Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: December 4, 2001

4 December 2001, Volume 5, Number 80

OLD FACES IN A NEW MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT. On 30 November, the Macedonian parliament confirmed a number of new ministers in office. The government reshuffle was necessary after both the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) left the so-called "government of national (or political) unity" formed under Western pressure in May (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 and 30 November 2001).

In a speech before the parliament, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) explained that he chose his new ministers with a view to facilitating cooperation within the government: "These persons will make the government more solid. We face a big task ahead," he said. By "big task," Georgievski meant the implementation of the 13 August Ohrid peace agreement.

The work of the "government for national unity" was seriously hampered by rivalries between moderate Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski of the SDSM and hawkish Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski (VMRO-DPMNE).

In the new cabinet, Slobodan Casule of the small Nova Demokratija (ND) party will head the Foreign Ministry. Dr. Gjorgji Orovcanec (ND) is the new health minister. The ND was founded earlier this year by defectors from the Democratic Alternative (DA) of former Deputy Prime Minister Vasil Tupurkovski. Tupurkovski was responsible for one of the biggest blunders in recent Macedonian foreign policy -- the recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in early 1999. As a result, Beijing used its veto in the UN Security Council to block the prolongation of the mandate of the UNPREDEP mission, which until then had patrolled the country's border with Yugoslavia.

In June 2001, the government switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). But Casule is well aware that many people still connect his former party with the "Taiwan adventure." Asked by journalists about his role in the Taiwan deal, Casule said that he never agreed with Tupurkovski's decision, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 1 December.

Casule also tried to dispel fears that his party might block the further implementation of the 13 August peace agreement. During the parliamentary discussions, the ND supported the idea of holding a referendum on the Ohrid peace accord. At that time, emotions were rising high, and public opinion was against the agreement.

Now Casule said: "We, least of all I myself, never opposed the framework [Ohrid peace] agreement, especially its spirit. We opposed some of the provisions in the annexes, which the parliament as well as the public believed to be of secondary importance," the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 1 December. Casule added that his party will continue this "dialectical" policy towards the peace agreement.

Vlado Popovski of the Liberal Party (LP) is now in charge of the Defense Ministry. Popovski held this post under a previous government led by the now-opposition Social Democrat Branko Crvenkovski. Popovski said he will concentrate on three main tasks. First, the reintegration of the territory previously held by Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK). Second, the restoration of citizens' confidence in the security forces. Third, the ministry will have to make additional efforts to secure Macedonia's integration into NATO, MIA reported.

As deputy ministers, Georgievski appointed VMRO-DPMNE members Trajko Veljanovski (Justice Ministry) and Aljosa Begovski (Ministry of Economics). Stojan Damcevski and Zivko Jovanov of the Liberal Party will fill the posts in the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry for Transport and Communication. Asip Asipi of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) becomes the deputy minister of education and science.

The appointment of the new VMRO-DPMNE deputy ministers will strengthen the Macedonian influence in the ministries of justice and economics. These ministries are headed by ethnic Albanian politicians.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the return of Dosta Dimovska of the VMRO-DPMNE to the government. She will fill the position of a deputy prime minister without portfolio. Dimovska was interior minister until May 2001. Her departure from that office was one of the conditions the Social Democrats had set for their participation in the "government of national unity." Dimovska was allegedly responsible for a bugging scandal earlier in the year.

Dimovska's nomination was not only noteworthy because of her involvement in the bugging scandal. As the gray eminence within her party, she is said to have close links to moderate President Boris Trajkovski. She could thus counterbalance the hard-liners in the government, the most prominent of which are the prime minister and the interior minister.

Dimovska herself believes that she might take over the so-called Coordinating Body for crisis management -- a new institution previously headed by the Social Democrat Ilija Filipovski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2001). If that happens, she is convinced that cooperation between the crisis management body and the Interior Ministry will function much better, because ministers from the same party will now head both institutions, MIA reported. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

YUGOSLAVIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL PARALYSIS. The regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic may have been swept away, but the constitutional muddle he left behind remains intact, preventing the establishment of the rule of law and posing a long-term threat to the country's political stability and economic development.

It is no surprise that Milosevic operated behind a smokescreen of formalistic-legalistic rules and procedures, given that he received his political education under communism. He had no respect for genuine principles of the rule of law or democracy. The problem is that post-Milosevic political life continues in this framework. The vital opportunity for change in the aftermath of the October "revolution" was not used, and the strained DOS coalition shows little sign of disentangling this web of confusion.

One obvious reform should have been the repeal of the amendments to the federal constitution that Milosevic pushed through parliament in a few hours on 6 July 2000, in preparation for the September elections. These enable the Yugoslav president to serve several four-year terms in office, instead of just one. Widely condemned as an unconstitutional maneuver designed specifically to enable Milosevic to extend his term of office indefinitely, it seemed the DOS coalition would swiftly revoke it.

Instead it remains in place and now stands to benefit President Vojislav Kostunica, if and when he runs again for office when his term expires in 2004. The other amendment which has subsequently benefited Kostunica was the provision for direct elections for the federal president, as it gives him a clear democratic mandate.

Apart from these recent amendments, Yugoslavia suffers from other constitutional anomalies left over from the Milosevic era. One is the position of the federal prime minister, who under the constitution may not come from the same republic as the president. Now that Yugoslavia comprises only two republics -- Serbia and Montenegro -- he has to be Montenegrin. However, the federation no longer exercises any real authority in Montenegro, where the government denies the legitimacy of the federal government. As a result, the constitution ensures that a prime minister from Montenegro remains responsible for affairs that only really affect Serbia.

The relationship between the federal president and prime minister highlights the key constitutional problem: the unresolved question of Montenegro's position in Yugoslavia. No solution is to be expected very soon, however, and the uncertainty surrounding the date and rules for Montenegrin referendum on independence means that the issue is likely to remain in limbo.

The inadequate nature of the Yugoslav constitutional system -- which was irrelevant when Milosevic and his government coalition effectively wielded all power -- was highlighted by the imbroglio over Milosevic's extradition.

First, the federal government could not agree on adopting an extradition law, because of the blockade by the pro-Belgrade Montenegrin Socialist People's Party (SNP) representatives in the federal second chamber. Thus, the issue of extradition of Milosevic was in the hands of his own ex-coalition partners from Montenegro, who received no more than around 3 percent of valid votes in the elections for the federal parliament.

Then the Serbian government under Zoran Djindjic adopted a decree on extradition on its own authority, sidelining the approval of the parliament. The federal Constitutional Court ruled that the implementation of the extradition decree should be postponed until the completion of a constitutional review. The Serbian government ignored the ruling and extradited Milosevic before the international donors conference opened, as Washington had wanted.

On the face of it, this looked like a gross violation of the rule of law, but two justifications were given. First, the federal Constitutional Court is staffed with appointees from the Milosevic era. Although Kostunica was right to suggest that bypassing a court does not look good, his criticism of the extradition was ironic, because the same federal court refused in October last year to accept his victory in the federal presidential elections. Only street pressure convinced the court to reverse its own judgement. By accepting this latest court ruling, Kostunica hardly showed a "legalistic" approach to judicial adjudication.

Second, Djindjic justified the rejection of the Constitutional Court ruling by invoking Chapter 8 of the Serbian Constitution, which empowers the Serbian government to issue "acts" to protect itself against federal agencies that "threaten its interests."

This provision, which seems extraordinary in a constitution of a federal state, was written into the constitution by Milosevic to avoid federal interference when he was president of Serbia. He was thus eventually caught in a trap of his own making!

Djindjic's decision to invoke Chapter 8 was significant in that it confirmed one of the essential fears of Montenegro's government, which is that Serbia will not bother much about the federation when her essential interests are at stake. Although Montenegro's government will not have minded the substance of this decision -- Milosevic's extradition -- the way in which the decision was made is likely to reinforce the Montenegrin demand for having guarantees to protect that republic's vital interests.

But in the balance, Serbia suffers more from Yugoslavia's constitutional muddle than does Montenegro. At least Montenegro is clear about the matter: it rejects the legitimacy of the federation outright. (Michael Meyer-Resende worked as a Balkans adviser for the OSCE and is now a journalist in London.

SLOVENIAN CHILDREN'S WRITER DIES. One of Slovenia's most beloved writers of children's stories, Ela Peroci, has died at the age of 80, the news agency STA reported on 19 November. Within Slovenia, her cultural stature was equivalent to that of the late Dr. Seuss in the U.S.

Generations of Slovenian children were familiar with her whimsical stories, including her 1955 tale "Moj deznik je lahko balon" ("My umbrella can fly") and especially her 1957 story "Muca copatarica" ("The cat who sewed slippers"), illustrated by Ancka Gosnik-Godec. Nursery schools and playgroups across Slovenia are decorated with or named after Peroci's famous cat.

She was one of the first writers in Slovenia to utilize an urban setting for children's literature. From the distinctive city architecture of Ljubljana to the homey hay scaffolds of the rural landscape, the images presented in her books are fundamentally Slovenian.

Peroci was awarded various literary prizes and awards in her native country. Her works have been reprinted many times and translated into various European languages, as well as adapted for puppet shows and audio-visual media. (Donald F. Reindl)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "The reason for the fall of Srebrenica is to be found in the lack of strong political will to intervene -- by France, Britain, the United States, and the Bosnian authorities in Sarajevo themselves." -- French parliamentary report, released on 29 November. Quoted by Reuters in Paris.

"I can say with full responsibility that not a single state body, not a single institution in [the] Republika Srpska, is helping anyone publicly indicted by the [Hague-based] tribunal." -- Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic. Quoted by AP from Belgrade on 1 December.

"[UN civilian administrator Hans] Haekkerup may have the power, but we have the majority." -- Kosovar Albanian bon mot, circulating since Haekkerup made a pre-election agreement with the Belgrade leadership.

"We have 10 years more parliamentary experience than the Albanians. At that time, they were walking around in the forests and mountains." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic. Quoted by "Vesti" on 3 December in its collection of quotes from members of the current government.

"People who have finished the university make much better waiters than those without a higher education." -- Serbian Education Minister and Professor Gaso Knezevic, also from "Vesti's" collection.