4 April 2003, Volume 7, Number 9
SLOVENIA TAKES CAUTIOUS COURSE ON ANTI-IRAQ COALITION. The past two weeks have seen the Slovenian government navigating carefully between the shoals of domestic antiwar sentiment and some important foreign expectations of its foreign policy regarding the war in Iraq.
A story in "The Wall Street Journal in Europe" on 21 March noted that the troops and equipment in the "48-member" coalition against Iraq are principally from only four countries, and that 15 members are silent partners that would prefer to remain anonymous. Among Slovenes, public speculation over whether their country is among those 15 has been rife.
A "Delo" article on 27 March concluded the answer was "yes" based on the 18 March inclusion of Slovenia on the list of countries allied against Iraq announced by a prominent member of the U.S. Congress and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's reference the same day to the so-called Vilnius group (which includes Slovenia, see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 February 2003) as part of the coalition.
Prior to the 23 March referendum, Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel refused to deny that Slovenia is part of the coalition, which helped fuel the speculation (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March 2002). Nor did President Janez Drnovsek's 19 March response to reporters' questions regarding Slovenia's membership in the anti-Iraq coalition -- "Not to my knowledge" -- clarify the issue. Prime Minister Anton Rop's statement on 27 March seemed to finally resolve matters: "We are a part of no such coalition. We are a part of a coalition for peace" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003).
However, coalition members are not limited to those providing military assistance. As "The Wall Street Journal in Europe" pointed out on 26 March, six coalition members do not even have armed forces. One unarmed member, Iceland, characterizes its contribution as postwar "reconstruction and humanitarian assistance," a role that also interests Slovenia. On 30 March, "Delo" cited Drnovsek's statement that Slovenia is willing to participate in "humanitarian activities and the reconstruction of Iraq."
Matters were further muddled by a subsequent announcement that the U.S. State Department had budgeted some $4.5 million to Slovenia as a member of the coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003). The public asked whether the government had "sold out" -- and protests mounted, culminating in a 29 March antiwar demonstration. The marchers, numbering a few hundred, were stopped by police in front of the U.S. Embassy while they chanted "Hlapci, Hlapci" (servants), reflecting the view of some that Slovenia has found itself new masters in the EU and NATO.
Initially, the government characterized Slovenia's inclusion on the list as a State Department error. U.S. officials in turn labeled the matter a misunderstanding. Eventually it was explained that Slovenia would receive the assistance as a member of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and not as a member of Operation Iraqi Freedom, "Dnevnik" reported on 29 March.
Slovenia is already receiving $4 million from the U.S. this year, and since 1996 has received approximately $18 million in assistance from the U.S. under the so-called Warsaw Initiative for training and equipping its armed forces, "Dnevnik" reported on 29 March.
On 27 March, Rop announced that Slovenia had granted permission for U.S. overflights for humanitarian purposes. Slovenia had previously rejected U.S. requests for military overflights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003). Rop stated that Slovenia was among the last countries in Europe to grant such permission, and that the flights would assist refugees in northern Iraq, "Delo" reported on 28 March.
Soon, however, rumors surfaced that military overflights had already taken place. Eyewitnesses in the coastal town of Koper reported seeing military C-17 Globemaster aircraft heading southeast at 10:30 p.m. CET on 26 March. The press suggested that these flights carried the 1,000 airborne troops that parachuted into northern Iraq on the morning of 27 March. When pressed on the matter, Rop responded that the U.S. was obliged to hold to its promises, "Delo" reported on 28 March.
Flight controllers initially refused to release information about the incident to the media. On 31 March, Slovenia's civil aviation administration confirmed that four military aircraft had flown over Slovenian territory at 10:30 p.m. on 26 March, allegedly as a consequence of poor communication between air-traffic controllers in Zagreb and Ljubljana. However, a northwesterly flight path from Socerga to Koper (en route to the Aviano Base in Italy) was cited, contradicting eyewitness reports, "Delo" reported on 1 April.
Meanwhile, Slovenian politicians are no doubt closely watching their counterparts in Croatia. Croatia's leadership has taken a decidedly firmer stance against the Iraq campaign, prompting U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Lawrence Rossin to make reference to potential negative consequences.
Croatia is allowing overflights of U.S. civilian aircraft only, with landings for refueling. President Stipe Mesic has characterized the Iraq campaign as "illegitimate," while Prime Minister Ivica Racan said that those criticizing Croatia should bear in mind the conflict that its citizens endured during the 1990s, "Delo" reported on 31 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 19, 20, and 25 March 2003). (Donald F. Reindl, firstname.lastname@example.org)
MACEDONIAN (DI-)VISIONS. Some ideas apparently never die. They appear now and then, causing some trouble and irritation, disappear, and then resurface again. One such idea haunting Macedonia (and the Balkans) is the proposal to exchange territories and people with neighboring countries in order to create ethnically "pure" states.
The last time it was openly promoted was in May 2001, when the armed conflict between the ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and the Macedonian security forces was still in progress. Georgi Efremov, then-president of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU), proposed to cede the heavily Albanian-populated areas of western Macedonia around Debar and Tetovo to Albania, while Macedonian-populated areas on the western bank of Lake Ohrid were to be added to Macedonia. The scattered Albanian population living throughout Macedonia was to be "resettled."
Back then, parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov of the Liberal Party reportedly said that it is an "interesting and provocative plan that should be carefully analyzed, as it contains all the civilized principles that our state is based upon."
But Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and several other leading politicians lambasted the plan, ruling out any change in the country's borders. However, already at that time, there were rumors that Efremov's plan was a trial balloon launched on Georgievski's behalf (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 June 2001).
After some days in which the media were filled with hysterical reactions and conspiracy theories about who might be behind the plan, it faded from sight -- but was not forgotten. And it seems that Georgievski was and is not at all opposed to the idea of a territorial swap. In a column for the daily "Dnevnik" on 21 March, Georgievski lauded assassinated Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's proposal earlier this year to effectively divide Kosova along ethnic lines through various models of federalization, an idea that had taken the international community by surprise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 24 February 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003).
According to Georgievski, the peace agreements of Dayton, Kumanovo, and Ohrid, which ended the interethnic conflicts in Bosnia (1995), Kosova (1999), and Macedonia (2001), respectively, are armistices rather than lasting solutions for the region. In his view, these agreements created two Croatian states, two Serbian states, and 2 1/2 Albanian states, as well as three states with institutions that do not function. "Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Macedonia are doomed to fail, both from the aspect of security and that of economics," Georgievski wrote, suggesting that a more lasting solution is necessary.
But he doubts that the international community is willing to seek such a solution. "After Djindjic's assassination, we must be aware that one country's tragedy will [prove to] be the tragedy of the whole region," Georgievski wrote. He added that the root of the problem lies in the "Balkan cacophony" of all manner of would-be states, protectorates, and experiments.
Georgievski concludes that the only way to overcome the crisis is to call a Balkan conference, where the Balkan states and the big powers could discuss the borders in the region. He makes clear that he would rather support former British Foreign Secretary Lord Owen's idea of creating ethnically pure states than the Russian initiative to sanction or codify the existing borders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2001).
Some of Georgievski's views are shared by one politician who can hardly be described as his political ally. Kastriot Haxhirexha, the chairman of the ethnic Albanian National Democratic Party (PDK), was one of the first lawmakers in the Macedonian parliament to publicly support the UCK in its fight against the security forces. His party was therefore regarded as the UCK's political arm (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 February 2002).
In an interview with the Albanian-language weekly "Lobi" on 19 March, Haxhirexha outlined some of his party's positions. As it turned out, like Georgievski, Haxhirexha regards the Ohrid peace agreement as an armistice rather than a solution to the problem of greater rights for the Albanians. To achieve these rights, Haxhirexha proposes another solution: "Full equality between the citizens of this country is the best guarantee of and the safest course for its stabilization, progress, and development," Haxhirexha said. "The best way to realize these demands is to reconstruct Macedonia on the basis of some form of federalization."
At first glance, the dream of creating ethnically pure states and the call for federalization of a unitary state cannot be reconciled. But for most Balkan nationalists, federalization is -- depending on their position as minority or majority representatives -- either promoted or feared as a stepping stone to segregation along ethnic lines or the creation of ethnically pure states. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, email@example.com)
EUROPEAN COMMISSION SAYS ALBANIAN REFORMS ARE MOVING TOO SLOWLY. The European Commission is warning Albania to speed up reforms to avoid making the Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiating process too long. In its second annual report on the stabilization and association process, which was issued on 26 March, the commission expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of integration in Albania and other countries in the region. The European Commission says only political will can speed up the integration reforms in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro (see http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/see/sap/rep2/index.htm).
In Albania, officials say, the biggest drag on progress continues to be a lack of legal reforms. Lutz Salzmann, the European Commission ambassador to Tirana, had this to say: "Where we are not satisfied with progress is the restitution of or the compensation for land expropriated during the communist era. The implementation of the rule of law in Albania still remains deficient. There are weak law-enforcement institutions, there is limited administrative capacity, and we are still experiencing widespread corruption and organized crime."
Negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Agreement were officially launched in Tirana at the end of January following delays caused by Albania's difficulties in ensuring political stability and implementing reforms.
Following a session of roundtable negotiations between Albanian and EU officials in Tirana in March, Salzmann asked local authorities to pay particular attention to the country's justice and domestic-affairs sectors as well as the problems of human and narcotics trafficking and other forms of organized crime.
Albania remains in the forefront of global concerns about criminal trafficking rings. Early in March, the U.S. State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs released its assessment report for 2002 (http://www.state.gov/g/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2002/). The report says organized criminal groups are continuing to use Albania as a transit point for narcotics and other types of smuggling, but notes that the Albanian government, "largely in response to international pressure and with international assistance, is in the early stages of attempting to confront criminal elements more aggressively."
Salzmann warned that a failure to push ahead with reforms could put the integration process on hold: "We can see that at the current pace of [reform] implementation, the negotiations risk being very long and drawn out. Albania will have to demonstrate its ability to implement the provisions of the future agreement."
The European Commission report acknowledges relatively few positive achievements during 2002, though it does note that interparty dialogue last year allowed for the smooth election of a new president, Alfred Moisiu. But Salzmann emphasized that this has not yet translated into significant steps forward in terms of reform.
The commission report also says the country's overall economic performance failed to meet expectations. It blames the poor performance on the global economic slowdown as well as on continued problems in Albania's electricity sector, limited growth in the agricultural sector, and shortcomings in the customs and tax administrations.
The commission report adds that "legal security in Albania remains insufficient and commercial laws inadequate to foster business development." (Alban Bala)
EDUCATION ISSUES IN BOSNIA: AN RFE/RL ROUNDTABLE. One of the most glaring problems facing postwar Bosnia is the lack of a unified education system to instruct pupils and students according to European norms and standards. Instead, there are three separate Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian systems, sometimes operating in one and the same school building.
On 14 February in Sarajevo, RFE/RL held a televised roundtable conference of responsible officials and independent experts, including teachers and pupils. A full English-language transcript and other information about the conference and its participants is available at http://www.regionalanalysis.org/specialreports/specialreports/en/ 2003/02/273824ee-98a8-4585-ac12-42173215d3f4.asp.
The participants expressed a wide range of opinions, as might be expected. Furthermore, most speakers agreed that the problem does not lie with the children, who generally manage to get along with members of other ethnic groups quite well -- unless they are subjected to a de facto apartheid and other pressures by their elders.
At the heart of the problem is the manipulation of children by those on all sides with politically vested interests. Textbooks, for example, frequently contain examples of hate speech and negative ethnic stereotypes. Maps and factual textbook accounts are sometimes presented so as to lead young readers to draw only one set of nationalist conclusions. In schools with Serbian or Croatian majorities, textbooks and curricula are often imported from across the border in Serbia and Croatia.
The segregation of students and the presence of three distinct educational systems obviously does not help promote nation building for a united Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is all the more so in schools using textbooks that teach pupils that their country is called Serbia or Croatia.
The question remains as to whether those in a position of authority recognize that this state of affairs is indeed a problem and are prepared to do something about it. Some speakers claimed that there is not enough money or parental support to change the situation. Others blamed the international community for not doing enough.
The leading representative of the international community, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ambassador Robert Beecroft, stressed that plans for reform are on the table, but that the political will and leadership must come from the citizens of Bosnia themselves. He argued that reform must be placed before nationalist concerns, which in turn must be adapted to new circumstances if Bosnia is to leave the legacy of the war behind it. Beecroft urged concerned citizens to "push from below" while the international community "pushes from above." (Patrick Moore)
QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Those who used knives and bullets instead of justice and who replaced law with hatred, and those who killed our families and tried to kill an entire people should know that they can never kill our memories. Those memories will shadow them as long as they live." -- Srebrenica survivor Almedina Dautbasic. Quoted by dpa at the Srebrenica reburial ceremony on 31 March.
"[The Concordia military mission in Macedonia is] the beginning of a journey, at the end of which Europe could stand as a power of worldwide importance." -- The "Frankfurter Rundschau" on 31 March.