is no longer possible for Serbs to deny what happened in Srebrenica, adding that the government and not the NGOs must take the lead in arresting Mladic. Most of those in attendance came from NGOs and the international community. Rifat Rastoder, who is the deputy speaker of Montenegro's parliament, and Serbian Agriculture Minister Ivana Dulic Markovic, who said that she came in a private capacity, were the only officials present.
On 23 June, a presentation took place at Belgrade's antinationalist Center for Cultural Decontamination for the book "Srebrenica: From Denial to Recognition." Activist Sonja Biserko, who heads Serbia's Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, said that the political elite's failure to face up to Serbia's role in the massacre has prompted the outside world to assign collective guilt to all Serbs. Historian Latinka Perovic called the massacre "more than a tragedy." She argued that the Srebrenica controversy has split Serbian society into one group that is arrogant and unaffected and a second group that is afraid that the evil could be repeated. (Patrick Moore)
VOJVODINA LEADERS SLAM FASCIST GATHERING. Several leading politicians from Vojvodina told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 27 June that they strongly condemn the gathering of an unspecified number of mainly young fascists and neo-Nazis in Petrovaradin near Novi Sad the previous weekend. The Serbian chapter of the international fascist organization Krv i cast (Blood and Honor) played host to guests from Great Britain and Slovakia at the gathering under the motto of "Serbia 1995-2005: Ten Years of Struggle for the White Race."
Nenad Canak, who heads the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, told RFE/RL that the nationalist gathering took place "with the blessing of the government of Serbia...which cannot be regarded as democratic" or as the real leader of society. The broadcast noted that the Serbian government has yet to comment on the rally.
Bojan Kostres, who is president of Vojvodina's parliament, called on the police and courts determine how the meeting came about, why it was not prevented, and how such gatherings can be avoided in the future.
Pavel Domonj from the NGO Committee for Human Rights in Serbia told RFE/RL in Novi Sad on 27 June that it does not surprise him that the 10th anniversary celebration of Krv i cast took place in either Serbia or Vojvodina. "Serbia is one of the few countries that is ashamed of its antifascist [traditions], and anything is possible here," he stressed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2004 and 17 February 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 April 2005).
The broadcast noted that Krv i cast stands for intolerance toward other races and religions as well as toward sexual minorities and virtually all marginalized groups. (Patrick Moore)
ALBANIA'S TOP WRITER WINS MAJOR LITERARY PRIZE. The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is one of the literary world's most prestigious honors. It is awarded each year for the best novel written in English by a writer from the Commonwealth of Nations, the Republic of Ireland, Pakistan, or South Africa. On 26 June, the first-ever Man Booker International Prize will be awarded to Albanian poet and novelist Ismail Kadare. The new prize seeks to recognize a living author who has made significant contributions to world literature. Kadare will be presented with a trophy and a prize of $110,000 at a ceremony in Edinburgh, Scotland. Kadare spoke with RFE/RL correspondent Ilirjana Bajo about his life and work and the meaning of literature in the modern age.
The chairman of the Man Booker judging panel, noted British literary critic John Carey, calls Ismail Kadare a "writer who maps a whole culture -- its history, its passion, its folklore, its politics, its disasters." The 69-year-old Kadare describes himself as "a writer from the Balkan fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness." He said he hopes the prize will help world opinion realize that the region can also be a place for artistic achievement.
Kadare was born in the southern city of Gjirokastra and studied in Tirana and Moscow. He is credited with instilling a sense of freedom and the power of art in an entire generation in Albania -- isolated under the brutal regime of Enver Hoxha. He accomplished this first with poetry and later in novels such as "The General of the Dead Army" and "The Palace of Dreams."
In "The General of the Dead Army," a novel set in postwar Albania, an Italian general returns to Albania long after the end of the conflict to repatriate the remains of his fallen compatriots. As one literary critic has noted, the character of the general "never realizes that he is as dead as the fallen soldiers of past wars."
"The bodies of tens of thousands of soldiers buried beneath the earth had been waiting so many long years for his arrival, and now he was here at last, like a new messiah, copiously provided with maps, with lists, with the infallible directions that would enable him to draw them up out of the mud and restore them to their families. Other generals had led those interminable columns of soldiers into defeat and destruction. But he, he had come to wrest back from oblivion and death the few that remained. He was going to speed on from graveyard to graveyard, searching every field of battle in this country to recover those who had vanished. And in his campaign against the mud he would suffer no reverses; because at his back he had the magic power conferred by statistical exactitude." (From "The General of the Dead Army" )
Kadare's freedom to travel under the communist regimes in Albania led him to apply for political asylum in France in October 1990. He now divides his time between Paris and Tirana.
RFE/RL: You wrote most of your work in communist Albania. What did it mean to be a writer in a communist country?
Kadare: In communist Albania, as in any communist country, there were two kinds of writing. One was real literature, comparable to the great world literature, which has a noble heritage. And the second type of literature is known as socialist realism. The latter was just propaganda, which was very desirable for the communist regime. But at the same time, it was undesirable for the regime to create real literature with real values. To create real literature in Stalinist Albania was something abnormal, bad, and punishable. The state was observing the writer, trying to catch him committing a "mistake," and punishing him or her.
RFE/RL: Your works cover the pyramids in Egypt to the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, from the Ottoman Empire and World War II to the communist era. What is the perception of history from the writer's point of view?
Kadare: As I have said before, I don't accept so-called "historical literature." I think this terminology makes it easy for superficial critics or for students to study literature at school. History is part of human life. And because human life gives birth to literature, these artworks include historical events. The difference is that literature does not see what we call historical events as such, but as simply events. And to a certain point, anything is history, whether it happened centuries ago or two days ago. The term "historical literature" does not exist for me as a writer. Literature is the art of narration, and anything that is told somehow has happened. I know it is not an easy issue to explain for the public. The question is, "What does history represent for literature?" I believe that history for literature is part of everyday life. Nothing more.
RFE/RL: Both your work and your ethnicity have generated intense discussion, and even personal attacks.
Kadare: Balkan nations had a period of good understanding because of their common misfortune -- the Ottoman occupation. After the Ottoman occupation ended, Balkan nations behaved cruelly to one another and experienced a period that was not honorable. It included a lot of hatred, anger, and resentment. What is known as patriotism -- a healthy feeling -- was pushed to the limit and transformed into nationalism, which turned the Balkan people into enemies. This terrible tradition should be over, although the Balkan people are not, let's say, similar to Scandinavian people, who have unified positions on a lot of issues. The Balkan people are divided and do not have common positions regarding issues of mutual interest.
RFE/RL: What is your opinion about the current relationships among Balkan nations?
Kadare: Balkan nations have an important test ahead. The aspiration of the Balkan people today is European integration, which is the first thing to unite the people of the region since the fight against the Ottoman Empire. It's an aspiration that may unify Balkan nations. I do not see a better alternative than European integration. Fortunately, the region is taking this integration process seriously, and it's up to the European Union to encourage those countries to be successful in this path. At the same time, European integration is a process of emancipation for Balkan countries. These countries should be part of the European family, from which they were tragically separated twice.
RFE/RL: Where does literature fit into discussions of patriotism and nationalism?
Kadare: Unfortunately, Balkan nations attacked each other based on ethnic or territorial goals, and in such conditions even literature is not safe. Literature is attacked from each side involved in a conflict. That's what happened to me and my work. It was natural for me as a writer to be on the side of freedom for the people of Kosova, which caused negative reactions from those Balkan politicians and the intellectual elite who had been against Kosovar freedom. They attacked my work. Many Balkan writers have been the victims of such passions. They have tried to crucify my work as a writer. I would like to say that it is not a cause for concern to a writer. If a writer acts based on his integrity and creates real art, he simultaneously protects what is divine. I do not fear such attempts to crucify my work. (Ilirjana Bajo)
QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "In my view, we must carry out commitments [to expand the EU], even if they are unpopular.... The EU must do what it promised to do. However, if we think we can enlarge without deepening integration and closing ranks, then from this crisis we can tumble into a bigger one." -- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to Polish diplomats in Warsaw on 27 June. Quoted by Reuters.
"The fiasco of the constitution has demonstrated clearly the growing contempt felt by many voters for the project designed and built by their political masters. If the politicians' response is simply to insist that they were right all along -- or even to deny that adverse events have happened -- this feeling can only increase." -- "The Economist," 25 June issue.
"The [Serbian Orthodox Church] and the right wing as a whole and as an institution are one criminal group." -- Belgrade University Philology Faculty professor Ljubisa Rajic on the connections between the church and the right-wing networks of criminals and war profiteers. Quoted by Hina from a conference on the church and the right wing on 22 June.
"The days when Belgrade brings into question the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina are long gone." -- High Representative Paddy Ashdown in Sarajevo on 27 June. Quoted by RFE/RL (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2005).