1. Bosnia and Herzegovina: COVERT WAR
by Radenko Udovicic
2. Romania: BET FOR NATO
by Angela Magherusan
3. Slovakia: MECIAR PROBLEM AGAIN
by Zoltan Mikes
General and presidential
elections in Bosnia are set for the 5th of October, but there already is
pre-election fever in the country, as the opposition and the government
employ heavy rhetoric intended to shock the voters and to accuse the other
side of incompetence.
The Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bosnian entity with a majority of Bosniaks and Croats, is the more interesting. These last elections saw the first victory of the so-called moderate political option, removing from power the formerly untouchable national parties, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). However, since the strongest party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), did not gain an absolute majority, it had to enter into coalition with the Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina (SBiH) and several other minor parties. Although HDZ got most of the Croatian vote, it was given no chance to participate in the ruling coalition, because of its nationalist and uncooperative behavior, so Croatian interests were represented instead by parties that got only a few votes. While it seems illogical to form such a government in a country based more on national than civic values, the international community supported it wholeheartedly, hoping to finally remove uncooperative parties from power. In this way, however, a situation was created on the entity and state level in which the government did not enjoy the confidence of its Croatian citizens. The HDZ tried to use this to its advantage by refusing to acknowledge central authority and by forming Croatian self-management in territories where Croats are a majority. On the other hand, when the international community threatened severe sanctions both towards the party and the economy in Croatian-controlled areas, the HDZ lost support for such separatist activities. Under pressure from the Republic of Croatia itself, the HDZ decided to return to the federation institutions, although in opposition.
Accusation of Anti-Muslim Sentiments
Meanwhile, the Bosniak
SDA was diligently sitting in the opposition MP benches, using every opportunity
to accuse the new authorities of inconsistency and bad politics. The most
severe accusation, and also SDA's main platform for the current election
campaign, is that the government headed by the SDP is promoting politics
degrading to Islam and Muslims, and that it is equating both with terrorists.
The SDA's accusations are based on actions of the police to arrest and exile a number of Bosnian citizens coming from Islamic countries because of suspicion that they aided international terrorism. The SDA claims that these actions were only implemented due to pressure from the international community, which fell prey to anti-Muslim hysteria. While there was pressure from the international community, government representatives say that their actions were necessary to increase the security of Bosnian citizens and to remove the suspicion that Bosnia was providing shelter for terrorists.
After spending ten years in opposition, the SDP is now trying to remain in power, a feat made difficult by its coalition parties. SDP relations with them have become more and more strained and the loose post-election coalition, called Alliance for Change, is barely surviving. The main clash is between the SDP and the SBiH, which once was in coalition with SDA and has many members who are closer to the politically conservative SDA.
The partnership between the two parties came into question especially after Haris Silajdzic, the founder of the SBiH, was nominated as the Bosniak member of the three-person Bosnian presidency, despite having withdrawn from politics a year ago. Silajdzic, a former associate of Alija Izetbegovic, belongs to the right-wing faction of the party, causing distrust among many SDP members as well as the international community. The SBiH, estimating that Silajdzic could win the trust of Bosniak voters, hopes to turn the party into the strongest political force in the Federation. Almost simultaneously, one of the leading members of the SDP, Nijaz Durakovic, switched to the SBiH and became its top candidate for the upcoming elections. At this moment, it is difficult to predict whether these two politicians, Durakovic and Silajdzic, can tip the scales for the SBiH, or whether the SDP’s younger profile can attract most voters.
In the Republic of Srpska, the government is made up of the Party of Democratic Progress, led by Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic, and the nationalist SDS, which remains popular. The only possible contender is the party of Milorad Dodik, the former reform prime minister, who is balancing between the international community and Serbian nationalists, trying to build the image of both a cooperative and a nationalistic party. In the pre-election run-up, there is a political war among Serbian parties over the corruption and the uncovering of many financial scandals of various parties' officials. The government indicted Milorad Dodik over financial malfeasance during his term as prime minister, and the opposition found evidence of corruption in the customs service that led to the discharge of the SDS finance minister. While the corruption appears undisputable, clearly in both cases it was uncovered for political reasons.
Fighting the High Representative
The election summer
was marked by the arrival of a new High Representative (OHR), Paddy Ashdown.
In his inauguration speech he cited ten new strategic points, (economic
reforms, an anti-corruption plan, providing rule of law, among others)
but he immediately met with still deeply entrenched political machinations
and obstructions to any social and economic reforms being suggested by
the international community.
Just as Lord Ashdown stated his view that it was only a matter of time before Radovan Karadzic would finally be arrested came the Sarajevo promotion of Karadzic's most recent book , in Serbian, under the OHR's very nose. The book arrived completely legally from Karadzic's publisher in Belgrade to Radovan's wife Ljiljana, in order to “make sure to get it to those who need it.”
It is possible that “Paddy” (Lord Ashdown has asked to be called by his first name by all who communicate with him) was surprised by another turn of events. Until he came to Sarajevo, most Serbian politicians accused the international community of anti-Serbian sentiments and favoritism towards Bosniaks. Some Serbian journalists used to call Ashdown a Serb-hater because he, as head of the British Liberal Party during the war, came to Sarajevo several times while it was under siege. Now Serbian authorities praise Ashdown because he flew to Banja Luka the same day he arrived at his new office, a sign for some in Sarajevo that he has a new love for Serbs.
Sulejman Tihic, the head of the SDA, also accused the former international representative, Wolfgang Petritch, of anti-Bosniak sentiments. His remarks reflect public opinion: The Bosnian newspaper Dani published survey results showing that 56 percent of Bosniaks feel endangered. Bosnia’s religious leadership has said that “Muslims in Bosnia are endangered” because of arrests and exiling of mujahadins, people who came to fight for the holy cause, as part of antiterrorist hysteria. The Clerics also decry frequent media criticism of Islamic donors who “build mosques instead of factories.” The SDA explains the difficult conditions of veterans and those disabled in the war (mostly Bosniaks) to the lack of support from government. Another issue for the SDA is the prosecution of about 850 Bosniaks, among them dozens of former officials and high figures in Bosnian society, who are charged with crimes, terrorist activities of the secret service, and hiding huge amounts of ammunition, some of which was recently found in eastern Mostar. The SDA claims that these prosecutions are an attempt to destroy Bosnia’s intellectual elite. The current non-nationalist political leadership of the Federation says such accusations are politically motivated for the elections.
The international community is once again biased towards the elections. Its officials give various statements favoring the current (although much damaged) Alliance for Change. The difference is that in the last elections international officials called upon voters to vote for change; now they want the voters to maintain the status quo. The situation in the Serb Republic is somewhat more complex, since the international community is looking for the PDP to change partners from the SDS to Milorad Dodik's party, which is most unlikely because of this recent party clash.
• • •
One of the biggest Romanian
dreams of the last 12 years has been entrance into the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO). One government after another promised to achieve this
goal. Hardships were overcome, hopes rose again, and assurances kept coming
both from inside and outside Romania.
But why is it important for Romania to become a full member of NATO? It is an interesting question to ask Romanians once more. So far, the answers have shown that most of the people don't really know what this organization is about, but the repeated political hopes for it have transformed NATO into a question of national pride: “We have to get there, we have to be accepted like all other countries (especially Hungary), we deserve to be with the big ones, we must reach beyond our condition of a small country,” and so on. Due to this deformed collective perception, Romania's failure to enter NATO so far has brought on a feeling of national shame. People have not understood that the true failure is to be found in the country's economy and politics, which are not up to NATO standards.
But at the present, those standards are once again coveted, and this time, with “real chances of success,” as the Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase says. Romanians hope that “the game” is played again for the last time. They have decided to focus all efforts on the achievement of these standards until November, when the NATO summit in Prague will decide on the next candidates for NATO expansion. Then, they hope the bet will finally be won, when the international community picks Romania among the seven new members.
What has changed Romania's luck? It definitely wasn’t economic progress or the political stability of the country. The Romanian economy has seen some improvement, but not significant enough to inspire such a change as the transformation of the country into a desirable candidate for NATO membership. On the political level, Romania’s situation has made no progress, although it’s true that neither did it worsen. Most analysts find the answer to this question in the country's attitude towards the international fight against terrorism after September 11th. Romania fulfilled all military and political requests made by the United States on this issue. Another 500 Romanian soldiers are to arrive in Afghanistan. Romania understood that support of the international fight against terrorism might be the key to NATO and made it a national priority. As a result, analysts now feel that Romania has real chances of being accepted into NATO by the end of this year.
Now, all involved parties are asking if there is any great danger that might threaten this goal. A possible answer is found in Romania’s internal social stability. After a period of serious social tension, the government recently agreed to a general social peace with trade unions. This should be a positive achievement, considering that general poverty could make the Romanian social situation explosive. The government certainly doesn't want to risk that, given the implications of a failure. On the other hand, Romania keeps receiving international assurances that the outcome in Prague will be positive. If so, how will this change things for the country and for the other members of NATO?
A decision to accept Romania into the organization will certainly have a large impact on the country’s development, especially in the economic and military arenas. NATO wouldn't accept a country that could be the cause of problems in the future, so it would help the less developed countries, such as Romania or Bulgaria, to accelerate the internal changes necessary in order to achieve the same standards as all other NATO members. In this light, NATO, along with the European Union, appears to be the real force behind the big changes Romania has been trying to make for about the last 12 years: privatization, democracy, non-biased judicial system, human rights, the elimination of corruption and so on. Real internal change is once more imposed from the outside, as it has happened so many times throughout history. It is the same pattern we find if we go back to the last centuries, or even earlier, when Romanians found their inner development only when faced with external danger. In a different, contemporary setting, it is the same case now. The fundamental reforms needed by the Romanian society, postponed over and over again because of their implications, are finally being made, when the alternative is Romania's remaining behind the rest of the civilized world.
Subconsciously, the fear of being left behind is what is pushing Romanians to consider NATO membership such an important goal. Romanians are also aware that even with all bets on, this is not a question of luck. Their general attitude towards the subject comes from an inferiority complex that everyone will deny.
• • •
Slovakia has a serious
problem again: that of Vladimir Meciar, the leader of the Movement for
Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). Nobody is questioning that the former prime
minister and his party will win in the next parliamentary elections with
approximately 30 percent of the vote. The problem is that Slovakia’s current
government wants to become a member of NATO and this will be impossible
if Vladimir Meciar is the next prime minister. “We do not trust people
who were in the previous government; we do not believe they have changed,”
stated US ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, during his visit to Slovakia
at the beginning of the year. He indicated that if Meciar were to be prime
minister, Slovakia probably would not be invited to join NATO at the alliance’s
summit in November in Prague. Politicians from the EU signaled their hope
for a ”democratic and stabile government” after the elections.
Slovak political parties, with the exception of the Slovak National Party (SNS), which has just 5 percent support, reacted to the statements of Nicholas Burns and EU by promising that they will refuse any coalition with the HZDS. Meciar could thus be in the same position as in 1998, winning a plurality in the elections, but having no allies for creating a government. Indeed, during his visit to Washington at the beginning of June, the president of Slovakia, Rudolf Schuster, stated that in the case of an HDZS victory he would not accept Vladimir Meciar as the prime minister.
The problem is that the U.S. campaign against Meciar has made him even more popular among Slovaks. More than 50 percent of Slovaks think that the campaign against Meciar is dangerous both for democracy and free elections in Slovakia. Foreign politicians thus face a dilemma: Should they continue the campaign against Meciar with the dangerous possibility of increasing his popularity or should they be silent? Slovak journalists and political analysts point to a different reason for the growing popularity of Meciar. It is the government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, which has not fulfilled its economic and political promises. Meciar does not need to do anything, as unemployment in Slovakia is at about 20 percent. The voters will come to him on their own.