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Balkan Report: August 29, 2000

29 August 2000, Volume 4, Number 65

What Future For UN Peacekeeping? Peacekeeping is one of the core functions of the United Nations and has played a key role in our region over the past decade. But a new report by an international panel says weaknesses have emerged during the past 10 years that have deeply marred its performance in that sphere. RFE/RL's UN correspondent Robert McMahon examines the panel's criticisms and recommendations for reform.

A panel of experts chosen by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the world body's member states to support a series of sweeping reforms to make peacekeeping operations more coherent and effective.

The panel released a report on 23 August that called for a major increase in peacekeeping troops, police, and other professionals to improve the UN's responsiveness to outbreaks, or serious threats, of violence.

The chairman of the panel, former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, said the goal was both to strengthen peacekeeping and to avoid the sequence of events that led to the debacles of the past 10 years. He referred to the failure to prevent the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 and the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Brahimi said: "I think the UN has to be ready to face up to difficult situations. They have got to defend themselves. They have got to protect their mandates. Everybody wants the UN not to get into a Srebrenica."

A key area of responsibility is the 15-member UN Security Council. The council has been widely blamed for failing to provide clear mandates in dangerous missions such as Rwanda, Bosnia, and--more recently--Sierra Leone.

The panel's report said that at present, the secretary-general is given only a council resolution specifying troop levels on paper. But he does not know whether he will be provided with the troops and other personnel the mission needs to work properly.

At the same time, the report said that UN officials must tell council members what realistically to expect in the field and not yield to pressure when devising a mission plan. Brahimi told reporters that peacekeeping missions need to prepare for a worst-case scenario. "What we are telling the council [is]: 'O.K., don't send the United Nations if you don't want to, but if you send it, send it with the right tools. If you give it a job to do, give it the right tools to do that job you have tasked it to do.'"

The panelists, who conducted more than 200 interviews over the past four months, said restructuring peacekeeping needs to start at the conception stage. It said there is currently no planning unit at UN headquarters that brings together those responsible for key peacekeeping functions such as military operations, civilian police, electoral assistance, human rights, refugees, and public information. And the panel found that the UN's department of peacekeeping operations has a severe shortage of personnel to deal with a growing number of missions. According to Brahimi, "what shocked us is to see, for example, that you have 32 officers in this headquarters here to provide leadership and everything else for 28,000 soldiers scattered all over the world. This is clearly not enough."

The panel also called for a fundamental change in the way the UN approaches the role of civilian police in peacekeeping areas. It says UN peace operations need to emphasize what it called a "team approach" to upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights. The key to this is the ability to deploy well-trained civilian police, prosecutors and judges who can act as an impartial justice team until local officials are trained to take over. Delays in this kind of deployment in Kosovo are blamed by some for the continuing cycle of violence there.

But as the example of Kosovo has shown, it is difficult to recruit a trained force of international police because donor countries find it difficult to replace them at home. A spokesman for UN peacekeeping operations, David Wimhurst, told our correspondent that recent missions indicate the high need for police. "It does pose a problem to get an adequate number of civilian police into the field, and more and more police are being required--certainly in circumstances such as those to be found in East Timor and in Kosovo, where you have a breakdown in the traditional forces of law and order," he said.

The panel also stressed the need for the rapid deployment of international peace forces after cease-fires have been signed. Its report calls on governments to work together to create multinational brigade-sized forces. It says they should be able to fully deploy within 30 days of the adoption of most Security Council resolutions and within 90 days even for the most complex missions.

To support rapid deployment, the panel recommended establishing what it termed an "on-call" list of about 100 trained military officers and 100 police officers. UN officials are to follow up the report by submitting a plan of action for the General Assembly's session this autumn. The panel's report is also expected to be widely discussed at next month's summit of world leaders at the UN in New York. (A copy of the report can be found at: (Robert McMahon)

Distant Neighbors: Hungary and Slovenia. Ida Mocivnik is a former advisor to Slovenian President Milan Kucan and is now her country's ambassador to Hungary. She recently spoke to the Budapest German-language weekly "Der Neue Pester Lloyd" about relations between the two neighbors.

Mocivnik noted that the key to understanding the current state of affairs between Slovenia and Hungary is the fact that they were literally cut off from each other for virtually the entire period of communist rule. She pointed out that maps from those years show roads and paths on both sides of the frontier going right up to the border--but no farther. As a consequence of that division, the two peoples know little of each other and have no direct rail links. A direct rail connection will be set up as early as later this year, but motorists will have to wait until 2006 for a proper major highway link.

The ambassador stressed that there are no "open questions" between the two neighbors, both of whom aspire to early admission to the EU. She noted that both have had the "demoralizing and depressing" experience of receiving new demands from Brussels that had not been mentioned before.

One of her main concerns in improving bilateral relations is the status and rights of the 5,000-strong Slovenian minority in Hungary. She noted, for example, that the 9,000 Hungarians in Slovenia enjoy 12 hours of state-financed Hungarian-language public broadcasting daily, while the Slovenes in Hungary receive only one hour of broadcasting per day in their native language. Mocivnik also expressed great concern about the lack of mother-tongue school instruction in Slovene. Returning to the theme of the roads and paths, she called for the creation of more border crossings between Slovenia and the seven Slovenian villages on the Hungarian side of the frontier.

Mocivnik's remarks on the Slovenian minority in Hungary reflect long-standing concerns of many Slovenes for the future of their 1.9 million-strong people. The belief is that "every Slovene counts," and concern is frequently expressed for the preservation of Slovenian language and culture among the Slovenian population of neighboring countries. (Patrick Moore)

Curtains For 'Bosnian' Language? The Bosnian Constitutional Court will challenge the legality of certain nationalist stipulations in the respective entity constitutions, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 August. The court objects to provisions in the federation constitution establishing "Bosnian" and "Croatian" as official languages, together with the Latin alphabet. In the Republika Srpska, the court does not like the provisions providing for close cooperation between the state and the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as for official status for the "Serbian" language and the Cyrillic alphabet.

Serbo-Croatian is actually one language with dialect differences based on geography, not ethnicity. It has, however, become an axiom of nationalist political correctness over the past decade to claim a "national language" for each ethnic group. The results can often be quite amusing (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 February 2000). (Patrick Moore)

Yugoslav Army Tries To Block Montenegrin Soccer Players From Albania. Yugoslav Army troops blocked a bus of the Montenegrin Olympic soccer team on 23 August, near the Albanian-Montenegrin border. The soccer players were on their way to Shkodra to play a friendly match, "Albanian Daily News" reported

Army officials said that federal authorities ordered the border crossing closed but, after one hour of negotiations, they allowed the bus to pass. The match ended 2:2.

Officials from Montenegro's Olympic Committee said recently that they will seek approval from the International Olympic Committee to participate in all games after the 2000 Olympics as a separate team under their own flag and not as part of a Yugoslav team (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000). The Soccer Association of Montenegro has contacted its counterparts in Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia to organize friendly games against their respective Olympic teams. (Fabian Schmidt)

Albanian Voter Registration Ends. The Albanian Ministry for Local Government on 23 August gave the preliminary voters' lists for the upcoming local elections to the Central Election Commission (KQZ), "Albanian Daily News" reported.

A total of 2.33 million Albanians will have the right to cast their vote on 1 October, 5.7 percent more than in the 1996 local elections. Most of the 130,000 additional voters are emigrant workers who did not appear on previous voter lists, according to Bashkim Fino, who is minister for local government.

The KQZ will publish the voters' lists 17 days before the ballot. Voters missing from the list will have the right to appeal. A Canadian company is in charge of printing voter identification cards, which the government will distribute in September. The cards include the name, picture, and social security number of the voter in question.

There are only 250,000 voters registered in Tirana, indicating that the total population of that city is considerably lower than recent estimates indicated. Many observers thought that the city grew to about 700,000 since the end of communism. Fino's deputy, Blendi Klosi, said that "the number may seem too small, but three independent groups checked it during the registration."

This is the first computer-based voter registration in Albania. The OSCE and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems gave substantial support to the Albanian government during the registration. Both of the country's large rival parties--the governing Socialists (PS) and the opposition Democrats (PD)--will receive copies of the complete voters lists.

OSCE Ambassador Gert Ahrens told "Shekulli" that "for the first time, Albania has credible voters' lists." Ahrens acknowledged that the OSCE failed to forge a basic agreement between the Socialists and Democrats over the composition of the KQZ. According to the Socialist-backed law, all KQZ members are to be experts; PD officials had demanded that they be appointed by political parties. Ahrens added: "We did not have success because there was no cooperation between the two parties." The PD boycotted the meetings between legal experts from the political parties and international organizations, arguing that it had "insurmountable differences" with the PS and the OSCE.

PD chairman Sali Berisha repeatedly criticized OSCE officials and UN agencies for allegedly taking the side of the government. He stressed that their involvement constituted a "breach of [Albanian] sovereignty." Ahrens said, however, that tensions with the Democratic Party eased after meetings between OSCE officials and PD leaders.

The problems may not be over, however. At a press conference on 23 August, Democratic Party spokesman Edi Paloka called the accuracy of the voter lists into question. A parallel voter registration survey conducted by the PD counted only 1.9 million voters.

Referring to the possible impact on the elections of recent unrest in Kukes and the bombing of the city's main water supply (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 August 2000), Ahrens said: "I see some isolated incidents, and I think we will not have more of this kind. However, it is a national duty for the political parties to give their contribution in putting an end to these attacks." (Fabian Schmidt)

Only Albanian Companies Bid For Pharmaceutical Plant. Three Albanian companies--Aldosch, Aplas, and Kneo--have entered bids for the purchase of an 88 percent stake in Albania's largest pharmaceutical company, Profarma, "Albanian Daily news" reported. There were no foreign bidders, according to the National Privatization Agency.

Profarma was founded in 1948 and has produced about 350 different drugs since then. It employs about 180 people, currently produces about 130 products, and covers a third of the Albanian market.

There are two other pharmaceutical companies in Albania: Prodentalfarma, which is an Italian-Albanian joint venture, and Euromedica. Other companies currently up for sale in the government's privatization drive include the beer producer Birra Tirana, the Durres-based Skanderbeg cognac distillery, and the dairy producer Ajka. (Fabian Schmidt)

Albanian Broadcasters' Licensing Process Comes To An End. Sefedin Cela, who is chairman of the National Council for Radio and Television (KKRT), told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 23 August that the licensing process for private stations will conclude on 1 September.

Cela said that 24 television stations have applied for a license. He acknowledged, however, that the KKRT excluded 15 of them from the tender for failing to fulfill basic preconditions as defined by law. The council also turned down the applications of 11 radio stations that did not meet the conditions. All excluded companies will have the opportunity to appeal the KKRT's decision, however, "Albanian Daily News" reported.

Parliament passed a law on public and private broadcasting in November 1998. That measure defined the legal framework for the creation of the KKRT and set the rules and procedures for media companies to receive licenses. (Fabian Schmidt)

Nis Workers Won't Be Bought. The opposition Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS) salutes the workers at the Nis Inteks textile factory for refusing to be bribed into a public display of support for Milosevic, "Vesti" reported on 24 August. Of the roughly 1,000 workers at the plant, only 25 agreed to sign a communist-style public declaration of support for Milosevic in return for a payment of about $4.50. The GSS said that the workers had done a "great moral deed" by refusing the bribe. (Patrick Moore)

Et Tu, Felix Serbia... While most of the Balkans swelters under temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade and wild fires sweep the peninsula (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000), it appears that the place to be last week was Zrenjanin in Vojvodina, roughly midway between Novi Sad and the Romanian border.

That town was host to the 15th Beer Days. Festivities included folk dancing, rides in horse-drawn carriages, Balkan food, and, of course, sampling the product that gave the festival its name. "Vesti" ran several pictures of the Beer Days, including two of the Beer Queen. Her costume includes something that looks very much like a dunce cap, but there doesn't seem to have been anything foolish about getting out of the heat and joining the celebrations in Zrenjanin. (Patrick Moore)

Largest Slovenian Olympic Team Yet. The Slovenian Olympic Committee announced in Ljubljana on 25 August that it will send a total of 74 athletes to Sydney. The Slovenian team in Atlanta in 1996 consisted of 37 athletes. This year, Slovenia's strongest hopes are for rowers Iztok Cop and Luka Spik, Reuters reported. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "It was even more disgusting and more worrying in terms of working conditions and the safety of the people there than I could have imagined." - French Defense Minister Alain Richard, at the Trepca mining complex on 23 August. Quoted by Reuters.

"I wish from my heart that your homeland, Serbia, succeeds in overcoming soon the problems that so afflict it so that it can look with serenity toward a future of peace and development in a context of collaboration and respect with neighboring countries." - Pope John Paul II to a visiting Serbian Orthodox delegation, at Castel Gondolfo on 18 August. Quoted by AP.

Out Of Area: "A pocket does not need a head. It manages to get filled regularly where it is now." - Georgian political scientist Ramaz Sakvarelidze, quoted in issue no. 34 of "RFE/RL Caucasus Report."

"The law is imperfect, because there are no rules." - Jana Reprova, head of the church relations department of the Czech Ministry of Culture. Quoted by CTK on 18 August.