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Balkan Report: December 17, 2004

17 December 2004, Volume 8, Number 44

The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 7 January 2005.

KOSOVA: THE FIRE NEXT TIME. The ethnic violence that shook Kosova on 17-18 March might well prove a harbinger of worse things to come. At the core of the problem is the demand by the ethnic Albanian majority for independence based on the principles of self-determination and majority rule.

Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, told the BBC's "Hard Talk" program on 13 December that tension is likely to rise in Kosova in 2005 as the province moves toward talks on its final status, which for the ethnic Albanian majority means only independence, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 18 October and 19 and 24 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 August and 10 and 17 September 2004). He said that Kosova's "fuse is very short" and that the international community must prepare its security forces there accordingly. "Keep the level on the ground you have now but make sure that the boots are on the ground, that you are more mobile, more flexible, and....more visible," Jessen-Petersen warned.

He argued that 2005 is "potentially tense, because as we get closer to the status talks the stakes are getting much, much higher, and in what is a fragile society we can expect that there will be provocations." Jessen-Petersen added that "the Kosovars better than anybody else fully understand another outburst of violence means that they can wave goodbye to immediate status talks." Noting that Belgrade will not have a veto, he added that "neither side has the right to decide final status."

Jessen-Petersen stressed that one lesson of the 17-18 March ethnic unrest was that "you cannot keep Kosovo as a holding operation forever." Indeed, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, concluded this past summer that a primary cause of the violence was growing frustration among the ethnic Albanian majority over prolonged colonial-style rule and a lack of perspective for the province's political and economic future. Many Kosovars argue that foreign rule is not only costly and undemocratic but also holding up clarification of Kosova's legal status puts off outside investors. It might be noted that not only Serbian buildings were attacked by ethnic Albanian mobs in March but also about 80 UNMIK vehicles, according to RFE/RL's Prishtina bureau.

Referring to the violence in March, Eide noted during the summer that the UN's "standards before status" policy needs revising to give the majority a clearer road map according to explicit priorities while providing for decentralization and other measures of concern to the Serbian and other minorities. In an effort to meet a key Albanian demand for more self-government, the diplomat suggested more professional training for Kosovars and that "powers and competences that are not attributes of sovereignty" be increasingly transferred to Kosova's elected officials.

But his boss, Secretary-General Annan, apparently decided not to modify his policy of adhering firmly to standards before status. Annan said on 23 November that it is too early to discuss Kosova's final status because not enough progress has been made in achieving the international community's standards. He called the progress made on the standards so far "uneven and limited."

This was not what most Kosovars wanted to hear. Many of them ask why Kosova -- one of former Yugoslavia's poorest regions -- should be expected to meet certain international standards that are not required of other Yugoslav successor states or perhaps even some EU or NATO members. Those Kosovars are similarly puzzled by what they regard as the zealous determination of many in the EU to try to stop the continuing dissolution of former Yugoslavia by opposing the independence of Kosova or Montenegro and by warning of a catastrophic regional "domino effect" if either or both become independent, an argument that Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has frequently made (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 16 December 2004).

Daniel Serwer, a Balkans expert at the U.S. Institute for Peace, recently pointed out that the three main actors in the Kosova debate are pursuing very different agendas. The Albanians want independence, the Serbs seek partition, and the international community insists on standards before status. Each agenda has its own logic and rationale.

But the basic fact of life is that the ethnic Albanians make up about 90 percent of the population and are impatient to take full control of their destiny. That was the message of the March unrest, as Eide pointed out and Jessen-Petersen also seems to appreciate.

It is understandable that Annan is holding to standards before status lest he appear to be rewarding the March mobs. Many Kosovars note, however, that Annan comes from Ghana, which in 1957 became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to win independence from colonial rule. They wonder how he in particular can miss the point that anti-colonial struggles based on self-determination and majority rule have a logic of their own, and that the record of attempts to hold them back has generally been one of failure, often dramatically so. (Patrick Moore)

NEW MACEDONIAN CABINET WINS APPROVAL. Prime Minister-designate Vlado Buckovski won parliamentary backing for his government in a 71-25 vote on 17 December. Buckovski had sent the government's program and a list of his cabinet ministers to the parliament for its approval on 10 December. The list of cabinet members was the result of lengthy discussions between Buckovski, who heads the largest political party in the coalition government -- the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) -- and the leaders of the other coalition partners: Ali Ahmeti of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and Risto Penov of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Buckovski's most difficult task was to cope with the accusations made by his predecessor Hari Kostov, who resigned accusing the Transport and Communications Ministry of corruption and the political parties of an unwillingness to deal with it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 November and 3 December 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 November and 10 December 2004). As a result of these accusations, there was widespread media speculation as to whether incumbent Transport and Communications Minister Agron Buxhaku of the BDI would survive the planned government reshuffle.

Although Buxhaku had the full support of the BDI's leadership, he withdrew from the government on 12 December. In an open letter to Buckovski, Buxhaku accused Kostov and the Macedonian language media of an "unscrupulous campaign" against him that made it impossible for him to stay in his position. "I also thank you as [prime minister-designate] that you proposed me as a candidate [for the cabinet]...thereby showing resolve in this complicated situation and not succumbing to pressure from the media," Buxhaku wrote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2004).

If all goes according to Buckovski's plans, ministers from the SDSM will be in charge of six ministries. Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, Finance Minister Nikola Popovski, and Culture Minister Blagoja Stefanovski will retain their positions. Ljubomir Mihajlovski, who currently heads the state Customs Administration, will be the new interior minister, while Meri Mladenovska-Georgievska, who is the government's secretary-general, will take over the Justice Ministry. The current director of Skopje's medical center, Vlado Dimov, will become the new health minister. The SDSM's deputy chairwoman, Radmila Sekerinska, who also aspired to the position of the prime minister, will remain deputy prime minister in charge of European integration efforts.

While Buckovski will keep Education Minister Aziz Pollozhani and Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi in his cabinet, one of his new BDI ministers will be current Deputy Defense Minister Rizvan Sulejmani, who will take over the Ministry for Local Self-Government from Aleksandar Gestakovski.

The BDI leadership decided to fill the vacancy resulting from Buxhaku's resignation with Xhemal Mehazi, who held various positions in the state administration. Mehazi was, among others, Macedonia's representative to the Council of Europe's Development Bank and director of the state Agency for Free Trade Zones.

In an interview published in the 11 September edition of "Dnevnik," Buckovski expressed his surprise that the BDI leadership preferred to nominate Sadula Duraku for the position as agriculture minister instead of the current Deputy Agriculture Minister Besir Jashari. "It will probably take time to see whether Duraku is an able minister, and now, without having seen [him in a working environment], I cannot say whether he is more able than the current deputy minister," Buckovski said.

The BDI's nomination of Fatmir Besimi as new economy minister, however, delighted Buckovski. "The unanimous view, which international representatives in our country share, is that he will be one of the stars in the new government," Buckovski said. At present, Besimi is the director of the public company running the Skopje Airport. He is also a former deputy governor of the Macedonian National Bank.

Besimi replaces Stevce Jakimovski of the LPD, who will take over the Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs. Deputy Prime Minister Jovan Manasievski, another LDP member, will take over the Defense Ministry, which was previously headed by Buckovski. At the same time, Manasievski will retain his current position as deputy prime minister in charge of governmental issues. Zoran Sapuric, who is an LDP legislator, will become the new environment minister. Vlado Popovski will remain minister without portfolio.

In various public statements since his nomination as prime minister, Buckovski has made it clear that the priorities of his government will be economic recovery and the fight against corruption.

To promote growth, Buckovski introduced the position of a deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs, nominating Minco Jordanov for this job. Jordanov is the director of the Makstil steel company. Buckovski also plans to set up a team of economic advisers "who will constantly follow events and propose solutions to promote economic development," as Buckovski's government program states. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "The example of the structural reforms in East Germany after the reunification shows that privatization can be successful." -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, quoted by Reuters in Changchun, China, on 8 December.

"We're reaching out to Europe, and we hope Europe will reach out to us." -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Quoted by the "Los Angeles Times" in Brussels on 8 December.

"A strong Europe makes for a strong alliance. Mr. President, a more integrated Europe is in America's long-term interests, even though there will be times when it opposes you." -- Former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, Lord Ralf Dahrendorf, and former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing in an open letter to President George W. Bush. Published in the "International Herald Tribune" of 15 December.

"We suggest creating a Contact Group, which would serve as a much more functional forum between the European Union and the United States than anything we currently have. NATO is now too large and too reactive to allow a real strategic discussion." -- ibid.

"Mr. President, we believe that a new trans-Atlantic deal should be part of our future. On the basis of our historical roots, it is natural, and even healthy, for both Americans and Europeans to define our respective identities in terms of our differences." -- ibid.

"Recent [U.S.] experience with the EU in foreign affairs strongly suggests that its new foreign policy will be, in significant measure, an extension of existing Franco-German attitudes and polices...[including] frequent expressions of hostility toward NATO and U.S. policy...[that] has already come to mean 'not NATO' or, more precisely, 'not American.' Judging by both past behavior and current rhetoric, the EU does not have far to go to get from 'not American' to deliberate strategic competition with the United States." -- Jeffrey L. Cimbalo in "Saving NATO from Europe," in the November-December issue of "Foreign Affairs."