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Balkan Report: May 30, 2000

30 May 2000, Volume 4, Number 40

'Bizarre' Happenings In Slovenian Politics. A long drawn-out battle is going on over the confirmation of a government that would only have a few months to serve before elections are due. The issues are petty to some, but rather important to others.

Prime Minister-designate Andrej Bajuk failed on 23 May to secure parliamentary approval for his proposed cabinet. The legislature voted 45 to 45 on the government, just one vote short of the 46 votes needed to confirm the cabinet.

"Die Presse" wrote on 25 May that the problem was Bajuk's nominee for the post of education minister. That man recently joined the Order of the Knights of Malta, which has had close links to the Roman Catholic Church since before the Crusades.

Some Slovenes cringed at the idea of having a devout Catholic in the education post lest he blur the line of distinction between Church and state. Slovenian politics before 1945 were heavily dominated by the Church, but society now is thoroughly secular. Many people--especially those raised after 1945--fear that the Church is quietly and undemocratically trying to regain a position of power and influence in society and politics, including in education. That issue evokes strong emotions and contributed to Bajuk's failure to get his cabinet confirmed.

He must now submit a new list by 2 June. If parliament again denies approval, Bajuk will then have a third opportunity to form a government. Should he fail on the third try, President Milan Kucan has the right either to appoint a new prime minister or call early elections.

But there are other options open as well, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 25 May. Bajuk can call for a vote on each cabinet nominee individually, and his government becomes legally confirmed if at least two-thirds of the nominees win an individual confidence vote. All he would then have to do would be to find new appointees to replace those who did not pass the parliament's muster.

It is not completely clear why the economist Bajuk and the center-right coalition that nominated him are putting the country through this prolonged crisis. Some observers feel that the coalition is wasting time and money on parliamentary votes when new elections are due in the fall, anyway.

Kucan wants early elections, which he regards as the only way to end the current deadlock in parliament. Many of his countrymen would concur.

But critics charge that what really bothers Kucan is that a Bajuk government would mean the advent of a new team of individuals with no ties to the old communist nomenklatura. Kucan began his career in Tito's League of Communists in 1968, "Die Presse" notes. Most of the leaders since independence in 1991 share a similar background.

Bajuk, by contrast, comes from a family of anti-communists who were forced to flee Slovenia for Argentina in 1945. He has lived most of his life abroad as a professor and international banking official. Now that he has the chance to become his native country's head of government, he seems determined to press ahead with it. (Patrick Moore)

What Future For Albanian-Kosovar Relations? On 24 May, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani became the first Albanian head of state ever to visit Kosova. He gave an exclusive interview to the daily "Koha Ditore," in which he outlined his vision of the future relations between the two states.

Asked about the relations between the government in Tirana and the Albanian political parties in Kosova, Meidani responded:

"There have been fruitful contacts. The opening of a liaison office in Kosova no doubt will help us to develop the ties even further. But I think that only political and institutional contacts are not enough. The contacts today, under the newly created circumstances, must become multi-faceted. Besides political and institutional contacts, we need simply more human contacts in the fields of sports, education, science, civil society, and media, but also and especially in the fields of economy, finance, banking, insurance, and private business." Meidani stressed that "the new environment has opened broad opportunities, but we are still far from what can ultimately be done. We have to work on joint projects with a clear view of where we want to go."

Meidani envisages a long-lasting international presence in Kosova: "I believe that the international administration will have to stay in Kosova for a relatively long period of time. That is the only way that it will be able to create a framework in which we will see positive political, institutional, social, and economic development. During this process, the Kosovar population must acquire for itself some thorough-going experience in self-government and state-building. But that means also developing a real spirit of co-existence, tolerance, proper behavior, and democratic integration. To this end, internal and external conditions will also play a role in coming to a sustainable political solution."

Concerning his concept of a long-term solution for the status of Kosova, Meidani suggested closer integration with a democratic Montenegro. Meidani said: "This solution should take into account the free will of the people of Kosova, and the basic principles of international conventions. It should open the way for Kosova into an interdependency with the EU and maybe also with Montenegro, because [Kosova and Montenegro are] the two new southeast-European entities in the framework of European integration. This can offer a secure perspective for Southeastern Europe but also for [a body we may call] the European Federation or the United States of Europe, of which the Balkans with all its components will also become an integral part. I think that on the European level, this would be the best way to solve the contradiction between globalization and sovereignty in the classic sense of the word."

Meidani promoted the idea of a "Europe of the regions:" "This means that we have to seek to replace the central [national] authority with local authority and do so from below. At the same time, we must seek to replace national authority with super-national [European] authority, and do so from above. That does not mean an anachronistic notion of independence, but a European interdependency, which is--according to my understanding--quite in line with self-determination."

He stressed that this is an historic process of overcoming centuries-old borders: "Thus, we can finally overcome the [burden of] Europe's bloodstained history since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. This is a period of history that paved the way for the highly problematic formation of nation states out of the [Holy] Roman Empire, even though the borders of the nation-states were not the same as the ethnic borders. In a nutshell, the solution is independence within European interdependency, or a European integration of these independent [entities].

Finally, I want to guarantee that Albania, in the same way as it has done so far, will make its position heard that the free will of the people of Kosova has to be respected. The people of Kosova now have the building of a peaceful future in their own hands. And peace will win. This simple message is not a political slogan but an axiom for our joint action, for every individual Albanian's heart and spirit."

Meidani categorically ruled out the possibility of pursuing the goal of a greater Albania: "I think that this is terminology borrowed from and generated by the Belgrade misinformation machinery. We Albanians see our future in our integration into joint European structures, in which borders become no more than symbols of geography, and in which we are not isolated anymore, or obsessed with the destructive megalomania of the ultra-nationalist Serbian or greater Serbian [type]."

As a university physics teacher, Meidani taught in Kosova between 1977 and 1981. Later he met his former colleagues only at international events because direct contacts had become much more difficult. Regarding his latest visit, he said at Prishtina University against this background: "Fortunately I have [lived to see] this second meeting. But this time it was a great meeting, an historic meeting for the Albanian people, a meeting between Albanians and Albanians, showing that we will not be divided anymore."

Asked whether Kosovar-Albanian relations are not still underdeveloped and limited to few events such as joint book fairs and soccer matches, Meidani responded by saying that small steps bring people together: "The ones who develop the ties are the simple people from both sides of the border, who come and go, who trade and communicate, who speak Albanian, and who make friends. I am convinced that apart from jealousies that may emerge, the Albanians will learn how to communicate among each other, to cooperate better, and to coexist better. This meeting at the end of a century prepares the ground for a new century. The Albanians have the energy, spirit, and ability to make this work." (Fabian Schmidt)

Georgievski, Thaci Plan Cooperation. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Kosova Protection Corps commander Hashim Thaci spoke in Prishtina on 27 May about the possible opening of representative offices in each other's capitals. The two leaders also discussed ways to improve the exchange of people and goods between Kosova and Macedonia, as well as the future of Albanian-language higher education in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 April 2000). (Patrick Moore)

Bajaga Sings--But Not In Serbia. Serbian rock star Momcilo Bajagic "Bajaga" told "Blic" of 25 May that he enjoyed singing in Timisoara, Romania, recently. He marveled that his Romanian fans had actually learned the Serbo-Croatian texts of his songs. He said that the last time he gave a concert in Serbia, however, was in 1997.

Bajaga told the daily that he "cannot sing while people are being run over by jeeps" and that he will not give any concerts in Serbia "as long as the present situation lasts." He made it clear that he has no sympathies for the Milosevic regime.

Many activists in the anti-war movement criticized Bajaga during the 1991-1995 conflict for continuing to sing as though he were oblivious to the war and dictatorship. During those times, many of the former Yugoslavia's best-known rock musicians of the 1980s emigrated, kept a low profile, or stopped performing altogether. (Patrick Moore)

Looking For A Place To Study In Croatia? "Jutarnji list" on 25 May published the latest list of the number of positions open at Croatia's universities for the academic year 2000-2001. The list is broken down by university and faculty. At Zagreb University, there are only 180 positions for Medicine, 50 for Dentistry, 70 for Veterinary Medicine, 290 for Agriculture, and 180 for Political Science. Even Eastern Europe's hardy perennial, Law, has only 340 places. "Only," that is, when compared to the Catholic Theological Faculty, which boasts 345 openings. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "I hope we will get help from Russia. Russia is not Serbia. I will be very, very happy if, in our country [Yugoslavia], human rights will be on the same level as we have seen recently in Russia." -- Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, in Moscow on 29 May. Reported by RFE/RL's South Slavic Service.

"Being in Otpor is fun." -- Tanja, a high-school activist. Quoted in London's "The Guardian" on 24 May.

"Time works for us; it is on our side. We are aware that over the long term, we are sure winners in the war against Milosevic." -- Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, quoted in "The Washington Post" on 24 May.

"The EU operates [in Bosnia] like a large socialist company. The people assume no responsibility, are bureaucratic, and rely on old elites rather than on new forces from below.... [The critical intellectuals] have all gone away. There are no free media, no publishing houses. The intellectuals can do more for their country if they leave it." -- Baerbel Bohley, former East German democratic movement leader, in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 26 May 2000.

Former Tudjman aide Dr. Ivic "Pasalic is the evil spirit of Croatian politics, and it would be best for Croatian politics if he were no longer in politics. This is his last chance to finish his specialized [medical] training and devote himself to his [chosen profession of] medicine, because he has no more chance of succeeding in politics." -- President Stipe Mesic to "Globus" of 12 May. (In all fairness, one should point out that things can change quickly in Croatian politics. It was only seven-odd months ago that Mesic, who is old enough to be Pasalic's father, was widely regarded as a has-been and polled only 1 or 2 percent in public opinion surveys.)