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Balkan Report: April 26, 2002

26 April 2002, Volume 6, Number 17

BOSNIA'S BRAVE NEW ORDER. In what some observers have called the biggest single change in Bosnia since the 1995 Dayton agreement, outgoing High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch announced in Sarajevo on 19 April new constitutions for the Croat-Muslim Federation and for the Republika Srpska. The changes make the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats alike politically equal throughout Bosnia and will directly affect the allocation of government jobs. Above all, the change undermines the ethnically based political underpinnings of the two entities.

Petritsch took the initiative after the deadline elapsed for the parliaments of both entities to pass such legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2002). In an apparent effort to put the desired spin on his decision, he said that "this is not an outright imposition.... This is clearly a new approach...a partnership." He stressed that the new system "fully represents [Bosnia's] multiethnic character and conforms with European values and internationally recognized human rights standards."

He added that he refuses "to accept obstruction from...nationalist dinosaurs who want to hold Bosnia's citizens hostage." He told "Dnevni avaz" of 22 April that he expects the measures to come into effect by the end of 2002.

Zlatko Lagumdzija, who is foreign minister in the non-nationalist coalition Bosnian joint government, said in Sarajevo on 19 April that "this is the day when nationalism was defeated." On 21 April, the three members of the joint presidency hailed Petritsch's ruling. In London, Paddy Ashdown, who will succeed Petritsch at the end of May, praised the decision during a conversation with Lagumdzija. The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo also reacted favorably to the ruling. In Banja Luka, former Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that his League of Independent Social Democrats (SNS) accepts Petritsch's decision.

But not everyone was happy. The three large nationalist parties stand to lose the most from Petritsch's ruling and did not hide their displeasure. Sulejman Tihic, who is president of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), said that his party accepts the ruling but will work to change it. The party has already prepared a complaint before the Constitutional Court, "Dnevni avaz" reported.

The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said in an angry statement that the decision means that Muslims and Serbs will decide the future of the Croats. But in his interview with "Dnevni avaz," Petritsch warned the SDA and HDZ not to oppose the ruling, saying that they risk isolation.

Dragan Cavic, who is vice president of the Republika Srpska and the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), stressed that Petritsch's ruling is the most difficult political decision reached in Bosnia since Dayton.

The link between Petritsch's move and Dayton is indeed the key issue, especially in the Republika Srpska. At the time the peace agreement was drafted at the end of 1995 -- and ever since then -- Bosnian Serb politicians have stressed that Dayton legitimizes a Serbian entity within Bosnia. But now Petritsch's decision seems to undermine that aspect of Dayton.

For similar reasons, the SDA is worried that equality for Serbs in the federation will undermine its hold on what are now mainly Muslim areas there. And the HDZ knows that it will be reduced to a purely minority role outside of western Herzegovina under the new rules. It is no wonder that these two parties have already complained -- and that Petritsch has already warned them.

The high representative has denied that his ruling is an imposition, but many observers find it difficult to accept that conclusion. Some call the international protectorate in Bosnia "enlightened absolutism" or "enlightened colonialism," and the international community's behavior seems to justify those names.

In fact, the present non-nationalist government owes its hold on top offices -- it is difficult to call what they have real power -- to what may be termed the creative drafting and applying of electoral legislation by the international community. Petritsch has now promised additional electoral "reforms." But it is the SDA, SDS, and HDZ who are the proven vote-getters if the electorate is given a free choice.

Petritsch and the other representatives of the international community have nonetheless decided that they will impose liberal institutions on Bosnia -- even if its citizens cannot yet be fully trusted with an unfettered democracy lest they elect nationalists.

The international community has had to recognize that it is present in Bosnia for the long haul because it cannot allow the emergence of a lawless black hole in the Balkans on the doorstep of the EU (a similar case may be made for Kosova and possibly Macedonia). Furthermore, the international community has already invested too much time and money in Bosnia to walk away.

It remains difficult, however, to see when light might appear at the end of this tunnel. Economic and legal reforms have been slow in coming in Bosnia, and there are ample signs that a culture of dependency has taken root. Moreover, corruption and old criminal networks remain intertwined with the political and military structures that developed in the course of the 1992-95 war. And one might ask if Petritsch's decision now to impose a Tito-era-style "nationality key" in allocating government jobs will not open the political system to the kind of feather-bedding and gold-bricking that characterized the administration of Bosnia in communist times.

For now, the international community seems to have opted to press ahead with liberal reforms and hope that everything will turn out for the best. But Bosnians will expect additional tangible benefits in return for good behavior and repudiating "dinosaurs." (Patrick Moore)

WHAT BALANCE SHEET FOR THE CIVIL SOCIETY IN ALBANIA? The concept of civil society is relatively new in Albania, and after 50 years of communism and forced collectivization, people are finding it difficult to accept the role of nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs. Donors, largely from abroad, have shaped local NGOs in accordance with their own priorities, which Albanians say are often different from the local realities.

The number of NGOs active in Albania is estimated to be in the thousands. Many were established during the NATO intervention in Kosova three years ago, when more than 350 domestic organizations -- offering food, medicine, and counseling services -- applied for funds at the UNHCR mission in Tirana. Specialists at the Albanian Ministry of Labor and Social Assistance say the number of NGOs may be as high as 3,000.

But the concept of civil society is still poorly understood in Albania, and many of the NGOs do not have a clear idea about how they should function. Despite their large numbers, the NGOs' impact on daily life is limited.

Capajev Gjokutaj is the executive director of the Soros Foundation in Tirana. His organization has played a key role in trying to promote civil society in Albania.

He says that 50 years of communism and forced collectivization still influences people's thinking. But he also says the ways in which NGOs function in Albania -- competing with each other for limited resources -- has limited their appeal to the general public.

Ilira Gjika heads Legal Clinics for Minors, an NGO that is helping to reintegrate and rehabilitate minors who have served short prison terms. She says that, in a bid to attract funding, NGOs frequently imitate each other's programs -- often without paying attention to the needs they are intended to serve. "My opinion is that these 'ready-for-use' models are used indiscriminately in all areas, Muslim and Christian, in urban areas as well as backward rural regions. They are not our models. It's not us who shaped them. These prefabricated models are, in my view, the main obstacle to communication -- the creation of this community. If we go on imitating each other, then we won't be building [society], but rather we'll go on destroying ourselves."

But she also says it's unfair to say that NGOs have been completely unsuccessful in Albania. She says blaming NGOs for poor results is unfair, given the enormous tasks that are expected of them.

Aldo Bumci of the Albanian Institute for International Studies says the main problem is a misguided vision among those -- mainly foreigners -- who finance the projects. "When one speaks of civil society in Tirana, one finds out that there are no popular movements, but rather institutions -- a sort of bureaucracy. [Here,] civil society does not mean popular movements. How did the women's associations set themselves up without an [indigenous] feminist movement? They were fashioned according to the [availability of] foreign donors' funds, which were intended to help develop movements consisting of people coming together in free associations. But communism destroyed any possibility for such collective action."

Experts say the future of NGOs in Albania remains largely contingent on the country developing a stable middle class to sustain and support them. (Alban Bala)

SLOVENIA'S PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS LINE UP FOR FALL ELECTIONS. The daily "Delo" on 19 April reported that Tomaz Rozman is the latest candidate for this fall's Slovenian presidential election. Rozman is the president of the recently founded Slovenian Nation Party and leader of the Lipa bloc of five nonparliamentary political parties. He lived in the U.S. for several decades and holds dual U.S. and Slovenian citizenship. Rozman, who will likely run as an independent candidate, has based his platform on the values of home, family, labor, knowledge, and patriotism.

Slovenia holds presidential elections every five years. In 1991 the new constitution imposed a limit of two consecutive terms on the office. Milan Kucan of the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) has served in the office since the April 1990 election, when he led the Party of Democratic Renewal. Previously, as the liberal head of the Slovenian League of Communists, he had allowed the emergence of opposition parties. Some Slovenes are so accustomed to Kucan's presidency that they find it difficult to imagine a post-Kucan era.

Others view the upcoming election more eagerly. In particular, the conservative Social Democratic Party (SDS) of ex-Defense Minister Janez Jansa, in bitter opposition to the ZLSD, welcomes the forthcoming change. The weekly magazine "Demokracija," an SDS mouthpiece, devotes space in each issue to an unflattering photograph of Kucan and a countdown of his weeks left in office.

Rozman's hope lies in the tradition of independent populist politicians, most famously -- and tragically -- represented by the flamboyant Ivan Kramberger. Like Rozman, Kramberger lived 25 years abroad. Accompanied by a pet monkey, Kramberger traveled across Slovenia in an antique car promoting his independent candidacy and rode a wave of popularity to finish third in the 1990 presidential elections. With his popularity rising on his Homeland Peasant Party ticket, he was assassinated by a demented fellow countryman just months before the 1992 election (see "RFE/RL East European Perspectives," 19 April 2000).

Several other candidates are already in the running for the 2002 election. Anton Rous of the Democratic Party of Retired Persons (DeSUS) last month beat out Stjepan Saubert to win his party's nomination for the presidency, while Barbara Brezigar of the SDS and Zmago Jelincic of the Slovenian National Party (SNS) declared their candidacies early on. In addition, the former governor of the Bank of Slovenia, France Arhar, is considering an independent bid for the office rather than running under the aegis of the Slovenian People's Party (SLS). Other potential contenders include Ljubljana Mayor Viktorija Potocnik and Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, both of the Liberal Democracy Party (LDS). Potential ZLSD candidates have been even less forthcoming, perhaps daunted by the challenge of filling Kucan's shoes.

In the end, all major parties will attempt to field their own candidates. As Rous declared in late March, "Any party that cannot offer a candidate for the presidential election is a second-class party." (Donald F. Reindl)

THE BOUNTY OF THE LJUBLJANA WINE FAIR. The daily "Delo" has reported the results of the 48th annual Ljubljana Wine Fair. The agriculture minister, Franc But, officiated at the opening on 15 April. A roundtable discussion on the theme of wine and recent anti-alcohol legislation in Slovenia allowed But to square off against Health Minister Dusan Keber, who earlier this year proposed new restrictions on alcohol sales and advertising.

The fair is one of only a handful of European wine exhibitions approved by the Office International de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), having followed its standards since 1955. Slovenia viticultural tradition, though well-developed, has a low international profile due to its relatively small output. Winemaking has a millennia-old history in Slovenia, and a myth relates how man was saved from a great flood by climbing a vine and touching the sky. The god Kurent, a Slovenian Dionysus, caused the water to recede, and bound mankind to venerate the grape.

At the 2002 fair, 16 wines from nine countries competed for world championship awards. Ultimately, five entries were successful: two Austrian dry whites, an Austrian sweet white, a South African red, and a Swiss sparkling wine. A Portuguese port won the specialty championship award.

Among Slovenian wines, a 2000 Chardonnay suhi jagodni izbor (German "Trockenbeerenauslese") from the Vino Brezice winery won a northern-hemisphere championship, while a 1999 Italian Riesling ice wine from the Jeruzalem-Ormoz winery won a European-championship award.

In addition, wines from the south-central Bela Krajina region performed well, winning two of Slovenia's five grand gold medals in the competition. The rounded hills of Bela Krajina are best known for blended wines, especially the deep red Metliska Crnina. This year, however, it was a Sauvignon suhi jagodni izbor -- equivalent to a French Sauterne -- and a Muscatel suhi jagodni izbor, both 1999, that carried the day.

But it is exclusively through the mass-market Avia label, marketed by Ljubljana-based Slovenijavino, that most U.S. wine drinkers know Slovenian wine, if at all. Although the company's enologists have produced quality wines, it is largely through volume that they succeeded on international markets. Slovenijavino does not cultivate any vineyards itself, but it annually purchases, processes, and bottles 5,000 hectoliters of must and 155,000 hectoliters of still wines -- some of which is not even of Slovenian origin.

Slovenia recently scored a legislative success in allowing the designation "recognized traditional appellation" for Cvicek, paving the way for its sale on the European market after Slovenia accedes to the EU. Cvicek is a tart, low-alcohol blended wine from the Dolenjska region based on red and white musts, contrary to an EU provision. Brussels, however, has indicated it will recognize the wine as a traditional vintage. The god Kurent would be pleased. (Donald F. Reindl)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "We are for the most robust enlargement possible. As President [George W.] Bush said, NATO membership ought to be available for people from the Baltic to the Black Sea. We are also for making sure that every single one of the aspirants understands that they have work to do to be part of this alliance. We're not inviting people to be members of a country club. We're inviting people to be members of a military alliance." -- U.S. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman. Quoted by RFE/RL in Prague on 18 April.

"We are Albanians, and we belong to the Muslim faith. And the greatest joy we ever had in our lives was the night the U.S. bombing started against Serbia." -- Naim Trnava, the principal of the only medresa, or Islamic religious school, in Kosova. Quoted in the "Los Angeles Times" on 22 April.

"The Muslims here behave like Christians. They do not pray five times a day. They are not bad Muslims, but they have accepted living like in Europe. I think in 10 years it will be worse -- there is no influence of Islam here. We will not stay." -- Faris Haddaj Hadi, who runs the Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Kosova, one of the largest of the Islamic charities operating in the province.

Out of Area: "Today's organization of state bureaucracy unfortunately favors corruption. And I would like to stress that corruption is not the result of a lack of law enforcement, but it is a direct consequence of restrictions on economic freedoms. Any administrative barriers can be overcome by bribes -- the higher the barrier the greater the number of bribes and the more bureaucrats there are taking them." -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual address to the State Duma on 18 April. Quoted by RFE/RL.