BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:

THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE

(A Background and December 1999 Issue in Brief)

© Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), Sofia

Research Study 14, 1999

Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240

AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL


I INTRODUCTION

II CONFLICTS AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BALKANS

1. The Kosovo post-conflict developments
2. The Post-war rehabilitation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

III THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: SPECIFIC ISSUES

1.Bulgaria
2. Croatia
3. Federation of the Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)
4. FRYOMacedonia

5. Romania

IV THE BILATERAL AND THE MULTILATERAL RELATIONS IN THE BALKANS

1. Bilateral Relations
2. Multilateral Relations

V THE ECONOMIC SITUATIONS OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES AND THE REGION

VI THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

1. The United Nations
2. EU
3. China

4. Russia

5. NATO

VII THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING  EVOLUTION:CONCLUSIONS


 

I   Introduction

The last month of 1999 sent two clear messages to the people and states of South-East Europe, as well as to the rest of the world.  First, the post-conflict hardships in one of the post-Yugoslav territories – Kosovo – and the inefficiency of the Yugoslav opposition against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remain significant features of a dramatically changing European region at the end of the decade.  Second, despite the first message the destiny of South-East Europe is predominantly determined by the changes taking place in the four countries of the peninsula that have already established, including during December 1999, a clear and prospective status within the European Union (EU):  Greece, a long-time full member; Turkey, whichh has assumed "candidacy status", and Bulgaria and Romania, new starters of negotiations for accession to the EU. The evolving future membership in the EU of Bulgaria and Romania, along with Greece and Turkey, will influence, in many ways, the thinking and the mood of Serbian society.  Europeanisation of the Balkan peninsula is no longer a dream of the indefinite future but a complex, everyday practice of two of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's neighbouring countries and their societies.  For months, official Belgrade has been hiding answers to questions from Serbs on the topic of nationalism.  A new set of unanswerable questions has evolved:  why and for how long should we stay out of the integrating European nations? The prospects of a similar benign future for the Serbian people, their eventual integration into the European mainstream, is a welcome subject for a depressed anti-Milosevic opposition, too.  The neighbours of the FRY wish to have this country's people on board the European train as soon as possible in an effort to capture the opportunities of the next century and millennium in Europe whole and free.

 

II   Conflicts and Post-Conflict Developments in the Balkans

1. The Kosovo post-conflict situation 

was the focus of security developments in the region in December.

Cowardly attacks against innocent and unarmed civilians, mostly Serbs, have preserved an environment of tension and uncertainty in Kosovo.  Some 450 people have been killed since KFOR entered the province.  The atmosphere of managing a complicated inter-ethnic relationship remains very unfriendly. The real trends in the field that need to be wisely confronted are a de facto cantonisation of Serbs and a growing feeling among Albanians that everything that takes place is just a prelude to a free and independent Kosovo.

These developments are a sad continuation of a previous record that was disclosed on December 9 by the Second State Department Report on Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo.  It provided the most current data on the scale and the intensity of human rights and humanitarian law violations that had occurred in Kosovo during the past year.  The report focuses on 10 broad categories of human rights violations:  forced expulsions, looting, burning, detentions, use of human shields, systematic and organised rape, summary executions, exhumation of mass graves, violations of medical neutrality, and a new type of ethnic cleansing – identity cleansing.

KFOR continued to maintain an effective military presence.  The multinational forces preserved a readiness to respond to any external threat to Kosovo's security, provided security at borders and internal boundaries, provided a secure environment to the inhabitants of the province, continued to combat illegal arms and continued to support the various UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) missions. Unfortunately, an American and a Polish servicemen were killed by mines in two separate incidents.

On  December 15, in Pristina, Kosovar Albanian political leaders signed an agreement for sharing the provisional management of Kosovo with UNMIK within an interim administration structure.  This will become operational by January 31, 2000, and will consist of eight members – three Kosovo Albanian leaders, one Kosovo Serb (yet unnamed) and four UNMIK members.  The main tasks of the structure is to bring to a close the activities of parallel structures in Kosovo and to involve the people of the province directly in their own affairs.  The Kosovo Transitional Council – the highest-level advisory body of Kosovo’s representatives to UNMIK – will maintain its consultative role.  At the signing ceremony Serb representatives were not present, but their seats have been reserved.  The agreement for a joint structure to share the administration of Kosovo between representatives of the province and UNMIK is a significant step towards the goal of determining their own future.

2. Post-war rehabilitation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

In a special briefing at the Defence Department on  December 9 General Wesley Clark, SACEUR, acknowledged that public security problems still exist in Bosnia despite police reform.  He confirmed that the troop level of SFOR will drop from the current 30,000 to around 20,000 by spring next year.

On December 14 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague issued a 40-year jail sentence to Bosnian Serb war criminal Goran Jelisic – "The Serbian Adolf" – who was responsible for the massacre of tens of innocent civilians in Brcko in 1992.

At the invitation of ICTY prosecutor Carla del Ponte, the Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, visited the tribunal on December 16.  Republika Srpska, one of the entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is cooperating more with the ICTY than in the past.

A comprehensive security cooperation programme between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Bosnia and Herzegovina is planned for 2000.

 

III   The National Perspectives of the Balkan Countries:  Specific Issues

1.  Bulgaria

On December 10 Bulgaria obtained a new political quality after the EU summit in Helsinki decided to start accession negotiations with this country.  The special European meaning of this act was that the continent will not be whole and free without Bulgaria’s integration into the EU.  The specific regional reading of this decision, apart from the recognition of the country’s stabilising role in the peninsula, was the fact that the decision was drafted and approved with the participation of Greece, a Balkan country and a full EU member.  This sent a clear message to every other country in the region that this act will inevitably be repeated when the level of relations of the would-be contenders begin to match the Bulgarian-Greek relationship.  The national consequences for Bulgaria were a higher level of national pride, satisfaction and a big cabinet reshuffle – 10 of the 16 ministers left the government after it was functionally restructured in preparation for the accession negotiation process with the EU early next year.

2.  Croatia

On December 11 Croatian President Franjo Tudjman died of cancer.

"The forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Croatia will be crucial for its future," the final communiquŽ of NATO foreign ministers said on December 15.  "We hope that the entire Croatian leadership will seize the chance to re-vitalise implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords and demonstrate their commitment to democratic elections and due constitutional process.  There is an opportunity for the next Croatian government to move towards a closer relationship with Euro-Atlantic institutions."

The parliamentary elections are scheduled for January 3, 2000.  Free, fair and democratic elections would mean they are transparent for the international community; all Croatians, including refugees, are enfranchised; voter registries are made public; and domestic monitors are given unlimited access to voting and tabulation centres at all times.  Croatia may turn into a very significant factor for the progress of the Balkan region, if it manages to cope with its own democratisation.

3.  FRY

On December 9 Serbian army troops drove trucks on to the runway of Podgorica airport, Montenegro, and temporarily shut down the airport.  After the Montenegrin parliament passed a law saying it would run the airports and the ports of the country, and would hence collect the revenues, Belgrade decided to send a message to Montenegro telling it to refrain from moving towards greater independence.

Last month the regime in Belgrade sent a cocktail of informative messages about itself, including a harsh attack against UNMIK chief in Kosovo Bernard Kouchner, accusing him of committing crimes against the customs regime of the FRY; it fired three judges from the constitutional, high and city Belgrade courts for activities opposing Milosevic’s power; it accused the Doctors Without Frontiers NGO of espionage against the FRY.  At the same time the country’s elite prepared for a luxurious New Year’s party, while on December 26 an electricity black-out regime was introduced in the country.

The issue of the early elections finally brought the contending fractions of the democratic opposition of Serbia together on December 28.  The failure of street demonstrations to topple Milosevic from power motivated the dispersed opposition groupings to join forces in bringing their case to the Serbian parliament and call early elections.  Earlier this month Vuk Drascovic sent a message to Russia, saying that if people do not vote in peaceful elections chaos and civil disorder may follow.  If early elections are to be called, clear guarantees must be introduced against violations of the free and democratic vote of the Serbian people.  International institutions like the OSCE, the EU and the CE may play an active and positive role.

4.  The FYROMacedonia

After the final cast of some 10 per cent of the votes on December 5, the newly elected president of the FYROMacedonia, Boris Trajkovski, pledged to lobby intensively for his country’s integration in NATO and the EU.  Another ambition of his is to ensure that spare cash from the international agencies ends up in Skopje rather than in Pristina.  The 43-year-old president has also promised to give ethnic Albanians better education and more jobs in the civil service.

On December 27 the parliament of the FYROMacedonia approved the new government of Prime Minister Liubcho Georgievski after he had introduced certain changes following the presidential elections earlier this month.  The two coalition partners of his own party – the Democratic Alternative of Vassil Topurkovski and the Democratic Party of the Albanians of Arben Xhaferi – elected their representatives for deputy prime ministers. 

5.  Romania

On December 21 Romania’s parliament voted on a new government and its programme outlined by prime minister designate Mugur Isarescu.  On December 17 President Emil Constantinescu designated central bank governor Isarescu as premier to end a political crisis after the dismissal of former prime minister Radu Vassile, who was toppled by his own Christian Democratic Party and by popular discontent over low living standards.  The new prime minister’s major tasks are to get the economy in shape for accession negotiations with the EU and to speed up delayed Romanian reforms, including industrial privatisation.

On December 10 the EU summit in Helsinki, for fundamental political reasons, invited Romania, Bulgaria and some other countries to start accession negotiations for full membership in the EU.  Romania and Bulgaria are strong contenders for the next round of NATO enlargement, expected to be launched in early 2002.

 

IV   Bilateral and Multilateral Relations in the Balkans.  Regional Initiatives.

1.  Bilateral Relations

a)  Romania-Bulgaria

On  December 6 the Bulgarian defence minister met his Romanian counterpart and discussed a broad range of bilateral defence issues.  The talks dealt with the preparation of a bilateral declaration for the development of military cooperation, joint Air Force and Navy military exercises, etc.  They also signed a joint document that establishes a direct line of communication between the two defence ministries.  A set of documents regulating the cooperation in the fields of air force, air defence, mutual protection of information and other issues was also discussed in the process of their preparation.

b)  Turkey-Bulgaria

On  December 7 the ministers of the interior of these two countries met in Ankara and agreed to suggest that the other countries of South-East Europe meet and join forces in fighting criminality during an official visit of the Bulgarian minister.  Exchange of operational information between Sofia and Ankara, including through automated communication systems, and joint fighting of organised criminality, smuggling and drugs traffic were the points of discussions.  The two ministers agreed to prevent the activity of terrorist organisations, illegal traffic of drugs and workers and car thefts.  The border security services will cooperate, and joint police education will take place at the Ankara police academy.

2.  Multilateral Relations

1) Cooperation of the heads of states of Bulgaria, the FYROMacedonia, Greece and Montenegro

At the initiative of President of the FYROMacedonia Boris Trajkovski, a summit meeting of these four countries will be convened in January 2000.  Concrete steps to utilise the opportunities in recovering the region within the Pact of Stability for South-East Europe will be the main topic of the discussions.

2) Trilateral Cooperation of Albania, Bulgaria and the FYROMacedonia

The prime minister of the FYROMacedonia suggested, on December 28, an activation of the trilateral cooperation within the Pact of Stability for South-East Europe and the implementation of the various projects that have already been drafted between the three countries.

3.  Regional Initiatives

On December 14, at the meeting of the Danubian Commission, the proposals of Hungary and Austria to fund part of the activity for clearing the debris from the Danube were approved.  The technical aspects of the project were also discussed.

 

V   The Economic Situation of the Balkan Countries and the Region

A far-sighted decision of the EU summit in Helsinki on December 10 to grant "candidacy status" to Turkey and to launch the accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, largely motivated by political reasons, will have fundamental economic repercussions for the region.  First, a major regional conflict – between Turkey and Greece – is expected to begin to diminish in tension and to gradually give way to large regional economic projects with bilateral initiative from and cooperation between the two countries that are presently experienceing the highest economic output and living standards in the Balkans.  Furthermore, an expected rapprochement on the Cyprus issue is expected to lead to a breakthrough in the deadlocked situation of that country’s accession to the EU.

Bulgaria and Romania are expected to finally stabilise their economies and to begin to increase their economic outputs.  An improved economic area covering the Eastern and the Southern Balkans will significantly determine the political and the economic future of the Western Balkans.  The Black Sea-Caucasian-Caspian Sea neighbourhood of the EU will begin to receive more direct and positive impulses through their relationships with the Black Sea countries of the western coast – Bulgaria and Romania – and of the southern coast – Turkey.  The geoeconomic opportunities for the EU definitely compensate and outweigh the calculated risk of the past month’s decision of the EU towards the countries of South-East Europe.

 

VI   The Influence of the External Factors on the Region:  National Great Powers and International Institutions

1.  The United Nations

On December 3-16, at the UN Headquarters in New York, bilateral open-ended proximity talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were held without preconditions, with Alvaro de Soto, the UN secretary-general’s special adviser on Cyprus, as mediator.  The negotiations are confidential; this avoids public exchanges between the two sides and thus prevents affecting the constructive spirit in which the talks should take place.  However, Denktash made a statement in which he called for a stop in the process of Cyprus accessing to the EU.  Meantime, the Greek Cypriot side suggested the start of a historic rapprochement between the two communities of Cyprus.

The purpose of the talks is to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement.  The decision by the EU and Turkey’s acceptance of the EU’s offer of candidate status to the EU are other positive factors to the direct environment of the launched negotiation process.

2.  EU

(1)  The EU implemented its plans to ship fuel for humanitarian purposes to the Serbian cities of Nis and Pirot.  This EU programme intends to provide heating oil and to stimulate the democratic local governments of the municipalities.  (2)  The EU summit decision in Helsinki on  December 10 was that Turkey become a candidate destined to join the EU on the basis of the same criteria applied to other candidate states.  Thus Turkey makes a big step to the historic objective of becoming an equal in the European family of nations, and the EU achieves a new and deep Eastern outreach.  (3)  The start of the accession negotiations with the EU by Bulgaria and Romania – a decision taken by the EU summit in Helsinki on December 10 – marks a new era in the evolution of the whole South-East Europe region.  Bulgaria and Romania – two European nations throughout their history – are back in the mainstream of the continental developments, both as contributors and as consumers of the relationship.  Nine days before the Helsinki summit the two countries, which are also Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) members, supported the EU position on trade liberalisation at the WTO meeting at Seattle.

3.  China

On December 26-27 the foreign minister of the FRY, Jivadin Jovanovic, visited Beijing and met with his Chinese counterpart.  The Chinese Government promised huge support for the economic revival of the country.  China has already allowed a credit for rebuilding the oil refinery at Panchevo, near Belgrade.  According to Serbian analysts, the amount of the Chinese donation to date is about $300 million and is aimed at subsidising the import of electric power, reconstructing the roads of the ruined country and rebuilding the communication system.  Part of this money is to be used by the government for funding its pre-election campaign for the regular parliamentary and the local elections next year.

It is clear that China is trying to profit from the Balkan conjuncture and to establish itself as another big-power player in the region.  Several months earlier, the government of the FYROMacedonia established full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.  Three Chinese civil servants were killed and 27 other were injured during a wrongly targeted bombing at the beginning of May 1999 at the Chinese Embassy building in Belgrade, when the NATO strike against Yugoslavia was mounting pressure on Milosevic to concede.

4.  Russia

(1)  Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov shared his view with one of the leaders of the Serbian opposition, Vuk Draskovic, during the latter’s visit to Moscow at the beginning of December, that the re-integration of the FRY in international organisations and the lifting of the sanctions against this country will automatically improve the disposition of the political forces that are at present in opposition.  A visit by Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeev on December 23 to Belgrade and the agreement to provide the Yugoslav army with modern air-defence systems and sophisticated fighters show that Russia is also caring for the prolongation of the present regime of Yugoslavia.  What really matters for Russia today is to keep at least one pro-Russian stronghold in the Balkans, whatever the consequences for the respective Balkan nation.  This logic holds true only within a "zero-sum-game" framework of thinking – a thinking that has been discarded by the Partnership for Peace (PfP) philosophy and by the other nations of South-East Europe.

(2)  Upon his arrival in Belgrade on December 23, Russian Minister of Defence Marshal Igor Sergeev told the press that Russia would strongly oppose the efforts of NATO to station its bases in Bulgaria.

In the process of Bulgaria’s preparation for full NATO membership, the Bulgarian president has shared the country’s readiness to provide the alliance with the possibility of establishing bases on Bulgarian soil.

5.  NATO

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson has said on FYROMacedonian television that the alliance will not change the mandate of its contingent in the republic.  It is placed to serve as an augmentation force for the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.  This operation is both successful for the alliance and profitable for the people of the FYROMacedonia in bringing financial compensations and a new attitude of foreign investors towards Skopje.  Ultimately, the presence of allied troops in this country is a contribution to the regional security, the secretary-general said.

 

VII   The Security Situation and the Region-Building Evolution:  Conclusions

1.  The Serbian opposition fractions have agreed to join forces in insisting on democratic, free and fair early general elections.  The de facto cantonisation of Serbs, a persistent Albanian hatred that drives any non-Albanian ethnic group from the province and the modest launch of an interim administration structure in support of UNMIK’s efforts were the main features of the Kosovo post-conflict landscape.  KFOR is stable enough in providing the security of the area.

A further stabilising situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina guarantees the implementation of a cut of one third of SFOR early next spring.

The Russian activism in providing new weapons to Milosevic's regime hardly contributes to a benign image of this great country in the conflict-torn Balkans.

UN-sponsored talks on Cyprus add a positive political potential to this complicated issue.

2.  The Helsinki EU summit's decision to start accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania and the accepted offer of "candidacy status" to Turkey fundamentally reshape the geopolitical and the geoeconomic situation in the Balkans:  these three countries, along with Greece – already a full member of the union – form a powerful alignment of interests within the mutually overlapping EU and NATO philosophies that will significantly shape the future of the Western Balkans and the Black Sea basin neighbourhood of the union.


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ISSN 1311 – 3240

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