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Balkan Report: December 15, 2000

15 December 2000, Volume 4, Number 88

Albanians With Whom One Can Talk. On a one-day visit to Rome on 11 December, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told reporters that he will at some point sit down with unnamed moderate Kosovar Albanian leaders and work out an agreement with them on the province's future political status. His tone was almost casual as he noted that moderates are in a majority in the province, implying that finding the right discussion partners and hammering out a deal with them should not prove too difficult.

Either Kostunica was putting on a very good act, or else he has badly misjudged the political climate among the Kosovars. Even the leading moderate, Ibrahim Rugova, is clearly on record as saying that nothing short of independence is acceptable (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). Rugova has not ruled out what he calls "low level talks" once general elections have taken place in Kosova, but there is no way that he or any other Kosovar leader, at any level, could accept the autonomy within Yugoslavia that Kostunica favors.

The reason for this is that ten years of repression culminating in a brutal conflict have convinced virtually all Kosovars that they cannot remain in the same state as the Serbs. Moderate Kosovars, including Rugova and publisher Veton Surroi, have pointed this out on more than one occasion. Many Serbs have drawn a similar conclusion (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 December 2000).

But perhaps Kostunica knows something that Rugova does not. Maybe at one of his many recent mutual admiration sessions with various Western European leaders, the Yugoslav president was given to understand that the international community will "force" the Albanians to the conference table (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 December 2000). It could be that Kostunica has heard that the Albanians will be told to reach a "reasonable" agreement with Serbia's new democratic leaders -- or ultimately be left to their own devices. Perhaps U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's recent remarks on the need for an international conference on Kosova (see below) underscored some people's views that the Kosovars will eventually have to negotiate their political future with the Serbs as part of a Yugoslav state.

In any event, it is difficult to imagine which Kosovars Western leaders could possibly expect to sit down with the Serbs, especially given the Albanians' wholly negative experience with Serbian negotiators at the Rambouillet conference nearly two years ago. No Albanian leader who enjoys a degree of legitimacy could, moreover, possibly want to negotiate any settlement short of independence, even if taken kicking and screaming to the table by the Westerners. And even if the leaders accepted, under duress, a deal that was also agreeable to Kostunica, its only effect on the ground in Kosova would be to strengthen the hand of militants from the Kosova Liberation Army. (Patrick Moore)

Why Did Albania Agree To Yugoslav OSCE Membership? But perhaps some Albanians have already had a foretaste of how ready their Western friends are to be of use to Kostunica. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told parliament on 11 December that the Albanian delegation at an OSCE summit in Vienna on 10 November agreed to Yugoslav OSCE membership under international pressure. He stressed that Albania risked self-isolation by objecting to Yugoslavia's admission, "Albanian Daily News" reported.

Milo said: "The time when Yugoslavia was admitted to the OSCE coincided with major efforts of our state to sign an association and stabilization agreement with the EU.... [Albania's] objective of Euro-Atlantic integration is a major, strategic, and long-term objective. It might have been dealt a blow...had we placed ourselves in the position of a country that was against a consensus on this issue."

Albania is expected to start association negotiations with EU officials in January 2001. Milo acknowledged that the EU integration process will depend mostly on Albania's internal developments and to a lesser extent on its foreign policy. He warned, however, that it would be "political suicide for a state to run against the whole international community."

The Albanian government has nonetheless demanded that Yugoslavia free Kosovar prisoners in Serbia before Belgrade is accepted into international organizations. Milo stressed that the international community is insisting on the release of the prisoners and that "the Yugoslav authorities have also promised to clear up this issue within the shortest possible time."

Montenegro, as one of the two remaining Yugoslav republics, does not recognize the federal government in Belgrade as legitimate. Albania has built direct diplomatic ties to Montenegro since the end of the Kosova war in summer 1999. (Fabian Schmidt)

Arrests Over Albanian Bomb Blast. Police have arrested six men in Fushe Kruja, the "Albanian Daily News" reported on 13 December. The men are suspected of setting off a bomb blast there on 11 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2000). The bomb was remote controlled and damaged two cars, including one of the elite Republican Guard. Nobody was injured in the explosion. Investigators said that some of the arrested men admitted their involvement in the blast and have offered their cooperation in hope of receiving reduced sentences.

Four of the suspects belong to one family living in Fushe Kruja. Among them is Astrit Zalla, the former head of the Democratic Party in Kruja.

Police found weapons and equipment for building radio-controlled explosives in the home of another suspect. It remains unclear, however, whether the blast was linked to a visit by Prime Minister Ilir Meta to inaugurate a cement factory in the town. Meta was scheduled to pass the site of the blast about half an hour after the bomb went off.

Both government and opposition representatives dismissed suggestions of a political link to the incident. Jemin Gjana, deputy chairman of the opposition Democratic Party said: "I do not think this was an attack against the prime minister." Government spokesman Thoma Gellci also said that he did not think the blast was related to Meta's visit.

The daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" suggested that the blast is probably linked to a long-lasting conflict over the privatization of the cement factory. The government's privatization agency sold the company off to an English-Lebanese consortium, a move which local PD officials opposed. PD leader Sali Berisha recently told local supporters that his party would reverse the privatization of the company if it comes to power. He also criticized the privatization agency for selling the company too cheaply.

The daily accordingly suggested that unspecified local interest groups, hoping to eventually get their hands on the factory, planted the bomb to frighten the investors away. The company still owes several months' back wages to workers who were laid off during the privatization process. (Fabian Schmidt)

Klein's Bosnian Balance Sheet. The United Nations' special representative in Bosnia, Jacques Klein, says the country has made great progress toward becoming a unified multi-ethnic state. He adds, however, that Bosnia is still economically weak and lacking in resources to carry out reforms of its vital law enforcement structures. He has appealed to the Security Council for more support to build on reforms in the police sector. RFE/RL's UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

Special Representative Jacques Klein said on 12 December that Bosnia and Herzegovina could complete its goals of establishing peace and security in two more years.

Klein told the Security Council that progress in Bosnia made it possible to discuss what he called an "end point" for the UN mission there. He said the mission has prepared a document that outlines its remaining core objectives.

The UN representative told of a number of positive developments, including the formation of a 20,000-member civilian police force and progress in integrating interior ministries and police forces with members of Bosnia's three main ethnic groups -- Muslims, Serbs, and Croats.

Klein said the new multi-ethnic state border service is helping Bosnia to begin combating organized crime, illegal migration, and trafficking in drugs and human beings.

European authorities have identified Bosnia as one of the key transit points for both illegal drugs and the rising incidence of trafficking in humans. Klein said that at Sarajevo airport alone, the new border service has documented 21,300 people this year who are suspected of entering the country in order to illegally migrate to European states. But a shortage of revenues, Klein says, is hampering the expansion of the border force, which needs at least 900 more positions filled. "Rapid establishment of control over state borders is key to the consolidation of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and international [identity] in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including with respect to its neighbors."

Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance has been sent to Bosnia since the end of the war five years ago. But Klein says nationalist leaders who remain in control of key sectors in Bosnia's two entities continue to corrupt the process of economic reform.

He stressed that a greater emphasis on crime-fighting and judicial reforms early in the reconstruction process would have helped the economic development of Bosnia: "For the past five years, the only engine of economic growth in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been international assistance, while nationalist parties have been able to plunder state assets. Resistance to the creation of a State Border Service and to economic reforms -- such as the privatization of public companies -- is most accurately explained on criminal not political grounds."

Security Council members strongly endorsed Klein's report and urged patience in carrying out the reforms outlined in the Dayton Accords. The U.S. representative on the council that day was Senator Joseph Biden, a senior member of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, which plays a role in determining U.S. troop deployments.

Biden repeatedly expressed support for the continued deployment of the international force -- named SFOR -- that is contributing to training Bosnian forces and stabilizing potential hotspots. The force now numbers about 20,000 personnel, about 4,000 of whom come from the United States. "For SFOR or the United Nations to disengage before our goals are accomplished would only guarantee renewed violence and a much more costly re-entry in the future. We must stay the course and prevail, regardless of how long it takes," Biden said.

The senator also cautioned Klein against expecting to finish the mission in Bosnia in two years. He referred to the Bosnian mission as a rare opportunity in modern-day Europe to build a multi-ethnic state. He said the United States will support what he called the considerable resources contributed by Europe to make the effort successful. (Robert McMahon)

Srebrenica, Five Years On. Part II. (Part I appeared on 8 December. This is a report from Srebrenica by RFE/RL's correspondent Jolyon Naegele.)

Five-and-a-half years after the mass murders by Bosnian Serb forces of Muslim men, the biggest problem Srebrenica faces is not the massacre's legacy. Rather, it is the town's ongoing occupation by displaced Serbs from Muslim- and Croat-administered parts of Bosnia.

The refugees say their homes were burned down and they have no jobs to go back to. They are occupying the homes of Srebrenica's original inhabitants -- Muslims and Serbs alike.

Stanojka Najerec is a 77-year-old pensioner from Donji Vakuf in west central Bosnia. She too says she has nowhere to return to since her house was burned down. She adds that she lost two sons and a grandson in the fighting. After living in refugee camps, she and her daughter were settled by Bosnian Serb authorities in Srebrenica, where she says they have been for the past five years. "I barely get by. I have nothing, no land, no property, nothing, no money, just a small pension -- 70 [German] marks for the last three months. They used to give 50 [marks] a month, now they give less than half that."

Najerec says she lives on a diet of bread. She asks: "How can I buy anything if I have no money, and medicines are expensive?"

The Republika Srpska minister in charge of returns to Srebrenica is Senad Subosica. He says some 9,000 displaced Serbs from the Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation reside in the town and the surrounding municipal district, making up the overwhelming majority of its current population. In addition, he says, there are almost 1,300 displaced Serbs from destroyed villages elsewhere in the Srebrenica area who are occupying other people's homes in the town.

Subosica admits that until the displaced Serbs vacate the houses they are now occupying, the return of former Muslim and Serbian residents will be very difficult. "In arranging the resettlement of [Muslims] here and simultaneously finding alternative housing for the current users of this property, Srebrenica is a particularly difficult position, because about 60 percent of its housing has been destroyed."

Subosica says that a two-way project for mass resettlement is being prepared, which requires cooperation with all the communities in the Federation, from which Serb residents fled to Srebrenica. In his words: "we will help these municipalities to take back their citizens in a dignified manner so as to enable the dignified return of Srebrenica's Muslims and other displaced residents to their homes."

Srebrenica Serb Mirko Sekulic, an unemployed waiter, lost his wife to a sniper's bullet during the fighting and is now struggling to raise his two children on his own. He says he feels like a foreigner in his own town because of the large number of displaced Serbs from other parts of Bosnia, who far outnumber everyone else in Srebrenica: "New people have come here from elsewhere and they have taken places here that should be inhabited by those who always lived in Srebrenica. But the people who sometimes show up on the square to sell a bag of potatoes have taken over the [Muslim] homes as well as posts in local government -- and one can't get around them. These people are narrow-minded and politically very illiterate."

Mirko's older brother, Marinko, is a frequent visitor to Srebrenica. But for the time being, he continues to live in Tuzla in the Muslim-Croat federation with his Muslim wife. Marinko Sekulic says: "I want to move back here as soon as there are normal conditions. [That means] my children can live in security, my wife and I can earn a living, and above all, that we free up our house so that I have somewhere to return to. At the moment, I have nowhere to live here."

Marinko Sekulic, who works as a reporter for RFE/RL's South Slav Service, says that before the war some 11,000 people were employed in the Srebrenica area. Today, only 200 are employed, mainly in office jobs with local authorities or with international organizations and non-governmental organizations. (Jolyon Naegele) Part III will appear on 19 December.

Quotations Of The Week. "The story [in Bosnia] is a partial success and I would hope that the next government of the United States, including the Congress, would support finishing the job." -- U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, at the UN on 11 December. Reported by RFE/RL's correspondent Robert McMahon.

"In the interim, I can't imagine anybody walking away from a situation [in Kosovo] because otherwise you'd have a war again. But nobody wants to stay in the Balkans forever. We're looking for a way to phase out. We don't want another situation like Korea where 47 years later we still have 40,000 troops there." -- Holbrooke.

"The future status of Kosovo requires an internationally supervised agreement between Belgrade and the leaders of Kosovo. That requires an international conference. Before the conference, there's going to have to be another election, a Kosovo-wide election." -- Holbrooke.

"We are not interested in working with whoever is a prime minister [in the Republika Srpska] if it [is in] a government that includes [Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party]. U.S. assistance anywhere in the world is not entitlement. We do not owe anyone anything." -- U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Thomas Miller. Quoted by Reuters on 12 December.

"I go around the country and I find a lot of warmth for the monarchy, a lot of interest. Monarchy is a very fine solution.... I'm neutral, I can provide unity and continuity." -- Serbian Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, quoted by AP in Belgrade on 13 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2000).