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Balkan Report: June 23, 2000

23 June 2000, Volume 4, Number 47

Some Thoughts On Kosova. This week marked the first anniversary of the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova. The U.S.-based Kosova Task Force sent out a message raising some important points in conjunction with the current Kosova debate in some Western countries (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 May 2000).

The report noted that many "journalists in leading newspapers are suffering from a serious bout of collective amnesia. Critics in alliance with the Serbian lobby are questioning whether NATO intervention on humanitarian grounds was justified. Instead of acknowledging NATO's role in the heroic resistance waged by the people of Kosova against genocide, the focus is on whether the number of Serbian tanks hit were worth the costs of intervention.

"The following facts need to be remembered and brought forward to the media's attention." There then follows a list of nine points, which may be summed up as follows:

1. Kosova still does not enjoy self-determination and majority rule. Serbia continues to have political sovereignty over Kosova despite the overwhelming vote for independence by Kosovars in 1991. To deny the aspirations of Kosovars could lead to new wars and further atrocities.

2. The UN Security Council [in Resolution 1244] assigned UNMIK the impossible task of creating a multiethnic Kosova subject to Belgrade. Any talk of reconciliation and creation of a multi-ethnic society is futile so long as there is no acknowledgment of the wrongs done. Even if amends are not made, then there should be at least a sense that some measure of justice is being done.

3. NATO went to war against Belgrade not to create some multiethnic and democratic nirvana but to prevent an escalation of Serbian attacks against Kosova's civilian population.

4. A political settlement with ethnic Albanians as full partners is needed.

5. The upcoming municipal elections are no more than a UN plan to assuage Kosovars and a bid for time in the hope that some sort of compromise short of Kosovar independence will emerge.

6. French forces have allowed a de facto partition of the mineral-rich region of Mitrovica by the Serbs.

7. War criminals have not been arrested. Kosova still has no court that can deliver impartial judgments regarding war crimes.

8. About 1,200 Albanians are still being illegally held in Serbian prisons, subjected to mock trials that make a parody of justice. Last month, 143 of these prisoners were sentenced to a total of 1,632 years in prison. Another 5,000 Kosovars are reported missing. The weak international response has fostered a profound cynicism among Kosovars regarding the prospects for realizing other Western promises such as self-governance or real peace.

9. Kosovar sources estimate that 20,000 Kosovar women were raped by Serbs. None of the guilty men have been arrested. Few services are available for these women to deal with their personal traumas. Local humanitarian groups, including the Red Cross, have estimated that 100 babies conceived through rape were born in January alone.

Of course, this is only part of the story. The crimes mentioned here do not justify the recent violence done to Serbs and other non-Albanians who stayed on in Kosova. Any moves to prevent the return of non-Albanians to Kosova are not acceptable. Kosovar society itself is partly to blame for the psychological and other difficulties that many of the rape victims--to say nothing of the unwanted children--are having. And KFOR's recent discovery of 67 tons arms in the Drenica valley has cast more than a shadow over General Agim Ceku and his Kosova Protection Corps.

But these developments--and sometimes sterile discussions about bombing raids--should not obscure the fact that NATO intervened in Kosova for sound reasons and succeeded in bringing the genocide to a halt. (Editing and commentary by Patrick Moore)

Senior Albanian Socialist Warns Of Defeat. The Socialist Party (PS) is losing public support. This comes just three years after the PS took office in general elections following widespread anarchy after the collapse of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes. The party has been slow in improving general living conditions, and its term in office has been characterized by infighting among its own politicians. Within those three years Albania has had three different prime ministers from the PS (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 May 2000).

Kastriot Islami, the chairman of the PS Election Committee, has warned his fellow party members that they could lose the upcoming local elections, "Albanian Daily News" reported on 19 June. Islami said in an interview to "Koha Jone" that the PS "lacks solidarity" and is going through a "moral crisis." He added that "cliques formed on the basis of various kinds of interests" dominate party politics and that "there is also an absence of principles."

He did not mention names, but apparently he targeted most of his criticism at Party Chairman Fatos Nano and circles around him. Nano, who embodies an emotional conflict with rival Democratic Party (PD) leader Sali Berisha, has repeatedly attacked the government of his successor, Pandeli Majko, for being too conciliatory toward the PD, triggering Majko's resignation in November 1999. Ilir Meta is the current prime minister.

In what was an apparent reference to the Nano-Majko conflict, Islami remarked that "there are tendencies to oust outstanding party figures while keeping servile people and yes-men around." He warned that as a result, "the internal problems of the factions�may well bring about a split in the party ranks and reduce the size of the PS electorate."

Islami went on to say: "With time the Socialist Party has lost its leading qualities, at all levels. And its government is mostly composed of mediocre officials. There has been a tendency to oust the intellectuals, and this has caused an impoverishment in all respects. The PS is making preparations for the forthcoming local elections, and I notice that many of its leaders are euphoric, but there is no reason for them to feel that way. There is a desire to win, but there is also a gap between the wish and the systematic work required to make this wish a reality."

Referring to a tendency in Albanian politics to vote against rather than for political options, Islami stressed that the last victory of the Socialists was based largely on the public dissatisfaction with Berisha: "Unfortunately, the strongest card of the PS remains the anti-Berisha card." Islami furthermore slammed the PS for failing to "define its alternative and strategy" to the PD, adding that: "I find it hard to believe that [the PS's] good people will [be able to] work out a clear strategy that they could put into practice and apply" in time.

Islami warned: "If this trend continues, the electorate will respond to the overt optimism of the leaders and the servile officials with a silent boycott�. Many people who are not PS members�but who considered the PS as a hope for good government after the PD... are disappointed. This is despite the fact that [the government made] many positive and progressive changes compared to the situation in 1997. But the experience and the achievements to date offer little hope of guaranteeing victory in the local elections and the subsequent general elections. This is how ordinary people see things�. The smugness of some leaders may thus lead to failure."

Islami furthermore criticized the fact that many party officials are unwilling to make peace with their rivals inside the party: "If we serve the narrow interests of a clique or specific persons, then failure is certain. [There is a] tendency on the part of certain leaders, or cliques close to them, to force out those PS leaders who have made a significant contribution to the party in the past. This policy of ousting politicians will not get the party very far. And a complete failure is likely if such an attitude envelopes the PS and its strategy as a whole. So far, many intellectuals and party leaders have kept silent�,but I assume that this will not last for long."

Looking ahead, Islami said that an upcoming party congress before the elections scheduled for fall "should send a signal [that the PS] has broken with the policy of excluding leaders and operating on the basis of cliques. If [the party fails to generate] a different atmosphere, then the present opposition will come to power again and do what it feels it must. This will be very painful, especially for all honest people." (Fabian Schmidt)

Croatian Liberal Leader Criticizes Coalition Partner. Drazen Budisa, who heads the Social Liberals (HSLS), told "Jutarnji list" of 20 June that state-run television "flatters" his senior coalition partners, the Social Democrats. Budisa added that "this isn't the way to [set up] public television." He expressed the hope that there will soon be a law to establish public television according to European norms and with a new administration. But former German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, who was visiting Budisa in Zagreb, cautioned his host against criticizing one's coalition partner in public (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 22 June 2000). (Patrick Moore)

Croatian Ex-Ministers Still On Full Salary? "Jutarnji list" reported on 20 June that only one person--Health Minister Zeljko Reiner--from the previous government has returned to his previous profession in the private sector. All others remain in government service in one capacity or another, primarily in the parliament, the daily adds. At least five ministers continue to draw their full salary although they have been out of office for five months.

In another case, the daily noted that five of the generals who recently lost their status as war invalids had between them 48 orders and medals. The current government believes that President Franjo Tudjman and his administration gave many politically loyal officers war invalid status so that they could collect pensions and have access to privileges that they would otherwise not receive. (Patrick Moore)

Padded Payrolls In Bosnia, Too. "Dnevni avaz" of 20 June reported that a careful comparison of government documents indicates that several hundred non-existent people are "drawing" government salaries. It is not clear who is responsible for the inflated figures and who is pocketing the pay of "dead souls." Total salaries of all government officials come to $41 million for the year 2000.

And there's mischief in Banja Luka as well. Vesti" reported on 21 June that it has obtained access to a confidential internal report suggesting that large sums of money have been misappropriated in the government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. The report noted that the government spends $800 per day on flowers and that its daily allowance for public affairs expenses is $2,300. The daily added that if the figures were correct, it would mean that the government bought at least 47 large bouquets of flowers per day at local prices. (Patrick Moore)

Sarajevo Daily Under Pressure. Bosnian tax authorities have frozen the bank accounts of Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz," "Oslobodjenje" reported on 20 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). The daily is thus unable to pay for shipments of newsprint and may be forced to stop publishing soon. Staff have agreed to work without pay for as long as is necessary. The tax police recently searched the offices of "Avaz," which until recently had long been considered close to the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA).

The editors-in-chief of several leading periodicals issued a joint statement in Sarajevo on 21 June to protest recent financial and other pressures by the Muslim authorities on the press, "Oslobodjenje" reported. The editors of "Oslobodjenje" and "Avaz" and of the weeklies "Slobodna Bosna" and "Dani" expressed solidarity with each other in the face of "every form of pressure against the freedom of the press." They demanded that the authorities act only in accordance with the law and called upon local representatives of the international community to "energetically" respond to any attempt to curtail the freedom of the press. The editors specifically called on the authorities to unblock the bank accounts of "Avaz." (Patrick Moore)

Tito's Yacht Sold. An unidentified Greek buyer has paid $750,000 for the "Galeb" (Seagull), which was once the yacht used by Josip Broz Tito on trips to Europe, Africa, India, and Indonesia. The 5,100-ton and 117-meter-long ship began life as an Italian minelayer and was later converted into a training ship for the Yugoslav navy.

Since the collapse of former Yugoslavia, the ship has been moored in the Montenegrin harbor of Bijela, where its condition has been deteriorating, AP reported. Efforts in 1995 to save it as a museum failed. The late U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's yacht "Potomac" was more fortunate, having been turned into a museum in Oakland, California, but only after decades of decline including a stint as a drug smuggler. (Patrick Moore)

Our Pleasure To Serve You. A frequent compliant about living in post-communist countries is that old attitudes about service sometimes take awhile to disappear among shop clerks. On 20 June, "Jutarnji list" reported a story from Sibenik that illustrated a rather extreme case.

It appears that a 30-year-old woman customer complained to a 45-year-old woman clerk in a shoe store that the shoes available were far too expensive, considering their quality. The clerk began shouting at the customer, and then proceeded to beat her up. The customer was admitted to hospital with a concussion and bruises. The clerk is in police custody and will be tried for assault. (Patrick Moore)

Quotation Of The Week. "The Bosnian was respected as [though he were] a Brazilian, and now the Italians want him." -- "Danas" on 20 June about Yugoslav national soccer team star Savo Milosevic and his reputation during the regular season as a player in Spain. The daily added that Milosevic, who comes from the Bijeljina region of eastern Bosnia, can expect a "seven- or eight-digit" price when his Spanish team "auctions him off" to an Italian team in the near future. The Yugoslavs played pitifully in their first Euro 2000 match and were behind underdog Slovenia 3-0 when they came from behind and scored three goals in six minutes, two of the goals coming from Milosevic. One wag wrote to "Danas" about the irony of a hero named Milosevic playing so close to The Hague.