Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: September 5, 2000

5 September 2000, Volume 4, Number 67

What Agenda For Kosova? Sooner or later, the international community will have to face the moment of truth on the future of the troubled province. It is not too soon to start thinking about the options (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 March 2000).

Scarcely a week passes without Serbian chief-of-staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic or some other prominent Belgrade figure announcing to the media that Serbian forces are ready and eager to go back to Kosova. In the runup to the 24 September elections, such claims are likely to become more frequent and more belligerent.

But probably few people outside of Serbia have any illusions about that province's returning to Belgrade's embrace, at least not under any regime that resembles the present one. There are at least three reasons for this. First, the guiding principles of the post-1945 world-wide decolonialization process have been majority rule and self-determination. Since the Albanians make up about 90 percent of Kosova's population and since all major Albanian political groups want independence, it is not too difficult to deduce what the application of those principles would mean in the case of Kosova.

Second, much more ancient principles dictate that those who lose wars can expect to lose territory in the subsequent settlement. Slobodan Milosevic has lost four wars in one decade, and it should not surprise anyone if he loses Kosova as a result of losing the fourth and most recent war.

Third, the process under way is one that encompasses much more than Kosova. It is one that began more than a decade ago and involves the unraveling of the former Yugoslavia. That state could not survive because it was a dictatorship. Milosevic and his cronies blocked all attempts at reform--and the Slovenes and Croats could not tolerate remaining in such a state any longer. That process of unraveling subsequently extended to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. Now it seems that the turns of both Kosova and Montenegro have come (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2000).

To many observers, this seems self-evident. Indeed, if anything is surprising, it is the insistence of some international politicians and functionaries that what is left of Yugoslavia must somehow be held together at all costs. One wonders what they still fear, a full decade after the dissolution began. Do they think that it was the desire for democracy and self-rule that was primarily to blame for the region's problems, rather than an aggressive, troglodyte dictatorship?

In any event, reports and studies have begun to appear dealing with the serious issues facing Kosova's future. The International Crisis Group notes in a new report that Serbia has "forfeited all moral and legal right" to rule Kosova. The study adds, however, that the international community's failure to clarify the province's future status has led to drift and threatens to undo any positive results of UNMIK's administration. The ICG calls for a clarification of Kosova's status somewhere short of independence, stressing that the Kosovars themselves must prove that they are able to manage their own affairs, including minority rights and relations with their neighbors. The ICG would like elections for an interim government in early 2001, followed in mid-year by a presidential vote.

Elisabeth Pond, who for many years was the Bonn correspondent of the "Christian Science Monitor," notes in the 28 August "Wall Street Journal" that the key to Kosova's future is to let the people there run their own affairs at the earliest possible opportunity. She warns against letting Kosovars become too dependent on foreign rule, and suggests that the international community develop an exit strategy to leave Kosova at the end of five years.

Pond argues that Kosovars are "quick learners," likely to follow moderate leaders such as Ibrahim Rugova, and not about to embark on any "greater Albanian" adventures. She concedes that there is no guarantee that the Kosovars will soon be ready for self-government, but warns that continued colonial-style foreign rule is fraught with even greater danger. (Patrick Moore)

Holbrooke Looks At Dayton The main architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, says the agreement can now be termed a "qualified success." Holbrooke told a New York news conference recently that five years after Dayton, Bosnia-Herzegovina is at peace and an accepted member of the international community of nations. RFE/RL's UN Correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

Holbrooke says five years after he brokered the agreement that ended Bosnia's war, there are encouraging signs of peace and a move toward reconciliation.

He says the most positive signal of late is a surge in the number of individuals returning this year to an area in which an ethnic group other than their own is in control--about 15,000 people so far.

Holbrooke also referred to the signing in Sarajevo in late July of customs and repatriations agreements by Bosnia and Croatia. He said this reinforces what has become a new period of friendly relations following the change in Croatia's leadership earlier this year.

The diplomat expressed hope that the new Croatian government will use its influence with ethnic Croats to help solve some of the problems in the divided city of Mostar.

Most importantly, Holbrooke said, the cycle of violence that introduced the term "ethnic cleansing" to late 20th century Europe appears to be over in Bosnia. He said NATO forces, the Peace Implementation Council and the Contact Group for Bosnia, which includes Russia, must continue to safeguard that peace: "Armed forces purging each other ['s territory] by ethnicity or by race has ceased to plague the country, and no one I know thinks that the war will resume provided the outside powers continue to do their job."

Holbrooke also noted some flaws in the Dayton accord, notably the establishment of a weak three-person presidency and the continued existence of separate armies belonging to the main ethnic groups. He said the presidency needs to be strengthened and the armed forces united into one to help further stabilize the country.

Holbrooke was repeatedly asked what the United States would do if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is re-elected in September.

Holbrooke says the U.S. government is doubtful the elections can be held under fair conditions. At the same time, he said, the victory of opposition forces in Serbia would be a major step toward easing tensions through the region: "It is the tragedy of Serbia and it is the tragedy of the Balkans that the Serb people have been denied a chance to choose in a free and fair election the kind of leadership they want. Until that happens, all the other problems we're talking about--including Bosnia and Kosovo and Montenegro, which are the three dominant themes of this press conference today--are going to be in an explosive state."

The ambassador says the United States is concerned about the status of Montenegro, the government of which is boycotting the 24 September poll. He said the United States has supported Montenegro in an effort to avoid another Yugoslav civil war: "Nobody wants to see a fifth Balkan war. We've had four already in the last nine years and the fifth would be very dangerous. And...given the deployment of NATO forces in the region, it would directly affect NATO's vital interests."

Holbrooke repeatedly singled out Milosevic--who has been indicted for war crimes--for blame in exacerbating tensions throughout the region: "The problems of the region over the last nine years can be laid overwhelmingly--not exclusively, but overwhelmingly--at the feet of President Milosevic and his leadership in Belgrade, and that includes the Montenegrin issue."

Holbrooke said the main U.S. strategy continues to be the isolation of the regime in Belgrade. He also said he will launch a campaign at the United Nations this autumn to clear up the status of Yugoslavia's representation at the world body. Yugoslavia has not filed for membership in the General Assembly as a successor state and is not recognized by the chamber. Milosevic claims the seat of the former Yugoslavia as the sole legal successor to that country in a bid to take control of all its assets abroad. (Robert McMahon)

Close Race Likely For Tirana Mayor The opposition Democratic Party (PD) nominated Besnik Mustafaj as its candidate for Tirana mayor on 28 August, "Shekulli" reported. Mustafaj is not a member of the PD, but a well-known center-right politician and writer, who was ambassador to Paris under former president and current PD leader Sali Berisha.

On 1 October, Mustafaj will compete against Culture Minister Edi Rama, who is the candidate of the Socialist Party (PS). Rama, an artist, is not a member of the PS (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 August 2000).

By nominating outsiders, both of Albania's main parties apparently hope to win the support of voters who would otherwise not vote for the party in question. The race between Rama and Mustafaj will therefore likely be close and the outcome difficult to predict. Tirana traditionally is a PD stronghold, but Sali Berisha lost the support of many of his former voters during the 1997 crisis and anarchy.

Unlike Berisha, Mustafaj has a quiet and modest personality. He told "Albanian Daily News" of 31 August that he will "focus on [promoting] the party's program rather than on cursing my Socialist opponent." He also said he will go to the neighborhoods of Tirana and listen to the people. He thereby suggested that he will break with the tradition of confrontational politics that dominated Albanian political life throughout the 1990s. Mustafaj added: "I know [the campaign] will be exhausting, but [the elections on] 1 October will demonstrate the confidence [people have in us]."

Mustafaj won the race for the conservative nomination against Spartak Ngjela--a monarchist and former justice minister--and against Bamir Topi, the main competitor from within the PD. Topi is a veterinarian and the director of Tirana's Veterinary Institute.

The election campaign officially started on 1 September. Rama has an easier job than Mustafaj, being able to campaign on the failures of the current PD-run city administration. In an interview with Klan TV, he accused Mayor Albert Brojka of failing to maintain public buildings and infrastructure. He said that "the PD has done nothing for Tirana in eight years of administration. The people blame the [central] government for the poor state of the buildings, but the maintenance of Tirana's appearance is a local government job."

Besides inheriting the poor record of the current city administration, Mustafaj's origins also may diminish his chances of winning support. He comes from Berisha's remote northern birthplace of Tropoja, which many citizens of the capital regard as home to a primitive and clannish society. Both Rama and Mustafaj dismissed suggestions, however, that the voters may take Mustafaj's origins into account when casting their ballot.

Mustafaj stressed: "Everyone has to have a place of origin," adding that those who have regional prejudices suffer from an "inferiority complex." Mustafaj added that he is confident of winning.

He and Rama face two additional competitors from the smaller Democratic Alliance (AD) and the Republican Party (PR). Arben Demeti, former minister of local government and transport, will run for the AD, while Maxim Haxhia, a former prosecutor-general and current head of the Tirana Bar Association, will run for the PR. (Fabian Schmidt)

Italy's Peroni Buys Tirana Brewery Italy's largest beer producer--Birra Peroni--won the tender for Birra Malto on 28 August, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Peroni won against four other bidders, including a consortium of 11 Albanian companies, a Greek firm, and a Belgian brewery.

Birra Malto, which produces the dark and light beer called Birra Tirana, is the largest brewery in Albania. The Communists founded it in 1960, and the government turned it into a shareholder company in 1998. It employs 140 workers.

The company produces bottled and keg beer, and sells 80,000 hectoliters annually, two-thirds of which are sold in Tirana. Other main markets are Durres and Kavaja.

In the mid- to late-1990s, Birra Tirana covered about 37 percent of Albania's market, but in 1999 it suffered a drop to about 22 percent. Albania imports an estimated 45 percent of its beer consumption. There is also a traditional brewery in Korca that produces about 30,000 hectoliters per year, and approximately 80 microbreweries with an average annual capacity of 10,000 hectoliters each.

Albanians drink relatively little beer compared to most other European countries: approximately 10 liters per capita per year. Homemade raki and wine are the traditional and most widely consumed alcoholic beverages. Observers expect beer consumption to increase by 40 percent by 2002, however. (Fabian Schmidt)

Trouble At The Njegos School Some 30 parents broke windows at the Njegos Elementary School, and two of the offenders were taken away by the police, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 31 August. The row developed after school officials rejected the parents' demand that their children be allowed to study Italian rather than Russian.

Russophilia--sometimes to the point of near-religious devotion--is at least as traditional among Montenegrins as it is among Serbs. It appears, however, that at least some Montenegrin parents feel that their children will be better prepared for life by studying the language of their country's large western neighbor. Russophilia remains alive and well in Serbia, however, especially among Yugoslav presidential candidates. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week: "The American administration should say that after the [Kosova local] elections, most [outside] economic support will go to those municipalities led by people who are really open and ready to support democracy and human rights for all minorities." -- Moderate Kosovo Serbian leader Father Sava, quoted by AP on 30 August.

"The abduction of any man is a criminal act and the kidnappers are therefore criminals." -- indicted war criminal and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, on the apparent abduction of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic. Quoted by Reuters on 31 August.

"We have a series of elections that are coming up--and they are really important to NATO--in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. So we intend to have a robust presence during that time to deal with any instabilities." -- General Joseph Ralston, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Quoted by AP in Tirana on 31 August.

"We are not for war, but I must say that if Milosevic continues to jeopardize the stability and security of Montenegro's citizens, with an aim of provoking a civil war, we are ready for such an option in order to defend Montenegro's statehood and democracy." -- Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, in Dubrovnik on 31 August. Quoted by AP.