Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: October 21, 1998

21 October 1998, Volume 2, Number 41

A Swiss Cheese. The Milosevic-Holbrooke pact on Kosova leaves many questions unanswered and contains some provisions that seem likely to cause trouble in the future. There are at least three key problems.

The first is verification. Some 2,000 unarmed civilians will be 2,000 potential hostages, assisted only by unarmed aircraft. Holbrooke said that he does not expect any trouble, and other officials note that some sort of "rapid reaction force" will be "over the horizon." Memories from 1995 of General Ratko Mladic's men rounding up peacekeepers as hostages are nonetheless still fresh.

The second issue is bringing war criminals to justice. The "Nuremberg principle" stresses that individuals must be tried if peace between peoples is to be restored. Milosevic has a miserable record of compliance with his Dayton obligations to cooperate with The Hague. And last week he made no new promises to Holbrooke in Belgrade.

Third and most important, the agreement is nebulous on the terms of a political settlement, which will have the Contact Group's latest plan only "as a basis." The details have been left for later, and Milosevic is a past master at dealing with details.

The Kosovar Albanians, moreover, have been largely left out of the negotiating process, and the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) seems to have been left out completely. The 1999 elections, moreover, will be held according to rules set by the Serbs, which is completely unacceptable to the Albanians.

What seems to be on offer is local autonomy based on the community, or "opstina." This will please those local Serbs, Montenegrins, Turks or Roma, who are apprehensive about the return of the kind of Albanian-dominated, Prishtina-based provincial autonomy that Kosova had under the 1974 constitution. The decentralized approach will also ease Belgrade's fears about the emergence of a new Kosovar republic within the federation.

But even provincial autonomy is unacceptable to the Albanians. The minimum they will settle for is an international protectorate that will lead to independence. The Albanians' wishes, however, do not seem to have played much of a role in formulating the agreement. And that may prove its Achilles' heel.

RFE/RL Responds to Serbian Ban. On October 13, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine announced that the South Slavic Service has expanded its broadcasts in response to a Serbian ban on the rebroadcast of RFE/RL programming on local medium-wave stations (see Bosnia Report No. 40).

Among the measures Mr. Dine announced are the expansion of one of the South Slavic Service's evening programs -- "Inside Yugoslavia" -- from 30 minutes to 60 minutes each day and the refocusing of the evening program "Events on the Line" to cover events in Kosova. South Slavic Service materials on RFE/RL's Web site will be expanded to include additional news and information from Yugoslavia and preparations are in the works for additional coverage, including both newscasts and special programs, in the course of the day.

Mr. Dine pointed out that the reaction in Yugoslavia to Belgrade's efforts to ban rebroadcasting of RFE/RL programs was especially gratifying: some local radio stations and newspapers published the frequencies of RFE/RL shortwave broadcasts so that listeners can tune in despite the ban on rebroadcasting RFE/RL programs on local stations.

Meanwhile, the authorities have banned three independent Belgrade dailies and several local broadcasters. Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj has, moreover, indicated that a crackdown on Albanian-language media is not far off.

Early Christmas Shopping. The Kosovar news agency, KIC, ran the following unconfirmed report from Prishtina on October 19: "Serbian vehicles loaded with domestic appliances were seen today traveling the Skenderaj-Mitrovica road, witnesses told KIC. Local sources in Skenderaj and Mitrovica said Serbian troops had raided abandoned houses of Albanians in the area, where they took away large amounts of commodities and appliances, including television sets, satellite dishes, video players, ovens, etc. Part of the pillage was loaded on huge TAM-made trucks. A convoy of Serbian forces consisting of 20 trucks, five tanks and other vehicles was seen moving on the Skenderaj-Mitrovica at around 13:00 hours today."

Quotes of the Week. Henry Kissinger, in Prague on October 12: "I confess I don't see an end today in the deployment of B-52s. It is beyond my comprehension what they are supposed to do in an ethnic conflict at the edge of the Balkans...No one man can cause the ethnic crisis in the Balkans. It is a tragedy of the interaction between Islam and Christianity at the edge of the Balkans which has been going on for hundreds of years."

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, on the October 16 meeting of the international Contact Group: "[the session marked] the success of common sense in the realization that the conflict...can be settled only by political means...Russia's voice was heeded."

President Bill Clinton, on the need to verify that Milosevic keeps the agreements he made with Holbrooke on October 12: "Balkan graveyards are filled with President Milosevic's broken promises. In the days ahead we will focus not only on what President Milosevic says, but what we see he does."

Veljko Odalovic, Serbian governor of Kosova, commenting on the settlement on October 13: "We expect that in the end it will lead us into reaching a peaceful solution...Let's hope that the life in Kosovo will soon be normalized. We are working hard on that."

Albanian Foreign Ministry spokesman that same day: "Belgrade has never kept its promises in the past."

Veton Surroi, Kosovar negotiator and leading journalist, also on October 13: "The deal is not linked to a serious political negotiating process...The problem is conceptual. Does [the West] really want to leave Milosevic in charge?"

"Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on October 14, comparing the Belgrade agreements to the UN's "peace" with Saddam Hussein: "And the moral of this tale? The one on his own is always better off than the many ranged against him. He can literally call the shots with a ridiculously meager expenditure of force in comparison with his opponents' efforts. And because the cost of the whole affair favors him, he can just carry on as before."

Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution, quoted in "The New York Times" on October 14: "Milosevic's unilateral offer falls short of the U.S. proposal, which itself falls short of anything any self-respecting Kosovo politician, let alone a Kosovar with a gun, is willing to accept."

Former Kosovar political prisoner Avdi Limani, quoted by Reuters on October 16: "The Albanians no longer believe in these fairy tales...We're going to fight to the end."

Surroi, commenting on NATO's decision on October 16 to give Milosevic a ten-day reprieve: "The maneuvering space that Milosevic receives and that he will use very well for his own interests...In the next ten days we will see further...[watering down] of the requests toward the Belgrade regime" by the international community.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, in London on October 19: "Of course [the Milosevic-Holbrooke pact] is better than nothing, but in my judgment it will not last long...How can unarmed men prevent an armed conflict?...After all let's remember the first fuse of World War I was lit in Sarajevo...and that should have been a warning not to engage in appeasement...This was the same mistake that was made with Hitler before World War II...I believe a firm stand should be taken and [Milosevic] should not be allowed to expose the whole world to ridicule for another ten years."

Reuters headline on October 18: "OSCE 'Verifiers' Deploy into Kosovo Snakepit."

Croatian Defense Minister Andrija Hebrang, in his letter of resignation to President Franjo Tudjman on October 12: "May God help you distinguish good from evil."