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Balkan Report: February 1, 2000

1 February 2000, Volume 4, Number 9

New Croatian Agenda For Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula--who is a Social Democrat--told "Slobodna Dalmacija" of 31 January that the new government will carry out its obligations toward Bosnia under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement "even if there are certain [unspecified] political realities that we do not like." He is determined to put an end to Zagreb's nationalistic policies in the neighboring republic.

Picula stressed that Zagreb will try to better the lot of the Croats in the neighboring state but not by calling for a revision of the Dayton agreement--and the establishment of a Croatian entity--as the defeated Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) did. Picula added that he hopes that a new election law in Bosnia will put an end to ethnic polarization in voting patterns there. He called upon Serbian and Muslim leaders to help end ethnic polarization.

The Croatian government will continue to provide financial assistance to the often impoverished ethnic Croats in the neighboring state but will do so in a completely transparent manner. Picula also said that it is time to put an end to the "political manipulation" of the Herzegovinian Croats. This is an apparent reference to the close links between Croatian nationalists in Herzegovina and hard-line HDZ factions in Croatia.

Picula stressed that it is in Croatia's interest to preserve the good name of its war for independence by cooperating with the Hague-based tribunal to investigate and punish those individuals who committed war crimes on the Croatian side during that conflict. Croatian courts will also deal with such individuals, he added.

The government will provide the Hague tribunal with most of the documents it wants relating to the 1995 offensives in western Slavonia and Krajina, except for a relatively small number that Zagreb deems vital to national security. Picula stressed that Croatia will meet the obligations necessary for its integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. (Patrick Moore)

'A Real Policeman Must Be A Professional.' The Foreign Ministry is not the only part of the Croatian government in which fresh winds are blowing. Interior Minister Sime Lucin--a Social Democrat from the Trogir and Dalmatia area--is also determined to clear out the HDZ's Augean stables in his sphere.

Lucin told Rijeka's "Novi List" of 31 January that he wants to inject a spirit of professionalism into the ministry. This includes transparency and the fundamental assumption that the Ministry's primary job is to protect the safety and property of every citizen, or, depending on the department, to safeguard national security.

The minister does not intend to replace immediately the HDZ's political appointees who head many of the county police forces. But, Lucin adds, their day will come soon enough. In the last analysis, he is looking for police at all levels who will put their jobs above party interests, and everyone will have a chance to prove their mettle.

At the top of the list for a thorough screening are the employees of the Service for the Protection of the Constitutional Order. Lucin stresses that he wants the intelligence services in particular to display only the highest professional qualities. (Patrick Moore)

Albania Ends Politicization Of Its Civil Service. Establishing a professional, non-political civil service is a problem in many countries, and not only in the former communist world. As one might suppose, the problem is particularly acute in Albania, where the pre-communist and communist past left little positive legacy on which to build.

Between 19 and 20 January, the Albanian government, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the EU organized a conference in Tirana. The purpose was to launch Albania's new civil service law, which parliament passed on 11 November 1999. The law is intended to put an end to the tradition of replacing political appointees throughout the entire administration after every change of government.

The new law marks a milestone in the efforts of the government to reform the legal system and is the first comprehensive law addressing the reform of Albania's public administration. Francesco Cardona of the OECD's SIGMA program--which supports the reform of government and management in Central and Eastern Europe--noted the fundamental importance of the move. He stressed that the law is "primarily not a legal act to regulate the working conditions of civil servants, like a labor code. Instead, a civil service law should strike a balance between the duties and accountabilities implied in a public job on the one hand, and the rights in securing the professional status to carry out the job on the other." Thus he stressed that the law is designed both to protect civil servants from unjustified interference, while at the same time to "upgrade and safeguard the professional quality of the staff and the service of state institutions."

The focus of the law is accordingly to draw a clear line between politics and administration. Recruitment and promotion are based on merit and the professional qualities of the person who wants to enter public administration--and not on personal or political allegiances. The hiring of new employees is in the hands of a central administrative body--and thus out of the reach of the respective heads of departments or ministries.

Job security is guaranteed to competent people to prevent politically-motivated intimidation of civil servants. By stipulating that the primary allegiance of the civil servant is to the legal order of the country, the law also requires the civil servants to refuse compliance with unlawful orders and demands from their superiors.

At the same time, the law restricts some constitutional rights of civil servants, such as the right to run for public office on a partisan basis and the right to conduct certain business activities. The law stipulates that civil servants must inform the institution in which they work about every private business activity that they undertake. Prime Minister Ilir Meta argued that these rules have been included "in particular to make sure that the employees serve the state and not the party, the state and not their personal interests."

One of the main problems of Albania's administration is the low level of wages in public jobs. While the law is in no position to solve budgetary problems, it introduces a salary system that is even-handed and transparent. Cardona stressed that "salaries can be low and this can be understood by society and civil servants alike. What is not acceptable, however, is a lack of transparency, as well as unfairness and arbitrariness in managing the salary structure. The law attempts to tackle this problem by establishing a salary system with clearly regulated components, which are aimed at ensuring adequate levels of fairness and transparency."

The main task for the government will now be to reform the civil service on the basis of the new law. That includes introducing the new salary system as well as integrating the state employees into the new framework. The main instrument in the process will be the Civil Service Commission, an independent body made up of five members.

Two of those individuals will be nominated by the Council of Ministers, one by the State Control (an anti-corruption agency), and two by a body elected by local government officials. All five must then be confirmed by parliament. The commission will receive complaints from individuals about possible violations of the law by civil servants. It can then intervene with the respective institution and demand that things be set right.

If the dispute cannot be settled within two months, it will be passed on to a court to rule on the issue. But the Commission is not all-powerful: state administrative bodies have the right to go to an appeals court and challenge rulings by the Commission that they think violate the law. (Fabian Schmidt)

U.S. Cool, Germany Reflective On Stability Pact. The EU's Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe has its share of critics both in the EU and in the region (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 January 2000). U.S. Special Ambassador Richard Shifter doesn't have much use for it, either.

Speaking in Sofia on 28 January, Shifter said that U.S. "taxpayers are not prepared to support a [new] Marshall Plan," AP reported. He stressed that "what is necessary for the countries in this region is to make themselves attractive for foreign investors. There is every reason to believe that the EU will come forward in the very near future with a significant amount of aid," he concluded.

The German government, for its part, is taking seriously at least some of the mounting criticism of the Stability Pact. The "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 26 January that the German government intends to take the lead in encouraging EU countries to better coordinate their policies.

A concrete step is to link all financial commitments to specific projects, not to blanket pledges. To this end, the donors' conference slated for March will deal with individual projects and their funding. These include mine clearing and educational projects, among others. Germany will provide DM 300 million each year for the next three years for these and similar projects. The German government has also decided to double its police contingent for Kosova from 210 to 420. (Patrick Moore)

Did A Video Take The Fight Out Of Milosevic? The conventional wisdom has it that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic made peace in June 1999 out of fear that a NATO ground attack was imminent. London's "Sunday Times" of 30 January suggests that there may be a bit more to the story.

According to the respected weekly, "friendly" foreign diplomats brought the Yugoslav military an American video showing the effects of the vacuum bomb, a video perhaps produced by one of the U.S. psychological warfare units. An unnamed source told the paper: "Up until then, Milosevic had believed that the air strikes were a kind of saloon bar game. But this video would have made him take a long, hard look at what was in store. The vacuum bomb makes an almighty flash and clears everything beneath it. There would have been nothing left of his army." The bomb is made of phosphorus and plasma, and generates intense heat and downward pressure, the weekly continued.

The "Sunday Times" concluded that Milosevic chose to make peace rather than let the Kosova Liberation Army win a military victory in Kosova and drive the Serbs out. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "I think one has to learn from the failures, because I think one has to recognize that the Bosnian effort was--is--a failure." -- U.S. Financier George Soros, to RFE/RL at Davos, 31 January.

"Milosevic has no future. He is either going to be liquidated or commit suicide." -- Croatian presidential candidate Stipe Mesic, to Brussels' "Le Soir" of 25 January.