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Balkan Report: September 11, 2001

11 September 2001, Volume 5, Number 64

KOSOVA AND BOSNIA: A TALE OF TWO POLICE FORCES. The police force being set up in Kosova has a good reputation, and the force in Bosnia has a mixed reputation. It has been suggested that the Kosova force be replicated in Bosnia. But officials involved in recruiting and training both forces told the U.S. Helsinki Commission as witnesses in Washington on 5 September that that would be impossible.

The witnesses -- three experts on civil police organizations -- gave this assessment during a hearing of the panel, formally known as the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, or CSCE.

Observers note that the force in Kosova is considered by many to be a model organization. It is being recruited and trained under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. The Bosnian force, which has had trouble with inefficiency and corruption, is run by the United Nations.

The co-chairman of the commission, Congressman Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey), told the hearing that General Joseph Ralston, the supreme allied commander in Europe for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), once said that the police force in Kosova operates so professionally that he would like to see it replicated in Bosnia. Smith asked the three witnesses how they viewed Ralston's comment.

The first to reply was Steve Bennett, in charge of recruiting and training police in Kosova for the International Criminal Investigations Training Assistance Program, or ICITAP. He told the commission that Kosova and Bosnia are areas so dissimilar that it is erroneous to assume that a single method of establishing a police force would work in both.

In particular, Bennett noted that his team has more control over recruiting and training officers in Kosova. In Bosnia, he said, the UN is working under a mandate that gives it less control over the process.

A second witness was Robert Perito of the United States Institute of Peace, an independent, government-funded agency that promotes peaceful conflict resolution. He noted that the OSCE has had more control over recruiting and training because it has been creating a police force.

Perito said the UN's task has been more difficult because it has had to try to reform an existing police force. He said it was actually easier for the OSCE to set up a better-functioning force in Kosova because it started from what he called "a clean slate."

The third witness gave a less diplomatic answer. He is J. Michael Stiers, who served as the deputy commissioner for the UN's International Police Task Force, or IPTF, in Bosnia. He said flatly that the supreme NATO commander was wrong. "I would tell you, from my personal experience, that this statement that the general made, in my opinion, is absolutely false."

Stiers said the two police academies in Bosnia, including one in Republika Srpska, are functioning well, and ensuring that 80 percent of the new recruits are not ethnic Serbs.

But he added that in any police force in any country, including the U.S., a very small percentage of police officers will be what he called "renegades." Stiers said it is impossible to anticipate which officers will end up becoming corrupt.

Another member of the Helsinki Commission, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), asked the witnesses about the poor reputation of the Bosnian police. In particular, Hoyer said, the Bosnian force appears to be more of an observer than an intervener.

Perito responded that this police force's problems lie in its mandate, drawn up the Dayton peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war. He said that during the Dayton negotiations, European countries insisted on what he called "a more restrictive mandate" for the post-war Bosnian police.

According to Perito, America's former ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, now concedes that such a restrictive mandate for the Bosnian police was, as he put it, "a tragic mistake." Perito added: "I think most observers [now] believe it was a tragic mistake. In fact, I've just finished [writing] a book that says it was a tragic mistake. But given the fact that the mandate was established in the negotiations, the mandate was then just simply picked up by the United Nations, and that was the mandate that was sent forward, and that was the mandate that Mike [Stiers] and the IPTF had to implement. I think with hindsight and retrospect, the international community would have probably done it differently."

In addition, Stiers told the commission that he believes the Bosnian police force operates professionally, for the most part. "Many times, though, they are restricted from doing what should be done and what they believe should be done because of the political atmosphere. Basically, that boils down to the fear of losing their jobs if in fact they are to intervene in a given situation or allow their people to intervene. There's still a political stranglehold -- umbrella -- over the local police forces."

On a more positive note, Bennett spoke highly of the police force in Kosova. He said that when the current class of police cadets graduates on 15 September, the force will grow to more than 4,100 officers, and 1,500 more will have graduated by December 2002.

Bennett said the force also is ethnically diverse, and that it includes many women. He said 17 percent of the police academy graduates are Kosova minorities, and 19 percent are women.

A co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), asked Bennett about this mix of men and women of different ethnic backgrounds. Bennett replied that they get along well in the academy and in police stations. But they socialize little after hours.

Campbell asked if this was due to "cultural resistance," as he put it. Bennett said it was. The police official said deep emotional scars remain from the ethnic warfare of the 1990s. As a result, he said, even police officers who once trained and now work closely together cannot be expected to establish trust quickly.

But Bennett said that trust is being established -- very slowly, but steadily. And he said he is encouraged by the progress. (Andrew F. Tully)

CHALLENGES FOR CROATIAN TOURISM. (Part 1). Tourism, along with remittances from Croats working abroad, has long been one of Croatia's main earners of hard currency. But although a primary holiday destination for West Germans and other West Europeans in the 1960s and 1970s, the beaches of Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro became increasingly associated by the 1980s in many Europeans' minds with budget travel.

The armed conflicts of the 1990s gave Croatia's tourist business a blow from which it has yet to fully recover. Not only were hotels and other infrastructure damaged or destroyed, but conflicts in Kosova and Macedonia discouraged many tourists from visiting Croatia although peace had been restored there and in neighboring Bosnia.

Even without the damage to the infrastructure, it was clear by 1991 that the tourist industry needed to take a fresh look at and redefine itself. This process continues apace.

Croatia's 2001 tourist season promises to be a success. The business journal "Eurotrend" wrote in its August-September issue that in 2000, more than 6 million tourists came to Croatia and that there were 38 million overnight stays. Tourism produced revenues in excess of $3.5 billion. For 2001, the Ministry of Tourism estimates an increase of 10 percent in these categories compared to the previous year. This means that Croatian tourism has returned to the numbers of 1989, the year before the first free elections and then the war for independence.

Croatia's image as a tourist destination is clearly on the mend. The 20 August issue of "Newsweek" labeled Croatia as one of "the coolest vacations in Europe." "Globus" speculated on 24 August that Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and Princess Caroline of Monaco may each be interested in buying Croatian islands.

After several lean years, the high numbers of visitors will prompt decision-makers to rethink their tourism strategy. Though topics like post-war redevelopment and internal quarrels have dominated the domestic political scene in recent years, tourism obviously requires top priority attention. With a fractious governing coalition composed of five parties, this may not be an easy task. Promoting a kind of tourism that will bring in income while respecting the environment will be the challenge of the future.

Many argue that Croatia should not repeat what they regard as Italy's and Spain's mistakes, where short-sighted investment policies have led to building mass accommodations with little or no regard for the surrounding landscape or ecological balance. Ante Curac, the owner of a travel bureau in Paris, sees the future of the Croatian islands in small guest-houses in the hinterland. This corresponds to a general European trend, because more and more people want to "get away from it all" and be close to nature during their vacations. "The island of Korcula has a lot of opportunities in this field," Curac told "Slobodna Dalmacija" of 20 August.

But on the island of Hvar, nature may be in danger in the near future. As early as 1989, many tourists came to this sunny island, but this year it seems that "all of Italy" was there. Bays that once were insider tips for lovers of nature have become crowded and loud. Beach-towel lies next to beach-towel.

In the streets of the town of Hvar, many Croats have been discussing the advantages of elite and ecological tourism as alternatives to the time-honored forms of mass tourism. Many feel that "elite" does not just mean catering to guests with money, but rather to promoting a kind of tourism that is easy on the environment. Loud nightlife, heavy traffic, crowds of people, and numerous private yachts pose dangers to the often fragile ecology of the islands.

Tourism expert Veljko Ostojic told "Globus" of 24 August that Croatia has a problem with its infrastructure. But this does not mean that new hotels need to be built. The future of Croatia's tourism will rather have to focus on quality instead of quantity, he argues.

In this respect, one might note that money does indeed play a role and that many frugal tourists from Eastern Europe are not considered particularly welcome. One joke, quoted in the "Newsweek" article already mentioned, is that "Poles and Hungarians come in crowds, triple up in rooms, and bring their own food, down to their potatoes." Croatia is also a favorite destination of Czech tourists, and they, too often bring their own food and beer, much to the displeasure of the Croats.

Most observers feel that Croatia needs a well-planned mixture of mass and elite tourism. To maintain the quality of the water, it may be necessary to restrict the numbers of motorboats. High import duties for boats could be a tool to achieve this goal.

Another possible measure to protect nature is to forbid car traffic on some islands. In Germany and in some other countries, such car-free islands already exist. The Croatian ferry company that connects the coast with the islands is the least expensive in Europe. Higher prices might help change the pattern of tourism on the islands.

At the same time, many places on the Croatian coast are overpriced in relation to the service they offer. Some regulation of standards and prices might result in fewer tourists going home and telling people that they were overcharged. Again, some sort of balance between traditional types of tourism and more ecologically-minded varieties seems to hold the key. (Christian Buric. The author is a freelance writer and consultant for strategic business communication based in Munich.

A RUSSIAN REPORT FROM PARIS. ITAR-TASS carried the following report on 10 September:

"EU special envoy to Macedonia Francois Leotard submitted a letter of resignation to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on [10 September], informed sources said.

"Leotard's letter is considered as a clear signal on the existence of disagreements in the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance on further steps in Macedonia after NATO completes its operation, Essential Harvest, on 27 September.

"Leotard was one of the major initiators of making the international contingent in Macedonia purely European and said that the European corps, which is the core of the future European army, will take responsibility for defending observers in the republic.

"Under these circumstances, Leotard's letter proves that NATO's leadership preserves full political control over pursuing the West's policy in the Balkans, French sources noted...."

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Instead of defending our country with our blood and our minds, this has become a tragic farce." -- Macedonian legislator Gjorgji Kotsevski. Quoted by AP in Skopje on 5 September.

"Even with the best of intentions, and those often seem scarce here, there is the potential for miscalculation as the Macedonian police try to re-establish authority in areas once controlled by the rebels." -- The "New York Times" from Skopje on 4 September.

"If Skopje doesn't see the sense of where we're going, then it's another ball game." -- Unnamed EU source, reported by "The Guardian" from Genval, Belgium, on 10 September

"There is a general feeling that something must be done, but nobody knows what to do." -- Unnamed NATO official, quoted in "The New York Times" from Skopje on 4 September.

"We are happy that Mrs. Plavsic is here now, with her people." -- Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic. Quoted by AP in Belgrade on 6 September.