Issue No. 298 - November 27, 2002
1. CEE: NATO's OPEN DOOR
by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol
2. Romania: RETURN TO THE WEST
by Angela Magherusan
3. Albania: IN THE VISE OF CORRUPTION
by Slobodan Rackovic
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization decided in Prague to invite seven new post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. "Today's invitees will not be the last," assured the heads of state and governments in their Prague Summit Declaration issued after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
After stating that Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia could now start the accession process to join the Alliance, representatives of the 19 member countries wrote in their Prague Summit Declaration that "NATO's door will remain open to European democracies willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, in accordance with Article 10 of the Washington Treaty. . . .The accession of these new members will strengthen security for all in the Euro-Atlantic area and help achieve our common goal of a Europe whole and free, united in peace and by common values."
The Queue for NATO
Concerning other countries in the queue at NATO's door, the document mentioned by name Albania and [the Former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia, and Croatia. Albania and Macedonia have made "significant progress on reform,” it said. NATO "will continue to help both countries achieve stability, security and prosperity." The chiefs of state and government promised to improve NATO's capacity "to contribute to Albania's continued reform and to further assist defense and security sector reform in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through the NATO presence." Both countries remain "under consideration for future membership."
Croatia has made "encouraging progress on reform" and will also be "under consideration," but its success depends upon its "further reform efforts and compliance with all of its international obligations, including to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)."
Where should NATO stop its expansion? Where are the frontiers of the area, which logically belongs to the Alliance? Vaclav Havel, the Czech president and the host of the NATO summit, tried to find the answers to these questions at the opening of the conference of the Aspen Institute from Berlin on the eve of the summit. He has no doubts that this area ends in the West on the US-Mexico boundary. It is not so easy for him to show such a line in the East. But he believes that "sooner or later" NATO should invite "all Balkan countries: Croatia, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina."
The Quick NATO
A milestone in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance was September 11, 2001, as the world saw how easy it was to hurt the most powerful of its members. In Prague, the heads of state and governments attending decided to make it impossible for any such ideas that might be borne in the brains of successors of Mohammed Atta to be realized.
"Terrorism poses a grave and growing threat to Alliance populations, forces, and territory, as well as to international security" and the Alliance was determined to combat "this scourge as long as necessary." To combat terrorism and other threats of the modern age, NATO must above all be quick and react immediately. "Not within months or weeks, but days and hours," said Robert Pszczel of the NATO Office of Information & Press.
The American Secretary of Defense proposed a solution at the September 24 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw and it was adopted at the Prague Summit: namely, NATO Response Forces, made up of 21,000 soldiers who could be deployed rapidly wherever needed around the globe. "It means 21,000 in reserve and 21,000 in training," explained the NATO press officer.
The NRF "will have its initial operational capability as soon as possible, but not later than October 2004 and its full operational capability not later than October 2006," the chiefs of state and government decided. Thereafter the NRF should be able to deploy everywhere around the globe in a maximum of seven days.
The Effective NATO
NATO has to be effective. "The Americans have airplanes which can fly by night and rain. The Europeans do also, but only a few," commented Pszczel. The technological gap between the Atlantic coasts has to be filled. "It means money, money, money."
In Prague the member countries were moved to declare their preferred interest areas, so-called specializations. There are many possibilities, but the most important according to Pszczel are:
Pszczel concluded that "the summit should have a turbo-effect on NATO."·Airborne and sea transport ("because soldiers need to be delivered quickly to the conflict or crisis area")
·Intelligent bombs ("which will kill bad guys, but leave civilians alive"),
·Weather resistant airplanes ("which operate in night and fog, so bad guys cannot see them")
"What is NATO? Could you
say it briefly?" a college student asked me on a German radio call-in show.
I think I can. NATO is a community of free nations allied together in defense
of their values: freedom, democracy, and of course better lives of their
peoples. And something else: it works.
• • •
"The most important summit since the creation of NATO in 1949," American President George Bush put it, remarking on the significance of extending the Alliance "from the Baltic to the Black Sea."
It is a new beginning for the seven countries invited to join the organization: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
It is a new geographical and political arrangement of Central and southeastern Europe and probably of the entire world.
But it also means joy, hope, and pride for the ordinary people involved from each of the countries.
Romanians at least, haven't been so euphoric since the 1989 Revolution. People feel that, finally, someone gave them back that dignity and national pride they had forgotten for the last 13 years. Hopes for a better life rose again. Parents thought of their children living in a better, safer world, after all. The whole country saw the gates of the civilized world finally reopening for Romania. People cheered, flags were put up everywhere, and politicians rushed in taking credit for the achievement. After a few days, they all found out that it wasn't just a dream: Bucharest received the visit of President Bush himself.
In fact, many connected this historical event to the moment of December 1989, when the Romanian liberation began. One of the main figures of those times, now the president, Ion Iliescu, honored the memory of those who died 13 years ago to create the foundation for these present times. The Romanian revolution proclaimed freedom, development, and democracy now recognized by the international community and represented by the most powerful countries of the world, reunited under the principles of NATO.
Officials even found a way to suggest the connection between the two historical moments: President Bush gave his speech to Romania in the same square from which dictator Nicolae Ceausescu tried to escape 13 years ago. In this way, Romania made an irreversible break from the past, said President Ion Iliescu.
NATO's invitation to Romania of becoming one of its members means a lot more than symbolism. The change of Romania's status within the Alliance involves, first of all, a huge national effort to confirm this new international status. As both Romanian and NATO officials stated, the Prague Summit means a new beginning that must be confirmed by Romania's future work and achievements as compared to its new obligations under international standards. Terrorism, underdevelopment, poverty, human rights, migration, corruption, bureaucracy, and organized crime --- these are the main problems to be faced by the new NATO members, the U.S. President explained in Bucharest.
On the other hand, NATO does not bring with it instant prosperity. After the announcement made in Prague, analysts felt the need to warn people about the real significance of this moment, since many are expecting an immediate improvement of their life quality. And for a country like Romania, going through very rough times because of reforms and poverty, this is the most important issue. But, even inside NATO, a country in the same situation will have to wait before any economic improvement can be seen. Being inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization brings indeed a larger sense of security for investors, but at first, there will be some hardships both for the population and for the authorities. The latter will have to take rather unpopular decisions, while ordinary people will not find any immediate increase in their salaries. Under pressure from NATO and the European Union, the Romanian Government has agreed to reform the economy a lot more quickly, even with the risk of losing popularity. Except that the government of Prime Minister Adrian Nastase doesn't seem ready to lose any popularity at all. On the contrary, it seems prepared to take advantage of it, by organizing anticipated elections as soon as possible, while the after-Prague enthusiasm is still high.
Even if they are poorer than they have ever been in modern times, Romanians understand that NATO means more on the military and political level than on the economic one. They have seen units of their army supporting American actions all over the world during the last few years, even if they didn't approve of it, and they expect such support to continue, especially with all the discussion over Iraq. From this point of view, the most delicate issue is Romania's relationship with its neighbors, meaning especially Hungary (still shorn of Transylvania), Moldova (still including in its territory a Romanian historical province, Bessarabia), and also Russia (who has always seen Romania inside its sphere of influence). In fact, while President Bush was in Bucharest and also earlier, when he visited Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, he gave assurances to the Russian side that the enlargement of NATO does not represent a threat to Russia. George W. Bush even said that from now on, Romania, as NATO's limit on the Russian border, must turn into a bridge towards the new Russia, "a hand of cooperation over the Black Sea" Earlier, right after announcing NATO extension into the territory of the former Soviet Union, he said, "The enemy is not Russia." He added, explaining the new goals of the post-Cold War NATO, "The enemy is global terrorism."
Romania has won the NATO
bet. It didn't make a fortune out of it, it's true, but at least it did
not lose like the last time in Madrid. And maybe, with a little bit of
the beginner's luck, Romania will turn the next hand into a winning one
• • •
There is a fierce fight in Albania against the evil of corruption, which has grasped all spheres of social life, including the country's elite, who swim in riches while a huge majority of people desperately live in poverty.
Widespread corruption is one of the main reasons for Albania being rejected at the recent Prague Summit, despite meeting all the military reforms and formal conditions for entrance into Alliance. The head of state, Alfred Mojsiu, and prime minister, Fatos Nano, have been warned by Western countries that Albania's integration into political and financial institutions in Europe would be slowed down if crime and corruption, especially among the country's own leaders, had been not halted.
Wars in the region, frequent insurrections in the country, most recently in the spring of 1997, hyperinflation, the grey market, and corrupt system of values are considered the main reason for widespread crime and corruption, as well as the extreme wealth of a narrow margin of people, most of them connected to the country's ruling politicians. Albanian social scientists estimate that the percentage of privileged persons close to the communist elite, has shrunk from 15 to 3 percent, with the rest of the people at the brink of survival, averaging $80 or less in monthly wages. Experts describe this narrow group more as a clan than a class, since the source of their new social status is not heritage or fruits of labor but illegal business. Those clans with time gain not only in economic but also political power, so it is not a surprise that the biggest corrupters are listed among the country's ruling elite or their associates.
This problem is faced by all transition countries that skipped some phases during their return to a capitalist system. These so-called new entrepreneurs, have ignored the basic rules and caused an erosion of moral norms and a boycott of reforms. That special social group created in the 1990s gained their main income from the grey market. Unfortunately, they make up the core of the new economy and state governance. It is clear that a small, but powerful minority in the country and its vicinity has no interest in normalization of political and economic life or the strengthening of state institutions.
Pressured by the Albanian and, especially, foreign public, the government recently started a campaign to wipe out corruption and crime that has already yielded some first results. Prime Minister Nano, who declared war on corruption while he was just president of the ruling Socialist Party, has toppled two governments on corruption charges. Today, he is cleaning out his own cabinet along the same principle. Twenty days ago, Nano arrested deputy minister of interior Bujar Hiraci, Velli Miftari, head of a public security service in the ministry of police, as well as the former director of the Agency of State Security, Arben Prifti, all accused of misusing a tender worth $10 million to print false passports.
"They are charged with breaking the law, serious mismanagement, and corruption in the tender procedure that resulted in a significant financial loss to the Albanian state," said government spokesperson Eva Londo.
A couple of days before, police arrested Dame Pite, deputy governor of the Albanian Central Bank. He was accused of causing additional expenses and breaking tender procedure in printing banknotes. Although no official was charged with personal gain, accusations of them signing illegal and expensive contracts can bring them long prison sentences. Fatos Nano, who announced that the fight against corruption will be his main priority when accepting the office of prime minister last August, immediately afterwards fired one of the most powerful persons in Albania after corruption charges were made: the head of the Agency of State Security (SHISH) since 1997, Fatos Klosi. Several days ago, prosecutors made an indictment against Klosi accusing him of misusing state funds, although he claims that he is the victim of deal between the parties of Fatos Nano and Sali Berisha, president of the Democratic Party. Nano put a new person in Klosi's place, the diplomat Kujtim Hisenaj, a former ambassador to both Paris and Belgrade.
However, these first results in the fight against corruption notwithstanding, it is only in its beginning stage. Corruption is believed to be so rooted in society that it affects all spheres of the system, from the lowest state clerks and policemen to the highest state officials. This pervasiveness of corruption will offer the greatest resistance to the efforts of Prime Minister Nano and President Mojsiu. For example, the removal of Klosi caused stormy debate in Albanian parliament and in society as a whole. Klosi's associates know their turn will come and are fighting to postpone the day of reckoning. Freethinking journalists and politicians, however, openly point their fingers at influential persons both in ruling and opposition parties, asking for the eradication of corruption from the highest positions. "If a poor customs official at the Albanian border receives a gift for allowing a tourist to import a TV set, it presents only a symbolic damage to the country. On the other hand, if some high-ranking state official or director helps in non-transparent and illegal privatization of a factory, accepting a bribe in the millions, then the country is quite damaged. So, it is clear where to begin," ran a commentary in the independent newspaper Koha.
An international conference in London is currently under way dealing with organized crime in the Balkans, with the active participation of the highest officials of the Albanian ministry of interior. Since Albania is considered one of the leading countries in the area of crime and corruption in the region, these officials will have a lot to listen to: among others information that up to 200,000 women are trafficked every year from the Balkans, that 1,000 tons of illegal cigarettes cross the Adriatic Sea every month into the West, that Balkan countries are controlling the main European corridors for transporting heroin and other illegal drugs.
"All Europeans have a great
vested interest in the fight against organized crime and corruption in
the Balkans. We welcome their decisiveness to mobilize EU resources in
the fight against this evil. But, Europe's resolve must be backed by words
and actions of governments in the region if they want to cut shorter the
road into the EU," wrote Javier Solana, the EU high representative for
foreign affairs and security.