9 November 2001, Volume 5, Number 74
SKOPJE MEDIA HAVE A FIELD DAY. Will Macedonia soon have a new government? Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski triggered a flurry of political speculation in the media when he declared in an interview with the private A1 television recently that the current broad-based government is unlikely to survive until the parliamentary elections due on 27 January 2002.
The bottom line of the speculation is that Georgievski's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) will possibly try to form a new government as soon as the parliament approves the peace plan. The VMRO-DPMNE would thus be in a position to delay the early parliamentary elections, which polls suggest will put an end to the party's current majority in parliament.
Other speculation centers on the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which now opposes the latest EU-backed version of the preamble to the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2001). As Skopje dailies reported on 6 November, Imer Imeri, who heads the PPD, has come forward with two new proposals for the preamble. Imeri, whose position within his own party is reportedly shaky, wants the preamble to make a clear distinction between the ethnic Albanians of Macedonia on the one hand, and the smaller minorities of the Serbs, Turks, Roma, Vlachs, etc. on the other.
Many Macedonian observers believe that Imeri is hoping to offer a compromise on the preamble in return for the parliament's approving a long-overdue amnesty for the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK).
But Georgievski's statements and the PPD's tactics are not the only topics of speculation. Much has been written about the case of 12 kidnapped ethnic Macedonians, who have allegedly been killed by the UCK. More recently, newspapers have reported in detail the exact location of a mass grave close to the village of Neprosteno near Tetovo where the 12 are believed to be buried.
An article in "Nova Makedonija" of 6 November, for example, focuses on a meeting between the leaders of the main ethnic Albanian political parties -- Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), Imeri of the PPD, and Kastriot Haxhirexha of the National Democratic Party (PDK) -- with the UCK's political leader Ali Ahmeti on 3 November. The newspaper, which is close to the VMRO-DPMNE, offered the following explanation for the meeting: Ahmeti wants the party leaders to pass the constitutional amendments in parliament quickly and without further haggling.
The article further quotes "well-informed sources" as saying that the reason for Ahmeti's haste is his fear that the exhumation of the 12 bodies -- which is scheduled for the end of the week -- could bring to light the "real facts" about the UCK and its political leader. And this would mean that "Ahmeti would lose his role as the one who dictates the conditions under which peace [returns] to the country. And at the same time, he would find himself on the list of the bloodiest and most notorious criminals, whose place without any question is in The Hague."
The article's author, Biljana Gjorgjieva, even goes so far as to say that Ahmeti and the party leaders planned to bring the bodies of the kidnapped Macedonians to neighboring Kosova, where they would be beyond the reach of Macedonian authorities. This became impossible, the article adds, after Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski announced on 4 November that the mass grave had been found.
Such speculation may be the result of political intrigue. As the bi-monthly "Forum" reported on 2 November, state institutions have for some time held up any close examination of the location where the mass grave is supposed to be. Neither the police, nor the chief prosecutor, nor the army seems to be in charge of the case.
In Gjorgjieva's eyes, it seems that some politicians like parliamentary Speaker Stojan Andov want to profit from the situation. They seek to pin responsibility for a massacre on the ethnic Albanian rebels and political parties in order to undermine the peace process -- even if it is not clear whether the massacre took place at all, whether the victims were killed by UCK members, or whether the killers were Albanians or Macedonians. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, email@example.com)
SLOVENIAN-AUSTRIAN RELATIONS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. On the first state visit to Austria by a Slovenian president since independence in 1991, Milan Kucan said in Vienna that problems in Austro-Slovenian relations left over from the past should be left to expert commissions and historians, "Die Presse" reported on 7 November. Kucan rejected Austrian calls for the repeal of the former Yugoslav legislation -- known as the AVNOJ Decrees, much like the Czechoslovak Benes Decrees -- that confiscated the property of Slovenia's German-speaking minority at the end of World War II. He added, however, that Slovenia still wants compensation for the work done by Slovenian forced laborers in Austria during that war.
The subject of commissions was under discussion in the weeks leading up to the visit. The Slovenian and Austrian foreign ministers, Dimitrij Rupel and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, met in Ljubljana on 3 October to formally launch a commission of historians and legal experts to examine Slovenian-Austrian relations before, during, and after World War II.
The commission began work in Maribor on 12 October. The daily "Delo" reported on 5 October that its mandate includes the thorniest bilateral historical issues, including non-discriminatory property denationalization, the AVNOJ Decrees, and the issue of guilt in World War II. The commission plans to conclude its work in spring 2003, and expects to produce a brief report and white paper, providing the framework for an agreement analogous to the 1997 "German-Czech Declaration on Mutual Relations and their Future Development."
But these are not the only issues affecting Slovenian-Austrian relations. Others include Austrian demands for the closure of Slovenia's Krsko nuclear plant. This parallels Austrian debate on the Czech nuclear plant at Temelin, reflecting Austria's general opposition to nuclear energy, and is intensified by concerns over seismic safety. During Ferrero-Waldner's visit, Rupel briefed her on seismic improvements planned for Krsko. Slovenes also argue that, unlike the Soviet-style Temelin plant, the Krsko plant uses American technology and is similar to ones in Germany and Switzerland.
No less thorny is the debate over the status of the Slovenian-speaking minority in southern Austria and, conversely, that of German-speakers in Slovenia. Although the former group has long been accorded official recognition, recent legislation has curtailed Slovenian-language broadcasts on Austrian television and closed a number of bilingual schools in Carinthia, where Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider is governor.
Relations were further strained on 9 September with the unveiling of a monument in the Carinthian town of Voelkermarkt commemorating the role of the "Windisch" (a generally derogatory term for Germanized Slovenes) during the 1920 Carinthian plebiscite, when the region opted to stay in Austria rather than join Yugoslavia. The vote was a defeat for "Slovene nationalism," according to the event's main speaker, Governor Haider. He sharply criticized President Kucan for interfering in "internal Austrian affairs" after Kucan expressed concern over the status of Slovenes in Carinthia earlier that same month.
An additional problem is Austria's refusal to recognize Slovenia as former Yugoslavia's legal successor in the role of "protector" of Austria's Slovene minority, a status given to Belgrade under Austria's 1955 State Treaty (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 April 2000). By contrast, the German-speaking population in Slovenia was officially recognized as an ethnic group only in a cultural agreement signed on 30 April this year. However, unlike Slovenia's long-recognized Italian and Hungarian minorities, the 745 persons who declared themselves ethnically German or Austrian in the 1991 census are not accorded any special educational or representational rights in Slovenia.
Another contentious issue concerns legal rights to the Lipizzaner horses, a breed indigenous to Slovenia. Though seemingly trivial to outsiders, the issue provokes passionate debate, and Rupel included it in a list of unresolved issues with Austria in a lecture earlier this year in Ljubljana. Austria and Italy lodged EU requests in 1996 and 1997 for rights to the Lipizzaner stud records, but Slovenia was successful in taking legal action to enter into trilateral negotiations instead.
But it should also be noted that Slovenian-Austrian relations also have their good points. Austria joined in the general EC recognition of Slovenian independence on 15 January 1992 although it was not yet an EC member. The 2001 cultural agreement -- one of 30 bilateral agreements -- has opened the way for direct Slovenian-Austrian cooperation in culture, education, and science. It provided an impetus for the 9 October meeting in Vienna between the Slovenian and Austrian ministers of culture, Lucija Cok and Elisabeth Gehrer. They discussed Slovenian studies in Vienna and bilingual-education concerns in Carinthia. Also stemming from this agreement were the September document exchanges between the Carinthian Provincial Archives in Klagenfurt and the Slovenian National Archives in Ljubljana. Slovenia will receive 45 original documents from Austria, dating from 1342 to 1840.
Austria is also Slovenia's fourth most-important trading partner. In 2000, exports to Austria totaled $655.7 million and imports from Austria $832.4 million, and total Slovene exports to Austria are expected to increase in 2001. In addition, Austria is the single largest investor in Slovenia, accounting for nearly half of all investments, totaling $1.3 billion in 2000. In the same period, Slovenia invested $27.7 million in Austria.
The task of the new commission is ambitious, and the prospects for its effectiveness are far from certain. The creation of a politically binding document will require significant political will. "Delo" pointed out on 5 October that a similar commission was charged with producing a report on Slovenian-Italian relations during the period 1880-1956. Although the commission completed its report on 25 June last year, that report is still awaiting official publication. (Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University Ph.D. candidate in Ljubljana, firstname.lastname@example.org)
QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "There is a danger [in Serbia] that the entire society may take the Afghan side. This is because of latent anti-Americanism and the xenophobia that dates from the Milosevic era." -- Veteran Serbian human rights activist Professor Vojin Dimitrijevic, to Vienna's "Die Presse" of 7 November.
"We will work toward making this agreement fail." -- Ramush Haradinaj of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), on the UNMIK-Belgrade pact (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 November, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 November 2001). Quoted by AP from Prishtina on 6 November.
"It is unacceptable for Belgrade to take the decision on Serb participation in the elections, because it means that in the future, Belgrade can call on Serb representatives to withdraw." -- Alush Gashi, a senior official of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK). ibid.
"The U.S. Office Pristina welcomes the 'UNMIK-FRY Common Document' signed in Belgrade on November 5, which reaffirms the principles and process set forth in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. There is nothing in this document that contravenes 1244. It signals a clear commitment by both parties to intensify efforts to fulfill the goals of 1244. In this connection, we emphasize the importance of the upcoming elections and their importance in building Kosovo's democratic self-government." -- U.S. government statement, issued in Prishtina on 7 November.