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Balkan Report: August 8, 2003

8 August 2003, Volume 7, Number 25

FAILED STATES IN THE BALKANS? All the states of the western Balkans seek integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Whether they will achieve their goal and at what pace appear to remain open questions.

The collapse of communism brought a rush of candidates to join both the EC -- now the EU -- and NATO. The would-be members wanted to belong to the rich men's clubs, sit at the tables where crucial decisions are made, and put an end to the division of Europe, enjoying all the while the security benefits of the most powerful military alliance in history.

The candidates met with differing degrees of success. At the bottom of the scale are the countries of what is now called the western Balkans -- or former Yugoslavia, minus Slovenia and plus Albania.

Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania at least have their respective road maps for NATO membership since the November 2002 NATO summit in Prague, but Bosnia and Serbia and Montenegro have yet to qualify even for the Partnership for Peace program. The international community's reluctance to deal with the question of Kosova's status means that the province with over 2 million inhabitants is not even considered for the integration process, although it is host to a sizeable NATO presence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June and 23 July 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002, and 13 and 20 June 2003).

The EU appears even less welcoming. At least some of the western Balkan countries hoped that the June Thessaloniki summit would offer them road maps and target dates for admission, but they failed to get much except a lecture calling on them to try harder (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). The disappointment was evident throughout the region, although Croatia tried to put on a brave face and pledged to meet the 2007 deadline for EU admission that the government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan set for itself.

Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, which is a clearinghouse for aid and development projects, wrote in Munich's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 1 August that the western Balkan countries must be patient if they want to join the Brussels-based bloc. He warned would-be members against setting overly ambitious and arbitrary target dates for EU membership, singling out Croatian and Serbian hopes for joining in 2007 in that regard.

Busek reminded the western Balkan countries that EU membership is not a right, a gift, or a "beauty contest," adding that long negotiations and an extensive restructuring of a country's legal system are at the core of the membership process that the countries themselves chose to begin. The EU has been generous with the western Balkan countries, and the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2003 did much to advance their cause for membership, Busek argued.

But few politicians in the region see much reason for expecting rapid integration into the EU -- except for the Racan government, which faces elections in the spring of 2004 at the latest and probably does not want to admit that its optimism was misplaced.

"The Washington Post" wrote on 4 August that Bruce Jackson of the newly founded Project on Transitional Democracies nonetheless strongly warns against losing time on integrating the western Balkans and the rest of ex-communist Europe into Euro-Atlantic structures. He argues that "where this part of Europe finds itself five years from now is where we will be for the next 50 years."

Jackson believes that the outcome is by no means certain and the range of alternatives is great, particularly where countries such as Serbia or Ukraine are concerned. He notes that they could become democracies allied to the United States and members of the EU, or they could emerge as parts of a new Russian empire, or they could develop into authoritarian failed states that are a haven for terrorists, drugs and arms smugglers, and human traffickers.

Questions about Serbia's future have emerged anew in the wake of the 12 March assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and subsequent indications that links remain strong between the worlds of politics, business, organized crime, and the security forces (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 May 2002, and 28 March, 9 May, 25 July 2003).

On a recent visit to Washington, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic sought to dispel such concerns and present his country as reformist and a potential "strategic partner" of the United States. He offered to help not only in the reconstruction of Iraq, but reportedly also with the services of 1,000 peacekeepers there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 28, and 29 July and 6 August 2003).

But he was coy on the issues of Belgrade's lawsuit against eight NATO member states before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and of arresting former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. Zivkovic nonetheless told "The Washington Post" that "Serbia is looking for an ally in the United States, and in return Serbia can offer to be a reliable partner in the Balkans."

But not everyone was convinced by his message. Some observers felt that he deliberately exaggerated the success of his visit when talking to the Serbian media, perhaps to offset his and his voters' disappointment at the results of the Thessaloniki summit.

For her part, "The Washington Times" commentator Helle Dale suggested on 6 August that Zivkovic was insincere, noting that he told a group "over dinner, brandy, and cigars at the Metropolitan Club in Washington...[that] 'there are three things Serbs cannot stand: an independent Kosovo, NATO, and the United States.'" Dale added that Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic criticized Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for lacking the "courage" to promote Serbia's case in Washington and elsewhere.

For Dale, the problem is a deep one. "The Serbs are at it again. Once again, they are playing their role as the perpetual victims of Europe, complaining about unfair treatment by the international community and whining about the injustice of it all. If the Serbian mentality was supposed to have changed since the ouster and war crimes indictment of former dictator Slobodan Milosevic, this was not evident from the recent visit of Serbian government leaders to Washington.

"Undaunted by the horrors it has perpetrated, Serbia now wants to reclaim its leading role in the Balkans. While it took the Germans more than two decades after World War II to raise their heads enough to start playing a role in Europe, the Serbs are already demanding international recognition and foreign aid....

"The war-torn Balkans is the final piece of the European continent that needs to build peace and economic stability. Eastern and Central Europe are well on their way to joining the EU and NATO. Serbia could be an important part of this project, but until the Serbs experience a change of attitude about their past and their present, they will cut themselves off from their future." (Patrick Moore)

SLOVENES WEIGH UP EU PROS AND CONS. In the wake of the overwhelming 89.61 percent vote in favor of Slovenian accession to the European Union in the referendum held on 23 March (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March 2003), popular enthusiasm has slackened somewhat. Last December, 45 percent of Slovenes felt that EU entry would be a net gain. Today the figure stands at 30.7 percent, and the remaining two-thirds are nearly equally split on whether it will change nothing or even represent an overall loss, "Delo" reported on 2 August.

The majority of those polled agreed most strongly (62 percent) that academic work and research will benefit from EU membership, followed by security (57 percent) and economic success (47 percent). At the bottom end, only 20 percent believe that entry will bring about improvements in social conditions and health care, and 14 percent that agriculture will benefit.

EU entry is widely considered to be bad for agriculture (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 January 2003), largely due to greater competition and reduced subsidies. At a press conference on 4 July, the vice president of the New Slovenia party (NSi), Alojz Sok, characterized the current plight of farmers as especially desperate, "on the one hand because of entry into the European Union, and on the other because of this year's natural catastrophes," "Delo" reported on 5 August. Among these catastrophes are drought, hail, and disease, including an outbreak of fire blight.

The media have also reminded Slovenes that, although EU membership is only nine months away, Slovenia will be in a group of second-class countries for several years when it comes to many of the benefits the EU offers. Most notably, this includes temporary restrictions by some countries on new members' entitlement to work in their labor markets.

A 19 July article in "Delo" also pointed out that new members will not be included within the "borderless" Schengen system until 2006, to allow time for stricter border controls to become established on the EU's new outer perimeter. Until then, the old border system with Italy and Austria will still be in place.

Slovenes overwhelmingly favor switching from the tolar to the euro -- by 85 percent, according to poll results published in "Delo" on 23 July. However, predictions for the date of the changeover have been moved from 2007 to 2008, according to a statement by the governor of the Bank of Slovenia, Mitja Gaspari, published in "Delo" on 19 July. Obstacles to the introduction of the euro continue to be high inflation, the public deficit, the declining value of the tolar, and a need for greater competition in certain economic sectors.

Prospects for Slovenian national identity within the EU have been a recurrent theme. This was recently echoed by Joze Jerovsek, a Social Democratic Party (SDS) member of the National Assembly, who charged that there is "willful ignorance and neglect" when it comes to shaping national consciousness and identity in schools, "Delo" reported on 30 July.

In order to preserve identity inside a united Europe, Jerovsek continued, it is crucial to emphasize the Slovenian historical experience. "The average Slovenian high-school graduate does not know the date [General Rudolf] Majster captured Maribor, and is not aware of the fight for Libelice," Jerovsek continued, referring to key events in uniting northeastern territory with other Slovenian lands in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in the wake of World War I.

Jerovsek also spoke of the need to "develop the relationship to the Slovenian language." Although it is common to hear that Slovenian faces an uncertain future (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 October 2002), others look at EU entry as an opportunity to enhance the position of the language. Janez Dular, director of the Government Office for the Slovenian Language, downplayed such fears in comments in "Delo" on 11 May. The key, Dular said, is for Slovenes to make use of the new opportunities offered to preserve the language.

Fears that Slovenia could drown in a European sea are underscored by simple figures. After next year's enlargement, Slovenia -- with 2.7 percent of the population of the future EU -- will hold only four of the 345 seats on the European Council and seven of the 732 seats in the European Parliament.

Slovenes are also nervous about seeing decision-making power move from Ljubljana to Brussels, which will hold sway on issues in areas ranging from economic and monetary policy to security and foreign policy. In turn, the National Assembly will see itself ratifying founding treaties and harmonizing domestic legislation with EU regulations. "Delo" reported on 30 July that lawmakers are discussing the organizational changes this will entail and are studying the system used in Finland's parliament as a model.

At least one group of Slovenes is banking on EU membership. "Delo" reported on 3 August that there will be 335 full-time positions reserved for Slovenian citizens in Brussels beginning 1 May 2004, in administration, legal services, economics, auditing, interpreting, and translation. The comparatively high salaries have already attracted 2,000 applicants. (Donald F. Reindl,

MACEDONIA MARKS 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF ILINDEN UPRISING. On 2 August, or Ilinden -- St. Elijah's Day -- Macedonia marked the 100th anniversary of an anti-Ottoman uprising with a number of official celebrations in Skopje, Krusevo, and southern Serbia. This date also marks the anniversary of the first session of the communist-led Anti-Fascist National Liberation Council of Macedonia (ASNOM) on 2 August 1944. The ASNOM was the first government of the newly founded Macedonian state within socialist Yugoslavia.

St. Elijah's Day is therefore regarded as the most important holiday in Macedonia, alongside 8 September, which is the country's national holiday marking the referendum in which the majority of the population voted for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 25 July, and 1 August 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 August 2002).

This year's Ilinden celebrations focused on the issue of Macedonian statehood. During the Ilinden Uprising, the Krusevo insurgents created a short-lived republic. Although the Ottoman authorities crushed this tiny state after only 10 days, it is widely regarded as the first modern Macedonian state. In their speeches at the various celebrations, the country's political leaders underscored the continuity of the ideals that led to its creation. For them, there is a direct connection between the Ilinden Uprising, the first ASNOM session, and the independence referendum in 1991.

"There would have been no Ilinden [1944] without Ilinden [1903]," Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said in Skopje on 1 August. He added, "If the Ilinden of 1903 is our beginning, then the 1944 Ilinden is our historical victory."

Using similar expressions, President Boris Trajkovski said on 2 August in Krusevo: "Today we celebrate the Macedonian statehood [born on] Ilinden 1903, but also ASNOM 1944. [By historical accident], Independence Day, 8 September, [is] close to these dates as well." He called the three dates the "pillars of Macedonian statehood."

But apart from historical themes, Crvenkovski also recalled the interethnic conflict in 2001, which almost became a civil war: "I sincerely believe that we should not be ashamed of the way we put an end to the conflict. On the contrary, we proved our ability to discern the line that separates reason from stupidity, courage from insanity, patriotism from nationalism. We have rejected suicidal ideas for the country's partition and [for] displacing people on ethnic grounds."

Unlike in previous years, when Ilinden celebrations were often used for nationalistic speeches (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 August 2002), all major speakers stressed that the Ilinden Uprising was a first step to freedom for all Macedonian citizens, regardless whether they are ethnic Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Vlachs, or Roma. They also stressed the similarity between the ideals of the Ilinden insurgents and that of the founding fathers of the European Union.

However, some Macedonian media on 4 August reported about the negative side of the celebrations. They mentioned the poor organization of the official celebration at Meckin Kamen outside Krusevo, where people had to wait in the rain before the politicians arrived late and then were booed as well as applauded. Some people threw eggs and cans at them.

Under the headline "Ilinden did not deserve this," "Utrinski vesnik" noted that despite earlier appeals by Trajkovski not to use the celebration for party propaganda, there were more flags of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) flown at Meckin Kamen than Macedonian flags. The night before, the newspaper also observed, the public started hissing when the 1903 Krusevo Manifesto was also read in the Albanian language.

Another shadow was cast over the anniversary by the ongoing dispute between the Serbian and Macedonian governments on the one hand and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on the other. The latest problem arose in mid-July when the Macedonian government asked the Serbian government to return a plaque commemorating the first ASNOM meeting at the Prohor Pcinjski Monastery in southern Serbia.

After the monks of that monastery rebuffed that request, the Serbian government ordered the return of the commemorative plaque. However, the monks failed to comply. On the contrary, they would not allow the mixed Macedonian-Serbian delegation headed by Macedonia's parliamentary speaker Nikola Popovski and Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva to mark the anniversary at the monastery.

According to the SPC, the Macedonian government -- which favors the rival Macedonian Orthodox Church -- does not allow SPC clerics to travel freely in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002, 28 May, 25 July, and 4 August 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 July 2002). As a result, the delegations of the Serbian and Macedonian governments marked this important date at a nearby army barracks of the border troops of Serbia and Montenegro. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATION OF THE WEEK: "The United States must recognize that although it has the power to project force unilaterally, it cannot make peace unilaterally.... Europe must recognize that we do have common interests and must work with us to develop a common agenda. Promoting Europe as a counterweight to the United States or as a means to restrain U.S. power in the world will only guarantee constant tension.... When we work together, much is possible; when we argue, progress stalls." -- Former U.S. Ambassador to the EU Richard Morningstar, in "The Boston Globe" of 1 August.