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Balkan Report: May 26, 2000

26 May 2000, Volume 4, Number 39

A Veteran Correspondent Looks At Tito's Legacy. Did the former Yugoslavia collapse because it was a dictatorship or because it was a multi-national state? This question has fueled many discussions over the past decade and, in particular, provided the grist for many mills this past month.

May marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Josip Broz Tito, who was generally known to his Yugoslav contemporaries as the "Old Man" (Stari). Memorials ranged from a formal gathering of the Broz clan at Tito's tomb in Belgrade, to festive revelry at a new pub called "At The Old Man's Place" (Kod Staroga) in his native Kumrovec near the border between Croatia and Slovenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000). Most of those attending the commemorative ceremonies were older people, but they came from all parts of the former Yugoslavia and from abroad.

Many observers in the media of the former Yugoslavia looked back at Tito and his legacy, albeit with generally mixed feelings. Older writers tended to be more sympathetic--nostalgic?--while younger ones tended to be more critical--but perhaps also less well informed.

One of the many authors of recent articles on Tito was the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's" retired correspondent Viktor Meier. The Swiss-born writer followed the affairs of Tito's Yugoslavia during the late dictator's lifetime and well into the current decade of Milosevic's wars. He is the author of a book on the collapse of Yugoslavia that has appeared in both German and English editions.

Meier argued in an article in the "FAZ" on 4 May that Tito's main interest was in power. He was a communist in that the Marxist-Leninist system provided a vehicle for exercising power, and a Yugoslav in that Yugoslavia provided him with a realm to rule once Stalin shattered his dreams of greater glories within the Socialist bloc. Tito could be generous and allowed Yugoslavs liberties unthinkable in the Soviet Union. But he was convinced of his own "uniqueness" and would tolerate no threat to his own authority, Meier maintains.

Tito's interest in economics was marginal, and his much-trumpeted system of "workers' democratic self-management" ceased being a topic of interested discussion at home or abroad long before the breakup of Yugoslavia.

But on his last visit to the U.S. just two years before his death, Tito said that his greatest failing was that he had not been able to make a truly united community out of Yugoslavia's diverse peoples. For his part, Meier argues that Tito's own projection of his personality at the center of "Tito's Yugoslavia" only helped to prevent the formation of a Yugoslav consciousness distinct from the "unique" leader and able to outlive him. In the end, federalism got the upper hand, and the collective leadership that Tito designed to succeed him was nothing more than a committee of representatives of the individual republics and provinces.

That, Meier concludes, left only one surviving pillar of Tito's rule, namely the army. The military was Yugoslav in its doctrine, but it was also communist and centralist as well. Most of the officers, moreover, were Serbs (or Montenegrins). It was thus that Admiral Branko Mamula and Generals Nikola Ljubicic and Veljko Kadijevic helped give the military much of its greater Serbian orientation that determined its role in the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 and afterward.

Meier denies that Tito can be directly blamed for the collapse of Yugoslavia. But 10 years after his death, it was clear that both the socialist system and Yugoslavia were beyond saving.

At least two men recognized this truth early on but drew very different conclusions. Slobodan Milosevic saw the future in an aggressive Serbian nationalism. He miscalculated, however, and brought Serbia and the Serbs to the brink of disaster in the process. Slovenia's Milan Kucan, for his part, opted for democracy and self-determination. He obviously made the wiser choice. (Patrick Moore)

Thaci Cautions Party Members Against High Expectations. Before his election as leader of the newly-renamed Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) on 21 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2000), Hashim Thaci told his party members not to raise their expectations too high, "Koha Ditore" reported on 23 May.

Thaci said: "I cannot guarantee that we will be able to realize everything that we have in our party program." This appears to be a reference to the aim of winning full independence for Kosova.

He went on to say: "I cannot guarantee that we will be able to reach all the goals that we will outline at the end of our party congress. But I can guarantee that Kosova will get a preliminary constitution and that it will have its own free elections."

After the vote, referring to his challengers for the party leadership, Pleurat Sejdiu and Bardhyl Mahmuti, Thaci said: "With my election they have not lost. They will be close to me in the highest organs of the party and I will be close to them�. I will try to justify the trust that you put in me, and I am sure that I can deliver. It is an honor for me to lead the PDK, which opens a new perspective for Kosova."

To date, 25 political parties have formally applied for registration with the OSCE in the runup to local elections scheduled for this fall. But so far the OSCE has not granted official party status to any of them, an OSCE official told RFE/RL on 23 May. (Fabian Schmidt)

Security Problems In Kukes. Albania's remote Kukes region was long known as a center of lawlessness and became even more so during the 1999 conflict in nearby Kosova. It has been nearly one year since peace came to Kosova, but Kukes' problems have not gone away.

Albanian Public Order Minister Spartak Poci gave an interview to "Koha Ditore" of 23 May, in which he acknowledged that crime poses a serious threat to returning refugees on the road linking central Albania with the northern town of Kukes and subsequently with Kosova. The city and district of Kukes, which includes the main border crossing between Albania and Kosova, faced the most severe influx of refugees during the 1999 war when hundreds of thousands of people passed through that city. Since the end of the war, robberies on the roads, illegal attempts to cross the border between Albania and Kosova, and smuggling of illicit goods have been frequent.

Poci explained that the rise of crime was not only the fault of law enforcement agencies. Rather, he said, it reflects a broader phenomenon triggered by the war: "Kukes was a burden that the police could not carry.� [The town] bore the brunt of the entire humanitarian crisis in Kosova, with all its effects, and witnessed the complete destruction of the regular police service. Thus it was clear that the Albanian state--and not only the police--needed time to bring the entire [security] infrastructure along the border back into service. But this work is going along fast. Of course we have used the opportunity to carry out changes and reorganizations within the local police department and prefecture. It is important to note that we can already see the results."

Still, many refugees who return voluntarily to Kosova from western countries are afraid to use the Kukes route. The main concern of the Albanian authorities at present is to safeguard the expected transit of thousands of voluntary returnees from Germany and Switzerland through Albania into Kosova this coming summer. Poci stressed that Albania will not allow refugees to transit whom the host countries have expelled by force. He added:

"We have prepared a plan according to which we will organize the return. The refugees will only travel during specified hours, which means in the daytime. Regardless of whether the people travel in groups or individually, we will give assistance. The Kosovars will always be accompanied by Albanian police. In keeping with an agreement we have with the German and Swiss governments, those countries will cover the necessary logistical expenses of this operation. The agreement has not been ratified, but we expect that it will be in the near future. We will not allow the transit of the Kosovar refugees through Albania to begin before all the preconditions have been met."

Poci also predicted that the overall security situation in the Kukes area will improve in the coming months. He said that KFOR and UNMIK officials have recently launched closer cooperation efforts with the Albanian authorities in patrolling the border. He also shed light on problems within the Albanian security forces: "This is not an easy task, for several reasons. In the first place it is necessary to rid the police of criminals and those police officers who cooperate with smugglers. This also applies to other institutions such as the customs and customs police."

A joint project on guarding the Kosova-Albanian border by KFOR and the Albanian government was presented to the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe at the beginning of the year. EU and U.S. border experts launched the project in cooperation with local officials one month ago. A third round table on security will take place in the beginning of June, and Poci expects that at this point donor countries will authorize financial support for the Albanian authorities for specific tasks.

These measures aim primarily at eliminating smuggling and preventing the development of a new corridor for contraband from Eastern Europe through Kosova and Albania into Western Europe. The Albanian authorities have accordingly developed a permanent exchange of information and direct cooperation with KFOR and the UNMIK police. At this point delegations of the respective authorities maintain these contacts through visits rather than via permanent liaison offices. But the cooperation has already resulted in several cases of the mutual extradition of criminals. Poci stressed: "We are concerned that organized crime should not spread throughout Kosova in the absence of a state and of local police forces. Our common struggle aims at creating permanent institutions of cooperation to prevent the emergence of organized crime." (Fabian Schmidt)

Albanian President Visits Kosova. Rexhep Meidani on 24 May became the first Albanian head of state to visit Kosova. Referring to local elections slated for later this year, Meidani called on people to support candidates "who are committed to stabilizing the situation in Kosova," Reuters reported.

UN chief civilian administrator Bernard Kouchner said that he does not see any threat to regional stability from greater Albanian nationalism and that Meidani shares this view. Serbian propaganda frequently claims that Albanian nationalists in Kosova and Albania seek to form a single state.

Observers note, however, that no mainstream Albanian or Kosovar political leader or party calls for a greater Albania as a practical political goal. Cross-border contacts in recent years have enabled Albanians and Kosovars to realize that their more than 80 years of political separation have produced two very different societies and cultures. (Patrick Moore)

Old Struggle Continues In Herzegovina. "Jutarnji list" reported on 23 May on the latest installment in the centuries-old rivalry between the Franciscan friars and the regular clergy among the Croats of western Herzegovina. A friar who had run afoul of Rome and the local hierarchy for "disobedience to the Holy Father" took part in a mass and baptized 10 children in open contravention of the hierarchy's orders. Bishop Ratko Peric (with a police escort) subsequently attempted to "take control" of this part of the Citluk area, but apparently with only mixed results.

There is also a dispute among the Franciscans themselves, in which the hierarchy has been trying to distance itself from the traditionally militant Croatian nationalism of the local friars. Many of the friars are upset at what they regard as a questioning of the legitimacy of their patriotism. The friars are generally regarded as the clergy closest to the ordinary people of Herzegovina, from whose families they come and among whom they work. (Patrick Moore)

Panic Sues Bulatovic. Lawyers for Serbian-American businessman and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic are suing the current Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic in his capacity as president of the pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party of Montenegro. Panic says that Bulatovic's party slandered him by charging that Panic acquired part ownership of the Simo Milosevic Institute in Igalo by offering bad quality or old medicines in payment instead of cash. "Vesti" carried the story on 23 May. (Patrick Moore)

Belgrade Minister Calls Del Ponte 'Whore.' Yugoslav Justice Minister Petar Jojic, who belongs to Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party, sent a letter on 24 May to "the whore [Carla] Del Ponte, the self-proclaimed prosecutor of the criminal Hague [war crimes] tribunal." Jojic said that she and her predecessor Louise Arbour "symbolize prostitution as you take money from customers and do your keep them satisfied." He argued that the tribunal is "illegal" and serves as an instrument for NATO and the U.S. to "persecute Serbs." AP described the letter as "unprecedented." Jojic wrote Del Ponte to reject her request that he cooperate with the tribunal and extradite indicted persons living in Serbia. (Patrick Moore)

Disco Fever. Montenegrin Television reported on 22 May that Marko Milosevic's Madona Disco in Pozarevac is reopening for the new season. The interior has been completely redone in a manner "seen nowhere else in the Balkans," the broadcast noted.

"Vesti" reported three days later that the grand re-opening came off without a hitch. The place was packed, and so was the parking lot, which included many limos. The Interior Ministry provided escorts for some of them. The most distinguished persons at the bash stayed out of sight and did not mix with the ordinary dancers. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "Support for independent media is defined as 'terrorism and a crime against a sovereign state.'" - Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic to the OSCE's Freimut Duve, as quoted by the OSCE in a 22 May statement.

"This is the way Milosevic intends to rule Serbia in the next two, three years. Milosevic is warning the Serbs that there [will be] no peaceful [parting of the ways] between him and Serbia." - Serbian analyst and ex-Information Minister Aleksandar Tijanic. Quoted by AP on 23 May.