The Balkans: Half empty of half full?
This fall is a bumper election season in the former Yugoslavia. In addition to the local elections in the Presevo region that already took place on 28 July, the Macedonian parliamentary ballot will be held on 15 September. That will be followed by the Serbian presidential vote on 29 September, the Bosnian general election on 5 October, and then the Montenegrin parliamentary vote (with local elections in Podgorica and Tivat) the next day. Kosova goes to the polls in a local ballot on 26 October, and Slovenia is expected to choose a successor to President Milan Kucan on 10 November. In addition, there is always the possibility that general elections will be called in Serbia or Croatia before the end of the year.
All of these elections mean campaigning and political noise. In the process, it is sometimes difficult to sort out what is electioneering and what is a sign that some political cultures may becoming dysfunctional.
A commentary by Wieland Schneider in Vienna's "Die Presse" of 1 August argues pessimistically that, though the guns are by and large silent in the Balkans, the calm is deceptive. The article notes that poverty, corruption, organized crime, instability, and imperfect democracy characterize many of the somewhat shaky states in the region. Human trafficking is no rarity, and the drug industry is well established. The political class leaves much to be desired by European standards, and a new and presumably more competent generation has yet to emerge.
Schneider observes that the power struggle between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic threatens to destabilize what is already a very unsteady democracy (see the article below). Indeed, many observers have suggested that even if most of the parties associated with the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic do not win any seats in the new parliament, a legislature consisting of the allies of Djindjic and Kostunica could prove dysfunctional. Walkouts and boycotts could become the order of the day, while normal parliamentary life could become as scarce a phenomenon as it has been in Albania in recent years.
The same might be the case in Montenegro, where President Milo Djukanovic and his allies face an unlikely new coalition of pro-Belgrade and pro-independence forces. Once the new balance of power is established after 6 October, it should soon become clear whether a proper parliamentary democracy is possible, or whether acrimony and discord will make serious political life difficult.
Another question mark is Albania. For some years, it has been known as perhaps the most politically polarized country in the region. But recently, the European Union -- in the form of the European Parliament -- pressured the leading parties into selecting a consensus candidate for president, namely former General Alfred Moisiu. He was regarded as a particular favorite of Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha.
The Socialists, meanwhile, seem to have reached a modus vivendi among themselves as well. Fatos Nano has become prime minister for the third time, but key cabinet positions remain in the hands of ministers from the last government. Two of his rivals, former Prime Ministers Ilir Meta and Pandeli Majko, are included. Meta is a deputy prime minister and foreign minister, while Majko holds the defense portfolio. All in all, it seems that there is something for everyone. The question is whether the new power sharing will function, and, if so, for how long.
In Macedonia, polls suggest that a coalition of the Social Democrats and some parties representing the smaller ethnic minorities will dominate the new parliament, but this coalition will also need an Albanian partner if it is to be representative and stable.
It is not clear whether such a broad-based coalition is a realistic possibility in the immediate future (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 August 2002). Specifically, it remains to be seen whether the Social Democrats can reach an understanding with what is likely to be the largest Albanian bloc in the new legislature, the recently founded Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) of former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti.
As for Kosova, Michael Steiner -- who heads the United Nations civilian administration (UNMIK) -- has optimistically argued that refugee returns could become as much a reality there as they have in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 5 August 2002). He has also stressed that it is up to the Kosovars to prove that they can manage their own affairs. Whether this is possible will depend to a large extent on what kind of people the Kosovars choose to run local governments on 26 October.
But Bosnia remains at the center of attention for many. Should it fail to overcome the stigma of being an inherently failed state, there is a danger of its becoming a permanent ward of the international community and a lasting source of tensions as politicians in each of its three communities pursue rival agendas (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April 2002).
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 6 August that he does not understand why "Europe" always takes a dim view of trends in Bosnia and feels compelled to lecture Bosnians on how to run their affairs. He added that Bosnia has achieved much more in many fields -- including refugee return -- in the past few years than Northern Ireland managed to do in 30 years.
Ashdown noted the links between political leaders and organized crime in Bosnia, but added that the situation there is no worse than it was in Western Europe after World War II, where the problem was subsequently overcome.
He stressed that the international community must continue to help Bosnia lest it become a "vacuum" and open to terrorist elements, as happened in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime. But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported from Sarajevo on 6 August that Bosnia remains in danger of becoming a long-term dependent of the international community as long as meaningful change is brought about only by decrees of the high representative.
The role of the foreigners will indeed remain central in much of the Balkans for the immediate future. But as Ashdown and others have noted, the U.S. has made it clear that it wants to give up its former leading role in the region to a willing EU (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May and 15 June 2002).
If Brussels is to be more credible as a force for stability and security than it was in the past, it will need to keep the Macedonian and Serbian-Montenegrin settlements on track. Its role in the two international protectorates of Kosova and Bosnia is now central, and these will test the EU's vision and perseverance as well as its budget. Nor can Brussels forget that all the countries in the region want to join the Euro-Atlantic institutions and that they seek clear guidelines for attaining EU as well as NATO membership.
The EU, moreover, will need to show that it can meet its own long-standing goal of keeping order in its backyard by successfully taking over and managing what is now a NATO-led mission in Macedonia (provided, of course, that the mission is continued). If the EU fails to show effective leadership, its credibility as an international actor will be further thrown into question, and not just in the eyes of the peoples of the Balkans. (Patrick Moore)
DJINDJIC TALKS TO RFE/RL
Visiting RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 3 August, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that Serbia has just two to three years to resolve its most serious issues or face possible disillusionment that he says would result in serious delays in European integration. "[Failure to maintain the current momentum] will create huge problems to motivate our people...because the clear goal and clear consensus that exists within the nation is that we want to be part of Europe."
Djindjic said that he hopes the political leadership in the West understands that, "if we lose the fast track that we're on now through unresolved structural problems, it will create problems for the future."
His attempts to reform the economy have been stymied by opposition not only from parties affiliated with the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic but by opposition from Yugoslav President Kostunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). The DSS blocked reforms in a failed bid to force early elections and hinder cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Djindjic noted that since DSS deputies had repeatedly boycotted parliamentary sessions, the 18-party Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) electoral coalition finally had no choice but to expel the DSS from its ranks. He argued that if a party is excluded from the coalition it has to be excluded from parliament, which is why he says DOS deputies recommended on 26 July ousting all 45 DSS deputies.
However, Djindjic said Serbia's problems are not only domestic but also involve Kosova, the future status of which remains unclear. This also applies to its fellow Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, and neighbors Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He described all these as "weak states with divided societies and governments lacking legitimacy."
Djindjic was particularly critical of the situation in Bosnia and Kosova, where tens of thousands of NATO-led troops are stationed for what he said could be 100 years. "In the Balkans, there are two protectorates and there are foreign troops there. It's the only region [in Europe] where there are large numbers of foreign troops and that's a real problem," Djindjic said.
Moreover, Djindjic complained about the extensive powers of the international community's high representative in Bosnia -- currently Paddy Ashdown -- to abrogate laws and replace government ministers. All that, he said, makes Bosnia a protectorate.
He argued, however, that since the citizens of Bosnia and Kosova are able to elect their authorities and live in conditions of stability, "no one perceives this as an unresolved issue since nothing [serious] is occurring in Bosnia or Kosovo."
Djindjic added that: "Neither in the case of Bosnia nor in the case of Kosovo do we have any intention of raising the issue of changing their status. But we as people who live here have the right to pay attention to the problem because we want to be involved in [its resolution]."
He called on the international community to let him open direct talks with Albanian leaders in the province. Djindjic said that, "we should start to talk, define our interests, and set priorities," but did not say whether the Albanians are willing to talk to him or anyone else from Belgrade.
Djindjic argued that Kosovar Albanian leaders should understand that Serbia can serve as a bridge to Europe and to integration with Europe. By contrast, what Serbia wants from Kosova is for it to stop having problems. He said that he hopes for greater stability there and the return of what he says are 180,000 displaced persons -- Serbs, Roma, Bosnian Muslims, and Gorani -- from Kosova who are still in Serbia more than three years after the end of the NATO air strikes.
Djindjic repeated that returnees need to have guarantees for their human rights, as well as security and access to hospitals and schools. Without their return and without a dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, Djindjic says Kosova is "now a time bomb."
Djindjic said not only Kosova's Albanian political leaders but the business community, intellectuals, and religious leaders should be involved in finding a solution, adding that he would like to hear what they all have to say. He noted that last year, the UN chief administrator, Hans Haekkerup, barred him from visiting the province and added that he hopes the current chief administrator, Michael Steiner, will let him do so.
Yet Djindjic did concede that Serbia itself is part of the problem. Djindjic said the prevalence among Serbs of an outmoded 19th-century national identity is a key problem that must be resolved.
He claimed that Serbs are close to finally finding their identity, but that many Serbs are still torn between building an open society and adhering to the traditionally closed society that he said is marked by negative attitudes and suspicion.
Djindjic feels that a resolution is finally possible thanks to the active participation of the international community. "It's about whether we look at the problems with our eyes wide open and resolve them even if they are unpleasant or else run away from them, stick our heads in the sand, and deny they exist," Djindjic said. "For the first time we have the active support of Europe." That support, he predicted, will contribute to the further stabilization of peace, stability, and economic development in the region. (Jolyon Naegele)
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