BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and June 2001 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 6, 2001
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
The inter-ethnic conflict that has polarized Macedonians and Albanians in the FYROMacedonia since February this year continued to escalate in June. The fluctuating developments in the small Balkan country reflected various permanent factors of the crisis:
First, the low level of negotiation culture of the participating domestic actors.
Second, the inability of the democratic institutions of FYROMacedonia, which have been established for nine years, to deal effectively with the Albanian extremists.
Third, the Albanians’ insistence on solving the problems of the 21st century – the Albanian national question within a globalized world and integrating European continent – with the tools of terrorist intimidation and armed struggle.
Fourth, an over-estimation on the side of the EU and NATO of the Macedonian capability of handling these difficulties and of joining the European integration, in combination with a lack of American leadership.
The period from February to June, however, saw the emergence of a firm anti-terrorist stance of the international community. The Albanian political and military leaders are seen to carry part of the blame after they missed the opportunity to reach their legitimate goals through the democratic institutions and procedures they themselves are part of. Unfortunately, Albanian-Macedonian polarisation led to the hardening of Macedonian Slavs' ethnic hatred against Albanians – a situation that can only be dealt with in the long term and that involves political, social and psychological factors.
The extradition of Slobodan Milosevic to Scheveningen near The Hague marked a significant shift in the domestic developments in Serbia and a new chance for the people in the Balkans to come to terms with their past after justice is dealt to the last decade's warmongers. This is a hard test for democracy in Serbia and the an analysis of the consequences for society will have to wait until the situation has further unfolded. A similar problem is facing the democratic government in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Putting the war criminals in jail after a just trial is indispensable for the future reconciliation of the peoples in the Balkans. The upcoming elections in Kosovo this autumn will be another difficult test for the stability of the democratic society of Serbia and of the maturity of the Albanian parties in the province to prove they are ready to join the democratic ranks of Europe.
The general elections in Albania showed that the democratic procedures were assimilated slower than the situation in the region requires. The parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, though producing a tremendous political shift, were just a factual expression of the mature democratic process in the country. The country’s domestic stability remains a crucial factor for the general stability in the region of Southeastern Europe and a symbol of progress in the Balkans, despite the outbreak of a fifth Balkan war in FYROMacedonia.
The strategic situation in FYROMacedonia developed as a confrontation between anti-government Albanian terrorist and separatist forces and the armed and police forces of the state in an effort not to solve claims of people deprived of their human rights, but to bargain a territorial division or cantonization along ethnic boundaries and a federation of the Albanian and the Macedonian Slav entities. The violence in FYROMacedonia was initially thought to be a coordinated aggression emanating from Kosovo, but in June assumed the features of an organised Albanian uprising without, however, a strong political motivation and backing.
The political situation shifted significantly in June compared to the previous period. Though the legitimate Albanian parties take part in the political process in the country, and continue to be partners in that process, some supporters of the democratic procedures have lost faith during the last month in the ethnic Albanians' ability to solve complex social issues. The latter are adopting the political tactics of the outlawed Army for National Liberation (ANL). The demands of the Albanian parliamentary party leaders have been increasing, from a cosmetic change of the preamble of the constitution to guaranteeing pensions for the ANL fighters, which would make the latter equal participants in the political dialogue and would make it near-impossible to find a local, “Macedonian” solution to the problems. Instead, the strategy pursued by ethnic Albanians seems to be aimed at involving the international community at any price. The intimidation of the legitimate institutions through the ANL's threats to attack Skopje, the Albanians' demonstration of strength by claiming the ability to form a military contingent of 50'000 combatants overnight and even their threats to create a similar situation in north-eastern Greece with its Albanian minority – all of these are aimed at introducing external international actors to the process of conflict resolution, who it is hoped would be more readily inclined to view the conflicting sides as equal parties and to find an eventual “fair” (and easier) solution by creating a cantonized republic of ethnically purified territories for Albanians and Macedonians. The Albanian extremists achieved their goals of provoking Macedonian hatred and militancy against the Albanians for the world to see: the riots in Bitola against Albanian craftsmen and shop-owners, the assault on the Macedonian parliament by 5'000 furious Macedonians and Serbs on the night of 25-26 June, and the announcement by extremist Macedonian Slavs, organized in paramilitary units, of ethnic cleansing to rid the country of Albanians, fuelled the political tensions to a point where the involvement of the international community became necessary for sorting out the country's disputes. The cease-fire of 8 June was violated and by using human shields the Albanian extremists kept some villages around Skopje under their control, including the strategically important village of Aracinovo.
The Albanian violence provoked an emotional Macedonian reaction: the riots against peaceful Albanians, the formation of paramilitary forces (Macedonian terrorism has long traditions going back to the beginning of the 20th century), sniper fire at the President’s office building and at the Macedonian parliament on June 6, coming from a Macedonian citizen infuriated at the killing of five Macedonian soldiers by Albanian terrorists, the attack on the parliament building during the night of 25 June in protest against the government’s inefficiency in fighting the rebels, etc.
The confusion in the ranks of the government was rising during the month, following the formation of a broad coalition cabinet. It declared mobilisation, then called it off and even later retracted their earlier retraction. The head of the Macedonian Armed Forces General Staff, Jovan Andreevsky, resigned on 12 June. He was succeeded by his deputy, General Pande Petrovsky. In an effort to limit the financial burden of the war (amounting to US$135 million since February), the government decided to introduce a “military tax” for the next six months beginning 1 July, in coordination with the IMF; the measure is expected to raise close to US$35 million for the budget.
The humanitarian situation remained difficult due to continuing fighting and the use of human shields against the government troops’ attacks at the rebels’ strongholds. Aracinovo, a village near Skopje, and its inhabitants were a special victim of the war situation. The withdrawal of the armed insurgents from the village (facilitated by NATO) was a priority for the government. The US forces there put together a convoy including about 20 vehicles, mostly buses, but also some armoured vehicles armed with machine guns, and a total of 101 US personnel. The convoy entered the village with the full consent of all parties concerned and transferred about 350 people (100 ANL fighters and 250 civilians) to a location 11 miles from the village. This allowed the Macedonian government to reassert control over Aracinovo and defuse the situation. It was after this operation on 25 June that extremist Macedonians, mostly police reservists, attacked the parliament building, dissatisfied with the handling of the situation in Aracinovo. They demanded the ANL force in the village should be attacked and killed.
The government in Skopje has long insisted on the isolation of the terrorists by the USA, NATO and the EU. This request was not met, but the recent developments and military activity of the ANL pose a potential threat to NATO supply lines. Apart from the negative effects on the political reform process in the young state and the harm it caused the true interests of ethnic Albanians in FYROMacedonia and throughout the region, the armed activity of the terrorists has already passed a “sacred” boundary, namely the direct interests of NATO. US Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 20 June that the US was in intense consultations with the Allies and with the EU on how the US and NATO could best support a political solution in FYROMacedonia and protect FYROMacedonia’s territorial integrity. Earlier, on 5 June during his visit to FYROMacedonia, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeated the strong US support for FYROMacedonia and its national unity government. In a decisive, and hopefully not too late move, Bush issued an Executive Order on 27 June in an effort to face down extremists in the Balkans. The Executive Order was in response to the evidence of ethnic Albanian extremists raising money not only in America, but also in Europe. This money was used to destabilize the democratically elected government of FYROMacedonia. The Executive Order prohibits US citizens from supporting persons involved in violent and disruptive actions, and blocks the assets of such people or groups, who are identified in an annex to the Order. Others may be added to this list in the future. Among those named is ANL leader Ali Ahmeti.
NATO and the EU strongly advocated a lasting political solution of the conflict during June. NATO Secretary General George Robertson and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, visited Skopje on 14 June, along with the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Jim Swigert. By the end of June a special EU envoy, the former French defense minister Francois Leotard, and the US European Bureau’s Special Adviser for Southeast Europe, Ambassador James Pardew, tried to defuse the tensions. Furthermore, together with the French constitutional lawyer Robert Badinter and the Macedonian government, they are looking for a long-term solution. NATO has already assured its permanent representation in Skopje.
The peace plan as suggested by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski provides for the participation of 3'000 to 5'000 NATO troops in disarming the Albanian fighters. Robertson made it clear on 21 June in Washington that NATO forces will not be involved in any internal policing activities. Whatever form NATO involvement in FYROMacedonia will take, it will be under British command with the help of other NATO allies. British Foreign Office representative John McGregor fully discarded the mental exercises of former British Foreign Secretary and UN envoy to the Balkans Lord David Owen of re-drawing the maps of the Balkans on 7 June. McGregor said in Sofia that the Foreign Office had not participated in discussions on re-charting the maps of the Balkans.
Trajkovski made an official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of President Petar Stoyanov on 4 and 5 June. Bulgaria demonstrated its full support to the official Macedonian institutions in the context of the ongoing crisis and signed two agreements on the re-admission of citizens and on the mutual recognition of academic degrees. Bulgaria followed this line during the Gothenburg EU summit and at the Salzburg Economic Forum in June.
On 5 June, the FRY signed an agreement with FYROMacedonia on military support in defeating the ethnic Albanian rebels. The protocol regulates military and intelligence cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries. The Defense Ministers of the FRY and FYROMacedonia, Slobodan Krapovic and Vlado Buckovsky, said they would work together to increase security along their borders.
Preparations are continuing for the general elections in Kosovo, which will be one of the main tasks facing UNMIK and the OSCE in the province. It remains to be seen whether the Serbs will participate in the elections, for which they are required to register. The roles of the Kosovar Serb leaders, and of Belgrade respectively, are crucial in that aspect.
During his Balkan visit, Putin stopped over at the Russian military base in Kosovo. His visit took place soon after the meeting with Bush in Ljubliana on 16 June. Putin said during his Kosovo visit that any plans of re-drafting the map of the Balkans were extremely dangerous. Putin also reiterated Russia’s strong opposition to the November elections and the self-government in the province, which he called the main source of religious extremism and terrorism in the Balkans. Putin reminded his audience that more than 300'000 non-Albanians have been expelled from the province and said eventual elections would only confirm the ethnic cleansing of the province.
The UN Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina for 12 months on 21 June, simultaneously authorizing the NATO-led SFOR to continue to operate in the country during the same period. The resolution reminds the parties of their obligation to cooperate with the ICTY in The Hague. The resolution also extended the mandate of the International Police Task Force (IPTF).
(1) Regular general elections were held in Albania on 24 June, with the ruling Socialist Party winning the first round. The second round of the elections will be held on 8 July. The OSCE representatives declared that the elections marked progress towards international standards. The Albanian parliament has 140 seats; after the first round of voting, the Socialists had won 45 seats, while the opposition Democratic Party of former President Berisha held only 17 mandates. The second round will be conducted in 37 constituencies where no clear winner was declared. The turnout of the elections was at about 60 per cent. (2) Representatives of 500 families gathered on 6 June in the northern Albanian town of Buka to discuss putting an end to the centuries-old tradition of family vendetta. Blood feuds are part of the traditions of the "kanun", a medieval collection of rules governing life in the mountains which is still applied in the northern parts of the country.
On 17 June, the Bulgarians held their regular parliamentary elections. More than 30 parties competed for the votes of the Bulgarian citizens; election turnout was 66.7 per cent. The winner, with 42.74 per cent of the vote (120 seats), was the National Movement Simeon the Second (NMSS), headed by the former Bulgarian king who has lived in Madrid, Spain for most of his life. The formerly ruling Union of the Democratic Forces (UDF) received just 18.18 per cent (51 seats in parliament). Their loss was caused by the harsh consequences of very successful macro-economic reform for the average Bulgarian. The political reasons are the loss of hope and confidence in the UDF and its leadership, the party's patronage system that rebuffed more than 1.4 million previous voters, and the general disagreement in Bulgarian society with the policy of the UDF. The third political force in the elections was the “Coalition for Bulgaria” – a coalition of most of the left parties and movements in Bulgaria that won 17.15 per cent (48 seats in parliament). It will be in opposition. The fourth political force was the Movement for Rights and Freedom – Liberal Union – EuroRoma, a coalition of the ethnic Turks, Bulgarians and Roma, with 7.45 per cent (21 seats). The common political denominator of all parliamentary parties is the priority objective of joining the EU and NATO. The winners in the elections have promised to crush corruption, poverty and to give new meaning to the moral norms in society and in politics.
The former Serbian leader and present leader of the Serbian Socialist Party, Slobodan Milosevic, was extradited to The Hague on 28 June to face justice for the crimes he was accused of having perpetrated during the Kosovo crisis in 1999. This arrest opens the way for other extraditions of war criminals from Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. The extradition brings the real issues within the federation structure between Serbia and Montenegro into focus. This act of the Serbian government, which contravened the federal Constitutional Court's decision not to deliver Milosevic to The Hague, created an opportunity for Serbia to receive large-scale financial support from the Donors’ Conference on 29 June in Brussels –funding which has been contingent on the extradition of Milosevic to the ICTY in The Hague.
Finally, the extradition of Milosevic was a moral boost to the fight against dictators and war criminals worldwide.
The Constitutional Court of Turkey banned the country’s pro-Islamic Virtue Party, the third largest in the Turkish Parliament, on June 22. The party of former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan was accused of anti-secular and illegal continuation of the outlawed Welfare Party. The Virtue Party has 102 members in the 550-seat parliament.
a. Croatia-Bosnia and Herzegovina
Croatian President Stipe Mesic visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from 31 May to 1 June. He met the country’s tripartite presidency and its Catholic cardinal, as well as Bosnian cultural organizations. The tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina has a non-nationalist Bosnian Croat as one of its members, and Mesic supported him against nationalist plans to form a mini-state within Bosnia. The president and the government are opposed to the Greater Croatia policy of the late former president Franjo Tudjman, who backed the Bosnian Croats with money and weapons during the Bosnian war. The main Bosnian Croat nationalist party, the HDZ, is presently isolated and has called on the Croatian government not to meddle in Bosnian affairs.
The presidents of the FRY and Croatia, Vojislav Kostunica and Stipe Mesic, issued a joint statement on 10 June during a Central European Initiative (CEI) forum in Italy that specified the basic principles that should guide the normalization of relations between their two nations. They agreed on the need to cooperate on fundamental and important issues, like refugee returns, war crimes prosecutions and support for the implementation of the Dayton accords. This act of rapprochement is highly valued by the other Balkan nations as a major contribution to peace and stability in the wider region.
At the end of June, the Turkish Government announced a 17 May decision to allow a non-visa regime, beginning from 1 July, for Bulgarian tourists who plan to stay in the country for less than three months.
On 6 June the Ministers of Defense of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, the FYROMacedonia, Romania and Turkey gathered for their third informal meeting. Representatives of the US, Croatia and Slovenia acted as observers of the meeting. US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld participated in the event. The meeting discussed the readiness of the Multinational Peace Force for South-East Europe (MPFSEE) to be employed in Balkan contingencies and the criteria of involving the FRY in the Defense Ministerial. The headquarters of MPFSEE declared operational readiness on 1 May, but the US are still critical of the formal launch of the battalion.
The Steering Committee for Refugee Matters adopted the Agenda for Regional Action for Refugees and Displaced People at its 7th meeting on 11 June in Paris. The Agenda was officially presented and launched on 27 June in Brussels, followed by the endorsement by all Stability Pact participants during the Regional Table meeting on 28 June. The Agenda recommends the following key initiatives to promote and implement solutions for refugees: a reconstruction program that can provide grants for at least 52'700 housing units; construction of at least 60'000 social housing units in the next five years; the expansion and development of individual housing loan schemes for initially 50'000 beneficiaries; the development of a collective initiative to identify and implement solutions for 60'000 residents in the region; area-based integrated programs in the FRY, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia providing linkages to economic recovery and social development activities in a cross-table approach; facilitating bilateral and multilateral border transit and the right of return as required by international standards; promotion of bilateral and multilateral contacts to deal with refugee issues, culminating in the conclusion of relevant agreements and regular exchange of information and data, as well as the adjustment and enactment of property legislation and improvements over existing legislation where needed.
The democratic changes in the FRY, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have created the opportunity to honor the refugees' and displaced persons' right of return , to closely cooperate with governments, donors and civil society in the region, and for refugees to choose to return or stay and integrate where they currently reside.
Close to 1.25 million people remain displaced within the countries of former Yugoslavia, of whom 490'000 are refugees and 760'000 are internally displaced persons. Most of the refugees and displaced persons are in the FRY and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A diplomat attached to the Russian Embassy in Sofia told the Bulgarian-Russian Trade and Industrial Chamber that the bilateral Bulgarian-Russian Commission for Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation is schedule to meet in the autumn of this year. This commission has functioned very inefficiently in the last few years, during which time Bulgaria's trade deficit with Russia was about US$1.3 billion per year.
The price of the electricity rose by 40 per cent on 2 June. Earlier in April, the price had already risen by 60 per cent. Post office service prices rose by 32 per cent. In June, 50 per cent of the active population in the FRY were unemployed. The average monthly salary is US$100, while the minimum monthly cost of living for one family is US$200.
(1) On 5 June, the President of the US Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian Oil (AMBO) Corporation, Edward Ferguson, discussed a project for constructing an oil pipeline through Burgas, Skopje and Vlora with Bulgarian government officials. The pipeline can be constructed within 3 years and the profits accruing to Bulgaria from the port taxes at Burgas alone may reach US$70 million per year. It will cost US$1.13 billion to build the pipeline. (2) The US Atlantic Council presented its analysis of the status and development potential of the Bulgarian arms industry on 15 June. The experts of the Atlantic Council consider the industry viable. Its major task is to adapt to NATO standards. Currently, 25'000 Bulgarians are working in the arms industry.
The governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the FRY, FYROMacedonia and Romania signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Trade Liberalisation and Facilitation on 27 June in Brussels. The initiative is part of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. The MoU allows for a six-year transition period. Bilateral negotiations are to proceed from this document. The initial idea of the Stability Pact was to create a single tariff zone on the basis of a multilateral document of the seven countries. Bulgaria opposed the idea and a loose version, which was acceptable to the WTO and the European Commission, was adopted in January of this year in Geneva.
Leaders of the US and the EU issued a joint statement on 14 June in Gothenburg reaffirming their historic partnership and agreement on issues concerning Southeastern Europe. They stated their commitment to resolving the crisis in FYROMacedonia through political dialogue and urged the people of Kosovo to condemn the use of violence and to isolate extremists. They reaffirmed their support for the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe and called on the governments of the region to cooperate with the ICTY in bringing war criminals to justice.
A European Commission (EC) report (COM 2001 300) recommended at the end of June to begin negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania. The Gothenburg summit requested that negotiating directives be presented by the Commission, by the end of this year if possible.
It is expected that the finalized text of the Stabilization Agreement of the EU with Croatia will be published by July of this year.
Bulgaria concluded the tenth chapter of its accession negotiations with the European Union on 11 June. Negotiations were initiated concerning the next two chapters (the 17th and 18th chapters out of 31 in the process of these negotiations), namely “Transport Policy” and “ Customs Union”.
General Joseph Ralston, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR) and Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov visited the MPFSEE’s headquarters in Plovdiv. The SACEUR emphasized that Bulgaria has an excellent plan of preparation for integrating in NATO. Ralston also met with Bulgarian President Stoyanov. After the meeting, the Bulgarian General Staff organized the delivery of drinking water for the town of Kumanovo, where water supplies had been cut off by Albanian terrorists.
VII. The Influence of Other External Factors on the Region: National Great Powers and International Institutions
US Congressman Doug Bereuter, visiting Sofia as the head of a US Congress delegation to Bulgaria said on 1 June that Bulgaria has chances of being invited to join NATO next year together with Slovenia. He promised to support the Bulgarian application by interceding on their behalf with the US government.
(1) Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his US colleague Donald Rumsfeld met and discussed various issues in Thessaloniki, Greece, on 6 June, including the Balkans, European defense and security policy, Cyprus, and bilateral relations. (2) Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his US counterpart Colin Powell signed the US-Greek Comprehensive Technical Agreement (CTA) in Washington on 13 June. Negotiations started in March 1999 and ended recently. The intent of the agreement is to modernize and strengthen the US-Greece defense cooperation and lay the basis for a 21st century defense partnership. The CTA addresses the status of US forces in Greece as well as that of Greek personnel in the US on official duty.
US Secretary of State Powell and the Croatian Foreign Minister met in Washington, D. C. on 8 June and discussed the situation in the Balkans, the relations between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, cooperation with the ICTY in The Hague, and bilateral relations.
Putin visited Belgrade on 17 June and met with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. This was the first visit by a Russian president to Belgrade since the demise of the USSR. Russia’s special relationship with the FRY in the Balkans was demonstrated when Putin agreed to supply oil and gas without insisting on immediate payment. Russia was invited to participate in investment projects in the FRY. A free trade zone will be established between the two countries at the beginning of July. The presidents of the two countries agreed to initiate a Balkan conference that would confirm the inviolability of the state borders in the region. However, the goals of such a conference, apart from the efforts to prove that terrorism in Chechnya is the same as terrorism in the Balkans, have already been established by the OSCE since 1975, as well as by the UN Charter.
The Prosecutors-General of Russia and Bulgaria, Vladimir Ustinov and Nikola Filchev, met in Moscow from 24-29 June. They discussed avenues of cooperation between the two institutions in fighting crime and in the extradition of criminals. Filchev delivered a letter from Putin to the new Bulgarian prime minister, Simeon Saxkoburggotsky.
FYROMacedonia formally restored its diplomatic relations with Beijing on 18 June during a visit of Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim to the Chinese capital. Skopje established diplomatic links with the Republic of China (ROC) in 1999, but this worsened the international security standing of the young state. In the meantime, FYROMacedonia has received substantial financial aid from Taiwan.
1. During the period under consideration, the crisis in FYROMacedonia escalated and ethnic hatred prevailed among the country's citizens. The demands of the terrorists and of their political supporters in the broad coalition government were also increased. The official Macedonian institutions could not deal with the situation on their own, and special envoys from the US, the EU and NATO are already directly supporting the parties in finding a way to avoid the looming civil war. It is high time the ICTY rules were applied to the terrorists in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and FYROMacedonia. The political representatives of the Albanian ethnic groups in the Balkans should receive a clear message that they will never be accepted to the EU and NATO unless they stop their armed intimidation of individual states and the region. At the same time, all states whose population includes ethnic Albanians should guarantee their human rights and integrate them as equals. The transfer of Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague shows that democracy can win in the Balkans.
2. The differentiated accession of the Balkan countries to the EU and NATO is a practical instrument of stabilising the region, as can be seen in the way the EU's relations with Albania, Croatia and Bulgaria have developed during the past month.