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Balkan Report: January 20, 1999

20 January 1999, Volume 3, Number 3

Why? The international community lost little time in expressing horror over the massacre of 45 ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian troops in Recak on January 15 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999). Few observers anywhere were willing to give much credence the official Serbian explanation that the deaths were the result of combat. This was especially so after the OSCE's William Walker noted that many of the victims had been killed "execution-style," and after news photos showed that many corpses had been subjected to decapitation or the age-old Balkan ritualistic practice of eye-gouging.

Several observers noted that the Recak massacre was not only the most brazen violation of the Milosevic-Holbrooke pact of October 12, but possibly the most grisly single killing spree since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched his crackdown nearly one year ago. The Serbian authorities must surely have known that such a bloody act would serve to drive Kosovars into the ranks of the UCK. The Serbs also could have foreseen that the atrocity would also provoke a hail of criticism from abroad.

The question thus arises as to why they staged what was obviously a planned and calculated atrocity to begin with. It could be that this was a classic case of that Balkan phenomenon known as "inat," or spiteful defiance, regardless of the consequences. According to this view, the massacre was a response to the humiliation of the security forces the week before by the UCK, who took eight Serbian soldiers prisoner. After the men�s release �- and prior to the expected release by the Serbs of nine Kosovars whom the security forces were holding -� the Serbian forces killed the 45 civilians in Recak to "teach the Albanians a lesson." That some of those Albanians would then join the UCK as a result of the butchery does not seem to have mattered to Belgrade.

The Serbs perhaps felt they would go unpunished because the international community lacked the political will to intervene militarily. This seemed all the more true because, even if that will were present, no NATO intervention was likely as long as the Serbs could use the OSCE civilian monitors as hostages. Thus, according to this interpretation, the Serbs could display "inat" without probably having to endure many consequences except for a verbal scolding by various foreign leaders.

"Inat" then went a step farther when the Belgrade authorities declared the OSCE's William Walker persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country. It still remains to be seen whether the Serbs will have to endure anything but stern lectures as a result.

Schwarz-Schilling's Advice. Germany's Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who is the international mediator in Bosnia, told Deutsche Welle on January 19 that the international community must be clear and tough with Milosevic if it wants to avoid further butchery in Kosova. First, the international community must set firm deadlines for him to remove his "illegal" army from the province and to reach an interim political settlement. Second, a clear policy and the real possibility of the use of military force must replace endless, empty talk.

He described the Milosevic-Holbrooke pact as "catastrophic" because it included no mandatory deadlines and was concluded without the participation of the Kosovars. Schwarz-Schilling stressed that the deal left "peaceful people" who have followed the path of non-violence for ten years at the continuing mercy of a "brutal dictator." The German stressed that Europe has shamelessly abandoned its responsibility for Kosova.

Thought for the Week. Roman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told the German-language Service of Vatican Radio on January 18 that he wonders what prominent German and other Western politicians would do if somebody drove them from their homes and would not allow them to return. The bishop said that Dayton is an imperfect agreement, but that it at least provides the legal basis for allowing refugees to go home. He stressed that those in positions of power and influence in the international community must take steps to enable the refugees to reclaim their houses and apartments. Bishop Komarica lamented the fact that the U.S., and not Europe, has taken the lead in solving problems in Bosnia, which is part of Europe.

Radio Bridge Appears as a Book. A collection of 100 programs from RFE/RL South Slavic Service's "Radio Bridge" has recently been published in Banja Luka. The book is called "Most dijaloga: Razgovori ratu usprkos" (Bridge of Dialogue: Conversations Despite War) and features Omer Karabeg's interviews with people on different sides of the post-1991 divides between April 1994 and June 1997.

The program began at a time when there were few, if any, opportunities for persons in, say, Belgrade to hold public dialogues with other prominent individuals in, for example, Zagreb or Sarajevo. Radio Most has meanwhile featured over 300 participants discussing topics ranging from the future of Kosova to the prospects for a civil society in the former Yugoslavia to the future of organized labor in both halves of Bosnia. Guests have included politicians, professors, economists, labor or religious leaders, representatives of NGO's, journalists, historians, and others.

Karabeg's texts have subsequently appeared at one time or another in a number of mainly non-nationalist publications across the former Yugoslavia. Among others, these include: "Nasa Borba" and "Danas" (Belgrade), "Oslobodjenje" and "Svijet" (Sarajevo), "Novi Prelom" (Banja Luka), "Koha Ditore" (Prishtina), "Monitor" (Podgorica), "Nova Makedonija" and "Puls" (Skopje), and "Novi List" (Rijeka).

RFE/RL Expands Broadcasts to Serbia. The South Slavic Service recently introduced a new program for Serbia between 2400 and 0200 hours daily, local time. It can be heard at 1197 medium-wave, and on short-wave at 6115, 7115, 9710 KHz. Additional five-minute South Slavic Service newscasts will also be broadcast at the top of the hour by 27 stations in Bosnia, one in Croatia, and six in Montenegro. Stations in Serbia, where there is a ban on rebroadcasting the programs of RFE/RL and other international broadcasters, may take the material from our web site and use it in preparing their own newscasts (

Serbian Weekly Published in Croatia. The independent Rijeka-based daily "Novi List" reported on January 13 that a Serbian periodical has been printed in Croatia for the first time since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The periodical in question is the weekly "Evropljanin," which is published by the editors of "Dnevni telegraf." Both the daily and the weekly have been banned by the Serbian authorities under the recent media law aimed at silencing publications critical of the Milosevic regime (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 46, 1998).

Quotes of the Week. Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, at a signing ceremony for the regional peacekeeping force in Athens on January 12: "What we are creating is a tool to be used to deal with security problems� because, whether we like it or not, this is an area where there are crises and problems." (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999.)

Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, on weapons-smuggling from northern Albania into Kosova: "I won't attempt to justify the smuggling of weapons, but the fact remains that there are Albanians in Kosova and that we are also Albanians." As quoted in Munich's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on January 14.

UCK Political representative Adem Demaci, at his December 29 press conference: "in Serbia and in what has remained from Yugoslavia, there is only one terrorism and this is the Serbian regime. This regime is using all possible means to terrorize the Albanian people, but not only them: this regime is also terrorizing its own people with different means and in different ways."

Bardhyl Mahmuti, who is a spokesman for the UCK, in Geneva on January 14: "If the Belgrade authorities refuse to free [the nine UCK members whom the Serbs recently captured near the Albanian frontier], it will be the last time the international community or the people who come from the international community knock on our door. Our doors will be closed."