Friday, December 30, 2005

Serbian Government revokes the license of a mobile phone operator

Serbian Government revokes license from Mobtel

The Serbian Government has reached a decision to revoke, due to serious violation
of the contract, Mobtel’s license for performing telecommunications in the mobile
telephone system. The Serbian Government has established that Mobtel signed a
contract with the Mobikos Company [Kosovo Company] without the necessary consent
that could have been approved only by the Serbian Government. This way, Mobtel has
ceded illegally the state license for telecommunications in Kosovo to the Mobikos
Company from Pec/Peje, owned by Ekrem LLuka. By signing a contract with Mobikos,
Mobtel has damaged most seriously the economic interests of the state of Serbia
and enabled Ekrem LLuka, by using the license of the state of Serbia and state
infrastructure, to enormously earn from exploiting mobile telecommunications in
Kosovo. Apart from that, it is clear that the signing of such a contract and
including Mobikos in the system of Serbian mobile telecommunications is directly
endangering national security interests.
The Serbian Government has undertaken
all the necessary measures towards enabling all users of the 063 network to
normally use all services of this network.



Network 063 to continue working normally

The contract, by which Mobtel transferred the license for using mobile
telecommunications in Kosovo to the Mobikos Company, was signed in secrecy,
to the detriment of the state of Serbia, said Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic.

The government didn’t know until now that Mobtel transferred the license to
Mobikos, owned by Ekrem LLuka, said Jocic. He said that the owner of the
Mobikos Company Ekrem LLuka, to whom Mobtel sold the license for offering
services of mobile telecommunications in Kosovo, could have tapped all
conversations on the territory of entire Serbia
. “They could have also used all the
statistics on communications and all possible listings that exist and that could have
been entered,” Jocic told a press conference in the Serbian Government building.

Jocic said these data had not been announced earlier, “because the state acts only
when it is certain that all the documents and all correspondence are authentic.”
“Hadn’t UNMIK addressed the Administration for combating crime, that contract
would have been a secret,” said Jocic.


What is the estimated damage?

Experts claim that Mobikos in Kosovo has about 300,000 subscribers, and that
their daily income amounts to about three million dinars. Thus, Mobikos, i.e.
Ekrem LLuka, earned around 766.5 million dinars or around nine million euros last
year. As it is unclear how pre-paid traffic is calculated, estimates are that the real
profit of Ekrem LLuka is around 15 millions euros annually. Although Luka used to
say that he bought from Karic brothers 70 percent of the Mobtel network in Kosovo,
experts say that Karic and Luka agreed on joint business. There haven’t been real
reasons for such cooperation, because Mobtel received in 1999 from the UN a
work permit in Kosovo for the next 15 years.

Blic,RTS

Macedonian PM: Kosovo is a candidate for Independent status

Skopje[Shkup]-Macedonia-
Macedonian Premier Vlado Buskovski has assessed that “Kosovo is a candidate
for receiving independence.” “That is my opinion. Macedonia has received the
status of a candidate for EU membership and it depends on us now whether we
will do this and deserve to enter the EU. It is the same with Kosovo. The province
is a candidate for receiving an independent status and now it depends on the
citizens who live there whether they will justify this,” Buckovski said in the New
Year’s interview for the Skoplje TV Channel 5.

Macedonian PM: Kosovo is a candidate for Independent status

Skopje[Shkup]-Macedonia-
Macedonian Premier Vlado Buskovski has assessed that “Kosovo is a candidate
for receiving independence.” “That is my opinion. Macedonia has received the
status of a candidate for EU membership and it depends on us now whether we
will do this and deserve to enter the EU. It is the same with Kosovo. The province
is a candidate for receiving an independent status and now it depends on the
citizens who live there whether they will justify this,” Buckovski said in the New
Year’s interview for the Skoplje TV Channel 5.

Burns: Year 2006 decisive for Kosovo

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]-
This year will be decisive for Kosovars and we will be there to help with our
diplomacy to support the negotiations and together with NATO and KFOR troops
to maintain security, the US Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns has said
recently, writes Kosovo daily Zëri on the front page.

Burns also said that the US leadership in the Balkans is absolutely necessary. They
have increased their efforts and there have developed closer relations of the US
with the EU, he said.

“The common goal of the US and EU in the Balkans for 2006 will be the support
in order for the region to reform and integrate after the wars that have taken
place,” he said.

Burns made these comments on 15 December in Washington in a conference on
US-Europe relations, but the State Department published his speech on 27
December, says Zëri.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kosovo President cancels a meeting with Italian FM dues to Illness

AGI) - Pristina, Dec. 28 - The President of Kosovo [Kosova], Ibrahim Rugova, has been taken ill and has had to cancel his meeting this morning with the Italian Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini, who is on an official visit to the region. According to Foreign office sources, Rugova has been in bed since yesterday, due to an illness for which a hospital stay is considered unnecessary. A first aid room has been set up inside the president's home.

Later on Fini was quoted by the media as saying that Mr. Rogova's condition is stable.
"The condition of the Kosovar President, Ibrahim Rugova, who has for some time been ill with cancer, does not give cause for concern. He is in stable condition . We knew and are aware that he is fighting with all his well known determination against the illness. There is no immediate danger” Fini stated on his arrival at Pec/Peje, where the Italian contingent to Kosovo is based.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Albanians in South Presevo Valley seek same rights as Kosovo Serbs

Albanians present autonomy platform

Presevo Valley -- Tuesday – Albanians from the South Serbian municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedje are asking for autonomy within the borders of Serbia.

The Albanian political parties within the three municipalities have nearly completed the platform, which they will present as soon as all Albanian political and community leaders have agreed on the content of the proposal. The platform is based on the principles already presented in the referendum for Albanian political and territorial autonomy, which was developed in March 1992.

If Serbian communities in Kosovo are allowed to become a part of Serbia, the platform looks to create changes in regional borders that would allow the three South Serbian municipalities to become a part of Kosovo. Leader of the Albanian Democratic Party and President of the Presevo Municipal Council, Ragmi Mustafa, said that Albanians in South Serbia agree that Kosovo Serbs should receive additional rights, because that would allow the same privileges for Albanians in South Serbia.

A work group from South Serbia is scheduled to meet in Pristina today with Veton Surrroi; a member of the Kosovo Government’s status discussions team, who the South Serbia Albanian officials expect will represent them when presenting their autonomy platform.

Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Draskovic said that the Albanian officials from South Serbia need to be taking their problems to Belgrade, not Pristina.

“They can go to Pristina, but the address of the place where they have to talk about their disputes is not located in Pristina, but Belgrade.” Draskovic said.

Interestingly enough, the Kosovo government officials have been calling on Kosovo Serbs to discuss their problems with Pristina not Belgrade.*

B92,RTK*

Serbian President: Greater Albania already exists

Tadic interview to Serbian newspaper Jedinstvo

Greater Albania already exists. There is no border between Kosovo and Albania.
Movement of people and goods is taking place without the any control,
while according to Tadic there is strict control at the administrative boundary
line with Serbia. “Greater Albania already exists, it just has not been legally
recognized”, he said.

No solution for Kosovo without Belgrade, Tadic threatens says Zëri headline.
The paper says that Tadic insists on creating two entities for Kosovo, which
according to him is a good way to preserve multi-ethnicity in Kosovo and it does
not imply a territorial division.

France: Independence for Kosovo, yes and no!

Koha Ditore lead story reports that the French Senate has drafted a report on
Kosovo and its status.
The first 58 pages of the document cover a detailed analysis of the current
situation in Kosovo and its future perspective and seem directed at favouring
conditional independence as the most sustainable option. Then everything changes
in the last page of the report – page 59.

Page 59 of the report directly links conditional independence of Kosovo with
possible requests of Serbs in Bosnia for division and for unification with Serbia.
The introduction to the story says that the report is so confusing that it is difficult
to understand clearly whether it recommends French support for conditional
independence of Kosovo, or whether independence as an option is objected to by
Paris.

Serbia 'cannot locate' war crime fugitive

Serbia has denied reports that it knows the whereabouts of key war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic.

Gen Mladic, on the run since 1995, has been charged with genocide and other crimes over the Bosnian war.

The interior minister said authorities had information on Gen Mladic, but they did not have enough to locate him.

Correspondents says the comments come amid growing speculation that Belgrade has been negotiating with Gen Mladic on his surrender to the Hague tribunal.

The government has faced international pressure to find and extradite Gen Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte has urged Serbia to arrest the two by the end of this month.

Interior Minister Dragan Jocic told a parliamentary body in charge of Serbian security there was a "realistic possibility" that war crimes suspects including Gen Mladic were hiding in Serbia.

"But they are experienced warriors, the men who survived the war under difficult circumstances and they know how to do it," he said.

The BBC's Nick Hawton in Sarajevo says local media reports have suggested for some time that Gen Mladic has been in negotiations for his handover to the UN war crimes tribunal.

This weekend, a well-connected former police chief of Belgrade was reported as saying decisive talks were taking place for a surrender, and Gen Mladic was seeking guarantees for his family and supporters.

However, our correspondent says there have been many false dawns regarding the arrest of Gen Mladic and Mr Karadzic - and it is not yet clear whether the latest reports will lead to a breakthrough.
BBC News

Monday, December 26, 2005

US Congress cust aid to Serbia

Aid suspension, a serious warning

LONDON -- Monday – The decision by the US Congress to cut further aid to Serbia cannot technically be labelled an implementation of sanctions, but it does represent a serious warning issued to the Serbian Government.

Commenting the US Congress’ decision to suspend 75 million dollars worth of aid to Serbia, under the condition that the financial help will be reinstated if notorious war crimes fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are extradited to The Hague by May 31, 2006, former Serbia-Montenegro foreign affairs minister Goran Svilanovic said that this is a serious warning by the US, stressing the importance of Serbia fulfilling all of its international obligations.

Svilanovic told daily Dnevnik that this decision is not only about the 75 million dollars, but also effects the direct influence which the US has on financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and UN.

“That is exactly what Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic keeps giving warnings about: it is nationally irresponsible to enter the Kosovo status discussions with the dead weight of the unfulfilled expectations of international community.” Svilanovic said, adding that, “It is important for us in this process which lies ahead, to have the support of everyone, especially members of the Security Council. And that is why the Government must finally begin to decisively take care of everything that is currently chained to our legs.” Svilanovic said.

He said that Washington’s reaction is not surprising and serves as a reminder that the Serbian Government made a promise to American Under Secretary of State, Mark Grossman, a year and a half ago, that Mladic would be arrested.

“In the meantime, Grossman made another trip to Belgrade, a visit that was followed by a visit from his colleague Nicholas Burns. And they leave Belgrade full of optimism every time, stressing that they have received strong proofs of the Government’s readiness to do something about Mladic’s arrest.” Svilanovic said.
B92,Fonet

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Another ethnic group springs up in Kosovo

Pristina-Kosovo[Kosova]- Another national community has been set up in Kosovo – a Bulgarian one, Serbian radio B92 reports. After the formations of the Romas, the Turks, the Egyptians, the Bosnians, the Ashkalis and Croatians, a Bulgarian national community, including citizens from Sredna Jupa and Gora, has been officially registered in the UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo).


People in Gora have reportedly started applying for Bulgarian citizenship two months ago, hoping they could travel throughout Europe without problems. According to the head of the Bulgarian consulate in Pristina Nikolai Kolev, it is the rising reputation of the country that have made Bulgarian citizenship so desired, and yet Bulgaria stays out of this because its official stand implies that a lasting solution should be reached in the course or talks between Belgrade and Pristina. In Kolev’s words only those that can prove kinship ties with Bulgarian citizens would have access to Bulgarian citizenship.

Apart from the Goranci, there are lots of Bosnians from Sredna Jupa willing to get Bulgarian passports, B92 comments. Kosovo is officially the only country in the world where anybody can form their own ethic group. In a country of 2 million people, 90 % of which belong to one ethnic group, there are now officially 10 ethnic groups. It doesn't get more diverse and multiethnic than this.

After the war of 1999 another ethnic group was formed, which now they call themselves Ashkali. "The challenge in building a new [ethnic group] was to clearly establish the separateness of the Ashkali from the Roma. He [the founder of the group] argued that Ashkali have their own distinctive form of dress, music, and marriage. This was more than enough basis for claiming a separate identity. Besides, he says, it was for him to choose his own identity-and the same went for his people". The freedom to choose is enshrined in the Kosovo Constitution! :)


Focus English News, Advocacy Net

ICG Director: Kosovo 'domino effect’ no longer genuine issue

ISN Security Watch’s Igor Jovanovic talks to Balkan expert Dr. James Lyon, the Serbia project director for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, who says independence is the most “workable” option for Kosovo and is not likely to lead to regional instability.

ISN Security Watch: The ICG recently said Kosovo’s potential independence would contribute to stability in the region. However, would that independence stir similar demands from Albanians in Macedonia, Serbs and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Hungarians in Serbia’s Vojvodina province? Is an independent Kosovo a potential danger for further disintegration in the region?

DR. JAMES LYON: We have discussed this question in many of our reports over the previous five years. In spite of the desire of some inside Belgrade to push the idea that Kosovo independence would have a spill-over effect in other areas of the Balkans, we have been unable to identify such a potential. However, the Balkans have changed in the last five years, and the threats to regional security and stability are no longer the same. First and most noticeably, the “domino effect” is no longer a genuine issue.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - although still fragile - is for the first time since 1995 seeing significant progress in its internal politics, with Bosnian politicians beginning to shoulder some of the responsibility for change, as opposed to shrugging it off onto the international community. Their recent agreements on police and state-level constitutional reforms suggest they have concluded that the stakes for European integration are too high to continue digging in their heels on the nationalist agenda.

Most importantly, there is no direct parallel between Kosovo and the Serb-inhabited areas of Bosnia. The Republika Srpska [Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity] was founded on genocide and ethnic cleansing; although it was legitimized as a sub-state entity by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement [which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia], it has no justifiable claim as a potential sovereign state. At present, only Belgrade seems interested in mentioning a possible partition of Bosnia. Banja Luka [the Republika Srpska capital] is silent on the matter.

Similarly, Macedonia is quite different from what it was when conflict broke out in 2001 and had to be contained by the international community. The country appears to have resolved its internal differences in a manner that will permit it to continue to make progress towards the EU. A positive recommendation from the European Commission on its membership application is on the agenda of the European Council’s mid-December meeting. Fears of a “domino effect” from Montenegrin independence no longer stand up to serious scrutiny.

For that matter, [the Serbian province of] Vojvodina is an area that should remain peaceful, provided Belgrade does not curtail the rights of the province’s ethnic minorities [mainly ethnic Hungarians]. Belgrade also needs to crack down on the numerous anti-minority incidents inspired by the Serbian Radical Party [SRS] and other factions close to the Orthodox Church. If it does this, Vojvodina should remain a non-issue.

SECURITY WATCH: The Kosovo society has not demonstrated tolerance toward minorities over the past six years. During that time, several dozens of Serbs were killed, around 150 Orthodox churches were torn down or destroyed and a very small number of non-Albanian refugees returned to their homes. Do you think the treatment of minorities can change if Kosovo gains independence?

LYON: At present, the Kosovo Albanians view the Serb presence as an obstacle to achieving their independence aspirations. They view Serbs as agents of the Serbian state that for so long repressed them and conducted an official policy of state terror against them. As long as Kosovo’s status is unresolved, the Albanians will treat them as an unwelcome foreign organism that represents policies of a Greater Serbia. When Kosovo’s status is resolved in favor of independence, then it will be logical to expect that the Albanian majority will no longer view the Serb minority as a threat. Are your numbers correct on the churches?

SECURITY WATCH: How could Kosovo’s possible independence affect the political situation inside Serbia? Would it bring on the threat of radical parties coming to power?

Kosovo independence should have little effect on long-term political trends inside Serbia. The failure of Serbia’s “democrats” to remove [former Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic-era structures and counter the Milosevic-era propaganda are the biggest threats to the development of democracy in Serbia. Unfortunately, after deposing Milosevic, many of these democrats then proceeded to defend his policies regarding ethnic minorities, the wars of the 1990s, and Serbia’s relations with its neighbors. The result is that the Serbian Radical Party already exercises significant informal [power] within the current government and the country. Because many of the “democrats” bought into Milosevic’s interpretation of events and policies, they laid the groundwork for the rise of the Radicals. There is little the international community can do to combat this, other than opt for a strategy of containment.

SECURITY WATCH: Do you think Kosovo could survive as an independent state?

LYON: Of course.

SECURITY WATCH: Possible violence against Serbs, the same as back on 17 March 2004, is given as an argument backing Kosovo’s independence. Can violence serve as an argument for granting Kosovo independence?

LYON: The argument is that the current status of Kosovo is so unworkable and unable to create a stable economic, social, and political situation, that a new status must be found. Of all the available options, independence is the most workable.

SECURITY WATCH: When do you expect the final status of Kosovo to be resolved? How do you expect the situation to unravel if the Serbian authorities refuse to sign such a resolution?

LYON: The final status of Kosovo will probably be decided sometime in 2006. It is widely expected that Belgrade will refuse any outcome that gives independence to Kosovo. Should Belgrade refuse to sign off, independence will proceed without Serbia, which could have negative repercussions for Kosovo’s Serbian minority and give them far fewer privileges than should Belgrade participate. In any event, Kosovo will be offered a highly conditional road map that leads towards independence. Should Belgrade not participate in the process, the process will go ahead nonetheless.

SECURITY WATCH: Should Serbia get some concessions if Kosovo becomes independent, primarily concerning the tempo of accession to the EU?

LYON: Serbia could perhaps be given a speed-up on achieving candidate status. However, given the current climate inside the EU, this is not likely. There should not be - and probably will not be - any concessions on meeting membership requirements.

Friday, December 23, 2005

President Rugova pays routine medical visit to US Camp Bondsteel

One of the leading stories in today’s press is the coverage on the health condition
of President Ibrahim Rugova. “Yesterday there was much speculation regarding
the President’s health condition,” reads a subheader in Zëri.

Koha Ditore reports that President Ibrahim Rugova has paid a routine medical
visit to US military camp Bondsteel on Wednesday. The information was
confirmed by Rugova’s spokesman Muhamet Hamiti. The latter said he could not
reveal details about the President’s health condition.

Zëri quotes a spokesman for the US forces in Kosovo as saying that Rugova paid a
routine medical visit to Bondsteel. Unnamed sources told the paper that his health
condition is not ‘dramatic’.

Koha Ditore notes that media in Kosovo and the region reported on Thursday that
the President’s health condition had deteriorated and that he was being treated at
the US military camp. However, LDK sources told the paper that the President
was in his residence on Thursday.

Under the front-page headline The President is well, Express quotes a source
from Rugova’s family saying that the President is well and that he is going to take
part in the meeting of the chiefs of LDK branches on the occasion of the 16th
anniversary of the party.

Critical, either Rugova’s health or communication with the public, writes Lajm
on the front page. The paper quotes advisor Sali Cacaj as saying that Rugova is
very well, while some sources close to the Government of Kosovo have said that
his condition is critical, writes Lajm.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

SERBS INCREASINGLY SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVO

BELGRADE, Dec, 2005 (IPS/GIN) -- While nationalist politicians are pushing to keep Kosovo a part of Serbia, polls show most Serbs are ambivalent.

The fate of Kosovo, home to 1.8 million ethnic Albanians and run for more than six years by the United Nations, tops the news highlights of the state-controlled media, as the opening of talks on the definitive status of the southern Serbian province nears in January.

Often opening the daily news broadcasts are statements by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica or other members of his cabinet, who vow "never to give up Kosovo," and they hold a number of complicated legal arguments in their hands.

All indications are that ethnic Albanians, or Kosovars, want nothing less than independence, and Serbian politicians are not ready to accept that.

Instead, Kostunica offers a formula of "more than autonomy, less than independence," hardly understandable to the broader public.

The U.N. administration took over Kosovo in 1999, after 11 weeks of NATO bombing of Serbia, due to the repressive politics of former leader Slobodan Milosevic against the ethnic Albanian minority.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 only formally left Kosovo within Serbia. The region's fate is to be decided in talks due to open and end in 2006.

For their part, the spectrum of more nationalist-leaning newspapers has taken to defaming ethnic Albanians, pulling out old prejudices and sometimes openly fanning ethnic hatred. Controversial ethnic Albanian politicians are often openly dubbed "criminals."

Emotional words about the Serbian Orthodox monasteries scattered throughout Kosovo remind Serbs that the province was "the cradle of our medieval state and glory." There are also vitriolic attacks against Western governments accused of trying "to dismember Serbia from its origins."

One of the favorite stories used to fan Serbian pride is about "how Serb kings ate with golden forks in Kosovo," while the European royals "tore the food with bare hands." The Serb medieval state lasted until the end of 14th century, when it fell under Turkish rule.

But recent studies have shown that, despite what politicians might say and the media try to push, Serbs are not preoccupied with Kosovo.

A study by the European Movement of Serbia and the Kosovar Institute for Political Research and Development showed that some 63 percent of Serbs from Serbia proper never visited Kosovo in their lives and felt little concern about the matter.

In-depth studies by the Belgrade Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) and Gallup Serbia also show that the Kosovo issue is something regarded with less emotion than ever. According to CeSID, 27 percent of those polled believe that Kosovo will become an independent state.

"All the data show that Serbs are more concerned about the improvement of their own living standards," analyst Djordje Vukadinovic told IPS. "The hot emotions that surrounded Kosovo issue before the NATO bombing are on the decline."

Before the NATO bombing, Serbs did not even think about granting autonomy to Kosovo. Some 39 percent are now in favor of it, a Gallup Serbia survey showed.

Like other analysts, Vukadinovic says politicians believe Kosovo can be a trump card for their rising or falling popularity. "They think about the next elections," he said.

"But in the end, people will be little concerned with Kosovo if some benefits were offered for joining the European Union (EU) or something like that," Vukadinovic said.

Serbia has just opened "Stabilization and Association Agreement" talks with the EU, though it will be at least a decade before the country will be able to join the bloc.

"The phrases that describe 'Kosovo as a cradle of our medieval state' sound very nice, but people know that the baby in that cradle is not Serb, but ethnic Albanian now," historian Desimir Tosic said in an interview with local media.

"Serbia should insist on the minority rights for the remaining Serbs and look down the road toward European integration, which means less sovereignty in the classic sense."

Kosovo is home for a tiny Serb minority now, some 90,000 people. More than 150,000 fled in 1999, when the NATO bombing ended and the U.N. took over, fearing reprisal by ethnic Albanians for all the misdeeds committed in the previous era.

Ethnic Albanians, who are Muslims, became a majority in Kosovo over the course of centuries, since medieval times and the Turkish Empire. Kosovo was returned to Serbia by the end of World War I, when the empire fell apart.

By that time, Serbs were outnumbered by ethnic Albanians several times over. Decades of a more or less autonomous Kosovo came to an end in 1989, when Slobodan Milosevic imposed direct rule of Belgrade and Serb administrative domination, which was accompanied by police repression against the local non-Serb population.

However, the romantic notions and myths that surround Kosovo in Serb memory have yet to be dismantled.

"Looking back in history, one can say that there is no proof that the lavish lifestyle and highly sophisticated routines really existed in medieval Serbian courts in Kosovo," historian Cedomir Antic wrote in his latest book "History and Illusion." "Golden forks were in use nowhere, so they could not exist in Serbia at the time" he added.

Analyst Dusan Janjic said that despite all the heavy political talk on Kosovo "remaining part of Serbia," for most Serbs "it would be unimaginable to see an ethnic Albanian as a prime minister or minister of justice.

"That is what 'Kosovo being part of Serbia' means," he added. No opinion poll showed Serbs would agree to Kosovars in high office. Indeed, surveys indicate that many were surprised to learn that Serbia was paying back $130 million annually on Kosovo's foreign debt.

"Most people do feel that Kosovo was lost back in 1999, after the NATO bombing ended," international law professor Vojin Dimitrijevic told IPS. "What we need is a broader view, not only the vision of what belongs to whom. Being in this part of Europe, the western Balkans, we have to see the ways to join the rest of the continent. With Kosovo or without it, it will be the same."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Serbs tried over Srebrenica video

Five former members of a Serbian police unit called the Scorpions have gone on trial in Belgrade for their alleged part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

They are the first Serbs to be tried by a Serbian court over the massacre, the worst atrocity in Europe since 1945.

It is claimed the men are those who appear in a video shown at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, in which six Bosnian Muslims are shot in the back.

It is alleged the men filmed the video of the incident themselves.

Relatives of the victims from Srebrenica attended the opening of the trial, as did relatives of the defendants.

Chilling video

The video - which lasts about 20 minutes - shows several members of the "Scorpions" police unit ordering six Muslim prisoners, dressed in civilian clothes, from the back of a lorry.



The victims are then marched into woodland and shot one by one.

They were among about 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed during the massacre at Srebrenica, when the town fell to Bosnian Serb forces near the end of the Bosnian war.

The men in court were arrested in June, just days after the footage was shown at the Milosevic trial.

The five accused men are Slobodan Medic, Pero Petrasevic, Aleksandar Medic, Branislav Medic and Aleksandar Vukov.

They face up to 40 years in jail if found guilty.

"There is no death sentence, but I hope justice will be served for those monsters," said Sajma Saltic, whose brother Sadik, 36, was among the victims identified on the video.

A sixth suspect has already been on trial for war crimes in Croatia, while a seventh has not been found.

Both the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart, Ratko Mladic, are accused by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague of orchestrating genocide at Srebrenica.

They remain Europe's two most wanted fugitives and are considered heroes by Serb nationalists, says the BBC's Matt Prodger in Belgrade.

He says the video, broadcast on Serbian television, shocked a nation which still believes, to a large extent, that Serbs were the principal victims and not perpetrators of the Balkan wars.

Next year the tribunal in The Hague is due to put nine former Bosnian Serb officers on trial jointly for the Srebrenica massacre. Eight of them are in the tribunal's custody.
BBC News

Monday, December 19, 2005

Kosovo establishes Interior and Justice Ministries

Press coverage on upcoming forming of two new ministries

One of the leading stories in the daily press today is the upcoming creation of the
two ministries – the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.
According to Koha Ditore, the signing of the administrative regulation for the
creation of the new ministries is expected today. In the lead front page headline,
Koha Ditore reports that “the battle for the appointment of the ministers begins –
20 December is the deadline to submit names”. According to the paper, the LDK
will decide what ministry it will take and which it will leave to the AAK. The
LDK, notes the paper, will also get more posts of deputy ministers and advisors in
the two new ministries.

Zëri quotes officials of the Kosovo Government as saying that all preparations
have been made for the signing of the regulation for the two new ministries; in fact
senior government officials expect this to happen today.

“We have said that the signing of the regulation will be done before the end of this
week, and maybe even before Wednesday. However, I cannot confirm if it will be
done on Monday,” said UNMIK spokesman Remi Dourlot.

Under the front page headline, Disagreement over the Ministers, Express reports
that the AAK claims an agreement has been reached with the LDK for the
allocation of the two ministries – that the AAK would get the Ministry of Interior
while the Justice Ministry would go to the LDK. The LDK, on the other hand,
denies any existing agreement.

Zëri says Kosovo Serb political representatives have objected establishment of the
two ministries, saying this in contravention to UNSC Resolution 1244.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Voices of Kosovo

What does the European integration mean to you? Focus Kosovo asked a varied group of Kosovars for their understanding of European integration. Here are some of their remarks.

European integration for me means a better quality of life for Kosovo. By quality I don’t mean to be wealthier. I mean the quality of life would be on par with the European level which means a richer cultural life, a better social welfare system, and better education.
Birol Urcan, Pristina

Integration would mean a better standard of living. There would be no borders and therefore, fewer problems. Kosovo in Europe would be enhanced.
Suzana Harqi, Pristina

In Kosovo today there is noone that can say he or she is living freely. As long as we don’t live in a free country, European integration means nothing to me.
Besnik Duraku, Pristina

When I consider that I will live my whole life here, I would like to imagine services that are on a European level and transparency in all affairs. This can only be provided through European integration.
Arjeta Doroci, Pristina

European integration is important if we have an independent country. If we are to be linked to Serbia and Montenegro, then it is better to struggle by ourselves for another 30 years.
Elvana Lataj, Pristina

I hope that the International Monetary Fund continues to support Kosovo with donations and guidance on different long-term projects so that Kosovo can develop and achieve European integration.
Agon Femiju, Pristina

The Balkan region is in its transition phase towards democratisation and stabilization and it is the only region in Europe that has been left behind. The integration for this region therefore is in itself very important and significant if we want a more stable Europe. I think that the EU mustn’t forget this part of Europe. A integration in Europe would mean better living conditions and improved economy. With stabled economy Kosovo would not remain a black hole.
Kaltrina Vokshi, Pristina

First of all, European integration would mean freedom of movement, so we Kosovans could travel throughout Europe without visas. You cannot imagine how time consuming it is just to apply for a visa.
Mendu Abazi, Pristina

European integration for me means that my own clothing designs would be sold in the boutiques of Europe, which would mean recognition of the Kosovan contribution for Europe…in Europe.
Krenare Rugova, Pristina

From a business point of view, integration would mean opening borders so businesses could be conducted on the same level as the rest of Europe. For all businessmen here, it would be easier to create partnerships and we would have the ability to purchase equipment wherever we chose so we could collaborate with strategic partners.
Akan Ismaili, Pristina

Now everybody is talking about the road to Europe and European integration, but it is all empty talk since nothing concrete is being accomplished. However, European integration for me means one society where everyone’s rights are respected and all standards of a democratic society are in effect. In the current situation, when there is no freedom of movement, dreams about Europe integration seem unrealizable.
Jovana, Gracanica

European integration for me means a free life without borders and hatred between people. Since this is non-existent here, and there is almost nothing I can do to change the situation, I think that our integration to Europe is far off.
Slavisa, Gracanica

European integration is just a modern way of having the powers of highly developed European countries dominate the underdeveloped countries of Europe.
Ranko Grkovic, Orahovac

European integration means a road to a safer and better future for people of underdeveloped and unstable regions such as Southeast Europe, namely the Balkans. It means an eradication of nationalistic and separatists’ views and other negative ideologies that burden societies. It also means an introduction of modern living and contemporary codes of conduct.
Dejan Baljosevic, Orahovac

Economically and socially, European integration would open up new road towards an improved life. Though I don’t believe in the integration of Kosovo into Europe, at least not in the near future, it is still very significant and necessary if we want a more democratic and stable Europe. European integration would provide us with a better future and more secure prospects.
Albena Zuzaku, Pristina

Focus Kosovo is published by UNMIK Division of Public Information

The Balkans and Europe: Testing Times

From The Economist print edition
Why nerves are jangling from Croatia to Macedonia

FOR the countries of former Yugoslavia, 2006 will be busy—and perhaps dangerous. This time next year, the map may look quite different. In Kosovo, there is a risk of violence linked to talks over the province's future status. Montenegro will bid for independence. As all countries in the western Balkans prepare for talks to join the European Union, one source in Brussels talks of “a giant ‘to-do’ list”.

Last week's arrest of Ante Gotovina, a former Croatian general, has at least crossed one item off the list. Mr Gotovina was the only Croat fugitive still wanted by the UN's war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. He faces charges of murder and ethnic cleansing during the operation to end Serb rule in Krajina in 1995 that saw the flight of up to 200,000 Serbs. That he was picked up in Spain, after a tip-off from the Croatian government, suggests that it has at last regained control over its security services, which have helped Mr Gotovina in the past. The threat of suspending Croatia's talks on EU accession, which began in October, for failure to co-operate with The Hague tribunal has now been lifted.

Such a threat still hangs over Serbia and Montenegro. All six remaining fugitives from The Hague are Serbs. It seems more than likely that some parts of the country's security services know the whereabouts of the two biggest fish, Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs in the war of 1992-95, and Ratko Mladic, his military commander.

In October Serbia and Montenegro began talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, a prelude to membership talks. With Mr Gotovina behind bars, pressure to find the other fugitives will increase—and, if the Serbian authorities are not judged to be doing enough, the talks could halt. They may in any case have to pause for the country to disintegrate. A commission of the Council of Europe has just written a draft opinion finding Montenegro's referendum law acceptable. Montenegro may hold its vote next April. If the opposition boycotts it, independence (and instability) may be the result—though, with luck, not violence.

Few would be so sanguine about Kosovo. Since the end of the war in 1999, it has been under the jurisdiction of the UN even though it is technically part of Serbia. A large majority of its people, over 90% of whom are ethnic Albanian, want full independence. Serbia's leaders are against. A UN-led group under the leadership of Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, has now started discussions on Kosovo's future status. He may recommend “conditional independence”, ending the sovereign link with Serbia and offering a form of independence to Kosovo, but with residual powers being given to an international mission that would take over from the UN.

The EU does not want to run Kosovo but it knows it must play a big role in its future and may have to pay a lot of the costs of running the place. Javier Solana and Olli Rehn, respectively the EU's foreign-policy supremo and its enlargement commissioner, have begun planning. In a recent letter to colleagues, they have given warning of the need to make “adequate” provision for Kosovo, although nobody knows how much it might cost.

Equally, nobody knows what would happen if the “disaster scenario” struck, with the talks led by Mr Ahtisaari stalling and hard-line Albanian (or Serb) nationalists provoking violence. That could conceivably lead to the flight of the province's entire Serbian population of 100,000 people (out of some 2m). As one western diplomat says, “we're terrified silly.”

Meanwhile Macedonia, which in 2001 almost descended into civil war between the majority Macedonians and minority ethnic Albanians, is on tenterhooks. Only the prospect of EU membership now holds the country together. This week's EU summit will decide whether to give Macedonia the prize of candidate status. In advance of the meeting, France has signalled its opposition, on the grounds that the EU needs to sort out its budget and future direction before expanding any more. That may just be negotiating tactics, but a failure to win candidate status would be a heavy blow for Macedonia—and for the rest of the western Balkans, which will be watching the Brussels summit unusually closely this week.

Balkan history: A better view of the bad guys

Dec 14th 2005
From The Economist print edition

The perils of teaching more than one view of history


WERE the Ottoman rulers of the Balkans tyrants, or relatively benign protectors? The first, of course, in the history that most Serbian, Greek or Bulgarian children have long been taught. For them, the centuries of Ottoman rule constituted a dark night of oppression of Christians who retained their faith and culture only by tenacity and cunning—until the time came to throw off the oppressors and live happily ever after.

In Turkey, and among the Muslims of Bosnia, Balkan history is viewed from the opposite side of the looking-glass. Compared with most regimes in western Europe, the Ottomans were generous and tolerant towards minority religions and languages—until their ungrateful Balkan subjects rose up and slaughtered every Muslim in sight.

More recently, there is the sensitive issue of how the people of Yugoslavia responded to Nazism. Was Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, spiritual leader of Croatia's Catholics, an unabashed supporter of a murderous fascist regime, as communist Yugoslavia said? Or was he a saintly fighter for religious freedom, as the Vatican now insists?

Many grown-up historians would say that, on questions like these, there is room for reasonable people to disagree—and that the truth might lie somewhere in the middle. Now, for the first time, the children of south-eastern Europe may be getting a chance to see history from more than one point of view.

After seven years' work by scholars from around the region, a set of “objective” history manuals—on the Ottoman era, the Balkan wars of 1912-13 and the second world war—have been produced (and are now being translated into ten languages) by the Centre for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, a Salonika-based think-tank. Education authorities in Kosovo and Croatia are keenly interested, but the first country to incorporate the books into its school system is Serbia. Its education minister, Slobodan Vuksanovic, says that they are the first teaching materials he is not ashamed to show to his teenaged daughter.

The authors say they have had a warm response from teachers all over the region. But presenting history from more than one viewpoint is still a hard sell. For communist teachers, the villains are always fascists and feudal overlords. According to nationalist history, a whole nation—rich and poor, landlord and peasant—rises against a bad regime (and its local lackeys) and heroically prevails. Even if neither story turns out to be true, or even half-true, children still want to know: who were the bad guys?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tadic: I had a good meeting with Kosumi

Prishtina-Kosovo-
Kosovo daily Express quotes Serbian President Boris Tadic as accepting that last week in
London he met with Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi. The Serbian President,
according to the paper, even spoke about the content of the meeting
which he called very good and fruitful. “It was my first meeting with Kosumi and
I can say that it was a good meeting. I presented my position on how we should
solve problems on the ground and not only deal with the issue of future status and
the constitutional and legal position of Kosovo. Mr. Kosumi agreed and said we
should talk about this,” Tadic was quoted as saying.

Other dailies quote the Serbian President as saying, “Kosovo’s independence
within Serbia”. Tadic said he was willing to grant all rights to ethnic Albanians
and maximal independence from Belgrade, under the condition of preserving the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Serbia seeks a lobby group in the U.S.A

Serbia is entering negotiations on the future status of Kosovo as the only Balkan
country that has not engaged any lobbying company in the US. It is clear what
handicap that is in view of the fact that the key creators of the world policy are
sitting in Washington D.C.

The cabinets of the Serbian President and Prime Minister agreed six months ago
that our country should engage a lobbying firm in Washington.
Some claim that it is still not too late for Serbia to engage some
lobbying company that would protect its interest in the US. “It seems that we are
again underestimating the importance of lobbying, meaning that we have not
learned anything from.
Blic

Albanian PM: Impose Independence on Serbia

Several Kosovo dailies carry an interview that Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha gave
to the German newspaper Die Welt.

According to the daily press, Berisha told the German newspaper that if need arises the
international community should impose Kosovo’s independence on Serbia.

“There is no other solution,” he was quoted as saying. According to Berisha, the independence
of Kosovo would guarantee the stability of the region.
The Albanian PM also called for the protection of minority rights and for
considerable decentralisation, but not the partition of Kosovo.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Kosovo PM shakes hands with Serbian President

Zëri reports that Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi has shaken hands with Serbian
President Boris Tadic during a dinner on Wednesday in London. Sources close to
the event told Zëri that in the dinner hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair,
Tadic approached Kosumi by putting forward his hand. Kosumi responded to the
gesture and everything ended with a courtesy handshake.

The handshake between Kosumi and Tadic makes the leading front-page story in
Express. According to the paper, the two leaders got to talk to each other for 3-4
minutes. PM Kosumi confirmed the news to Express saying that it was a simple
handshake.

Decentralisation again on the agenda of Kosovo Team

All Kosovo dailies give extensive coverage to the meetings that the UNMIK chief
Søren Jessen-Petersen had yesterday with President Ibrahim Rugova and Assembly
Speaker Nexhat Daci. The meetings focused mainly on the issue of
decentralisation and the pre-announced meeting between ministers Haziri and
Loncar in Vienna.

Zëri quotes the UNMIK chief as saying, “Decentralisation must be led by Pristina,
but the concerns of Belgrade must also be taken into account”. The paper also
quotes President Rugova as saying that decentralisation is an issue of Kosovo and
that it will be a supplementary package of independence.
According to Express, Rugova and Daci have pledged that decentralisation will
not be included in the agenda of talks.

Lajm also quotes the President as saying that decentralisation cannot be part of
negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade.
Under the headline Team of Unity takes over decentralisation, Koha Ditore
reports that the Kosovar Quint has reached the agreement to take over the process
of decentralisation, to lead it, to create working groups and then to meet and
discuss these issues with Belgrade. At the same time, says the paper, the
international community welcomes the willingness of Kosovans and calls on them
to put in concrete work.

Express reports that the Negotiations Team has given the approval to Minister
Haziri to meet his Serbian counterpart Loncar. However, the paper adds, the
Negotiations Team has asked for the meeting not to take place immediately and
that it be postponed for a certain period of time.

On the same issue, Zëri reports on the front page that The Kosovo delegation says
no to the meeting in Vienna, other meetings are expected for this initiative.

Macedonia's special movie effects

By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click Online


These days major film producers use so many effects in their movies that they have to outsource much of the work from places like Eastern Europe and the Balkans. David Reid found out the part Macedonia is playing.

Macedonia is a nice place to shoot a movie, and there is no shortage of companies there whose sights are set on coaxing business out of Hollywood.

They are not, however, so interested in touting the former Yugoslav republic as a filming location.

Instead, the scenery they are looking to sell comes directly out of a computer.

So seamless are digitally generated effects these days that they are difficult for film producers to resist.

The pixel is replacing the panorama, as faking it becomes cheaper and easier than the real thing.

The increased demand means that media companies in developing countries like Macedonia are getting the chance to have a hand in Hollywood blockbusters.

Film producers in the US are looking to outsource the more labour-intensive animation projects.


This is highly skilled and intricate work, and involves painting in the backgrounds of scenes that have already been shot.

One scene from The Aviator was filmed in a giant studio, and Macedonia's FX3X was given the job of converting the green backdrop into the harbour where Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose performed its maiden, and only, flight.

Miso Ristov, visual FX supervisor at FX3X, told Click Online: "Basically everything was shot handheld or stuck on some cranes. First we had to track the footage and then blend with the background and make a seamless blend.

"You have to do it manually, frame by frame, so we spent two and a half months for probably a couple of minutes of footage.

"We worked 15 hours a day, maybe. No sleep, no seeing your girlfriend, no stuff like that."

Strength in numbers

Buoyed by some initial successes, a number of companies are hoping to club together to tout Macedonia as a new media hub.

In the past people wanted to be actors, now they want to be animators

In bringing all the workshops under one roof they are aiming for strength in numbers and economies of scale.

"The point is to out-grow the capability of any individual company", said FX3X's Kristijan Danilovski.

"Jointly they will be able to share the costs and invest in joint infrastructure that would help all of them create one virtual large company, a big player in the market."

The more hands you have on deck the better, and in a place like Macedonia, if you want a large pool of digital media workers you have to go straight back to the source.

FX3X used a US government-funded schools computer network to teach some 400 students how to use animation software.


But not all the country's talent is training at home. One rising star, Ana Nikolovska, is flying to the US on an animation scholarship.

Her success abroad will no doubt fuel the enthusiasm at home for animation and special effects.

She says: "There is a growing interest in 3D animation in Macedonia and it is becoming very popular, especially these last two years.

"I think lately everyone wants to be in the entertainment industry. In the past people wanted to be actors, now they want to be animators."

Hollywood is fond of rags to riches stories, and this former Yugoslav republic may well fit the script.

Many here hope that the country's enthusiasm for new media could make it a future player in the digital dream factory.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Top Croat war crime suspect held

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) -- The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor said Thursday that top Croatian war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina was arrested in the Spanish Canary Islands.

"Ante Gotovina was arrested this night in Spain," Carla Del Ponte said In Belgrade. "He's now in detention."

The U.N. court has accused Gotovina of masterminding the killing of at least 150 Serbs and the expulsion of some 150,000 others during Croatia's bitter 1991-1995 war.

Del Ponte said Gotovina soon would be transferred from the Canary Islands to a detention unit at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Gotovina, the most wanted Croatian war crimes suspect, has been at large since the tribunal accused him in mid-2001 of the wartime atrocities.

"Since September we were working to find Gotovina and finally we could achieve that," Del Ponte said, thanking the Spanish authorities for the arrest.

For years, the failure to arrest Gotovina has blocked Croatia's membership talks with the European Union. But the EU eventually opened negotiations with Croatia in October after Del Ponte said the country was cooperating with the tribunal.

Gotovina is hailed as a hero by many in Croatia who credit him with leading the country's defense against rebel Serb assaults during the 1991 war..

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Gjergj Kastrioti “Skenderbeg”

“Matchable to the Greatest of the Great”

--Edmund Spenser (Elizabethan poet)
by Joseph J. DioGuardi
From 1443, when he returned in triumph to the White Castle in Kruja to his deathbed at Lezha in 1468, Skenderbeg left an unforgettable legacy of great heroism in the defense of freedom. Gjergj Kastrioti lived and died for what he firmly believed were the sacred values of faith, virtue, honor, freedom, courage, and love of country. These universal values are clearly displayed in his correspondence and speeches, along with his deep philosophy of life and his incredible deeds. Who was Gjergj Kastrioti? Why is he an important historical figure? What can Albanians today learn from his life and deeds? Why is he not better known around the world?



Kastrioti was the son of an Albanian prince, Gjon Kastrioti, who ruled the Albanian lands in the Balkan Peninsula at the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the fifteenth century. Gjon had kept the invading Ottoman Turks at bay for more than twenty years when he was forced into a deceptive peace treaty in 1422 with Sultan Murad II to secure the rear of the Turkish army in Southeast Europe and spare the lives of his people from the wrath of the Ottoman Empire. To guarantee the arrangement, the Sultan took Gjon’s youngest son, Gjergj, hostage to Adrianople, the European capital of the Ottoman Empire. Here, Gjergj was sent to the Ottoman military academy where he excelled in all ways and adopted the Moslem alias “Iskender Bey,” or Lord Alexander after Alexander the Great. Skenderbeg’s excellent academic and military record caught the eye of the Sultan, who gave him the rank of general even before reaching twenty years of age. Skenderbeg’s military successes against the enemies of the Ottoman Empire became legendary, as were the decorations and gifts bestowed on him after each incredible triumph.

An important turning point in Skenderbeg’s life came when, in 1443, he received the sad news from Kruja of his father’s death. Gjon had defied and frustrated the Ottomans for more than fifty years and the Sultan grew suspicious of Skenderbeg’s potential to take his father’s place in trying to perpetuate a free Albania even after Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia had been conquered. Skenderbeg sensed the danger to him and to his father’s people and decided to seize the moment in November 1443, when he was sent on a military excursion to defeat the Hungarians led by another great freedom fighter (and thorn in the side of the Sultan), Janos Hunyadi. Rather than do the Sultan’s dirty work at Nish (in Serbia today), he fooled his fellow Ottoman commanders and fled the battlefield to Kruja with three hundred of his loyal Albanian horsemen. Two weeks after triumphantly entering Albania at Dibra, he stormed the White Castle at Kruja on November 28, 1443 and deposed the Ottoman governor there. The next twenty-five years would see some of the greatest military feats against the ever powerful and growing Ottoman Empire. It was only after Skenderbeg’s death in 1468 that the Ottomans were able to get a foothold in Albania. Without their great leader, the struggle against the Ottomans faltered, leading to a complete occupation of Albanian lands in 1488. This lasted 425 years until Ismail Qemali raised Skenderbeg’s double-headed eagle banner at Vlora on November 28, 1912.



It is one thing for Albanians today to praise and honor Gjergj Kastrioti. But let’s now take some time to hear about this saintly knight, his incredible military genius, and our Albanian national hero from those who knew him well. Having now read a great deal about Skenderbeg, it became evident that a Roman Catholic priest from Shkodra, Marin Barletius, wrote the most comprehensive and vivid account of Skenderbeg’s life and deeds. His twelve-volume work included Kastrioti’s letters, speeches, and his philosophy of life, religion, and nation. Since Barletius was a contemporary of Skenderbeg, he had access to firsthand information from the battlefields, the archives in Rome, and many other personal firsthand accounts from witnesses of Kastrioti’s phenomenal accomplishments, character, and charisma. The scholarly work of Barletius, originally written in Latin, was translated widely, including French and English, which allowed many to know about the legendary feats of Skenderbeg.



The nineteenth-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had been mesmerized reading about the incredible life and deeds of Gjergj Kastrioti. His epic poem “Scanderbeg” gave a vivid account of Kastrioti triumphant in Kruja on November 28, 1443:



…Anon from the castle walls

The crescent banner falls,

And the crowd beholds instead,

Like a portent in the sky,

Iskander’s banner fly,

The Black Eagle with double head.

And shouts ascend on high

…”Long live Scanderbeg.

Skenderbeg’s genius has been likened by many military experts to Alexander the Great. Major General James Wolfe, commander of the English army at the siege of Quebec, Canada, wrote to Lord Sydney that “Scanderbeg exceeds all the officers, ancient

and modern, in the conduct of a defensive army. I met him in Turkish history but nowhere else.”



Historian Edmond Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire said: “In the list of heroes, John Hunyadi and Scanderbeg are commonly associated and entitled to our notice since their occupation of arms delayed the ruin of the Greek (Byzantine) Empire…. The Albanian prince may justly be praised as a firm and able champion of his national independence. The enthusiasm of chivalry and religion has ranked him with the names of Alexander the Great and Pyrrhus….”


Even the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser held that Scanderbeg was “matchable to the greatest of the great” in his preface to an English translation of Barletius, which concluded by saying:


To one whom later age has brought to light,

Matchable to the greatest of the great:

Great both in name and great in power and might,

And meriting a mere triumphant feat.

The scourge of Turks, and plague of infidels,

Thy acts, O’ Scanderbeg, this volume tells.

Finally, among the many, many accounts of one Albanian hero, we turn to the notable

nineteenth-century English literary figure Lord Byron who fell in love with everything he

saw in Albania. Like Kastrioti, Byron had a deep love of freedom and national independence. In his poem “Child Harold’s Pilgrimage,” he wrote:



Land of Albania, where Islander rose,

Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,

And he, his namesake, whose oft-baffled foes

Shrunk from his deeds of chivalrous emprize.

Land of Albania, let me bend my eyes

On thee, though rugged nurse of savage men!

Where is the foe that ever saw their back?....

In short, Gjergj Kastrioti was an exceptional military genius, a man of great faith and

courage, a philosopher and one who cherished personal freedom and national independence. He was the subject of many books, poems, and even an opera by Vivaldi! His imposing figure, sword in hand, atop his majestic stallion, graces the capitals of Italy, Austria, and Hungary today. And, on the 600th anniversary of his birth, a Congressional Resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, the most democratic forum in the world, recounts his many deeds and his importance as an historic figure not just for Albanians and the Balkans, but Western Europe, which he saved from Ottoman domination.



What Albanians can learn today from Skenderbeg’s life and deeds is limitless. As a man of great faith, he placed himself at God’s mercy on many occasions where he was facing overwhelming odds. On one such occasion, after defeating the Hungarian army at Varna in 1445, Sultan Murad sent a threatening letter to Skenderbeg, who now stood

between the Ottoman Empire and a Europe in disarray. True to his nature as a great leader and man of God with a steadfast vision of freedom for his people and all of Europe, he boldly responded to the Sultan:



Cease your angry threats and tell us not of the Hungarian (mis)fortune. Every

man has his own resolution…and so will we with patience endure such fortune

as it shall please God to appoint us. Meanwhile, for direction of our affairs, we

will not request counsel of our enemies, nor peace from you, but victory by the

help of God!



Albanian leaders today, especially in Kosova seeking complete independence from Serbia, would do well to emulate the resolute way in which Skenderbeg pursued his vision of freedom for his people. He made no room for compromise with his enemies and showed fierce determination to prevail even in the face of such a formidable

adversary as the Ottoman Empire. He did this relying not only on his skill as a great national leader and military tactician, but on his belief in God’s providence as well. We can all learn from Skenderbeg’s great example in pursuing the Albanian national cause today.



Skenderbeg again showed his great faith in God and deep loyalty to friends after his great friend and patron Alphonse, King of Naples and Sicily, died in 1460. Italy was plunged into bloodshed and rebellion, and Ferdinand I, Alphonse’s son and successor, came under attack from the French once again. Feeling a deep moral obligation to repay his steadfast friends and allies on the other side of the Adriatic, Skenderbeg himself led an elite cavalry of two thousand men there in the summer of 1461 and soon turned the tide against the French and their Italian collaborators in the bloody battle of Apulia. In

reading the accounts of Skenderbeg’s exhortation to his soldiers before the battle of Apulia, one is reminded of George Washington exhorting his troops at Valley Forge:



This now is our case, my good soldiers…. We are now across the sea far from

our own homes and from our own country…. We are amongst strangers,

altogether without hope of ever returning again to our own (home)…if we do not

win a notable victory over our enemies. But have courage, my men: Let us

consider that this is God’s will…that we should maintain…the seat of the Church.

And never doubt that He will send us even from heaven an easy and speedy

victory…and then shall we return to our own country victors, joyous and

triumphant.



One might ask, after hearing of the greatness of Skenderbeg, why he is not as well known today as before. I believe that the history of Gjergj Kastrioti is inextricably tied to that of the Albanian people. The Albanian nation was submerged under the Ottoman Empire for 425 years. When it emerged in 1912, it was unfairly divided so that only half of the seven million Albanians who live in the Balkans today live in the State of Albania,

with the other half living on her borders in five other jurisdictions. The State of Yugoslavia was created after World War I on the backs of the Albanian people and on their land. Then Communism again submerged the Albanian people—this time throwing them into a political and economic “black hole,” stretching from Belgrade to Tirana, for almost fifty years after World War II. It is a wonder that the Albanian people kept their language, their history, and their hope alive throughout the last six hundred years of occupation and resistance. It is a wonder that, amid all the national stress and personal sacrifice, that Gjergj Kastrioti has not been forgotten altogether.

But he has not been forgotten, and it is a tribute to this greatness and to the besa* of the Albanian people that, against all odds, Albanians are standing free today, in Albania and Kosova, and that the sons and daughters of Skenderbeg continue to adore him as their national hero and liberator, and are building even more memorials to his past and present glory and significance—even, with a U.S. Congressional Resolution (H.Res. 522), in the capital of the only superpower in the world today, Washington, DC.


Author’s Postscript

The battle of Apulia in the southern part of the Italian Peninsula, near Naples, is of special significance to me and my family. In 1461, after Skenderbeg and his elite cavalry helped save the Kingdom of Naples from French domination, the future security of the Kingdom was assured when Gjergj Kastrioti decided to leave two thousand horsemen there, while he returned to Albania to continue to defend the Albanian people from Ottoman Turkish domination. As an inducement for Skenderbeg to agree to what must have been a difficult decision for him, the King of Naples awarded the Albanian

soldiers an area about forty miles east of Naples, including a high mountaintop village called Greci. Greci had been formed by Greek farmers and merchants in 535 AD and had since declined after most Greeks abandoned the area that they had controlled in the first millennium. Albanians changed the name of the village to “Katundi,” which is the name used today by the Albanian residents, even though the Italians still call it Greci. My father, Joseph, Sr. immigrated to America from Katundi in 1929 at the age of fifteen. His family is descended from one of Skenderbeg’s two thousand soldiers, and this is a great reminder that the seeds of Skenderbeg are still spreading across the oceans of the world today.


* Besa is derived from the ancient moral code of the Albanian people.

Diplomats from Greece, Croatia and Romania visit Kosovo (Dailies)

The daily press covers the visit that a diplomatic trio of foreign diplomats from
Greece, Croatia and Romania are paying to Kosovo. Koha Ditore notes that
President Rugova and Prime Minister Kosumi have briefed the Greek Foreign
Minister and two deputy foreign ministers of Croatia and Romania about the
progress achieved in Kosovo and the current processes.

The paper also notes that the picture the Kosovan leaders carried to the diplomatic
trio was that of an independent Kosovo, ready for regional cooperation. The local
leaders said that Kosovo’s independence is the best and sole solution that is
expected from negotiations on status. They also said that European Union’s
membership remains the key goal.

Express quotes President Rugova as saying, “Independence will open new doors
to the Albanian majority and the minorities. The Albanian majority will protect the
minorities even after independence, which will affect Kosovo’s integration in
Europe.”

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Western myth of a Serbian Kosova

Author: Branka Magaš
November, 2005


Article written for the BI website argues that Western politicians have been mistaken in accepting the notion that Kosova is 'an integral part of Serbia', so that Belgrade must necessarily be involved in discussions about Kosova's status

As negotiations between Serbia and Kosova about the latter’s status are about to begin under UN auspices, one is prompted to pose the obvious question: ‘Why is Serbia involved at all?’ Or, to put it in another way: ‘Why do Western governments assume that the wishes of Kosova’s inhabitants are insufficient grounds for recognising its independence, and that such a step requires also Belgrade’s acquiescence?’


Answers to such questions refer as a rule to Kosova being an integral part of Serbia: recognising Kosova means changing Serbian borders. The international community, the argument continues, has thus far respected the borders of the former Yugoslav republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have all been recognised within their existing borders. Recognising Kosova as an independent state without Serbia’s agreement would be a departure from past practice. Some even suggest it would violate international law. The otherwise respectable International Herald Tribune even recently published a letter from Raju G.C. Thomas in Belgrade (27 October 2005) that moved on from arguing that Kosova’s independence would violate ‘international law’ regarding ‘the territorial integrity and sovereignty of existing states’ to advocate in effect genocide against the recalcitrant Albanians.


The Western assumption that Serbia enjoys sovereign rights over Kosova, however, is as fictitious as the Serbian myth that Kosova was the cradle of the medieval Serbian state. On the contrary, Kosova’s inherent sovereignty and separate existence from Serbia is a well established legal and historical fact. By accepting Serbia as a relevant partner in negotiations over Kosova’s future, the United States and the European Union have vested it with an authority that it never enjoyed in the former Yugoslavia


To begin with, the former Yugoslav republic of Serbia was not of the same character as the other former Yugoslav republics. Unlike Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro, all of which were constituted on a unitary model, the Serbian republic was from its inception composed of three distinct politico-territorial entities: Serbia, Kosova and Vojvodina. These entities were constituted separately and independently from each other in the last stages of World War II (1944-5), as part of a process leading to creation of a Yugoslav federation on the ruins of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The process began with the formation of a number of distinct politico-territorial entities in areas liberated from Italian Fascist and German Nazi armies of occupation: once established, these entities served as basic building blocks for the new Yugoslav federated state. Some of them were constituted as republics, others as autonomous regions (later provinces). Each and every one of them, however, was established formally as an emanation of the proclaimed will of their (usually ethnically mixed) inhabitants.

Kosova and Vojvodina were actually established before Serbia: Kosova in January 1944, Vojvodina in March 1944, Serbia only in November 1944. Serbia at the latter juncture did not include either Vojvodina or Kosova. It was only in July 1945 that Kosova and Vojvodina voted - autonomously and separately from one another and from Serbia - to join Serbia. Their adhesion to Serbia was sanctioned by the Yugoslav AVNOJ government in August 1945, when they were also given separate (from Serbia) representation within Yugoslavia’s federal bodies. Kosova and Vojvodina, in other words, were from the start constituent elements of the Yugoslav federation, just as the republics were. This was fully recognised by the last Yugoslav constitution, by virtue of which Vojvodina and Kosova were in all practical respects equal to the republics. Despite their formal union with Serbia, they were by the nature of their constitutions and legal status provinces of Yugoslavia, not of Serbia. Their union with Serbia was legally valid only during Yugoslavia’s existence, or as long as their populations did not decide otherwise. For just as Kosova had voluntarily joined the union with Serbia, so too it retained the right to leave it by its own will.


Four of the six former Yugoslav republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia) are today internationally recognised states. Their recognition took place on the basis of two criteria: their separate status within the former Yugoslavia, and the will of their populations. Although Kosova satisfies both criteria, its international recognition has been delayed for reasons of Western Realpolitik - resting on the (clearly mistaken) premise that peace in the region can be achieved only by conciliating Serbia.


What is most extraordinary in this whole story is that while the international community treats Serbia as a state whose alleged borders should be respected, it simultaneously pretends that Kosova was not a self-governing territory within Yugoslavia and within Serbia, hence that its status remains to be determined. The fact is that neither Serbia nor Kosova are internationally recognised states, though each has its own democratically elected government. Whether Serbia and Kosova win international recognition depends - and should depend - solely upon the freely expressed will of their respective populations.

Kosovo Jubilant at KLA Acquittals

Kosovo’s majority Albanian population welcomes result of Hague tribunal’s first case against former guerrillas.By Janet Anderson in The Hague (TU No 432, 2-Dec-05)

The streets of Pristina erupted with flags, horns and celebratory gunfire on December 1 as news spread that the Hague tribunal had acquitted two of the first three members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, ever to face trial there for war crimes.Judges in The Hague sentenced one former foot soldier, Haradin Bala, to 13 years in prison for his role in a KLA prison camp in the village of Lapusnik where Serbs and suspected Albanian collaborators were tortured and murdered in 1998.But they declared themselves unconvinced that former commanders Fatmir Limaj and Isak Musliu had played any role at the facility.

Limaj, who held a senior role in the guerrilla army which helped drive Belgrade security forces out of Kosovo, gained a high profile as a politician in the wake of the conflict.While the verdict has met with a predictably downbeat response in Serbia, reactions amongst Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population have been jubilant. Many feel that the court ruling, despite confirming that horrific individual crimes were committed, vindicates the KLA as an organisation.

The judgement comes at a particularly welcome time for Albanians in Kosovo, with talks set to begin on the future political status of the region. Most hope that the process will result in independence from Belgrade.Observers in Pristina described a collective sense of relief as the judgement hearing in the case was broadcast live on television screens in homes and bars across Kosovo.The resulting celebrations were a far cry from the dire predictions published in local newspapers of what might happen if the three were found guilty.

Just two days before the judgement was issued, an estimated 20,000 people filed through the streets of Pristina protesting the innocence of the three men.When Limaj went to The Hague in 2003, Kosovo’s then prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, declared that the trial would give the accused “a chance to prove his innocence and the purity of the war that was led by the KLA”.

Some observers now see particular significance in the judges’ decision to dismiss charges of crimes against humanity against the three accused. They did so on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that the atrocities at the Lapusnik camp were committed as “part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population”. “It’s been understood here as a cleansing of the resistance,” said Petrit Selimi, the managing director of Pristina’s new Daily Express newspaper. The verdict, he explained, has been “seen as recognition that there were [individual] crimes, not a campaign”.Kosovo parliamentarian Enver Hoxhaj told IWPR that the judgement is “a good message while Kosovo’s final status talks are going on”, explaining that it has given the local population a feeling that they are supported by the international community.

With Kosovo’s president Ibrahim Rugova in bad health and former prime minister Ramus Haradinaj currently awaiting a Hague war crimes trial, there have been concerns that Albanians will lack a strong figurehead for the talks on Kosovo’s future.Analysts in Kosovo told IWPR that Limaj is viewed by some as having the potential to fill the vacuum. Selimi explained that Limaj is now viewed as a “sympathetic figure” because of the dignity with which he went to The Hague.Hoxhaj, who is a senior member of Limaj’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, told IWPR that he thought Limaj would step back into the “crucial” role he played in the party before being indicted. “We missed him,” he added.

The judgement has also served to support the view that Hague tribunal’s first case involving former KLA fighters was in fact only launched as part of an effort to show the court’s impartiality with regard to the various parties involved in the Balkans conflicts of the Nineties.A series of senior Serbian generals and politicians, including former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, have been indicted for their role in alleged ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999.There has also been speculation about what consequences the outcome might have on the joint trial of Haradinaj and two others said to have been his subordinates in the KLA. They are charged with involvement in the abduction and murder of Serbs, Roma and suspected Albanian collaborators.

Edgar Chen, a long-time observer of proceedings at the Hague tribunal for the Coalition for International Justice, told IWPR, however, that it is important to remember that these are two distinct cases. “Haradinaj is charged under a different set of alleged facts,” he said. “Judges will have to consider Haradinaj's case on the evidence that [prosecutors] and his defence presents.”

The judges hearing the case against Limaj, Musliu and Bala in The Hague appeared keen to emphasise that the acquittal of two of the accused did not mean that crimes had not taken place.They underlined that civilians had been held in horrific conditions at the KLA camp in Lapusnik, with “gross overcrowding” and some chained to the wall; KLA soldiers, often wearing hoods to hide their faces, beat inmates into unconsciousness; detainees, including some who had been shot, were denied medical treatment despite the existence of a clinic in the village where KLA personnel were treated.

Apart from three prisoners who were murdered at the camp itself, Bala was also found to have taken part in the massacre of nine prisoners in nearby mountains.But the judges said they were not satisfied that Limaj and Musliu held positions in the KLA which would have made them responsible for the camp.While there was a “strong possibility” that Limaj had been personally present at the facility, they said, there was not enough evidence to convict of personal involvement crimes there. As for Musliu, the judges ruled that there was in fact “little evidence to identify... [him] as having any kind of involvement in the prison camp”.Meanwhile, reactions in Belgrade to the verdict have been unsurprisingly gloomy. Rasim Ljajic, president of Serbia’s National Council for Cooperation with the Hague tribunal, told the Beta news agency that the result would bolster the positions of those who are hostile to the United Nations court.Janet Anderson is IWPR’s programme manager in The Hague

U.S. picks envoy to spur Kosovo talks

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The United States has chosen a high-profile retired career ambassador, Frank Wisner, as envoy to U.N. talks on whether Kosovo should split from Serbia, in a that sign Washington wants to spur the negotiations, diplomats said.
Criticized for previously neglecting the Balkans, the Bush administration has focused this year on the region -- led by the No. 3 State Department official, Nicholas Burns, who wants to press for the status talks to advance early in 2006.

The choice of a former ambassador to key nations such as India and Egypt underscores U.S. determination to influence negotiations in which Serbia has to give up at least some control of the volatile province.

"He's good, fits the profile and shows they want the job done properly," a diplomat familiar with the State Department's decision-making said on Thursday. The diplomat asked not to be named because the decision has not been made public.

Wisner, who has held top posts in U.S. corporations such as American Insurance Group, was offered and has accepted the role. But the State Department has not set a date for the announcement.

The United States has pressured Serbia by vowing to block it from joining NATO unless it resolves the territorial dispute over the region.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing forced then-President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces. Some 10,000 civilians were killed during his two-year crackdown on an Albanian guerrilla insurgency.

Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority has been clamoring for independence ever since. Serbia rejects independence for Kosovo but has offered far-reaching autonomy.

The issue has been dormant for years but -- following U.S. pressure -- U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari began a mission late last month to negotiate a way out of one of Europe's biggest diplomatic predicaments.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Albanians Celebrate Tribunal Ruling

Belgrade, Pristina, Hague, London, Washington -- Thursday - Albanian youth in Presevo defy police ban on a meeting of support to Ljimaj and Musliu, Hague indictees freed from war crimes charges by the Hague Tribunal.

Although the police in Presevo banned a march of support to Fatmir Ljimaj on grounds that it was not officially announced, B92 has learnt that a group of youngsters gathered in the centre of Presevo anyway. The police had previously encountered youth who plastered the city with announcements calling citisens to join the march, which lead to an urgent meeting with Albanian political leaders in South Serbia.

Our reporter in Presevo says that a group of 200 youth started their march towards the town centre carrying Albanian flags, photographs with of Ljimaj and Musliu and chanting support to the Hague Tribunal. Political leaders tried to simmer down the organizers of the march this morning.


Previously, ethnic Albanians in Pristina, Prizren, Malisevo and southern Kosovska Mitrovica celebrated what they called a just decision by the Judiciary Council of the Hague Tribunal, firing gunshots in the air and hailing the names of their two compatriots, who have just been cleared of charges they stood trial for at the international court.

President of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova welcomed the Tribunal’s decision and expressed hope that there still existed some legal options for the third indictee, Haradin Baljaj. “The trial has confirmed the rightness of the liberation struggle against Serbian occupation, the fight for the freedom and independence of our country and our belief in international justice and the Hague Tribunal”, Rugova said.

Kosovo Prime Minister hailed the release of Ljimaj and Musliu. “This is more proof that Fatmir and his comrades in battle had just one goal in life – the struggle to liberate Kosovo”, the Government of Kosovo said in a press release.

The Serbian President’s advisor on relations with the ICTY, Jovan Simic, told Beta agency that the Tribunal’s ruling left a bad impression and opened the door to criticism of its work, adding there would probably be much debate on this issue.

Ljiljana Smajlovic, a pundit on the Tribunal’s activities, says the verdict will fit perfectly into the image of the Hague’s double-standards that exists in Serbia. “It seems that the limits for proving guilt are much higher for those who aren't Serbs. We could say that there were not sufficient testimonies against Ljimaj, but witnesses in Belgrade were rounded up in a different manner. Insiders were persuaded to testify with threats that they would face charges in the event they declined to provide testimonies. One is left with an impression that different means and methods are employed for providing evidence and making verdicts at the Tribunal”, Smajlovic concluded.

Analysts on release verdict

British and US analysts observing events in the Balkans differ in their opinions on the effects of the Tribunal’s verdicts that exempted Ljimaj and Musliu from charges. Associate of the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, William Nash, told BBC that claims accusing the Hague Tribunal of anti-Serbian attitude were ungrounded. Commenting on the verdicts that freed Ljimaj and Musliu from charges, Nash said that trials against other KLA members were in schedule and that we should wait for their outcomes.

Lecturer in Modern History at Oriel College in Oxford Mark Almond presumes that, regardless of the reasons that lead the Tribunal’s judges to reach their verdicts, the dominant impression will be that Serbs accused of the same kinds of crimes will not have equal treatment. “This is an essential deficiency. An international court with genuine international recognition, which is accepted by all sides, would probably be deplored by all parties involved. If one side congratulates it and the other does not, it means the court is not doing a good job. Basically, this is the key problem when a politicised process for punishing war crimes essentially fails to gain trust.

Ljajic: Hard to convince anyone in coincidence

The President of the National Council for Co-operation with the Hague Tribunal, Rasim Ljajic, told Beta agency it would be hard to convince the Serbian public that there was no political connection between the Tribunal’s rulings to release Ljimaj and Musliu and the request to hold a separate trial for Slobodan Milosevic’s involvement in Kosovo. “While not wanting to comment on the verdicts themselves, I believe there was no political connection, but it will be hard to convince anyone in Serbia that it was pure coincidence. This will lead to a step or two back in the process of building public confidence in the Hague Tribunal”, Ljajic said, adding that proponents of conspiracy theories and those hostile to the idea of co-operating with the Hague will gain a significant argument for their claims.

Ljimaj and Musliu out of jail

Fatmir Ljimaj and Isak Musliu were released from custody at the prison in Scheweningen after being freed from charges before the Hague Tribunal. It has been reported from the international court that Haradin Baljaj has been sentenced to spend 13 years in prison after being found guilty by the Judiciary Council of murdering nine prisoners in Lapusnica near Glogovac.

The Hague Tribunal has not issued any statements regarding the verdict, hence there is speculation that the defence will lodge an appeal.

Ljimaj is the seventh and Musliu is the eighth indictee released from charges, while 40 have been found guilty so far. Beta, B92

ICTY acquits former Kosova Liberation Army commander

The leading front-page story in all daily newspapers this morning is the coverage
on the ICTY verdict on Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu and Haradin Balaj. All dailies
report that Limaj and Musliu have been acquitted of all charges and that Balaj was
sentenced to 13 years in prison.
According to Koha Ditore, Limaj and Musliu are expected to return to Pristina
today.

Dailies carry reactions from local and international senior officials in regard to the
ICTY decision. Zëri reports that PDSRSG Rossin and COMKFOR Valotto have
issued a joint press release saying that the Hague Tribunal is an independent
judicial body and that UNMIK and KFOR cannot comment on the decisions of the
court.

“There is justice, Limaj returns home”, reports Koha Ditore on the front page.
Zëri quotes PDK Secretary General Jakup Krasniqi as saying: “This is a victory
for the entire Albanian people”. “We welcome the ICTY decision to release Limaj
and Musliu, and we hope that Haradin Balaj too will soon be with his family,”
Krasniqi added.

Epoka e Re refers to the ICTY decision as historic. The paper also quotes
representatives of the KLA War Associations as saying Haradin Balaj should be
released, too. “Balaj pays the price of Kosovo’s freedom. Balaj is the first
Albanian to be declared guilty by the ICTY for criminal acts during the war in
Kosovo,” the paper reports.
All dailies carry pictures from the celebrations in several towns of Kosovo.

Meanwhile Serbian politicians reacted with dismay to his release.
Jovan Simic, Advisor to the Serbian President, was quoted by RTS as asking
" how is it possible that no indicted Serb in ICTY has been acquitted so far?".

Monday, November 28, 2005

Blame it on Paddy

Bosnia's political culture
Nov 24th 2005 | MOSTAR AND SARAJEVO
From The Economist print edition

Trained by the centuries not to take decisions

WE IN the international community must now begin to move from heavyweight, intrusive interventions to a new role of adviser, persuader and partner.” So says Lord (Paddy) Ashdown. Like most policymakers who deal with Bosnia, and a growing number of locals, he believes it is high time for Bosnians to take responsibility for their own affairs. The hope is that his powers as high representative will be used less and less often, and that Bosnians can be nudged into making more of their own decisions.

On November 25th, Bosnia is due to start talks with the EU about the first steps on the path to eventual accession. Early next year, Lord Ashdown will step down. His successor is expected to be Christian Schwarz-Schilling, a former German minister and Bosnia hand who favours handing full powers back soon.

The high representative is also the EU's special representative in Bosnia. It is hoped that, over the years, EU conditionality can be used to keep Bosnia, like other countries in the region, on course towards stable prosperity.

Some westerners are uncomfortable over the vice-regal role the high representative has played. They wonder whether such a colonial institution is appropriate in 2005. Yet the past ten years have shown that Bosnia's problem is not just the legacy of a brutal war, but also a culture of deference. The origins of this phenomenon lie in the distant past.

For many Bosnians, it seems natural for a high representative to give orders to their leaders. That is, after all, how Bosnia has been ruled since the Ottoman conquest in 1463.

From then until 1878, Bosnia was ruled by a pasha sent by the Sultan from Istanbul. Between 1878 and 1918, it was governed by a representative of the Austro-Hungarian Empire sent from Vienna. From 1918 to 1992, the buck stopped in Belgrade. Now the high representative rules with orders given in Brussels, which has become Bosnia's latest imperial capital.

Two years ago the EU told the Bosnians to do 16 things before they could start talks on eventual accession. With much cajoling and bullying from Lord Ashdown, all were done by last month. Few believe that anything would have been achieved without him. Indeed Bosnian politicians like the role he has played, because it means they never have to take unpopular decisions. Sometimes they even ask him to impose decisions, knowing that, to their own voters, they can “blame it on Paddy”.

Bosnia: Peacful,rebuilt but still divided

Bosnia, rebuilt but still divided
Nov 23rd 2005
From The Economist Global Agenda

Ten years after the Dayton accords, the testing ambition is to bring Bosnia and the rest of ex-Yugoslavia into the European Union

IT IS a beautiful, sunny Sunday. The church door is open to all comers and the abbot of the little monastery is entertaining guests over cups of thick black Turkish coffee. In the fields, a couple of men are working; on the nearby road, a few cars pass on their way to the coast, perhaps families off to lunch by the seaside.

A normal enough scene, but one that tells an amazing story. Ten years ago, when the peace deal on Bosnia-Hercegovina was agreed at an American airbase in Dayton, Ohio, on November 21st 1995, ending a war between Bosnia’s Serbs, Croats and Muslims (known as Bosniaks), in which Serbia and Croatia sought to carve up Bosnia, this peaceful scene in the village of Zitomislic would have been unimaginable. For the monastery is Serbian Orthodox, and it was left after Dayton in an area controlled by Croats and Bosniaks. In 1992, when the war began, Serbs fled; the church, built in 1566, was dynamited. The message was clear: “Don’t come back!” Yet some have.

The church, lovingly rebuilt, reopened in May. There are similar scenes across Bosnia. Catholic churches have been rebuilt in areas where Croats once lived. Hundreds of mosques, dynamited in Serb-controlled areas, have risen from the ruins. In Mostar, a few miles from Zitomislic, the Ottoman bridge, also built in 1566 but destroyed in fighting between Croats and Bosniaks in 1993, reopened last year.
Explaining why there is no longer any active hostility to Serbs returning to Zitomislic, Abbot Danilo, aged 29, says simply that “we have to show that we are willing to live here and people recognise that.” Yet the rebuilding of the church symbolises something profound. To build a country takes more than bricks, mortar and constitutions. In Bosnia, restored security and repaired roads have encouraged hundreds of thousands of refugees to return. Immediately after the Dayton deal, a NATO-led peacekeeping force of 60,000 troops took over the country. Today, only some 6,000 soldiers from a European Union military force remain.

All Bosnians now share common passports. They can travel freely and safely wherever they want across the country. A single customs and border-police service staffs the frontiers. Separate armies have been abolished. Next year a single value-added tax (VAT) regime for the country will come into force. And on Friday November 25th, the EU, recognising how far the country has come, plans to begin talks with Bosnia that could lead to its eventual accession.

From Dayton to Brussels
Bosnia has been transformed, but still has far to go. Dayton ended the war but by imposing a complicated and costly system of government, divided between a Serb part, the Republika Srpska, and a Bosniak-Croat federation, each with its own government and one autonomous district, belonging to neither. Central administration is weak.

On top of all this is the Office of the High Representative. Despite its neutral-sounding name, this hugely powerful position would once have been recognised as an imperial governorship. Lord Ashdown, a former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, is about to end three and a half years in the post. He can claim that, thanks to the forceful use of his powers (sacking intransigent elected officials, for example), he has led Bosnia “from Dayton to Brussels”.

Foreigners are more impressed than the Bosnians themselves with all this. For them, change has been agonisingly slow. The economy—as far as statistics mean anything—remains weak. Unemployment stands at 43%. Dirk Reinermann of the World Bank argues that, if the grey economy is factored in, true unemployment is around 16-20%. However, he concedes that 18% of Bosnians live below the poverty line, and another 30% just above it.

Bosnian leaders are talking about revising the Dayton constitution. Under American pressure, the eight leading political parties signed a deal this week in Washington, DC, promising to make changes by next March. As it stands, the constitution cannot deliver an efficient government, nor can it bring the reforms needed for Bosnia to enter the EU. All parties agree it must be changed, but they have not yet been able to agree how.

Few Bosnians now fear that a new conflict might break out. Most Serbs and Croats who wanted to create a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia now recognise that Bosnia is here to stay. But they do not like it much. When Serbia beat Bosnia at football, young Serbs in the Republika Srpska came out to celebrate. The Bosnian flag, as opposed to the Serbian one, is rarely seen in Serb areas; the Bosnian Croat flag festoons Croat ones.

Some of the claims made for post-war Bosnia may be exaggerated too. Churches and mosques have been rebuilt but the numbers who have returned to territory controlled by former enemies are not as impressive as they seem. Before the war, the Bosnian population was 4.4m. The war displaced some 2.2m, of whom 1.2m are believed to have gone abroad. Some 150,000 are thought to have died. Today the population may be 3.5m but it could be less (no post-war census has been held). The Bosnian foreign ministry thinks 300,000 Bosnians are now citizens of countries outside ex-Yugoslavia.

According to the UN refugee agency, just over a million displaced people have returned home, of whom nearly 450,000 are so-called “minority returns”—eg, Bosniaks in the Republika Srpska, or Croats and Serbs in Bosniak-dominated Sarajevo. But there may have been fewer minority returns than the figures suggest. Many people “returned” only to regain possession of their property, which they then sold. Minority returnees may have stayed on in parts of the countryside but the towns and cities are overwhelmingly dominated by one or other ethnic group.

Drive through Bosnia at night and you notice something else. Much of the countryside is dark. Many people have repossessed and rebuilt their houses but no longer live there. Thanks to the war and its aftermath, their children have grown up in cities and do not want to live a tough rural life. In many cases, only elderly people have returned, and their families come back just for holidays. Although the post-war returns have dented ethnic cleansing, they have not reversed it. And the war accelerated the drift from country to town.

Divided city
Mostar should be different: on paper, it is the only truly mixed Bosnian city. But few Serbs have returned, and Bosniaks now live on one side of town and Croats on the other. The dividing line is a street with two names: the Boulevard of Croatian Defenders, or of the People’s Revolution. Yet to a foreigner the change in Mostar is palpable. Even four years ago, the atmosphere crackled with hate. Now that feeling has subsided. Since 2004, the administrations of the two halves of Mostar have been unified. In the old Ottoman (now Bosniak) part of town, souvenir sellers say that, after the reconstruction of what is now called the “New-Old Bridge”, this year has been their best since before the war.

Yet schools are strictly divided on ethnic lines and people simply do not mix. In that sense, Mostar is a template for the rest of the country. Richard Williams, who has worked for Lord Ashdown in (re)uniting the city’s administration, says that, having created the mechanisms to run one city, “it is up to the citizens of Mostar to carry those processes forward.” The same might be said of the country as a whole.

What of the common Bosnian institutions—including state border police, customs and a defence ministry—that have been created in the past few years? The good news is that they exist; the question is how real they are. Nerma Jelacic, the Sarajevo head of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, a news service, dismisses them as “Hollywood sets. They are two-dimensional and have no substance.” Senad Slatina, a political analyst, agrees: “They are so fragile that they would collapse in any tense situation.” Yet the movement towards EU integration is designed to lock the country into a process from which there is no return, in which what is now fragile becomes solid.

One problem is that this process cannot be completed without the arrests of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime leaders, who are still at large a decade after having been indicted by the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal. The EU has made clear that their arrest is a precondition for entry talks. In Washington this week, Bosnian leaders called for the two men to surrender.

Making the best of it, perhaps
Bitterness still bubbles beneath the surface. Yet in the words of Milos Solaja, head of the Centre for International Relations in Banja Luka, in the Republika Srpska, “[Bosnia] is a country, like it or not. We live here and are citizens of Bosnia.” In Bosnia, even to say that is progress.

At its core, Dayton was a compromise. Bosnian Serbs were forced to give up their war aim of independence and union with Serbia. In exchange for autonomy within Bosnia, they agreed, reluctantly, that it should be a sovereign state. Now, ironically, as discussion focuses on how to reform Dayton, the Bosnian Serbs are its staunchest defenders. Not so Bosnian Croats, a minority in the Croat-Bosniak federation, who feel squeezed between Serbs and Bosniaks. Of Bosnia’s pre-war Croat population of some 830,000, only half remain. Many, especially the young, have gone to Croatia, which, since independence, has offered them automatic citizenship. Some Bosnian Croats demand a “third entity” for Croats, but it is a demand that stands no chance of success.

Since 1999, with the death of the then Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, Bosnian Croats have seen their support from Croatia, financially and politically, cut drastically. The reason is that Croatia’s leaders made a strategic decision: that accession to the EU is more important than Greater Croatia. Serbia’s leaders, too, have come to the same conclusion.

With both Croatia and Serbia in talks, albeit at different stages, with the EU on eventual accession, Bosnia’s borders are (mostly) no longer contested. Hence, says Osman Topcagic, head of Bosnia’s Directorate for European Integration, the EU should see his country as an “economic development and transition issue”, rather than a “political and security problem”. Apart from keeping a beady eye on a few Islamic radicals, he is probably right. But several problems loom for the coming year, many to do with the neighbours.

Trouble in the neighbourhood
Croatia is on track to follow Slovenia into the EU and NATO. Macedonia is also set to be given EU candidate-status in mid-December, an achievement which is designed to lock its Macedonian and minority ethnic-Albanian leaders into a process that should stop any return to the inter-ethnic violence of 2001.

But problems for the region still flow from the final acts of the drama of Yugoslavia’s disintegration. The lesser of two great unsolved issues is the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro. The two states remain locked in a “state union”, although the two function more or less independently of each other. Serbia has a population of 7.5m; Montenegro only 650,000. Yet Montenegro’s government is determined to hold a referendum on independence next year. If it passes, a new state will be born, albeit supported only by a slim majority of its citizens.

The worst unresolved legacy is Kosovo. Of its 2m people, well over 90% are ethnic Albanians who want full independence. Technically Kosovo remains part of Serbia but, since the end of the war there in 1999, it has been under the jurisdiction of the UN. Now, talks on its future status are starting, led by Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president. Serbia’s leaders say that Kosovo can have “more than autonomy, less than independence”.

The talks will probably end with Kosovo getting so-called “conditional independence”. Between now and then, however, violence is a distinct possibility. Some Serb leaders, in Serbia and in Bosnia, are hinting that, if Serbia loses Kosovo, it should be compensated with the Republika Srpska. They know this will not happen, but by using it as a threat, they hope to extract concessions.

Ten years after Dayton, many in the former Yugoslavia are still gloomy. The region suffers from low standards of living and a serious brain drain, and frustration is widespread. Yet it is slowly progressing towards EU membership. And if the church at Zitomislic is anything to go by, what was once unimaginable may yet be possible.