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Balkan Report: November 18, 1998

18 November 1998, Volume 2, Number 45

RFE/RL's Bosnian Radio Network Reaches Growing Audience. In partnership with 31 independent local radio stations throughout Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service now operates the first pan-Bosnian radio network. Created in June 1998, the "Radio 27 network" reaches both entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

RFE/RL took the lead in organizing this network to promote the sharing of news and public affairs feature programming that is essential to implementing the Dayton peace agreement. The network seeks to promote a locally-based, all-Bosnia public affairs media free of nationalist slant, which is essential to the development of civil society, interethnic harmony, and Bosnian statehood.

The network's daily broadcasts -- every morning from 7 to 9 am -- include news supplied by RFE/RL as well as local news reports and features supplied by the individual Bosnian radio stations. In addition, the network features analyses and discussion programs from RFE/RL's regular South Slavic Service broadcasts. These broadcasts supplement rather than replace the five hours of daily programming that RFE/RL's South Slavic Service continues to broadcast to Bosnia-Herzegovina and the other parts of the former Yugoslavia.

Production is coordinated in RFE/RL's Sarajevo bureau, with editorial oversight at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters. Nenad Pejic, director of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service and former program director of Sarajevo Television, is chief editor.

Network members are committed to the continuation of Bosnia-wide broadcasting free of local political influence. They also hope to expand the number of locally-produced reports. They plan to name a marketing representative, based in Sarajevo, to seek advertising revenue to support the work of these stations. And over the next two years, they plan to shift editorial operations to Bosnia and expand programming time.

"Dark Forces." One feature of the political culture throughout the Balkans is the fondness for conspiracy theories. These usually involve some outside "dark forces," which are often described as being in league with domestic ones. The dark forces usually figure in the theories as omnipotent, and their existence provides a convenient excuse for one's own inability to manage a given situation.

Jews, Freemasons, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, Islam, communists, fascists and various international and regional powers are among the dark forces that appear time and again in Balkan conspiracy theories. During the Croatian and Bosnian wars, for example, the media loyal to President Slobodan Milosevic stressed that Serbs are the victim of an international conspiracy consisting of the U.S., Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Vatican, Islamic fundamentalism, and Turkey.

On November 5, the pro-Milosevic Belgrade "Politika" ran an interview with retired General Radovan Radinovic, who showed that belief in dark forces is alive and well: "We now find ourselves in a pretty firm geopolitical environment. And the paradox is that Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even Albania are allegedly closer to the European integration than we are! It is clear even to the ignorant that something is very wrong here....The United States, as the superpower that heads the West, is playing the role of world judge and 'policeman' ... Furthermore, the united Germany is a geopolitical power with long-established campaign plans against strategically important areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. There is no doubt that, in the near future, Germany will strongly influence Serbian geopolitical areas and prospects for achieving our state and national interests...[In the Balkan crossroads of civilizations,] there is a strong presence of Islam, which is using both secret and open channels in a repeated geopolitical campaign against Europe." These forces that oppose Serbia, Radinovic concludes, have as their ultimate goal a "showdown with Russia."

The general has warm words for the revival of an interest in Serbia in geopolitics and the founding of an institute devoted to it. It might be noted that the Serbs are not alone in this respect, and at least one prominent Croatian weekly helped make its name in 1991 and afterward with articles dealing with geopolitics, replete with maps covered with arrows and arcane symbols.

Old Ties. Major Pierre-Henri Bunel, the French NATO officer suspected of spying for Belgrade, has some help from his friends (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," No. 44). About a dozen of his fellow officers staged a demonstration in Paris on November 11 on his behalf. One of the participants was sent into early retirement some years ago after authoring a pro-Serbian book, Reuters reported. One of the officers' signs read: "The French Army -- with the Serbs!" The report added: "A senior officer who observed the group said he believed most were sympathizers of right-wing National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who backs the Serb cause." It is not clear whether any of the officers had served with UNPROFOR, IFOR, SFOR or in other capacities in the former Yugoslavia.

Quotes of the Week. Bosnian federation Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic, earlier this month at a meeting of the federal cabinet, in response to suggestions that preparing a new land survey could easily become a political football: "As far as I'm concerned, the best thing would be to use the Austro-Hungarian survey, because everything that is [any] good in Bosnia-Herzegovina was done by Austria-Hungary."

Bosnian federation President Ejup Ganic, in Helsinki on November 11: "It is very difficult to become capitalist overnight." He was responding to criticism from the Contact Group that the Muslims in particular are dragging their feet on privatization. Ganic was in Finland to seek help in rebuilding Bosnia's key forestry sector.

Didier Fau, head of Carlos Westendorp's economic office, on November 11, on dealing with the Bosnians: "We influence, we push, we organize meetings, we shout, we threaten...[but] we are not in charge."

An OSCE spokesman in Tirana on November 11 condemned looting of its offices in Shkodra the previous day, saying that the vandalism "raises serious concerns about the security situation in northern Albania."

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Lilic, in Belgrade on November 13, rejecting talks with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK): "There is no place for extremists, terrorism, abductions, killings, [and] armed attacks."

A Serbian police commander in Malisheva, quoted in the "Financial Times" on November 12 as saying that his men "are ready for attacks against us. There are groups of people [in Kosova] out of everyone's control."

UCK strategist Naim Maloku, quoted in the "International Herald Tribune" on November 12: "If the Serbs spend 30 minutes burning the house of an old man who has spent 40 years building it, isn't it natural that he would give his sons to the [UCK] cause?"

Monitoring chief William Walker, on arriving in Prishtina on November 11: "It is obvious that we have a long way to go from this battlefield to the negotiating table...We are here to verify compliance with agreements that will allow the conditions for a reasonable political settlement to be found. The OSCE mission is not here to replace the legal authorities or to remove their responsibilities towards all the people of Kosovo...[The mission also hopes] to encourage the political leaderships of all involved in this conflict to choose the way of moderation, the way of sanity, the way of peaceful resolution of their differences."

OSCE spokesman Duncan Bullivant, in Prishtina on November 15, commenting on an incident in which a Serbian armored vehicle fired a gun-burst over a car carrying U.S. diplomatic monitors: "This type of behavior and activity is totally unacceptable. Random firing is not in the spirit of the cease-fire agreement. Firing machine guns over the heads of anyone is dangerous, and we have guarantees of security from Mr. Milosevic."

Tanjug's comment on the same incident: "The members of the U.S. mission in interpreted the exhaust pipe [backfiring] as shooting."