|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 221, 01-11-21
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 221, 21 November 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 WORLD BANK DELAYS RELEASE OF LOAN TRANCHE TO ARMENIAAn IMF representative in Yerevan said on 19 November that disbursement of the third tranche of a World Bank SAC-4 credit, worth $15 million, will be suspended due to Armenia's failure to meet its tax collection target for October, according to Armenian National Television as cited by Groong. The tranche will be made available if the November tax target is met. Arminfo on 8 November quoted Armenian Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Pavel Safarian as saying that the IMF insists that 53 billion drams ($93.9 million) in taxes must be collected during the fourth quarter of 2001; in October, Safarian said, only 15.3 billion drams was collected. LF
 ARMENIAN STUDENTS DEMAND REDUCTION IN TUITION FEESSome 200 students at state-run universities staged a demonstration outside the government building in Yerevan on 20 November to demand that tuition fees, which average $600-$700, be reduced by 20 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Student representatives met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's chief of staff, Andranik Hakobian, but no agreement was reached. LF
 GREEK DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJANDuring a visit to Baku on 19-20 November, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Magriotis met with President Heidar Aliev, Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov, and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev, Turan reported. Magriotis told journalists at the end of his visit that issues discussed included the Karabakh conflict and the possibility of transporting Azerbaijani oil to Europe via the planned Burgas- Alexandropoulis pipeline. Magriotis also stressed that Greek bilateral cooperation with Armenia and trilateral cooperation with Armenia and Iran is not directed against Azerbaijan. LF
 CONGRESS OF AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY BACKS PRESIDENT'S SON TO SUCCEED HIMThe second congress of the Yeni Azerbaycan Party, which controls the Azerbaijani parliament, opened in Baku on 21 November, Turan reported. A proposal that President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham -- who was elected two years ago as one of the party's five deputy chairmen -- be elevated to the rank of senior deputy chairman was met with a standing ovation and calls of "Long Live Ilham Aliev -- Azerbaijan's Future!" and "Long Live Ilham Aliev - - The Only Successor to Heidar Aliev!" Ilham Aliev responded by affirming that "we will always be in power. Azerbaijan's future is connected with the YAP, Heidar Aliev and his policies." Addressing the congress, YAP Executive Secretary Ali Akhmedov branded opposition party leaders Isa Gambar (Musavat Party), Etibar Mamedov (Azerbaijan National Independence Party), Ilyas Ismailov (Adalet Party), Rasul Guliev (Azerbaijan Democratic Party), and Ali Kerimov ( Azerbaijan Popular Front Party progressive wing) as leading "destructive forces." LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROPOSED CUT IN NUMBER OF MINISTRIESParliament deputies rejected on 20 November by a vote of 119 against and only 11 in favor President Eduard Shevardnadze's proposal to reduce the number of government ministries from 18 to 15, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). They reasoned that as Shevardnadze plans to implement further changes reintroducing the post of prime minister, it would be more appropriate to leave the number of ministries unchanged and expedite debate of the latter issue, according to Interfax. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES CANDIDATE FOR PROSECUTOR-GENERAL, THEN HAS SECOND THOUGHTSPresident Shevardnadze submitted on 19 November for the parliament's approval the candidacy of Nugzar Gabrichaidze as the new prosecutor-general, Caucasus Press reported. But within hours Shevardnadze telephoned parliament speaker Nino Burdjanaadze to ask her to suspend consideration of Gabrichaidze's candidacy. He did not, however, propose an alternative candidate. Gabrichaidze is a trained lawyer who served for years as Tbilisi city prosecutor. From 1997-2000 he was deputy prosecutor-general, and most recently held a senior post within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. LF
 NGO ACCUSES FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER OF TRYING TO BRIBE VOTERSThe NGO "Fair Elections" has accused former Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze of distributing cheap gifts to voters in the run-up to the 21 October by-election in the western Georgian raion of Baghdadi which he won with over 80 percent of the vote, Caucasus Press reported on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). The NGO has brought legal proceedings against Lortkipanidze, demanding that he not be permitted to register as a candidate for the next parliamentary ballot. LF
 BRIDGE BLOWN UP, MONKS ABDUCTED IN PANKISI GORGEA motor bridge leading to a hydroelectric power station under construction by Chinese engineers in the Pankisi gorge was blown up early on 20 November, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 20 November, a representative of the Georgian Patriarchate told journalists that a $1 million ransom has been demanded for the release of two hermit monks and two novices abducted in Pankisi the previous day. LF
 KAZAKH PREMIER CLAIMS PLOTS UNCOVERED TO KILL PRESIDENT...In an official statement released on 20 November, Qasymzhomart Toqaev claimed that at least two plots by unknown groups to assassinate President Nursultan Nazarbaev have been thwarted in the past two months, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He also called on Nazarbaev to dismiss those officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Djandosov, Labor and Social Protection Minister Alikhan Baimenov, Deputy Defense Minister Zhannat Ertlesova, and Pavlodar Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, who on 18 November announced the creation of a new opposition party named Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001). Toqaev branded them "unprofessional" and "intriguers," and accused them of trying to blackmail the leadership in a bid to force the dismissal of persons whom they dislike, according to Interfax. He threatened to resign if Nazarbaev does not act on his request. Observers suggest that Toqaev, described by one of his predecessors as a pleasant individual but not an influential politician in his own right, may have issued that ultimatum at Nazarbaev's bidding to provide the president with a pretext to move against the founders of Democratic Choice. LF
 ...AS PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CALLS FOR TOTAL RENEWAL OF LEADERSHIP...In an open letter addressed to President Nazarbaev and made public at a session on 20 November of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of parliament), deputy Serik Abdrakhmanov appealed to the president to renew the country's entire leadership, from the presidential apparatus to the government and the governors of the country's 14 oblasts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Abdrakhmanov condemned the founders of Democratic Choice, claiming they nurture "destructive political goals." LF
 ...PROMPTING TARGETED OFFICIALS TO OFFER TO RESIGNDjandosov, Baimenov, First Deputy Finance Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, and Ertlesova all offered on 21 November to resign, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Djandosov told journalists in Astana that they have informed Nazarbaev that they consider it impossible to continue working under Toqaev following his statement of 20 November. Nazarbaev subsequently sacked Djandosov and Ertlesova, Reuters reported. LF
 LOWER CHAMBER PASSES KYRGYZ BUDGET FOR 2002The Legislative Assembly approved the 2002 draft budget on 20 November, one day after the upper chamber did so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001), RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Some deputies complained, however, that the draft allocates 152.6 million soms (about $3 million) for the presidential and government administration but only 70 million soms for the Legislative Assembly. LF
 UPPER CHAMBER ENDORSES PREMIER'S ANNUAL REPORTPrime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev presented to the People's Assembly on 20 November his annual report on the work of the government, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Bakiev said that GDP grew year-on-year during the first nine months of 2001 by 6.7 percent, and wages increased by 25 percent. The average monthly wage is now 1,338 soms (about $28). He said that the bloated government apparatus has been slimmed down, with 1,257 jobs cut or 8.4 percent of the total, according to Interfax. (As of 1 January 2001, one in four members of the work force were employed in the civil service.) Bakiev admitted, however, that not enough is being done to counter corruption and economic crime, which he claimed pose a threat to national security. LF
 IMF TO WRITE OFF PART OF KYRGYZSTAN'S DEBTSBakiev also told parliament on 20 November that the IMF has agreed to write off or reschedule an unspecified part of Kyrgyzstan's foreign debt, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Bakiev said the country's total foreign debt currently amounts to $1.429 billion. LF
 TAJIK MILITARY CONFIRMS REPORTS OF NAMANGANI'S DEATHInterfax quoted unnamed Tajik military sources on 20 November as confirming claims by General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance that Djuma Namangani, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has been killed while fighting in the Taliban ranks. Those sources said Namangani was killed on 18 November during an exchange of fire in Kondoz, northern Afghanistan. LF
 U.S. SENATORS, MILITARY COMMANDER VISIT UZBEKISTANU.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin (Democrat) and Senator John Warner (Republican), met in Tashkent on 20 November with President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov to discuss what Levin termed "an increased military role" for the U.S. in Uzbekistan, AP reported. Levin said that role will not entail the deployment of more U.S. troops. The two senators also discussed increasing U.S. aid to Uzbekistan and the time frame for opening Uzbekistan's border bridge across the Amu-Darya River at Termez to allow relief aid into northern Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has repeatedly delayed opening the bridge for what it terms security reasons. Reuters reported on 16 November that the U.S. may give Uzbekistan up to $100 million in humanitarian and military aid in return for its cooperation in facilitating the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. The supreme commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, arrived in Tashkent on 19 November to inspect the Khanabad military base where some 1,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed, Reuters reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN COALITION GOVERNMENT TO SPLIT UPIn a widely expected move, the Social Democrats (SDSM) have decided to leave the government, Reuters reported from Skopje on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). The move will be formally announced by party chairman Branko Crvenkovski on 23 November. The SDSM's departure will enable it to disassociate itself from the activities of and decisions by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, of whom it disapproves. The Social Democrats are anxious to establish a clear profile in the run-up to the January 2002 elections. Polls show them ahead of Georgievski's nationalists, but the balance of power lies with voters who have not yet made up their minds. Observers note, however, that the SDSM's departure from the cabinet would strengthen the hand of hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. His main rival, Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, is a Social Democrat. PM
 DEL PONTE TO INVESTIGATE ATROCITIES IN MACEDONIAIn the Tetovo area, the government plans to exhume a supposed mass grave on 21 November, RFE/RL'S South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). The previous day, President Boris Trajkovski told visiting Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte not to forget that "terrorists and criminal bands have attacked Macedonia" in recent months. But Del Ponte is determined to investigate all claims by both sides, not just those of the government, Reuters reported. Albanians charge that Interior Ministry forces were involved in an atrocity against civilians at Ljuboten in August. Georgievski's office objected to her decision to investigate Ljuboten, saying in a statement on 20 November: "The prime minister [feels] that the opening of the investigation (against the Macedonian side) has political connotations and that starting investigations into only two cases [equates] the victims with the killers." PM
 NEW MACEDONIAN UNIVERSITY OPENEDA Western-sponsored university was formally launched in Tetovo on 20 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It will offer a curriculum that meets European standards with instruction in Albanian, Macedonian, and English. The plan was conceived by OSCE envoy Max van der Stoel to provide Albanians with an opportunity to take university courses in Macedonia in their mother tongue. There are strict safeguards to address Macedonian fears that the university could turn into a diploma mill for unemployable nationalists, as many feel was the case with Prishtina University in the 1970s. PM
 SMALL BOMB GOES OFF AT EU OFFICES IN MACEDONIAUnknown persons threw a bomb at the offices of the EU in Tetovo late on 20 November, doing little damage and injuring no one, Reuters reported. It was the second bombing in Tetovo within one week. A shadowy Albanian extremist group claimed credit for the first incident, but many observers doubt that the Albanian National Army (AKSH) is large or truly organized. The parliament recently passed a package of constitutional changes that satisfy the demands of mainstream Albanian political parties and organizations (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 November 2001). PM
 BELGRADE LEADERSHIP DIVIDED OVER CHANGES IN KOSOVA BODY...President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 20 November that he is opposed to a consolidation of Belgrade's oversight bodies for Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). Kostunica added that Kosova has so many problems that there is easily enough work for two bodies to do without duplicating each other's efforts. Observers note that the consolidation of the Federal Committee into the Coordinating Center as proposed by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic is seen as a move against those who favored a boycott of the recent elections in Kosova. PM
 ...WHILE KOSTUNICA'S RIVALS STAND THEIR GROUNDIn a reply to Kostunica on 20 November, Covic said that there is no justification for supporting those whose boycott led to Serbian candidates receiving fewer votes than they otherwise would have received, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001). Elsewhere, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that a representative of Kostunica was present at the meeting of the governing coalition at which the vote was taken to back Covic's proposal, and that Kostunica's representative did not oppose the move. Meanwhile, the Coordinating Center censured two of its members -- Momcilo Trajkovic and Marko Jaksic -- for supporting the boycott. The two men denied having done so. PM
 INVALID SERBIAN BALLOTS FOR KOSOVAMarko Blagojevic, who is a spokesman for a Serbian NGO that helped monitor the casting of ballots by Kosova Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro, said that he has seen "hundreds" of ballots that voters deliberately made invalid. They did so by writing anti-Albanian slogans or Serbian nationalist symbols on the papers, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 20 November from Belgrade. PM
 YUGOSLAVIA TO CRACK DOWN ON HOOLIGANISMThe authorities have prepared a draft law aimed at curbing rowdy behavior by soccer fans, AP reported from Belgrade on 20 November. The legislation appears likely to take effect before the start of 2002. Chanting abusive slogans can bring a six-month prison sentence, while leaders of mobs that invade soccer fields can get up to five years. Throwing firecrackers onto the field or attacking a referee can bring up to a year in jail. Riots and rowdy behavior at soccer matches by spectators, or by organized soccer fans elsewhere, has become a serious problem in Serbia recently (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 July 2001). PM
 MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SUES CROATIAN WEEKLY FOR LIBELPresident Milo Djukanovic has formally filed a $100,000 libel suit against the Croatian weekly "Nacional," which linked him to a cigarette-smuggling racket in articles earlier this year, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 20 November. The affair has figured prominently in the Montenegrin media for months. PM
 UNHCR CALLS ON BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIES TO CATCH KILLERSA UNHCR spokeswoman told reporters in Sarajevo on 20 November that an elderly Bosnian Muslim was killed with an axe in Pale on 16 November, Reuters reported. This was the second murder in four months of a Muslim who had returned to his or her home in the Republika Srpska. Bosnian Serb police recently arrested a man in conjunction with the killing of a Muslim girl in July, but no one has been caught in the latest case. The UNHCR appealed to the Bosnian Serb authorities to do more to catch and punish the killers. PM
 INDICTED BOSNIAN CROAT GOES TO THE HAGUEFormer Bosnian Croat police official Pasko Ljubicic voluntarily left Zagreb for Amsterdam on 21 November, AP reported. Ljubicic, who surrendered to police earlier in November, is bound for The Hague, where he has been indicted in conjunction with atrocities against Muslims in the Lasva Valley in 1992 and 1993 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2001). He is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of violations of the laws or customs of war in the murder of more than 100 civilians in the central Bosnian village of Ahmici. Ljubicic has said that he is innocent and wants to clear his name. Documents found in the archives of the late President Franjo Tudjman suggest that Tudjman may have helped Croats involved in the Ahmici killings to obtain new identities. Croatian media have speculated that information could emerge in Ljubicic's trial to exonerate his former superior, General Tihomir Blaskic, of responsibility for Ahmici. The tribunal sentenced Blaskic in 2000 to 45 years in prison for war crimes. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT THRILLED ABOUT VEDRINE PROPOSALPresidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu said on 20 November that President Ion Iliescu is "delighted" about French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine's proposal earlier this week that all EU candidate countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, be admitted to the organization, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. If the proposal is accepted, she said, Romania is ready to discuss with the EU a "special program for closing the gap [to the advanced candidates] and to mobilize all its internal resources in order to finalize negotiations by 2004, rather than 2007." Returning from Brussels, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana reacted "temperately," according to Romanian radio, saying that the proposal is a "reconfirmation of France's traditional interest in Romania and southeastern Europe" but that ultimately "the negotiations' calendar depends on Romania's own capability to make progress." MS
 ROMANIA OFFERS FIVE BATTALIONS TO EU RAPID REACTION FORCEDefense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu offered in Brussels on 20 November five Romanian infantry battalions to participate in the envisaged European Rapid Reaction force (see Czech item above). Pascu told Romanian radio on his return that Romania is also offering "naval forces" and that the offer also includes "an air force element," but specified neither how many soldiers would be involved nor what the naval and air force offer consists of. MS
 PRESIDENT BACKS ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF OVER TRANSYLVANIAN ALLEGATIONSPresidential spokeswoman Cretu told journalists on 20 November that President Iliescu believes the recent warning by Romanian Intelligence Service Director Radu Timofte on the danger of "vanishing state authority" in the Harghita and Covasna counties" is "partly accurate" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2001). Cretu said Timofte's warning had referred to "the dominance of the ethnic criteria" in the implementation of the law in the two largely Magyar-inhabited counties, adding that the president emphasizes that the law must be implemented "unitarily" everywhere. Hungarian minority leaders have criticized Timofte's allegations. MS
 EXTREMIST ROMANIAN DEPUTY'S IMMUNITY DEFENDED BY UNEXPECTED PEERSThe Chamber of Deputies' Judicial Commission on 20 November recommended that the plenum reject the demand of Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu to lift the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romania Party (PRM) deputy Danut Saulea, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The decision will be made by the chamber's plenum. Romanian television said that the "negative recommendation" was due to the fact that not all deputies representing the ruling Social Democratic Party, to which Stanoiu belongs, had backed her request. Like PRM leader Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Saulea is accused of having "disseminated false information" in alleging that Palestinian Hamas terrorists have been trained in Romania. MS
 VORONIN HAILS CIS, RULES OUT NATO MEMBERSHIPVisiting Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said in Moscow on 20 November that 10 years after its establishment, the CIS has proved its necessity. He added that he expects the results of the past decade will make it possible to map "future plans for integration" at the organization's Moscow summit set for 30 November. Voronin was less enthusiastic about GUUAM (the organization consists of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), saying that membership in it "does not promise much for Moldova." Voronin said Moldova has no intention of joining NATO because it "does not plan to intimidate anyone," and added that NATO must be modernized, because "its goals have changed since the times of the USSR." Voronin met on 20 November with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who said the Moscow mayoralty intends to invest in Moldovan wineries and in the planned Giurgiulesti oil terminal. MS
 TIRASPOL CHANGES TONE ON RUSSIAN-MOLDOVAN BASIC TREATYValerii Litskay, the separatist Transdniester "foreign minister," said on 20 November that Tiraspol "salutes" the signing the previous day in Moscow of the basic treaty between Russia and Moldova and believes Russia's growing influence in the region will be beneficial for the negotiation process with Chisinau, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said the treaty includes several important demands made by Tiraspol, since it mentions Russia's role as a guarantor of the peace process and the fact that the conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol is "an international one." Litskay also said the mention in the treaty of Russian as a "communication language" in Moldova should be viewed as "positive." He said Tiraspol has participated in different stages of the treaty's negotiations and this is why a separatist representative was present at the signing ceremony. But he deplored the failure of the treaty to mention the need for opening a Russian consulate in Tiraspol. MS
 MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN CHINAPrime Minister Vasile Tarlev, on a five-day visit to China, met on 20 November with Premier Zhu Rongji. They signed agreements on cooperation between their justice ministries and in wine-growing and wine-making, ITAR- TASS reported. The two premiers also discussed cooperation in aviation, medicine, industry, and agriculture. MS
 BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HAILS FRENCH PROPOSAL ON EU ENLARGEMENT...Solomon Pasi said in Brussels on 20 November that the proposal made one day earlier by French Foreign Minister Vedrine is "visionary," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Vedrine proposed that the EU should consider admitting all 12 (10 in Eastern Europe plus Malta and Cyprus) candidate countries. Pasi said that Jean Monet, the post-war French foreign minister credited with launching the process of European integration, "made a similarly visionary statement half a century ago." He said Monet was not conditioning the creation of a united Europe on any "Madrid or Copenhagen criteria," which are now the criteria guiding the EU's enlargement. Pasi also said the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S. will accelerate EU and NATO expansion. Deputy Belgian Foreign Minister Annemie Neyts -- representing the current EU presidency -- said in response that Bulgaria and Romania are not yet ready for joining the EU and that "premature" accession can damage the countries' development. MS
 ...MAKES OFFER TO U.K. FOR TRANSITING AND OVERFLYING BULGARIAPasi and Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov met in Brussels with British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon, telling him Bulgaria is willing to offer British troops the same rights as those recently stipulated in an accord with the U.S., BTA reported. These rights involve overflights, transit passage, and the temporary stationing of troops on Bulgarian territory. Hoon expressed "an interest in principle" in the offer and said the issue will soon be discussed in bilateral talks. MS
 HEADS START ROLLING IN BULGARIA'S SDSUnion of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova said at the SDS National Executive Board meeting on 20 November that she demands the resignation of SDS Sofia branch head Evgeni Bakardzhiev, BTA reported. Bakardzhiev called on the SDS leadership to resign immediately upon learning the results of the 18 November presidential runoff. Mihailova accused him of attempting to "destabilize the party." Bulgarian media reported that Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyansky, who already announced he is quitting the SDS to establish a new party, intends to call his formation the Association of Free Democrats. MS
[C] END NOTE
 PRIDE AND DIGNITYBy Patrick Moore
Yugoslavia's "constitutionalist" president has publicly endorsed a mutiny by an elite paramilitary police unit that was close to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. At issue is something much more serious than a possible momentary lapse of judgment by one top official.
Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 15 November that the members of the elite paramilitary police, known as the Red Berets, have "understandable" and "legitimate" demands in their protest against the government's policy of cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Kostunica agrees with the police that cooperation first requires a special law, which the authorities have not enacted during their year in office.
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic argues that no domestic legislation regarding The Hague is necessary, since the tribunal has a UN mandate, which takes precedence over Serbian or Yugoslav law. But Kostunica stressed that "a law is necessary not only for the preservation of our state's sovereignty, but also our stability." He added that it is necessary to "address the cause of the protest, not its symptoms."
The Red Berets issued a statement in Kula on 15 November in which they said they are proud of the way they "defended the Serbian people in [the recent] wars" and denied "rumors" that they oppose cooperation with The Hague in order to avoid the extradition of many of their own members. The Red Berets served in Milosevic's wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosova, where some of them have been linked to atrocities. They also reject a recent decision by Djindjic to transfer them from the security forces to the civilian police. (The matter was settled on 17 November by making the Red Berets an "antiterror" unit subordinated directly to the interior minister.)
It is not clear why the president, who prides himself as a champion of the rule of law, should be sympathetic to illegal actions by an elite formation that was a pillar of the Milosevic regime. But as some critics have suggested, some laws seem more important to Kostunica than others. He has reluctantly acknowledged -- in principle -- the legal obligation to cooperate with the tribunal, but has done nothing in practice to bring this about. He still regards the court as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy and has sought to score political points at Djindjic's expense by challenging Djindjic's policy toward The Hague.
At the root of the problem is that, after starting and losing four often grisly Balkan wars in the past decade, Serbia has yet to undergo the kind of soul-searching that Germans underwent in the years and decades after World War II. Some Serbian writers have referred to this as a need for Serbia's own "de-Nazification," or need to break with a nationalism given to narcissism and self-pity.
Until that break is made, one is likely to see again scenes in which a "constitutionalist" or "reformist" leader defends the rights of paramilitaries from the old regime to flaunt the law. And one will hear him and the uniformed lawbreakers using words like "pride" and "dignity" to defend their actions.
Of course, Serbia's "de-Nazification," like that of Germany, will be a long drawn out process -- once it begins. Until a break is made with traditional nationalism, Serbia will retain a potential for producing aggressive and expansionist leaders and legions of a kind unimaginable in Germany today. And just as a modern, progressive Germany was a precondition for lasting peace and stability in post-1945 Europe as a whole, a similarly reformed Serbia is a prerequisite for development and security in the Balkans.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty