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Balkan Report: June 8, 1999

8 June 1999, Volume 3, Number 22

A Monumental--And Necessary--Enterprise. A decade and a half ago, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger headed a bi-partisan commission to investigate the causes of the ongoing crisis in Central America and to propose solutions. He and his colleagues reached three broad-based conclusions.

First, the problems affecting the region could be tackled only on a regional and not on a country-by-country basis. The various countries' problems had common origins, which were often deeply rooted in their common history.

Second, the solutions to the region's myriad problems were also inter-related. These issues included promoting democracy, advancing the causes of human rights and civil society, speeding economic recovery and development, and guaranteeing security. It thus would not do simply to arm the Nicaraguan Contras or only to punish right-wing regimes that violated human rights.

And third, the U.S., what is now the EU, and perhaps other countries would need to maintain a sustained commitment to the region, and not act only when a crisis blew up.

In the meantime, peace has returned to Central America. All the countries of the region have democratically elected governments. Its biggest recent economic setback came from Hurricane Mitch and not from any man-made disaster or violent revolution. The region still has a long way to go politically and economically, and the commitment from abroad has been uneven. But Central America has long disappeared from the list of the world's trouble spots. (Did you notice that El Salvador just elected a new president?)

In recent weeks, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has developed a plan for a "regional security pact" for the Balkans. It would be the first such project in the history of Southeastern Europe. The details have still to be fleshed out, but the broad outlines loosely recall the recommendations of the Kissinger commission for Central America over 15 years ago.

The security pact would include special provisions for the vulnerable western Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and a post-Milosevic Serbia. This is to ensure that peace in that part of the region is not soon endangered again. Some regional countries--such as Greece, Turkey, and Slovenia--could play a key role in helping their less stable neighbors.

There has, in any event, been much discussion about the pact and its prospects recently in the international media and at a series of conferences. (One such conference, "The Balkans in the Year 2010," took place in Sofia in May under the leadership of Sofia's Centre for Liberal Strategies, Bonn's Center for European Integration Studies, and other prominent NGO's.)

Many experts participating in the ongoing discussion agree that the key point is that the countries of Southeastern Europe be given a realistic perspective for integration into Euro-Atlantic structures on a step-by-step basis. Each country should be considered on its own merits and not lumped together with one or all of its neighbors. And no country should be excluded from the process of integration once it makes a basic commitment to democracy and human rights, an open economy, and respect for the sovereignty of its neighbors.

Concrete issues on the table could include the establishment of a regional free-trade and free-travel zone, as well as exchanges in education, culture, and the media. Attention should be paid to developing a sound infrastructure, including east-west road and rail links. The western Balkan countries should be given their own individual association agreements with the EU, while negotiations on full membership for Bulgaria and Romania could start as early as next year. And as links are forged to the EU, one should not forget the possibility of expanding contacts to other members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization as well.

A key principle in all these endeavors should be to aim for obtaining quick and sound results, even if it means sometimes by-passing the labyrinth of rules and regulations established in Brussels. For example, one British economist has suggested further stabilizing the Bosnian and Bulgarian economies--which now have currencies pegged to the German mark--by introducing the Euro as soon as it begins to circulate in Western Europe. This would mean using a variant of the "Panamanian model." Panama has its own currency--the Balboa--and coins with denominations in cents and Balboas circulate. But no paper Balboas exist--and the currency itself is chiefly a paper accounting device to preserve a trapping of sovereignty. In reality, the "Balboa" is the U.S. dollar--and those are the bills that actually circulate. The British expert argues that there is little reason why the same could not be done with Euro vis-a-vis the Bosnian convertible mark and the Bulgarian lev (perhaps to name but two currencies).

Many proposals for the stability pact certainly have their critics. Most EU countries are understandably reluctant to speed up the process leading to membership, lest the result be a greatly weakened EU through the admission of unprepared candidates with residually Stalinoid economies. Some NATO countries may be hesitant about an early new round of eastward expansion in view of the equivocal stands shown by new members Hungary and the Czech Republic toward the crisis in Kosova. And it still is not clear whether the international community is truly prepared to support the region politically and economically in the long haul.

But as Fischer and others have argued, the choice is between a serious program for regional development vs. the certainty of continued regional instability.

UCK Commander Talks to RFE/RL. The Chief of the General Staff of the UCK Agim Ceku talked early last week to RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters (see RFE/RL Balkan Report, No. 21, 1999).

Ceku: In Kosova there is a war and indeed a brutal war. In Kosova we have learned that when [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic announces that he will withdraw his forces, he does the opposite and steps up his military operations. This has also been the case in recent days.

The war centers mainly on the civilian population, which is defenseless. Civilians are being killed and massacred, and their houses looted and burned. But with time the NATO air strikes are beginning to show results, and the military incentive?? initiative?? is passing into our hands, slowly but surely.

RFE/RL: International news agencies report that there has been heavy fighting along the Albanian border, and other sources say that you have taken control of more villages.

Ceku: The Serbian forces will have to withdraw from the whole of Kosova. Naturally they will have to leave from the Albanian border first and then go into Serbia. We will protect the borders ourselves. As far as the villages are concerned, we will continue to liberate more and more areas of Kosova.

RFE/RL: U.S. General Wilson has said that the number of UCK soldiers has increased from 7,000 to 17,000 since the beginning of the NATO air strikes. Can you comment on this?

Ceku: I have heard his statement and regard it as support for the UCK. It is good to have friends who appreciate our increase in strength. But the number of 17,000 was from several days ago and is already outdated. The UCK is gaining both in numbers and in military experience.

RFE/RL: [The UCK's] Kosovapress [news agency] reports that Serbian soldiers have deserted from the Yugoslav army. Can you confirm these reports?

Ceku: This is true; there are lots of desertions. We even had reports about armed clashes within the Serbian forces. So far the Serbian army has lost all the wars it has started, and it is going to lose this one, too.

RFE/RL: What kind of damage has the NATO air campaign inflicted on the Serbs from your perspective?

Ceku: The air campaign teaches military analysts an interesting lesson at the end of this century. The alliance is very close to reaching its objectives in the war against Yugoslavia. Not only has NATO managed to severely damage the air defense system, but it has also been able to make it difficult for the Serbian forces to move about inside Kosova...and between Serbia and Kosova.

The entire military infrastructure in Yugoslavia has been destroyed, in particular its ability to produce military equipment and ammunition. Equally important is that NATO has managed to destroy the morale and the will of the Serb military and population, and will [force] them to accept the conditions set down by NATO and the international community.

RFE/RL: You have been a high-ranking officer in the Croatian army. What are the differences between the Croatian wars and Kosova?

Ceku: There are both similarities and differences. The similarities stem from the fact that we are fighting against the same enemy. That enemy has used the same strategy of mass killing, burnings, expulsions, and looting in both cases. And in Croatia too, the Serbs waged war mainly against the civilian population.

There are similarities in the military sphere as well. The Croatian army came of age during the war. This is important, and we will also win the war against the same enemy, but I believe it will be faster [that was the case with Croatia's 1991-1995 conflict].

The differences are, first of all, that in Croatia everybody was working to win the war. There was no division between the government and the opposition. Also in Croatia, the fighters had access to funds from the Diaspora. The other difference is that there was more equality of forces on the ground in Croatia, while here in Kosova we do not have tanks or heavy artillery pieces. The third difference is that we now have the strongest military alliance in the world behind us.

RFE/RL: What evidence about war crimes in Kosova does the UCK have?

Ceku: We have lots of material evidence. We have testimony of people who survived massacres. We have testimony also from Serbs who have surrendered. But all the hundreds of thousands of expelled Kosovars are also first-hand witnesses and can give testimony to the International Criminal Tribunal.

RFE/RL: Can you describe the humanitarian situation on the ground to us?

Ceku: The humanitarian situation is worsening every day. The UCK is engaged in protecting the civilian population. We have repeatedly asked for air drops of humanitarian aid and we are hoping for it every day.

RFE/RL: How do you see the future of the UCK?

Ceku: I believe that the war in Kosova will continue for some time. The Serbs have not yet fully understood that they have lost the war. We are waiting to achieve the independence of Kosova in peace and freedom. I hope that we will be able to reorganize the UCK into a regular army on a higher, developed level in cooperation with NATO and in a region of freedom and security. (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

Krasniqi Says UCK Will Disarm. After Milosevic and the Serbian parliament agreed to the G-8 plan, UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi told RFE/RL on 6 June that "the Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces [must] withdraw from Kosova. These forces have [committed] killings, massacres, and massive destruction. And if we achieve [the withdrawal], I am convinced that the UCK...will not reject a...demilitarization of itself and a transformation [into a police force], which will take place in close coordination with the U.S. and NATO."

Krasniqi warned that "Milosevic and his clan have [often] made agreements and commitments which they knew they would never carry out." He stressed that "the UCK has never attacked withdrawing Serbian forces and it will not do so now. But the Serbs claim that [the UCK does so in order] to justify Serbian operations, not only against the UCK but also against the civilian population." He stressed that "even in recent days [Serbian forces] have...shelled areas where the civilian population is hiding." (Fabian Schmidt)

Djindjic Appeals for the Serbs of Kosova. Zoran Djindjic, who is the leader of the opposition Serbian Democratic Party, appealed in a letter to international mediators for "serious guarantees for the security" of Kosova's Serbian minority, which makes up less than 10 percent of the province's population. Djindjic added that "it is difficult to imagine that most Serbs will stay" in Kosova without adequate guarantees for their safety. He addressed his letter to Russia's Viktor Chernomyrdin, Finland's Martti Ahtisaari, and Strobe Talbott of the U.S., RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 6 June.

The following day, "The Daily Telegraph" wrote that many Serbs in Kosova fear reprisal killings against them by the UCK once the peace agreement comes into effect. Many local Serbs have fought on the side of Milosevic's forces, the London-based daily added.

Many refugees arriving in Macedonia or Albania have told aid workers that they recognized some of their Serbian neighbors among their tormentors. Other accounts, however, note instances in which local Serbs protected their ethnic Albanian neighbors from Milosevic's forces or urged the Albanians to stay. (Patrick Moore)

Kosovar Minister Warns of Concentration Camps. RFE/RL's Albanian-language journalists recently spoke to Rama Buja, who was a member of the Kosovar delegation at Rambouillet and is now a member of Hashim Thaci's UCK-backed provisional government.

RFE/RL: [The UCK's] Kosovapress [news agency] reports that between 400 and 600 civilians were kidnapped recently near the village of Cikatov. Do you know what happened to them?

Buja: I have not heard about the number that you gave, but about 250, who were kidnapped in Gllogovc, but I know nothing more about it.

RFE/RL: Do you have any data about how many male Albanians the Serbian police still keep in different locations, such as the prison of Smrekonica?

Buja: I have heard according reports about camps that are similar to those in Bosnia, where thousands of people are kept also from Prizren, Ferizaj, Mitrovica, and Gjakova. There are about 14 such camps. Not all of them are former prison buildings but many are improvised buildings. We currently know, moreover, about 18 locations of mass graves. (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

How to Finance Bosnian TV? A new law is awaiting passage in the federal parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina. If parliament fails to act, it may find that, once again, the international community's Carlos Westendorp will do its work for it.

The main issue is no longer questions such as the use of the "Croatian" or "Bosnian" languages, but rather the allocation of resources and ultimately the problem of funding. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in particular does not find the projected figure of 55 million convertible marks (KM) realistic.

Government Education Minister Fahrudin Rizvanbegovic estimates the cost of two radio and television channels at 55 million KM per year, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 1 June. He calculates that license fees will bring in 35 million KM of that sum. The balance will come from advertising and the state budget, he concluded.

The proposed legislation gives the international community's high representative the right to name 14 out of 21 members of RTV Federacije BiH's governing Council. The HDZ is not happy with this provision, either.

The real issue is, of course, that the HDZ does not like the federation to begin with. It and its friends in Zagreb would dearly like to opt out of the wartime forced marriage with the Muslims and reestablish the Croatian para-state of Herceg-Bosna.

Westendorp is expected to leave his post later this month and return to Spanish politics. Whoever succeeds him in Sarajevo is likely to find the issue of RTV near the top of the agenda. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "Indeed we have a long experience of dealing with President Milosevic. We know with him that you look at the fine print of the contract first and foremost, and that is why we are determined to nail down every last detail in this military technical agreement so that later on there can be no misunderstanding, no misinterpretation, no ambiguity as to exactly what the Serbs are required to do. If that means that the talks at Kumanovo take a little bit longer, and NATO has to continue its air operations, then so be it. Better safe than sorry. We know that a little bit of care and patience at the beginning, before you sign an agreement with Belgrade, is better than endless heartaches afterwards."--NATO's Jamie Shea, on 6 June.

"Whenever Mr. Milosevic starts defending Serbian national interests, helped by Mr. [Vojislav] Seselj, all they leave behind are Serbian graveyards."--Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, on 29 May.

"No one can tell what is happening in this country any more." --Mayor Savo Paraca of Cetinje, Montenegro, to Reuters, on 31 May.

"NATO. Too many mistakes."--Unnamed Albanian army officer at Morina to AP on 1 June. NATO jets had just bombed Albanian army units holed up in Enver Hoxha's bunkers well inside Albanian territory.

"I was amazed at the reaction of the [Western] media [to the bombing]. Albania is not complaining. We never thought this would have been a risk-free operation. We are fully aware that we have to pay a dividend."--Albanian Ambassador to NATO Artur Kuko, on 3 June, as reported by AP.

"We have accepted all the G-8 principles--of course with alterations regarding the departure of the army and police troops...and the presence of an international peace mission."--The Yugoslav Third Army's General Nebojsa Pavkovic, on 1 June.

"Any settlement must be acceptable to the refugees and not just to NATO. I want to stress that point in case President Milosevic hasn't gotten it yet. I want him to know that we will not be fooled by tricks or ploys. This is not a time for playing games with the international community."--British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, on 2 June.

"Of course Slovenia is not part of the problem. Slovenia is part of the solution."--NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, on 1 June.

"The position of the international community is very clear: Dayton cannot and must not be revised." High Representative Carlos Westendorp, 1 June.