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Balkan Report: December 14, 2001

14 December 2001, Volume 5, Number 83

THE EU AND DEMOCRACY IN MONTENEGRO. Brussels appears to have firmly allied itself with those in Serbia and Montenegro committed to maintaining the union of those two former Yugoslav republics. One leading European expert warns that the EU may be heading for a repetition of its previous policy fiascoes in former Yugoslavia if it stands in the way of free choice.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said separately in Podgorica on 12 December that EU security chief Javier Solana will mediate talks between the Montenegrin and Belgrade leaderships shortly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). Solana and other EU officials -- including French President Jacques Chirac -- have put pressure on Podgorica in recent weeks to remain in a single state with Serbia.

But the Montenegrins feel that the EU may change its mind if its representatives have an opportunity to observe what Podgorica regards as Belgrade's bullying tactics. The Montenegrins also welcome the presence of a mediator in what has often been an unequal dialogue, given that the population of Serbia is roughly 10 times that of Montenegro.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica welcomes the talks but maintains that the question of setting up two independent states must not be on the agenda. Djukanovic, however, argues that the discussion topic will be how to recast relations now that the federation is dead. He has also said in recent days that he believes that Montenegro will become fully independent within one year.

But not if Brussels can help it. Independence-minded members of the Montenegrin parliament have told "Balkan Report" that EU officials sometimes behave "arrogantly" toward Montenegrin officials, apparently forgetting that Montenegro has a long tradition of independent statehood. Anecdotal evidence abounds among Western experts in Balkan affairs, moreover, to suggest that the EU has long been opposed to even considering Montenegrin independence.

Why the stubbornness? Veteran Balkan correspondent Viktor Meier writes in his new book "Jugoslawiens Erben: Die Neuen Staaten und die Politik des Westens" ("Yugoslavia's Heirs: The New States and Western Policy," Munich: Beck'sche Reihe, 2001) that Western politicians in general -- and those of the EU (or EC) in particular -- refuse to learn from their previous failures in former Yugoslavia. He believes that they are intent on repeating their previous mistakes made since1991 by insisting on maintaining existing states and borders.

Meier argues that Brussels has always been determined to hold as much of the failed former Yugoslavia together as possible and at any cost, despite the wishes of most of its citizens to go their own ways (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 May 2001). As a result, first the EC opposed democratically expressed choices made by Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, and Macedonians, and the EU is now making the same mistake with Kosovars and Montenegrins. The outcome, Meier predicts, does not bode well for the EU's reputation or for its future as an effective participant on the international stage.

Nor is he alone in suggesting that this policy is ill-advised. Lord Russell-Johnston, who is the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, recently told the Podgorica weekly "Monitor" that the EU is wrong to take sides in the dispute between the Montenegrin and Belgrade authorities. He stressed that the EU's support for a continuation of the Serbian-Montenegrin union is counterproductive because it will alienate many Montenegrins. Montenegrins, moreover, have the right to determine their own future. Johnston added that the first thing that the Montenegrins must decide on -- before going ahead with a referendum -- is what will constitute a valid majority in a vote on independence.

The issue of the EU's one-sided approach is precisely the point that some influential circles in Podgorica have taken up. On 11 December, members of the Montenegrin branch of the international PEN Club -- an immensely prestigious institution in former Yugoslavia, where writers traditionally enjoy great respect -- wrote to Chirac to criticize his recent remarks in Belgrade rejecting Montenegrin independence. The writers said that his comments amount to an attack on the dignity of Montenegrins, who have as much right as any other people to determine their own future without any outside interference, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported.

The PEN Club also noted that French support for Belgrade works against the interests of Montenegro's ethnic minorities -- Muslims, Albanians, and Croats -- who prefer to live in a multiethnic Montenegro rather than as part of a larger state that is founded on the ideology of a Greater Serbia.

On 12 December, some 100 Montenegrin academics, professors, writers, and other prominent public figures signed a formal protest against Western support for Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica. Like the PEN Club, the broader group of intellectuals noted that Montenegrins have as much right as any other former Yugoslav people to determine their own future, and that this was affirmed by the international Badinter Commission in 1991-92.

The intellectuals also wondered, moreover, whether the West knows where its interests and friends are, pointing out that Belgrade's supporters in Montenegro "celebrated the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September late into the night."

Nonetheless, Brussels seems to be going ahead with what Meier sees as a doomed effort that will only repeat the mistakes of the past. Kostunica plays on the EU's fears by portraying the continuation of a federal state under his leadership as necessary for "stability" -- even though his own party has shown itself willing to upset the stability of Serbia by calling for early elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001).

Of course, the Djukanovic leadership may well be playing with fire by calling for a referendum on independence in the spring of 2002. The results of the 2001 elections and subsequent opinion polls suggest that the outcome of such a vote is anybody's guess and that Djukanovic might well lose, even if he has his way in defining the rules under which a referendum is held.

But a lost vote will be his problem to deal with, not that of anyone in Brussels or even Belgrade, where Montenegrin issues do not play much of a role in political life. Meier and many other veteran Balkan observers stress that the choice must be made by the Montenegrins and by them alone. (Patrick Moore)

BULGARIAN-MACEDONIAN RELATIONS AS AN ELECTION CAMPAIGN ISSUE? When Macedonia became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991, Bulgaria was one of the first countries to recognize the former Yugoslav republic under its constitutional name -- Republika Makedonija (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 June 2001). But the Bulgarian government did not recognize the existence of a Macedonian language and thus of a Macedonian nation.

This nonrecognition of a Macedonian national identity mirrored the long-held Bulgarian view that Macedonian is merely a Bulgarian dialect. After the recognition, Aleksandar Yordanov, a leading Bulgarian politician at that time, greeted "our brothers in Macedonia."

Things have changed in the meantime. When the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) won the parliamentary elections in Macedonia in 1998, a reorientation in Macedonia's foreign relations soon followed.

Until then, the coalition led by the postcommunist Social Democratic Union (SDSM) had pursued a policy of maintaining equal distance from the neighboring countries -- Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria. This policy left a lot of unresolved questions: the notorious name dispute with Greece, unsettled border questions with Yugoslavia, and the language question with Bulgaria.

Ljubco Georgievski, the young nationalist poet who led the VMRO-DPMNE, had himself changed his first name from the Macedonian Ljupco to the Bulgarian Ljubco. During the election campaign, the Social Democrats accused him of pro-Bulgarian tendencies.

The Bulgarian government, for its part, hoped that Georgievski would be more open to a solution to the language dispute than the Social Democrats had been. Subsequent developments seemed to confirm this hope.

In early 1999, the two governments reached an agreement. In diplomatic documents, the Macedonian language would be used without referring to it as "Macedonian," but rather as the "constitutional" language of Macedonia. This agreement seemed to work. Macedonia's relations with Bulgaria have since developed well, and a number of bilateral accords have been signed.

Today, Yordanov is Bulgaria's ambassador in Skopje. In an interview with "Nova Makedonija" -- which is close to the VMRO-DPMNE -- on 8 December, he stressed that there are no problems in relations between the two countries. But he also says that out of some 40 bilateral agreements, about one-third have yet to be ratified by the Macedonian government.

Regarding the language dispute, Yordanov said: "The truth cannot be forgotten, but the lies must [be forgotten].... It would be nice if politicians would no longer interfere in matters like history or the history of languages -- and leave this to the scholars."

Coincidentally, the interview with the Bulgarian ambassador came at a time when the now-opposition Social Democrats had begun to prepare for the next elections in April 2002 -- using nationalism to do so. This came somewhat unexpectedly. As part of the so-called "government of political unity," formed in May this year, the SDSM's moderate policy was widely acknowledged by both the international and the domestic public.

But recently, SDSM legislative deputy and former presidential candidate Tito Petkovski slammed the international community. During a parliamentary discussion, he said: "The draft law [on local self-government] offers formulas that threaten Macedonia. We must not pass this law in a hurry, regardless of any blackmail by the international community," the London-based Institute for War and Peace reported.

Nor has Bulgaria escaped the SDSM's attention. By lashing out against the international community and the Bulgarian government, it also hits the "Bulgarians" of the VMRO-DPMNE.

"Utrinski vesnik," which has close ties with the SDSM, provided a forum for the leader of the United Macedonian Organization Ilinden-PIRIN (OMO-Ilinden), Ivan Singartiski, in a recent issue. His organization fights for the recognition of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, where the party has run afoul of the authorities.

Singartiski complains that the Macedonian government does not give Macedonian passports to Macedonians from Bulgaria. At the same time, the newspaper reported, the Bulgarian government does not hesitate to issue passports to Macedonian citizens.

Asked about this practice, Yordanov said: "The question of citizenship is a deeply personal problem. I cannot say why a person might want to acquire U.S., Australian, German, or Bulgarian citizenship.... I know that some people explain this as a result of history, while others explain it as a result of economic problems."

Nevertheless, the language dispute between Macedonia and Bulgaria could soon acquire a new impetus -- this time from the international community. In its latest report on Macedonia, the influential Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) called for a solution of the Macedonian-Greek dispute over the name of Macedonia. The main aim of the proposal is to reinforce Macedonian national identity -- which has been questioned by most of its neighbors -- and which has suffered another blow because of the Ohrid peace accord and its provisions for greater use of the Albanian language.

The ICG proposes to use Bulgaria's plans for EU and NATO accession to prompt a change in its stance in the language dispute: "As a condition for consideration of membership in NATO, the EU, or other international organizations, Bulgaria in particular should demonstrate its full disavowal of any claim -- express or implied -- on the Macedonian language, nation, or state." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

AGREEMENT BETWEEN SLOVENIA AND VATICAN ADOPTED. The daily "Delo" reported on 11 December the adoption and initialing of the long-awaited agreement between Slovenia and the Vatican (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2001). The chief Slovenian negotiator, Matjaz Nahtigal, said that Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel could sign the agreement as early as this month.

Nahtigal admitted that both sides made concessions in settling on the final wording. The agreement formalizes the constitutional separation of church and state at a bilateral level and harmonizes canon law and national legislation. A previous wording, agreed to by the conservative government of Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk in March 2000, was rejected before signing. This was because of charges that it could set canon law above the constitution. The Constitutional Court will also examine the current wording to ensure its constitutionality and that Slovenian law will override canon law in any potential conflict.

The Ljubljana archbishop and metropolitan, Franc Rode, welcomed the agreement. Immediate political reaction to the agreement ranged from warm to cautious approval within the governing coalition, whereas opposition parties generally withheld comment. However, the opposition Slovenian National Party (SNS) characterized the agreement as a "violation of Slovenian national and state interests." (Donald F. Reindl)

PROPOSAL TO DECRIMINALIZE PROSTITUTION IN SLOVENIA. The daily "Delo" reported on 8 December that legislators from Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's party, Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS), have submitted a proposal for the decriminalization of prostitution.

Although prostitution has officially been classified as a profession in Slovenia since 1997, it is nonetheless currently punishable by up to two months' imprisonment. The proposal, which would redefine prostitutes as entrepreneurs, follows the example of similar laws in Germany and the Netherlands. It is also in line with a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, which holds that member states may define prostitution as an activity equivalent to any other line of business.

Estimates of the number of foreign prostitutes operating in Slovenia range from 1,000 to 3,000. The number of domestic prostitutes is "considerably higher," according to Drago Kos of the recently founded Key Society, a center dedicated to fighting human trafficking. The society plans to establish a safe house and operate a telephone hotline to aid women victimized by human trafficking.

Kos, who supports decriminalization, says that the annual turnover from prostitution in Slovenia is over $9 million. The center is especially concerned about the approximately 100 Slovenian women estimated to have gone abroad as prostitutes and whose fate is unknown. Backers of the proposal argue that decriminalization would aid in reducing human trafficking, trade in illegal drugs, and the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 December 2001). Street solicitation, which in any case is rare in Slovenia, would remain illegal under the proposal. (Donald F. Reindl)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "If Yugoslav state bodies comply with the demands from the [Hague-based] tribunal, I will, as any other Yugoslav citizen, appear before that court.... My conscience is clear. I don't feel guilty for anything I did...because I never ordered anything that could counter laws and regulations." -- Yugoslav army Chief of Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic. Quoted by AP in Belgrade on 11 December.

"Have we lost a battle? No. They [the Brussels bureaucrats] have put a bunch of barriers in our way, but they have not beaten us." -- Outgoing Stability Pact chief Bodo Hombach. Quoted by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 12 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001).