Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Today is the International Day of the Missing

International Committee of the Red Cross:

In the Balkans there remain thousands of persons still unaccounted for as a result of the former conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo. Of more than 33,000 tracing requests for missing persons opened by the ICRC since the outbreak of hostilities, today 18,555 remain unaccounted for – 13,862 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2,409 from Croatia and 2,284 from Kosovo respectively. Their families, living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia proper and Montenegro, continue to live in uncertainty and anguish hoping to receive news on their missing relatives. In order to remind the authorities and the public of the problems that they continue to face and appeal for the elucidation of the fate of their loved ones, the Kosovo Albanian families will gather in Pristina, the Kosovo Serb families in Gracanica, Serbian families in Belgrade, while Bosniac and Croatian family associations will get together in Zagreb on the occasion of this year's International Day of the Disappeared.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The "terrorist" that threw the bomb at the infamous Dolce Vita cafe in northern Mitrovica may be a teenager with hemophilia and two brain operations that have caused him to lose all memory until one year ago. However, one Albanian witness put Adem on the bridge (away from the cafe) at the time of the explosion, while his family was shopping nearby in the southern part of Mitrovica. Under these circumstances, it is pure luck that Adem was moved to the Albanian part and not to the north as was attempted, where later a crowd of about 500 Serbs rioted.

Our friend, Serb leader Oliver Ivanonic, was at the cafe and witnessed the attacker approaching. Serb media and leaders (B92 quoted above nonincluding) have gone berserk accusing Albanians of terrorism and whatever other pre-conceived notions they had about the group.

I promised to say more on what the results of the Ahtisaari's visit to Pristina were going to be. The truth is that I don't know what's going on. On Wednesday it seemed that there was pressure on the Kosovo delegation to move from its previously held position. On Friday same Ahtisaari came out somewhat pleased with the (same?) results.'s Tuesday posts can give you an idea on what the contentions are. The delegation kept working on finalizing its proposals until the Monday night deadline when it was supposed to forward its final stances to Ahtisaari. Semantically, Kosovo's delgation remains on its 5+1 position, but of course this is displomacy. The delegation is expected to address parliament soon, despite the fact that the proposals were sent off.
One of the more novel proposals is the idea to unite the future municipality of northern Mitrovica with Zvecan, a majority Serb municipality. This idea seemed to have the support of Ahtisaari but Pristina came vocally against it. Although Mitrovica is likely to be split in two municipalities as Serbs request, returning Albanian population in the northern part could still be a majority or a sizeable minority depending on how hard life for them remains there. Of course, it is odd that decentralization that is supposed to lead to better local governance is dealing with the fusion of territories into larger areas that are designed to allow one ethnic group overwhelming vote on issues. Maybe this fact alone reveals the real reasons behind the Serb push for decentralization.

USIP report

United State's Institute of Peace has issued a new report on Kosovo: Ethnic Nationalism at Its Territorial Worst. The conclusion boils down to this: Serbia is asking to delay sovereignty for 20 years (Belgrade argues that Kosovo should be given everything but a seat at the UN) during which Serbia will establish itself within the up-for-grabs Serb enclaves in Kosovo, with the Serb state sovereignty eventually spreading over those territories.

The question of Kosovo's status is gradually boiling down to the question of the status of the Kosovo Serbs, and the degree of their integration into the rest of Kosovo. Or, to put it another way, the question of Kosovo's status is not whether it will be independent or not, but whether it will be sovereign and, if so, over what territory.
Kosovo is already independent in the sense that the Albanian-populated areas govern themselves, within limits imposed by the UN Security Council, independently of Belgrade. No one in Belgrade has put forward a plan to govern the Albanians, and no one any longer imagines as Milosevic did that they can chase the Albanians from Kosovo. But if decentralization allows separate governance of the Serbs within Kosovo, without reference to Pristina, Kosovo will not be sovereign over the territory occupied by Serbs. It should be no surprise then that some in Belgrade and in West European capitals imagine that Kosovo can be given independence but not a seat at the UN, where all sovereign states rightfully sit.
This kind of ambiguous solution is a formula for failure and violence. Seven years after NATO's intervention, the future of Kosovo and most of the rest of the former Yugoslavia is once again at stake. With talks on the future status of Kosovo already initiated, the implications of ethnoterritorial separation inside Kosovo need to be understood: calling it decentralization does not change reality, and the reality of ethnoterritorial separation leads to instability and violence. The international community and the people of the Balkans have come too far over the past decade to end up in a scenario that would only satisfy extreme nationalists. The Balkans endgame can be a peaceful one, but only if ethnoterritorial separation is ruled out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gegë and Toskë

One is Gegë, the other is Toskë Turk-Arnaut (Turkish-Albanian). Pay attention to the graceful flowing moves and countenance of the Toskë kid.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I'm giving too much publicity to this guy but he seems to be the only one not parroting Belgrade. Oliver Ivanovic is keen enough to see across the hill, beyond the end of the current talks.

[Jevtic] What is your grudge against the Belgrade negotiating team?

[Ivanovic] Besides what people think, I would add Belgrade taking the question of decentralization too lightly. If we succeed in keeping Kosovo part of Serbia, only decentralization can ensure normal life for Serbs in an Albanian environment. Belgrade is putting emphasis on status, while questions on technical talks that have to do with everyday life are considered less important. That precisely is the basis for Serbs to remain in Kosovo. However status is resolved we must establish relations and be protected through the institutions.

In the rest of the interview Ivanovic complains that Kosovo Serbs's views are not being considered by Belgrade. That, at least in theory, is not true. In Vienna Kosovo Serbs voluntarily left the talks sumbitting the right to negotiate for them to representatives of the government from Belgrade. K-Serbs, as PM Çeku says may be confused, but in no way can they blame Belgrade for their failures anymore.

Today chief UN negotiator in the talks Marti Ahtisaari returns for a three day visit to Kosovo. He will be asking Albanians to give 10 new municipalities to Serbs and allow for more municipalities in the future in places where Serb returnees will make at least 5,000 people, which was set earlier by Ahtisaari as the border that would justify a municipality. Albanians are saying they will not move from the current offer of 5+1 which accounts for the 24% of the territory of Kosovo and includes 82% of the Serb population. A clause that I find concerning is the ability of these municipalities to nullify any central authority. In the way it is currently being phrased, this rule could become an issue of contention later on. This possibility for more municipalities, along with an earlier understanding to allow returns wherever Serbs wish, will also be used to design the map of Serb municipalities by encouraging returns in such ways as to connect Serb territories through places where Serbs currently don't live and then ultimately to Serbia. Couple this with the "we don't care about Prishtina" clause and we're in for another Bosnia. Like in Bosnia, if this thing is not done right now, in ten years we may have to go back to the drawing board.

Ahtisaari's goal is to move quick and close the decentralization part by September. He will apply pressure to whichever side seems weakest. Come back in three days to see the results to what will be his most memorable stay in Prishtina.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rücker is funny and would like to dine with... Check out his "10 answers" to EU in Kosovo website.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Since I last blogged seriously, a few things have happenned.

Kosovo now has the last UN head...before it gets an EU head. The German Joachim Ruecker took over from his previously-held position at the EU pillar of UNMIK that is in charge of economy and things such as electric power (KEK), telecom (PTK), and privatisation through KTA. EU mission in Kosovo is expected to be involved in similar duties and more. From this perspective, an UNMIK head with this kind of background and also German is an excellent choice. As far as Ruecker the man is concerned, I'm not overwhelmed with his track record in Kosovo, though it's possible that the problems he presided over were also some of the toughest to crack. His pledge
"to make it his priority to give Kosovo's two million people 'a clear perspective'" is good, but I will wait and see the performance before making up my mind on this choice.
From other news: the meeting the alternative leader of Kosovo Serbs Oliver Ivanovic with Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku was largely ignored in the press. It is the first such meeting with the PM Serbs consider a "war criminal" in a warrant still out in Serbia. Ivanovic seeked respect for Serbs in the institutions in exchange for Serbs returning to them. How many K-Serbs will follow Ivanovic remains to be seen when Ivanonic actually goes back parliament.
Integration might actually start with basketball. Basketball is the hottest sport in Kosovo. Stadiums of 3-4000 people are often full of standing and singing fans. But basketball matches are definitely bound to become more exciting with the addition of a Serb team from Mitrovica to the first league. "Bambi" will have to play its games in the stadium located in the southern part of the city with majority Albanian. This is the second Serb team to join a Kosovo league, with the less visible handball (for Americans out there, yes there is such a sport) league being the other one to have a Serb team. Most of the basketball fans at their site were welcoming of the move, and were curious to see the atmosphere. Some though were grumbling about the fact that Serb team will catapult directly to first league.
Division of Kosova trial balloon has been launched again. This time it was Sandra Ivkovic of the Belgrade's office for Kosovo doing it on BBC, and a member of her party immediately bringing it down.

The Institute for Peace Vice President told daily Građanski List that Belgrade does not want to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in regional institutions and return to Kosovo, because they do not want an integration of the Kosovo Serbs, they want a division of territory.(B92)

Random children

, originally uploaded by jo.vanka.

I couldn't resist another one.

Donated by UN or symbols of UN?

Prizren, originally uploaded by jo.vanka.

Garbage bins in Prizren.

A local sign

Local sign, originally uploaded by connect2europe.

Appropriately so

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lobby update

Why the Republican Bush administration can't call it quits on Kosovo before the coming midterm elections in November:

The main priority of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party in 2006 has to be to maintain control of Congress. Given the number of seats at risk in states with significant numbers of Serbian American voters, and the comparatively small gains possible from courting the Albanian American vote, odds are that the Administration will be mindful of the costs of the timing of any final resolution on Kosovo. An early announcement on independence for Kosovo is a political risk for the Administration.

Albanian lobby on the Serb lobby:

An intensive Serb lobbying effort over the past three months peaked in mid July with a round of consultations and public appearances in Washington and New York by Serbia Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Looking at both the extreme tactics of the American Council for Kosovo and the “high road” approach subsequently taken by Prime Minister Kostunica, the Kosovo Notes and Comment assessment is that the Serb lobbying effort to date has been a failure in the United States. Serb efforts may impact timing of a final solution for Kosovo (see U.S. Elections article, above) but appear to be unable to stop eventual independence.

Check out the whole thing here Kosovo Notes and Comment Issue 11 - it's much richer than usual.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When inter-ethnic relations are concerned, policy in Kosovo has for the most part been a makeshift one of appeasement and reaction. As mentioned in the document quoted below, it is the overwhelming money and manpower that made segregation feasible for such a long time. But this regimen won't substitute for a long-term solution. The going line has been that one group doesn't have to love the opposing group but merely has to learn to live with them. The fatal mistake here was the international community didn't take proactive steps to address genuine concerns stemming from war, leaving the cloud of mistrust lingering on.

From Minority Group International's report on Kosovo:

The problem is not lack of financing. Conversely, the fact that so much money has been spent on the region has allowed segregation in public services to become an easy solution to conflict between groups. A short-term mentality, the use of quota systems in public services and an electoral system based on rigid ethnic representation show a lack of commitment to implementing minority rights in any meaningful way.

The report shows that measures that separate communities through religion or ethnicity should be transitional, if they have to be used at all. The future status talks offer a chance for change. Otherwise, the danger is that the patterns of segregation that are accepted in Kosovo, and that lead to the terror of ethnic cleansing, will be enshrined in the Constitution, and will be played out again over the next decade.

Where ethnic tensions and violence divide societies, as in Kosovo, respect for minority rights advances the conditions for political and social stability and peace. Rather than promoting segregation and separation, minority rights are based on the principle of an integrated society, where each can use their own language, enjoy their culture and practise their religion but still feel part of a broader, inclusive national identity. In such societies, various national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups are able to live confidently together, communicate effectively, and recognize value in their differences and in their society's cultural diversity.

The diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic communities of Kosovo must realize that solutions lie in their hands as much as they are the responsibility of governments and the international community, and make concerted efforts to move beyond the current divisions. The political will to reach just and durable solutions must be demonstrated by the whole of civil society, as well as by states and international actors.

There are no easy solutions to the problems of Koso-vo; however, there are paths ahead that offer the greatest potential for inclusion, peace, stability and development. Such paths must firmly reject segregation and ethnic cleansing, and embrace the rule of law and minority rights. The alternative is a future of continuing division, distrust and uncertainty, which has the potential not only to bring suffering and conflict once again to the lives of the people of Kosovo, but also to further inflame the tensions of a region that has suffered enough from the destructive consequences of nationalism and discrimination.

Marko Jaksic, leader of the Association of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, on his decision to let only Belgrade negotiate on decentralization in the second days of talks in Kosovo:

"To agree to discussions of the rights of a community outside of this context would mean that we agree on the status of a minority, and it is generally accepted and natural that a people cannot be considered a minority in their own country, because we are Serbs from Kosovo, a region that we have always seen and will always see as an inseparable part of the sovereign state of Serbia.”

Oliver Ivanonic, another K-Serb leader, largely in the periphery of talks:
“No one can know what our problems are better than we can in this field and no one knows better than we do about how under-spoken we are in the institutions. The question of collective rights is not solved in the institutions alone, so I think that our attendance should be mandatory. The decision to not participate is a consequence of the earlier stance of participation and legitimacy, but the institutions exists and no one can deny their legitimacy, at least not in that way. The only people who have information from the field regarding Serbs will not be participating in the discussions. I think that this is the wrong move. We are losing a lot of points in the preliminary rounds, which will be a problem in the finish. The Serbs in Kosovo will be even more concerned by the fact that their interests are not being protected by people from their region but by theorists.” Ivanovi� said.

“We want to integrate into the institutions, but to also have a mechanism for protection. We want to have protective rights, which no one will be able to change with a vote in parliament. The Albanian majority should not be allowed the possibility of changing something like that without more than half of the Serbian officials’ votes. That is the way towards integration, but building walls and separation, that is a primitive approach; they are not good solutions and are only increasing tensions. Serbs will be the first to suffer from these tensions, and will deal with it the same they have been so up until now, by moving away.” Ivanovi� said.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A rather good conclusion for a weak article from Le Monde diplomatique:

The only response to the challenge of a Greater Albania, as with a Greater Serbia, is full European integration. The prospect of a national unity that requires border changes is potentially dangerous for the region. Nevertheless the issue of a national trans-border “Albania” is a reality.

It should be possible for anyone writing a book in Shqiptari to address likely readers in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, while an ethnic Albanian student should be free to study in Tirana, Tetovo or Pristina. But the borders will have to be far wider open than they are today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Albanian Alps

Dinaric Alps, originally uploaded by kosova kid.

These are some of the many beutiful mountains from northern Albania. My grandad used to teach in the village of Valbona nearby in the early 30's. Like then, this area continues to be one of the poorest in Albania and is continuosly cut off from the outside world during the winter. Not to hurry the seasons but a ski resort here would make for a great investment for all parties concerned.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The big dilemma

Letters sent by the late Serb PM Zoran Dindic back in February 2003 reveal that Dindic since then was worriying that Kosovo was slipping away. The comments show the big dilemma that Serb politicians have been facing in the last seven years: if Kosovo works out, it proves her ability to fuction independently, if it doesn't work out, local Serbs get the blame.

...[Late Serb PM Zoran] Đinđić then believed that the worst thing that Serbia can do is wait, because the situation will get better in the meantime and people will take that as evidence that the institutions of an independent Kosovo can function properly, and if the situation does not get better, a massive exodus of Serbs from the region will ensue.

In March 2004 riots erupted targeting UN and local Serbs for hampering the
progress towards independence.