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Balkan Report: May 31, 2002

31 May 2002, Volume 6, Number 21

The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 14 June 2002.

THE CHESS GAME IN BELGRADE. It is often forgotten nowadays that former Yugoslavia once vied with the USSR and Hungary for producing the world's largest number of international chess grandmasters per capita. The latest political developments in Belgrade may help to refresh memories.

In a row that threatens to break up the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and the leaders of most of the other 18 parties in DOS have agreed to sack 50 legislators who have repeatedly missed legislative sessions, RFE/RL reported on 27 May. The 50 would be replaced by candidates on the DOS list in the 2000 election who did not secure seats as a result of that vote.

The replacements, however, do not reflect the same mix of political parties as do the outgoing 50 legislators. Under the recent DOS decision, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) would lose 10 of its current 23 seats. Two small Vojvodina parties and the Social Democrats would also face losses, while the Serbian Resistance Movement would forfeit its only seat.

Additional seats, however, would go to Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS), Justice Minister Vladan Batic's Christian Democrats (DHSS), and Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic's Democratic Alternative (DA). There are 250 seats in the parliament, of which 176 are held by DOS deputies.

Defending their position, Djindjic and Batic have stressed that it is not permissible for deputies to draw salaries but not show up for work. The two men have noted that the failure of DSS deputies in particular to appear in the parliament has often meant that needed reforms cannot be enacted because there is no quorum.

Kostunica, however, has argued that legislative boycott is a legitimate form of political activity. His party frequently disagrees with its partners, particularly where painful economic reforms are concerned. The DSS nonetheless recognizes that it would lose credibility at home and abroad if it formally joined the parliamentary opposition, which consists of three parties that supported the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic and that also oppose Djindjic's economic measures.

Dragan Marsicanin, who heads the DSS faction in the Serbian parliament, said that the decision to replace the 50 legislators is a "rape of rights." He stressed that his party will take a series of measures if the DOS goes ahead with the sackings. If the 50 legislators are fired, the DSS will no longer regard the parliament, the government, or the governing bodies of state corporations as legitimate. The DSS will boycott those institutions and form a shadow government. It will also challenge the DOS decision in court and demand new elections.

The DSS is not alone in challenging the decision of DOS on legal grounds. Marko Blagojevic of the Belgrade-based NGO Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) noted that the DOS is not a formal legal entity and is not registered as such with the Justice Ministry. Blagojevic argued that the DOS therefore has no legal basis to make decisions about replacing legislators. Kostunica made the same point on 29 May.

But Djindjic has stated that the parliamentarians owe their mandates to DOS, which can take their seats away if it wishes to do so. In an obvious bid for public support, the DS provided several Belgrade dailies of 29 May with a list of the 23 DSS parliamentarians who received full pay for little work.

The truants collected a total of $33,620 over the past three months while putting in very few hours. The DS announcement included the amount of time each legislator spent in the parliament, down to the minute. The absent deputies each took home nearly $500 per month in a country where the average wage is about $186 per month.

Apparently stung by the revelations, a spokesman for Kostunica called the expose "a naked political manipulation and a pack of lies." Later that same day, Kostunica announced that he wants new elections and is removing all DSS members from the governing boards of state-run companies. Kostunica charged that Djindjic is afraid of losing his parliamentary majority and "fears elections more than the devil himself."

The DSS has periodically called for new elections in recent months. In response, Djindjic and his supporters have argued that early elections would destabilize the country and put off foreign investors (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 30 May 2002). The DS also noted that Kostunica has withdrawn his people from the boards of only a few state corporations but not from all.

It is difficult to see where this chess match will lead and who will checkmate whom. Kostunica inspires confidence and trust with voters in a way that Djindjic does not and cannot. The president also knows how to appeal to populist sentiments over such matters as factory closures.

But Djindjic knows that Serbia must make urgent and often painful changes if it is to shed numerous white elephant enterprises left over from communist times and the Milosevic era. He is also aware that his ideas generate more support from the international community than do those of Kostunica. This is as true of their respective positions on economic reform as it is of their differing positions on cooperating with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal.

Meanwhile, the voters are growing increasingly impatient as they watch the politicians feud. Few people, if any, have seen their economic position improve significantly since the fall of the old order at the end of 2000. It is true that many nationalists abandoned Milosevic for DOS primarily because he lost four wars, but many other voters opted for the coalition in hopes of bettering their lot and securing a brighter future.

If those hopes and aspirations are disappointed, it is difficult to foretell what might happen politically. Should the politicians lose sight of their priorities, they would do well to recall a remark that one of the DOS leaders made to your editor a few years ago, when the parties that eventually became DOS were very much in the opposition: "You cannot build democracy amid poverty." (Patrick Moore)

KOSOVAR AND MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS DUEL OVER THE BORDER. During the past week, Kosovar and Macedonian politicians once again demonstrated how fragile peace in the region remains.

The latest tensions began on 23 May, when the Kosovar parliament passed a resolution on the invulnerability of the borders of Kosova. The resolution criticizes the Macedonian-Yugoslav border agreement of January 2001, which the Kosovars never recognized on the grounds that Kosova is none of Belgrade's business. In recent months, Kosovar politicians repeatedly denounced the border agreement as invalid, noting that it deprives Kosova of some 2,500 hectares of its territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002).

The international community, however, supports the Macedonian view that the border agreement is valid, and that according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovar institutions are not competent to ask for changes in the demarcation line between Yugoslavia and Macedonia.

That was the reason why Michael Steiner, the chief of United Nations civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), declared the parliament's resolution invalid as soon as it was passed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 28 May 2002).

That could have been the end of the matter, but the Macedonian government under hard-line Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski obviously wanted to use the opportunity to make some propaganda -- perhaps because of the poor figure the government cut immediately after the Kosova parliament's decision.

The Skopje dailies of 24 May -- one day after the Kosova parliament passed its resolution -- were full of reports about a struggle for control of Macedonia's foreign policy between Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule and President Boris Trajkovski.

It seems as if Georgievski tried to offset that unpleasant situation when he proposed issuing a counter-declaration to the Kosovar resolution. His draft underscored the invulnerability of the existing borders of Macedonia and dismissed the Kosovar resolution as a "blow against the implementation of the Ohrid peace accord," which ended the violence between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian security forces in August 2001.

Georgievski then used the 27 May parliamentary debate about the counter-declaration as an opportunity for an anti-Western speech, as he has in similar situations in the past. Georgievski said that unnamed "structures" within the international community are using the Kosovar government to destabilize the region. But at the same time, Georgievski offered Belgrade and the Kosovars trilateral talks on border delineation -- without international mediation.

Georgievski also adduced two border incidents -- on 22 and 25 May -- as arguments for passing the counter-declaration. However, both NATO and the Kosovar Albanians question the government's version of the 22 May events. The Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" even went so far as to accuse the Macedonian authorities of having staged the incident in order to discredit Kosovar institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 28 May 2002).

While representatives of most ethnic Macedonian political parties signed the draft declaration shortly after it was presented by Georgievski, the ethnic Albanian political parties took a different view. "The Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) will always support the decisions of the Kosovar parliament, since [the PDSH] believes that the Kosovar institutions are the only ones that can decide about Kosova. That is why all decisions of the Kosovar parliament -- including the resolution on the preservation of the territorial integrity of Kosova -- are for us legitimate decisions," PDSH faction leader Zamir Dika said.

The spokesman of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), Zahir Bekteshi, made it clear where the core of the problem lies. "We continue to question the [agreement on] the border between Kosova and Macedonia because we question the legitimacy of one side -- [rump] Yugoslavia." For him, the only ones entitled to make an agreement about the border are the legitimate institutions of Macedonia and Kosova.

In view of these statements, it was predictable that the ethnic Albanian political parties would refrain from voting in favor of the counter-declaration to the Kosovar parliament's resolution.

But there was an additional reason why the ethnic Albanian political parties did not want the Macedonian parliament to discuss an anti-Kosovar declaration. "Now that we are about to pass the laws called for in the Ohrid agreement..., I believe it is not the time to insist on a debate that could incite new interethnic tensions," "Dnevnik" of 28 May quoted Dika as saying.

Fortunately, Dika's predictions did not come true. The parliament adopted the resolution on 28 May in a relatively calm atmosphere -- with the votes of the ethnic Macedonian lawmakers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002). (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

TROUBLED WATERS IN THE BAY OF PIRAN. Strolling through Ljubljana, tourists inevitably encounter an enormous anchor in Congress Square -- a 1954 monument commemorating the annexation of the Slovenian coast to Yugoslavia. Previously, Slovenia had been a landlocked Yugoslav province. Although today's coast stretches a mere 47 kilometers, the sea is a cherished component of national identity. Indeed, Slovenia's crest unites the waves of the sea with Mount Triglav, emphasizing Slovenia's dual Alpine and Adriatic identity.

From the historic salt pans of Secovlje near the Croatian border, to the naval facilities in Ankaran at the Italian border, Slovenia's coast draws foreign and domestic tourists alike. The region's economic heart is Koper, dominated by a port developed after World War II. As Yugoslavia's northernmost commercial port, Koper enjoyed a brisk traffic, shipping goods out the Bay of Koper, past the Bay of Piran, and through Yugoslav waters to international shipping lanes in the Adriatic Sea.

With the events of 1991, however, these Yugoslav waters became Slovenian and Croatian waters. Although no maritime border has been finalized yet, it is clear that the conventional method of determining sea borders -- fixing and extending a line equidistant from each country's shores -- would deny Slovenia access to international waters by several dozen kilometers.

The July 2001 signing of a draft border agreement appeared to resolve the issue (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001). It divided the Bay of Piran along a line skewed southwards, giving Slovenia 80 percent of the bay and a 12-kilometer corridor to international waters. In return, a land border adjustment transferred 113 hectares of Slovenian territory to Croatia. Despite mutual grumbling, the problem seemed settled.

However, the draft agreement is still not ratified, and there are indications that Croatia may move the matter to international arbitration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). Although the current Croatian government is unlikely to claim the entire Bay of Piran -- as the late President Franjo Tudjman did -- arbitration would likely grant Croatia more than the 20 percent under the bilateral agreement.

In the meantime, minor clashes are raising temperatures on both sides. Croatian police boats have repeatedly forced Slovenian fishing boats back to the center line of the 4-kilometer-wide bay. Most recently, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel issued a protest to Croatia on 23 May, when Croatia unilaterally set up a clam bed at the bay's midway point (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002). The Croatian Foreign Ministry responded that Croatia has no legal obligation to observe the agreement until it is ratified. Istria's governor, Ivan Jakovcic, declared that the clam bed is in an indisputably Croatian portion of the bay, the Slovenian daily "Delo" reported on 25 May.

The Slovenian press has recently resurrected the issue of Croatian gains at Slovenian expense in the drawing of the post-World War II Italian-Yugoslav border, voiced in a "Delo" editorial on 25 May. To deal with continuing tension in the ethnically mixed northern Adriatic coastal area, the UN established the Free Territory of Trieste (FTT) in 1947. In 1954, the FTT was divided -- northern Zone A fell to Italy and southern Zone B to Yugoslavia. Although large numbers of Yugoslavs and Italians remained on the "wrong" side of the border, their numbers were relatively balanced.

Looking beyond the official concept of a single Yugoslav identity, however, Slovenes claimed that they as Slovenes had been shortchanged. The "lost" Yugoslavs in Zone A were almost exclusively Slovenes, whereas large numbers of Croats lived in Zone B. Subsequent population movements emptied Croatian territory of 130,000 Italians, who were replaced by Croatian settlers -- further increasing the size of the Croatian population relative to that of the Slovenes on the Istrian Peninsula. Meanwhile, the Slovene population in Zone A continues to dwindle under assimilatory pressure. Many Slovenes therefore see Croatian unwillingness to ratify the latest agreement as adding insult to injury.

No less pointed was a 21 May headline in "Delo" echoing a popular assertion: "Did Kardelj confuse the Dragonja with the Mirna?" The more southerly Mirna River had been the dividing line between Zone B and Yugoslavia. By many accounts, it also formed a more suitable Slovene-Croat ethnic boundary than the more northerly Dragonja.

In 1954 the task of defining the Slovenian-Croatian border was given to the Slovene Edvard Kardelj and the Croat Vladimir Bakaric. Kardelj, more concerned with securing an advantageous international border with Italy, presumably cared little about what was an internal Yugoslav border at the time.

The subtext is that, had Kardelj divided Slovenia and Croatia at the Mirna, today's international maritime border would extend west from the Istrian town of Novigrad. This would have given Slovenia direct access to international waters and made unnecessary the postindependence acrimonious debate over the Bay of Piran.

But the dispute looks set to move beyond shipping, fish, and clams. "Delo" reported on 21 May that Slovenian officials have examined a license granted by Croatia to that country's Ina oil company in December. The new license allows the company to explore for crude oil and natural gas in the Bay of Piran up to -- and in some cases beyond -- the midway point.

Even darker suggestions were raised in "Delo" on 29 May that some in Croatia may be seeking to prolong the border dispute in order to hold up Slovenia's accession to the EU -- and to allow Croatia to catch up to its northern neighbor. (Donald F. Reindl.

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "One of the main problems -- that is the reason...why you have the high representative here -- is that the top political leaders in this country are not always up to the challenges of the 21st century." Wolfgang Petritsch, whose term as the international community's high representative in Bosnia ended on 27 May. He was quoted in Sarajevo by Reuters on 24 May.

"Her presence creates problems because she is connected to a person who is indicted for war crimes." -- Gianni Volpin, director of communications at the Bosnian office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He was calling for the resignation of Ljiljana Karadzic, the wife of Radovan Karadzic, as head of the Bosnian Serb Red Cross. Quoted by Reuters from Sarajevo on 30 May.

"If the ICRC has changed principles and taken on a political role defining family responsibility in suspicions of committing war crimes, I expect your superiors to officially inform me of these new principles." -- Ms. Karadzic's response.