International Spectator

The International Spectator

Volume XXXIII No. 2 (April-June 1998)


Unfinished Business in the Former Yugoslav Area
By Christopher Cviic


From the start of the 1990s until quite recently world attention was firmly focused on the western part of former Yugoslavia. The reason was the wars: in Slovenia in June 1991—the first in Europe since 1945—then almost immediately afterwards in Croatia and, finally, from April 1992 till November 1995 in Bosnia. Even after the war in Bosnia had ended with the signing of the Dayton Accords in November 1995, the situation remained highly unstable with widespread fears of the peace deal unravelling. But Bosnia has not unravelled—not so far, anyway; Croatia is settling down to a sort of normality; and Slovenia, whose war in June 1991 had—unlike those in Croatia and Bosnia—been mercifully brief and claimed few casualties, is on a fast track to European Union membership and, afterwards, to that of NATO.

Now attention—coupled with much concern—is shifting to former Yugoslavia’s eastern part which had escaped the wars in the west of the region. It was there, in the Albanian-majority province of Kosovo in Serbia, that the political crisis which was eventually to spread and lead to war and the federation’s disintegration first began in the 1980s. The political and security situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)—the official name since 1992 for the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro—has deteriorated. The epicentre of the ever stronger political tremors shaking the regions is in Kosovo in Serbia, but tension in Montengro is also having a de-stabilising effect. Could those crises lead to serious violence whose effects could not but be felt in the neighbourhood—in next-door Albania recovering from a bitter civil war in 1997 and in Macedonia (official name: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM for short) racked by tension between its majority Slav Macedonian and minority (but fast growing) Albanian populations descended from the ancient inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula? Could Bulgaria, Greece and even Turkey become involved? Turkey does not have a common border with any of the former Yugoslav republics but has a strong historic link with the region it ruled for many centuries as well as a close present strategic interest in it. Could Russia, closely involved in the Balkans in the past but more detached since the Soviet Union’s collapse, become involved again on the side of its historic allies, the Serbs?

These are legitimate questions but answers are not simple and can so far be only tentative. The news from the region is mixed: encouraging in the west (even, to a degree, in Bosnia in the centre) but disturbing in the east. There, the outlook for stability, democracy, the rule of law and both regional and international cooperation is bleak. This article will, after describing the situation in broad terms, point out possibilities for action—or lack of them—by external governments and international organisations.



Slovenia has since achieving independence in 1991 grown apart from the Yugoslav federation to which it had belonged—although as an increasingly semi-detached member—for 45 years. However, its integration into Western Europe has been neither as fast nor as smooth as most Slovenes and Western governments had expected. 1   Slovenia is—together with Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Cyprus—in the “first wave” of candidates for EU membership. Formal negotiations for entry are due to start in March 1998. Slovenia had already in 1993 signed a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU but talks about the next step, an Association Agreement with the EU, became stalled by Italy’s Berlusconi government in 1994, pending the resolution of outstanding issues between the two countries.

One of the issues was that of compensation for those Italians who had left or been expelled from Slovenia following the end in 1945 of its wartime occupation and partition between Germany and Italy and the subsequent restoration of the Yugoslav state. Slovenia became one of the new Communist federation’s republics within its pre-war borders augmented in the Adriatic region by certain territories that had come under Italy after the break-up of the Habsburg Empire in 1918. Another issue was that of the right of foreigners to buy property in Slovenia.

The Dini government lifted this discreet diplomatic blockade in March 1995 and talks about an Association Agreement were able to begin. Since then, under the Prodi government, Italy has become a strong backer of Slovenia’s bid to join not only the EU but also NATO. One of the arguments used by Italy to advance the cause of Slovenia’s NATO membership is geopolitical: Slovenia’s position as a direct link with Hungary, bypassing neutral Austria.

But despite strong lobbying by Italy and the support of France, Spain and some other smaller NATO members, Slovenia’s bid to be among NATO’s “first wave” of prospective entrants was unsuccessful, mainly owing to the Clinton administration’s desire to minimise resistance in Congress to NATO’s enlargement by offering as few candidates as possible in the first round—only the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. NATO’s decision has caused disappointment in Slovenia and the resignation of the Foreign Minister, Zoran Thaler. NATO’s snub—because it was seen as such in Slovenia—has strengthened many Slovenes’ doubts about the costs for their small country of joining European and Atlantic institutions. The growing uncertainty about Europe and Slovenia’s position in it has crystallised in the long-running national debate—echoing that in some smaller EU members like Denmark—over whether foreigners should be allowed to buy property in Slovenia. The Slovene Drzavni zbor (parliament) has, after much agonised public debate, ratified the Association Agreement with the EU which has opened the way to formal negotiations for entry. But Slovene legislation concerning the right of foreigners to purchase property is not yet fully in line with that prevailing in the rest of the EU. Meanwhile, national debate has spread to the issue of the role of foreign investment in Slovenia’s economy and its central bank’s controversial decision to curb foreign capital inflows. Only four of Slovenia’s 28 banks are foreign-owned and account for only a 5 percent market share. 2

But the Liberal Democrat-People’s Party coalition government, in office since February 1997, led by Janez Drnovsek of the Liberal Democrats, a shrewd and experienced politician who was a member of Yugoslavia’s state presidency, is firmly in favour of Slovenia’s EU and NATO membership—as is President Milan Kucan. Kucan, who has few formal powers but wields considerable influence behind the scenes, was comfortably re-elected for another term in November 1997. A token of Slovenia’s seriousness about Europe was the appointment, in December 1997, as a replacement for the rather abrasive Zoran Thaler at the head of the Foreign Ministry, of Boris Frlec, Slovenia’s Ambassador to Bonn and an experienced politician from the former Yugoslav period.

Western governments have urged the Slovene government to use the period before the next batch of countries (which includes Slovenia) start their accession talks with NATO to settle outstanding problems with neighbours—like Croatia, for example. Behind this hint lies the voisinage factor—fear that new members may import into NATO problems from their neighbourhood. This has led to a revision of Slovenia’s previous policy of ostentatious distancing from the region of former Yugoslavia. There is also an economic calculation behind this U-turn. Though 65 percent of Slovenia’s exports now go to the EU, there is nevertheless a growing realisation that some of the trade with the region of former Yugoslavia, which used to account for 70 percent of Slovenia’s export markets, could usefully be reclaimed.

The government in Ljubljana has in recent months made efforts to speed up the settlement of its political and economic differences with Croatia, which included the issue of Slovenia’s access through Croatian territorial waters in the Bay of Piran in the Adriatic; the Ljubljanska Banka’s outstanding debt to its former depositers in Croatia; the future of the jointly-owned but now deteriorating nuclear power station in Krsko, Slovenia, close to the Croatian border; and Croatia’s desire for a corridor through Slovenia to Austria. A meeting in Otocec, Slovenia, on 19 January 1998 between the respective foreign ministers ushered in a round of talks meant to lead to the resolution of outstanding issues. 3   A new Ljubljana-Vienna-Zagreb “trilateral” may be emerging as a deliberate Slovene (and EU) effort to improve relations between Slovenia and Croatia and thus help stabilise the region. But problems remain.

Croatia resents Slovenia’s (so far successful) attempts to prevent the linking of the Croatian Adriatic port of Rijeka to the planned trans-European transport network, in the interests of enhancing the role of its own port of Koper. Neither country recognises the other’s citizens living on its territory as a minority. In response to Western unease over Slovenia’s policy towards its minorities, the country’s (tiny) German-speaking minority was officially recognised for the first time in January 1998.

In the economic and financial fields, Brussels is pushing Slovenia towards faster reform of its banking system and greater readiness to allow foreign capital in on the grounds that this would both help with infrastructure projects and with the speeding up of privatisation. Under strong American pressure, Slovenia has modified its original refusal to have anything to do with the (American-sponsored) initiative project for cooperation in South Eastern Europe (SECI). Slovenia is, this time without foreign prompting, playing an active role both in the Central European Initiative (CEI), a 16-member body which grew out of the (Italian-promoted) Pentagonale and Hexagonale projects in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Slovenia belongs, together with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania, to the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA) and is developing within the Central European framework close cooperation (particularly in transport) with Hungary and Italy. Slovenia’s diplomatic weight has increased due to its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council for 1998-99.



Croatia has confounded numerous foreign as well as domestic sceptics by successfully completing at the beginning of 1998 its most important national project since achieving independence in 1991. 4   This was the full reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Western Srijem and Baranja, the smallest but also the richest of the territories that had come under Serb control in 1991. (The other two—a part of Western Slavonia and the so-called Krajina region in central Croatia, were retaken by force by the Croats in May and August of 1995 respectively.) The peaceful reintegration of Croatia’s easternmost region was officially completed on 15 January, the day which marked the end of the mandate of the UN Temporary Administration in Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), firmly and ably led practically to the end of its mandate by Jacques Klein, a retired American general.

The fact that Croatia was able to get back Eastern Slavonia peacefully reflects both the new balance of power in the region between Croatia and FRY and the extent of normalisation in their relations that has taken place since 1995. Belgrade’s cooperation in the reintegration process in Eastern Slavonia—particularly in persuading the 80,000-strong Serb population to support the local Serb politicians who had opted for cooperation with Croatia in return for political and economic guarantees from the Croatian government—was crucial. Zagreb was determined to get it by diplomacy, if possible, by force, if necessary, but, for the Croats, the cost of opting for force would have been high in terms of casualties (not least from landmines), but also of international sanctions. So a peaceful solution, though slower and involving compromises and concessions to the Serbs, was preferable.

For Belgrade, given the need to maintain large military and police forces in Kosovo in the south, resistance to the return of Eastern Slavonia to Croatia was not a realistic proposition. There was at least the possibility that a heavy military entanglement by Serbian forces in a conflict with Croatia in the north could be used by Kosovo’s Albanians to stage an uprising. There was also Belgrade’s weak and isolated international position to consider, as well as the dire situation in the Yugoslav economy, That Yugoslavia, despite the numerical superiority of its forces over those of Croatia, 5   could not expect to challenge—and defeat—Croatia militarily was demonstrated in 1995 when the well-equipped and highly-motivated Croatian Army ( Hrvatska vojska or HV) managed to capture, with minimal casualties, Western Slavonia and the Krajina in two quick, Blitzkrieg-style operations. This was done with discreet American backing as a way of weakening the Bosnian Serbs in the rear and forcing them to the negotiating table—a tactic that tacitly recognised the geopolitical realities on the ground—notably the need for NATO’s air attacks to be combined with operations by ground forces, which NATO did not want to deploy before the fighting had ended and the Serbs had been forced in all but name to concede defeat.

For the government in Belgrade, it was a high political priority to prevent a mass exodus of Serbs from Eastern Slavonia, similar to that which took place when the Croats retook the Krajina region in 1995. Political problems arising from that exodus were contained—not least by directing most of the departing Krajina Serbs to the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia. But the Serbs of Eastern Slavonia had nowhere else to go but Serbia. Their arrival, symbolising more than anything else the final defeat of the Greater Serbia project, could have been politically destabilising for President Milosevic. A limited cooperation with Croatia was a more sensible option for him.

Besides, such cooperation had other compensations. Road and rail links were re-established in the second half of 1997 and while there is some prospect for an increase in trade, Serbia’s catastrophic economic condition is a limiting factor. Another hindrance to close economic relations is the “succession issue”—who gets what from the assets of former Yugoslavia—which remains unresolved. Belgrade has still not officially recognised Croatia within its present borders, pending a deal over the small but strategically important Prevlaka peninsula south of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast, still under the temporary UN control extended by the UN Security Council to July 1998.

Like Slovenia, Croatia has been persuaded by the Americans to accept observer status, with possible project-by-project participation, in SECI, but it remains opposed to or, at best, mistrustful of other forms of economic cooperation in the region now under discussion, including the so-called Royaumont Process initiated by the EU at the end of 1995. Like Slovenia, it did not take part in the November 1997 Balkan Summit in Crete. In December 1997, the Croatian parliament passed a constitutional amendment forbidding Croatia’s participation in any regional associations that could lead to the rebuilding of Yugoslavia in any shape or form. In contrast, Croatia is anxious to enhance its position within the Central European Initiative, which includes Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia and Slovenia, but not FRY. The CEI is, apart from the Council of Europe, the only European body of substance to which Croatia belongs. Holding the CEI chair in 1998, Croatia is trying to upgrade its position within Central Europe, where its most immediate aim is to join CEFTA. It is with that aim in view that Croatia has been negotiating free-trade agreements with CEFTA members and holding talks with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Both are pre-conditions for joining CEFTA, but the third precondition for joining, an Association Agreement with the EU, is not yet in sight. The best that Croatia can hope for in the near future in the way of closer formal links with the West is the re-opening—possibly in the autumn of 1998—of talks suspended after the Croat offensive in the Krajina in 1995 about Croatia joining the EU’s assistance programme called Phare. Another possibility is that talks could begin, also some time in 1998, about Croatia’s membership of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP). Its members in southeastern Europe are Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia and Slovenia, but not Bosnia and FRY.

This state of affairs is a reflection of Western unease over the authoritarian nature of Croatia’s government under President Franjo Tudjman. 6   Its human rights policy—especially regarding the position of the returning Serb refugees—is currently being closely monitored by a large mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The situation in eastern Slavonia, since 15 January 1998, is being watched by 250 UN police monitors under a UN Security Council mandate agreed to by Croatia. In response to Western pressure, Croatia is also being obliged to modify its policy towards Bosnia in the direction of securing full Croatian cooperation in making the 1995 Dayton peace agreement in Bosnia work—notably where the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague is concerned. Croatia has toned down its former consistent support for the secessionist Herceg-Bosna Croat regime centred in Mostar and is slowly pushing it towards greater cooperativeness within the Moslem-Croat Federation, one of the two entities that make up Bosnia. An important step reflecting Zagreb’s new readiness to play by Dayton rules is the fact that some of the men belonging to the Mostar regime and indicted for war crimes have been persuaded by Croatia to hand themselves over to the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. Certain underworld figures of the so-called “Mostar Mafia” including the notorious Mladen-Tuta Naletilic have been arrested on criminal charges and brought to trial in Croatia. A project for “special relations” between Croatia and the Bosniak Moslem-Croat Federation was floated by Zagreb as a sop to Mostar and then discreetly set aside.

The imposition of a de facto international protectorate over Bosnia in 1997 has been accompanied by a clear signal to the Croatian government in Zagreb that it could not hope for serious Western financial cooperation, let alone a “green light” for the opening of talks with NATO—with membership of the Peace for Partnership programme as the first step—unless it plays along over Dayton. Whether Croatia’s current cooperativeness in Bosnia will prove to be only a tactic or an indication of a new, lasting commitment to make Dayton—and Bosnia—work depends on President Tudjman. Caution, however, is called for because Tudjman has for many years been a proponent of Bosnia’s partition with Serbia. This policy is extremely unpopular in Croatia but is strongly supported and promoted by the powerful “Herzegovina Lobby” in Zagreb, to which some of the President’s closest collaborators belong.

Political change in Croatia, with immediate and far-reaching consequences for Bosnia and the rest of the region, seemed imminent at the end of 1996 when it became known that the president was suffering from cancer. Since then, his state of health has improved and in June 1997, a month after his 75th birthday, he was re-elected in the first round for his third and last five-year term, easily beating his two opponents. Some in Croatia think that he may call a snap election for the lower house of parliament in 1998 (it is due in 1999) in an attempt to cash in on the immense popularity of the reintegration of Eastern Slavonia achieved under his leadership. What might militate against this plan is the mounting public discontent over the introduction on 1 January 1988 of value-added tax at the uniform and extremely high rate of 22 percent. 7

Uncertainty over President Tudjman’s future will persist due to the nature of his illness, but he may yet be able to complete his term of office which expires in 2002. His party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in power since the first multiparty election in 1990—though consistently less popular than Tudjman—has been helped by the weakness of the opposition. The exception are the Social Democrats (SDP), who include some of the former Communist Party members (the others either joined the rebel Serbs or Tudjman’s HDZ). It is the SDP, which is benefiting from the growing social and economic discontent in the country, that presents a long-term threat to the Tudjman regime. What mayalso be helping it is the fading appeal of nationalism which has been the mainstay of Tudjman’s power.

A threat to the Tudjman regime also comes from another quarter. In July 1997, a new and much more radical and outspoken head of the influential Roman Catholic Church was appointed by the Pope. He is 48-year Josip Bozanic, who succeeded Cardinal Franjo Kuharic as the Archbishop of Zagreb. Bozanic has taken up a much more critical attitude towards the regime than his predecessor. The new Archbishop in his Christmas message criticised the injustices and inequalities that have accumulated in Croatia in recent years and attributed them to the “sin of structures”, which was widely interpreted (not least by some pro-regime spokesmen) as direct criticism of the ruling party’s social and economic policy over privatisation and its tolerance of widespread corruption. In December 1997, the Archbishop met Forum 21, a body founded only a month before by a group of prominent TV and radio journalists to fight for independent public television. This was a highly significant gesture by the new Archbishop. The battle for the freeing of the media—especially TV, as the main purveyor of information for an impoverished public that cannot afford the newspapers—is emerging as one of the most important issues in Croatia. The ruling party is fighting hard to retain its monopoly control of national television but pressure from the EU and individual Western governments as well as non-governmental bodies has forced it to be on the defensive.

Is it possible that, should the ruling party lose the election, it might use all means at its disposal (including force) to stay in power? In 1995, the HDZ refused to acknowledge its defeat in Zagreb, the capital, and managed in the end to engineer the continuation of its rule. This remains a possibility, but it is now less likely—also because of the unpopularity of the party’s hardliners who would opt for such a course. Many of them—like Gojko Susak, the defence minister—come from Herzegovina. The scenario that is much talked about in Zagreb is that of a “negotiated change” resembling that in Spain after Franco’s death in 1975 ( reforma pactada ) via a deal between the moderate “European” wing of the ruling party and a part of the opposition. 8   A peaceful transition would be popular with the majority of the population in Croatia which wants change but also fears major upheavals that could threaten stability and, with it, perhaps also Croatia’s hard-won independence and hopes of a more prosperous future. (Albania’s plunge into civil war accompanied by much violence in the first half of 1997 had a great impact on Croatian public opinion and may have helped Tudjman.)

There are many obstacles to orderly and peaceful political change—one of which is President Tudjman himself, who is an autocrat not used to sharing power. In September 1991 when Croatia was at war, he agreed to the formation of a broadly-based coalition government composed of all the democratic parties. But that government, though popular in the country and under a HDZ premier faithful to Tudjman, lasted only till Croatia had achieved international diplomatic recognition in January 1992. In fact, an orderly democratic transition from a HDZ to a post-HDZ government is difficult to imagine during Tudjman’s lifetime. What happens after his departure from the scene is quite another matter, with no options, including that of a negotiated change, excluded.



In Bosnia, the danger of another war has receded but the country still faces the difficult challenge of building a framework of democracy and the rule of law based on a broad consensus among its three peoples, the Croats, the Moslem Bosniaks and the Serbs. Its democratic future continues to depend largely on the willingness of leading Western governments to go on underwriting the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord. The prospects for the implementation of Dayton have brightened thanks to the widely but not entirely confidently expected decision by President Clinton to keep American troops in Bosnia as part of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) beyond the previous self-imposed deadline of June 1998. This crucial decision, which ensured that other NATO and non-NATO nations alike would also keep their troops there, has been accompanied by an increasingly pro-active policy on the ground that is at last producing results. This policy, which suggests that Western governments are finally taking Dayton seriously, originates from the ministerial meeting of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in Sintra in Portugal on 30 May 1997, which appointed Carlos Westendorp to succeed Carl Bildt as the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Municipal elections throughout Bosnia on 13 and 14 September 1997, held under the control of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), passed off without violent incidents. 9   As expected, the three ruling parties won a majority of the council seats. Non-national parties—those which do not exclusively represent the rights of one ethnic group—won 6 council seats throughout the country. Only in one municipality, Tuzla, did non-national parties win a majority (63 percent) of council seats. Strong outside (mainly American) pressure on both the Croat and the Moslem leaderships of the Croat-Moslem Federation to enable the Federation’s common institutions to work has led to some progress even in the divided city of Mostar. The “Open Cities” project of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees launched in March 1997 has been the highlight in an otherwise extremely slow return process. Of 2.3 million displaced persons at the end of hostilities in November 1995, some 381,000 (171,000 refugees and 210,000 internally displaced) have returned—mostly to areas in which they belong to the ethnic majority. “Open Cities” differs from earlier initiatives in that, instead of offering assistance to returnees, it distributes aid throughout the target municipality provided that the municipality accepts all former residents back. Four municipalities have been recognised as open cities to date but 30 more are seeking “open city” status, including a handful in the Republika Srpska.

November’s parliamentary elections in the Republika Srpska, brought the months-long power struggle between President Biljana Plavsic, and the Serb member of Bosnia’s presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik standing in for the deposed but still influential Radovan Karadzic, to a climax. The ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) lost its majority but remains the biggest party. The Serb People’s Alliance (SNS), founded by Plavsic after the split within the SDS, placed second. No single party got overall control but Plavsic managed in the end, with the aid of votes from deputies representing absentee Croat and Moslem voters, to engineer the removal of the previous prime minister, Gojko Klickovic and the appointment in his place of Milorad Dodik, a non-nationalist Social Democrat. Dodik’s appointment was bitterly opposed by deputies belonging to the SDS and the (also ultra-nationalist) Radicals, led by Serbian paramilitary leader and now Mayor of Zemun, Vojislav Seselj. They were incensed by his announcement that henceforth the seat of government would be in the Serb entity’s biggest city, Banja Luka, and not—as up to then—in Pale, the stronghold of hardliners supporting Karadzic. In the end, Dodik was allowed to take over and immediately received promises of Western financial aid withheld until then from the Republika Srpska. Dodik has declared that he will allow the return of Moslems and Croats expelled during the war from the area now part of the present Serb entity (though qualifying this somewhat by saying that their return will depend on the Serbs from Croatia and other parts of Bosnia now in the Republika Srpska being able to return to their homes). The pro-Karadzic forces will be further weakened now in that they no longer have the power to tax and impose customs duties. Plavsic had already in the second half of 1997 wrested the control of the media and the police in most of the Serb entity from the pro-Karadizic camp.

The main factors helping to decide the outcome in the power struggle in Republika Srpska in Plavsic’s favour have been, first, the active Western support and, second, her endorsement by Milosevic, wrung out of him by strong American pressure. Western support for Plavsic has taken various forms—from help in the summer of 1997 in foiling an attempted coup in Banja Luka by pro-Karadzic forces to the closure by SFOR troops of television transmitters which had been controlled by the pro-Karadzic camp and had been—with the police—one of the main instruments of their power. The political changes in the Serb entity were a major influence on international arbitrators appointed under the Dayton Accords to decide on the future of Brcko, a strategic town on the Sava River in the north, lying astride the narrow corridor linking the western and eastern parts of Republika Srpska. While there are firm grounds on the basis of the criteria set for the arbitrator—including the population structure in 1991, before the war in Bosnia began—for it to be awarded to the Federation, such a decision would have inflamed Bosnian Serb opinion and would have played into the hands of anti-Plavsic forces, perhaps even losing the election for Dodik in September. It was, therefore, not surprising that in March 1998 the arbitrator decided in favour of the continuation for the time being of international control over this potential flashpoint.

Further pressure on the pro-Karadzic camp will come from arrests of Bosnian Serbs indicted for war crimes that can now be expected in the wake of the arrest on 22 January 1998 by American SFOR troops in Bijeljina of Goran Jelisic, former commander of the notorious detention camp in Brcko in northern Bosnia. Jelisic, who was indicted in 1995, was transported to the Hague to be dealt with by the International War Crimes Tribunal. Western capitals are providing stronger political and financial support for the Tribunal and Louise Arbour, its new chief prosecutor who in 1997 replaced Richard Goldstone, the Tribunal’s first chief prosecutor. This and other developments on the ground in Bosnia strongly suggest that Western governments have decided, at least for the time being, to give up the idea of a final tripartite division of Bosnia and are prepared to work for Bosnia’s consolidation. They hope that this policy will receive a boost from the “big-bang” elections due to be held in the whole of Bosnia later in 1998. Meanwhile, Bosnia will be encouraged to take part in cooperation schemes for the region. An indication of this was the presence of the Bosnian Deputy Foreign Minister at the Balkan Summit in Crete in November. Meanwhile, influences like that of Iran will be excluded, using the considerable leverage the United States has in Sarajevo. One of the most important instruments of that leverage is the American-sponsored “Train and Equip” Programme for the Federation’s military forces which has already led to a further shift in the military balance towards the Federation.


The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

In Yugoslavia two separate crises threatening not only its security and political stability but also that of the wider region have been building up at the beginning of 1998. The first is in Montenegro, the smaller of the two republics that since 1992 make up the Federation (Serbia is the bigger one), and the second is in Kosovo, the Albanian-majority province of Serbia whose autonomous status was abolished in 1989 (it had entitled Kosovo’s representative to sit, with full voting rights, on the collective presidency of the former Yugoslavia, together with those of the other six “full” republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia). Kosovo’s autonomy was abolished in response to fears in Serbia of a permanent loss of Kosovo. The province has a special significance for the Serbs as the centre of their mediaeval state before it was overrun by the Ottoman Empire at the end of the fourteenth century following the Serbs’ defeat in the battle of Kosovo in 1389.


The crisis in Montenegro centres on the election as the republic’s president in October 1997 of Milo Djukanovic, a former ally of President Slobodan Milosevic but latterly his political enemy because of his advocacy of a more independent position for Montenegro within what he sees as Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Montenegro’s inhabitants have for centuries considered themselves part (albeit an independent one) of the Serb nation. Their small, mountainous country was ruled by an Orthodox prince-archbishop with moral and financial support from Russia. >From 1910 to 1918 it was an independent kingdom whose King Nikola managed to marry his daughters advantageously: one to the King of Italy and the other to a Russian Grand Duke. In 1918, with the King still in exile in Paris whence he had fled when the Austro-Hungarian troops occupied the country in 1915, the country voted in a plebiscite to abolish its monarchy and join the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (subsequently renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia).

The plebiscite was divisive: opponents of the merger, the so-called zelenasi (or Greens, because of the green ballot slips indicating support for independence) alleged electoral fraud accompanied by intimidation by the pro-Serb bjelasi (or Whites, from the white slips indicating support for merger with Serbia). The bjelasi were supported by Serb troops which had entered the country following the withdrawal of the Austro-Hungarian army that had been occupying Montenegro from 1915 to 1918, until driven out by the troops of the Entente advancing from the direction of Salonika. The Greens never gave up and some of them opted in 1941 for the Italian offer of an autonomous Montenegro under an Italian protectorate, while others decided to join the Communists, who offered Montenegro a republic within a Yugoslav federation. After Italy’s defeat and surrender in 1943, the Greens faded from the political scene, eclipsed by the overwhelming Montenegrin participation on the Communist side in the 1941-45 civil war. But a separate federal republic for Montenegro established under the Communists in 1945 represented a victory for the Greens’ view that, for all their historic links with the Serbs, the Montenegrins are a separate people.

The Greens’ ascendancy in post-1945 Montenegro’s political and cultural life resulted in the setting up of various national institutions emphasising separate Montenegrin statehood, including a separate Montenegrin Academy of Sciences—though not an autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. That project was mooted—for political rather than religious reasons—by the Montenegrin Party leadership in the late 1960s as an element of its policy of systematic enhancement of Montenegrin statehood within Yugoslavia, but in the end never got off the ground owing to fears of political complications arising out of the well-known opposition of the Serbian Orthodox Church to any weakening (let alone total severance) of the ecclesiastical bond between Montenegro and Serbia.

At that time the Serbian Orthodox Church was still smarting from the loss of its ecclesiastical supremacy in Macedonia as a result of the setting up there in 1967 of an autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church. 10   The supremacy of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate over Macedonia dated back to a deal reached in the early days of the new Yugoslav kingdom after 1918 with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. At that time the Yugoslav Constitution recognised only three nations (Slovenes, Croats and Serbs). The overwhelmingly Orthodox Macedonians were officially regarded in Belgrade as Serbs—though, admittedly, because of their traditional pro-Bulgarian feelings, as somewhat wobbly in their Serb allegiance. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Macedonia was used as an instrument of Serbianisation there. Recognition for the Macedonians as a nation, together with republican status for Macedonia in the Yugoslav federation, came after 1945 under the Communists. When the Orthodox Church in Macedonia which had after 1945 remained under the Belgrade Patriarchate proclaimed itself autocephalous in 1967, the Patriarchate in Belgrade excommunicated its leaders and used its influence to ensure that no other Orthodox Church recognised it. The violence of the reaction of the Serbian Orthodox Church—and Serbian nationalist opinion—to the ecclesiastical secession in Macedonia, still regarded by nationalist Serbs as “old Serbia” ( Stara Srbija ) unfairly taken away from them by Tito. caused the Montenegrin leaders to give up the idea, however politically attractive, of an autocephalous church for Montenegro.

Montenegro’s “autonomist” period ended with the revolt in January 1989 which brought to power in the capital Podgorica (then still called Titograd) a pro-Milosevic group, in reality an updated version of the old bjelasi who had adopted as their slogan Milosevic’s description of Serbia and Montenegro as “two eyes in one /Serbian/ head”. But hopes of injections of financial aid from Belgrade, originally helpful to pro-Milosevic forces, remained unfulfilled. Serbia, in a parlous economic state aggravated by the huge cost of financing the Serb side in the war, first in Croatia and then Bosnia, was unable to deliver. Economic sanctions imposed by the UN in May 1992 on rump Yugoslavia to punish it for its participation in the war in Bosnia have hurt the Montenegrin economy (though profits from imported contraband goods like oil and cigarettes via Montenegro have softened the blow). The collapse of the Greater Serbia project also ended the dream shared by many Montenegrins of gaining the city of Dubrovnik on the Croatian coast. Montenegrin forces besieged Dubrovnik, together with those of the JNA, but failed to capture it. In short, the Serbian link which back in 1989 seemed to many Montenegrins a lifeline had in the meantime become a bind. This led to the regrouping of political forces that resulted in the rapprochement between the disenchanted section of the ruling party led by Djukanovic, then prime minister, and the opposition Liberals. Moves indicating a wish for greater Montenegrin autonomy and direct links with the West in pursuit of Montenegro’s “Mediterranean vocation” produced a hostile reaction from Belgrade. This included some diversion of Serbian trade away from the port of Bar on the Adriatic coast to Salonika, as well as tougher customs controls on the Montenegrin-Serbian border.

The slowly but steadily building anti-Belgrade backlash in Montenegro culminated in the election in October 1997 of Milo Djukanovic as Montenegro’s president. There is evidence that Djukanovic attracted the votes of the section of the population interested in economic reforms promised by him as well those of the small but by no means insignificant Albanian and Moslems minorities. Momir Bulatovic, Djukanovic’s erstwhile friend and now defeated rival, who had been in political control in Montenegro since the 1989 coup, challenged the legality of Djukanovic’s election, alleging electoral fraud. In January 1998, pro-Bulatovic forces staged violent demonstrations in Podgorica on the eve of Djukanovic’s inauguration as president. The demonstrations, though resulting in some casualties (chiefly among the police), were relatively easily put down by government forces.

One of the main reasons for the demonstrations’ failure was that Bulatovic did not enlist Milosevic’s support. This was reflected in the neutral attitude towards the demonstrations by the 60,000-strong Yugoslav Army (VJ) garrison in Montenegro. Djukanovic was duly sworn in in Cetinje, Montenegro’s old capital before 1918, in the presence of the international media. The crisis in Montenegro is by no means over, however, but its future course will be influenced by what happens in Serbia—more particularly Kosovo.

For the time being, the tiny republic’s strategic position remains stable but vulnerable. Its economic performance is improving, with a small but significant increase in tourist earnings in 1997. In the January-November period of 1997, Montenegro’s exports increased by 48.7 percent compared with the same period in 1996, while imports in the same period rose by only 5.9 percent. 11   But Montenegro is in the same economic and financial mess as Serbia and its access to international capital markets is blocked by the “outer wall” of financial sanctions still in force against FRY and its exclusion from the EU trade preferences enjoyed by other successor states of former Yugoslavia. The pressure will continue on Montenegro’s leaders to pull their country out of Serbia’s embrace. But even if Montenegro were able to secure significant sponsorship in Europe and the United States for increasing economic independence, this is unlikely to extend to support for full political independence because that would be regarded by Western governments as highly destabilising in an already unstable and volatile region. This view is based on the calculation that—even given easy access through Macedonia to Greece—land-locked Serbia is not likely to let its only direct outlet to the Adriatic go without a fight. At the moment it has a sufficient army presence there, reinforced by a naval one in the Bay of Kotor, to deter a sudden dash for independence.

The Montenegrins are aware of the dangers of a military clash with Belgrade in which they would be both outgunned and outnumbered and which could be highly divisive internally in Montenegro. But they are also aware that they enjoy increasing Western support for their autonomous stand—as shown by the presence of a large number of Belgrade-based Western diplomats in Cetinje at Djukanovic’s inauguration. So they will push for increasing contacts—but carefully, while meanwhile maintaining as much influence on policy in Belgrade as the current Yugoslav Constitution gives them, in order to promote their aims. That will continue to be the tactic of the new group of Montenegrin deputies sent to the Federal Assembly in Belgrade following Montenegro’s election in May. The new Montenegrin Assembly will select the deputies to represent Montenegro in the Federal Assembly in Belgrade and since President Milosevic needs the votes of the Montenegrin deputies there, he is likely to want to avoid a direct confrontation in Montenegro—at this stage anyway—and a military one in particular. The outlook, therefore, is not for a direct clash between Belgrade and Podgorica but rather a temporary stand-off. From it could emerge a deal that would allow Montenegro to increase its domestic and international room for manoeuvre in return for it staying within Yugoslavia. This would probably also suit Djukanovic, who is aware of growing popular support for his policy but also of the fact that Montenegro—especially its northern, traditionally pro-Serbian part—is not entirely behind him, not yet anyway. However, the outlook in the longer run is for an independent Montenegro.

Vojvodina and Sandjak

A more serious crisis for Belgrade, which makes policy-makers keen to avoid, if possible, a confrontation in Montenegro, is looming in Serbia itself. It is often overlooked that Serbia is a polity whose multi-ethnic character was reflected in the federal constitution of former Yugoslavia. In 1989 Kosovo lost the autonomous status within the Yugoslav federation that had put it on a par with the other federal republics. More than 90 percent of its population are Albanians—the rest are Serbs and Montengrins. Like Kosovo, Vojvodina, the rich agricultural province in the north which was a part of Hungary until 1918, also lost its autonomous status in 1989. According to the 1991 census, 54 percent of its population were Serbs and 22 percent Hungarian. The rest was made up of Croats, Romanians, Slovaks and Ukrainians. (A nearly 500,000-strong German population dating back to the pre-1918 Habsburg era in Vojvodina either fled with the retreating German army in 1944 or was expelled subsequently.) Since 1991 many Hungarians and Croats have left and some 300,000 Serbs have arrived in Vojvodina from Croatia and Bosnia. Sandjak, which lies close to Bosnia and Montenegro (a part of it was given to Montenegro in 1945) has a 50 percent Moslem population. In a clandestine referendum in 1991, 98 percent of Sandjak’s Moslems voted for political and territorial autonomy. Sandjak’s Moslems are close to Bosnian Moslems and many fought in Bosnia on the Moslem side from 1992 to 1995.

There is dissatisfaction with the loss of provincial autonomy in Vojvodina—not only among the Croats and Hungarians but also among the Serbs—particularly those whose families have lived in Vojvodina for generations in close proximity (and, on the whole, harmony) with the other nations there. But there is not—not yet anyway—a serious challenge to Belgrade from Vojvodina. Sanjak is restive, with recent demands by Sanjak Moslems for a form of political autonomy, for a more balanced participation in state institutions and for teaching in Bosnian (rather than, as now, in Serbian). But it is in Kosovo that political tension is highest—and most dangerous.


After nearly a decade of passive resistance in Kosovo to the Serbian occupation, signs are increasing among Kosovo’s Albanians of increasing readiness to resort to armed struggle to achieve independence. Independence for Kosovo was endorsed in a referendum in 1991 organised by the local Albanians without the approval of Belgrade. Support for independence is now, if anything, higher still: 98 percent of Kosovo Albanians want it, in preference either to joining Albania or maintaining the status quo, according to a recent opinion poll conducted by two Serb researchers for the Forum for Ethnic Relations in Belgrade. 12

When Kosovo was deprived of its autonomy in 1989, most Albanians lost their jobs in the province’s administration, schools, university, health service and industry. They thereupon established a parallel state-within-state in Kosovo, with an elected parliament, president, prime minister and government, schools and health centres financed under an unofficial but functioning tax system from remittances sent by 500,000 or so Kosovo Albanians living and working in the West. One of the main tasks of the Kosovo government-in-exile, based in Germany and led since 1991 by Bujar Bukoshi, who has the title of prime minister, is—in addition to liaison with Western governments and political parties—to maintain links with the large Kosovo Albanian diaspora in Western Europe and the strong exile Albanian community in the United States. Much of the new radicalism in Kosovo these days comes from younger members of those Albanian communities abroad.

The system was—and still is—run by the main political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), whose leader (and Kosovo’s unofficial president) is Ibrahim Rugova. He was—and remains—an advocate of the so-called “Gandhian” policy of passive resistance to the Serbian occupation. The policy is based on the calculation made at the time of the war in Croatia that Kosovo Albanians had at all costs to avoid the risk of a head-on military clash with the far stronger Serbs who not only had numerical superiority but also vastly superior firepower. In such a clash the Albanians—particularly those in cities like Pristina—risked being annihilated The better alternative, according to Rugova, was to let time and the Kosovo Albanians’ high birth-rate ensure their bloodless victory. The Serbs are well aware of this possibility. That is why Kosovo’s Serbs are now banned from selling land to Albanians. But Serb attempts to alter the demographic balance in Kosovo have not been successful. Serbs from other parts of Serbia lured to Kosovo by high wages and subsidised housing do not settle in Kosovo permanently. Many commute to and from Kosovo. Those with families keep them in Belgrade and other Serb cities. Even Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia sent to Kosovo by the Belgrade government to settle there leave as soon as they can.

But Kosovo Albanians’ patience is running out. Rugova’s critics concede that his policy may have averted a bloodbath in Kosovo but it has so far brought no concessions from the Serbs either. Hopes of progress were revived by the 1996 agreement signed by Rugova and Milosevic under which Albanian children were to be allowed back into state schools and taught in Albanian, but the agreement has not been implemented. One of Rugova’s strongest critics is Adem Demaçi, leader of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo and widely known as Kosovo’s Nelson Mandela. This is on account of his 28 years spent as a political prisoner in Yugoslav—to Kosovo Albanians, Serbian—jails (from 1958 to 1961; 1964 to 1974; and 1975 to 1990). Demaçi, could have been a serious opponent to Rugova in the unofficial presidential election in Kosovo held on 22 March 1998 but decided not to stand, thus allowing Rugova to be re-elected unopposed (other potential rivals for Rugova also decided to stand down). Demaçi has consistently accused Rugova of having interpreted non-violent struggle as passivity and thus weakened Albanian political resistance to Serbian domination in Kosovo. According to him, the Kosovo Albanians’ sense of powerlessness and frustration would drive more and more to opt for armed struggle, which Demaçi said he is against although he can understand the reasons for it. He appealed to the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) to declare a truce from 15 December 1997 till 15 March 1998 but was turned down. 13

Demaçi’s sombre predictions were borne out by the punitive raids carried out on 5 March 1998 by Serbian police supported by helicopters, tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery against a cluster of villages in the mountainous Drenica region in which more than 80 Albanians including women and children were killed. The reprisals, which were also undertaken against some other villages, were said to be for the killing by the UCK of two Sebvian policemen in an ambush.

But the situation in Kosovo had been deteriorating for some time. In the run-up to the latest clash in March, the martial law regime under which Kosovo’s Albanians had been living since 1989 was becoming harsher. Belgrade maintains 40,000 regular Serb troops and some 35,000 Serbs police in Kosovo, presumably as a deterrent, but violence was on the increase. The outside world worries about the possible consequences of an explosion in Kosovo. Western governments have for a long time been aware of the danger of such a violent explosion that could not only produce more refugees for the world to look after and generally destabilise the region—not least the neighbouring Macedonia and Albania—but could also drag outside powers into another military intervention, perhaps even more complex and dangerous than the one in Bosnia. There has been no shortage of official and semi-unofficial outside initiatives aimed at facilitating a peaceful solution based on compromises by both sides, but lack of progress on the ground is undermining their credibility. 14


The key to the region’s stability is—and will remain—with Serbia. and Slobodan Milosevic, its leader since 1987. 15   Prospects for his political demise and the possibility of a new start for Serbia looked bright at the beginning of 1997. Political change—and with it a new chance for a solution for Kosovo—seemed within reach. Milosevic’s regime was the target of daily mass peaceful demonstrations in Belgrade against the ruling Socialist government’s refusal to recognise opposition election victories in Belgrade and 13 other cities in November 1996. The regime’s days seemed to be numbered. At least a part of the Serbian opposition—particularly the students—expressed itself in favour of a settlement for Kosovo—albeit only within the Yugoslav context. After three months of constant protests and international pressure accompanying it, Milosevic conceded most of the opposition demands.

Later, however, he withdrew the concessions he had made one by one and sabotaged the implementation of others. His main success was the split in the three-party opposition coalition Zajedno (Together). One of the parties, the Serb Renewal Movement (SPO) led by Vuk Draskovic formed a de facto coalition with Milosevic. In July 1997 Milosevic, whose second and last term as Serbia’s president had expired, had himself elected president of Yugoslavia by the federal parliament in Belgrade, which is made up of Serbian and Montenegrin deputies. This is a largely ceremonial post but few in Belgrade doubted that, with Milosevic occupying it, the federal presidency would be upgraded and become the main seat of power in the country. Despite a series of setbacks in his attempt to have a safe successor elected as president of Serbia, Milosevic’s first candidate, Zoran Lilic, looked as though he was going to be beaten in the second round by Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Radicals. The final result was “adjusted”—without too much of an outcry from the international monitors—to produce a low turnout that required the holding of another election. In the end, Milosevic got the right man: Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslavia’s foreign minister and ambassador to Greece, was elected in the second round on 21 December 1997, beating Seselj, who came in second.

Politically, Milosevic may have been weakened but his position appears firm—despite Serbia’s near-catastrophic economic situation. 16   At $1,600, FRY’s per capita gross domestic product is half the 1989 level. Unemployment is officially 26 percent but is in reality much higher—and growing. The middle class has all but been wiped out. Yet, despite everything, the regime seems to get by, somehow. In 1997 help for Milosevic came in the shape of an excellent harvest in Vojvodina. Another lifeline was the sum of DM 1.6 billion from the sale of 49 percent of Serbia Telecom to Italy’s Stet and OTE of Greece. The money was not spent on restructuring Serbia’s obsolete heavy industry. The bulk of the money went towards paying the backlog of pensions and wages ahead of the autumn elections.

Yet the “outer wall” of UN sanctions against FRY still remains in force, barring its access to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and membership of the UN. It remains in force because Milosevic is refusing to fulfil demands set by the mission to Serbia presided over by the former Socialist Prime Minister of Spain Felipe Gonzalez in early 1997 to mediate between the government and the opposition. Refusal to move in this matter and rising tension in Kosovo have frustrated efforts by countries such as Italy to have FRY admitted at least into the Central European Initiative and, thus, take it out of its present total isolation.

The reason for Milosevic’s refusal to give in to international pressures is clear. No credible alternative to him has emerged as yet. He is still able to play the ultranationalist Radicals of Vojislav Seselj off against the divided democratic opposition. On 24 March 1998, he asked Seselj, who had helped—with Belgrade’s approval—to organise the “ethnic cleansing” of Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia in 1991 and later on both of Croats and Moslems in Bosnia, to join Serbia’s government. Seselj’s party was allocated 15 of 36 posts in the cabinet, including the information ministry and Seselj is one of five deputy prime ministers and may sit on a board that oversees the police. But given the latest political changes in the Republika Srpska Milosevic ceases to be, in Western eyes, the indispensable guarantor of the implementation of the Dayton Accords that he had been since 1995.

With a few more assets like the telecoms to sell and little chance of raising significant foreign credit, Milosevic will soon—perhaps next winter—face massive public unrest that would this time, unlike in 1996-97, involve not just the Belgrade middle class and the students, but also the workers and even the peasants. The new crisis in Kosovo may have helped him by uniting Serb opinion against a common enemy. But this may bring him only short-term relief. A prolonged military involvement in a guerrilla war in Kosovo would be extremely costly—certainly far more than the cost up to now of keeping large but inactive military and police forces in Kosovo. Fortunately for Milosevic, hopes that he can continue to maintain his grip on Kosovo—at least for the time being—have risen since the arrival to power of the Socialist government in Albania, with its hands full of problems and well aware that a closer involvement in Kosovo on the side of those seeking independence would be likely to lose it the economic and financial support of Western governments. At the Balkan Summit in Crete in November 1997, Milosevic obtained assurances from Fatos Nano, Albania’s prime minister, that he would not support Kosovo’s secession from Yugoslavia. 17

Thus, the armed struggle in Kosovo which seems to have begun in earnest can probably still be contained—at least for the time being—by Belgrade, as shown by the action taken in March 1998 by the Serbian police to retake a small “liberated part” of Kosovo that the Kosovo Liberation Army claimed to be holding under its control. This is likely to reduce political pressure on neighbouring Macedonia and allow for the present delicate political balance between the majority Macedonian and minority but rapidly growing Albanian minority to be maintained, especially given the consistently correct attitude towards Macedonia displayed since 1991 by Bulgaria and the more moderate attitude shown by Greece since the arrival to power of the Simitis government. 18

The “window of opportunity” for progress on the Kosovo question under international pressure still exists, but time for a negotiated solution may be running out. Though outraged by the brutality of the Serb police actions in March, the majority of Kosovo’s Albanians actually living in Kosovo are still likely to resist calls from some younger radicals for an all-out struggle beginning with a mass uprising (those living in the diaspora abroad have always been more militant and are a different matter altogether). A low-intensity guerrilla war is, nevertheless, likely.

Belgrade will try to suppress it, as up to now, by police rather than army action—not least because opinion polls show that the Serbs (especially younger ones) are not keen on fighting in and for Kosovo. Meanwhile, it will continue to represent the Albanians’ struggle to the outside world as terrorism involving gangs of drug smugglers and other criminals. Kosovo’s Albanians will defend it as their liberation struggle, resorted to in desperation when nothing else seemed to work—no different from the ones Western opinion (and even governments) had supported in many other parts of the world in the past.

Western governments will continue to press Milosevic to withdraw his special forces from Kosovo and to open serious negotiations overseen by international mediators with Kosovo’s Albanians, leading to the restoration of the province’s autonomy suppressed in 1989. Russia’s obstruction is likely to prevent the re-imposition of serious, all-out sanctions like those imposed by the UN Security Council on 30 May 1992. But when the Belgrade government refused to pull back its special security forces from Kosovo and accept international mediation between the two sides, the so-called Contact Group (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States) not only recommended that the so-called outer wall of sanctions barring Serbia from access to international financial institutions be retained, but also adopted several specific measures against Belgrade, none on them particularly effective but, taken together, a clear sign of the international community’s disapproval of its policy towards Kosovo. These measures, which Russia refused to go along with, included: a ban on arms exports to SR Yugoslavia, freezing of that state’s financial holdings abroad, a ban on credits and investments to help with privatisation projects and a ban on journeys to the West by senior officials concerned with the policy towards Kosovo. Western governments are not going to support Kosovo Albanians’ demands for independence, let alone armed struggle to achieve it, but they are also going to continue to keep Milosevic out in the cold, without loans and credits he so badly needs, till he has started negotiating. Strengthened by his re-election on 22 March, Rugova had assembled a 15-strong negotiating team, but the Albanians continued to refuse to talk to ministers and other senior officials of the Serbian Republic that Milosevic was sending to Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. The Albanians insisted that, in view of the semi-federal status Kosovo had enjoyed between 1974 and 1989, they could negotiate only with the federal Yugoslav authorities, that is, Milosevic. In an attempt to show moderation and divide Western governments, Milosevic agreed to meet Ibrahim Rugova on 15 March. Previously, he had allowed the signing on 24 March of the protocol for the implementation of the 1996 agreement on schooling for the Albanians, but this has provoked furious protests from Kosovo’s Serbs and their sympathisers throughout Serbia—though Montenegro has called for the restoration of Kosovo’s autonomy. If the situation should lookas though it could deteriorate into a full-scale war, threatening to spill over into the neighbouring countries, some form of Western intervention cannot be ruled out.



One of the key concerns in the outside world is with the security situation in Macedonia (official title: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM for short). As the Kosovo Albanians increasingly take over the leadership of the Albanians living outside Albania proper, the government of Macedonia fears the increasing radicalisation of its Albanian population. The main grievance of Macedonia’s Albanians is that they are treated as second-class citizens—though their numbers entitle them to the status of a separate nation. There is a dispute about those numbers. According to a EU-supervised census in 1994, Albanians account for 22.9 percent of Macedonia’s population while the Albanians claim a 40 percent share of the total population. Although in numerical terms hardly a minority compared with the Turks (4 percent) and the Serbs (2 percent), the Albanians have no preferential treatment. Only 4 percent of the police and 10 percent of civil servants are ethnic Albanians. The government in Skopje is opposing demands for an Albanian-language university in Tetovo in western Macedonia. But Macedonia feels itself threatened not only from within but also from outside.

This may seem paradoxical because unlike Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, Macedonia did like them declare independence but managed to avoid becoming embroiled in wars in other parts of former Yugoslavia. President Kiro Gligorov, an experienced politician from the Tito era, negotiated an agreement on the peaceful withdrawal of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). Bulgaria was the first country to recognise Macedonia’s independence in January 1992, followed by Turkey in February 1992. But Greece refused to do so, claiming that a clause in the Macedonian Constitution and some of its state symbols represented an indication of an expansionist attitude that could threaten its own province of Macedonia. The government in Skopje tried to accommodate Greece, but national passions there continued to run high and eventually led to the imposition by Greece of a trade embargo in February 1994. External mediation allowed for the signing in September 1995 of an interim agreement that made possible Macedonia’s entry into the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme—but under the official name of FYROM. Relations with Greece have continued to improve, particularly since Costas Simitis took over as prime minister. There has also been strong pressure from the Greek business community (notably in Salonika) for the resumption of its former close trade links with the neighbour to the north. Relations with Bulgaria are correct but continue to be marred by disputes about history. Relations with Belgrade have also improved since the days in 1992 when there was talk of Milosevic offering to divide Macedonia with Greece and the then prime minister, Constantine Mitsotakis refusing.

The threat to Macedonia is no longer what it was in the past, when it used to be called the Balkan “apple of discord” both at home and abroad. Moderates within the Albanians community who are in alliance with the coalition of Macedonian parties are being squeezed by radicals in both communities. Fortunately, for political stability the Macedonian nationalist party, the VMRO-DPMNE is split but support for the radical Democratic Party of Albanians is growing—not least in response to violent incidents such as the one in Gostivar in western Macedonia in July 1997 which led to riots and at least three Albanians dead. A 14-year sentence against Gostivar’s Albanian mayor has inflamed the situation, but an appeal is pending. One of the effects of communal tension within Macedonia, if it were to continue, would be to push Macedonia closer to Serbia as an ally against the common enemy—the Albanians.

Ironically, it is on the border between FRY and Macedonia that the 700-strong American and Scandinavian UN force has been stationed since December 1992 as part of the general deployment of UN forces in former Yugoslavia. It was sent there at the request of President Gligorov and at the recommendation of the UN Secretary-General when Macedonia felt itself threatened by Milosevic (that was the time of rumours of a possible partition between Greece and Serbia). The force was renamed UNPREDEP in 1995 and is still there, having performed an unspectacular but important role in supporting stability in the region. Plans to withdraw it in the autumn of 1998, which had been worrying the government in Skopje, have been cancelled as the force may even be strengthened following the recent deterioration in the security situation in Kosovo.


Concluding Remarks

Prospects for the region of former Yugoslavia as well as the wider region of southeastern Europe depend to a large extent on the outcome of the struggle for the future shape of Serbia. That outcome is as yet uncertain but given the existing balance of forces it is now likely that Serbia will, sooner or later, be forced to give up both Montenegro and Kosovo. As similar situations elsewhere in the world have shown, neither will happen without a struggle involving (especially in Kosovo) a degree of violence. A really determined outside effort at mediation, involving both the West and Russia as well as the neighbours, and coupled with a readiness to impose solutions, as in Bosnia, should this become necessary, would reduce the dangers of escalation. However, one of the lessons from previous crises in the region is that, for such an international effort to be made, the situation on the ground will have to get a lot worse than it is now. Meanwhile, the prospects for democratic change and economic reform in Serbia remain extremely bleak.

The present picture of southeastern Europe, or the Balkans if you will, is that of a region settling down slowly to a sort of normality after the upheavals of the recent, second transition, peaceful and democratic everywhere except in Serbia, the epicentre of the first earthquake that shook the whole region in 1991. It could do so again if the present conflict in Kosovo deepens and widens to include the neighbouring states of Albania and Macedonia and perhaps others. Despite the seriousness of the present situation in Kosovo, such a general conflagration seems unlikely.

As to the prospects for the coming together of the entire region, they do exist but not in the form of the grandiose federations or confederations that members of previous generations had dreamed about, but rather in the form of pragmatic “bottom-up” infrastructure and other projects likely to benefit the governments of the region as well as business and foreign investors. There is no shortage of such projects, but it must be remembered that neither the ex-Yugoslav states nor their Balkan neighbours want to stay forever cooped up in some sort of an anti-chamber of Europe, in fact a regional ghetto. Their ultimate aim is to join—in the fulness of time, some earlier and other later—the larger entities that really matter to them: the European Union and NATO. Western policymakers should not forget that any regional intiative or project perceived by the locals as a device intended to divert them from the pursuit of their European and Atlantic vocation will be rejected and will fail.


Christopher Cviic is Associate Fellow of the European Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London.



Note 1: A detailed analysis of Slovenia’s geopolitical position and problems at the time of independence and thereafter, as seen from Ljubljana is provided in A. Bebler, “Slovenia and Europe”, The World Today, May 1995, pp. 96-9.  Back.

Note 2: For a comprehensive analysis of issues relating to Slovenia’s economic and financial position and its relationship with the EU, see the Financial Times Survey of Slovenia published on 28 April 1997.  Back.

Note 3: Vjesnik (Zagreb), 21 January 1998; Delo (Ljubljana), 21 January 1998.  Back.

Note 4: A solid and informative account of Croatia’s recent history and events leading to independence and afterwards is provided in M. Tanner, Croatia. A Nation Forged in War (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997).  Back.

Note 5: For an up-to-date comparison, see The Military Balance 1997/98, published by the Oxford University Press for the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (pp. 79-80 for Croatia; pp. 99-100 for FR Yugoslavia).  Back.

Note 6: Regular annual reports on the state of human rights observance and other issues such as the state of the media are produced by the US State Department—the latest, strongly critical one came out in January 1998—as well as by numerous other official and unofficial bodies. An independent, critical but also balanced Croatian account of the present state of democracy in Croatia is to be found in a collection of essays edited by Ljubomir Cucic and published by the European Movement of Croatia at the end of 1995 and entitled Ocjena stanja demokratskih sloboda u Republici Hrvatskoj (prilog raspravi) (An Evaluation of the State of Democratic Freedoms in the Republic of Croatia. A Contribution to the Debate) (Zagreb: Europski pokret Hrvatske, December 1995), 133 pages.  Back.

Note 7: An in-depth analysis of how Croatia, which had since declaring independence in 1991 experienced wartime destruction, an approximate one-third drop in GDP, high inflation and economic crisis, managed in 1993 to introduce a successful economic stabilisation programme is provided in “Croatia’s Economy after Stabilisation” by V. Franicevic and E. Kraft in Europe-Asia Studies (Glasgow) no 4, 1997, pp. 669-91. The same theme is tackled in “The Doubtful Blessings of Capital Imports. Reflections on the Fragility of Croatian Stabilisation” by B. Schonfelder in Communist Economies & Economic Transformation (London), no 1, 1996, pp. 67-78. Croatia’s political, economic and financial position and its relationship with the European Union are assessed in a special survey on Croatia published by the Financial Times on 28 May 1997. The business outlook in 1998 and beyond has been critically assessed in several recent issues of the respected Zagreb monthly Banka. The January 1998 issue assesses the dangers of higher inflation, devaluation of the kuna and a banking crisis. The magazine also publishes an international edition in English.  Back.

Note 8: An elaboration of the “Mediterranean transition model” published in the Zagreb magazine Erasmus, no 20, April 1997 by Vesna Pusic, a political scientist and member of the opposition Croatian People’s Party ( HNS), provoked a lively debate culminating, after the author’s return from a year’s teaching at Georgetown University in Washington, in a well-publicised round table discussion in January 1998 attended by opposition party leaders and another one shortly thereafter organised by the ruling party.  Back.

Note 9: See Report No. 27 by the International Crisis Group, a private, multi-national organisation headquartered in Brussels, published on 19 November 1997 and entitled “Dayton: Two Years On”, which provides a detailed review of progress in implementing Dayton. For a reliable perspective on Bosnia’s history from the earliest years to 1974, see N. Malcolm’s Bosnia. A Short History (London: Macmillan, 1994). The most authoritative analysis of the background to, and the actual implementation of what has come to be known as “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia is N. Cigar’s Genocide in Bosnia. The Policy of “Ethnic Cleansing” (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).  Back.

Note 10: The Tito regime’s post-1945 policy towards religious communities, including the Orthodox Church, is analysed in S. Alexander, Church and State in Yugoslavia since 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).  Back.

Note 11: For the latest figures and projections for Montenegro’s economy in 1998, see A. Srdjanovic, “Nerealan program” (An Unrealistic Programme), in Ekonomska politika (Belgrade), 12 January 1998, pp. 11-12.  Back.

Note 12: Vreme (Belgrade), 2 August 1997, pp. 20-3. Kosovo as one of the central preoccupations of Serb history and politics is analysed in T. Judah’s excellent book The Serbs. History, Myth & the Destruction of Yugoslavia (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997). One of the best documentary sources for the study of Serbian policy towards the Albanians in general and Kosovo in particular is the three-volume collection Srbija i Albanci (Serbia and the Albanians) published in 1989 as a special edition of the Slovene magazine Casopis za kritiko znanosti (Journal for the Philosophy of Science) in Ljubljana. The first volume deals with the 1878-1914 period; the second with the years from 1913 to 1945; and the third covers the 1944-1989 period. Another important documentary source is the collection Kosovo-Srbija-Jugoslavija (Ljubljana: Narodna in unverzitetna knjiznica, 1989) which contains views (expressed in their own languages) of Albanian, Croat, Serb, Bosnian Moslem and Slovene scholars on the eve of the war. The volume contains other interesting material including the results of a highly revealing opinion poll carried out by a Slovene team in seven Kosovo municipalities (sample: 1119 people).  Back.

Note 13: See Demaçi’s interview to Fehmi Rexhepi in Tjednik (Zagreb), 30 January 1998.  Back.

Note 14: Kosovo was visited by the International Commission on the Balkans set up in 1995 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in New York and the Aspen Institute in Berlin under the chairmanship of Leo Tindemans, a prominent Belgian Socialist politician. The Commission was a follow-up to the body of the same name that had reported on the region in 1912-13 in the wake of the two Balkan Wars. A number of recommendations are to be found in a separate Kosovo chapter of Unfinished Peace, an in-depth report produced by the Commission and published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1996. The Commission, which continues to busy itself with the region, suggested among other things that Serbia should lift martial law in Kosovo, restore Kosovo’s autonomy and effect a gradual withdrawal of troops and police, unilaterally, before the start of negotiations. The Kosovo Albanian leadership should, in return, be ready to enter negotiations without further preconditions, thus backing off from their refusal to talk about anything other than independence. If no agreement should be reached within “a reasonable time” (the report mentions two years), the Kosovo issue should be submitted to legally binding arbitration and, if the arbitrators recommended it, a Kosovo-wide referendum on the various options. The Commission also recommended that a concerted international effort should buttress this process and that there should be a long-term presence of an OSCE monitoring mission (pp. 118-9). A detailed step-by-step plan for a peaceful solution of the Kosovo conflict, including a letter of intent and confidence-building measures as part of the preparations for the third stage—the choice of options—was prepared by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Centre for Applied Policy Research at Munich University, was presented at a conference in September 1996 (See Europaische Rundschau, vol. 97, no. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 31-6). One of the most active bodies trying to mediate a peaceful solution in Kosovo on the ground has been the Roman Catholic “base community” of Sant’Egidio in Rome, which helped arrange a meeting between Albanians and the Serbian opposition in New York in April 1997. A joint document issued after the meeting stipulates that the Kosovo question should be resolved as part of a dialogue held without preliminary conditions. These ideas were endorsed at an Albanian-Serb meeting held from 23 to 25 June 1997 in Ulcinj in Montenegro. The meeting was organised by the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms based in Prishtina, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and the Belgrade Circle, a civil rights group. For texts of main speeches at Ulcinj, see the special issue of Helsinska povelja (Belgrade), July 1997. (An English version was published, also in July 1997, by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, publisher of Helsinska povelja whose editor is Sonja Biserko, a former Yugoslav diplomat and now one of the most prominent human rights activists in Serbia.)  Back.

Note 15: A brilliant—and extremely readable—double portrait of Slobodan Milosevic and his wife, Mirjana, a politician in her own right, is by Slavoljub Djukic, a former correspondent of the Belgrade daily Politika and one of Serbia’s best political writers. Entitled On, Ona i mi (He, She and Us), it was published by the independent Radio B-92 station in Belgrade in 1997. Milosevic’s record in power is also the subject of Prvih deset godina 1987-1997 (The First Ten Years 1987-1997), a collection of essays by Branislav Milosevic (no relative), who was Minister of Culture in Serbia in 1987 when his namesake Slobodan seized power, and was one of the first victims of his Party purge. The book’s publisher is the opposition group Beogradski krug (Belgrade Circle). Another “insider” view of Milosevic’s rise to power in Serbia in 1987 and the use he has made of it subsequently is provided by his erstwhile political mentor Ivan Stambolic in Put u bespuce (The Road to Nowhere), a series of in-depth interviews with Slobodan Inic, a well-known Serbian political analyst, Stambolic who originally backed Milosevic and was cast aside by him in 1987 sheds new light on a number of issues including Milosevic’s Kosovo policy. The book is published by Radio B-92. (Sadly, the station which played an important role in the political ferment of 1996-97 has since been “disciplined” with the aid of a former opposition group now aligned with Milosevic.)  Back.

Note 16: An indispensable source for the study of Serbia’s economy is the Belgrade weekly Ekonomska politika. How Serbia beat hyperinflation and achieved a temporary financial stabilisation in 1994 thanks to the efforts of the National Bank governor, Dagoslav Avramovic, but then after Avramovic’s dismissal went into reverse is told vividly and in fascinating detail by Mladjan Dinkic’s Ekonomija destrukcije (The Economics of Destruction), with a self-explanatory sub-title Velika pljacka naroda (The Great National Rip-Off). First published in 1995, the book is still read—and topical. The publisher is VIN, a video weekly in Belgrade. Current financial and economic situation, both in Serbia and in Montenegro, is examined in the well-informed and balanced Financial Times survey by G. Dinmore and K. Hope published on 27 January 1998. The present, extremely modest prospects for international co-operation involving FRY as well as Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia are perceptively and realistically assessed in B. Unger’s “Survey of the Balkans” published in The Economist on 24 January 1998.  Back.

Note 17: The Socialist government which came to power in Tirana after the financial collapse triggered by the failure of the so-called “pyramid schemes” and a brief but bitter civil war ending with elections on 29 June 1997 does not want to inflame the situation in Kosovo, but is not giving up its interest in it either. One of the signs of this continuing interest is the fact that the New Year TV programme beamed from Tirana to Kosovo was prepared by the staff of the Albanian-language TV from Prishtina sacked in 1990. On the international level, the government in Tirana is demanding a more “activist” approach to the resolution of the Kosovo question by the European Union, the United States and Russia. According to Paskal Milo, the foreign minister, in Gazeta Shquiptare, 13 January 1998, the view that the search for the solution may be left to the Balkan peoples themselves “has not stood the test of time” adding that Bosnia was a case in point. See BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, EE/3125 B/1, 14 January 1998.  Back.

Note 18: For an excellent and thorough examination of the security situation and prospects in Macedonia as well as in Kosovo, see S. Clement’s Chaillot Paper Conflict Prevention in the Balkans: Case Studies of Kosovo and the FYR of Macedonia (Paris: Institute for Security Studies Western European Union, December 1997). Macedonia is the focus of a balanced and perceptive analysis of prospects facing that Balkan state by R. Stefanova, entitled “Preventing Violent Conflict in Europe: The Case of Macedonia”, published in The International Spectator, vol. XXXII, no. 3/4, 1997, pp. 99-120.  Back.