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Balkan Report: November 12, 1999

12 November 1999, Volume 3, Number 46

Starting Over From Scratch. A prominent German business executive with long years of experience in the former Yugoslavia believes that simply rebuilding Serbian infrastructure will not be enough. Instead, the country will need a completely new concept for its industry. It must throw out existing paradigms and avoid repeating old mistakes or looking backward.

The executive told a recent conference sponsored by the Suedosteuropa Gesellschaft and the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung in Munich that Serbia will have to break with the business culture of the Tito years if it is to face global competition and find new niches in the international market. He noted that the communist-era legacy of high costs, top-heavy management, inefficiency, poor labor discipline, and that old Balkan trait of "inat"--or stubborn defiance--will scare off foreign investors from the onset.

One cannot speak of a new Marshall Plan for the area, the executive continued. The post-World War II reconstruction project was directed at rebuilding and modernizing sophisticated structures and institutions that had existed before, and for which ample trained personnel were on hand. Serbia and many of its neighbors, however, are in a different situation altogether, he continued. They must move from what was essentially a Stalinist, rust-belt industrial base, serving a country that no longer exists, to compete in a global market. They will have to overcome the heritage of war in addition to that of communism. And they must train people not only in modern technologies, but in Western banking and business practices as well.

It is a tall order. The changes will not come without sacrifice and pain. Some Serbian businessmen continue to hope that "signing contracts" with Western firms will somehow prove to be a magic formula for restoring the (illusory) prosperity of the 1960s and 1970s. But in reality, they will have to start from scratch and think things through anew.

Nor should they hope for some deus-ex-machina from Brussels. Some Serbs argue that what their country needs is a "big bang" that would come from the rapid conclusion of an association agreement with the EU or even full membership. This argument can be heard elsewhere in the Balkans, too.

But no quick fix is in the offing. The logic of the "big bang" theory recalls the views one heard in Eastern Europe at the time of the collapse of communism: all a country needed to do was oust the communists, pass some new laws, hold an election--and a Dutch-style political culture and standard of living would appear overnight. Now people are less euphoric than ten years ago, but certainly wiser. Acquiring EU membership is a painstaking process. Neither the current member countries nor prospective candidates stand to gain anything much by admitting new members who lack the legal and business foundations as well as the trained staff.

That is, of course, if Brussels will take new members. French and Iberian aversion to rapid eastward expansion are well known. Germany's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" recently ran an editorial in its 50th anniversary issue calling for "limits" on the geographical scope of the EU. The article began by saying that Turkey will never become a member of the EU because it is not a European country. In defining European, the "FAZ" invoked not only geography but also religious and cultural traditions. The paper went on to warn that no useful purpose is served by encouraging countries to expect EU membership but not giving it to them.

In addition to defining territorial limits, the EU should consider introducing other forms of membership, which would be less than full membership, the daily continued. This would be for countries that will take decades to reach Western European standards in their economies, politics, and legislation. The author suggested that "regional groupings" could be set up as an alternative to full membership. It is not difficult to imagine which regions he had in mind. (Patrick Moore)

The Case For Oil Deliveries. An unidentified EU "source" told Reuters in Brussels on 8 November that the EU will start heating oil shipments to the opposition-run cities of Nis and Pirot between 15 and 20 November. The deliveries are a pilot project of the opposition's Energy for Democracy program. The program's goal is to show voters that the opposition is able to obtain needed fuel from abroad at a time when international sanctions weigh heavily against the Belgrade regime (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 45).

Mladjan Dinkic of the independent G-17 group of Serbian economists told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" in Munich recently that the opposition will use independent shippers to bring in the fuel. He added that the deliveries will receive much publicity in the independent media in order to deter the government from stealing the fuel. If the government tries to abscond with the heating oil, everyone will know what happened and be able to draw their own conclusions.

Dinkic added that the opposition is not out to make political capital for itself at the expense of those ordinary Serbs living in towns and cities controlled by the regime. If EU fuel supplies permit, the opposition intends to make oil available to all municipalities, regardless of who is in possession of the town hall. The opposition would continue to carefully control and monitor all shipments and deliveries to make sure that they reach ordinary citizens. This would prove an effective counter-measure against the regime's propaganda, which portrays the opposition as concerned only about its own supporters. (Patrick Moore)

Kosova Is Not Chechnya. Hashim Thaci, who heads the provisional government appointed by the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 8 November that Serbia no longer has any authority over Kosova. He called on Belgrade to release the Kosovar prisoners it is holding, whose number he put at 5,000. In Kosova itself, the people have no intention of permitting "another Chechnya" by allowing Serbian troops to return, he stressed.

Thaci condemned violence against non-Albanian minorities in the province. He argued that there are armed groups active in Kosova who are outside the control of the UCK. These groups include persons who entered Kosova after the recent armed conflict. He did not elaborate, but may well have meant criminal gangs that entered Kosova from Albania after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in June. (Frankfurt's Serbian-language daily "Vesti" on 9 November reported that a previously unknown masked group calling itself the Real UCK has carried out a series of attacks on moderate Kosovars loyal to shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova.)

As to the local Serbs, Thaci said in Vienna that all Serbian civilians who did not take part in atrocities are welcome to stay in or return to Kosova, "Die Presse" reported on 6 November. The daily also quoted a Serbian journalist who listened to Thaci's speech as saying that Thaci's words are one thing, "but the reality in Kosova is something quite different." Local Serbs have, in fact, frequently charged that Thaci calls for peace and inter-ethnic harmony when speaking to foreigners but tells his own people that they are now masters in the province.

Turning to relations among the Kosovars themselves, Thaci told "Die Presse" of 8 November that relations between the UCK and Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) "could be better." He accused Rugova of having a "totalitarian mentality," by which he meant that Rugova considers himself the only leader of the Kosovars. Thaci argued that the political scene "has room for everyone and not just one man." He added that the LDK continues to control funds from the diaspora and uses some of the money for its own political purposes instead of helping the population in general.

Observers note that some Kosovar critics charge that Thaci and the UCK have sought to monopolize political power for themselves. The observers also note that there are deep differences in political style and outlook between the younger generation of leaders around Thaci and older people, such as Rugova, whose political careers began under Josip Broz Tito in the 1970s. (Patrick Moore)

Croatian Archbishop Warns Against Isolation. Archbishop Josip Bozanic told a meeting in Zagreb to discuss the Vatican's recent European Bishops' Conference that Croatia must remain "politically and psychologically" oriented toward Europe, "Jutarnji list" reported on 10 November. He warned that if Croats "close themselves off" from Europe, they will find themselves "back in the East." Bozanic also noted that the effects of communism on society have proven more deeply rooted and longer lasting than most people thought at the time the system collapsed. He added that the period of post-communist optimism is long past.

Observers note that some elements in the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) have reacted to frequent criticism of its policies by the EU and OSCE by expressing the view that Croatia does not need to take European views into account.

For its part, the Church has often clashed with the HDZ before. One case involved the 1993-1994 conflict with the Muslims in Bosnia. Pressure from then Franjo Cardinal Kuharic played a key role in prompting Tudjman to end that war. In general, the Tudjman leadership wants to keep the Church from playing an independent role in politics, while the Church is determined not to let the government regulate it. Church spokesmen privately note that the HDZ contains many former communists, whose adherence to Roman Catholicism may be less than complete. (Patrick Moore)

Clinton Outlines Balkan 'Challenge.' U.S. President Bill Clinton marked the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a major foreign policy speech at Georgetown University on 8 November. He stressed that U.S. policy faces four challenges: Russia, the Balkans, Greek-Turkish tensions, and the need to maintain U.S. "leadership and engagement in the world." Referring to Serbia and its neighbors, Clinton said that it will be important to bring stability to the Balkans so that "bitter ethnic problems can no longer be exploited by dictators and Americans do not have to cross the Atlantic again to fight in another war." In particular, Clinton called for a democratic transition in Serbia from the rule of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whom the American president called "the last living relic of the age of European dictators of the communist era," AP reported.

Clinton also said: "I think it's worth devoting some small fraction of this nation's great wealth and power to help build a Europe where wars don't happen." (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "Clinton, butcher of the Balkans, you are unwanted here," and "Americans: Murderers of the peoples." -- Chants by demonstrators in Athens, Greece, on the eve of the U.S. president's visit. Reported by AP on 8 November.

"We were pulling back very slowly and they began to beat us up. I was falling down. A couple of others fell as well. They continued to beat us up. I got hit on the back. When I went to the hospital, I found out more than 50 people were there with light injuries. I know for sure that one had head injuries, but he didn't want to go to the hospital emergency room." -- Belgrade student to RFE/RL's South Slavic Service, after the police broke up a demonstration on 9 November.

"Dr. Tudjman is absolutely capable of making decisions. There is no shadow-state within the government." -- Croatian Parliamentary President Vlatko Pavletic, in response to rumors that Tudjman is incapacitated and that the ruling HDZ has set up a secret body to make key decisions. Quoted in "Vecernji list" on 9 November.

"Everything is functioning perfectly normally." -- Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa, quoted in "Jutarnji list" on 10 November.