Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: January 8, 2002

8 January 2002, Volume 6, Number 2

A THANKLESS -- AND NECESSARY -- JOB. The new UN chief administrator in Kosova will have to break some unpleasant truths to many people. The task will not be easy, but it must be done sooner rather than later if Kosova is to have a stable and prosperous future.

The recent departure of Hans Haekkerup as head of the UN's civilian administrator in Kosova (UNMIK) came as a surprise to many -- but was not unwelcome to Albanian leaders and to many of the international staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). The leading candidate to replace him is reportedly Germany's knowledgeable but abrasive Michael Steiner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2002).

It is possible that Steiner could alienate local leaders just as Haekkerup did. After all, the history of the international community's involvement in the former Yugoslavia in the past decade or so is filled with the names of self-confident Western politicians and technocrats who never seemed to understand the political culture of the Balkans. Even Haekkerup realized early on that the Balkan attitude toward compromise is quite different from that of his native Scandinavia, but that insight did not help him much in developing a working relationship with leaders of the 90 percent Albanian majority.

But perhaps just the right touch of steeliness is what is required. This is because the new head of UNMIK faces at least three daunting tasks that involve telling many people things that they may not want to hear. He will have the same formidable powers as Haekkerup but will need to use them more effectively than did the former Danish defense minister.

The first task is to make it crystal clear to the Albanians that they stand no chance of achieving their goal of independence unless they show that they can manage their own affairs. The main reason for the foreign presence in the Balkans to begin with is that most of the local groups and their leaders proved unable to rise to the task of dealing with the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, a process set off by the policies of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. The foreigners are unlikely to approve any new status for Kosova that seems likely to lead to fresh trouble.

The Albanians will first have to show that they are capable of forming and maintaining a stable government backed by a working majority in the parliament. As it stands, Ibrahim Rugova, whose Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) has the largest single block of seats, has failed to persuade either of the two next-largest Albanian parties to join him. These are Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK). Unless these three leaders can show more talent for practical politics, they will find few people abroad who will take their demand for independence seriously even if it is based on the principles of self-determination and majority rule.

One strong argument for Kosovar independence is that there will not be stability in the region until the status of the province is clarified (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 November 2001). But there will not be stability, in any event, unless the Albanians show that they can control the crime and corruption in their midst. By cleaning up their own community's affairs, the Albanians can demonstrate that they are serious candidates for more than just home rule. If they fail to weed out their own mafia-like structures, they will give credence to those who argue that Kosova can only be ruled with a firm Serbian hand.

Besides setting up a stable government and combating crime, the Albanians will also need to show that they are capable of treating Kosova's minorities according to European standards. This means first and foremost the Serbs, but also the Turks, Roma, Bosnian Muslims, and others as well. The Albanians' record to date has been far from encouraging, but they will need to improve if they want to convince the world that they are ready for independence.

The second task for the new head of UNMIK will be to point out to the local Serbs that their future is most likely that of a minority and not as masters (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 November 2001). The quicker the Serbs recognize that Serbian forces are unlikely to return to Kosova at any time in the conceivable future, the sooner they will be able to adjust to new realities. The fact that they voted in large numbers in the November election and sent 22 deputies to the parliament suggests that many already realize that their future will be determined in Prishtina and not in Belgrade.

The new head of UNMIK will also have to remind some of the leaders in the Serbian capital of a few unpleasant truths. Perhaps Haekkerup's greatest disservice to the stability of the region was to enter into a pact with the Belgrade authorities to give them a voice in the affairs of the province. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosova specifies that the province remains part of Yugoslavia, but it is equally clear that this link is a paper one without any real authority.

By giving Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic a pre-election document to justify a role for Belgrade in post-1999 Kosova, Haekkerup seemed to ignore what to the Albanians is the basic political fact of life in Kosova: that the repression and war of 1998-99 cost Serbia and Yugoslavia any claim on the Albanians' allegiances or loyalties. The new head of UNMIK -- and perhaps others in the international community -- may seek early on to suggest to Belgrade that its energies are better spent on ending the poverty and corruption that plague Serbia than on trying to recover lost territories (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 November 2001).

The third task facing the new head of UNMIK is to bring home to the leaders of the international community that they should not forget about Kosova's affairs or lose sight of what they intend to accomplish in the province. Without constant assessment and review, the international community could find itself with yet another expensive and messy international protectorate, with no end to that status in sight (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 December 2001). (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA: GEORGIEVSKI TAKES STOCK. As a tense and sometimes chaotic year ended in Macedonia, the media asked a number of leading politicians how they felt about that year's crisis and the future of the Balkan state. The state-run television station MTV broadcast what was perhaps the most interesting response.

MTV hosted Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, who is also the leader of the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). The interview was interesting because Georgievski is widely regarded as a political loose cannon who loves to attack his opponents. Several times during the past year, Georgievski demanded the introduction of a "state of war." He frequently clashed with international envoys who tried to mediate a peace agreement between the government and the ethnic Albanian guerillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK). At the same time, he accused the international community of siding with the UCK.

Georgievski's rating in recent opinion polls could scarcely be lower, and it was to be expected that he would use the opportunity provided by MTV to paint a positive picture of himself and his policies.

The TV station gave Georgievski ample time and opportunity to explain his views on various aspects of the crisis -- without asking too many critical questions. Later, a transcript of the interview was published by the state Macedonian Information Agency (MIA).

When asked about the outbreak of the crisis in February 2001, the prime minister answered that top Yugoslav officials had informed his government that an attack on Macedonia was imminent. The information came about one week before the events of Tanusevci (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 March 2001). "We were shocked and surprised [by this warning], and nobody wanted to believe that this could happen. We nevertheless slowly began some preparations.... We did not have any detailed information as to where the attack would take place."

Georgievski admitted that the crisis could have escalated because neither the police nor the army reacted swiftly to the threat posed by the rebels. In his view, this was mainly due to bureaucratic divisions within the government: "After every incident we discussed for about one month who should defend Macedonia, the army or the police. These discussions first took place at a time when the defense minister came from the VMRO-DPMNE. They became even worse when he was a member of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM)," after the formation of the so-called government of national unity in May.

Georgievski believes that many ethnic Albanians from Macedonia joined the UCK because the government did not react quickly and decisively after the initial attacks on Macedonian security forces.

After the Ohrid peace agreement was signed in August, Georgievski only half-heartedly supported its implementation. At that time, he accused the international community of having forced the Macedonian government to accept the accord. In the TV interview, however, he admitted that the international community had been committed to peace ever since the outbreak of the crisis.

He nonetheless repeated his criticism of what he called the international community's "double standards" towards Macedonian and Albanians victims: "We saw who suffered how much during this crisis. However..., the international community tended to see only the Albanian extremists as victims instead of the whole Macedonian nation."

While Georgievski tried to present himself as a statesman, he became very emotional about some issues, such as the media coverage of the crisis. He made international media such as CNN, BBC, or Reuters his primary scapegoats. But he also charged that some Macedonian media worked against the government: "I'd like to mention only media like the TV station A1 and the daily 'Utrinski vesnik,' which before the Kosovo crisis and before the SDSM joined the government were the most anti-Albanian media in the country. After the SDSM entered the government...they became defenders of Albanian [parties and politicians] in Macedonia."

This statement provoked a rebuttal by Branko Trickovski, the editor in chief of "Utrinski vesnik." In the 29 December edition, Trickovski said that he doubts that it is the prime minister's job to criticize private media in a broadcast on state television. Others, like the newspaper "Makedonija denes" of 29 December, simply dismissed Georgievski's TV appearance as "a salad of words, which masqueraded as an interview."

It will soon become clear whether Georgievski's predictions of renewed violence in the coming spring and his vision of a multiethnic Macedonia will prove true: "We have to accept the reality that we [Macedonians and Albanians] are very different in beliefs, language, and values. We have to accept these differences and live together in one state, but in two different [and separate] worlds." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

SLOVENES AWAIT 2002 CENSUS. The week between Christmas and the New Year regularly sees the staging of dozens of live nativity scenes across Slovenia. These range from solemn displays in downtown churches to more clamorous rural productions, such as that held annually at the village of Logojna near Ljubljana. These often involve an entire village as well as a good part of its livestock and are attended by thousands, who warm themselves with mulled wine and homemade brandy. Before surging forward to view the displays, the crowd of onlookers respectfully listens to a narration of how Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world should be counted.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Tomaz Banovec, the general director of the Slovenian Statistical Office, chose this week to announce that preparations for the 2002 national census are going ahead according to plan. The census, scheduled to take place between 1 and 15 April, was originally planned for 2001, but budgetary constraints forced its postponement. The expected cost of the census is 2.5 billion tolars ($10 million). Some 12,000 persons will conduct the census, which will reflect the status of the population at midnight, 31 March 2002. Initial figures will be available in six months, and complete results within two years. Such delays are not unusual. For example, detailed results of the Ukrainian national census, conducted in December 2001, will appear only in December 2002.

Not all data will be collected anew -- some data will be taken from databases maintained by the Statistical Office or from other registries, such as those for employment or vehicle ownership. The Constitutional Court will decide on the final format of certain questions by 17 January, and questions regarding ethnic identity and religious affiliation will be optional. In the 1991 census, 3.2 and 19.2 percent of respondents did not answer these questions, respectively.

Previous censuses took place in the former Yugoslavia regularly every 10 years, from 1961 through 1991. The significance of this census, then, lies not only in the fact that is the first to take place in an independent Slovenia, but that it will be the first to reflect the turbulent changes connected with the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Although the influx of refugees from Yugoslav successor states has declined since the mid-1990s, the census will reflect population shifts and accompanying socio-political changes. In the 1991 census 26,725 (1.36 percent) of Slovenia's 1,962,606 inhabitants indicated their ethnicity as Muslim, and 12,237 (0.62 percent) as Yugoslav. Since then, self-identification as "Yugoslav" has presumably declined. At the same time, the number professing Islam as their faith has increased -- although this does not necessarily correspond to ethnic identification as (Bosnian) Muslim, since many ethic Albanians and others are also of Islamic heritage.

The number of Roma (Gypsies) in Slovenia is also an open question. In the 1991 census, only 2,293 (0.12 percent) identified themselves as ethnic Roma, but 2,847 persons claimed Romany as their mother tongue. However, European Union estimates of the number of Roma in Slovenia range from 6,500 to 10,000. It remains to be seen whether current Roma-oriented legislation in Slovenia will have any effect on their ethnic self-identification.

The new census will also likely underscore the peculiar fact that several unofficial minorities outnumber Slovenia's two official minorities, Hungarians and Italians. These two groups ranked only fifth and ninth, respectively, in the 1991 census. Larger groups -- which consist solely of other ex-Yugoslav ethnicities -- are denied minority status on the basis of being nonindigenous (this itself is a matter of historical debate) and geographically dispersed. Because Articles 64 and 80 of the Slovenian Constitution grant special rights in education and political representation to the Hungarian and Italian minorities, this is a sore point for some other, more numerous ethnic groups.

The census will reflect not only data regarding the population, but general trends as well. Based on existing data collections, statisticians anticipate overall increases in life expectancy, the average age of the population, and the total number of people in Slovenia. They also expect overall decreases in the annual number of births and marriages, and the size of the farming population.

Despite generally recognized shortcomings in any attempt to define and measure social categories, census statistics have great popular appeal. Their representations of ethnicity, religion, and language are widely quoted for a variety of motives -- some of which cannot even be anticipated in advance.

This highlights the need to design and carry out any census carefully. A compelling case in point is the Austro-Hungarian census of 1910, which provided ammunition to pro-Austrian Carinthians in the 1920 plebiscite (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 November 2001). Slovenes have charged, then and now, that their numbers were grossly underestimated, both ethnically and linguistically.

The enduring fascination of and demand for census data is also illustrated by the recent online release of the 1901 census of England and Wales (available at The site crashed immediately after its launch on 2 January this year, when 1.2 million people tried to access the material. (Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University Ph.D. candidate in Ljubljana,

QUOTATION OF THE WEEK. "We can't just say we're going to bring people to trial, it has to be done. Hence we shouldn't be surprised that The Hague tribunal keeps demanding their extradition." -- Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, quoted by Reuters in Belgrade on 3 January.