BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and January 2000 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 1, 2000
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
Apart from the severe, stormy, and polar-cold Balkan winter, January of 2000 was marked by more efforts towards post-conflict improvements and activity in the area of bottom-up region-building initiatives. Despite many criticisms of the almost unnoticed progress in Kosovo and to some extent in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the forces of change and evolution continue to withstand the opposition of those who would prefer to live with ghosts of past hatreds and to drive for incessant revenge. Even small progress in that field equals hundreds of years of gradual evolution on the same subject in other parts of this continent. Both (KFOR) and (UNMIK) are major contributors in this regard by now.
Though the Milosevic regime is succeeding in reconstructing damaged infrastructure and production facilities (supported by Chinese, Indian, and even Russian money) and though this enhances its authority among the Serbian people, 15 opposition groupings in the former republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) finally concluded an important agreement to cooperate in insisting on early elections by this April. Through its example, Montenegro also continued to exert pressure for change on Belgrade. Croatia made a big step towards reintegrating in the European family of nations by carrying democratic parliamentary and presidential elections in which Croatian voters brought pro-European and pro-democracy forces to power.
The Stability Pact for South-East Europe received a new impetus by the united political will of seven nations neighbouring FRY. They acknowledged the need to accelerate investment activity, to improve individual national output in the economic area, and to remind the Serbian people that they are expected to join the regional mainstream towards European integration. Despite unfavorable Russian comment, the neighboring young democracies of Yugoslavia sent a strong message that they have waited far too long for peace, democracy, and cooperation towards social progress with their Serbian partner. Regional activities will be intensified in a strategy to match similar top-down involvement of the EU and other active Stability Pact participants. This is a perfect environment for the democratic Serbian opposition to mobilize the people of their country for democratic change.
Ankara and Athens made another significant psychological and political breakthrough in their bilateral relations after the January visit of the Greek foreign minister to Turkey. Rehabilitation of the Balkans is continuing on the terms of the Pact of Stability for South-East Europe political culture and norms.
in January 2000 remains uneasy, with little signs of meaningful progress, yet under the control of KFOR and UNMIK.
Several incidents of violent crime targeted against minority groups in the province took place during the month. A gang of ethnic Albanians murdered the 47-year-old Serb Rodoliub Gasic on 10 January and stole his mechanical saw. The level of brutal murders, arson, and bombings against various minority communities continues to be unacceptable. This is why on 18 January 2000 the SGSR Bernard Kouchner called for more help from the local population and its leadership to uncover information about the crime wave.
On UNMIK reported on 4 January that the recently created Interim Administrative Council met for the fourth time and discussed allocation of the proposed 19 departments, ranging from Budget and Finance to Justice and Trade and Industry. The Serb community has not yet taken its seat on the Council. Nor has it ensured Serb representation in departments co-chaired by representatives of UNMIK and Kosovo. The Kosovo Protection Corps was formally established on 21 January. All issues were ironed out in discussion between leaders of UNMIK, KFOR, and the (KPC). Creation of the KPC was an integral part of demobilizing the Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA. Senior members of the Corps will have no military insignias, and Agim Ceku, the KPC commander, will have three deputies. One of them will not be an ethnic Albanian. The Corps will have 3,000 active members and up to 2,000 reservists. The KPC is expected to become operational by September 2000.
The Pristina airport was re-opened for civilian flights on January 2000. It was temporarily closed in November 1999. Reconstruction of Kosovo is directly linked to the airport remaining open. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine. Albright, reminded the international community in Washington, D. C., on 26 January that it has not yet fulfilled its pledge to provide promised funds for rebuilding the province after the war.
The corpses of 2,108 Kosovars killed during the Serbian ethnic- cleansing campaign had been found by January. However, only 195 out of 529 ‘scenes of crime’ have been investigated so far.
The International Court Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague sentenced five Bosnian Croats on 14 January to terms ranging from six to 25 years. One of the accused was acquitted. The six accused were charged in connection with their alleged role in the attack on the village of Ahmici in Central Bosnia on 16 April 1993 and the massacre of 116 Bosnian Muslim villagers there. Judge Antonio Cassese said, “this was not a combat operation. Rather it was a well-planned and well-organized killing of civilian members of an ethnic group, the Muslims, by the military of another ethnic group, the Croats.”
An informal UN Security Council briefing on Bosnia and Herzegovina displayed “unhappiness” on 12 January about the failure of Bosnia’s joint presidency to implement commitments made last year to unify specific government operations. US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who presided over the Council during January, said the three presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina have failed to fully implement the New York Declaration of 15 November 1999, which they agreed to at a public Security Council meeting. Though there are signs of progress everywhere, Holbrooke added, the Joint Presidency, its central institutions, and many attributes of the single sovereign centrally governed state with two entities have not yet been fulfilled.
Implementation is the key to success in Bosnia and elsewhere. Implementation is in progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is at peace, the economy is beginning to knit together, and promising events on the ethnic issue side are taking place: minorities in military and police academies in each part of Bosnia and Herzegovina are training with people of different ethnic groups.
Despite signs of progress everywhere, Security Council is annoyed at delays by the Joint Presidency and its central institutions in covering attributes of the single sovereign centrally governed state with all the entities.
The leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Georgi Parvanov said in Targovishte on 25 January that integration of Bulgaria into the EU and NATO has been a priority task of his party since 1995. The BSP reaction against the NATO strike during the Kosovo crisis, he said, should not be interpreted as a refusal to work on these priorities.
Though this turn-around in the BSP position towards NATO can hardly be assessed along its leader’s lines of interpretation, it marks a new change in attitudes of Bulgarian public opinion in favor of NATO and the country’s membership in the Alliance. BSP, the reform-minded former Communist Party is considered the most pro-Russian party in Bulgaria.
General elections in Croatia radically changed the internal political landscape of this country in the Western Balkans on 3 January. The winners were the Social Democratic Party in coalition with the Social Liberals and a centrist coalition. The loser was the Croatian Democratic Union of the late President Tudjman. Destructive nationalism in Croatia has been politically rejected. More than 78 per cent of the 4.2 million eligible voters turned out, The international observer mission sent by the OSCE had characterized the conduct of the elections as professional and as having made significant strides towards meeting OSCE standards. A priority objective of the new Croatian government is integrating the country into the Euro-Atlantic community of democratic nations and institutions.
Presidential elections in Croatia followed soon – on 24 January. After the first round, two democratic contenders led the contest – Stippe Mesic and Drazen Budisa. Mr. Mesic was the last leader who served on the rotation principle of the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).
The major Serbian opposition parties convened a meeting on 10 February and discussed their joint strategy for democratizing Serbia. They jointly called for early elections, for an end to state terror, and for abolition of repressive laws. At the end of debate, the opposition parties and coalitions united on a common strategy to bring about democratic elections and made clear their intent to cooperate with each other.
Both the EU and the USA have declared their firm support for Serbian opposition efforts to oust the present regime in Belgrade through democratic elections. However, the regime has been keen on using money donated by China, India, and ¾ to a lesser extent – by Russia to reconstruct damaged transport and production facilities, thus creating confidence about the stability of Milosevic’s power. Meantime, US Secretary of State Albright on 27 January criticized the donor countries of the Pact of Stability for South-East Europe for their slowness in providing the money needed to reconstruct Kosovo and the other Balkan areas which suffered from both the NATO air campaign and sanctions against Belgrade.
The coalition government of Turkey decided on 13 January to postpone executing the death penalty of the Kurdish leader Abdulah Ocelan. It acknowledged that the decision was influenced by the European Court for Human Rights. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stressed that, if the government has neglected the demand of the Court, this would have worsened Turkish relations with the EU. The Turkish prime minister also warned the PKK that, if it used the decision against the state interests of Turkey, Ocelan would be executed.
The Bulgarian Parliament on 28 January approved the mission of an engineering platoon of 44 for 12 months in Kosovo as part of the Dutch KFOR contingent. Sustenance of the Bulgarian unit will be assumed by the country’s budget. Bulgarian participation is in addition to a group of 50 policemen who for many months already have supported the troubled province’s civil administration quite effectively.
The leader of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and prime minister of Bulgaria, Ivan Kostov, met in Sofia on 29 January with the co-chairman of the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo, Hacim Taci, and discussed ways to support the province’s reconstruction. The Bulgarian prime minister insisted on a more friendly approach by the Kosovo Albanians to the Bulgarian military and civil police contingents. Mr. Kostov was invited to visit Pristina. This meeting was not an anti-Serbian act. It demonstrated a balanced Bulgarian approach to the complex ethnic issues in this Serbian province and to issues in FRY in general. Earlier this month the Bulgarian prime minister insisted on lifting some sanctions against Serbia – those that negatively affect common Serbian people and not the regime of President Milosevic. However, Albanian Kosovar leader Taci used the opportunity of this meeting in Sofia to tell the media that Kosovo will become an independent state after a referendum – obviously a position that contradicts Mr. Taci’s status as a co-chairman of the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo. Negative reactions from Belgrade to this visit and the declarations of the Kosovar leader followed within hours. The UDF experiment regarding the future status of Kosovo, which tested the Kosovar leader’s positions, confirms how difficult the international community’s task will be in building a tolerant multi-ethnic society in Kosovo within the constitutional order of present Yugoslavia. It is rather doubtful that a power shift in Belgrade with the present opposition assuming FRY leadership would change the thinking of former extremist KLA leaders and current people leading the Interim Administrative Council and Kosovo Protection Corps – two institutions touched by UNMIK philosophy and policy. It is far from clear whether a balancing position and the role of countries like Bulgaria will become even more difficult.
Implementation of the free-trade zone agreement between the two countries started on 1 January.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, who is also the UDF leader, met in Sofia on 29 January with the Deputy PrimeMinister of FYROMacedonia Arben Xhaferi, who is leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians.
Bulgarian minister of defence Boyko Noev met in Giurgiu, Romania, on 27-28 January with his Romanian counterpart Victor Babiuk. They discussed bilateral relations and planned joint air-force and naval exercises.
A meeting of the bilateral intergovernmental commission for economic, scientific and technical cooperation was convened in Sofia on 27 January. Issues that created arguments were defined by the Romanian minister of transport, Trajan Basescu, as follows: transit of Russian natural gas; eventual chances of Romania to export electric power to third countries, mainly Turkey and Greece; transportation of nuclear waste from the Bulgarian nuclear plant in Kozloduy via Romania to Russia, and construction of a new bridge over the Danube. The “basket of issues” approach has been accepted by the Bulgarian side as a needed first step that should be followed by other acts. Bulgaria and Romania have joint interests in strengthening the border control and in fighting illegal migration. Impetus is expected to be given in Brussels on 7 February on solving the “second bridge” issue and export of electricity via Bulgaria issue after involvement in bilateral discussion of the EC commissioner on enlargement, G. Ferheugen, and the Stability Pact for South-East Europe coordinator, B. Hombach. A meeting will be convend In mid-February in either Vidin or Kalafat – the place where the Bulgarian Government and municipalities of the Bulgarian and the Romanian towns insist on building the second bridge., It will include the two countries’ deputyministers of transport and participants from the SECI – a regional initiative, launched by the US Department of State four years ago. There are real expectations of making a breakthrough on this long contentious bilateral issue.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Noev and Greek Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopolous discussed bilateral relations on 28-29 January in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Greece, Ismaihl Cem and Papandreou, met in Ankara – the first official visit of a Greek foreign minister to Turkey in 38 years. They signed five cooperation agreements on tourism, investment, environment protection; and steps to fight terrorism, money laundering, and illegal migration. The Aegean Sea issues and Cyprus were also on the bilateral talks agenda. Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit invited his Greek counterpart, Costas Simitis, to visit Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Cem expected to visit Athens on 3 February.
a) Initiatives within the Pact of Stability for South-East Europe (SEE)
1) Bulgaria proposed establishing a Council for the Economic and Social Reconstruction of the Balkans during a Council of Europe conference on social development in Dublin on 18 January. Social and economic recuperation should become a major accent of the Pact of Stability according to the Bulgarian Minister of Labor and Social Policy who participated in the conference.
2) The first meeting of the Managing Council of the European Organisation for the Reconstruction of the Balkans, created by the Pact of Stability for SEE, was convened 18 January in Thessaloniki. Through this organization alone the Balkans will receive $240 million for specific reconstruction needs of this region.
3) The Chairman of the Third Working Table on the issues of the security within the Pact of Stability for SEE, the State Secretary of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, Jan Elliasson, met 20-32 January with the Bulgarian authorities in Sofia to discuss the upcoming Bulgarian co-chairmanship of this table during June 2000-January 2001. Mr. Elliasson visited the headquarters of the MPFSEE in Plovdiv on 21 January.
4) An informal meeting (“without ties”) of the prime ministers of seven countries neighboring FRY was convened on 21-23 January at Hissarya, a Bulgarian mineral water spring health resort. Held in the context of the Pact of Stability for SEE, it included Ilir Meta of Albania, Harris Silaijic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivan Kostov of Bulgaria, Zlatko Matesa of Croatia, Liubcho Georgievsky of FYROMacedonia, Victor Urban of Hungary, and Mugur Isarescu of Romania. Dr. Javier Solana, the EU’s HR for CFSP, and the deputy secretary general of NATO, Sergio Balanzino, also attended the meeting. Both came to gather information and test perceptions rather than to take positions and make assessments.
FRY is not a member of the Pact of Stability for South-East Europe.
There was no agenda and no final document of the meeting. Topics of the discussions were the regional situation, regional cooperation, and foreign investment in the Balkans. Initiating a broader and more intensive dialogue among regional neighbors was a main objective of the meeting. The Bulgarian initiative of lifting some sanctions against FRY was not generally accepted. The reasons for this Bulgarian initiative were the inefficiency of some sanctions, the suffering of common Serbian people rather than representatives of the regime, and huge losses within the Bulgarian economy – more than $380 million since March 1999. A common understanding of the participants in the meeting was that a criminalized economy cannot be the foundation of peace in the region. A uniting political purpose for the prime ministers at the meeting was integration of their countries in the EU. A joint assessment was also the delayed start of the Pact of Stability for SEE. The regional leaders agreed to cooperate in strengthening the process of peace-building in Kosovo.
The Bulgarian prime minister underlined the position of Bulgaria: FRY must not remain a blank spot on the European map. Harris Silaijic of Bosnia and Herzegovina reminded the gathering where the leader of Belgrade should be – in the Hague before the ICTY. Liubcho Georgievsky of FYROMacedonia said the spirit of this conference reflects new attitudes of South-East Europe after the Kosovo crisis. His doubts that the Serbian opposition could understand Milosevic’s mistakes and never repeat them also sounded prophetically. The follow-up meeting will be in April in Budapest. In the meantime, they will talk again in Bucharest during February.
b) The Danubian Commission Meeting
The Danubian Commission decided on 27 January to start cleaning the debris of the war in FRY from the river and rebuilding the bridges on 1 July. This late start may endanger the ecological situation due to freezing of the river and floods that may follow.
The unemployment level in Bulgaria reached 16% during January. Economic forecasts for this year predict 4% economic growth.
The 1999 economic growth of FYROMacedonia’s GNP was 2.7%, according to the its prime minister. Foreign investments in the country are growing. Skopje reached an agreement with the UNMIK in Kosovo to export electric power that will create an added $30 million. 2000 will be a decisive year for economic reform in the small country. The launch of negotiations with the EU for stability and association will be another major stimulus to improve the country’s economy. Change in the Constitution and the reduction in the state’s administration are expected to provide better conditions for economic recovery in FYROMacedonia.
After more than 10 years of economic transformation and three years of heated debates, the Romanian president signed a law to restore property on agrarian land and woods. Former owners will be in possession of no more than 50 hectares of agrarian land and 10 hectares of woods. In some cases the owners will be compensated. 1,6 million Romanians have claimed ownership of land and woods.
VI The Influence of the External Factors on the Region: National Great Powers and International Institutions
The UN Secretary General issued the report of the UN Mission of Observers in Prevlaka to the UN Security Council. The report covers developments in bilateral negotiations between Croatia and FRY to resolve the disputed issue of the Prevlaka peninsula since the last report, published in October 1999. The report notes some progress in stabilizing and demilitarizing territory patrolled by the UN. However, the report says, there is no progress at the political level. The report recommends continuing negotiations soon after the Croatian elections and extending the mission’s mandate for a further six months, until 15 July.
(1) One month after the official invitation to Romania and Bulgaria to start accession negotiations with the EU, EC President Romano Prodi visited the two countries on 12 and 13 January respectively. He confirmed to their governments the readiness of the Union to start the negotiation process in February-March. Romano Prodi was warmly accepted by the Bulgarian Parliament when he delivered a speech to the MPs and highlighted Bulgaria’s achievements and problems on its road to EU membership. (2) A long procedure of taking Bulgaria and Romania off the black visa list started on 26 January, one day after the European Commission proposed lifting a visa requirement for nationals of Romania and Bulgaria wishing to visit the 15-nation Union. The final decision lies with the European Parliament and individual governments and parliaments of member countries. Once admitted, Bulgaria and Romania will represent part of the Union’s external border and a crossing point to the former Soviet republics and Turkey.
(1) Army General Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff visited US troops in Kosovo on 13 January at Camp Bondsteel and the surrounding area. He visited US troops in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 14 January.
(2) A public-private team from the US State Department, NGOs, and US corporations visited Croatia on 16-22 January to support the Croatian government’s Croatian Mine Action Centre (CROMAC) with its humanitarian demining program. The team also assessed ways of developing an action plan to raise funds in the USA for the Croatian demining effort.
(3) A Bulgarian delegation of the Ministry of Defense headed by the Deputy Minister for Defense Policy, Dr. Velizar Shalamanov, visited the USA on 24-30 January. The Bulgarian Ministry of Defense will coordinate its plans for common communication links with the Pentagon. This is perceived by Bulgaria as a significant step to the harmonizing the logistics and systems of command and control of the Bulgarian Air Force in the NATO context. The US will send to Bulgaria teams for training local experts in military communications. Frank Kramer, US Assistant Secretary of Defense, underlined the key position of Bulgaria in the Balkans and the readiness of the USA to develop a comprehensive strategy of peace and security in the region. The Bulgarian delegation was also received by Vice President Al Gore.
The Russian foreign ministry attacked Bulgaria on 25 January in connection with the regional meeting of the seven prime ministers of countries neighboring FRY, joined by the EU HR for CFSP and by NATO’s deputy secretary general. The Russian side qualified this meeting as “anti-Yugoslav and an isolationist event”. Russia has claims on the following issues: first, why representatives of FRY – a country that is treated as a “sanctioned ghetto” according to Russia ¾ had not been invited; second, why Russia was not invited; third, why representatives of the OSCE were not invited.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry replied on 28 January in an official protest to the Russian Foreign Ministry, criticizing the harsh tone of the Russian move. The Russian act is not logically passing to the positive context of bilateral relations. The act and its tone are characteristic of the Cold War period, the protest said, and Bulgaria does not accept such qualifications.
The prime-ministers’ forum in Hissarya was a regional, bottom-up, region-building event of countries that are on one hand part of the Pact of Stability for SEE and. on the other, FRY neighbors which mostly suffer from hardships caused by the on-going situation, including the sanctions regime. While FRY is not part of the Pact, both EU and NATO are major contributors to stability and rebuilding efforts in the broader Balkan region. By taking a petty, zero-sum approach to issues in the Balkan region – an area known to Russia for more than 200 years ¾ Russia and its foreign ministry are missing chances to join in a constructive effort to rehabilitate and rebuild the region, one undertaken by all countries in the region but one – FRY. The FRY opposition is trying to correct this attitude, as Vuk Drascovic demonstrated a month ago during his meetings with Russian foreign ministry officials in Moscow. As for the choices of large and influential powers that the small countries from the region make in their efforts to involve them in regional developments – this may serve as an indicator of how Russia rates, and not necessarily because of pressure from the “Western powers”. Russia is expected in the Balkans to join as a constructive, cooperative, and benign great power, not as an imperial one. Otherwise such interventions will be easily qualified from now on as “Russian interference in the internal affairs of the region” – a development which is not the best option for either Russia or the countries of South-East Europe. Furthermore, Moscow should note that all Balkan countries but one are more or less involved in integration efforts with the EU and NATO – a policy, supported by the great majority of the population of these countries.
Lord George Robertson, secretary general of NATO, is expected to visit Bulgaria on 9-10 February. NATO is providing support toreorganize the country’s armed forces according to NATO standards and for social adaptation and economic integration of those who have to leave the army.
1. The Serbian opposition reached agreement on a joint strategy to insist on early elections this spring. Both KFOR and UNMIK continued their strenuous efforts to stabilize the situation in Kosovo. The joint presidency in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not performing as planned, and more work is needed to reach the effectiveness of a single central leadership. Success of the democratic forces in Croatia decisively changes the broader regional security situation and portends more stability in the peninsula as well as new stimuli for the opposition in Serbia. Improving relations between Turkey and Greece continues to be one of the best news items from the Balkans.
2. The EC proposal to lift visa restrictions on nationals from Bulgaria and Romania raised the profile of the Union in the region. US and NATO support in integrating South-East Europe into the Euro-Atlantic structures contrasted with the harsh Russian diplomatic attack against Bulgaria for its efforts to boost bottom-up regional activity to integrate the Balkans in the democratic community of nations. However, a new spirit haunts South-East Europe after the Kosovo crisis, and this is the spirit of regional cooperation and solidarity in making the EU and NATO integration policy more effective in each of the Balkan countries. A balanced Bulgarian approach to the Serbian people and the Kosovars remains an invariant feature of the country’s foreign policy, and Bulgaria has assumed all the responsibility for this comprehensive approach to the ethnic situation in the neighboring country. Ethnic tolerance must be bred, and educated and practical examples are always needed. However, the task is becoming even more complicated after Serbia’s slow rate of democratic change and the stubbornness of the Kosovar Albanian leaders in avoiding involvement in the “ethnic tolerance” game. The good news would be that, in addition to the pressure that Montenegro exerts on Belgrade to change the regime by threatening to separate from the federation, the Kosovar Albanians are also trying to press Milosevic to give up his hold of power in FRY. This is the optimistic interpretation of the Kosovo Albanian leadership’s behavior.