BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and August 2001 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 8, 2001
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
In Macedonia, this month marked the signing of an agreement for constitutional change, governing the representation of Albanians in the police forces of the country and the status of the Albanian language, between the parties represented in the Skopje parliament. The agreement was the end product of negotiations to defuse a dangerous ethnic conflict that nearly brought the young Macedonian state to the verge of a civil war. An agreement was also reached between NATO representatives in Macedonia and the leaders of the National Liberation Army (NLA) on handing over their arms to NATO’s M-FOR – a military contingent with a limited mandate to collect the arms, destroy them and leave within 30 days. At the end of August, the NATO forces began operation “Essential Harvest” – the fourth time NATO has been military involved in the last decade after the naval blockade in the Adriatic Sea, the involvement in Bosnia and Herzegovina and later in Kosovo.
The involvement of NATO will neither stop the tensions, nor will it reduce the complexity of the situation in the broader region of Macedonia, Southern Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro.
First of all, for less than half a year, the activity of the armed Albanian extremists strongly impaired relations between the Albanian population group and the rest of the Macedonian population. These relations have not been calm or productive and the hatred induced by the Albanian terrorists has further polarised Macedonian society along ethnic lines. Inappropriate use of violence on the side of the Macedonian forces also added to the escalation of tensions, bringing the overall security situation in Macedonia to dangerous thresholds. There is a similar threat in Southern Serbia and the Serb forces would be well advised not to throw their weight around too conspicuously.
Second, since gaining sovereignty, the Macedonian government has been unable to invoke reforms that could have prevented the developments of the last months. There have been severe shortcomings both in the dimension of inter-ethnic relations and with regard to strengthening the armed forces. Addressing these issues would effectively neutralise support for the radical Albanians' political agenda and for the violence perpetrated by them. The former president of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, pursued a policy that left the Macedonian army inexperienced, under-equipped and under-trained. This trend has not been decisively corrected by the present administration of President Boris Trajkovski and the Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. They preferred to repeat the mistakes of the failed Serbian policy in coping with the Albanian issue in a militant and confrontational way, while the security forces were ineffective in dealing with the terrorists. Both the Gligorov period and the present government of Georgievski were marred by widespread corruption and popular distrust towards politicians was a logical consequence. At the same time, civil society and the media could not evolve quickly enough in Macedonia to condemn extremist leanings and behaviour within both the Albanian minority and the Macedonian majority. Biased and inflammatory coverage of the events and issues during the last months did not contribute to a constructive solution. Unfortunately, civil society in the neighbouring countries is not mature enough to help prevent negative developments in the inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia.
Third, though KFOR is implementing its main mission – to preserve the stability of the Kosovo province – it could not prevent the spilling-over of Albanian militancy and extremism to neighbouring regions with Albanian populations. The Albanian insurgency campaigns in Southern Serbia and later in Macedonia were orchestrated by the Kosovo Liberation Army, which remained both armed and fully organized for militant activity. Playing on the strained inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia logically led to the current tense and complicated situation.
Fourth, the international community did not emphasize and convey persistently enough the warning of the Kosovo war that ethnic hatred breeds disaster, low living standards and, inevitably, isolation from integrated Europe and the civilised world. The international community did not have the courage to make the point to the Albanian terrorist leaders that blackmailing an economically poor and institutionally fragile young state, which was of assistance in saving half a million Albanians from the ethnic cleansing of Milosevic, is simply immoral and will under no circumstances be tolerated. Because this was neglected, the Albanian terrorists felt free to proceed with their insurgency against the integrity of Macedonia.
Fifth, another flaw in the international community's reaction was correctly noted earlier this year by former KFOR commander Lieutenant-General Carlo Cabigiosu: “The environment in Kosovo and the region is a fast-changing one and the international community needs to find a better method of influencing its development. With the changes to the political leadership in Belgrade it may be appropriate to consider adopting a more regional approach to the problems in the Balkans. For example, instead of forces being embarked for a specific theatre it might instead be more appropriate to think about the creation of a Balkan Force with detachments stationed throughout the region that can be moved to locations at times of crisis when required” (World Defence Systems, Vol. 3 Issue 2, July 2001, p. 125).
A fundamental question facing Albanians, Serbs, Macedonians and potentially other nations, national or ethnic minorities in the Balkans is how to find an adequate model of solving the latent national and ethnic issues in a way that is appropriate to 21st-century Europe. The use of force to promote national interests is absolutely unacceptable, as are the promotion of nationalist hysteria and sectarianism on ethnic grounds is also unacceptable. Swift solutions will not come through ethnically homogeneous states or changes of borderlines. The demand for a Balkan conference that will recommend preservation of the existing borders is not a destructive idea, but an ineffective one. Political efforts are needed, but they will have to be directed at learning ethnic tolerance. As for the militant and extremist-minded Balkan leaders, flexible and mobile forces stationed in the region with a powerful capacity for effective strikes may be the answer.There are many critics of the therapy presently being applied by NATO in Macedonia. Many, including some representatives of the Macedonian state leadership, are calling for UN peacekeepers to be stationed in Macedonia. However, a peacekeeping mandate by an international force would also expose the impotence of Macedonia as a state and nation – a risk that the Macedonian leaders would likely prefer to prevent, given the fundamental problems of national identity facing their people . This is why they should concentrate on the broad range of state- and nation-building tasks – fighting corruption, respecting honest patriotism as well as the human rights of the different ethnic groups, stimulating a vital economic reconstruction, training the armed forces to the point where they are effective and can meet various contingencies adequately, motivated by the ideals of democracy and European integration, and the truth about the nation’s historic and cultural roots and the needs of a stable and peaceful Balkan environment for the social progress of the region.
The leaders of the Serbs, Albanians and Macedonians have demonstrated their incapacity in the past decade to solve national issues in a way that is appropriate to 21st-century Europe. For the Serbs one such issue was their dispersion into different territories after the destruction of the former Yugoslav federation; for the Albanians, a similar issue were national division and acts of violations against Albanians' human rights during the Milosevic regime; the Macedonians were confronted with the hard issue of finding an adequately motivating national identity. The latter were also trying to generate the willpower to establish functioning and effective state institutions and to tackle the country's inter-ethnic relations as soon as possible.
These issues easily gave rise to provocations and even ethnic conflicts and wars. In the case of Macedonia, the driving force polarising the domestic and the broader regional situation were the militant Albanian national movement and its armed forces that easily branched out to Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Acts of violence on the border between Kosovo and Montenegro show that there is still a potential for a worsening security situation in the Western Balkans.
In these circumstances, there are indications that the Greek Orthodox Church is making efforts to increase its influence in Albania. While the church's activities are legal in Albania, Orthodox proselytising activity in a predominantly Muslim country may further strain Greek-Turkish relations. Should this eventuality occur, it would be yet another negative consequence of the deteriorating Albanian-Serb and Albanian-Macedonian ethnic relations. The demolition of mosques by Orthodox Christian extremists for reasons of ethnic hatred against Albanians has the potential to further destabilise relations in the broader Balkan region and even world-wide.
The Albanian extremists, in turn, also introduced a very dangerous component to the already strained inter-ethnic relations: On 21 August, they blew up the church of St. Athanasius in the Leshok monastery complex near Tetovo. On 26 August, two Macedonians were killed in an explosion in a motel in the same region. The Macedonian president declared on the same day that an ethnic cleansing plan was in effect for ousting the Slav population from the Tetovo area. The intimidation of the religious institutions of ethnic opponents marked a dangerous turning point that may push the country over the brink of civil war. This development would enhance the effects of Macedonian terrorist groups, which have deep roots and a long tradition. They are currently less organized than the Albanian insurgents, but could easily reach the same level and visit terror on the Albanians on a broad scale.
The danger also stems from the fact that this Orthodox church was founded as a Bulgarian church and the monastery complex was one of the strongholds of national revival in the 19th century. It also houses the tomb of Abbot Cyril Peichinovich, a Bulgarian spiritual and educational leader of the 19th century. By chance, the tomb was not ruined by the blast. This provocation resulted in mounting anti-Albanian feeling in Bulgaria, which was the host country to the Albanian national liberation movement from the beginning of the 20th century. A second consequence is the inducement of Orthodox Christian solidarity in Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. A next potential step may be the formation of armed units of volunteers who would wish to help Macedonians against their perceived ethnic and religious enemy. The avalanche of escalating tensions may lead to further deterioration of relations with Turkey.Various scenarios of dramatic escalation may be imagined and this is another reason to stop the deterioration of the security situation. All parties engaged in regional destabilisation on ethnic and religious grounds must be deprived of the ability to influence the situation through the united efforts of the international community and those in Macedonia who still believe their country has a future in the common European house.
The peace talks between the two ethnic Macedonian and the two ethnic Albanian parties under the auspices of the Macedonian president ended successfully on 13 August. An agreement was reached on the use of the Albanian language, the participation of Albanians in the police force of the country and upcoming constitutional amendments. This agreement formally paved the way for the NATO operation “Essential Harvest” aimed at disarming the Albanian insurgents, which started on 27 August. NATO and the leaders of the NLA subsequently reached an agreement on the number of weapons that would be handed over for destruction. The agreed number was 3'300 arms, 400 of which were collected on the first day of the operation. This number became a very contentious issue between NATO and the Macedonian government. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called the figure ridiculous and humiliating for the Macedonian people, because, he said, this number could be easily collected from just one Albanian village. The number suggested by the Macedonian authorities varies between 60'000 and 100'000 weapons. This is why the prime minister believes the NATO operation in its current form will fail. The recurrent explosions in and around Skopje, caused by Albanian terrorists, reinforce this perception in the minds of many Macedonians. A British soldier was killed on the first day of the operation by rioting youngsters, most probably Macedonian Slavs, who perceived the NATO force to be pro-Albanian.
The peace talks were difficult and were disturbed continuously by the NLA's armed insurgency. Fighting between rebels and government forces never stopped during the negotiation process. The NLA stepped up its provocations even after the signing of the agreement on 13 August. Thirty people were killed during the following week, most of them ambushed by Albanian terrorists. These killings were followed by riots by Macedonians against ordinary Albanian people.
Another consequence of the peace agreement between the Macedonian parliamentary parties was the re-birth of the NLA as the Albanian National Army (ANA). Its openly declared objective is the creation of a ‘Greater Albania’. ANA rebels fired on KFOR troops when they were caught smuggling arms into Macedonia on 13 August.
The events unfolding in Macedonia since February this year showed that the Albanian armed activity is not focused on Kosovo, southern Serbia or Macedonia exclusively. It is a regional fighting force, hence, the response must be regional too. Unless the operation of NATO in Macedonia evolves into a more encompassing effort towards conflict prevention and peace enforcement (maybe substituted by the EU rapid reaction force that is under formation), “Essential Harvest” may be compromised strategically. The agreement was reached after the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy had paid 10 visits to the region. It is time for a coherent and powerful European armed force to step in and complete the job of pacifying the Western Balkans. The experience gained by KFOR, SFOR and the participants in “Essential Harvest” should be used.
One important aspect of the unfolding conflict is the weapons supply to the Macedonian army. Ukraine announced its intention to suspend exports of heavy weapons to Macedonia on 7 August in an effort to support a political solution. At the same time, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko urged the US and the EU to take measures to shut off arms supplies and effectively disarm the Albanian rebels.
On the Russian side, President Vladimir Putin criticised the NATO mission during his meeting with Trajkovski in Kiev on 24 August. The Macedonian leader dared to apply some pressure to NATO by threatening to adopt the Russian proposal for a UN-sponsored Balkan peace conference to confirm the state borders, should the current effort fail. One element of the Russian concept is the introduction of UN peacekeepers in Macedonia instead of NATO soldiers.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva paid official visits to Bulgaria and Greece (18-20 August) to seek support from the neighbouring countries. She expressed her thanks for the discrete way in which the new Bulgarian government supports peace and stability in Macedonia. In Greece, she agreed to a site for destroying the Albanian rebels’ weapons. Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Svinarov told the press on 15 August that Bulgaria might send armed forces in support of the NATO operation if requested to do so and taking into account EU and NATO procedures.
The present security situation in Macedonia is likely to start a complicated domestic democratic process with the upcoming early general elections at the beginning of the next year, and more social frustration is likely to arise unless the present NATO operation succeeds. Prospects for the internal, regional and strategic development of Macedonia and the Balkans are bleak.
In Kosovo, preparations for the upcoming general elections (scheduled for 17 November) remain the most contentious issue between the UNMIK authorities and ethnic Serbs. UNMIK chief Hans Haekkerup was accused by Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic on 7 August of embracing Albanian separatism and failing to guarantee the safety of ethnic Serbs in the province. These accusations were caused by the closing of a Yugoslav government office in the province by UNMIK . Many of the 100'000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo live in enclaves protected by heavily armed KFOR peacekeepers. Many Serbs cannot return to Kosovo because their homes have been destroyed by ethnic Albanians.
Former Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic was found guilty by the ICTY in The Hague on 2 August on charges of genocide relating to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The general was sentenced to 46 years in jail for his part in the murder of around 8'000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica.
(1) Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov met with his foreign ambassadors on 1 August in Sofia and formulated the 7 priority tasks for the country’s diplomacy in the next months and years: becoming a temporary member of the UN Security Council this autumn; chairing the OSCE in 2004; receiving an invitation for membership in NATO next year and convening a successful conference of the Vilnius group of countries (the applicant countries to the alliance) this autumn in Sofia; acceding to the EU and opening all the chapters in the negotiations by the end of this year; maintaining an ideal stance with regard to the situation in Macedonia and southern Serbia; observing the trial against Bulgarian medical workers blamed by Libya for the intentional contamination of around 400 Libyan children with AIDS, and improving services to Bulgarians around the world. (2) The new Bulgarian government launched a first package of measures in the economic field that is expected to improve the living conditions of the poorest part of the society and to stimulate economic activity and growth. Experts say they are normal, have been planned for some time and will have no innovative effect.
A recent poll in the influential weekly "Nacional" of 21 August rates the government’s cooperation with the ICTY in The Hague as the second most unpopular policy. The popularity of the reformist government has fallen to just over 50 per cent. Analysts expect that the upcoming economic reforms may lead to new shows of discontent and even to early elections.
(1) On 4 August, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djinjic rejected the possibility of extraditing Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to the ICTY in The Hague, because as a head of state, he enjoys immunity. Milutinovic was indicted for crimes against humanity during the Kosovo crisis. (2) The Democratic Party of President Vojislav Kostunica pulled out from Djindjic's ruling coalition on 18 August. Inadequate results in fighting crime were cited as the main reason. Another reason given was the corruption of the present government. Tensions rose between the president and the prime minister 25 August when Kostunica accused the government of incompetence and inability in dealing with corruption. (3) FRY Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic announced on 23 August that he was recalling the country’s ambassador to the US, Milan Protic. According to Protic, Kostunica initiated the termination of his mandate because of criticism voiced against him by the ambassador. Protic accused the president of becoming the last defender of communism in Yugoslavia. Another charge against Protic was that a large number of officials who worked for former president Slobodan Milosevic remained in the government even after last year's political upheaval. It is believed that they will continue to obstruct the democratic process. (4) Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic described his country as a “semi-Mafioso state” on 26 August and said fighting organized crime was it’s the most serious challenge. He also said that crime and corruption overshadow the political issues in Montenegro and Kosovo. According to Svilanovic, three organized structures are competing in Yugoslavia: the structures inherited from the old regime; the new democratic structures, and the structures of organized crime.
Against the background of continuing economic upheaval, the “Justice and Progress” Party was launched in the second half of August. It is a moderate Islamic party that emerged from the Virtue Party, which was banned two months ago for violating the secular Turkish constitution. Under the current widespread electoral disaffection, the new party has called for early elections. Opinion surveys show that the ruling Democratic Left Party may only win 4 per cent of the votes.
a) Bulgaria-Albania. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo visited Sofia on 31 July-1 August and asked the Bulgarian government to influence the government in Skopje to accept the terms of the peace agreement, including the adaptation of Albanian as the second official language and other elements. According to Milo, Albanian may indeed become the second official language.
b) Turkey-Albania. Milo also paid a visit to Istanbul on 1 August and met with his counterpart, Ismail Cem. He said that Albania supported the territorial integrity of Macedonia and would not allow the arms to be transferred to the Macedonia through Albania.
c) Greece-Albania. Milo visited the Greek island of Rhodes on 1-2 August and met with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou. They discussed various issues of bilateral and regional character.
d) FRY-Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kostunica and the hard-line leader of the Bosnian Serb Democratic Party, Dragan Kalinic signed a cooperation deal on 30 July in Belgrade. The two leaders agreed to develop the cultural, economic and spiritual unity of the Serb people. Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic held talks on closer cooperation with Kostunica and Djinjic on 31 July. They said customs barriers were expected to be removed by the end of August.
e) Bulgaria-Romania. Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase visited Bulgaria on 14 August and met with Prime Minister Simeon Saxkoburggotsky and President Stoyanov. The leaders of the two countries agreed to accelerate the implementation of the joint infrastructure projects. Nastase suggested that the movement of the two countries towards NATO and EU membership be advanced concurrently. The Bulgarian leaders consider both accessions as individual national acts, though the two countries are partners and not competitors in the two processes.
The foreign ministers of the four countries, Paskal Milo, Solomon Passy, Ilinka Mitreva and George Papandreou, convened an informal meeting on 25 August in the Greek town of Florina. They discussed the security situation ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games as well as ways of cooperating in the preparation of the games. Bilateral meetings were also held during the forum.
Stability Pact Coordinator Bodo Hombach met on 1 August with the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Simeon Saxkoburggotsky, in Sofia. They discussed the need to accelerate the cleaning of the Danube from the debris of the war against Yugoslavia in 1999. Hombach promised his support at the September meeting of the Danubian Commission. He met also with the speaker of the Bulgarian parliament, the foreign minister and with the president of Bulgaria.
EU-Bulgaria. Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture Mehmed Dikme said on 20 August that Bulgaria was ready to begin talks with the EU on the “Agriculture” chapter of the accession negotiations by the end of this year. Agriculture is considered one of the most difficult areas in the EU membership negotiations.
a. NATO-FRY. NATO and FRY reached an agreement for the transit of NATO troops to Kosovo through Yugoslavia on 23 August.
b. NATO-Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government gave permission on 23 August for 160 unarmed KFOR soldiers from the US to retire to Bulgarian territory for rest and relaxation on a rotation principle for a maximum of 4 days until 30 April 2002.
VII. THE INFLUENCE OF OTHER EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
USA-Bulgaria. (1) Jan Brzezinski, a senior political adviser on NATO, EU enlargement and the OSCE at the US Senate Commission on Foreign Relations, and Coordinator of the Monitoring Group for NATO accession candidates, visited Bulgaria on 9-10 August and met with Bulgaria's foreign and defense ministers of Bulgaria. (2) Senator John McCain visited Bulgaria for the third time on 27-28 August and discussed the preparedness of the country for NATO membership with the Bulgarian leaders. He also visited the Graf Ignatievo air force base, which will host the PfP exercise “Cooperative Key” in September. The influential US Senator considers Bulgaria an appropriate candidate for an invitation to join NATO at its summit in Prague in 2002.
The crisis in Macedonia once again highlighted the issue of minorities' rights irrespective of ethnicity, as well as the obligation of the minority and the majority to work together for the integration of all groups in a democratic civil society.
The 6-month crisis in Macedonia will have various results:
– Macedonian society is already divided along ethnic lines and it will take time for the wounds to heal;
– ethnic Slavs in Macedonia are also divided internally (apart from political divisions), with some advocating militant action, and some peaceful coexistence with the Albanians;
– Albanians have long been divided into extremists and moderates; the recently emerged Albanian National Army's objective of creating a “Greater Albania” is an extremely dangerous development.
The NATO operation in Macedonia that has just begun leaves many questions unanswered, including what will happen if ethnic Slavs and ethnic Albanians in Macedonia do not make use of the opportunity they have been given to sort out their relations, and hostilities resume. The Macedonians need to deal with the territorial issues and stop blaming others (EU, NATO) for incompetence, since it was the state’s powerlessness that brought in the external attention and involvement. The Albanians need to understand that the model of national unification they have chosen is not applicable to the 21st century and that future generations of Albanians may be the last to join integrated Europe. As for the international community, it would be useful to bring to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity on the territory of Macedonia during the last six months. Unless this is done, no standard will be established for society building in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
The period of peace that began with the intervention of NATO forces should be used to launch large-scale economic and infrastructure projects with a regional dimension to preclude any return to arms. If needed, international peacekeepers could be the ultimate guarantors of these constructive projects in the Balkans.