Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Rinna Elina Kullaa, University of Oxford, UK/University of Maryland, USA

  1.1.1  Brief introduction to the author: Born on 28 May 1977 in Helsinki, I remain a Finnish citizen. I am currently a DPhil candidate at the University of Maryland in Washington DC, United States. The topic of my doctorate is the foreign policy of the Former Yugoslavia following the Second World War. Professor John Lampe, formerly of the United States Embassy in Belgrade, is my supervisor. My study of Serbian politics began in 1999. Since then I have travelled to Serbia each year to conduct interviews and independent research toward my BA and MPhil degrees. I completed an undergraduate senior thesis on topic of "Opposition to Milosevic in Serbia in the 1990s" at Columbia University, New York City, May 2001. The topic of my MPhil thesis (completed in June 2004 at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Richard Crampton) is "Democratisation in Serbia after Milosevic and the Split between Zoran Djindjic and Vojislav Kostunica." Other academic experience includes lecturing at the University of Helsinki. I am the author of several articles and essays on Serbian politics in the 1990s and after the fall of Milosevic. I served as an advisor to the Ambassador of Cyprus at the United Nations in New York during 1999 and 2000. I currently have no affiliation with any governmental or political actor. I am an independent researcher, author and doctoral student.


    (2)  The prospect of economic and political growth in the near future.

    (3)  Implications of continuing instability in the Western Balkans for the wider region, and Europe as a whole.


  2.1.1  Political growth in Serbia and Montenegro was hindered by infighting amongst leaders of the former democratic coalition DOS, which defeated Milosevic in October 2000. The feud between the Democratic Party (DS), under the leadership of Prime Minister Djindjic, and the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), led by Federal President Vojislav Kostunica, dominated debate on most political issues between December 2000 and March 2003. Since 2003 Political groupings have evolved to include additional centres of power, but pivotal control remains centred around the DS and the DSS.

  2.1.2  Between 2000 and 2003, political decisions on important issue were made almost entirely along these party lines. Topics of contention included volatile issues such as Serbia's future cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, future policy towards Kosovo, and questions of economic renewal and democratisation of the Serbian political space.

  2.1.3  Amassing of support around Djindjic and Kostunica, immediately after the ousting of the Milosevic regime encouraged the continuation of partnerships between political parties, organized crime and the security forces of the Milosevic regime.

  2.1.4  Dismantling the power structures of the Milosevic regime was a formidable task in 2000. Over the course of a decade, the Milosevic government had built strong connections with internal security and armed forces supported by an economic system based on illegal sale of goods such as arms, narcotics, tobacco and alcohol. This vast, exploitative domestic grey economy severely obstructed the creation of a functioning market economy.

  2.1.5  Networks constructed under Milosevic were able to survive after 2000 and remain intact to this day for three reasons. Firstly, economic profits made by various actors on the ground and regimes involved in the Yugoslav conflicts in the 1990s were far more significant than most literature on the Yugoslav conflicts suggests. The strength of the surviving profit-making networks from the Yugoslav wars and attitudes toward them of the democratic leadership remains a key factor in Serbia's democratisation processes today.

  2.1.6  Secondly, the DS-DSS dispute led to the protection of some of the most powerful existing networks. As a consequence of their strong rivalry and relatively equal power positions, both sides felt they needed selected criminal/security elements at their disposal to create support and to prevent the other side from gaining the advantage. Djindjic, as Prime Minister of Serbia, utilised the Serbian internal security forces to obtain files containing compromising information regarding Kostunica and his supporters. Djindjic's authority made it also possible for him to personally orchestrate the deportation of Milosevic to the ICTY, in a much-lauded effort that ensured continued international support for Serbia and Montenegro. However, this authority also made it possible for Djindjic to gain other advantages over his opponents with the aid of the previous regime's internal security structures. Djindjic used his position of influence over existing media structures to promote media personalities. It was not uncommon for the DS leadership to feed nightly news directly to the main television networks in an effort to compromise political opponents, thus hindering progress toward the development of independent media. There is even evidence to suggest that these efforts may have led to the murder of General Gavrilov, who allegedly shared information with Kostunica concerning Djindjic's use of said security structures. Moreover, Djindjic's overwhelming authority enabled him to remove the DSS from government in the spring of 2002 with measures that did not adhere to parliamentary rules and procedure. This removal of democratic political opponents through the manipulation of political power compromised the integrity of the Djindjic government and the entire democratisation process in Serbia. Mirroring this behaviour, Kostunica attempted to utilize federal armed forces and approached some wealthy owners of compromised business and media interests for political gain. Most importantly, he often acted against positive steps such as the deportation of Milosevic and the dissolution of old state industries seemingly merely because these initiatives had been proposed by Djindjic and the DS.

  2.1.7  Thirdly, policy choices of both Djindjic and Kostunica discouraged the obliteration of organized crime. Djindjic, a practical entrepreneur, chose to use and attempt to control existing criminal networks rather than combating them to build new industry. He attempted to transform organised crime units into legitimate commercial actors under his personal supervision. His highly personalised political style gave credibility to this legally questionable approach, despite the fact that he represented Serbia internationally as head of such collective bodies as the Democratic Party and the Serbian government. Kostunica also failed to remove corrupted domestic elements. Kostunica preserved the authority of leaders of the federal armed forces, perhaps fearing the consequences of dismantling these forces. However, his puzzling decision to retain the military leadership of the previous regime was explained publicly as an act of loyalty and gratefulness to these forces that had refrained from harming the Serbian public and opposition during the stand off with Milosevic following his defeat. According to this logic, actors formerly loyal to the Milosevic regime now "deserved" their posts, having acted with the people and the DOS leadership in 2000.

  2.1.8  The creation of opposed poles within the democratic coalition after the exchange of power in 2000 discouraged economic renewal in Serbia, despite immediate international support at the outset of 2001. Dissolution of state-owned companies and privatisation in general were delayed by the manipulation of economic renewal issues as pawns in the feud between the DS and the DSS in the Parliament as well as in the press.

  2.1.9  The approximately paralleled electoral support for the DSS and measure of Djindjic personal influence (not electoral support) led to successive elections in Serbia with no clear political direction. Inconclusive election cycles disappointed the electorate.

  2.1.10  By early 2003 it had become clear to Djindjic and his closest associates that he was unable to control and transform many of the security/organised crime networks. Protection of these illegitimate economic elements had stifled the reconstruction of the economy. Frustrated by failed attempts to legitimise the illegal elements through his personal influence, Djindjic attempted to eliminate some of these illegitimate actors. This led directly to the Prime Minister's assassination in March 2002.

  2.1.11  To its credit, Serbian political leadership was able to survive the assassination of its undisputed leader. The leadership even dismantled some of the existing criminal networks in the year following Djindjic's assassination. However, contrary to many reports, some networks survive today. Evidence of their power and public notoriety includes apparel with a criminal network's insignia worn by clan members during the assassination trial this year. As long as these networks exist, the birth of a lawful society, placement of the military and the police under civilian control and a healthy market economy for Serbia remain wishful thinking.

  2.1.12  The existence of criminal/security networks in Serbia was prolonged by the approach adopted by most international actors towards the Djindjic- Kostunica feud. The international community found it easy to embrace Djindjic but tended to disregard Kostunica. Since 2001, Djindjic and the DS were characterised as Europe-friendly, progressive, cooperative players. Kostunica, portrayed as his polar opposite, was viewed as anti-Western, nationalist, and uncooperative. These characterisations were based heavily on the politicians' communication with international actors and had little to do with domestic policies. Such views are not surprising considering the undeniable intellectual capacity and formidable personal charm of Djindjic. Kostunica on the other hand is known for his slowness in political decision-making and inability to distinguish between domestic and international audiences.

  2.1.13  The characterisation of Djindjic as a desirable partner and of Kostunica as his antithesis led to an overall lack of critical analysis of the Serbian political scene within the international community. Once Djindjic had been identified as the international community's partner, it became difficult to chastise his personal dealings with organised crime leagues and other actions that were not conducive to the birth of democratic politics in Serbia. Instead, his criminal connections were dismissed on many occasions.

  2.1.14  Recommendations for actions the committee should consider: Events between 2001 and 2003 demonstrate that while the British interests are well-served by support of democratic forces in Serbia, the post-Milosevic political spectrum does not offer infallible Serbian partners. In the past, simplistic analysis identified Djindjic as a politician with a singularly ambitious democratisation and reform program aimed at destroying former structures. This view failed to recognise the extent to which Serbian democratic leadership was willing to employ criminal networks (used out of necessity during the transfer of power) for political gain during the democratisation period. Choosing a preferred partner and imbuing him with all the qualities desired from him led to erroneous political analysis and failure to react against his less favourable policies.

  2.1.15  The post-Djindjic period has revealed opportunities for better power-sharing between major political actors in Serbia. After Djindjic's leadership was inherited confidently by Boris Tadic in the spring of 2004, co-operation between the DS and the DSS has improved. Kostunica enjoys a markedly better working relationship with Tadic than he did with Djindjic because their personalities are better suited for co-operation and because Tadic defeated a coalition of Djindjic's closest allies in the DS leadership (including Zoran Zivkovic and Cedomir Jovanovic). Political conflict has not disappeared from the Serbian political stage after the assassination of Djindjic, but new centres of political power have gained influence. The economic elite non-governmental organisation G17 was established as a significant political party. Vuk Draskovic has returned to politics. The Radical Party has experienced an alarming increase in support. These changes have forced both the DS and the DSS to share power and consider more cautious political alignments.

  2.1.16  Moreover, the political year 2004 contains strong signs that the Serbian political space continues to be very fluid. As an example, the first round of Presidential elections in June 2004 demonstrated the ability of owners of several conglomerates in Serbia—the Karic family—to set up a political candidate a few months prior to elections and gain 19.3% of the popular vote. Support for the Radicals, though significantly higher in the past year, has also not solidified. Their carefully orchestrated efforts to destabilise Belgrade during the Kosovo unrest in Spring of 2004 did not inspire the larger public. Under these volatile conditions, the international community must carefully observe the situation in Serbia. Due to the United States' preoccupation with its own domestic agenda and the great anxiety felt by the Serbian democratic leadership over the possible return of some of the political actors of the U.S. Democratic Party (most importantly Richard Holbrooke), the United Kingdom should take this task even more seriously. The threat of the Radical group if other forces choose to align with it is real. The temptation for the democratic parties towards an alignment with the Radicals will increase in the next year. The Radicals will be able to offer a significant part of the electorate if one of the democratic parties becomes desperate for a partner. Moreover, the Radicals are likely to mainstream their message, probably in the context of their position on Europe. While the Radicals should be unilaterally resisted, organised criminal networks and security structures will be best dismantled by U.K. efforts to engage a wide spectrum of democratic parties. Domestic problems in Serbia can only be solved when no Serbian political force feels that it gains from engagement with organised crime networks and when all security forces have been made responsive to a democratic political system.

  2.1.17  In an electorate as fluid as Serbia's, actions should be taken carefully to ensure that no currently broadly democratic party becomes desperate for allies and engages the Radicals as their partners. Broad engagement by the international community also prevents the ability of one domestic political force in Serbia to present itself as "the West's choice" and cease political cooperation.


  3.1.1  Instability among political forces in Serbia complicates the work of the ICTY, stands in the way of solving of the question of final status of Kosovo and complicates discussion over the future of the union between Serbia and Montenegro.

  3.1.2  The work of the ICTY is costly to the international community. The actions of the Prosecutors' Office during the past four years often impeded democratic parties' attempts to resist the Radicals in Serbia. The Prosecutors' Office's statements and actions are often antagonistic and create outrage within the Serbian public. The hard line taken by the Prosecutors' Office in demanding cooperation from the Serbian political forces is understandable and perhaps desirable. However, the antagonistic tone and seemingly endless demands of the office (not satisfied by deportation of Milosevic and several other indicted persons) represents the disfavour of the international community in the eyes of the Serbian public. This attitude has been successfully exploited by the Radical Party to increase support for its anti-Western rhetoric. The Radicals have successfully been able to present an imagined connection between Serbian democratic parties, economic hardships and western disfavour. If this impression of Western disrespect toward Serbian efforts were lessened, it is likely that the democratic forces would be able to present more pro-Western ideas without fearing loss of public support. Much of the Radical Party's appeal would be neutralised.

  3.1.3  The solution of the final status of Kosovo is fundamentally tied to the current conflict in the FYR of Macedonia as well as to economic and political problems in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The political developments in Kosovo since October 2000, directed by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, have distanced the area's political future from the future of Serbia. The necessary development of a separate administrative system, including a judiciary and a semi-legislature, although coordinated by an international body, has resulted in the creation of a system of governance completely separate from that of Serbia and Montenegro. Unification of the administrations of Serbia and in Kosovo has become increasingly unlikely. In the words of one analyst, these two eggs cannot be joined to make one egg.

  3.1.4  If the International Community seeks an independent Kosovo, these developments have been very successful. An independent Kosovo, though helpful in ending the conflict between Serbian leadership and the Kosovar Albanian population, raises far-reaching security concerns for the rest of the Southern Balkans. Views of the Serbian electorate in 2004 hint that separation of Kosovo could through great efforts be made acceptable to the majority of Serbs in Serbia. However, as unrest in Kosovo in Spring 2004 proved, the Serbian and Roma minorities would assuredly face discrimination and violence in an independent Kosovo. The level of organised violence suggests a future in which these minorities would not be allowed to remain in an independent Kosovo at all. Moreover, according to studies of popular sentiment amongst Kosovar Albanians, as many as eighty percent expect the unification of parts of the FYR of Macedonia populated by Albanians with an independent Kosovo. Such a division of the FYR of Macedonia would alarm Bulgaria and Greece and could involve these nations in a conflict capable of spreading to Turkey and southern Montenegro, where there is an Albanian minority.

  3.1.5  An independent Kosovo would influence Albania as well. Unification of these two domains would immediately become under consideration, but might lead to conflict. The Kosovar Albanian leadership remains distinct from that of Albania, and a struggle for control of the larger state would likely ensue.

  3.1.6  The creation of a Greater Albanian state would also seriously jeopardise the continued existence of Bosnia and Hercegovina. This state, currently fragile due to ethnic fragmentation and economic weakness, would likely face revolt based on the argument that the Bosnian Serbs could not be expected to remain separated from Serbs in Serbia while Albanians are allowed to create a unified nation-state.

  Recommendations for actions the committee should consider:

  3.1.7  The basic challenge is to resolve the future status of Kosovo without creating a Greater Albania, as this will lead to major unrest in the Balkans and I would be likely to draw in several states of the European Union.

  3.1.8  The International Community's policy in Kosovo should be reconsidered in light of the broader security concerns described above. The situation does not offer any clear solutions for future advancement for Kosovo and preservation of peace in the area. The implications of an independent Kosovo for security should be carefully weighed against the price of stagnation in the area caused by its currently unsettled status.

  I am available to appear as a witness at any time.

Rinna Elina Kullaa

University of Oxford, UK/University of Maryland, USA

14 September 2004

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