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Balkan Report: August 15, 2000

15 August 2000, Volume 4, Number 61

An End And A Beginning. What's left of the former Yugoslavia continues to unravel. There is little to be gained from trying to stop the inevitable, and much to be derived from concentrating efforts where they can do the most good.

Roughly a decade ago, the policies of Slobodan Milosevic led to the destruction of the former Yugoslavia. That country failed to survive not because it was multiethnic, but because it was not democratic. Eventually, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia left it. What remains in the federation continues to be ruled by the Belgrade-based dictator.

In 1991, the international community failed in its vain attempts to put the Yugoslav Humpty Dumpty back together again. When Germany took the bold step of recognizing Ljubljana and Zagreb at the end of that year, all it was doing was pointing out the obvious, namely that Tito's Yugoslavia was gone forever and that it was time to get on with the future.

The foresight and realism of Hans-Dietrich Genscher should again be the guiding light for the international community. In concrete terms, this means preparing scenarios to recognize and support the democratic government of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, if and when it decides that it cannot remain in Milosevic's rump state any longer. One should not expect to tell the Montenegrins indefinitely that they must not try to restore their independence, simply because some people abroad forget that conflict preceded recognition in 1991--and not the other way around.

The second area of Milosevic's state that will spin off sooner or later is Kosova. It now belongs to Serbia only on paper, and is in effect an international protectorate. The question is whether it will indefinitely remain a crime-ridden and corrupt international colony like Bosnia, or whether the people there will be willing and able to take control of their own affairs in a responsible manner.

This point must be brought home clearly and unmistakably to the Kosovars. They should be able to consider independence a realistic possibility if they show they can manage their own household. But if the province degenerates into a Balkan version of Sierra Leone, they can expect no outside support from anybody.

Some Kosovars say that they are powerless to change things because UNMIK controls the government and the means of coercion, but this argument does not hold water. A new local government structure should be in place before the end of the year. The Protection Corps, moreover, counts for something and is headed by General Agim Ceku, a decorated veteran of the Yugoslav and Croatian armies. He knows very well how to make a hierarchical system of control function if he wants to. If he is unable to do so, he should make that point very clear in public, and identify precisely who the culprits are.

Something similar might be said for the system of social control. In a conservative, largely rural society in which everyone knows his neighbor and his neighbor's business, it should not be too difficult to identify who is undermining the Kosovar cause by killing Serbs and burning Romany homes. Unmasking criminals and preventing further violence will thus be the litmus test of whether the Kosovars are ready for independence--and this should be pointed out to them time and again.

Meanwhile, international attention and assistance should focus on those countries that are truly willing and ready to make use of it. NATO and the EU have already begun to reward Croatia for the progress it has made in six short months, and the process should continue. Similar encouragement--and not just vague promises--should be given to Slovenia as well.

Less fortunate are Albania and Macedonia, whose membership in the EU or NATO is not a realistic possibility in the foreseeable future. They should nonetheless be rewarded for their roles in the Kosova conflict of 1999 and given every encouragement possible to work towards meeting NATO and EU norms in a variety of fields. One might also look at some low-cost ways of promoting development, such as scholarships for secondary school and university students, in addition to the wide array of projects already under consideration by the plodding Stability Pact.

In both Albania and Macedonia there is a widespread feeling that NATO has not made good on its pledges to reward them for their help last year. Such feelings could become dangerous for regional stability if allowed to fester unchecked. There is still strong sympathy for Serbia among the roughly two-thirds majority of Macedonia's population that is Slavic.

Bosnia, for its part, still needs a good deal of attention. The military and security provisions of the 1995 Dayton agreement were successfully implemented, but the other provisions less so. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch has followed his predecessor Carlos Westendorp's lead in using his powers to curb those of warlords, gangsters, and nationalist politicians, but progress is slow. So slow that it is difficult to imagine Bosnia functioning as a stable, truly independent state for at least another five to 10 years--and that is, of course, if the foreigners do not go home in the meantime and let Bosnia sink back into chaos.

The remaining big issue is Serbia. That country lies right in the geographic middle of the Balkans, and its rogue regime will be able to cause trouble throughout the region as long as it remains in power.

Expectations for change should be realistic. The 25 July issue of "Balkan Report" summarized an article by the Swiss-German journalist Viktor Meier, who argued that the international community is unduly "mesmerized" by Serbia and prospects for democratization there. The foreigners have misguidedly put too much time and effort into a bottomless pit--energies that might be put to better use in neighboring countries.

Some recent developments seem to bear Meier out. The EU has reportedly recently concluded that its "white list" policy of exempting some Serbian businesses from sanctions has failed, and seems at a loss as to what to do.

Perhaps more importantly, despite all the urging and cajoling from abroad, the Serbian opposition failed to unite around a single presidential candidate or to set up truly united lists for local elections. The principal fly in the ointment is once again Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement, which has clearly revealed itself as Milosevic's strategic partner (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 August 2000). Time has come for the international community to recognize Draskovic and his outfit for what they are--and treat them accordingly.

In the meantime, the international community would do well to continue realistic programs to support the serious opposition, the non-state media, and the civil society in Serbia, and provide scholarships abroad for Serbian students. The foreigners should not expect great things from their "investments" in Serbia in the near future. They should save their main efforts for those parts of the Balkans that show more promise. (Patrick Moore)

Mesic Predicts Trouble In Montenegro. Speaking to a press conference in Washington on 10 August, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that Milosevic has "learned nothing" from his defeats in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mesic added that "the international community should now send a message to Milosevic to force him to desist from causing any crisis in Montenegro. He should not be permitted to engage in a military adventure in Montenegro.... He should never be able to engage in any further military adventure in the future. Ever. And Montenegro's citizens are entitled to choose their own way, their own path." (Patrick Moore)

Albanian Investigators Arrest Kukes Police Chief. Interior Ministry officials told AP on 10 August that they arrested Kukes Police Chief Ali Peca the previous day. The investigators charged Peca and two other police officials from the Morina border crossing with involvement in smuggling stolen cars, cigarettes, and flour. The Albanian Secret Service has been investigating the smugglers for four months.

One week before the arrests, German KFOR troops reported that Albanian officials had abandoned the Morina customs house completely for several hours and let smuggled goods pass through. Secret Service agents also reported that large numbers of smuggled cars usually passed through the remote border crossings of Dobruna and Qafe Prushi, which have no border checkpoints. The investigators told "Albanian Daily News" of 11 August that "in Dobrun, the road passes through the land of a farmer, who gets his cut."

The officials launched their investigations after repeated complaints by Italian KFOR forces near Peja and Gjakova about illegal border traffic. Another event that triggered Peca's arrest was the recent "disappearance" from the Kukes police station of twelve stolen cars, which police had confiscated. (Fabian Schmidt)

Scandal Over Sand Exports From Albania's Coast to Greece. On 9 August, police in Vlora intercepted and briefly held a ship that was loading sand from the beaches of Himara in southern Albania. The ship was sailing under the Greek flag and working for the Greek-Albanian joint venture Vetetima, "Albanian Daily News" reported on 11 August. Vetetima received a license in 1998 to collect sand from Himara, but officials from the Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that the captain of the ship failed to provide full documentation. The sand was destined for the sandless beaches of Corfu. It was the fourth such case registered by police since the end of June. According to the newspaper, Albania has been exporting sand from Himara to Greece since 1978.

Local farmers and environmental activists staged protests against the sand exports on 10 August. Three environmental groups--Women for Promoting Tourism, the Environmental Group Kristo Papajani, and the Association for the Protection of Nature--issued a petition demanding an end to sand exports. The petition stressed: "It is as if somebody is interested in destroying the coast in those areas, which will have a better future only through tourism."

Niko Dumani, who is the chairman of the Association for Environmental Protection of the Vlora District, said that Vetetima is violating a law that defines the coastline as a protected area: "From an environmental aspect, [Vetetima's activities] damage the coastline and [hurt various] species living near the coast." (Fabian Schmidt)

Albanian Electricity Manager Blames Citizens For Shortages. Due to the heat of the summer, the paucity of rain, and a low level of water reserves in the hydroelectric power plants, Albania is facing electricity cuts again this summer, "Albanian Daily News" reported.

General director of the Albanian Electricity Company (KESH) Farudin Hoxha told "Zeri i Popullit" of 10 August that "the Albanians themselves are to be blamed for the electricity shortages in their country, because they continuously waste [power]."

Hoxha said that about 50 percent of all electricity is wasted and that a huge number of customers do not pay their energy bills. He added: "Businessmen are on top of the list of abusers. They do not pay their bills or even make a partial payment for the energy they use. Those who pay nothing are the greatest abusers. They consume electricity for the benefit of their villas, restaurants, and neighborhoods." Observers note, moreover, that many businesses and private households have introduced air conditioners and electric heating since the fall of communism.

Hoxha warned that KESH has built up a task force to cut off customers who do not pay their bills. He believes, however, that there will not be power cuts this coming winter, because Albania will import electricity from neighboring countries. Hoxha added: "In other countries electricity is not used in such amounts for local or family needs as in Albania; rather, it is used mostly for industrial purposes." (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. "Croatia shows how a motivated population can have its destiny in its own hands and away from a corrupt and repressive regime." -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, after meeting with Croatian leaders in Washington on 9 August. Quoted by Reuters.

"In the four wars launched by Milosevic during the last decade, his neo-Nazi regime has committed crimes worse than those of [Adolf] Hitler's. Now he is turning on Montenegro." -- A group of 56 distinguished Montenegrin writers, academics, and other personages, in a letter to the Security Council on 11 August. The Montenegrins appealed for special UN monitors to come to their republic. Quoted by AP.