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Balkan Report: May 27, 1998

27 May 1998, Volume 2, Number 21

Westendorp's Busy Crew. The office of the international community's Carlos Westendorp took up a number of issues this past week, including announcing on May 20 the design of a new Bosnian coat-of-arms based on that of the new flag. Another problem involved exchanging accusations with Croatian and Muslim officials alike regarding delays in issuing the new unified license plates, which will be the only plates valid as of June 1.

Yet a third set of issues surrounded plans to transform Muslim-controlled RTVBiH into a federal radio and television facility that adheres to internationally valid norms and standards. A spokesman for Westendorp made it clear that the new station will not become a plaything of the two leading nationalist parties in the federation, namely the Muslim Party of Democratic Action and the Croatian Democratic Community, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on May 22.

Finally, Westendorp's office brought together the education ministers of the Republika Srpska and the federation on May 19 to discuss plans to launch new school textbooks. The ministers will supervise the preparation of texts that reflect the spirit of the Dayton agreement and do not propagate nationalism or ethnic hatred. Texts currently in use by each of the three ethnic groups fall far sort of Dayton norms and present one-sided views of history in particular.

Westendorp Wants NATO to Catch Karadzic. Westendorp said in Barcelona on May 23 that he wants NATO troops to arrest Radovan Karadzic, who heads the list of indicted war criminals, and deliver him to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. "I said two months ago that Karadzic should be in The Hague in April. He's not in The Hague and I am very sorry for that, and I think that if he doesn't go on a voluntary basis it is the responsibility of our [NATO] nations to bring him to The Hague." In April, "The Washington Post" reported that a French officer warned Karadzic that he was about to be arrested, which prompted Washington to call off the operation. The French Defense Ministry denied the story (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," April 15,1998).

Ahmici Refugees Go Home. On May 24, approximately 50 Muslim families returned to their homes in Ahmici in central Bosnia's Lasva valley, which was the site of one of the worst massacres of the Croatian-Muslim war of 1993. Croatian units killed some 112 Muslim civilians and destroyed many homes. Active support from the international community made the return possible.

Also on May 24 in central Bosnia, Federal President Ejup Ganic said that Croats who want to return to their homes in that region may do so. Before the war, there were many pockets of Croatian settlement there, most of which dated from the Middle Ages. The Croat-Muslim war resulted in the ethnic cleansing of most Croats from that region, just as most Muslims were driven from western Herzegovina. Whether these two groups of people will be able to go to their respective homes is considered a litmus test both for the Dayton agreement and for the Muslim-Croat federation.

The Tito Legacy. RFE/RL's "Radio Most" (Bridge) program on May 24 brought together historians Ivo Banac of Zagreb and Milan Protic of Belgrade to discuss the revival of interest in Josip Broz Tito, who led Yugoslavia from 1945 until his death in 1980. Both historians agreed that the lingering appeal of the late leader is not based on any intrinsic merits of his statesmanship or his times, but rather on the perception of many people that they were better off when he was in power than they are now. Banac noted that most Yugoslavs still live under a system as authoritarian as Tito's, with the exception of at least the Slovenes. Protic added that Tito's era was one in which "people had few cares, but they also had no responsibility for their own affairs." Tito, the Serbian Balkan expert argues, was not motivated by ideological principles but only by his desire to maintain his personal power.

Banac pointed out that Tito's negative legacy includes the impression that democracy and a united Yugoslavia are incompatible, and that democracy in the region is possible only with the splitting up of the multi-national state. The Croatian historian and political commentator added that Tito's system appeared stable only because it functioned in the context of the Cold War, when the superpowers opposed any cataclysmic change in Europe.

Quote of the Week. On the subject of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's unseating of Prime Minister Radoje Kontic and replacing him with Momir Bulatovic: "We regard this blatant political maneuvering as only undermining international confidence in President Milosevic's leadership." U.S. State Department Spokesman James Rubin, May 21, 1998 (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," May 21, 1998, and "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," May 22, 1998).