Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: November 30, 2001

30 November 2001, Volume 5, Number 79

DEL PONTE SAYS YUGOSLAVIA PROTECTING GENERAL MLADIC. The Hague's chief prosecutor says that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's government is knowingly protecting major war criminals. It remains to be seen whether her charges will have any impact on Western policy toward Belgrade.

The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, told the UN Security Council in New York on 27 November that the Yugoslav authorities are shielding indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic. She added that she has his address in Belgrade, and called on the council to demand his arrest along with that of the tribunal's other most wanted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic.

Del Ponte said that Mladic is living "under the official protection of the Yugoslav army, [which] depends directly on the president of the federation," Vojislav Kostunica, Reuters reported. She noted that "General Mladic is said to enjoy military immunity, and he is being shielded from both national and international justice." The prosecutor stressed that the continuing liberty of the two war criminals "is an affront to the authority of this council, and mocks the entire process of international criminal justice." She added that the army is also protecting three officers wanted for atrocities in Vukovar in 1991.

Del Ponte also told journalists that Karadzic lives in Serbia but that the tribunal does not have a fixed address for him. She added, "we are pushing the [Serbian authorities] and NATO to execute the arrest of Karadzic."

She told the Security Council that the Yugoslav authorities have impeded the work of the Serbian government on the tribunal's behalf: "Instead of clear, unambiguous support to the government of Serbia, instead of taking a clear stand on cooperation with the tribunal, the federal authorities are doing everything possible to stop even limited cooperation by the [Serbian] republic authorities, who have been most helpful."

She also slammed excuses made by Kostunica's government that it needs time to prepare legislation on cooperating with The Hague, saying, "I see no effort on their part to ensure adoption of such legislation."

Speaking the next day in The Hague, Del Ponte's deputy Graham Blewitt said that Mladic resides in Belgrade under "the full protection" of the authorities. Blewitt added that Karadzic lives primarily in the Republika Srpska and travels frequently to Serbia and Montenegro. The deputy prosecutor said that General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff and commanded Serbian forces in Kosova in 1999, is under investigation by the tribunal, as is General Sreten Lukic, who is Pavkovic's police counterpart.

Perhaps most importantly, the president of the NGO Serbian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Sonja Biserko, said on 28 November that Mladic "has frequently been seen in Belgrade in recent days...and there are witnesses to this," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She added that Mladic has been seen on the street, in cafes, and at sporting events. Biserko argued that the government's "ignorant" policy and refusal to acknowledge requests from The Hague to extradite Mladic and the "Vukovar three" have led many foreigners to wonder what kind of people really won the 5 October 2000 elections.

Official Belgrade responded by putting on a brave face and going into denial. After Del Ponte spoke to the Security Council, Yugoslav Ambassador to the UN Dejan Sahovic told the council that cooperation between his government at the tribunal is "proceeding well." He said that this cooperation will be even better when the long-planned legislation is in place. He did not indicate when that might be, however. On 28 November, he told Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service that Del Ponte's charges will not affect Yugoslavia's international standing.

Back in Belgrade, Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that her claims are "completely unfounded." He told Reuters: "If Ms. Del Ponte knows that Mladic is in Yugoslavia, then she must know where in Yugoslavia. She should say where the army is guarding him so the army and everyone else can respond."

For his part, General Pavkovic said of the charges from The Hague that he "does not comment on such statements," Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported.

Perhaps the immediate key issue was how Del Ponte's and Blewitt's charges would affect Kostunica's state visit to Britain, which took place on 28 and 29 November. Kostunica's disdain for the tribunal as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy is well established, but it made news shortly before his trip when he defended a mutiny of paramilitary police opposed to cooperation with The Hague (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 November 2001) and then made it clear that Belgrade will give The Hague only those documents that it chooses to provide (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2001).

Speaking in London on 28 November, Kostunica denied Del Ponte's accusations, adding that the tribunal has indicted many people from Serbia's political and military leadership. He stated that he "can say with complete certainty that [Mladic] is not being protected by the army."

The BBC noted that cooperation with The Hague nonetheless dominated the Yugoslav delegation's talks with British officials. After meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair on 29 November, Kostunica criticized The Hague for investigating Pavkovic and Lukic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica stressed that such a move could adversely affect "stability" in his country, as well as its relations with Western countries. He previously said that the tribunal is blowing issues out of proportion and applying what he called "selective truth."

It appeared that what he really wanted to talk about was Kosova. On 28 November, Kostunica stressed the importance of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which states that Kosova is part of Yugoslavia. He later told students that his country has three problems: relations between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosova, and cooperation with The Hague. (It is not clear why he did not stress crime, corruption, or the legacies of four lost wars.) Kostunica also argued that "no border" should be changed in the Balkans lest the change set off an unstoppable process of fragmentation.

Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority, however, wants nothing more to do with Serbia or Yugoslavia. Nonetheless, UN civilian administration head Hans Haekkerup recently reaffirmed Belgrade's claim to a role in the affairs of the province by signing a formal agreement in the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 November 2001). Kostunica appeared in Britain to be following up on that welcome opening.

Observers have noted that Western governments have lost potential leverage over Kostunica by granting his government early recognition and aid before it demonstrated that it is ready to cooperate fully with The Hague (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 January and 15 May 2001).

Del Ponte's charges that Kostunica is responsible for sheltering major war criminals are serious. Will they serve to raise questions as to what Western policy should now be toward him and his government? (Patrick Moore)

MACEDONIA: EARLY ELECTIONS CALLED OFF. In a move quite typical for him, parliament speaker Stojan Andov abruptly cancelled the 27 November session, where the legislators were to decide on dissolving the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2001). The dissolution was to be the first step towards early elections on 27 January, as stipulated in the Ohrid peace agreement. According to the constitution, the parliament has to dissolve itself two months before elections so that campaigning can begin.

Previous discussions in the parliament had shown Andov, who belongs to the small Liberal Party, that the vote on dissolution was likely to fail, anyway.

The strongest faction in parliament -- the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski -- opposes early elections for several reasons. Most observers say the main one is the party's dismal ratings in opinion polls.

VMRO-DPMNE politicians, however, say that it is impossible to hold free and fair elections under the current volatile security conditions. Cedomir Kralevski, who heads the party's parliamentary faction, argued: "It is obvious that the situation in the country does not allow us the luxury of dissolving parliament or hastily organizing early elections. [These could take place] only in some parts of the country, [while others remain under the control of the Albanian rebels]. Large numbers of persons have been kidnapped or displaced, and the economy has been ruined."

The only party that originally supported holding elections in January was the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). There were, however, signals that even the SDSM would agree to a postponement of the original election date. The SDSM left the governing coalition on 22 November (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 November 2001). But as part of a deal, the Social Democrats had proposed to vote now to dissolve parliament on 28 February, thus paving the way for elections on 27 April.

In his speech, Kralevski said that the VMRO-DPMNE would support this compromise, but only if the SDSM would renounce its decision to withdraw its ministers from the government. The VMRO-DPMNE wants the Social Democrats "to share responsibility for the solution of the country's [problems] with the representatives of the other political parties." Kralevski underscored that this was not a "bluff," but a decision based on a deep concern for the country's future.

In his answer to Kralevski's speech, SDSM faction co-coordinator Nikola Popovski once again asked the VMRO-DPMNE deputies to vote for the dissolution: "By engaging in recriminations, we will not find a solution for the problems that you [the VMRO-DPMNE] caused."

Newspaper editorials to some extent mirrored the debate in the parliament. But some commentaries also underscored additional basic problems in Macedonian politics.

Ljube Profiloski summed up the main arguments against January elections in "Nova Makedonija" of 27 November under the headline: "Elections yes, but when?" First, he writes, there cannot be elections when rebels occupy some 10 percent of the country's territory. There cannot be elections in areas where even the most basic government institutions do not function.

Second, Macedonia must not allow the international community to organize parliamentary elections and thus turn the country into a protectorate.

And finally, the current political leadership has promised to enact the political reform package, which is aimed at promoting peaceful development. But the parliament still has to pass several laws, the amnesty question is not yet resolved, and there is no stable peace overall.

But the most interesting comment on the Social Democrats' decision to leave the government and to insist on early elections came from Jovan Donev. In his article for "Dnevnik" on 26 November, he portrays the Social Democrats of former Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski as immature politicians. Donev reminds his readers that the government of "political unity" was formed in May under international pressure in order to prevent any party from profiting from the conflict between the Macedonian state and the ethnic Albanian rebels.

By quitting the government now, the SDSM is trying to do precisely that. Because the party seems likely to win any elections held in the near future, the maneuver is all too obvious. The Social Democrats will be able "to accuse the VMRO-DPMNE of cooperating with the Albanian political parties and thereby give credence to the thesis that there is some kind of secret conspiracy between Ljubco [Georgievski] and [Arben] Xhaferi [the leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians]." (The Skopje weekly "Start," which is close to the SDSM, has promoted such conspiracy theories since the outbreak of the crisis earlier this year.)

Donev also warns that it would be easy to disrupt public life in a country as politically fragile as Macedonia, where even the most basic institutions do not function as they should. He notes that any incident during campaign rallies, any bomb attack in the center of Skopje -- any problem that might be managed in a functioning state -- could lead to a catastrophe in Macedonia. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

NEW NORMATIVE DICTIONARY PUBLISHED IN SLOVENIA. Amid much fanfare, the long-awaited new Slovenian "pravopis" (orthography) was formally launched in Ljubljana on 15 November by its chief author, Joze Toporisic. The pravopis is essentially an academy dictionary of the literary language, combined with an extensive overview of rules of spelling, punctuation, pronunciation, and various other elements of grammar and style. The 2001 pravopis is the sixth since 1899, and replaces the last pravopis, published in 1962.

Because literary Slovenian is an artificial creation -- combining features from several of the 50-odd dialects -- the need for such a normative work is apparent. A run of 20,000 copies of the nearly $100 work was printed. Although this is a relatively high number for a population of less than 2 million, sales of the 1,805-page volume have been brisk, and many language-conscious Slovenes reserved their copies in advance.

Somewhat embarrassingly, however, the release of the work coincides with an OECD report that literacy rates in Slovenia are at a crisis level, "Delo" reported on 15 November. (Donald F. Reindl)

SLOVENIA REPORTS FIRST BSE CASE. "Delo" reported on 21 November that results from a Swiss laboratory have confirmed Slovenia's first case of BSE ("mad cow disease"). The animal was identified as a 5-year-old milk cow from a farm 50 kilometers northeast of Ljubljana.

The farm's owner, Brane Rihter, said the cow was born on his farm to a Slovenian-bred cow, quelling rumors that the case was import-related. Richter also stressed that he never fed his animals meat-and-bone meal, widely identified as the main cause of BSE.

The Slovenian Veterinary Board has banned the sale of animals from the farm, set up a telephone hotline, and published BSE information on its webpage. France But, who is minister for agriculture, forestry, and food, has formed a BSE working group that will meet twice a week to discuss the problem.

The other former Yugoslav republics quickly called a temporary halt to the import of animals, beef, and other products from Slovenia. Slovenian beef sales are already down by 40 percent this year due to general concerns over BSE in Europe, and are likely to fall further. On 25 November, "Delo" reported that one in six Slovenes has stopped eating beef altogether. (Donald F. Reindl)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "My goal as leader is to create a Croatian version of the Republican Party. I want to transform the HDZ into a modern conservative party that will implement free-market policies necessary to stimulate economic growth and the creation of wealth." -- Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) leader Ivo Sanader. Quoted in "The Washington Times" of 27 November 2001.

"Macedonia is a serious aspirant for NATO. We deserve this and we earned it." -- Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in Brussels on 28 November. Quoted by AP.

"You don't have to follow the advice of the European Union. You're a free country, you can take the decision you wish." -- EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana, in Podgorica. Quoted by Reuters on 28 November.