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Balkan Report: July 20, 1999

20 July 1999, Volume 3, Number 28

President Kucan Looks At The Past, Present, And Future. Slovenian President Milan Kucan recently gave an extended interview to Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service. Kucan discussed his views on a variety of topics relating the area known as the former Yugoslavia. The following is a translation and summary of the interview.

The crisis in Kosovo has shown that the principle of sovereignty remains important but is not absolute. Europe was confronted with such flagrant violations of human rights that it could not sit by and allow such atrocities to continue, even if to act meant to violate the sovereignty of an internationally recognized state.

The point was that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic could only be stopped with force. He had unleashed a series of wars in the name of establishing a greater Serbia, including launching an attack on Bosnia. When I heard at that time of the Bosnian war from the UN and elsewhere that the conflict in Bosnia was "really" a religious or a civil war, it was then that I realized the extent of ignorance abroad about the nature of what the former Yugoslavia was and why it fell apart.

The only problem with intervention in Bosnia was that it came too late. It came so late that it served, in fact, to reinforce the partition that had resulted from ethnic cleansing. I am very skeptical about the idea of any partition--in Kosovo or elsewhere--because no ethnically-based partition is possible without war or genocide.

Part of the problem in Kosovo was that neither the Serbian nor the Albanian politicians were able to produce a concept according to which both peoples could live together. Instead, they remained wedded to the outdated concept of national states. Milosevic once made the famous remark to the Serbs of Kosovo that "no one has the right to beat you." What might have come to pass had he instead said that to all citizens of Kosovo? That would have represented a very different political philosophy, a philosophy based on the rights of every human being and citizen. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

The Serbs have a fine democratic tradition and cannot be dismissed as ogres. The issue in the Balkans is not that of one nationality vs. another nationality, but of democracy vs. its opponents. There is no reason why models of regional integration and cooperation developed elsewhere in Europe cannot be applied in the Balkans. To approach Balkan problems with the idea that the only solution is to create new borders and new states is to invite a wholesale redrawing of the map of the region, with all that implies.

There cannot be a solution of the problems of the Balkans without the democratization of Serbia. It is now up to the Serbs themselves to take stock of what they have lost under Milosevic and the price they have paid. They will have to decide for themselves exactly what their interests require them to do.

In the long term, it will be necessary to establish a new regional system in the Balkans. One step is the creation of the stability pact. A second step is to hold an international conference of European countries and the U.S. on the subject, for which Czech President Vaclav Havel suggested Ljubljana as the site. The conference will require much planning and preparation. The OSCE, EU, and UN will have to play key roles, and that means Russia as well. It must be made clear that the basis for the future of the Balkans are the principles set down in the 1975 Helsinki declaration.

The peoples of Yugoslavia once agreed to its creation in order to defend their own legitimate national interests. They ceased to support it when it became something that they could no longer call their own. When it was clear that Yugoslavia had instead become a "Serboslavia," we Slovenes sought a peaceful dissolution of the joint state and made numerous proposals to that effect.

The question arises as to whether Yugoslavia had to cease to exist. Perhaps that state had served its purpose in history and its time to break up had finally come. What is certain, however, it that there was no reason why the country had to split up in the violent way that it did. We are still feeling the effects of that violent end today. (Translated and summarized by Patrick Moore)

German Direct Aid For Democratic Serbian Towns. Michael Steiner, who is Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's foreign policy advisor, said that the German government is willing to provide more than only humanitarian aid to those Serbian municipalities that have "democratic mayors," the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 14 July.

The Germans' goal is to use "islands of the opposition as islands of stability." Democratic mayors will then be able to show their voters that they have brought concrete benefits to the community. Under no condition, of course, will German aid money go for projects likely to aid the cause or political profile of Milosevic.

The task will not be easy. Networks of contacts between Serbian democrats and key western governments are not as developed as one might wish. The German embassy in Belgrade, for example, remains closed, which prompts the government to rely on the foundations of individual German political parties for direct contacts to the opposition. Milosevic, moreover, has previously used his control over the federal machinery to prevent aid and supplies--such as buses--from entering the country and reaching their intended recipients. (Patrick Moore)

Greece, Holland To Make Similar Proposal. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Athens on 15 July that Greek and Dutch diplomats will soon recommend to the EU that it seek ways of providing reconstruction aid to Serbian cities and towns that support "democratization and transparency," dpa reported.

In The Hague, a Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the EU should look for "creative solutions" to get the aid to communities "striving for democracy" without the interference of the Belgrade authorities. The spokesman conceded that the task will not be easy, Reuters noted. (Patrick Moore)

U.S. To Support Serbian Cities. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 14 July that the U.S. will give aid to those Serbian communities and municipalities that openly oppose the Milosevic regime. He said that: "Milosevic is not part of the solution, he is not part of the problem, he is the problem," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Rubin added that "we will not participate in the reconstruction of Serbia as long as Milosevic continues to lead that fundamentally undemocratic regime and as long as he and his regime refuse to pursue necessary democratic policies." (Fabian Schmidt)

Milosevic's Ultimate Insult. "The Guardian" reported on 15 July that hundreds of Serbian parents of soldiers killed in Kosova are livid over the Milosevic regime's failure to treat them and the memory of their sons with any generosity or dignity. Allowances for burials cover less than 10 percent of the costs (for the paramilitary police it is about 13 percent of the expenses). Most of the parents are poor and have to go into debt to cover costs. Ordering a permanent headstone must often wait for later.

Perhaps even more insulting is the regime's effort to cover up the number of military deaths in Kosova. The official tally stands at 600, but the real figure is probably 10 times higher. To help maintain the fiction, the ruling party does not send representatives or even flowers to soldiers' funerals. Worse still, parents find that unknown persons rip down newly-hung posters announcing their sons' deaths (posting death notices that prominently include a photo of the deceased and a symbol of that person's faith is common throughout most of the former Yugoslavia). (Patrick Moore)

Demaci's Message for Kosova. RFE/RL's Ismet Hajdari recently spoke with Adem Demaci, who is a former communist-era political prisoner and pre-Rambouillet political representative of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK).

Hajdari: "Do you want to return to politics?"

Demaci: "My fundamental and essential aim throughout my life [has been] to save the Albanian national [identity], to save my people. [The ethnic Albanians] have been suppressed and subordinated in a virtual prison for the last ten years, in the world's largest prison. I feel an obligation towards that people, not because I am Albanian, but because that people was suppressed and subordinated, destroyed and massacred in an ongoing injustice. ...

The Albanian people--despite the circumstances that we have here now and which I do not need to comment on--can now breathe the air of freedom. [This is because of] the withdrawal of Serbian military and police forces and the arrival of international forces. Unfortunately a small number of Albanians--breathing that air of freedom in that new situation with a light that they have not seen before--have forgotten themselves and done bad things. ...[Some] have taken revenge and killed [Serbs].

They have no right to kill. We have to show the world that we deserve the opportunity we have received today to stand equal with other peoples. We must not do these bad things to others that have been done to us. ...

If we want to build a new society as a European and civilized people...we have not only to exercise our own freedom but also to [respect] the freedom of the rest of the continent, including that of the Serbian people. That is how we show that we deserve what we have recently won. ...We have to make that position clear very soon."

Hajdari: "Do you have a message for the Serbs of Kosova?"

Demaci: "I have a message to the Serbian people of Kosova: I would like to say that the Serbs outside Kosova have not lost anything but their vain illusions. They have lost their belief in lies. Those in power have used hatred of the Albanians against the Serbian people themselves. The rulers have betrayed their people by telling them that they are a specially selected people, a heavenly people, etc...

They have betrayed them by telling them that Kosova is theirs. In reality, never in history has Kosova belonged to the Serbs. Always they have taken Kosova by force with blood and violence, with killings.

They should not believe that they have lost Kosova. They have only lost their illusions and a large burden that demanded huge humanitarian, material, and financial expenditures to maintain [an unreal, unsustainable] situation.

There were a few voices of thoughtful Serbs like Archbishop Artemije and some others, who found the strength to denounce the crimes committed [in the name of all Serbs]. The Serbs now have to find the strength to face up to what has happened. This includes the writers and the academics who issued the memorandum [that paved the way for Milosevic's rise to power]. This also includes those who [subsequently] orchestrated these [nationalist] demonstrations [all over Kosova]. They will have to recognize that they have made catastrophic mistakes." (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

Annan Presents Administration Plan. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented a plan for the civilian administration of Kosova in New York on 14 July. According to the plan, the UN will first focus on the development of a civilian police force, the return of refugees, and the planning of economic reconstruction. In a second phase, the UN will promote the development of political parties and of some self-governing bodies on the local level. The third phase will focus on the holding of free elections, which will then take place in the fourth phase. The final phase will include the handing over of the entire administration to local bodies. Annan did not specify time frames for the individual stages. (Fabian Schmidt)

EU Commissioner Says Kosova Situation Better Than Expected. EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Yves-Thibault de Silguy told AP on 13 July in Brussels that the "real standard of living [in Kosova] is higher than the statistics would indicate," and that the damage caused during the war "less than anticipated." U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said that "the rapid return of the refugees has meant that some of the economic assistance needs and financing gaps were somewhat smaller than we had initially feared." Brian Unwin, who is president of the European Investment Bank, estimated that costs for repairing infrastructure in the entire Balkan region may be less than the $25 billion over five years that his bank had earlier estimated. (Fabian Schmidt)

WHO Reports 150 Mine Victims In Kosova. Since the return of refugees to Kosova began, some 150 people have lost their lives from or were injured by exploding mines, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report, which was published in Geneva on 15 July. One out of 10,000 returning refugees has become a mine victim, which is a very high ratio compared to similar conflicts. Three-fourths of the victims are younger than 24 years. Meanwhile, an Italian KFOR commander told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina that KFOR has discovered 23 mass-graves in the Italian sector. At least 748 Albanians were killed there during the war, but the actual number is believed to be higher. The general said that 75 percent of the houses in that region have been systematically destroyed. (Fabian Schmidt)

Mixed Bag In Albanian-Greek Relations. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, returning to Tirana from a visit to Athens on 12 July, told Albanian public television that the two countries have agreed to launch two major projects. The first is a gas pipeline from Algeria via Italy and Albania to Greece. The second is the construction of an Adriatic highway linking both countries with Montenegro and Croatia.

Milo added that officials of the two countries also agreed to begin several smaller, unspecified cooperation projects in the framework of the Balkan stability pact. They will be joined by the Macedonian government. Milo said he will unveil the projects at the projected Balkan summit in Sarajevo in late July.

Before leaving Athens, Milo said on 9 July that Albania does not object to Greece deporting Albanian citizens who are criminals or in Greece illegally. He nonetheless urged the Greek authorities to make sure that "these people are not maltreated, that they are deported without humiliation [and do not get] their identity papers torn up," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999).

He made the remarks after meeting his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou. Papandreou denied that there has been any such mistreatment and stressed that Albanian immigrants contribute a great deal to the economy of Greece. (Fabian Schmidt)

Did Arkan Try Plea-Bargaining? The VOA on 14 July quoted a U.S. NBC television broadcast as saying that a lawyer for indicted Serbian war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" contacted Belgian police on 25 June with the message that his client wanted to turn himself in. Belgian police could not, however, find Interpol's warrant for Arkan's arrest. Police contacted The Hague-based war crimes tribunal only to find that top officials there had already left town for the weekend. The court's 1997 warrant for Arkan's arrest was issued for Yugoslavia, not for Belgium. Its text is in English, which is not valid under Belgian law. A court spokesman refused to comment on the story, adding that the court does not make statements about "rumors."

Subsequent press reports suggest that Arkan wanted to see if The Hague-based war crimes tribunal would reduce the charges against him if he agreed to testify against Milosevic, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 14 July. Belgian officials confirmed that Arkan had contacted them, but they provided no details. The officials said they told Arkan that the war crimes tribunal does not engage in plea-bargaining and that they have not heard from him since. Arkan told journalists by telephone that the story is "crazy," Reuters reported. The London-based daily "The Independent" wrote on 15 July that the story suggests that "senior figures in the Milosevic regime are thinking hard about life after the fall of their president and protector."

In related news, Arkan and Ceca, who is his turbo-folk-singer wife, resigned as heads of the Obilic soccer team, AFP reported from Belgrade on 13 July. Following Arkan's indictment in 1997, UEFA, which is European soccer's governing body, placed a ban on Obilic's playing in European competitions. Ceca told reporters on 12 July that she and Arkan resigned so that the club could play abroad. Observers note that Arkan and Ceca have been better known for their provocative statements and behavior rather than for their deference to the opinions of foreigners. (Patrick Moore)

Boris Milosevic Not Happy With Russian KFOR Role. Yugoslav Ambassador to Russia Borislav Milosevic told ITAR-TASS on 14 July that he is dissatisfied with the level of Russian participation in the Kosova peacekeeping-force (KFOR). Milosevic acknowledged that the "Russian troops are in [Kosova] not in order to protect the Serbs, but in order to treat everybody objectively." He added: "I do not think that ordinary Albanians are against the Russian contingent. ...Anti- Russian actions by...Albanians are inspired by NATO in order to create an uneasy situation for the Russian peacekeepers."

Milosevic, who is the brother of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, said: "I cannot speak about the significance of [anti-government protests in Serbia]. ...I do not consider them as a major political factor." He stressed that "naturally, there is discontent in Yugoslavia and some are using it. But these are not the forces whom the people trust." (Fabian Schmidt)

Serbian Radio Broadcasts RFE/RL 'By Mistake.' Radio Majdanpek, which is part of the network of state-run Radio-Television Serbia (RTS), rebroadcast programs of RFE/RL and the VOA on 13 July, the private Beta news agency reported from Belgrade the following day. A spokesman for Radio Majdanpek told Beta that the rebroadcasting was done "by mistake" and that the transmission began "automatically" when Radio Majdanpek finished its own program. He did not elaborate.

Beta added that the station's officials do not expect that the authorities will punish them for the rebroadcasting, which is illegal under a 1998 Serbian law. Beta noted, however, that Radio Majdanpek will henceforth broadcast only programs of RTS once it has finished transmitting its own material. Majdanpek is located east of Belgrade near the Romanian frontier. (Patrick Moore)

Dispute Over Radio Prishtina. UN spokesman Kevin Kennedy on 12 July said that the UN will not allow Radio Prishtina to resume full operations unless Serbian and Albanian journalists there agree to create "a mixed work environment," AFP reported. He said that Albanians returning to the station's building and Serbs already working there failed to agree on a "common platform" for broadcasting. He added that the station will resume work only after the UN has established a "media board" following consultations with the OSCE. Kennedy added that, until then, the UN staff will start to prepare "some very, very limited programming, which should not be confused with bringing Radio Prishtina back on the air." Kennedy argued that "if we rushed too quickly to fill this vacuum, we may in fact be creating bigger problems down the road." Only some private radio stations have so far resumed broadcasting in Prishtina, some of those with international assistance. (Fabian Schmidt)

Croatia Gets First Independent Nationwide TV Station. Zagreb-based Nova TV received its license on 12 July, thereby becoming Croatia's first nationwide private television broadcaster. Nova's main shareholders include Europa Press Holding, which also owns the independent daily "Jutarnji list" and the weekly "Globus." Another main shareholder is "Vecernji list," which is close to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The top managers of the station will be veteran broadcasters Miroslav Lilic and Tomislav Marcinko, "Jutarnji list" reported. State-run television is currently the only nationwide television broadcaster. It is widely regarded as a mouthpiece of the HDZ. (Patrick Moore)

Westendorp Plans Novel. The international community's Carlos Westendorp, who returns to his political career in Spain at the end of July, said in Brussels on 12 July that his main regret upon leaving Bosnia is that the two most important indicted war criminals remain at large. He was referring to Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, Reuters reported. Westendorp added that his fondest memories of Bosnia will be of ordinary people, while his worst will be of politicians. He added that he hopes to write a novel based on his experiences there. His successor is Austria's Wolfgang Petritsch. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "The fundamental message that it is not possible to safeguard a people by bombing from 15,000 feet." -- Former UN Bosnia commander General Sir Michael Rose, charging in London on 12 July that NATO's campaign in Kosova was a failure.

The Serbs achieved "a great victory in Kosovo, thanks to the unity of the people and the heroic stand of the army and police. ...[Only] people with bad intentions" claim otherwise. -- Yugoslav General Nebojsa Pavkovic, commander of the Third Army, which has responsibility for Kosova, on 11 July.

"Slobodan Milosevic has taken away my son. He has taken away my soul, everything I have." -- Serbian mother of dead soldier (see item above).

"Nothing has been the same after the air strikes. Our policy was to avoid conflict with the rest of the world, and because of this Montenegro was largely untouched. ...We are now at zero and Serbia is at minus 40. Our priorities have become very different. Things are going now much faster than anyone expected." -- Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic, in the "International Herald Tribune" of 12 July.

"Devaluations from Belgrade will be more damaging than NATO bombing. If we end 1999 with 70 percent inflation, we can be happy." -- Montenegrin banker Slavko Drljevic, in the "Financial Times" of 12 July.

"Here the problem is not malnutrition or epidemics, the problem is mental health. A lot of people have seen or experienced something traumatic." -- Dr. Isabel Montaner, a general practitioner with the Spanish branch of Medecins sans Frontieres, quoted by Reuters in Gjakova on 12 July.

"Now I would like every Serb to be dead. I feel very, very bad." -- 12 year-old Kosovar pupil in Gjakova. He said that "Serbs" killed his father, uncle, and aunt.

"I have no comment on why Rugova has not come back. It is his personal decision, but it's not a smart one. ...He must realize that no one can hold Kosova to ransom." -- Hashim Thaci, to Reuters on 12 July.

"We tend to be very impatient." -- Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, on political change in Serbia. Quoted in the "International Herald Tribune" on 13 July.

"I encourage the growing demonstrations by the people of Serbia to hold Mr. Milosevic accountable. He is the source of their problems and should be removed from office." -- NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark, in Milan on 12 July.

"I can assure you that I am perfectly certain that, while Mr. Milosevic thought that he could keep me out of Kosovo, he will not be able to keep himself out of The Hague." -- The Hague court's Louise Arbour, in Kosova, on 13 July.

"No one has right to be passive when traitors are destroying our country." -- Statement by Mira Markovic's United Yugoslav Left on 12 July.

"Frightened judges, frightened prosecutors, and frightened witnesses." -- Outgoing UN envoy to Bosnia Elizabeth Rehn, describing the Bosnian judicial system at her final press conference on 8 July.

"It's not the way to end a very successful operation." -- Lieutenant-Colonel Andy Williams of Britain, chief of public information for NATO humanitarian relief in Albania, commenting on the looting of refugee camps. Quoted by Reuters on 15 July.

"It is the inviolable right of everyone to have education in their mother tongue, including higher education." -- Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov, announcing that his government will permit the establishment of an Albanian-language university, on 15 July.

"There were, there are, and there always will be Turks here." -- local ethnic Turkish community leader in Kurdjali, Bulgaria. Quoted in the "Financial Times" of 12 July.