BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and October 2000 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 10, 2000
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
The municipal elections in Albania, the parliamentary elections in Slovenia and the municipal elections in Kosovo dominated political attention in the Balkan region during October. However, the people’s revolt in Serbia that toppled the dictatorial regime of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic represents the major change of the situation in Southeastern Europe during the last month. The situation is novel for two reasons: first, because of better opportunities for the social, political and economic homogenizing of the region in general; and second, the dramatic improvements to the constitutional future of Kosovo and Montenegro. The key to both of these issues continues to be the internal democratic development of Serbia, with a new culture of ethnic tolerance and cooperation. The democratization of Serbian society is dependent on several factors: the formation of democratic institutions and the adoption of democratic laws; the peaceful resolution of the constitutional problems of Kosovo and Montenegro; the introduction of democratic civilian control over the armed forces and all other security institutions in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY); and the restructuring of the mafia-type economy of the country after ten years of external isolation and internal criminalization by the Milosevic regime.
There is a list of tasks that must be performed before the country will be reintegrated into the international community. Each of the neighbors of the FRY has its own agenda, with bilateral issues of a contentious character that need to be solved through negotiations in good faith by both sides. The FRY is expected to join the regional processes of security and cooperation, and start behaving according to rules that were shaped over the past decade mostly in the absence of the FRY, but never against the FRY and its peoples. The international community is eager to see the FRY embark on a persistent democratic path and is ready to support the country in its efforts.
The long-expected event of the Kosovo municipal elections occurred on 28 October. The organization of the elections was carried out by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Many problems with voter registration, political violence between ethnic Serbs and Albanians, and the unwillingness of most Serbs to participate in the elections (even though they participated in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections in September, mostly favoring Milosevic and his party) illustrate the difficulties faced by the international community in Kosovo. The preparation of the elections met the standards of credibility, according to OSCE estimates. The OSCE expects difficulties in the post-election period, both in implementing the election results and on the issue of the councils in the Serb-dominated northern municipalities. The main problems stem from the expectation of some elected mayors of getting an independent Kosovo state, which may make them unwilling to perform their tasks. Nineteen political parties, three civil unions and fifteen independent candidates ran election campaigns. Thirty local councils with a two-year mandate will be elected from 5’500 candidates. The major contenders are the party of moderate Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, and the parties of the previous military leaders of the UCK (the Kosovo Liberation Army). Even Rugova himself called for an independent Kosovo at a big rally of his party on 25 October. The Albanian people in Kosovo also have unrealistically high expectations of radical improvements to the social, political and economic situations in the province. The election day passed calmly, and only the 1'464 Albanian national flags flying over the polling stations introduced an element of concern for the coming days. The landslide victory of Rugova’s party makes no change to the thinking of the Albanian population on the next step: the necessity for parliamentary elections. The UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has suggested organizing separate elections for the Serbian population that boycotted the vote on 28 October, but this would not redirect the ethnic hatred and pro-independence trends in the Albanian part of the Kosovo society.
The problems increased after declarations by the new Yugoslav president that Kosovo is an inseparable part of Serbia, and that small contingents of the Yugoslav army (VJ) and the police will return to the province by the end of the year. Although this is a provision of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1244, the eventual confrontation of VJ troops and ethnic Albanians would destabilize the province and create difficulties for the Kosovo Force (KFOR). There remain problems with the return of all refugees and there are concerns that 2'100 Albanian families from southern Serbia may migrate to Kosovo, since they cannot survive in tents. 70'000 Albanians in Southern Serbia may be pulled into confrontation with the Serbs by militant Albanian formations. The boundary between Kosovo and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is still guarded ineffectively. The most traumatic issue of the existing inter-ethnic hatred and intolerance will continue to harm the build-up of democratic relations, institutions and rules.
Alia Izetbegovic, chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency, stepped down this month and left the post to Jivko Radisic.
To demonstrate his support for the ethnic brethren in the neighboring country and to counterbalance his first voyage abroad as president to the European Union (EU) meeting in Biarritz, the new Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, made his second diplomatic trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constituent state Republika Srpska. This visit hardly qualifies as an act of recognition of the neighboring state and its borders; an act that was demonstrated in a clear fashion by Croatia after the visit of Foreign Minister Tonino Picula to Sarajevo. The continuing economic support of Belgrade for the Serb nationalists in Bosnia increases the complexity of the security situation in that country. The return of refugees of non-Serb origin to areas dominated by Serbs continues to be very dependent on the political attitude in Belgrade. A constructive approach by Kostunica may improve the Serbian refugee situation in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
A major problem for the post-conflict reconstruction process in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the persistent refusal of Kostunica to recognize the legitimacy of the war-crimes tribunal in The Hague; this represents a new stumbling block to the implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace accords.
a. Turkey. A powerful bomb was detonated in the Officers’ Club in downtown Istanbul on 5 October. Either a kamikaze action or an accidental pre-detonation was most probably the reason for the terrorist act, which ended only in the death of the terrorist himself – a 28-year-old former member of an illegal left-wing extremist party close to the outlawed PKK (the Kurdish Workers’ Party).
b. Greece. On 12 October a small anarchist group, “The Last Generation”, accepted responsibility for bombing the car of a civil servant that caused property damage only. Dozens of small illegal groups act permanently in Athens, and they have made more than one hundred similar attacks this year alone. Cars of civil servants and foreign diplomats are the usual targets of these terrorist acts.
On the eve of the municipal elections in Albania on 1 October, the US, Norway and Germany signed with Albania a memorandum of understanding for the destruction of over 130'000 small arms and light weapons in that country. In a 1999 declaration on small arms and light weapons, Albania – along with nine other countries of Southeastern Europe – committed itself to the destruction of collected illicit weapons and surplus military stocks. Thus Albania became an example for other countries in the region in dealing with the problem of small arms. On 1 October around 2.3 million Albanians participated in the local elections for 65 mayors and 300 other local authority representatives. Despite some irregularities in the voting, the overall electoral process met OSCE standards. This experience has laid an important and positive foundation for the next summer’s national elections.
(1) Obsessed by panic from the growing political isolation of the ruling Union of the Democratic Forces (UDF), its Head Secretary Christo Bisserov, chairman of the National Security Commission of the Bulgarian parliament, together with a member of the leading political body of the UDF (the National Executive Council), Jordan Conev, chairman of the Budget Parliamentary Commission, demanded on 25 October the resignation of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov who is also the chairman of the UDF. The accusation against Kostov was that he was separating the UDF from many of its political allies. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, the influential mayor of Sofia (Stefan Sofiansky), the Council of Ministers and the large majority of the MPs as well as the national structures of the UDF backed the prime minister some nine months before the upcoming general elections, which are followed in late 2001 by the presidential elections. Getting virtually no support from their own ranks, Bisserov and Conev resigned from their party and parliamentary positions. According to local analysts, this power struggle is motivated by the desire for economic gains in the privatization process. While the government of Kostov reduced hyperinflation in 1997 to levels better than the EU average, it could not improve the low living standards of the Bulgarians, causing a powerful drift to the political left.
(2) The government approved the 1999 Defense Report on 26 October. The stated priorities of the armed forces are modernization of air defense systems and raising the motivation of military servicemen and women.
The election fraud that occurred in September before, during and especially after voting led the FRY to the brink of civil war. Pressure from the supporters of Kostunica, who claimed a clear election victory over Milosevic, reached the level of a peoples' uprising on 5-6 October. The VJ, interior troops and the police decided to stay independent of the political battles and did not employ their power to support the Milosevic regime. The Constitutional Court, which had previously decided to nullify the victory of Kostunica, stated on 10 October that Milosevic and Kostunica had received 37.15 per cent and 50.24 per cent of the votes, respectively. This change of position of the Constitutional Court was motivated by the nullification of the results in two election districts due to fraud. On the basis of these results, the Constitutional Court proclaimed Kostunica as the legal president of the FRY.
The new situation in the FRY has various effects on the security situation in Southeastern Europe. The process of democratization in the FRY is expected to be applied to ongoing democratization in the rest of the peninsula, but this will be a gradual process. The anti-NATO, anti-Montenegrin, anti-Kosovar Albanian pre-election campaign of Kostunica will largely determine the way that the new democratic institutions and laws of the FRY are shaped. The very way that the so-called revolution took place – with the agreement of the General Staff of the VJ, the police and the Serbian Socialist Party of Milosevic – portends a long process of painful compromises in achieving democracy in the country. Milomir Minic, the new prime minister of Serbia and a close associate of Milosevic (though more moderate in his views), is a typical example of this tendency. Tens of thousands of "Milosevic people" are and will remain in powerful positions for a long time. Eventually, early republican elections for parliament, president and local authorities may lead to some changes to the direction of development. Democratic control over the armed forces and the security institutions will surely be a major test for the Yugoslav society on its path to democracy. Still, the situation is between revolution and democracy, said Kostunica recently, and is the one to be arrested.
The neutralization of mafia-type economics is another challenge. According to Serbian expert sources, 70 per cent of economic transactions take place in the “grey zone”, free from regulation and taxation. However, the nearest security consequences may come from how the constitutional status of Yugoslavia will be defined. The future of Kosovo and Montenegro may become serious stumbling blocks to democracy in Serbia and Yugoslavia. Roughly 700 imprisoned Albanians from Kosovo are still in Serbian jails, and Kostunica is committed to sending VJ into Kosovo by the end of the year. One cannot doubt that the Albanians will counteract and that the whole situation will become a new burden for UNMIK and KFOR.
Although Kostunica finally met the president of Montenegro, the pro-Western Milo Djukanovic, in Podgorica on 17 October, Djukanovic declined to participate in the new Yugoslav government. According to a senior advisor of Djukanovic (Miodrag Vukovic), the present federation cannot be saved. Instead, the new system is expected to be something between a union and confederation. Kostunica may seek a way out of the constitutional impasse through referendums in Montenegro and Serbia. Serbia will probably not use force to find the constitutional formula with Montenegro. But independent Montenegro, having some 25–40 per cent of the population in favor of preserving the present federation despite the degraded status of Montenegro, may participate in internal clashes. Considering the arming of pro-Serbian Montenegrins by the VJ, one may expect the worse-case scenario of an escalation to a civil war.
During his visit to Moscow on 27 October, the new Yugoslav president stated that he viewed the Balkans as a terrain in which the US, the EU and Russia should preserve a balanced influence, otherwise the situation would become very unfavorable for the local countries. Thinking of Southeastern Europe as a playground for balance-of-power exercises by the great centers of world power is unacceptable and contradicts the tendencies of the last ten years of regional evolution, in which the FRY did not participate because it was focused on the creation of greater Serbia. Any great power or institution must accept the choices of the people of the region, and the majority favors EU and NATO integration whilst keeping friendly relations with Russia. Moscow and President Vladimir Putin risk being dragged in a way that is similar to how they were dragged by Milosevic into power balancing that definitely led to a diminished influence of Russia. More correctly, this is the next, post-Milosevic effort of utilizing Russia’s policy and Russia’s interests by Belgrade, by blinding the Russians with various signs of civilization, religious and cultural toys from Huntington’s toolbox. This is the modern expression of the nationalism of Kostunica – trying to play different influential powers against each other at their own expense, at the expense of the other peoples and states in the Balkans, but always in favor of Serbia. Less than two years ago Milosevic began this same game, balancing and even trying to turn Russia against NATO, the US and the EU, whilst moving delicately between the great power interrelationships. Later Milosevic applied for membership in the Russia-Belarus union. Kostunica discarded this official application on 27 October, but preserved the “divided great powers” mode of thinking: within a divided Europe and a divided EU-US relationship. The next logical step is applying this to a divided Balkans, so that finally the balancer – if not the power broker – will be Serbia and Yugoslavia. While most of Serbia's neighbors are not going to be fooled into a new Serbian international mismatch, there are concerns that Russia may misread the new Yugoslav president’s experiments in diplomacy and fail to perceive that behind the Slavonic brotherhood overtures and the requests for Russian gas lie grander schemes to confront Russia with the EU, NATO and the US on the Balkan terrain.
After the elections in Slovenia on 15 October, the longest-serving prime minister in Europe, Janez Drnovsek, will form the next government coalition after several months break during which Andrej Bajuk served as Slovenia’s prime minister.
a. Bulgaria-FRY. On 6 October all parliamentary parties in Sofia recognized the victory of the new Yugoslav president, and the majority of the Bulgarian MPs adopted a declaration on the changes in the neighboring country. The ruling UDF insisted on including in the declaration the principal Bulgarian position during the Kosovo crisis in support of the alliance and the international community, while the opposition Socialist Party declined to go back to the past. Despite these nuances there exists a generally positive attitude in the whole Bulgarian political spectrum on involving the neighboring state in a constructive region-building activity in the Balkans following the isolation of the FRY over the last ten years.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova visited Belgrade on 23-24 October, and met with leaders of the democratic opposition of Serbia: Goran Svilanovic and Vladan Batic. She had talks with the mayor of Belgrade, Milan Protic, and with the new Yugoslav president. Before these meetings Bulgaria had negotiated the export to the FRY of one billion kWh of electrical energy, worth US$ 30-35 million per year. The import of this energy has a critical meaning for the FRY over the coming cold Balkan winter. The Bulgarian president met with Kostunica in Skopje on 25 October, at the meeting of regional leaders. This was the only bilateral talk of the new Yugoslav president, except for the meeting with Dr Javier Solana, the high representative for the common foreign and security policy of the EU, in Skopje. Though Bulgaria has clearly formulated its claims for improvement of the treatment of the Bulgarian national minority by Belgrade, and for the erasing from Serbian school books of the statement that Bulgarians are the eternal enemies of the Serbs, Stoyanov did not disclose these contentious issues during the bilateral talks. Instead they discussed short-term economic projects of common interest to the two countries, including the construction of the Nis-Sofia part of European Transport Corridor No 10 within the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. However, unless these issues that are harming the bilateral relations are not solved, the regional atmosphere of trust and reconciliation risks being degraded.
b. FYROM-FRY. The presidents of the two countries, Boris Traikovsky and Kostunica, met briefly in Skopje on 25 October and agreed to resolve their border disagreements.
c. Bulgaria-Croatia. Croatian President Stippe Mesic made an official visit to Sofia on 2-3 October, and met with the Bulgarian president and prime minister, and other Bulgarian leaders. They discussed a broad range of bilateral relations, including the national minorities and the joint work for EU integration, regional stability and cooperation. The two presidents adopted a joint declaration in support of the new Yugoslav president. Mesic shared with the Bulgarian media his concerns regarding the FRY’s non-cooperation with International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, as well as the danger of provoking by Milosevic and his supporters of an eventual split of Montenegro, and blaming the new leadership for the break-up of the federation.
d. Greece-Turkey. A NATO-induced effort for a confidence-building measure between Greek and Turkish armed forces within the “Destined Glory” military exercise failed after Greece announced on 22 October that it has cancelled its participation. The exercise was generally a successful one, including the first arrival of Greek troops on Turkish soil for 78 years. It was a very good counterpart to the earlier NATO exercise “Dynamic Mix”, which took place in the summer and involved Turkish troops on Greek soil. The reason for Greece's withdrawal from the exercise was unsatisfactory regulation of the way that Greek aircraft would overfly the Greek islands of Limnos and Ikaria – an issue for which the Turkish side has major objections. The rapprochement between the two countries that was started more than a year ago, however, did not end with the dispute of the two countries’ air forces. Despite a harsh declaration by the Greek defense minister, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, that Turkey is a destabilizing factor and any tolerance by Greece would be dangerous, on the following day (25 October) in Skopje the prime ministers of the two states, Costas Simitis and Bülent Ecevit, continued the bilateral political dialogue in the interest of the two countries and of the region.
e. Bulgaria-Turkey. The new, temporary general consul of Turkey in Burgas, Southeastern Bulgaria, began his service on 9 October. The mandate of the previous Turkish consul was terminated, and she was called back by Ankara after protests by the Bulgarian government. A large group of leading Turkish and Bulgarian businessmen met near Varna, Bulgaria, on 21-22 October for discussions aimed at intensifying their business transactions. The presidents of the two countries sent greetings to the participants of the meeting.
f. FYROM-Bulgaria. The leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians, Arben Xafferi, the coalition partner of the ruling party in Skopje, visited Sofia on 20 October and met with Bulgarian MPs. He stated that he understood that the process of dissolution of Yugoslavia has not yet ended, and repeated his support for an independent Kosovo.
The new defense minister of FYROM, Liuben Paunovsky, visited Sofia on 24 October and met with his counterpart, Boyko Noev. Paunovsky presented a list detailing the armaments, equipment and spare parts required by the armed forces of his country. The two ministers signed an agreement for the training of military personnel from Skopje in the Bulgarian defense college “Rakovsky”. They also concluded agreements for cooperation in civil defense, military-technical issues and military intelligence. They also reached an agreement for the joint training of paratroops and divers. Bulgaria provided a major help to Skopje during the Kosovo crisis, by sustaining one of the bigger refugee camps. Bulgaria also provided a donation to the young armed forces of 94 T-55 tanks, 108 M-30 artillery pieces, 14 reconstruction machines, 60 packages of tank shells and 90 guns. Skopje has asked for two patrol boats for the Ohridsko and Prespansko lakes. The Chief of the Bulgarian General Staff declared that Bulgaria can, if agreed, provide air-defense armaments and military airplanes. FYROM has not yet kept its pledge to take care of the 471 unknown graves of Bulgarian soldiers. 180'000 Bulgarians have been killed between 1903 and 1944 in the territory of FYROM, in the uprisings, the liberation wars, World War I and World War II.
The presidents of the two countries met in Skopje on 25 October and discussed new perspectives on cooperation after the changes in the FRY. They also discussed cooperation within the multinational peacekeeping contingent based in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
a. The Pact of Stability for Southeastern Europe.
(1) The forum within the Pact of Stability that discussed cooperation in fighting organized crime in the region ended in Sofia on 6 October. Bodo Hombach, the coordinator of the Pact, was acquainted with the Bulgarian project of turning Sofia into a coordinating center for fighting terrorism. A working group within the Pact will be headed by Bulgaria. Bulgaria has been successful at fighting drugs trafficking and illegal migration.
(2) Hombach told the fifth Defense Ministerial in Thessaloniki, Greece, on 9 October that the Pact will fund a MPFSEE project (the multinational peacekeeping force) for the construction of a field command communication and information system. Norway is expected to be a major contributor to this project.
(3) The regular Economic Forum for southeastern Europe, as a part of activity within the Pact of Stability, was convened in Sofia on 16 October. Hombach defined Sofia, Zagreb and Belgrade as the potential new “economic tigers” of the region.
(4) The FRY was accepted as a member of the Pact in Bucharest on 26 October. This membership will be profitable for the FRY in the reconstruction of its damaged infrastructure and in developing cooperative relations with its neighboring states by working on joint projects.
b. The Danube Commission. It became clear on 16 October that the eleven-nation Danube Commission, based in Budapest, has agreed with the Yugoslav authorities to begin cleaning the river of debris from the war of 1999. It is expected that the operation, which is headed by an experienced French engineer, will be completed by February or March of next year.
c. South-East European Cooperative Initiative (SECI). The SECI anti-crime center opened in Bucharest on 2 October. Sharing of information and law enforcement efforts may help authorities develop a case that will lead to the arrest and prosecution – and conviction – of figures in the world of organized crime. The Romanian government provided a site for the center on the 10th floor of the Romanian parliament.
d. Southeastern European Defense Ministerial (SEDM). The fifth SEDM was convened in Thessaloniki on 9 October. In its four years of existence this forum has assumed the features of an organization and has made an enormous contribution to stability and security throughout the region by creating a multinational force that recently held a successful exercise in Bulgaria. The force will be ready for deployment within the next two months. At the meeting in Thessaloniki the Bulgarian proposal of involving the MPFSEE in engineering reconstruction activities in Kosovo was accepted. It is highly probable that by the end of December the Chiefs of the General Staffs of the armed forces of the participating countries will meet in Sofia to discuss practical issues regarding the decisions of the defense ministers. Croatia participated in the SEDM for the first time. The Bulgarian and Greek defense ministers and the US Secretary of Defense launched the idea of involving the new democratic Yugoslavia in the work of the SEDM.
e. Process of Stability and Cooperation in Southeastern Europe (the "Sofia Process"). The fourth summit meeting within the Process of Stability and Cooperation was convened in Skopje on 25 October. This is a bottom-up regional effort, initiated in Sofia in July 1996, with the objective that the countries of the region take more responsibility in reaching stable and cooperative relationships in southeastern Europe, to develop good-neighborly relations and the economies of the countries and of the region, deal with international crime and improve cultural, humanitarian and social cooperation. The previous summit meetings were held as follows: on the island of Crete, Greece, in 1997; in Antalya, Turkey, in the autumn of 1998; and in Bucharest in the spring of (without Yugoslav participation, after an agreement between the participating countries not to invite representatives of the Milosevic regime). The new Yugoslav president participated in the Skopje forum, together with the Albanian president, Rexep Meidani, the Romanian president, Emil Konstantinescu, the Bulgarian, Greek and Turkish presidents, and the president of the hosting country. Goran Granic, the Croatian deputy prime minister, and Jivko Radisic, the chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency, were observers at the forum. The US Ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, paid due respect to this summit, where he met with Kostunica, Dr Solana and Hombach. This was the first meeting of Balkan leaders at which there was a homogenized sharing of values: democracy, human rights, the market economy and the rule of law. From this meeting there is the clear opportunity for completing the construction of a Balkan community of nations that will never again resort to violent means in solving their disputes. The launch of common infrastructure projects was seen is a pragmatic way of knitting the economies of the Balkan countries together. Although there is a long road ahead, the prospects for the region have never been brighter following the end of the dictatorial regime in Belgrade.
The draft budget for 2001 predicts an increase of 13.38 per cent in the defense budget to US$ 627 million, an increase of 2.69 per cent in the education budget to US$ 191 million, a decrease of 0.53 per cent in the culture budget to US$ 18.9 million, an increase of 0.96 per cent in the healthcare budget to US$ 210 million, and no change in the budget of the municipalities at US$ 219 million. The inflation for 2001 is expected to be 6 per cent, down from 9.5 per cent in 2000.
While much of the attention in Yugoslavia is concentrated on the drive to rid industry of Milosevic’s managers, urgent economic needs are associated with the coming winter. Yugoslavia is aiming to raise about US$ 500 million from international donors to help finance imports of fuel over the winter months. No less important is the rate at which aid can be delivered.
(1) The Russian gas company Gasprom agreed to increase its delivery of natural gas for Turkey through Bulgaria. In the autumn of 2001, the "Blue Stream” gas pipeline under the Black Sea is expected to become functional, and the structure of Russian transit deliveries to Turkey are going to be reconsidered.
(2) Turkey increased by 20 per cent the licenses for Bulgarian trucks, to a total of 6'000.
(3) Turkey also displayed interest in recycling passenger train carriages in a Bulgarian plant.
The EIB will provide 50 per cent of the money needed for the construction of a second bridge over the Danube. Under consideration are two projects for the construction of the bridge. The main financial contribution is from the Bulgarian budget; Romania is expected to invest just € 30 million (US$ 26 million). The bridge will also be used for the transportation of gas between Vidin (in Bulgaria) and Kalafat (in Romania).
VI. THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
(1) Army General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US armed forces, visited Sofia on 9 October. His main message at his meetings with the prime minister, the minister of defense and the Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian armed forces, as well as with the Bulgarian public was that the US perceives Bulgaria as the most likely candidate for NATO membership in Southeastern Europe. He praised the ambitious program of the Bulgarian armed forces to meet 82 practical requirements for joining the alliance. General Shelton also praised the Bulgarian participation in SFOR and in KFOR.
(2) US Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins visited Sofia on 23 October. He had meetings with the president, the deputy prime minister and the deputy minister of foreign affairs. Dobbins discussed the new opportunities of the Pact of Stability after the changes in the FRY, and joint measures in fighting organized crime and drugs trafficking. He shared the US assessments of the role of the country as a stabilizing factor in the region, and believes that after the eventual shifts in the US administration following the presidential elections in November, the US policy towards the Balkans will not be changed.
(1) After discussing the political impasse in the FRY that followed the elections with her European counterparts, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on 2 October that the US will continue to make the case that Milosevic lost and that he ought to step down.
(2) On 6 October, US President Clinton hailed the election of Kostunica in Serbia as an extraordinary victory for the people of the former Yugoslavia. He added that now is the time to build the economic and civil institutions that will allow democracy to endure, reconciliation and cooperation to develop, and the economy to grow.
(3) US Secretary of Defense William Cohen told the press in Thessaloniki on 8 October that Milosevic should be tried for war crimes, but that a delay in turning him over to the ICT in The Hague will not stop the US from working with the new Yugoslav president.
(4) On 12 October, Clinton directed the Department of the Treasury and the State Department to begin lifting trade and financial sanctions immediately, including the oil embargo that was imposed against Serbia in 1998. He left in place those sanctions that were targeted against members of the former regime, including a ban on travel to the US. The US will also review its restrictions on Serbia’s participation in international financial institutions as Serbia makes its transition to democracy and meets its international obligations.
(5) The US Special Envoy for Democracy in the Balkans, Jim O’Brien, had a warm and positive one-and-a-half-hour-long discussion with Kostunica and his senior political team on 12 October. They discussed Bosnia, Kosovo, consolidation of democracy in the FRY and the future of Milosevic. O’Brien delivered a letter from the US president congratulating Kostunica and looking forward to the re-establishment of normal relations. Kostunica pledged to honor the Dayton peace accords and UNSC Resolution 1244. For the time being the US will maintain a small presence in Belgrade, headed by Ambassador William Montgomery. Reopening the US Embassy with a larger number of staff will take some time, due to security and other considerations.
(6) Holbrooke met Kostunica in Skopje on 25 October – the highest-ranking US official to meet the new Yugoslav leader. The membership of the FRY in the UN was discussed. Soon after the meeting the Montenegrin reaction was that the process of including the FRY in the UN should first consider the way that the two constituent republics are going to solve their fundamental constitutional problems.
(7) The US Congress approved an aid package to Serbia on 25 October, in the form of a "Foreign Operations Bill" that also includes funds. The conditions attached to the aid package include a five-month waiting period before the conditions take effect, which will allow for the continuing consolidation of the new democratic government under Kostunica. The US administration also values highly the roles of the Stability Pact, the neighboring countries of the FRY and the EU, who also support the process of keeping the positive changes going in Belgrade.
US-Greece. The Chief of Staff of the US air force, General Ryan, met with the chief of the Greek air force, General Dimitris Lintzerakos, in Washington DC on 10 October. Lintzerakos met also with the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers. The discussions between the two sides included the Greek government’s decision to purchase the Block-50 F-16s, training issues and other topics of interest for the US and Hellenic air forces.
US-Turkey. Clinton sent a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on 19 October, urging him in the strongest terms not to bring Resolution 596 (the "Armenian Genocide” Bill) to the floor of the House for debate and consideration. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert withdrew the resolution shortly before the full House was due to vote on it. According to the president’s letter, the consideration of House Resolution 596 at this time could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States, in terms of containing the threat posed by Sadam Hussein, of working for peace and stability in the Middle East and Central Asia, of stabilizing the Balkans and of developing new sources of energy. The resolution may also undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey, which is the very goal that the Resolution’s sponsors seek to advance.
(1) The assistant Secretary General of NATO on political issues, Dr Klaus-Peter Kleiber, visited Sofia on 1-2 October and met with the prime minister, the foreign minister and the minister of defense of Bulgaria, and the deputy minister of defense for defense policy. Dr Kleiber discussed the preparation of the country for NATO membership and visited the MPFSEE in Plovdiv.
(2) A French and an Italian battalion arrived in Bulgaria on 9 October for training at the exercise grounds in Koren and Novo selo. The specific type of terrain makes these grounds attractive to the two NATO countries’ armed forces.
(3) Lord George Robertson, Secretary General of NATO, met in Sofia on 12-13 October with the ministers of defense of the nine countries applying for NATO membership, together with the three new members of the alliance: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Lord Robertson told the ministers that becoming a member of NATO is not a political reward, and he also told the Bulgarian prime minister that KFOR will not decrease in size.
(4) After Lord Robertson's visit, the Chiefs of Staff of the army, air force and navy initiated an acceleration of the implementation of Plan 2004 for the reform of the Bulgarian armed forces. All changes have been re-scheduled with a new deadline of 2002.
(5) A meeting of the deputy ministers of foreign affairs and of defense, Vassiliy Takev and Velizar Shalamanov, was convened in Brussels on 26 October in the 19+1 format. Bulgaria will present the North Atlantic Council with a report on the implementation of the military reform in January 2001, which will be followed by a visit by NATO representatives to check the state of affairs.
(1) In Luxembourg, on 9 October, the EU foreign ministers voted unanimously to start lifting the international sanctions against the FRY. This included removing a blockade on oil deliveries and a ban on commercial air travel to Yugoslavia; a freeze on state assets and a selective ban on visas remain in force. The European Commission (EC) president, Romano Prodi, disclosed to the German “Bild” newspaper that the EU will provide € 2 billion (US$ 1.7 billion) urgent help to the FRY.
(2) French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrin visited Belgrade and met with Kostunica on 10 October, on behalf of the presidency of the EU. They discussed the range of needs of the FRY.
(3) Kostunica attended a meeting with the EU heads of governments on 13 October to discussed the aid that the FRY needs over the upcoming months.
(1) At a conference dealing with Bulgaria’s EU integration in Sofia on 27 October, the Bulgarian prime minister strongly denounced the EC Commissioner Günter Verheugen’s statement – made during a pre-recorded video presentation – that Bulgaria does not have a market economy. Kostov retorted that the conditions are in place in Bulgaria for economic growth, and that the EC Commissioner obviously has problems with the way that he expresses himself. Further, Kostov said that the EC Commissioner does not need to repeat constantly that Bulgaria will not be among the group of countries that will join the EU in 2005, since the Bulgarian government has itself stated clearly its scheduled activity and negotiation stages that will enable it to join the EU by the end of 2006.
(2) In a telephone conversation with the Bulgarian prime minister on 27 October, Prodi promised to do his best to resolve the Bulgarian visa issue with the EU Council.
(1) After a meeting in Moscow on 11 October between Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kassyanov and Gueorgy Parvanov, the leader of the biggest parliamentary opposition party (the Bulgarian Socialist Party), both sides agreed that their bilateral relations are unsatisfactory. The Russian PM said that developing trading relations might be very profitable for Bulgaria. Russia is interested in developing nuclear energy and the transportation of gas to and through Bulgaria. Parvanov proposed cooperation in defense industrial production.
(2) The speaker of the Russian ministry of atomic energy, Yuriy Bespalko, told the Russian press agency ITAR-TASS on 24 October that Russia will no longer store the radioactive waste of the Bulgarian nuclear plant at Kozloduy. Instead, the used fuel will be processed and returned to Bulgaria. This new development may have grave environmental consequences in Bulgaria.
(1) After initial hesitation, dubious declarations and acts of guaranteeing a political role for Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Russia recognized the election victory of the new Yugoslav president.
(2) The president of the FRY visited Moscow and met with President Putin on 27 October. The two sides reached an agreement to resume gas deliveries to Yugoslavia by Gasprom. Belgrade has a US$ 400 million debt to the Russian gas company. Although no details of the deal are yet known, a consequence will be the stabilization of the political position of Kostunica in his troubled country. During the visit of the Yugoslav president, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Belgrade is the closest partner of Moscow in the Balkans.
(1) After initiating four wars in the former Yugoslavia, Milosevic was removed from power. A complex and uneasy process of democratic changes was started, and expectations are that it will not be a short one. The changes in the FRY did not upset the stability of the security situation in the Balkans. Yugoslavia is at the beginning of the process of adapting to existing formats of regional cooperation, from which it was alienated by the Milosevic regime. However, difficult problems remain in the area of security, with the pending constitutional problems in Kosovo and Montenegro. The way that civil-military relations are going to be shaped in the FRY is also a potential source of tensions and instability. Most importantly, the way the Yugoslav society will be rehabilitated by democracy will highlight many other security problems in the region. A troubling aspect of the new Yugoslav foreign policy is the tendency to conceive the Balkans as the terrain for balancing interests of external powers and not, as a region, for expanding democratic and security space. This thinking is absolutely unacceptable to the neighbors of the FRY and portends new, post-Milosevic efforts for power brokering in the region by Belgrade itself.
(2) The start – and eventual success – of the democratic transition of the FRY may lead to a more homogeneous economic, political, social, security and humanitarian space in the Balkans; this is an important prerequisite for the region-building evolution of southeastern Europe. The opening of the Pact of Stability for the FRY is an opportunity to bring the people of this country into both the regional and the European mainstream.