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Balkan Report: June 14, 2002

14 June 2002, Volume 6, Number 22

AT THE BACK OF EUROPE'S BUS. One of your editor's all-time favorite political cartoons was done by a Dutch artist for a West German daily in the heady days after the fall of communism in early 1990. It shows a series of couples holding hands, with each man and woman dressed in a national costume of one or another of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. The smiling couples are walking cheerfully towards an apparently blissful reunion with "Europa," meaning the EU (then called the EC).

While the cartoon was heartwarming at the time, it might be regarded 12 years later in much of the region as a bad joke. Former Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has remarked that the EU told him when he came to office that Hungary could join in five years -- and each year thereafter Brussels' message was still "in five years."

Many Czechs -- a people outnumbered ten-to-one by their German neighbors -- fear that an acrimonious dispute with Germany and Austria over the Benes Decrees could jeopardize their chances of EU admission. Other Czechs wonder whether they have left one set of overlords in Moscow only to acquire new ones in Brussels.

The state of relations with the developed West is even less encouraging for many of the Balkan countries. Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 29 April that the OSCE chief of mission in Tirana, Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, has been widely criticized by leaders and the media from across the political spectrum for not giving Albania credit for what it has achieved in recent years. He and other Western leaders are regarded as more inclined to complain than to give Albania a precise guide as to what it must do to achieve integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

One press commentary recently argued that the international community's Friends of Albania are not only short on constructive advice but are behaving as arrogantly as did the representatives of the great powers at the 1913 London conference, which set up an independent Albania over the heads of the Albanians themselves.

Anyone familiar with the Croatian press knows that articles have appeared since 1991 warning against real or imagined attempts by the EU or the broader international community to force Croatia back into one or another form of supranational organization with other former Yugoslav republics. Croatian appeals to be treated as part of Central Europe -- as is Slovenia -- seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Post-Milosevic Serbia had great hopes of being welcomed back into "Europe." But Predrag Simic, who is a foreign policy adviser to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, wrote recently in "Blic" that Brussels seems to have consigned his country to a long-term, second-class status as part of what Simic calls "Euroslavia." By that he means the former Yugoslavia, "minus Slovenia, plus Albania."

On the other side of the peninsula, Romania and Bulgaria thought that escaping any active role in the wars of the Yugoslav succession would guarantee them a happier fate than their ex-Yugoslav neighbors. That may yet prove to be the case, but even Bucharest and Sofia may be in for a longer wait than they expected, as our Luxembourg correspondent reports in the following article. (Patrick Moore)

BRUSSELS' BAD NEWS FOR BULGARIA. Two months ago, Bulgaria's European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva proudly predicted that June would witness great strides in her country's preparations for joining the European Union.

On 10 June, Bulgaria delivered on that promise, closing talks on another three "chapters" of EU law, bringing its tally to 20 out of the 30 currently on the table. The chapters Bulgaria closed are all part of core EU legislation -- the free movement of goods, the free movement of people, and taxation. With 20 chapters closed and all 30 open, Bulgaria is a mere two chapters behind first-wave laggard Malta. Poland, for many the key EU candidate, has closed 25 chapters, but was still working on 20 as recently as December.

Bulgaria's progress would seem a natural cause for celebration for the EU. Instead, Guenter Verheugen, the EU's enlargement commissioner, used the occasion of an EU meeting in Luxembourg on 10 June to pour cold water over Bulgaria's ambitions, indicating the country's accelerated progress is "artificial" and not supported by him. "It makes no sense to 'artificially' open or close [negotiating] chapters when the correspondingly necessary preparations are in reality not there. Consequently, as I have said, the actual speed of future processes is not determined by [the European Commission, but the accession candidates themselves]."

Verheugen went on to say that the heads of government of both Bulgaria and Romania had told him personally that their countries are aiming to join the EU in 2007.

Reeling, Bulgarian officials in Luxembourg were clearly struggling not to respond in kind. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi picked his words with care.

"First of all, let me say that we are not trying to artificially speed up negotiations. On the contrary, we believe that sometimes our speed has been in the past years artificially slowed down."

Pasi is known as one of the sharpest-witted foreign ministers in Eastern Europe, having once memorably described the EU's Laeken Summit decision to relegate Bulgaria and Romania to the second wave of enlargement -- behind 10 front-runners -- as paving the way for "10 weddings and two funerals."

In Luxembourg, Pasi went on to say that his country will remain "strictly focused" on the negotiations, which it intends to close in the first half of 2003. He added that although the actual year of accession is not important at this stage, it will "certainly" be before 2007.

Pasi then took a leaf out of the European Commission's book, quoting principles that Verheugen and his colleagues have for years claimed underpin the entire exercise of enlargement. "Our aim is [for] our efforts to be evaluated by their own merits, and of course by differentiation. We believe that each country has to be considered as one indivisible entity and every grouping may be counterproductive to the whole process."

Pasi's government colleague Kuneva observed that any suggestion of an "artificial" acceleration of negotiations is "controversial," given what she described as the "zealous" pursuit by the European Commission of all the relevant conditions and criteria before closing any of the chapters.

Both Pasi and Kuneva made a point of saying, however, that the accession negotiations are -- first and foremost -- essential for Bulgaria's own development. They refused to speculate on why the EU appears intent on discouraging Bulgaria's progress.

Kuneva sidestepped a suggestion that the EU might be unwilling to add to the mounting costs of enlargement, saying simply that Bulgaria has no wish to discuss the "common plans of others which it has not been invited to join." (Ahto Lobjakas)

A FEW KIND WORDS FOR ALBANIA. Albania may be even farther away from EU or NATO membership than is Bulgaria, but it has received at least some reassurance that the progress it has made has not been ignored. The U.S. Department of State says Albania is taking the first essential steps to addressing the problem of human trafficking.

In its second annual report on human trafficking, released recently, the State Department promoted Albania to a "tier two" country, meaning the country has made significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with international standards. Albania had previously been classified in the lowest, "tier three," category.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to Albania Elisabeth Shelton said in Tirana on 7 June that the decision constitutes moral support for the Albanian government: "Let me be very clear that the 'tier two' country is one which does not yet meet minimum standards but where significant efforts have been undertaken to solve the problems of trafficking."

Albanian authorities praised the reclassification, saying if the "tier three" ranking had remained in place for another year, Albania risked sanctions by the U.S.

Albanian Foreign Minister Arta Dade applauded the decision: "This step constitutes a real contribution towards improving the image of Albania, as the country is quickly approaching long-lasting stability, stable economic and social development, and an integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. This achievement is a result of the efforts the government and other state and civil structures have undertaken to activate the legal and institutional mechanisms regarding the general struggle against organized crime and a restrictive border control."

The State Department said many factors contributed to Albania's progress. It cited the combined efforts of the government, local private organizations, the international community, and media groups.

Last year, the Albanian parliament approved a program entitled the "National Strategy Against Trafficking in Human Beings." This led to the creation of antitrafficking units in police districts around the country. An internationally supported Anti-Trafficking Center was established in Vlora, although it is still not operational.

The U.S. report nonetheless notes that trafficking in Albania remains a critical problem. The country is considered both a source of trafficked women and children as well as a transit point.

Albanian police say about 10 speedboats carrying trafficked persons depart from Vlora bay and other coastal points each night. The number of trafficked people during the summer is believed to be between 2,500-3,000 a month. Many are Kurds and enter Albania via the Greek border.

Avni Jancellari chairs the Directorate for Combating Human Trafficking in the Albanian Ministry of Public Order. He says the trafficking networks are present all around the country in spite of increased pressure by police. "[During the first four months of the year] the state police identified and prevented 187 cases of trafficking attempts, detaining 283 persons. [This is more than the] 266 cases we forwarded to the prosecutor's office last year. During these first four months, we attacked and fully destroyed 12 illegal groups dealing with criminal traffic in the cities of Durres, Vlora, Korca, Tirana, Berat, Kukes, etc."

According to the U.S., over the past year at least 700,000 men, women, and children worldwide were bought, sold, or otherwise held against their will in slave-like conditions. (Alban Bala)

MACEDONIA'S ETHNIC-ALBANIAN POLITICAL SCENE. Macedonia's ethnic-Albanian political scene recently saw a major shake-up caused by two party leadership elections -- within the newly founded Democratic Party for Integration (PDI) and the established Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD).

On 5 June, a party founding convention elected Ali Ahmeti by acclamation as chairman of the PDI.

Ahmeti, the political leader of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK), thus now heads a party of his own. His decision to form this party came after he failed to turn the so-called Coordination Council of the Albanians in Macedonia into a platform for all ethnic Albanian political parties.

Ahmeti did not manage to overcome the old animosities between the leaderships of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the National Democratic Party (PDK) on the one hand, and the leaders of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) on the other (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May and 6 June 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 February 2002).

The second election -- at first glance -- is not linked with Ahmeti's move to form a political party. It was not the election itself, but the way Abdurrahman Haliti was elected chairman of PPD on 11 May that led to protests by leading party members.

A dozen delegates headed by PPD Secretary-General and Deputy Foreign Minister Muhamet Halili and legislator Azis Pollozhani walked out of the party convention. The protesters maintain that Haliti broke the party rules when he declared himself elected by acclamation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002).

The rift between the factions of Haliti and Halili deepened in the meantime. The turmoil in the party culminated over the weekend of 8-9 June. While Haliti gathered the party's central assembly in Skopje to elect a new party leadership on 8 June, Halili called his followers to a central assembly in Tetovo.

As a result, Halili was excluded from the party because of "destructive activities against the party." Naser Zyberi replaced Halili as the party's new secretary-general. Halili, however, still feels that he is the legitimate representative of the PPD leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002).

On 10 June there was a new round between the opponents. Both Haliti and Halili reportedly sent letters to the government, in which they demanded the resignation of their opponent's followers. Haliti urged Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski to remove Halili from his position as deputy foreign minister. Halili, for his part, demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Qemal Musliu, Justice Minister Hixhet Memeti, and Minister for Local Self-Government Faik Arslani leave the government.

Halili has so far rejected the idea of leaving the PPD, but he does not rule out possible cooperation with Ahmeti's new party as soon as order within the PPD is restored.

The other protester against Haliti's election, Pollozhani, took another course. He left the PPD even before the weekend to join Ahmeti's PDI. Asked to explain his move, he wrote in the Skopje weekly "Kapital" of 6 June that he is disappointed by the PPD leadership's unwillingness to carry out internal reforms. Haliti's election seems to have been only the most recent in a series of frustrations for Pollozhani.

Ahmeti's new party also seems to be attractive to prominent ethnic Albanians who previously remained aloof from party politics. Teuta Arifi, a writer and lecturer at the philological faculty of Skopje University, wrote in "Kapital" that she hopes that the new party will help overcome the corruption, the old-boy networks, and the limited role of Albanian women in party politics.

It was widely expected that most members of Ahmeti's party would come from the ranks of the disbanded UCK, as well as from the established ethnic Albanian political parties. But it looks as if the emergence of the party will have a deep impact only on the PPD's future. At the moment, there does not seem to be a major shift of PDSH or PDK members towards the PDI.

On the contrary, the PDSH announced that a number of former UCK commanders have become party officials in Tetovo. Since 8 June, the PDSH's Tetovo branch has been headed by former UCK commanders. And as PDSH Deputy Chairman Menduh Thaci later revealed, the former rebels were members of the party even before they joined the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002).

Ethnic Macedonian commentators regard the changes within the ethnic-Albanian political scene with some discomfort. On the one hand, they criticize the absence of Macedonian state symbols from the PDI's convention as a sign that Ahmeti does not really want integration. On the other hand, they report about the trouble within the PPD with malicious glee. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

SLOVENIAN WORLD CUP BID DASHED. The Slovenian approach to competing at the world level was brought home to me in a conversation many years ago. I had recently been subjected to wines of dubious drinkability in several other Central and Eastern European countries, with impassioned locals assuring me that their vintages were the best in the world. Later, sitting in the backyard of my cousin's house in Ljubljana, I complimented him on the Slovenian wine that he served. Yes, he said, Slovenia does have some high quality wines -- but French wines are better.

Slovenes voice similar sentiments about other aspects of their country. Their coast and mountains are exquisite, but come second to the beaches of Dalmatia and the ski slopes of Austria when Slovenes plan their vacations.

Slovenia's participation in the 2002 World Cup soccer championship this month highlighted this modest approach to appearing on the world stage. The Slovenes, like any nation, were undeniably proud of their team qualifying for the World Cup. But few entertained any serious hope of their team placing very highly. In a poll published in the daily "Delo" on 1 June, 46 percent of Slovenes felt their team might make it past the first round. However, asked whether Slovenia could qualify for the final match, fewer than 2 percent entertained this feverish hope. It was as if they wished to say, "yes, Slovenia does have a quality team -- but other teams are better."

The fact that the Slovenian team was able to place at all among the world's 32 top national teams was a surprise victory in itself for Slovenia. When the Slovenian team qualified for the World Cup by beating Romania in November 2001, they received a hero's welcome at the Ljubljana airport from 15,000 fans and celebrating crowds of revelers filled the city center. President Milan Kucan and Prime Minister Drnovsek hosted a reception for the team and praised them for bringing Slovenia together.

As the smallest independent state to ever place a team in the World Cup, Slovenia was acutely aware of the size disadvantage it faced. A 2 June headline in "Delo" asked how the Slovene "dwarf" could compete against the Spanish "giant" in their first game, scheduled for that day. The article noted that 2.5 million Spaniards are registered members of soccer clubs, compared to Slovenia's entire population of 1.9 million. Spain won the game 3:1, but the general opinion was that Slovenia had held its own, avoiding a rout such as that suffered by Saudi Arabia in its 0:8 loss to Germany.

Slovenes must have listened with some sense of irony to BBC and CBC reports last week profiling the "tiny nation" of Ecuador -- at 13 million people -- which was also competing in the World Cup for the first time.

Slovenia's 0:1 loss to South Africa on 8 June signaled the end of the country's hopes for moving to the second round of the World Cup. The hopes were put to rest once and for all on 12 June when Slovenia lost to Paraguay 3:1.

However, the event that stands out to most Slovenes as the greatest disappointment is not this loss, but the falling out between Slovenia's star player, Zlatko Zahovic, and the team's coach, Srecko Katanec. After Katanec pulled Zahovic from play during the match with Spain, there was a verbal exchange between the men during which Zahovic insulted Katanec and accused him of favoring Ljubljana players over players from other Slovenian regions, particularly Stajerska -- Zahovic's home province. Following several days of deliberation, during which Katanec declared that he would quit after the World Cup, Zahovic was kicked off the national team on 6 June.

Slovenes, who tend to think in regional terms, widely hold that the Ljubljana area is favored over other regions when it comes to economics, administration, education, and other matters. Nonetheless, opinion polls showed meager support for Zahovic among the public, with fewer than 7 percent taking his side. "Delo" noted on 9 June that the temperamental Zahovic has had stormy relationships with coaches in the past -- not only in Slovenia, but in Greece and Portugal as well. Indicative of popular sentiment was the sign held up by fans in Ljubljana's Tivoli Park, where a giant screen has been displaying broadcast of World Cup matches: "Zaho, why?"

Interest in World Cup events was manifest at the highest level in Slovene politics. Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel attended the game against Spain. After the Zahovic incident, President Kucan himself tried to smooth things over with a statement that a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and that people must learn to live with mutual differences.

In the press there was a palpable deflation of spirit as events progressed halfway around the world. The boisterous challenge "Slovenia is going forward!" was weakly echoed in Katanec's declaration after the first loss: "We shall play on."

After the second, disqualifying loss, on 9 June "Delo" carried the subdued headline, "Slovenia is going home." But in the end, Slovenia is likely to view its 2002 World Cup bid as a success simply because they were able to establish themselves as contenders in this highly visible sports event. Even if others were better. (Donald F. Reindl,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "More and more people understand that the ticket, the entry card, to Europe is multiethnicity. If you want to have multiethnicity, you must make return [of ethnic minorities] possible." -- Michael Steiner, head of the UN civilian mission in Kosova (UNMIK), in an interview with Reuters in Prishtina on 11 June.

"There is a private economy but not yet a market economy." -- Former Albanian Minister Genc Ruli, quoted in "Le Monde Diplomatique" on 12 June.