Doc. 8535

21 September 1999

South-East Europe and Kosovo

Opinion

Committee on Culture and Education

Rapporteur: Gyula Hegyi, Hungary, Socialist Group

The cultural institutions and monuments, schools and universities and the media are amongst the first victims in any conflict. However many writers, professors, journalists and intellectuals on every side had personal responsibility for the outburst of ethnic hatred and for the bloody nationalist bacchanalia in the heart of the Balkans. After the fall of communism Yugoslavia, as a relatively free and developed country, had every chance for a peaceful transition to democracy. However, intellectuals (namely many Serbian writers and scientists) started to appeal for a nationalist transition in the name of "Great Serbia". Their passion was later echoed by many Croatian, Muslim and Albanian intellectuals - and of course manipulated by domestic and foreign politicians.

We, as members of the Assembly's cultural committee, should protect the cultural victims of the crisis. However, it is equally important to underline the special responsibility of the people working for culture, education and media to combat nationalism, racism and ethnic hatred. Bombs can stop aggression; police can bring about public order; legislators can lay democratic foundations: but potential problems will always breed under the surface unless a genuine spirit of tolerance prevails in society. This is something which can only be achieved through culture and education.

We should also be aware that in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and incredibly complex region such as South-East Europe, problems of culture and education should be tackled across the borders.

A first attempt to have an insight into the complexity of these problems was made by your Rapporteur during a visit organised by the Economic Affairs Committee to Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia from 7 to 12 September 1999. Time, unfortunately, was too short for an in-depth examination of all the problems and this is why the present report is mainly concentrated on media and partly on education. An account of the main findings is attached.

Despite this rather brief survey, certain conclusions can be drawn already. In Kosovo, the Council of Europe should contribute to international efforts as well as to local institutional reconstruction aimed at reforming the educational system and drawing up education and higher education policies, provision of teacher training, reactivating the cultural landscape, putting in place efficient media legislation and laying the grounds for media self-regulation.

It is equally urgent to protect the cultural heritage, to assess destruction of monuments and to design a programme for reconstruction of heritage irrespective of its ethnic origin.

Youth and sports programmes are also needed and could do a lot to ease the climate of tension.

Similar objectives could be applied to Montenegro which deserves more attention from our organisation, despite the lack of specific mandate. Work in the same spirit should also begin immediately with the democratic and reformer circles in Serbia, without waiting for a possible departure of Mr Milosevic.

On a larger, regional scale, the priority should be to contribute to encouraging mutual cultural contacts in the spirit of openness, tolerance and mutual understanding.

The experience and the expertise of the Council of Europe in these fields is probably the best in Europe and the situation in and around Kosovo is an unprecedented challenge for our organisation.

1. In paragraph 4, after "Serb and Roma population" add "and the continuing criminal destruction of Orthodox cultural heritage".

2. After paragraph 6, insert a new paragraph 7 worded as follows: "The Assembly believes that lasting peace and democratic stability in the area can only be achieved if cultural and educational policies are rapidly put in place. These should exclude ethnic hatred and promote democratic values, respect for human rights and cultural difference. The reconstruction of civil society, with special reference to young people, is just as important as the reconstruction of cultural heritage".

3. In paragraph 14 b, after sub-paragraph i, insert a new sub-paragraph ii worded as follows: "draw up proposals for action in the fields of culture, education and media for immediate implementation in Kosovo and, more generally, in the area as a whole"

SUMMARY ACCOUNT OF THE VISIT

Croatia

Croatia has a long tradition of good journalism and civic public opinion. The danger of the present situation is that the freedom of media depends more on political will than on the need for substantial infrastructure improvement. According to independent journalists and opposition politicians, the ruling party (HDZ) and the people around President Tudjman exert strict control over most of the Croatian media.

       All the three existing television channels are said to be totally controlled by the ruling party, and they are definitely state-owned. One frequency was bought by a businessman believed to be a "man of the President" who wanted to set up a fourth channel, but until now nothing is on the air. The Social Democrats in opposition have a certain influence on the Rijeka local TV.

The State Body which provides the frequencies for radio and TV channels is directly controlled by the office of President Tudjman. Some members of that body are at the same time his advisers.

As 80 percent of Croatians are only informed through television, the situation is more than worrying. On the eve of the election, the six opposition parties maintain that electoral legislation alone cannot ensure fair elections without independence of broadcast media. As their representatives told me, "television in Croatia is completely in the service of propaganda for the ruling party, and the opposition will not be able to influence any changes on national television, especially during the forthcoming election campaign". In order to avoid a political crisis and to ensure fair elections, these problems should be solved as soon as possible.

As 90% of the advertisement go to the State TV, the radio and printed media lack proper resources to build an alternative information service. Under a recently adopted law, a maximum of 25% of the ownership of a broadcasting (TV) company can be given to foreigners. Forum 21, a group of independent journalists, has two goals: to transform governmental TV to real public TV, and to give equal chances to private TV.

State-owned radios collect compulsory fees, but very few people listen to them. Approximately 10 out of 115 local stations can be called really independent. Licences are issued by the authorities, and many complain of the partiality of those decisions. In the Zagreb area 8% of the public listen to the state radio, while for instance more than 22% listen to the independent Radio 101. However Radio 101's license only allows it to broadcast in Zagreb. 95% of this radio's income comes form advertising and some advertisers are said not to be brave enough to advertise on an independent radio. Even worse, the general loss in income of the population has led to an almost 25% decrease of Radio 101 income from advertising.

Urban populations have access to critical programs and political debates and to foreign language broadcasting, but the rural population mainly watches the state-controlled television programmes.

       There are some independent dailies and weeklies. According to the number of copies and not the number of newspapers published, one-third of the printed media can be considered as independent or openly in opposition. HDZ is believed to use privatisation as a new form of political influence over the media.

Being in Zagreb and talking to journalists, one can hardly escape the impression that the whole of political life revolves around endless scandals. They are investigated by independent papers - however there is no feedback, the stories are not echoed in public opinion.

The main distributor of the newspapers is TISAK, a huge national corporation with thousands of kiosks. TISAK is said to be controlled by the government. On the other hand some opposition newspapers are printed in the VJESNIK printed house, controlled by the ruling party. I was told by independent editors that they had to pay immediately for printing, while the revenues from the sales of their newspapers arrive from TISAK months later. TISAK owes - I was told - the opposition weekly Nacional 3 million kunas. The newspaper has also been subjected to police searches and threats.

Croatia has made significant steps towards repairing war damage and rebuilding its damaged cultural institutions and monuments. We should make a clear distinction between the brave efforts and encouraging progress made by the Croatian people and the government in this field, on the one hand, and on the other hand the scandals and antidemocratic tendencies in the world of the media. This situation can endanger the forthcoming elections.

Montenegro

Pro-independence political forces used to be pro-Serbian and even pro-Milosevic some years ago. Today, the Montenegrin Government does not want to be the hostage of the present rulers in Belgrade. This attitude should be respected by the international community.

The efforts to establish direct contacts with foreign countries and governments should be welcomed without forcing the final step of secession. This goes especially for cultural contacts in the fields of art, science, literature, heritage, education and media. This cultural exchange can be useful also for foreign partners as Montenegro is far away from the so called Mc'World mass culture and can enrich our world with real cultural values. The Council of Europe has an important role to play in the building up of these contacts.

Like Montenegrins, the media are also split on the question of relations with Serbia. Of the four existing dailies, one is owned by the government (Pobeda) and one by the pro-Serbian groups (Glas Crna Gorci.) The other two are close to the local government. So are radio and TV channels, and their leaders are proud to back openly the cabinet of Djukanovic against the regime of Milosevic.

While this attitude should be respected, the generally pro-democratic Government of Montenegro also needs independent control and transparency. One of its constant watchdogs is the independent weekly Monitor, published in 9000 copies. The weekly was recently fined 400 000 DM by Belgrade. Now about one thousand copies are smuggled to Serbia with the aim of providing independent information to the population there. Monitor backs the Pristina Government against the central régime in Belgrade but, on other hand, tries to investigate local scandals. As I was told by an independent journalist, some members of the Government (The Four Families) are involved in suspicious privatisation affairs, and there are also not totally proven signs of corruption and organised smuggling. It appears that the government sometimes asks Monitor to silence these scandals ("... you should know our troubles with Milosevic..."), but since 1997 they have tolerated the critical attitude of the weekly. The average reader of Monitor is 35 years old with a high level of education. Montenegrin people, as one expert told me, are interested mainly in politics and sport - it is a heavily over-politicised society.

       State radio and TV broadcast one hour per day in Albanian. The TV does its best to provide interesting political programmes for the Serbian audience and to counter- balance Belgrade propaganda.

There are Albanian elementary and secondary schools, but the training of Albanian teachers is not sufficient, as is recognised even by official experts. Another worrying fact is that the curriculum in Albanian schools is not monitored by state authorities. The representatives of the Ministries of Culture and Education were open for self-criticism on this, which is not usual in this part of the world. Adaptation and printing of school books in Montenegro is also a difficult problem.

Sharing similar historic traditions and cultural values, Montenegro can be an important link to the democratic forces in Serbia - if not for the opposition politicians in Belgrade, then for the intellectuals and ordinary people with good intentions.

Kosovo

More than two hundred international organisations have registered in Kosovo in the last months. Politicians, journalists, artists and all sorts of VIPs travel to Pristina day after day. Ironically speaking, Pristina has become a "trendy" place. However the real needs of its population are little known even to us, European decision-makers.

After the unpardonable acts of ethnic cleansing against the Albanian population by the Yugoslav Army, around 150 thousand Serbs left or were driven out from the region. Almost the whole Serbian population, including the intelligentsia left Pristina, together with many experts in industry, aviation etc.

The Roma population is even more obviously an innocent victim of the Albanian extremists. Ethnic cleansing should not be accepted and internationally accepted minority rights should be given to every ethnic minority of the region.

The so-called "Serbian cultural superiority" is now over and education and training of Albanians in different skills must be helped by the international community. In this respect, the efforts of the Kosovar Albanian civil society to maintain a parallel education system after the de facto expulsion of most Albanian professors and students from the University of Pristina since 1991 has been an encouraging example. According to the information I was given, higher education concentrated (quite logically under the given circumstances) on human sciences. In a modern society there is also a need for experts in other sciences which call for more equipment and expensive infrastructure.

Unfortunately, access to education has now become a problem for the Serbs remaining in Kosovo. Very few Serbian students and staff are likely to be present in the university this year, and the Serbian students had no possibility to finish their studies, as they were unable to register in another university of the FRY.

The situation of the media is not very encouraging in Kosovo at present. The first TV station has just started its programmes, in Albanian and Serbian. The two hours of daily broadcasts are more a beginning than a solution. Radio Kosovo has 10 hours of broadcasting a day, in Albanian, Serbian and Turkish. Both stations are controlled by the Media Affairs Department of OSCE.

Debates are going on amongst donor organisations and different international organisations on the question as to who is responsible for media affairs. The Swiss Government offered funding for an official radio channel "Voice of UNMIK" to be set up, but nobody on the spot wanted to have such kind of an official radio. OSCE experts suggest that the equipment and money provided should be given instead to Radio Kosovo. Premises are needed to house newsrooms and equipment for media programmes. It has not yet been decided who should pay the salaries of Radio Pristina employees. OSCE maintain that this is not in their mandate. Terrestrial transmission for TV (destroyed by NATO bombardment) must be restored, but who should do it?

There is no frequency control for radio broadcasting and certain Albanian private stations run an inflammatory campaign against the Serbs. The psychological background can be easily understood, but hate speech should not be tolerated any more.

Clear media legislation with effective control and sanctions is needed, including provisions against ethnic and racial hatred in the media. The Council of Europe Media Section organised an expert mission in Pristina in August 1999, at the request of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, in order to provide advice concerning the future regulation of the media sector (press, radio and television). The experts stressed the need to establish an independent regulatory authority for the broadcasting sector, including a mechanism to review the decisions which would be taken by any future regulatory body. At a more general level, the experts underlined the need carefully to design an appropriate legal framework for the establishment of a dual broadcasting system comprised of both commercial broadcasting stations and an independent public service broadcasting organisation.

There is no printed press in the Serbian language in Kosovo at present. The plurality of political opinions does not exist in the Albanian press. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is said to exert a tight control over the majority of the newspapers, including the main dailies such as Rilindja, Koha Ditore and Kosova Sot. The groups close to Mr Rugova control the newly founded Dardanna Ixpres and the tabloid-style Bota Sot. There is no forum where independent intellectuals can publish their ideas. As a media expert of OSCE sadly pointed out, even in the times of Milosevic some small papers were open for free ideas, while now they are all controlled, mostly by KLA and partly by Rugova's party.

The lack of normal business activity in Kosovo makes its difficult to set up a press running on market-based principles. Foreign aid and foreign investment are strongly needed in order to create pluralistic media.

The Ortodox Christian heritage is now in great danger and the Council of Europe has to make every effort to save the multi-ethnic status and rich cultural heritage of Kosovo.

Damage to the cultural heritage was however fairly limited during the NATO bombing and was mainly caused by bombing in the vicinity of historic buildings (such as the 14th century monastery in Granica and the 13-14th century Patriarchate in Pec). Destroyed however were an 18th century log cabin (Damilovic) and the old city centres of Djaconovic and Pec.

There were reports of damage to certain mosques by departing Serbs just before the arrival of the KFOR troops.

The situation has since considerably deteriorated as a result of KLA reprisals against Serbian Orthodox heritage. A list of 32 “destroyed, damaged and looted monasteries and churches in Kosovo and Metohija” was submitted to the Council of Europe by the FRY Consulate on 13 August 1999. A more comprehensive list is provided on the Decani web site, run by Fr. Sava (www.decani.yunet.com - by 19 August, 40 buildings were listed with photos and dates). Another list was handed to Mr Diaz de Mera by Bishop Artemje (42 buildings destroyed or damaged between 13 June and 4 August). Extensive information on Kosovo events, including heritage, can also be found on the recently opened web site www.kosovo.com. On 14 September, the site announced probably the most serious loss to date: the church of the Saint Cosma and Damian in the Zociste monastery, built in the fourteenth century and famous for its monumental fresco, had been destroyed to the ground. Much of this information has still to be independently confirmed.

Unesco sent 2 experts on a 10-day mission in July. The PACE mission of late August was led by Mr Diaz de Mera who also enquired about monuments in his capacity as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Cultural Heritage. But there seems to have been no other action by the Council of Europe, Unesco or NGOs (Europa Nostra expressed concern but has not been able to intervene).

The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia

Macedonia suffered badly from the effects of the war. From an innocent victim it should become an important partner in the Balkan peace and reconstruction process. Walking on the two sides of the river in Skopje, one can feel the deep cultural and spiritual gap between the modern Macedonian Skopje and the mostly Albanian Islamic Skopje. This gives a colour to the city, but under tragic circumstances it could become the source of new troubles. Thus the main goal is to keep the peace between the ethnic communities.

At primary and secondary school level there are minority language schools for Albanians and Turkish children. The Macedonian government tries to keep Muslim (Albanian and Turkish) girls in school as long as possible, but it is not so easy. Their education seems to be more important for the authorities than for their own families. The World Bank sponsors a special program for the education of Roma children.

The situation of the University in Tetovo is very tense.

Both ruling and opposition politicians and journalists complain of the bad infrastructure in which the media operate. Printing house machines are old, the state reserve of paper is not sufficient, the TV and radio studios are out of date. Macedonia is the only independent country in the Balkans where there is not a single domestic satellite programme.

Besides the state-owned TV and radio stations, there are certain private TV and many radio stations, including dozens of pirate studios without license. The new government started to file lawsuits against the pirate radios. This process can only be acceptable if every station has a chance to register under the legal forms.

The situation of media will be crucial in the forthcoming presidential election. After consultation with OSCE, the media law was amended and it now provides for free campaign time for all the candidates. However, as I was told, fair campaign timing does not automatically mean fair treatment of the candidates. Right-wing politicians complain that the private media belong to "certain circles", while on the other hand the non-Socialist government has a daily newspaper through the Privatisation Agency. The distribution fee for the journals is extremely low (5-10%), which helps the publication of different papers. As around one third of the population lives in the capital, many copies are sold on the city kiosks.

Employees of the State radio reckon it is "more objective than State TV". It appears that the most important political and economic programmes are broadcast through the State radio, but I could not check this personally. Independent sources acknowledge that until now the campaign rules in the media had been kept. However the most intensive campaign weeks are still ahead.

The chairman of the cultural committee of the Macedonian Parliament urged Hungary to open the so-called Alfa TV in Budapest, which would be something like the Franco-German channel Arte, for Central and Eastern Europe. The project had been started by the previous Hungarian Government but slowed down after the last elections in Hungary. According to my latest information there is a chance of resuscitating this promising project.

*

* *

Reporting committee: Committee on Political Affairs (Doc. 8533)

Committee for opinion: Committee on Culture and Education

Opinion approved by the committee on 19 April 1999

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova, Ms Kostenko