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Balkan Report: May 5, 1999

5 May 1999, Volume 3, Number 17

Planning for the Future. A number of proposals for the post-Kosova Balkans have appeared recently, most notably German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's plan for a Southeastern European Regional Roundtable. His and other ideas will be fleshed out in the coming weeks, especially at a conference that the German government will host in Bonn on May 27. The time is certainly ripe to review some principles that might underlie any future regional development plan that would include Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and perhaps Moldova as well.

The goal of most of these proposals is to put an end to Balkan regional instability. The various plans are comprehensive and directed not only toward repairing wartime damage (much of which was done to obsolete communist-era or even older infrastructure), but to provide thorough-going modernization and development of the respective economies, societies, and political cultures and bring them up to contemporary European standards (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 16, 27 April 1999).

Such a comprehensive regional development project is historically unprecedented in the Balkans. It will require long-term planning and commitment for at least 20 to 30 years, not only by the U.S., Canada, and the EU, but also by Turkey as a relatively prosperous regional power. Turkey and EU member Greece in particular stand to gain not only by providing and acquiring markets, but also by carving out their respective niches as regional leaders. This will require vision, statesmanship and consistency on the parts of Ankara and Athens. The rewards for them and their neighbors could be great.

Indeed, any successful project must be one in which there is something for everyone. For the West, such a plan means a peaceful and prosperous Balkans. At least some key segments in the leaderships in North America and the EU appear to have learned from the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession that trouble in the Balkans affects their interests, is costly, and will not simply "go away" without active and long-term involvement by the international community. The EU and North America cannot afford to pretend that developments in the Balkans do not concern them, or that one country or one group of countries can deal with the region's problems alone.

The developed countries must be prepared, moreover, to give the countries of the region a series of carrot-and-stick incentives to help bring their economies, societies and political cultures into line with modern Western standards. This means guaranteeing serious prospects for admission to Euro-Atlantic structures for those who comply, and negative incentives for those who stubbornly refuse to observe European norms.

The road will not be easy for any of the parties concerned. But progress is likely if it is clear to all that the undertaking is serious and that the positive and negative incentives are real.

If regional development as a whole presents one set of problems and opportunities, the role of Serbia involves a second set of issues. The Serbs occupy a strategic position at the center of the Balkans. Their leaders, moreover, have been the ones most responsible for the destruction of the former Yugoslavia and for the subsequent wars. No program for regional development can afford to exclude Serbia.

But the international community can no more afford to leave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in power than the architects of post-1945 Europe could tolerate the idea of keeping Adolf Hitler in office. Each of those two dictators rose to power by exploiting and fueling a national persecution complex during troubled economic times, and each stayed in power by appealing to nationalism. Each man received broad support at home and precious little domestic opposition. Each waged a bloody war of expansion and genocide -- albeit on vastly different scales -- against his neighbors. And each brought great misery and suffering upon his own people, who nonetheless proved unable or unwilling to rid themselves of their tormentor.

Hitler was destroyed by the combined land, sea, and air might of a powerful coalition. Whether Western leaders care to admit it publicly or not, this is how Milosevic is likely to end, too. And just as the Germans had to pay for their wars with the loss of East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, and other territories, the Serbs have lost or will likely lose their control not only over large areas of Croatia and Bosnia, but also over all of Kosova, which is the scene of their most vicious campaign of genocide.

Furthermore, like Austria after 1945, Montenegro seems all but certain to go its own way as a separate state in a post-Milosevic Balkans. And like Austria, it will try to deny that it had anything to do with the dictator, who was its own son and whom it had supported so long as the going was good.

The German analogy is also worth considering for the post-war picture. The allies introduced tough measures of demiltarization and de-Nazification in their respective zones, and they tried and punished war criminals. The international community could now provide a similar program of tutelage until a democratic, non-nationalist culture has taken root in Serbian politics, education, and the media.

It is not easy to see who might lead a future democratic Serbia. The current Serbian opposition has repeatedly shown itself to be opportunistic or ineffective. The Serbian public seems oblivious to the sufferings of the Kosovars and united in its opposition to what Milosevic's propaganda machine calls "NATO aggression." Only 27 intellectuals signed a recent petition that even mentioned ethnic cleansing in Kosova (the petition primarily railed against "NATO aggression"). The students -- in whom foreign democrats recently placed so much hope -- now seem more interested in jiving to music provided by Milosevic's bands while wearing his anti-NATO propaganda symbols than in protesting genocide against their fellow citizens. The once-independent newspapers and broadcasters have gotten into line or been forced into submission.

Germany's political future looked pretty bleak in 1945, too, and very few people had heard of Konrad Adenauer or Kurt Schumacher. But Germany relied on its own democratic traditions and generous tutelage from the Western allies. Eventually, the Federal Republic took its place among the leading democracies of modern Europe. Similar patience and dedication by the international community could soon help return the Serbs -- who have at least as much a democratic tradition as any of their Balkan neighbors -- to their place at the figurative as well as literal center of southeastern Europe.

"Ghandism Is Dead Among Kosovars." RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcast on April 26 included a commentary by journalist Kitty McKinsey, who spent the past few weeks in refugee camps inside Macedonia and interviewed refugees about their suffering. She says that "the face of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's attempts to clear Kosovo of all its ethnic Albanian inhabitants will for me forever be that of a little black-haired, twelve-year-old girl," who witnessed the killing of her grandfather and two uncles by Serbian forces. Few words can describe the horrors that the Kosovar refugees went through, Ms. McKinsey added. She went on to compare the life that the refugees had before with what they have now, after having lost everything, including their identity papers. The refugees support the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, hoping to be able to return soon to Kosova. At the same time, Milosevic's actions have totally destroyed their faith in the passive resistance preached and practiced for a decade by their leader Ibrahim Rugova. Milosevic has been the best recruiter for the Kosova Liberation Army. As one young Albanian man put it: "Ghandism is dead forever for the Kosovars."

Quotations of the Week. French President Jacques Chirac said on April 27 that the French government has "great esteem�for Albania, which with extraordinary generosity opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians...chased like beasts by the Serbs."

"The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) is in Kosova to defend human lives. These young people, who average 22 years of age, are sacrificing their lives to save others." -- Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, with Chirac, on April 27.

"We have to be ready to die for Prishtina because to die for Prishtina is to die for the future of Europe. Americans have died for Europe twice. Now we have to make sacrifices to show that this continent will no longer tolerate policies that recall Stalin." -- French philosopher Andre Glucksmann, in "The New York Times" of April 26.

"To all of you who have not seen a war, especially the younger generations, I want to tell you that this conflict is exemplary. It is not based on hidden economic or strategic concerns, but on a concept of morality and the honor of nations. To accept the horrors that we have witnessed would mean losing our soul. It would allow an unspeakable gangrene to settle once more on our continent." -- President Chirac, on May 3.

"Regardless of the war circumstances, our duty and primary goal is to struggle to achieve mutual trust and peace...for all in Kosovo." -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, on April 29. He hailed the previous day's "agreement" between Serbian leaders and their prisoner, Ibrahim Rugova, as the "first victory on the road to peace."

The crisis in Kosova "has made southeastern Europe strategically the most important region in Europe." -- German Deputy Foreign Minister Guenther Verheugen, on April 27.

"NATO cannot expect southeastern Europe to change in an economic, political, and social point of view unless a helping hand is extended to this region. I believe this is the best response to the supernationalism which has reigned in this area." -- Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, April 25.

"The Albanians would never have rebelled against Yugoslavia. They would have never wanted to separate from Kosovar territory if they had not been encouraged by the outside world." -- JUL chair and Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, on May 2.

AP on Norwegian psychiatrists' work with traumatized Kosovars in Macedonia, April 29: "Have you thought about the future yet?" Dr. Solberg asked a group of teenage boys. "Yes," one finally shouted after several moments of silence. "I want to kill Serbs." The others clenched their fists and bellowed their approval. "Especially among the older boys, there is so much anger," said Solberg. "It's understandable, of course. But if it's not dealt with, it can eat up their lives."

"One thing is clear: If Yugoslavia is sacrificed to NATO through Chernomyrdin, he will effectively ruin his own political future. No matter what motivates Yeltsin, Primakov, Ivanov, and others to justify their decision to give up Yugoslavia, NATO's victory will mean the end of Russia's authority. The West will never take the country and its leaders seriously again." Andranik Migranian, scholar and political commentator on international politics and strategy, on April 28 in Moscow.

"It would be better to have the third world war than to wait for somebody to kill you little by little. Russia has the potential. It should bang its fist on the table, open its nuclear hangars and target them on America and tell them to behave. After all, Yeltsin should take his shoe off as Khrushchev did at the UN in 1956 and bang it on the table. I must say that 25 days have passed since they started air strikes and Russia has not stirred a finger. The registration of volunteers is one thing. We need something more specific. We need weapons, we need missiles." -- Serbian indicted war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan," on Russian RTR television, April 25.

"At last, its has become clear to all in the world: bearers of the highest truth are 19 [NATO] states. Now it is they -- precisely with the U.S. in the lead -- who will decide which zone of their interests to choose, and they will do there what they will. This is nothing but a return to medievalism: the strongest side is always right� [This is] cannibalism." -- Vladimir Lukin, the international affairs committee chairman of the Duma lower house, on April 27.

"We stress our solidarity with the Yugoslav people and leadership in the face of aggression and external threats to this country." -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, on April 27.

Editorial comments on Vuk Draskovic, April 27: "The truth from a court jester" ("Sueddeutsche Zeitung"), "Not serious" ("Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung"), "A political muddle-head" (same newspaper, next day).

"We give most of them 24 hours to get out. The rich ones -- and they're all criminals, you know, with satellite TVs and big houses -- were tougher to move. But if you push hard enough, they all go in the end." -- Serbian truck driver on his experiences in ethnic cleansing, in "The Guardian," April 27.

"Kosovo is not worth my life. It's not part of the 20th century." -- Serbian veteran of the war in Croatia and now draft dodger, in the same British daily.

"I am not among those who soothe their adolescent complex by applauding bombs falling on Belgrade." -- Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, in Kladno, on April 24.

"The Serbs are Europeans." -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, April 27.

"You're in Europe, but in some ways you're at the end of the world." -- UNHCR spokesman Ray Wilkinson, on April 29, about Albania. (A French NGO worker once told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" that in Albania "time and space take on an entirely new dimension.")

"Bosnia-Herzegovina has been getting on quite well, but the situation is being complicated by Kosovo. My message is: do not forget Bosnia." -- High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina Carlos Westendorp, April 26.