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Balkan Report: July 2, 1999

2 July 1999, Volume 3, Number 26

Three Thoughts on Democracy in Serbia.

The legacy of Milosevic's four lost wars has recently prompted an interest in Western capitals in promoting democracy in Serbia. Part of the goal is to eliminate the main source of Balkan instability, once and for all. Much has been written on the subject in recent weeks, and more will no doubt follow. In the ensuing discussion, one might also raise these three points.

First, democracy comes from the bottom up. The focus of efforts to promote a transformation in Serbia should start with local and grass-roots efforts, including groups from the civil society and independent media. "Danas" wrote on 30 June that the German government plans to help opposition-run cities. That will be well and good if it happens. But one should not forget that previous pledges by the EU and other foreign sources to help Serbian independent media and the civil society have not always materialized, as the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 28 June.

Furthermore, in concentrating on local initiatives, one should not waste energy in lamenting the absence of some admirable and dynamic national political leader--a "Serbian Cory Aquino," as Richard Holbrooke recently put it. There are many opposition-party mayors and other local leaders who deserve support. Many prominent Western leaders began their careers in local or regional politics. Might Serbia some day soon offer similar examples?

Second, use the international protectorate over Kosova to make it a safe haven for Serbian democracy, including NGO's and the independent media (see "'RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 25). One recalls that in Habsburg times the Vojvodina played a similar role in bringing modern European culture and politics to the Serbs of Serbia proper. The Kosova protectorate now provides a golden opportunity both for Serbian democrats and for the international community. Perhaps the time has come for those concerned to seriously discuss the possibilities with each other.

Before all else, however, Kosova has to be made safe for Serbs. Ending the revenge attacks and restoring an atmosphere of safety and security should be top priorities for KFOR. They are also necessary prerequisites if the international protectorate is to serve as a vehicle for promoting democracy in Serbia proper.

Third, perhaps time has come for giving serious consideration to the restoration of the Karadjordjevic dynasty in Serbia (see below). The decision to do so will obviously be a matter for the Serbs themselves, but foreign governments might want to think about what role, if any, they might seek to play. They might reflect, for example, on whether they wish to treat Crown Prince Aleksandar as a private citizen or as something else.

The main argument for the restoration is that a good constitutional monarch could provide a stabilizing and guiding influence in Serbia's transition to democracy. The role of Spain's Juan Carlos in his country's transition comes to mind. The monarchist tradition is strong in Serbia, and among Serbs outside its boundaries. Aleksandar's British education and his exposure to British political culture might be just the qualifications that would best recommend a constitutional monarch in a troubled country like present-day Serbia.

The main argument against a restoration has been that a majority of Serbs do not support it, at least according to polls in the past. Perhaps in view of the dramatic events of the past few months, however, it's time for some fresh opinion surveys. A democratically elected Serbian parliament might choose to settle the issue by calling a referendum.

A second set of negative arguments involves Aleksandar personally. Critics charge that he is a man of only average intelligence. They add that his command of Serbo-Croatian is very limited, noting that he was born and raised in Britain and never expected to reclaim the throne.

Whatever the merits of the first argument, it fails to appreciate that he has apparently shown excellent judgment in selecting good advisors and following their suggestions. And with his British background, Aleksandar may be precisely the sort of individual best suited to serve Serbia in these difficult times

And as to the language issue, it might be recalled that most of the Balkan countries were ruled at one time or another in the past hundred-odd years by foreign-born monarchs who had little knowledge of their people's language. One exception was Serbia, where the two rival dynasties--Karadjordjevic and Obrenovic--were both home grown. Given his family's place in Serbian history, perhaps many Serbs would be willing to forgive Aleksandar on the language issue. In any event, he has two young sons who could still master the intricacies of Serbo-Croatian declensions. (Patrick Moore)

Anti-Milosevic Protest in Cacak. Some 10,000 persons defied a police ban and attended a demonstration organized by the opposition Alliance for Change in Cacak on 29 June. Police set up roadblocks outside the town to prevent busses bringing in demonstrators from elsewhere from arriving.

Mayor Velimir Ilic, who has been in hiding from Milosevic's police for several weeks, told the crowd that Milosevic's regime had "made Serbia ashamed of its own name. They made us into monsters and God punished us" the London-based daily "The Independent" quoted him as saying. Former General Vuk Obradovic argued that Milosevic is the person "most responsible for the war, the economic catastrophe, and hunger," AP reported. Alliance leader Vladan Batic said "we'll go from town to town, house to house, man to man and light the torch of democracy in Serbia," the "Financial Times" noted. Balkan studies expert Milan Protic added: "This government has shamed us in front of ourselves, in front of God, and in front of the whole world."

It was the first large opposition political rally in Serbia since NATO ended its bombing campaign earlier in June. (Patrick Moore)

Claimant To Yugoslav Throne Seeks Change. Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic said in Podgorica on 28 June that "Yugoslavia needs radical changes to get out of the current crisis. We need radical changes to society and the state. ...I believe we must support the proposal of our Church to form a government of national salvation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999). He concluded that "our people have a great future, but they must wake up and get to work," AFP quoted him as saying.

Aleksandar said at the historic seat of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in Peja on 29 June that Milosevic is a "monster." The son of Yugoslavia's last king added: "Milosevic must go for the sake of Yugoslavia." Aleksandar joined Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle in urging Serbian civilians not to leave Kosova.

The prince stressed that the purpose of his trip is to promote democracy in Serbia. Aleksandar has said previously that he is willing to "offer his services to the people" if that would help the democratic cause (see above). The "Los Angeles Times" reported on 30 June that Aleksandar's portrait hangs in place of Milosevic's in many city halls in Serbia and that some protesters in Cacak carried pictures of the royal family. (Patrick Moore)

Intellectuals Want Milosevic To Go. A group of Belgrade intellectuals known as "Apel 50" issued a statement on 28 June in which they called on Milosevic to resign and prepare the way for the formation of a "government of national salvation," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The intellectuals added that Milosevic's polices have led to "capitulation" and to "the most serious defeat for the Serbian state and people." The authorities must launch an immediate investigation of war crimes so that the guilty can be punished and the majority of Serbs absolved of any complicity, the statement concluded. (Patrick Moore)

Call For Protection for Serbs in Kosovo. Patriarch Pavle, Archbishop Artemije, and Kosovo Serbian leader Momcilo Trajkovic recently sent an open letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and several Western leaders, in which they called for KFOR to better protect Serbs in Kosovo. The letter was made public for St. Vitus' Day, or Vidovdan, 28 June, which is the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389.

The text noted: "It is hard to understand how it is possible that in spite of the presence of at least 20,000 members of KFOR, the worst crimes ever are taking place [against local] Serbs. If KFOR does not intervene, it could encourage various gangs of killers and looters, especially in the western parts of the province." The three Serbian leaders added that "it is necessary that [ethnic] Albanian leaders understand that those who are responsible for the crimes against Serbs will be treated in the same manner as those who are responsible for the crimes in the previous period."

The three stressed that the "Serbian community is ready to cooperate in the reconstruction of democracy...only if the basic security is secured." If it is not, the letter continued, the Serbs will have to provide for their own security. (Patrick Moore)

Views on Vidovdan. RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters included in their 28 June programming reflections by several prominent individuals on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's speech at Gazimestan. He gave that address ten years ago to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje.

The speech was not one of Milosevic's more belligerent ones on the subject of Kosova--he had made many more aggressive ones previously during his rise to power. The speech nonetheless was memorable because of the anniversary and the crowd that came from far and wide to hear Slobo. Some of his most devoted supporters were Serbs from Kosova.

One of the reflections was by Ivan Stambolic, who was Milosevic's mentor until Milosevic ousted him in 1987 in the course of his own rise to the top:

This time we have lost Kosovo itself. This misfortune, [although not as large as the loss in 1389], can not be made into a victory. After 12 years a bloody circle has been closed. I together with my sympathizers have been expelled from the state [service] because we tried but were not able to solve the Kosovo problem. Now it has-- while stumbling around mindlessly from one misfortune to the next, in a fast torrent of violence. ...[In view of] all of this pain and death, it only seems moral for [Milosevic] to resign."

Former Belgrade Mayor Bogdan Bogdanovic, from Vienna: I think that 10 years after the Gazimestan speech of Milosevic, this symbol of our youth, patriotism, and poetry has been turned into a farce through its monstrous transformation by Milosevic. This is doubly regrettable because this farce led to a bloodier farce. That large meeting, which Milosevic used [for his own purposes] was the beginning of a chain of large wars. Milosevic as a great warrior entered in one war after the other. He lost them all in a good and comical but still bloody way. I recall in the years when the wars started and I saw him wearing a uniform, I realized that he never served [in the military] and was not a soldier. This man who was not a soldier has become famous in Serbian history. [He is a man] whom future generations will want to erase from their memories. We have to find a new way for Serbia, if such a way exists at all.

Azem Vllasi, who is a former ethnic Albanian SKJ chief in Kosova, was in the infamous Mitrovica prison on Vidovdan 1989: In effect the war against the Albanians in Kosova had started 1988. In Gazimestan, Milosevic announced that he would also launch a war against the other peoples of Yugoslavia. The Serbs had great hopes that they could turn the war that they lost 600 years ago into a victory. Milosevic misused the Serbian myth about Kosova to create victims and cause pain to peoples other than we Albanians, but after ten years he turned it into a great loss for the Serbs themselves. Milosevic caused four wars over these 10 years and all four he has lost. We Albanians, coming out of the Serbian genocidal war heavily hurt, like the Bosnians, hope to put that history behind us and join the civilized Western world. Milosevic and his supporters remain outside that civilized world [with their values] from the Middle Ages. After [getting rid of Milosevic], the Serbs will enter the civilized world, albeit with difficulties. The genocide that the Serbian people attempted against us will come back at the Serbs like a boomerang. We will have to make sure that in the future we keep our fate in our hands and not in those of a medieval regime. (Translated by Fabian Schmidt, notes by Patrick Moore)

Forensic Team Finds No Bodies From Izbica Massacre. A team of French forensic experts investigating a suspected mass grave near Izbica on 28 June failed to discover the bodies of 160 villagers believed to have been buried there, "The New York Times" reported. The experts said nonetheless that there is plenty of forensic evidence, including AK-47 and Russian 7.62 mm bullets. There are also bone fragments as well as other signs suggesting that Serbian forces removed the bodies before the arrival of KFOR troops. The grave site is mentioned in the indictment of Milosevic by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. The investigators also possess satellite pictures showing the graves, as well as a videotape made by a local villager showing the bodies of the victims. (Fabian Schmidt)

Where Did Bukoshi's Guerrillas Get Stolen Albanian Army Weapons? Albanian army prosecutors told the "Albanian Daily News" of 25 June that they have discovered evidence that units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova (FARK), which is close to shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi, had weapons recently stolen from Albanian army depots. The prosecutors said that about 600 FARK fighters left an "arsenal" of weapons behind when they left Albania for Kosova last week. The weapons had been stolen from one depot in the Kruja district and another near Tirana in 1998. FARK soldiers reportedly used the UCK insignia and had their base in the Tropoja district since early 1998.

Unnamed police investigators also told the "Albanian Daily News" of 25 June that some unspecified "Albanians with criminal backgrounds," from Lezha, Lac, Shkodra, and Tropoja joined the guerrillas, but did not elaborate. The investigators added that that some of them are suspected of involvement in blowing up several high-voltage towers in northern Albania at various times during 1998. (Fabian Schmidt)

First Turkish Troops Leave for Kosova. A convoy of 52 military vehicles left Ankara on 1 July for Kosova via Bulgaria and Macedonia. Turkey's NATO ally Greece--which is reportedly allowing Russian forces to arrive by sea at Thessaloniki-- refused to allow the Turkish convoy to cross its territory, thereby causing a delay in the departure of the vehicles, Reuters reported.

A second group of troops will travel to Prizren by train on 2 July, and a third and final contingent will fly to Skopje on 7 July before going on to Kosova. The Turks will be stationed in southwestern Kosova, where many ethnic Turks live.

Since the collapse of communism, Turkey has shown a keen interest in reestablishing close ties with several Balkan countries, particularly with Bosnia and Albania, but with others as well. (Patrick Moore)

Ivanov Acknowledges Serbian Atrocities in Kosova. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov published an article in a supplement to "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" on 30 June, in which he acknowledged that Serbian forces in Kosova used "unacceptable measures with the help of which Belgrade tried to solve the problem of ethnic balance in Kosova by itself." Ivanov said that this was "regrettable." He added, however, that both the NATO air-campaign and the "repressive actions in the country" contributed to the "particular internal bitterness in the post-conflict period." (Fabian Schmidt)

Lebed Warns of 'Mini-Chechnya." Presidential candidate and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told Interfax in Moscow on 30 June that Kosova could turn into a "mini-Chechnya" for Russia. Lebed stressed that "Albanians regard Russian troops as a hostile force...(so)...disarmament of Albanian units by Russian will inevitably lead to fighting and a mini-Chechnya." Lebed also noted that "the sending of this contingent will more than halve the number of combat-ready troops in Russia.... The situation in the Caucasus is such that these troops could be needed there very shortly."

Colonel-General Georgii Shpak dismissed the warnings, saying that "the truth is that the situation around our peacekeepers is fine and calm, there are no excesses." (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations of the Week. "They did not kill [shadow-state President Ibrahim] Rugova, they will not kill me. And they won't kill those [young] men either, because I will be a witness." -- LDK leader Fehmi Agani, shortly before Serbian police killed him on 6 May. Quoted by AP on 28 June.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on 28 June that "by meeting massive ethnic cleansing in the Balkans with a red light, we make it less likely that NATO will be called upon to use force in the future. ...Until now, independence has seemed the only alternative to repression. But in the future, Kosovars will have something they have never had, which is genuine self-government."

"It will require spine to see that all citizens are protected, regardless of ethnicity; and that power flows from the UN to the people of Kosovo, not back to Belgrade." -- Albright to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on 30 June.

"We do not want a future with the Americans. Their policy of conquering the world is even more perfidious and criminal than Hitler's methods. If I were in power, I would retaliate by putting up $6 million for apprehending Clinton as a war criminal. Our future is in an alliance with Russia and Belarus." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj.

"Serbia will pay for the Russian army to stay on its territory and guarantee a peaceful life to its population." -- Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to senior researchers at Moscow State University, on 29 June.

"The world has become convinced that no solution to the Balkan problems can be found without Russia." -- Russian former special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, on 1 July.

"Reconstruction and reforms, reestablishment of economic and cultural ties will all [countries]--above all with the progressive and democratic countries--on an equal footing, as well as affirmation of an open system of market economy, are our top goals in this period." -- Milosevic to his top aides, on 29 June.

"Perhaps there was more silence than there had to be, perhaps the Church or Church officials should have spoken out more loudly. But I'm afraid that no Christian can support the values that the Milosevic regime supports. That person cannot be a Christian." -- Father Sava, aide to Artemije, commenting on the Church's failure to firmly oppose Milosevic until recently.

"If the only way to create a greater Serbia is by crime, I don't accept it. Let Serbia disappear." -- Patriarch Pavle, quoted in the "Los Angeles Times" of 29 June.

This year's commemoration of the Battle of Kosovo Polje "differs from the previous ones: there will be no hypocrisy in it, in its celebration the godless leaders of our people will take no part." -- Statement of the Serbian Orthodox Church on 27 June.

"The root of all evil." -- Artemije and Trajkovic, on Vidovdan, describing Milosevic.

"Thanks to [Milosevic's] policies, there are no more Serbs in Krajina, there are no more Serbs in Slavonia, there are no more Serbs in western Bosnia, and Serbia has received about 60,000 refugees who are still not being well cared for." -- Artemije

"Who gave the order for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo's Albanians as well as for their expulsions and mass executions?...Kosovo's Albanians and the international community will hold the entire Serbian nation responsible for this until the instructors and perpetrators of war crimes are detected and brought to trial." -- Tito-era Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milos Minic, in an open letter to Milosevic on 23 June.

"This regime should know the workers will not work for them for peanuts any more, nor will they rebuild the country for free." -- Dragan Milovanovic, leader of Serbia's Association of Autonomous and Independent Unions, to Reuters on 28 June.

"The mood here among the Serbian refugees is different [from that among ethnic Albanian refugees]. There is much anger and resentment at their own government, which has done little to help them. ...The look in their eyes [is very different from that of the Albanians]. It's a look of total abandonment. ...It's not so much the little they get in terms of aid...blankets, food, and such...but the universal lack of attention. They feel they are going to be the ones to pay the ultimate price for this horrible war." -- Paula Biocca of the UN's World Food Program, to AP in Belgrade on 28 June.

"It started well but it's ending badly. Milosevic abandoned us." -- Kosova Serb woman, quoted in "The Guardian" of 29 June.

"We don't have problems with Albanians. We have problems with terrorists." -- Another Kosova Serb woman, quoted in the "Wall Street Journal" on 29 June.

"We cannot allow uncontrolled and enraged crowds [of ethnic Albanians] to bring justice." -- Artemije, quoted in the "Los Angeles Times" of 29 June.

"If that Serb's house weren't already in flames, I'd set it on fire myself." -- Unidentified Kosovar in Peja, quoted in the "Berliner Zeitung" of 30 June.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 25 June that "further disintegration of Yugoslavia would not serve to promote peace and stability in the Balkans. Moreover, independence would not be a panacea for the challenges that Montenegro faces."

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen on 29 June thanked Romania for supporting the NATO strikes in Yugoslavia but told his visiting Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, that while NATO's door remains open, "the steps leading to that door are very high," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported.