|Wednesday, 11 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 39, 01-02-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 39, 26 February 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS PRESIDENTS WILL NOT SIGN PEACE ACCORD AT NEXT MEETINGVartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 23 February that no documents on resolving the Karabakh conflict have been prepared for signing at the talks in Paris on 4-5 March between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. "There have been moments in the past when we thought that we were very close to a solution. But then things changed suddenly," Oskanian said, adding that a "final agreement" has not yet been reached. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AFFIRMS THAT KARABAKH CONFLICT WILL BE SOLVEDPresident Aliev told parliament deputies on 23 and 24 February that "we will definitely solve" the Karabakh conflict, but warned against underestimating the problems involved in doing so. He complained that "no force in the world" is prepared to force Armenian forces to retreat from the Azerbaijan territories they currently occupy, and that the draft peace proposals advanced by the OSCE Minsk Group over the past few years are "unacceptable for Azerbaijan." Aliev said Azerbaijan should not reject further Minsk Group mediation "because there is no other instrument for settling the conflict," ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev also argued against maintaining the status quo in the hope that Armenia's economy will collapse. He called on opposition political parties to present alternative suggestions for resolving the conflict. Aliev said that the Azerbaijani army "is strong enough" to wage a new war to bring the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic back under the control of the Azerbaijani central authorities, but implied that public opinion would not endorse a new military campaign, according to ANS as cited by Groong on 23 February. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR SOLUTION BASED ON COMPROMISEAt the end of the two-day debate on the Karabakh conflict, parliament deputies voted by 103 to one with one abstention in support of a statement giving a positive evaluations to President Aliev's efforts to negotiate a solution to the Karabakh conflict and calling for renewed efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group to that end, Turan reported. The statement further appealed to political parties and individuals to propose within 15 days new approaches to resolving the conflict. LF
 AZERBAIJAN'S STATE OIL COMPANY OPPOSES KAZAKH USE OF BAKU-CEYHAN OIL PIPELINE?Caucasus Press on 23 February quoted unidentified officials at Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR as saying that it would be unprofitable to use the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline for the export of oil from Kazakhstan, which has a high sulphur content. The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be used for the export of Azerbaijani light oil, while Kazakhstan's crude will be exported via the Baku-Supsa pipeline, rather than risk mixing Azerbaijani light and Kazakh heavy oil, those sources said. Experts say, however, that it is perfectly possible to avoid mixing different types of oil by pumping the separate sorts through the pipeline in batches. LF
 GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTRY DENIES PLANNING TO ASSASSINATE REGIONAL LEADERGeorgia's National Security Ministry issued a statement on 23 February rejecting as "groundless" claims made by Adjar Republic Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze in an interview with an independent Georgian TV station, Caucasus Press reported. Abashidze accused Georgian intelligence of having tried on 14 separate occasions to assassinate him. Abashidze also explained in his interview that the reason for his refusal to allow Georgian army units to enter Adjaria to participate in planned NATO exercises there in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2001) is that those forces could try to depose him. LF
 RUSSIA THWARTS DELIVERY OF SWISS MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO GEORGIARussia's customs agency has concluded its investigation into two trainloads of Swiss military equipment bound for Georgia and intercepted last fall, Interfax reported on 23 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000). Both trainloads, one of which was impounded in Ukraine and the other on the Russian-Azerbaijani border, have been sent back to Switzerland. The equipment, which was a gift from the Swiss authorities to the Georgian border and prison guard services, was designated as "diplomatic cargo," and included 50 off-road vehicles and 27 tons of military uniforms and medical equipment. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN IMPOSES NEW RESTRICTIONS ON RESIDENCE ABROADKazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov has approved new regulations making it mandatory for any citizen of Kazakhstan abroad to register with the Kazakh diplomatic representation in whichever country they are currently living in, even if they intend to remain in that country for only a few days, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 24 February. The rationale for that ruling, as cited by the newspaper "Vremya," is "to monitor the compliance of citizens of Kazakhstan with the laws of Kazakhstan and the implementation of their duties." The regulation empowers Kazakhstan's embassies to order citizens of Kazakhstan who are liable for military service to return to Kazakhstan "in the event of a [military] emergency." LF
 KAZAKH PREMIER MEETS WITH OIL CONSORTIUM OFFICIALSQasymzhomart Toqaev met in Almaty on 23 February with officials from the OKIOC consortium that is engaged in developing the huge Kashagan offshore oilfield, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. AGIP Caspian head Domenico Spada told journalists after that meeting that he hopes the Kazakh government "will render their every support" for the project, of which AGIP was recently chosen as the operator. Per Rettedal, who is chairman of OKIOC's operating committee, said that the consortium will invest some $20 billion in developing Kashagan over the next 14 years. LF
 TATARSTAN OPENS REPRESENTATION IN KAZAKHSTANThe Republic of Tatarstan has opened an official mission in Almaty to promote cooperation on the field of finance, economics, trade culture and education, Kazakhstan's Khabar TV reported on 23 February. Russia's Ambassador to Kazakhstan Yurii Merzlyakov said his presence at the official opening of the mission testifies to the Russian government's support for it. Merzlyakov said the opening of the Tatar representation does not violate the Russian Constitution. LF
 KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT REJECTS ELECTRICITY PRICE HIKEFollowing a two-day discussion, on 23 February the People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) rejected a proposal by Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev to raise electricity tariffs several times over the next three years in order to raise the $900 million the government needs to replace old transformers and other equipment, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputies objected that increasing electricity tariffs would trigger an increase in the price of other commodities. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BALKAN SUMMIT ADOPTS ECONOMIC PLAN...Heads of state or government from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia, as well as an "observer" from Croatia, approved a plan for economic cooperation at the fourth summit of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Skopje on 23 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2001). The document stresses cooperation in energy and in cross-border transportation links, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The EU's Bodo Hombach appealed to regional leaders to "help yourself so that we can help you," Reuters reported. PM
 ...ADDRESSES SECURITY ISSUESAlthough the main purpose of the SEECP summit in Skopje on 22-23 February was to discuss economic cooperation, the meeting was overshadowed by security issues in Kosova and the Presevo Valley. The final document did not specify concrete measures to end the violence, but it condemned the "use of violence, terrorism, and extremism" in Kosova. It also slammed unspecified "violent and illegal terrorist actions by the ethnically- motivated extremist armed groups in South Serbia, which could have the effect of destabilizing the situation in the region," Reuters reported. The EU's Chris Patten and Javier Solana warned the Kosovar Albanians that international patience with the violence in Kosova is wearing thin. Patten called on "every Kosovar to make a stand" on the issue. PM
 BALKAN LEADERS STRESS SECURITY CONCERNSMacedonian President Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 23 February that one "should not underestimate" the danger of regional destabilization, dpa reported. Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta noted that the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic makes easier the "struggle against extremism in the Presevo Valley, Mitrovica, and other places." He appealed to Kosovar Albanians to improve "cooperation and their common life with the Serbs and other peoples," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Meta also called on Kosovar Serbs to take part in the development of "democratic institutions." Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica demanded unspecified "energetic steps" to "support Yugoslavia's political efforts" in the region. He stressed that "terrorism" undermines the role of KFOR and the UN civilian administration in Kosova. He added that the Presevo security zone has become a "base for terrorist activity," AP reported. PM
 PRISHTINA CORPS LIKELY TO STAY IN PRESEVO?Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 23 February that Belgrade alone will decide which units of the security forces will remain in southwest Serbia. This is an apparent reference to NATO's reported suggestion that the Atlantic alliance might agree to a partial revision of the Kumanovo agreements as part of a package including Belgrade's withdrawing the Prishtina Corps from the Presevo area (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 23 February 2001). "The wish to replace a certain number of both army and police troops, those considered to have had a high profile in the war in Kosovo, has been around for some time. That is something we can talk about. But we cannot talk about the level of the presence of our forces there to anyone abroad. No outsider can determine what level of our military and police presence will be enough to guarantee our safety," Reuters quoted Djindjic as saying. He did not say whether Belgrade plans to take the views of local ethnic Albanians into account. Yugoslav Defense Minister Slobodan Krapovic has ruled out the withdrawal of the Prishtina Corps. PM
 YUGOSLAV GENERAL GIVING NOD TO PARAMILITARIES?The shadowy ultra-nationalist Serbian Liberation Army (OSA) said in a statement in Krusevac on 25 February that army chief-of-staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic "gives full support" to the OSA's proposal for setting up "volunteer units" under the General Staff's command, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The statement quoted Pavkovic as saying that there is currently no need for such units in southern Serbia. He added, however, that "organizational preparations" should be made in case the need for such units arises. He did not elaborate. There is no independent confirmation of the OSA's statement. Paramilitaries played a key role in ethnic cleansing campaigns during Milosevic's wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. Pavkovic commanded army forces in Kosova during the 1999 conflict. PM
 NATO SAYS 'NOTHING NEW' ON SERBIAN TROOPS FOR KOSOVAA KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 24 February that there is "nothing new" in Kostunica's call at the Balkan summit for Serbian forces to return to Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Milosevic regime frequently called for the re-admission of Serbian forces to the province, ostensibly to improve the security situation. Some observers have noted that the return of any Serbian forces would most likely aggravate the security situation by acting as a provocation to Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority. One of Kostunica's advisors wrote two articles in "NIN" in December, in which he called for gaining the support of the international community for Serbia's "return" to Kosova. In recent months, Belgrade has kept up virtually incessant political pressure to portray itself as the victim of Albanian "terrorists and extremists." PM
 UN POLICE RAISE KOSOVA GUN PENALTIESChristopher Albiston, who heads the UN police in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 23 February that people in Kosova have until 5 June to hand in "weapons of war" or risk fines of up to $9,300 and jail sentences of up to 10 years. He stressed that a "gun culture is a culture of fear and intimidation," Reuters reported. PM
 SERBIAN EX-HEAD OF SECRET POLICE ARRESTEDPolice officials in Belgrade announced on 24 February the arrest of Rade Markovic, who headed Milosevic's secret police from 1998 until January 2001. Belgrade dailies suggest that up to 15 other top Milosevic-era police officials may have been arrested at the same time, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 February. Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Kragujevac that Markovic is a link in a chain of officials that could lead to Milosevic himself. At issue are "several cases involving mysterious deaths" of prominent people. Under Milosevic, the worlds of politics, the security forces, organized crime, and business often merged together in a shadowy realm of power and influence that remains greatly resented by ordinary Serbs. Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic told the BBC that he wonders why Belgrade's new leaders did not arrest Markovic in October and instead gave him over three months in which to destroy or manipulate evidence. PM
 MILOSEVIC, SOCIALIST PARTY CONDEMN ARRESTMilosevic spoke at a meeting of his Socialist Party of Serbia on 25 February in Belgrade, in which he criticized the arrest of Markovic. The party subsequently issued a statement slamming the arrest as a "shameful act" leading to "staged political trials," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The next day, police officials said that they will keep Markovic in investigative custody for 30 days in connection with a 1999 attempt on Draskovic's life, in which four people died, AP reported. PM
 CALL FOR VOJVODINA AUTONOMYNenad Canak, who heads Vojvodina's provincial parliament, said in Belgrade on 23 February that he will soon begin talks with fellow members of the governing coalition aimed at restoring the autonomy of Vojvodina, which Milosevic revoked, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Canak stressed that autonomy is Vojvodina's right because, as he put it, the province accounts for "a third of Serbia's population and half of its money." PM
 SERBIAN MAYOR WANTS END TO PARTY ROLE IN STATE FIRMSMayor Velimir Ilic of Cacak said in Arandjelovac on 25 February that the practice must end of appointing officials to top posts in state-run companies on the basis of their party affiliations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 MONTENEGRIN PARTY PICKS NEW CHIEFThe pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party (SNP) met in Bijela on 24 February and elected Predrag Bulatovic as its chairman. He will try to form a broad coalition of anti-independence forces under the slogan "For Yugoslavia," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Bulatovic promised that the SNP will be an "authentic Montenegrin party" that will not take orders from "outside," "Vijesti" reported. Some 50 supporters of Momir Bulatovic, the pro-Milosevic former chairman, walked out of the meeting. It is not clear whether they will form a new political party. PM
 DEL PONTE BLASTS NATO BOSNIAN FORCESCarla Del Ponte, who is the Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, told "Welt am Sonntag" of 25 February that she does not understand how and why NATO troops have been unable to arrest more Bosnian war criminals, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. She added that she is "not far" from feeling abandoned by NATO countries. PM
 LITTLE TO SHOW FROM EX-YUGOSLAV ASSETS CONFERENCEThe latest round of talks aimed at dividing the assets of the former Yugoslavia ended in Ljubljana on 23 February without any concrete agreement, dpa reported. The next meeting will take place in Brussels from 9-11 April. PM
 PETRITSCH SACKS MUSLIM EX-PREMIERHigh Representative Wolfgang Petritsch fired Edhem Bicakcic on 23 February as director of the state power company Elektroprivreda BiH, where he has worked since mid-January. Petritsch called Bicakcic a "symbol of corruption" who diverted millions of dollars in state funds to his Party of Democratic Action through intermediate channels, including Muslim veterans' organizations, "Dnevni avaz" reported. PM
 IMF DELEGATION ENDS TALKS IN BUCHAREST WITH NO RESULTS...Ending two-weeks of talks with the Romanian government, Neven Mates, the IMF's chief negotiator for Romania, said on 23 February that the IMF will grant no further loans until Bucharest has solved some of the main problems identified by the delegation, Mediafax reported. Mates said the government should concentrate on keeping inflation down and on maintaining a stable and transparent fiscal system. Premier Adrian Nastase replied that his government's relations with the IMF will help it avoid mistakes. He added, however, that the IMF should also understand that "after 10 years of complicated transition, Romania's problems are not only economical, but also social and political." ZsM
 ...GIVES RECIPE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ROMANIAThe IMF said, however, that the Romanian economy could achieve "sustainable growth" if the government privatizes state-owned companies and reduces inflation, AP reported. In a statement released at the end of his visit to the country, Mates said the country is "well-positioned to establish a solid basis for rapid and sustainable economic growth." It added that Bucharest must achieve "a determined reduction in inflation," and that for a lasting recovery it must accelerate and broaden economic structural reforms and take "swift actions on privatization." Inflation reached 40 percent last year. Premier Nastase said last week that the government will sell-off five state-owned companies in the coming weeks. PB
 WORLD BANK TO SUPPORT RURAL DEVELOPMENTThe World Bank in Washington on 24 February announced the start of a program aimed at supporting private rural initiatives in Romania, Romanian media reported. World Bank Director for Romania Andrew Vorkink and visiting Romanian Agriculture Minister Ilie Sarbu said the $220 million program will start this fall and will run for seven years. The program's aim is to reduce rural unemployment by granting loans to rural private companies. ZsM
 ROMANIAN ULTRANATIONALIST REFUSES TO PAY DAMAGES IN LIBEL SUITS...Ultranationalist leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said in Bucharest on 23 February that he will not pay damages from two libel cases against him because the courts are "manipulated" by the government, AP reported. Tudor, who finished second in the December presidential elections, accused Prime Minister Nastase of interfering in Romania's justice system. Tudor often writes scandalous articles about Nastase and other government officials in his xenophobic weekly "Greater Romania." He has been ordered to pay 400 million lei ($14,000) to journalist Rodica Chelaru, whom Tudor said had sex with a presidential spokesman, and 90 million lei to Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu, whom Tudor branded a Securitate collaborator. If he doesn't pay the fines, Tudor's personal assets could be seized. PB
 ...ACCUSES NASTASE OF SECURITATE COLLABORATIONTudor, who also heads the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), on 23 February accused Prime Minister Nastase of having collaborated with the Securitate, Romanian media reported. Admitting he has no evidence to support these allegations, he said confirmation may come from a former Securitate officer who is now a Romanian diplomat. Nastase replied saying that the National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives had already checked his and all government members' Securitate files. Tudor alleged that Nastase's file may have been destroyed during the Ceausescu regime. ZsM
 ROMANIAN POLICE MAKE ARRESTS, SACK OFFICIALS IN EFFORT TO HALT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATIONRomanian border police said they detained 27 people on 24 February for alleged involvement in the smuggling of illegal aliens through the country en route to Western Europe, AFP reported. Those arrested seem to be both people involved in the smuggling and illegal aliens themselves. Fifteen Moldovans and two Romanians were stopped while trying to cross illegally from the southwest Timis region into Serbia. In other news, Romanian border chief General Aurel Neagu sacked six senior officers and 15 subordinates for incompetence, AFP reported on 23 February. Neagu said several of the officials had turned border posts into "little businesses." PB
 ROMANIAN COMMUNISTS PROTEST AIR RAIDS ON IRAQOn 24 February some 150 persons participated in a "solidarity meeting with the Iraqi people" in central Bucharest to protest the recent U.S. and British air bombardments of Iraq, Mediafax reported. Some 20 Iraqis resident in Romania participated in the protest, organized by the extraparliamentary Romanian Workers' Party (PMR), which considers itself the successor organization to the former Romanian Communist Party. PMR chairman Ion Cristian Niculae said the bombings were "criminal actions" that proved "state-sponsored terrorism [on the part] of the U.S. and Britain." ZsM
 MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS WIN ABSOLUTE MAJORITYThe Moldovan Communist Party (MCP) received just over 50 percent of the votes in the elections held 25 February and will have a substantial majority in parliament, Infotag and RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Dumitru Nidelcu told a news conference early on 26 February that, with returns from 100 percent of the polling stations counted, the Communist Party received 50.2 percent of the votes, the Braghis Alliance (headed by Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis) 13.45 percent, and the right-wing Christian Democratic People's Party (formerly Popular Front) 8.18 percent. Voter turnout was unexpectedly high, at 69 percent. Two prominent political parties failed to clear the 6 percent barrier for representation in parliament: the Party of Revival and Accord, led by former President Mircea Snegur, polled 5.69 percent, and the Democratic Party led by outgoing speaker Dumitru Diakov and former Premier Ion Sturza 4.92 percent. DW/ZsM
 ...SAY THEY WILL NOT 'MONOPOLIZE' POWER...Despite winning a clear majority in the 25 February parliamentary elections, Moldovan Communist Party (MCP) leader Vladimir Voronin told Infotag that "We are not going to monopolize power in the country," and that his party will form a "government of technocrats manned on the principle of professionalism, not party affiliation." With 70 or 71 seats in the 101- seat parliament, the MCP will have a large enough majority not only to elect the president, but also to make changes to the constitution. Voronin said his party will not seek to change the political system. The parliamentary republic is "a European model which we are striving for. This is a democratic variant. We reject as unfit the Central Asiatic models of the personality cult being developed in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and some other countries," said Voronin. DW
 ...WANT MOLDOVA TO JOIN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNIONVoronin also said that the Communists will do their best to keep their electoral promise to declare Russian a second state language and to join the Russian-Belarus Union. Moldova is the first CIS country where Communists have returned to power after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ZsM
 GAZPROM TO STOP GAS SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA?Moldovan Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis announced on 24 February that from 1 March Russia's Gazprom might halt gas supplies to Moldova, should the country fail to pay its debts for gas delivered in January, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Moldova has paid less than half of its debt for the gas delivered since the beginning of the year. The government applies tough measures on debtors: more than 450 companies and 22,000 apartments have already had their gas supplies cut off for not paying their debts. ZsM
 BULGARIA ANTICIPATES FOREIGN INVESTMENTBulgaria's Foreign Investment Agency said on 25 February that it expects the country to receive some $1.36 billion in foreign investment in 2001, BTA reported. The president of the agency, Georgi Tabakov, said in an interview on national radio that the results of the parliamentary elections will probably have little impact on the level of foreign investment. Among some positive economic indicators from last year, Tabakov said exports rose 24 percent over 1999, and that revenues from tourism increased by 20 percent. PB
[C] END NOTE
 RESPONSIBILITY AND DEMOCRACYBy Patrick Moore
That the West bears much of the responsibility for the tensions in Kosova is the theme of an article by Matthias Rueb in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 20 February. Rueb says that the West failed over the course of a decade to give the peaceful democrats in Ibrahim Rugova's shadow state any serious hope for success, so that in the end the fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) were able to take the political center stage. The journalist argues that violence is likely to carry the day again unless the Kosovars and Albanians of Presevo gain a clear perspective for their respective political futures.
Rueb, who recently debunked an attempt by some German journalists to misrepresent the history of the Recak massacre in Kosova, dismantles two more myths in his latest article . First, he points out that the bogey of a greater Albania is a fiction. No mainstream party in Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Presevo, or Montenegro advocates a greater Albania as a serious political goal for the foreseeable future. Rueb might have added that Belgrade's propagandists under the Milosevic regime and under the current leadership have carefully cultivated the myth of an aggressive greater Albania for their own purposes. Their efforts have not been without success in some Western journalistic and policy-making circles.
The second myth that Rueb deals with is the idea that an independent Kosova will lead to political instability. Instead, he argues that it is precisely the lack of a clear political perspective that has led Kosova to instability in recent years. He notes that virtually all of the province's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority wants independence and an end to a common statehood with Serbia. That goal, he argues, is what the West should now act upon.
The article raises serious questions of responsibility for the current tensions in Kosova and Presevo. Rueb argues that the West can remove much of the discontent upon which advocates of violence feed by showing that peaceful policies by democratic Albanian politicians can bring concrete dividends. This means independence, which is what the majority in Kosova has said at the ballot box that it wants. If the West delays or tries to force the Kosovars into a relationship with Belgrade that they plainly do not want, then the successors to the UCK will be the ones to profit. Once again, the perception in Kosova will be that the West has turned a deaf ear to the Rugovas, and that only the guerrillas can get the foreigners' attention, Rueb concludes.
He might have added that Russia, which enjoys a powerful attraction for many Serbs, has a constructive role to play in defusing tensions. Its reversion in the Putin era to an almost Soviet-type blustering over Western policies in the Balkans has not necessarily been helpful to those who want an end to the violence.
As to the Serbs' role, time and the progress of the Presevo talks will show whether the Covic plan is a serious first step toward reversing dangerous trends and breaking with the Milosevic era's policies toward ethnic minorities, or whether the plan is a propaganda ploy aimed at enlisting foreign support for the Serbian nationalist agenda in Kosova. (Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's foreign policy advisor wrote two articles in "NIN" in December, in which he argued that Serbia should cleverly cultivate the support of foreigners for a "return to Kosovo.")
The Macedonian leadership also has a special responsibility in steering the region toward a peaceful, democratic future, as many observers have long pointed out. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski will need to tread carefully, since ethnic tensions in his republic are rarely far beneath the surface. Macedonia has a 23 percent Albanian population, one of whose two main political parties, the Democratic Party of the Albanians, is represented in the government. (The other large party, the Party of Democratic Prosperity, was in the previous government.) If Georgievski alienates the Albanians as a group, he risks -- at a minimum -- destroying the foundations of his own coalition. His recent remarks in Belgrade about cooperating with Serbia against "extremism" may have been designed to assuage ethnic Macedonian fears about the spread of violence to their republic, but such statements could have a less than reassuring effect on the Albanians.
In any event, it should be noted that the Albanians and their parties are clearly integrated into the republic's political life. The political alienation or even serious indigenous violence found in Milosevic's Kosova are thus unlikely to appear there --as long as democratic rules continue to operate. Given the fact that there is no great mutual trust between the Macedonian and Albanian communities as a whole, the successful integration of the Albanians into the republic's political life is doubly striking. It serves as testimony to the role of democracy in managing interethnic relations.
This calls attention to the responsibility of the region's Albanians in promoting a peaceful future for the area. If the West ignores the views of democratically elected Albanians or tries to strong-arm them into a political relationship with Serbia that the voters do not want, it will again be the West that bears heavy responsibility if the Kosovars resort to violence as a last resort.
But in the meantime, the traditional and clannish Albanian societies of the region have a responsibility to keep their own violent elements under control. These are conservative communities in which everyone knows everyone else and everyone else's business. To say that the community does not know or cannot control them is no more credible than when some residents of similarly provincial East German villages and towns claim that they have no knowledge of or social control over gangs of young neo-Nazi hooligans in their midst. There is no excuse for political violence in today's Europe when democratic channels are open to all who care to use them.
Finally, it might be noted that all political forces both inside and outside the Balkans have a responsibility for helping move the agenda away from 19th-century nationalist issues toward 21st-century questions of economic and social progress, and of European integration. It is worth recalling that Milosevic was able to rise to power, destroy former Yugoslavia, start and lose four wars, and create the political environment in which countless other demagogues thrived -- only after more than a decade of economic downturn.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty