Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: March 5, 2004

5 March 2004, Volume 8, Number 9

BOSNIA: 'YANKEE GO HOME.' A recent commentary by Germany's external broadcaster shed light on what some in the EU understand by their partnerships with the United States and the Balkan countries.

Deutsche Welle's (DW) German Service broadcast a commentary on 29 February by its director, Verica Spasovska, who is a former director of DW's Bosnian Service. She argued that the United States should not maintain a military presence in Bosnia once the EU takes over there from SFOR at the end of the year, as the EU very much wants to do.

Her commentary was pegged to the recent visit of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to Bosnia, during which he made clear what Berlin and Brussels plan for that country, which seeks EU membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2004).

DW is state funded but has editorial independence of the German government, and Spasovska's commentary is apparently her own. But the broadcast is nonetheless interesting because it reflects views that many in the German government and policy community hold, even if they do not necessarily state them to the media (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 February 2004).

The key passage of the broadcast begins by noting that EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana has made it clear that he intends that the new EU mission in Bosnia will replace SFOR "completely."

The commentary continues by pointing out that "this is an unmistakable signal, not only for organized crime and Bosnian extremists, that NATO's departure will not provide them with new opportunities. It is also a clear message to the U.S. that the EU is not willing to accept parallel structures. This is because the increasingly unilateralist U.S. insists on retaining the privilege of hunting Islamic terrorists and war criminals in Bosnia even after there is a change in command" from NATO to the EU.

The commentary continues by railing against the "parallel structures" that a continued U.S. presence allegedly would entail. The broadcast concludes that "it is high time that the EU maintained order in the European house by itself."

This is heady stuff. First, the editorial places the Americans on the level of organized criminals and nationalist extremists as all needing a stiff lesson from Brussels. The commentary thereby seems to overlook the fact that the reason that the Americans are in the Balkans -- and in Europe in general -- in the first place is because the Europeans repeatedly failed to manage their own affairs.

And with almost breathtaking arrogance, the editorial argues that it would be an unwarranted "privilege" for the country that took the lead to end the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession to dare to want to remain in Bosnia to pursue terrorists and war criminals.

Second, the commentary includes a tacit admission of what many critics of the Franco-German plans for a distinct EU military project -- with exclusive security missions and an exclusive force -- have suspected all along, namely that the EU military enterprise is intended as a rival to the trans-Atlantic alliance and not a "complement" to or "pillar" of it.

The EU military project thus appears as a first and essential step to the ultimate goal of ousting the U.S. presence not only from Bosnia but from all of Europe, with an end goal that can only be guessed at (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June and 19 September 2003, and 27 February 2004). It also seems to contain at least a bit of adolescent petulance.

Third, the editorial implies that it is for Brussels to decide what is best for the peoples of the Balkans and not their own elected officials (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 February 2004). For example, Sulejman Tihic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian Presidency, has sought a continuing U.S. military presence in Bosnia through bilateral agreements between Washington and Sarajevo as being in his country's national interest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November, and 5 and 18 December 2003).

Indeed, many Muslims and ethnic Albanians across the Balkans trust the United States, but not the EU, as being willing and able to provide their security. Many in Washington also have doubts both about the EU's ability to manage the security situation in Bosnia and about the EU's ultimate goal in building up a military bloc without the participation of the United States. It seems that there are voices within Germany that confirm such suspicions. (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA: THE TRAGIC END OF AN HONEST PRESIDENT. On 26 February, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, six of his staffers, and two crew members died in a plane crash near Mostar in Herzegovina while en route to an international economic conference there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 February 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 February 2004). The president leaves behind his wife Vilma and two children.

Trajkovski was born in the village of Monospitovo near Strumica in southeast Macedonia in 1956. In 1980, he received his law degree in Skopje, specializing in commercial and employment law. Before entering politics, he headed the legal department of the Skopje-based Sloboda construction company.

His political career was relatively short. Between 1997 and 1998, he headed the mayor's office in the Kisela voda municipality in Skopje. In December 1998, he was appointed deputy foreign minister by then-Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Only one year later, on 15 December 1999, Trajkovski was sworn in as president of the Republic of Macedonia.

In the eyes of the then-opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM), Trajkovski's election as president was problematic. In the first round, the SDSM's candidate, former parliamentary speaker Tito Petkovski, won the most votes. However, Petkovski lost the vote in the second round because Trajkovski's party, the governing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), managed to convince its coalition partners of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) to support Trajkovski. After the election, the SDSM charged that the PDSH had intimidated voters.

The relationship between the SDSM and Trajkovski continued to be uneasy after the SDSM gained power in fall 2002. In recent months, Trajkovski blocked the enactment of a number of laws by not signing them; another point at issue between the SDSM-led government and the president was the appointment of the new chief of the army's General Staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January and 5 February 2004).

Trajkovski's relations with his own party, the VMRO-DPMNE, were not without tensions, either. He had a long party career as chairman of the party's foreign-policy commission and chief foreign-policy adviser to party leader Georgievski. Before the 1999 presidential elections, Trajkovski was widely regarded as Georgievski's close ally.

This changed during the 2001 interethnic conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian government forces. While Trajkovski adopted a moderate position, seeking a peaceful solution together with the United States and the EU, the hard-liners in the VMRO-DPMNE, including Georgievski and hawkish Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, clearly favored a military solution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 May and 1 June 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 May 2001).

"You might remember that [Trajkovski] was the politician who kept constructive relations to Europe and the [United States] alive during the dramatic moments, when his...patron,... Georgievski burnt all the bridges to the important centers in Europe and the world," "Utrinski vesnik's" Branko Trickovski wrote in his obituary.

After Trajkovski's death, most international leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush, acknowledged his role in the Macedonian peace process. "President Trajkovski showed extraordinary courage in leading his country from the brink of civil conflict to peace by signing the Ohrid Framework agreement," Bush said in a statement. "The United States strongly supports President Trajkovski's vision of a multiethnic, democratic Macedonia at peace with itself and its neighbors and on the path to full membership in the trans-Atlantic community," Bush added.

The 2001 conflict thus left Trajkovski in a paradoxical position. Widely acclaimed for his peace efforts by the international community (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 February 2004), he found himself sidelined by the major political parties at home.

Having lost the political support of his own party, Trajkovski hesitated to announce his candidacy for a second term. He was aware that he stood little chance of re-election if neither of the major political parties supported him.

"The more his fame grew on the international political scene, the more he sank into the clay of the Macedonian provinces," Sonja Kramarska wrote in "Utrinski vesnik." She added that "the Macedonian political elite was not prepared to admit to its ranks a conservative who began his career in Monospitovo and ended up praying in the White House" at the annual prayer breakfasts. For Kramarska, the reason for Trajkovski's international success and his domestic failure was due to his character and his "absolute honesty," which she believes was unique among Macedonian politicians. At present, it is hard to assess who might succeed him because the major political parties have not yet announced any candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2004). Whoever is elected president in the elections widely expected in April will be well advised to continue Trajkovski's work and adopt his vision of a peaceful country that promotes regional cooperation and European and trans-Atlantic integration. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

SLOVENIA: MAKING WAY FOR WOMEN. On 26 February, Slovenia's National Assembly adopted legislation requiring a 40 percent female quota on election lists for the 13 June European Parliament elections, including at least one woman candidate in the top half of the list. The move came despite objections by some that it imposes restrictions on electoral freedoms, "Delo" reported on 29 February.

In a related development, Miha Brejc of the conservative opposition Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) resigned from his position as a substitute member of the Slovenian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). New PACE rules require that each delegation contain at least one female member, and Brejc has suggested that a female member of parliament be appointed in his place.

The timing of the events is appropriate, with the 8 March International Women's Day just around the corner. Although observance of the holiday is now waning, for decades the day held a special place on socialist calendars. Ironically, like the May Day labor holiday -- another socialist mainstay -- Women's Day also had its roots in the United States, where both holidays are now largely forgotten.

Slovenian professional women enjoy relatively good social benefits. A one-year paid maternity leave is guaranteed -- although critics note that employers sometimes resist hiring women of child-bearing age because of this. Among the countries joining the EU on 1 May, Slovenia has the highest proportion of women in the labor force (59.8 percent). Among current EU members, women's employment ranges from 72.6 percent (Denmark) to 41.9 percent (Italy).

Slovenia also has a smaller gender gap in salaries than anywhere else in the region, including neighboring EU countries. A 29 February commentary in "Delo" summarized the shortcomings in women's rights enumerated in the U.S. State Department's 2003 human rights report (available at: -- including violence against women and human trafficking -- but noted with satisfaction that Slovenian women receive 89 percent of the pay that men do (in comparison, Austria, Croatia, and Italy stand at 79 percent, 74 percent, and 73 percent, respectively).

Like almost everywhere else, working Slovenian women are also disproportionately burdened by handling most household tasks in addition to responsibilities outside the home.

How do women themselves feel about their acceptance as equals? On 28 February, the semiweekly Maribor paper "Dobro jutro" published profiles of women in traditionally male professions in Slovenia and asked if they encounter discrimination in their lines of work.

Ljudmila Podlesnik has driven one of Ljubljana's city busses for eight years. Although her fellow drivers quickly grew used to her company, she says that she encounters some problems with passengers -- from those who are visibly shocked to see a women behind the wheel to some who decide to wait for the next bus.

Majda Potrata is a parliamentary deputy for the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD). She says that some male members of the parliament completely ignore or patronize her, while others accept her an equal.

The Slovenian Armed Forces (SV) are also open to women, who currently comprise 14.5 percent of military professionals -- including 6 percent of noncommissioned officers and 3 percent of officers. The highest rank held by a woman is brigadier general.

However, practical considerations sometimes make it impossible to ensure women's equality at all levels. On 12 January, 98 volunteers began basic training for the SV's new professional army (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 September 2003). Even though one-third of applicants for the first group of volunteer trainees were female, all of those selected were men, "Delo" reported on 10 January. Apparently no separate facilities were available to accommodate female volunteers.

In this regard one might recall Defense Minister Anton Grizold's "threat" before the referendum on NATO membership in February 2003, when he suggested that a "no" vote would mean introducing a draft for both men and women (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 February 2003). The otherwise liberal weekly "Mladina" lampooned the idea on its back page, suggesting that women might be useful for sex, but not for soldiering.

Slovenian women have a strong presence in many fields that are elsewhere male domains, including chemistry, medicine, and pharmaceuticals. But with certain notable exceptions -- including the last two mayors of Ljubljana -- women remain underrepresented in Slovenian political life. Although women account for 51 percent of the population, countrywide they comprise only 13 percent of town-council members, 12 percent of members of the parliament, and just under 6 percent of mayors, "Delo" noted on 18 February. The new legislation can be seen as a step toward correcting this imbalance.

Nonetheless, not all politicians enthusiastically welcome the likely increased proportion of women in their ranks. In comments in "Delo" on 27 February, Alojz Sok -- a member of the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) party -- observed that "it doesn't seem right to me to force women into politics. That's emancipation Russian-style, where they made women work on the railroads and in the mines." (Donald F. Reindl,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Trajkovski belonged to the generation of young, modern, European politicians. He stood for the further democratization of society, for respect of human rights, for the fight against corruption and criminality, and for improvement of the living standards of the citizens, regardless of their political, ethnic, or religious preferences." -- Macedonian parliament speaker and acting President Ljupco Jordanovski, quoted by RFE/RL in Skopje on 1 March.

"Intention of course is a subjective element, a difficult element. We will fully demonstrate this intent at the end of the trial." -- Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, commenting on the Slobodan Milosevic case. Quoted in the "International Herald Tribune" on 2 March.

"The government will do everything so that this cooperation [with the Hague-based tribunal] finally becomes a two-way process. We will also provide all the legal and material conditions, as well as the personnel needed, to speed up the transfer of war crimes trials to local courts." -- Serbian Prime Minister-designate Vojislav Kostunica, addressing the parliament on 2 March. Reported by RFE/RL.

"For Serbia, the word 'status' in relation to Kosovo can have many meanings, but not independence." -- Kostunica, in ibid.

"Yet again, like so many times before, [Reforms Minister Umberto] Bossi has confirmed he is the champion of vulgarity" for his attacks on Pope John Paul II. -- Marco Rizzo, Italian communist leader, quoted by Reuters in Rome on 29 February.