1 March 2002, Volume 6, Number 11
ALBANIA FINALLY GETS A GOVERNMENT... Albania's parliament gave outgoing Defense Minister Pandeli Majko a vote of confidence as prime minister in the early hours of 22 February. The vote came after eight hours of debate and was 81 in favor, 42 against, two abstentions, and three present but not voting. Twelve deputies were not present (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2002).
Observers noted that the two main rival political camps within the Socialist Party (PS) are represented in the new cabinet: the reformist wing around Majko and his predecessor, Ilir Meta, and the conservative wing around party Chairman Fatos Nano.
The main issue that divides the two groups in practical terms is: Who has the last word over the government and its policies, the prime minister or the party chairman? The dispute has at times appeared to reflect a clash between younger leaders and older party stalwarts, but personality conflicts also play a role in a mutual antagonism that seems to have acquired a dynamic of its own.
The composition of the new cabinet reflects the divisions in the PS. Luan Rama, a member of the reformist wing and former editor in chief of the PS daily "Zeri i Popullit," follows Majko as minister of defense. Arta Dade, also from the reform wing, remains minister of foreign affairs, and Ermelinda Meksi, previously minister of economic cooperation, is minister of the economy.
On the other hand, Kastriot Islami, a senior PS leader who represents the party's conservative wing, becomes finance minister in an apparent concession to Nano. He replaces Anastas Angjeli, whose resignation Nano demanded earlier, ostensibly because of press allegations of corruption.
Former Minister without Portfolio Lufter Xhuveli replaces Ethem Ruka as environment minister. Xhuveli becomes minister of local government and decentralization. Former Deputy Privatization Minister Viktor Doda is now in charge of industry and energy.
Former Deputy Defense Minister Marko Bello becomes minister of state for European integration. Fatmir Xhafa, a former member of the parliamentary law commission, is minister of land management and tourism. Ndre Legisi, who is minister of state in the prime minister's office, remains in charge of anticorruption measures.
A largely unknown newcomer in the cabinet is Stefan Cipa -- a legislator from Gjirokastra who became minister for public order. Education and Science Minister Luan Memushi, Minister of Health Mustafa Xhani, and Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports Agron Tato are also relative unknowns.
The Social Democrats (PSD) and the mainly ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party (PBDNJ) will also participate in the government. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Skender Gjinushi continues to represent the PSD, while Spiro Peci from the PBDNJ becomes minister of justice.
The Democratic Alliance Party (PAD) -- a small coalition partner of the Socialists �- did not present its own candidate for the new cabinet. Executive Secretary Arben Imami, a former minister of local government, said the PAD will not participate in the new coalition government, although it will support it.
President Rexhep Meidani approved the new cabinet later on 22 February. Already on 21 February, the Opposition Union for Victory coalition challenged the voting procedure, demanding that there be two separate votes of confidence: one for the prime minister and another for the rest of the cabinet. The Constitutional Court rejected the demand, however, and ruled that there must be only one vote of confidence for the entire cabinet.
Majko became prime minister for the first time on 2 October 1998, succeeding Nano as head of government. Nano had resigned following violent unrest in Tirana.
Majko quit one year later on 26 October 1999 after losing the race for party leader to Nano, who criticized Majko over alledged corruption in his cabinet. Majko, however, accused Nano of undermining his government's reform policies.
Majko said after his resignation that he had expected to receive more support from the party's rank and file. His former deputy, Ilir Meta, succeeded him and has headed the government ever since. According to "Koha Ditore," Meta now intends to "deal with party affairs," suggesting that the outgoing premier will challenge Nano for the party leadership and hence for control of what has been Nano's power base.
Similar to Majko's first resignation in 1999, it was criticizm from Nano that triggered Meta's recent decision to step down. Nano again demanded that the Socialists respond to corruption allegations by carrying out government changes.
"Albanian Daily News" noted on 22 February that "it took Majko almost ten days to form a cabinet that would please Nano's and Meta's factions" within the PS alike. The daily added that "squabbling between their camps has distracted attention from reforms and prompted the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to warn that some $100 million in aid projects are at risk."
In his speech before the vote of confidence, Majko stressed the need to improve law enforcement, fight organized crime, and combat corruption in order to maintain economic growth. Majko set a GDP growth-rate of 7 percent as his target for the coming years and promised to hold inflation down to a moderate rate.
Nano stressed that the new cabinet is "not an unprincipled compromise among clans or groups, as [opposition leader Sali] Berisha likes to think." Berisha criticized the new government, saying that its program does "not help promote European integration and increases Albania's distance from the West." (Fabian Schmidt)
...AND KOSOVA HAS A POWER-SHARING DEAL. The leaders of Kosova's three main ethnic Albanian parties reached a power-sharing agreement late on 27 February, enabling the election of a president and the formation of a government, nearly three and a half months after parliamentary elections.
The recently appointed chief of the UN administration in Kosova (UNMIK), Michael Steiner, announced that "everybody has shown in the end to be ready to make an effort, and we have an agreement."
The talks, which began in December following parliamentary elections held on 17 November, had been at a stalemate. With MPs voting along party lines, the head of the largest party, the Democratic League of Kosova's (LDK) Ibrahim Rugova, repeatedly failed to muster enough votes to get elected president.
That was because the other two main ethnic Albanian parties, both headed by former commanders of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), insisted on more power than Rugova was willing to share.
According to the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore," which published on 28 February what it described as the full text of the agreement, the new deal establishes a 10th cabinet minister post in a government intended to have just nine ministers. Albanians will have eight of the posts, Serbs one, and the other minorities one. No names were immediately made public on who will fill the ministerial posts.
Kosova's 120-seat parliament is expected on 4 March to ratify the deal, which calls for Rugova to be president of Kosova. His LDK will have four cabinet seats. Rugova was upbeat when he emerged from talks with Steiner: "As you can see, we are working on making the best possible solution for Kosova, for forming Kosova's institutions." He called the accord "a significant step."
Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), will have two cabinet seats, in addition to the prime ministership. That post will be occupied by Bajram Rexhepi, a prominent PDK member and former mayor of the ethnically divided northern city of Mitrovica.
Rexhepi says Thaci only gave him two days' notice before the talks that he was PDK's candidate. Rexhepi spoke on 28 February with RFE/RL's Albanian-language braodcasters about his new post. "It's an obligation and a sacrifice. It will require hard work, but I'm also proud," he said. "I'll do everything in my power to do what's possible."
He added: "[W]e have to finish forming the government and other institutions like the infrastructure of the judiciary. We have to work hard to rebuild life in Kosova. But I am aware that we can't expect any miracles. I don't want to make any big promises. I only want to promise that I'll work hard."
But Rexhepi also noted that he has little hope of being able to resolve the division of his own city of Mitrovica during his term in office. Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) will also have two cabinet seats.
The published version of the agreement in "Koha Ditore" says that the signatories "promise to respect and promote generally accepted democratic principles and will give full consideration to opinions expressed in Kosova's parliament by all political entities, including those which are not signatories to this agreement, and especially opinions of representatives of minorities."
It also says that the rights and equal treatment for all Kosova residents of all groups will be protected without discrimination, and that the new authorities will create conditions for reconciliation and tolerance between different communities and groups in Kosova.
Finally, the agreement stipulates that the new government will coordinate its activities with the heads of the UN administration and the commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force. (Jolyon Naegele)
CHANGES IN MACEDONIAN FOREIGN POLICY. On 25 February, the Skopje daily "Vest" ran an article under the headline: "The Greek[s] will cut off Western Macedonia with money from the EU." The article itself was about Macedonia's future energy policy. The subtitle of the article read: "Macedonian experts warn of the danger of energy dependence on [our] southern neighbor."
The Greek company Egzergia has worked out a project for two small hydroelectric power complexes in the Vardar Valley. The Macedonian specialists' warning refers to another proposal of the Greek company: Egzergia has plans to build a new core unit for a power plant in southern Macedonia and to fuel it with lignite, which would have to be imported from Greece.
Former Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski, who is now an adviser to President Boris Trajkovski, has a similar view of Greece's policy toward Macedonia. In an analysis of his country's foreign relations, Frckovski wrote in the opposition daily "Utrinski vesnik" of 23 February that Greek involvement in the Macedonian economy could lead to the country's de facto partition.
Frckovski argues that for a small country like Macedonia, it is necessary to maintain equally good relations with all neighboring states in order to benefit economically. Otherwise it faces the danger of partition, as Macedonia has experienced in the past, when it was divided between Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania.
Frckovski believes that Macedonia has to find a balance in order to achieve the goal of equally good relations with the neighbors. That means that both the east-west transit corridor between Bulgaria and Albania as well the north-south connection between Serbia and Greece have to be developed.
Interestingly, Frckovski's article coincides with some speculation about possible changes in Macedonia's relations with its Balkans neighbors.
Under the Socialist-led governments before 1998, the Macedonian leadership conducted a policy of equal distance toward all neighboring countries. However, during the election campaign of 1998, the then-opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) accused the Socialists of being pro-Belgrade. In reply to these charges, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) accused the VMRO-DPMNE of being pro-Bulgarian.
In Macedonian political culture, both accusations imply that the respective parties work against national interests and are collaborators with the partitioning powers of the past -- when the geographic region of Macedonia was divided between Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War of 1913.
In recent years, the foreign policy preferences of the governing parties have not had much impact in practice. Although the SDSM governments had better political relations with Belgrade, they could not use them to any real advantage as long as Slobodan Milosevic was in power. In a similar vein, the good relations between the current VMRO-DPMNE government under Ljubco Georgievski and Bulgaria have not led to much -- apart from some military and political support during the 2001 crisis.
Meanwhile, Greek companies have made big inroads into the Macedonian market -- often with the help of the VMRO-DPMNE government. However, investigations into the corruption charges raised by the opposition have not produced enough evidence to have any serious consequences for the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001).
Some analysts now see a shift in the political preferences of the VMRO-DPMNE from Bulgaria toward Serbia. As Vladimir Jovanovski points out in an article for the bimonthly "Forum" of 15 February, there are indications that the VMRO-DPMNE leadership is seeking support from Macedonia's northern neighbor -- something unthinkable for that party in the past. Jovanovski writes that the cooperation began during last year's crisis, when Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic came to Macedonia for consultations. A recent visit by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic added to the improved relations.
Meanwhile, Georgievski and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski regularly announce their political agendas on the pro-Serbian Sitel TV. Jovanovski states that Sitel also serves as a forum to disclose which "party members are about to be eliminated from party ranks," as was the case recently with Deputy Prime Minister Dosta Dimovska (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 January 2002).
The editor in chief of "Forum," Saso Ordanoski, believes that the shift in the foreign policy preferences of the VMRO-DPMNE is due to internal problems. The party must overcome its bad poll ratings if it is to stay in power. In Ordanoski's eyes, moreover, it is clear who would profit from an electoral victory of the VMRO-DPMNE: "Georgievski gets...friendly with Serbia...but also has the support of Greece, which would move closer to the realization of its strategic economic, security, and political aims in Macedonia with him" in power. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, email@example.com)
SLOVENIA'S ELUSIVE GERMANS. Traveling across Slovenia, finding the country's 3,000-strong Italian minority is easy. Simply head toward Italy and soon you encounter bilingual, sun-washed Mediterranean towns. Travel northeast into the broad Pannonian plain flowing into Hungary to find Slovenia's 8,500 Hungarians.
The same logic fails for the German-speaking population, however. Head north and you simply encounter Slovenes. In fact, continue into Austria and you will still find Slovenian settlements. Some -- such as Zell-Pfarre -- thrive, while other less-populated areas -- such as the beautiful but isolated Remschenig Valley with its abandoned churches -- bear mute testimony to the dwindling Slovenian population. Italy and Hungary also have Slovenian minorities, but their state borders bisect ethnically mixed areas. Not so the Austrian border.
Part of the reason for this is historical -- stemming from the 1920 Carinthian plebiscite (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 November 2001) -- and part geographical. The mountains separating much of Slovenia and Austria tower 2,000 meters or higher, creating a border whose southerly placement was "naturally" logical, if not indisputable in ethnic terms. This barrier led to no parallel to the ethnic intermingling that occurred with Hungarians in the fields of Prekmurje or with Italians in seaside Adriatic villages. Any such co-territorial settlement took place further north, in what is now southern Austria.
The absence of a distinctly German area, however, has not prevented calls for legal recognition of Slovenia's Germans. Most recently, these came from Joerg Haider, the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) governor of Austrian Carinthia. The recognition Austria gives to its Slovene minority, Haider argued, demands reciprocal recognition from Slovenia. Haider also threatened an Austrian veto of Slovenian entry into the European Union over the issue. Ironically, despite Austrian rhetoric and frequent Austrian reference to the German speakers of former Yugoslavia as "old Austrians," relatively few of these people choose to identify themselves as Austrian. In the 1991 census, 546 citizens identified themselves as German, and only 182 as Austrian.
The National Assembly's ratification of a cultural agreement with Austria by a 36-7 margin (with eight abstentions) on 15 February signals some effort to resolve the issue. The agreement, signed on 30 April (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 November 2001), provides German speakers individual rights -- but not collective rights as a national group. In the words of Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, although not equivalent to the rights granted to the much more numerous Slovenes of Austria, these are nonetheless special rights. (Before voting, some members of the governing coalition voiced disagreement, and negative votes came from the four deputies of the opposition Slovenian National Party (SNS), as well as two from the Slovenian People's Party (SLS) and one from the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), both coalition parties.)
This compromise softens Slovenia's long-standing opposition to recognizing Germans as an ethnic minority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1998). The government has variously maintained that the German population is too scattered, heterogeneous, numerically small, non-native, or mobile to merit recognition. Reluctance to acknowledge the German speakers is understandable. Slovenia suffered greatly during World War II, and the communist-era policy of collective guilt had popular appeal. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel used his recent visit to Slovenia to personally thank Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek for ratification of the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2002).
Who, then, are the Germans of Slovenia and where are they? Before World War II, significant populations were located in the Apace basin northeast of Maribor and in the north-central Mezica Valley, both adjacent to the current Austrian state, as well as in urban centers. However, the descendants of the south-central Kocevje (German "Gottschee") enclave of German speakers, dating from the 14th century, probably hold the most distinctive claim to German minority status.
After the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the Kocevje Germans unsuccessfully campaigned for annexation to Austria, and then for the recognition of the Gottschee Republic as an American protectorate. In royal Yugoslavia, the authorities required the Kocevje Germans to learn Slovenian in schools, restricted the use of German, and gave place names Slovenian equivalents. Resentment eventually led many Kocevje Germans to embrace Nazism. Following Italian occupation of the Kocevje region, the authorities removed them from their villages in 1941 for planned resettlement in German-occupied Slovenian territory. After the war, the displaced population dispersed throughout the world as refugees.
Nonetheless, a Kocevje German presence remains in Slovenia, numbering 1,300 by their own estimate. The remnants of the population established a cultural association in 1992 which today offers language lessons and organizes cultural events. President Milan Kucan (ZLSD) recently met representatives of the association, who invited him to participate in the opening of their renovated cultural center, the daily "Delo" reported on 20 February.
For a 1993 museum exhibit on the Kocevje Germans, Dr. Jelka Pirkovic wrote that "national minorities enrich the culture of all nations." It can be hoped that both groups -- Slovenians and Germans -- will find opportunity for enrichment in the new agreement. (Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University Ph.D. candidate in Ljubljana, firstname.lastname@example.org)
QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law, is not to be feared. In a free society, diversity is not disorder, debate is not strife, and dissent is not revolution." -- President George W. Bush. Quoted by RFE/RL in Beijing on 22 February.
"This operation is over (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2002). Our will to catch people indicted of war crimes is not. Within our mandate, we are going to be as active as we possibly can be, and I think what we have done today, even though we did not catch Karadzic is we've sent a signal that the net is closing on him, that he cannot rest his head anywhere in Bosnia. It would be better if he surrendered now, because if we did not get him this time, then as long as he is in Bosnia, there will be another time." -- NATO spokesman Mark Laity to RFE/RL's Branka Trivic on 28 February.