Taking over the Trepca mines: Plans and Propaganda

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How it is done
Taking over the Trepca mines: Plans and Propaganda

by Diana Johnstone (2-28-00)

[Emperor's Clothes]

Comparison of two documents, a November 1999 International Crisis Group (ICG)
paper on the Trepca mining complex, and a February 2000 article in the
Toronto Star by ICG consultant Susan Blaustein, provides an exceptionally
clear glimpse into the workings of the "international community".

The International Crisis Group is a high-level think tank supported by
financier George Soros. It was set up in 1995, primarily to provide policy
guidance to governments involved in the NATO-led reshaping of the Balkans.
Its leading figures include top U.S. policy maker Morton Abramowitz, the
eminence grise of NATO's new "humanitarian intervention" policy and sponsor
of Kosovo Albanian separatists.

Last November 26, the ICG issued a paper on "Trepca: Making Sense of the
Labyrinth" which advised the United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK) to take
over the Trepca mining complex from the Serbs as quickly as possible and
explained how this should be done. The February article by the ICG journalist
represents a vulgarization of the anti-Serb position designed to prepare
public opinion for carrying out the ICG policy. There will no doubt be more.

The ICG Paper: Manipulative Ambiguities

Trepca is a conglomerate of some 40 mines and factories, mostly but not all
in Kosovo, notably including Stari Trg, "one of the richest mines in Europe"
and the richest in the Balkans, currently shut down, and the Zvecan smelter,
located northwest of Mitrovica and still being operated by Serb management.
The ICG calls on UNMIK, headed by Bernard Kouchner, to cut through legal
disputes over the industry's ownership and take over management of Trepca

On July 25, Kouchner issued a decree that "UNMIK shall administer movable or
immovable property, including monetary accounts, and other property of, or
registered in the name of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or the Republic
of Serbia or any of its organs, which is in the territory of Kosovo". The ICG
paper concluded that "UNMIK and KFOR should implement a rapid and categorical
takeover of the Trepca complex, including the immediate total shutdown of the
environmentally hazardous facilities at Zvecan". What is really wrong with
Zvecan is that it is run by Serbs and provides revenue to Yugoslavia.

But in the "game-plan of measures" recommended by the ICG, UNMIK is advised
to instruct a "Zvecan environmental assessment team" to report on the status
of the equipment and thereupon "advise as to what measures must be taken"...
Environmental hazards are to be the pretext to shut down Zvecan and deprive
the last Serbs in Kosovo of their livelihood. Meanwhile, "Stari Trg, one of
the richest mines in Europe, must be potentially profitable again and should
be a priority for donors interested in setting Kosovo on its feet".

The game-plan calls for a gradual start up of mining to reassure the
"Kosovars", meaning ethnic Albanians, of their future. For although the ICG
says that the "workforce and management of all Trepca facilities should be
selected on a merit basis only", it adds that "no one with ties to the
Belgrade regime should be considered" -- and it is habitual to identify all
Serbs with "the Belgrade regime", even to ignore their existence other than
as "agents of Milosevic".

This blatant takeover of valuable property in what is still nominally part of
Serbia is of course justified as a necessary measure to reassure the
oppressed Albanians. "The return to work of even a few hundred Kosovar miners
would represent, for all Kosovars, the reclaiming of their patrimony".

The media event is easy to imagine. But if the ICG hostility toward the Serbs
seems genuine, the love for the Albanians may be less than perfect. In the
ICG's brief account of past ethnic clashes over Trepca management, underlying
the habitual anti-Serb bias is the basic hypocrisy of dominant powers
manipulating two peoples against each other. The ICG report notes that Trepca
"has long stood for Kosovar Albanians as the symbol of Serbian oppression and
of their own resistance", and recounts that after 1974, finally able to
manage the Trepca facilities themselves, Kosovars "created thousands of
jobs", but that "in 1981-82, a sort of `Trepca-gate' scandal -- in which
Kosovar Albanian workers were accused of having stolen vast quantities of
gold and silver -- was the pretext for firing many engineers and
technicians". Whether the theft was real or merely a "pretext" is of no
interest to the international community ... so long as the Serbs were in

But afterwards? The report concludes that: "Simply handing Trepca over to the
Kosovars is ruled out by the shortage of modern skills available locally, the
need for internationally-verifiable standards to avoid corruption" as well as
damage to the installations. And as for those "thousands of jobs" created by
and for Kosovo Albanians, they are not on the international community agenda.
"The social impact of the reduced work force would need to be balanced
against the need for competitively based private investment", the ICG
observes. Fortunately, the ICG finds that the young leadership of the "Kosovo
Liberation Army" is "somewhat impatient" with the older Kosovo Albanian
leadership group's interest in "a huge workforce" and prefers modernization
that will require foreign investment capital. No wonder Washington chose to
back the violent KLA.

The manipulative hypocrisy of the ICG policy designers is even more blatant
concerning the Serbs. The ICG urges UNMIK to hurry up with the game plan for
taking over the valuable mining complex _before_ Serbian elections so that a
new government more to the West's liking cannot be accused of "losing
Trepca". All Serbian leaders, including opposition leaders, the ICG observes,
will have to protest when UNMIK takes over Trepca and the Zvecan smelter.
"However they could exploit the argument that the `loss' was due to the
pariah status of Milosevic himself, so that once again Serbia has lost assets
due to his presence in office. So provided action were taken before any
elections in Serbia it need not upset, and might contribute to, any strategy
for unseating Milosevic." In short, the international community is going to
take over Trepca whoever is in charge in Belgrade; better do it while
Milosevic is there, so that the Western-backed "progressive, democratic"
opposition can pretend it was the fault of Milosevic!

Media Propaganda: Familiarity versus Truth

Such cynicism is hard to surpass, but there is always room to add a few lies.
This is the task of the media propaganda aimed at getting the general public
to swallow the policies decided by elite think tanks and governments. The
February 23, 2000 article in The Toronto Star by ICG senior consultant Susan
Blaustein, "Mitrovica flashpoint for the next Balkan war", deserves a Jamie
Shea award for the most shameless war propaganda of the month. The clichés
are all there, "centuries-old hatreds" (not our fault, folks); then focus on
the single culprit: Milosevic; the unreliable French seeking appeasement
versus the need for the international community to display "backbone" and
stand up to "Milosevic's test of its resolve". For Blaustein, it is
Milosevic, of course, who is causing trouble in the city of Mitrovica because
of his "keen financial interest" in the Trepca mining complex and the Zvecan
smelter. NATO has occupied Kosovo and watched for eight months while
Albanians murder, terrorize and drive out most of the non-Albanian
population, but Blaustein is able to write (and the newspaper to publish)
that: "The city is a lynchpin in Belgrade's `Greater Serbia' strategy of
expelling non-Serbs from the region." The November 1999 ICG report noted
that: "International financial officials have long recognized the minerals
industry as being prime for money laundering" throughout the world because of
its structure and suggested that "the interest of the Milosevic circle in
exploiting the Trepca facilities might go beyond the simple operation of
sharing out the profits." This speculation is taken a step further by
Blaustein, who writes that the smelter in Zvecan "is widely believed to have
served the regime as an efficient money-laundering mechanism". But in any
case, if the Serbs are running Zvecan to their profit, why would they want to
make trouble? Ah, that Milosevic! It is because "Mitrovica is Milosevic's
only remaining foothold in Kosovo" so "he has decided to call the bluff of
the international community". The world is one big "test of wills" where
little guys are forever "calling the bluff" of giants so the giants will wipe
them out. The little guys seem to enjoy doing that, don't ask why. Blaustein
goes on to excuse the Albanians for recent violence and blame the French. It
is not the Serbs who are being driven out of Kosovo, but the Albanians who
are victims of "Milosevic's operatives" who "monitor, harass, terrorize and
expel ethnic Albanian civilians who dare to live in or travel to the Serb
side of town". The rocket attack on a bus carrying Serb civilians, which
killed two of them, was "not unprovoked"; the Albanians were impatient with
the international community for turning a blind eye to "Serbs' oppression of
ethnic Albanians"... By not allowing mobs of angry ethnic Albanians to take
over the last part of Kosovo where Serbs are still managing to live more or
less normally, "international officials are abandoning the U.N.'s stated
commitment to create and protect a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo", according
to Blaustein. This tract is meant to cast the blame in advance for what
Blaustein calls the "next Balkan war". It is in total contradiction to the
facts of what has been happening in Kosovo during eight months of foreign

How then can anyone dare to write or publish such an article? The answer is
that the propagandists are counting on the tendency of uninformed readers to
mistake what is familiar for what is true. The cliches about "Milosevic" and
"Greater Serbia" are familiar. The truth is not. If and when the "next Balkan
war" breaks out and the "international community" takes full control of the
Trepca industrial complex, the distracted public need not pay too much
attention, since everybody already knows what it's all about: that evil
dictator Milosevic is causing trouble again.

- Diana Johnstone, 28 February 2000

To read the ICG report, Trepca: Making Sense of the Labyrinth please go to

To read the Blaustein article, please go to

Further reading

Some articles which clarify what is going on in Yugoslavia:

For background on the roots of the Yugoslav troubles, check out T.W. Carr's
German and US Involvement in the Balkans at

For a down-to-earth glimpse of what the KLA/NATO domination of Kosovo has
done to people's lives see the following two articles: An Albanian tragedy at
http://www.emperors-clothes.com/interviews/albanian.htm and Mr. Kenigs has
2nd thoughts at http://www.emperors-clothes.com/analysis/egyptians.htm

For a look at the economic realities of the Brave New World Order in Kosovo,
see Opening up Kosovo to foreign Capital at

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