10 December 1999, Volume 3, Number 53
What Can Culture Do For The Economic Recovery Of Southeastern Europe? The realm of culture suffered badly in the Balkans during the recent long years of economic decline and war. Cultural life was also brutalized through the large-scale emigration of mostly young artists, musicians, and other intellectuals. Artists, publishers, and entrepreneurs from a variety of cultural fields in several southeastern European countries met in Sarajevo between 2 and 4 December to see if a revival of culture-related business could help in the region's economic revival. They discussed the role and prospects of their respective areas of expertise in the economic recovery of the region. Participants agreed to boost their cross-border cooperation in publishing and the visual arts, but such efforts still face severe obstacles.
Andreas Wiesand of the European Research Institute for Comparative Cultural Policy and the Arts--one of the conference organizers along with the German Goethe-Institute--stressed that politicians often underestimate the economic potential of culture-related businesses. These include a broad variety of businesses and institutions, only some of which are funded publicly. They range from small arts-and-crafts to the visual arts, video productions, music, publishing, the media, and many others. Wiesand stressed that culture-related industries have given a boost to local economic development in areas that went through previous economic decline, such as the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, traditionally an area of heavy industries.
He stressed that culture-related businesses there have reached growth rates considerably higher than those of all other "production sectors." Thus, he argues, they can create sustainable employment, are future-oriented, and can help to reinforce regional potentials. Most participants at the conference were optimistic that such a development could also benefit Southeastern Europe.
But Miso Nejasmic, director of the Jesenski i Turk publishing house in Zagreb, noted that applying the right policies remains a precondition for such a development process. He added that this includes providing good development conditions for small- and medium-sized businesses. Ralph Ebert, from the German company Stadtart, argued that governments must pursue an active cultural and economic policy, and promote an urban development that supports the emergence of a diversified cultural life. He added, however, that cultural industries as a basis for economic recovery will only be successful if they develop a life independent from public funding. Several other participants, for their parts, warned that the main obstacle to such a development remains the low purchasing power of the middle class in the entire region.
Melentie Pandilovski, an art historian from Skopje, argued that many governments in Southeastern Europe are not sincerely interested in supporting cultural development, with the exception of a very limited spectrum of official culture, which is often linked to nationalist ideology or an anachronistic understanding of art. Thus he argued that cultural communities should be supported through NGO channels, stressing that these are very well developed in the Balkans. He also pointed out that most politicians do not actively support the exchange and cooperation of artists between the different countries, simply due to lack of interest. Most participants agreed that one of the main obstacles cultural industries face in the region are borders and visa regimes that seriously limit the mobility and exchange of artists and businesses in the field.
Uros Djuric, a painter and activist of the Remont arts group in Belgrade, stressed that despite these difficulties, many artists and especially musicians maintained their cross-border contacts throughout the wars in the former Yugoslavia. These people, however, represent mostly the generation of young underground artists from the subculture of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They now also include artists from the comparatively new sector of visual and video arts--and in particularly those using the internet, which has proven an effective tool to overcome borders.
A working group on the visual arts created a new initiative during the conference, which is intended to bring artists from the entire Balkan region together. The group also agreed on follow-up meetings next year in Skopje and Ljubljana. The group created a webpage introducing the Balkan Arts Network (BAN) at http://zayac.scca.org.mk/ban.
In other cooperation efforts, publishers from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia --as well as representatives of the Frankfurt International Book Fair--agreed to closely cooperate in the future. The fields of cooperation include the organization of joint book fairs and direct sales and exchanges, which are aimed at increasing the distribution of books from other countries throughout the region.
Tajib Sahinspahic, a publisher from Sarajevo, already has begun promoting the exchange of books between several former Yugoslav republics. But even though he successfully expanded his publishing of books in Serbo-Croatian, his main market became foreigners living in Bosnia-Herzegovina who buy imported foreign-language books. Considering the low level of sales of Serbo-Croatian language books, he remains skeptical about the prospects for developing a sophisticated distribution network for books throughout the region. He believes that it will take more time and economic development before a Balkan-wide distribution system--involving publishers and bookshops--will be able to pay for itself through sales.
Finally, Pirkko Rainesalo, a high-ranking Finnish government official responsible for cultural policy, concluded that even though culture is not a priority of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, it should become a significant part of the EU's reconstruction efforts. She argued that Southeastern Europe also needs a pact for mobility and a pact for creativity as essential preconditions for the development of stability, and pledged to promote the idea in the name of the Finnish EU presidency. (Fabian Schmidt)
Albanian Socialist Leader Calls For Open Borders. Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 6 December that ensuring freedom of movement throughout the region is the best way to deflect nationalist calls for establishing a "greater Albania." Nano stressed that the solution to the ethnic Albanians' problems in the Balkans is not to redraw borders but to "make them irrelevant," Reuters reported. Nano said he wants to "create new ways of co-existence--first of all among [ethnic] Albanians--so that we are seen as emancipated, democratic, and a factor for stability in the Balkans...so no one will maltreat us as in the past or look down on us." The former prime minister added that he is "convinced that Kosova will become integrated into Europe faster than Serbia and at the same pace as Albania and other Balkan countries, such as Macedonia and Bulgaria." Observers note that one of many obstacles to promoting Balkan cooperation is the existence of tough visa requirements between the countries of the region. (Patrick Moore)
Bosnian Police For UN Peacekeeping. The UN's Jacques Klein and Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik agreed in Banja Luka on 8 December that 11 Bosnian Serb police will soon take part in UN peacekeeping operations in East Timor and Sierra Leone.
A contingent of 53 police from the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation has also passed initial tests to determine their suitability for an international peacekeeping assignment. Skills included physical fitness, driving, and English. Candidates must have at least eight years experience, which means that only those with police backgrounds prior to the 1992-1995 war could qualify. The UN will provide two weeks of specialized training before the police take up their assignments, which will last between six months and one year each.
Some confusion remains regarding their uniforms. Klein told reporters that the men will represent Bosnia-Herzegovina and not either of its two entities. Reuters reported from Sarajevo, however, that the men may wear the insignia of their respective entities if they also display UN and joint Bosnian ones. UN representatives stressed that the peacekeeping experience might help give the Bosnians a sense of joint identity. Observers have long suggested that the UN might seek to use some of the large number of unemployed Bosnian young men with military training for peacekeeping in other parts of the world. The requirement of eight years' police experience, however, would rule out most of the hard-core group of wartime unemployed. (Patrick Moore)
Artemije Says Pavle 'Kisses Milosevic's Feet.' Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije said in a statement on 6 December that Patriarch Pavle "turned his back" on the Serbian people by attending a reception that Milosevic held on 29 November to mark Day of the Republic. Artemije added: "After all that Mr. Milosevic did to the Serbian people in the past ten years--and not only to the Serbian people--and after the tragedy he created in Kosovo for both the Albanian and the Serbian people...your decision to respond to his call and kiss Milosevic's feet...astonished and raised doubts among the honorable clergy and the majority of the Christian Orthodox people." The toughly-worded letter continued: "Today, when the whole nation is struggling to get rid of this losers' and non-national regime and save the country from the abyss it was pushed into...You, the spiritual leader and teacher, turn your back on the people and by your appearance at the reception...strengthen the shaking throne of the Destroyer of the Serbian people. This prolongs the people's mortal agony for who knows how much longer." AP noted that Artemije's letter confirms long-standing rumors of a deep political rift within the Orthodox hierarchy. Artemije added that the division "no longer can or should be hidden. The truth is more important than anything." "Vesti" suggested on 8 December that there are, in fact, at least four main political factions in the Church hierarchy: hard-line opposition, moderate, pro-regime, and "neutral." The daily puts Artemije in the first category and Pavle in the second. (Patrick Moore)
Kavan Says NATO Airstrikes Took Czech Government By Surprise. Speaking in Prague on 6 December, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said that information earlier this year that NATO was planning an air strike campaign in Yugoslavia took his government by surprise, CTK reported. The air strike campaign began a few days after the Czech Republic formally joined the alliance in March. Kavan, who was speaking at a conference on NATO in the Czech Senate, insisted that his government "supported all NATO measures, although it was not easy for many cabinet ministers." He also said Serbian media were better prepared to cover the NATO campaign than were the "relevant NATO bodies," "especially in the first days of the air strikes." He did not elaborate, but his remarks suggest that he was less than pleased with the coordination and flow of information within the Alliance. Kavan added that he is still proud of the Czech-Greek peace initiative (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 20, 1999). While that document itself was not adopted, many of its proposals were incorporated into the final agreement between NATO and Belgrade, he noted. He and his Greek counterpart George Papandreou announced the project in Peking in May. The Prague daily "Lidove noviny" recently described it as an embarrassment for the Czech Republic and as one of the more notable blunders of the current government. (Victor Gomez and Patrick Moore)
Quotations Of The Week. "Attempts by the Montenegrin regime to prevent the functioning of the Yugoslav army are happening more often every day." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, quoted by Reuters on 9 December.
"Current relations between Podgorica and Belgrade essentially result from two clashing strategic concepts of developing a joint state. Montenegro's concept is one of democracy, reforms, normalization of ties with neighbors, and openness to European and other integration processes. Milosevic's concept is of autarchy, dictatorship, and isolationism." -- Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, in Podgorica on 3 December. Quoted by Montena-fax news agency.
"The stability of the Balkans is something that has marked the whole of our continent during the 20th century. I hope Milosevic will recognize the firmness of [NATO's] resolve to make sure that the Balkans are not going to start the 21st century as another center of instability." -- NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, in Rome on 9 December. Quoted by Reuters.