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Balkan Report: October 3, 2003

3 October 2003, Volume 7, Number 33

TEAMWORK IN THE BALKANS. The trans-Atlantic alliance has played a vital role in bringing peace and stability to the western Balkans over the past decade or so. This is particularly true of the U.S.-German partnership, which brings together the sole surviving superpower and the European power with the greatest influence in the Balkans. The question now is whether a good trans-Atlantic working relationship there can be revitalized and continued (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 September and 15 November 2002, and 20 June and 19 September 2003).

Berlin's upscale KaDeWe department store recently featured a display of well over a dozen books on the United States -- all of them critical. But while the German media still produce growls and yips about some aspects of U.S. foreign policy and especially about President George W. Bush, the recent loud barking over "cowboy Bush" and the "U.S.-Americans" -- an uneducated, obese, and gun-loving nation of religious fanatics -- seems to be fading into the past.

As Josef Joffe of the Hamburg weekly "Die Zeit" noted in the 30 September issue of "Time" magazine's European edition, a process of sobering up is taking place on both sides of the Atlantic, and "the headaches are all for the good." The veteran journalist argues that the realization is growing in the United States that the vital tasks at hand "require help from the rest of the world."

At the same time, Joffe adds, "the Europeans...have been bitten by another reality, [namely] their irreducible weakness in the great-power ring." One might add that any dreams in Paris, Berlin, or elsewhere of a closely integrated EU ready and able to act as a military counterweight to the United States should be seen as a project for the future, if it ever becomes reality at all.

Joffe stresses that the leaders on both sides of the Atlantic will now have to decide whether they want a "cooperative international order" or a return to the world of "19th-century power politics."

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 27 September that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has proven that it is now possible to win elections in Germany by appealing to anti-American sentiments and to take votes from the conservative parties in the process. But, the daily adds, anti-Americanism is not a foreign policy. Nor did Schroeder achieve much by detaching Berlin from Washington's orbit only to land in that of Paris. The Germans' task now is to see how they can best promote their interests by restoring their influence with the United States, the only superpower, the paper argues.

Karsten Voigt, who is the German Foreign Ministry's coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations, told Vienna's "Standard" of 26 September that a healthy redefinition of an important relationship is in progress, starting from the premise that the crises requiring attention are no longer in the middle of Europe as they were during the Cold War.

Many questions nonetheless loom on the horizon as the hangovers only begin to wear off. Concerns are still very much present throughout Europe about U.S. "unilateralism," although some Europeans say that U.S. isolationism is more of a danger to European interests than is unilateralism. At the same time, suspicions remain on the other side of the Atlantic that "multilateralism" is little more than a vehicle for others to control or block U.S. foreign policy.

In a recent interview with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, Janusz Bugajski, who is director of the Eastern European Project at the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that he would not "put too much hope on bridge building between certain countries in Western Europe and the United States. It's not a question of misunderstanding. They understand very well what their differences are."

He argued that the United States and its allies should differ and argue as much as they please, but once the Americans have made their decision, the dissenting allies should "air those differences between them privately and not make it into a public affair, whereby the alliance itself comes into danger and...the enemies of the alliance exploit" the rift. One might add that this point has been at the heart of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's criticism of the policies of his successor.

But there has not been only tension in trans-Atlantic relations in recent months. The outgoing French ambassador to Macedonia, Francois Teral, said in September that cooperation between Washington and its European partners in Macedonia and the Balkans is good, and that Brussels does not want to jeopardize it over non-Balkan issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2003).

Good cooperation was also a prominent theme at a Berlin conference sponsored by the Suedosteuropa-Gesellschaft (SOG) -- which is Germany's primary organization for Balkan studies -- and the German Foreign Ministry on 12-13 September.

Several German speakers stressed that crises farther afield should not distract their country's attention from the fact that much work remains to be done in the Balkans. Indeed, they argued, Germany cannot afford to neglect the Balkans, where it has so many political, economic, and other interests. Some speakers recalled that any instability or lawlessness in that region means refugees, smuggling, and organized crime directly impacting on Germany and its immediate neighbors.

Gernot Erler, who chairs the SOG and is a leading member of the parliament for Schroeder's Social Democratic Party (SPD), noted that the Balkans and Afghanistan are Germany's chief areas of concentration in the international division of labor.

He stressed that the EU will eventually be able to deal with the Balkans by itself, but that time has not yet come. The U.S. role remains necessary in the Balkans even as the EU promotes a European-wide postcommunist transformation process. Erler concluded that the EU cannot expect to be taken seriously on the international stage if it cannot put its European house in order.

Michael Schaefer, who is political director of the German Foreign Ministry, noted that the EU and NATO work closely together in the Balkans in an atmosphere of trust. He stressed that the U.S. role in Kosova and Bosnia in particular is "indispensable." He also suggested, however, that the EU's role will grow in the region since it is closer than the United States and presumably able to be more effective.

Stefan Lehne, who is director of the European Council's foreign and political-military affairs department in Brussels, stressed that "things can be done with the United States in the Balkans but not without it." He noted the vital U.S. role not only in Kosova and Bosnia, but also in promoting military reform in Serbia and Montenegro. Lehne hailed the well-developed "culture of cooperation" between the United States and its EU allies in the Balkans, noting that the tumult over Iraq did not affect Western cooperation in the Balkans.

Daniel Serwer, who is director of the Peace Operations and Balkans Initiative of the United States Institute of Peace, noted, as did some European speakers, that not all Western countries share a common "vision" for the Balkans. He pointed out that one important difference regarding multiethnicity is that most EU countries except France endorse the concept of group rights to protect the interests of minorities, whereas the U.S. tradition does not.

Serwer feels that the key to trans-Atlantic cooperation is "joint projects," even if the partners have differing views on a theoretical plane. He argued that the United States has never had major strategic interests in the Balkans and intervened only because the European powers could not manage things themselves.

Fresh from a trip to Kosova, Serwer pointed to the difficulties facing the upcoming Belgrade-Prishtina talks. He suggested that the United States and the EU make the success of these talks their next joint project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 29 September and 1 October 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June, 1 August, and 26 September 2003). (Patrick Moore)

BELGRADE PROSECUTORS INDICT MILOSEVIC. Prosecutors in Belgrade have charged former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with masterminding the murder of a former Serbian president and attempting to murder a political opponent. No specific details of the charges were revealed, but prosecutors say Milosevic and four co-defendants will go to trial within two months. Milosevic, already on trial in The Hague for war crimes, denies any involvement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August, and 22 and 24 September 2003).

Former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic was abducted and killed in August 2000. Earlier the same year, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic survived an assassination attempt with minor injuries.

The prosecutor's statement issued on 23 September accuses Milosevic of having "created among the perpetrators [of the crime] the decision to commit" both crimes. Among the co-defendants named in the indictment are the chief of a special forces unit set up under Milosevic, Milosevic's former head of state security and a former chief of staff of the armed forces.

On 24 September, prosecutors submitted the indictment to a newly established special court in Belgrade where Milosevic will be tried in absentia.

Police say Stambolic was killed by five members of the Special Operations Unit (JSO) on the night of his abduction. His remains were found earlier this year in a ditch during a crackdown on criminal groups following the assassination in March of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

JSO commander Milorad Lukovic "Legija" was charged with organizing Stambolic's killing. Legija, who is also a prime suspect in Djindjic's assassination, is still at large (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March, 9 May, 25 July, and 8 August 2003).

Draskovic, the leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), has long maintained that Milosevic was behind a number of political killings. But on 24 September he dismissed the indictment as "legal nonsense." He said it doesn't go far enough in saying directly it was Milosevic who gave the order to kill him.

"In the history of law no one has come up with a greater piece of legal nonsense than this, that Slobodan Milosevic worked out the decision with Legija that Legija would kill Ivan Stambolic and try to kill me. Simply, in order to avoid putting the responsibility on Milosevic and [former state security chief] Radomir Markovic, [the prosecutors] came up with this nonsense. They simply should have said things the way they were: that Slobodan Milosevic ordered Radomir Markovic and Legija to carry out the crimes. But the prosecutors simply did not want that," Draskovic said.

Draskovic accused the prosecutors of trying to cover up what he said was the truth that had been uncovered in the course of the investigation.

Natasa Kandic is the director of the Belgrade-based Fund for Humanitarian Law and a leading expert on war crimes. She said the indictment is an attempt to show the people of Serbia that Milosevic bears personal responsibility for crimes committed against Serbs -- and not only for crimes against other ethnic groups.

"The new indictment against Milosevic, this time in domestic court, means the national judiciary wants to show that Milosevic did not commit crimes only against people from other ethnic communities but that he is responsible under criminal law, that he bears personal responsibility for the crimes committed against members of his [own] ethnic society. And I think it is an attempt [on the part] of the government to show that the former regime [led by] Milosevic was equally brutal against citizens of Serbia." Kandic said.

But Kandic said Milosevic's responsibility for war crimes is still too sensitive a subject in Serbia -- because Milosevic loyalists are too powerful and because of what she said is a lack of political will on the part of the government.

"Milosevic is far [away], but [the] defenders of his policy and his practices of war crimes are [still] in Serbia. This trial will not decrease their power because the main problem with Serbia is the issue of war crimes. And Milosevic is not touched in Serbia based on war crimes responsibility," Kandic said. Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) has already called the indictment a "shameless act of political terror."

Milosevic himself denies he had anything to do with either crime. In a letter written earlier this year from his cell at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Milosevic said it was ridiculous to think he had ordered Stambolic's assassination. Milosevic said, at the time, that Stambolic was "no longer a person of interest -- he was a completely forgotten politician."

Stambolic helped Milosevic rise through the ranks of the Communist Party of Serbia in the 1980s, but the former Yugoslav president later turned against him and ousted him from power.

At the time of his abduction and murder, Stambolic was widely rumored to be considering a political comeback by challenging Milosevic at the polls. Most observers agreed that he would have made a formidable opponent. He was a known quantity to Serbian voters, unlike some of the untested members of the anti-Milosevic opposition.

Police had previously tried to question Milosevic in the Stambolic murder case, but he refused to cooperate.

Milosevic has also been accused of allegedly embezzling and transferring abroad millions of dollars in state money. Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said on 24 September that international investigators will hand over to the authorities documents about Milosevic's alleged financial fraud.

Batic also met with UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in The Hague. He later said the amount of money allegedly stolen by Milosevic made his head spin. (Julia Geshakova)

THE ADRIATIC CLUB MEETS IN MACEDONIA. Over the weekend of 26-28 August, the foreign and defense ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia met in Ohrid to discuss the implementation of the U.S.-Adriatic Charter. This agreement, which was signed in Tirana on 2 May, is widely regarded as a major step towards full NATO integration of the three western Balkan states. It is also widely seen as a plus as the three countries make their way towards EU membership. The 1998 Baltic Charter for Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia served as a model for the Balkan document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 14 March, 2, 5, and 22 May, 9 June, and 16 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 June 2003).

After the Ohrid meeting, Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva summed up its most important results. Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia must improve their cooperation in the fight against organized crime and strengthen their efforts to promote democratization, Mitreva said. And they should consider expanding membership in the Adriatic Charter to include Bosnia and Serbia and Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2003).

To achieve all these goals, Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski proposed setting up an Adriatic defense system within the wider European context. This regional defense system would concentrate on the fight against terrorism and organized-crime structures. The defense minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Boris Tadic, had more concrete plans. "When we talk about fighting terrorism, my idea is to form an intelligence community of the Balkan states in order to improve the exchange of information and data," Tadic said.

For Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, the Adriatic Charter is a new form of cooperation that could also contribute to a new image of the region that is still marred by the violence of the past. Picula stressed that security must be the priority of the member states, since "we cannot develop our countries in an insecure environment." He warned, however, that Adriatic Charter cooperation must not become a "substitute" for the reform efforts within the member states.

What is interesting is that the invitation to Bosnia and Serbia and Montenegro does not seem to have sparked a major debate in those countries. While Goran Svilanovic, the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, joked that the invitation was his idea, no comment whatsoever seems to have come from Bosnian government officials.

To a certain extent, the Ohrid meeting could also be seen as a preparation for the NATO ambassadors' meeting that will take place in Skopje on 2 October. In an exclusive interview for "Dnevnik" of 23 September (an extended version of which was published on 27 September), NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson called on the Balkan states to deal jointly with organized multiethnic crime structures, which seek to mask their activities by resorting to allegedly ethnically motivated violence. Robertson said that criminals throughout the Balkans work together regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, while politicians in all Balkan states still believe that ethnic differences matter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003).

The members of the Adriatic Charter seem to have understood the message. It is not clear, however, what Robertson or NATO might think of the idea that Bosnia as well as Serbia and Montenegro should join the charter, too. But at least since the November 2002 NATO summit in Prague, the Atlantic alliance's unambiguous message to the countries of the region has been that cooperation is the order of the day (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2003).

As Robertson will be leaving office soon, he declined to say whether Macedonia will be invited to join NATO under his successor, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Robertson noted the army reform in Macedonia is making good progress but added that the army still has a long way to go to become compatible with NATO standards.

Outgoing French Ambassador to Macedonia Francois Teral took a similar position regarding Macedonia's pursuit of European integration. In an interview with "Utrinski vesnik" of 27 September, Teral said that as a member of the EU's Stabilization and Association Process, Macedonia's society as a whole must comply with EU standards -- just as the army must comply with NATO standards.

This is true for all countries of the western Balkans. At the Ohrid meeting, the governments of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia signaled that they understand this. Now they must convince their voters who -- in some Slavic parts of the Balkans, and especially in Serbia and Montenegro -- have strong anti-NATO feelings. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

SLOVENIA SAYS SUNDAY IS SPECIAL. In an increasingly frequent ritual in Slovenia, the country's voters went to the polls on 21 September to participate in a referendum -- the fifth this year -- this time to decide whether Sunday shopping hours should be restricted. The four previous referendums this year concerned privatization of the railways, telecommunications network investment, and EU and NATO entry.

Despite the convenience of the voting arrangements -- 3,388 stations were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the 1.6 million eligible voters -- turnout was disappointing low. Despite predictions of 66 percent turnout based on a "Delo" poll published on 19 September, only 27.54 percent of the electorate bothered to participate, according to final results announced on 30 September.

The 57.53 percent vote in favor of limiting Sunday shopping hours means that stores offering "basic goods" and exceeding 80 square meters will be allowed to operate on a maximum of 10 Sundays annually. Exceptions will apply to retail outlets at gas stations, hospitals, hotels, airports, border crossings, and train and bus stations.

The outcome of the referendum was little surprise. In the same "Delo" poll, 54.1 percent indicated that they favored the limited shopping hours, while only 32.3 percent opposed the restrictions.

The proposal for the referendum originated in the summer with the Union of Shop Workers, which collected 49,752 signatures to easily meet the 40,000-signature requirement by 7 July. The union argued that Sunday work is unfair to employees, who could otherwise spend the day with their families.

Despite the fact that current legislation does not allow stores to operate on Sundays without employees' permission, the argument apparently sat well with voters. The majority of those favoring the restrictions in the "Delo" poll -- 53.9 percent -- cited workers' rights.

Religious grounds for the decision were a distant second, cited by only 25 percent of those polled. Support came from the Slovenian Bishops' Conference, which enjoined the faithful to vote for closures. A 14 September article in "Delo" titled "Nedeljsko ne-delo" pointed out that the Slovenian word for "Sunday" literally means "no work," and ended with a plea to restore Sunday's traditional peace by putting an end to Sunday referendums as well.

Even so, foreign media have suggested that Slovenia's Roman Catholic heritage played a major role in shaping the decision, citing figures as high as 80 percent for Catholic identity. Although the church remains an influential factor, this statistic is questionable. In the 2002 census only 57.8 percent of the population identified itself as Catholic (answering the question on religious affiliation was optional).

Predictably, consumer organizations and shop owners were mostly against limiting Sunday shopping. Large shopping chains in particular campaigned vigorously. The Mercator company -- Slovenia's largest grocery-based retailer with hypermarkets throughout Slovenia and in other former Yugoslav republics -- threatened that the ban would force the layoff of 500 workers. Ironically, when Sunday shopping was expanded some years ago, many storeowners said that they could cover the new hours without additional hires by redistributing workers.

Voters who opposed the restrictions were roughly split between those who feel decisions on operating hours are a business' own prerogative (48.4 percent) and those who cited the convenience of shopping on Sundays (40 percent).

The issue created an unlikely alliance of parties from the political left and right that backed the closures, while the dominant Liberal Democracy of Slovenia party (LDS) joined with storeowners in opposition. Ironically, although the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) supported the restrictions and the Slovenian Youth Party (SMS) opposed them, their respective voters largely defied the party leaderships, "Delo" reported on 19 September.

Notwithstanding the clear result of the vote, it could be up to two years before the new law takes effect. The National Assembly is allowed a year to prepare the law, and its implementation could be delayed for up to a year following the formation of a new parliament after the 2004 elections.

Those displeased with the outcome have faulted the referendum question as vague and misleading, charging that many thought only hypermarkets would be closed, which would revitalize mid-sized neighborhood stores. Others have characterized Slovenia's referendums as too costly -- running 600 million tolars ($2.9 million) apiece -- and fundamentally flawed, evidenced by consistently poor turnout.

Except for referendums of national significance (i.e., on NATO and the EU), all 10 referendums to date in independent Slovenia have had similarly low participation. A "Delo" article of 28 September sourly noted that the combination of poor turnout and the modest margin means that only 15 percent of the voting base effectively decided the issue for the remainder of the population.

I asked one acquaintance who was dissatisfied with the results of the referendum if he felt his vote had been in vain. "Actually," he replied sheepishly, "I was out shopping instead." (Donald F. Reindl,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "France has a strategic plan to use all available means to cut the 'hyperpower' -- as they call it -- down to size, to frustrate it, and to put America's freedom to act under international control. America is bridling at it, and that produces inevitable friction." -- Radek Sikorski, a former deputy foreign minister and deputy defense minister of Poland. Now an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, to RFE/RL on 24 September.

"I think Germany never wanted to be on that particular bandwagon [the antiwar stance] with France. But I think it's taken offense at the fact that the chancellor of Germany cannot get through to the White House. I think if we are talking to Mr. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who is conducting a genocidal war with Chechnya; if we are talking to satraps from Central Asia and the Middle East; then we should be talking to the largest democracy in Europe." -- Sikorski.

"France is no longer viewed as an ally of the United States. It is viewed as a problem state on the international stage that tries to obstruct U.S. foreign policy at almost every single avenue. There are a few areas of cooperation, including efforts against Al-Qaeda, but on 9 out of 10 key foreign policy issues, Washington and Paris are fundamentally at odds." -- Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation, to RFE/RL on 24 September.

"If [terrorism] is the threat of the 21st century, Britain should be in there confronting it, not because we are America's poodle, but because dealing with it will make Britain safer....

"We didn't regret the fall of Milosevic, the removal of the Taliban, or the liberation of Sierra Leone and so, I simply say, whatever the disagreement, Iraq is a better country without Saddam....

"Why do I stay fighting to keep in there with America, on the one hand, and Europe on the other? Because I know terrorism can't be defeated unless America and Europe work together. And I tell you frankly, it is not so much American unilateralism I fear. It is [American] isolationism." -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Bournemouth Labour Party Conference, quoted by RFE/RL on 30 September.

"Training police and reforming the interior ministries is a growth business." -- Unnamed "senior EU official involved in the Balkans," quoted in the "Financial Times" of 29 September.