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OMRI: Pursuing Balkan Peace, Vol. 1, No. 50, 96-12-17

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <>

Vol. 1, No. 50, 17 December 1996


  • [01] A Remarkable Year Comes to a Close
  • [06] Is Milosevic Ready For A Compromise?

  • [01] A Remarkable Year Comes to a Close

    by Patrick Moore

    The year 1996 has certainly been a milestone in the history of much of the former Yugoslavia. This was to have been expected at any rate in Bosnia- Herzegovina, because that was the first year of the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement.

    That treaty was signed on 14 December 1995 in Paris. It was the result of months of diplomatic activity by the U.S., and in particular by Washington's chief envoy to the former Yugoslavia, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. The agreement came about not only because of this pressure, however, but also because Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic decided that he needed an end to the war-linked sanctions that were strangling the economy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The military position of the Bosnian Serbs, moreover, was rapidly collapsing under a combined Croat-Muslim offensive, together with NATO airstrikes and a no- nonsense approach by the NATO Rapid Reaction Force in Sarajevo.


    The record of putting the treaty into practice was nonetheless mixed and disappointing, even though the political prestige of the international community and NATO were on the line. The biggest success was that the fighting stopped and that the military provisions of Dayton were generally met. This was partly because the Serbs had been worn down and thrown on the defensive in the course of 1995, while the Muslims and the Croats had valuable political, military, and economic incentives to do as Washington wished.

    That does not mean, however, that everything was perfect on the military front. Experts on all sides agreed that the hundreds of thousands of mines all over Bosnia-Herzegovina would probably never all be found and neutralized. There were still many unregistered weapons in many hands everywhere. Journalists, moreover, often charged that NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR) looked the other way in the face of illegal arms caches unless the press was present to call wider attention to the weapons.

    There were, furthermore, clashes in the fall as Muslims tried to return to their homes on Serb-held territory -- as they had every right to do under Dayton. This was especially the case in the area between Muslim-held Celic and Serb-controlled Koraj in northeastern Bosnia just south of the strategic Brcko region. IFOR, the UN's International Police Task Force (IPTF), and the Serbs accused the Muslims of staging a provocation by bringing weapons into a demilitarized zone. The UNHCR finally helped establish an orderly procedure to enable refugees to go home, but the Muslims charged that the Serbs were using the lists of applicants in order to target formerly Muslim homes for destruction.

    There were, of course, successes in the civilian sector. Elections did take place on 14 September for all but the local level offices, and if the nationalist parties won, it was not the fault of the election monitors. New government structures to connect the Federation with the Republika Srpska came into being, and if they were proving unworkable, the flaw was in the complex theory enshrined in the Dayton text and not in its implementation. Some reconstruction and investment projects were launched, even though not all the money pledged was actually delivered and even though only two percent of the funds found their way to the impoverished Republika Srpska. And if there was massive unemployment across the country, at least international reconstruction agencies realized that tens of thousands of young men were sitting around without work, and that the only skill that many of them knew was killing.

    But that is just about all one can list on the positive side of the balance sheet. Most of the civilian provisions of Dayton were honored more in the breach than in the practice. This was because the international community and its representatives on the ground -- including IFOR and the IPTF -- had neither the will nor the mandate to enforce them. The result was that Bosnia-Herzegovina remained effectively divided into three states governed by the respective nationalist parties of the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. A united country existed only on the pages of the Dayton agreement.


    First, to return to the elections. Free elections were not possible without free discussion. But the Dayton provision stressing the need to establish or develop free media and above all to ban the propagation of ethnic hatred remained largely a dead letter. While some independent periodicals and radio stations were established primarily on Muslim territory and even in the Republika Srpska, the all-important medium of television remained largely in nationalist hands. Physical violence was used by the police or by mysteriously well-organized gangs against opposition parties on all three sides.

    Against this background, it came as no surprise that the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of Alija Izetbegovic triumphed among the Muslims, easily defeating a challenge from former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic and his new Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH). The SDA contained a wing that took very seriously the idea of maintaining a unified, multi-ethnic state, but largely out of the realization that only such an entity offered the best opportunity for long-term political and physical survival of the Muslims. The party, moreover, also had a faction of Islamic hard-liners, including some high-ranking security and military personnel with close wartime ties to Iran and the Muslim world. But Bosnian Muslim society remained largely secular and European. The hard-liners accordingly stayed a minority that was mainly of interest to Serbs, Croats, and others seeking to frighten foreign audiences into thinking that there was some sort of Iran-in-the-making in the western Balkans.

    Similarly, Kresimir Zubak's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) -- which is simply a branch organization of the governing party in Croatia of the same name -- won among the Croats. This was especially the case in western Herzegovina and the adjoining areas, known as the Croatian Republic (or Community) of Herceg-Bosna. That para-state was to have been abolished not only under Dayton, but according to the original Croat-Muslim peace agreement concluded in early 1994, i.e. almost two years earlier. In any event, Croatian officials from President Franjo Tudjman on down had repeatedly signed documents promising that Herceg-Bosna would disappear, but December 1996 still found it very much alive. It had even set up a court in a building that was supposed to have housed a unified Mostar city government of Croats, Muslims, and Serbs. The Croat-Muslim Federation remained , in fact, very much one confined to paper, and nowhere were the tensions more pronounced than in sharply divided Mostar. Hopes that the elections in June would lead to a real reunification of the city proved a dead letter, as the graphic example of the city hall shows. The end of the year found the remaining Muslims continuing to be evicted from their flats in Croat-held west Mostar, just as the few Croats left in Muslim-controlled central Bosnia faced discrimination from local officials.

    The Republika Srpska similarly ended the year with the nationalists firmly in the saddle. True, the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) won "only" about two-thirds of the vote in the 14 September ballot despite its control of the media and the police. But its main challenger for the Serbian vote had not been any multi-ethnic party, but rather a Serbian coalition -- the Alliance for Peace and Progress -- with links to Milosevic. Many voted for the Alliance simply because they wanted closer ties to federal Yugoslavia, not because they were anti-nationalist. And within the Republika Srpska's own legislature, the SDS took 45 seats, compared with 14 for the SDA and only 10 for the Alliance.


    Since the same nationalists who fought the war thus remained in control on all three sides, the only way the civilian provisions of Dayton could have had a chance of succeeding was if IFOR and the IPTF took a tough approach to enforcing them. Unfortunately for Dayton and its concept of a multi- ethnic, unified Bosnia and Herzegovina, both IFOR and the IPTF both interpreted their mandates in a narrow sense, which in practice meant doing little more than preventing any resumption of hostilities.

    One key point stressed in Dayton but left unenforced was the right to freedom of movement throughout the republic. Not only did this not exist between the Federation and the Republika Srpska, but it was little honored between the Croat and Muslim areas within the Federation itself.

    A second and related issue was the right of refugees to go home, regardless of which nationality might now be in control there. This provision was not observed at all. The pattern was generally that refugees would try to go home on foot or in busses, but that large groups of nasty crowds armed with sticks and projectiles would block their way. This was especially true of Muslims trying to go back to what had become the Republika Srpska, but people of each nationality could cite similar examples at the hands of the other two. In any event, IFOR and IPTF forces would not try to teach the wrongdoers a lesson but simply sought to prevent any clashes. The result was the consolidation and even continuation of "ethnic cleansing."

    A third problem was the failure to arrest indicted war criminals and bring them to justice. They continued to roam and work freely, in some cases regularly passing under the noses of IFOR and IPTF patrols that just looked the other way rather than risk casualties. This was despite pleas from The Hague that the arrest and trial of such individuals was necessary for lasting peace in order to put an end to the idea that one nationality or another was collectively guilty for the atrocities. This had been a key principle behind the war crimes trials at the end of World War II, but by the end of 1996 only seven of the dozens of indicted war criminals had actually gone to The Hague. These included none of the big fish, although former Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic had been forced to leave public life in July. His military counterpart, Gen. Ratko Mladic, was sent into retirement by Karadzic's hand-picked successor Biljana Plavsic in November, but this reflected long-term civilian-vs.-military rivalry among the Bosnian Serb leadership rather than any desire to help the tribunal.

    Finally, there were some key issues that had not been cleared up in 1996 as scheduled and were held over into 1997, for which they remained a potential source of instability or worse. The first involved the disarmament of the Serbs, who lagged behind schedule in reducing their weapons stockpiles. The U.S. and some of its friends were rapidly working to narrow the arms gap between the Republika Srpska and the Federation by helping the latter, but the Serbs dragged their feet. And rumors abounded on all three sides that fighting could resume as early as the fall of 1997.

    The second open question was the status of Brcko and its surrounding corridor, which was the only territorial issue not resolved at Dayton. It was left for international arbitration in December, but the deadline was postponed to February 1997 because the Serbs refused to attend the meetings. They had good reason to hamstring the talks, since any change in their present control over the once-Muslim town and its neighboring region threatened to cut communications between the eastern and western halves of the Republika Srpska. Brcko remained a game for high stakes, and on 16 December Plavsic warned that any ruling against the Serbs would mean war.

    The last main unresolved issue was that of the local elections. These were postponed from 14 September into the new year following a dispute over what was called the P-2 option. That provision stated that voters might register to cast their ballot in any town where they claimed they would eventually live. The Bosnian Serb authorities in particular had used this to force voters into registering for strategic towns -- such as Brcko or Srebrenica - - over which Pale wanted to consolidate its power. The Muslims then complained of fraud and forced the OSCE to postpone the vote. The Serbs, for their part, refused to honor any new ballot without the P-2 option. By the end of 1996, the matter was no nearer to resolution than it had been in September.


    But if little changed inside Bosnia itself, the feeling grew by the end of the year that developments in Croatia and in Serbia might break the logjam. November and December witnessed massive social or political protests in Zagreb at a time when President Franjo Tudjman was widely believed to be dying of cancer. His response to critics sounded increasingly paranoid and shrill, which prompted many observers to recall the atmosphere surrounding the collapse of other regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989. Some feared that hard-liners might try to stage a coup upon his death and sabotage the Dayton process, but others felt that Croatia stood on the threshold of a new era of peace and democracy. In any event, there was little support in Croatia for the Herceg-Bosna crowd, who were generally regarded as a corrupt group of thugs who had gained too much power in Croatia itself.

    And the spirit of 1989 was present in Belgrade, too. Western leaders avoided the temptation to cling to Milosevic as a guarantor of stability in Bosnia; instead, they called upon the Serbian leadership to respect the 17 November election results. But the White House and other Western leaderships stopped short of fully embracing the opposition parties and the demonstrators, and with good reason where Bosnia was concerned.

    First, the opposition's Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic had long-standing ties to the Bosnian Serb nationalists. Draskovic once had links to the notorious paramilitaries, and Djindjic was particularly close to the SDS. He was also on record as saying that Bosnia will eventually fragment into three ethnically-based states and that the Croat and Serb components would gravitate toward Croatia and Serbia, respectively. Of the three main leaders of the Zajedno coalition, only Vesna Pesic was a solid democrat and a supporter of civil society. It was not clear, moreover, what these people would actually do if their coalition came to power, provided, of course that it did not disintegrate first.

    Second, the demonstrators did not include only democrats but also nationalists, particularly but not only among the students. These were people who were angry with Milosevic for what they regarded as the sell-out of the Krajina and Bosnian Serbs in 1995. Plavsic had already praised these students and said that she would march with them if she were in Belgrade.

    At the end of the year of the Dayton agreement, attention was thus centered more on Serbia than on Bosnia, but there was good reason for this. Serbia was where the political pressures began that ultimately destroyed Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia in 1991 and then the multi-ethnic community that had been Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. It was only through the establishment of democracy in Serbia that real peace in the region was possible, particularly given the failure of the international community to enforce the Dayton agreement for Bosnia that the international community itself had sponsored.

    [06] Is Milosevic Ready For A Compromise?

    by Stan Markotich

    And as this report goes to press, the big question in Serbia is whether or not Milosevic is really prepared to make fundamental compromises. Recent developments suggest that the ongoing daily mass protests across Serbia have had some effect, and have caused Milosevic to backtrack from the position of recognizing no opposition victories in municipal 17 November runoff elections.

    As recently as 13 December Milosevic was reaffirming a hard-line. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher made public on that day, Milosevic finally broke his silence on the issue of the opposition Zajedno coalition and the ongoing mass public demonstrations. For his part, Milosevic denied all allegations that he had engaged in or engineered electoral fraud to undermine the 17 November opposition victories. He also stressed that he would not use force against "peaceful" demonstrators, but described the protesters as "vandals" and "political terrorists." Also, the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) joined Milosevic in condemning Zajedno, dubbing it a force bent on "destabilizing" Serbia. "Zajedno has shown itself to be a direct instrument of those international factors that want to impose a policy and regime opposed to the public interest," said a 13 December SPS resolution.

    But mass protests across Serbia reached a new level on 15 December. On that date, an estimated 250,000 people turned out in Belgrade to participate, Radio B92 reported. It was the largest gathering to date. It was perhaps in direct response to such mounting public pressure that a court in Nis, Serbia's second largest city, ruled that in fact the opposition coalition Zajedno had won in 17 November runoff municipal elections, and urged the local electoral commission to recognize those returns. Serbia-wide mass demonstrations, now backed by students and a growing number of trade unionists, developed first as a call for the regime to recognize opposition wins at the municipal level, but have evolved into calls for the resignation of Milosevic.

    Meanwhile, international support for the Zajedno demands to have municipal election returns recognized has also continued. On 15 December U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum met with Serbian opposition leader Draskovic for over two hours in Geneva. Kornblum emerged from the meeting expressing his support for the "democratic process" in Serbia.

    Just a day after that, a court in the Serbian town of Smederovska Palanka ruled that the local electoral commission turn over the municipal council to the opposition Zajedno coalition, thereby recognizing opposition victory in the polling. Even for his part, Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic reacted to events in neighboring Serbia, noting "recognition of the second round [17 November] elections is the best solution," Nasa Borba reported on 17 December.

    And in yet another sign Milosevic was willing to make concessions, and amid growing trade union support for the daily mass demonstrations across Serbia, the Serbian government has announced it would not debate an unpopular labor bill that could as legislation cost as many as 800,000 jobs, Reuters reported on 17 December.

    In reality, Milosevic may be aiming to diffuse the protest movement. It is possible that his tactic so far is only to offer up limited concessions in the hopes that enough people will be satisfied, and thus motivated to stop participating in the daily marches. For now, Milosevic appears unwilling to give up the jewel in the crown of Serbian local politics, but should he move towards recognizing opposition victory in Belgrade he could be showing that his totalitarian hold on power has at last been shaken.


    But Milosevic is still very much in control in Kosovo, where Serb police detained 14 Kosovo Albanians at Pristina airport on 7 and 14 December. The travelers, including a mother with two children, were returning from Switzerland, ATSH reported on 16 December. The Pristina- based Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms said the Albanians had valid travel documents. In another incident, the leading Kosovar political organization, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), said that Feriz Blakcori (34) died in a hospital in Pristina on 12 December after being tortured by police. Blakcori was arrested at his home on 9 December by a 40- strong police unit on suspicion of possessing firearms. Blakcori, a father of two, was a member of the LDK's information commission and a teacher in a local elementary school. The LDK says Blakcori was the 14th victim of Serbian police violence in Kosovo this year. Meanwhile the Kosovar shadow- state government issued its first official statement welcoming the Belgrade protests. It added , however, that the Serbian opposition "still remains anti-Albanian" and "does not as yet deserve our full support." Finally, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova arrived in Paris on 14 December, returning from the U.S.. He had held meetings with senior officials, including Secretary of State Christopher. Official announcements gave no indication, however, that any concrete steps or substantial diplomatic efforts towards negotiations on the Kosovo issue can be expected. -- Fabian Schmidt


    Back in Bosnia, the head of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, praised IFOR while on a visit, international and regional media reported on 16 December. The peacekeepers' mandate ends on 20 December, but the smaller SFOR will then take over IFOR's duties and facilities. The American general said that IFOR could be proud of its work but regretted that more was not done to arrest indicted war criminals, which IFOR and the general call "police work." NATO claims that responsibility for arresting war criminals lies with the various former Yugoslav civilian authorities, but critics charge that IFOR has deliberately turned a blind eye toward war criminals in order to avoid violence (see above). Shalikashvili said that "a way must be found for an international police force to be constituted" and arrest suspects. -- Patrick Moore


    Meanwhile in Croatia, Ivan Jarnjak's departure (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 December 1996) was confirmed on 12 December by the HDZ's secretary Ivan Valent--not by the prime minister or the president as required by the constitution--international and local media reported. Valent said Jarnjak was moving to another senior government duty, "which will enable him to concentrate more on party activities," Vecernji list reported on 13 December. According to Valent, Jarnjak will be replaced by former privatization minister Ivan Penic. Local media reported that more members of Jarnjak's team had resigned as a sign of solidarity with their minister, but it was not officially confirmed. Analysts say Jarnjak was sacked for allowing the demonstration against the government's attempt to silence independent Radio 101 to proceed without police intervention. Meanwhile, the European Parliament on 12 December passed a resolution expressing deep concern at the government's treatment of the Radio 101, Hina reported the next day. The resolution called on Croatia to "renew Radio 101's permit to broadcast before it runs out on 15 January 1997." Last month, the government gave Radio 101's broadcasting concession to another station but later backtracked on the move after 100,000 people demonstrated against it in Zagreb. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    In another sign of official nervousness, Croatian customs on 12 December confiscated $65,000 from Croatian Open Society Institute officials and detained them, international and independent Croatian media reported. State television said border police at the Bregana border crossing with Slovenia will most probably confiscate the money that was not declared, although Croatian law does not require such a declaration. Police have also arrested or interrogated other Open Society officials. One of them said the police must have been acting upon a tip after tapping the foundation's phones, and denied a TV report that the money had been hidden in a compartment of the car, international agencies reported on 16 December. Another member of the Society told Reuters on 13 December that the financial police have started searching its premises and documents. The events followed recent vows by Tudjman to crack down on dissenters, in which he particularly named George Soros' Open Society Institute as the organization that has, according to Tudjman, infiltrated the whole society in order to undermine the government. The Institute's Zarko Puhovski said the authorities are taking the issue "very seriously" this time, Reuters noted. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    And apparently to dispel rumors that he has cancer and not long to live, the president appeared on Croatian Television playing tennis with the government in attendance, Reuters wrote on 11 December. Critics called the event "surreal" and likened it to similar public shows of vitality once put on by communist leaders. Tudjman's recent statements against "enemies" have also been compared to communist-era rhetoric. An unnamed diplomat said that Tudjman is behaving like a man who has nothing to lose and will do as he wants. -- Patrick Moore


    In other news from Croatia, on 6 December the UN said that international donors have pledged over $30 million to help in reconstruction, international and local media reported. Organizers of the donors' conference in Zagreb originally hoped to raise $1.2 billion. But Derek Boothby, deputy to the UN's Jacques Klein, said the money promised was a "very good start," AFP reported. Boothby said that foreign money would encourage the Serbs to stay and the Croats to return. Meanwhile, the top local Serb representative, Vojislav Stanimirovic, said the Serbs want to have their own county in Croatia where they would be in the majority, Novi List reported on 7 December. Under current Croatian law, that region would be split into two counties. Stanimirovic called for a referendum on the region's administrative status, AFP reported on 6 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    Moving on to Bulgaria, Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev on 12 December said he has documents proving the existence of a financial network of the former Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP) reportedly used by nomenklatura groups to obtain start-up capital for their business empires, RFE/RL reported. Tatarchev said the money was transferred abroad before 1989 as aid to Third World revolutionary organizations but was never included in the state budget. In 1994, The Financial Times reported that nomenklatura business groups with alleged links to organized crime had embezzled huge sums of state funds from secret BKP accounts in Austria and Switzerland. The money was reportedly withdrawn by secret service agents who had access to the accounts. In November, former Communist Dictator Todor Zhivkov told RFE/RL that $2 billion were transferred abroad during the term of then- Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov in 1990. This sum equals Bulgaria's borrowings from Western governments in the Paris Club of lenders. -- Stefan Krause

    Edited by Patrick Moore

    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to

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