Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: August 1, 2000

1 August 2000, Volume 4, Number 57

Clinton And Schroeder Take Stock Of The Balkans. It's not every day that two world leaders write together about the Balkans. In a joint article in the "International Herald Tribune" on 28 July, U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sum up the past year's achievements of the international community in Southeastern Europe. They stress that the overall record is very positive.

The centerpiece of their presentation is that "in Sarajevo [one year ago], we launched the Stability Pact with a common understanding that an undivided, democratic and peaceful Europe will be possible only when all the democracies of Southeast Europe take their rightful place in the family of European nations.

"We agreed that this goal cannot be achieved piecemeal, one province, one nation, one crisis at a time. Nor can it be a race in which the most prosperous nations compete to 'escape' from the Balkans at the expense of their neighbors. And it requires a united international community, with Europe, America and Russia working together.

"We made clear that the nations of Southeast Europe had to undertake reforms to attract outside investment-- and they had to work together to promote security, fight corruption, and cut cross-border crime. In turn, we pledged to shoulder responsibility with them."

The two leaders then outline what has been done in the past 12 months, noting that "the only effective answer to yesterday's calls for a 'greater Serbia' and a 'greater Albania' is to continue to build a greater Europe." They add that "we look forward to ties between the EU and the region deepening under President Jacques Chirac's leadership during France's EU presidency."

Clinton and Schroeder conclude that "we will continue to work with the democratic opposition in Serbia, to help it unite around a common platform, to support nongovernmental organizations and the independent media, and to back President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro until all those who have suffered under Mr. Milosevic's rule can take their place in Europe.

"We have no illusions about the hard work that remains, but the progress made thus far gives us confidence that it can be completed. Together we can do for Southeast Europe what was done for Western Europe after World War II and Central Europe after the collapse of communism: integrate it into a democratic, undivided Europe in which the prospect of yet another terrible war is unthinkable." (Patrick Moore)

'Medieval Churches.' Your editor has been devoting his attention to the affairs of the former Yugoslavia in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years. At no time has he ever come across a subject in the area that can set off such impassioned and acrimonious discussions as the "debate" between Serbs and Kosova Albanians as to who did what to whose religious buildings at any given time, from the distant mists of the Middle Ages down to literally the present day.

Some recent articles in "Newsline" and "Balkan Report" on the subject generated a flurry of responses from readers. Many of the contributions were very serious, some less so. Many indicated a profound knowledge of the subject, and for these your editor is especially grateful. But time has come to draw a line under this discussion and leave it for more specialized forums.

It is central to the purpose of "Balkan Report" to be forward looking rather than to analyze the past (even though your editor is a historian by training). He finds it sad but perhaps not surprising that the few articles on damaged churches led to more comment than all the items "Balkan Report" has ever run on forward-looking projects for the region, including those by eminent persons from inside and outside the area.

Your editor recalls a conference in a large Western European city not so many years ago, at which the hosts brought together some prominent members of the Serbian opposition and of the Kosovar leadership. One morning, the two groups launched into each other in an impassioned exchange over who damaged whose churches first in the 11th century or at some such point in medieval times. After a break in the program, a series of speakers presented papers with forward-looking proposals for the region. The Serbs and Kosovars listened politely, said little or nothing by way of comment, and then resumed the vigorous exchange on medieval churches.

The memory of that conference and the recent wave of e-mails only serve to bring home to your editor how far we often are from finding the will and the energy to identify the real problems facing the Balkans and to do something serious about them. (Patrick Moore)

Albanian Socialists Set Up Pre-Election Coalition. Socialist Party (PS) Public Affairs Secretary Luan Rama told "Shekulli" on 26 July that his party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Agrarian Party (PA), and the Human Rights Union Party (PBDNJ) will put forward joint candidates for the October local elections. Officials from the Democratic Alliance (AD)--another junior partner in the current Alliance for the State governing coalition--ruled out the possibility of their participating in the joint lists, however.

According to Rama, Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano reached "complete understanding" with his PSD counterpart and Speaker of Parliament Skender Gjinushi that the PS and PSD will put forward joint candidates in every community and municipality. He added that this will "lead to a confederation of the modern Left in Albania."

The tiny PA and the PBDNJ will play a less important role in the coalition than the Social Democrats. They will form joint lists only in those regions in which they are traditionally strong. For the Agrarians, that means they will put forward joint candidates mostly in rural communities, while the PBDNJ will share lists with the Socialists in those southern communities with a strong ethnic Greek population, which the party represents. This way of forming coalitions has been common in Albania in the past, and the current opposition Democratic Party (PD) was similarly eager to bring smaller parties into its coalition before 1997.

By forming joint lists with smaller parties, the PS is able to present itself as a party with a program based on a broad political consensus supported by other parties. There are advantages for the others, too. The PSD currently has only a small base of supporters and can hope to win only in those regions where it can put forward its few outstanding leaders. The party will gain thus from the coalition by maintaining a significant influence in politics. On the national level, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo is the most prominent PSD politician. Now the party will also try to increase its profile on the local level.

The PBDNJ and the PA have a few strongholds and thus can offer the PS a safe victory for the coalition in those communities. In exchange, both parties expect a sympathetic hearing in Tirana for support in solving their local problems. In the national government, the PBDNJ's Leonard Solis already holds the position of Health Minister and the PA's Lufter Xhuveli is minister for agriculture and food.

The Socialists have profited from the heterogeneous makeup of the national coalition--which also includes two independent ministers and the AD's Justice Minister Arben Imami--because thus they have been able to bring experts and younger reform-oriented ministers into the cabinet. But since the last government reshuffle on 5 July (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 July 2000), some senior PS leaders have voiced concern that make-up of the government does not reflect the will of the voters anymore.

Sacked Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga said that "the Albanian government has become a cabinet of unelected people," "Klan" magazine reported on 23 July. This was his way of criticizing the fact that the cabinet now contains ever fewer elected legislators like himself, and that Prime Minister Ilir Meta and his predecessor Pandeli Majko have brought in Socialist party members who were either not deputies, or else were total outsiders. Indeed, political commentator Andi Bushati noted that the most senior prominent PS leaders during the 1997 elections--Servet Pellumbi, Kastriot Islami, and Sabit Brokaj--have receded into the political background, along with PS leader Fatos Nano.

Meanwhile in the opposition, leaders of the PD's reform wing told "Albanian Daily News" of 27 July that former President Sali Berisha will not put them on the PD's election lists. PD spokesman Edi Paloka acknowledged that the party leadership did not even consider running the reformers. Leonard Demi, one of the reformers, said that "all we can do is to suggest names to the party [leadership], and it will then pick the best options." But his fellow reformer Tritan Shehu stressed that they may have to run as independent candidates if the party leadership excludes them from the elections. (Fabian Schmidt)

Unwanted At Home, Unwanted In Serbia: Kosovo Roma Discuss Their Plight. Delegates to last week's International Romani Union Congress at the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague discussed the plight of the Roma in Kosovo, where many still live as outcasts, with limited access to health care, education, or employment. RFE/RL's Alexandra Poolos attended the discussions. Here is her report of 27 July:

More than a year after NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia succeeded in forcing Serbian troops out of Kosovo, the province's dwindling Roma population still faces a daily struggle to survive. They say they are the new pariahs of Kosovo, trapped between ethnic hatreds and with nowhere to go.

Stephan Mueller is an adviser on minority affairs for the Prishtina office of the OSCE. In Prague, Mueller said that less than a fifth of Kosovo's pre-war Romany population remains in the province. He said most left to save their own lives after being subjected collectively to revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians, who in turn allege the Roma collaborated with the Serbs in rape and murder. Aside from the threats and physical violence, thousands of the Roma have had their homes burned and been forced out of their villages.

Mueller says security is not the Roma's only problem. Isolated in small ethnic enclaves, the Roma have little to no access to education or health care. Most do not have jobs and depend on humanitarian aid for food and shelter. Almost all live under the protection of international peacekeeping troops. He said that "in general, I can say [the Roma in Kosovo suffer from] a lack of security. There's a problem of limited [access] to health facilities if Roma need to go to hospital. There's [also a] problem of children going to school, because the Albanian teachers don't want to teach the Roma children."

Mueller notes that the situation has improved in some areas of Kosovo--especially in the southwestern town of Prizren, where Roma can move about freely. But he says even the relatively liberated Roma of Prizren could never leave the town and travel throughout Kosovo.

He says the international community and Albanian leaders are now focusing more of their efforts on re-integrating the Roma into Kosovar society. To do this, he says the United Nations civil administration in Kosovo is appointing Roma representatives to multiethnic councils for local municipalities. Late last month, the UN launched a what it called "platform for action" on the Roma situation, holding talks between ethnic Albanian and Roma leaders.

But old prejudices die hard. Although the Roma were seen as an integral part of Kosovar society before the war, the perception that they collaborated with Serbian police and paramilitaries has stigmatized the entire minority.

In truth, some of Kosovo's Roma admit they did collaborate with Serbs. They say they often had no choice and were forced to do what they call the "dirty work" -- burying the bodies of Albanians and digging trenches for the Serbian military. Some did pillage and destroy ethnic Albanian homes. Others who were involved in more violent acts left Kosovo with retreating Serbian forces immediately after the NATO bombing ended.

Close to 100,000 Roma left Kosovo in fear of reprisal attacks. Many tried to settle in Serbia, but most quickly discovered that they weren't wanted there, either.

Dejan Markovic is a leader of Yugoslavia's Union of Romany students and a member of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. Markovic came to the IRU congress in Prague to inform other delegates of the difficulties faced by Roma from Kosovo. He says that some 70,000 Roma refugees are living in Serbia and Montenegro.

Markovic notes that the Kosovo Roma who fled to Serbia receive practically no humanitarian assistance. He says the Roma are not recognized by the Yugoslav authorities as refugees, and are not even given camps to live in. Instead, he says, they live on the outskirts of towns in their own makeshift camps without water or electricity. He added that "it is not that we are threatened by a humanitarian catastrophe, we already have a humanitarian catastrophe--[I mean] of course, the Roma refugees from Kosovo. Before I came here, I visited a [Romany] settlement in Mladenovac and another settlement [in a district of Belgrade]. They told me there that the last humanitarian package they got was in April--food supplies and hygienic products. All this was distributed by the Red Cross."

Markovic says the Roma in Serbia will most likely continue to live in sub-standard conditions because no one is putting any pressure on the Yugoslav authorities to give the refugees decent health care or education.

The conditions for other Kosovar Roma living in Macedonia, Montenegro, and western Europe are slightly better than those in Serbia. But they are hardly ideal, and most of the exiled Roma are simply waiting for their chance to return to Kosovo.

OSCE adviser Mueller says that prospect is still far off. He says that while returning the refugees to Kosovo is the OSCE's objective, the security situation in the province is too difficult at present to return large groups of Roma. (Alexandra Poolos)

Media Notes. On 28 July, the OSCE closed down the controversial Prishtina daily "Dita." Publisher Behlul Baqaj refused to pay a $11,900 fine for publishing stories that the OSCE says could lead to "vigilante justice" against individual Serbs. Baqaj argues that papers have a duty to expose people they consider war criminals until Kosova gets a functioning judicial system...... Croatian Radio and Television (HTV) has concluded an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church on the preparation and broadcasting of Catholic programs. Other religious communities are expected to follow suit, "Vjesnik" reported on 28 July...... In Banja Luka, the international community's High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch appointed five out of six members to the governing board of Radio-Televizija Republike Srpske on 27 July. It is not clear when he will name the sixth person, who is also expected to head the board, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "Montenegro will undoubtedly not participate in this farce." -- Montenegrin deputy speaker of parliament Predrag Popovic, to AP on 27 July, on the federal elections.

"The will of our people is peace, freedom, and prosperity...and Milosevic is the symbol of all these things. The West has to come to terms with that." -- Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic, quoted by Tanjug on 28 July.