1. Bosnia and Herzegovina :PROGRESS ON REGIONAL, RELAPSE
ON INTERNAL LEVEL
By Radenko Udovicic
2.Romania :TOLERANCE AND INTOLERANCE
By Angela Magherusan
3.Belarus: LUKASHENKO AS SCROOGE
By Pavlyuk Bykovsky
Authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina used the last days
the year 2001 for strengthening Bosnian relations with their neighbors
Croatia and Yugoslavia. The importance of normalization of relations
with these countries is very big. Croatia and Yugoslavia are
countries with which Bosnia has had a latent state of hostility for
over ten years because of their involvement in the war. Also,
because of relations between various nations in Bosnia itself, it
is very important for the country to have good and friendly
relations with its neighbors. The fact that Bosnia is home to
three nations -Bosniaks (Moslems), Serbs and Croats -has caused
constant smoldering of separatism both among Serbs as well as
Croats who wanted annexation of Bosnian regions with Serbia and
Croatia. Following the break-apart of the former Yugoslavia, these
tendencies culminated in a bloody war lasting three and a half
years. It ended in a peace agreement which legitimized the division of
the country according to ethnicity. Separation of any part of the
country is forbidden by the constitution, but central authorities,
especially its Bosniak representatives, are well aware of the fact
that situation in the field can change the constitution and are trying
to counter separatist tendencies with the creation of better and
closer relations with Croatia and Yugoslavia. The downfall of
Tudjman's and later Milosevic's regimes has created a favorable
climate for normalization, which has been reflected in relations
between the two countries. However, this week saw an important
breakthrough, especially in relations between Bosnia and
Yugoslavia, when an Inter-state council, already existing with
Croatia, has been formed.
What about genocide and war reparations indictment ?
A state delegation from FR Yugoslavia, led by president Vojislav
Kostunica, was present at the first session of the Council in
Sarajevo. Both parties said they were pleased with renewed
cooperation between two countries. It was emphasized that the
council would speed up resolution of all problems between the two
countries. The first formal economic agreements have been signed
regarding the promotion and protection of investments as well as customs
cooperation. The second agreement carries a special weight because
it completely canceled customs for Bosnian products that are
exported to Yugoslavia and reduces by 50 per cent customs for the
majority of Yugoslav products that are being imported into Bosnia.
It is projected that reduced customs will be completely abandoned
by 2004. A similar agreement already exists with Croatia, with
customs in both countries completely canceled for over 90 per
cent of the products. These agreements in practice create a
unified economic market in south-eastern Europe, which is one of the
goals of Stability Pact, but also a condition for faster economic
However, relations between Bosnia and FR Yugoslavia are
burdened by the accusation before the International Court of Justice
in Hague for genocide and war reparations submitted by Bosnian
government before creation of Dayton Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs are
opposing the accusation, saying that country suffered civil war
and not Yugoslav aggression. The new Yugoslav authorities treat the
indictment better than Slobodan Milosevic did. After they rejected
emphasis on continuity of FR Yugoslavia with former communist
Tito's country, they subjected a letter of complaint saying that
Yugoslavia was no more the country that was involved in war in
Bosnia. Also, they said that present Yugoslav and Serbian
politicians in power don't have anything to do with the last war.
Also, it is difficult to imagine the court penalizing a
country that is at this moment is giving a lot of concessions to
normalize its relations with Bosnia and creating almost friendly
ties with the prosecuting country. The third, maybe most important
issue, is whether the international community, which is now investing
millions into Yugoslavia, will accept the passing of the sentence which
will impoverish the country everyone has been trying to help.
President Kostunica said in Sarajevo that talks didn't mention
Bosnian accusation against Yugoslavia, but added that no court
could resolve the tragic destiny of the two nations. "Instead of
courts, our nations need truth and peace", said Kostunica.
the pragmatic Yugoslav president is obviously using words approved by
international community, "truth and peace", to create an
atmosphere which would favor dropping of charges.
Triangle Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Croatia
Only two days before Kostunica's visit, there was a session of
Inter-State Council between Croatia and Bosnia. Two countries
signed agreement on refugee return that is regulating government
support to two-way refugee return. However, the session itself
surfaced some problems that have looked as already resolved. The
most important is the issue about Ploce harbor in Croatia.
According to an earlier agreement, Bosnia can use the harbor as
free zone without paying anything. But what is bothering Croats is
implementation of the agreement - especially managing board of 13
members, 5 of them being from Bosnia. Current management of the
Ploce harbor thinks it is giving over sovereignty over a part of
the country, claiming that the future management has to be made
out exclusively of Croatian citizens. Croatian government has not
been emphasizing this problem in negotiations with Bosnia, but is
asking for change of part stating that a foreigner from western
Europe should not be the president of the managing board.
Prime minister Ivica Racan feels it is a kind of protectorate
and that there is no need for this foreign influence.
The fact itself that two high level visits between Bosnia and
Croatia as well as Yugoslavia happened in the same week shows that
regional ties are gaining momentum and that Bosnia is especially
insisting upon them. President of the Bosnian presidency Jozo
Krizanovic said that Bosnian side launched initiative for meeting
between Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Croatia in Sarajevo. Such meetings,
which could become regular, would be suitable for resolving many
problems between three countries. FR Yugoslavia accepted this
idea, but response from Croatia is still being waited for. In
general, ever since gaining independence, Croatia has been
rejecting any meeting or agreements which could resemble
restoration of the former Yugoslavia.
Internal lack of progress
However, contrary to the positive trend in foreign affairs with the
neighbors, 2001 didn't bring any internal progress. One might
even say that two events signified a step backward. First six
months were characterized by nationalistic attacks on Bosnian
constitution and Dayton Peace Accord, terrorist attacks at basic
human rights. Destructive forces were trying to create a radical
atmosphere between nations to achieve their war goals - division
of Bosnia according to ethnic principle followed by new mass
During second half of the year, the creation of an anti-terrorist
coalition after attacks on New York and Washington of 11th
September has immediate impact in Bosnia, both positive and
negative. Positive was the fact that mujahedeen and islamic
groups that threatened overall security were finally eradicated
from the country, but the negative side is that arrests that were
made were illegal, violating rights of the prisoners and blessed
by international community that is, by the way, teaching Bosnian
police how to act according to law.
As we have said, the first part of the year was marked by
anti-constitutional actions of HDZ to create a third (Croatian)
entity. Leadership of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in Bosnia
headed by former Bosnian presidency member Ante Jelavic
insurrected against constitution of both Federation and country of
Bosnia, asking for constitutional changes that would keep
monopolistic political and economic position of national political
parties according to the principle of division of Bosnia in three
parts. Following constitution of illegal Croatian Assembly, HDZ
decided to establish "Croatian self-management" where HDZ B-H was
The laying of a cornerstone for reconstructed mosques in Trebinje
and Banja Luka in May was a motive for planned violent attack of
Serbian nationalists led by fascists. Bosniak worshippers were
especially targeted by the extremists, even old people. Murat
Badic was stoned to death. Violence was also directed against
Bosniak politicians, diplomats, journalists and international
Repressive measures of High representative, in practice an
international administrator in Bosnia, haven't created significant
effect because main political influence is exerted outside
institutions, especially where SDS, HDZ and SDA are in power. Once
again it was proven that international authoritiy didn't have a
consistent project of implemetation of the Dayton Accord in key
segments - return of refugees and their property, physical and
legal security and equality of all Bosnian citizens, arrest and
trial of most notorious war criminals like Radovan Karadzic and
Ratko Mladic. Bosnia is paying a high price for failing to start a
denazification process. On the contrary, Croatian and Serbian
nazifascism have been made politically legitimate.
Once again there is a negative environment for affirmation and
protection of himan rights. Important taks of coordinating entity
constitutions with Bosnian constitution to make sure members of
all three nations were equal throughout the country hasn't been
finished. Reform of judicial system, police and media influenced
by nationalists is going on very slow.
The coming to power of Democratic Alliance for Change is a
positive fact as well as partner relationship with international
representatives. However, election promises of the Alliance are
very far from being realized. There is no visible improvement in the
functioning of state of law, the government didn't do enough on
creation of independent judicial system and neutral administration
which would treat all citizens equally. Economic and social
situation is detoriating, over 60 per cent of population live
below poverty level.
With all these problems, Bosnia is entering a new 2002. After
six years of peace in a country international community heavily
invested into, almost 40 billion DEM, situation is critical.
Creation of good ties with negihbours is important and is a
condition for some positive processes within the country, but it
certainly cannot help bad taste of lousy relations between Serbs,
Croats and Moslems in Bosnia itself and deeply confronting
political options. But, the life is going on. It seems people have
adapted to bleak political reality and are now mostly fighting for
their personal economic progress. However, it is often conditioned
by a political one.
The political situation of the Hungarian minority
is more sensible than ever. And this is because there have
recently occurred several events which made the Romanian public
opinion more atenttive to this issue.
Everything began in the summer, with the huge dispute regarding
the Hungarians' status law, a problem still unsolved by the both
parties involved in the dispute, Romania and Hungary. Then
Romanian Intelligence Service signalled to the parliament that
some parts of the country, populated mostly by Hungarians, are
constantly influenced by Budapest and that they might ,
consequently, even ask for administrative autonomy in the near
future. This risk was strongly streessed by the Romanian minister
of internal affairs, Ioan Rus, who turned the whole problem into a
national top issue. Finally, the evolution we are talking about
reached its culmination when the most important
representantives of the Hungarian party, DUHR ( The Democratic
Union of the Hungarians in Romania), used one of their meetings to
sing the national hymn of Hungary. This gesture was followed by
the decision of the State Attorney General to search further more
into the problem. That attitude offended the DUHR which is saying
that it is not possible for a parliamentary party to be treated this way. But
now, it's the majority's turn to feel hurt because a minority
party chooses to ignore and offend the official symbols of the
This is the manner in which the Hungarian minority subject
lately became very sensible to Romanians. What can this tension
bring ? The recent past of the South-Eastern Europe has the
answer. Nowadays, nationalism seems to have become a very powerful
weapon, which surprisingly, continues to be ignored by those who
haven't really faced it yet.
Of course, the problem has a deeper background in Romania too.
Back in March 1990, right after Romanian revolution, a town in
Transilvania, called Targu-Mures, was the scene of a very bloody
confruntation between Romanians and Hungarians living in the city.
During the following years, these events were explained as pure
mass-manipulation, and regarded as a symbol of something that
should never take place again. But eleven years have passed since
then and people seem to have forgotten.
This first confrontation proved to be a turning point in the
recent history of Romania. Since then, the violence between the
two parts has moved into the political ground. This is the place
were things, instead of being clarified, were constantly growing
And partly, that is because the DUHR discovered its real power
and gradually learned how to use it properly. The party usually
obtains around 6 percent of the votes in elections, but this
percentage, although not that big, proved crucial for all the
gouvernements in the last eleven years. And so, in one way or
another, the DUHR became a permanent partener for the rulling
party, no matter if this was a socialist or a democratic one.
First, till 1996, there was the Party of Social Democracy in
Romania. Then, from 1996 to 2000, DUHR was a main governing
partener to the Democratic Convention in Romania, and finally,
presently there is the former Party of Social Democracy in
Romania, now called The Social Democratic Pole.
During all this time, the Hungarian minority's party acted in
a very aggresive manner, and this kept the majority always
en-garde, and suspicious towards the DUHR.
This year, the party gave a further motive for this attitude :
The Hungarians' Status Law, a document adopted by the Hungarian
state in order to give special privilleges to Hungarians all over
the world, but which was rejected by both Romanian and European
Still, the dispute over this law will probably end soon, since
the Romanian and Hungarian prime ministers, Adrian Nastase and
Viktor Orban seem to have found a common way to apply the law, and
they are ready to sign a memorandum by the end of this year.
But the sensibility of the Romanians was recently "disturbed"
again by another event, which took place on the 15th of December,
still in Targu-Mures, the town of all miseries between Romanians
and Hungarians. Here DUHR organised a meeting of its Unional
Representatives Council, the so-called mini-parliament of the
party, who's role is to decide in all the important matters
concerning the DUHR, and the Hungarian minority in general. After
a few hours of discussions, at the meeting's closure, the
participants choose to sing Hungary's national hymn, and this
provocated another huge national dispute, which is still going on.
The DUHR is accused to have offended the national signs of
Romania. In the same time, the party defends itself, by saying
that in fact, the song is a traditional one for Hungarians
everywhere, before being the national hymn of Hungary.
But the ball has already been thrown. Now, the rulling party,
the SDP (The Social Democratic Pole) has to defend Romanian
national pride, and this is not an easy task, because the
governing party also has to defend its own political pride. The
end of 2001 is close, bringing along an end to the gouverning
protocole that SDP and DUHR had for this year. Will 2002 bring
another one ? We'll have to wait and see, but big surprises aren't
possible. The Hungarian party knows very well its goals and the fact
that it can not reach them by being in the opposition. On the
other side, the SDP needs DUHR in the parlament, in order to
promote its laws, but also in the outside, in order to promote its
new image, of a European, open and very democratic party.
Caught in the middle, will Romanians be able to ignore their
national and nationalist sensibilities? And if not? Where is in
fact the limit between tolerance and intolerance?
Just a few capital questions to which the new year will bring
Minsk's position on privatization long ago became
The state is prepared to let outsiders have no needs even for
free and will bargain for the rest like Scrooge. The ruling
regime fears letting anything go cheaply and losing its influence.
"What will we govern then?" Belarussian officials, starting with
president Alexander Lukashenko himself, ask openly. Moreover, the
state bureaucracy is striving to maintain its pull over the
nongovernmental sector of the Belarussian economy, which
officially is 30% of it.
Russia's course toward a market economy, or its attempt to get
on that course, has attracted much attention. That means that
Belarus, which acknowledges itself to be within Russia's sphere of
interests, will be forced sooner or later to follow that lead.
Furthermore, a number of complex factors, in addition to the wishes of its
eastern neighbor, is also driving Belarus in the same direction.
So, if we are willing to stake on the hypothesis of the
irreversibility of Belarus's market transformation, we will have
to suggest that officials are taking the likelihood of that
possibility into account. If that is so, it can be suggested as
well that the Belarussian bureaucracy is hardly likely to put up
much of a fight and is already ready to compromise. Moreover,
bureaucrats are usually very generously thanked for backing down
Lukashenko is another matter. An adequate estimate of the
magnitude of his loss of power would be hard to estimate. If he
removes himself from the control of the economy, Lukashenko will
lose the political influence he now enjoys and become just one of
the many, no longer the one and only. But he will have to give up
some property. He can only choose the hands that state property
is going to sooner or later and try to profit from the situation.
It has long been evident that that is exactly what he has decided
to do. In both words and deeds, Lukashenko gives the impression
of being, as he says, "a real Russian."
What are the interests of a "real Russian"? Are those
interests in keeping with the proper interests of a Belarussian
leader? Russian businessmen want fast profit and protecting
themselves from possible hold ups by legally taking into their
holding companies the Belarussian companies that they in practice
already hold. Lukashenko, like all rulers, is in constant need of
ready cash and knows that those needs won't go away. So it turns
out that he has contradictory needs and is taking money today and
promising rewards for tomorrow. Another "real Russian" may either
trust the president or seek another way to solve the problem.
Among those other ways, there are two preferred routes: pressure
Lukashenko with the aid of the Kremlin or quietly buy up all
shares in companies through the intercession of the loyal middle
rungs of officialdom. The latter variant is possible only for
companies that have issued stock, and state companies can issue
stock only with the approval of Lukashenko.
This is not the dead end that it seems to be at first. If a
company is bankrupt, has no perceptible strategic value and no
partners ready to invest money in it, the president will
grudgingly agree to issue stock and sell a share package to an
investor. This leads to the temptation at companies to fake
disorder. This is very risky for the company's directors, of
course, but with a 300% profit to be made from this illegal
gambit, the temptation is hard to resist. Thus, even in
Lukashenko's native Mogilev, this has gone on. There can be no
doubt that Lukashenko is aware of this and has to control
everything and everyone personally, which requires great energy
and a huge and trustworthy staff that is unavoidably unwieldy.
Show trials of directors and officials must be mentioned too.
Sociologists think that the fight against corruption has lost the
attraction it had at the beginning if the 1990s and will never
have so much propagandistic impact again. Now this fight is
meaning nly for holding onto power and controlling the country.
Economic expedience also urges a change in forms of ownership.
Lukashenko stated after the 2001 presidential election, "In the
nearest future, after an administration is formed, we will issue
stock for several companies under the most open conditions in
order to attract investments. But only in the interests of the
people, only in the interests of the workers' collectives that
work there. People's interests should be observed." It seems
likely that that statement was to a significant extent addressed
to the "real Russian," who supported Lukashenko financially
through the uncertainty of the election and who now awaits signs
of his gratitude. The Russian guests were attracted to
Belarussian industries-petroleum, foodstuffs, woodworking and
light industry-that promise a fast turnover of the capital. These
are exclusively the industries that have a monopoly position or
that are integrated into the Russian economy.
The rush of Russian investors quickly subsided. Certain
misunderstandings have come up between Lukashenko and Vladimir
Putin. In a break with tradition, the Lukashenko was given the
green light to come to Moscow only three months after his
inauguration and economic reform has disappeared from the front
pages of the newspapers. The promised liberalization suddenly
took on darker aspects as powerful business figures (Leonid
Kalugin, director of the Atlant Company, and Belarussian Railroads
head Viktor Rakhmanko) were arrested. After his trip to Moscow,
Lukashenko disappointed the "real Russian" even further. "If
someone wants Belarus to privatize for free," he said, "first of
all, Belarus is not privatizing. Second, nothing happens for
free. We have learned our lesson and understand the matter well
from the example of Russia, which they also tried to privatize at
one time. We would not want to repeat the mistakes of our
brothers." And the market goes on.