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Balkan Report: May 11, 2001

11 May 2001, Volume 5, Number 34

WHICH WAY FOR BOSNIA? Some recent developments in Bosnia could serve as a wake-up call to the international community. The time may be approaching to decide whether to implement the Dayton agreements with more gusto or consider revising them.

Two recent sets of developments suggest that the tranquility of Bosnia is more apparent than real. They may tend to give credence to those observers who argue that the 1995 Dayton agreements served only to stop the fighting but did not do much more than that. Nationalists, the critics stress, are as firmly in the saddle as ever.

The first developments are those in which SFOR troops and international officials took control of offices of the Hercegovacka Banka in an effort to break the political, economic, and perhaps criminal power of the hard-line Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 18 April 2001). The performance was less than stellar, and some reports suggest that the foreigners returned some of the crucial documents when confronted by belligerent hard-liners. Perhaps even more important, shutting down the bank meant that retirees and others could not get access to their pensions and savings, thereby prompting many hundreds of angry Croats to identify with the HDZ, which the foreigners are ostensibly trying to marginalize.

The second set of incidents took place on Bosnian Serb territory. At the end of April, there were demonstrations in the Sarajevo suburb of Dobrinja to protest an Irish judge's decision to assign some contested apartment blocs to the control of the Muslim-Croat federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2001). In early May, there followed some ugly and violent protests in Trebinje and Banja Luka aimed at preventing the reconstruction of two mosques destroyed by Serbian nationalists during the 1992-1995 war, one of which is the UNESCO-registered Ferhadija mosque (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 May 2001). Several international and Muslim officials charged that Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) was behind the violence in all three places.

What the actions of the HDZ and SDS have in common is that they showed that the nationalists could quickly mobilize a large number of militant supporters and use them against Western officials. Moreover, police were unwilling or unable to control the violence, while SFOR troops responded with "great passivity," as one Bosnian journalist in Trebinje put it. Daniel Ruiz, a Spanish representative of the international community in Trebinje who was injured in the violence there, spoke of the "return of fascism" to Bosnia. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, who was injured in Banja Luka, said that the Republika Srpska and its capital are returning to their bleak wartime reputation, when Banja Luka was known as the "heart of darkness."

But are things quite so bleak? Admirers of High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch argue that he has been effective in taking some key decisions aimed at making Bosnia a viable state, including sacking obstructionist nationalist officials. Last November's parliamentary elections, moreover, took place under special OSCE rules designed to give an advantage to smaller, non-nationalist parties at the expense of the HDZ, SDS, and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which have held sway among their respective electorates for over a decade. Observers who feel that Bosnia is making progress at a steady if slow pace therefore argue that the recent protests are no more than a last hurrah on the part of the nationalists.

Others are not so sure. Such critics, including some insiders, believe that the international presence is chaotic, expensive, and leading to an untenable colonial situation in which many Bosnians expect the foreigners to decide things and keep the money coming in. The critics believe that the latest violence could have happened at any time since Dayton and could be the beginning of even worse things to come.

These critics maintain that the foreigners responsible for good government and law and order in Bosnia do not have a well-thought-out agenda, except for identifying general goals such as stopping corruption, strengthening central institutions, breaking the power of the nationalists, launching economic reform, and promoting the return of refugees and displaced persons. The skeptics argue that the international community lacks contingency plans for dealing with worst-case scenarios and could be easily caught off guard by a Herzegovinian bombing campaign against SFOR installations and vehicles, for example.

Perhaps now is the time for the international community to take stock of what it wants in Bosnia, many observers believe. If it is indeed willing and prepared to realize the goals of Dayton, then might not a more robust approach be in order? If the foreigners intend to promote democratic ideals while at the same time weakening the role of the three parties that most voters support, then the international community should be prepared to defend its actions in a convincing manner. If it really wants to ban the nationalist parties outright, then perhaps it should do so rather than take occasional half-measures. After all, Germany and some other democratic countries have laws enabling the government to ban parties that are opposed to the democratic and constitutional order.

But if the international community is not willing to become more decisive and assertive, critics argue, then it should perhaps consider the alternatives to Dayton. The most obvious of these is a partition along ethnic lines. Bosnian supporters of this alternative argue that it is the only democratic alternative, because that is what most voters seem to want. Some foreign backers of this view maintain that there will be more wars unless the three ethnic groups are politically and physically separated once and for all.

There are several arguments against this approach. One is that it would finalize the results of ethnic cleansing and suggest that robbery and murder do indeed pay. A second is that a partition would create a weak and volatile Muslim state that could become a European bridgehead for various political forces from elsewhere in the Islamic world. A third point is that partition has not led to peace in the Middle East or on the Indian subcontinent, and is unlikely to bring stability to the Balkans, either.

None of these issues and arguments is, of course, new; they have all been on the table for the better part of a decade. The point is, however, that something seems to be going very wrong in Bosnia these days. Unless the issues are looked at anew by the major players in the international community and the region, might not there be a risk that the overall tranquility of Bosnia could prove as illusory as did Macedonia's once-famous stability? (Patrick Moore)

A NEW GOVERNMENT FOR MACEDONIA? Macedonia's foreign backers want it to have a grand coalition government as a first step out of the crisis. But not everyone in Macedonia seems to be in a hurry to oblige them.

During his last visit to the Macedonian capital, Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for the common foreign and security policy, demanded the formation of a government of national unity based on a grand coalition. Solana and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson stressed that the Macedonian government should refrain from declaring a "state of war" and concentrate on reaching a political compromise instead. Solana reportedly even went so far as to say that he "will not go until a broad coalition is formed."

The idea of forming a grand coalition is not new. It appeared already during the first outbreak of violence between government security forces and the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the self-declared National Liberation Army (UCK) (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 April 2001). The new government was to include the main ethnic Macedonian as well as ethnic Albanian political parties.

After the first talks, however, it became obvious that it would be very difficult to agree on the division of ministries and leading positions in the government and in state institutions. The politicians soon lost sight of their ostensible objectives of finding a broad basis for working against the UCK and of carrying out reforms.

It became clear that especially the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and its leader, Branko Crvenkovski, had something else in mind. With a mixture of demands and threats Crvenkovski pressed for the inclusion of his party in the government in order to secure control over early elections, which would bring his party back to power, which it held until the 1998 elections.

This struggle between the party leaderships over ministries and other top posts lasted over one month, and it was Solana who finally put an end to it -- at least at first glance. He participated in the talks between the major political parties on 7 April, after which Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Internal Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) announced the formation of a "government of national unity."

It was first expected that the government would be presented to the public on 11 May, "after some problems [in the division of ministerial posts] have been ironed out," as Georgievski said on 8 May. The Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported the next day that the opposition parties will gain eight out of a total of 14 ministries.

Now it seems that these problems will not be so easy to solve; the opposition ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) is currently the main obstacle to the formation of the broad coalition. At least one more week is likely to be needed until Macedonia gets its new leadership.

The PPD was offered two out of four ministries currently held by the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH). As a precondition to entering the government, the PPD demands a cease-fire between the Macedonian army and the Albanian rebels. It also wants to include the UCK in the all-party political dialogue.

"Utrinski vesnik" reported on 9 May that there are also differences among the ethnic Albanian parties over Albanian-language education in Macedonia: while the PPD favors the illegal Albanian university in Tetovo, the PDSH supports the newly founded, internationally backed private university in that same town.

Obstacles to forming a new government come also from another source. According to the original plans, the Liberal Party (LP) would have had to give up the Foreign Ministry -- which is now held by Srdjan Kerim -- and one deputy prime minister's post. The Skopje daily "Vest" reported on 9 May that this could lead to problems, because this decision obviously was made without consulting LP leader Risto Gusterov, who was abroad during the latest talks. On 10 May, "Vest" reported that the party leadership will try to keep the internationally well-regarded Kerim as head of the ministry.

As the main opposition party, the SDSM reportedly will obtain the ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Health and Ecology, as well as one deputy prime ministership. The newspapers also speculate that the SDSM might give some positions to the smaller opposition parties (Liberal Democrats, the "real" Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization VMRO-VMRO), while the VMRO-DPMNE might cede the Ministry of Education to a recently formed party called New Democracy (ND).

A major obstacle to an agreement between the VMRO-DPMNE and the SDSM has been the matter of the interior minister. The SDSM had accused the present minister, Dosta Dimovska, of election fraud (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). As it now stands, Dimovska will resign and be replaced by the current director of the Direction for Public Security, Dzvonko Kasirski, who is also a member of the VMRO-DPMNE. Kasirski will stay in office until new parliamentary elections are announced.

That is likely to happen in December, because the major political parties agreed that early elections are to be held on 27 January 2002. The SDSM has thus attained one of its major goals: early elections.

The new coalition -- if it is formed at all -- will have a large majority in the parliament, the Sobranie. Consequently, there are unlikely to be major procedural problems in legislating reforms to improve the situation of the Albanian and the other ethnic minorities.

It is not clear, however, whether the ethnic Macedonian politicians are willing to change the constitution (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 April 2001) or the educational systems -- two central demands of the UCK. Some writers -- like Vladimir Jovanovski of the Skopje weekly "Forum" -- fear that the parties may relapse into their old habit of political infighting and turn the new government into a theater for the upcoming election campaign. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

NATO BORDER CONTROL EXPERTS HELP ALBANIA. NATO has sent a team of experts to Albania to help the authorities there in tightening controls along the Macedonian border, "Albanian Daily News" reported on 8 May. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, returning from a visit to Skopje, told reporters in Brussels that "there is a NATO assessment team there at the moment to assist the Albanian government with looking at how border controls can be further tightened." He added that Macedonia's border with Kosova is already heavily policed on both sides.

Meanwhile, Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta, speaking in Brussels, condemned the ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia and pledged to do everything to secure the border. He told EU and NATO officials that the insurgents are not getting any supplies from Albania.

Meanwhile, an Italian official from Kosova's international police force told the deputy police chief of Kukes, Shyqyri Gjoshi, to improve border controls after two recent incidents involving arms and car smuggling. The incidents, in which smugglers tried to bring weapons into Kosova, occurred at the Morina border crossing and near Shishtavec, southeast of Kukes.

Gjoshi, however, told "Shekulli" that Kosova's police force has so far failed to arrest and extradite eight known Albanian criminals who are believed to live in Kosova. Police from Albania and Kosova agreed recently to a joint action plan to fight cross-border smuggling. (Fabian Schmidt)

ALBANIA CUTS BUREAUCRACY. The Socialist-lead Albanian government plans to cut about 2,800 jobs in public administration after the general elections in June, according to the daily "Korrieri" of 8 May. "Albanian Daily News" reported that the reductions are part of a government pledge to downsize its bureaucratic apparatus. The cuts will be the most severe since the Socialists took office in 1997.

The biggest changes are expected in the field of education, where the government plans to eliminate about 1,000 jobs. The Education Ministry currently employs 46,000 people. The Public Order Ministry will cut 700 jobs, mostly among the police, where 12,000 people now work.

The Ministry of Health will reduce its staff in the state-run health sector by 200 people from the current 2,800.

Cuts by the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports will involve a total of 550 jobs. The reform, however, also includes salary increases for employees in the civil service. (Fabian Schmidt)

AN ALBANIAN CONNECTION FOR ITALIAN TERRORISTS? Italian investigators have arrested an Albanian law student who is suspected of having helped members of the Italian left-wing Red Brigades terrorist group get access to weapons and explosives from Albania, "Albanian Daily News" reported on 8 May. The woman, identified as Enkelejda Pulaj, has allegedly served as a go-between for Red Brigades members and Albanian communist die-hards. She has also translated at several meetings.

Italian police have issued arrest warrants for eight members of the Italian terrorist organization. They have also arrested three leaders of the Italian Communist Initiative, long suspected of supporting the Red Brigades. (Fabian Schmidt)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "Our enemy is poverty in my country and the region at large, fragile institutions, and the non-existent rule of law. Our enemy is destabilization of the Balkans." -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. Quoted by RFE/RL in New York on 8 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 May 2001).

"It is in the interest of the UN that this country survives. Survival of this country -- Yugoslavia -- means that peace and stability in the region will survive." -- Ibid.

"We do not want you to spend your taxpayers' money the way you did in Bosnia and Kosovo on expensive fact-finding missions and two- or three-week assignments. Don't use our professionals as your translators and drivers, but send us some of your own to advise us and work hand-in-hand with our experts." -- Ibid.

"We would like you not to attach political conditions to the financial assistance, American and international, because of potential dangers of that kind of conditionality. These conditions could give comfort to the extremists and therefore they are counter-productive." -- Kostunica in Washington on 9 May. Quoted by RFE/RL.