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Issue No. 211 - February 15 , 2001
Contents :

             By Goran Vezic

             By Ylber Emra

             By Gabriela Adamesteanu

    By Goran Vezic
    The party that ruled Croatia for ten years under Franjo
Tudjman, and which became the opposition after last year's
elections, has taken to the streets to demand early elections in
    The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is the ideological force
behind the chaos that has been erupting since last Thursday, when
unhappy members of veteran's organisations blocked Croatian streets.
    The protests were sparked by the disappearance of the retired
general Mirko Norac (34) who was accused of committing war crimes
in 1991 against Serb civilians in Gospic, a town in central
    Norac struck a deal with court authorities who wanted to avoid
an arrest that could turn into a public spectacle, agreeing to
surrender to a Rijeka court last Wednesday.  He has since
disappeared, and the court has issued a warrant for his arrest.
    It is logical to assume that Norac ran away, but there are
other interpretations. Some unnamed (and therefore unreliable)
government sources say that certain people are not allowing Norac
to appear before the court, by which kidnapping is implied. Were
this true, than the kidnapping could be motivated by two factors:
to hide the truth about crimes committed by the Croatian side
during the war at the beginning of the 90s, and to create chaos in the
country so that the democratic government, which is trying to
address crime, and not just war crimes, would fall.
    After Norac disappeared, right-wing newspapers launched a
theory that the Croatian government extradited him to the Hague
war crimes tribunal for crimes committed in former Yugoslavia.
Although it was quickly denied by both The Hague and Zagreb, it
was too late to prevent an avalanche of protests.
    Mirko Norac is an appropriate person for manipulating popular
emotion and even some institutions; he has the support of the
Catholic Church. Norac was born near Sinj, a small town in
continental Dalmatia. He is seen as a war hero there and
consequently became "duke" of Sinj's Alka, a knight's game that has
been played there for almost 300 years to commemorate the victory
over the Turks.
    The local citizens who have built a cult out of this game and its players
see suspicions against Norac as an attack on their own honor.
Protesting his disappearance, they blocked the Zagreb-Split road
passing through their town. Similar actions followed in many other
towns, like Gospic, where crimes against Serbian and Croatian
civilians were committed during the war and where Norac is held in
high regard for the defence of the town against the aggression of
the former Yugoslav national army and Serb rebels in 1991.
    There are rational as well as emotional motives for this
uprising: uncontrolled revenge and crime took place in these areas
during the war, with and without military planning. Thirty
thousand houses were destroyed. Those responsible for war
crimes and other criminal acts, now members of veteran's
organisations, may be afraid they will have to answer before the
court one day. This may be why they now - allegedly defending
Norac - are demanding amnesty for all Croatian soldiers. Mirko Norac
is the most suitable person for this because his stature of
national hero provokes emotions.
    Norac had a lightning career; he went to war as a waiter and
came out a general. But he didn't stay one long. Croatian
president Stipe Mesic put him into early retirement as part of a
group of generals who attacked government in a public letter aimed
at interfering with government attempts to uncover criminal acts
committed in Croatia during the war. This resistance was supported
by some veteran's organisations that have seen their budgets
significantly decreased by the government; the government is also
trying to confirm their pension documents and expose false war
veterans among them. Rumors are circulating that these
organisations are nests of crime, and all are extremely close to
right-wing parties and the HDZ, which has installed their own men
among the veterans' leadership.
    This connection was clear last Sunday during demonstrations in
Split, the biggest town on the Dalmatian coast. There were 100,000
people from Croatia, but also Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On the stage were generals who had been forced into retirement,
HDZ leaders and veteran organisations. Some representatives are
even potential candidates for indictments from The Hague.
    HDZ leaders, some of whom are deeply involved in crime and are
threatened with prosecution, have asked president Mesic and
Croatian government to step down so that new elections can be
held. They also want the ruling parties to revoke their conclusion
that the whole mess revolving around Norac hides some attempt at a
state coup. If their demands are not met, they will hold a protest
in Zagreb on February 15th. Instigating political instability
using the Norac case, HDZ has left Parliament and asked for Prime
Minister Racan to address MPs. Racan finally did so, and said he
didn't where Norac was, but that the people asking him probably
    Croatian police have also insisted that they don't know where
Norac is, publicly declaring their own inefficiency. They also
denied that some special police forces refused to act on orders as
a sign of solidarity with Norac. Rumour has it that the missing
general is located somewhere near Sinj or in western Herzegovina,
an area mostly populated by Croats.
    "When and if Norac reappears, things will calm down,"
Croatian Helsinki Committee president Zarko Puhovski said. "The
only truly explosive situation could emerge if Norac would be
found dead, which would obstruct normal social life and
significantly damage the position of the government." This may suggest
that the forces of chaos may be prepared to take even such drastic
action as this.
    The situation in Croatia, which is seriously damaging the
upcoming tourist season, caused speculations that Prime Minister
Racan would postpone his earlier announced visit to Poland.
However, Racan still left for Poland, announcing clearly that the HDZ
was behind the attempt to create a state of emergency in the
    "Suddenly the biggest issue at the demonstrations is early
elections," said Parliament president Zlatko Tomcic, remarking
on recent events, "not early legal and legitimate elections, but rather
those that have only one goal - to topple the current government,
which was elected in a democratic and legal manner, and to
provoke early elections, chaos, and various obstructions."
    The Croatian government is made up of six parties of varying
Social Democrat, liberal and centrist orientations. It is now
facing its biggest challenge since it came to power.
    "In this moment, Croatia needs peace and tolerant dialogue,"
said Tomcic.
    By Ylber Emra
    Yugoslav and Serbian authorities are looking more and more
likely to launch negotiations with guerrilla fighter groups and
Albanian political representatives from southern Serbia. Talks
will be held with the international community's supervision.
Special U.S. envoy to the Balkans James Perdew recently visited
Pristina and Bujanovac, where he met Albanian representatives as
well as Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. The visit resulted in
the two fighting parties agreeing to start negotiations soon and
to use Serbian vice-president Nebojsa Covic's plan for solving the
crisis in southern Serbia as a basic starting point. The Serbian
and federal governments have already accepted this document.
    Albanian political and military representatives from southern
Serbia have decided to entrust negotiations to the leaders of the
Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedje (OVPBM).
Albanian sources in Pristina say James Perdew's meeting with
Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) leader Hasim Thaqi, Alliance for
the Future of Kosovo (ABK) president Ramus Hajradinaj and
commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KZK) General Agim Ceku
indicated that Albanian politicians may soon be willing to
negotiate with Belgrade. All three Albanian leaders are former
commanders in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Former KLA
soldiers now form the base of OVPBM.
    New Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic commented on the
decision of Albanians from southern Serbia to be represented by
OVPBM leaders, saying he "didn't exclude the possibility" of
"extremist Albanians" participating in the negotiations.
    "One needs to talk with people who can influence the situation
in southern Serbia in both positive and negative ways," Djindjic
said after the Serbian government session where the plan for
solving the crisis in southern Serbia was adopted. "If the
Albanian community in southern Serbia thinks that terrorists are
their adequate representatives, then a conversation is
    The plan that Covic recently presented to the public would try
to resolve the crisis in three stages. The first stage involves
persuading Albanians, the international community, and the local
and foreign public that the problems can only be resolved
peacefully, without changing borders and without giving the area
any special status. During this phase Albanians are to be
integrated into social fabric, and their human rights respected in
accordance with European norms.
    The second stage would start with demilitarising two villages
(Lucan and Veliki Trnovac) and demonstrating that this action is
in the interest of both parties. If the experiment in Lucani and
Veliki Trnovac succeeds, then the whole security zone would be
gradually demilitarised.
    The third phase will be to revitalise the region economically,
politically and socially.
    Political representatives of Albanians in southern Serbia,
especially Party for Democratic Action (PDD) president Riza
Haljimi, generally support the Serbian plan for solving the crisis
in southern Serbia.
    "Albanians will define their own platform for negotiations
with Yugoslav and Serbian authorities," Haljimi said.
    Details of the Albanian plans aren't public yet, but Albanian
sources in Pristina claim that the plan will include complete
demilitarisation of the counties of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedje,
which is completely in accordance with the basic Albanian national
aims defined several years ago by the Kosovar Academy of Sciences
and Arts. Albanian sources further say that KFOR political advisor
Shawn Sullivan, the main middleman in negotiations between Serbian
and Yugoslav authorities with Albanians from southern Serbia,
proposed that the buffer zone be patrolled by new police forces
made up of both Serbs and Albanians. The same sources say
Sullivan's plan and the Serbian one are more or less the same, and
perhaps identical.
    Belgrade's plan to resolve the crisis was also welcomed by
Pristina publisher Veton Suroi after he met with US Secretary of
State Colin Powell as part of the Albanian delegation, which also
included prominent political party leaders Ibrahim Rugova and
Hasim Thaqi.
    Although diplomatic initiatives are continuing, the region is
still seeing intense clashes between Albanian guerrillas and
Yugoslav security forces. American ambassador to Belgrade William
Montgomery said the escalation of violence was caused by extremist
Albanians' resistance to accept a peaceful solution. Welcoming the
Serbian and Yugoslav plan, Montgomery once again warned Albanian
guerrilla fighters that they will have to face the inevitable
reaction of Serbian security forces, sanctioned by the international
community, if they continue refusing a diplomatic resolution.
    The past several days have witnessed several skirmishes
between Albanian guerrillas and Yugoslav security forces at the
edge of buffer zone on the administrative border between Serbia
and Kosovo. According to Albanian sources from Pristina, at least
two OVPBM members were wounded, while Serbian police and the
Yugoslav army have so far sustained no casualties.
    By Gabriela Adamesteanu
    Twenty percent more people support the ruling party in Romania
now than they did on November 26 of last year, according to the
"Barometer of Public Opinion" put out by the Institute for
Marketing and Opinion Polls. If elections were to be held this
Sunday, one month after the Party of Social Democracy in Romania
(PDSR) returned to power, 61% of voters would cast their ballots
for the PDSR, that is, for the former Communist party, according to
the poll.
    The PDSR's track record after the past elections has strengthened
the view that it may be more effective in reversing the country's
economic decline than the preceding centrist Christian-Democrat
coalition of liberal and social-democratic forces, which ruled
between 1997 and 2000. But people are pinning their hopes on Prime
Minister Adrian Nastase (50) rather than to President Ion Iliescu
(72). Iliescu's rule from 1990 to 1996 marked him as a politician
whose old Communist convictions made him unable to adjust to
democracy. In fact, Iliescu recently reiterated his lack of
confidence in private property and international organizations-the
IMF and World Bank in particular-after his re-election to the
    Unlike Iliescu, Nastase expressed support for a market economy
and for Romania's integration into a federal Europe during his
election campaign. He also stood out as an opponent of Corneliu Vadim
Tudor, leader of the extremist Romania Mare Party (PRM). Nastase
formed a government very quickly after the elections. Then two
important bills left over from the previous government were passed
in Parliament, that is, a law on nationalized real estate, and the
law on public administration. The latter will allow Hungarian to
be used in local governments where over 20% of the population is
    Nastase has visited Europe and America a number of times for
negotiations with the IMF and the European Union. EU
representatives have asked him to achieve economic and legislative
stability in Romania within the year, and to find adequate
solutions for institutionalised children and for the Roma
population. These are chronic problems for Romania; no government
since 1990 has tackled them successfully.
    As far as institutionalised children are concerned, an
extensive media campaign is currently underway, the first of its
kind in Romania. Domestic violence has also been included in the
scope of this campaign.
    Macro-economic stabilisation would mean closing down
inefficient state enterprises, black holes that have sucked in
state funds for decades on end. The new government's policy in
this area remains unclear.
    Six of the ministers in Nastase's government also served in
previous PDSR governments, but new faces are being seen in key
positions. Four of the new government's ministers are women,
unprecedented in the history of Romanian government. These women
hold posts as the Ministers of Justice, Education and Research,
Health, and European Integration.
    The PDSR government is a minority government for the time
being, but it can rely on the support of the National Liberal
Party (PNL), the only center right party represented in the new
Parliament. PNL received 7 percent of the vote on November 26,
2000, and its support has grown to 11 percent, according to the
aforementioned January 2001 polls.
      The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) have also
adopted a stance of constructive opposition in support of reform
and movement toward European integration. This party of the ethnic
Hungarian community in Romania maintains a constant 6 percent of
voter support.
      The democratic opposition of the PNL and the UDMR also includes the
Democratic Party (PD), which polls estimate to carry 4 percent of
the vote.
      The PDSR also faces the opposition of the extremist PRM in
Parliament, but it is unlikely that the democratic opposition will
vote with the extremist opposition. This unusual situation bodes
well for the governing party, since it has two oppositions to
seek support from when trying to pass its laws. This is all the
more advantageous because the governing party itself is not
homogeneous: some of its members are conservative, supporters of
state control and fairly sympathetic to PRM's nationalist views.
It should be noted that PRM gained 21 percent of the vote in
Parliament following the elections, but it was shown to have
fallen to 14 percent in the January opinion polls.
    There may be some cause for concern about Romania's future
foreign policy. The Constitution gives the president important
powers in the areas of defence and security, and President Iliescu
has appointed some controversial figures: Ioan Talpes, the
president's own Chief of Staff and his main adviser on security
matters, had a career in the secret service before 1989. And Radu
Timofte, recently appointed head of the Romanian Information
Service (SRI), was an outspoken opponent of Bucharest's
cooperation with NATO during the 1999 Kosovo conflict. The only
party in Parliament that opposed Timofte's appointment was the
National Liberal Party.