Friday, September 30, 2005

Kosovo Serb families repatriated

PRISTINA -- Friday – More than thirty Serb families were given the keys to their new houses in the Kosovo[Kosova]yesterday.

Deputy Kosovo prime minister Adem Salihai describe the event as a great day for the 32 families who were returning to their home, adding that the government will continue to work at building a peaceful, safe and tolerant environment for all citizens.

One of the new house owners, Zarko Obradovic, said that the ceremony marked the beginning a new life and called on Kosovo Serbs to forget the past, live together and look to the future.
B92

UN envoy to back talks on Kosovo status-leading to independence?

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 28 (Reuters) - U.N. special envoy Kai Eide will next week recommend the start of U.N.-mediated talks to determine the final status of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province, a European diplomat said on Wednesday.

Eide, in a report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expected next week, will recommend that Annan give a green light to negotiations likely leading to Kosovo's conditional independence, the diplomat said.

"This is a question of managing a process towards conditional independence," said the diplomat, who was briefed on the report's findings but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss it.

The United Nations, which has administered the province of 2 million people since the Balkan wars of the 1990s, has set out a list of standards on human rights, security, law and democracy that Kosovo must show it is trying to meet before the issue of its eventual status can be taken up.

Eide's report will recommend that the final status talks begin even though Kosovo's interim administration has not done as well on the standards as had been hoped, the diplomat said.

It will ultimately be up to Annan to decide when to publicly release Eide's findings, and then whether Kosovo has made enough progress on the standards for the talks to start.

Kosovo's U.N. governor, Soren Jessen-Petersen, said this week he expected Annan to present his conclusions to the U.N. Security Council in mid-October. "I'm now very convinced that by the end of the year ... status talks will be under way," he told reporters in Pristina, the provincial capital.

But Eide's expected recommendations come as no surprise although they are likely to trigger protests from the Serbian government in Belgrade. While Kosovo's 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority is increasingly impatient for independence, Serbia says this is impossible.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said this week in Paris that he expected the final status talks to begin later this year, based on Eide's review.

"To say this will be a delicate process is an understatement. Not only do Belgrade and Pristina hold diametrically opposing views. Both also lack a stable political leadership, able to make tough decisions," Solana told a conference in Paris on Monday.

The United Nations took over running Kosovo after a 1999 NATO bombing campaign to halt Serb repression of its ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population.

Tens of thousands of Serbs then fled the province to escape Albanians bent on revenge for Belgrade's harsh rule, and Belgrade now argues Kosovo's provisional government is doing too little to encourage Serbs to return home and protect those who have already done so.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Picture : Krasniqi vr. Brewster


WBO boxing heavyweight world champion Lamon Brewster of the US (right) takes a punch from Germany's ( Kosovo born Albanian) Luan Krasniqi in Hamburg. Brewster won in nine rounds. F.F.

Kostunica is Trying to Cut secret Kosovo Deal?

BElgrade-Serbia-
Serbian daily,Danas,writes that the former head of the Coordination Centre for Kosovo and the
Social Democratic Party leader Nebojsa Covic has expressed his concern that Serbian
PM Vojislav Kostunica is trying to cut a secret deal on Kosovo and has appealed on
Serbian political parties, the Democratic Party (DS) in particular, to prevent and
protect the national interests.
Covic also dismissed statements given by his successor Sanda Raskovic-Ivic that she
only presented the state proposal for settling the future Kosovo’s status, stressing that
he was always present at all sessions of the state leadership when Kosovo was
discussed and that nothing close to what Raskovic-Ivic presented had been agreed.
Covic assessed that it is dangerous for Belgrade to present its negotiating position
ahead of the upcoming talks and even before the completion of Kai Eide’s report,
especially the ones speaking about the executive, legislative and judicial powers.

Mladic 'threatens Serbs' future'

Belgrde-Serbia-

War crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte is due to hold fresh talks in Belgrade, where the government is under pressure to hand over a top war crimes suspect.
Fugitive Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic is "holding the whole nation hostage," Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic warned.

Gen Mladic, on the run since 1995, has been charged with genocide and other crimes over the Bosnian war.He commanded forces responsible for "ethnic cleansing".

UN tribunal officials in The Hague say Serb hardliners are protecting him.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Draskovic said the failure to catch Gen Mladic was jeopardising Serbia's bid for closer ties with the European Union and Nato and its position in forthcoming talks on Kosovo's status.

Belgrade has long said it does not know his whereabouts, but some government figures have upheld foreign accusations that he is being sheltered by the Serbian and Montenegrin army.

Mr Draskovic said Belgrade could face international isolation unless it handed over Gen Mladic to the UN tribunal in The Hague by 20 November - the 10th anniversary of the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war.

BBC

Conditional Independence for Kosovo[Kosova]

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]

Several Kosovo dailies talk about the idea of "conditional Independence" for Kosovo[Kosova].
Epoka e Re carries an opinion piece on ‘Conditional Independence’ from Ibrahim
Shala, who says that this proposal is an experiment of internationals.
Shala adds that
the freedom of Albanians is being conditioned, just like in the past, because of the
existence, ruling positions and privileges of Serbian community.
According to Shala the greatest tragedy would be that this model be implemented with
the endorsement of the Kosovan leadership.

Lajm, quoting Albanian media, writes that the Albanian Foreign Minister Besnik
Mustafaj gave his support to a Conditional Independence for Kosovo under the
supervision of European Union (EU). According to Mustafa, this solution would
encourage further political maturity amongst Kosovo institutions and politicians.
Mustafa added that Albania would continue to play a moderating role, to foster the
cooperation of Albanians with international community and support an intensive
dialogue of Pristina with Belgrade, writes Lajm.
Epoka, Lajm

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sebian Defence Ministry shipping arms to Iraq

PODGORICA - Montenegro– Hundreds of cases of ammunition and weapons produced by the Serbian Zastava factory in Kragujevac are being flown each week from Podgorica to Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, Podgorica daily Dan claims.

According to the report the consignments include Kalashnikov assault rifles, hand grenades and ammunition.

All are loaded into Russian Tupolev aircraft at Podgorica’s Golubovci airport after being shipped from the central Serbian state-owned factory to Montenegro in trucks with licence plates from the Serbian city of Cacak.

Montenegrin police secure a hundred-metre perimeter around the aircraft during the loading operations, writes Dan.

The daily quotes unofficial sources as saying that the weapons are delivered to Montenegro from army barracks in Serbia and the entire deal is handled by Montenegro’s Jugoimport Media Mont company, which is the name listed on the customs export declarations.

Sources close to the Defence Ministry say that, after the recent army procurements scandal, the Serbian Finance Ministry has begun checking all weapons deals including this one.

Jugoimport Mont director Zoran Damjanovic confirmed for Dan that the company is involved in arms sales via Podgorica airport and said that he has all the necessary documentation for what he described as a legal deal.

“The goods are being sold by the state and the state is behind the entire deal, so there is no doubt about that. We signed a contract with the Serbia-Montenegro Defence Ministry after we were successful in public bidding. These are business deals between countries. One country is dealing with another and Jugoimport Mont is an intermediary,” Dan quotes Damjanovic as saying.

He added that the state was selling surplus weapons which had been stockpiled in barracks but declined to say where the arms were headed.
B92

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Montenegro will be “independent by May”

PODGORICA -Montenegro- Montenegro has no alternative but independence, the republic’s prime minister, Milo Djukanovic said today.

Djukanovic says he is convinced that Podgorica will achieve its goal by the end of April, 2006.

“Declaring independence is one goal along Montenegro’s road to complete European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The referendum on independence will be held some time between the beginning of February and the end of April next year and I am convinced that the majority will vote for separation from Belgrade,” said the prime minister.

He dismissed claims that Montenegrin independence would cause regional instability, saying that the republic was the only part of the former Yugoslavia where there had been no war in past fifteen years.

“We have demonstrated our ability to maintain stability,” he added
B92

Macedonia to Recognize Kosovo’s Independence?

Skopje Macedonia-
Macedonia is ready to recognize Kosovo’s independence after Albania does and after Pristina and Belgrade sign an agreement, correspondent of FOCUS News Agency in Skopje reported, citing sources linked to the government.

According to Skopje’s Television Channel 5, Ali Ahmeti, leader of the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI- An Albanian Party in Coalition government), pointed out that Kosovo’s independence would bring peace and stability to Macedonia and in the region. Ahmeti made this statement right after his meeting with the People’s Movement for Kosovo[Kosova] in Pristina. Such statement could represent the common opinion of Macedonian society.

Media in Skopje informs that BDI partners in the government – the social democrats of Crvenkovski and Buckovski, have not made a comment regarding former NLA ( NAtional Liberation Army) commander’s statement but they do not reject the claim that they are ready to recognize Kosovo’s statute right after Albania does so.

Government circles believe that in the next 18 months, the international community will concentrate on resolving the Kosovo issue and convincing Belgrade to recognize Kosovo’s independence. Therefore, January 1st 2007 could be considered possible independence day for Kosovo[Kosova]. F.F

Solana and Kosovo’s status

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]
-Zëri carries an editorial by publisher Blerim Shala, who says that Solana has now
emphasized some capital moments that will characterize the status process.

Solution of the Kosovo status is based on three main principles; Kosovo borders
cannot change, there should not be division of Kosovo, Kosovo should become an
independent state and the West should continue with its political and military
presence in Kosovo after the solution of the status. This solution is in full
accordance with the stance of Javier Solana, concludes Shala.
Zëri

Djukanovic opens Montenegrin Days in UN

Podgorica-Montenegro-
-At the opening of the event Montenegrin Days in the UN in Vienna, Montenegrin
Premier Milo Djukanovic has stated that there is no better place than the UN for a
state to present and confirm its identity and affiliation with multicultural Europe
and the world. He has expressed conviction that Montenegro, as the state with a
rich multicultural tradition and respect of democratic expression of the will of its
citizens, will find its place and address in the UN.

The event, which is to last until 30 September, has been opened with the Montenegrin national anthem and organized under the auspices of the Montenegrin Government and the SCG Mission with the UN.
RSCG

Janjic: We will remain neighbours

Belgrade-Serbia-
Kosovo[Kosova] daily,Zëri, carries an interview with Dusan Janjic, coordinator of the Ethnic Relations Forum in Serbia.

“One should give up illusions that Kosovo[Kosova] can be controlled
through a military-police force, therefore, we must think about economic
development. Thus, we must talk about the option of Kosovo’s independence,
which would be then verified with accession into the European Union,” Janjic was
quoted as saying.

Janjic also said there would be no direct talks between Serbs and Albanians on the
future status of Kosovo, “although it would have been better if Pristina and
Belgrade would be capable of such talks.”
Zëri

Monday, September 26, 2005

Religious Nationalism in Serbia

B92
William Montgomery



Religion and politics have always been intertwined. It is up to the historians to judge, for example, whether religion was the cause or excuse for the Crusades, the Inquisition, or even the September 11 terrorist attacks. I have been trying to sort out in my own mind the exact role that religion played in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the violence, which accompanied it. I have pretty much reconciled myself with the understanding that I will never really be sure.

It is clear that in the Communist era, the Catholic religion in Poland helped the Polish people enormously to maintain their sense of identity and national purpose. Pope John Paul II's influence in bringing the Communist system in that country to an end is well known and accepted as one of his most significant, positive achievements.

But what of similar religious nationalism in the Balkans? Did it play an equally important role and if so, was it a positive or negative one? Tito and his Partisans initially took an extremely harsh position against religious leaders, accusing them of collaborating with fascists and cetniks and also fearing that they spelled a threat of the type of nationalism he was trying to eradicate. Many were killed, including the Muslim Mufti of Zagreb, the Bishop of Dubrovnik, the Orthodox Bishop of Sarajevo and the Metropolitan of the Croatian Orthodox Church. Archbishop (later Cardinal) Stepinac of Croatia was arrested and imprisoned for refusing to bring the Church under Communist control. Alija Izetbegovic was jailed for expressing strong religious beliefs. Religious property throughout Yugoslavia was confiscated. The Serbian Orthodox church was subjected to great pressures to have the "right" leadership structure. Even as this persecution gradually diminished, it always remained crystal clear to everyone that regular religious practice would close the door to leadership positions in all elements of society from government to party to university to business. Virtually all churches, mosques, and synagogues were starved for funds.

When the Communist party structures started breaking down in the former Yugoslavia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, religious observance in almost all the Republics increased tremendously. It did so not only because prohibitions were lifted, but also because it was an open and now accepted way to show nationalist feeling in a positive way. In other words, as in the Polish case, it was not only an upsurge in religious belief, but to some extent religious nationalism. One of the consequences of this, however, was that it helped to concretely differentiate the ethnic groups from each other. It is no accident, for example, that when the violence started, one of the primary targets was consistently the churches, mosques and monasteries of the other ethnic groups. It is probably impossible to accurately count how many of these religious structures were destroyed or damaged severely in the Balkans over the past decade or so.

Given the degree of repression they suffered under Communism for decades, it is no wonder that some of the religious leaders who came to the fore in those turbulent years of violence in the Balkans were passionate in their beliefs and strong exponents of this religious nationalism. I cannot accurately judge what influence these individuals had on events of the past fifteen years, but it is clear from the public record that some of them did encourage the more extremist elements and their activities. And continue to hold these beliefs now. It is precisely these examples, which, rightly or wrongly, have led to the endless rumors of Mladic, Karadzic and now Ante Gotovina being sheltered by individuals in their respective churches.

There is no question that this extremism, whether in church circles or the public at large, is a major factor impeding the reconciliation which is needed for the region to advance forward in the EU and even economically and culturally. This problem is moderating in Croatia, based in large part on the reality that Croatia is secure within its borders and has no serious external enemies with which to concern it. Under those circumstances, attention naturally is turning towards the more normal peacetime concerns of any society. This is a process, though, and not something which happens overnight. Moreover, every time Carla del Ponte and others issue new threats, warnings, or accusations over support for Ante Gotovina, Mladic, or Karadzic, it retards this very process and revives nationalistic tendencies.

I am much more concerned about Serbia, primarily because the future and exact borders of Serbia still remain uncertain and it is impossible to have political stability in these circumstances. Relations with Montenegro are deteriorating and it seems inevitable that a referendum on independence will be held there in early 2006. Meanwhile the future of Kosovo remains open and volatile. Questions remain, despite all the firm and unending statements of the international community, over the future of the Republik of Srpska in Bosnia.

What this uncertainty does is bring attention to nationalist concerns and leads political parties to focus far more on them than on the critical process of the democratic transition of Serbia. What I have observed over the past couple of years however is a disturbing trend of senior Serbian Orthodox figures taking the lead in religious/nationalist and political activity in a more aggressive way that I had earlier seen. It may well be because they sense a leadership vacuum or lack of significant political cohesiveness in society. In any case, their statements and actions have undoubtedly made it far more difficult for Serbia's politicians to carry out their responsibilities.

There are three major reasons for the increased activism and nationalism of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The first is the age and failing health of Patriarch Pavle, a true moderate who has done his best to safeguard and preserve his Church. A behind-the-scenes struggle for supremacy is underway in the Church among his possible successors and that has led some of them to push the Church into more extreme positions.

The second reason is that the Orthodox Church in general has not yet officially found a way to reconcile with the political developments of the past decades. For political reasons, both Macedonia and Montenegro want to have their "own" Orthodox churches, whereas the procedures for formally carrying out this process have not been completed. Basically, the "new" Orthodox churches need to obtain what is called autocephaly, where their senior bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop elsewhere. Since this has not formally been done, it has created serious conflicts between the existing Serbian Orthodox Church and the newly created Orthodox entities in Macedonia and Montenegro. These have now come to the fore with the Macedonian arrest and imprisonment of a Serbian Orthodox Priest for preaching and the use of a military helicopter by the Serbian Orthodox Church to install a "chapel" on a mountaintop in Montenegro. In both these cases, religious figures initially started the conflict and the resulting uproar led politicians on all sides to jump in with statements and actions that made unfortunate situations much worse.

The third reason is the genuine fear that religious leaders in Serbia have over the prospective fate of their monasteries and churches in Kosovo. They are frightened that any Kosovar independence will inevitably result in the destruction of priceless heritage of Serbia's religious foundation. Satisfactorily addressing that fear is a key principle of any final solution to the Kosovo problem.

While many of the concerns of the Serbian Orthodox Church are legitimate and the overall role of religious nationalism is an understandable consequence of the Tito years, Serbia now desperately needs moderation and pragmatism on the part of its religious leaders as it moves ahead to confront and finally resolve the unsettled questions, which hang over it. That currently is not the case and it is making the political situation even more difficult than it needs to be.

William Montgomery is a former Ambassador to Serbia

Foreign analysts on Serbian plan for Kosovo

Belgrade-Serbia-
The plan of the Serbian authorities for the resolution of the Kosovo[Kosova] problem, according to which Serbia would get sovereignty and Kosovo[Kosova] legislative, executive and judicial power, is more of a description of the present situation and a wish by Belgrade, than a proposal for resolving the future status of the province,foreign analysts opine.

“That proposal is a wish by Belgrade to maintain the
present situation in Kosovo[Kosova], which the international community has already said is unsustainable. If that is what Belgrade will place on the table when negotiations commence, I have to say it is not very attractive,” Daniel Server, the Director of the Initiative for the Balkans at the Washington Institute for Peace told Blic.

“This is a wish by Belgrade to formalize the present situation in Kosovo. Albanians will reject that proposal because they accept nothing less than independence. The question is what the international community is going to say,” Tim Judah, British analyst and expert for the Balkans told Blic.
Blic

PM Kosumi: Kosovo[Kosova] a state in June 2006

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]
Koha Ditore and Bota Sot report that Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi said
in Mitrovica on Friday that Kosovo is going to be a state in June 2006. Kosumi
made this statement after a two-day seminar held in Mitrovica for the members of
the working groups for status talks between Pristina and Belgrade.
Koha Ditore says that in this way Kosumi is prejudging the epilogue of the status talks.F.F

Croatian F.Minister: Kosovo’s independence doesn’t destabilise region

Zagreb-Croatia-
Several Kosovo daily newspapers quote Croatian Foreign Minister Kolinda Grabar-
Kitarovic as saying that Kosovo’s independence would not cause problems or
destabilise the region. Grabar-Kitarovic made these remarks in Columbia
University where she spoke of the Croatian foreign policy and Euro-Atlantic
integrations. Grabar-Kitarovic also said Croatia supports a peaceful agreement
between Pristina and Belgrade.
F.F

The latest paradox of the Serbian President

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]-
In a front-page editorial in Kosovo daily ,Zëri, Blerim Shala criticises Serbian President Boris Tadic for his statement when he said that Serbs, Turks, Roma and other non-Albanians in Kosovo[Kosova] are living today in worse conditions than Albanians during the Milosevic regime.
“Tadic is most probably unaware about his accusation. As
far as his lies are concerned, they are so big that it is not worthy dealing with
them,” says Shala.
Shala also notes that if Serbs and other minorities live in conditions worse than
those of Albanians during the Milosevic regime, “this implies that all those that
have the power in Kosovo[Kosova] today, primarily the international community and the
local authorities, are worse than Milosevi c and his authorities”.
“KFOR is worse than the Yugoslav Army, and UNMIK Police and KPS are
greater culprits than the Serbian Interior Ministry. According to Tadic and his way
of thinking, all of them should be sent before the ICTY. Right?” Shala asks.
F.F.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Reaction to “Securing Kosovo's Future”

This is my point by point “debunking” of Tadic’s arguments. Italicized paragraphs are my writings.
By Ferik Ferizaj
Balkan Update


By BORIS TADIC
September 23, 2005
Wall Street Jurnal

Since my election more than 15 months ago, I have devoted considerable resources reforging a strategic partnership based on common democratic and market principles and interests among Serbia, the U.S. and Europe.

Since your election 15 months ago you have done nothing- No to mention the fact that your power in Serbia is very limited. The real power lies with the Prime Minister Kostunica. Serbia’s relation with the US and EU is the same as it was 15 months ago. “Common democratic and market principles” phrase has nothing to do with what Serbia has done in the last 15 months. This is an attempt on your part to find some sympathy from the American public.

Yet the months ahead will test the strength of our combined efforts, as we enter talks on the future status of Serbia's southern province of Kosovo and Metohija, under U.N. administration since June 1999. Success will cement the region's democratic revolutions; failure could plunge southeastern Europe back into the violence and instability of the recent past.

You cannot possibly be claiming to have been working with the US and EU for some shared goals in the region. In fact the EU and US have repeatedly denounced Serbia’s government obstructionism in relation to Kosovo[Kosova]. In addition to that you have made no effort to arrest war crime suspects roaming the streets of Belgrade- the same cannot be said for the EU and US. It is true that the successful resolution to the Kosovo[Kosova] question will help the whole region. You are stating here an argument that the whole world agrees with. This is again an attempt to find agreements with readers.

As president, it is my duty to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, which the international community unambiguously recognizes as encompassing Kosovo and Metohija. What is equally certain is that the process can move forward successfully only when states begin to coordinate among themselves to find ways of accommodating one another's interests.

First of, International community does not recognize Kosovo with the name you refer to here -Kosovo and Metohija. Secondly, no one disputes your right to defend the so called sovereignty of Serbia. As of right now,thought, Serbia has not such sovereignty over Kosovo[Kosova]. It should also be pointed out that The President of Kosovo has similar duties as yours- defend the sovereignty of Kosovo. One must not forget to mention the fact that Milosevic used this strategy to wage four wars in 1999. Do you intend to go as far as he did?

The challenge of finding a negotiated, mutually acceptable solution must be seen in its proper context. Indeed, during the lost decade of the 1990s, the violent ultranationalism of opportunistic postcommunist strongmen brought great misery to millions of people.

Sounds nice, but we all know that there is no such thing as a mutually accepted solution when it comes to Kosovo. This is pure rhetoric. Your government has lost any right to be trusted by the Kosovo people- as you do not fulfill your end of the barging (as has been shown before). On your second point, sir, you fail to mention the fact that Serbs were the main protagonist of these miseries. It wasn’t some kind of ultranationalism or postcommunism that cased all this suffering- it was the democraticly elected government of Serbia that instigated all the suffering you talk about.
Southeastern Europe today presents a different picture. There is widespread recognition that our joint future lies in full European and trans-Atlantic integration -- a guarantor of democratic prosperity to all who have reaped the benefits of membership. For the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the region looks to a hopeful, reconciled, secure and prosperous future. Certainly, obstacles remain, but the road ahead lies clearly before us.

For the most part this paragraph is accurate. I would just add that Serbia remains the main obstacle to peace and prosperity.[Issues to resolve: Arresting of Mladic and Karadzic, resolution of Montenegro status and interference in Kosovo. And,please stop using poor K-Serbs as your pawns].

But all this tangible progress could be derailed if we do not properly handle the talks on the future status of Kosovo[Kosova], slated to begin in the months ahead. It is imperative that stakeholders in its future come together to build a principled peace with justice by doing the things that a lasting settlement requires.

Correct. A lasting settlement requires that Albanians not be ruled by Belgrade. Or do you somehow fancy Albanians living under your rule? How would that settle the issue?
Regrettably, for some the temptation is either to resolve things by foreign fiat or to succumb to the blackmail of those who argue that violence will follow if their demands are not met.

Wells sir, Kosovars do not have the luxury of taking your word for granted. It is very reasonable to have larger states as guarantors of Kosovo status. Once again, it must be pointed out, Serbian governments are known to renege on their obligations. The talk of violence is not a thread- it’s a rhetoric used by your side to try to score some points. You lost Kosovo violently.

Yet the unmistakable key to securing the region's liberty is to rid it of the nightmare nationalist ideologies of the past where ethnic cleansing, organized church burnings and drive-by shootings are accepted tools of politics. Instead we must embark on a journey that leads to a strategic solution, not an expedient one that takes up the cause of special interests. Thus it would be unreasonable to allow the process to gallop toward a premature solution based on abstract promises, ignoring concrete results already achieved on the ground.

Sir, in this whole article you never mention a thing about Serb crimes Committed in Kosovo and elsewhere, but you keep mentioning “organized churches burning and drive by shooting”. It’s incredible that you dare to compare “drive by shooting and church burning” with mass slaughtering, village burning and pillaging of the whole country. You have the balls to compare these two situations!


In this light, I see Serbia's proactive role in Kosovo's future status talks as an opportunity, not a liability, precisely because the stakes are so high: the future of our democracy, and the future of the region as a whole.

Serbia has no opportunity when it comes to Kosovo. She has plenty of Liabilities, and that has to do with the destruction it caused in Kosovo during the war. We are talking here billions of dollars.

We must all act responsibly in this time of opportunity, and this means that all of us must together formulate the rules that define the approach to a solution. And should Serbia's strategic partners fail to take seriously my country's legitimate interests, such a path would in the end secure no one's liberty.

Please stop trying to suck up to the west. What “strategic partners” are you talking about? Serbia has no such partners in the West. “Such a path would in the end secure no one's liberty”--- are you threatening now? I thought you said force should not the ultimate tool.

For our part, we have already acknowledged that the future status of Kosovo will not resemble that of the 1990s. And in the near future, we intend to put forward concrete proposals on such issues as moving the process of decentralization forward and demilitarizing Kosovo [Kosova[; fighting ethnic- and religious-based terrorism; the sustainable return of the more than 200,000 cleansed Serbs, Roma, Turks and others to Kosovo; genuine promotion of democracy; protection of human rights; and safeguarding of religious freedom.

For your part, you will have very little saying how the status of Kosovo [Kosova] will be resolved. As far as the decentralization is concerned- you have no input there either. It’s the responsibility of Kosovo’s government to do that. Ethnic and religious based terrorism is a Serbian creation- no such thing exists in Kosovo. Please do not speak about other minorities as you do not represent them. They are represented very well in Kosovo’s parliament and government. We are all for human right and religious freedom- including in Serbia.

The demands of diplomacy in regions with consolidating democracies such as my own require moving forward honestly. First and foremost, Serbs and Albanians must speak honestly among themselves and directly with each other.

This paragraph says nothing. Honesty is not a word the Serbian government associates itself with.

Perhaps more importantly, the dictates of honesty make demands of Serbia's strategic partners as well. Double standards may work in dictatorships, but they are fundamentally inappropriate in democracies. Diplomacy must adapt to the democratic requirements and not the expedients to which one had become accustomed when tyrants prevailed in southeastern Europe.

Speaking of double standards-Can you guarantee all the rights to minorities that live in Serbia the same rights that Kosovo[Kosova] guarantees to her minorities? And speaking of democracy, Serbs have shown time and again that they prefer extremists and Neo- Nazis to govern them (Radical Party & Socialism Party). Sounds like you fear an imposed solution!

The U.S. and Europe must come to terms with the fact the situation in Kosovo is much worse than any of us would like it to be. The worst sort of tyranny of the majority reigns over this land. Kosovo's Serbs, Roma, Turks and other non-Albanians live in conditions worse than those in which Kosovo's Albanians lived during the era of Slobodan Milosevic. In fact, they live in the most abysmal conditions of anyone in Europe.

This is hyperbolic exaggerations. How dare you compare the situations Serbs find themselves today (and please don’t mention other minorities as you do not represent them) to the situation Albanians had to go through for decades. How dare you compare occasional shootouts with mass slaughtering? You sound like Milosevic in sheep’s clothing’s.

To gloss over this tragic reality as we approach Kosovo's future status talks is to enter into the process recklessly. This would be of great detriment to the success of our common endeavor, and would blind us to the historic opportunity before us to bring prosperous, democratic stability to the entire region for good.

The reality is that you are glossing over the mass slaughtering and town burning and pillaging that your government committed in Kosovo and elsewhere. How do you expect anybody to take your words for granted?

So let us take up the challenge and do what needs to be done to conquer the past and build a better future for southeastern Europe: a future with no winners or losers, a future of cooperation and integration, a future free of fear, suspicion and mistrust.

So let us take up the challenge and do what needs to be done to confront the past and build a better future for southeastern Europe.

Mr. Tadic is the president of Serbia.
Mr. Ferik Ferizaj is a supporter of the President of Kosovo [Kosova]

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kosovo[Kosova] governor urges status talks

NEW YORK -- Friday – The UN and its members understand that Kosovo can’t remain under UN administration for ever and so will probably approve the beginning of discussions on the final status of Serbia’s southern province, the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, Soeren Jessen-Petersen, said today.

The Kosovo governor, speaking in New York where the General Assembly is sitting this week, said that Kosovo has made enough progress for talks to begin.

Jessen-Petersen says that sufficient progress has been made in meeting the eight standards set by the international community, including steps towards democracy and multiethnicity. At the same time, he insisted, none of the standards have been fully met and a long road still lies ahead for Kosovo.

“I’m convinced that discussions on the status of Kosovo will be under way by the end of this year. I think that it is more and more clear that this is the process, that progress has been made, and that there is still a lot to do,” he said.

The governor said that he expects the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for the implementation of standards, Kai Eide, to recommend by the end of the month that status talks began.

Jessen-Petersen’s comments reflect a growing consensus that discussions should get a green light although the standards have not yet been fully met.

The governor himself says there is growing awareness that the province can’t stay in its present twilight zone and called on the government to think differently about how progress can be made in the region.

It’s no longer acceptable, six years after the UN Security Council established an international protectorate in the province, to continue maintaining Kosovo as a UN operation, he said.

“I think that there exists what we could call a degree of flexibility in understanding what progress is,” he added.
B92 and other Kosova Media.

Belgrade “for compromise” on Kosovo[Kosova]

NEW YORK, -- Friday – Belgrade is for compromise on the issue of the final status of Kosovo[Kosova], Vuk Draskovic said today.

The federal foreign minister told the UN General Assembly that Belgrade is absolutely for compromise on the province’s future status and that the Serbian authorities have taken the maximum step forward in that direction, unlike the Kosovo[Kosova] Albanians who continue to demand only independence, and have not changed their position since before 1999.

“This compromise means that there is no unlimited autonomy or independence for Kosovo[Kosova] because it’s not possible for one side to get everything and the other to lose everything. Serbia-Montenegro is demanding a European degree of protection of the rights of national minorities in Kosovo, protection of the churches and monasteries and European status of the existing state borders with Macedonia and Albania.

“Nothing more, but nothing less, neither according to the UN Charter, nor according to the Security Council’s Resolution 1244,” said Draskovic.

Unrealistic

Analysts, however, believe that Serbian politicians have a distorted view of reality. Bruce Jackson, of the International Commission for the Balkans, says that who Belgrade is planning to negotiate with is not clear to him because he believes that Kosovo and the international community will negotiate on standards.

“The administrative authority in Kosovo must reach certain standards if it wants the international community to devolve any kind of management to that authority. They will talk about that. I think that Belgrade has the mistaken perception that there will be direct negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade which can result in a compromise, with the abolition of the border, granting autonomy on the Swiss model or something similar. I think this is simply not the case. The border won’t be abolished and I think that Kosovo will keep the kind of independent status it has today,” said Jackson. B92

Gashi: Both independence and sovereignty

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]
“We will get both independence and sovereignty,” Raif Gashi, political advisor of
the Kosovo Premier told Blic. “The people of Kosovo[Kosova] will decide. The whole
world is acquainted with the fact that 90 percent of the people in Kosovo want
independence. There is no compromise over that issue. There can be no
negotiations with Belgrade over the status, but over technical issues only,” Gashi said. Blic
F.F

Thursday, September 22, 2005

France does not exclude Independence for Kosovo[Kosova]

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]-
Daily newspapers cover the separate meetings that Prime Minister Kosumi and
Assembly Speaker Daci had with the head of the French liaison office. Koha
Ditore says that France does not exclude the independence of Kosovo as an
option, while Zëri says that France will help Kosovo in the resolution of final
status.
“France will continue to help Kosovo in its path toward development and
democratisation and the resolution of its final status. France also believes that the
political forces in Kosovo will stand united in these important moments,” said the
head of the French office. F.F

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Krasniqi's message to Serbs:You lost the war to Serbicise Kosovo


PDK General Secretary Jakup Krasniqi’s letter
Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]-

Several Kosovo dailies carry an open letter the PDK(Opposition Party) General Secretary, Jakup Krasniqi,addressed to the Government and the people of Serbia.
Kosovo belongs to its citizens – Albanians and others who want to live together.
You lost the war to Serbicise Kosovo. You were here as oppressors and left as you
deserved. Kosovo is now turning to civilization and civic values. We want the
same to happen in your country, Epoka e Re quotes the letter.
Jakup Krasniqi asks the Serbian people to get rid of illusions that Kosovo will
return under Serbian rule, is the headline of Zëri to the letter. “For the sake of new
generations, leave old animosities created by anti-democratic regimes,” Krasniqi
said according to the paper.
F.F

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

AACLC's Fact Finding Mission to Albania,Montenegro and Kosova with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

ALBANIAN AMERICAN CIVIC LEAGUE CONDUCTS

FACT-FINDING MISSION TO ALBANIA, MONTENEGRO, AND KOSOVA WITH CONGRESSMAN DANA ROHRABACHER

by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi

From August 21 to 27, the Albanian American Civic League conducted a fact-finding mission to Albania, Montenegro, and Kosova with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and his wife, Rhonda. In his new capacity as chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, Congressman Rohrabacher wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the political, economic, and cultural challenges facing Albanians in the Balkans. As a cosponsor of House Resolution 24, he wanted to evaluate the possibilities for accelerating U.S. recognition of Kosova’s independence.

The Rohrabachers were accompanied by AACL President Joe DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, and Civic League board members Gjergj Dedvukaj, Haki Dervishi, Adem Dukaj, Myslim Kuka, Gazmend Lita, Marash Nuculaj, Ahmat Zeka, and Kol Zagreda. The group visited and held meetings in Tirana, Kruja, Durres, and Shkodra in Albania, Ulqin and Tuzi in Montenegro, and Prishtina, Gjakova, Meje, and Prizren in Kosova. In what follows are some of the highlights of our journey.

ALBANIA

Meeting with U.S. Ambassador Marcie Ries

Underscoring the importance of Congressman Rohrabacher’s visit, U.S. Ambassador Marcie Ries interrupted her vacation with her husband in Saranda to hold a working breakfast with Congressman Rohrabacher and the Civic League board at the Sheraton Hotel in Tirana. Ambassador Ries emphasized the “special relationship that Albania has with the United States” because of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s role in creating the sovereign State of Albania in the aftermath of World War I and the NATO air strikes against Serbia led by America in defense of Kosova in 1999. “Albanians see the United States as the ultimate embodiment of what they want for themselves,” she said. This is a major reason why she thinks that we need to counter Europe’s historically negative approach to the Balkans and to look at Albania in a positive light.

Ambassador Ries cited the fact that Albania is the second poorest country in Europe after Moldova, a reality that is connected to its emergence only fourteen years ago from a regime that left it somewhere “between North Korea and East Germany in terms of repression and paranoia.” She acknowledged the fact that the “gray economy” and “remittances” from Albanians working in America, Western Europe, and Greece obscure the lack of real jobs in Albania. Nevertheless, she emphasized the economic potential of Albania, with its large population of energetic and educated young people and the possibilities for strong growth in tourism, agriculture, and hydroelectric power.

On the political front, Ambassador Ries said that, while the July 3, 2005, elections were imperfect, they were “a definite step forward.” According to her, the outcome of the elections amounted to “a rethinking of who we are and where we are going,” citing Democratic Party Chairman and Prime Minister Elect Sali Berisha’s “anti-corruption platform” in a society where bribes and corruption currently exist at all levels. She is interested in “pushing Albania forward,” and affirmed America’s commitment to curbing crime, eradicating trafficking, instilling belief in the rule of law, building an independent judiciary, and bringing a solid banking system and real jobs to Albania.

Ambassador Ries credited Albania for its support of America in the war on terror, having committed 150 troops to Iraq. She expressed the hope that the U.S. government would sustain its interest in the Balkans and support Albania as it gets into the EU and NATO track.

Meeting with Prime Minister Elect Sali Berisha

Our meeting with Dr. Sali Berisha in the Tirana International Hotel took place after the rerun of the recent national elections in four electoral zones. Although the count was not yet available, Berisha is expected to assume office as Prime Minister of Albania at the beginning of September.

Berisha opened his discussion with the Civic League about his plan to reach out to members of the Albanian diaspora so that “you can save your national identity wherever you are.” He said that the right of Albanian citizens residing outside of Albania to vote, at least in national elections, would be granted soon, as well as a three-year tax break for Albanians immigrants or members of the diaspora who want to invest in Albania and the opening of summer schools for their children.

Much of his presentation was focused on the need to eradicate corruption, which he said had increased 400 percent since 1996 and to bring jobs to Albania (the lack of which was forcing 100,000 men and women to leave Albania annually). He cited as a positive factor the greater awareness of and opposition to corruption now (80 percent), as compared to 1996 (28 percent). Prime Minister Elect Berisha promised to remove immunity for public officials engaged in corruption, to pass laws preventing members of government from engaging in conflicts of interest, and to appoint an ombudsman from civil society to handle procurement above US$10,000. Congressman Rohrabacher responded by suggesting that Dr. Berisha make it clear from the moment that he takes office that corruption will not be tolerated.

Both Dr. Berisha and Congressman Rohrabacher engaged in a discussion about the importance of taking advantage of the Albanian coastline and the new technologies. Berisha said that “thirty years ago the seaside was empty, and that the country must leave the mountains and return to the sea.” Rohrabacher stressed the importance of providing 99-year leases to investors who want to develop the coastline, a provision that has been on the books, according to Dr. Berisha since 1995, and using the Internet to engage Albania’s young population and to compete on the world market. Rohrabacher also suggested that Berisha make Albania tax-free for writers and inventors around the world.

Congressman Rohrabacher raised an issue at this meeting that he would repeat throughout the trip: the need to counter the false propaganda of Albanians as a potentially fundamentalist, terrorist Muslim force in the heart of Europe. He proposed to Prime Minister Elect Berisha that he offer to augment Albanian forces (which are largely Muslim) in Iraq to 500, and that if Berisha were willing to this, Rohrabacher would announce this from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as part of an initiative to counter the lies and the bias against Albanians as “adherents to radical Islam.” Berisha agreed, citing the centuries-long coexistence of Albanians as European Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Catholics, “who successfully fought for a Latin alphabet and a secular government and who have always stood side by side America.”

MONTENEGRO

Meeting with Dr. Nail Draga, Loro Mariqi, Esq, and historian Riza Rexha.

Dr. Draga, who participated in the Civic League’s delegation to Montenegro with Congressman Tom Lantos in August 2003 and who testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on the future of Albanians in Montenegro in October of that year, addressed the destructive impact of forced assimilation in Montenegro at a working lunch inside the Illyrian Castle in Ulqin, which dates back to 500 B.C. Dr. Draga cited the “Slavicization of education” as one of the biggest problems for Albanians in Montenegro” and called for an independent Albanian institution in Montenegro to foster Albanian culture and tradition. There is no institution of higher learning in the Albanian language, and only 30 out of 8,000 university students in Montenegro are Albanian. He noted that the Serbian government has recently allowed Albanian students in Presheva, Medvegje, and Bujanoc to use Albanian textbooks, but that the Montenegrin government has not yet taken this step. “From the doorman to the government, no Albanians are employed in cultural institutions.” He pointed out that “Rapsha,” the annual summer concert that brings together Albanian artists from across the globe, is financed by the Albanian diaspora.

Both Dr. Draga and lawyer Loro Mariqi drew attention to the siphoning off of the profits of Ulqin’s tourism industry and the confiscation of Albanian land by the government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic under the guise of “restructuring them.” Draga and Mariqi cited the recent liquidation of the salt factory in Ulqin and its transference to Montenegrin Slav owners and employees as part of an historical pattern of confiscation that continues to worsen the economic prospects of the Albanian majority in Ulqin.

Professor Riza Rexha stressed the problem of forced emigration of Albanians in Montenegro, beginning in 1878, after the socalled “Great Powers” at the Congress of Berlin allowed Montenegro to annex Albanian lands, to the forcible removal of 800 Albanian families from Ulqin after the Balkan War of 1912-1913, to the flight of 17,000 Albanian youth fleeing conscription into the Montenegrin military in 1998-1999.

Meeting in Tuzi

Educator Anton Lajcaj and lawyer Muhamed Gjokaj, who have been working with the

Civic League since Congressman Lantos’s visit to Montenegro in 2003, briefed Congressman Rohrabacher and the DioGuardis on efforts to reinstate the status of Tuzi as a commune, to oppose the Capital City Bill, which would carve up Tuzi and place it under the complete control of Podgorica, and to sue the government for the confiscation and transfer to Montenegrin Slavs of vineyards owned by several thousand Albanians (a suit that has been in court for the past seven years). Congressman Rohrabacher expressed his belief that “local people must control local powers” and his opinion that the Montenegrin government would have to grant Albanians in Tuzi the same rights enjoyed by municipalities in which Slavs are a majority if it wanted admission to the European Union.

The briefing by Lajcaj and Gjokaj was followed by a meeting with activists in Tuzi and Mehmet Bardhi, the leader of the Democratic League of Albanians in Montenegro, that focused on Albanian opposition to the Capital City Bill, which is slated to be passed in the Montenegrin parliament this fall. At this meeting, Joe DioGuardi appealed to the Tuzi community to take advantage of “the great opportunity that Albanians in Montenegro have because Montenegro wants to become independent from Serbia and part of the European Union.” Civic League Balkans Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi reminded the community that the Civic League’s initiative on behalf of Albanians in Montenegro began in 2003 with Congressman Tom Lantos, while the effort on behalf of Kosova began in the mid-1980s when Joe DioGuardi became a Congressman. She asked the Tuzi community not to underestimate the impact of Congressman Lantos’s trip to Montenegro, his subsequent Congressional hearing on the “future of Albanians in Montenegro,” and his continuing engagement with Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic about the need to give Albanians equal status. Cloyes appealed to the Tuzi community to help build the case for Albanians in Montenegro in the press and parliaments of the world, and called for the putting aside of divisions in the Balkans and in the diaspora to accomplish this goal. While the United States can help, she and Joe DioGuardi stated that the case for Albanians in Tuzi needed to be made first and foremost in Montenegro.

KOSOVA

Before flying to Kosova, Congressman Rohrabacher, Joe DioGuardi, and Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi met with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu. Congressman Rohrabacher told President Moisiu that “it means a lot that so many Albanians are Muslims and are in Iraq.” He promised to “make it clear to the decision makers in Washington that we owe a debt to Albanians” for coming to the aid of the United States in Iraq, and that we should respond by recognizing the independence to Kosova.

Meeting with U.S. Chief of Mission Philip Goldberg

Philip Goldberg explained that the international community had entered a new phase in Kosova from 2004-2005, with the arrival of UNMIK’s SRSG Soren Jessen-Petersen, who “brought a new attitude and a new vitality to Kosova,” and the return to Kosova of Larry Rossin as his deputy. He credited Jessen-Petersen and Rossin with turning around a UN operation that had “become bureaucratic and was operating from the top down instead of partnering with the people of Kosova.” And he said that Jessen-Petersen and UN envoy Kai Eide would “accelerate the process of devolving responsibility to locals and moving to final status.”

In a succinct overview of the events of 2005 in Kosova, Goldberg divided the year

into three time frames: 1) The elections that resulted in an LDK-AAK coalition with Ibrahim Rugova as president and Ramush Haradinaj as prime minister, 2) Haradinaj’s “dynamic” three and a half months in office, followed by his indictment by the ICTY, and 3) the beginning of final status deliberations with the return of Kai Eide at UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s request.

In a discussion of Ramush Haradinaj, Goldberg stated that Ramush “worked well with the international community” and that “it was a blow when he left.” Congressman Rohrabacher responded by saying that “indicting Ramush Haradinaj was equivalent to indicting Alexander Hamilton” (the eighteenth century American statesman who was a delegate to the Continental Congress and played a decisive role in shaping domestic and foreign policy in the first decade after the American revolution).

Philip Goldberg talked about the need to improve interethnic relations in Kosova between Albanians (more than 90 percent of the population) and Serbs (7 percent). He said that the decentralization process was intended to “reassure Serb communities of their local control,” at the same time that it would “tie them into Kosova.” Currently, Belgrade, which exerts political and financial control over most of Kosova’s Serb population, “has done nothing to help the process,” Goldberg said.

Congressman Rohrabacher asked Philip Goldberg about his views of the propaganda spread in the United States in the aftermath of the March 2004 riots that cast Kosovar Albanians as “Muslim terrorists.” Goldberg stated that the events of 2004 were “a national issue, not a religious issue,” and that nothing like them had taken place since then. He emphasized that Kosovar Albanians are a “very secular population with little interest in radical Islam.” Even though a few mosques had been built by fundamentalist Muslims from Saudi Arabia, they have “not been well received,” Goldberg noted.

Congressman Rohrabacher said that “progress was visible” since his last trip to Kosova in 2000, but he felt that “progress would be greater if we had done something earlier.” Citing the cost of maintaining U.S. troops in Kosova and the fact that more troops are needed in Iraq, Rohrabacher said that “the quicker we move, the better.” Goldberg responded by stating that “declaring independence now is not our view of what is desirable and what should happen.” He stressed the importance of the final status deliberations that will be carried out by a UN envoy from Europe with the help of a U.S. deputy. He also pointed out that there are “big issues that go beyond the interethnic problem,” one of which is the fact that the “European Union has been and will continue to put a lot of money into Kosova and the region.” He stressed the “great opportunity” that Kosova has because it is being offered access to the European Union. Congressman Rohrabacher responded by asserting his belief that “five years is a long time” (since war’s end), that Kosovars have a right “to determine their own destiny at the ballot box,” and that we should permit them to “take over their own country.”

Final status deliberations, pending Kai Eide’s report, are scheduled to begin in the fall.

Philip Goldberg stated that the Contact Group, with Russia signing on, has already agreed

that no partition of Kosova or new unions of countries will take place.

Meeting with Kosova Assembly President Nexhat Daci and members of parliament serving on the Committee on International Cooperation and EU Integration

Kosova Assembly President Nexhat Daci convened an official meeting of the Committee on International Cooperation and EU Integration with Congressman Rohrabacher and members of the Albanian American Civic League in the Assembly building on August 26.

Committee Chairman Sabri Hamiti said that, “Recent developments have brought clarity to the situation in Kosova but not final status.” The “optimum outcome,” he said, is that “Kosova becomes independent based on the will of the people that has already been expressed in a referendum.” According to Hamiti, this position amounts to “a compromise on the Albanian side.” An independent Kosova is “our national compromise”—one that “rules out a ‘greater Albania.’”

Hamiti was critical of the standards imposed by the United States and Europe, because they have been used as “an instrument of buying time.” Kosova accepts the norms, but “not when they are used as an obstacle,” one that “leads us on an infinite journey.” Hamiti said that the independence of Kosova is a “condition for peace in the region” and for the social, political, and economic development of Kosova.

Hamiti warned that the aspirations of Kosova’s people are being thwarted because of lack of final status and that “they may run out of patience one day.” Consequently, he said that the Committee on International Cooperation “expects Brussels and especially Washington because of Kosovar support for the United States to recognize that the time has come for a breakthrough.”

Congressman Rohrabacher responded by saying that “we need to be realistic as well as idealistic.” As an idealist, he said that “Kosova should be free and independent, and elected officials should determine policy and run the country.” This “should have happened yesterday,” he added. As a realist, he said that a “communications war needs to be waged,” because “most people in Washington do not know what is going on in Kosova.” In addition, “because you are a Muslim majority, the lie is being told that you are on the verge of becoming a radical Islamic society.” He said that “Joe DioGuardi, Shirley Cloyes, and their friends are doing a great job in countering this lie and that you need to work closely with them and our friends in Congress.”

In this connection, Congressman Rohrabacher stated that “we are blessed by the fact that the two top people in the House International Relations Committee—Congressmen Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos—are advocates for Kosova.” He urged the Kosova government “to take advantage of an opening in the next eighteen months,” before Chairman Henry Hyde retires, to join with him, Lantos, Hyde, and the Albanian American Civic League in pushing the Bush administration to recognize Kosova’s independence.

Congressman Rohrabacher explained the failure of the Bush administration (like its predecessors) to move forward on final status resolution as the product of “trying to placate others who are not our allies and who do not share our values.” He said that, “You are people who share our values. I have seen that here, and I will make this known in Washington.”

After giving an overview of the Albanian American Civic League’s work in Washington on behalf of Kosova, which has included facilitating three House International Relations Committee hearings since 2003, Joe DioGuardi appealed to Kosova’s parliamentarians to “put political party differences aside in the interest of doing a better job on public relations and lobbying.” You are “not asking for Kosova’s independence in an organized way, and you cannot succeed in Washington unless you work closely together.”

Groundbreaking ceremony for the Mother Teresa Cathedral in Prishtina and meeting with Bishop Mark Sopi in Prizren

The Kosova government and the Roman Catholic Church, led by Bishop Mark Sopi, broke the ground for a cathedral and cultural and educational center in the name of Mother Teresa at a ceremony that was opened by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC. President Ibrahim Rugova, Bishop Mark Sopi, and other speakers emphasized the age-old peaceful coexistence of Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Muslim Albanians and the desire of Kosovars to emulate the values of Mother Teresa. President Rugova graciously acknowledged the presence of Congressman Rohrabacher and former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, who attended this historic event with members of the Civic League at the invitation of Bishop Sopi. In the evening, the group was received by Bishop Sopi in his rectory in Prizren, after which he and Fr. Shan Zefi joined the Rohrabachers, the DioGuardis, and the Civic League board for a celebratory dinner in the heart of Prizren.

Commemoration and burial of the remains of 21 Gjakovars recently returned from Serbia

Congressman Rohrabacher and Joe DioGuardi spoke at the August 26 commemoration and burial in Meje of twenty-one men and boys from Gjakova and surrounding villages who were executed by Slobodan Milosevic’s military and paramilitary forces during the 1999 war. In an effort to conceal the scope of Serbian atrocities in Kosova, Serbian troops secretly transported the bodies of these men and boys along with hundreds of others in refrigerated trucks to Belgrade, where they were reburied in mass graves. The graves were not discovered until 2001, and since then 566 Albanian victims (out of 2,400) have been identified and returned to Kosova. Seeking to bring to international attention the fate of the missing and healing to their families, whose agony has been prolonged by Serbia’s delay in returning the dead, Civic League board member Haki Dervishi and his family helped create the commemorative event in Meje. DioGuardi declared in his speech before a crowd of thousands that Gjakova was the “Srbrenica of the Albanian people” and that Meje was “now sacred ground for all Albanians.”

Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi is Balkan Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League.

Kosovo Albanians welcome the arrests of war crime suspects-Serbs protest

Reactions after arrest of four K-Serbs suspected of war crimes
Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]
Koha Ditore reports on the front page that the arrest of four Serbs in Gracanica
has brought relief among the families of the victims in Sllovi village of Lipjan.
“I was afraid I was going to die before hearing that those who killed my sons got
arrested; now I feel relieved”, the paper quotes 70 year-old Zejnepe Gashi, who
lost her husband, two sons and two nephews.
Other family members are also quoted as recalling the crime scene.
Zëri reports that the four Serbs arrested on war crime charges on Monday have
been questioned and writes that Lubisa Peric has been rendered one month
detention while brothers Maksimovic are waiting for a decision by the judge. Kosova Public Television ( RTK) reported the Prime Minister,Kosumi, as thanking KFOR and Kosovo Police for the arrests.He said the only way to build a democratic Kosovo for all its people is by enforcing the laws- and that means punishing the war crime suspects.

Serbian media , on the other side, have been reporting the negative reaction of K- Serbs. A small group of Serbs gathered in Gracanica to protest the arrests.Politicians in Serbia objected to the arrests of war crime suspects as well.

F.F

Bugajski: New horizons for Kosovo and Albania

Prishtina-Kosova-
Koha Ditore carries an opinion piece by the head of the US Centre for South-
Eastern Strategic Studies, Janusz Bugajski.
“We have entered a crucial period for Albanians in Albania and in Kosovo,
therefore Pristina and Tirana should make sure that big expectations will come
true,” Bugajski said.
Albania has a new government in place and Kosovo is preparing for the status and
is waiting for the international community to decide about the agenda and
timeframes of its status and statehood.
Bugajski also said that Independence of Kosovo is the best solution for the entire region. F.F

Thaçi: Independent and sovereign Kosovo – other options unacceptable

Prishtina-Kosovo-All Kosova dailies quote PDK(opposition party) leader Hashim Thaçi as saying that Kosova will be independent and sovereign and that any other option is unacceptable.
The PDK leader reportedly said this during a meeting with the head of the French Office in Pristina.
According to a press release issued by the PDK, Thaçi expressed optimism that the
political forces in Kosovo will manage to finalise the necessary unity and
consensus. ‘We can overcome the upcoming challenges only if we are united.’
Thaçi also said he expects Ambassador Kai Eide’s report to pave the way to the
final status of Kosovo.

Monday, September 19, 2005

UN defends role of international police in Kosovo

By Eric Jansson in Pristina
Financial Times

Prishtina-Kosovo-
Soren Jessen-Petersen, the UN's most senior official in Kosovo, has mounted a robust defence of international policing in the Serbian breakaway province, after Kosovo's prime minister described the work of the UN police there as a "failure".


Mr Petersen called the prime minister's comments "a sweeping statement that cannot stand". He said UN police deserved enormous credit for helping to prepare Kosovo's local forces eventually to assume control of their own affairs.

Bajram Kosumi, the prime minister, issued a broad criticism of UN police's performance in Kosovo since 1999, when Nato bombing pushed Yugoslav forces out of the province to halt ethnic fighting, ushering in a period of international rule.

The UN mission run by Mr Petersen has since functioned as Kosovo's executive, overseeing the work of an elected provincial government. Mr Kosumi described UN policing as a "constant failure" that had jeopardised citizens' trust in international institutions, including the UN.

Mr Petersen also strongly countered public speculation by Avni Arifi, senior aide to Mr Kosumi, that more cases of UN police officers involved in people trafficking might yet be uncovered. Mr Arifi on Thursday told the Financial Times that the arrest of three Pakistani officers working for UN police could point toward a broader scandal.

The officers arrested three weeks ago, whose names are being protected by UN police, were later released by a local, UN-administered court after facing accusations that they had run a ring that illegally smuggled people across international borders.

Mr Petersen said a formal investigation was continuing. UN police had an "image problem" but he cautioned against undermining the reputation of the entire force in Kosovo, comprised of more than 3,700 officers.

"You will always have rotten apples, and it takes only one or two. We are trying very hard to clamp down on any misbehaviour."

He said UN police officers had arrested their colleagues in the case, calling this proof of the force's professionalism and effectiveness.

While running a major policing campaign to fight the illegal traffic in humans, especially for forced prost-itution, the UN in Kosovo has faced a slow trickle of accusations of this kind.

The UN mission has uncovered at least two cases in which UN personnel were accused of related crimes. A scathing report last year by Amnesty International said having thousands of international civilian, police and military personnel in the province was exacerbating, rather than stopping, sex slavery there.

Kosova President,Rugova, to be treated in the USA?

Rugova to undergo treatment in the United States

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]-Kosova Sot,quoting unnamed sources,says that the President of Kosova,Ibrahim Rugova, has been recommended by his doctors to continue treatment
in the United States.
However, his office has not yet issued any official statement, the paper writes. F.F

Kosovo and UN have one common thing

Common thing for Kosovo and UN –both with unresolved status

Prishtina-Kosovo[Kosova]-
In an opinion piece in Koha Ditore, Brussels’ correspondent Augustin Palokaj
writes that the thing that Kosovo and the United Nations have in common now is
their unresolved status. ‘The difference is that Kosovo, which is under UN
administration, at least knows what it wants and where it wants to go. In the UN,
on the other hand, everything is unclear and chaotic on the day when leaders of
191 countries try to reach an agreement on reforms within this world
organisation,’ Palokaj says.
‘The fate of the people of Kosovo is that NATO didn’t listen to the UN in 1999
and intervened. The UN today is unorganised, complicated, confused and
suspected of corruption, therefore, in the settlement of Kosovo’s status it should
play only a formal role, to formalise what Kosovans decide in cooperation with the
Contact Group, the EU and the US,’ Palokaj adds.

Police arrest four Serbian war crime suspects in Kosovo

Graçanicë-Kosovo[Kosova]-

Daily newspapers report on the pages that four Kosovo Serbs have been arrested
Sunday morning near Gračanica/Graçanicë on charges of committing war crimes
against Kosovo Albanians in April 1999 in the village of Slovinje/Sllovi near
Lipjan/Lipljan. Serbian media have even published their
names: the four men are brothers Zivorad, Slobodan and Milovan Maksimovic and their uncle, Ljubisa Peric. .
The four Kosovo Serbs were arrested by units of UNMIK Special Police after the
arrest warrant was issued by an international prosecutor. The four K-Serbs are now in the Detention Centre in Pristina.
Kosovo police representative Refki Morina could not give any details on the arrests, saying that the Kosovo police have received no information on the operation from UNMIK and KFOR officials.
Kosova Daily and B92

KFOR General Valotto pays homage to Adem Jashari’s grave

Prishtina-Kosova-All daily newspapers report that COMKFOR General Giuseppe Valotto has paid homage to the grave of late KLA General Commander Adem Jashari.
Valotto and his associates laid flowers in Adem Jashari’s grave and visited the
complex honouring the other fallen martyrs of the Kosova Liberation Army.

Zëri quotes General Valotto as saying that he didn’t pay visit in the capacity of
KFOR commander, ‘but as a man that wants to respect the Jashari family, which
has sacrificed a lot for their country.’F.F.

Kosovo[Kosova] business environment “friendly”

PRISTINA -- Monday – The business environment in Kosovo[Kosova] ranks among the most friendly in Eastern Europe according to a study based on the World Bank’s Doing Business index.

The study, by Kosovo researcher Integra, was commissioned by the Kosovo Cluster and Business Support project which is financed by USAID, Washington’s Agency for International Development, the US office in Pristina said today.

"This report will encourage much needed foreign investment by educating the global markets as to the true nature of Kosovo's business environment. It also gives policymakers and business interest groups better intelligence as to where they should focus their efforts for future improvements," the USAID's Kosovo mission director, Ken Yamashita, said in the statement.

The Doing Business index is a ranking of the economy of 155 countries throughout the world. It uses a set of indicators related to business start-up, operation, trade and taxation, analysing the time and cost needed to meet various government requirements. B92 and RTK

Friday, September 16, 2005

Serbia-Montenegro "union"slides closer to divorce

By Douglas Hamilton

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The tottering union of Serbia and Montenegro, salvaged from the ruins of Yugoslavia in 2003, was under mounting strain on Friday as the union president hinted he may quit, a step that could hasten a divorce.

Amid an escalating political row that has highlighted doubts about how long the union can last, President Svetozar Marovic -- a Montenegrin -- said he was demoralised by the job and hinted at resignation.

"I have not felt comfortable in this post for a long time and it has been getting more difficult by the day," he said, complaining malevolent fabrications had caused him "agonies".

"If you need a victim for the sake of good relations between Serbia and Montenegro, I agree to it."

The statement was the latest salvo in a row between Marovic and Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic, who has accused a union minister of corruption in a dispute over costs and whom the president accused of "slanders".

In the brawl over the past two weeks, the spirit of the union has taken such a beating that some commentators consider it already dead, posing a question: if Marovic resigned, would anyone replace him?

Serbia has eight million people, Montenegro 650,000. They run separate currencies and operate separate customs laws, sharing a weak joint council that critics say is dysfunctional, and a union torn by multiplying calls for separation.

Montenegro's ruling party, of which Marovic is a member, aims to end the union and is intent on holding an independence referendum as soon as February -- the earliest date permitted under the charter brokered by the European Union.

In a poll this week 41.6 percent of Montenegrins backed independence and 34.5 opposed it. Polls show no clear trend among Serbs, who have no referendum plan. But some politicians on both sides are decidedly against prolonging the union.

DON'T BREAK UP

Brussels, however, wants to discourage further fragmentation in the Balkans, fearing the emergence of an independent Montenegro and a possibly independent Kosovo in 2006 may inspire independence demands in ethnically divided Bosnia and Macedonia.

With talks on a pact which would set the union on the first rung of the ladder to EU membership due to start next month, Brussels is warning Montenegro that separation would radically slow its prospects. But the warning is being ignored.

In Belgrade, the liberal daily Danas says it is high time Serbia consider "if there is any sense on insisting on the state union if it has no serious partner on the other side to support it".

The dispute erupted earlier this month when Dinkic accused the union's defence minister, Prvoslav Davinic, of corruption for authorising an armed forces procurement deal behind the back of the Serbian government and at highly inflated prices.

The union was dragged in via allegations from Dinkic and others that this was a case of Montenegrins robbing the Serb taxpayer.

After several days of public name-calling, Davinic last week agreed to resign, but said he was the innocent victim of a set-up.

But he is still in office and the row has moved on.

Dinkic now say the president must also bear responsibility for the defence contract that, in his words, would have been "the robbery of the century" had it gone through.

Marovic also came under fire earlier this week for refusing to represent the union at the United Nations general assembly and 60th anniversary summit in New York, apparently due to squabbling over who should go and whom they should meet.

The union sent Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic instead. But Montenegro also sent its foreign minister, Miodrag Vlahovic, who pointedly noted he would be discussing independence.

Next year’s local elections to be postponed in Kosova?

Prishtina-Kosova-
According to Express, it is very likely that the local elections, scheduled for
autumn next year, will be postponed for at least another year. A senior diplomat in
Pristina, ‘who is close to what is called UNMIK’s exit strategy’, told the
newspaper that parliamentary elections could be held in October 2006.
‘Everyone expects the resolution of Kosovo’s status in 2006, after the start of talks
by the end of this year. After the resolution, there are plans to hold parliamentary
elections from which there would be a new Government, under new
circumstances,’ said the unnamed diplomat.
Express

Group of Serbs beat two Albanians in northern Mitrovica

Mitrovica-Kosova-
Several dailies report that based on some information from the northern part of
Kosovo, which has also been confirmed by KPS( Kosova Police), two old Albanians, Shaban Uka
63 and Xhemajl Mehmeti 65, were badly beaten by a group of Kosovo Serbs in the
northern part of Mitrovica on Thursday, writes Koha Ditore.
According to Koha Ditore, the persons have sustained injuries in the head, chest
and face and they are under medical treatment.
Kosovo Dailies

Kosovo PM Supports Initiatives for Unity Government?

Prishtina-Kosovo- Kosovo daily,Express, reports that Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi is aware of the danger of losing the post of the Prime Minister and is ready to leave
the post if required in
order to strengthen the Kosovar political unity, be it through creating a ‘new
government’ conceived by senior international officials.
Express writes that Kosumi was not surprised to see the list of names for the
‘Technical Government’ the paper published yesterday. “Government of Kosovo
supports any initiative aimed at increasing unity and that does not damage unity,”
is the only comment Kosumi gave the paper.

According to the paper, the KTA deputy director, Ahmet Shala, whose name was
mentioned yesterday by the paper as the key candidate for the prime minister’s
post, has started preparations.

SRSG meets Prime Minister Kosumi

Prishtina-Kosovo ( Kosova)-The meeting between SRSG Jessen-Petersen and Prime Minister Bajram Kosumiis covered in all daily newspapers.
Koha Ditore notes on the front page that both
the SRSG and the PM are optimistic about the continuation of the process of
decentralisation. Both leaders are quoted by the newspaper as saying that they are
not going to allow the creation of mono-ethnic municipalities that would divide
Kosovo citizens into Albanians and Serbs.
The paper also says that the two leaders
have categorically ruled out another plan for decentralisation, ‘but have left the
door open for talks with Kosovo Serb representatives on their requests’. The
headline in Koha says PM Kosumi is ready for “compromise” with Serbs.
Under the headline Another door for the Serbs, Express says in its coverage that
‘the PM and the SRSG have agreed that Plan B for decentralisation should be
modified slightly in order to leave an open door to the Serb minority.’
Zëri reports that Jessen-Petersen and Kosumi believe that the negotiating team
nominated by President Rugova guarantees unity in Kosovo. The paper quotes the
PM as saying, ‘This was the final moment for swift actions in this direction and I
believe this negotiating team nominated by the President will guarantee the unity
of processes for moving forward.’
SRSG Jessen-Petersen is quoted as saying that he had constantly called for unity
among the political parties in Kosovo and in this process the leaders should also
respect diversity.
Kosova Dailies

KFOR satire provokes storm in Serbia

BELGRADE -- Friday – A parody of a Beach Boys hit about the 1999 NATO attacks on Yugoslavia has created a storm after the emergence of a video of the song made by Norwegian “peacekeepers” in the province.

Seattle talk show host Bob Rivers used his parody of “Kokomo” to ridicule what he saw as the nonchalant way the US had extended its mission as world policeman into Serbia’s southern province.

At the time, the song provoked little comment. But in 2002 a group of Norwegian KFOR soldiers in Kosovo came across it and decided to make a video.

The two-and-half-minute video shows four soldiers miming to the music -- dancing on watchtowers and armoured trucks, wearing bullet-proof vests and little else, performing routines in their military compound and throwing mineral water on one another.

That was that until Belgrade’s BK Television found the video and broadcast it. It incited an uproar with lyrics which include verses such as “Protecting human rights, air strikes and fire fights, we’ll be dropping our bombs wherever Serbian bad guys hide.

But it wasn’t only the “Serbian bad guys” who were upset. The video is critical of NATO’s presence in Kosovo, the province which it first bombed then overran with thousands of largely ineffective peacekeepers.

A senior adviser to Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, said the video suggested that the NATO mission, which claims to deal equally with the province's majority Albanian population and its Serb community, was biased.

''Such things only help the Serbian side to prove that there is no security in Kosovo, no respect for human rights and no multiethnicity,'' Agence France-Presse quoted the adviser, Slobodan Samardzic, as saying.

''The president was very shocked to learn about this,'' said Vuk Jeremic, the senior foreign policy adviser to Serbian President Boris Tadic. Tadic was particularly upset because the soldiers came from Norway, a country with a strong record for peace initiatives and conflict resolution, said Jeremic.

The video showed that four years after the collapse of Slobodan Milosevic's autocratic government in Serbia, the nation's image abroad is still sullied. ''This is what boys from Norway think about Serbs,'' he said.

Norway's ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro, Hans Ola Urstad, promptly issued an apology calling the video ''highly regrettable'' and promised an investigation. He expressed hope that the video would not do ''serious harm to the longstanding and deep friendship between Serbia-Montenegro and Norway.''

A spokesman for the Norwegian Ministry of Defence said this month that there would be no proceedings against the six soldiers responsible for the video because they had all left the army.
NY Times & B92

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Unity Government for Kosovo[Kosova]?

In its leading front-page story, Express reports that a Provisional Technical
Government led by experts of political parties could replace the Kosumi
Government in mid-October or early November. According to the newspaper,
KTA deputy Director Ahmet Shala is expected to be appointed Prime Minister of
the Technical Government. The paper says that although formally independent,
Shala is considered to be close to the Kosovo Democratic Party (PDK). According
to Express, yesterday evening Ahmet Shala didn’t deny that his name was being
mentioned for the prime minister’s post. ‘We will talk tomorrow about this. I don’t
know what to say,’ Shala was quoted as saying.
Express claims to have seen a list with the names of Ministers of the Technical
Government, which is oriented toward having experts from the four major political
parties: LDK, PDK, AAK and ORA. The paper says that in an agreement with the
key political leaders, Western diplomats have already prepared the list for the new
government. Diplomats, according the paper, have called this a government of
national unity. The initiative for the formation of this government was reportedly
made in summer this year. ‘After strong accusations by the opposition for
corruption in the Government, Western diplomats started working on this idea in
order to rescue the country from an eventual chaos due to the escalation of
accusations,’ added the newspaper. It also says that SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen
doesn’t support the initiative.
Express says that according to the list it has seen, Bajram Kosumi, Adem Salihaj,
Melihate Tërmkolli, Astrit Haraqija and Bujar Dugolli would be removed from the
Government.
Following is the list of the Ministers of the Technical Government as it appeared on the paper’s front page.

1. Ahmet Shala - Prime Minister
2. Lutfi Haziri Deputy PM and Local Government Minister (LDK)
3. Ilhami Gashi - Trade and Industry Minister (PDK)
4. Ethem Çeku – Energy Minister (AAK)
5. Qemajl Ahmeti – Transport and Communications Minister (LDK)
6. Agim Veliu – Education Minister (LDK)
7. Haki Shatri – Economy and Finances Minister (LDK)
8. Enver Hoxhaj – Youth, Culture and Sports Minister (PDK)
9. Ylber Hysa/Genc Gorani – Interior Minister (ORA)
10. Fatmire Mulhaxha – Public Services Minister (ORA)
11. Nerxhivane Dauti – Justice Minister (PDK)
12. Ardian Gjini – Spatial Planning Minister (AAK)
13. Ahmet Isufi – Work and Social Welfare Minister (AAK)
14. Slavisa Petkovic – Minister for Returns and Communities

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Serb appointed KPS regional commander

Colonel Dejan Jankovic has been appointed KPS (Kosova Police Service) commander for the Gnjilane(Gjilani) region.
Jankovic said that he had been acquainted with the competencies in the
police station in Gnjilane and that he will start working in the following days. Its worth noting that while some Serbs continue to isolate themselves, a good minority of them are joining Kosovo's Institutions. In addition to KPS, KPC (Kosova Protection Corps-TMK) has filled all the quotas reserved for Serbs. There is also a Serb Minister serving in Kosovo’s government. FF

Uniformed and armed Serbs sighted in Kosovo

Uniformed and armed men said to be seen in Štrpce/Shtërpcë region
(Koha/Zëri)
Two Kosovar dailies, Koha Ditore and Zëri, report that according to forest guards in the Shtërpce region,
armed and uniformed men were seen in the area several days ago. Koha says that
two US KFOR helicopters were seen lighting the sky over Shtërpce territory on
Sunday and Monday evening. The paper also says that numerous police and
KFOR troops have been deployed in the area.
Koha quotes KPS spokesman Refki Morina as saying, ‘Police in Ferizaj has
received information about uniformed men in of Štrpce/Shtërpcë and is
considering this information’.
Koha Ditore says that the news of the uniformed men comes three weeks after a
statement in Serbian media by a Serb officer who presented himself as the
commander of the so-called Serb Anti-Terrorist Army. The officer had said that
his troops had surrounded two Albanian villages one night after the killing of two young Kosovo Serbs.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kosovo Serb Minister:Eide’s report will be negative ??


The report on the situation in Kosovo[Kosova] by UN Special Envoy Kai Eide will be
negative, but talks on the status of Kosovo will commence this year, said the
Kosovo[Kosova] Minister for Return Slavisa Petkovic. “I know what kind of report will Kai
Eide submit to UNSG Kofi Annan on the situation in Kosovo. It will be an elastic
document with which Eide will try to satisfy both the Serb and Albanian side,”.
Beta

Kosovo PM: I will be the Prime Minister of independence



Several dailies carry an interview Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi gave to
the BBC.
‘I believe in one thing that the process of talks will end in June 2006 and that by
the end of 2006 these talks will be formalized through a UN Security Council
Resolution. I believe I will be the Prime Minister of the independent state of
Kosovo,’ Kosumi said.
Commenting on the frequently mentioned ‘conditional independence’, Kosumi
said it would not be good if independence were conditional, as any ‘conditioning’
would have negative impact on foreign investors and business people.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Albania pins its hopes on youthful government

TIRANA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Prime minister-elect Sali Berisha returns to the helm in Albania on Sunday with a team of young, Western-schooled ministers recruited to his Democratic Party during eight years in opposition.


The former president, whose party won a general election on July 3, is making a comeback from the catastrophe that befell Albania under his rule in 1997, when pyramid savings schemes collapsed and the country descended into anarchy.

Berisha vows to steer clear of corruption allegations that doomed the outgoing Socialist Party government of Fatos Nano.

Countering criticism that his party was better at street protests than government, Berisha opened the ranks to young technocrats who wrote most of the new programme.

Many of them are in their early 30s and were totally unknown at the turn of the year. But almost all of them won their direct races for parliament in July, beating rivals tainted by corruption allegations and winning places in a streamlined government of 14 ministries.

Albania was Europe's poorest country when communism collapsed in 1990. The economy has grown by 6 percent over the last two years, but statistics have not translated into higher living standards and one-quarter of its 3.5 million people live in poverty.

The Socialists, reminding Albanians of Berisha's autocratic streak in the early 1990s, say his new government will be "one prime minister with 14 deputies".

Analyst Andi Bejtja said it had been formed without taking "political or technical criteria" into account.

Why would a justice expert head the transport ministry or a former customs officer the culture ministry, Bejtja asked?

NO YES-MEN

Neritan Sejamini, a Democratic Party candidate for parliament and member of its policy think-tank, said the new ministers represent integrity, dignity and Western values.

"Their age and Western education makes them far less prone to being Berisha's yes-men," he said. "Albania has not lacked knowledge, but integrity and dignity. They have it."

Lulzim Basha, 33, a law graduate of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, will be Minister for Transport and Telecommunications. Reviewing the sale of the country's land-line monopoly Albtelecom to a sole Turkish bidder will be one of his tests.

Basha worked for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal and contributed to the file that sent former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague. He was working for the U.N. in Kosovo before he joined the Democrats.

Arenca Troshani, a 33 year-old dean of the law faculty in the northern town of Shkoder, will be European Affairs minister -- the only woman minister.


The justice ministry will be headed by Aldo Bumci, 31, who holds a masters degree in international relations from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus.


Sokol Olldashi, a 33-year-old former journalist, will head an expanded interior ministry embracing the old public order and local government ministries. Including state statistics and the national property registry as well has raised concern that this jumbo-ministry could be a risky experiment.

Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj, former ambassador to France, will focus on bringing in business.



Finance Minister Ridvan Bode is the man who first alerted the public to the dangers of pyramid scams. He says he plans to halve taxes for small business as soon as possible.

The Democrats' programme also envisages cutting VAT to 17 percent from the current 20, cutting profit tax to 20 percent to stimulate employment and reducing red tape.

Note: Pictures were not in the original article published bu Reuters

Friday, September 02, 2005

Albanian parties angered by sentencing

PRESEVO -- Friday – Albanian political leaders in South Serbia have condemned what they feel to be an overly lenient sentencing of Dusan Jovanovic by the Nis District Court.

Early this year while working as a border guard, Jovanovic shot and killed fifteen year-old Dasnim Hajrulahua while the boy was trying to cross the border. The court confirmed that Jovanovic had violated border guard codes of conduct by not firing a warning shot into the air before opening fire on the young Albanian and sentenced him to one year of prison time.

Presevo Municipal President Riza Halimi said that the courts decision is both scandalous and criminal.

“I hope that this is only the first step of court procedures and that the outcome has a good chance of changing in the second step, because this is an absolutely scandalous decision, without precedent, and I think it soils the reputation of the courts and the nation.” Halimi said.

Another Presevo official, Ragmi Mustafa, said that the court decision shows that the life of a young Albanian is worth only one year of prison, and Democratic Progress Movement President Orhan Rexhepi said “this is not a punishment, rather an award for Jovanovic and a message to other soldiers on how they should deal with Albanians.” B92