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Balkan Report: June 20, 2000

20 June 2000, Volume 4, Number 46

A Way Out For Milosevic? The "New York Times" reported on 19 June that the U.S. and unnamed other NATO governments are quietly sounding out possibilities for Milosevic to relinquish power and go into exile with his "safety and savings" guaranteed. Greek diplomats and senior politicians are reportedly playing a key role in the contacts and discussions.

Washington is reluctant, however, to be seen publicly as being conciliatory toward the indicted war criminal. Furthermore, it is not clear whether Belgrade is sincere about making a deal or simply "seeing how the ground lies," the daily added.

The main argument in favor of a deal with the Serbian leader is that anything that helps get him out of the way quickly would be a boost for the democratization of Serbia. The article added that U.S. officials nonetheless will most likely deny any report of an impending deal with Milosevic.

The tricky part will, of course, be ensuring the safety and security in exile of an indicted war criminal. Before Milosevic was indicted in May 1999, Greece was often mentioned as place of possible exile for Milosevic, but Greece as a member of the EU would scarcely be able to provide a home for him now that he has been indicted. Russia might be a possible place of exile, however, because its position on the legitimacy of the Hague-based tribunal has been ambiguous.

Or might not the most likely bet be China? After all, its speaker of the parliament, Li Peng, just met with Milosevic in public. Both men--who have used violence against their own citizens--slammed the tribunal. It was thus that Li Peng became the first leader of a permanent member country of the UN Security Council to warmly greet a man indicted for war crimes by a UN-sponsored tribunal. Might an offer of exile be too hard to imagine? (Patrick Moore)

The Draskovic Case. Once again, an apparent attempt on the life of the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic has made for headlines and controversy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 June 2000). The mercurial Vuk is openly blaming Milosevic and the regime for the crime, while the regime accuses its domestic and foreign enemies.

As is usual with Draskovic, little here is straightforward or simple. This is a man who has thundered against the regime one moment only to join a government coalition the next. He calls for people power against a dictator--but represents policies that are often scarcely different from those of the regime, at least where Serbia's relations with its neighbors and minorities are concerned. He has called for taking the fight against Milosevic to the streets--but is unwilling to share a speakers' platform with other opposition leaders unless he is unquestionably the first among equals.

It was thus no surprise that no sooner did the story of the shooting hit the airwaves in the night of 18-19 June that conspiracy theories began to be hatched in and near the Serbo-Croatian-speaking world. Some observers wondered why the usually well-guarded Draskovic was without any bodyguards or Montenegrin police protection on the night of 18 June. Others noted that Vuk has now escaped two supposed assassination attempts, while all other prominent Serbs subjected to such violence--including the wily Arkan--were all killed in an instant.

There are many arguments for linking Draskovic to some of the less progressive traditions of Serbia and the Balkans. In the eyes of many observers, he is a man of the past. But to say that a man deliberately risked a head-on collision with a truck--one in which four people died--and then risked potentially fatal injuries to his own head as a publicity stunt seems to stretch the limits of the credible.

The Montenegrin police have arrested a group of suspects and will leave no stone unturned in the case. One recalls how they quickly ferreted out and obtained confessions from troublemakers sent in from Serbia to disturb President Milo Djukanovic's inauguration in 1998.

The coming days are likely to produce fresh revelations in the Draskovic case. But that Vuk had bullets fired at his own head is unlikely to be one of them. (Patrick Moore)

Croatia's 'Software' For NATO. Croatian foreign policy achieved some notable successes in May. These reflect how far the country has come in the short time that the new government has been in office.

The greatest success of all was Croatia's admission to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. But that was not all. Officials in Washington talked of Croatian membership in the WTO. An improvement of Zagreb's relations with the EU was also established, and Brussels is considering possibilities for Croatia's admission to EU-related programs. Previously, Zagreb's integration was partly made dependent on developments in other former Yugoslav republics. Now, however, the EU has acknowledged that Croatia deserves to be considered separately from Bosnia and Serbia on economic and political grounds. In turn, this willingness to support Croatia's Western integration will reinforce the country's democratic forces' confidence in the EU.

The governing coalition of six parties will be thus remembered for its swift attainment of some key foreign policy goals. In no more than five months, Prime Minister Ivica Racan's government achieved things that former President Franjo Tudjman and his followers were unable to do in 10 years.

Stanko Nick, who is a political scientist and President Stipe Mesic's advisor for foreign policy, said in Zagreb that the Republic of Croatia has never had a better political image than it does now, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported on 27 May. An excellent political reputation is extremely important for small states because they have to face the pressure of big states and strong alliances. Positive public relations can give small states room to act and help them to be accepted as political partners instead of being treated primarily as objects of foreign pressure, he argued.

Foreign minister Tonino Picula told "Nacional" on 31 May that the reason for the change in Croatia's image are its development of democracy, human and minority rights, and the freedom of press. In the parliament, Mesic said he can see the day when Croatia will be a full member of NATO and an equal partner in the international community, "Jutarnji list" reported on 31 May.

Partnership for Peace does not include an automatic process of integration into NATO, however. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told "Nacional" at the end of May that any decision about new NATO members will be made in two years at the earliest. Ensuring freedom of the press, transforming Zagreb's relations with the Croatian population of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and promoting further democratization will be milestones on Croatia's possible path to a Euro-Atlantic future. But a lot of work still has to be done. Croatia will have to prove in the next few years that it can make some crucial contributions to NATO, Shea stressed. It would be wrong if Zagreb is motivated only by the advantages it expects from being a member in the most powerful military organization of the world.

Shea said that the modernization of the Croatian army is a "hardware" problem and that it is more important to look at the Croatian "software," where Zagreb has something to offer. This means that Croatia can be useful for NATO not only in classical military and geopolitical terms. For example, Croatian officers are experienced in fighting against Serbian forces. Croatian knowledge of the situation in the southeastern European region can be very helpful in the peace process in Bosnia and for peacekeeping in Kosova. Undoubtedly, Croatia's cooperation with the alliance will strengthen NATO's Balkan flank and stabilize the whole region. The two partners could work together even to promote the democratization of Serbia.

Another aspect of this "software" is promoting the development of a "common identity" between the Croatian army and NATO. Shea said that this aspect is much more relevant than introducing weapons compatible to NATO standards. The common identity is a prerequisite, for instance, for the Croatian army's participation in missions to hot spots and in peacekeeping operations.

"Software" for NATO is about political culture, too. According to Shea, civilian specialists on military questions are needed in the government, the media, and the universities. Political culture is of special interest regarding the civilian control of the military, which is one of the pillars of NATO. The army has to be integrated into society, so it is necessary that civilians have a sound understanding of military affairs.

From Shea's comments, it follows that Croatia needs to gather, assemble, and package what it knows because knowledge is the most important resource for the future. This can be achieved by encouraging scholarly projects in the universities that will deal with security issues in southeastern Europe.

Moreover, the reorganization of Croatian military academies according to the standards of the Bundeswehrhochschule that was set up in West Germany after World War II could be another step in the same direction. The fact that the professors at the Bundeswehrhochschule are civilians guarantees that the army is linked to civilian society. This will help prevent the Croatian army from becoming a "state within a state" as was the case with the German army before 1945 or in Yugoslavia during the Tito era.

Croatian civilian and military analysts will now have to pool their knowledge and present Croatian "software" to the public and to NATO institutions. This kind of information management can also be a useful strategy for approaching NATO in a more dynamic way than has been the case on the part of most other former communist countries. Thus, Croatia might even gain an advantage over some other Partnership for Peace members that have not been so forthright in demonstrating that they have something to offer as well as something to gain.

(Christian Buric. The author is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Munich.

Italy To Upgrade Vlora Airport. Italian Defense Minister Sergio Mattarella and his Albanian counterpart Luan Hajdaraga agreed in Tirana on 14 June that Italy will reconstruct the runway at Vlora's military airport and modernize the military pilots' training school there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2000). Italian instructors will help train an Albanian infantry unit that will take part in a planned multinational Balkan force, AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "It was an outrage--so easy to organize--and I am so ashamed that people do that in the night--that some people here are criminals, murderers." - UN chief administrator in Kosova Bernard Kouchner. He was referring to the land mine explosion south of Prishtina on 14 June that left two Serbs dead. Quoted by Reuters.

The "King Solomon's Mines of all weapons finds." - British Brigadier Richard Shirreff, in Prishtina, on KFOR's swoop in the central Drenica valley. Reported by "The Independent" on 19 June.

"We're on a roll!" - Shirreff again.