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Domestic Issues Predominate in Post-War Balkans

(Washington, DC--January 29, 2003) Two noted Balkans specialists--Patrick Moore, RFE/RL's Coordinator for Balkan Analysis and Senior Librarian Predrag Pajic of the Library of Congress--discussed current problems and trends in the western Balkans at a recent RFE/RL briefing. Both agreed that, while the political elites of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Yugoslavia are preoccupied with their countries' future status in NATO and the EU, their people are more concerned with daily survival and increasingly indifferent to domestic or international politics.

Moore pointed to the possibility of a "multi-tiered Europe" that could pose security risks for the continent in the future. Despite near-universal enthusiasm in the western Balkans for joining European institutions, only Croatia, Macedonia and Albania have realistic prospects for joining NATO in 2007 -- while Bosnia and Yugoslavia have yet to join NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program.

Pajic stressed that dealing with domestic problems is more important for regional security than status in international organizations. All of the countries in the region face the challenge of dealing with rising crime, out-of-control militias, and Mafia structures, although these problems are particularly acute in Bosnia and Yugoslavia. Moore noted that, if their leaders do not successfully deal with these issues, these countries could become a "black hole" in Europe.

Both experts said that the Balkan region must come to terms with the aftermath of bloody civil conflict and still-looming border problems. According to Pajic, the Serbian leadership understands that its future depends on its degree of cooperation with war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Pajic said that the next few months will see the "official death of Yugoslavia" with the creation of the new Serbian-Montenegrin state and rising pressure on Serbia to reexamine the status of Vojvodina. The region's future status vis-à-vis the EU -- along with a possible "Europeanization of borders" -- may offer potential solutions to these problems. Bosnia, Moore and Pajic agreed, poses a particular problem for the region, due to its "culture of dependency" and its legalized status, according to Moore, as a "colonial protectorate."