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Balkan Report: June 27, 2000

27 June 2000, Volume 4, Number 48

Bosnia's Prlic Heralds New Era. Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic told Sabina Cabaravdic of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 22 June that the only future for the republic is as a single state integrated into Europe. He added that European integration will help encourage Bosnian Serbs to identify with Bosnia rather than with Serbia.

Prlic noted that he travels "only with a Bosnian passport," although as an ethnic Croat he is also entitled to a Croatian one. Bosnia should follow the examples of Slovakia and Croatia and repudiate nationalism in favor of a pro-European orientation, he added.

The Foreign Ministry, he noted, will soon add "about 100, mainly young people to its staff" and that the ministry is well on the way to completing the staffing of its missions abroad. He appealed to Bosnian citizens living abroad to consider coming home, adding that his ministry could make use of their expertise and knowledge of foreign languages.

Prlic made it clear that he and the branch of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Bosnia-Herzegovina have broken with their Croatian-oriented nationalist past. "There's no turning back," he stressed. He said that the party's greatest mistake was to be too close to Croatia's HDZ and to have a bad personnel policy but did not elaborate. Prlic argued that the HDZ's greatest contribution was to propose dividing Bosnia into ethnically-based cantons as the most practical form of organization.

He called for transforming ethnically divided Mostar, which the Croats of Herzegovina regard as their center, into a model community and suggested that Mostar could become the capital of the Muslim-Croatian federation. Prlic noted that his fellow Croats rejected the proposal when he made it in 1998 but added that the majority have since changed their view. (Patrick Moore)

Party Registration Ends In Kosova. With the recent conclusion of the registration of political parties, the OSCE has come one step closer to the local elections, scheduled to take place this fall. On 20 June the OSCE presented preliminary lists of political parties, but it has not yet settled on a voting system, "Koha Ditore" reported on 21 June. No Serbian political parties have registered and hardly any Serbian voters.

OSCE officials explained that the list includes some parties that have not yet provided all the necessary documentation for registration and that in these cases the Central Election Commission (KQZ) will have yet to approve their status. The official deadline for registration of political parties was 11 June, while independent candidates and citizens' groups had until 19 June to complete their applications.

The Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) are the main competitors for ethnic Albanian votes. The LDK was the strongest and most influential party of the Kosovar shadow-state, which pursued its pacifist policies under shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova between 1991 and 1998. Now it faces two big challengers, which grew out of the subsequent armed conflict.

Both the PDK of former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) commander Hashim Thaci and the AAK, led by Ramush Haradinaj, who is another former high-ranking UCK leader, have adopted pro-western political platforms. They maintain, however, that their long-term goal is independence for Kosova, an aim also shared by the LDK. The AAK itself is a union of six political parties, which joined forces in order to pose a more effective challenge to their two rivals.

UNMIK's David de Beer, who is responsible for the registration of political parties, said that the LDK and AAK are running for seats in 29 out of 30 communities and municipalities, while the PDK has candidates in only 27. Other potentially important parties include the Liberal Center Party of Kosova (PQLK), which is running in 20 communities and municipalities, and the liberal Party of Kosova (PLK), which will field candidates in 19. The PQLK is headed by Naim Maloku--yet another former senior UCK leader--who gathered primarily former UCK fighters around him. The PLK, headed by Gjergj Dedaj, is a party that came out of the shadow-state structures and is closely allied to the LDK.

The LDK will not have candidates in Zvecan, which is inhabited mostly by Serbs, while the AAK failed to register in Zubin Potok, another mostly Serbian community. The AAK will not be on the ballot in either of these two communities, or in Leposaviq, a Serbian community close to the northern Serbian border.

Altogether 23 political parties, including the composite AAK, have filed registration applications. De Beer did not announce the number of independent candidates running, but acknowledged that the OSCE has indeed received numerous applications.

The fewest applications came from the Serbian communities of Zvecan, Leposaviq, Zubin Potok, and Novoberda. Nowhere did any Serbian political parties register. The only six registered parties of ethnic minorities include three of Slavic-speaking Muslims, two of Turks, and one of the Ashkali community. They are a group of Albanian-speaking Muslims, probably of Romany origin, who claim to be of Persian decent. On the average there are eight parties running in each community.

OSCE officials plan that the parties will present their candidates for each municipality by the end of July, even though the OSCE has not yet set a formal deadline. Nor is it clear what kind of election system UNMIK will introduce. This, however, must be done before the candidates' lists can be drawn up.

UNMIK, OSCE, and other unnamed officials told "Koha Ditore" that they are leaning toward a proportional representation system, even though the three largest ethnic Albanian political parties are opposed to that idea. De Beer, however, made clear that it is up to the UNMIK's Bernard Kouchner to make the decision. Another open question is whether the parties will have the right to name candidates for the proportional lists after the elections or whether the lists will be closed before the vote.

Voter registration will end on 15 July. OSCE spokeswoman Claire Trevena acknowledged that the process is proceeding more slowly in Prishtina than in other parts of Kosova. As of 17 June, only 76,900 citizens of Prishtina had registered, which is just over one-third of its estimated population. Throughout Kosova 651,551 voters had registered by that day, out of a total estimated population of 2 million, which includes many newcomers from Albania. But only people who lived in Kosova on 1 January 1999 will have the right to vote, excluding all refugees who had left Kosova before that date.

The Serbian population has been largely boycotting the voter registration process and is also expected to boycott the elections. This, however, poses a great danger for the post-election situation. If ethnic Albanian political parties win the overwhelming majority of seats in the city council of Mitrovica, the Serbs will refuse to acknowledge its authority. If the local government in the divided city then tries to interfere in affairs of the Serbian-dominated north, new violent conflicts may be hard to avoid. (Fabian Schmidt)

UN Registers 240,000 Displaced Persons In Yugoslavia. The UNHCR's spokeswoman in Belgrade said on 22 June that the UNHCR has registered some 210,000 persons from Kosova in Serbia and 30,000 in Montenegro. Some 80 percent of the displaced persons are Serbs, as are 60 percent of those in Montenegro. Roma and Serbo-Croat-speaking Muslims make up most of the rest, although 10 percent of those in Serbia are ethnic Albanians. Some 20 percent of all persons registered are from the Prishtina area.

She added that the UNHCR received 24,000 applications between January and 1 June from Serbs from Croatia wanting to go home, dpa reported. The UNHCR is conducting an information campaign aimed at refugees from Croatia. That same day in Osijek, President Stipe Mesic said that the previous government deliberately opposed the return of the Serbs, whom it regarded as a fifth column. He added that the return of the Serbs to Croatia could help promote democracy in Serbia by setting an example of a state based on the rule of law with full rights for minorities.

In Sarajevo, Werner Blatter, who heads the UNHCR's Bosnian program, appealed to the international community for more funds to help speed up refugee returns. He told Reuters that in the first four months of 2000, almost 11,500 people went back to their homes in areas controlled by an ethnic group different from their own. (Patrick Moore)

No Sense Of Humor. Serbian police detained 20 students from the Otpor (Resistance) movement in Kragujevac on 22 June when they tried to hold a soccer match. The students provoked the ire of the police with the name of the teams: Milosevic vs. Milosevic. One team was named after the Yugoslav president, the other after the Bosnian Serb Savo Milosevic, who is a star striker with the Yugoslav national team in the Euro 2000 competition. (Patrick Moore)

Another Shoe Store Story. Tibor Purger, who is the Washington correspondent of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service, rightly feels that the story about the aggressive shoe store clerk in our 23 June issue shows only one side of shopping in the former Yugoslavia. He argues that Yugoslavia was a consumer paradise from the perspective of people from Warsaw Pact countries, and sends along the following story. It was told by a Hungarian relative of his about his first trip to Yugoslavia in the late 1960s.

"I go into the store. The prices high compared to Hungarian standards, but I notice that the shoes are actually made of leather--something�almost unheard of north of the border. To my great surprise, the staff greets me with a loud 'Hello,' and rush to me and offer assistance. Not only do they have the right size, but they're sitting me down, kneeling down in front of me, and putting the shoe on my foot. I asked them if they thought I was a millionaire--why should they otherwise do that? But they didn't understand the question, and asked me back, 'How could we sell shoes otherwise?'" (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. Democratic Party leader Zoran "Djindjic and [former NATO Secretary General Javier] Solana agreed yesterday on some scholarships.... Solana, as you know, personifies the formal decision to bomb Yugoslavia [in 1999]. His wrinkled face will never be erased from the memories of the Serbian nation. Djindjic's effort to dignify this face with Serbian children is so low, so revolting that the only possible reaction would be disgust if it were not for condemnation." -- Indicted war criminal and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, in Belgrade on 22 June. Quoted by Reuters.

"And the daddy of them all--160-mm, that's the largest mortar I've ever seen. That is a massive piece of kit. You could do a vast amount of damage with that. There are 13 of those in total." -- British Captain Steve Jermys, showing Reuters' Hugh Pain around KFOR's recent haul of UCK weapons from the Drenica valley on 21 June. Pain described the British officers' account of their discovery as "Tutankhamun's tomb." The find came about only because one sergeant spotted something on a hillside that seemed "somehow not quite right." The something turned out to be a lintel next to a padlocked door that led to a bunker.

"The yield of the first two bunkers has been estimated to fully outfit two heavy infantry companies, eliminate the entire population of Prishtina, and destroy 900-1,000 tanks." -- KFOR leaflet quoted by Pain.