BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and August 1999 Issue in Brief)© Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), Sofia
Research Study 10, 1999
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
More than two months experience of KFOR and the UN in Kosovo caused frustration, conceptual fatigue or despair to some analysts, social circles and decision-makers. These reactions are skilfully manipulated both by official Belgrade (f. e. by accusing Western leaders for war crimes against FRY) and by those of the Albanians who still continue their dream of independent Kosovo and of ”Great AlbaniaÓ. Ideas of division or cantonisation of Kosovo, inducing the perception KFOR is neglecting the fate of the Serbs are part of the frustrating assessments about the developments in the province. Hopefully, these are not the reactions of the people in uniform in the field who continue the implementation of their plans for normalising the situation and re-building life in Kosovo. However, one should not stop considering the options for the political and legal framework that would bring the ‘constitutional roof’ over the Kosovo people with its diverse ethnic content. New Yugoslavia can be the solution only if a democratic regime gets the upper hand in Belgrade and the Albanian extremism in Kosovo is placed under a reliable control. A common European roof with the rules and the political institutions of the EU is another potential constitutional formula for the people of Kosovo in concert with the other Balkan nations and countries – probably, the longer-term one and the lasting solution of the puzzle of today.
The disaster caused by the earthquake in Turkey brought a new perspective to traditional conflicts and to region-building solidarity – an experience that the people and the politicians in and outside the Balkans can constructively build-on.
The Balkan regional situation was again dominated by the Kosovo post-conflict developments.
The KFOR mission is tackling a vast range of issues. Most importantly, this is the implementation of the agreement that was signed with the KLA (UCK) for turning in their weapons to KFOR. Generally the KLA is compliant and the provisions have been met to date. Another issue that is hard to control is the remaining hatred between Albanians and Serbs that continues to drive them out from ethnically mixed towns and villages to others that are predominantly populated by their ethnic brethren. According to unofficial figures more than 75% of the Serbs have already fled away from their native places. There already exist ethnic Serbian enclaves within the Kosovo Gnjilane Valley. Most of the people who leave aim to avoid becoming the target of crime or intimidation. The crimes are mostly assaults, robberies, drive-by shootings, car theft, arson fires and individual acts of revenge. There are news of excavating a mass grave of Serbs killed by Albanians. According to KFOR sources the intimidation of Serbs by Albanians appears to be organised and is closely watched and analysed by KFOR authorities.
KFOR is also dealing with the support and direct help to summer harvesting. More than 90% of it was completed in August 1999. Security in the field for farmers and fuel for the tractors and combines was a typical KFOR support issue in the last weeks. KFOR is also looking at the opening of the schools. Repairing the damages from the war, bringing teachers, establishing curricula, preparing the classrooms, supplying the schools with basic materials were also among the priority emphasis of the peacekeeping force, working closely with NGOs, private and international organisations. A similar support has been provided to public works and services – city water, public transportation, electrical workers, refuse service, fire workers, etc. All this KFOR does in close cooperation with the UNMIK.
There have been Kosovo Albanian efforts to hamper the activity of the KFOR contingent, mainly by attacking German and French soldiers and by blocking the Russian forces in Orahovac and other places. Firing on Russian soldiers has also turned into an Albanian practice of intimidating the Russian participation in KFOR and creating a precedent of discouraging other KFOR representatives from an active duty. According to US KFOR sources the Russians are executing their duties in a fair and impartial manner. The Russian soldiers demonstrated great constraint and good control after receiving a considerable amount of fire, including grenades. The Russians neither stepped back, keeping the profile of KFOR high, nor employed violence to do their job by killing civilians and risking the life of their own soldiers. The Russians are coordinating their activity with the KFOR Command and are trying to solve the problems through negotiations.
The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on the Serbian and Albanian citizens of Kosovo on 12 August 1999 in Geneva to learn to live together and not to seek revenge. He said that those attempting to expel Serbs from Kosovo must not be allowed to succeed because though justice is required revenge is not justice. The UNMIK, which arrived in a province without administration, without public services, financing and any infrastructure achieved a comparable success: it is beginning to fulfil its key tasks. All UN regional administrators are in place, guiding efforts to rebuild civil service structures and establish mechanisms for democratisation. UNMIK’s goal of being present in all municipalities is on the way of being fulfilled. More than 40 UN appointed judges and prosecutors are conducting hearings from mid-August 1999. More than 600 civilian police have been deployed by 12 August 1999 and their number is increasing daily. UN civilian police is taking over law enforcement activities from KFOR on a step-by-step basis. A first training course for some 200 Kosovar police candidates is scheduled to begin at the end of August 1999. Under the auspices of the UN and the OSCE Radio Pristina began its broadcasting in Albanian, Serbian and Turkish. UNMIK also established custom’s service on the borders between Kosovo and Albania, as well as between Kosovo and FYROMacedonia. This was a serious blow at the organised Albanian criminals. A Tirana-based Albanian mafia network was responsible for charging huge fees for ‘guarding’ food and other relief donated for Kosovo by governments and individuals. This was an important step on the way of the legitimate control of the province’s economic assets. UNMIK restored also the activity of the main post and communications centre of Kosovo. UNMIK also turned off a proposal by the Serbian representatives of the Transitional Council of Kosovo to separate/cantonise the province along the ethnic principle. The UN also continues the studies of the level of the ecological degradation the war caused on the entire region of Southeastern Europe.
The ‘Ocalan case’ assumed a new feature after the devastating earthquake in North-western Turkey. A seed of reconciliation may grow and give fruit along the Turkish-Kurdish divide. The decision of the PKK to stop its military activity and to move out of the country all its armed contingents was partly paralleled by the adoption of the Turkish Parliament of The Repentance Law. It is not a radical political programme to close the antagonisms and hatred between Turks and Kurds. It just provides opportunities for part of the Kurdish resistance-fighters to get back to peaceful life, but not for many of them. There is also a condition in the law for those who will be ready to give up the weapons – to start effectively collaborating with the authorities against the rest of the Kurdish partisans who are not privileged by the law – those who killed Turks and the guerrilla commanders.
The Turkish Government, which is under the pressure of the Islamists, the Kurdish armed struggle and the consequences of a most devastating earthquake, obviously, is not yet ready to grant the kind of rights the Kurds expect mostly – freedom of using their language, radio and TV broadcasts, treatment as a normal ethnic minority within the international norms of behaviour. The PKK was late at the beginning of the 90s to change radically its strategy and lost. Is the Turkish Government preparing for a future loss in its relations with the outside world by postponing coming to terms with a large part of its own population on an issue that is very well illuminated for the international community to try to keep it closed in the borders of Turkey? The earthquake may turn to the positive the tides in the Greek-Turkish relations that started to shift well before the natural disaster. This is another argument of an improving environment in favour of a more reconciliatory approach to an issue which is disturbing not only for Turkey, but also for Turkey’s good-willed neighbours, for the EU and, yes, for the United States too – the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. Isn’t this better for the strategic Turkish energy, transport and communication projects too? And for the Turkey’s European future?
The post-war rehabilitation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After a New York Times article of 17 August 1999 the media world-wide continued claims the international community, including the USA has lost up to one billion dollars in aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina. These public funds are considered stolen from international aid projects through fraud carried out by the Muslim, Croatian and Serbian nationalist leaders who keep Bosnia rigidly partitioned into three ethnic enclaves. Later the Spanish ”El MundoÓ burst the news about the huge wealth of the son of the Bosnian President Alia Izetbegovic – Bakir Izetbegovic. El Mundo says he is the owner of one thousand houses in the whole country, of the air company ”Air BosniaÓ, and that he has accumulated this wealth with the support of the organised criminality of his country.
Corruption and criminality are serious problems in Bosnia which are addressed by the international community, donating funds for this country. Since December 1997 an international anti-fraud unit was created to monitor fraud and in March 1999 the steering board of the Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia approved a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The money that have been lost, however, are about $ 1 million and not $ 1 billion. Corrupt local officials, especially in Tuzla, have stolen this money and the US, Swiss and the OSCE reaction to that has been very important to stop this practice.
A correct picture of the difficult processes in Southeastern Europe, including the fraud-cases, is important to prevent harming the just cause of finding appropriate sources of helping the countries of this European region.
On 25 August 1999 in Vienna during an international military seminar for the ways of merging the Bosnian Serb and Croat-Muslim armies the Chief of Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army, General Momir Talic was arrested on an indictment by the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Recently, after a UNSC resolution the ICTY was headed by the Swiss lawyer Ms. Carla Del Ponte. General Talic was transported to The Hague. The initial reactions of the pro-Western Bosnian Serb Prime-Minister Milorad Dodik against the Austrian authorities and against the ICTY was very negative. He considers this act is in violation of the rules of the International Diplomatic Law. General Talic is considered one of the closest collaborators of the former leader of the Bosnian Serb armed forces, Gen. Ratko Mladic. Part of the accusations against Gen. Talic are the practices of ethnic cleansing in Banja Luka and Priedor during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ICTY in The Hague keeps the list of the war criminals in secret to prevent their hiding from justice – a cause that is chased aggressively by the international community.
There is no doubt, this case will certainly raise the tensions and resume conflict relations in the uneasily rehabilitating Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The main accent of the internal Albanian political life was on the country’s participation in the reconstruction programmes of the region – an excellent opportunity to earn political dividends both from the Western partners and from the Albanian voters. Both the ruling and the opposition political forces have lost their potential to influence the KLA and the political relations in Kosovo. One can expect the Albanian Kosovo policy to be in the tracks of the Western one rather than a nationalistic behaviour of their own.
The results of the Sarajevo Summit within the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe were perceived by Government representatives as inadequate for the real Bulgarian needs to compensate the political risk for the foreign investors in Bulgaria. Their concerns were not ungrounded: the trans-European infrastructure projects that are vital for the Bulgarian economy were not boosted in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo; Bulgaria, in a similar way as in the case with the Bosnian reconstruction did not receive international funding to profit economically from the reconstruction of the Kosovo province. And, indeed, by 20 August 1999 only two foreign (British) companies have displayed an interest to work on joint projects in Kosovo. This was a significant reason for the drop in the rating of the governmental leaders just after the war and on the eve of the municipal elections in Bulgaria.
The strategy of the Government to overcome this uncomfortable for it situation is finding appropriate ways of accelerating the investment process – the key issue of the structure reform of the country’s economy. First, it will try to seek and find on a bilateral basis political guarantees for individual investors; second, it will continue the negotiations with the international financial institutions (IFIs) to seek improvement of the financial balance of Bulgaria after the losses the country suffered from the war against Yugoslavia; third, it will concentrate on internal reserves by cutting down state costs. Despite the disappointment from the reaction to the country’s economic needs after the war Bulgaria remains committed to the NATO ”Joint GuardianÓ operation and will send its engineering-construction unit to the area.
The Government of Croatia has transferred to the ICTY in The Hague the indicted war criminal Vinco ”StelaÓ Martinovic in the first week of August 1999. However, more remains to be done by the Croatian authorities to meet all of their obligations towards the ICTY. What is very much expected is the transfer of the indictee Mladen Naletilic (”TutaÓ) to the ICTY as soon as possible.
The political forces in the small country are getting ready for the upcoming Presidential elections. In the first days of August 1999 the Prime-Minister of Taiwan, Vincent Sue arrived in Skopje for a five-days visit. He declared that FYROMacedonia is the Taiwan’s gateway to Southeastern Europe, and even further. The hotel industry, processing of marble, machine-construction, textile industry, pharmaceutical industry, construction materials and agriculture, banking and tele-communications are the fields of potential cooperation. Taiwan has also displayed an interest in involving in the economic issues of Kosovo. It remains to be seen how far Taipei will stick to its pledges to FYROMacedonia.
The opposition of the regime of Milosevic continued to gather momentum in August 1999. The call of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Milosevic to resign was made very clear this month. A new political movement was formed against Milosevic by the former Yugoslav armed forces Chief of Staff, M. Perisic. Independent circles have called for the formation of an interim expert government. On 19 August 1999 a 100,000 big rally was held in Belgrade by different opposition organisations.
The aims of official Belgrade are to put down people’s indignation with the regime, to prevent the unification of the opposition and to keep its power. The foreign-policy campaign of the Yugoslav Government underlines the civilian losses from the war and the ethnic cleansing of Serbs carried out presently by the Albanians in Kosovo. The other main accent of the campaign is the ”incapabilityÓ of KFOR to guarantee full implementation of the political agreement for Kosovo. The accession of FRY to the Russia-Belorus Union is still on the agenda of official Belgrade.
On 17 August 1999 at 3:02 a. m. local time an earthquake lasting 45 seconds of 7.4 on the Richter scale hit Izmit, Turkey. Major affected areas include various districts of Istanbul and provinces of Izmit, Adapazari, Yalova, Bursa, Eskishehir and Bolu. Turkey’s main naval base at Golcuk was hard-hit. The earthquake was one of the most powerful recorded in the 20th century. It was at 40 km depth and was felt more than 200 miles to the east and across parts of the Balkans. The official death toll as reported on 29 August 1999 reached 13,893 and the injured – 27,233. Some initial calculations show the financial blow on Turkey by the earthquake is between $20 and $30 billion. Apart from the humanitarian reactions there are indicators that the tragedy of the Turkish people may mark a change in policy to the Turkish-Greek and the Turkish-Kurdish conflicts by the major parties involved in these relations. An Amnesty Law and a Repentance Law have been adopted by the Turkish Parliament following the disaster.
Bulgaria immediately responded to the natural disaster and the fire caused by it in the oil-refinery in Izmit by sending fire-brigades for suppressing the ignition of oil
products; search and rescue teams from all over the country to the hit places; medical teams for the injured; medical and shelter equipment for the hundreds of thousands homeless, etc. A large number of those who suffered in Turkey were Bulgarian Turks who emigrated from Bulgaria at different times. Bulgaria is negotiating for providing reconstruction expertise, materials and workers to Turkey.
Romania provided immediately rescue teams, blankets and other aid to the victims of the earthquake in Turkey.
Greece declared readiness to provide whatever aid is necessary to help the restoration of normal life in the neighbouring country hit by one of the most powerful earthquakes of the passing century. It is expected that Greece will lift the ban on providing financial help and economic aid to Turkey by the EU.
On 27-28 August 1999 in Florina (Lerin), Northern Greece the Prime-Ministers of the two countries, L. Georgievsky and K. Simitis met and discussed the joint approach to projects within the Pact for Stability for SEE.
In the context of the defence aspect of the Balkan Process for Security and Cooperation on 31 August 1999 formally starts the activity of the Staff of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force for Southeastern Europe (MPFSEE). The first commander of this multinational military unit composed of representatives of 7 countries is the Turkish Brigade General Hilmi Zorlu. He and his family are already in Plovdiv, the headquarters of the unit and its staff. On 11 September 1999 is planned a military parade and on 13 September 1999 a meeting of the first commander with the Bulgarian President. This joint military unit under the auspices of NATO and PfP is a precedent in the military history of the region and is expected to be a forerunner of confidence and trust in the regional relationships. However, practical ”hardÓ tasks are the basic content of the MPFSEE.
In August 1999 Greece exerted efforts to improve the monthly inflation and meet the criteria for EMU membership. Turkey received a devastating blow on its economy by a most powerful earthquake that would cost more than $ 20 billion and would certainly slow down some strategic infrastructure, energy, transport and communications projects. The WB is assessing the amount of help Turkey needs to get back on track. Bulgaria continued to experience a slowed down foreign investment process. Not much can be expected from the investment projects based on internal resources. FRY is pushed back economically by three or four decades according to local estimates. An inadequate political leadership may worsen further the country’s situation. The reform process of Romania is slowed down and no short and mid-term perspectives for improving the situation are to be traced. Both FYROMacedonia and Albania are desperately searching participation in post-conflict projects in Kosovo within the Pact for Stability of SEE – rather modest more than 11 weeks after its launch.
Generally the region needs investment projects, especially for boosting the trans-European infrastructure corridors 4 and 8. The governments that took on themselves the harsh consequences of the war in Kosovo perceive they are left alone in coping with a stagnating reform process and mounting social discontent for the low standards of living. The US Government provided $ 25 million support for Bulgaria for the sustenance of one of the refugee camps in FYROMacedonia during the war – the one in Radusha. Though needed, this help is just a small fraction of what this country lost during the war and even a lesser part of what is needed to boost the economy in a meaningful way to place it on a faster track for accession to the European Union.
VI The Influence of the External Factors on the Region: National Great Powers and International Institutions
NATO continues to be the fundamental organisation providing security in the Kosovo province and with a dominating influence in the broader area of the Balkan Peninsula. The broader perspective of the Alliance is to preserve functional the various forms of its engagement with the region of Southeastern Europe: KFOR, SFOR, the PfP, Membership Action Plan (it provides special assistance to the applicant countries for full membership, including in the Balkans) and the Consultative Forum on security matters with seven nations of SEE (two countries of this forum – Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are not in the PfP). Greece and Turkey are full members of the Alliance and the recent developments in their bilateral relations are in the direction of stabilising internal NATO relations – an important prerequisite for the influence of the organisation in SEE.
EU decided to provide an extensive support for the earthquake-struck Turkey. The visit of a high-level representative of the Commission of the EU to Turkey was to demonstrate the solidarity with the people of this country – member of the Custom’s Union of the EU and to assess the needs for help that Brussels would provide.
The USA engaged themselves in a broad-ranging assistance effort of helping Turkey overcome the consequences of a most powerful earthquake. American civilian and military personnel participated in search and rescue efforts; assessed emergency humanitarian needs; provided medical services; delivered medicines, blankets and shelter materials; and helped to coordinate overall international aid. The visit of Secretary Richardson and of General Shelton to Turkey during the very earthquake provided the US Government with an additional perception and instrument for help to the loyal Turkish ally of the United States. A special importance is devoted by the USA to the construction of reliable houses for the homeless before the start of the winter in Turkey.
The United States made public on 19 August 1999 a Progress Report covering the period 1 April – 31 May 1999 about the negotiated settlement of the Cyprus question – a most contentious issue in the bilateral Greek-Turkish relations. Both countries are American NATO allies in the Southern Flank of the Alliance. The letter of President Clinton to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of 19 August 1999 states that the USA continues to underscore to both the Turkish and the Greek leaders the importance of a just and lasting solution for all Cypriots. The US Department of State has also suggested the possibility of resuming negotiations in the fall of this year. President Clinton reminds in this document that his Administration will continue efforts to bring about a settlement on a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
Russia demonstrated during the nine weeks of KFOR participation that it will not support the US and the West in the way it did during the Dayton Peace Process. Our perceptions are that Russia considers the Balkan region a zone of Russian interests and collaborating with the West on this issue is unacceptable. Russia’s engagement with KFOR is rather a means of preserving its strategic position in this area and not mainly an instrument of regulating a bloody conflict for the people of the Balkans and to a great extent – of Europe. The fact of diverging interests of the great powers has traditionally led to slowing down the natural process of homogenising the societies of the Balkan countries, to their de-stabilisation and retarded development and modernisation. The visit of the President of Montenegro to Moscow clearly shows Russia is distancing from Milosevic and trying to adapt to the newly evolving internal Serbian and Yugoslav realities.
However, any sound policy of the great powers and external influential factors should care of the existence of individual national programmes of the future of the traditional and new states of the region. No working political formula is any longer possible without the sovereign participation of the Balkan nations – the initiators of the bottom-up Balkan process of security and cooperation of 1996. Most of these countries are applicants for EU and NATO membership.
1. Both KFOR and UNMIK are exerting a strenuous effort to perform as required by their founders in a complicated and unfriendly environment. Serious obstacles on their way are: the nearly 40,000 displaced that probably would have to live during the cold Balkan winter out of their own homes; the continuing cleansing of Kosovo from local Serbian population that may lead to the formation of a new territorial entity, demographically and religiously homogeneous enough to launch claims for self-determination; the imposition of family/clan mafia type authority by the Albanians, each of which of the groupings is trying to find own outside support. The creation of democratic institutions and organisations of civil society is badly needed in Kosovo. Another factor of the security situation is the slower than expected by the Serbian opposition diminishing of the political influence of Milosevic. The efforts of neighbouring countries like Bulgaria to support the Serbian opposition in its fight against the dictatorial regime is more emblematic than effective by now.
2. The region-building solidarity in Southeastern Europe had a very tragic opportunity to be displayed and exploited: the disastrous earthquake of 17 August 1999 in North-western Turkey. Alongside the humanitarian and neighbour-minded motivations the understanding that the region of Southeastern Europe is a common place for many nations that has not been shaped enough by the local people to make it more comfortable and carefully managed part of Europe was also in the background of the reactions to the natural disaster in Turkey.