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Balkan Report: October 15, 1999

15 October 1999, Volume 3, Number 39

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER SAYS 'SEND KARADZIC AND MILOSEVIC TO THE HAGUE.' Moderate caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and other indicted war criminals must appear before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal "whether they like it or not." He added that either they will have to go to The Hague voluntarily, or else the authorities of the Republika Srpska will have to ensure that they get there.

Dodik's motivations are to the point. He stressed that a few individuals must not be allowed to spoil the chances for the Republika Srpska to receive international aid, investments, and support, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 13 October. He added that it is necessary to bring to justice persons who killed others just because the victims were of a different ethnic group. Dodik argued that such killers could easily murder persons of their own nationality as well.

Dodik also said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj should go to The Hague. The Bosnian Serb leader suggested that this would be the best way for the two men "to prolong their biological lives." Dodik was presumably alluding to the political killings that are no rarity in contemporary Serbia. He added that he supports calls from representatives of the international community for a ban on the Bosnian branch of Seselj's Serbian Radical Party.

In short, this is the sharpest public declaration yet by a moderate Bosnian Serb leader against indicted war criminals. Dodik may have been prompted to make the statement now because Milosevic just hosted his rival, Nikola Poplasen, and other Bosnian Serb officials. But the fact that Dodik made it at all suggests that those observers were right who have argued that economic considerations would eventually prevail over nationalist ones in the former Yugoslavia.

At least for the most part. Dodik does not appear to have mentioned General Ratko Mladic. Mladic is one of the tribunal's most wanted war criminals but enjoys considerable popularity among Serbs as a defender of his people. (Patrick Moore)

MONTENEGRIN EDITOR CALLS FOR DENAZIFICATION IN SERBIA- MONTENEGRO. The press in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia must end its "shameful silence" and take up the issue of Serbian crimes against humanity and the responsibility of the leaders, says Milka Tadic, editor of the independent Montenegrin weekly "Monitor." The reason is that the Serbian nation needs to be made aware of "what was done in its name in Kosova." Otherwise, she argues, there can be no progress toward democratization.

A leading journalist in the region, Tadic minced no words in an interview last week with "RFE/RL's Watchlist." Early on in a wide-ranging conversation she offered the phrase "denazification" to sum up what she believes must happen, starting with the conviction of those responsible for war crimes. She drew parallels with the process that took place in West Germany after 1945 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 May 1999).

"I know we did horrible things," she said, "beginning in the late 1980s when Serbia launched its propaganda war against Slovenes, Croatians, Bosnian Muslims, and ethnic Albanians. When I spoke to some of my neighbors, I didn't recognize them." She was reminded of what she read about the racist hysteria in Hitler's Germany in the 1930s, before he started the war.

Tadic deplores "the hatred for others" that she said many, perhaps even the majority of Montenegrins along with Serbs throughout Yugoslavia developed in the early 1990s. That hatred was accompanied by the mindless worship of the leader, President Milosevic, she added. She believes that the mood has changed since then, and now no more than 20 percent of Montenegrins--though a higher percentage of Serbs in Serbia--persist in their views. But, she added, unfortunately many now opposed to Milosevic are critical of him only because he lost four wars--and not because he started them.

Tadic said she believes that in her native Montenegro the process of denazification already began last spring when President Milo Djukanovic rebuffed his erstwhile ally, Milosevic, and declared Montenegro's neutrality in Serbia's war with NATO. Another sign she sees that the process is under way is "the friendly reception" given to Kosovar Albanian refugees by many if not most Montenegrins. She thinks it matters that "we helped others who were in trouble" who were clearly "not our kind." She would like to see the process continue with Montenegro formally apologizing to its neighbor Croatia for joining Serbia's war after Zagreb's declaration of independence.

She is confident that sooner or later, one way or another, "Montenegro will go its own way. You can't negotiate with Milosevic. He thinks he is the only one to make decisions. To run away from such a man and such a state is what we learned in the past ten years that we have to do. For us, there is no other way. We will have to make new connections with Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia."

Asked whether Milosevic might respond to Montenegro's declaration of independence with yet another war, she pursed her lips and sighed. Much depends on how strong his opposition will be in Serbia, she said, and whether he will be afraid of them. But on the other hand, in the past Milosevic started wars whenever he was in trouble on his own home ground. "He is unpredictable," she said with a shrug.

In Montenegro, the human rights situation is definitely improving, Tadic said. "It's much better than two and a half years ago," she said. Minorities are not abused, and the independent press and the opposition are much freer. Her weekly, which she describes as her country's first independent paper, was bombed twice earlier in the decade, she said. But that was when Djukanovic was on Milosevic's team. During the Kosova war, "Monitor" refused military censorship, and the Serbian military stationed in Montenegro responded by threatening to draft the journalists. One of the founding editors was convicted for violating the press regulations of Belgrade's martial law, she said, and he fled the country. But now he is back. She concluded, with a smile: "We learned in the past ten years how to fight them."

Tadic's clarity of vision and deep-felt convictions are signs of a radical rejection of Milosevic's genocidal wars and gross violations of human rights. Her words offer encouragement to former friends of the former Yugoslavia that the alternative to Milosevic is not necessarily another Milosevic. (Charles Fenyvesi)

WAS THE SERBIAN OPPOSITION RIGHT? Most commentators in Serbia and abroad agreed with Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic that the EU foreign ministers were to blame for the embarrassing, last-minute Serbian boycott of the meeting in Luxembourg on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 October 1999). Just before midnight on the night before the meeting, Finnish diplomats told opposition leaders that the ministers wanted their guests to sign a pledge to extradite war criminals to The Hague should the opposition come to power, "Vesti" reported. The guests regarded the demand as an "ultimatum" that would have given the regime the means to brand them "bootlickers of Western interests." Within several hours of their talks with the Finns, most of the important guests announced that they would not be going to Luxembourg. (The Social Democrats' Vuk Obradovic, who went to Luxembourg, insists that the EU did not demand that the Serbs sign the offending text.)

Vienna's "Die Presse" disagrees as to who is to blame for the embarrassing turn of events. In a commentary entitled "What kind of opposition is that?" Christian Ultsch argues that the Serbian opposition must show that it is worthy of Western backing by sharply differentiating itself from Milosevic. It must condemn his war crimes in no uncertain terms and pledge fullest cooperation with The Hague. The opposition is unworthy of foreign backing if all it can promise is a change of faces in the Belgrade ministries, Ultsch points out.

The opposition must prove that it is sincerely democratic and European in its orientation, "Presse" continues. Its supporters abroad should not forget that many of the opposition are angry with Milosevic not because he is a dictator but because he failed to deliver on his promises for a Greater Serbia. If the opposition is not even willing to promise to extradite war criminals, then precious little can be expected of it. Should it come to power, the result will be "a continuation of the chaos by other, more moderate means," Ultsch concludes. (Patrick Moore)

DJUKANOVIC: MONTENEGRO WILL FOLLOW ITS OWN INTERESTS. President Djukanovic told participants in the Forum Montenegro gathering in Cetinje recently that he respects Western efforts to preserve rump Yugoslavia as one state. He added, however, that his government's main goal is to promote democracy and economic development. Montenegro will follow its own interests and do whatever is necessary to best achieve that aim, "Vesti" reported. (Patrick Moore)

'REMOVING EVERYTHING UNDESIRABLE.' An official in the large Novi Beograd district, which is controlled by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists, said that local officials will "check in detail all [ethnic] Albanian residents and tenants in apartment blocks there." AP quoted him on 13 October as saying that "the reason is to prevent bombing attacks such as the recent ones in Moscow, where explosive devices were planted in apartment buildings. We thought that perhaps our Albanian neighbors, under orders from the [former Kosova Liberation Army], could begin such attacks."

He added that "many" local ethnic Albanian males were absent from their Belgrade flats during the NATO air strikes in the spring. "I do not wish to speculate whether they were then trained in terrorist or subversive activities. [But] it is our goal to remove everything undesirable," he concluded. (Patrick Moore)

SERBIAN LEGISLATORS APPEAL TO TUDJMAN. The three ethnic Serbian legislators in the Croatian parliament wrote President Franjo Tudjman on 13 October to ask him to block legislation that would reduce from three to one the number of legislative seats reserved for Serbs. Jovan Bamburac, Vojislav Stanimirovic, and Milorad Pupovac wrote that it is "illogical" to reduce the number of seats for Serbs in the wake of the successful reintegration of Serbian-held eastern Slavonia and the beginning of the return of ethnic Serbian refugees, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. (Patrick Moore)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "I think most observers of the Yugoslav scene would say...that we are far more likely to see a Kosovo that becomes, in effect, a single ethnic group-dominated state." -- Professor Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

If the international community had moved sooner to isolate Milosevic, "maybe things would have turned out differently." -- Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, in Bari on 9 October.

"We had no intention of turning this into a political gathering." -- Vladan Batic of the Alliance for Change on 9 October, after celebrating Belgrade soccer fans pelted opposition leaders with beer cans when they attempted to speak.

"I support the opposition boycott [of the Luxembourg meeting], because Europe must treat us as partners and not as natives if they really want peace in the region. ...This ultimatum [does not help the] atmosphere. Each time Europe tries to sort things out in its own backyard peacefully, the U.S. objects and puts on pressure. It seems that Europe is not allowed to make any independent effort towards finding a permanent solution for the Balkans. It always changes policy under strong U.S. pressure. It looks like the U.S. definitely wants no peace in this part of the world." -- opposition G-17 economist Nebojsa Medojevic, quoted by Reuters on 12 October.