Issue No. 315 - April 4, 2003
1. Albania: CHILD TRAFFICKING PROSPERS, CRIMINALS REMAIN
by Slobodan Rackovic
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina: THE SPY GAME AND POLITICS
by Radenko Udovicic
3. Belarus: BELARUS MAY BECOME FIRST POST-SOVIET COUNTRY
WITH A STATE IDEOLOGY
by Paulyuk Bykowski
Albania is one of the Eastern European countries with a flourishing trade in child trafficking. Although this dirty crime became so profitable and widespread that it even triggered a parliamentary debate on the issue, not one child smuggler has been brought up on charges during the past ten years.
In the traditional Albanian family, the position of children has always been low. Their status did not change much during the socialist era, nor in today's allegedly democratic society (although children's rights were formally adopted ages ago). The fall of socialism and the chaos following it brought mass unemployment, with a half million people losing their jobs, meaning the position of children in society worsened. Many became the sole earners for their families, pushed to sell smuggled goods or to beg. In Tirana, in other large cities one can see boys and girls trading or begging, mostly in smoky cafés, while more grown-up girls are prostituting. The great discrepancy between their ages and the burdens they shoulder has taken their childhoods from many children.
One of the consequences of this catastrophic situation for children has been the rise in child trafficking. Smugglers trade children of all ages who are ready for various jobs—theft, prostitution, and pedophilia. There is no information on the whereabouts of a great many children who were either kidnapped or disappeared under strange circumstances. Most children vanished in the summer of 1997 when there was a violent turmoil in Albanian society caused by the collapse of the so-called pyramidal schemes that robbed citizens of more than 1 billion USD, but the problem was not isolated to that time. Most kidnapped children, people in Tirana think, are now begging in the streets and squares of Greek and Italian cities. Boys are engaged in pick pocketing and other criminal endeavors, while girls of 13 and older are forced to prostitute themselves. Just in Drac, Albania's largest port, there are over twenty thousand boys and girls who have found refuge on docks and anchored vessels.
The international organization Save the Children claims that over nine thousand children were trafficked from Albania into Western Europe, 65 percent of the total number of children trafficked from all of Eastern Europe. A French humanitarian organization offers a shocking estimate that six thousand children aged between 12 and 14 are smuggled each year from Eastern to Western Europe. U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan said that child trafficking included more than thirty million boys and girls worldwide (last year's profit from this business amounts to ten billion dollars). From Albania itself, 6,075 children have been trafficked into the world. It is believed that four thousand of them are now living in Italy, with 2,800 actively participating in businesses related to drugs, pedophilia, begging and other illegal activities.
Albania has an infamous reputation in another trade—that of unborn children. Criminals are watching over pregnant women, mostly in poor and remote areas, especially if a woman is a widow or divorcee, and enter into action before the baby is born. Very often, they manage to persuade pregnant women to sell them their children while they are still inside their wombs, and then organize accommodation and delivery in hospitals, mostly in Solun and other towns in northern Greece. As soon as babies are born, the merchants take them over and sell them for hefty sums. The highest price paid for babies is a miserable 100,000 leks, but the “goods” can reach an astronomic price of 100,000 USD in Western markets! However, it is not rare for poor parents, facing poverty and hopelessness, to offer their children, both unborn and barely born. Such a case recently occurred in the town of Korc in mid-Albania, with indications of a well-organized, widespread gang of children traffickers who supply rich Western couples. An Albanian couple named Petalje has been recently arrested in Italy, charged with smuggling of at least 36 Albanian children in Italy.
Although Albanian is at the top of the countries “exporting” children, not one smuggler has been charged in the last ten years, nor has any network of smugglers ever been uncovered, despite witnesses coming forward to give evidence. Although Albanian law can land a person smuggling children in jail for 20 years, nobody has ever been convicted on these grounds. Still, there are some indications that Albanian authorities will engage more in finding a cure for this evil, and an Albanian parliament discussed the issue two months ago. Prime Minister Fatos Nano then said that his government tried to destroy trafficking routes in the country and bring all perpetrators to justice.
However, those goals are
still just wishful thinking because the prosecutors fail to pursue any
investigation or punish criminals. Human traffickers are extremely well
organized, and state institutions are incompetent, sometimes corrupted,
allowing child trafficking to prosper.
It is obvious that, without aid from the international community, which has been asking the regime in Tirana to stop this cruel business, there can be no progress in cutting off routes of child traffickers, not only in Albania, but also in the Balkans region.
• • •
Following a months-long investigation into illegal weapons sales to Iraq as well as the recent bugging scandal, there has been an important change in the Bosnian government. The head of the Bosnian presidency, Mirko Sarovic, resigned from his office. High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, who is in practice the most powerful person in the country, passed several measures for instituting more order in civilian and military administration in a country made out of two entities whose various separatist and unitarian currents do not allow for political stability.
At the beginning of 2003, it came as a shock (almost) that the military factory “Orao” from Bjeljina in the Serb Republic was trading with Iraq and repairing its military planes, despite a U.N. embargo. The scandal was discovered by American intelligence sources stationed in Bosnia and the American administration called for an immediate investigation and punishment of those responsible. In response to the international community's pressure, as well as panic among political elite of the Serb entity, several factory managers were arrested. Two reports blamed the affair on the former government of Biljana Plavsic, the former president, who was recently sentenced to eleven years in jail by the Hague Tribunal. The current Serb Republic leadership, which has been more or less unchanged for the past three years, claimed it didn't know anything and that the trading was done by certain army officers (just one was arrested) and factory managers. Although intelligence data support Serbian claims that the trading with Iraq began in 1997, when Plavsic was in power, reports completely left out the fact that it lasted up until the scandal's disclosure, during the current government.
With Biljana Plavsic already in prison, there had to be someone high from current government to take the fall for this flagrant violation of U.N. resolutions. Since the beginning of the scandal, both the media and international community directed their attention against the head of Bosnian presidency—Mirko Sarovic. Before he was elected to the office, Sarovic was president of the Serb Republic, presumably someone knowledgeable of the entity's affairs, especially in the area of the military industry. As the army is, for the most part, under civilian authority, with the Serb Republic president having key power over it, Sarovic could not possibly have avoided political responsibility for the trading scandal.
However, more recently there was another scandal, once again with the army of Serb Republic having a main role, this time by listening in on communications of foreign troops in Bosnia, high officials of the international community and the Federation Bosnia and Hercegovina, and even high officials in neighboring Croatia. Suspicions were confirmed at the beginning of March when special SFOR forces broke into two military headquarters and found a large amount of spy equipment and data confirming the doubts. As it is a spy scandal on both sides—the international community used its own spy services to disclose these Serb army-spying centers—there are only a few facts known to the public. Who was spied upon and exactly how are not known. What was revealed was that there was a wide range of equipment, from dated relay devices to modern listening technology that probably came from Serbia.
The involvement of Serbia, which maintains close ties with the military and political elite of the Serb Republic, is evident. There are indications that spying was supervised by the infamous KOS, the secret service of the former Yugoslavia that continued to exist in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). Although the investigation is still ongoing, there are some theories that significant data was sent to Belgrade.
NATO Headquarters in Bosnia expressed shock that the army of the Serb Republic, or at least some parts of it, consider international forces in Bosnia as an enemy to be spied upon. NATO said it would start an investigation on the damage done by the spy scandal to the international community and on who is responsible. The latter investigation will be problematic. The government of the Serb Republic said that it had no idea such spying was taking place, thus placing responsibility solely on the army. However, is it possible that the army listened in on such a wide number of people without any oversight? It is hard to believe, but one has to take into account that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are parallel government and military structures, like in Serbia, which cost Prime Minister Djindjic his life. It shouldn't be ruled out that certain branches of the military are governed by partisan, para-state institutions and that the secret service is not under entity control. This situation is also characteristic for the other entity, the Federation BiH, where the AID secret service was for a long time under Bosniak control, with the key oversight role being the SDA party. It is similar for the Croatian part of the Federation, with the Croatian secret service under HDZ control. Only recently, following strong pressure from the international community has there been created a united secret service called the Federal Intelligence Security Service (FOSS).
Two political scandals at once were more than the Serb Republic president could bear. An additional problem for him arose by his membership in the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), whose founder is indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Although lately the SDS has become a partner of the international community lately, it is basically still an orthodox nationalist party mistrusted by both international officials and the other two national parties in Bosnia. Mirko Sarovic himself doesn't have any spots on his political career. He was born in the vicinity of Sarajevo, where he graduated in law and worked in city institutions for a long time. According to those who worked with him, he was a relatively cooperative politician without any war or criminal scandals—in contrast to many other politicians in both entities are linked with criminal or war backgrounds.
For a long time, Sarovic refused comment on speculations that he would be removed from his office by the High Representative, waiting to see whether the international community would decide on such a radical move. However, it was obvious Sarovic would finally pay the price of two scandals. The High Representative in Bosnia has wide authority, including the possibility to relieve even the highest-ranking politicians if they are found to be working against the interests of the state. In March 1999, such was the manner of removing Serb Republic president Nikola Poplasen from office. Two years ago, a member of the Bosnian presidency, Ante Jelavic, was also relieved. Both of them were “sent away” because of anti-Dayton activities, that is actions, which were against the peace accord in Bosnia signed in Dayton in 1995. When the Head Committee for implementation of the Dayton Accord, asked the High Representative to take the necessary steps to neutralize the two scandals, it became clear that Sarovic was soon to fall. Soon after that, his cabinet sent the message that Sarovic resigned from his office. The High Representative welcomed the decision, pleased that he could thus avoid criticism that the international community promotes and removes presidents of sovereign countries. Politicians and media in the Federation Bosnia and Hercegovina interpreted the resignation as more evidence of Serb involvement in sensitive political scandals. In the Serb Republic, reactions are not anonymous. The SDS criticized the international community because of, they said, questionable pressure on Serbian politicians. On the other hand, their coalition partner PDP interpreted the resignation as a “highly moral action” and an example for other Bosnian politician to submit their resignations if they are found in places where they should know of various scandals.
SDS said Sarovic will be replaced by a member of the Bosnian parliament, Borislav Paravac, a relatively unknown politician. Some Federation parties, also including the opposition in the Serb Republic, are in favor of another Serbian politician, Nebojsa Radmanovic, who won the most votes for the Bosnian presidency after Sarovic. Radmanovic is a very cooperative opposition politician, but there are small chances he would be elected to the presidency at this moment.
Almost at the same time when Sarovic resigned, the High Representative introduced measures that should lead to certain stability in the country and to lessen the possibility of similar scandals. The Supreme Defense Council of the Serb Republic has been disbanded and the Serb army was placed under exclusive control of the Serb Republic's president, thus strengthening civil control over the army. It is only a transitional solution, however. There will be soon formed an expert panel which has until the end of June to create a joint command for both armies in Bosnia based on the ideas of both entities. Now, each entity in Bosnia has its own army—that is, one country with two military forces with their own command centers. Such a military system creates numerous security issues, especially within Bosnia itself. Finally, the High Representative took a symbolic, but politically very important decision. The words sovereignty and independence were removed from both entities' constitutions as well as from their defense laws.
The High Representative's
actions only reinforce that Bosnia and Herzegovina is under strict international
protection. A situation when one international representative, no matter
his importance, can delete words from constitutions and laws, however monstrous
they are, testifies to the strange situation a country unable to provide
for its own stability may find itself in. The tendency is very clear—the
international community wants to remove all illogical elements of the Bosnian
state framework created by Dayton, which at that time seemed necessary
due to the clashing war interests of all negotiators. As time goes on and
war wounds heal, however, the international community wants to create a
more normal country (with more elements of statehood) out of a divided
Bosnia. Although many measures were imposed by the international community,
they caught roots in the end. From the first measure, the introduction
of a joint currency, followed by joint passports, and now the removal of
unwanted words from constitutions, there is striving towards one goal.
The international community probably will not go for the most extreme solution—removal
of the entities altogether—a solution many Bosniak politicians have been
buzzing over, but numerous small cuts will reduce further the entities'
authority. The international community is probably thinking that time will
do its part and that the more and more exhaustive expansion of the European
Union will relativize the importance of any boundaries.
• • •
In the next school year, the President's Academy of Management is to begin preparing ideological workers. A Belarusian state ideology textbook is to appear. And commissars of ideology will be posted to businesses, regardless of the form of ownership.
These were the tasks outlined by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on March 27 at a two-day seminar on ideology for managers in the local and national government. The head of state set a deadline of the end of the year for “fundamental improvement in the operation of the President's Administration for Ideological Management.”
Ever since the guarantee of the dominant role for the Communist Party was repealed from the Soviet constitution, the word “ideology” has been taboo for state officials. This author made a quick survey of the constitutions of the CIS countries and found that in all the formation of a state ideology is expressly prohibited.
In certain circles, it is claimed that those constitutions are themselves formulations of state ideology, since the structure of the state is described in their “Bases of Constitutional Order” sections. Others disagree on this formulation, however.
On the same day as his speech, Lukashenko also offered his personal explanation of what an ideology is: “a system of ideas, views, notions, feelings and beliefs on the goals of social and human development, as well as the ways and means of attaining those goals, as embodied in the values, convictions and willful acts of people motivated to reach the goals that we have set before ourselves.” (Here and below, quotations are from the official report from that seminar.) If it were not for the awkward shift of grammatical person in the last clause, his definition would at least have sounded like an encyclopedia entry. “We” could be understood as the participants in the seminar, the country's management. The “people” referred to could be the country's populace. The two are clearly not the same. Whether that is intentional or not, it is disturbing.
So far, there is no state ideology in Belarus and everyone is free to state their own views, at least according to the constitution. In practice, of course, ideological disagreements can have complex consequences, and, even in the sciences, nonconformity is hardly welcomed. Although there are no direct prohibitions on stating any views, Lukashenko would seem to be implying that there soon will be.
“It is unacceptable that an official or an instructor in an educational facility should not share the state ideology, or sometimes oppose the state and the courses that they teach, or are supposed to teach, after having been put in those positions by the state system,” Lukashenko said. He also intends to establish ideological chains-of-command by territory and field.
Lukashenko is convinced that he should have an authorized representative (commisaire in French) in every business, regardless of its form of ownership. “We must form the ideological core of labor collectives in businesses that, as my aides write, have no state ownership,” Lukashenko read from his report at the seminar, then made an impromptu digression. “I want to pose a question: The ones that have no state ownership, who are they? We are moving toward a market. Can it be that no state ownership means that its ideology is not necessary either, that they don't have to follow the postulates on which our ideology is based? Therefore, I throw this observation out and may be wrong but I say: in businesses with 300 or more employees, 150 or more in the agro-industrial complex, there should be a post of deputy head for ideology created. Today, this is dealt with on a professional level in only a third of large businesses and agricultural complexes.”
Small business has not been neglected. “In small workforces, these functions must be carried out by the deputy in charge of employment and social issues.” The only loophole is to be found in this pronouncement by the president: “Look informally for those who are prepared for and capable of ideological work. If there is no one like that, better not to do it.” Soviet experience has shown, however, that there is never a shortage of people who want to be ideologues.
Just what views will the Belarusian citizen be bound to if a state ideology really is created? The president provides a few hints in his report. It is written in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus that it is a unitary social and legal state. That clause was in the previous constitution and retained after the 1996 constitutional referendum. That is reason to think that the clause will be retained when the state ideology is enacted as well. There is no reliable information available about how the state ideology is to be passed into law.
Lukashenko made a contradictory announcement about this project, saying that “we will not establish a Belarusian state ideology imposed by Lukashenko, as it may seem from outside,” but, later, “actually, the first manifest of Belarusian state ideology was my pre-election program in the mid-1990s, although there were only hints and outlines for the future ideological bases of our society.” He also notes that “Russia today has unfortunately ceased to be the spiritual and cultural bulwark of Eastern Eurasian civilization.”
The report implies that some free labor will be involved. “The Belarusian ideology should be oriented towards values that are traditional for our civilization: the ability to work not only for profit, but also for the good of society, the collective and other people. The demand for ideals and higher goals, mutual aid, collectivism to offset Western individualism. Social security and a respectful relationship between the state and people.”
Lukashenko sees the country he rules as having a messianic role. “We are the last country remaining in the Eastern Slavic world (Eastern European, if you count the other peoples living in our territory) that openly preaches faithfulness to the traditional values of our civilization.” Based on that assumption, he comes to the conclusion that “through the times, fate and circumstance, Belarus has entered into the mighty role of spiritual leader of Eastern European civilization.”
The role requires active witnessing to the heathen and, of course, major appropriations to propagandize the Belarusian way of life abroad, especially in Russia and Ukraine. There is no reliable information yet about the sources for such financial outlays, but anything is possible. Even North Korea manages to publish a beautifully illustrated magazine called Korea Today.
Lukashenko says “a sense of this destiny may move our people to great feats,” but he does not say what those feats might be. Even more disturbingly, he uses Iraq as an example. “No one ever thought, not even me, and I know Iraq well, at the start of the war, that, the Iraqis would hold out this long. Neither the Americans nor the so-called occupational coalition know how this is going to end. How did that happen? The Arabs, God give them life, are not soldiers. They are not Chechens. Do you remember how they fought on the Sinai Peninsula? At 12:00 or whatever time it was, they threw down everything, started to pray and they were taken without a fight. And you see what a state ideology can do? 'We will defend our country, won't give up to the occupiers, we will defend our Saddam!' That is what the ideology of the last few months has built up. They have seven and a half million old machine guns and some old tanks in the face of the most modern of arms, and the Iraqis are holding. They are holding because they are devoted to their land. It is ideological training that is saving Iraq today.”
The president is aware that his “system of ideas, views, notions, feelings and beliefs on the goals of social and human development, as well as the ways and means of attaining those goals” will have to be put into writing. Geography will not allow him to emulate Turkmenbashi, who narrates the history of the Turkmens and gives advice for every occasion in life in his all-embracing book, Rukhnama. Belarus, unfortunately, is “located in Europe. And what is perfectly normal for the Turkmens, having a book like that, is inherently impossible for us. We cannot transfer that experience in that manner.” Lukashenko, who was a political officer in the 04104 Tank Company from 1980 to 1982, understands that collections of articles and sayings are ineffective. (“It wouldn't be comprehended. We're past collected works.”) Therefore, he is assigning specialists to write a textbook on Belarusian state ideology.
The head of state is ordering public organizations and labor unions to undertake “ideological work with the populace,” including children, in the meantime. This is a clear declaration that public organizations should regain their old roles in schools. The Pioneers and Belarusian Republican Youth Union are already poised for their return.
Lukashenko has not forgotten about freedom of speech. “The mass media, regardless of their forms of ownership, should contribute to the social unity of Belarus,” he said as he instructed the minister of information to “take inventory of the informational resources of the country. Work with the Presidential Administration on this and give me a report. Influence them to form a constructive public opinion.”
He has also decided to aid Belarusian show business, at the expense of FM radio stations and their audiences. “Not long ago, some of our young Belarusian artists were telling me,” Lukashenko stated, “if you turn on FM radio, will you hear any Pesnary [a Belarusian group popular in Soviet times], some good, high-quality Belarusian music? Who do you think is singing there? Tatu, Alla Pugacheva, sometimes with her family, but at least that is listenable. But where is anything Belarusian? I ask the minister of culture and the minister of information: what is it like in other countries? They say that there it is firmly set at 85% national and the rest international. And those caterwaulers pay big money for every minute of it. In our country, singers do without.”
It is all coming true. All Belarusian television and radio stations have to register with the state again before July 1. The Ministry of Information is setting broadcasts standards. After closing down operations by the Russian radio station Mayak in Belarus, deputy minister of information Sergei Bulatsky announced that “there will be no more Russian radio stations. When a Russian radio station enters Belarus, a certain percent of its broadcasts (30-40% or even 50%) will be Belarusian.”
Unexpectedly, Lukashenko had something to say about freedom of conscience as well. “Be careful. Do not slight our church. Support our church, first of all the Orthodox Church, because 85% of our religious people are Orthodox. Do not slight the Catholic Church, either, because we have a lot of Catholics too. In general, there is no need to stop people from going to whatever churches they go to. It should just be sensible. Just like in the family and in the collective.”
Western political scientists
still cannot decide whether Belarus is a defective democracy wobbling toward
authoritarianism or an authoritarian state with the rudiments of democracy.
This attempt to establish a state doctrine will probably sway opinion toward
the second variant. So Lukashenko has made one thing clear any way.