BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and September 2000 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 9, 2000
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
September was a month of elections – parliamentary, presidential, and municipal in the former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), and municipal in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). It was also a month of preparing municipal elections in Albania, parliamentary elections in Slovenia, and municipal elections in Kosovo – all to be held in October. Preparations advanced in September for parliamentary, local, and cantonal elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina and for presidential elections in Republika Srpska, as well as parliamentary and presidential elections in Romania – all to be held in November.
No doubt the focus of September’s Balkan affairs was on Belgrade and the FRY. Countries from the region took positions on how the situation and election campaign there was evolving, depending on their varying perceptions. In a similar way, outside the Southeastern Europe region, powers and institutions defined their stance on implementing fundamental principles of democracy and civilisation concerning freedom and fairness in organising elections. As 24 September approached, it was already clear that the dictator of Serbia, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, had no intention of playing fair and giving a free hand to his competitors in the elections.
Stability in other parts of the Balkans was a significant prerequisite to maintaining general regional stability, although elections and pre-election campaigns in the other countries were also linked with specific tensions and problems. September ended with an escalated conflict situation in FRY, promising a deepening of the internal Yugoslav crisis, further endangering regional stability. Fundamental constitutional issues in FRY, Montenegro, and Kosovo, as well as basic questions about the future policy of the eventual election winners, determined the main sources of concern and tension in Southeastern Europe.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Mary Robinson, appointed Ambassador Henrik Ameneus of Sweden on 1 September as her special envoy on persons deprived of liberty in connection with the Kosovo crisis in FRY. Ameneus's main focus will be the quest for a comprehensive solution to problems of detainees and missing persons in Kosovo and elsewhere in FRY. Many individuals and families in the area are devastated by this problem, and democratic evolution in Kosovo and FRY requires a human solution.
Two police officers from the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), both British nationals, remained in detention during September after being arrested in Montenegro on 31 July. Four Dutchmen, arrested in mid-July, and two Canadian nationals arrested at the same time as the UNMIK policemen, also remained in detention in FRY.
More than 130 Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops and UNMIK personnel toiled through the night on 13 September in the fight to contain an acid leak at the Trepca industrial plant in south Mitrovica. Tons of lime were brought from all over the province to neutralise the acid. The UN mission had drawn up contingency plans to deal with emergencies in the complex.
Most Serbs in Kosovo participated in the 24 September elections, mostly supporting Milosevic. With very few exceptions, the Albanian people in the province did not participate. The constitutional future of Kosovo after the FRY elections and the 28 October municipal elections will become a priority issue with which all involved parties must deal. Separation from FRY and the assumption of a specific European or UN status are options being discussed in Albanian-populated parts of Southeastern Europe. The unwillingness of Kosovo Albanians to share a state with Serbs, and the firm insistence of all Serbian political leaders never to let Kosovo out of the federation, portend real issues in the weeks to come.
The Office of the High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country’s main civilian peace implementation agency, announced on 8 September that it had ordered the removal of 15 public officials who had obstructed implementation of property laws in the republic. These officials were banned from running in elections or holding public office. They were deemed to have ignored, obstructed, or failed to enforce property laws that they were supposed to implement.
NATO issued a report in early September on activities of its Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The report describes the situation in Bosnia as calm and stable. Yet it also notes the possibility of sporadic low-level violence in connection with the return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jacques Klein, issued a statement on 19 September concerning the arrest of several individuals suspected of carrying out the assassination in March 1999 of the Bosnian Federation’s deputy interior minister, Jozo Leutar. The special representative stressed that political terrorism and assassination is a crime against all citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina and will not be tolerated or ignored.
A police car was set afire in Athens on 13 September. Responsibility was claimed by an illegal group, Black Star, in phone calls to a radio station and a newspaper. The terrorists insisted on the release of one of their collaborators – an anarchist detained in jail. A week earlier the same terrorist group had set fire to several other cars, one of them belonging to the Iranian Embassy and another to a Greek diplomat. In June the 17 November, another Greek terrorist group assassinated the British military attach? in Athens for his support and active participation in the NATO Allied Force operation against FRY.
A wave of arrests on 12 September led to the seizure of 12 people for war crimes. Only one of them was wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for questioning about events in the 1993-1994 war between the Muslim-led Bosnia-Herzegovina government and Croatian-backed ethnic Croats. Most of the other arrests were in connection with the apparent murder on 28 August of Milan Levar, who had testified to atrocities by Croatian forces at the start of Croatia’s 1991-1995 war of independence. Democratic Croatia is resolute that those accountable for war crimes will not live freely in this Croatia, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan told the Hina news agency. The ICTY now wishes to try only senior commanders and politicians and encourages prosecution by individual states.
Parliamentary, presidential, and municipal elections were held in the FRY on 24 September. The most dramatic part was the contest for FRY president between Milosevic, leader of the Serbian Socialist Party and FRY president, and Vojislav Kostunica, lawyer and representative of a coalition of 15 opposition parties. The election campaign was characterised by Milosevic's preparations to steal the election, suppression of all independent media, intimidation of opposition activists throughout Yugoslavia, use of fraudulent ballot boxes, attempts to skew the count, and a ban on experienced OSCE election monitors. Milosevic appealed to the armed forces to support him during this dramatic period. Important financial support was received from Iraq and its "friendly" imported oil prices. The most visible campaign violations, according to the Slovak Democratic Initiative (SDI), a non-governmental organisation, were: campaign materials circulated during the period of silence; campaign materials closer than 50 meters to polling stations; and NGO slogans used by political party campaign events.
Particularly during the last month, Milosevic was faced a group of opposition parties that succeeded, especially after opinion polls definitely favoured them, to become a real set of efficient political forces. Most powerful among these was Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). The political opposition was also motivated by a mounting activism of Serbian NGOs willing to carry on their cause against the regime at any cost. The influential Serbian Orthodox Church appealed to authorities on the eve of the elections to refrain from violence. The election results, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), are: Kostunica, 48.22 per cent; Milosevic, 40.23 per cent. For this reason, the FEC called a second round of presidential elections. The FEC included no opposition party members, and there were no independent observers who could monitor its work. The results, according to the Centre for Free and Democratic Elections, were: Kostunica, 56.93 per cent; Milosevic, 33.51 per cent. These results were achieved despite massive irregularities and various kinds of fraud. According to the DOS, these results made a second round unnecessary, as Kostunica won outright in the first round by receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote. The Serbian Radical Party (SRP) of Vojislav Sesel and the Serbian Renewal Movement (SRM) of Vuk Draskovic largely agreed with the figures of the Centre for Free and Democratic Elections. DOS announced that it would boycott any second round and called for public protests and demonstrations against the FEC report.
Important elements of the Kostunica pre-election campaign were the condemnation of Milosevic's regime, of NATO raids against FRY in 1999, and of Montenegrin traitors. Kostunica promised that, if he won the elections, he would not release Milosevic to the ICTY in the Hague. He criticized both Russia for its indecisiveness on events in FRY and the US as a violator of FRY sovereignty and for using the elections to topple Milosevic. However, Kostunica overlooked the fact that the Milosevic regime was drastically weakened due to NATO's Allied Force operation, his indictment as a war criminal, and the principled position of Montenegro's government. Russia may have shown inconsistencies in its FRY policy, but the US has long supported the Yugoslav democratic opposition (even if not necessarily with funds). Many analysts, especially in neighbouring FRY countries, underline a clear Kostunica nationalist position that portends no good for ethnic peace in the region. One can expect a gradual and mid- to long-term stabilising of Serbian statehood on a democratic basis. A broad range of political, economic, and constitutional issues lies ahead, no matter how the situation evolves after the incomplete election process.
Two rounds of the second municipal elections In FYROM held in this country since 1991 occurred on 10 and 24 September. After counting in the two rounds, the ruling coalition won in 70 out of 124 municipalities. There were some acts of violence and intimidation in the western part of the country, including one death. But the elections were generally calm in most municipalities. The largest city, Skopje, where one third of the country’s population lives, re-elected Mayor Risto Penov from the opposition Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDUM) by a large margin. In the other 10 municipalities, where major violations were registered, elections will be repeated. A fierce propaganda campaign by the opposition pro-Serbian and pro-Milosevic SDUM succeeded in reducing the number of voters favouring the ruling party. A traditional attack against the government criticized its good-neighbourly relationship with Bulgaria, interpreted as national treason. The Serbian intelligence services encouraged this view. Arben Xaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albania (DPA) and coalition partner in the government, told the Trud daily (the most popular Bulgarian newspaper) on 25 September that there was "a permanent demonising of Bulgaria and the Albanian factor – a convenient cover for the Serbian military and intelligence services, whose structures are still active in Macedonia."
a. Greece-FYRO Macedonia Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou visited Skopje briefly on 6 September and met with his counterpart and the Macedonian prime minister.
b. Greece-FRY Papandreou also visited Belgrade on 6 September and met with his counterpart, Jivadin Jovanovic, and Milosevic. This was the first visit to FRY by a senior official of a NATO country. Papandreou pressured Milosevic to embrace democracy but was rebuffed. Milosevic used the meeting with Papandreou to air complaints over EU and US efforts to pressure his country, saying that perpetrators of force and neo-colonialism were the chief sources of tension and problems in the region. Some NATO diplomats were taken aback by the meeting for the opportunity it gave the dictator to boost his own credibility on the eve of the elections. Papandreou told the press he had informed Milosevic that Europe expected a fair electoral process in FRY.
c. Bulgaria-Romania A joint Bulgarian-Romanian military exercise, The Blue Danube 2000, was carried out 24-29 September, covering the river's two shores. Three kinds of Bulgarian armed forces joined the exercise as did civil defence units, the Military Medical Institute, and Romanian contingents – 1'300 troops in all. The exercise task was a joint rescue operation in the aftermath of a fire, a natural disaster (flood and earthquake), and industrial accident. The defence ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, Boyko Noev and Sorin Frunzaverde, participated in the exercise. They agreed that the two countries should enter NATO together. Noev said that Yugoslav participation would be welcome after the FRY victory of democracy. The prime ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, Ivan Kostov and Mugur Isarescu, observed the rescue and humanitarian exercise.
In sharp contrast to the excellent bilateral relations was the doctoral thesis of General Mihay Popescu, chief of the Romanian army's general staff. Popescu he defended his thesis on 6 September before a Bucharest audience comprising mainly generals, officers, and representatives of the Romanian security establishment. The thesis included the charge that Bulgaria was a risk factor for Romanian national security due to "covered" claims of Bulgaria towards the Dobrudzha region. The new representative of the research community and an experienced military officer needs to learn about new methods to improve the posture of nations and states in international relations in the 21st century, mainly through improving the technological fundamentals of one's society, economic efficiency, and the population's living standards. These objectives have nothing to do with territorial expansion – a tool of reaching national purposes in the 19th and early-20th centuries. This precedent poses significant questions about implementing the principle of democratic control of the military in a country contending for NATO and EU membership.
d. Bulgaria-Turkey During the last days of September Bayza Yuntuna, head of Turkey's consular office in Bourgas, a city on the southern Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, was recalled to Ankara after an agreement between the two ministries of foreign affairs. The press was told that she was recalled for consultations due to participation in political activity of a Bulgarian party. Yuntuna was not qualified as persona non grata, and the Bulgarian side did not treat the issue as a political one.
A joint communiqu? of a 28 September meeting between the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, Kostov and Isarescu, stated that the votes of FRY citizens deprived Milosevic of the claim that he represented them. The document congratulated the success of the opposition candidate for president, Vojislav Kostunica, and called on Belgrade officials to listen to the wishes of their people.
The foreign ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, FYROM, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia, and Turkey met in New York at a SECI gathering on 12 September in the presence of the US secretary of state, and participants agreed there was now a European framework and perspective for their region's states. The situation in FRY created a hole in the region. The foreign ministers also addressed the issue of the upcoming FRY elections. A choice of Yugoslavia in favour of democracy and Europe would be most welcome by its neighbours. A peaceful election process was also a common wish of the participants. The foreign ministers also focused on deterring any action by Milosevic against Montenegro in an effort to divert attention from his problems at home. Thus SECI demonstrated how a regional framework can support any entity in the area that pursues a moderate and prudent political course.
1. Romania. The president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), George Mu–oz, urged US businesses to invest in Romania, saying on 11 September that the country had begun to emerge as an attractive destination for foreign capital. Mu–oz’s remarks came after a meeting with former Romanian president Ion Iliescu, who was on a three-day visit to Washington. He presently heads the Romanian Social Democracy Party and is a presidential candidate for the November elections with high chances of winning. Economic forecasts indicate that Romania’s gross domestic product will exceed the official target for 2000, thanks to stronger than expected growth in industrial output.
2. Slovenia. Up to 70 per cent of the Slovenian economy is still directly or indirectly run by the state. Only half of the denationalisation process has been completed – that restituting communist confiscation. Major state-controlled monopolies remain non-privatised, including the insurance company Triglav, Telekom Slovenje, and two big state-owned banks. Slovenian Prime Minister Dr Andrej Bajuk, also an economist, faces a huge task with general elections on 15 October. He has pledged to push for reduced state involvement in the economy and for legislative reforms required for EU accession – both difficult tasks in a state-oriented environment.
VI. THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
USA-Bulgaria. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov visited California in the days preceding the UN Millennium Summit in New York. An extensive programme provided opportunities to bring the Bulgarian case closer to the understanding of the Americans.
USA-Croatia. Some 600 US sailors and marines joined Croatian forces on 25-29 September in the training exercise Croatian Phiblex 2000, near Split, Croatia, and offshore islands. The manoeuvres included an amphibious landing and live fire training. The exercise was another effort to bring more regional stability and to practice interoperability between the US and Croatian maritime forces.
USA: Energy and Transportation Projects for Southeast Europe. The Southeast Europe Energy and Transportation Conference was convened in Philadelphia on 13 September. The US Trade and Development Agency (TDA) sponsored it and informed US companies and energy and transportation ministers from Southeast Europe about energy and transportation projects moving through financial pipelines at the World Bank and other financial institutions. A fundamental premise of the Stability Pact is that democratic transformation in Southeast Europe must be accompanied by economic revitalisation and integration of the entire region into European and Atlantic institutions.
USA-FRY. The US Department of State issued a message on the Yugoslav elections on 20 September. The USA supports EU policy on the eventual removal of sanctions. The US has joined with Russian and European colleagues in envisioning a time when democratic Yugoslavia is a full partner in the new Europe.
USA-Turkey. Though the Turkish president, prime minister, and deputy prime minister urged the US government to reject House Resolution 395 on Armenian genocide, the document moved ahead through the legislative body in September. The resolution is non-binding and intends to represent the "sense of the House", but the administration holds that the resolution may complicate efforts to bring peace and stability to the Caucasus and harm US-Turkish relations. US ambassador to Turkey Robert Pearson told reporters in Ankara on 22 September that the administration strongly opposed this resolution. The administration thinks the issue should be left to historians, and the focus should be on steps to resolve regional issues that count – those promoting better futures for all people involved.
Japan-Romania. The Romanian government applied on 8 September for a Japanese loan to build a road and railway network connecting Romania and Hungary and to construct the Romanian part of the Vidin-Kalafat bridge.
Japan-Bulgaria. Japan declared its interest in building a tyre-reprocessing plant in Bulgaria, another indicator of intensifying economic cooperation between the two countries. Big parliamentary delegations from Japan visited Bulgaria during the first week of September. Japan is already engaged in environmental and transportation projects in Bulgaria.
UN-Bulgaria. The UN Security Council withdrew its claims against Bulgaria for illegal arms transactions. Earlier this year accusations that Bulgaria had exported arms to Sierra Leone placed it among violators of fundamental international agreements on arms non-proliferation. Bulgarian diplomacy and other official institutions convinced the UN authorities of the country's innocence.
The Bulgarian president announced the country’s decision to increase its financial contribution to participate in UN peacekeeping operations.
Romania and Slovenia also increased their payments for the UN peacekeeping fund.
UN-Cyprus. Proximity talks on Cyprus resumed in New York on 12 September between representatives of the Greek and the Turkish communities under the auspices of the United Nations.
NATO-Bulgaria. SACEUR General Joseph Ralston and the commander of the Alliance Forces for South Europe, Admiral James Ellies, participated along with the defence ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM, Greece, Italy, Romania, and Turkey in the first command-staff and field exercise of the Multinational Peace Force Southeast Europe (MPFSEE), constituted by contingents of these seven countries. The 7 Stars 2000 exercise took place on Koren playground near Haskovo, Bulgaria, and continued from 23-30 September with 1'154 troops from the seven states. The MPFSEE tested seven peacekeeping operations, including the simulated Kosovo scenario. A Turkish general commands the MPFSEE, and a Bulgarian officer is the battalion's chief of staff. The contingent headquarters is in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
In messages to the Serbian people of 19, 25 and 27 September, the EU and its EC leaders clearly declared their firm support for democratic change in FRY and promised to lift sanctions if Milosevic is voted out of power. They also congratulated Kostunica for the opposition victory in the elections.
ICTY-Bulgaria, FYROM, Slovenia, Turkey. Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the ICTY, visited Southeast European countries in early September and agreed to offer full support in bringing to justice all who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
ECHR-Turkey. A long postponed trial of Greek Cyprus against Turkey began in the Hague on 20 September in connection with some 170'000 people displaced from the so-called Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic. The main accusations against Turkey are violations of human rights on a massive scale.
1. The Serbian opposition's success in the presidential elections have created great opportunities to improve the general security situation in the Balkans. The future of the power and constitutional structure inside Serbia and the status of Kosovo and Montenegro bear the seeds of new tensions and clashes.
2. The solidarity of countries from the Southeast European region to support the democratic transition in FRY and outside help for the Balkans are decisive factors in consolidating Southeast Europe irreversibly as one of the regular European regions.