Despite profound differences, the two situations display similarities. Like Portugal's, Serbia's economy is near collapse, the country has to provide for some 600,000 refugees forced to flee their former homes, and its military is wounded and suffering professionally in the hands of the Milosevic regime. Unlike in previous situations, the Serbian army has proclaimed neutrality in the current political crisis. If the political and economic stalemate continues, a military government, led by progressive officers who would bite the bullet and would dispense with the Kosovo problem, cannot be dismissed as pure fantasy.
Until the current pyramid related chaos broke out in Albania, the Tirana authorities appeared to view the ongoing crises in the Balkans as a long term opportunity with time on their side. Given the prevailing demographic realities and the country's weak position, the best strategy was to outwait its adversaries. Without neglecting to give the "national question" rhetorical and diplomatic support, the Berisha government strove instead to avoid provoking or becoming entangled into an immediate war with its neighbours; and concentrated its energies on improving Albania's domestic situation and strengthening its international image and links.
However, the severity of the current and ongoing chaos in Albania could force the embattled Berisha regime to change this strategy and to decide to deal the Kosovo card as a means to salvage its own fortunes. The same can be said about other outstanding issues, including FYROM. Alternatively, the crisis could convince the Kosovars that struggling to join the ravaged home country makes little sense; under the circumstances making a deal with Belgrade based on some kind of federal arrangement may be to their advantage. Both Belgrade and Pristina, for different reasons, may seize the moment and turn a ticking time bomb into an opportunity. Only time and the success or failure of the UN force sent to help stabilize the situation in Albania will give us a more conclusive answer.
This paper is partly based on numerous personal interviews conducted by Professor Danopoulos in Tirana, Albania, July 1994, and Skopje, FYROM, July-August 1995. From the Albanian side, the interviews included Dr. Sali Berisha, President of the Republic of Albania, and Arian Starova, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. From the FYROM, Dr. Vasil Tupurkovski and Viktor Gaber, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. Many thanks to Sazan Gjomema, Aphrodite Chopani, Biljana Arsova, Vanja Bitoljanu. and Jane and Biljana Trpkov for their invaluable assistance, and to Professor Roy Christman for his helpful editorial comments.