AIM: start

SAT, 21 APR 2001 00:03:18 GMT

Interesting Effects of Milosevicís Arrest in Tirana

AIM Tirana, April 17, 2001

It seems strange, but reactions in Albania to the arrest of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic did not reach the proportions expected from this development because of its regional and international character, but also because of the great significance political and state representatives in Albania had attributed to this arrest especially after Milosevicís descent from power in October last year. One of the explanations of such a half-hearted reaction is that the political scene in Tirana was preoccupied by the developments in Macedonia where numerous accusations from the region directed against armed ethnic Albanian extremists over there caused a specific confusion among Albanian political forces. Even in Albanian daily newspapers, independent and those of various parties, there were very few reactions of Albanian political parties to the tumultuous event in Belgrade. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate the right to consider Tirana as the one of the capitals in South Eastern Europe that was interested the most for Milosevicís arrest. One can also say that Albanian politics has profited the most in the region from this arrest.

The relief caused in Tirana by the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic could have been assumed, but the effects it had were also different from the ones it had in other capitals in the region. With speed that is not exactly customary, that is, before the other governments in the Balkans, on April 1, on the very day when he was arrested, the Albanian government issued a statement in which it welcomed the decision of the government in Belgrade and repeated the demand that he be extradited to the International Tribunal in The Hague.

Indeed, from the very first international appearance of Yugoslav President Kostunica at Skopje Summit Conference of the South Eastern Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) on October 25 last year, President of Albania Rexhep Mejdani strongly insisted of Milosevicís arrest. During all these months but especially since January this year when the first official notes for re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Albania and FR Yugoslavia were exchanged, the political corpse of Milosevic had been a bigger and more specific burden on the relations between the two countries than on any other foreign relations of Belgrade in the region.

Therefore, for Albanian government this arrest was the removal of an obstacle in the process of establishing relations. Although the dates were a pure coincidence, it is a fact that the arrest of Milosevic considerably contributed to the improvement of the atmosphere when two days later Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta met for the first time Serbiaís Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in Athens on April 3. The atmosphere was improved to such an extent that Djindjic declared enthusiastically to the Greek press that had he met his counterpart Meta five or six years ago, things would have been different in the Balkans. Albanian Prime Minister demanded from his Serbian counterpart removal of another obstacle in Albanian-Yugoslav relations - liberation of Albanian political prisoners who are in jails in Serbia.

The arrest of Milosevic was also of specific assistance to the Albanian government in improving the climate in its relations with political parties in Pristina and with Kosovo Albanians in general. Re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Albanian and FR Yugoslavia was not received with approval in Pristina at the time when Milosevic was still at large and the head of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Now, when he is in jail, one of the arguments for dissatisfaction of Kosovo Albanians with Tirana has disappeared. Tirana has achieved progress in its relations with its fellow Albanians in Kosovo because it can make a point that one of its persistent demands from the administration in Belgrade, which the Kosovars had pressed Tirana to make, has been met.

However, the most interesting effect of Milosevicís arrest is noticeable in internal Albanian political life. Milosevic might have disappeared from Serbian political life, but in Albanian political life he will continue to play a role from a distance. All Albanian political parties, with no exception, leftist and rightist, small and big, were unanimous in applauding to Milosevicís arrest, but also in the demand that he be extradited to The Hague. However, the two poles of Albanian politics did not miss this opportunity to use it for mutual attacks and making patriotic and political points. As Albanian Prime Minister declared after the meeting with Serbian Prime Minister, it will be difficult to avoid nationalistic rhetoric in the relations between the two countries, especially by parties which do not participate in the government and which are striving to accumulate political capital at the expense of the prospects of relations. Milosevicís arrest has created a chance in this direction for political parties in Tirana. The Socialist Party (SP) which is at the head of government coalition used this opportunity for advertising its stands it had stuck to concerning this issue. Through its secretary for foreign relations A. Dada, SP praised Belgrade officials and demanded liberation of political prisoners and location of the disappeared persons. The Democratic Party (DP) used the event in Belgrade for the attack on the Socialist Party in power. At a rally held on April 2 in Shkoder President of DP Sali Berisha called Milosevic an ally of the ďclique in TiranaĒ which is in power. On the other hand, the newspaper of the party in power Zeri i Popullit called Berisha Milosevicís partner and the newspaper of DP Rilindja Demokratike stated the accusation that in the dossier of international prosecutors the names of high officials from Tirana were mentioned along with that of Milosevic.

Both extremes of the political spectre wish to use the symbol of evil, Milosevic, for making political points because election campaign for June parliamentary elections has already begun. The accusation for connections with Serbia and with incriminated Serbian leaders is one of the most traditional accusations opposed political forces in Tirana address at each other. This is done because of internal effects, but especially as part of the efforts of Albanian political parties to win political support of the Albanians outside Albania, in Kosovo, Macedonia and elsewhere. This is the pre-election tactics, which will last for a long time to come in Albania, and it seems that Milosevicís name will in the future be mentioned more often in Albania than in Serbia.

AIM Tirana

Arjan LEKA