Accessibility links

Breaking News

South Slavic: May 31, 2001

31 May 2001, Volume 3, Number 18


Part II. Part I appeared on 17 May 2001.

Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge), we are going to discuss whether we are due for a redrawing of Balkan frontiers. Our guests are: in London, Chris Cviic, who is a political analyst at the Royal Institute for International Affairs and former editor of "The Economist" for Central and Southeastern Europe; and in Belgrade, Dusan Janjic, who is a sociologist and director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Janjic, do you find that the domino scenarios regarding the region of former Yugoslavia are just empty talk?

Dusan Janjic: I do not think that the possible independence of Montenegro would have any direct influence on Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Dayton process in Bosnia has been taking shape for some years. Its structures may not function well, but there is a kind of procedure that is observed. I do not think that a conflict could break out there without help from Belgrade. And as Mr. Cviic has just said, there is no one left in Belgrade who would even consider encouraging some sort of an armed conflict or taking part in it.

Finally, now that we are comparing things, Albanian politicians from Kosovo never take Montenegro as an example. They would rather choose the example of the Republika Srpska and demand for Kosovo the status of that entity.

However, I think that we have two epicenters of crisis in the region of former Yugoslavia: one in Bosnia-Herzegovina and another in Kosovo. As far as Bosnia-Herzegovina is concerned -- and I am referring to Croatian demands for autonomy -- the crisis is about to be resolved. I think that there is enough room for a compromise solution with three cantons [sic.]. I do not think that this would lead to the disintegration of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It would federalize it to a certain extent, but it would also enable the people to take over full responsibility for their affairs....

Kosovo is a far more special problem. First, because the traces of the war are still fresh. The other reason is the intense ethnic cleansing that was carried out there, followed by retaliation.

My opinion is that the most that can be achieved at this stage of the crisis is that the protagonists sit at the same table and not rule out any existing options. One of the options is that they remain within Serbia -- I cannot talk about Yugoslavia -- while the other option is an agreement on the possible independence of Kosovo.

Of course, the second option is out of the question right now. It could come later, when the situation in Kosovo becomes stabilized. Of course, I do not advocate the independence of Kosovo because I would like to get rid of the Albanians -- as people sometimes say in Belgrade -- because they allegedly do not deserve to live with us, but because that is reality. So many evil things were done, and it will take many generations before the Kosovo Albanians can accept any sort of serious political links to Belgrade.

The point is that the domino scenario cannot be applied at this stage of the crisis in the region of former Yugoslavia. I also think that the main problem now is to strike a balance between ethnically based demands and existing borders.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Cviic, to what extent could the unresolved Albanian problem -- which has come to a head -- lead to greater instability in the Balkans?

Chris Cviic: I do not think that there is such a thing as an Albanian problem. If you take a look at what is going on in Albania today -- and I am informed about what is going on there and talk with some leading figures there -- you will see that there is neither an overt nor a covert desire for a big Albanian state that would include all Albanians. If one asks ordinary Albanians -- I mean the citizens of the Republic of Albania -- they will tell you that they are not interested in that. They are absorbed in their own economic and social problems.

Therefore, Albania is not another Piedmont. Could Kosovo play that role, as some claim? But what sort of a Piedmont could Kosovo be? [...]

Those who know the situation in Albania are well aware that the state of relations between the Albanians who live in Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia proper does not suggest that this is one people who work together to realize a grand national idea. I see neither a [political] force nor a leader on the horizon who would be able to do such a thing. There is no possibility of carrying it out, anyway, since no one would let that happen.

But the biggest problem of all is what to do with Kosovo. How does one create a democratic and [social and cultural] perspective, as opposed to a purely national one? How does one create a program for the population of Kosovo -- for the Albanian majority as well as for the Serb minority -- which would allow them to join in the process of broader European integration?

That is the real problem, and not any unresolved Albanian problem. For instance, when I was in Montenegro -- and I was there several times -- I was not aware that there is an Albanian problem there. This is why it seems to me that it would be a better and more effective way to do things if we were not afraid of some Greater Albania -- which could allegedly destabilize the entire region -- but rather think of how to resolve the very concrete problems that we have.

If we managed to open perspectives for Kosovo, or, if you want, to formalize the present protectorate -- but not for good -- then we could unburden Macedonia of what is now weighing it down. It could then go on to join the European integration process.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Janjic, do you find the fear of a Greater Albania unfounded?

Dusan Janjic: I think so. It is true what Mr. Cviic has just said about Albania. You will not find a single politician there talking about Greater Albania; not even [Democratic Party leader and former President] Sali Berisha talks about it. However, there is something else. There is a sort of instability, tension, or sense of uncertainty on the territory inhabited by the Albanians, or, to be more precise, in the southern part of former Yugoslavia and the Balkans. From that perspective, we can say that there is an Albanian issue, but neither as a Greater Albanian nor as a Greater Kosovar issue.

What makes the situation uncertain is [the lack of clarity regarding Kosovo's political status]. It is well known that de facto Kosovo is not subordinated to Serbia, that de jure it is subordinated to Yugoslavia, that the existing protectorate of the international community is not completely defined, and that this is why it depended a lot on [former UN civilian administrator Bernard] Kouchner. He managed the whole thing a little bit one-sidedly, but he should not be blamed. He did his best in an undefined setting.

This is why it is necessary to define what sort of autonomy and democratic institutions should be established in Kosovo, and especially to define the mechanisms for the protection of minorities -- the Serbs, the Roma, and the [Muslims]. I think that it would significantly ease tensions. It would force the Kosovar politicians -- even the extreme ones -- to become engaged in the development of democracy.

As far as Macedonia is concerned, the country failed in the course of ten years to start a dialogue about a new interethnic agreement or deal, as Veton Surroi would say. But the way out is obvious -- a deal for the self-government or autonomy of western Macedonia. However, now that the conflict has started [and attitudes have hardened], it is very hard to imagine such a solution.

Omer Karabeg: There are people who think that the conflict in Macedonia cannot be resolved without establishing a protectorate. They give the examples of the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, which were ended after the arrival of foreign troops and the establishment of a kind of international protectorate in Bosnia-Herzegovina and of a classic protectorate in Kosovo. What do you think?

Dusan Janjic: I think that the present crisis in Macedonia demands a more energetic and clearer response by the European Union and the American administration. Macedonia cannot cause any sort of a Balkan war, but, if the European Union and the United States remain indifferent, the situation could become similar to what took place in Lebanon -- which means that people could get used to conflict. This is why the conflict must not [be allowed to] spread....

The second thing is that the West must provide money for the realization of economic projects in Macedonia. The EU's Stability Pact was quite promising, but not much has ever been realized. For instance, a highway was constructed just because the American troops needed it, but nothing has been done for the Macedonian economy, any filling stations, motels, etc.

The international community is facing an important test. Macedonia does not need a protectorate but rather pressure to force the Macedonians and the Albanians to reach an agreement, as well as economic aid. A protectorate will be necessary if chaos settles in for 10 or 15 years, but not now. What Macedonia needs right now is the economic and political presence of the international community.

Chris Cviic: I think that the development of the situation in Macedonia will depend not only on the role of the international community, but also on the behavior of its neighbors. I am glad that Greece has changed the policy it had towards Macedonia some years ago. Greece is now very interested in the stability in Macedonia, and the extent of Greek investments in the Macedonian economy shows it. Other neighbors are not as rich as Greece. Bulgaria cannot do as much for the economy, but its [policies are] constructive.

I would like to see Macedonia surrounded by constructive neighbors. I remember that, when I was a schoolboy in old Yugoslavia, before World War II, we were taught that Yugoslavia was surrounded by "PROBLEMS" (BRIGAMA), which stands for the initial letters of the surrounding countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Greece, Albania, Hungary-"Madjarska," and Austria).

People used to say that all the neighbors had some dubious intentions regarding Yugoslavia. I think that Macedonia's neighbors today do not have such intentions towards Macedonia, and that they are ready to help it survive. This is why I think that Macedonia has a chance to avoid a war or the Lebanon-style scenario that Mr. Janjic has mentioned, and which should be prevented at any price.