BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and May 2001 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 5, 2001
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
The inability of the Macedonian politicians and military to deal with Albanian extremist discontent over the last three months is indicative of the extent of ethnic intolerance before the eruption of the armed clashes. The “Macedonian” aspect of the Albanian question has reminded the international community of a national question that remains unsolved in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century. It is similar to the Serb national question of the last decade in that it tends to develop in two directions – a political one and a military one. . Both the Serb leaders in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, and the Albanian political leaders in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia have missed an opportunity to adopt the lessons learned in other Balkan countries coping with similar issues and have neglected the specific features of solving a national question in the era of globalization and integration. At the same time, the events in Macedonia demonstrated that the political forces have followed an inadequate or wrong political agenda since the formation of the new state in 1992. The persisting old Yugoslav mentality, characterized by a residual anti-Albanian bias, was ill equipped to inform the emerging Macedonian national mind-set, though the provisions of the country’s constitution for a unitary state very much called for ethnic tolerance, reconciliation and rapprochement. Notwithstanding this, the ethnic groups – both the dominant Macedonian and the Albanian population – still have the chance to adjust to the peculiarities of the processes of integration and globalization in the context of a young nation-state and to provide a different political framework for coping with the tasks of the new century, as well as with the difficult past.
A general perspective of southeastern Europe as a region evolving towards European integration should not be obscured by the clouds of the fifth Balkan war. During the past month, Croatia has made a step closer to the EU after concluding a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the Union. Bulgaria has continued to prove that it is possible for the late starters to catch up with those who experienced better external conditions during the 1990s in their accession to the EU. The Balkan countries' dominating political objectives are joining the EU and NATO, which would guarantee an end to the fighting in Macedonia and prepare the ground for new ethnic relations. The only realistic option of breaking the cycle of violence is the positive involvement of the parties of the region in constructive region-building activities. Any dreams or plans for ethnically homogenous states are hardly appropriate for an integrated Europe in a global world. This is why the opposition to extremist trends in the policy of the ethnic leaders should continue until they adjust to the expectations of the international community and of their own people or are pressed to leave their positions.
The situations evolving in Macedonia, Southern Serbia and Kosovo in May continued to be strategically and politically inter-connected. Though the Macedonian forces' military operation last month was considered successfully completed, the Albanian rebels maintained their potential for destabilizing the young state through terrorist activities. After the killing of eight Macedonian commandos by ethnic Albanian insurgents, a wave of riots on 1 May left one Albanian dead and many shops demolished in the town of Bitola, 170 km southwest of Skopje. The Albanian diplomatic mission in the capital was attacked on 2 May by unidentified Macedonian gunmen. On 3 May, the armed forces of Macedonia began a new offensive against the Albanian extremists in the Kumanovo area. The Albanian fighters allegedly used 3'500 women and children as “human shields” in the towns of Vaksince and Slupcane. The security forces were supported by tanks and helicopters.
The Macedonian government and state leaders were considering declaring a state of war when they were strongly advised to drop this option by the leaders of the EU and NATO, who feared that the bloodshed and ethnic hatred would be intensified. After holding off the declaration of war, a new political coalition was formed in Skopje in an effort to deny the Albanian extremists any political support within the country’s political establishment, to isolate them and to put an end to the crisis. What were the stakes in this internal political bargaining? Before reaching the compromise of a broad coalition government of national unity, comprising the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, the Social Democratic Party of Macedonia (SDPM) (both dominated by Macedonian Slavs), the Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA) (already a coalition member) and the opposition Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), the negotiating parties agreed to convene general elections on 27 January 2002. VMRO-DPMNE kept the prime minister's slot. The pro-Serb SDPM was given the cabinet ministries of Defense (Vlado Buchkovsky) and Foreign Affairs (Ilinka Mitreva). The SDPM also secured the positions of the national chief of security and the head of counter-intelligence. The DPA's cabinet positions were shared with the PDP. This agreement was reached on 8 May. However, the extremists of the Army for National Liberation (ANL), led by commander Alia Ahmeti, pledged to intensify their attacks if they were not involved in the negotiation process. As a result, two weeks later the new government was still working ineffectively, because the two Albanian parties did not cooperate fully. The regions around Tetovo, Kumanovo and north of the capital remained the frontlines of a still low-intensity civil war. Late on 21 May, the worst clashes for weeks between the conflicting parties took place. The government forces used tanks and helicopters.
The continuing fighting has already created a disastrous humanitarian situation for thousands of Macedonian Albanians and Slavs, despite the occasional cease-fire to allow civilians trapped by the fighting around the towns and villages to flee. For weeks, the inhabitants of Slupcane, Lipkovo and Vaksince remained trapped by the on-going battles, huddling in their basements. In some instances, the Red Cross was able to escort civilians to Skopje, but often this was impossible. A few Albanians volunteered to stay with the fighters of the ANL. Preliminary estimates show that around 30'000 Albanians have already moved from their homes in Macedonia to Kosovo and other areas.
The political situation escalated dramatically once again on 23 May when the Albanian leaders of the government parties, Arben Xhaferi of the DPA and Imer Imeri of the PDP, met with the leader of the rebels, Alia Ahmeti, and reached an agreement on bringing to an end the present crisis. There was a strong discrepancy between the positions held by the Albanian government members and by the prime minister. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said the two Albanian leaders had to cease their negotiations with the terrorists, otherwise the grand coalition would be jeopardized. According to Georgievski, the main task facing Macedonia remains the military victory over the terrorists and re-gaining control over the whole territory of the country. The Albanian leaders stressed that the international community, in particular the OSCE representative, had been informed in advance of the meeting. More importantly, the result of the negotiations and of the agreement was a decision by Ahmeti to demobilize his forces. The latter do not represent the ANL and do not speak for the fighters but used the meeting and the negotiations to persuade the ANL to stop their military activity. The backbone of the agreement with the rebels is the preservation of the integrity of Macedonia as a state.
What are the positions of the Macedonian and Albanian political leaders in this situation?
The Albanians are calling for a change to the constitution that will lead to an affirmation of the equality of the two ethnic groups and their respective languages.
The Macedonian counter-position is that ten years of democracy in the country invalidate the rebels' portrayal of the government in Skopje as akin to that of Milosevic. Any armed protest by indignant and possibly neglected ethnic minorities is unacceptable, and negotiations with terrorists are out of the question, according to the administration of President Boris Trajkovski.
Much external political pressure has been brought to bear on the escalating crisis in Macedonia throughout the month. Traikovski's meeting with US President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on 2 May in Washington, DC, underscored the political, economic and security support that the US is providing to the Macedonian government. Bush stressed his desire to work with the Macedonian government to promote freedom and to combat extremism. The US together with NATO will continue to work to strengthen border security. The US encouraged the political dialogue and on 19 May congratulated Skopje on the formation of the broad coalition government and the efforts of the armed forces to prevent civilian casualties in their fight against the extremists. US$55 million in aid will be provided by the US this year, with more to follow in 2002. NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana visited Skopje on 7 May and endorsed the government’s decision to refrain from declaring a state of war. Lord Robertson said that a downward spiral of violence into another Balkans bloodbath would produce only misery. A unity coalition, he said, was the best way to isolate the rebels. The heads of state of the North Atlantic Council will discuss the situation in Macedonia and the status of Kosovo at an extraordinary meeting in Brussels on 13 June. The EU presidency representative (the foreign minister of Sweden) Anna Lindh and the EU Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, also visited Skopje the same week in support of the government. The OSCE chairman, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, also strongly urged the citizens of Macedonia to show restraint and not to allow the spiral of violence to continue. The Russian Foreign Ministry encouraged contacts between Belgrade and Skopje in their fight against terrorism, which reminds Russians of their engagement in Chechnya. Moscow declared on 26 May that negotiations with the Albanian rebels were inadmissible. According to the statement, “international terrorism” should be fought, and Russia fully supports the Macedonian government's efforts against the insurgents. Solana made his fifth and sixth visit in two months to Skopje on 28-30 May in an effort to defuse tensions and preserve the national unity government. The Macedonian Slav leaders are infuriated with their political allies from the two Albanian parties who met for negotiations with ANL leader Ahmeti on 23 May in Prizren. The EU and the US also disapprove of any talks with terrorists. Both Xhaferi and Imeri, however, claim these were talks to promote peace and prevent armed clashes, which cause deaths, suffering, misery and hatred. They also claim they are in political control of the Albanian population.
In an interview with German TV channel ARD on 9 May, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Commission of Macedonia, Jordan Bozkov, said that his country relies more on the support provided by Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine than on the EU. He also said the national unity government will hardly solve the persistent problems.
Georgievski met with his Yugoslav counterpart Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in Skopje on 10 May. They agreed to exchange security information, because Kosovo has turned into a center of tensions in the region. They discussed the eventual establishment of a joint group that will fight terrorism and organized crime.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov made a one-day visit to Skopje on 25 May, a day after the Albanian leaders met with rebel commander Ahmeti. He met with the Macedonian president, the prime minister and with the ethnic Albanian party leaders Xhaferi and Imeri. In an interview with one of the Bulgarian national TV channels, Kostov said on 27 May that there were chances of getting the crisis in Macedonia under control in the following two days – a conclusion he reached after his meetings in Skopje two days earlier and in light of the developing situation in the region. On 10 May the Consultative Council for National Security had discussed the situation in the neighboring country with the Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov. Stoyanov confirmed Sofia's position that the neutralization of the extremists should be performed by international forces and not by the forces of the neighboring countries. He warned Skopje not to emulate Russia’s Chechen model of trying to crush resistance through military means. This, he said, could involve the armed forces in a protracted guerrilla war and cause significant casualties. An international presence could prevent a worsening of the ethnic tensions. The Consultative Council agreed there was an imminent threat of refugees from Macedonia flowing into Bulgaria if the situation continued to worsen. The party leaders in Bulgaria agreed that the issue of Macedonia would not be exploited during the pre-election campaign. The Defense Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Noev, told the press on 22 May that a unilateral engagement of Bulgaria in the conflict was out of the question. As for the Multinational Peace Force for South-East Europe (MPFSEE), the question is a political one and will be debated at the 5-6 June South-East Europe Defense Ministerial Meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece. Bulgaria has reservations concerning the involvement of the MPFSEE in the events in Macedonia. Analysts consider Tirana's unwillingness the major factor limiting the deployment of the MPFSEE in post-Yugoslav conflict areas.
The crisis in Macedonia can only be understood in the context of the developing situation in Southern Serbia and Kosovo.
The transfer of the five-kilometer wide buffer zone, established in 1999, from KFOR to Serb police and armed forces was completed by 24 May. The Yugoslav military and the Albanian commanders of the Army for Liberation of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (ALPMB), in coordination with KFOR, had agreed earlier on the details of the withdrawal. KFOR granted an amnesty to all Albanian fighters who had surrendered by 24 May. One of the popular commanders of the ALPMB who went by the nom de guerre of "Leshi", was shot dead on 25 May. The commander of the ALPMB, Shefket Musliu, surrendered on 26 May. In a signed declaration dated 21 May, he said the rebels would be demilitarized, demobilized and disbanded by the end of May. The Yugoslav government launched a training program for an inter-ethnic police force based near the boundary with Kosovo on 21 May; the measure was seen as a confidence-building measure between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. There are indications that disbanded fighters of the ALPMB are joining the ranks of the ANL in northern Macedonia.
Hans Haekkerup, the UNMIK chief, unveiled plans on 14 May for civilian rule in Kosovo and announced that general elections would be convened on 17 November. The UNMIK chief retains a right to veto according to the proposed constitutional arrangement. The province will remain within FRY, but will have a substantial degree of self-rule. The form of self-rule is expected to be an elected 120-member assembly, which will in turn elect a president and approve a prime minister nominated by the president. Ten seats in the assembly are reserved for Serbs and ten for representatives of other minority groups. This proportion is slightly higher than their proportion among the electorate. The arrangement has been discussed over the past ten weeks by the UN, UNMIK and local representatives. The lack of satisfaction among the Albanians is obvious – their wish was to have a constitution with provisions for a referendum to determine the future status of Kosovo. A referendum would clearly lead to independence, which is in contradiction with the agreement with FRY. The Albanian indignation is also directed at the power of Haekkerup to exercise a veto over decisions of the elected institutions if they are in conflict with the UN resolutions. They are unhappy because UNMIK and KFOR will keep control of law enforcement and security. In their turn, the Kosovo Serbs perceive this constitution as a first step towards Kosovo’s future independence. UNMIK is hopeful that after the elections, representatives from Pristina and Belgrade will be in a position to negotiate the longer-term future of the province.
In the evolving situation of conflict pitting Albanians against Serbs and Macedonians in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia, the persistent will of the government in Skopje to reach a military victory at any cost does not seem very wise. There is a real chance that an eventual stop to the fighting can be reached if the Albanian political leaders, as part of the Macedonian government, can prove themselves without the involvement of the extremists as an equal party. The pacification of Southern Serbia and the increasing chances of finding a lasting, peaceful solution in Kosovo must not be blocked by a stubborn will to drive away the rebels and proclaim a military victory over them. The Macedonian armed forces at present are dependent on foreign help. The Macedonian leadership still has an obligation to end the existing forms of discrimination against ethnic Albanians in the areas of employment, education and language rights. A peaceful political solution of the crisis, supported by new legislation that recognizes the Albanian minority, their language and contribution to the Macedonian state, should be sought. . The strength of the young Macedonian state can be proved by an effective policy of coming to terms with the different ethnic groups in the country, not by demonstrating the military strength of the recently formed armed forces. Any chance of stopping the fighting, disarming the rebels and taking forward-minded political decisions should be seized by the young political and state leaders of Macedonia. If this policy trend does not prevail in Skopje soon, there is little chance the present grand coalition of national unity can survive until the planned elections in January 2002. The last-minute compromise, reached on 29 May with the decisive involvement of Solana on the eve of the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Budapest, is very much in line with this trend. The salient points, as suggested by Solana and accepted by the Macedonian leaders and the Albanian political representatives in the government, are the preservation of the grand national unity government, a withdrawal on behalf of Albanian leaders Xhaferi and Imeri of their signatures from the Prizren Declaration with the rebel leader Alia Ahmeti, and a restart of the political dialogue with the Albanian leaders on the issue of the rights of the ethnic Albanians. The compromise is very delicate, and it can survive only if rational and sober attitudes are adopted by both sides, and if the will of the international community to solve the issues by political means rather than arms is respected.
(1) The moderate Croat, Mijo Anic, Bosnian Defense Minister of the multiethnic, pro-Western coalition, charged three Croat nationalist leaders with treason over a mutiny in the Croat part of the joint army. Nearly 7'000 soldiers of this contingent of the federation army left their barracks in support of the separatist movement in April this year. Soon after these allegations, two of the offices of the ruling alliance were destroyed by explosions – two in Vitez on 1 and 7 May and one in Novi Travnik on 7 May. The UN mission in Bosnia condemned the blasts as organized terrorism. A deal between the defense minister of the Croat-Muslim Federation and the generals who led the mutiny on 16 May will allow the 7'000 soldiers to return to their barracks by the end of the first week of June this year. The deal was struck as a preventive effort of both sides to block the nationalists from using the soldiers to destabilize the country after the loss of the general elections by the hard-line HDZ (Croat Democratic Union). (2) On 8 May, Bosnian and Western officials accused indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic and his nationalist party of orchestrating the recent Serb riots against the reconstruction of mosques in the Republika Srpska. The mosques were destroyed during the 1992-1995 war. Some 30 people were injured during the riots. (3) The chief UN war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said on 23 May that a team of 15 policemen could be sent to pursue former Bosnian Serb leaders Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, wanted by the Hague war crimes tribunal. Thirty-eight accused are still at large, and 12 of them are under sealed indictments. The prosecution believes 12 of the fugitives are in FRY and the rest in the Republika Srpska. Not all of those indicted are Serbs. Investigations are under way against Albanians, Serbs, Croats and Bosnians, said Del Ponte.
(1) The pre-election public opinion polls in May show declining support for the National Movement for Simeon II (NDS II) – from about 40 per cent to 29 per cent. There is around 14-15 per cent support for the ruling Union of the Democratic Forces (UDF) and a drop from about 15 to 10 per cent support for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and its coalition partners from the left. The period until the elections on 17 June will most probably witness more shifts, particularly among the 24 per cent undecided voters. Some 9-10 per cent are sure they will not vote at all. All major contending coalitions support the stable regional policy of Bulgaria and the country’s integration into the EU and NATO. (2) The National Employment Service announced on 17 May that the total number of unemployed Bulgarians is 707'793, comprising 18.51 per cent of the economically active population of the country.
(1) The Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, Goran Granic, said on 9 May that his country would help its ethnic Serbs, thousands of who fled during the 1991-1995 war of independence, to return to their homes by the end of next year. (2) The results of the local elections on 20 May show a low turnout, an improved political position of the opposition HDZ, and lower performance of the ruling Social Democrats, despite their lead in the capital Zagreb.
(1) The ruling Socialist government of Greece proposed substantial changes to the criminal legislation on 2 May in an effort to improve the country’s widely criticized record on terrorism. Greece will host the 2004 Olympic Games and has been under pressure to improve its anti-terrorism capabilities since the assassination of British military attaché Brigadier Stephen Saunders last year. Though the 17 November terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the killings of 22 people since 1975, including four Americans, none of its members have ever been arrested. (2) Pope John Paul II arrived in Greece on 4 May and asked God to forgive Roman Catholics for sins committed during the 1'000 years of schism between the Western and the Eastern Churches. His statements came in an address to Greece’s Orthodox leader, Archbishop Christodoulos. This was the first visit of a pope in more than 1'000 years.
The Romanian government decided on 10 May to impose strict border controls in an effort to meet the requirements of the European Union. Romania will focus on its borders with “risk” countries, including Russia. This may improve the country’s chances of getting non-visa status within the Schengen visa regime area.
(1) The Bulgarian government approved on 23 May a project for training police from Macedonia in Bulgarian education centers. After graduation, they will receive one of three degrees, a BA, MA or PhD. . (2) The new Macedonian Defense Minister, Vlado Buchkovsky, visited Sofia on 27 May and met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Noev.
a) South East Europe Defense Ministers Meeting (SEEDM)
The defense ministers from the SEEDM will meet in Thessaloniki, Greece from 5-6 June. The main topics will be the security situation in the Balkans and the employment of the Multinational Peace Force South-East Europe (MPFSEE).
b) Balkan Political Club
Former and current state leaders and high-profile politicians founded a “Balkan Political Club” in Sofia on 27 May. Its rationale is united action in favor of the common interests towards Europeanising the Balkans. Former Bulgarian president Zhelyu Zhelev was elected as the club's first president. Among the founders of the club were the present and former Romanian presidents, Ion Iliescu and Emil Constantinescu, the former Turkish president, Suleiman Demirel, the former president of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mladen Ivanic, and the leader of the ruling party in Albania, Fatos Nano.
a) The Pact for Stability
Pact Coordinator Bodo Hombach dismissed accusations on 3 May in a radio interview with Deutsche Welle that the pact had not activated the projects. He also said that though some misunderstandings with Bulgaria have been overcome, the practice of Bulgaria’s passivity concerning the pact remains. The Bulgarian side has underlined in past months that it has the right to propose discussions on the pact, and this is also the position of the neighboring countries.
b) The Process of Stability and Cooperation in South-East Europe
c) Regional Conference of the Ministers of the Interior Against Human Trafficking
A conference of ministers of the interior from 12 countries from Southeast and Eastern Europe was convened on 22 May in Bucharest. The ministers discussed illegal human trafficking and immigration. The chief of the US FBI, Louis Freeh, also participated in the meeting and labeled the practice of human trafficking from and through the region as modern slave trade and called for regional cooperation in fighting it. Up to 120'000 women are smuggled into Western Europe every year, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, and forced into prostitution. In some countries this practice is not qualified as a crime, and in several countries, poorly paid border officials are often bribed to turn a blind eye to the trade.
1. Turkey-IMF. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) may delay a loan of US$8 billion in support of the Turkish economic reform after the crucial privatization of Turk Telekom stalled due to army opposition and political wrangling. Senior military officials are urging the government to limit to 45 per cent the stake in Turk Telekom to be sold to foreign investors and to retain Turkish communication satellites for national security reasons.
2. Bulgaria. (1) The Bulgarian economy has grown by 5.8 per cent in 2000. The largest increase was in the services sector (57.7 per cent), followed by industrial output (27.8 per cent) and agriculture (14.5 per cent). (2) A new air traffic control center was opened at Sofia airport on 15 May. It will be fully operational by 2004 and has the capability of managing air traffic control tasks over the whole of the Balkans. Similar centers are under construction in Bucharest, Romania and Thessaloniki, Greece. (3) The international credit rating agency Moody’s stated at the end of May that it was maintaining its “stable” credit rating for Bulgaria, despite the unknown results of the upcoming general elections on 17 June.
3. FRY-Bulgaria. The Yugoslav government declared in May it would promote the construction of the Sofia-Nis highway as a project of fundamental priority at the upcoming donors’ conference for Yugoslavia in June.
4. FRY-World Bank. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia rejoined the World Bank on 8 May, eight years after it was expelled. This will give FRY access to the foreign loans needed to rebuild the country’s ruined economy.
VI. THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
US-Bulgaria. (1) Thirty-four US helicopters – Apache AH-64s, Black Hawk UH-60As, Chinook CH-58Ds and Kiowa Warrior OH-58Ds – arrived at the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas on 7 May. Soon after, they flew to US bases in Kosovo. US military equipment arrived earlier this month in Burgas for the same destination. (2) US congressmen from the Foreign Policy Commission arrived in Bulgaria on 30 May to study the country’s preparations for joining the Alliance.
US-FRY. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica made an informal visit to the US in the second week of May and also met with US officials such as the vice-president, the secretary of state and the national security adviser to the president. The US demanded Yugoslav cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in the Hague as well as encouragement of Kosovo Serbs to participate in the interim governance of the province.
NATO-Applicant countries for NATO membership. The prime ministers of nine applicant countries for NATO membership met in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 11 May and called for a bold approach to expansion next year after the Prague summit. A similar meeting took place for the first time last year in Lithuania. The Bratislava meeting was the first time Croatia was invited to join the Vilnius Nine, Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Croatia has not yet applied formally for membership and is cooperating with the Alliance within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) format only.
NATO-FRY. As a sign of improving relations between NATO and Yugoslavia, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic addressed the foreign ministers of NATO and the other Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) countries on 30 May in Budapest, Hungary.
EU-Croatia. Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula initialized the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) on 14 May, which is aimed at promoting stability in the Balkans and preparing the country for future EU membership. Croatia hopes to be ready to join the Union in 2006.
EU-Bulgaria. The last round of the accession negotiations ended on 17 May in Brussels. Bulgaria concluded talks on fisheries and initiated the next round of talks on financial control and the free movement of goods. Discussions continued on the topic of corporate law, and they are expected to be completed in time for the next session in Luxembourg in June. So far, Bulgaria has initiated 16 of a total of 31 chapters on convergence. Nine have already been closed. The Swedish presidency has pointed out that Bulgaria is an excellent example of a country catching up with the other member states.
EU-Turkey. On 22 May, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem warned the EU not to accept Cyprus as a Union member, threatening Brussels with serious repercussions. Turkey is a candidate for EU membership but supports the breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the island and says the internationally recognized government in the south has no right to negotiate EU entry for the whole island. Turkey keeps 35'000 troops in northern Cyprus, which it invaded in 1974 after a coup by militant Greek Cypriots seeking union with Greece.
Despite the persisting conflict in Macedonia, the whole Balkan region is nearing a state of homogeneity and stability that has never existed throughout its history. The accession to the EU and the serious process of approaching NATO membership are the dominant political tendencies that militants obsessed with solving the Albanian question through violent means are hardly in a position to stop. The issues in Macedonia are a reflection of a fundamentally wrong approach to state-building in the new republic – of a chauvinistic Serbian nature and of an artificially invented philosophy of “Makedonism”. That the Albanian extremists are provoking the authorities can hardly be doubted, but the treatment of the Albanians as second-rate citizens throughout the history of former Yugoslavia – both in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and under the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia – is common to all post-Yugoslav states. Macedonia is no different. The only lasting solution is not in creating new boundaries and new states, but in the formation of societies based on clear democratic principles, with stable institutions and demonstrating tolerance towards the different ethnicities and religions. This kind of solution is not possible when political dialogue is replaced with armed struggle or a desire to reach a military victory over the opponent at any cost. The art of self-restraint and respecting different ethnic groups has yet to be learned by the former Yugoslav societies, including by the Macedonian Slavic and Albanian people. Whatever the antecedents, however, there is now a clear limit to unrestrained behavior in the Balkans, enforced by most of the Balkan countries on the periphery of the conflict as well as by the EU, NATO and OSCE countries. International pressure is the overwhelming factor that will influence the solution of the Macedonian conflict. The quicker the Macedonian elite is able to overcome the above-mentioned deficits of Macedonian statehood, the quicker this young state can be stabilized.