Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: November 15, 2002

15 November 2002, Volume 6, Number 42

DIFFICULT TIMES FOR AN IMPORTANT ALLIANCE. The German-American partnership has long been a cornerstone of stability in European security affairs, including the Balkans. It will require much care and attention if it is to return to its former strength.

Unidentified NATO officials told Reuters in Brussels on 31 October that the Atlantic alliance is making plans to extend the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Macedonia -- known as Amber Fox -- when the current mandate runs out on 15 December. The officials stressed that NATO does not want a vacuum to emerge if the European Union is unable to carry out its plans to take over the mission from NATO.

The EU's project has been held up for months by bickering between Greece and Turkey over what is known as Berlin Plus, which is a plan to guarantee the EU access to NATO planning, intelligence, and logistics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 February, 8 March, 3 May, and 16 August 2002).

France wants to press ahead with the EU project even without Berlin Plus, the "Financial Times" reported on 30 October. Britain, however, wants the EU to undertake the mission only with that agreement. Paris sees the future of the EU's incipient European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) as distant from, or even independent of, NATO. London wants the ESDP linked to the Atlantic alliance in order to improve European military capabilities.

This situation calls attention to the role of Germany, which has always been crucial in the European and Balkan stability equations. The government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder seeks to support both the ESDP and NATO, including its planned rapid-reaction force, but has little or no money to take on new commitments.

Nonetheless, Berlin's budget problems and its well-publicized policy differences with Washington over Iraq are but the most visible parts of a more fundamental political problem that threatens to erode the alliance that has been vital for Euro-Atlantic security in the postwar era (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June 2001 and 13 September 2002).

The current imbroglio began in the run-up to the 22 September German parliamentary elections. For the first time in postwar history, a sitting chancellor's party, the Social Democrats (SPD), aggressively used anti-American themes to win votes. An atmosphere conducive to such an approach had long been prepared by much of the media, particularly where insulting treatment of President George W. Bush was concerned.

In the end, Schroeder's strategy brought him victory, due in part to the support of many former East Germans. As the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" pointed out, East Germans had "never known the Americans as friends or helpers" because the East Germans had gone directly from Nazism to communism without an interlude of democracy. Years of anti-American propaganda by both totalitarian regimes seem to have had a lasting impact on some voters.

Another factor in the equation was the failure of the Christian Democratic-Christian Social (CDU-CSU) opposition candidate, Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, to articulate a clear alternative position to that of Schroeder. The CDU-CSU seemed to have lost completely the strong foreign-policy profile it had under some former leaders, such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl or Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss.

But one thing that had not changed was the presence of anti-American currents in the SPD. For anyone who cared to look, such views have long been present at beer-table gatherings of the party faithful, such as the group before which Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin compared Bush to Adolf Hitler and slammed the U.S. judicial system. Views mistrustful of, or disparaging toward, the United States could also be found in the public remarks of many party leaders over the years, as well as in recent books by some of its elder statesmen. These include Egon Bahr's "Deutsche Interessen" (German Interests) (Munich, Karl Blessing, 1998) and Helmut Schmidt's "Die Selbstbehauptung Europas" (The Self-Affirmation of Europe) (Munich, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2000).

But the party leaders prior to 2002 were generally very careful to ensure that anti-American views within the SPD, which were not shared by all members, did not interfere with the pragmatic exercise of power when in office. Many within the U.S. policy elite knew of this dichotomy. They chose to ignore it so long as pragmatism held sway when the SPD was in office and policy differences could be worked out behind closed doors.

Schroeder's campaign put an end to that -- the old cat of SPD anti-Americanism was out of the bag for all to see. Not only were President Bush and many top administration officials reportedly quite angry, but many people in the broader U.S. policy community felt that the German leadership had repaid decades of political, economic, diplomatic, and military support with crass ingratitude.

There are several theories as to what the change in German behavior means. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in "The Scotsman" of 20 October that "self-righteous isolation beckons for Germany and a return to pre-First World War conditions for Europe." Victor Davis Hanson argued in "National Review" of 11 November that Schroeder's rhetoric about a "German way" and about policy "made in Berlin -- and only in Berlin" is ominous. Hanson suggested that "a Mel Brooks movie could not have offered a better caricature of repressed nostalgia for the 1930s."

On a less apocalyptic note, Kohl argued that the problem is that Schroeder does not understand the difference between making foreign policy and making domestic policy. Consequently, Kohl argued, Schroeder launched his anti-American campaign thinking that damage could quickly be repaired after the election, as in the rough-and-tumble of domestic politics.

For its part, the Bush administration has let it be known that the damage is serious. U.S. officials have not responded quickly or warmly to calls from Berlin to go back to business as usual and write off the problem as one of "irritations." In Washington's eyes, trust has been violated and confidence thrown into doubt. "Normal" relations may be restored in the coming months, but that would be a pale shadow of the close German-American partnership of the past.

The question remains as to where things will go from here. Will the United States be tempted to keep relations with Germany on the back burner until a friendlier government appears there? Might the U.S. administration be inclined at some point to pull U.S. forces out of Germany and move them to another country -- perhaps one in Eastern Europe -- that is likely to prove more supportive than Schroeder in a time of crisis in the Middle East? Might the German chancellor and the SPD conclude that anti-Americanism is a proven vote getter and be tempted to behave like the French or Greek Socialists in future election campaigns?

The answers to these and other questions will affect the security situation not only in the Balkans and in Europe but possibly well beyond. (Patrick Moore)

SLOVENIA SET FOR 1 DECEMBER RUNOFF ELECTIONS. Fran Levstik's classic 1858 story "A Journey from Litija to Catez" begins with the memorable lines, "It was this fall, around the Feast of St. Martin..." and describes an autumn hike across the rolling hills of Slovenia's Dolenjska region, renowned for its wines.

Recreating the walk is an annual tradition in Slovenia. Martinmas is the day that the fermenting must officially becomes wine, and the 22-kilometer walk is as good an excuse as any to enjoy the new vintage. A meal of roast goose, red cabbage, and "mlinci" (flatbread) -- accompanied, of course, by wine -- tops off Martinmas weekend.

It would not have been surprising if observers had noted a spring in the step of one of the 15,000 participants in this year's walk. President Milan Kucan takes part in the hike regularly. He says that he has missed the event only twice, both times because of official obligations. With the weight of his responsibility as Slovenia's figurehead leader now lifting from his shoulders, Kucan can look forward to hiking in peace. Pausing at the old Resnik granary in the village of Moravce, with two hours to go, the 61-year-old statesman said he plans to do the walks in the future as well, president or not.

The 10 November elections appeared set to decide the issue of Kucan's successor, with current Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party widely tipped as the favorite (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 November 2002). However, growing support for state prosecutor Barbara Brezigar -- and joint backing from the conservative opposition Social Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) -- secured her enough votes to deny Drnovsek the 50 percent needed for an outright first-ballot victory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002).

With nearly 100 percent of the votes tallied, Drnovsek received 44 percent, somewhat less than the preelection polls had predicted. In contrast, Brezigar's share of the votes reached 31 percent, which was more than the polls forecast. Zmago Jelincic of the Slovenian National Party (SNS) secured nearly 9 percent of the votes, while France Arhar, who had the backing of the Slovenian People's Party (SLS), came in fourth with 7 percent. The five remaining candidates trailed behind at 3 percent or less.

Speaking after the election, Drnovsek said that he is pleased by the results and that an outright first-round victory is not a common event in parliamentary democracies. Brezigar also expressed her happiness with the results and said that she looks forward to debating Drnovsek before the second round on 1 December.

Although Brezigar did not beat the 52-year-old prime minister in any of Slovenia's eight large voting units, she did score outright victories in some of the individual voting districts. The 48-year-old native of Ljubljana performed best in the nearby town of Skofja Loka, with 45 percent of votes, compared to 31 percent for Drnovsek. Drnovsek himself did best in the coal-mining town of Hrastnik, in the Sava River valley, winning 66 percent compared to 15 percent for Brezigar.

The closest runner-up, Jelincic, thanked "all of the intelligent Slovenes" who had voted for him. He also added that he has not decided whom to endorse in the runoff -- the SNS has been critical of both Brezigar and Drnovsek. Arhar expressed his thanks to those who had "the courage to support me after my lynching in the media" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 September 2002).

About 71 percent of Slovenia's 1.6 million eligible voters turned out for the election. The half million of the electorate who did not vote are now being courted by both candidates for the runoff. "I would like to invite those voters who did not vote today, or whose candidate did not win, to participate in the 1 December election and cast their votes for a beautiful and friendly Slovenia," said Brezigar.

The runoff will settle 61 undecided mayoral races as well. In the contest for mayor of Ljubljana, incumbent Vika Potocnik (LDS) secured only 35 percent of the votes -- a marked contrast to the 1998 elections, in which she swept to victory in the first round with 53 percent. Her challenger, Danica Simsic of the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), won a respectable 22 percent in the field of 12 candidates.

Traditionally, turnout is lowest in the largest urban centers. Maribor's Voting District 4 reported that just under 32 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, while turnout in Ljubljana ranged between 52 and 75 percent. The most civic-minded district was Skofja Loka, where more than 80 percent of voters cast their ballots.

Sunday's beautiful weather may have drawn many town dwellers away from the polls to the countryside for hikes beneath the snow-capped peaks -- or perhaps for an extra serving of goose at one of the traditional country inns. (Donald F. Reindl,

MACEDONIA'S LIONS STILL POSING PROBLEMS. The Lions are a special police unit that were formed by the Interior Ministry during last year's conflict between the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and the Macedonian security forces. From the very beginning, the Lions were a favorite project of Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June and 21 September 2001).

Many domestic and international observers doubted that the Lions' formation was necessary, because special forces that could take over the same tasks as the Lions already existed, both within the army and the police. Some of the media speculated that the Lions might really be intended as a party militia for the VMRO-DPMNE rather than as a regular antiterrorist police unit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002).

The controversy over the Lions was fueled by the negative publicity caused by some of its members. Incidents ranging from bar brawls to harassment and shoot-outs led the international community to demand the Lions' dissolution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March and 19 April 2002). The new Macedonian government under Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) has already signaled that it is willing to comply with those demands.

In this situation, "Dnevnik" reported on 8 November that the commander of the Lions, Goran Stojkov, has resigned. As the reason for his move, Stojkov cited police general Zoran Jovanovski's plans to dismiss about 960 out of the 1,500 members of the Lions. Stojkov said he cannot support these plans, which will not only cause social problems for those dismissed but will have a negative impact on the country's security situation, he added.

But already the next day, Jovanovski denied that he had planned to sack almost two-thirds of the Lions. And at a press conference, he revealed some interesting details about the work of the former interior minister.

According to Jovanovski, more than 1,100 of the policemen in the unit do not have a regular employment contract with the state. Jovanovski said: "The majority of the Lions have an open employment contract, which is signed only by former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. This kind of contract is invalid because it is signed by neither the finance minister nor the [government] Employment Agency."

Jovanovski added that he believes that the Lions should not be dissolved yet and are still needed. The Interior Ministry is currently assessing the possibility of transforming the Lions into a 800-strong police unit, which will also include the border police. The ministry had already proposed similar plans before the government change (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

DEPUTY MINISTERS NAMED IN MACEDONIA. On 7 November, the party leaderships of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) named their candidates for the positions of deputy ministers. SDSM spokesman Jani Makraduli announced the names of the deputy ministers from the SDSM, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), and from the smaller coalition partners (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002).

According to Makraduli, SDSM members will fill positions in four ministries. Meri Mladenova will become deputy justice minister, Tanja Altandzieva deputy environment minister, Dragoljub Matovski deputy minister for local self-government, and Dimitar Kokarovski deputy finance minister. Makraduli added that the deputy ministers of foreign affairs and education will be nominated later.

Rizvan Sulejmani of the BDI will take his deputy position in the Defense Ministry, Fatmir Dehari in the Interior Ministry, Xheladin Shatku in the Economy Ministry, and Besir Jashari in the Agriculture Ministry.

The Democratic Party of the Serbs (DPS) has been granted the position of one deputy transport minister, which will be filled by Dejan Kosutic. Maksut Ali will represent the Democratic Party of the Turks (DPT) as deputy minister for labor and social affairs.

The Liberal Democrats announced that they will have two deputy ministers: Melpomeni Korneti in the Ministry for Culture and Nikola Panovski in the Health Ministry.

Makraduli pointed out that the new deputy ministers will face a difficult task because their predecessors have left chaotic conditions behind. "There is neither an archive nor any documentation [in the ministries]. Several ministries have enormous debts, but we are going to try to make them work properly by the end of the year," Makraduli said. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "Under heavy pressure from Washington, President Vojislav Kostunica of Yugoslavia has been induced to fire four senior officials involved with the Iraq [arms] deals. But these are cosmetic measures; the real question is how to respond to Kostunica and [Ukrainian President Leonid] Kuchma, two politicians who say they want to lead their countries into the West yet refuse to respect its most basic norms.

"There's no evidence Mr. Kostunica had anything to do with the Yugoslav-Iraq deals; yet since ousting Slobodan Milosevic as Serbian leader two years ago, he has consistently refused to purge hard-core nationalists and war criminals from the military. Mr. Kostunica attempts a remarkable straddle: He appeals to the lingering Serbian nationalism stoked by Mr. Milosevic -- thereby winning elections over his more moderate opposition -- while simultaneously demanding that his country be treated as a respectable member of the European democratic community.

"He cannot be allowed to succeed. Until there is a decisive break with the past, discussions of European Union concessions or of including Yugoslavia in NATO's partnership for peace should be stopped." -- "Rogue Merchants," a commentary in "The Washington Post," 8 November 2002 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 November 2002).

"[The U.S.] has friends in Europe, even where those friends are outnumbered, or outshouted. They should be encouraged, others should be engaged. 'Public diplomacy'...can only do so much. But it can do something. Anti-Americanism can be muted, and pro-Americanism can be emboldened.

"'Don't scuttle the Pacific,' [General Douglas] MacArthur liked to say. There is no need to scuttle Europe. Divide it, perhaps. Talk to it, coax it, bat it around a little -- definitely.

"And whenever you are feeling low about our European cousins, remember the Double-Headed Eagle -- the symbol of the Albanian nation. They remember you." -- Jay Nordlinger, in "European Communities: A Report from Greece and Albania." Published in "National Review," 14 October 2002.

"The Turkish economy is in basically better condition than those of Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland. There will not be any great problems [fitting it in to the EU], and as far a social market economy goes, Turkey has far better experience than the East European candidates." -- Analyst Faruk Sen of the Center for Turkish Studies at Essen University in Germany, in an interview with RFE/RL on 12 November.