Balkans: December 11, 1999


Greece has dropped its formal opposition to Turkey's membership in the European Union. On December 10 the EU voted to accept Turkey as a potential EU member -- but only if Turkey accepts some key internal reforms. These include granting rights to Turkey's Kurds and limiting the Turkish Army's role in government. Cyprus also remains an issue. Greece and Turkey must resolve their confrontation over Cyprus and over islands in the Aegean. Cyprus has also been accepted as a potential EU member. On December 11, various opposition groups in Greece and Turkey criticized the agreement. This is to be expected --there are groups inside Greece and Turkey that benefit from stoking tension between the two nations. For everyone else, the progress since spring 1999 -- beginning with "earthquake diplomacy" and moving to a new round of Greek-Turk bilateral talks, has been extraordinary. For decades the "Euro-Turks" have sought and coveted EU recognition. Turkey's business community believes EU membership will benefit Turkey economically and ultimately translate into real internal political stability. 

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman died December 10. As previously reported in FYEO, Tudjman had been hospitalized and his health began seriously deteriorating in mid-November. Tudjman, like Slobodan Milosevic, moved from being a Communist to an ultra-nationalist -- an easy switch in the Balkans. Tudjman was 77. He fought with Tito's partisans during WWII. Tudjman was kicked out of the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1967 when he defended the Croat regime set up by the Nazis in WWII. In 1971 he joined a Croat nationalist group that demanded independence from Yugoslavia. Vlatko Pavletic will serve as interim president. What happens now? Interestingly enough, Tudjman's son, Miroslav, is head of the secret police. Look for Croatia's reputation in the West to improve. Tudjman was an authoritarian with little respect for human rights and civil rights. Croatia's six opposition parties now face a real test. Can they form a united front? If they do, Drazen Budisa (of the Croat Social Liberal Party) could be the next president.

NATO has conducted the Cooperative Determination 99 exercise in Bucharest. Officers and senior sergeants from seven NATO member and eleven Partner nations formed a composite brigade headquarters, which then conducted an imaginary peace support operation using computers to generate random events and problems. Romania said that hosting the exercise, and the first joint exercise of the Hungarian-Romanian peacekeeping battalion, increased its chances for NATO membership in the near term.--Stephen V Cole


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