Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Serbian PM threatens EU, NATO over Kosovo

Looks like desperation is kicking in. A very troubling year ahead for Serbia indeed. Next three months are going to be crucial for the whole region.Hard to say at this point whether cooler heads will prevail in Serbia. Article from UPI:

BELGRADE, Serbia, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Serbia's outgoing prime minister is threatening to sever ties with countries that would recognize independence of the mainly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo province.
The Democratic Party of Serbia, headed by conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, announced Wednesday its stand for forming a new Serbian government following parliamentary elections Jan 21, the Serbian news agency Beta said.
Kostunica's party said a new coalition government should declare null and void a decision by any state or international organization, which recognizes the province of Kosovo independent of Belgrade.
The recognition of Kosovo's independence by any NATO member country would seriously endanger Serbia's relations with the alliance as it would mean that NATO air bombardment of Serbia in 1999 was aimed at snatching away Kosovo, Kostunica's party said.
Kostunica's democrats were the third strongest party, behind the opposition ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical party and the Democratic party of Serbian President Boris Tadic.
Officials of the European Union in Brussels have made public their expectations the parties of Tadic, Kostunica and a pro-EU reformist party to form a pro-European coalition government to support the EU stand on Kosovo. Fair use.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Advice to Serbia: Swallow the biggest frog first


Don Murray|CBC.com

Jan. 29, 2007

On the menu today — frogs. Not the Hungarian variety, which for many years have been passed off as genuine cuisses de grenouille in some of the best restaurants in France. No, these are political frogs and Slavic ones at that. What's more, they are frogs of the mind.

Consider this insight: "If you have to swallow a frog, don't look at it a lot, but swallow it right away. If you have to swallow several frogs, swallow the biggest one first."

The man who said that was Zoran Djindjic, a former prime minister of Serbia.

Now this: "They are just like frogs before a storm! You can't hear anything else for their croaking."

The man who wrote that was Leo Tolstoy, Russia's greatest novelist.

Two views of frogs. But both with a bearing on today's Serbia, a country on the brink it seems of UN-inspired dismemberment and with no real sense of how much recent history it must swallow to rejoin the world around it.

State of denial

A case in point: The elections that were held Jan. 21 for the Serbian parliament.

The party that harvested the largest number of votes is led by a man sitting in jail in The Hague awaiting trial for war crimes. This is the Serbian Radical Party and its leader is Vojislav Seselj.

The Radicals took 28.7 per cent of the vote. It is a party that shares the ideas of Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia who died in prison in The Hague while on trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Those charges related to the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s that led to the shattering of Yugoslavia.

Radical party supporters were active in paramilitary units in the first two of those wars. Seselj once threatened to scoop out the eyes of Croats with a rusty spoon. This, he later said, was a joke.

Where winners lose

Trailing the Radicals were the Democrats with just over 22 per cent of the vote. The Democrats are led by the Serbian president and are overtly pro-European.

In third place was the party of the prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica — the Popular Coalition, more nationalist than the Democrats but far less so than the Radicals.

The belief, both inside and outside Serbia, is that the second- and third-place parties will come together in an uneasy coalition, leaving the Radicals in opposition.

The coalition will be uneasy because the leader of the Democrats (the country's president) and the leader of the Popular Coalition (the prime minister) detest each other. But the scent of high office overpowers even the rank odour of personal animosity, at least for a time.

Holding your nose

Now, back to the frogs. There are two very large ones for Serbian leaders to swallow if they want their country to get on with its life. They are, first, Kosovo, the discontented province, and then Ratko Mladic, the Serb military leader who has been on the run for over a decade.

For the better part of seven years Serbian politicians have spent their time refusing the advice offered by Djindjic: They have turned up their noses at these political cuisses de grenouille.

Mladic has been particularly hard to swallow. The military leader of Republika Srbska, the Serbian enclave in Bosnia, he is wanted in The Hague for war crimes but has been protected, European officials say, by people in today's Serbian army and secret services.

Kosovo is an even bigger frog. It remains a province of Serbia but 90 per cent of its population is Albanian and they want independence. Since the NATO air war against Serbia and Milosevic in 1999 it has been an international protectorate, policed by 16,000 NATO soldiers.

In the wake of the Serbian elections, an international mediator, the UN's Martti Ahtisaari, is expected to unveil a plan for Kosovo later this week that will call for the province to be granted some form of conditional independence. The assumption is that it would be free to seek official recognition from other states while remaining a European protectorate.

Brotherhood of Slavs

In the Serbian election campaign, Kosovo was barely mentioned. That was because no party wants to see the province given independence.

The Radical program, drafted by leader Seselj in his prison cell, even calls for the use of force to block independence. It also calls on Serbia to invoke its "brotherly ties" with Russia, one of the six-country contact group overseeing the situation, to block any UN plan with a Security Council veto.

Which bring us to the second quote about frogs.

Alert readers of Russian novels will know that in Tolstoy's masterpiece, Anna Karenina, after Anna throws herself under a train, her lover, Vronsky, does penance by going off to war — to fight for Serbia against the Ottoman Empire.

This was a people's war, not ordered by the Russian government but launched on a wave of Slavic solidarity. As for the frogs croaking before the storm, they were Russian newspaper editors, croaking unanimously in favour of helping Russia's southern Slav brothers.

More than a century and a quarter after those events, the brotherly ties remain strong. Vladimir Putin's government may well veto any independence deal, if only because it doesn't want precedents that might encourage citizens in its restive southern republics, such as Chechnya.

And so the frogs sit on the table. But no Serbian leader seems ready to open his or her mouth, and the country remains as isolated and as far from the European Union as ever.

As for Djindjic, the young modernizer who helped topple Milosevic and who wanted his country to swallow all sorts of unpalatable frogs in a quick march into Europe, he was assassinated in 2003.

And no frogs wept.

Fair Use.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Police chief ousted 'for urging Mladic handover'

Looks like Kostunica is showing his true self. Just before he leaves office, he sacks a police chief who has been pushing for the arrest of Mladic. And now he is appointing Milosevic's people in high level law enforcement agencies. Koshtunica is in par with Sheshel when it come to nationalistic feelings. With "democrats" like these Serbia is going nowhere but backwards! The article from FT:


By Neil MacDonald in Belgrade

Published: January 29 2007 02:00 | FT.com

Serbia's government, now in its final weeks in office, has purged a controversial senior police inspector as part of moves to reappoint loyalists from the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic in the police and judiciary.

Vladimir Bozovic, a human rights lawyer who has served as inspector-general of police for the past three years, lost his job last week. He told the FT yesterday that he was pushed out because he had pressed the Serbian government to capture and hand over Ratko Mladic, the fugitive Bosnian Serb army commander wanted for alleged genocide.


Mr Bozovic's replacement, Ljubinko Nikolic, is an alleged member of Mr Milosevic's inner circle. Critics of the outgoing government said he could help consolidate the grip of ex-regime loyalists on the police.

The European Commission looks eager to reopen talks with the next Serbian government but the entrenchment of anti-reform security officials would undermine claims about improved co-operation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The Serbian interior ministry went ahead with the personnel change in spite of claims that the cabinet no longer has any mandate and can only carry out "technical functions" in the wake of parliamentary elections on January 21.

The outgoing government cannot, for example, engage in the long-awaited diplomatic settlement in the dispute over Kosovo, the country's mostly ethnic Albanian province placed under United Nations interim administration in 1999.

Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's hard-pressed conservative prime minister, is using his legal "lame duck" status to avoid a meeting with Martti Ahtisaari, UN envoy for Kosovo, later this week.

In an interview with the Financial Times yesterday, Mr Bozovic said he had looked too closely into politically motivated murders since the fall of the Milosevic regime - including the assassination of Zoran Djindjic, Serbia's pro-western prime minister, in March 2003. Being fired "is a political punishment for me", Mr Bozovic said. Fair use.

Welcome to an independent Kosovo

Published: 27 January 2007 The Independent

The plan presented by the UN special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, yesterday stops short of full and immediate independence for the province of Kosovo, but only just. Kosovo would be able to operate like a state, but its last formal ties with Serbia would not be finally severed. The embryonic state would remain a de facto UN protectorate for at least another year.
Predictably, this solution is too timid for the Kosovo government and far too ambitious for Serbia and its Slav patron, Russia. Both have the capacity to make trouble: Serbia by fomenting unrest among Kosovo's Serbs; Russia by withholding its endorsement.
Russia and Serbia, however, would be well advised to swallow their pride and accept Kosovo's advance towards statehood. The time when frontiers were considered inviolate is no more, and has not been since the collapse of the Soviet empire. Any alternative is likely to involve violence, or the revival of Kosovan support for a Greater Albania. A small but secure and stable Kosovo is surely preferable.
Kosovo for its part must reciprocate by granting the sort of autonomy, equal rights and security guarantees to its Serb minority that Belgrade denied in its time to the Albanians of Kosovo. Its leaders must show that they are ready and able to observe international norms. Only then should full statehood be granted.
At the same time, the other members of the UN Contact Group must recognise that Russia's misgivings are not just a matter of Slav solidarity. Moscow fears that independence for Kosovo could revive demands for independence from territories inside Russia, such as Chechnya. It will not be placated with UN assurances that Kosovo sets no precedent.
There clearly could be repercussions for Russia - but not only for Russia. The Russian and other ethnic enclaves in former Soviet republics, such as Georgia and Moldova, could be emboldened to enhance their status. The implications could even extend to Scotland, were it ever to seek independence and EU membership in its own right.
The test in each case, however, must be the political will of the majority, the viability of the would-be state and the need to minimise the risk of violence. On these criteria, the case for Kosovo's independence is unimpeachable. Russia cannot be allowed to use possible repercussions as a pretext for denying the Kosovans their rights. Fair use only.

“Proposal clearly offers statehood” for Kosovo

BELGRADE -- Belgrade Kosovo team member Marko Jakšić cannot confirm whether the team will meet Ahtisaari when he arrives here on Friday.

Proposal's clear: Marko Jakšić (FoNet)Jakšić told B92 that, regardless of what UN special Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s proposal might contain, Belgrade’s position remains unchanged: negotiations should continue.

Commenting on information available to date, Jakšić said it was “quite clear Ahtisaari offered Albanians all the elements of statehood“.

“They would have access to various international organizations and funds, their own army and police and that is what makes a state. However, they would be given this state it two phases since there would be this so-called interim period, at least based on what the media reports, where the EU would work on the logistics, after which a real state comes as the real phase. At first there would be the so-called limited, and then there would be real independence”, Jakšić says.

He adds that the absence of the word “independence” will not “fool Russia”. “Another reason why independence is not mentioned as a term is due to the domestic public here, so that it may accept Kosovo’s secession “.

Despite media leaks outlining the basic framework of the Kosovo status proposal Ahtisaari presented to Contact Group Friday, official Priština remains silent on the subject. On the other hand, officials have confirmed that extensive preparations are under way to deal with possible incidents and violence in the coming days.

Radicals: Ahtisaari snatching our territorySerb Radical Party (SRS) secretary-general Aleksandar Vučić told journalists he was surprised by the Serbian authorities’ behavior “in light of the fact UN special Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari was snatching away Kosovo”.

He told a press conference that should problems arise around the Kosovo issue, all those in office should immediately resign, adding that Boris Tadić and Vojislav Koštunica must also submit their resignations “in the wake of the defeat they suffered in the elections”.

Vučić stressed his party and party leader Vojislav Šešelj believed that “no one should play games with Kosovo”, that no one can sign the province’s independence, adding that declarations such as, “it has happened, that’s the state of affairs”, were unacceptable. Fair use from B92.

Kosovo set for unilateral declaration of Independence

BERLIN -- Status proposal leaves the issue open; Western governments count on Kosovo to unilaterally declare independence.Spiegel speculates that UN special Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari's top secret draft outlines a complicated road that should, if possible by summer, lead to Kosovo’s secession from Serbia without any major outbreaks of violence.“The basic premise is that Kosovo should declare its own independence, while it will be up to the international community to create the conditions necessary for this”, the German weekly writes.

In a couple of days Ahtisaari will issue a statement on Kosovo’s future without determining its final status. The next step will be the adoption of a UN resolution, the text of which has also been agreed on last week, according to Spiegel. “The resolution will also leave the status issue formally undetermined. However, it will serve to ivalidate Resolution 1244. With that legal obstacle out of the way, Kosovo could declare independence”, the magazine concludes.
Fair Use from B92.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kosovo Wins Support For Split From Serbia

Another good article. This one from Washington Post. The just of it is that Kosovo will become independent this summer. According to the paper United State,UK, and Albanian will be the first states to recognize Kosovo as an independent country.

U.S., European Allies Agree to Secession With Ongoing International Supervision

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007; Page A10

Nearly eight years after NATO warplanes intervened in a bitter ethnic conflict between Serbs and rebellious Kosovo Albanians in the former Yugoslavia, the United States and its European allies have agreed to support Kosovo's permanent secession from Serbia under continuing international supervision, according to senior U.S. and European officials.

The decision is likely to lead, possibly as early as this summer, to the formal creation of a new Connecticut-size country in southeastern Europe with membership in the United Nations and, eventually, its own army, the officials said. But a foreign diplomat posted in the capital would retain authority to fire officials and rescind legislation deemed divisive, while leaving routine matters of government to local control.

Under the plan, NATO troops would continue to patrol the new state to ensure peace and help protect minorities, but would gradually withdraw as Kosovo neared membership in NATO and the European Union.

Putting Kosovo on a path toward eventual full independence is meant to close a chapter of Balkan history marked by war, political upheaval, widespread loss of life and the destruction of billions of dollars' worth of property.

Historically a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999. That year, a 78-day air campaign by NATO forced out the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, ending its brutal war against guerrillas fighting for self-rule for the province's ethnic Albanian majority. Many members of Kosovo's Serb minority have since fled Albanian retribution.

The new plan, a culmination of lengthy diplomatic consultations between nervous continental Europeans and more enthusiastic Americans and British, is meant in part to alleviate continuing intense pressure from the Albanians for independence. Western officials fear that without official action on the issue, new violence might break out this summer.

Officials say that finally allowing Kosovo to stand mostly on its own also has a major economic impetus: They anticipate it would open the door to private investment, new Western lending and aid, supplanting more than $2.5 billion already poured into the province by foreigners since 1999 with only a slight impact on a faltering and highly corrupt economy.

Kosovo has Europe's largest deposits of lignite coal. Economic planners hope that the new state might build power plants and emerge as a primary supplier of electricity to its Balkan neighbors.

Some diplomats caution that achievement of consensus by the Western powers might not be the end of the tale: Serbia's leaders have persistently and heatedly campaigned against any forced separation of one of their country's provinces. Many Serbs now look toward Moscow to protect their interests with a veto when the matter is presented to the U.N. Security Council for a vote, likely this spring.

Moscow has privately hinted, however, that it is prepared to support the plan in exchange for U.S. and European acquiescence to the formal secession of two Russian-backed regions of Georgia. Washington and its allies oppose that Russian bid, and officials said this week they are uncertain how quickly this diplomatic dance will play out.

The eventual formal redrawing of Serbia's border by foreign powers has been widely expected since 1999. Nonetheless, the prospect of Kosovo's independence has sown anxiety among some of Kosovo's ethnically divided Balkan neighbors and even caused hesitation in Spain, where unresolved secessionist pressures persist in the Basque region.

Moreover, diplomats say no Western nation is eager to see Serbia so alienated by an imposed Western solution that it is driven more deeply into Russia's arms and excluded from eventual embrace by NATO and the European Union.

ut senior Western officials affirmed at a meeting in New York in September that Kosovo's status is ripe for settlement, and diplomats are slated to gather today in Vienna to put final touches on the plan, for presentation to Serbian and Kosovo Albanian delegations Feb. 2.

Senior U.S. officials, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss details of the sensitive plan, conceded the moment is politically awkward: Serbian parties are struggling to form a new government after elections Sunday in which nationalists won the largest number of votes. At the same time, many Kosovo Albanians are angry that their most influential politician -- former rebel commander Ramush Haradinaj -- is slated to leave shortly for The Hague, for trial on war crimes charges.

But U.S. and European diplomats say former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, a special envoy of the U.N. secretary general, is ready after 14 months of discussions to make the plunge. He will recommend that Kosovo no longer be governed by the United Nations under a 1999 Security Council resolution that pledged to uphold the "principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia, a nation that no longer exists.

The diplomats said withdrawal of that U.N. resolution would allow Kosovo's estimated 1.7 million Albanians, 90 percent of the population, to declare independence from Serbia. The United States, Britain and Albania would quickly recognize that step but with the continuing international controls.

Although officials in Serbia are expected to protest loudly, their government "lost control of Kosovo in the 1990s. It was theirs to keep or lose, and they lost it. We're dealing now with the aftermath of actions by Slobodan Milosevic," a senior U.S. official said this week, referring to the late Yugoslav president. Likewise, diplomats believe Albanian leaders will publicly clamor for full independence but accept this package as the best they will get for now.

Germany, which holds the rotating E.U. presidency through June, has insisted that no decision be taken without Russian approval. But its diplomats also oppose striking a deal with Moscow to support the secessions from Georgia and permanent separation of the Transnistria region from Moldova.

The sources said Ahtisaari is likely to recommend establishment of a new U.N. mission in Kosovo under the direction of a longtime friend, Dutch diplomat Peter Feith. He previously headed a U.N. monitoring mission in the Indonesian province of Aceh and worked on ethnic conflicts in Bosnia and Macedonia.

The aim of the new mission would be to help the majority Albanian population build a country where Serbs and others "can live a dignified, safe and economically sustainable life," Ahtisaari told the 46-country Council of Europe on Wednesday. Total unemployment in the province is estimated at 35 to 50 percent but is higher among Serbs.

Under Ahtisaari's plan, Feith -- whose low-key title would be international civilian representative -- would have what one U.S. official called "edict power" to remove officials or invalidate legislation, similar to the authority of the high representative who still helps govern Bosnia under terms of the 1995 Dayton peace accords. Feith's deputy is expected to be an American, and his staff would number about 100.

A separate international "rule of law" monitoring mission, under the control of the European Union, would number roughly 1,000 and exercise authority over Kosovo's troubled local police force and corrupt local judiciary. Officials said the Kosovo Protection Corps, a shadow local military force, would probably be disbanded and replaced by a NATO-trained civil defense force that would form the nucleus of an eventual Western-allied army.

Kosovo's Serbs, estimated to number 114,000, would be given control of a handful of new municipalities sprinkled across the territory. There, they could draw on money from Serbia to help finance their own health clinics and schools. Serbian religious sites, repeatedly targeted by Albanian extremists, would gain new protections, and Serb lawmakers would have the right to invoke a "vital interests" claim to block noxious legislation, officials said.

U.N. Offers Plan for Kosovo’s Independence

Published: January 27, 2007| New York Times.

PARIS, Jan. 26 — The United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari presented his proposals for the final status of Kosovo on Friday, most likely setting the tiny war-torn territory on its way toward independence.

Although that goal is still months away and subject to a vote at the United Nations, the presentation of a plan is an important and long-delayed step in resolving the still potentially explosive tensions that led to war in Europe eight years ago.

The recommendations would leave the former Yugoslav province free to declare independence from Serbia, according to Western diplomats who have seen the plan. But they say it would also impose international supervision, much like what exists in Bosnia, to provide protection for Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs.

As a result, the proposals fall short of the full independence so hoped for by the territory’s majority population of ethnic Albanians, according to Western diplomats.

Even with the promise of international involvement, the diplomats say, Russia, a Serbian ally whose support is a crucial element, remains cool to the plan.

The proposals foresee a strong international presence for the indefinite future, and include “a lot of measures to guarantee and promote the rights of the minority communities,” Remi Dourlot, Mr. Ahtisaari’s spokesman, said in Vienna, where the plan was presented.

NATO troops, which have kept peace in the country since fighting ended in 1999, will stay put for the time being. And while the United Nations mission governing the territory will pack up and leave, it will be replaced by another international organization that will have executive powers to annul any legislation that breaches Kosovo’s obligations under United Nations agreements, diplomats said.

If the United Nations Security Council approves the plan, Kosovo is expected to quickly declare its independence and could expect swift recognition from its American and European supporters, even if Serbia rejected such a move.

But that step, diplomats caution, is probably months away.

“I foresee this process taking some time, and we might be in a wholly different situation,” said one senior Western diplomat in Vienna who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to comment on the proposal until it is made public. “No one can predict the Security Council dynamic.”

Mr. Ahtisaari handed his recommendations to representatives of the so-called Contact Group — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia — during a meeting at a secret location in Vienna. It will be presented next Friday to the Serbian government in Belgrade and the Kosovo government in Pristina.

Serbia and Kosovo will have the opportunity to ask questions and suggest changes to the proposals. When Mr. Ahtisaari feels he has exhausted those negotiations, he is expected to present a plan to the Security Council for approval. Kosovo and Serbia remain far apart in their positions, and experts say it is unlikely that Mr. Ahtisaari can close the gap.

Already, Russia, which supports Serbia’s efforts to keep Kosovo as a province, is pushing for the Security Council vote to be delayed until Belgrade has formed a government after recent elections, diplomats in Vienna say.

Serbia’s nationalist Radical Party came in first with 28 percent of the vote this month, but the democratic parties that came in second and third have the best chance to form a coalition.

But four Western diplomats interviewed said they doubted that Serbia could prevail upon Russia to veto a resolution once the Security Council is presented with one.

Mr. Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, has not said when he expected to send the proposals to the Security Council, but diplomats involved in the negotiations say they are pressing for it to happen this spring.

According to one diplomat familiar with the plan, it would give Kosovo the right to enter into some international agreements and join world organizations as a sovereign state.

NATO would train a civil defense force that could eventually become a Kosovo Army, though it is not clear what would become of the Kosovo Protection Corps, which includes former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters and has been accused of aiding ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia and other misconduct.

In other ways, Kosovo would remain subject to international community oversight. The European Union is already setting up a police force of more than 1,000 officers to monitor the territory’s police, judges, prosecutors and even prison guards.

The most politically delicate part of the plan concerns treatment of the estimated 114,000 Serbs in Kosovo, most of whom adamantly oppose independence from Serbia.

To reassure the minority that their rights will not be overrun, some Serbian areas would reportedly be given autonomy, and be free to receive some Serbian government help in building hospitals and schools. Mr. Ahtisaari’s plan also reportedly provides for the creation of several new municipalities where the concentration of Serbs is high.

Serbian legislators in the Kosovo Parliament, meanwhile, would be able to stop at least some legislation if they believe it discriminates against the Serbian minority, diplomats said. Serbian religious institutions would also be guaranteed special protection.

Kosovo, nearly the size of Connecticut, has about two million people, 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanian Muslims, a legacy of Ottoman rule.

It was an autonomous region within the Yugoslav federation until 1989, when Slobodan Milosevic asserted Belgrade’s authority over the territory. That led to a rebellion by ethnic Albanians that was brutally suppressed until NATO intervened with a bombing campaign against Mr. Milosevic’s troops in March 1999.

The war ended that June 1 when Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo and NATO peacekeepers moved in. Kosovo became a United Nations protectorate with the promise that its final status would be decided over time. NATO has recently warned that Kosovo Albanian patience in waiting for that solution is running thin. Fair Use

Friday, January 26, 2007

Kosovo to declare statehood in months

An interesting article from the Financial Times. The endgame appears to be for Ahtisaari to produce a plan that denies Serbia any kind of sovereignty over Kosovo, making it easier for other state to recognize Kosovo's independence in a few months time. This is a trap laid up for Russia to fall on- they will no longer be able to use Kosovo as a precedent example for other regions as no one will recognize them. Serbia, on the other hand, will be overwhelmed to stop every sate in the world from recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Whoever planned it this way, they knew what they were doing. Here is the article:

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Neil MacDonald in Belgrade

Published: January 26 2007 |Financial Times

Kosovo is to declare independence in the next few months, with the tacit support of the EU and Nato, in an effort to resolve the eight-year impasse on the status of the province at the heart of the 1999 war between Nato and Belgrade.

Senior western diplomats say the province will make its move and be recognized as independent by European Union and Nato countries once a United Nations resolution about its future – expected to stop short of granting independence – is agreed.


“It’s for a state to determine whether it’s a state and for others to recognize it or not, and that’s what’s going to happen,” said a western diplomat. He added that although the EU would recognize Kosovo as independent, Serbia would not.

Western diplomats believe bilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence is the only way out of the dispute about the future of the province, but acknowledge they will have to work hard to prevent Serbia’s objections destabilizing the region as a whole.

The EU and US see Kosovo as the biggest remaining source of instability in the Balkans. They intend to avoid either more rioting among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority like that in March 2004 or an attempt by Belgrade to partition the province, over which it claims sovereignty.

Russian opposition means the UN resolution will not declare Kosovo independent. But the EU and Nato believe the resolution is necessary to prevent the province spinning out of control.

Muhamet Hamiti, senior political adviser to Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership, confirmed the province was considering a unilateral declaration of independence but added it would prefer to work within the UN process: “We have been independent since 1999 but we need our sovereignty recognized by the international community. We don’t expect our independence and sovereignty as a gift from anybody.”

On Friday Martti Ahtisaari, UN chief mediator on Kosovo, presented proposals to the contact group of leading powers on Kosovo made up of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the US and Russia. He plans to take his blueprint to the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on February 2, to start negotiation before a UN Security Council resolution in March.

Moscow wants Mr Ahtisaari to take more time, arguing there is no permanent government in place in Belgrade.

Final act in the fate of Kosovo begins

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Neil MacDonald in Belgrade

Published: January 27 2007 | Financial Times.

Eight years after a war that pitted Nato against Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Belgrade, the endgame for Kosovo has begun. The strategy of the west is now clear: a United Nations resolution to put Kosovo under the tutelage of the European Union and recognition of its independence soon after.

Belgrade is dead set against Kosovo independence, and Moscow, which would veto any attempt to declare Kosovo independent at the UN, is none too happy about the prospect either.

The Serbian government said yesterday that Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister, would not meet Martti Ahtisaari, the chief UN mediator for Kosovo, when he visits Belgrade next week to present his recommendations. Russia has called for a three-month delay.

The argument voiced by Serbia and the Kremlin is that Mr Kostunica would have no mandate to meet Mr Ahtisaari until a new government is formed. But the US and a number of its allies are keen to press on and resolve the long-running dispute over Kosovo's status.

Furthermore, Boris Tadic, Serbia's pro-western president, is on hand to meet Mr Ahtisaari. US diplomats say they cannot afford to let Serbia delay the process when the ethnic Albanians, who form 90 per cent of Kosovo's population, have waited for independence so long.

But they also acknowledge that administrative shortcomings and a failure so far to protect the rights of the Serb minority mean that even an independent Kosovo cannot be trusted to run its affairs alone. Instead, the UN resolution would put Kosovo under the supervision of the EU, in a similar set-up to nearby Bosnia-Herzegovina

At present, the provisional UN administration in Kosovo is reducing its staff but it cannot be replaced by EU administrators and police until the UN resolution is agreed. Many western officials feel a strong security presence is needed because of the risk of unrest and protests provoked by any deal on the province's fate. Foreign ministers from the EU and Nato, which stations more than 16,000 soldiers in Kosovo, discussed the issue in Brussels. They lent their support to Mr Ahtisaari's approach, which would pave the way for Kosovo's independence without explicit UN backing for its new status.

In Vienna, Mr Ahtisaari presented his proposals to the contact group of leading powers on Kosovo - made up of the UK, France, the US, Germany, Italy and Russia. On February 2, he plans to travel to the Kosovan capital of Pristina as well as Belgrade, beginning the process of negotiation over final details that he hopes will be followed by a UN Security Council resolution in March.

European countries, led by France, Italy, Spain and central and southern European nations, are sympathetic to Russia's call for a delay. But their concern is based on the timeline rather than the proposals. They worry that if a decision is perceived to be imposed while Serbia is in a political vacuum, Belgrade might attempt to hold on to parts of the province populated by ethnic Serbs.

Mr Ahtisaari's plans would open the way for Kosovo to be recognised as an independent state by other countries. "Ahtisaari will talk of a Kosovo government, emblems and a constitution, so it points in one direction," said a western diplomat. His proposed settlement is also likely to open the way for Kosovo to join international financial institutions and the UN. Veton Surroi, a Kosovo negotiator, said the Kosovan parliament's first act after a UN resolution would be to pass a constitution. Fair use.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Serbia's election:Radical in name only

Jan 25th 2007 | BELGRADE AND PRISTINA
From The Economist print edition

The Serbs vote for Europe, but not yet for Kosovo

AFP

AN EXAGGERATED pride in ethnic and religious identity is a familiar curse in the Balkans, and at first glance the Serbian elections that took place on January 21st confirm that the curse continues: the greatest share of the vote was won by the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, whose leader, Vojislav Seselj, is on trial before the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague. A second glance is more reassuring: the real message of the election is that a majority of Serbs, including many who voted for the Radicals, favour moving the country forward on the path of European integration.

The question is how. All of Serbia's main parties were disappointed by the results, gaining less than they had hoped in competition with smaller parties. The conservative and nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia, led by the outgoing prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, took 16% of the vote; the more liberal, more pro-western Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic 23%; and the Radicals 28.5%.

But should the Radicals' relative success be interpreted as support for its traditional goal of a “Greater Serbia”, which would take in a large part of Bosnia, Croatia and, of course, the Serb province of Kosovo? Certainly that dream remains, at least on paper. But even if the Radicals were to control the government, which is unlikely, Serbia has no means to realise it. Indeed, quite a few of its voters were committed pro-Europeans who chose the Radicals as a protest against the other parties; others were the losers from years of war and economic turmoil. As one local analyst points out, the day of bellicose nationalism is over: the Radicals did better than Mr Tadic's party in traditionally liberal Belgrade because many voters believe that there is corruption in high places—and not because they want to go to war again.

The problem, which will doubtless take weeks to solve, is to how to form a coalition government reflecting this overall pro-Europe trend. “All bets are on,” says Ivan Vejvoda, who heads the Balkan Trust for Democracy. Yet the Radicals are very unlikely to be part of this process, unless asked to support a minority government, and, odd as it may seem for the biggest party (which they already were), they have no interest in being in government.

The reason is simple: they do not want to be remotely near to power if and when Serbia's southern province of Kosovo is lost to independence. Meanwhile, Mr Kostunica wants to remain prime minister and Mr Tadic would like someone from his party to be prime minister. Since there are some valuable privatisations coming up, and being in power means being able to put your party faithful in lucrative positions, there will be hard bargaining for ministerial posts. One possibility, with presidential elections due later this year, is that Mr Kostunica will retain his job in exchange for supporting another presidential term for Mr Tadic.

But even before the parties strike a deal, Serbia faces a major challenge. On January 26th Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president charged by the UN with finding a solution for the problem of Kosovo, was to present his proposals to officials of the main countries concerned with the region. They include America, Britain, Russia and France. On February 2nd he will present them to the Serbs and Kosovars.

It will be a tricky task. Since 1999, Kosovo has been under UN jurisdiction, after Security Council Resolution 1244 ended the Kosovo war. Of Kosovo's 2m people, some 90% are ethnic Albanians bent on independence. Mr Ahtisaari's report is expected, without actually using the word “independence”, to support that goal. Serbia rejects this and publicly Russia, its fellow-Slav ally, does too.

In private, though, Russian diplomats are saying that “all options” are on the table. In other words, independence is indeed one of them. However, nerves are fraying. If Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, decides to veto any new UN resolution on Kosovo, then its Albanian-dominated parliament could declare independence anyway, just as Croatia and Slovenia did in 1991, and hope that other states will recognise them.

For the diplomats this is the nightmare scenario. Unlike in Croatia and Slovenia, legal authority in Kosovo lies with the UN and its administration there. Kosovo is expecting a large EU-led mission to replace this and guide it on its Ahtisaari-defined path—but how could this happen if Russia vetoes a resolution to end the existing UN mission? “There is no plan B,” says one diplomat.

In the meantime, Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo's president, says that delay will only create “tensions” and “challenges”. He means violence. If that happens, the 17,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force might come under attack and the UN would almost certainly be ejected from the Serbian-dominated north. Once the Ahtisaari plan is revealed, the Balkans could be in for a long, hot time. Fair Use.

A Move Toward Kosovo Independence

By DEJAN ANASTASIJEVIC/BELGRADE-Time Magazine

Still recoiling from the victory of the ultranationalist Radical Party at the last week's parliamentary poll, Serbia is bracing for a new political crisis that could amplify nationalist sentiment. The U.N. is expected shortly to unveil proposals for the future of Serbia's independence-seeking southern province of Kosovo, seen by most Serbs as the cradle of their civilization. Populated mostly by ethnic Albanians, Kosovo was placed under U.N. protectorate status in 1999 after NATO military strikes forced Serbian forces to withdraw, although it remains formally part of Serbia. For most of last year, Serbian and Kosovar envoys negotiated in vain to find a compromise on Kosovo's status at internationally mediated talks in Vienna. On Feb. 2, former Finnish President and U.N. Special envoy Martti Ahtisaari will visit Serbia's and Kosovo's capitals to unveil a proposal that is widely expected to initiate a process that will result in formal independence for Kosovo in the course of few months.

Several diplomats who have seen the draft document tell TIME that the report will not explicitly recommend Kosovo's independence, but that outcome will be strongly suggested in the outline of Kosovo's future institutions. Ahtisaari will also propose that Kosovo be represented in key international organizations, such as the U.N., World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. However, Kosovo's institutions would not be fully sovereign: they will be supervised by an EU office with strong powers, while NATO would be expected to stay in the province for at least a few years. A similar solution has already been tested in Bosnia.

Ahtisaari will unveil his plan in Serbia and Kosovo before presenting it to the Contact Group — an informal grouping comprising United States, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan — behind closed doors in Vienna, where the document may undergo minor changes before being sent to the U.N. Security Council, where a resolution is expected by late March. Although they are to be formally consulted on the plan, neither Serbia nor Kosovo will be able to change it. At present, Russia is the only Contact group member who might oppose Kosovo's independence, but few believe that Moscow will go as far as vetoing the plan in the Security Council.

The timing of the process is unfortunate for Serbia's moderates, who are trying to form a coalition government from a parliament dominated by the nationalist far right. Some pro-Western leaders even appealed in vain to postpone Ahtisaari's visit. Bozidar Djelic, one of two moderate candidates for Prime Minister, warned that the Kosovo issue could destabilize Serbia. "It is crucial that no unilateral moves are made by the international community before a new democratic government is formed in Belgrade. Unilateral moves, not discussed with a new government, could strengthen the ultra-nationalist camp and lead to new elections where democrats would suffer and extremists prosper," Djelic told TIME. The Radicals have vowed to defend Kosovo "by all means necessary." The party's leader, Vojislav Seselj, is currently on trial in the Hague charged with committing war crimes.

Serbia's other perspective candidate for the top job, the acting Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, was much calmer about the impact of Ahtisaari's plan. "It is absolutely irrelevant when he will give his proposal, before or after the government is formed," Kostunica told journalists in the aftermath of the elections.

Whether or not it has seated a new government, Belgrade will almost certainly reject Ahtisaari's plan in full. Leaders across the political spectrum agree that Kosovo shouldn't be allowed to secede, and Serbia's new constitution adopted last November proclaimed the province an "essential part of Serbia's territorial integrity."

"We know they will say no, but we don't know how far they're willing to go", a Belgrade-based Western diplomat told TIME. "Will they recall the ambassadors to Western countries? Cut the commerce? So far they haven't given us a clue."

Yet most analysts agree that threats of Serbia relapsing to the bad old days of nationalism and isolation are just a bluff, aimed at postponing the inevitable. Still, in the Balkans, worst-case scenarios have an unfortunate track record of coming true.
Fair use.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Serbia: A telling election

Jan 21st 2007 | BELGRADE
From Economist.com

Serbs are going to the polls. The outcome matters in the Balkans and beyond


Reuters

FOR a small country in the Balkans, Serbia has been receiving a fair amount of attention from people in high places of late. In the week or so before elections on Sunday January 21st the leaders or foreign ministers of Greece, Romania, Sweden and Slovakia have visited. The United States Senate passed a resolution on the poll and messages from top European Union officials in Brussels have flooded in. The reason is clear. The results will affect the entire region.

The decision of Serbia’s 6.6m voters will have an impact on Bosnia and Kosovo, and that in turn will affect what happens in the rest of the Balkans. If memories of the disastrous Yugoslav wars of the 1990s are not reason enough for foreign leaders to be concerned about what happens then a glance at a map may be. The recent accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU leaves the western Balkans as an enclave within it.

In theory Serbian voters have a clear choice between the extreme nationalist Radicals and a loose cluster of pro-reform, pro-European parties dubbed the “Democratic Bloc”. In practice it is not so simple. At the moment, the largest party in parliament is the Radical Party, led by Vojislav Seselj, who is on trial at the UN’s war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Its nationalist supporters have been joined by large numbers of the former middle classes, whose status and jobs have been destroyed over the past 17 years by war and sanctions, and now by the strains of economic transition.

The Democratic Bloc includes the party of Vojislav Kostunica, the current prime minister, and that of Boris Tadic, Serbia’s president. Mr Kostunica is a conservative nationalist who has little love for Mr Tadic. But the result may yet force both to hold their noses and do business together.

Most recent opinion polls suggest that the Radicals will win nearly a third of the vote, Mr Tadic's party perhaps a quarter and Mr Kostunica's, including a main ally, perhaps a fifth. So Mr Kostunica may hold the balance of power. He is unlikely to enter into a coalition with the Radicals but, depending on how the votes fall, his price for a teaming up with Mr Tadic's party is likely to be the premiership. If no coalition is formed then fresh elections will have to be called.

Serbia's electoral calculus matters to the rest of Europe because on February 2nd the country will be presented with a UN-devised plan for Kosovo. Since 1999 this overwhelmingly Albanian-inhabited territory has been under UN jurisdiction while technically remaining part of Serbia. The plan will, in effect, prescribe independence for Kosovo, an outcome opposed by all Serbian leaders. If and when this comes about, reactions will vary.

The Radicals care far more about Kosovo than about Serbia's future within Europe. At the other end of the scale, although Mr Tadic's spokesmen do not say so publicly, if Kosovo is lost, his party will not seek to cause havoc in the region by isolating Kosovo and trying to sabotage resurgent regional co-operation. Mr Kostunica's position lies somewhere in between.

Mr Kostunica's government has succeeded in getting Russia to say it opposes independence. If Russia vetoes the UN plan in the Security Council, which it might, violence could break out. And, though flouting international law, many countries will recognise Kosovo's independence anyway. If this happens Bosnia will feel the effects. Serb leaders there are determined to use Kosovo's independence as both a precedent and an example for the secessionist hopes of their own. Mr Kostunica would probably support this; Mr Tadic would not. Either way, uncertainty and upheaval would be bad for the region and thus for Europe as a whole.

Fair Use.

Election in Serbia: What you need to know

According to the latest data released by the Republican Commission, the next parliament in Serbia will have the following makeup:

Out of 250 seats,

1. 81 seats will go to the Serb Radical Party (SRS) -This party is lead by Vojislav Sheshel- a war crime suspect who is being tried for war crimes in the Hague. The SRS is considered to be an extremist anti-western party. In the last parliament the party was the largest in the Serbia parliament, and it appears it will maintain that position in the next parliament.

2. 65 seats will go to the-Democratic Party (DS)- This party is lead by the current president of Serbia, Boris Tadic. Most people consider this party to be a moderate and pro western party. DS appears to be the biggest winner of this election- it almost doubled the number of deputies from 37 in the last parliament to 65 in the next one. The next Prime Minister of Serbia will most likely come from this party.

3. 47 seats will go to the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS-NS),which is lead by the current PM of Serbia Vojislav Kostunica. Generally speaking the DSS-NS is considered to be a mildly nationalist party. In the last election the DSS-NS was the second largest party with 53 seats versus 47 seats in the next parliament. Mr. Kostunica will be the biggest looser of this election- he most likely will have to give up the seat of PM.

4. 19 seats will go to the G17 Group- a political party lead by business leaders who concerns itself mostly with economic issues. This grouping of people are considered to be very moderate. G17 appears to have lost almost half of its electorate - from 34 deputies in the last parliament to 19 in the next one. It appears that some of its former voters voted for the Democratic Party of President Tadic.

5. 16 seats will go to the Socialist Party of Serbia(SPS), whose previous leader was Slobodan Milosevic who died in the Hague last year. SPS ruled Serbia during most of 1990's. In the last election this party had 22 seats. After the death of Milosevic the SPS seems to be in a decline. Most of its electorate are now voting for the SRS of Vijislav Sheshel.

6. 15 seats will go to the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) who is lead by former Foreign Minister Cedomir Jovanovic. LDP is new party that split from the Democratic Party a few years ago. It is considered to be on of the most Liberal and anti-nationalist parties in Serbia. It's head is the only significant Serb leader that supports the Independence of Kosovo. Until recently pundits were saying that this party will not even be able to pass the minimum 5% to enter the parliament. LDP appears to have pulled a small electoral upset.

Other parties:

SPO of current Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic didn't even make the required 5% to enter the parliament. That 's got to hurt!

Another interesting thing appears to to be the very weak showings of minority parties who were able to capture only 7 seats or 2.8% of overall seats. This is significant because minorities make about 18% of the population of Serbia. Albanian parties of Presevo Valley did not manage to get even one seat in the next Serbian Parliament ( they were expecting two). I am not clear why minority parties faired badly, but it probably has to do with election laws. Another possibility is that minorities did not vote in great numbers.

Next Government?

All I can say is that there will be stalemate for weeks to come. Its hard to envision a coalition being formed easily unless the current PM willingly gives up the posts and agrees to support the Democratic Party. The most likely coalition will be between DS-DSS-G17-LPD. The next Prime Minister will most likely come from the DS.

Ferik F.- Balkan Update.

Nationalists 'lead Serbia poll'

Serbian Radical Party PM candidate Tomislav Nikolic
Radical leader Tomislav Nikolic called on the government to resign
The nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has a clear lead in the country's elections, early projections suggest.

The Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, a monitoring body, said the radicals had taken 28.5% of the vote.

The SRS candidate for prime minister, Tomislav Nikolic, urged the government to resign - but it is unclear whether he can form a governing coalition.

The pro-reform Democratic Party (DS) and Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) were credited with 22% and 17%.

After the first projections were announced, Mr Nikolic said: "We have won as we had expected."

"Despite running against the parties led by the prime minister and the president (Boris Tadic) and their vicious campaigns against us, we proved our strength," Mr Nikolic said.

He ruled out a coalition with the governing DS and DSS but on the subject of coalitions with other parties he said: "Let's wait and see the final results. Things are clearer after a night's sleep. We will see what will happen."

The SRS ruled the country under late leader Slobodan Milosevic during the 1990s.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who heads the conservative DSS, had urged citizens to vote - it was, he said, the best way to keep the country on a safe and stable path.

President, Boris Tadic, whose Democratic Party is challenging the prime minister, said he hoped the outcome would produce a government capable of major reforms

The poll was overshadowed by the issued of Kosovo, with the UN expected to rule on the future of the province this year. BBC

Macedonia's first Hague trial

21 January 2007 | 12:40 | Source: SENSE

THE HAGUE -- The first and only Hague trial for the crimes committed against Albanians in Macedonia begins on April 16.

The trial of Ljube Boskoski and Johan Tarculovski, charged with the crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians in Ljuboten village near Skopje, is scheduled to start on April 16, 2007.

Boskoski and Tarculovski are indicted for the attack on Ljuboten, a village near Skopje, on 12 August 2001. The village was attacked by the Macedonian special police unit.

As alleged in the indictment, seven Macedonian Albanians were killed, 14 houses were burned down and more than one hundred villagers were arrested in the attack.

Ljube Boskoski was the interior minister at the time. The charges against him are that he knew about the crimes, yet did nothing to prevent them or to punish the perpetrators.

Johan Tarculovski, his former bodyguard, is charged with commanding the Ljuboten attack.

The pre-trial conference in the Boskovski and Tarculovski case is scheduled for April 12, 2007 before the chamber presided by Judge Kevin Parker.
Fair use from B92.

“Top echelons knew about Kosovo crimes”

21 January 2007 | 11:51 | Source: B92, SENSE

THE HAGUE -- Aleksandar Vasiljević listed the crimes against Albanians that the Serbian authorities allegedly knew about in 1999.

Aleksandar Vasiljević, a major general and former head of Serbian counter-intelligence (KOS) told the Hague court as he testified in the Kosovo Six trial last week that the army and the police blamed each other, and how Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević dealt with the killings of Albanian civilians.

Vasiljević downplayed the responsibility of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) for the crimes against Kosovo Albanians, just as he had done four years ago at the trial of Slobodan Milošević. He did admit, however, that by mid-May 1999, the top Serbian military and political structures had known about them.

In April 1999, Vasiljević re-joined the army, agreeing to become the deputy head of the KOS. He had retired seven years earlier after his dismissal as KOS chief.

In the first few months after the war broke out the military intelligence service had no information about the crimes in Kosovo, he claims. He received the first reports of the killings, looting and rapes of ethnic Albanians on May 8.

Among the incidents he was informed about was the killing of 12 Albanian civilians in Podujevo by the Scorpions (Škorpioni), who were under the command of the Special Antiterrorist Units in the Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP).

Vasiljević also testified that he had learned that the police units known as the Operations and Pursuit Groups had expelled Albanians from Kosovska Mitrovica..

He said he reported this to general. General Ojdanić made a telephone call to the FRY president Slobodan Milošević, in Vasiljević’s presence. He told Milošević that "a lot of things are done" in Kosovo; what he meant was that crimes were committed against Albanians.

Vasiljević testified that on May 16, Dragoljub Ojdanić, Chief of VJ General Staff, and himself, attended a meeting with General Nebojša Pavković who said that the Interior Ministry Headquarters in Priština, under the command of General Sreten Lukić, "was blaming" the army for the killing of 800 Kosovo Albanians.

Pavković, the witness testified, told him and Ojdanić that he had carried out an internal military investigation. He established that there were 326 bodies of Albanians in the areas under the police control and 271 bodies in the areas controlled by the military.

High-ranking military officials reported everything they knew to Slobodan Milošević on May 17 at the meeting attended by generals Ojdanić and Pavković, Geza Farkas, head of military intelligence service, Rade Marković, head of police intelligence section, and Nikola Šainović, Milošević's man in charge of Kosovo.

Vasiljević recorded Milošević's response to the crimes in Podujevo committed by the Scorpions in his notebook, admitted into evidence by the court. Milošević allegedly referred to the Scorpions commander, Slobodan Medić, by his nickname Boca, saying he should be removed from the post.

He ordered Rade Marković to deal with the situation together with Vlajko Stojiljković, police minister, and Vlastimir Đordjević, RJB head. “No heads will roll,” Milošević reportedly added, as a consequence of the crimes that were committed.

Vasiljević mentioned two other units that were causing problems, apart from the Scorpions: the Special Operations Unit (JSO) and Arkan’s Tigers. Those units fought in Kosovo under the command of the Interior Ministry. All three units are said to have conscripted criminals who had previously committed a number of crimes in Croatia and Bosnia.

General Vasiljević's evidence continues on Monday.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fate of Kosovo looms large over Serbia election

By Neil MacDonald-Financial Times.

Published: January 19 2007

Serbia's parliamentary election on Sunday pits Vojislav Kostunica, the nationalist-leaning prime minister, against Bozidar Djelic, the former finance minister and economic reform advocate.

The election comes at a critical stage of international bargaining over Kosovo, the disputed Serbian province under United Nations administration since 1999.

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Although the main parties insist on Serbian territorial integrity, the outcome will determine if the largest former Yugoslav republic sets a course towards the European Union and Nato or continues to count on political backing from Russia.


In a sign of the election's regional significance, Traian Basescu, Romania's president, visited Belgrade this week to campaign for the Kostunica and Djelic parties. Serbia's European perspective, he warned, would be postponed for years if the extreme nationalists won.

Mr Basescu also urged the EU to keep its promises of future membership for the states of the former Yugoslavia. "European politicians are very well aware of the fact that a Europe which excludes the western Balkans could face problems."

Until campaigning intensified this month, the election appeared to promise more of the same - a loose coalition under Mr Kostunica, with pro-western parties accepting his leadership to keep the hardline nationalist Serb Radical party out of power.

But when Mr Kostunica refused to reject publicly a coalition with the Radicals until after the votes were counted, Boris Tadic, Serbia's pro-western president, responded by nominating Mr Djelic for prime minister.

Mr Djelic promises to turn Serbia into a "Balkan tiger" in the next decade with stricter fiscal management and a push to revive pre-EU accession negotiations.

Polls published in Belgrade newspapers this week suggest the Radical party will remain the largest single bloc in parliament, with up to 30 per cent of votes.

However, no one in the "democrat" camp would let the premiership go to Tomislav Nikolic, the Radical candidate. Vojislav Seselj, the party's official leader, is detained in The Hague on war crimes charges.

Polling by US-based Greenberg Research puts the Tadic-Djelic list next, with only 23 per cent, although Mr Djelic hopes to overcome voter apathy and win more votes than the Radicals.

Mr Kostunica's party was set to come third with about 15 per cent of votes, and the free-market G17 Plus 12 per cent. Unlike other potential coalition partners, G17 Plus looks compatible with a Kostunica or Djelic government.

The Liberal Democratic coalition and the Socialists, the party of the late Slobodan Milosevic, are struggling to clear the 5 per cent minimum to enter parliament.

Mr Kostunica is campaigning as an "integrating factor" for the politically troubled state, his team says.

But voter apathy is a worry for most parties except the Radicals, whose generous welfare promises have strong appeal to those who have lost out since the break-up of Yugoslavia.

The prime minister has courted the nationalist youth vote by appearing at a Serbian new year concert by Ceca, the turbo-folk singer and widow of a slain nationalist gang leader.

Vladeta Jankovic, a senior adviser to Mr Kostunica, said the campaign was patriotic rather than nationalistic in a negative sense.

A deal with the Radicals could alienate some of the prime minister's oldest supporters, some of whom say they fear the Radicals' populist economic agenda as much as its history of ethnic intolerance towards neighbouring states.

Economic policy has dominated campaign debates. Mladjan Dinkic, G17 Plus's leader and until recently finance minister, said that was a sign of greater "normality" than in past elections.

However, campaigning is overshadowed by the UN Security Council decision over the status of Kosovo, the 90 per cent ethnic Albanian province that was severed by Nato aerial bombardment in 1999.

Only the Liberal Democratic list, led by Cedomir Jovanovic, supports independence for Kosovo openly. Both main democratic parties are against any concession on Serbia's borders. Yet many voters backing the Tadic-Djelic list would prefer to let Kosovo go.

Post-election coalition bargaining could be further complicated if the chief UN mediator recommends EU-supervised independence for Kosovo in early February.

Additional reporting by Stefan Wagstyl in Bucharest

Kosovo's moment

Agim Ceku- International Herald Tribune- Published: January 18, 2007.

PRISTINA, Kosovo: This is a critical time for the Balkans: Serbia holds parliamentary elections on Sunday as Kosovo anxiously awaits a final report on the future status of the disputed province by the UN special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari.
We expect Ahtisaari to deny Serbia's demand to grant Kosovo broad autonomy within Serbian borders, and to endorse its bid for independence.
We need an independent Kosovo and a democratic Serbia. The European Union, now under German stewardship, can help by ensuring a common EU position in support of independence.
An independent Kosovo would benefit the region economically, politically and in terms of security. A decision on its status is long overdue, and as a result local frustrations are on the rise while the region continues to stagnate.
We need a new dynamic if we are to catch up with the EU. An independent Kosovo can provide that dynamic. Only the people of Kosovo — ethnic Albanians, Serbs and other minorities working together — can ensure that the province undergoes a successful transition.
A stable and prosperous Kosovo means a stable and prosperous region. Kosovo has a sound macroeconomic system, a broad tax base and a modern legislative system that protects private property and investors. Our labor laws are flexible. Kosovo has one of the simplest mechanisms for registering a company in the region. The government is currently overseeing a $2.3 billion coal energy development project — Kosovo has the fifth largest reserves of coal in the world.
Kosovo has changed in fundamental ways since NATO forces defeated Slobodan Milosevic's army in 1999 and a UN mission came to administer the province. Standards of living and personal freedom have improved, and we are working to give practical underpinnings to our reassurance to our minority citizens that the process of transition in Kosovo is for the good of us all.
We are ensuring that our Serb minority will live in municipalities where the police, schools and hospitals will be run by Serbs. We recognize Serbian as one of the official languages of Kosovo, and we further guarantee representation to our minorities in the government.
The future of the Kosovo Serbs is in Kosovo, and Kosovo's future is with its Serbs. We will succeed if we manage to preserve the multiethnic character of Kosovo. Those who misguidedly advocate partition, ignoring the fact that most of our Serbs are spread across Kosovo, are trying to challenge this future as well as call into question the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Macedonia.
We understand the stakes. Independence is above all a responsibility — a responsibility toward our citizens and the region. Independence is a beginning. Kosovo must develop a sustainable economy and we must improve our security capabilities. We can do both if we invest now in our young population so as to ensure their competitive edge in a globalized economy.
Kosovo is committed to a European future, but we have no illusions. We know that the European perspective for Kosovo is a work in progress. But I firmly believe that the whole region will move faster once Kosovo's independence is recognized; this includes Serbia, which would move relatively quickly toward the EU if it were free of the Kosovo issue.
We have two Serbias today. One is modern and economically progressive, open-minded about Kosovo, and has its compass set on the EU. The other Serbia is obsessed with Kosovo and stifled by backward-looking nationalist thinking.
The election Sunday in Serbia is about Europe and the future. Serbia does not need Kosovo in order to move to Europe. In fact, Serbia risks losing both Kosovo and its European perspective if voters on Sunday elect radicals and nationalist politicians. The illusion that Kosovo will again be part of Serbia is better left aside.
International law bestows upon states both rights and responsibilities. It is the responsibility of a government to protect its citizens and accord them equal rights. Serbia has failed to do so.
Europe will play a key role in coming months as the discussion on the final status of Kosovo moves to the UN Security Council. European consensus on Kosovo's final status will help ensure that we soon have a UN mandate, which would be a preferred solution.
As the leader of the EU, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany can use her moral authority and Germany's political clout to build a European consensus backing Kosovo's independence.
Success in Kosovo would remind the world of the potential of the United Nations and of NATO to work for international peace. It would bolster international and national confidence in their continued relevance.
I firmly believe that both institutions have played a crucial role in Kosovo's transformation. It would be truly unfortunate to undermine all these years of hard work and progress by losing the political will to move to the logical next stage — the recognition of an independent Kosovo.
This is Kosovo's moment, but we share it with the European Union. Strong leadership by the German presidency in overcoming division in Europe on Kosovo's final status will ensure that we seize this historic opportunity, pronounce Kosovo independent and begin a genuine regional push toward the EU.
Agim Ceku is the prime minister of Kosovo.
Fair Use-IHT.

What happened to Greater Albania?

Albania and Kosovo Jan 18th 2007 | PRISTINA AND TIRANA

From The Economist print edition

Nationalism is not nationality


SOON after Serbia's parliamentary election on January 21st, Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president asked by the United Nations to produce a plan for the future of Kosovo, will present his ideas. Since 1999 Kosovo has been under UN jurisdiction. Technically it is part of Serbia, but 90% of its 2m people are ethnic Albanians who want full independence. Mr Ahtisaari's plan will suggest that Kosovo becomes independent, but only with conditions. One is clear: Kosovo will unite neither with Albania nor with Albanian-inhabited parts of Macedonia.

In the 1990s, when the old Yugoslavia collapsed in blood, Serbs and Croats tried to carve out a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia. Many Serbs feel that it is thus only a matter of time before Albanians seek a Greater Albania. Yet neither in Kosovo nor in Albania have politicians advocating union ever made headway. A poll in Kosovo in 2005 found that whereas more than 90% backed independence, fewer than 10% wanted union with Albania. This points to a conclusion that Albanian nationalists hate: younger Albanians in Kosovo have developed a Kosovar identity of their own. It is not that they do not feel Albanian; rather that they see no contradiction in feeling Kosovar as well.

Over the next few months this debate will intensify, not least because Kosovo will need a flag. Today Kosovo Albanians use Albania's; but if Kosovo becomes independent, it will need its own. Prominent in the discussion will be Migjen Kelmendi, who edits a paper written in Kosovo's Albanian dialect, as opposed to the standard literary form. He says that when Kosovo was oppressed by Serbia, “I had to identify with Albanianism.” Now, he feels proud about being a Kosovar as well.

The difference between Serbs and Croats on the one hand, and Albanians on the other, is that most Serbs and Croats lived in one country until 1991. Since the end of Ottoman rule in 1912 Albanians never have, and so they have grown apart. Politicians in Albania have never shown much interest in their kinsmen outside the country. With independence in sight, Kosovo's leaders have no intention of submerging their new state into another.

Albanian nationalists generally dislike the term “Greater Albania”, preferring to talk about “ethnic Albania”. This covers not just Albania, Kosovo and western Macedonia, but parts of Serbia and Montenegro too. Few Albanians, however, are interested in fashioning a new state out of this land. For most, joining the European Union is a far more pressing concern.

In any case, especially between Kosovo and Macedonia, a quarter of whose 2m people are Albanians, politicians and academics, students, businessmen—and criminals—all move around as if they lived in one country. A Macedonian Albanian, Teuta Arifi, argues that Albanians should emulate German-speakers, who have built separate identities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria while continuing to belong to the same German culture.

A pan-Albanian market of 6m consumers, is slowly emerging. But in terms of business there is some way to go. In 2005 Kosovo's exports to Albania were a mere €5.2m ($6.5m), and Albania did not even rank among its top ten importers.

Worried neighbours

Kosovo looms large in Serb poll
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Presevo, Serbia

Budmir Jankovic and Xhevap Ameti
Friends are bridging the old ethnic divide near Kosovo

On Sunday Serbia will hold its first general election since becoming an independent state last year.

One topic looms large over the election, the future of the province of Kosovo.

In southern Serbia the Albanian and Serb communities are looking anxiously at developments in neighbouring Kosovo.

"I help my Serb friend sell onions here in the Albanian market and he helps me to sell my potatoes in the Serb market further north," says Xhevap Ameti, an Albanian, living near the town of Presevo in southern Serbia.

"We've tried war, we've tried politics and none of it has worked. But we've managed to connect ordinary people through this agricultural association.

"We've been able to maintain the relationships between Albanians and Serbs and we hope to be an example to other people," says Xhevap.

Serbia/Kosovo map

His Serb friend and trading partner, Budimir, agrees:

"We've become so close that I come with my family to visit him and we really do help each other.

"I see our personal friendship as the most important thing. I cannot describe it in words. Politics is politics and life is life," says Budimir.

Guerrilla war

Relations between Serbs and Albanians in southern Serbia, in the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, have not always been so warm.

In 2001 ethnic Albanian guerrillas fought Serb security forces in the hills around here.

A wider conflict was ultimately avoided, the international community got involved, money came in and the Albanians were given more rights.

"The introduction of a multi-ethnic police force has certainly helped matters. The security situation has improved. But this is still an impoverished area," says Martin Brooks of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Kosovo Albanian children next to Free Kosovo slogan in Mitrovica
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians are hungry for independence

As a sign of how things have improved, a coalition of Albanian parties will take part in this general election, finally ending years of boycott.

But there is concern about the consequences for the finely balanced ethnic relations should trouble erupt in neighbouring Kosovo just a few kilometres over the nearby hills.

The province of Kosovo remains a part of Serbia but has been administered by the UN since 1999.

Its majority Albanian population want independence.

The chief international envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, has said he will present his proposal for the future status of Kosovo "without delay" after the Serbian election.

There is a widespread belief he will recommend some form of independence.

Serb migration

There is concern that some Serbs may then leave Kosovo and move to southern Serbia, upsetting the ethnic balance.

"Whenever there is migration the situation becomes tense. We don't want to see our own people thrown out of Kosovo and it would have a negative impact. But we would accept them and take them in," says Svetislav Stojmenovic, the owner of the Oasis restaurant in the town of Bujanovac.

He is also a leading member of the Serbian Radical Party, the main nationalist party in Serbia.

"We don't want a new war here. We want peace and higher standards of living. But we will never agree to an imposed solution over Kosovo and we will wait for an historical moment when we can legally regain that territory if it becomes independent," he says.

At a cafe around the corner a leading Albanian politician tells me he would be concerned if there was a sudden influx of Serb refugees.

Jonuz Musliu, a former Albanian fighter, is now leader of the Movement for Democratic Progress in Bujanovac.

"We don't know what's going to happen," he tells me.

"But if many Serbs leave Kosovo and come to Bujanovac, they are likely to be angry and frustrated. There could be tensions. I think there would have to be some international police here to defend both Serbs and Albanians."

For many in southern Serbia, it is not this general election that they are paying attention to but its immediate aftermath. Fair use from BBC.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here's what Kosovo needs for its 'final status': independence

January 16, 2007
The 20th century was unkind to the Balkans. From the "guns of August" that ignited World War I to Nazi atrocities in World War II to repressive communist rule to the brutal Balkan wars a decade ago, the "Balkan ghosts" haunt this corner of the world even as the new nations of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro chart independent brighter futures.

Left behind is Kosovo: traumatized, simmering, caught in limbo between a past repudiated by ethnic cleansing and an unliberated future.

Kosovo is an area with 2 million people. Ninety percent are Muslim ethnic Albanians, the rest mostly Christian Serbs. Tensions go back centuries due to clashes of culture, heritage and religion. Occasionally there were violent eruptions. After World War II, Josip Broz Tito brought together Yugoslavia under his Communist rule. To dilute Serbian dominance, he created various semi-autonomous governments, including in Kosovo, and used his secret police to crack down on any nationalists.

After Tito, in 1990, Slobodan Milosevic abolished Kosovo autonomy. The only Albanian-language newspaper was banned. Albanian language TV and radio broadcasts ended. Pristina University was purged. Albanian security forces were replaced by 40,000 Serbian troops and police. Milosevic began a campaign of "ethnic cleansing": hundreds of thousands of Albanians were driven from their homes and 10,000 killed.

In 1999, NATO bombing ended the ethnic cleansing and Kosovo, while still a Serbian province, has been ruled by the U.N. ever since as a de facto protectorate. The issue today is whether Kosovo should gain independence or remain attached to Serbia.

Ethnic divisions remain deep. De facto state institutions are fragile. European standards on an independent judiciary, freedom of movement and various other criteria are not fully met. But the present uncertainty is untenable.

The real problems in Kosovo are poverty, crime, corruption and a democracy deficit. The physical infrastructure is dilapidated. Belgrade calls on the Serb population to boycott Kosovo institutions. Without the stability that only will come from resolving Kosovo's final status, there will be no foreign investment. And only an acceptance of that final status will move all ethnic groups to participate in building their joint future.

Fringe groups and extremists exploit the uncertainty and widespread frustration. Further ethnic violence is a rising concern. And, as a practical matter, Kosovo's international wardship cannot be extended indefinitely.

The chief U.N. administrator in Kosovo, Joachim Rucker, recently said, "Delay is more than just a loss of time. Delay will raise tension and play into the hands of extremists on all sides."

Former Finnish President Marti Ahntasari has led "final status" negotiations with all interested parties for a year. The International Contact Group appears posed to recommend Kosovo independence contingent on various conditions to ensure nondiscrimination and other things. Kosovo's dependence on the international donor community provides leverage to insure compliance.

It is time to set Kosovo free.

I recall a conversation I had in Mitrovica with Dr. Milena Cretkovic, a Serb. She told me, "I am a doctor who has treated Albanian patients. I never asked whether we could live together, we just did.

"It is difficult to be a minority when you have been a majority. Like the Germans after World War II, we live with the burden of guilt, but we will find a road forward."

The moment of truth has come. The gate should be swung open so they can walk down that road.

Richard S. Williamson is a Chicago lawyer and former U.S. ambassador at the U.N
Fair Use.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A multimillionaire joins the fray of Kosovo politics



Behgjet Pacolli, a multimillionaire and possibly the richest Albanian, has formed his own party to compete in the next parliamentary elections in Kosovo.There have been constant speculation in recent years that Mr. Pacolli,whose construction company is based out of Switzerland,is thinking about joining politics. Looks as if now he has found an opening to join the fray of Kosovar politics.

His new party is called Alliance for New Kosovo and his message is employment and the economy ( It's the economy stupid).The new parties slogan is : Enough with Words,alluding to the failures of the current parties to deliver anything. Kosovo parties are notorious for promising paradise before every election, and delivering very little. They are full of rhetoric and no substance. Will this new party be different?

Time will tell, but there are reasons to believe Mr. Pacolli will be different. First off,unlike most other politicians, Pacolli is a self made man and a very successful business man. A recent opinion poll from Index Kosovo puts his party in third place right behind the LDK, of late President Rugova and PDK, the party formed by former members of KLA. This is good news for the people of Kosovo. After the status of the country is resolved, Kosovo will need people like Mr. Pacolli. The current demagogs and populists( with the exeption of PM and the President) have failed miserably in every aspect of the word. I for once, welcome the creation of this party. Hope he will be a part of next government that will be formed later in the fall of 2007. Ferik F.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Opponents of new Kosovo must be stopped

By Joseph Biden

Published: January 2 2007 19:12 | Financial Times

Years of hand-wringing and chest-thumping over the future status of Kosovo may finally be drawing to a close. In the next few months, adroit diplomacy to secure Kosovo’s independence could yield a victory for Muslim democracy, a better future for south-east Europe and validation for the judicious use of American power.

But along with the potential for triumph in Kosovo, there is a growing risk that Serbia and Russia will conspire to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. Extremists in Belgrade and Moscow are – for very different reasons – hoping to use Russia’s United Nations Security Council veto to quash Kosovo’s bid for independence. If they succeed, the Balkans will emerge as another source of bad news in a world already crowded with crises.

During the seven years since Nato ended Slobodan Milosevic’s reign of terror in Kosovo, a UN-backed administration has largely succeeded in bringing stability to the province. However, Kosovo’s people are justifiably tired of a status quo marked by uncertainty and economic privation. These two intertwined problems will continue so long as the debate over the province’s future remains unresolved. Its ambiguous status is also leading to stagnation in Serbia.

Nationalist politicians in Belgrade have embraced the fight against Kosovo’s independence to divert public attention from their own failures and Serbia’s stalled bid for European Union membership. The actions of Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia’s prime minister, have been particularly disappointing. In addition to refusing international requests to call for the arrest of war crimes fugitives Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, Mr Kostunica has rejected every attempt at compromise on Kosovo. Serbia’s moral authority on the issue hit a new low in October when the 1.5m ethnic Albanian residents of the province were denied the right to vote in a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that declared Kosovo an integral part of Serbia.

To their great credit, the people of Serbia have proved more realistic about Kosovo than their elected leaders. Opinion polls show that many Serbs foresee that the province will gain independence. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, meanwhile, overwhelmingly expect to sever ties with Serbia. With citizens on both sides of the issue ready to finish the debate and move on to more constructive challenges, leaders who block a solution will do so at their peril.

Historically, trouble in the Balkans is almost always the result of false expectations. On the whole, the citizens of south-east Europe are mentally prepared for an independent Kosovo.

If Belgrade postpones a settlement it will reopen the issue for many Serbs previously resigned to Kosovo’s independence and further inflame frustrations among the region’s ethnic Albanians. The result could be a return of the mob violence that shook Kosovo in March 2004.

A Russian effort to delay a deal on Kosovo would be in keeping with the Kremlin’s habit of fostering weak, subservient governments in formerly communist states. Moscow has apparently reached the conclusion that impoverished, unstable regimes are easier targets for manipulation than prosperous, independent countries. It has made extensive, public use of oil and gas diplomacy to undermine the budding democracies of eastern Europe. Less attention has focused on the Kremlin’s quiet efforts to exacerbate territorial conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. Serbia could become the latest victim of this strategy.

Kosovo is not ready for full sovereignty. Even after independence, Nato and the international community will need to provide security guarantees for Kosovo’s minorities and strengthen its economy and institutions. But it is time to grant the province independence. The longer the status debate continues, the further Kosovo and Serbia will fall behind other rapidly progressing former Yugoslav republics such as Croatia and Slovenia.

Success in Kosovo, if realised, will have implications far beyond the Balkans. A responsible Russian approach to the issue could demonstrate the Kremlin’s commitment to global order at a time when its credibility is in tatters. The people of Kosovo – already the most pro-American in the Islamic world – will provide a much-needed example of a successful US-Muslim partnership. Stability in south-east Europe would be a welcome bit of good news and offer hope in a season of tremendous foreign policy challenges.

The writer is the incoming Democratic chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee