Issue No. 252. - December 20,  2001

            By Zoltan Mikes

            By Slobodan Rackovic

            By Milos Jeftovic

    By Zoltan Mikes

    The coalition of Meciar's Movement for Democratic Slovakia
(HZDS) and its coalition partners are the winners of the first
regional elections in Slovakia, which ended last Saturday. Not
only are the elections important because of political power in the
regions now belonging to HZDS - - but also because they are a
signal about the rise of HZDS' power before parliamentary
elections and about the people's disappointment by the politics.
The number of voters who turned out is around 30 per cent in both
election rounds.
    In six out of eight regions HDZS candidates were more
successful, becoming "hetmans", regional leaders responsible for
decisions which will influence the life and politics in the
regions. Only in two regions - the big cities Bratislava nd
Kosice-  the coalition of Mikulas Dzurinda was successful. Also in
5 of the regional parliaments will have the majority HZDS and its
coalition partners. The elections are a very clear signal which is showing,
that Mr. Meciar has a stabile support and his supporters are willing
to go to the elections.
    SDK, the party of prime minister Dzurinda, had good results in
the regions, where it was able to isolate the HZDS and cooperate
with all parties of the recent governmental coalition and also with
the new party Alliance of New Citizen (ANO) of Pavol Rusko, the
owner of private television Markiza. This is a clear signal for the
governmental coalition and prime minister Dzurinda- if they want be
successful in the next parliamentary elections, they have to
cooperate once more as so close as in the previous parliamentary
elections in 1998.
    The other new political party of Robert Fico called SMER
(Direction) confirmed its strong position and was a very useful
partner for HZDS. Only in one region did SMER cooperate with SDK.
The message for parliamentary elections is clear. SMER is a strong
party which is much more closer to HZDS but in the case of a good
offer it is able to act pragmatically. The worst news of the
regional elections is the low interest of voters. This will signal
how disappointed are the people in Slovakia by politics and
how they do not believe in a possibility that they can change
something. This is bad news for SDKU of Mikulas Dzurinda, but
on the other side he and his government is also responsible for
this disappointment because it did not fulfill its promises made
during the election campaign.
    The regional elections have shown how big is the disappointment
of Slovak people with politics. If they will confirm this
disappointment also by the parliamentary elections the chances of
recent governmental coalition repeating its victory from 1998 are
very slim.

                                    * * *
       By Slobodan Rackovic

    Results of June's general elections, victorious for Socialist
Party, haven't been absorbed yet, when the crisis started to shake
the government so much that many feel that the only solution would be
new, early elections. The ruling Socialist Party is being torn apart
by a vicious power struggle between charismatic SP leader Fatos
Nano (50) and young and ambitious prime minister Ilir Meta (32).
The result of this struggle is not only the weakening of the socialist party
and its government, but also the halting of rather favorable economic
trends which have been a trademark of Meta's government since it
was formed three years ago. The first victims of this struggle for
power were economists - finance minister Anastas Andjeli and
privatization minister Mustafa Muci - who were forced into
resignation. All this happened during the recent session of
119 member Main Council of Socialist Party which was broadcast
live on Albanian TV. Fatos Nano and Ilir Meta clashed in a hard
and intolerant verbal fighting with their supporters joining in.
    It seems that seasoned and experienced politician Fatos Nano, the
last Albanian communist prime minister (1991) who was imprisoned by
his rival Sali Berisha during the Democratic Party's term, is
currently gaining the upper hand, forcing Meta's supporters
Andjeli and Muci to resign.
    However,  Fatos Nano certainly won't stop, but will try to
topple the prime minister himself, since he is really bothered by
his foreign and domestic success. And everything is happening one
year before presidential elections  - today's president is Rexhep
Mejdani who doesn't belong to any party. Mejdani is thought to be
supported by Meta for another mandate because he wasn't
interfering much and is without any political backing.
    The date for elections isn't yet set , but Fatos Nano has been
eyeing the presidential position for some time, fighting off his
rivals for that seat. Whether prime minister Meta has decided to enter
the competition for first Albanian citizen or is maybe preferring some
other person for president is not completely clear, but it obvious
that Fatos Nano decided to clear a wide path to the throne of
chief of state.
    As a former communist and good student of now deceased dictator
Enver Hoxha (who died in 1986), Nano got a reputation of a skilled
fighter in his party. Three years ago Nano swept away then prime
minister Pandeli Majko, who was succeeded by Meta. Although Fatos
Nano withdrew from the office of prime minister four years ago and
announced that he would resign from politics and return to his old
university tenure, he now intends to become a new president. It
would mean a return to his political roots, since he was educated in
an atmosphere of the monopoly of one party.
    However, political analysts in Tirana say that Fatos Nano won
only first box round. They claim that the roots of the struggle within the
party are too deep for everything to end so easy and quickly. It
could have gone easy with Pandeli Majko, but Meta, a seasoned
fighter, will be much harder to put aside. Besides, Meta is not
alone - there is now a whole generation of young, democratic
socialists who helped the country lose its tradition of communist
behavior. They will never assent to the old methods of political
struggle that has long cost Socialist Party defeat after defeat
since toppling of communist regime in 1991 by democrats headed by
Sali Berisha. With Meta and Majko (current minister of interior),
young forces are members of party and country leadership - Bashkim
Fino, Katriot Islami, minister of foreign affairs, Ilir Djoni,
Sokol Nano, already mentioned Andjeli and Muci and others.
    Nano is supported by old communists Namik Dokle, Palumbo, and
others. Ruling party is divided in two; whether it will be split
in two parties which will inevitably cause early elections depends
on how far are two opposing currents ready to push. SPA leader
Fatos Nano is, it seems, ready to push over the brink, not asking
about the price, accusing Meta and his cabinet of crime and
corruption. Finance minister Anastas Andjeli retorted that
government was doing extremely good work adding that Fatos Nano
tried to destabilize it.
    Privatization minister Mustafa Muci was even harsher, saying
that he didn't want to participate in a dirty game led by the
president of  Socialist Party. "This attack wasn't directed
against Mustafa Muci but against prime minister Meta and stability
of the country!", he emphasized.
    Similar ideas are represented by many local political and
economic analysts who fear that small democratic and economic
progress will now be questionable. It sounds like a real alarm,
especially if we take into account that the Albanian economy is still
not doing well and that it could easily lapse back to where it was
before Meta came to power. A big problem is the budget deficit that is
constantly increasing because all governments had to spend more
than they earned to service basic needs of the people and pay
wages in administration, police, army and retired persons. That
has increased the internal debt from 25 per cent in 1995 to 41 per
cent last year. A second indicator of bad economy is a growing deficit
in foreign trade that was especially large last year - imports
surpassed exports by 814 million US dollars, an enormous amount
for Albania. Seven years ago that deficit was less than 500 million.
To make problems worse, Albania is exporting only food and importing
foreign technology and industrial machinery
    The Albanian currency lek is very unstable. If we add that
inflation was stopped at the beginning of Meta's reforms but is
now again lifting its head, and that the number of unemployed,
which was halted for several years on 1 million and 64 thousand
now has had a chance to grow - then it is clear that the current political
crisis will only incite negative trends in an economy that has been
showing signs of revitalization during the last two or three years.
    And if the current government is toppled, the ruling Socialist
Party breaks apart and early parliamentary elections are announced
- then already difficult economic and political situation could
escalate into a bloody uprising, similar to 1993 when the whole of
civilized Europe joined forces to prevent a disaster in the "land
of the eagle".

                                * * *
      By Miloss Jeftovic

    At this moment, Serbia is the only country in Europe without a
defined constitution. Besides, there are many serious problems
ahead that simply cannot be postponed, and immediate moves could
have a negative impact on a fragile, only one year old democracy.
    Burdened with the difficult legacy of ten years' authoritarian
regime of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia is now going through a very
complicated stage. The transition process, which hasn't started yet,
looms ahead as well as imperative of new relationship with
Montenegro, a state with which Serbia today officially comprises FR
Yugoslavia, the only two-part federation in Europe.
    Also, Serbia doesn't know whether it will ever again have a
sovereignty, at least symbolic, over Kosovo, a formally Serbian
province that has been placed under international protection since
June 1999. Thus Serbia belongs among rare group of countries which
don't know the full extent of their borders.
    The great euphoria in the country and abroad after last year's
democratic changes has long passed, and the international community is
making more and more demands to Belgrade. The biggest issue is, of
course, the matter of complete cooperation with the ICTY.
    Serbia is a country of 10 million people, including Kosovo
with its 8 million citizens and 700,000 refugees from the former
Yugoslav areas. It has an important strategic position. Serbia
lies throughout central part of the Balkans, with extremely
important roads connecting south and north of Europe, but also
Asia passing through it. It seems that the main energy roads will also
pass through Serbia, from oil rich Caspian Sea to Albania or
Greece, depending on what will be the final destination of that
oil pipe-line.
    Serbia and incomparably smaller Montenegro with only just over
650,000 citizens, have been the only two republic of the former
socialist Yugoslavia that have remained in joint state since May
    In one year since Yugoslavia, especially Serbia, got rid of
Milosevic's regime in a democratic manner, the majority of the work
has been done in foreign politics. FRY became a full fledged
member of United Nations, Organization for European Security and
Cooperation, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. The honeymoon with the international community lasted less than
expected. Soon after its admission, Belgrade has to start
respecting and implementing responsibilities coming from its
membership in international organizations. Because of the old system's
leftovers, many moves have met with fierce rebuttal of Serbian
public. The first big test for the new government, both in internal and
foreign affairs, came with Milosevic's extradition to Hague on
28th June. It caused the first public and very open fighting between
the two strongest parties in the ruling coalition - Democratic Party
(DP) led by Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic who was in favor
of Milosevic's extradition and Serbian Democratic Party (SDP) headed
by Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, who opposed extradition.
Consequences of that clash can be felt even today, and rivalry
between the two parties is increasing on a daily basis. One can
even hear demands for early elections.
    Such a situation is complicating the position of the country in the
eyes of international community. With such muddy relations and
constant struggle among the ruling coalition, Belgrade authorities
cannot present themselves as equal partners to the world
community. Especially because Belgrade has announced its
application for Council of Europe and Partnership for Peace in
2002. Authorities in Belgrade now even claim that in 2004
Yugoslavia will become joint member of the EU. All membership
offers are welcome, but the question is how much will the current
government succeeded in fulfilling all strict demands for entrance
into European integration.
    In such a chaotic condition, Serbia is entering another
delicate operation - a new round of negotiations with London Club
about forgiving debt. Yugoslav authorities have inherited foreign
debt of 12 billion dollars, and they hope at least 5 billion will
be written off. That is another reason for Belgrade authorities to
quickly stabilize political situation in the country and resolve
situation with Montenegro because it is doubtful how talks with
London Club will go otherwise. Still bigger danger is coming in
March when it's time for negotiations with IMF about a stand-by
    Next March could also turn to be a crucial month since it is
set as time when Montenegro and Serbia will finally decide whether
to stay in a federal community or become two sovereign states.
The general political attitude in Serbia is that the federation needs to
be preserved, in some kind of a loose form, while Podgorica
authorities insist on separation and creation of an alliance of
sovereign countries. EU is coming to Serbian help in an indirect
way, which was unthinkable a few years ago. EU commissioner for
security and foreign affairs Javier Solana secured continuation of
talk between Serbian and Montenegrin government representatives
about the future of FR Yugoslavia.
    The EU and the USA are constantly repeating the idea of democratic
Montenegro in a democratic Yugoslavia, thus trying to influence
Montenegro to drop its ideas about independence. There are also
stern warnings, like Solana's statement that it is a mistaken notion to
think that separation of two countries will speed up admittance
of either of them into Europe. Even harsher was French president
Jacques  Chirac who, after leaving from a two day visit to Belgrade,
said that the EU wouldn't recognize independent Montenegro at this
time. That statement heated up discussions in Montenegro, with
supporters of unconditional and speedy independence on the
offensive. Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic, with more
political clout, judged that it was better for him not to oppose the
good intentions of the West and agreed to come to talks with the
highest Serbian state officials. However, Djukanovic doesn't give
up on his idea of independence, hoping that in next month or two the
world will see that not only current but also any future loose
Yugoslav federation would be impossible. Ultimately, survival of
the FRY will depend not only on political will or wishes of the
people that should decide on independence at a referendum, but
also on the attitude of international community.