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Balkan Report: December 16, 1998

16 December 1998, Volume 2, Number 49

Serbian Diaspora Could Be Key to Change. Serbian-American businessman Miroslav-Michael Djordjevic told the Frankfurt-based daily "Vesti" of December 15 that members of the Serbian diaspora will play the key role in promoting the democratization of their homeland. Djordjevic said that he recently found that policy makers in Washington now recognize that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is the main threat to stability in the Balkans and are very supportive of the democratization of Serbia. But, he added, the policy makers expect Serbs themselves to decide on what they want and what support they would like from the international community. Djordjevic stressed that democratization must be the work of Serbs themselves.

He pointed out that the Serbian diaspora should take the lead and show the international community that the Belgrade regime does not speak for all Serbs. To this end, Djordjevic called upon all democratically-minded Serbs to unite in one political party with a clear program focused on promoting democratic change. The next step would be to make this program widely known in Serbia and abroad. After that, a shadow "government of experts" could be set up, which would include representatives of "all national institutions: the Church, the Crown, the Academy of Sciences, the universities," business and the diaspora.

Albright Calls for Democracy in Serbia. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called on Milosevic on December 8 to grant Kosova "substantial autonomy." Speaking at a gathering of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, she urged the Atlantic alliance to find "an appropriate way to support the democratic aspirations of the Serb people. They have been silenced and shackled far too long." Albright argued that "this crisis will not end until Belgrade accepts [the province's] need for, and right to, substantial autonomy." Albright also said that the Kosovars and Serb leaders alike "have made public statements that do not help the cause of peace. Serb threats to launch a renewed offensive...are dangerous and we view them with extreme seriousness." She criticized the Kosovars' "insistence on rhetoric of independence and [their] rejection" of the Hill plan.

State Department spokesman James Rubin, in Washington on December 1, on U.S. policy toward Serbia: "What I can say about our policy is that we want to see democracy in the FRY itself. Democracy is more than an election; democracy is a process. It is a process that doesn't include shutting down independent media. It doesn't include harassing and jailing political opponents, and it doesn't include many other aspects of the behavior that has come to mark the Milosevic period in Yugoslavia's history...The most recent purge of senior officials in Belgrade, including the head of state security and the chief of staff of the army, smacks of desperation and distrust on his part.

Milosevic has been at the center of every crisis in the former Yugoslavia over the last decade. He is not simply part of the problem; Milosevic is the problem. We have been promoting democratic practices and reforms in Serbia in a number of ways, including through independent media, including democracy assistance programs for fledgling opposition parties. That is something we are going to continue to do.

At the same time, we did face this summer and fall the prospect of an humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo - hundreds of thousands of peoples' lives were at risk. In order to deal with that humanitarian catastrophe, that very near-term disaster, we did meet with President Milosevic. And as a result of his belief that air strikes would ensue, he changed his policies, removed his forces, stopped marauding in the country side and, as I understand it, the UNHCR said that there are now no internally displaced persons without some form of shelter...We have no interest in propping up President Milosevic. We do have an interest in preventing humanitarian catastrophe...That's how you balance principle and pragmatism in a very complicated situation like Serbia...

Let me say that...Kosovo is relatively quiet. There are no cease-fire violations that have been reported. Our observers continue to accompany police patrols in the Malisevo area, and in that regard there is a concern we do have - that is the excessive Serbian police presence at Malisevo remains a troubling instance of Serbian failure to comply fully with the UN Security Council resolutions (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," Nos. 47 and 48)...

As the verification agreement authorizes them to do, our observers are accompanying Serbian police patrols in the Malisevo region in an effort to reduce tensions in an area where the KLA is particularly visible. Our monitors' efforts have borne fruit over the last few weeks, as the number of incidents of violence has dropped significantly. But we still do have a problem with the excessive presence there...

We have no illusions about President Milosevic. We do not see him as a guarantor of stability in Kosovo or elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia. We also recognize quite clearly, as I have in several responses this morning said to you, that we believe he is the cause of many of these problems not the solution to many of these problems...

Secretary Albright had a very constructive talk with [Montenegrin President Milo] Djukanovic when he was here in the United States. Other than being a very tall person, which was astounding, he was someone who had a very tall view of democracy and a view that we found quite appealing.

We have not taken the position that we are in favor of some breaking away of Montenegro. We have said, and I can repeat, that we respect the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as the final act of [the 1975 CSCE conference in] Helsinki commits us to do. But we will insist that the authorities in Belgrade, including President Milosevic, meet their commitments under the Helsinki Final Act to allow for democracy, independent media and freedom of association and expression in Montenegro."

Quotes of the Week: AP's Dave Carpenter, reporting from Kosova on December 8: "Tense Kosovo, where a precarious truce feels like an intermission in a horror movie..."

The international community's Carlos Westendorp, to Reuters in Sarajevo on December 9: "Bosnia is not going to be a normal country until [all indicted war criminals are brought to justice], until they are all in The Hague."

Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, in Brussels on December 9, following criticism of Milosevic by U.S. diplomats: "We must consider that on [Kosova], the positions of all the other [Serbian] political forces are either identical to those of Mr. Milosevic, in the best case, or in most cases they're worse...We're not happy also in Athens with Mr. Milosevic. But he's there. He has been elected, and he has cooperated to some extent. And we have to make him cooperate to a larger extent. That's the aim, so let's not divert our efforts."

U.S. envoy Chris Hill, in Prishtina on 9 December, following the formal rejection of his plan by the Kosovars and Serbs alike: "Ultimately the responsibility of reaching a settlement rests with both sides...They have to be interested in a settlement more than we."