Koštunica visits Sarajevo
Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica became the first Yugoslav leader Friday to enter Sarajevo since the Bosnian war began in 1992. He made the rounds of the international organisations and met with Bosnia's three-man presidency, and all the official pronouncements were that the talks had been constructive. Koštunica told the Presidency that he was interested in establishing a truth and reconciliation commission.
Presidency member Živko Radišic said that embassies in both countries were expected to open quickly. Koštunica told UN Special Representative Jacques Paul Klein that he was interested in establishing a study to look into the causes of the former-Yugoslav conflicts. High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch praised how quickly Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH) had established diplomatic relations.
Koštunica also met with Serb Orthodox Metropolitan Nikolai and Catholic Cardinal Vinko Puljic, but BH-TV stated that Islamic Community leader Mustafa Efendia Ceric refused to meet with him, citing his lack of apology for the "victims of genocide in Bosnia and Hercegovina."
A town that had suffered so much at the hands of Koštunica's predecessor, Slobodan Milošević, was understandably wary of a new Yugoslav leader. Koštunica's recent remarks bringing the validity of the Dayton Accords into question—saying he was too busy to meet with the main prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia—and his recent meeting with Milošević did not make the atmosphere any warmer.
An Oslobođenje cartoon Thursday showed Koštunica in a bloody handshake with the butcher-apron-wearing Milošević, while prosecutor Carla Del Ponte waits at the door. Koštunica is saying, "I can't receive you—you're not important enough." (Koštunica did announce Friday that he would meet with Del Ponte when she comes to Belgrade on 23 January. He said he wanted to talk about the Tribunal's secret indictment list.)
Papers speculated that last Saturday's meeting with Milošević resulted in Koštunica giving his predecessor some sort of promise that he wouldn't be extradicted to The Hague. At any rate, it brought no end of negative reactions. Jutarnje Novine said Koštunica's honeymoon was over and that his new government had not worked quickly enough to expel Milošević's allies from key Serbian institutions. Now that many in Serbia are paranoid about war crimes trials as well, meeting with Milošević was a bad move.
"Everyone is frightened and everyone wants to proclaim Koštunica a 'bad guy,'" stated the paper. "In his own meeting with Milošević, he gave a right to those who from the beginning were suspicious of his good intentions, and what is the worst, that move even more strongly emphasized the fissure between individual leaders of DOS and Koštunica."
Delivering war criminals
Koštunica has also been evasive about the question of delivering indicted war criminals to The Hague. He has gone on record repeatedly that Milošević should be tried in Serbia, not in an international court. Yugoslavia is bound by the Dayton Accords to co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) but has yet to do so. Koštunica has not flatly said that he won't abide by the agreement, but raised the point this week that when Milošević signed it in 1995, he was president of Serbia and not of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
A reporter asked Koštunica on television, "Why are you protecting Milošević?" He replied, "I'm not protecting Milošević, or anyone else," and explained that he was protecting the constitution of his country and acting according to it.
Koštunica's visit did not come and go without problems. Security was tight in town Friday, but some people still found a way to let the Yugoslav president know that they were not going to buy what they considered the facade of his kinder, gentler Serbia.
"Students in a building near the UN Mission headquarters organised protests while Koštunica was at the UN, and they could be heard while Koštunica made his public statements," said a BH Press report Friday night. This was putting it mildly, for I heard what was supposed to be a tape of Koštunica speaking. It is customary for Bosnian reporters to take tape recorders to such events and play them back as they write their stories, but when the reporter I know played his tape, it created a veritable din in the office. You could not even hear Koštunica talking. Someone else told me that several pensioners had surrounded Koštunica's car at one point Friday and were yelling terrible things about his mother.
HDZ boycotts Federation Parliament
The newly-elected FBiH House of Representatives had its first meeting this week. Depending on who you listened to, the House meeting had either been conducted constitutionally and legally (the international community and opposition coalition Alliance for Changes), or it had been a disaster that heralded "the beginning of the end of the Federation" (Croatian Democratic Union vice-president Ivo Andrić Luzanski).
The HDZ announced Wednesday that its members would temporarily boycott the House because they had not been allowed to choose "legitimate members of the Croat people" at the session. Party official Marko Tokić said the Alliance for Changes had thrown the HDZ out, thus violating the will of the Croat electorate and destroying the foundations of the Dayton Peace Accords. This latest HDZ stunt will probably prolong even further the makeup of new legislative bodies following the elections.
A Croat party that is also an Alliance member disagrees that the HDZ alone has a monopoly on the Croat electorate. "Croats are Croats, without regard to which political party they belong to," said New Croat Initiative president Krešimir Zubak.An Oslobođenje editorial Thursday said that to call representatives who voted for a democratic alliance "anti-Croat" was an insult. "There is no kind of foundation on which any party in the Alliance could be accused of an anti-Croat move," Zija Dizdarević wrote, and asked if it would be possible to proclaim seven prominent non-HDZ Croats (he listed them all) as anti-Croat. "The HDZ claims that [the Alliance] does not respect the wishes of the Croat people in BiH. The wishes of citizens—because they, not 'people,' vote—are respected in implementing election results and constituting parliaments."
Beth Kampschror, 19 January 2001
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