Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I should be back by June 9th. Until then.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Forget Orlando and Las Vegas, it's Montenegro calling.

Rebranding Montenegro

An interesting op-ed piece in Saturday's Express raises the possibility of a rebirth of Montenegrin ethnic group in Kosova. The author reminds us that Montenegrins were prominently mentioned along with Serbs as victims in the 80's only to disappear in the early 90's from state official vocabulary. Even in Rambuillet, when Serb delegation collected state-supporting members from the minorities as part of its delegation, Montenegrins did not feature on it. With Serb state handling all the pertinent and non-pertinent issues, I doubt UNMIK has heard of such a notion either, despite the fact that a significant number of refugees from Kosovo reside in Montenegro.

By observation, where Serbs and Montenegrins lived side by side to allow us a comparison (W and NW of KS), Montenegrins eclipsed their brothers in terror. And Milosevic and Karadzic are Montenegrins. But now that Montenegro is an independent country, it is likely that Podgorica will try to rebrand its people along with its own image.

The fact that Yugoslavia or Serbia does not figure anymore in the name of your country will be helpful in developing international tourism. It might even work with coexistence in Kosovo. It certainly helps that Montenegro stayed out of the war and does not have territorial ambitions towards Kosovo.

I smell DSL

Time slows down when passing by certain countries. This issue is at least four years old. At first Serb operators were visibly operating antennas inside Kosovo, which were eventually taken down last year. Now in a letter to the illegal mobile operators from beyond Kosovo's borders PTK asks these companies:

"The PTK has verified that you are operating illegally in Kosovo, where the only licensed operator is the PTK," the letter reads. "We have made surveys and we know precisely how you have increased the antenna transmission power in order to transmit waves within the territory of Kosovo." (ECIKS)

On another telecom news,

[Slovenia Telecom has] purchased the majority shares of Ipko Net for euro19.5 million (about $25 million), with euro10 million ($13 million) earmarked for investments in improving the infrastructure in the next two years, according to a statement issued by the province's company.

According to the official press release, the two companies are interested in bidding for the second mobile operator license. For Kosovo this is one of the better possible results, I think.

Don't boycott Serbia

Tadic protests against the boycott campaign initiated by the Self-determination Movement I blogged about earlier. I guess it's working.

BELGRADE, May 28, 2006 (BETA) - Serbian President Boris Tadic sharply protested against the boycott of Serbian goods in Kosovo and Metohija, the president's press service said on May 28.

Tadic requested UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen to immediately stop such "an anti-democratic and anti-European" campaign and take serious action against its ringleaders.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Liberte Toujours

Kosovo Prishtina, originally uploaded by Severin S.

Kosovo remains one of the few countries in Europe where smoking is advertised liberally. Hefty taxes on cigaretts, which last year increased by 300%, are a major source of revenue for the government. No such things as gray lungs on cigarette packages in Kosovo.

A personal thank you goes to the Cultural Heritage Without Borders from Sweden for their continuous work on preserving Kosovo's cultural heritage. A list of their projects can be found here, and photos of their work are here.

Renovated kulla

At the end of May a competition will be closed for the submission of revitalization plans for the Prizren Nënkalaja (lit. Belowfortress) neighborhood and the historic city centre. Eleven Universities from all over Ex-Yu and Albania have been invited to participate.

It was a common practice during the Communist year for the old city centers to be replaced by department stores and other such cold architecture. During the war further damage was done to what Communists couldn't finish. Since then CHwB and other organizations have stepped in to save or rebuild some of that heritage. The Old Market in Gjakova is one of the results of this work. Traditional Albanian kulla architecture (tower houses) has also been revitalized in the villages of Dukagjin, western part of Kosovo, with most of the amenities of the modern world built in.

Petersen on the Krusha disgrace:

"I am outraged and disappointed at this incident. It is important for the people of Kosovo to understand that their quest for justice can only be achieved through the course of justice, not by extra-judicial means. This requires, first and foremost, that there should be respect for the rule of law,” the SRSG said.

The fact that there have been seven years know and Krusha still has not buried its dead is beyond Petersen. We Albanians are bad tampered, we don't get how justice works. Pray Mr. Petersen, tell us how justice works.

Kosova Womens Network have responded to the violence in Krusha e Vogel by a letter sent to UNMIK PSSP and UNMIK Police Commissioner. According to KWN:

The incident of 25 May in Krusha e Vogel was not interethnic, declared citizens of Krusha e Vogel. Women of Krusha e Vogle declared that they did not throw stones on Serbs, but on the police of UNMIK by whom they were physically attacked.

According to Commissioner Vittrup, twelve armed car of UNMIK police arrived in Krusha e Vogel on 25 May at 9:15, to colloect information for the Hague Tribunal. The convoy arrived totally unannouced. Their arrival was not announced to the local elected officials, public institutions, Kosovo police or citizens of the village.

When the women of the village saw in one of the cars of UNMIK Police Bora Cvetkovic and Gordana Djordjevic (Serb inhabitants of Krusha before the war), women asked to talk to them. They wanted to ask Serbs where their sons and husbands were, disappered since the war. UNMIK Police refused women's request. After this women blocked the road stopping police cars to move further.

UNMIK Police then tried to physically remove women from the road pushing them aside by force. When women resisted, police started using rubber battons. Women of the village responded by throwing stones on the direction of the police and their cars. In the meantime men of the village had arrived to defend their women and when they arrived some of the UNMIK policemen got on cars whereas other continued to hit villagers with battons and gun buttocks. Then all policemen got into armed cars and threw tear gas while retreating. They threw gas in the vicinity of the school too, at the time when children were on break in the schoolyard.

According to the data from Prizren hospital, that day in the hospital were admitted 36 people, among them 3 men and 33 women. All the men had physical wounds. Twenty chidlren were treated for tear gas symptoms. On May 26 at the hospital were still 14 people, among them a student with a broken hand and 13 women with gas poisioning, light physical wounds, and psychological traumas.

One girl was treated for serious kidney damage as a result of being hit by rubber batton on the back. (sq.Oneworld)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Egg was first, and then came chicken. Farmer, scientist, and philosopher agree. I second them.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some 36 wounded from a clash in Krusha e Vogel, a village of 800 near Prizren. Not everything is clear yet. Serb families, about 1/3 of the population, were trying to return to their homes in the village, while a group of Albanians, most of them children and women, threw stones. UNMIK Police intervened with brutality wounding 36 of the villagers.

Krusha e Vogel and Krusha e Madhe fed and took care of the wounded during the war although in the villages themselves there wasn't any resistance. In character and hard work people of the Krushas are the best one can find in Kosovo. For their support of KLA the village was punished with savage attacks, after which only 10 Albanian men who had escaped beforehand survived. Men and even boys were rounded up and placed in enclosed spaces where they were spayed with machine guns. The building was then burned and the remains taken away. Some of the "chosen" escaped to tell the story. The massacre is part of the testimony against Milosevic.

I know these people first hand because my father supplied the village doctor with medicine until about a month before the massacre. It was extremely risky to do so and drugs were only basic pain killers and some to stop bleeding and keep the wounds clean of infections. The bravery of the doctor and countless others in this village who awaited their fate while continuing to take care of others makes me feel very weak.

This article and this one from 2000 explain why it is so hard for people of Krusha e Vogel to forgive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Inflation Nation

Now I know all of you read Kosova Report regularly, but I don't want anybody to miss this particular article. The EU warning the author mentions is hilarious and typical European. There is a certain geekiness in his tone too, as if he's telling Serbia "I got your password and have been talking to your girlfriend the last few days."

For those of you who cannot grasp the concept of inflation and the numbers he mentions, it was so bad that in 1993 my mother's monthly wage given to her in the morning was worth exactly a toothpaste by the time she came home. Let's hope that those kinds of denominations with the multitude of zeros won't happen again and dinars of that era will become valuable collection items to illustrate the folly of homo economicus.

From todays UNMIK Press Release:

“I have noted with concern periodic statements from certain quarters that risk creating a
climate of fear and insecurity among the Kosovo Serbs,” the SRSG said, “All too often
ethnic motive is alleged for crimes merely because the victims happen to be from the Kosovo
Serb community. Whereas we always deplore any attack on any citizen, statements of
misleading nature are not helpful and are in fact contrary to the interests of the Kosovo Serbs.
This kind of misinformation not only erodes their confidence level, but has a cascading
negative impact on inter-ethnic relations.”
As compared to 72 incidents recorded during
January to March 2005, there were only 19 such incidents during the same period this year.
Of these incidents, 12 involved Kosovo Serb, six Kosovo Albanian and one Kosovo Croatian
victims. Among Kosovo Serb victims, one was a case of attempted murder, two assaults,
three intimidations and six cases of criminal damage.

Section on Serbia and Montenegro (Kosova is discussed at the bottom of the page) from Amnesty International's 2005 report released yesterday. From the Kosova part:.
According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), 426 people were charged with criminal offences in connection with the March 2004 violence in which 19 people died and 954 civilians and 184 police and security personnel were injured. As of November, some 209 people had been convicted and 12 acquitted, with 110 cases still pending and 95 charges dropped.

Meanwhile Ceku government has come up with a plan today in which it asks UNMIK to give Prishtina and municipalities more authority in dealings with minorities. I applaud the move and hope that UNMIK will let them prove themselves.

Government in today’s meeting approved the changes to the returns and reintegration policies so that the competencies related to these issues can be transferred from UNMIK to the locals in order the institutions of Kosova to be able to provide full security to those willing to come back. (Kosovalive)
British Council reopened its office in Prishtina yesterday while Skopje will open its office (future embassy?) for the first time there in a few weeks. Kosova will open its own office in Brussels with the blessing of the UN and EU.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Don't take Serbian personally

I had a revelation today: Solana was such a sceptic of Montenegro for internal reasons. If independence becomes the norm in Europe, Spain will have to face its own separatists.

Anyways. A good editorial on the state of the Balkans. It seems like the capital of the area is Vienna and the common language is English, although we all speak Serbian and Vienna is not in the region. Link comes through Carl Bildt's cautious welcome to Montenegro.

On a side note, I'm having a suspicion that Montengro's flag with be confused with Albania's. Have these people not learnt anything from the Slovakia-Slovenia confusion, keep your flags and county names different.

The misguided economic policy is one of the less talked subjects of the UNMIK administration. The last folly suggested to raise government revenue is the excise tax on local soft-drink producers. Owners of the firms that make juices and cola drinks have threatened to fire their employees if the tax is implemented. Food industry in Kosova was pretty much born after the war and has to compete with the established products from Serbia. At the same time, Kosova's products have been kept out of Macedonia and Serbia through beauracratic hurdles and taxes. UNMIK has failed to gain reciprocity for Kosova's products while at the same time pushing for an open market. The situation with Macedonia has improved somewhat in the last few months.
US Embassy in Skopje, which serves citizens of Kosovo and Macedonia, has established a hotline costing 12$/7 minutes in order to setup an interview. After depositing the amount at the bank, a PIN will provided which will allows the applicant to make the call. The interview fee of 45$ (last time I checked) comes extra.

PM Ceku declared today that the political responsiblity of Minister Petkovic will be decided very soon. Ceku has submitted a file with his findings to the public judge.
A BBC roundup of Serb and Montenegrin press on the results of the referendum. Yakima... has more on the subject.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Petersen's grass

In this map from the "Coordination Centre of Serbia & Montenegro and Republic of Serbia" (redundant, isn't it?) are shown the priorities of Serbia when the return of Serbs is concerned. In red are areas labeled "concluded (utverdeni) return priority." In indigo are "areas of majority non-albanian communities." And in yellow are "majority Serb areas." The goal is clearly to link the yellow areas together into one. Vetevendosje! says that the aim is not to return Serbs to their homes, but rather build up new communities so that this kind of linkage can be implemented. It is in the interest of Serbia to postpone the return as much as possible in order to justify something like this during the negotiations.

This is old too but I couldn't find pictures of the event until now. You might remember the fear that 800 hectares of land around the Decani Monastery were being granted extraterritoriality by UNMIK. People were not allowed to work the lands or the factories around it but cut grass. Vetevendosje! and local citizens from Deçan took some of that dry grass and unloaded it in front of the UNMIK HQ in Pristina. Here is Petersen's grass. More recently they started a false evacuation alarm in the same building and then handed out notices where supposedly UNMIK was asking its staff to evacuate Kosova as soon as possible. This incident ended with about 20 arrests, I think, some of them in charges as well.

Boycott this barcode

Self-determination Movement (Vetëvendosje!) has brought us a new campaign, a smart one I might add.

Boycot this barcode

"Boycott Serbia's products" - "Boycott this barcode" - "Hurt Serbia, help Kosova"

Stuff Independence happens

Flag of Montenegro

Just so that you are not confused, this is the flag of the newly created country of Montenegro.

Taking sexiness out of news

The follow ups are always clearer than the news itself. Granted, they come several days after the event, are short, and usually in the back of the paper. But then, those same reasons are also strenghs. The sad part is that nobody follows the follow ups.

Here are the old news of they day.

Remember Xhamjl Gashi arrested in Germany several days ago accussed of "genocide?" They have the wrong man. UNMIK has mixed up identies once again. Gashi fears that he could be extradited to Serbia where he would stand trial for allegedly killing several Albanian collaborators.

The incident in Runik a while ago when Albanian students threw stones on a passing Serb bus. It was a single boy who did it after he was instigated by passing Serbs. It is not rare that Serbs going from one enclave to another show pictures of their leaders residing in Hague today and make other inflamatory signs. UNMIK, KFOR, and local government representatives have held a meeting with the students of the school to explain that they are damaging Kosovo's interests by their behavior.

Rohan has caught Albanians by surprise by his request for them to give up more municipalities. The understanding was that if Albanians were generous with their offers, international community would stand for their rights. Now it seems like we are dealing with classic negotiations. Right now Serbs are asking for about 35% of the territory.

In the chain of scandals of past years, this one is very interesting. About $2.7 million were spent on electronic bomb evading devices for Kosova's government officials. The problem is that the technology is 40 years old and the modern ones cost only $800,000. I wouldn't recommend them for use in Iraq.
An MP from the ORA party accuses that the "attempted assasination" of President Rugova by an explosion while driving through a Prishtina boulevard a while ago was done to justify the expense. Only in Kosovo, my friends. Deotec, the seller of the equipment, is represented by a former criminal jailed in Germany and banned from entering the US for supplying WMD making equipment to Libya..

And the cream, Serb lobby's mouthpiece will have some competition now. ::

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Serbia like Nokia?

That's what soccer fans chanted in Prishtina. Serb daily Kurir disagreed with them and the paper is now in court.


I'm looking for someone who would like to help with this blog. If you like what you see here and have time and will to blog on Kosova/o, get back to me.

Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League (Albanian lobby), analysis the newfly formed Serb lobby. We mostly tend to agree.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Looking for a way to boost support for your independence drive? Let Google AdSense handle it for you.

A web ad for the Alliance for a New Kosovo placed on

Things a rolling - kinda

We are beginning to see some repositioning from the UN negotiators after the failure of three meetings to draw the two parties together.

[Rohan] said again that he could not give any figure of new municipalities that will be formed. He only stressed that any new municipality should have at least 5 000 residents and 70% of them should belong to the same ethnicity.

Albanians have already responded by offering three more municipalities for a total of 6. Serbs want 14, still. Also, I don't know if this is pure manouvering or is it really going to take beyond this year for negotiations to close.
Ahtisaari pointed out that, if a solution for the status of Kosovo is not found by Dec. 31, 2006, "we will have to live with it."

Other [EU] ministers later spoke in similar fashion, against the setting of strict deadlines for solving the status of Kosovo, especially pointing out the need for the implementation of standards in the province.

Well, we've been waiting for only seven years, or 15, depending on who's counting, we'll survive another one. I remember back in the elementary school days when my parents started hoping that by the time I entered high school everything would settle. Guess what, we had to wait many more years. Wait! Wait! Wait! It's pathetic! That's what our president Rugova taught us. One more year? Sure, we don't mind. In the meantime whole generations of students grew up studying in private houses. What's the hurry, mate?!

Albanians have been selling their property in the "Mitrovica North" for a while now. Certain state agencies from Serbia are offering cash for it, which is then offered to the Serb students from across Serbia studying in the university there. There are about 11,000 Albanians that cannot live in their homes across the river. As a result, rents in the south are exorbitant from overcrowding. Prishtina, where the population has more than doubled after the war with migration from villages and internationals, is also very expensive.
UNMIK representative to Mitrovica Jerry Galluci said on Thursday that the people may chose where they want to live as long as there is not any threat, and stressed that it is ridicules why those who remained so far in "Mitrovica North" now are selling their properties.

Is he saying to the Serbs to keep up the threat level, in which case Albanians cannot go back to their homes?

Mr. Draskovic keeps on insisting on a "a compromise solution, which would envisage respect of all legitimate rights of the Albanians, the Serbs' right to be protected with international guarantees, and respect of the U.N. Charter." Hurray for the UN Charter. Serbs are one step behind the times. This offer might have worked well before the attempted genocide, but not anymore.

Three days without a post and the yearn to do it is clearly visible on me.

Montenegro's independence is approaching. For the record, I believe that an independent Montenegro will be a boon to itself and the region. A successful trip to Europe for Montenegro will show the path to all of its neighbors, including Serbia. A Montenegro takings seriously its bid will insure that it works hard to fulfill European standards, without having anybody to blame. Its political class consciously or unconsciously is entering into a path through which they will be highly monitored and evaluated. All in all, Montenegro is small and with potential. It might very well turn into EU's show child and drag Serbia along into the EU. While reformists in Belgrade suffered a defeat in Belgrade last week with the exit of Labus from government, a Montenegro on the way to Europe could very well prove their biggest asset.

But let's see what other people are saying about Sunday's referendum.

Carl Bildt:
Although the election campaign is monitored by both the OSCE and the Council of Europe, it is obvious that all the tricks of the trade - and in Montenegro there are many - are employed.
Has Russia put another knife on Serbia's back? Are Russian business interests for Montenegro's independence, as Bildt suggests?
It's not unlikely that there are shady Russian interests also supporting the pro-independence camp. The by far largest enterprise of the country - the aluminum works by Podgorica - has just been taken over by a Russian group of somewhat debatable reputation, and other Russian business interests are moving in, not the least on the property market.
As Slovenian leadership would predict at the onset of the Yugoslav upheaval, the break-up started and will end in Kosovo. But who would have thought that Montenegro too would make its bid for independence. Once again, like in the good old 80's, some Serbs bring on the all-or- nothing mentality threatening with war and mass migration if they don't get it their way.

Berane, a town of about 15,000 people and former industrial hub in the northwest of Montenegro, is widely regarded as a bastion of pro-unionist support, Serb leaders say further separation from the government in Belgrade would provoke an exodus. Mayor Relja Jovancevic, a Serb, talks forebodingly about the region being plunged into a civil conflict, just as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were from 1992 to 1995 at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.

"There'll be civil war. I'll sell my house and my property and leave," Jovancevic said in an interview.

Both sides have been mobilized to bring out the vote. I think the government (pro-independence) factions are way more organized, and not only because they have most of the government institutions at their disposal. Serb government has responded where it could, despite promises not to intervene. JAT has offered extra flights to carry Montenegrins living in Serbia and Serb church has blessed the union. Probably as many M-Albanians live outside of Montenegro (mostly in New York) as within; they are all likely to vote for independence. Government airline is offering to fly in Montenegrins abroad for free.
In what history may yet call the Podgorica airlift, the local airline has scrapped its normal timetable to lay on more than 200 special flights for émigrés exercising their right to vote on Montenegro’s destiny. Some have proudly paid their own way but many, from as far away as New York and Chicago, have been given free tickets, paid for by unnamed benefactors.

And what is at stake?
Montenegrins have been seduced by a dream of a Europe that is a peculiar mixture of the bourgeois prosperity that they hope the EU will deliver and the Europe of tinpot principalities that their brocaded flags recall.
I should probably mention that there are concerns coming from Serbia, once again, on the economic survival of such a small country. But institute little or no taxes and a policy of secrecy and Montenegro could very well be Monaco of the eastern Mediterranean. For a change. Who would need EU if you can be a Monaco. But nevertheless it seems like a plan already exists to jumpstart Montenegro in the association talks with EU.
Along Montenegro’s spectacular coastline, where limestone cliffs plunge into emerald bays and developers salivate over the “next Croatia”, plan B may very well be for “bonanza”.
Once the results are settled, Montenegro is definitely a buy, buy, buy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A story with potential is developing in Albania. Recently Albania admitted the five Chinese citizens of Uighur background released from Guantanamo.

Diplomatic sources said the United States, which refused to allow the five men to stay there, asked more than 20 countries to take them before asking Albania. China's ambassador to Albania on Monday pressed for the Uighurs to be handed over to China. (Reuters)
Albania has an import-relationship with China worth some $150 million. In circa 1960 it was communist Albania that sponsored China's seat at the UN in place of Taiwan. We'll have to see if this will affect China's stance towards Kosova too. Yet this is true chinckenry by countries that stand for freedom and human rights to let the fate of the five men on the hands of poor and weak Albania.

Kultur Minister of Bulgaria is on a visit to Kosova. He states that there is progress in repairing objects of culture and that... he is of Albanian origin. There are some villages around Sofia with Albanian population - I forget how this came to be.


“There was state-owned property in the 50s, including various cooperatives and social organizations. But they existed only from 1946 to 1953,” the source said. “Serbia has no property in Kosovo.” (Lajm through ECIKS)

Ooops! Could the property law gods be on Kosova's side? Further, "the Constitution of Former Republic of Yugoslavia determines only two kinds of properties: socially owned and publicly owned properties." I'm not sure of which constitution they are talking about, but wouldn't the definition of "public" and "society" matter here? Could Kosova share its privatisation revenue with Serbia and turn around and sue Serbia for a share of its much more lucrative privatisation earnings? Privatisation works in mysterius ways.


Decani Monastery has welcomed for the first time after the war a group of Albanian high school students and teachers from Irzniq village, Decani municipality. Smart move by Fr. Sava - not that he needs my commendation.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Times are changing

Artist Damir Niksic has perfected into art the dilemma of being Muslim in Europe. This simple fact has had major repercussions in the life of people and YakimaGulagLiteraryGazette brings a wonderful post on it.

Police (UNMIK that is) have concluded that the 3 A.M. gas pump wouding of two young men in Mitrovica earlier this week was a robbery. However, Marko Jaksic, a Serb leader from Mitrovica insists that no money was stolen and that the crime was ethnically motivated. Who do you trust?

Petersen also reported this week that crimes involving Serbs in the first quarter of the year have gone done compared to same time last year. In fact, share of violence involving Serbs has been close to their share of population. Yet he says Serbs do not feel safe.

Let's go back to Mitrovica once again now. I feel that half-truths are much more dangerous than outright lies. Half-truths take the guards down and indulge the subject into unquestioned complacency. With the "robbery" and another shoot-out at a Serb church representative's family car before that, the hardly reported fact was that the crimes happened in north of Mitrovica. This makes me believe that it is very unlikely that Albanians were involved. There are only a few hundred Albanians living on the other side of the town proper, under the watchful eyes of Serb paramilitaries. As two Albanians journalists from Gazeta Java and John Simpson of BBC reported, anyone crossing the bridge from the south is followed by the Guards of the Bridge. Java also reported that UNMIK's control of the area is hardly discernible, with only about 1/10 cars checked up when they cross the border from Serbia. Police stay on the main road and don't venture further. The Belgian and French NATO camps have been relocated to the south. Understandbly PM office on Friday judged harshly the stoning of the Serb bus but didn't mention the other two incidents at all. I'm guessing that the reason is that the government doesn't control north of Iber and doesn't feel responsible for what happens there. To Serbs: you can't have security and eat it too.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A great analysis about status and beyond by a Serb. This is by far the best analysis I have read on Kosova by anybody yet. The range of issues he touches on within such a short article is amazing. The article is a translation of the London-based Bosnian Institute from Belgrade's Helsinška Povelja, apparently published a while ago -- in February.

The mission of the international community is on the one hand complicated and delicate, on the other crystal clear and simple. Their job is to decide what possible status for Kosovo would give the greatest chance for stability and development, and then to recognise that status. There is no doubt that this means a sovereign state of Kosovo, however much that sovereignty might be conditioned or limited. It would be very good if all sides were to accept this prescription, but it is highly unlikely that the Serbian side will willingly agree to the kind of independence necessary for a lasting and stable solution. This is why the international community has decided to impose that solution, and is busy preparing itself for this rather unpleasant task. As the popular saying goes, the soup is cooked and we must now see who will eat it.
I have written on several occasions that the Kosovo Serbs will soon find themselves in another state, and that they would do best to avoid the Serbian embassy in Prishtina being the one to protect their human rights, freedom and security. For that not to happen, it is necessary that they sober up as soon as possible, give up their vulgar nationalist rhetoric, and begin in cooperation with their neighbours to create politically self-sufficient Serb communities within independent Kosovo. The international community and Kosovo Albanians will, I am sure, help them in this.

Svaka ti cast g. Filipovic!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Our lobby is better than your lobby

As we near the moment of truth for Kosova, the fight in Washington has been taken to a new level (this is where pompous music is added). Serbs have established their own lobby group to present their side of the story to US administration and Congress.

The American Council for Kosovo is an activity of Venable LLP and Global Strategic Communications Group, which are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as agents for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija.

Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija is an umbrella organization created in 2002, I believe, and led by the Serb church in Kosovo. But Serb church is not rich. In fact, recently it had to give up its strategic domain after refusing to pay for using the domain for years without paying a dime. Or maybe this is the lobby that Tadic had promised on his last visit to Washington and then K-church head Artemije made it happen during his March visit to the US.

Browsing the site, there is no doubt who is behind it. The material reeks of Christian suffering on the hands of Albanian "Islamists/Fascists/Terrorists."* Whenever an Albanian leader is mentioned, an adjective (or a combination) of the sort is added to the name. I would love to see Parliament Speaker Kolë Berisha's name mentioned - he happens to be Catholic.

Will this lobby be able to make any impact? Relatively speaking, I doubt it:

First, their members are on the fringe of the Republican spectrum. With the tone used in mind, they might appeal to Americans who already subscribe to the East vs. West fallacy. However, none of the people are close to policy makers. Although one of its advisors, Admiral (Retired) James A. "Ace" Lyons, Jr., made it to the Washington Times op-ed page (a right-leaning paper), a few days ago, I doubt they will be able to go beyond Washington Times and Frontpage Magazine. Some of the other people from the board of advisors are fellow bloggers like Julia Gorin and Christopher Delisso.

Second, the strategy is deeply pessimistic. Americans don't like pessimism. Just study the 2004 elections and it will become apparent. Sure you can scare America with the Islamist threat and thus piggyback on the grand anti-terrorism campaign, but while Albanians remain vehemently anti-Serbia, they are the most pro-American people in Europe.

Third, I doubt they have the financial means to win it. Albanians have been working hard and methodically for their cause for years and with both administrations. Considering that many of the decisions about the future of Kosova seem to have already beenmade in the relevant circles, Serbs are entering the game about two years too late and with not enough money.

I suggest Serbs outsource the lobby to Beijing instead. They might stand a a chance there.


*Never mind that Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim leaders met a few days ago and jointly called to respect and rebuild "all" religious institutions. IMHO, hardly a proof for the impending jihad.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Trends is the latest Google product to get out of Beta. It is a fascinating product, although you only get a big picture. As the name says, it only promises to show you trends, and nothing more.

The power of this tool could be amazing and actually turn into profit-making for Google after a long range of products that simply didn't make it any money (The story goes that its programmers forgot to plan for advertisement for Google News). To understand what I mean by powerful, think of a Toyota determining what US markets it should pursue for its Prius. How about letting Google investigate the issue? Let it find where are the biggest number of searches for "hybrid," "Prius," and "gas prices" coming from. Chances are that those people from those places are likelier to switch. Alternatively, those that don't find Priuses fascinating, there is nothing you can do about them and Toyota better spend its money elsewhere where acceptance of the concept is easier.

Of course, I run a few tests on Kosova. I'm not sure what I was testing though. It looks like searchers of "Kosova" (likely to be Albanian) are much more dedicated with constant following no matter if there is a crisis or not. On the other hand, "Kosovo" (popular in the rest of the world) has a decent base of searchers and then temporary spikes in cases of crisis such as March 2004. As expected, for the second term news volume is correlated to search volume. Probably the most interesting result was the remarkable difference in search volume between "Kosovo" and "Montenegro" when language is Serbian. There was a poll recently in Serbia showing the same conclusion when asked what Serbs care about most. Structure of internet users though has to be takend into consideration when interpreting all results.

Google Trends aims to provide insights into broad search patterns. It is based upon just a portion of our searches, and several approximations are used when computing your results. Please keep this in mind when using it.
Google Dislaimer

Monday, May 08, 2006

Youppppie: we're getting the seat after all

Dobins: Independent Kosovo with a seat in UN

PRISHTINA, May 8, 2006 (KosovaLive) – I think that everyone knows what kind of conclusion for Kosovo’s status will be. It will be some sort of a conditional independence with a seat in the United Nations, James Dobbins, the former US Presidential Envoy for the Balkans, said in an interview with Radio Free Europe on Saturday.
Berlin - Stability Pact for SE Europe coordination Erhard Busek has declared that European Union has no political concept for the solution of problems in SEE. In an interview for the weekly Der Spiegel, Busek has not ruled out the possibility that if there isn't a solution for Kosova, the US will ask from Europe that the EU accept at the same time independent Kosovo and Serbia. "If Finnish President Martti Ahtisari does not achieve a quick solution, I am afraid that the US will solve it, whereas Europe will pay the bill for it. Austrian diplomat has said that in the Balkans US threats bring better results than those of Brussels and has warned that "when the demands of Washington are not met - told in a rough way, comes the army." (Beta in Albanian)


Naom Chomsky, the foremost American intellectual, suggests division of Kosova along ethnic lines and then uniting those parts with the respective motherlands. Moreover,
... the NATO bombing of FR Yugoslavia in 1999 was not motivated by any authentic concern for the Kosovo Albanians and that the real reason was Serbia's refusal to implement the desired social and economic reforms, adding that Serbia "was the last corner of Europe holding out against U.S.-sponsored neoliberal programs." (Beta)


U.S. Wants a Swift and Peaceful Solution for Kosovo

By Zivorad Kovacevic, President of the European Movement in Serbia and a former Yugoslav ambassador to the U.S.

The U.S. will try to get the negotiating sides to resolve "status-neutral" issues and pave the way to something that is termed "creative ambiguity," much like U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which would in the non- zero sum game that would follow, at least create the appearance of a win-win situation, which would feature something for every side and make the solution easier to swallow by helping officials present it to the public if not as a victory, then at least as a defeat that has been averted.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

John Simpson goes to Kosova

The report is down and dirty, but you don't get much of those these days. For a while there I thought that the fact that Albanians are Muslim and Serbs are Orthodox would be skipped - that would have warranted for a celebration - but eventually it was introduced skillfully into the report. So was the famous medieval battle that Serbs fought, lost, and can't let go since.

This is the article, but I suggest you watch the video reportage to its right first. About half-way through the video you will be in for a surprise.

Bad news for Nagorny Karabakh

Don't yet discount the potential of Albanian and Serbs to live together. I told Wim what the problem is, and Petersen basically agrees with me. The only difference between Petersen and me is that I blog about it and he could be much more aggressive and make it happen.

In [Petersen's] words, the process of reconciliation has not yet begun in Kosovo and, in order for this to take place; the status of the province must be clearly defined. (KosovaKosovo)

We have to thank PM Buckovski for taking Macedonia away from a certain confrontational path with Kosova. Other political factors in Macedonia, including the president, seemed to welcome the potential conflict openhearted. Bravo PM!
Speaking about the problem regarding the demarcation of the border between Macedonia and Serbia-Montenegro, Buckovski said his country was in a specific situation, because the implementation of its agreement with Belgrade was not possible in Kosovo, while international agreements prevent Macedonia from settling this issue with representatives of Kosovo. (KosovaKosovo)

I read a while ago that Serb negotiatiors were studying Game Theory in preperation for the talks with Albanian and UN counterparts.

S&M (this is probably a Metallica trademark) President Svetozar Marovic:
"The great are great and the small are small. The small would have to accept the great, more or less, but the great have to say that a solution might not be just, but is realistic, because they have no more patience to deal with the problem," he added. (KosovaKosovo)

It is suicide to not let K-Serbs participate in the Prishtina institutions.
Marovic said he met in Thessaloniki with the U.N. special envoy for the status talks, Martti Ahtisaari, and UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen, and pointed out that international representatives were mainly interested in whether the Kosovo Serbs were prepared to participate in the work of temporary institutions in Kosovo. (KosovaKosovo)

Establishing a municipality 101:
Deputy UN envoy Albert Rohan, chairman of the talks, says there are two important criteria for establishing a new municipality. "Firstly, we cannot establish fictitious municipalities. They cannot be too small, otherwise they cannot run their affairs and they are not affordable. So there must be a minimum of people living in a municipality, which goes well into the thousands."

"Secondly, it must be fairly compact and people must live in an area which is contingent -- we can't have a couple of hundred here, a couple of hundred there. So functionality and sustainability are really the two criteria," Rohan said.

The Serb team's leader, Rangjel Nojkic, said on Sunday that his side stands ready to come up with a new plan, if the one put forward by Belgrade fails.

According to Rohan, the UN Security Council will decide what to do if the Kosovo Albanian and Serbian sides fail to agree. (SE Times)

America comes from behind to give Macedonia, Albania and Croatia hope for joining the EU. I agree with VP Cheney, young blood has something good to offer to "old Europe" after all.

"[Yee] who aspire to join these organisations [Nato and the EU] help rejuvenate them and help us re-dedicate ourselves to the basic and fundamental values of freedom and democracy," Mr Cheney told Ivo Sanader of Croatia, Sali Berisha of Albania and Vlado Buckovski of Macedonia. (BBC)

Bad news for Nagorny Karabakh: Kosova's independence will not set e precedent. Serb Minister of Justice Zoran Stojković on the Montenegrin referendum:
It is in Serbia's interest to discuss referendum, because the UN resolution 1244 talks about Kosovo as part of the S&M. When S&M disappears, our negotiating position weakens terribly. We lose that which we constantly talk about, that we want to keep Kosovo based on, first of all, international declarations that guarantee internationally recognized borders and 1244 resolution. (Beta in Serbian)

Blogger smackdown

If you've spend time around ex-Yu blogosphere, you've heard of Wim and his blog Balkan Outlooks. His ideas are fresh and genuine so I love to engage with him once in a while. Here is my reply to his last post.

Hello Wim,

On what grounds do you come up with this statement: It is clear to everybody that many Albanians want all Serbs out and that there is a big chance in 10 years no Serbs will be left in Kosovo? Who is everybody? It is clear (oops!) that Jim doesn't think so. I agree with you that Serbs are not loved much in Kosova (do you expect otherwise?), but those that attack and damage them are a very small minority or teenagers as was the case in March 2004. Without reconciliation between the two ethnicities, that small minority will continue to endanger Serbs because no Albanian will raise the voice and report such attacks. That's why I consider reconciliation and independence to be crucial for the multiethnic Kosova. The war, which in the eyes of the Albanians has gone unpunished, is the elephant in the room and people are being asked by the world to forget about it. That’s not the way it works.

I understand you’re concerned for the fate of Serbs but separation doesn't bring cooperation or co-existence. Bosnia is a very good example, as you have noted in your blog. Gerrymandering in America (thank's for the term, Jim) is a less lethal example that such splitting will create fault lines and extremists rather than defense lines for the protection of minorities. If we continue to structure Kosova as "us" vs. "them", as you suggest, then we are in deep trouble. It would be a signal that north of Iber belongs to Serbs and consequentially the rest belongs to Albanians.

One of the problems with Serbs in my country is that they don't identify with it and are in turn considered a fifth column used by Belgrade to hold Kosova back. K-Police is young and weak, but Serbs joining it will make it stronger. So far they haven't done it as one would presume from somebody genuinely worried about their security.

Theoretically I'm not against your solution. But if it happens, check back with me to see it taken all the way to Macedonia, Montenegro and Southern Serbia (or Eastern Kosova, depending on your perspective).

The principle of not changing borders by the Europeans was suggested for a very good reason. You can’t split something like Bosnia into two or three clean parts without ethnically cleansing those parts in the process. Justifying the clean up that Serbs in Krajina did based only on an ambiguous statement by Tudjman and massacres that they had endured during WWII by a puppet government of Croatia has to be the biggest irony of the previous decade. Serbs set time and again to stop the disasters and they only made them more certain in the process.

Nanny goat and kids

nanny goat and kids, originally uploaded by kosova kid.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Good news doesn't have to be big. World Bank money is funding the Kosovar NGO Community Development Fund (CDF), which in turn is teaming up with local governments and communities around Kosova to make things happen. Together, they make money go far and beyond with small projects that make a huge difference to people. Such projects establish a sense of involvment and ownership in the community (those that can't contribute financially, are asked to volunteer machineery and/or physical labor) and make sure that taxes they pay are spent effectively.

To understand the effects, consider this: one of the regions that got water piped to them was Has, near Prizren, on the border with Albania. The area is so dry that tradionally women wear a costume (couldn't find a picture) that incorporates wood on the belly to hang water buckets they carry from afar.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Democracy is dirty. For people from totalitarian regimes to whom it is sold as the salvation, disillusion is the inevitable turn of events. One argument that optimists in the West make is that it takes time to build one. True, but even long experiences with democracy will not a guarantee continuous decent government. For the Balkans, the question that often comes to mind is whether you can trust the crowd to make an intelligent choice. When the choice made turns out to have been the wrong one, will the disappointment result in detachment from politics, violent anarchy, or a
lesson learnd for the masses on the road to long–term democratic nirvana?

Some countries, Italy being the leader, seem to be stuck in perpetual political instability. And although economic repercussions of such instability are certainly there, there are no hurtful effects on the fate of the country. This unfortunately cannot be said of Serbia and Albania. In the first, the government is stuck at a such a precarious position that Milosevic’s Socialists control the fate of government while Kostunica’s and Tadic's factions that run government fight over two different visions of Serbia. Radicals of Seselj are so strong that the government cannot afford any unpopular move with the public.

In Albania, the political fault lines are so deep that political violence is not unheard of. Nano and Berisha, the two main political leaders, represent two deeply divided but artificial views of the country from which Albania needs to move from. Albania desperately needs new faces, centrists and technocrats rather that arrogant militants creating divisions out of the blue.

So where does Kosova fit in all this? Well, disillusion has set in. The pervasive idea is that the lesser thieves get the votes. Party control is concentrated in Prishtina in the hands of the political machines. Concrete political programs are rare, opposition is often just for the sake of opposition, and political appointments are of questionable quality, if not outright corrupted.
It is under these circusmstances that the two PM with military backgrounds, Agim Ceku and Ramush Haradinaj, won outright popularity. Haradinaj's track record was cut short, but Ceku must prove himself soon in cleaning house or will be just another ineffective leader on the list.

On the other hand, the two coaltion parters, LDK and AAK are falling apart. Death of President Rugova intesified the split that already existed in LDK. Indictment of AAK leader Haradinaj weakened AAK, an amalgamate of small political factions that he put together through sheer personalitiy.

The two opposition parties, Hashim Thaqi's PDK and Veton Surroi's ORA , have been a loud opposition. ORA is probably the most liberal of all parties in Kosova. Veton Surroi's personality has gathered a new breed of leaders that, contrary to the norm, have entered politics after some achievement in their personal lives. ORA has allowed its members considerable freedom maintaining its initial status as a political list rather than an old fashioned party organization. Yet, Veton Surroi's personality goes against him and ORA. With his smarts, he is seen as arrogant, rich, and having imposed himself on the political scene at delicate times in Kosova's history (a great contribution, nonetheless, I believe).

Last month, the richest Albanian, Swiss-Kosovar Behxhet Pacolli announced the creation of his own party. It is not clear what he will bring to the table, but someone with strong experience in investing in post-communist markets will be a great addition to the spectrum. His entrance, altough low key so far, will force voters and established politicians realize that there is more than three choices. Reform or lose.

Now all we need is for open voting lists. So far the lists have been closed, with the OSCE and the big parties being the only supporters of such a scheme . OSCE saw in the system an opportunity for an indirect control on the quality of candidates - if the list consists of undesirables, it is easy to put pressure on the party leaders to clean it up rather have to go against the democratic choice of the electorate afteward. But those with key inside connections made it to the head of the list leaving huge potential in those parties out of government. Such structures also keep the mavericks from undermining party's leadership by establishing a strong bond of ownership between those put on the lists and those that created the lists. Despite the genuice concern of OSCE coming from previous experience in other parts of the Balkans, ultranationalism or minority bashing was never a problem with Kosova's politicians. Because OSCE with its policy prevented the normal political development of Kosova, today we are faced with party-clickques entrenched in corruption and untransparency.

Unrelated, but had to put it here. From B92