Saturday, March 24, 2007

"U.S. strongly supports independence"

Source: B92, Reuters

WASHINGTON, BELGRADE -- Washington reaffirms support for Ahtisaari’s plan for the independence of Kosovo, the State Department said Friday.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement ahead of Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns’s visit to Brussels saying that the Undersecretary would underscore the U.S.’s strong backing of Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for the Serb province.

Burns "will hold a series of meetings on Kosovo with European leaders in which he will communicate strong U.S. support for U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan for the future of Kosovo," according to the office of department spokesman Sean McCormack.

As Reuters reports, the United States and EU have set an unofficial deadline of June, when Germany's EU presidency ends, to adopt a new U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing Ahtisaari's plan and mandating the EU to take over from the U.N. mission.

On Monday, Burns is to speak to the Centre for European Policy Studies and on Tuesday will meet senior NATO officials to discuss military operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

He will have separate talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Ahtisaari’s plan to be revealed Monday

Ahtisaari’s finalized plan for Kosovo will be revealed on Monday and submitted to UN SC members, Remi Dourlot says.

“Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo status settlement will be officially given to all members of the UN Security Council on Monday, March 26, and revealed to the public the same day,” Ahtisaari’s spokesperson Remi Dourlot told B92 Friday.

He added that the date of the UN SC session dedicated to the UN special envoy’s finalized proposal for the future status of Kosovo was not officially set.

Dourlot reminded that Great Britain which would preside over the Council in April would was likely to schedule the session April 3 by .

“The presiding country usually adopts the agenda of the Council’s sessions a week ahead it takes over the rotating presidency,” Dourlot explained.

He also confirmed that Martti Ahtisaari had no plans of meeting with the Contact Group beforehand. Fair use.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The costs of non-Europe

Serbia's future
Mar 22nd 2007- The Economist

How Serbia loses from its frosty relationship with the European Union.

UNNOTICED by the world, Montenegro has taken a big step in its relations with the European Union. On March 15th it signed a stabilisation and association agreement (SAA), usually the first step to EU membership. Informally, it is a stamp of approval from Brussels.

Serbia too should have an SAA by now but, because it has not arrested such war-crimes suspects as Ratko Mladic, talks were broken off last year. By contrast, Macedonia signed an SAA in 2001, before graduating to candidate status in 2005. A new study by the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think-tank, shows how much difference being on the EU ladder makes.
Consider the textile industry. In Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in January, textiles are booming. In part this is down to low labour costs, but it is also because they are close to the huge EU market. Macedonia's textile industry, centred on the town of Stip, has also revived. Although unemployment is generally high, there is a shortage of textile and clothing workers in Stip. In 2002 the industry employed 4,000; by the end of 2006 the number was 7,000, and it should soon be back to its 1990 level of 8,700. Greeks, Germans, Turks and Swiss are all investing in Stip.
The contrast is with Leskovac, in Serbia, once a world-famous textile town. In 1990 some 11,000 people worked in its textile and clothing factories. Now the industry employs fewer than 900. Although Serbia has attracted some foreign investment, most of it has been for lucrative privatisations. The lack of an SAA deters other investment: an EU official told a Serbian newspaper this week that Serbia had lost investment worth €1.5 billion ($2 billion) because of this.
A debate has begun in Brussels over whether to restart the SAA talks with Serbia, even if it does not produce Mr Mladic. No such luck for Bosnia. An agreement on an SAA was ready last year, but the EU will sign only if Bosnians agree on police reform—which they still have not done. This week in London, Sven Alkalaj, Bosnia's foreign minister, lamented that unless a deal is done by the end of March, EU timetables mean that “we will lose a year.”

Kosovo and Russia:Veto threats

Mar 22nd 2007-The Economist

Kosovo is heading for independence whatever the Russians say or do
HOW and when will Kosovo become Europe's newest state? These are questions that European and American diplomats are grappling with at the United Nations. What they are not doing is wasting time debating whether Kosovo should be independent—for it is too late to stop it.

Kosovo is home to some 2m people, at least 90% of whom are ethnic Albanians who have long demanded independence from Serbia. Since 1999 it has been under UN jurisdiction, although it is a province of Serbia. Some 14 months of UN-sponsored talks chaired by Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, have not produced a deal. So Mr Ahtisaari has unilaterally presented his plan for Kosovo's future to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. He proposes independence for Kosovo, but with conditions, including an EU-led mission to succeed the UN one and an international overseer, whose job would be modelled on Bosnia's.

Kosovo's Albanians grudgingly accept this but its Serbs, as well as Belgrade, do not. Because jurisdiction now lies with the UN, a new UN Security Council resolution is needed to transfer powers to the EU-led mission and international overseer. But an angry (and veto-wielding) Russia insists it will not assent to the Ahtisaari plan if Belgrade does not. Indeed, Russian spokesmen say that if Mr Ahtisaari cannot find common ground between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians, somebody else should do the job. Yet this is just a delaying tactic. The Russians know that the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians will never agree.

Mr Ahtisaari's plan is being translated into the UN's official languages, but will shortly be presented formally to the Security Council. In the meantime he is telling EU countries that this is a big test. If it is flunked, not only will Kosovo relapse into violence but also the EU will be seen as having suffered another huge foreign-policy failure. These arguments have had some success. Two sceptical countries, Spain and Slovakia, now say that EU unity counts for more than their doubts.

After years of lost interest in the Balkans, the Americans are also rolling out their heavy guns. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat who struck the Dayton deal to end the Bosnian war, declared that “European security and stability, and Russia's relationship with the West, are on the line.” Mr Holbrooke is a private citizen but still has close ties to the State Department. Few in the Balkans believe that he is simply expressing his own views.

So it is significant that Mr Holbrooke adds what many suspect: if Russia blocks a new resolution, Kosovo will declare independence anyway—and the Americans will “probably” recognise it. Many Muslim countries will follow, though Mr Holbrooke thinks most EU countries may not. Without a new UN resolution, diplomats say the choice is not independence or not; it is between “controlled” and “uncontrolled” independence. Fair use

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Krasniqi defeats Minto

Kosovo born boxing heavyweight Luan Krasniqi (30-2-1, 14 KOs) scored a late knockdown en route to a hard-fought twelve round unanimous decision over Brian Minto (27-2, 16 KOs) in a bout for the WBO intercontinental belt on Saturday night at the Hanns Martin Schleyer Halle in Stuttgart, Germany. The bout was competitive throughout, but all questions were answered in round twelve, when Krasniqi opened up and dropped Minto with a brutal barrage of big punches. FightNews.
According to Kosovo media celebratory gunfire was heard throughout Kosovo after the match. Some Serbian media distorted this by saying that this was an attempt to frighten Serbs.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Greek Military using anti Albanian and anti Turkish songs to motivate its soldiers

A newspaper in Greece, Ta Nea, has published a video which shows the Greek military using anti Albanian and Turkish songs to motivate its soldiers. According to the newspaper the video was recorded by cell phone. In one portion of the video the Greek soldiers are heard singing:

“You see them, they call them Albanians, we will make ropes from their intestines. You see them, they are called Turks, we will make shoes from their skins”. In another portion of the video they are also heard spouting anti Macedonian songs.

The “Ta Nea” newspaper quotes former military officers as saying this is a common practice in the Greek military. At the same time, the newspaper quotes a current officer in the Greek military named Thanasis Bafas as saying that anti Albanian and anti Turkish songs/rhetoric is officially prohibited in the Greek military since 2001. This raised the question of whether this kind of behavior was officially sanctioned prior to 2001, but the newspaper does not offer an explanation.

The Albanian government has reportedly lodged an official complaint, asking the Greek government to prohibit all anti-Albanian xenophobia in their military. No word whether the Turkish government has done the same.

The videos can be seen below:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

“Serbia center point on Balkan drugs route”

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department Narcotics Control Report says Serbia is transit point for drugs smuggling in the region.

Organized crime groups use Serbia as a central transit point for the transfer of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other synthetic drugs, the report, issued March 1, says, adding that a small portion of smuggled narcotics remains in Serbia for domestic consumption.

“Serbia is developing and enacting new laws and law enforcement initiatives, including the National Strategy for the Fight Against Drugs, but a weak legal infrastructure and endemic corruption will make the fight against narcotics and drug smuggling a long process,” the document says.

The report stresses the ability of organized crime groups to exploit the porous borders and weak infrastructure, threatening political stability and economic development of the country.

The document quotes the ministry of the interior as noting that Sand┼żak, with its capital of Novi Pazar, remains “most problematic because of its geographical position near the Montenegrin and Kosovo border on the smuggling route and the storage of large quantities of drugs in the region.”

“Corruption is endemic in Serbia and is prevalent throughout the legal infrastructure of the country. The Serbian government does attempt to prosecute instances of corruption, but because it is so accepted by society, is often hard to identify,” the State Department report says, adding however that “there are no reports that senior government officials engage in, encourage, or facilitate the production and distribution of narcotic and there is also no evidence that Serbia, as a matter of government policy, encourages or facilitates production or distribution of narcotic or actively launder proceeds from illegal drug transactions.”

Source: B92. Fair use.

Friday, March 02, 2007

"On Being Morally Challenged By Collective Memories"

I got this template from a friend at Kent University in Ohio. I am just posting it here so that if you are in the area you can attend it. I understand there will an interesting discussion about whether crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, and especially Kosovo, were as a result of "collective memories nurtured in Serbs for seven centuries". The author will attempt to prove his assertion that this is the case.

Interestingly enough this topic has been visited by other authors in the past. The basic contention is that Serbs have been, in a way, prepared, over the centuries, to commit and justify crimes against their neighbors. If you are interested in learning more about this topic read a book by Branimir Anzulovic titled: Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide. Among other things he makes an assertion that the Orthodox Church of Serbia provided the moral support to Serbian regime to commit crimes against other ethic groups. It should be pointed out that Mr.Anzulovic is of Croatian origin and is often accused by Serbs of spreading Serbo-phobia. He of course denies the allegation, and this particular book is mostly fact based and a very interesting read.

In any case, Serbs, understandably reject the whole notion that they, as a nation, are more prone to killing others then any other ethic group.

Now back to the topic. Attend this event if you can! I have been made aware that there is a significant number of Serbs living in the are, so I presume they will attend this event to challenge the assertion made by Dr. Peter French. I predict a lively discussion. For more info visit