|Click here for the NIJ Archive|
Issue No. 200. - November 24, 2000.
1. Croatia: THE BALKANS MOVE TOWARD EUROPE?
By Ivica Juric
2. Romania: PRE-ELECTORAL PICTURE
By Gabriela Adamesteanu
3. Bosnia and Herezegovina: PROBLEM LIES IN MENTALITY
By Radenko Udovicic
4. Special addition : NEW AT TOL
The summit in Zagreb between the countries of Southeast Europe and the European Union has been called a historical--and perhaps even the most important--meeting in transitional Europe. While the actual summit is being held in Croatia, it was convened and organised by the European Union, which has invited the states of former Yugoslavia, as well as Albania, to gather in Zagreb to discuss their future and to offer the best and most realistic ways to democratise and join the European Union.
French president Jacques Chirac, whose country currently presides over the EU, proposed the summit this summer when he met with the new Croatian president Stipe Mesic. The political changes in the states of former Yugoslavia were just beginning, after the European community had tried for years, without much success, to encourage former Yugoslavia to reject armed conflict and accept peace, democracy, co-operation and development as a solution to their problems.
When former Yugoslavia broke apart, it summoned one of the most gruesome regional wars Europe had ever seen, a war that many in Europe had thought unimaginable at the close of the twentieth century. Yugoslavia, the Eastern European country that in the 80s had been considered the closest to Europe and Western democracy, drowned in its own blood and sank to the bottom. It became, with the exception of Slovenia, a dark, isolated hole in Europe.
After almost a decade, the year 2000 may herald a turnaround. The political changes in Croatia, the weakening of the nationalistic monolith in Bosnia and Herzogovina, and finally--the most important moment for the entire region--the destruction of the Milosevic regime in Serbia have created the fundamental conditions for forging a path to Europe.
Europe has erected some very clear but difficult road signs for the countries of the region. They must first achieve internal democracy, then they must settle their conflicts with each other and restore co-operation before the region can develop. Each country's chances for joining the European Union depend on how well and how many of these demands the country realises. The international community has clearly stressed that the aim of this initiative is in no way to recreate a new Yugoslavia or any similar association. They consider that the days of united Yugoslavia are definitely over, but that Europe cannot co-operate with countries that are not prepared to co-operate with each other.
In spite of the serious differences between them, all the countries of southeastern Europe must jump yet another challenging hurdle in internal democratisation: solving the difficult problems of the war's aftermath, e.g., the return of refugees and exiles, co-operation with the Hague war crimes tribunal, and the relative normalisation of regional relations. All of these problems are, in one way or another, interrelated. Each question will ignite internal political conflict, because it means throwing out the politics on which the nations were essentially founded and under which they have always operated. This is the turning point that Europe is hoping for, but resistance to these changes in all the countries is still strong.
Of course when one looks at the key problems in the region, many preconditions for stabilisation remain unrealised. Kossovo's status has yet to be resolved. It is still unclear how the federation of Serbia and Montenegro will function. And five years after the Dayton Accord, Bosnia and Herzogovina is still more separate than united. The international community is not ignoring these problems. Although it very often loses its way in them, it has delivered a strong message that, after ten years of war, it is in no way prepared to let these problems be solved by force.
Mistrust between the nations in this territory is still enormous, and willingness to co-operate is minimal. But it's clear to everyone that without a change in their relations, the chance for Europeanisation and progress remains small. This is forcing them to rethink their political futures. The European Union wants to communicate clearly to both the politicians and the citizens of of these countries that it is ready to help, ready to share its considerable financial means to restore and develop these nations, but that this offer rests on certain conditions. The main work lies with the countries themselves.
Romania: A PRE-ELECTORAL SNAPSHOT
By Gabriela Adamesteanu
Four days before the presidential and Parliamentary elections, public opinion in Romania has changed radically, according to three opinion polls from three separate offices (IMAS, INSOMAR and BCS) funded by different sponsors.
The Socialist International has not acknowledged the Party of Social
Democracy in Romania (PDSR) as the main opposition party for years. Although
this opposition party calls itself social-democratic (its previous name
was the Front of Social Democracy in Romania and before that, just after
the December 1989
revolution, the National Salvation Front) it is made up of members of the former
Communist nomenklatura. The PDSR carries between 39.5 and 46 percent of electoral support, according to the above-mentioned polls.
PDSR leader Ion Iliescu has won less popular support than his party, but he still has a good lead on the other candidates for presidency, with between 35% and 40% of the electorate. His supporters tend to be older, less educated, and fearful of the reforms which have made slow--and consequently perhaps more painful--progress in Romania.
Ion Iliescu is rejected by part of Romania's society on other grounds. Many consider him to be campaigning for a third and illegal term (he was president before Romania drew up its current Constitution). Many also think he is too dependent on Russia. He was the president of the international students' association in Moscow as a student there in the 1950s, and went through a public trial after being accused of working for the KGB. Proof was found this past summer that he was working on installing a "red wire", a special direct telephone line between the Romanian presidential palace Cotroceni and the Kremlin, while he still was president in 1995-1996. He is blamed for some of the December 1989 deaths, which remain unsolved, and for summoning the miners to fight the students in June 1990 student protests. He is considered largely responsible for the very poor economy, since he was Romania's leader from 1990 to November 1996. His return to power is regarded by many as a serious issue and a possible threat to the country's Euro-Atlantic integration. But in the minds of his supporters, the citizens most dissatisfied with the low standard of living, Ion Iliescu is beyond reproach.
Romania could see two rounds of presidential elections. In order to win the first round of elections, a candidate must collect at least half the votes of all eligible voters, according to Romania's constitution. However, no more than 70 percent of voters are expected to show up at the polls.
A serious concern now is that Corneliu Vadim Tudor, with between 14 percent and 22 percent support, may be the next candidate behind Iliescu in the polls, and Iliescu's potential rival in the second round of presidential elections. Tudor leads the far right Greater Romania Party, which has attracted prominent members of the former Securitate (the former political police). The GRP itself occupies second place after after PDSR in the polls, with between 15.5 percent and 18.5 percent support.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor is closely trailed by two other presidential candidates, Romanian prime minister in 1991 and 1992 Theodor Stolojan (between 13.1 and 16 percent) and Mugur Isarescu (between 11.4 and 14.5 percent), former governor of the National Bank of Romania and current prime minister.
Stolojan represents the National Liberal Party, which holds third place
in the polls with 10 to 13 percent, which he joined at the beginning of
his campaign. Mugur Isarescu is an independent candidate and carries the
support of a group of intellectuals calling themselves "civil society."
He is also supported by the Democratic Convention 2000, an alliance formed
around the main Government party, the National Christian Peasant Democratic
Party. Stolojan and Isarescu are both "technocrats." Neither of them come
from the current political regime, a regime that has lost popularity after
several corruption scandals and of constant bickering among the members
of the current governmental coalition. It may have been a mistake to place
these two candidates in competition with each other, since they both represent
important parties of the present-day
A team of journalists from the magazine "22" drew up an appeal on November 14, which was signed by more than 120 intellectuals from all over the country, warning against the risks the elections present: that only one party comes to power, in the case that one party wins the elections with a large majority; or that the democratic opposition disappears, in the case that the Democratic Convention 2000, which polls show as carrying only 5 percent of the voter support, wins no seats in Parliament. The appeal proposed that any two of the three democratic candidates endorse the remaining one, in order to build a strong campaign against Ion Iliescu. The appeal came too late, and perhaps it would not have worked anyway. The split was exacerbated by the fact that the Democratic Union of Magyars in Romania (UDMR), a member of the current government coalition, has its own candidate for presidency, Gyorgy Frunda - whom the party probably nominated to win the Hungarian vote in the second round of elections.
Polls point to a government consisting of PDSR, the National Liberal Party and UDMR, so as to give credibility to the former Communist party in its dealings with European institutions.
It is hoped that Romania will not see extreme right leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who champions an authoritative, racial attitude, in the second round. There is little hope now that - regardless of his competition - Ion Iliescu will not become Romania's next president.
On November 21, 1995, in the small American city of Dayton, Ohio, a peace agreement was signed, ending a bloody three-and-a-half-year war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dayton also played an important role in laying the legal foundation for a new Bosnia divided by nationality, the result of a compromise between Serbian negotiators, who wanted complete independence for the Serb Republic, and their Bosniak counterparts who were struggling to maintain the unity of the country. Croatian representatives in Dayton carried out a delicate balancing act between the two opposing demands which, the ruling HDZ claims today, gave birth to the current dissatisfaction that most Croatian political institutions in Bosnia express regarding Bosnian Croats' legal status.
The Dayton Accord mandates that Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was one country during the time of unifed Yugoslavia, was divided into two entities: a Serb Republic as a territory of the Serbian nation, and Federation B-H as a joint community of Bosniaks and Croats. In practice, Bosnia's three constitutional nations found they were minorities in certain territories, not only practically but legally. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitution claims in its opening paragraphs that Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats are constitutional nations in B-H, the constitutions of the respective entities have negated that. It was only this past summer that this illogical situation was resolved, when the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina cancelled some parts of entities' constitutions and proclaimed the constituency of all three nations throughout B-H.
Croats also raised their voices in favor of establishing a national entity of Croatian people. This was an especially prominent demand during the war between Bosniaks and Croats; that conflict ended when the parties agreed to join forces against the Serbs, mostly due to American pressure. But the Federation B-H never managed to get off the ground, torn as it was between Croatian separatist tendencies and Bosniaks struggles for unity, and over the past year support has begun to grow for a third, Croatian entity. The biggest push for this change comes from the HDZ, the ruling party of Bosnian Croats whose initiative led to the referendum just before the general elections. The referendum was organized to allow Croats to express their opinion about their legal position, that is, their wish to create a special national territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This referendum was held on the day of general elections in Bosnia, and as many as 98 percent of Croatians voted in favor of a change of Croats' status in Bosnia. But Croats are not the only ones unhappy with the Dayton Accord. Bosniaks have expressed their dissatisfaction with this document ever since it was signed. Bosniak politicians have often said that the Accord was being implemented on a selective basis, with especially little progress in the area of return of refugees. According to this interpretation, the Dayton Accord has cemented the situation in Bosnia created by ethnic cleansing, since the territorial division by nationality doesn't allow Bosniaks and Croats to participate much in the Serb Republic, and vice versa. This discontent over the Dayton Accord culminated before the elections, when the Party for B-H (led by former prime minister Haris Silajdzic) founded its program to cancel all entities and create a centralized Bosnia and Herzegovina. This idea caused a new surge of national tensions in the country. All the parties from Serb Republic were frightened by this idea, and retaliated with an avalanche of accusations against Bosniaks, claiming they wanted to create a unitarian state and seize complete control over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Basically at this time only Serbs and their political representatives do not support changing the Dayton Accord. The Accord grants them significant autonomy in their Serb Republic and allows them to strengthen regional ties, especially their close cooperation with Yugoslavia. However, Serbian politicians only now completely understand all of what the Accord offers them. It was they who negated it, obstructed it, and implemented it selectively. Serbian support of the Dayton Accord seems to come a little too late.
Due to these problems another high-level meeting has been held in Dayton, five years after the accord was signed, between politicians from the countries that signed Dayton Accord--Bosnia, Croatia and Yugoslavia--along with international community. It's worth noting that no one who signed the agreement is politically active anymore. Croatian president Franjo Tudjman died in December 1999, and his party lost all power in Croatia. Slobodan Milosevic lost the Serbian elections, and was literally overthrown. Alija Izetbegovic, a member of Bosnian presidency for ten years, has withdrawn from all official positions. There were new people in Dayton, people with democratic ideals which, the international community agreed, has eased the implementation of Dayton Accord. The basic conclusion the Dayton meeting came to was that the peace agreement shouldn't be changed, but rather that it must be implemented completely and urgently. This "implementation" means a strengthening of central institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the arrest of indicted war criminals and not tying Bosnia's future to events in Kosovo or Montenegro. This latter conclusion came after statements from some Serb politicians that they would ask for independence for the Serb Republic if the trend of changing Balkan borders continued. These conclusions were reached by a group of American international law experts. However, they were downgraded by the organizer, the American government itself. Deputy Secretary of State James Perdew said the US government was not obliged to honour the conclusions. In truth, the Dayton Accord without US support draws some guidelines that can be further watered down in the implementation phase.
Democratic changes in Croatia and Yugoslavia will favor the further
survival of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a strict implementation of Dayton
Accord. Croatian president Stipe Mesic has often said that Croatia
will not intrude in Bosnia's internal affairs and will try to constructively
help solve problems in Bosnia and throughout the region. A similar attitude
was adopted by the new Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, who immediately
upon assuming power said he completely supported the territorial
integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that his government
will support direct implementation of
The changes in Croatia and Serbia completely changed the situation in the regions, and some of the causes of the war for which the two countries are responsible have disappeared with Milosevic and Tudjman. The international community therefore hoped that general elections in Bosnia will also change the Bosnian political scene and bring to power politicians unburdened by the legacy of war. But it was not to be. In the Serb Republic, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) re-won the government it lost in 1997. The SDS is a nationalist party regared by many as responsible for the war in Bosnia. Although the party joined democratic trends in B-H, many are skeptical about an improved implementation of the Dayton Accord. The Social Democratic party gained new votes in Federation B-H, but it failed to gain the advantage it would need to keep the national parties from forming a coalition government without them.
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won more than 70 percent of the Croatian vote. After these results one can fairly say that national antagonism in Bosnia still runs strong, and that national parties managed to gain many votes by spreading fear of "the others". These election results prompted the international community to issue a warning that Bosnian and Herzegovina could be left on the margin of democratic movements in the region, making further financial aid questionable. Without international aid, the Bosnian economy would be completely destroyed.
The international community's strategy during the past elections was to lend strong support to the opposition in Federation B-H and the government in the Serb Republic, both deemed democratic. However, neither of them were as successful as expected. After the elections the OSCE mission in Bosnia, resposible for managing the elections, brought penalties against the victorious parties, which will somewhat reduce their influence. HDZ was forced to withdraw 30 representatives from various government levels because it organized Croatian referendum on the day of elections and thus broke the election silence. Both SDS and SDA had to return some mandates on the same charge of breaking election silence, so these parties will exercise less power when the new government forms. It is clear that the parties broke the rules, but these punishments seem like changing the voters' will, something the parties will use to ignite opposition to the international community.
The source of some of Bosnia's problems can be found inside the heads of the people, and can hardly be changed by punishing individual parties. However, changes in the region may open the possibility of Serbia and Croatia exercising a strong influence, especially on Bosnian Croats and Serbs. This pressure will be more efficient and will certainly yield better long-term results.
WEEK IN REVIEW
European Parliament Tells Turkey To Recognize Armenian Genocide
In Wake of Massive Defeat, Czech Social Democrats Bicker
National Bolsheviks Barricade Themselves in Latvian Church
State-Dominated Gazprom Gains Control Over Russia's Media-MOST
Second Russian Oligarch Summoned to Court
Slovenia's Drnovsek Elected Prime Minister for Fourth Term
Decapitated Body Found, Believed to be Opposition Journalist's
Albanian Opposition Storm Prime Minister's Office
Nationalists Win Bosnian Elections
Balcerowicz Resigns as Head of Poland's Freedom Party
OUR TAKE: Thank you, Sir. May I Have Another? On Romania's depressing electoral choice http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=6&NrSection=16&NrArticle=427&ST_max=0
FEATURE: Two Steps Backward?
by Mihai Constantin
Maria Runcanu, a 68-year-old retiree, angrily waves an empty
plastic bag in the capital city's Obor marketplace. "I worked in a
shoe factory for 40 years. My pension is 1,200,000 lei ($48). How
am I supposed to live with that? My medication and house payments
cost that. What am I suppose to eat?" she says. For the last 10
years, Romania has suffered high unemployment and inflation, with
many people living on the fringes of society. Sick of failed
reform and a beleaguered economy, Romanians look set to re-elect
leftist Ion Iliescu.
OPINION: Personalities Over Politics
by Jiri Pehe
After this month's Czech regional and Senate elections, one
thing is sure. The right-wing Civic Democratic Party and its
leader, Vaclav Klaus, are in an unfortunate situation: They enjoy
the loyal support of approximately one quarter of the electorate
but are strongly disliked by the remaining 75 percent. And as
Czechs overwhelmingly show their distaste for their ruling
parties, a new force emerges on the political scene
OPINION: A Gift From Meciar
by Peter Schutz
Slovakia's famed strongman comes up way short, but can the
shaky ruling coalition take advantage of his tactical error?
Three-time ex-Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has suffered the
greatest political debacle of his rich and varied career. On 11
November, only 20 percent of the electorate participated in a
referendum on calling early elections, initiated by Meciar's
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). For the vote to have
been valid, over 50 percent needed to show up. Instead not even
all the party faithful of HZDS and its political allies took the
trouble to participate.
OPINION: Back to Belgrade
by Jen Tracy
It was a month ago that Mira Karajankovic's father called from
Belgrade--the day that Vojislav Kostunica was declared president
of Yugoslavia and Slobodan Milosevic stepped down. His message was
short and simple: "Our generation failed, now it's your
generation's turn." It was enough to give Karajankovic the will to
meet the new challenge--even in her own small, grassroots way.
Patience is a virtue for Serbs returning to Yugoslavia with
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Upping the Ante
At the beginning of the second week of November--during the
rumpus in the United States over who will be the next leader of
the free world--Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed that
both countries reduce their nuclear weapons to only a quarter of
their present volume. This piece includes the full text of Putin's
statement to the press.
FEATURE: Entrepreneurs in Uzbekistan Grapple With Corruption
A TOL partner post by Jennifer Balfour http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=6&NrSection=2&NrArticle=424&ST_max=0
Mavluda Hassanova rattles around in her ice-cold shop. With
each passing winter, she becomes more depressed as she sits amid
empty shelves in a decaying building that was once her pride and
joy. A recent World Bank analysis on small business failure in the
Central Asian republics comes as no surprise to her. She
understands corruption and extortion first-hand, as do many of her
friends, who are also entrepreneurs struggling to find business
success in post-Soviet Uzbekistan.