Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: August 18, 2000

18 August 2000, Volume 4, Number 62

'Contract With Serbia.' Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told a news conference in Belgrade on 15 August that the united opposition has drawn up its "contract between future [legislative] deputies and the electorate." The document is at once both a tall order and a clear plan to bring Serbia out of isolation and dictatorship.

The program calls on the new parliament to pass on its first day a series of 10 resolutions aimed at repealing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's recent constitutional changes and measures to curb media freedoms. The resolutions also include measures to end sanctions against Montenegro and implement UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in Kosova, as well as to reform and de-politicize the police, military, and judiciary.

The program stresses that "we oblige ourselves to renew popular confidence in the state, root out corruption in public institutions, and together embrace comprehensive reforms so that Serbia can return to its rightful place in the community of European states." The program calls on the legislature to bring Serbian law into harmony with European standards within 100 days and institute a program of economic legislation, including currency and taxation reforms.

Mladjan Dinkic of the G-17 opposition group of economists told the press conference that the government hopes to cover a planned deficit through $500 million in direct donations from the West, a further $350 million in foreign direct investment, and $150 million from short-term borrowing abroad.

It is not clear whether to opposition has already approached foreign governments, investors, or banks with its ideas. Dinkic, in any event, is one of the most knowledgable and serious leaders of the opposition.

Meanwhile, opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica told the press conference that the program is "an effort to establish dialogue within Serbia and between Serbia and the outside world so that Serbia can set up democratic institutions."

He has his work cut out for him. First of all--as Vienna's "Die Presse" pointed out on 16 August--Kostunica's candidacy is a non-starter in Sandzak. The large Muslim population there remembers his support for the Serbian cause in the Bosnian conflict. "Presse" expects that Sandzak politician Sulejman Ugljanin will enter the presidential race shortly.

In the days immediately preceding the Belgrade press conference, moreover, Kostunica managed in public remarks to belittle Montenegro (see below) and refer to U.S. policy toward Serbia as "evil" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2000). He also said that the U.S. and Milosevic are both to blame for Serbia's problems (see below).

Perhaps such remarks will win Kostunica some votes from people who would otherwise vote for Milosevic or for Vuk Draskovic's stand-in candidate. But Kostunica's comments on these and other occasions do not suggest that Serbia's political culture has made a clean break with the narcissism, self-pity, and intolerance that enabled Milosevic to rise and flourish (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2000). In short, the opposition will need much more than an eloquent program if it wants to bring Serbia into the 21st century. (Patrick Moore)

Winning Friends And Influencing People. Kostunica made fun of Montenegro (Crna Gora) by referring to it by a diminutive "Gorica" and speaking in baby-talk, Montena-fax reported on 14 August. The next day he charged that the Montenegrin leadership had "voted for Milosevic" by refusing to take part in the elections, adding that "running away from elections is certainly not a characteristic of a democratic society," AP reported. The regime has used similar arguments against the Montenegrin decision to boycott (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 August 2000).

Meanwhile in Podgorica, President Milo Djukanovic said that the Montenegrin authorities will not obstruct the holding of the elections on Montenegrin territory, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. (Patrick Moore)

U.S. Opens Office To Promote Democracy In Yugoslavia. The State Department has opened an office as part of the U.S. embassy in Budapest to "support democratic forces in Yugoslavia," a spokesman said in Washington on 15 August. He stressed that "we think it's very important to let those committed to true democracy in Serbia know that we support their efforts," AP reported.

U.S. Ambassador to Croatia William Montgomery will head the office. He will carry out both functions until Washington appoints his successor in Zagreb, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

Within a day of Washington's announcement, Kostunica blasted the move. "The American decision is a real kiss of death to all truly democratic and patriotic forces in our country, and an encouragement to [Milosevic's] non-national, corrupt, and irresponsible policies," AP quoted him as saying. And like some members of the regime and the nationalist opposition, Kostunica tried to juxtapose "good" Europe against "bad" America: "Unlike Europe, Washington has--for who knows what time--once again helped Slobodan Milosevic, the man with whom [Washington] has made most damaging deals."

The standard bearer of the united opposition did not explain which "deals" these are, or how "Europe" was not involved in them--or in arrangements of its own. His remarks, if anything, reflect the confusion within Serbian political circles as to how to deal with the outside world and get out of the big mess of Serbia's own making. (Patrick Moore)

Yugoslav Army Denies Report Of Kosova Border Incursion. An army spokesman told Tanjug on 15 August that Yugoslav Army troops did not make an incursion into Kosova in July, "Vesti" reported. He denied a story in a recent issue of the U.S. military daily "Stars and Stripes," which reportedly said that U.S. forces used Apache helicopters to force back into the Presevo valley a group of armed and uniformed Serbs who crossed into the province in two all-terrain vehicles on July 28. The army spokesman said that local Serbian police were present in the area and had every right under international agreements to be there. (Patrick Moore)

Clashes in Northern Albania Over Customs Regime. Up to 100 traders blocked the main road linking Kosova and Albania at the Morina border crossing between 12 and 15 August to demand the abolition of customs fees for imports from Kosova, "Albanian Daily News" reported.

Interior Ministry officials refused to compromise, however, and issued a statement saying that police will "protect [legal] institutions." Deputy Interior Minister Veli Myftari and the head of the criminal police, Xhavit Shala, arrived in Kukes on 14 August to lead police operations to break up the blockade. Myftari first talked with a group of protesters, but the negotiations failed.

Instead, the traders built stone barricades, refused to talk to police, and burned a police car. Elite police forces then broke up the blockade on 15 August. The protesters subsequently attacked the police station in Kukes.

Interior Ministry officials said that the protesters shot into the air and at the police station. They also threw rocks, broke nearly all the windows of the building, and torched a police car. Two people were injured in the clashes. Police managed to disperse the crowd. They detained four of the assailants and later besieged about a dozen others in the hills about 10 kilometers from the town. It was not clear if there have been additional arrests since.

The protests followed the sacking of a large number of police and customs officials in the northern Albanian town, as well as the arrest of the local police chief for corruption and involvement in smuggling (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2000). The protesters included about a dozen of the sacked officials. Farmers and traders in vegetables, beer, and flour also took part in the protest.

Customs fees are around 18 percent, depending on the goods traded. Many protesters argued that they should be exempt from the duties because they deal only in small quantities of goods. Some also objected in political terms to the enforcement of a border regime between Kosova and Albania, arguing that the border "divides the Albanians." Observers note that since the end of the war in Kosova in 1999, traders there appear to believe that there is a de facto free-trade zone between Kosova and Albania.

An Albanian government spokesman, however, told dpa that the traders are "a bunch of smugglers who want to become rich at the cost of others." Customs officials have recently launched investigations against 32 wholesalers for not paying customs duties for their trade with Kosova. Officials from the national customs department said that the revenues from the Kukes customs office have been negligible in the past year.

Petrit Ago, who is the general director of customs, told Klan TV that traders in Kukes should obey the same rules as merchants in all other parts of the country: "There are no [different] rules for customs offices in Kukes and those in the rest of the country�. This is what we are doing to adopt Western standards." (Fabian Schmidt)

Increase In Albanian Tourism. Sherif Bundo, who is the head of the Albanian Committee for the Development of Tourism, told "Zeri I Popullit" of 14 August that he expects that more than 700,000 tourists will have spent their holidays in Albania by the end of the year 2000. In 1996, there were only 220,000 registered tourists. The boom was partly triggered by the opening of the Kosova-Albanian border.

Among the total number of tourists this year to date, 180,000 were Albanian emigrants, many of whom returned for visits during the summer. About 133,000 were citizens of Kosova or Macedonia (mostly ethnic Albanians), and 144,000 were other foreigners. It remains unclear whether the statistics list international aid workers and other officials visiting the country as "tourists" or as transit visitors to Kosova.

Most of the registered tourists, however, stayed in the southern coastal towns of Himara, Saranda, and Dhermi, in an area known as "the Albanian Riviera."

Bundo said that tourism now accounts for about 10 percent of the GDP. He stressed that Albania will have to improve its public services and tourist infrastructure to attract more visitors. He also warned that illegal construction and environmental damages cause a great threat to Albania's tourist industry. Currently there are about 25,000 beds in Albanian hotels and private pensions, "Albanian Daily News" reported on 15 August. (Fabian Schmidt)

Slovenia, Croatia Mark Assumption Day. Since the end of communism some 10 years ago, Roman Catholic religious observances have been slowly but surely taking on new life in Slovenia and Croatia. In the latest instance, some 8,000 pilgrims attended services for Assumption Day on 15 August near Brezje, Slovenia. Ljubljana Archbishop Franc Rode told the congregation that the Roman Catholic Church does not aspire to political power in the republic of roughly 2 million people, "Dnevnik" reported.

The Church held considerable political and economic power in pre-1945 Slovenia, and many Slovenes suspect that it wants that wealth and influence restored. After some 45 years of communism, Slovenia is a highly secular society.

Meanwhile at the Croatian shrine of Marija Bistrica, Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanic led services for 20,000 faithful.

The Croatian press continues to speculate from time to time when or whether Bozanic will be named a cardinal like his predecessor, Franjo Kuharic. Currently, the only ethnic Croatian cardinal is Vinko Puljic of Bosnia. (Patrick Moore)

The Nine Lives Of Pero Zlatar. One of the hardy perennials of the former Yugoslav and now Croatian media scene is 66 year-old journalist Pero Zlatar. His father was an army officer from Brac and his mother a native of Skopje, where Pero was also born. His career has seen him write for a host of publications, ranging from sports news-sheets to sophisticated weeklies. He has also served as head of the Zagreb soccer team Dinamo.

His latest job is as editor-in-chief for Nino Pavic's tabloid-style weekly "Arena." Zlatar told "Globus" of 27 July that he is surprised that Pavic tipped someone as old as himself for a top post in a media scene increasingly dominated by young people. Zlatar added that he is also pleasantly taken aback that "Arena" quickly proved successful in a very competitive media environment.

Some readers of "Balkan Report" may remember Zlatar as a prolific writer on Enver Hoxha's Albania, which he visited five times between 1965 and 1982. He later re-published and expanded his articles as four books. This was at a time when very few foreign correspondents were allowed into Albania, and his books had hardly any counterparts in any language.

Zlatar told "Globus" that Josip Broz Tito remarked to him that he enjoyed his writings on Albania. The veteran journalist added that the atmosphere in Albania in those days was very similar to that in Milosevic's rump Yugoslavia today. (Patrick Moore)

Blue Eyes. In the morning of 16 August, Montenegrin Television treated viewers to one of its frequent breathtaking aerial tours of the republic. This time, the background music was "[I Did It] My Way." (Patrick Moore)

Tito's Cadillac For Tourists. As part of its efforts to distance itself from the pomp-and-circumstance associated with the rule of the late President Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian leadership is making much of the Istrian Brijuni island state resort complex available to ordinary tourists. President Stipe Mesic plans to keep only a part of the complex for official purposes. Under Tudjman (and Tito), much of the island was reserved for the state, and the security services were ubiquitous.

Hina reported on 16 August that the management of Brijuni National Park now plans to allow tourists to rent Tito's 1953 Cadillac for trips around the island. The rate will be $40 for 30 minutes. Tito often drove the car himself between 1953 and 1979. Among his passengers were Indian leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi, Dutch Queen Juliana, and Hollywood couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. (Patrick Moore)

Thanks To A Reader. Many thanks to reader B.B. of Belgrade for the interesting and informative publication he sent to your editor in taking issue with remarks made by Andras Riedlmayer in the 21 July issue of "Balkan Report." This was just one of many communications from unhappy Serbian readers in response to the Riedlmayer remarks, which the Serbian readers feel made light of or distorted the extent of damage to Serbian religious and historical monuments in Kosova.

As mentioned in the 1 August issue of "Balkan Report," your editor hopes that those interested in the question of historical buildings will find an appropriate forum to carry on their discussions. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. Emigrating with the children to Canada "is for the best, so they do not have to live under the pressure whether they are Albanian, Serbs, Muslims or whatever. When you live in the Balkans you cannot live without thinking about your background. It's a collective way of thinking. There is no individualism. Maybe we were lucky; because of our mixed marriage, we can see it more clearly. But on the other hand, if you think like that, you cannot live here." - Husband in a mixed marriage, to the "New York Times" of 15 August. He and his wife are each half Serbian and half Albanian. They have found temporary refuge in Sarajevo.

"It seems that the Serbs do not like the English." - French peacekeeper in Mitrovica, after French troops were rushed in to replace British soldiers. Serbian civilians in Zvecan had pelted the British with stones in the wake of the UN's takeover of the white-elephant Trepca mining complex. Quoted in "The Guardian" of 15 August.

"Trepca is the issue of our survival, and we will fight for it." - Local Serbian leader Milan Ivanovic, quoted by AP on 16 August.

"This place is in desperate state. This is like the nineteenth century." - UNMIK chief administrator Bernard Kouchner, quoted by AP on 16 August on a visit to Trepca.