Balkan Crisis Report No. 363
- WELCOME TO IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, No. 363, August 30, 2002
MACEDONIA: AHMETI ARREST THREAT. The nationalist government has angered
the West by threatening to detain an ethnic Albanian leader. IWPR team
reports from Skopje and London.
SERBIA: SOLANA TO PUSH FOR UNION DEAL. Election fever holds up progress
on linking Serbia with Montenegro. Daniel Sunter reports from Belgrade
and Boris Darmanovic reports from Podgorica.
ALBANIA: JOBLESS FLOCK TO RIVERIA. The country's fledgling tourist
industry is being bolstered by the influx of impoverished northerners.
Denisa Xhoga reports from Vlore.
COMMENT: 500 DAYS OF DJINDJIC. Allegations of corruption and
mismanagement have obscured some very real progress by the post-Milosevic
administration. Biljana Stepanovic reports from Belgrade.
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MACEDONIA: AHMETI ARREST THREAT
The nationalist government has angered the West by threatening to detain
an ethnic Albanian leader.
By IWPR team in Skopje and London
Macedonia Friday risked confrontation with the West after the government
confirmed it had issued an arrest warrant for a prominent ethnic Albanian
opposition figure, in defiance of last year's Ohrid peace deal.
NATO's ambassador to Macedonia, Nicholaas Biegman, said any move to
apprehend Ali Ahmeti, a former rebel leader now heading one of the
country's biggest political parties, contradicted the terms of the deal,
which included an amnesty for former fighters.
After last year's Ohrid agreement curbed secessionist violence in western
Macedonia, Ahmeti became the leader of Democratic Union of Integration
DUI, now the largest opposition party, alongside the Social Democratic
Alliance of Macedonia, SDSM. The DUI espouses a moderate programme that
supports the unity of Macedonia.
In spite of his moderation, Macedonian protesters have been calling for
his arrest since the recent killing of two ethnic Macedonian policemen.
The arrests threaten to unravel the West's painstakingly assembled peace
strategy that centered on drawing Albanian militants into the political
If the government, comprising the nationalist Internal Macedonian
Revolutionary Organisation - Democratic Party for Macedonian National
Unity, VMRO-DPMNE, the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of
Albanians, DPA and Party for Democratic Prosperity, PDP, does seize
Ahmeti, it will almost certainly trigger a new revolt in the mostly
Albanian west of the republic.
Some analysts believe VMRO and its partners are counting on a return to
violence, and the subsequent cancellation of the election, as part of
their strategy for retaining power.
As tension threatened to spiral out of control on Friday, heavily armed
police sealed off an ethnic Albanian village where five Macedonians
kidnapped by Albanian gunmen are apparently being held.
Police said the gunmen stopped a bus on the Gostivar highway in western
Macedonia and seized several Macedonian civilians, threatening to kill
them if Albanians arrested for the murder of the two Macedonian policemen
were not freed. The kidnappers said they would kill their five hostages
by a Friday morning deadline, a police source in Tetovo said.
Large numbers of police with a dozen armoured personnel carriers were seen
outside the village of Zerovjane, halfway between Tetovo and Gostivar.
The two policemen were killed on August 26 in Gostivar. Danail Jankovski,
47, and Aleksandar Nikolic, 39, died when drivers of a car with foreign
license plates fired at the checkpoint where they were on duty, leaving
the scene at great speed.
The militant Albanian National Army, ANA, said it was responsible for the
killing. Although the group is in conflict with Ahmeti, protesters began
demanding the latter's arrest.
Within 12 hours of the Gostivar killings, Macedonians from the suburbs
were blocking roads into the city, building barricades of cars, and buses.
At a rally that followed, protesters carried placards bearing the
messages, "Stop Ahmeti and his murderers", and "Ahmeti, we'll catch you".
The public prosecutor, Stavre Dzikov, and controversial hard line interior
minister, Ljupce Boskovski, have backed the arrest calls.
The aim of the protesters was to prevent the DUI leader from reaching
Skopje and addressing a pre-election rally scheduled for Saturday.
The headquarters of two Albanian political parties in Skopje were attacked
on Thursday and the headquarters of the People's Democratic Party, NDP,
led by Kastriot Haxhirexha, was set on fire. A bomb went off in front of
Ahmeti's house in Skopje and a Molotov cocktail was also thrown at it.
There were no injuries.
Ahmeti's party described the assaults as pressure organised by the
authorities. In a letter to the international community, the party
spokesman, Agron Buxhaku, said "certain circles" in the government were
trying to "organise sabotage, media blockades and arrests of party
The NDP complained that police did not even investigate the arson attack
on their headquarters. They said the fire was organised by the ruling
parties who were jealous of their popularity.
However, the police suggested the blaze was the work of other ethnic
Albanians. The interior ministry blamed terrorist groups trying to
destabilise the country two weeks before the election.
Dzikov, a VMRO member, backed the call for Ahmeti's arrest, saying if
charges were brought against any citizen "they should be arrested so that
law and order will be respected". Dzikov claimed the
internationally-brokered amnesty for rebel fighters did not apply to
anyone charged with terrorism.
Leaders of the four biggest Albanian parties on Friday, including the DUI
and rulling DPA, strongly condemned the kidnapping of Macedonian civilians
near Gostivar and the recent increase in violence.
VMRO and its Liberal Democratic Party partners have used the crisis to
demand that the opposition Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia sign an
agreement, politically isolating Ahmeti. They want all Macedonian parties
to promise not to form a coalition with the DUI after the election. "This
is not pre-election marketing, but a serious proposal for protecting the
national interests," the VMRO said.
Some of the smaller parties are deeply sceptical of the motives for such
an agreement, suggesting the killing of the two policeman was organised by
government agents to increase tension.
Incidents resulting in injuries have, however, become an almost daily part
of Macedonia's pre-election life. On 15 August, two soldiers were lightly
wounded in an attack on a barracks in Skopje. The attackers fired from
automatic guns and threw a bomb at the troops. On the same day, an ethnic
Albanian from the village of Aracinovo wounded a member of Ahmeti's party
in a fight.
On 16 August, a car full of weapons exploded on the Skopje-Blace road. On
the same day, a bomb destroyed a pastry shop in the Kumanovo region, while
in a separate incident the police said one of its checkpoints was attacked
near the village of Opae.
Various gangs on the Tetovo-Gostivar highway have been erecting placing
blockades and robbing drivers.
The pre-election violence has raised concern for the future of the peace
agreement in international circles. They fear the killing of the
policemen, the attacks on the offices of Albanian parties and the road
blockades herald a potentially dangerous escalation of tension.
SERBIA: SOLANA TO PUSH FOR UNION DEAL
Election fever holds up progress on linking Serbia with Montenegro.
By Daniel Sunter in Belgrade and Boris Darmanovic in Podgorica
Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security policy chief, is due in
Belgrade next week to wring agreement from squabbling politicians on a new
union between Serbia and Montenegro and pave the way for admission of
Yugoslavia into the Council of Europe, CoE.
In some quarters, his chances of success are rated high, despite
politicians in both countries who were until now less concerned with
reaching agreement than on posturing before voters in the run up to
Solana's visit comes at a time when a constitutional commission comprising
representatives of the Serbian, Montenegrin and Yugoslav authorities
stands deadlocked over what shape the new union should take.
None of the five drafts - by the DOS coalition in Serbia, the Democratic
Party of Serbia, DSS, headed by federal president Vojislav Kostunica, the
Montenegrin and Serbian governments, the Coalition for Yugoslavia in
Montenegro and the Venice commission set up by the CoE - have met with
The general aim is for the two republics that currently comprise
Yugoslavia to link up and later become the new Union of Serbia and
Montenegro. Failure to reach an agreement could block Yugoslavia's bid for
Council of Europe, CoE, membership at the council's parliamentary assembly
on September 23.
The two deadlines set so far by the international community have been
broken and a third, which expires at the beginning of September, has also
been thrown into question. The big stumbling block is the approach of
Serbian presidential ballot on September 29 and an early general election
in Montenegro on October 9. Politicians in both republics fear a
willingness to compromise might go down badly with voters.
The proposal for union was advanced by Solana in the Belgrade Agreement,
signed by Montenegrin and Serbian top-rank officials on March 14, under
strong EU pressure. Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic had up to then
campaigned vigorously for outright independence but, having failed to
gather enough political support, embraced the deal.
On June 19 a commission representing the parliaments of Serbia, Montenegro
and Yugoslavia was set up to devise a draft constitutional charter based
on the Belgrade Agreement, to ask for a common market, harmonisation of
economic systems and shared federal institutions.
The option advocated by Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS,
called for a loose federation of the two republics. The Montenegrin
president faced problems at home from his former pro-independence allies -
and now must also deal with a strong pro-Yugoslavia opposition, bolstered
by the defection of his former supporters the Liberal Alliance, in the
October 9 elections.
To mollify the disgruntled pro-independence voters, Djukanovic's
government came up with a programme that steered clear of federal
institutions and budgets. For a while, it seemed Djukanovic might have
found an ally in the Serbian prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica's
Djindjic's government presented a draft that tallied closely with the
ideas of the Montenegrin leader and both authorities accepted it on August
26. Djukanovic's opponents, the coalition Together for Yugoslavia,
immediately opposed the idea, as did Kostunica's DSS in Serbia.
The Serbian prime minister wanted to play down the idea of a federal
structure, which he feared would improve Kostunica's chances of becoming
president of Serbia. Kostunica has presented himself to voters as the
champion of maintaining Yugoslavia as a firm federation. Djindjic argued
that the solution lay in the hands of the Serbian and Montenegrin
According to Andrija Mandic, one of the leaders of the pro-Yugoslavia Serb
People's Party in Montenegro, Djukanovic and Djindjic wished to present
themselves as serious political figures while at the same time
jeopardising the status of all their rivals - even at the cost of breaking
up the state.
The two governments agreed to submit their text of the constitutional
charter to the DOS coalition for adoption and then offer it to the
constitutional commission as the final solution. However, things took a
different turn on August 28 when, under pressure from his partners within
the DOS, Djindjic was forced to back away from his agreement with
DOS members such as Nebojsa Covic's Democratic Alternative and Dragoljub
Micunovic's Democratic Centre, whose backing is crucial to Djindjic,
concluded the text offered by the two governments differed from the
requirements of the Belgrade Agreement.
To prevent rifts within the DOS, the text was modified to define the state
as a federation and envisaged that federal deputies would be directly
elected, a formula taken to imply a unitary state. The Montenegrins found
themselves in disarray.
The coordinator of the Montenegrin delegation, Dragan Kujovic, said the
new DOS version could once again slow down the search for a constitution.
"The text adopted by DOS introduces a few new things that were defined
differently in the text adopted by the two governments," Kujovic told a
press conference in the Montenegrin parliament.
Criticising the proposal for direct elections, Kujovic said, "The state
union is not a union of citizens, but a union of member-states. Direct
elections would mean the union had become a unitary state."
Many DPS politicians concluded on Thursday that it is not possible for
Djukanovic to accept direct elections to a federal parliament, if he wants
to win the forthcoming ballot.
One foreign analyst in Montenegro said, "I presume Djukanovic will tell
Solana that it won't be possible to reach an agreement before the
elections and that the constitutional charter could be defined only after
the trial of strength in Montenegro. I believe Solana will be forced to
accept this because a compromise is impossible at this time."
Some analysts in Serbia also believe Solana's efforts are doomed because a
compromise simply cannot be reached in the heat of an election campaign.
Belgrade political analyst Ognjen Pribicevic told Radio B92 on August 28
that the constitutional charter is being used as a political football
rather than as a vehicle to achieve a solution.
But there is a growing impression that the EU is strongly determined to fi
nish the job of defining a new union, and will try to force all sides to
accept a joint formula.
The president of the CoE's parliament, Peter Schieder, expressed hope that
all parties will reach agreement before the assembly's next session from
September 23 to 27 in Strasbourg.
Following the DOS decision taken on August 28, Djindjic is also optimistic
that the issue of the constitutional charter has been resolved. He
believes the CoE's request that an agreement be reached by September 2 and
3 will be fulfilled.
Facing pressure from the international community, similar optimism is
coming today from Montenegro, despite some reservations. The prime
minister of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic, said on Friday that both Serbia
and Montenegro are ready to accept the conditions for CoE membership, "If
the constitutional chapter is not accepted by September 23, all economic
and other aid for Montenegro and Serbia will be cancelled, and we will be
the only country beside Belarus not to be members of the council."
The challenge Solana faces is great but one should not forget that he
managed to achieve the impossible back in March when he talked the
Montenegrin political elite into giving up on independence.
Daniel Sunter is IWPR's coordinating editor in Belgrade. Boris Darmanovic
is an IWPR representative in Montenegro and a journalist with the
Podgorica daily Publika.
ALBANIA: JOBLESS FLOCK TO RIVERIA
The country's fledgling tourist industry is being bolstered by the influx
of impoverished northerners.
By Denisa Xhoga in Vlore
Families seeking to escape poverty in the remote north are boosting the
tourist industry in the southern Riviera.
Over the last decade, around 200 families have left decimated mining
districts in the north, such as Kukes, Has, Diber, Mirdite and Lezhe, in
search of work in the southern 150-kilometre long Albanian Riviera.
Rumours of north-south rivalries have been scotched by the warm welcome
the newcomers receive - with many being given the use of houses left by
people who've emigrated to Greece.
"It's enough they take care of my home because there should be someone
there to look after it," said Koço Dhimitri, an emigrant who comes back
each summer to open up his bar in the Riviera town of Himare.
There is no sign of the friction that sometimes accompanies internal
migration. "If there is any quarrel, it does not happen with the newcomers
from the north but from the people coming from Vlore for a vacation here,"
said another Vlore resident, who has built a hotel in Himare.
After the fall of communism, a large number of Albanians rushed abroad,
legally or illegally, many of them from the Riviera.
About half a million Albanian migrants live in Greece - the most popular
destination - whose remittances boost investment in the Riveria area.
"There is much construction along the Ionian coastline, bars, restaurants,
motels, roads," said Himare mayor Viktor Mato. "Consequently there is a
need for working people."
Indeed, the newcomers mainly work in construction and have built nearly
all the new bars that are springing up from Sarande to Butrint.
Originally from Peshkopia in the north-eastern Diber district, Bekim, who
did not want to give his full name, has operated a refrigerator repair van
in the area for the last five summers. "The summer months are good for me.
People want to rent out their properties - and this provides a lot of
work," he told IWPR.
Local attitudes to the newcomers appear fairly relaxed. Agim Shorti, who
works at the local Butrint museum, said, "There is enough work for
everyone", adding that the jobs go to those who have the best skills,
regardless of where they come from.
Museum head Auron Tare has employed 35 of the newcomers at the area's
UNESCO-recognised archaeological site, to act as guards, cleaners and help
in the restoration and maintenance of the castle and its amphitheatre.
Tare describes the northerners as good, hard working people. "They should
feel themselves at home because they take care of Butrint. It has visitors
only in summer and in winter they are the guards of this museum," he said.
One group of Catholic families from the north has even created a new
village called Shendelli, beside the 28 km-long Butrint Lake.
Tare added that with the help of a Japanese grant, they have built an
elementary school that's one of the best in the area.
Life may not always be easy for the newcomers, but they are slowly turning
their quest for a better life into reality.
Denisa Xhoga is an editor with the Albanian Shekullli newspaper.
COMMENT: 500 DAYS OF DJINDJIC
Allegations of corruption and mismanagement have obscured some very real
progress by the post-Milosevic administration.
By Biljana Stepanovic in Belgrade
While many criticisms can be levelled at the government of prime minister
Zoran Djindjic, it does represent an undeniable break with the past and a
move towards democracy and free markets.
>From the ruins left by former leader Slobodan Milosevic, the newgovernment has laid a basic foundation for economic reform and for the
country's eventual accession to the European Union in its first 500 days.
This worthy achievement has often been overshadowed by an incessant feud
between Djindjic and his political rival, Yugoslav president Vojislav
According to Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, and opposition
parties - who are former Milosevic supporters - the Serbian government has
not made a single step towards promised reforms; is solely preoccupied
with its own political image; and is mired in corruption.
Another of the Djindjic's problems is the legacy of poverty bequeathed by
the former regime. According to 2000 study, more than a third of the
population were on or below the poverty line and 18 per cent lived in
Under Milosevic's rule, the average monthly salary was 107 German marks
(53 euro) and the average pension 75 marks (37 euro) - an 80 per cent
decline compared to 1990. The average monthly salary today remains low
but has increased to around 130 euro, with the average pension at 100
Pensions have fallen ten per cent compared with December, as they are no
longer tied to salary increases - but at least they are paid regularly.
It is difficult for the public to let go of the illusion that there is a
quick fix to Serbia's economic crisis and that living standards could soon
return to 1990 levels, when Yugoslavia enjoyed a Gross Domestic Product,
GDP, of 2,700 US dollars per capita. By the end of the Milosevic era, per
capita GDP barely reached 1,000 dollars.
Faced with waves of criticism in the run-up to Serbian presidential
elections scheduled for September 29, Djindjic has argued that his
government has ushered in an indisputable rise in living standards.
He has also pointed towards international support for his government's
reforms, which has generated crucial loans and financial assistance.
Economic analysts agree that the Djindjic government has pushed through
three vital laws - on taxes, privatisation and the labour market - in a
timely manner. These reforms, alongside the issue of cooperation with The
Hague tribunal, were crucial to persuading the international community to
start negotiating aid and loans for Serbia's economy.
A whole host of revenue legislation was overhauled in March and April last
year, only two months after the government was formed. Tax is now paid on
total revenue, closing the loophole that allowed evasion through
fictitious reporting of minimal earnings and profits. Moreover, all budget
income is publicly documented and no citizen is exempt, which was most
certainly not the case during the corrupt Milosevic era.
The Serbian government also adopted a ground-breaking law on privatisation
at the end of June last year that enabled the scrapping of "socially-owned
property", an unworkable form of ownership created in the old Yugoslavia
and unknown anywhere else in the world.
The primary goal of the privatisation legislation is to see firms managed
by their real owners. Up 'til now, a firm's workforce was formally in
control, but in reality the system gave rise to incompetent executives who
carried no responsibility. That bizarre arrangement saw many factories
effectively pillaged by unaccountable managers, leading to the virtual
collapse of the industrial system.
Foreign investors were not ready to enter the Serbian market as long as
they were prevented from sacking a single employee - even those who had
been given permanent leave.
The new government has mustered the courage to lay off 15,000 workers from
the Kragujevac-based Zastava car factory. Some 10,000 were made redundant
as a result of the National Bank of Yugoslavia's decision to liquidate
four of the country's biggest banks.
Economists estimate that out of 1.5 million people officially employed in
the country, around a third are holding "surplus" jobs that are
unnecessary and obsolete. According to some reports, about 350,000 to
500,000 people work unofficially in the so-called "grey economy".
With presidential elections scheduled for September and early
parliamentary elections in sight, it is difficult to imagine the
government taking the risk of allowing more redundancies, no matter how
much sense it makes for economic reform.
On taking office, the Serbian government defied a powerful lobby that had
grown rich through petrol imports, by issuing a decree on the oil
derivatives trade. This permitted only crude oil imports and obliged
importers to use local refineries, eliminating petrol smuggling.
The authorities also made significant changes to construction laws,
threatening prison sentences of up to three years for owners of buildings
built without valid permits.
Permit fraud was a visible example of the lawlessness of the Milosevic
years, depriving the state of tax revenue and enabling the growth of a
powerful "construction mafia".
The government has yet to succeed in defeating a chronic and corrupt
bureaucracy that deliberately prolongs the granting of building permits.
Another success for the Djindjic government has been reducing the rate of
inflation that grew to lethal proportions under Milosevic.
At least part of the credit for controlling price rises belongs to the
governor of the National Bank of Yugoslavia, Mladjan Dinkic, who has
reformed the system, shut down the worst banks, provided for the dinar's
convertibility and ensured that the exchange rate has remain static for
A firm hand on monetary policy is crucial for a country that has lived for
years under the constant threat of hyperinflation. In 1993, Serbian
citizens survived inflation of several million per cent. This year its
forecast to reach just 20 per cent.
Djindjic's government has brought international financial assistance into
Serbia for the first time in more than a decade. From October 2000 until
the end of June 2002, the country received and spent around 1.2 billion
dollars of aid.
The authorities have secured a new three-year standby arrangement with the
International Monetary Fund, new loans from the World Bank and 280 million
euro for the overhaul of the energy sector. Thanks to this international
injection, Serbia has survived two winters without serious power
But along with the successes of the past 500 days, Djindjic's government
has made some serious mistakes.
Many of the opposition's criticisms are valid. For instance, the
government has failed to convincingly fend off accusations of corruption,
which has cast a long shadow over the leadership and frustrated its
Djindjic has been unable to account for the decline in industrial
production, which has fallen by 0.8 per cent in comparison to last June.
Nor can it explain why exports are up only ten per cent and are worth 882
million dollars, while imports have shot up by 30 per cent to 2.4 billion
Opponents claim the authorities lack the political will to enforce
legislation designed to tax profits made illegally under Milosevic's rule.
In May last year, an ambitious law was adopted to do so, amid claims it
would secure a billion euro worth of revenue. Only 50 million euro has
been collected so far.
Foreign investors say the judiciary is the weakest link in economic reform
efforts. Inefficient, outdated and still favouring debtors over creditors,
the courts are far from the kind of fair arbiter needed in a competitive
There are other missing pieces in the reform puzzle. The government has
failed to adopt a number of laws needed to complete the economic reforms
already launched, including legislation on mortgages, bankruptcy,
denationalisation and the financing of political parties.
Considering the mess that it inherited and the economic reforms it has put
in place, Djindjic's government has no reason to fear the early
parliamentary elections that the DSS and the opposition are insisting on.
This government has secured concrete results that should be presented to
voters in a clear, convincing manner.
If the government acknowledges that it has fallen short on some promises
but explains why, Djindjic's adversaries may find the ground shifting
under their feet, as the opposition is yet to show what it would have done
differently or more efficiently.
Kostunica's DSS decided to hand over its role in decision making and
resigned from the government. As for the other opposition parties, they
were in power for the last decade, and they left the former Yugoslavia in
Biljana Stepanovic is an economics analyst with the Belgrade weekly NIN
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BALKAN CRISIS REPORT No. 363