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Balkan Report: January 14, 2000

14 January 2000, Volume 4, Number 4

Dragging Heels Over Dayton. The UN Security Council wants action on implementing the 1995 Dayton agreement. The UN's highest body voted unanimously on 12 January to demand that the members of the three-man Bosnian joint presidency implement pledges they made in New York in November to further develop joint institutions in keeping with the terms of the peace treaty (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 13 January 2000).

Council President and U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told reporters afterwards: "I am here today to express our considerable annoyance at the delays.... The joint presidency, its central institutions, and many attributes of a single, sovereign, centrally-governed state...have not been fulfilled," Reuters reported.

Holbrooke, who was the architect of the peace agreement, noted that the return of refugees and displaced persons is proceeding too slowly. He also criticized powerful local nationalist warlords for blocking implementation of Dayton. Holbrooke stressed that such individuals are "just criminals, crooks, disguising their crookedness under the guise of...nationalism."

That same day in Sarajevo, ethnic Serbian deputies in the joint legislature voted to block the establishment of a multiethnic border police force for all of Bosnia-Herzegovina (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2000). While there are many kingpins throughout Bosnia who fear what the presence of these police might mean for their lucrative "import-export" businesses, many Serbs specifically object to the police as a threat to the "sovereignty of the Republika Srpska." According to their interpretation, the crux of the Dayton agreement is that it recognizes two distinct entities, rather than that it calls for a single Bosnian state.

But the international community is running out of patience on the police issue. Alexandra Stiglmayer, who is the spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Sarajevo that Petritsch is likely to set up the force by decree. The next day, Petritsch announced that this is exactly what he intends to do.

Petritsch and his predecessor Carlos Westendorp have, in fact, used their wide-ranging powers to implement key measures blocked by nationalists in the legislature. Many observers argue that it was only through the intervention of the high representative that any common institutions have been created at all, including license plates and a national anthem. The joint border police force is one of the central institutions that the three members of the presidency promised in November to set up. (Patrick Moore)

What Fate For The Stability Pact? An editorial by Andreas Schwarz appeared in Vienna's "Die Presse" on 11 January, which called on the EU to breathe new life into its much-heralded Stability Pact or risk looking ineffective in the Balkans once again.

The article recalls the EU's less-than-stellar performances in trying to end or contain the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession earlier in the decade, and points out that it was only through determined American and British intervention that the genocide in Kosova was halted.

But the EU sought to redeem its role as a problem-solver through the pact, Schwarz continues. At a gala session in Sarajevo at the end of July, brave words were spoken about the need for quick action and serious projects. Money was said to be forthcoming for all of this.

Six months later, the Vienna daily asks, what is there to show for all this besides the generous salary paid to Coordinator Bodo Hombach? Schwarz argues that suspicions should have been raised long ago by the fighting between member states over the appointment of the pact's coordinator, and by the fact that the prize eventually went to a German domestic politician whom Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wanted to get out of the way.

And what, the article continues, is holding things up? Is it because those involved "realize" only now how ploddingly slow EU structures function? Or is it because the money is not available after all? Or is it because the sense of urgency has slipped?

The paper calls on Hombach not to make any excuses but to set the record straight. He should make clear what has been done, what specific projects will be completed and by when, and where matters are heading. If he does not do this, Schwarz concludes, "Europe is heading for its next debacle." (Patrick Moore)

Row Over Albanian Election Commission. The polarization that has plagued Albanian politics since the fall of communism has again made for fresh controversies. This time the issue is the composition of the main election commission. The rightist opposition fears it will be shut out of a Socialist-run body. Not so, says the governing coalition.

Albanian opposition politicians and their counterparts from the governing coalition have clashed over the composition of the Central Election Commission (KQZ), "Shekulli" reported on 10 January. This comes about ten months before local elections scheduled for October.

The dispute started when officials from the two main opposition coalitions--the Union for Democracy, and the United Right--criticized the current legislation on 9 January, arguing that the opposition has no guarantees of being able to send its own representatives to the KQZ. The composition of that commission is specified by the constitution, which stipulates that the president and the parliament appoint two KQZ members each. The High Council of Justice--a body elected by an assembly of judges and lawyers from throughout Albania--appoints another three members to the commission.

(The Union for Democracy, which is dominated by the Democratic Party of former President Sali Berisha, boycotted a referendum on the constitution in November 1998, but the United Right then called on its voters to vote in favor of the draft.)

With the presidency and the parliamentary majority in the hands of the governing Socialists, Berisha warned that the KQZ will become "a political instrument that will undermine the possibilities of a free vote." He demanded instead that the KQZ be composed equally of representatives of the governing coalition and of the opposition, following the example of a political compromise reached before the 1997 parliamentary elections under OSCE mediation. Then, the governing coalition and the opposition agreed to apply that key for equal representation to all other election commissions down to the level of the polling stations. The chair of each commission was also shared between the government and the opposition.

Berisha argues that with the new constitution, the governing coalition "abandoned the consensus that it reached [in 1997] with the opposition." He added that "without reaching a new consensus, this is an immoral thing to do."

Fatmir Mediu, the chairman of the Republican Party--the largest party within the United Right--pointed out that "the opposition forces have discussed [the possibility] that they may not participate in the elections." He stressed, however, that the "opposition is ready to enter the electoral process...[if the governing coalition agrees to] build a commission that can guarantee a free vote, based on the...consensus that [membership in the] commissions will be shared."

Mediu added that the current legislation is not clear enough. He argued that the constitution only specifies that the president can name two members of the KQZ, but it fails to address the question who has the right to propose the candidates. He stressed that representatives of the smaller parties within the governing coalition have also raised concern over the current legislation. Mediu suggested that parliament should address the issue by either adopting a new law regulating the composition of the electoral commission, or by amending the constitution, or by referendum.

The first of these options is the most likely. Parliamentary Speaker Skender Gjinushi--from the small Social Democratic Party--rejected a change of the constitution outright. He stressed that the three High Council of Justice representatives within the KQZ are likely to protect the interests of the opposition. Gjinushi argued that the majority of judges in Albania were appointed during the rule of the Democratic Party, because they were "friends of Mr. Sali [Berisha]." He also noted that the governing coalition has agreed to allow the opposition to nominate one of the two KQZ members to be elected by parliament, and that the president will make his choice independently of political party interests.

Gjinushi stressed that "there is no larger consensus than a constitution. We cannot build a state by politicizing the constitution.... [The opposition] demands that the constitution be changed every time the balance of political power changes or every time that the political parties choose to. But this constitution has been adopted by popular referendum and consequently all changes to it will require another referendum." But Gjinushi also offered a possible compromise: "I believe that the demands of Mediu and Berisha will be met within the framework of an electoral law that will be in line with the constitution.... The KQZ must not become a body composed of representatives of political parties but a permanent institution made up of experts....In addition, the electoral law will have to stipulate that a commission of monitors will be attached to the KQZ, which will be composed of party representatives." (Fabian Schmidt)

The Return Of An Old Chestnut. The Zagreb daily "Vjesnik," which is a mouthpiece of the defeated Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), suggested on 13 January that Russia is prominent among the countries interested in cultivating the new government of Prime Minister-designate Ivica Racan. The HDZ daily implies that Moscow sees Croatia as a fruit ripe for plucking now that the protecting hand of President Franjo Tudjman (and the HDZ) has been removed.

The fear of a political connection between Zagreb and Moscow is nothing new--and not very serious. This chestnut emerged periodically during the reign of Marshal Josip Broz Tito to cause consternation in Belgrade ministries and the Belgrade press. But it was little more than that.

The "Vjesnik" article suggests that "Realpolitiker" Tudjman himself would have liked to expand a multifaceted relationship with Moscow, but that his aides advised him against it. And the reason is simple. Russia in its present state has little beyond propaganda value to offer anyone in the Balkans. Even official Belgrade knows this, to say nothing of the Serbian opposition. There even the nationalist and anti-Western elements around Vuk Draskovic and others seek out Brussels and Washington for serious support, not Moscow.

All mainstream political forces in Croatia realize where the future lies. Accordingly, they stress only Euro-Atlantic integration in their foreign policy programs. Croatia has suffered long delays in achieving that integration, and the new government is determined to make up for lost time (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 January 2000). (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "According to [Albanian] government sources, Albanian leaders expressed [to the UCK's Hashim Thaci] their readiness to assist in the establishment of democratic institutions in Kosova by offering expert assistance." -- dpa from Tirana on 12 January.

"Every time we suddenly move towards creating state institutions, you find that on both the Serb and Croat sides the partitionists come to the fore." -- Jacques Klein, the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, to Reuters on 11 January.

"It is still very dangerous to be a minority" in Kosova. -- Unnamed senior UN official in Prishtina on 12 January, quoted by AP.

As Jesus Christ "was crucified and tormented, so we [Serbs] have been crucified and tormented all these years. They couldn't do anything to Him. And they can't do anything to us." -- Zorica Taic-Rabrenovic, who represented Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, at an Orthodox New Year's rally in Podgorica on 13 January. Quoted by Reuters.

"The responsibility for the isolation of Serbia and the suffering borne by the people of Serbia lies entirely with Milosevic's policy of aggression and intolerance." -- U.S. State Department statement to mark Orthodox New Year, issued on 13 January.