BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and January 2001 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 1, 2001
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
The beginning of 2001 was marked by reduced tension in Southern Serbia. But by the end of January a new rise in tension had occurred, caused by: the international community’s focus on ecological security in Kosovo related to the depleted uranium (DU) issue, acts of terrorism in Greece, and the intensified activism of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Other highlights of the month included the election of the new and democratic government of Serbia and the dynamic start of the new Yugoslav diplomacy. The new US Administration with its intentions in Southeastern Europe has already influenced Balkan countries’ policies and relations. Accelerating Bulgarian preparations for the 2002 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit was another feature of the local regional activities this month.
The new representative of the United Nations (UN) secretary-general for Kosovo, former Danish defence minister Hans Haekkerup, who replaced Dr. Bernard Kouchner of France, considers creating good and safe voting conditions in Kosovo more important than early elections. The safe return of more than 100'000 ethnic Serbs to the province will not be an easy task. Unless this failing of UNMIK and of the radical Albanians, seeking revenge for the Serb atrocities, is not reversed, the elections are unlikely to lead to stability in the post-election period.
There has been progress in the tense Kosovo-Southern Serbia area since the beginning of January, following a verbal agreement by senior NATO officers that was reached with ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanian leaders. As a result roadblocks were lifted and civilian traffic was allowed through the 5-mile-wide buffer zone. In the last week of January, however, tensions rose again after four Serb policemen were killed by rebel Albanians.
Speaking for the last time on the Balkans as the US chief representative to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 18 January, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke urged the international community to focus on “two overriding issues of transcendent historic importance” in Kosovo: holding Kosovo-wide elections as soon as possible, and holding talks on the final status of the Serbian province. This is obviously a suggestion that runs counter to the intentions of the new UNSC special representative. The latter is helping the new democratic government in Belgrade to come to terms with the Albanians from the province, and is giving the Albanians a chance to work out a cooperative relationship with the Serbs from the depressed situation of Kosovo.
The former president of Republika Srpska and a key wartime leader, Biljana Plavsic, turned herself over to the ICTY in The Hague on 9 January to face war crimes charges. Plavsic is known as a hard-line nationalist politician, and was a key aide to the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Plavsic is accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. She is the highest ranking Bosnian Serb official to face ICTY charges. Plavsic claims that she is innocent, but records provide evidence to the contrary, including photos taken at the beginning of the 1990s. On 11 January she pleaded not guilty to all of the nine charges against her. An official statement from her party said that Plavsic defends the dignity of the Serbian people and that the Serb people as a whole cannot be tried for war crimes. The feeling of victimization is self-generated by the Bosnian Serbs, supported by Plavsic's party, the Serbian People’s Alliance.
The international community remains concerned about the continued participation of extremist parties in the government of Republika Srpska, and also in their activities in the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The presence of the Serb Democratic Party in the government of Republika Srpska is a major reason for re-considering the assistance programmes to the various recipients in Bosnia and Herzegovina, depending on their support for the implementation of the Dayton Agreement.
The car belonging to the Turkish trade attaché to Athens was set on fire in the Greek capital on 6 January. No one was injured in the incident. Two other cars were also burned in the center of the capital. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for these actions.
A member of the Greek parliament, the deputy leader of the opposition Nea Demokratia Party, Vassilis Michaloliakos, was injured in an assassination attempt in Athens on 22 January. He was seriously wounded by a car bomb outside his home, though his condition is not critical. The brother of the MP was also injured slightly, and his daughter sustained no injuries. The “17th November” terrorist group is suspected by the police.
a. The suggested link between DU-tipped weapons and cancer among Balkan peacekeepers caused wide public and expert discussions throughout Europe and North America. The World Health Organization, the European Union (EU), NATO, the Council of Europe, and many government officials joined the discussion, together with academic and other specialists. Fact-finding and testing teams have been sent by national governments, mainly from defense ministries. The link between cancer in soldiers who have served in the region and the munitions with DU has not yet been proven scientifically. A team of experts from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has visited the area of stationing of the Bulgarian contingent and has found no evidence of any existing danger to the health of the military personnel or the police in Kosovo. In a show visit the Bulgarian minister of defense, Boyko Noev, brought his 10-year-old daughter to the Kosovo province on 21 January and met with his German counterpart, Rudolf Scharping. In a press conference they disputed a connection between the DU and the health of the members of KFOR (Kosovo Force) members.
b. One of the worst cases of cyanide contamination of a Romanian river caused the death of a large number of fish in the Siret River on 19 January. Many people were admitted to hospitals suffering from poisoning after eating fish from the river.
c. The advance of the Sahara desert into southern parts of Europe was reported as an imminent danger for Southeastern Europe by scholars at a UN forum in Germany last month. The water balance in the region is worsening and additional government measures might be needed to cope with this problem.
(1) The leaders of four left-wing parties and movements in Bulgaria – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Bulgarian Social-Democratic Party, the United Block of Labor, and the “Social democrats” political movement – signed a memorandum on establishing the “New Left” political union in Sofia on 7 January . Each of the four parties preserves its organizational autonomy and ideological identity, but agrees to form a stable center-left coalition, with the election of the government based on strong expert participation. The four parties will have common candidates in the upcoming general, presidential, and local elections once the forums of the respective coalition partners make the decision. The new coalition will apply for “observer” status in the party of the European Socialists. The new center-left coalition will strive for both EU and NATO membership.
According to the International Labor Organization, Bulgaria has an unemployment rate of 20 per cent, whereas the largest Bulgarian trade union organization, the KNSB considers the number is more like 26 to 27 per cent of the available Bulgarian workforce.
(2) Bulgaria had destroyed 881'970 anti-personnel mines (APMs) by the end of December 2000, as part of the implementation of the APM Convention. Of these, 13'926 had been in minefields, with the rest coming from stores. Four thousand APMs have been kept for training purposes. Bulgaria ratified the Convention in September 1999, and since then has destroyed 68 minefields. Two countries that neighbor Bulgaria, Turkey and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), are not signatories to the Convention, and their borders with Bulgaria still have minefields.
(1) The issue of the constitutional future of Montenegro becomes more complicated with each passing day. A directorate chief in the Interior Ministry, Darko Raspopovic, who was a close aide to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, was killed on 9 January. The pro-independence ruling party, the Democratic Party of the Socialists, proposed on 8 January that early elections should be held at the end of March in order to resolve the government crisis that followed the dissolution of the “For a Better Life” coalition. The protests of the coalition partner, the People’s Party, have been aimed at the government’s proposal to turn the Yugoslav Federation into a loose constitutional body of two internationally recognized states, which would be considered a de facto independence. The opinion of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is that any re-definition of the relationship between the two republics should be made within the federation, to be consistent with international law. Foreign policy, defense, monetary and economic policy, transport, communications, and the basic social services would remain areas of federal responsibility. The EU foreign ministers sharply rejected the idea of the Djukanovic government for independence on 22 January, and urged Montenegro to shape its future in a federation with the Serbs. They warned against any unilateral action by Podgorica. The EU foreign ministers associated stability in the FRY with the preservation of the federation. President Kostunica stated on 19 January that Belgrade is ready to use all democratic and legal means to try to prevent the secession of Montenegro. The prime minister designate, Zoran Djindjic, said on 24 January that he wants the federation to be maintained for the next three years, after which it could be dissolved if this was the will of the Montenegrins, with the new parliament deciding if a referendum is necessary. Djindjic is concerned about the effects of the independence of Montenegro on Kosovo, rather than about Montenegro itself. According to a recent poll of two Montenegrin non-governmental organizations, almost 50 per cent of the people in Montenegro favor independence, with almost 40 per cent opposing it.
(2) President Kostunica met the former leader of the federation, Slobodan Milosevic, on 14 January. They discussed the situation in Kosovo, relations between Serbia and Montenegro, and relations with the ICTY in The Hague. Kostunica declared after the meeting that for constitutional reasons he will not hand over his predecessor to the ICTY authorities: the country’s basic laws do not allow extradition of nationals. Kostunica added that cooperation with the ICTY would be possible if the national dignity of the Serbs is not offended. The initial declaration by Kostunica, that he would not meet ICTY prosecutor Carla Del Ponte during her visit because she has not been an ambassador, was reversed on the grounds that he had to ask her questions about the use of DU against Serbs by NATO. Del Ponte was in Belgrade on 23-25 January urging the new democratic authorities of Serbia and the FRY to arrest war-crimes suspects, including Milosevic. Kostunica accused Del Ponte that the tribunal is a political instrument against the Serbian people, and that Milosevic will be persecuted by the judicial authorities in Serbia for allegations of corruption and abuse of power. A one-hour meeting on 24 January between the Kostunica and Del Ponte ended in failure. Though disappointed, Del Ponte said that she is optimistic that Milosevic will be arrested and put on trial. Meetings with some of the ministers of the new Serbian government formed a more productive part of Del Ponte’s visit; but not that held with Zoran Djindjic, who is of the opinion that judges from The Hague should come to Belgrade to study the national judicial system there. However, it seems difficult to justify – from a legal standpoint – that a Serbian court should take precedence over a UN war-crimes tribunal.
(3) The first post-Communist parliament of Serbia was convened in Belgrade on 22 January, with 250 MPs participating in the event. The first post-Milosevic government was elected by more than two-thirds of the vote, mainly from the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. The opposition party of Milosevic, the Serbian Socialist Party, has 37 MPs, the nationalist Radical Party has 23 MPs, and the nationalist Party of Serbian Unity has 24 MPs. Zoran Djindjic was elected as the new prime minister. His government must decide on the reform process in Serbia. A major obstacle will be the compromise reached with the military, the police, and the security services during the so-called October revolution of the Serb people, during which bloodshed was prevented. The price paid by the democratic opposition will be felt during the reform period, especially in the attitudes to the military and paramilitary forces of the FRY, including the issue of war criminals.
Radu Timofte, vice-chairman of the Senate Commission for Foreign Intelligence, was appointed by the president to be chief of the country’s intelligence services on 12 January. He awaits confirmation by the parliament, and has promised an improvement to the legal basis of intelligence activity in Romania. Kostin Georgescu, his predecessor, was appointed as Romania’s ambassador to Cyprus.
a. Albania-FRY. The FRY announced on 11 January that it is ready to resume diplomatic relations with Albania, with the Albanian side replying on 12 January that it is also ready. Diplomatic ties between the two neighboring states were cut in April 1999 after the beginning of the “Allied Force” operation against Yugoslavia. The Foreign Ministry of Albania expressed its hope that the renewed ties will serve the interests of both countries, and security and stability in the region.
b. Bulgaria-FYROM. (1) At a meeting in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, on 12 January, the chiefs of the police services of Bulgaria and the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) agreed to a regular exchange of information in combating, for example, car thefts, illegal migration, prostitution, and drugs smuggling. Regular personal contact was agreed.
(2) Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the main opposition party in the FYROM, the Social Democratic Party of Macedonia, visited Sofia on 15 January at the invitation of the leadership of the main Bulgarian opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Crvenkovski is widely known for his active anti-Bulgarian and pro-Serbian political behavior. He has agreed with his Bulgarian counterparts to refrain from cooperation with the Socialist Party of Milosevic in Belgrade.
(3) Bulgarian Defense Minister Boyko Noev met with his counterpart from the FYROM, Ljuben Paunovski, in Skopje on 20 January. The Bulgarian MoD will supply the Macedonian armed forces with a modern radar communication system (according to the standards of NATO). A Macedonian delegation will soon visit Sofia to discuss a broader list of needs for the armed forces of FYROM.
c. Greece-Bulgaria. Noev met with his Greek counterpart, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, in Athens on 17 January. They discussed the DU situation in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They agreed to hold a joint bilateral infantry exercise by April 2001. The Bulgarian defense minister was received by the vice-chairman of the Greek parliament and by Greek President Constantinos Stefanopoulos.
d. Bosnia and Herzegovina-FRY. President Kostunica of the FRY visited Bosnia and Herzegovina on 19 January in a demonstration of support for the Dayton Agreement. It is expected that the two countries will soon exchange ambassadors.
e. Croatia-Bulgaria. The deputy foreign minister of Bulgaria and chief negotiator for the EU accession talks, Vladimir Kissyov, visited Zagreb on 23 January to discuss with his Croat counterpart how Croatia could learn from the Bulgarian experience in their negotiations with the EU. Training of Croatian experts by Bulgarian colleagues has also been agreed. Croatia started its Stabilization and Association Talks with the EU in October 2000.
f. Bulgaria-FRY. The new Yugoslav foreign minister, Goran Svilanovic, met with his counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, and with the prime minister and the president of Bulgaria during an official visit to Sofia on 25 January. The two foreign ministers signed a re-admission agreement that would ease substantially the bilateral visa arrangements after Bulgaria joins the Schengen visa regime zone later this Spring.
The Center for the Development of the Media in Southeastern Europe was launched in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 25 January, in the context of the Pact of Stability. Journalists from all countries of Southeastern Europe will be trained in the Center. A radio studio for training and a conference hall for 35 will host eight qualification courses in 2001, beginning in February.
1. Bulgaria. (1) The foreign debt of Bulgaria rose by US$ 124 million during December 2000, bringing the overall debt to US$ 8.97 billion. Bulgaria paid back US$ 877 million in 2000. (2) The economic team of the present Cabinet of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has predicted an annual rise in the GDP of 8 per cent in coming years. They reported their findings during the Davos Economic Forum in January.
2. Greece. Greece became the 12th member of the euro currency zone on 1 January. Seventy per cent of Greeks support this decision by their government, according to opinion polls in the country.
3. Turkey-Bulgaria. Following a request from Turkey, Russia will increase the natural gas supply through Bulgaria by 18 per cent.
4. FYROM-Bulgaria. The monopolistic electric power company of FYROM, “Elektrostopanstvo”, has chosen the Bulgarian National Electric Company as its supplier of electricity for US$ 7.5 million. Bulgaria will supply 200 megawatts to the neighboring country during daytime, and 80-130 megawatts during the night. FYROM experiences water shortages that are reflected in the production of electricity.
5. FRY-World Trade Organization (WTO). The FRY took steps to join the WTO in Geneva on 23 January. Legislative reforms and opening the Yugoslavian market are essential requirements to joining the Organization. Slovenia and Croatia are members of the WTO, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and FYROM have already applied for membership.
6. Bulgaria-FRY. The deputy foreign-economic relations minister of the FRY, Dejan Jovovic, met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Christo Mikhailovsky, in Sofia on 25 January, and stated that changes to the foreign-trade regime of the FRY will facilitate bilateral exchanges. The two sides are discussing the signing of a bilateral agreement for free trade, and experts will press on the issue in February.
7. The Pact of Stability for Southeastern Europe. Seven Balkan states signed an agreement in Geneva on 18 January for the creation of a free-trade zone. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the FRY, the FYROM, and Romania agreed to liberalize their trade relations as a way of improving their chances of joining the EU. Bulgaria has accepted this Pact of Stability initiative but still believes that such regimes will isolate the country from integration into wider systems of free trade and hence will slow down its accession to the EU.
VI. THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
USA-FRY. (1) Svilanovic visited the US in the first week of January and met with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This visit has opened a new era in bilateral relations and it has provided an opportunity to close the period connected with the leadership of the FRY by Slobodan Milosevic. Albright underlined the position of the international community that Milosevic and others indicted by the ICTY must be held accountable in The Hague for their actions. From his side, Svilanovic underlined the issues of the integrity of the FRY, the cooperation with the ICTY, and economic cooperation between the two countries, especially the need for lifting the sanctions regime against Yugoslavia.
(2) The US formally announced the lifting of their economic sanctions on Yugoslavia on 19 January. Sanctions on 81 Serbs, including Milosevic, his family, and associates remain in place. However, the US Administration will report to Congress by the end of March on how the Yugoslav authorities have cooperated with the ICTY, and on how this should be reflected in the aid that the US provides to the FRY.
USA-Romania. The Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the US announced on 12 January that two loan guarantees by the bank will support the export of US$ 59 million worth of critically needed medical equipment by US suppliers to the Romanian Ministry of Health for use by hospitals and clinics throughout Romania. Some 18 US companies participate in the sale of sterilization modules, electro-surgery units, patient monitoring displays, and echocardiography imaging systems to help Romania modernize its health sector. The Romanian government is expected to purchase substantial additional medical equipment in the future for this modernization program.
USA-Bulgaria. The chief of the Bulgarian General Staff, General Miho Mihov, met with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US armed forces, General Henry Shelton, in the Pentagon on 18 January. This visit was an official one and marked the deepening of bilateral military cooperation. The relations between Bulgaria and NATO and the country’s cooperation with US experts within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program were discussed by the two military leaders. General Shelton made a visit to Sofia in November 2000.
NATO-USA-Southeastern Europe. During the Senate confirmation hearing on 17 January, the Secretary of State-designate, General Colin Powell, said that the US will come up with a set of standards this year that will be used to determine which nation applicants for NATO membership will be admitted during the summit meeting in 2002. A major standard is expected to be the strength that the candidate would bring to NATO – not in terms of manpower and military strength, but in terms of improvement to the strategic environment that is created when they are part of NATO rather than remaining outside of NATO.
NATO-FRY. Svilanovic visited the NATO headquarters in Brussels on 10 January. He discussed with the NATO secretary general the measures that KFOR can take in countering Albanian terrorism in the 5-km buffer zone between Serbia and Kosovo. This was the first visit of a high-ranking Yugoslav official since the NATO strike against the FRY in 1999. The foreign minister told the NATO secretary general that the armed forces of the FRY and NATO are no longer enemies.
NATO-Bulgaria. (1) NATO plans its biggest air exercise for 2001 to take place in Bulgaria. The details of the “Cooperative Key – 2001” exercise were discussed in Sofia on 12 January by the military command of the Bulgarian armed forces and the NATO air force commander for Southern Europe, General Ronald Kees. The exercise will be a PfP one and will be the first one to be held in Bulgaria. Last year Romania hosted the exercise. The exercise has taken place eight times in NATO member states. It is already known that US, Greek, Turkish, and Bulgarian air-force units will participate. The NATO commander also met with the Bulgarian minister of defense, Boyko Noev, on 12 January.
(2) A third Bulgarian engineering and construction squad arrived in the German camp Suva reka in Kosovo on 18 January, as part of the KFOR. Forty officers, sergeants, and soldiers were taught about working in a DU environment.
(3) The commander of the allied forces for Southern Europe, Admiral James Ellies, arrived in Sofia on 23 January. He met with the defense minister and with the chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian armed forces, and he praised the Bulgarian experience in constructing a modern air defense. Future cooperation of the Bulgarian armed forces and NATO were also discussed.
EU-Bulgaria. At the Davos Economic Summit on 26 January, President Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria launched an idea of a ‘shock enlargement’ of the EU by all of the applicant countries that are currently in accession negotiations with the Union. On the next day the European Commissioner for EU enlargement, Günter Ferheugen, replied negatively to the "big bang" idea, claiming that the concrete procedures of the process are defined already and cannot be altered. The idea of Stoyanov is not new, but its actual meaning is that the political momentum of enlarging the EU may be lost, due to the difficulties associated with the enlargement to the East, especially for the republics in the EU member states. That may cause dangerous Euro-skepticism, especially in Eastern, Central, and Southeastern Europe, which is a development that should be prevented. Furthermore, Central and Southeast European applicants for membership of the EU are hurrying to confirm the geopolitical engagement of the EU with these new democratic states.
OSCE-Albania. In connection with the sobering report by the head of the OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) presence in Albania, Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, the Permanent Council confirmed on 18 January the necessity of keeping the electoral area as the Organization’s priority. A number of improvements must be made to Albania’s electoral process in order to ensure that the parliamentary elections in Spring meet international standards of conduct. For this purpose the Central Elections Commission should be strengthened, and the voter lists should be fixed and made accurate and acceptable to all participating parties. Another issue is the development of a more constructive opposition in the country.
Russia-Bulgaria. Russia discarded Bulgaria’s proposal of signing a re-admission agreement as a basis of negotiating an easier visa regime between the two countries on 24 January. This negative reply from Russia leads to the introduction of a visa regime for the citizens of the two countries from June 2001. Bulgaria is joining the Schengen visa regime area from the Spring of this year, and would not turn into a corridor of legal and illegal migration from East to West because of bad regulation of bilateral visa relations with third countries. Bulgaria did not receive the Russian reply until more than one and a half years after the initial notification of the proposal for signing a re-admission agreement. Russia’s negative answer can only be interpreted as an unwillingness to counter illegal migration in Europe. Bulgaria agreed to accept Russia’s proposal of launching negotiations that would chart the parameters of the classic visa regime between the two states. Russia’s argument that it does not have re-admission agreements with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and that Bulgaria cannot pretend having such a regime in bilateral relations is indicative of two Russia’s perspectives: first, that Bulgaria is a second-rate country compared to the CIS countries; and second, Russia can press its own cases in international relations because it is the more powerful country. The second argument was additionally proved by the declaration of the Russian ambassador to Sofia that Bulgaria will lose from the lower number of Russian tourists to this country. To many observers this sounded similar to the threats from previous periods of European history. It is inconsistent to accept that visas are needed for Italy or France but not for Bulgaria; however, this treatment by Russia is consistent with earlier declarations that re-admitting is a very expensive procedure, which is true, but many feel that keeping legal order intact is worth investing in. Furthermore, Ukraine and Yugoslavia have already agreed to sign such re-admission agreements with Bulgaria, to build an easier visa exchange and to demonstrate that Bulgaria has been implementing its solemn pledges to the Schengen visa regime states. This policy of the Russian government deprives millions of Russian citizens who would like to visit – or having been visiting – Bulgarian resorts to which they are attracted. This policy of Russia is interpreted by the broader Bulgarian society, which is by tradition fond of the Russian people, as an unacceptable pressure to change the country’s course of integration in the EU and NATO.
1. The upcoming elections in Kosovo and the future status of the province, the progress towards shaping a centralized state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the tough relations between the FRY and the ICTY in The Hague, ecological security issues, and acts of terrorism in Greece are the important issues in the security agenda of the Balkans.
2. Fixing the new pro-EU and pro-NATO geopolitical orientation of Southeastern Europe is also part of the region-building orientations of the region, as can be seen from Bulgaria’s relations with the EU, NATO, and Russia over the past month.