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Balkan Report: February 15, 2002

15 February 2002, Volume 6, Number 9

A MACEDONIAN MISSION FOR THE EU. Foreign ministers from the European Union would like to take over control of the Western-armed mission in Macedonia from NATO. Some observers suggest that it might be a good idea for Washington to let Brussels head this effort in crisis management.

Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said in Rome on 11 February that, "Germany is leaving the command of [NATO's] Amber Fox mission in Macedonia. We have already been asked informally and we will be asked formally to substitute [for] Germany at the helm of the mission. I will therefore ask the government and parliament to allow Italy to take command of this mission," Reuters reported.

Amber Fox's mandate to provide protection for monitors from the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) runs out in late March. The Macedonian government wants it extended for an additional three months. Many observers believe an international armed presence will be required in Macedonia for the foreseeable future. There is little reason to believe that either the main ethnic Macedonian or ethnic Albanian political leaderships think otherwise, albeit for their own reasons.

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 9 February that EU foreign ministers would like the EU to replace NATO as the organizer of that mission, probably in late September. Almost all of the forces in Task Force Fox are from EU countries, Poland being a notable exception. There are no U.S. ground forces present in the operation.

An EU-sponsored mission in Macedonia would work closely with NATO, the daily added. Planning would be done by NATO's SHAPE headquarters in Brussels, while NATO's British or German deputy commander would head the operation. The change from NATO to EU leadership would thus be largely cosmetic in nature but would allow the EU to test and develop its conflict-management capabilities.

But some Dutch, German, and British diplomats are reportedly reluctant to make the switch from a NATO to an EU mission until those two institutions clearly define their relationship, Reuters noted on 13 February. Turkey may also raise objections to the change. Moreover, some in the EU have been reluctant to pledge that their future security policy will have a clear transatlantic dimension, while many in the U.S. are hesitant about providing military or other support until that ambiguity is removed.

Anyone who has paid attention to West European media commentary and politicians' statements over the past year knows that there is widespread unhappiness with the U.S. and its dominant role in world affairs. The differences with the U.S. extend across Western Europe -- but not necessarily to the East -- and across political spectrums in individual countries. On the right, America's critics are headed by establishment Euro-Gaullists. On the left, they are led by the anti-missile protesters of 20 years ago who now sit in governments and parliaments.

This disharmony between the U.S. and many of its allies is not new, but it tended to stay in the background for years -- especially until the collapse of communism and the threat posed by Soviet forces. This was because many West Europeans were reluctant to say in public what they were saying and thinking in private, and because many members of the U.S. policy establishment chose to ignore the discontent in the belief that all could be worked out behind closed doors at NATO headquarters.

The depth and vehemence of much of the recent criticism suggests that such times are now past, despite the brief lull in the aftermath of 11 September. Much of the negative European commentary is serious and based on differing perceptions of what policies are appropriate, such as that regarding the Middle East. As the "Rheinischer Merkur" pointed out in its 8 February issue, coordinating strategies and policies will be a necessary task in ensuring a sound future for NATO, along with setting up a single, cost-effective EU military arm, increasing West European defense outlays, and bolstering cultural and other outreach work by NATO countries around the globe.

Other differences seem to reflect cultural disharmony or insensitivity on both sides. American participants in the recent Munich gathering on strategic issues quickly learned that dividing the world into good and evil does not go down well almost anywhere in Europe. Some other observers note a reluctance by various Europeans to extend to their American partners the kind of cross-cultural tolerance that politically correct West Europeans regularly extend to the third world. (One European observer noted that West Europeans are far more inclined to be tolerant toward societies in the tropical rain forest than toward Texas.)

Indeed, the intensity of some verbal attacks on President George W. Bush over the past year (with the exception of a few months after 11 September) and against the U.S. over such scarcely new phenomena as the death penalty suggest that the problem is often one of a pent-up anger seeking a target rather than one of a clearly formulated complaint being voiced. This perception is increased when one recalls the amount of barroom-style criticism (politely described as childish) -- over Americans' alleged personal or cultural foibles in the eyes of those who would judge them.

The late President Lyndon B. Johnson once observed that envy plays a large part in anti-American feeling abroad. Much recent British and German conservative commentary suggests that the West European left's resentment over the success of the American system is indeed one reason behind the vehemence of much of the criticism.

But there is another element that is perhaps more important for Western security relationships, especially in the Balkans. This is the feeling in many West European societies that their governments have lost control over their own security to an external power that often ignores them and acts unilaterally. This frustration may well account for the bitterness of the criticism over everything from hamburgers to Middle East policy to -- as Vienna's "Die Presse" charged in a front-page commentary on 11 February -- the belief that the "little chauvinist Bush" spends too much time recalling the victims of 11 September.

Many European commentators -- East and West -- argue that the EU and Europe as a whole cannot expect Washington to take them seriously until they put their own house in order. They must increase their defense budgets despite the social and political temptation to make even more cuts, and despite the unlikelihood of ever closing the technology gap with the U.S. They must learn to speak with one voice even though there are different national interests at hand, and even though there are great difficulties involved in making policies within individual governments that are often composed of shaky coalitions.

Moves toward a common EU security and defense policy are off to a wobbly start. It remains to be seen whether the 60,000-strong EU rapid reaction force will be ready in good time. It also is unclear whether the EU will prove more adept at crisis management now than the EC was in Croatia and Bosnia before the U.S. intervention.

But a start must be made -- sometime and somewhere -- if Western Europe is to lose its sense of frustration and show that it remains a serious partner for the U.S. Many West European observers argue that the ideal place to start is in the Balkans, which is a region close to home and vital to the EU's security. These observers add that if the EU cannot operate effectively as a crisis manager in Southeastern Europe, it had best go back to the drawing board.

This is the essence of the case that one can hear put forward by some West European policy professionals for the EU to take charge of the international armed mission in Macedonia. Moreover, the EU cannot always expect Washington to pull its Balkan chestnuts out of the fire in the post-11 September world. This is what Gernot Erler -- a leader of the SPD's faction in the German parliament and the president of Germany's Balkan studies association, the Suedosteuropa-Gesellschaft -- pointed out at a recent symposium in Munich marking the association's 50th anniversary.

But the U.S. has key interests in the Balkans and will remain present in the region, as EU Balkan Stability Pact chief Erhard Busek pointed out at that same symposium. Washington also will certainly need to maintain a credible regional role in case the EU's effort fails. Moreover, as many Albanian-language commentators have noted, the U.S. is the only power that has the trust and confidence of the region's Albanians. Washington must therefore remain an indispensable part of the Western presence in the Balkans. And that is what burden-sharing among allies is about (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June 2001). (Patrick Moore)

A BOOBY TRAP FOR THE MACEDONIAN PEACE PROCESS? A booby trap in a house killed an ethnic Macedonian and wounded a second person in the Skopje suburb of Aracinovo on 10 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). The bomb went off when Aco Stojanovski entered his brother's house in the chiefly ethnic Albanian suburb. It was the kind of incident that could seriously undermine the still-fragile peace process in the Balkan country.

The victim's brother, Velce Stojanovski, was a member of a special police unit called the Tigers. They are under the direct control of hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who has repeatedly warned of new unrest by the ethnic Albanian rebels. Boskovski recently threatened to launch a military offensive should the police redeployment into the crisis areas fail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002).

But surprisingly, Boskovski did not use the latest incident as a pretext to announce military action against those whom he used to call "Albanian terrorists." Instead, he said that the explosion was "a tragic event that fosters insecurity" and will certainly not help restore security throughout the country. At a press conference, Boskovski also played down the chances of a spring offensive, MIA reported. He nonetheless added: "We should face the fact that the members of the so-called [Albanian National Army (AKSH)] continue to set up structures where the former [National Liberation Army (UCK)] was active."

The AKSH immediately denied that it was involved in the bomb blast. The clandestine organization is believed to be a group of radical former UCK members who do not believe that implementing the Ohrid peace agreement will improve the Albanians' lot significantly.

The news agency Makfax published a statement by Alban Berisha, the self-proclaimed spokesman of the AKSH: "Regarding the claims of...Ljube Boskovski, who laid the blame on the AKSH for the recent incident in Aracinovo -- including accusations that the AKSH seeks to destabilize Macedonia -- I have been authorized to convey the position of the AKSH headquarters. The AKSH had nothing to do with the Aracinovo incident."

The statement also quotes unnamed "credible sources" as saying the incident was orchestrated by members of the Interior Ministry in order to trigger a new conflict. "If the AKSH wants to set off bombs, the first bomb will be in Boskovski's office," the statement added.

Aware of the dangers of renewed violence, the representatives of the international community called for restraint. At a joint press conference on 12 February, officials of the EU, NATO, and the OSCE condemned the incident. OSCE spokesman Florin Pasnicu welcomed the reactions of the Interior Ministry as well as of the local community, which "responded in the most appropriate way...." NATO spokesman Craig Ratcliff, however, recommended that displaced persons returning home be very cautious.

For the opposition daily "Utrinski vesnik," the incident in Aracinovo was just another sign that the security situation remains highly unstable. In a commentary on 12 February, Saso Colakovski called for a thorough investigation of the incident. In his view, only clear answers can prevent rumors that in turn could fuel further mistrust and violence.

For Colakovski, this incident and some other recent ones seriously call the fragile peace process into question. Colakovski believes that the political elite seeks a delay in the peace process because it cannot cope with the challenges that the new situation presents.

But while Colakovski blamed Macedonian politicians in general, Miroslav Spiroski of the government-controlled "Nova Makedonija" argued that the missions of the international community "did not pay enough attention to this problem [of urban terrorism]...and insisted that [police] checkpoints be removed [as a confidence-building measure]. This created the opportunity for the Albanian...gangs to carry out their terrorist genocide.... [Their] aim is clear create ethnically cleansed areas."

If Boskovski did not demand military action and fuel ethnic hatred this time, Spiroski's article did. It thus seems that the leadership of the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) has adopted a new strategy in the runup to the donors conference on 12 March: hard-liners in the limelight like Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Boskovski cooperate with the international community, while authors like Spiroski work behind the scenes to encourage anti-Albanian sentiments among the party faithful. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

THE END OF AN ANACHRONISM. The name "Yugoslavia" may not be much longer for this world. Its disappearance is long overdue.

"Vesti" reported on 8 February that, whatever new political arrangement Serbia and Montenegro work out between themselves, any new association is unlikely to be called Yugoslavia. Belgrade reportedly favors calling it the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro, while the term Union of Serbia and Montenegro is apparently preferred in Podgorica. Whichever term takes root, it will replace one that has long ceased to have any real meaning.

The idea of Yugoslavism -- the unity of all South Slavs -- is a Croatian concept dating from the 19th century. Most nationalist movements in Europe -- including Serbia -- at that time aspired to create a state of a single nation. But some Croatian thinkers felt that close cooperation with ethnically related neighbors on an equal footing was the best hope for their people, who were divided between the Austrian and Hungarian halves of the Habsburg monarchy and subject to pressures from Hungarian and Italian nationalist movements. In short, Yugoslavism was a concept born out of the weakness of a people that had not had truly independent statehood for centuries and had little hope of attaining it in the foreseeable future.

The Yugoslav state that was born at the end of World War I owes its existence to the wartime efforts of Allied politicians to force Serbian leaders to work with Croatian and other political exiles from the Habsburg monarchy. Serbia had hoped to create a greater Serbia without any large number of Roman Catholic Slavs, but after the Kingdom of Serbia's defeat by the Central Powers during the war, its exiled leaders had little choice but to do as the Allies wished.

The new state was first called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS), which in itself speaks volumes about the ethnically-based pecking order, particularly where Macedonians, Albanians, Muslims, Hungarians, Montenegrins, and others were concerned. (A German joke at the time suggested that SHS stood for "Sie hassen sich," or "they hate themselves.") After nearly a decade of political instability, King Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic proclaimed a unitary Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 January 1929. Despite one very belated attempt at reform to placate the Croats, this Serbian-dominated state remained in place until the Axis invasion in the spring of 1941.

The communist Yugoslav state that emerged from World War II was founded on the basis of national equality, at least in theory. Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, and Montenegrins were full-fledged "peoples of the state." The Slavic Muslims were granted that same status more than two decades later. The non-Slavic Hungarians and Albanians had an official status of "nationality" in the country whose name meant "Land of the South Slavs."

In reality, the country was the Land of the League of Communists, whose leadership included officials from all of the main ethnic groups. When Slobodan Milosevic found at the close of the 1980s that he could not hijack the Yugoslav state for his own purposes -- thanks primarily to the objections of Croatia and Slovenia -- he proceeded to destroy it.

The state he was ultimately left with was a greater Serbia, including Kosova and Montenegro. His policies then led in 1999 to the loss of Kosova, whose ethnic Albanian majority wants full independence. For its part, Montenegro's current leadership is also bent on independence. What is left of the old Yugoslavia is in the final stages of disintegration.

Whether Montenegro remains in some sort of political arrangement with Serbia or not, a state that is a Land of the South Slavs has long ceased to exist. That project probably ended in 1991 with the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and certainly with the subsequent independence of Macedonia and Bosnia. Milosevic kept the Yugoslav name in hopes of keeping the old state's property and international prestige. Those hopes are now history -- as is Yugoslavia. (Patrick Moore)

CULTURE DAY IN SLOVENIA. Slovenes marked the anniversary of the death of their best-known poet, France Preseren (1800-1849), with a national holiday on 8 February -- Slovenian Culture Day -- as they have since 1945. Preseren, a lawyer by profession, led a fairly unhappy life marked by drunkenness and unrequited love. Today, however, his countrymen credit him with nearly single-handedly saving the Slovenian language from extinction through the high literary quality of his poetry. Over 3,000 people visited Preseren's native village of Vrba, where the house in which he was born is preserved as a museum.

The annual Preseren Awards and Preseren Fund Awards are the most visible commemorations of the day. They recognize outstanding activity in the fields of Slovenian culture and carry monetary prizes of $12,000 and $4,000, respectively. The Preseren Awards represent the highest national honor for an artistic creation or in recognition of an artist's lifetime work.

This year, the judges selected the poet and playwright Milan Jesih and the musician Vinko Globokar from a field of 18 nominees for the Preseren Awards. Jesih, chosen for his poetic creations, is described as a postmodernist whose works are rooted in tradition. Jesih is recognized as one of the country's most important translators of Shakespeare and has received numerous other Slovenian literary awards. Globokar, selected for his lifetime work, was born in France, but his family returned to Slovenia when he was 13. He is an accomplished trombonist and has worked throughout the world with such notables as John Cage, Pierre Boulez, and Edith Piaf. He has composed over 100 works and is also active as a publicist and translator.

There were five winners, from a field of 44 nominees, of the Preseren Fund Awards. The writer Andrej Blatnik was honored for a collection of short stories; the mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink for her performances in works by Bach and Posch; the actress Polona Juh for her roles in plays by Shakespeare and Moliere; the designer Matevz Medja for his graphic works of the past two years; and the choreographer and dancer Tanja Zgonc for her choreographic work.

Ironically, a survey conducted by the daily "Delo" for the occasion reported that 47.6 percent of Slovenes take part in cultural activities only once a year or even less often, while only 20.4 percent reported that they read literature on a regular basis (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 January 2002). Most cited a lack of time as their main reason for not reading or attending more events, but 34.1 percent admitted that reading simply does not interest them. (Donald F. Reindl)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "[I presented visiting Austrian President Thomas Klestil with a] proposal on how to rearrange the Yugoslav federation in order to enable Serbia and Montenegro to find a faster way to the EU." -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, quoted by AP in Belgrade on 12 February.

"I have no truck with anti-Americanism. But irrespective of differences in size and strength, alliance partners among free democracies...cannot be satellites." -- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Quoted in "Die Welt" on 12 February.

"New information about contacts between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Osama Bin-Laden and his terrorist organization Al-Qaeda are radically changing one's understanding of the nature of the conflict in Kosovo in 1998-1999, and accordingly the assessment of the main figures in this conflict. It is absolutely clear that President Milosevic was struggling against international terrorism.

"Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte of the International Tribunal has sufficient materials about the terrorist activity of the Kosovo Liberation Army. But she is refusing to include these documents and the files submitted by the Yugoslav government in the materials being considered during the trial.

"[We call on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan] to dismiss Carla Del Ponte for protecting international terrorists and to close the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia as an illegitimate organization that has discredited itself." -- The Russian State Duma Commission (for assisting Yugoslavia in overcoming the consequences of NATO aggression) in a letter to Annan. Quoted by Interfax in Moscow on 11 February.

"Serbs did not have a better life than during [Milosevic's] rule." -- Miroslav Velickovic, owner of a restaurant and a member of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia in Kosovo Polje (Fushe Kosova). Quoted by Reuters on 13 February.