NEWS

Balkan hopes of stability lie in international pacts

The repercussions of the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic last week are expected to be far-reaching for the people of Serbia and Montenegro, according to the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana. In this interview with Kathimerini, Solana emphasizes the need for calm and stability, for safeguarding institutions so that they can continue with their work. Serbia also needs to «follow through on the bold steps Djindjic had initiated, on ICTY cooperation, on the reform of military and security structures, on talks with Pristina. And finally, the new government needs to confirm its determination to continue on the path toward European and international cooperation,» said Solana. What is your opinion of the politician Zoran Djindjic? Do you believe that he has left a difficult gap to fill on Serbia’s political scene? I knew Zoran Djindjic very well and worked with him a lot. He was a personal friend and a friend of Europe. I have to tell you very honestly, I am moved because, as I said, I had been working with Zoran for a long time. I know he loved his country. We should now look ahead, to make reality the dreams, the many dreams Zoran Djindjic had for his country, for his people. With the death of Zoran Djindjic, we have lost the champion of the different reform processes under way in Serbia and Montenegro: Zoran was the driving force behind moves to apprehend war crime suspects. He was planning comprehensive reforms of military and security structures. He had pushed through an impressive and often unpopular series of economic and administrative reforms. He had personally initiated determined steps to fight against organized crime syndicates in Belgrade. He was also the key interlocutor for Montenegrin leader [Milo] Djukanovic. He was finally at the center of efforts in Belgrade to come to terms with the issue of Kosovo. The disappearance of Zoran Djindjic is therefore a severe blow on all these counts. The mantle left by him will not be easy to fill for any of the possible candidates to replace him. Will the assassination of the Serbian prime minister have consequences for the fragile stability of the Balkans? In order to maintain stability, our first objective has to be to maintain calm. I do not, at the moment, see any real threat of further violence or a military coup. Secondly, we have to ensure that the institutions are safeguarded and continue their work as foreseen, both in Serbia and in the new union. Thirdly, Serbia needs to follow through on the bold steps PM Djindjic had initiated, on ICTY cooperation, on the reform of military and security structures, on talks with Pristina. And finally, the new government needs to confirm its determination to continue on the path toward European and international cooperation. This year could still be the year of membership in both the Council of Europe and Partnership for Peace, and the start of SAA negotiations. The Serbian government has alleged that the Mafia is behind the assassination. What is your assessment on the connection between organized crime and politics in the states that emerged from the ashes of Yugoslavia, as well as the states of Eastern Europe in general? Organized crime is a key impediment to stability and the European prospect of the Balkans. It nourishes corruption and ethnic conflict, impedes the normal functioning of democratic institutions, the rule of law and the market economy, and finances illegal armed groups. Combating organized crime and corruption is a major objective of EU policy in the area and the Greek presidency places it high on its agenda. The successful outcome of the London Conference of November 2002 set out a framework for our work in this area. Work should now concentrate on the areas for priority action set by the London Conference for each country. The late prime minister of Serbia often talked of the need to settle the issue of Kosovo, demanding the implementation of the UN Resolution 1244, which foresees the return of the Serbian army to the border area, the return of the refugees and so on. What is the EU’s stand on this and what is your view with regard to the analyses that have lately emerged in the Serbian press which mention the partition of Kosovo as the only realistic solution? The final status of Kosovo will need to be addressed in due course in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, involving the government in Belgrade and the elected leaders and representatives of the local political institutions in Pristina. In the meantime, the EU fully supports UNMIK and the SRSG [UN’s Kosovo administrator Michael] Steiner in his efforts to implement Resolution 1244. This includes our full support for the initiatives of the SRSG Steiner to implement his «standards before status» policy, his decision to proceed with further transfer of powers to the provisional institutions of self-government in Kosovo, his proposal to initiate in the near future direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues of mutual concern as well as his initiative on the decentralization of Kosovo. The EU strongly feels that the above initiatives in support of the implementation of Resolution 1244 provide the right framework to continue engaging all local communities in the process of building stability in Kosovo and the region. It therefore also goes without saying that any unilateral act from any side that runs counter to the principle of multiethnicity is categorically rejected by the EU. Are you concerned about the increase of violence in southern Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and is there information available on certain Albanian paramilitary organizations that seem to have resurfaced in the area, like AKSH [Albanian National Army], among others? I believe that a key principle for consolidating stability in the region remains the commitment of all local actors to the agreements reached together with the international community that aim to provide a framework for stability and development. We urge all parties to refrain from provocations and counter-provocations of any kind. The EU, together with its other international partners, remains fully engaged in trying to defuse tensions and will do whatever is necessary to help consolidate stability in the region.