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Balkan Report: September 7, 1999

7 September 1999, Volume 3, Number 35

Old Leaders Mean Old Problems (Or: Throw The Rascals Out). Milorad Dodik, who is the moderate caretaker prime minister of the Republika Srpska, told "Glas Srpski" last week that those responsible for the past decade's conflicts must leave office if the Balkans are ever to become stable.

Dodik argued that "Serbia and the Balkans can find peace only if [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic, [his Croatian counterpart] Franjo Tudjman, [Bosnian Muslim leader] Alija Izetbegovic, and the Republika Srpska's wartime chiefs leave the political scene. ...Milosevic is the main failure of the past 10 years. His policy of destabilization and launching ethnic conflicts has caused significant tensions in the Balkans and in southeastern Europe," Reuters reported.

Regional and outside observers alike have repeatedly noted the problems posed by the continued presence in office of those responsible for the wars. In the case of Serbia, Milosevic has remained in power long enough to lead his country into a total of four wars. He has lost every one of them, with the result that hundreds of thousands of Serbs have lost their homes.

Should he manage to ride out the present political crisis just as he has survived several previous ones, he might be tempted to engage in conflicts with Montenegro, the Sandzak Muslims, or Vojvodina. And should he prove as successful in those conflicts as he has in the last four, he soon might find himself reduced to governing a territory not much larger than the Ottoman Pashaluk of Belgrade.

Something fundamental, moreover, has changed for Milosevic. Until this May, he was courted by international diplomats as the "one man who could make things happen" in the region, the mover-and-shaker who alone could make any peace agreement stick. Or so many thought.

In late May, however, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal put an end to all that. The court indited Milosevic and four of his top lieutenants for war crimes and thereby made them politically unacceptable as international negotiators, at least for countries where the rule of law holds sway. This move may have frustrated or angered those diplomats who would have preferred to continue with business-as-usual in Belgrade. But the court placed Milosevic beyond the pale of respectability once and for all.

The indictment had repercussions within Serbia, too. After Milosevic lost Kosova in June, the long-silent opposition found its voice again. One of the key arguments they brought against him was that the indictment made him ineligible to carry out his presidential duties because he could no longer represent the country abroad. The indictment of Milosevic and the other four men, moreover, further served to drive home the message to the Serbian public that their country has become isolated under Milosevic and has no place in the international community so long as he stays in office.

The specter of The Hague hovers over Tudjman as well. In July, a prosecutor at the tribunal suggested that Tudjman bears responsibility for Croatia's anti-Muslim policies in Bosnia during the 1993-1994 conflict (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 July 1999). The prosecutor made the remarks at the trial of a Croatian indicted war criminal, who, the prosecutor suggested, was simply Tudjman's tool. In recent days, the Croatian press has quoted court officials to the effect that the tribunal has not indicted Tudjman. It nonetheless remains to be seen whether the president will venture a trip to the opening session of the UN General Assembly this fall or engage in other foreign travel, lest his journey end in The Hague.

The pressure from the tribunal was felt all the more sharply in Zagreb recently because the court threatened to bring international sanctions down on Croatia. The tribunal wants that country to extradite Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic for war crimes in Bosnia and to provide documents relating to the flight of perhaps 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. Official Zagreb--unlike Belgrade--has staked its future on integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and cannot risk major sanctions. But the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly in Croatia, and it is not clear when or how the government will meet the tribunal's demands.

Bosnia presents a somewhat different picture. Few non-Serbs or non-Croats have seriously accused Izetbegovic himself of war crimes. But he is widely regarded at home and abroad as turning a benevolent blind eye toward corruption, particularly when those involved are persons who distinguished themselves in the 1992-1995 Muslim war effort.

In fact, the close links between the political, military, and criminal structures among the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims alike are well known. Many observers from the region and abroad have stressed repeatedly that the main reason that precious little of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement has been implemented is that the people responsible for the war continue to hold power (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 August 1999).

These individuals have no reason to end a system in which each local warlord reigns like a medieval potentate over his few square kilometers of territory. As Richard Holbrooke recently put it in Banja Luka: "Throughout this area there are people who are separatists, racists, criminals, and crooks. These are people not only trying to destroy the Dayton peace accords but to walk the Serb people of Bosnia-Herzegovina back to the dark ages of six years ago." How one might break the power of these and other local warlords and the system they have built up is at least as daunting a question as is how to oust Milosevic and the other big fish. (Patrick Moore)

Looks Like A Duck, Walks Like A Duck... "The New York Times" reported on 3 September that officials of NATO, the UN, and the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have agreed that some 3,000 guerrillas will soon become a "lightly-armed civilian emergency force." Western officials described the new corps as a civilian force to deal with emergencies such as "forest fires, earthquakes, mountain rescue, and reconstruction."

The corps will have a military organization, however, as well as uniforms and "sidearms to protect equipment," the New York daily continued. The force will also have helicopters.

UCK officers "see it as a potential core of a national army, and are selling it to their followers as such," the article added. General Agim Ceku, who is the UCK's chief of staff, said: "We will build a new army in the future, and the Kosova Corps will be one part of it."

A KFOR spokesman stressed, however, that the corps is not a new army but rather a form of "uniformed public service," "The New York Times" noted. He added that it is modeled on a French institution.

As has often happened in the course of the past two centuries, this might again prove an instance of foreigners grafting a Western European institution onto Balkan stock--with results very different from what the well-meaning foreigners intended. (Patrick Moore)

Naumann: Milosevic Planned To Expel All Albanians. German General Klaus Naumann, who headed NATO's military affairs committee until his retirement in May, said in Brussels on 1 September that Milosevic told him that he planned to expel all ethnic Albanians from Kosova in his recent Operation Horseshoe campaign, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. Milosevic told Naumann and Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark in Belgrade before NATO's bombing campaign began that he intended to "solve the Kosova problem once and for all." Naumann said in Brussels that he realized at that time that NATO could not sit by and watch the mass expulsion of Kosovars, "much as we sat back during the [1991 Serbian] shelling of Dubrovnik."

In Washington on 1 September, Clark said that Milosevic made peace in June because his intelligence sources told him that a NATO ground attack was imminent, AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

Et Tu, Felix Kosova. Austria's Wolfgang Petritsch recently replaced Spain's Carlos Westendorp as the international community's high representative in Bosnia. He told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 26 August that Kosova is lucky to be starting with virtually a clean slate in setting up its administrative system. He compared this to Bosnia, where communist-era and wartime structures and individuals are still in place. This creates a ballast of "old thinking" that is difficult to replace.

Petritsch noted that the international authorities in Kosova have virtually a free hand in the province, which is effectively a protectorate. He, however, has no executive agency and must negotiate with local officials. Moreover, local authorities control the police and the judiciary in Bosnia, which Westendorp regarded as one of the great flaws of the Dayton agreement. In Kosova, by contrast, the international community took Westendorp's advice and kept for itself full control of the nascent police and judicial systems.

Corruption and mutual back-scratching characterize the Bosnian economy, Petritsch continued. Here he did not attempt to make comparisons with Kosova, but he did note that Bosnia's problems are very serious. He disagreed with recent charges by "The New York Times" that local officials have raked off millions from international donors, but stressed that a lack of control mechanisms and transparency has enabled officials to help themselves to public funds (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 24 August 1999). He hopes to have a study on combating corruption ready in the spring.

Petritsch added that a key element that Bosnia lacks is a proper banking system to replace its communist-era payment offices. Bosnia, it is worth recalling, must not only recover from the war but also dismantle socialist structures. (Patrick Moore)

Vladan Batic Talks Strategy. The Alliance for Change's Vladan Batic recently told Munich's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that the only solution for Serbia is to force Milosevic from office. Batic rejected the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic's call for early elections on the grounds that there can be no free elections with the current regime in power. Batic added darkly that Draskovic needs Milosevic's support to continue to govern the city of Belgrade, and that this support has its price. The Alliance's leader also rejected as unrealistic the G-17 group of economists' call for a transitional government.

Batic added that he has no qualms about raising social tensions as a way to force Milosevic from office. To this end, he stressed that outside aid to Serbia should be strictly limited to humanitarian assistance. He accepts the idea of aid to opposition-controlled cities in principle but argues that he does not see how it can be carried out in practice.

The reason why Milosevic does not use the police against demonstrators is that he cannot count on their loyalty, Batic added. The opposition plans to start its protests in earnest after 21 September and expects matters to come to a head before the end of November.

In Belgrade on 30 August, Batic said that the Alliance will not take part in any elections in which candidates appear on the ballot whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted. The Alliance also insists that persons whom the EU has banned from travel to EU states not run for office. Observers note that these two conditions are tantamount to saying that Milosevic and more than 300 top officials of his regime may not run for office.

On the other side of the political barricades, a spokesman for Milosevic's Socialist Party said that there is no need for foreign monitors to observe any elections in Serbia. He added: "The stories of electoral fraud [in previous ballots] are unreal and so are the [opposition's] demands for OSCE monitors," AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

In the Winners' Circle. Serbia's JAT airlines has begun weekly flights to Tripoli, Libya, every Monday. JAT currently flies only to Russia, China, Tunisia, Cyprus, and Turkey. It is banned from its principal traditional destinations in Western Europe as part of international sanctions against the Milosevic regime. (Patrick Moore)

Oldest 'Solunac' Turns 99. Predrag "Pera" Sekulic just celebrated his 99th birthday at Belgrade's Yugoslav Army Club, "Vesti" reported on 28 August. Cica-Pera is healthy and enjoys the company of his family. He nonetheless feels saddened that Serbia's traditional allies France, Britain, and America have attacked his country, which is something he never thought would happen.

Sekulic is the oldest living Serbian survivor of the Salonika Front of World War I. A veteran of that front is known in Serbian as a Solunac--from Solun, meaning Salonika or Thessaloniki. The retreat of the army from Serbia across Kosovo and Albania, and its internment on Corfu before eventually going to Salonika, rank as one of the great epics of Serbian history.

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia built an impressive memorial building with a crypt and chapel at the Salonika battlefield cemetery in the 1930s. That building has meanwhile also become a sort of monument to Serbian dead in the wars of the 1990s thanks to the pictures, poems, gifts, and memorabilia left there by visiting Serbs, many of whom are young.

The atmosphere and historical portraits adorning the walls are definitely monarchist and Orthodox. Among the recent additions, there is no photo of Milosevic, but several of General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. Perhaps most striking is a painting of the Virgin next to the altar. It is actually a portrait of former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, taken directly from her 1996 campaign poster.

A visit to the memorial provides a moving look into the world of Serbian nationalism, in which the past and the present, the dead and the living, are bound together as an indivisible whole. (Patrick Moore)

Make Love, Not War. The Greek authorities came to realize by 1996 that Macedonia is more useful to its southern neighbor as a source of economic benefit than as a whipping boy for nationalist passions. In a recent encounter, Prime Minister Kostas Simitis hosted his counterpart Ljubco Georgievski in Florina last weekend to talk business. On the agenda were plans to reactivate a deal for Hellenic Petroleum to obtain a majority stake in OKTA, which controls Macedonia's only oil refinery. Hellenic Petroleum also plans to build a 230-km pipeline to link Skopje to Thessaloniki.

The fly in the ointment has been Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov. He opposes selling off a key national asset to foreigners, particularly to citizens of a country that has not always been friendly toward his young state. The former communist leader may also relish the possibility of wrong-footing the free-market, center-right Georgievski government, as Gligorov earlier tried to do in response to the government's recognition of Taiwan.

Simitis is nonetheless optimistic. He told AP: "We are neighbors, we live in the same neighborhood and there must be friendship and cooperation. There are problems. We know them. ...I believe there will be progress soon."

After winning last fall's elections, Georgievski had great plans for jump-starting Macedonia's economy. The war in Kosova put them on hold, however, and even set things back. Many Greek businessmen nonetheless remain hopeful about taking part in the eventual privatization of all manner of Macedonian companies. (Patrick Moore)

Pollo To Challenge Berisha. Genc Pollo--who is a long-time spokesman for Albania's Democratic Party and its leader Sali Berisha--said in Tirana on 1 September that he intends to challenge Berisha for the party chair. Pollo said that he wants to "present a serious and credible alternative" to Berisha at home and abroad. He also wants to promote democracy within the party. The vote will take place at the party congress on 30 September.

Many observers regard Berisha as unduly combative and at least partly responsible for the high degree of polarization that characterizes Albanian politics. Both Berisha and Pollo have their roots in the former communist-era nomenklatura and are highly educated. Pollo studied in Austria in communist times and is fluent in English and German. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "The most that we can do is to appeal to the humanitarian conscience of President Milosevic and the Yugoslav government." -- CARE USA President Peter Bell on 1 September, on the prospect of gaining freedom for imprisoned Serbian aid worker Branko Jelen. Milosevic had just pardoned Jelen's two Australian colleagues.

"There are no mass graves of Albanian civilians in Kosovo, only dead terrorists. What we really have, and the Americans are trying to hide that, are mass graves of Serbs slaughtered by Albanian terrorists." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, quoted by AP on 2 September.

"We are here to stay. If somebody in Prishtina decides that he can talk and make a compromise in our name, then that guy is very, very wrong. And we won't quit until we get what we want." -- local ethnic Albanian taking part in the Rahovec road blockade against the stationing of Russian KFOR troops. Quoted by AP on 30 August.

"I cannot imagine Kosova without defense." -- UCK's Hashim Thaci (see above on Kosova Corps).

"NATO troops and UN representatives cannot determine the future for Bosnia or Kosovo. If [the peoples in the region] can put aside their animosity, ignore the temptation for revenge, and seize the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families--then the world's investment in the Balkans will pay great dividends." -- General Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Bosnia on 2 September.