Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kosovo and Memorial Day By Wesley Clark

Dear Friend,

Last week, I returned to Kosovo for the first time since I retired from military service.

For me, this trip was very personal. In 1999, I commanded the NATO forces that stopped the genocide against ethnic Albanians by Slobodan Milosevic and his Serbian forces. Now Kosovo is on the road to independence, a nation that respects the rights of all its citizens. It was so moving to return to Kosovo and meet thousands of people who had been liberated from Serbian oppression, hearing their stories and learning about their experiences. You can see some of the photos from my recent trip here.

This was an example of how we CAN do it right: diplomacy first, strong leadership, working with others, and using force only as a last resort. We had a plan for what to do after the operation before we began air strikes.

During the Kosovo War, we were fortunate not to lose a single American soldier in combat -- but in most military operations we aren't so lucky. We owe the men and women of our armed forces our deepest gratitude for their willingness to serve in harm's way, whether it's protecting Americans during natural disasters here at home or defending our country and defending freedom abroad.

Today across America, we take time to remember those who have given their lives defending the cause of freedom throughout our nation's history. This year, as our soldiers are serving with honor in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, and around the world, I hope you will join me in observing Memorial Day, whether it's attending an event in your local community or simply taking a personal moment to remember the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to honor their families.

As this Memorial Day passes, I urge our leaders and all Americans to fully honor our troops and respect their sacrifice. That means ensuring our men and women in uniform are properly equipped, trained, and organized.

That means providing our troops and veterans the medical care they deserve, and providing Reservists and National Guard members health insurance for themselves and their families through TRICARE, the military's health care system, just as the active force does.

That means eliminating the "widow's tax," which penalizes the survivors of those killed in combat by reducing the benefits to which they are entitled.

Finally, as we embark upon our fourth year in Iraq and as the Bush Administration continues its heated rhetoric toward Iran, we owe it to all of our brave service men and women, their families, and to all Americans, to recommit to the principle that military force should only be used as the very, very last resort. Only when all diplomatic, economic, and political options have been exhausted should we send our military forces into battle.

After all, the greatest way to honor our men and women in uniform is to require their sacrifice the least.

Gert and I send you our very best wishes for a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Sincerely,

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kosovo to open representative office in Brussels

All Kosovo dailies report that the UN has agreed about the opening of a Kosovo Office in Brussels as the SRSG Jessen-Petersen announced upon returning from a visit to New York. “The proposal has been supported by Javier Solana too and after talks in New York we can say that in principle the United Nations agree with this proposal,” dailies quote the SRSG as saying.

Koha Ditore reports that the chief of UNMIK has brought back a good news from his visits to Brussels, New York and Washington: UN and EU support opening of a Kosovo office in Brussels. “This office will help the process of Kosovo’s integration in European Union as in NATO.

It has been a requirement and a necessity of the time, now it is a matter of days when this will happen,” Zëri quotes PM Agim Çeku as saying.

According to the chief of UNMIK, Washington and New York have positively assessed the documents provided so far by the Kosovo side in the meetings in Vienna, says Zëri. Jessen-Petersen said that he had talked for two hours with UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his deputy Albert Rohan who asked both Pristina and Belgrade to take a step further in order to be able to negotiate. “Good documents with good positions have been presented, but negotiations imply that you need to be prepared to move beyond these positions,” the SRSG said according to the paper.

General Wesley Clark visiting Kosovo

Former NATO commander General Wesley Clark has arrived today in Kosovo for a three day visit. He was invited to visit Kosovo by the PM Agim Çeku. He will be meeting all the leaders of the country as well as members of the status Negotiation Group. RTK reports that Gen. Clark will also address the Kosovo Parliament. According to his itinerary, he will pay homage to the graves of Adem Jashari and Former President Ibrahim Rugova.

Serbian Church officials attack B92 reporter

A B92 team of reporters was verbally attacked by Serbian Orthodox Church clergy in a church courtyard in Podgorica.

In an attempt to get a statement from the President of the Serbian People’s Party (SNS) Andrija Mandic, member of the political bloc that was against Montenegrin independence, two B92 reporters were showered with insults by clergyman Velibor Dzonic, who called them infidel scum that were not welcome on holy ground. The SNS leader entered his vehicle without giving a statement and only told the reporters that he was unable to assist them.

B92's objective and unbiased approach to the events surrounding the referendum in Montenegro, a policy and journalist ethic that it fosters in regard to all current political and social issues and events, was praised by all participants in the referendum process. However, precisely due to this kind of policy, B92 has regularly been the target of insults and threats by various extremist groups and individuals. B92

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Milo's milestone: Profile of Montenegro PM Djukanovic

The man who put Montenegro on the path to independence

By Gabriel Partos
BBC South-East Europe analyst

Montenegro's PM Milo Djukanovic
Milo Djukanovic: Architect of Montenegro's secession
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has spearheaded Montenegro's successful campaign for independence.

At the age of 44, he is already a veteran politician - having been appointed prime minister on his 29th birthday in 1991.

Apart from President Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia, he is the only leader of a former Yugoslav republic to have survived at the top since the break-up of the old federation in the early 1990s.

Initially, he was a protege of Slobodan Milosevic - the former Serbian president and strongman of the region.

When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina proclaimed their independence in 1991-92, Mr Djukanovic actively supported Montenegro's decision to stay with Serbia in the much-reduced Yugoslav federation.

It was also under his premiership that Montenegrin forces within the Yugoslav army took a key part in the siege of Croatia's historic port city Dubrovnik, and in the devastation of its hinterland in 1991.

Split with Milosevic

But Mr Djukanovic broke with the Milosevic regime in 1997, when Serbia's previously unbeaten, but now shaken, leader was trying to annul his opponents' victories in Serbia's municipal elections.

And later that year he defeated the pro-Milosevic incumbent, Momir Bulatovic, in Montenegro's presidential election, in a narrow victory.

Slobodan Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic went from Djukanovic ally to foe
That was a bold move, since Mr Milosevic had at his disposal military force and economic resources to halt Montenegro's slide towards greater autonomy and independence - means he had previously employed against independence bids by Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia.

Mr Milosevic also encouraged pro-Belgrade elements in Montenegro, whose angry demonstrations against Mr Djukanovic's election came close to ending in large-scale violence.

By then, though, Mr Djukanovic had managed to gain control not only of Montenegro's governing Democratic Party of Socialists and its state administration but also its police, which helped him survive the challenge to his power.

Yet Mr Djukanovic was to show even greater political courage two years later.

Western support

During Nato's air strikes against Yugoslavia over Mr Milosevic's clamp-down on Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population, he declared that Montenegro was not a party to the conflict.

His firm stand during that critical period earned him much sympathy - and considerable financial support - from the European Union and United States.

Western admiration for Mr Djukanovic turned to frustration, though, when the Montenegrin leader insisted on pursuing independence even after Mr Milosevic fell from power in 2000.

The EU was concerned about the potentially destabilising impact of further fragmentation in the Balkans that Montenegro's independence might help engender.

Under pressure from the EU Mr Djukanovic agreed in 2002 to a revamping of Yugoslavia as a loosely-knit union of Serbia and Montenegro -- but only on condition that a referendum on independence could be held after three years.

The union was finally established in 2003, but Mr Djukanovic, by then serving again as prime minister, showed no signs of wanting to make it actually work.

Montenegro resisted holding direct elections to the union's parliament; a supreme court was never established; and the two republics continued to use different currencies and administer different customs duties.

Fresh tensions

Mr Djukanovic's reluctance to make the union function caused resentment among European politicians, who argued that it would be easier for Serbia and Montenegro to integrate with the EU if they stayed together.

That came on top of an earlier blow to his popularity among EU leaders following an announcement by an Italian magistrate that he was investigating Mr Djukanovic on charges of involvement in cigarette smuggling during the 1990s.

It is a charge Mr Djukanovic has vigorously denied.

Meanwhile, as the union's three-year trial period was about to end, Mr Djukanovic took another gigantic gamble earlier this year by yielding to the EU's insistence that the vote for independence should secure at least 55% of the turnout to be valid.

That was a huge risk, given that opinion polls were showing support for independence hovering around the 55% figure.

Mr Djukanovic has managed to clear that hurdle by just 2,000 votes.

Now he can lead his country to independence and - as he believes - his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) to another election victory the autumn.

How long Mr Djukanovic will continue as prime minister is another matter, as he has repeatedly hinted at plans to retire from politics and concentrate on business.

A tall, athletic figure, he would enjoy having more spare time to play basketball.



Kosovo Serbs on Montenegrin independence

Kosovo Serbs’ political representatives have assessed that

independence of Montenegro will represent additional motive and encouragement to Albanians to fight for independence of Kosovo. Kosovo Serb representatives stated that the will of the citizens of Montenegro expressed in the referendum should be fully respected, and asserted that the secession of the republic could largely influence a resolution of the Kosovo problem.

SLKM head Oliver Ivanovic has said that independence of Montenegro has no political or legal implications to Kosovo, but that it will have a psychological impact on Albanians and be very destructive for the Serbs’ interests in the province. Oliver Ivanovic has assessed that, if the preliminary results of the referendum turn out to be final, then Serbia should undertake urgent steps to regulate relations with Montenegro, “because this will give it an opportunity to concentrate on the main problem – talks on Kosovo’s status.”

Member of Belgrade’s negotiating team Marko Jaksic believes that proclamation of Montenegrin independence will lead to a more difficult position of Serbs in the province and Belgrade’s position in the negotiations on the status of Kosovo.

Commenting on the preliminary results of the Montenegrin referendum, SNC leader for northern Kosovo Milan Ivanovic has stated that there are a lot of similarities between the Montenegrin and Kosovo regimes, which he described as separatist. Ivanovic told Tanjug that the Kosovo and Montenegrin authorities have common lobbyists, while they are also similar by “renouncing Serbs and expelling them,” noticing that “Montenegro renounced 260,000 of its citizens who live in

Serbia.” Milan Ivanovic has assessed that Albanians in the province will use the proclamation of Montenegrin independence to weaken UNSCR 1244 in view of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the SCG.

SNC Vice-President Rada Trajkovic expects a “more serious campaign of the Belgrade authorities for preserving its state borders that also imply Kosovo.” Beta/Tanjug

Albanians and Bosniacs make Montenegro independent

Montenegro is definitively going to an independent state after the publication of preliminary results by the National Commission yesterday and where the pro-independence parties won slightly more than the threshold imposed by the European Union.

However, according to the yesterday’s data, the 55% threshold was passed by only 2000 votes, so was the number of Albanians that came all over from US to vote for the independence of
Montenegro, says Koha Ditore. A short analysis of the voters’ turnout would conclude that the majority of pro-independence votes were cast in the Albanian dominated town of Ulinjc and the Bosniac dominated town of Rozaja.

The voting was largely competitive in capital Podgorica and Niksic.

Kosovo-wide broadcasters covered extensively and commented on the results of the Referendum. Reportedly, the first results show that Referendum on Independence won the support of 55.5% of voters.

All K-wide broadcasters reported that Brussels institutions such as EU and NATO, as well as Council of Europe, welcomed the well organized referendum. Javier Solana was quoted as saying that Montenegro and Serbia should sit together and define their future relations as neighbors.

TVs also reported that Kosovo leaders welcomed the results of referendum in
Montenegro, but stated that the referendum does not affect the Kosovo processes towards the status resolution. PM Çeku was quoted as saying that he hopes Kosovo will celebrate its final status by the end of the year as well.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The split from Serbia


May 22nd 2006
From Economist.com

With a few votes still to count, Montenegro favoured independence in a referendum on Sunday May 21st, ending the loose federation with Serbia


Soon Europe will have two new states. With 95% of the votes counted from Sunday’s referendum in Montenegro, on independence from Serbia, 55.4% of voters were in favour of the break. It is possible, but unlikely, that the few votes still to be counted will change this. The much more likely prospect is that Serbia and Montenegro will negotiate their divorce in the weeks and months ahead.

Sunday's referendum was one of the final acts of the 15-year drama of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. But it was not the last. Within a year, the two new states are likely to be joined by a third—the southern province of Kosovo.

Into the early hours of Monday morning jubilant supporters of independence celebrated in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, and in other towns across the tiny Adriatic republic. "Tonight, with the majority decision by the citizens of Montenegro, the independence of the country has been renewed," said the prime minister, Milo Djukanovic.

Montenegro lost its independence when it became part of Yugoslavia in 1918. When other Yugoslav republics seceded in the early 1990s, Montenegro remained in a joint state with Serbia.

Under the terms of the deal negotiated by an envoy from the European Union, a 55% majority was required on Sunday for Montenegro’s independence to gain EU recognition. The nightmare scenario was that a majority might have voted in favour, but falling short of 55%. In that case the region could have been tipped into months of political turmoil. That seems to have been avoided.

For many, the result, if confirmed, will come simply as a relief. Politics in Montenegro has been dominated by the question of sovereignty for so long now, that most ordinary people are exhausted by it. The country has only 672,000 people, 18% unemployment and average salaries hover in the region of €200. Families have been split down the middle by the independence issue. They want the government to concentrate on improving conditions for employment and on raising living standards.

Montenegro will now seek international recognition. Serbia, with 7.5m people, does not need to do so, because it will be the successor-state to the old "state-union". In a now-ghostly apparition, Serbia and Montenegro will still compete as one country in the football world cup. The local football authorities had prepared for this eventuality. But not, it seems, the Serbian government.

Mr Djukanovic will travel to Brussels in one week to ask for formal recognition from EU countries. By contrast, the government of Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian prime minister, seems at a loss. "This is a blow, both politically and psychologically for Kostunica," says Braca Grubacic, a Serbian political analyst. Mr Kostunica had opposed the independence of Montenegro, appearing to believe that it would not happen, and had not prepared for it.

Mr Kostunica's government also opposes the independence of Kosovo, which has a big majority of ethnic Albanians. But that seems inevitable too, either later this year or early in 2007. "Things are crumbling" says Mr Grubacic.

Officials from the EU are relieved by the result in Montenegro. Their insistence on a 55% threshold was something of a gamble, aimed at securing a result which would be hard to contest. Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, may not be drinking champagne today, says one source, but he does have one less problem to deal with.

The Serbian Lobby Attempts to Hijack U.S. Foreign Policy on Kosova

by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi

With signals coming out of the Contact Group that the Prishtina-Belgrade negotiations will soon consider the issue of Kosova’s final status, there has been much jubilation in Albanian circles. Almost seven years since war’s end, elation about the prospect of ending Kosova’s political, social, and economic limbo as a UN protectorate is understandable. Nevertheless, it may also be premature.

As Kosova moves closer and closer to becoming an independent state, the Serbian lobby in Washington (including the Serbian Unity Congress and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States, Belgrade, and Kosova), have intensified their efforts to derail Kosova’s independence. Knowing that the Contact Group and other international bodies are prepared to impose a solution if final status talks break down this summer (and I believe they will), the Serbian lobby is waging a war in the press in a last-ditch effort to sway official and public opinion in the United States in its favor.

Their goal is to secure the partition of Kosova—which has always been Belgrade’s endgame—by instilling fear in the United States, especially in the U.S. Congress in a post 9/11 world, that Kosova’s Albanian majority represents a Muslim, potentially terrorist, force in the heart of Europe. In reality, Kosovar Albanians, like Albanians everywhere, are largely secular Muslims,Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians who have lived together in harmony for centuries. Albanians, who see themselves first as Albanians and second as people of faith, pride themselves on their religious tolerance. This has been given no better expression than in the fact that Albania (with help from ethnic Albanians in Kosova, Montenegro, and Macedonia) is the only nation that can claim that it rescued every Jew who managed to get inside its borders during the Holocaust.

Serbia’s media war is a dirty war—not only because it is spreading anti-Albanian racism and misusing religion to gain political advantage in the West—but, above all, because it is placing news reports and op-eds in major U.S. newspapers that are written purportedly by “neutral” political and religious analysts, who are actually connected to the Serbian lobby and their well-known law-lobbying firm in Washington, DC. In what follows, I will attempt to expose the leading actors in this effort (which is directed at winning over unwitting American readers) and establish their interrelationships. In my opinion, it behooves the political leaders and all the people of Kosova (the Albanian majority and the Serb, Roma, Turk, and Ashkalli minorities), the Contact Group, the United Nations, and the European Union to oppose Belgrade’s efforts to undermine the international effort to bring peace to Southeast Europe once and for all.

The Venable Law Firm Contract with the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

On April 24, 2006, in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call and on May 1 in the “Full Disclosure: New and Notes from K Street” section of the Legal Times, the first reports appeared that Venable, LLP, one of the premiere law-lobbying firms in Washington, had "inked a deal in March with the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija , a group representing displaced Serbs whoremained in Kosovo after the 1999 NATO intervention.” Both papers said that Venable would receive US$600,000 over a six-month period for providing the group “with strategic tactical planning on foreign policy matters before the U.S. government.” The announcement in Roll Call indicated that Venable would receive an additional $100,000 per month if the contract were extended.

On inspection, the contract filed on March 22, 2006, with the U.S. Department of Justice, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, between Venable and the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, c/o Abbot Simeon (Vllovksi) at the Banjska Monastery, is signed by James Jatras, and includes the following points: The arrangement encompasses “providing strategic counsel and tactical planning on foreign policy matters before the U.S. Government (Executive and Legislative branches) and related media work.” Venable’s services to the Serbian National Council “will include those of the media service, Global Strategic Communications Group (GSCG), acting at Venable’s direction to include media preparation and outreach, assistance in crafting policy statements, op-ed and editorial placements, electronic information stream, media monitoring, formation and administration of an American policy council, crafting and placement of paid media, and reporting and advice.”

“Media preparation and outreach”: Venable’s Principal Offering to Belgrade

Associated Press:

On April 14, just a few weeks after the Serbian National Council signed its contract with James Jatras at Venable, David Hammer of the Associated Press released an article on AP’s “Worldstream,” entitled “Serbia wants U.S. Congress to help put brakes on Kosovo’s independence.” The article stated that Serbia was “urging the U.S. House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and say that the breakaway province of Kosovo is not now ready for independence.” Albanian journalists in the Balkans reacted negatively to the description of Kosova as a “breakaway province,” in view of the fact that Kosova was annexed by Serbia after World War I. Meanwhile, the Associated Press failed to comment on the fact that the Congressional resolution introduced by Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) in December 2005 (H.Res. 634), in support of S.R. 237, introduced by Senator George Voinovich (D-OH), had been ignored by the House Committee on International Relations, where the leaders, Congressmen Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde, had earlier introduced H.Res. 24, which calls on the United States to recognize Kosova’s independence now.

In the AP article, Vuc Jeremic, Serbian President Boris Tadic’s chief foreign affairs adviser, was quoted as saying that, “Congress could provide important political cover for Serbia’s centrist coalition leadership if it would emphasize Kosovo’s failures to meet the requirements for independence [emphases mine].” But this is not what has happened. In May 2006, the United Nations Mission in Kosova publicly stated that the Kosovar government was meeting its obligations under the plan of standards implementation. Meanwhile, the international mediators in the Prishtina-Belgrade talks announced that they would begin to lay the groundwork for final status talks later this summer.

The Washington Times:

In addition to miscasting Albanians as a terrorist Muslim force in Southeast Europe, the Serbian lobby has been pouring a lotof energy since the end of the 1999 war into painting Albanians as the leaders of organized criminal networks involved in trafficking human beings, drugs, and arms in the Balkans. On May 9, The Washington Times published an opinion piece by James “Ace:” Lyons, Jr., entitled “Kosovo Consternation,” in which he deemed the fight against trafficking as an “integral part of the war on terror,” and cited Kosova as a center of illicit activities in Southeast Europe, dating back to the Kosova war of 1998-1999. Lyons, a retired admiral in the U.S. Navy, denounced the Kosova Liberation Army as a body with “criminal and terrorist inclinations tied to operations of the Albanian mafia across Europe.” What the Washington Times failed to mention in publishing Lyons’ article is that the author is not an expert analyst, but a member of the advisory board of the “American Council for Kosovo,” a front organization for the Serbian lobby created by Venable and their in-house Global Strategic Communications group.

The American Council for Kosovo—Venable’s “American foreign policy council”

The American Council for Kosova is identified on its website (www.savekosovo.org) as “an activity of Venable, LLP, and Global Strategic Communications, both of which are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as agents for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija.”

The website of the American Council for Kosovo lists the articles that the organization has placed in the Western media over the past year, including the May 9, 2006, article by James Lyons in The Washington Times that opposes Kosova’s bid for independence and casts it as a criminal and Islamicized state.

Interestingly, the list of the Council’s Advisory Board members includes not only James “Ace” Lyons Jr., but also Doug Bandow, who resigned on December 15, 2005, as a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, and as a syndicated columnist who frequently appeared in the pages of The Washington Times, after admitting that he had accepted payments for the past decade from lobbyist Jack Abramoff in return for publishing articles favorable to Abramoff’s clients. This raises questions about Bandow’s record as a “neutral” observer of the Balkan conflict. In March 1999, Bandow was one of five witnesses, including former UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Senator Bob Dole, and me in my capacity as Balkan Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League, who testified before a House International Relations Committee hearing chaired by Congressmen Tom Lantos and Ben Gilman regarding whether or not to deploy U.S.ground troops in Kosova. Kirkpatrick and I vigorously supported the deployment of U.S. ground troops to save the lives of Kosovar Albanians under attack from Serbian military and paramilitary forces; Kissinger and Dole were willing to support the U.S. Congress in whatever choice it would make; and Doug Bandow staunchly opposed sending U.S. ground troops to Kosova for the same reasons that the “American Council for Kosovo” puts forth today to block Kosova’s right to self-determination.

In addition to James “Ace” Lyons, Jr., and Doug Bandow, the Advisory Board of the American Council for Kosovo includes Ambassador James Bissett, Andrew G. Bostom, Thomas Gambill, Julia Gorin, William J. Murray, the Rev. Canon Keith Roderick, Wanda Schindley, Sir Alfred Sherman, and Robert Spencer. (The community of journalists should investigate whether these advisory board members are paid by the lobby for their publications on its behalf.)

William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, deserves special attention here because, at the behest of the Serbian lobby, he led a “fact-finding mission” to Kosova in the wake of the March 2004 riots. Although the conflict in Kosova is not religious, but political and economic in nature, Murray concluded that there was a“jihadist hatred against all Christianity” on the part of all Albanians. His report, which he coauthored with Institute on Religion and Public Policy President Joseph Grieboski, has been widely circulated on Capitol Hill.

James Jatras—Venable’s Representative for the Serbian National Council

James Jatras, a Greek American with a long history of pro-Eastern Orthodox and anti-Muslim activism in the Balkans and formerly senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee (1998-2002), signed the agreement between Venable and the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija (SNV) on March 22, 2006. Far from being a neutral observer of Balkan affairs, Jatras is a paid lobbyist for the SNV and an Orthodox extremist with deep connections to the Serbian Unity Congress. Jatras has written numerous articles aimed at warning Americans about the threat of militant Islam in Southeast Europe, several of which appear in a magazine connected to Bosnian Serb groups called Chronicles. (Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles’ foreign affairs editor, was formerly the official spokesperson for indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.) Jatras was the keynote speaker at the 9th Serbian Unity Congress and a principal in the Serbian-American-made propaganda film, Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War” produced and directed by George Bogdanich. And during the Kosova war, it was Jatras, in his capacity as senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, who commissioned and circulated Yossef Bodansky’s outrageously spurious report in the House and Senate, entitled “Kosovo: The U.S. and Iran’s New Balkan Front,” in an effort to block Congressional support for intervention in Serbia’s war against Kosova and to discredit the Kosova Liberation Army.

The Baltimore Sun—Misrepresenting the Kosovar Serbs

On May 10, an article by Christopher Deliso, entitled “Botched Kosovo intervention dims hopes for peace,” appeared in The Baltimore Sun. Whether Deliso, an American freelance journalist who runs Balkanalysis.com out of Skopje, Macedonia, is connected with the Jatras/Venable contract is not known. Nevertheless, Deliso clearly identifies with the Serbian lobby’s frenzy to undercut final status resolution in Kosova by painting Kosovar Serbs as a community under siege who “will flee as nationalist militants remobilize to purge Serbs and annex Albanian inhabited areas of Macedonia and Montenegro,” as soon as Kosova becomes independent. The truth is that most of Kosova’s Serbs, like Kosovar Albanians, simply want to live in peace. Walk through the streets of Gjilan today, for example, and you will see Albanian women purchasing goods from Serbian women in an outdoor market. As the international community has made clear since the negotiations between Prishtina and Belgrade commenced this winter, it is Serbia, not Kosovar Albanians, that is obstructing the integration of Kosova’s Serbs into Kosovar society. The NATO troops who will remain in Kosova after final status resolution to monitor protection of minority rights will discover that independence is the key, not the obstacle, to peaceful coexistence among ethnic groups.

The Danger of Albanian Silence

Albanians have continued to underestimate the need for public relations and competent lobbying in the United States, and have failed to respond to Serbian propaganda out of the belief that it represents a fringe element and that the case for Kosova’s independence is a just one that will succeed on its merits. Recent events (as well has the historic treachery against Albanians emanating from Belgrade) have shown that this is a mistake. Left unchecked, the fringe can easily become the center, especially when backed by the kind of resources that the Serbian National Council has put in the hands of Venable and Global Strategic Communications. Until Albanians provide valid information about Kosova, no one should be surprised if the American public and their political representatives, consumed by the war in Iraq and the energy crisis, believe the false reports that they receive in the press emanating from Belgrade. And no one should underestimate the potential impact of those reports when final status negotiations commence.

The time has come to refocus international attention on the victims of Slobodan Milosevic’s ruthless drive to rule a greater Serbia—the 300,000 Bosnian Muslims and Kosovars who died and the four million who were displaced in the course of four brutal wars.

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

Interview with the Chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation Steven Heinz

How do you see the solution for the future status of Kosovo?

“Without wishing to opt for any of the possible options, I must,nevertheless,
say that the reality is such that Kosovo will most probably become independent.
In that sense, it should be dealt with the manner in which this process can be
managed so Serbs in Kosovo could reach a satisfying status so their
municipalities would have wide self-government and so they would have
enough means from Belgrade at their disposal.”

What is the biggest danger on the day after the decision on the status of Kosovo?

“If everybody doesn’t join that process, the biggest danger is that Kosovo
Albanians will experience the myth that independence will be a solution for all of
their problems – but it won’t. The Serb side will experience the myth that
independence of Kosovo, if it occurs, will represent a cataclysmic outcome of
those negotiations.”

Part of the international community considers “limited sovereignty” to be the
most certain form of the future status of Kosovo, but for Belgrade that is far
from the best possible solution?

“I think that is precisely what we have today. It is obvious that Belgrade isn’t
managing Kosovo at present, that UNMIK has the final say, where the local
authorities in the province have an increasing role. I think that such a model of
“limited sovereignty” or “conditional independence,” whatever we call it, is not
good in long terms, as it leaves too many problems unresolved.”

Still, is it possible to resolve all those problems by the end of the year?

“No, surely not all of them. Some problems will be resolved, while resolving some
of them will be postponed, but that is the nature of politics. That is how things are
resolved.”

If you were a politician in Serbia, how would you announce to the citizens
that Kosovo would become independent?

“It is difficult for anyone who is not a Serb to answer that question. I think
there are Serb politicians who would probably be ready to say that we
should concentrate on the priorities with such an outcome: and this is
security and protection of Serbs in Kosovo.

If I were in the position of Serb politicians, in case of such an outcome,

I would insist on the economic aspect of the entire issue. Therefore,
that is in the interest of Serbia itself. If we wish to fulfill all standards
from the corpus of European standards on the road towards integrations
to the EU and if Kosovo is a factor that is holding us on that road, then
let’s concentrate on the future, no matter how painful it is and how
much we regret losing Kosovo.”
Politika


Vetëvendosja’ calls for boycotting products from Serbia

Daily newspapers report that the Albin Kurti-led Vetëvendosja Movement
has launched a new campaign – the call to Kosovar citizens to boycott
products from Serbia.

Koha Ditore quotes members of the Vetëvendosja as saying that the
campaign will last until Serbia gives up on Kosovo, admits the crimes
it has committed and pays for the damage it has inflicted.

The dailies also report that the movement leader Albin Kurti gave a press
conference where he said that the campaign is aimed at promoting local
products, “something that UNMIK and the Kosovar institutions have failed to do.”

Koha Ditore also notes that the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce assesses as

positive the campaign, although it says that it has more of a political than an

economic character. “Such a thing [the campaign] will only stimulate local

products,” said a senior official of the Chamber of Commerce.

PM Çeku interview to Der Spiegel

Kosovo daily Koha Ditore ( Daily Times) carries an interview Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Çeku gave to German weekly Der Spiegel

Many investors will come to Kosovo, a quote attributed to Çeku, is the

headline to the interview.
During the interview Çeku said he expects the independence of Kosovo

to come by the end of the year and said that the international

community has agreed to independence, which has no alternative.

Çeku further said that there should be an international presence in

Kosovo for as long as it takes for minorities to build trust in the new state of Kosovo.

Montenegro independence: Readers react


Two Montenegrin voters and two Serbians gave their reaction to the BBC News website and look ahead to the challenges facing both countries in the wake of the result.

DEJAN KNEZEVIC, 26, ECONOMICS GRADUATE, NIKSIC, MONTENEGRO

Dejan Knezewic
It's very difficult for me to accept this result. I voted against independence and really didn't expect to lose.

But the people of Montenegro have voted and we will have to accept this defeat.

It was the Muslim, Albanian and Croat minorities who voted for independence.

The Orthodox Serbs - of which I am one - who make up one-third of the population will find it hard to accept this defeat.

Things will get worse for Montenegro now, I believe.

The best choice was to remain part of a strong union with Serbia. Montenegro is too small to survive alone.

It won't be better for ordinary people. It will only get worse
This win will only benefit the ruling government who, I think, will try and create a private state that only serves the interest of themselves and their tycoon friends.

They don't want to form a democratic independent state.

I will now try and leave Montenegro and move to Belgrade. There will be no more opportunities for Serbs here.

Corruption is high in this country, as is crime. The salaries are some of the lowest in Europe, yet there are the select few at the top who have all the money.

I also don't think our prime minister really wants EU membership for his people.

He only wants to serve his own interests and those of his rich friends.

I'm really disappointed because Serbia was a great country, but this is just another occasion when it is on the losing side.

DUSKO PETROVIC, 40, MANAGER , IT COMPANY, PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO

Dusko Petrovic
This result finally confirms what we expected - that the people of Montenegro want an independent state.

It is better for us to be separated from Serbia. It is particularly beneficial to our economy and good for small businesses.

It will be better for us coming from a smaller market, particularly when we join the EU, which I now expect will happen in the next few years.

We have two very different economies in Serbia and Montenegro.

We use the euro in Montenegro whereas Serbia still use the Dinar. With the euro has come monetary stability.

I believe Serbia and Montenegro will have better relations as independent states.

After suffering in the past with division, instability, and Nato bombings, it is now time for us - like many in this region - to move on
It has been hard to make things work as one federal state. We always had to wait much longer for crucial decisions from Belgrade.

Now we can make our own decisions much quicker and in our own interest.

We need to look to the future now and promote tourism in Montenegro and persuade our young people to stay.

I am not fully happy that the vote was so close and that so many people still think differently.

However, after suffering in the past with division, instability, and Nato bombings, it is now time for us - like many in this region - to move on.

ZELJKO KOSTIC, 28, ARMY SERGEANT, BELGRADE, SERBIA

Zeljko Kostic
We are all Serbs and it is foolish for the people of one nation to live in two separate bordering countries.

We are destroying ourselves. It's really bad that we keep separating from each other. Kosovo will probably be next.

The world is watching and they must think we are a bunch of loonies.

Both governments should have sat down together in Belgrade and worked out a better solution than this.

Then again both governments are corrupt.

Montenegro is already one of the poorest countries in Europe but now I think it will get even poorer
It really hurts to live here. People are really disappointed the Serbian government has not done anything to improve our lives. There is no real sense of democracy.

As for what will happen in Montenegro after independence, I can only see a difficult situation for the people living there.

The Albanians, I think, will seek control of their own areas.

There is already a big division between northern and southern Montenegro and I see this getting worse.

The people in the north need Serb support and they will find it hard to survive without it.

Independence will definitely hurt the people of Montenegro more that Serbia.

Montenegro is already one of the poorest countries in Europe but now I think it will get even poorer.

They have turned their backs on us now, so we won't be going there on holidays, which will hurt their crucial tourism industry.

Also this has hurt our chances of EU membership. We had a better chance when we were together.

JANJA BOBIC, 36, WEB DESIGNER, BELGRADE, SERBIA

Janja Bobic
The people of Montenegro have made the right decision.

It was only a matter of time until this happened.

Montenegro was already independent in many ways.

This just confirms their independence.

The 'federation' of Serbia and Montenegro functioned only in the hearts and minds of nostalgic people in this country.

In reality, the two countries only had loose ties.

Kosovo's independence will also surely follow by the end of the year
At least our government will not now have to be obligated to support two governments and two populations.

Independence will give the people of Montenegro more opportunities as well, like paving the way to their own EU membership.

Kosovo's independence will also surely follow by the end of the year.

If only the division of all parts of the former Yugoslavia could have been solved like this - by votes instead of war. BBC

Profile of Montenegro


05/22/2006(EITB)

The official language is the Montenegro variant of Serbian, increasingly called Montenegrin, which has a lot in common with Bosnian and Croatian.

Following is a profile of Montenegro, the small Adriatic republic that voted by a narrow margin on Sunday to end its union with Serbia and complete the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, according to projected referendum results.

History

The area of present-day Montenegro was populated by Slavs in the 6th century, evolving into a feudal state that went in and out of Byzantine and later Ottoman control.

It developed a unique system of administration, combining the rule of
prince-bishops and national and clan councils. It became de facto independent in the late 18th century and proclaimed a kingdom in 1910, but was incorporated into Serbia after World War I. It was reinstated as one of six equal republics in the
former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

It stuck by Serbia when Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia declared independence in the early 1990s in the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia. The rump Yugoslavia was renamed State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003.

Ethnic Make-Up

Of Montenegro's 620,000 people, 43.2 percent say they are Montenegrin, 32 percent Serb, 7.7 percent Bosnian, 5 percent Albanian and 4 percent Muslim. The rest mark themselves 'other'.

The official language is the Montenegro variant of Serbian, increasingly called Montenegrin, which has a lot in common with Bosnian and Croatian. Albanian is the second official language in areas where Albanians make up the majority of the population.

The Orthodox Church is predominant, with Islam as the second religion. Roman Catholics and smaller Christian sects are represented as well as Judaism.

Geography

At 13,812 sq. km, Montenegro borders Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo and Albania. Montenegro means "Black Mountain" and thick forest covers almost 55 percent of the land. Its varied topography makes for four different climate zones, with sunny beaches on the Adriatic coastline, rainy limestone hills overlooking fjords, fertile lowlands along river valleys and high mountain ranges. The Tara River canyon is the deepest and longest in Europe.

Podgorica, formerly Titograd, is the administrative capital and biggest city. The official capital is Cetinje, the royal seat of the medieval state.

Politics And Government

Montenegro is a republic, with the president as head of state and the prime minister as head of the executive. The main parties in the 75-seat parliament are the ruling,
pro-independence Democratic Party of Socialists and Social Democrats and the pro-union Socialist People's Party and Serb People's Party.

Economy

The mainstays of the former socialist economy were heavy industry, agriculture and maritime services, all of which were hit by the sanctions and wars of the 1990s. The government is trying hard to erase the image of mafia-ridden lawlessness the country acquired in that time and to attract investors, especially in tourism along the Adriatic coast, which it sees as the main growth sector.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Montenegro, The newest country in Europe

Montenegro heads for split from Serbia

Montenegrin pro-independence rally
Montenegro has voted for independence from its union with Serbia, according to unofficial projections.


Montenegro voted on Sunday to end its union with Serbia, according to an unofficial projection of the referendum result, a move which would complete the break-up of the last remnants of the former Yugoslavia.

The Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CESID) and the Centre for Monitoring (CEMI) told a news conference the 'Yes" vote was an estimated 56.3% - surpassing the 55% threshold required for the outcome to be validated.

"The preliminary result is 56.3%, which means that we already have quite a stable situation with the proviso that this is not the final estimate," said Zlatko Vujovic of CEMI.

Waves of celebratory gunfire and fireworks thundered across the capital Podgorica moments after the unofficial result was broadcast.

If upheld by official results due early on Monday, the outcome will dissolve a partnership with Serbia going back to 1918 in various forms. Montenegro would be the last of ex-Yugoslavia's six federal republics to part company with Serbia since 1991.

The mountainous Adriatic republic has only 650,000 people but pro-independence leaders say it has a better chance of economic prosperity on its own than in a dysfunctional union with Serbia.

Crowds of mostly young people rushed towards the main boulevards of the capital in cars and on motorcycles.

Turnout was between 85 and 90%, referendum monitors said. Both camps had said they could benefit from a big vote.

The required 50% turnout was reached in the first few hours of voting. Under criteria agreed with the European Union, over 55% of voters must say "Yes" for independence to be uncontested.

No reports of trouble

There was little doubt ahead of the poll that the pro-independence camp would emerge stronger but the question was whether the "No" vote could deprive them of the 55% majority.

"This is a big day for Montenegro," said pro-independence champion Milo Djukanovic, the country's prime minister and former president. "Its answer to the referendum question will open the doors to Euro-Atlantic integration."

Queues had formed early at polling stations across the country. Elderly men dressed in their Sunday best filled in pink voting slips which asked simply: "Do you want Montenegro to be an independent state?" Answer yes or no.

There were no reports of trouble. Turnout was heaviest in the north, dominated by ethnic Serbs expected to reject a break with Serbia. In the south, minorities such as Albanians and Muslims were expected to vote overwhelmingly "Yes".

The union of Serbia-Montenegro, the last vestige of the former Yugoslavia, was created in 2003, but its two republics have been in some form of joint state for almost a century.

Serbia is the dominant partner in the union with 7.5 million people and an economy 10 times bigger. Its government has appealed to Montenegrins not to go.

Serbia-Montenegro was created with the mediation of the European Union, which was afraid of further fragmentation in the Balkans. Before that, the two neighbours were together under two monarchies, then in Tito's Yugoslavia and in the Yugoslav federation of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Pro-unionists cherish the historical and cultural links with Serbia. Besides, they say, Montenegro needs the jobs, education and health care their neighbour can provide.

Yet a divorce will have little practical effect. The republics already have different laws, policies and currencies, sharing only defence and diplomacy. The joint parliament rarely meets.
Source: Reuters

Montenegro referendum easily meets turnout rule



By Ellie Tzortzi

PODGORICA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Montenegrin voters turned out in strength on Sunday for a referendum on whether to dissolve their union with Serbia and become Europe's newest independent state.

The required 50 percent turnout was reached in the first few hours of voting. Under criteria agreed with the European Union, over 55 percent of voters must say "Yes" for independence to be uncontested. Voting was due to end at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. British time).

There was little doubt ahead of the poll that the pro-independence camp would emerge stronger but the question was whether the "No" vote could deprive them of the 55 percent majority.

"This is a big day for Montenegro," said pro-independence champion Milo Djukanovic, the country's prime minister and former president. "Its answer to the referendum question will open the doors to Euro-Atlantic integration."

Queues formed early at polling stations across the country. Elderly men dressed in their Sunday best filled in pink voting slips which asked simply: "Do you want Montenegro to be an independent state?" Answer yes or no.

There were no reports of trouble. Turnout was heaviest in the north, dominated by ethnic Serbs expected to reject a break with Serbia. In the south, minorities such as Albanians and Muslims were expected to vote overwhelmingly "Yes".

"Did you vote?" men sitting in a cafe shouted to friends passing by in the Albanian-majority resort town on Ulcinj.

Gezim Hajdinaga, an ethnic Albanian who is Montenegro's Minister for Ethnic Minorities, said the rights of minorities would be best achieved in a sovereign Montenegro.

"I think 57-58 percent of voters will show they want Montenegro's independence," Hajdinaga told Reuters.

BYE-BYE YUGOSLAVIA, AGAIN

The union of Serbia-Montenegro, the last vestige of the former Yugoslavia, was created in 2003, but its two republics have been in some form of joint state for almost a century.

"A sovereign republic is better for all of us," said Sadija Kurpejovic, a clerk in her mid-30s.

"Why should we have to live together with someone when all the former republics separated and were then better off. I look at Slovenia, I think we'll be like them in a few years."

Slovenia, Yugoslavia's most prosperous republic, was first to quit the federation in 1991 and first to join the EU in 2004.

The referendum commission said it would not declare the outcome before Monday morning at the earliest. Non-governmental organisations planned to project a result by midnight.

Even before voting began, supporters of independence were setting off fireworks and roaring around the capital on Saturday night, car horns blaring. The national flag, banner of their campaign, was draped from hundreds of balconies.

Serbia is the dominant partner in the union with 7.5 million people and an economy 10 times bigger. Its government has appealed to Montenegrins not to go.

Serbia-Montenegro was created with the mediation of the European Union, which was afraid of further fragmentation in the Balkans. Before that, the two neighbours were together under two monarchies, then in Tito's Yugoslavia and in the Yugoslav federation of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Pro-unionists cherish the historical and cultural links with Serbia. Besides, they say, Montenegro needs the jobs, education and health care their neighbour can provide.

Yet a divorce will have little practical effect. The republics already have different laws, policies and currencies, sharing only defence and diplomacy. The joint parliament rarely meets.

(Additional reporting by Beti Bilandzic and Benet Koleka)

Montenegro in independence vote


A Montenegrin voter casts his ballot
Montenegrins are expected to vote largely along ethnic lines
The tiny Balkan republic of Montenegro is voting on whether to split from Serbia, in what could herald the final dissolution of the former Yugoslavia.

The independence referendum is asking Montenegrins whether they want to end their union with Serbia set up in 2002.

Enthusiastic voters quickly passed the 50% benchmark required to validate the vote, which has deeply divided the republic.

The pro-independence bloc needs 55% of the votes cast to ensure victory.

Serbian officials and church leaders, as well as anti-independence Montenegrins, have urged voters to reject independence, invoking the strong cultural, economic and family ties between the two republics.

Sunday best

Queues formed early at polling stations, which opened at 0800 local time (0600 GMT).

MONTENEGRO'S CHOICE
Population: 670,000
Last remaining ex-Yugoslav republic tied to Serbia
Already has autonomy, uses Euro not Serbian dinar
Prime minister and many ethnic Montenegrins driving for independence
Belgrade and many ethnic Serbs are opposed

There was a steady stream of voters. One man said: "This is the most important day for Montenegro in 100 years."

The polls are due to close at 2100 (1900 GMT) and first official results are expected on Monday, though election monitors are hoping to have an accurate prediction by the end of Sunday.

Voters, some of them dressed in their Sunday best clothes, pondered the referendum question: "Do you want Montenegro to be an independent state with full international and legal legitimacy?"

The build-up to the vote had reached a climax on Saturday night, with independence supporters setting off fireworks, blaring car horns and draping the national flag from their balconies.

Diaspora vote

The campaign for independence has been led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who argues it will bring faster European integration and a stronger economy.

In the days running up to the vote, thousands of Montenegrins living abroad have travelled home in order to cast their ballot.

With a population of fewer than 700,000, it is these votes from the diaspora that could ultimately decide the fate of the republic, says the BBC's Nick Hawton in the capital Podgorica.

The country seems to be divided largely along ethnic lines, with ethnic Montenegrins and Albanians in the coastal west favouring independence, while the more Serbian areas near the eastern border prefer the status quo.

Supporter of union with Serbia
Opponents of independence are worried about the economy

The last time Montenegro was independent was nearly 90 years ago at the end of World War I, when it was absorbed into the newly formed Yugoslavia.

Under a European Union-brokered deal, the independence bloc needs 55% of the vote to be successful.

One of the key questions is what happens if a majority do vote for independence but the 55% threshold is not reached, our correspondent says.

Despite the peaceful run-up to the vote, some observers have expressed fears that the result of the referendum - whatever it is - could trigger a spasm of violence.

There is a precedent in the Balkans, with the Bosnian war beginning on the day the country voted for independence in 1992.

But these fears were played down by Prime Minister Djukanovic, who said: "The security forces are ready, but I'm sure there won't be trouble. We have learned our history lesson." BBC

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Floating a balloon

May 19th 2006 | PODGORICA
From Economist.com

Europe will get two new countries if Montenegrins vote for

independence on Sunday May 21st. But if only a slender

majority opt for it, the Balkans could see a new period

of instability

BY THE standards of tiny Montenegro, the rally was impressive. Perhaps as many as 50,000 people packed the main square of the capital, Podgorica, on Thursday night and transformed it into a sea of red-and-gold banners. Girls draped themselves in flags and perched precariously on car roofs. Their boyfriends, chanting and hooting horns, drove them on victory laps around the town centre. The organisers even brought out a hot air balloon made of material in the national colours.

On Sunday Montenegrins will finally get a chance to say whether their tiny republic should stay in a loose federation with Serbia, or gain its independence. The rally on Thursday was the last, big, pro-independence push by the government and its supporters. All across town billboards sport bold, giant, "Yes" slogans. Far fewer, featuring tired and moustachioed men, exhort voters to reject independence.

Montenegro has only 672,000 people but what they decide on Sunday could have a big impact in this part of Europe and beyond. Separatist Basques and Catalans in Spain are keeping a close eye on this potentially peaceful secession. If Montenegro secedes there will be two new countries in Europe, Serbia and Montenegro. Neighbouring Kosovo hopes soon to gain independence too, through UN-sponsored talks that began in February. Indeed, that seems almost inevitable there, so by the end of the year Europe could have three new countries.

But, for Montenegro, this remains a big “if”. It is far from clear whether voters will opt for independence and many fear that the poll will instead provoke a new Balkan crisis. A referendum on independence in Kosovo, which is overwhelmingly inhabited by ethnic Albanians, would see over 90% in favour. In contrast Montenegrins are deeply divided. Most of them share a language, a religion and a history with Serbs. Some 30% of the population identifies itself as Serb.

Some 3,330 foreign and local observers will fan out across the country on Sunday. Many voters say they are enduring severe pressure. Thousands of party activists from both sides have been double- and triple- checking on people to see how they are going to vote. Many believe, rightly or wrongly, that their jobs are on the line because so many jobs depend on party allegiance. Stories of vote-buying abound, though these are impossible to prove.

The European Union has been heavily involved here. Trying to ensure that those opposed to self-rule would take part, the EU has insisted that it would only recognise a call for international recognition if the victors got over 55% of ballots cast. Government sources say that a recent, but unpublished, poll shows they will get 59%. Many are sceptical. The worst result would be the “grey zone”, that is 50 - 55% in favour of independence. If that happens, and if rival supporters take to the streets to celebrate “victory”, violent clashes may occur. “I have tried to persuade my elderly mother to leave town,” says one resident of the capital.

According to an EU-brokered deal, if the vote is less than 55% then the Montenegrin government must commit itself to making the union with Serbia work. This will not happen. The Montenegrin authorities will instead push the already feeble union to collapse, meaning that the region will enter a period of renewed instability.

A deflating omen

Montenegro lost its independence in 1918 when it became part of the new Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian and Croatian wars in the 1990s the country, led by then president and now prime minister Milo Djukanovic, stuck close to Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic. Only in 1997 did Mr Djukanovic adopt a hitherto marginal pro-independence platform. A remarkable survivor he has now been in power for 17 years though he is still only 44 years old.

If the vote is less than 50% he will resign, but if not he is likely to remain there for some time yet. But the prospects for Montenegro are less certain. Anyone seeking an omen might note the fate of the independence-supporters’ hot air balloon. As the crowd left, instead of seeing it soar they saw it rapidly deflate.

Friday, May 19, 2006

INTERVIEW OF MILO DJUKANOVIC, PRIME MINISTER OF MONTENEGRO TOTHE MAGAZINE “EUROPE DIPLOMATIC NEWS’’


1.Mr. Djukanovic, you have the reputation of one time youngest Prime Minister in Europe and also you have held this important office for a number of terms. This means that you are a true politician by vocation and that you are very successful in this, given that you are extremely popular among the citizens of Montenegro. How do you explain this mood among the Montenegrins: by reforms that you have conducted; promises you have made for the future; results you have already achieved?

I believe that confidence that the citizens of Montenegro place in the in the policy that we as Montenegro’s leadership pursue is based on a combination of all these elements you have mentioned.

Going through a host of difficulties over the last decade and a half Montenegro resisted numerous temptations and pressures at the hands of the Milosevic dictatorial regime. At a time when in our Balkan neighbourhood we had fierce inter-religious and interethnic conflicts, Montenegro managed to preserve inter-religious and interethnic tolerance and hold out against Milosevic’s intent to draw Montenegro, too, into his conflict with NATO in 1999. So Montenegro remained the only ex-Yugoslav republic on whose territory no war was waged.
When it achieved security and political stability after the fall of the Milosevic regime and the 2002 Parliamentary election, Montenegro devoted itself to comprehensive social and economic reforms.

Consequently, we gained and kept our citizen’s trust by making promises that were realistic and by keeping them. At the same time we were conducting reforms that produced results, which are now becoming more and more visible. That is why I am confident that the policy that we pursue will continue to enjoy a strong support of the citizens.

2. What are your future plans in regard of development of Montenegro? In regard of tourism? In regard of industry? In regard of culture?


3. In some quarters there is a belief that Montenegro, if it becomes independent, will not have a sustainable economy without Serbia. Your answer to this dilemma?


There is no room for such a dilemma since arguments prove that Montenegro is a completely viable system. It is absolutely certain that Montenegro, with a population of about 670,000, can make quite a good living using the resources it has for development of tourism and services, and then of agriculture and other sectors. As I have already said, in addition to security and political stability, we have also achieved macroeconomic stability, creating institutional framework for an accelerated economic development. I will mention just a few data that illustrate macroeconomic stability, which, at the same time, best evidence Montenegro’s capability to pursue economic development on its own. The inflation rate, measured by growth of retail prices, for the first 11 months of this year was 1.7 percents and the budget deficit was below 2 percents, i.e. at the level of the euro zone countries. We are registering growth of GDP and growth of industrial output. The number of unemployed persons is decreasing – now they are 49,000, or about 30,000 less than three years ago, when this government took office.

4. How do you comment on the position of the EU on the wish of Montenegrins to become completely independent and be in charge of their future in a way they want? How can one persuade them that two states, Serbia and Montenegro, can live their destinies on their own, as friendly neighbours and in peace?


Our determination to regain independence is well thought out. Such a choice is no belated whim of national-romanticism, but the expression of our wish and our need to take full charge of our European future.

Our experience of the last fifteen years or so of a dual federation with Serbia has shown that such a disproportionate union cannot be efficient and functional. In such a union, fifteen to eighteen times bigger Serbia has the need to dominate and Montenegro does not want such a position.
Besides, during various phases Montenegro was held hostage of the policy pursued in Serbia and in the first place of the insufficient Serbia’s cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. We do not want the position of a hostage.


That is why Montenegro is determined to restore its statehood in order to take full responsibility for managing its European future. By end of April 2006 at the latest we will exercise the right provided for by the Belgrade Agreement and the Constitutional Charter and organize a democratic referendum in which the citizens will pronounce themselves on the state status of Montenegro.
Montenegro will undoubtedly achieve its strategic national interests and these are taking charge of its European future and membership of European and Euro-Atlantic integrations.

We believe that such a solution is also in the best interest of Serbia. We believe that Serbia, too, should take charge of its European future and address its own issues. Serbia is the biggest state in the region, therefore it has the greatest impact on the regional stability. So, whatever our status, it has to be in our interest to have democratic and European processes taking place there in order that a democratic and European Serbia can be the factor of stability in the Balkans. And Serbia will be democratic and European when it becomes an independent state.

Our openness for building close relations with Serbia in future, too, has been demonstrated by a very concrete offer we have made to Serbia proposing establishment of a union of independent states of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia, however, has rejected this initiative and the citizens of Montenegro will in a democratic referendum determine the status of their state. I am confident that their decision will convincingly be in favour of independence.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Kurti: The disillusioning

In an opinion piece in Epoka e Re, Albin Kurti, leader of the Self-Determination Movement, writes that “now that Serbia has aggravated relations with the European Union regarding the Mladic issue, it is dangerously naïve to believe that it [Serbia] give ground on the issue of Kosovo for the sake of European integration.”

Kurti says that today we are witnessing how the negotiating politicians want by all means to back down the people’s revolt and to be justified for their concessions through false promises for the independence of Kosovo this year. “However, as of yesterday we have seen the first statements that the status resolution is being delayed for next year, and we are hearing this from the chief negotiator himself.

Now that Serbia has aggravated relations with the European Union regarding the Mladic issue, it is dangerously naïve to believe that it [Serbia] give ground on the issue of Kosovo for the sake of European integration. The international factor always chooses the path of less resistance. They always carefully observe and respect the willingness of governments and peoples for opposition and confrontation. The way Kosovo stands today – politically and institutionally de-factorized – it is no surprise that its independence and sovereignty has so little support,” writes Kurti.

According to Kurti, Ahtisaari’s latest statement is yet another proof that the international community doesn’t plan to force Serbia to accept the independence of Kosovo. In fact, the pressure will grow bigger on Kosovo and mainly on its people and not on the politicians who never put up sufficient resistance.

“Not only the ‘final status’ was turned into a ‘future status’, but now it is also being delayed. They are certainly not crazy to say that the status is being postponed until 2010 or 2012; they will always delay the status for a year in order not to diminish the illusions that ensure civic calmness.”

Kurti concludes by saying, “In the long-term plan we will either fade away or adapt. Therefore, we must confront right now and without a halt if we want to be

Pristina believes Montenegrin people will vote pro independence

Zëri reports that Kosovo officials say that although there is no direct link between the processes in Kosovo and in Montenegro they say the both countries share the same objective to part from Serbia. And they say they will respect the decision of the majority Montenegrins in the referendum.

“I think that the independence of Montenegro is a real option and that it will serve the stability in the region and a closer cooperation among the countries,” the paper quotes PM Agim Çeku as saying.

“I am sure the citizens of Montenegro will take the right decision, especially

Albanians there,” said Skender Hyseni, spokesperson of the Kosovo Negotiations Team. “Albanians there would for sure achieve their rights more easily in an independent Montenegro,” said former PM Bajram Rexhepi.

Around 50,000 Albanians live in Montenegro making about 8 % of the population, the paper reports. In general all the officials said that they will respect the outcome of the referendum in Montenegro scheduled to take place on 21 May.