Monday, April 30, 2007

Who are you?

On what basis does Russia get a say in Kosovo?

"Russia is using Kosovo to prove it is a player," [Kosovo Premier] Ceku claimed in the New York Times interview, adding that he expected to achieve independence for the province even if Moscow tries to block the resolution.

"Our friends who are realistic and countries that have invested soldiers, money and eight years of engagement here, and who are planning to be present, want an end to this unresolved status," he said.

"Why should those countries which have not invested time, money and people here block a UN resolution? Saying no to the Ahtisaari proposal would be a big decision."

Source: Kosovo to declare independence by end of May: PM - Yahoo! News

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Unilaterally

Kosovo to be independent with or without U.N.: U.S.

By Paul Taylor

Sat Apr 28, 1:32 PM ET

Kosovo will be independent with or without a United Nations resolution, and Russia should back an agreement to protect the Kosovo Serb minority, the United States said on Saturday.

Russia doesn't care about Kosovo Serbs. Heck, not even Serbs care about Kosovo Serbs. For Serbia it's about territory. For Putin it's about irritating the West lest they decide to mess too much with his human rights track record. Isn't Putin the same guy (in a series of guys) that has leveled Chechnya for Pete's sake!? And you expect him to care about what happens to Kosovo Serbs!? Didn't this same Putin withdraw the Russian peacekeeprs from Kosovo a while ago while Serbs were at the same situation they are now? I wonder how come the UN SC and specifically the Russian Ambassador there didn't wonder earlier about the 1244 resolution? I's been eight years now. Maybe unable to provide for its ragtag army, and disgraced by the need to beg NATO Allies for military provisions, going home for good for Russia was a better option so it now can use its strategic arsenal and UN SC veto to bully the West.

Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried said it was possible the latest Russian criticism of U.N. mediator Marti Ahtisaari's plan for the final status of the breakaway Serbian province meant Moscow intended to block a resolution.

Hey, Russian Ambassador in Pristina is saying there hasn't been a change in Russian positions. We don't know yet.

"We hope that Russia understands that Kosovo is going to beindependent one way or another," Fried told Reuters in an interview at a Brussels Forum on transatlantic relations.

Good point! This summer.

"It will either be done in a controlled, supervised way that provides for the well-being of the Serbian people, or it will take place in an uncontrolled way and the Kosovo Serbs will suffer the most, which would be terrible."

Ahtisaari agreement involves major sacrifices that could potentially create an unstable Kosovo anyways. Pristina has acted from the belief that being the good guys by offering all the concessions early on they would be able to get through the process faster and with more sympathy from the negotiators. Further negotiations in the UN SC will water down this document making it unworkable and preparing the ground for instability in the coming years by leaving options open for seccessionism by leopard-skin Serb areas. If there are more negotiations, Pristina having nothing else to give is more advantageous to declare independence unilaterally. From the Albanian perspective, UN recognition is first and foremost about freezing the borders of Kosovo. If such a precognition involves division, then the way to go is to forgo UN recognitation and declare independence unilaterally by June.

Moscow has repeatedly said it will not accept a solution which is unacceptable to Serbia, which is adamantly opposed toany form of independence for Kosovo.

Moscow doesn't accept anything that Serbia doesn't accept. Serbia doesn't accept independence. That leaves us with only one option: Free and Independent Kosova by June. This is far from an ideal solution. But, if Albania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, France, UK, US and potentially Italy recognize Kosovo unilaterally (or is it multilaterally), then the economy could do well as far as investments are concerned. Kosovo though will still carry an investment risk premium which these same countries could address if they mean it. Kosovo won't have access to the Serbian market, but tit-for-tat and the countries mentioned earlier could help tremendiously if they really mean it. Germany and UK, through EU, could also stop Serbia from further economic pressure on Kosovo either by Serbia directly or more likely by it bullying its neighbors.

A U.N. Security Council fact-finding mission, which visited Kosovo at Russia's suggestion, wrapped up its visit on Saturday saying they would deliberate on the proposal for its independence without setting deadlines.

"Deciding on important issues should never be hostage to predetermined deadlines," Belgian ambassador and mission head Johan Verbeke told a news conference in Pristina.

They must set a deadline. Serbs have all the time in the world, we don't. SC owes it to the people of Kosovo to set deadlines. They owe it to the students who expect their government to work on a better education system for them but can't because all its energies are directed towards the fate of Kosovo. How much more is a reasonable wait? What if Belgians were in our place? Would Verbeke be so calm and methodical? Doesn't eight years, and almost a century before that, count as time? Let me suggest June 2007 for the deadline.

Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, proposes supervised independence with a strong role for an international presence to protect minority rights.

Fried acknowledged the European Union could be split over whether or not to recognize Kosovo if there was no U.N.resolution and Kosovo's overwhelming Albanian majority declaredindependence unilaterally.

EU is unable to stand up to the bully for its own sake, let alone that of Kosovo. Anything EU can come up with should be considered a bonus, not something to depend on.

"I see absolutely no advantage to doing this any other way than through a Security Council resolution. I see merely disadvantages," Fried said. "The alternatives are all worse.

Unilateral independence has problems for us and the world community. So far the process has offered UN SC a voice in the talks. Now, Albanians are hellbent on independence and UN SC wouldn't be able to change anything in that. But UN SC by its involvement can make sure that this process follows international law and does not create any precedent. Wouldn't Kosovo independence be a precedent, you might ask. I don't think so. Badinter conclusion was an international shortcut not to irritate the Serbs more than they could handle, a very common short sigthed strategy in international decision making. If anything else, Kosovo independence with UN SC "permission" only strengths the power of the Security Council and its veto-power members such as China and Russia when it comes to these questions.

If on the other hand Kosovo declares independence unilaterally, Slovakia, Spain and whoever else might have a problem. Unilateral independent Basque Country, however theoretical, is much more likely to happen then one recognized by UN SC and EU.

"A divided Europe is a bad thing in general and a terriblething in this particular case."

A resolution would provide legal authority to protect theKosovo Serbs and help the Europeans to unite, he said.

Out of topic, Europe is looking to UN for inspiration? Haven't European leaders ever visited the building? Two years ago they were still typing on typewriters.

Kosovo has been an international protectorate since NATO waged an air war in 1999 to drive out Serbian forces and endethnic cleansing. Some 90 percent of the province's 2 millionpopulation are Albanians.

And hellbent on independence, I might add.

"Kosovo is in the list of problems that do not improve withage and neglect. The situation there is not inherently stable,"said Fried.

Good point. Kosovo has had a vary young population. Imagine what happens when that population comes of age under this failed educational system ghettoized in a quasi country without hope, jobs and with only poor defenseless Serbs to pick on? But since from my statement above you know that nobody cares about Kosovo Serbs, you are still wondering how all this relates to you? Hint words: instability in the region, drug dealers in your streets, prostitution, religious fundamentalism... This is not a threat, its a natural development of human condition.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke told the Brussels Forum the next few weeks would be af undamental test of Russian President Vladimir Putin's view of his role in the world.

"If he vetoes the Ahtisaari plan in the Security Council,there will be a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. The United States will recognize them, I hope the sameday ... Some of the EU will, some won't," Holbrooke said.

Same days is fine...

"There will probably be violence on the ground and it will be Russia's fault."

I wouldn't jump to that conclusion. NATO controls the borders of Kosovo. NATO, through the major countries that control the respective sectors (UK, US, France, Italy, and Germany) is authorized to implement the military portion of 1244 resolution. NATO will implement whatever it can or wants and Kosovo will remain at 12:44 security limbo with 12:44 civilian and police administration gone. These same countries can move to safeguard Kosovo borders from any reaction from Serbia. Kosovo Serbs, if the statements of their leaders and their past behavior are any indication, will most likely pick up and leave. Voila! You have an independent country with the most apparent reason of it unable to be so out of the way.

In that case, UN would be amongst a hostile population and probably withdraw alltogether for good. KFOR would have to stay on to protect the Serb churches (another apparent reason) and the 100+ km border with Serbia. The first is impossible, the second is easy to do if there is a will. If NATO on the other hand lets northern part of Kosovo secede, there will most likely be uprisings in Macedonia, Presevo (Presheva) Valley and Montenegro by Albanians seeking the same there. Whatever is now left of Preshevars will most likely also be cleansed in retaliation for the cleansing of Kosovo Serbs that is very, very likely to happen if there is a division of Kosovo. This far I can fathom, Macedonia and Montenegro will be any body's guess.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told the Forum heexpected a period of "diplomatic trench warfare" over Kosovo atthe United Nations and suggested the EU should take the lead inseeking a compromise solution, which would take time.

Ah yes, Carl Bildt, the man that was such a big failure in Bosnia.

Asked about Holbrooke's scenario of unilateralindependence, he said: "That is playing with fire."

Whatever he gave up in return, unlike Bildt, Holbrooke at least put out the fire in Bosnia. I think we should give Holbrooke a try. ;)

(Additional reporting by Mark John)

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dilemmas

Clinton and Albright, among others, had some advice for Kosovo's 120 days after.  I can tell you, they will be chellenging.

Last but not least, how can we engage the public creatively in independence-day celebrations? How can we plan them from an artistic rather than a folkloric point of view, and so put ourselves on the world map at the start of those all-important 120 days?

BIRN



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No unilateral action?

Agim Ceku: Pristina won’t undertake unilateral actions

Source: FOCUS Information Agency

50-50-0

Here is why peace is so hard to reach: women have been left out of the process. 

Women Demand UN Meeting and a Say in Kosovo's Future

The Advocacy Project

April 25, 2007, Vienna and Washington, DC: In a powerful show of coordinated advocacy, 17 leading members of women’s civil society from six Balkan countries and Kosovo have asked for an urgent meeting with the UN Security Council, and repeated their demand that women must participate directly in talks on the future of Kosovo.

Source: OneWorld U.S. Home / Today's News / Daily Headlines / News - Women Demand UN Meeting and a Say in Kosovo's Future

Kosovo offers U.N. envoys macabre misery tour - Yahoo! News

 

The two-day agenda has been crafted to give equal time to the 90-percent Albanian majority and the remaining 100,000 Serbs, stoking a macabre contest over who has suffered most in the southern province.

Source: Kosovo offers U.N. envoys macabre misery tour - Yahoo! News

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Russia turns lights off

Russia explicitly confirms the veto at the Security Council. What next? Possible divison? Possibly. Though that only is too simple to be true. A second Yugoslav-type war? Not likely. But as I say, absence of war does not necessarily mean peace. A series of prolonged conflicts in the region will more likely be the case. Virtually everybody in the Balkans will end up a loser.

Wish us luck!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Kosovo Onward, With All Deliberate Speed

Ah...if we could just wait a few more months, everything would be okay, everything would be all right... And so the story goes.

Washington can afford to work patiently with the Security Council to get a broadly supported Kosovo resolution. Working the issue for a few more months will be more productive and more sustainable than a prematurely forced vote, and no one is being killed or oppressed in Kosovo to require urgent intervention. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has signaled readiness to deal, affirming that Russia will not be “more Serbian than the Serbs.” The United States simply has too many important issues on which it needs to work with Moscow to let an artificial deadline on Kosovo poison the relationship.

Source: Kosovo Onward, With All Deliberate Speed

Monday, April 16, 2007

From the Future

A UN Security Council mission will visit Pristina and Belgrade at the end of April to assess the situation before deciding further. As is the norm during such important visits for the fate of Kosovo, some poor old Serb woman's house will be blown up on the eve of the visit. I can already see AP and Reuters polishing their fill-in-the-blanks articles for such occasions. I would even bet you 10 to 1 that this will happen, but then I would be a suspect for having the motive.

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Open Letter to Kostunica

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica
Belgrade, 11 Nemanjina St.
Serbia

Your Excellency,

I recently read a blog post from one Good Reverend disproving the hitherto assumed true statement "every time you masturbate, Allah kills a kitten." As much as I am happy to learn of this, I am also saddened. If masturbations are not to blame, then there is only one other explanation for the large number of kittens being found dead. Every time Your Excellency mentions something to the effect "international law" and "Kosovo-Metohija is part of Serbia" in the same sentence, Allah must be killing a kitten. Terrified, I urge you - I beg you - to be more mindful of the poor kittens when you make such irresponsible statements. Kittens have done nothing to deserve this kind of death.


Sincerely,
Your Fan
Warchild

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ghana gone

Ahtisaari says that after his explaining of Kosovo history Ghana folded. Hallelujah! 

RTK (sq)

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Kosovo Early Warning Report

This issue covers first quarter of 2007. Majority of the trends have moved south. B92 asks: will Albanians riot? Nah... 

EWS 16 Fast Facts

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Insane

I don't want this blog to be all black - I do want you to come back - but this problem has been troubling me.

There have been 390 suicides since 2000 in Kosovo. Here is the breakdown:

2000 - 33 suicides
2001 - 59
2002 - 48
2003 - 76
2004 - 63
2005 - 53
2006 - 54, 169 attempts
Jan-Feb 07 - 12

(RTK)

It used to be a big deal, now it's just a number. Also, the difference now is that the victims are usually young males among Albanians and old males among Serbs. Many of them are in rural areas.

Link to RTK (sq)

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Partition of Kosovo?

James Lyon of International Crisis Group in Belgrade has a great article on what the endgame is for Belgrade. It's a must read. Repercussions of this endgame could be interesting, but more on that next time.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Can't stand this place

Virtually every friend I talk to wants to leave Kosovo. This situation is in striking contrast to the after-war days when everything was razed to the ground yet about 10,000 people returned from the United States foolishly giving up on their papers. Now so many are trying the Rio Grande way I hear stories of US border guards beginning to learn Albanian.

Express writes on Sunday's issue that there are about 2,000 Kosovars just from Ferizaj (where US Camp Bondsteel is) working in Afghanistan and Iraq. This level of desperateness is shocking even to me.

If there is any chance that pure will can change a place for the better, Kosovars have proven it doesn't work.

Neretva River has more about the KBR recruiting going on in the Balkans.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Rezallë of Skenderaj marks the 8th anniversary of execution of 97 of its inhabitants. There is still no information about the bodies.



Thursday, April 05, 2007

BIRN

Birn has three good articles; the firs one is by Tim Judah who talks about the three non-veto members of the Security Council: Ghana, Congo and Indonesia. Incidentally, Doug Muir of A Fistful of Euros group blog also had a post on the same topic. Judah ends his article with this jewel:

“One way or another the status quo will end and it will either end through a controlled organised process that gives guarantees to the Kosovo Serbs, the maximum of transparency and an orderly process, or it will be uncontrolled and more violent.”

 The second article comes from Prishtina and deals with the fall in support for Vetevendosje movement after the magic i-word was mentioned by Ahtisaari.

My favorite, the third one is an opinion peace by Fron Nahzi of East-West Management Institute. He too has valuable recommendations/lassons for the coming EU mission in Kosovo.

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Slovakia has cracked

Slovakia’s representative to the United Nations, Peter Burian  said during a discussion on Kosovo that started on the Security Council grounds on Tuesday that Slovakia would support the EU’s attitude on setting the future status for the south Serbian province of Kosovo.

Source: Slovakia will Support EU in Security Council Debate on Kosovo Status | spravy.HNonline.sk - SITA

Kommersant through B92

 The Serbian media under the control of Vojislav Koštunica's government has been assuring Serbs for months that the question of a Russian veto in the UN Security Council is practically settled, that Russia will not allow the UN to sever Kosovo, and that the province will always remain Serbian.
According to Kommersant, this propaganda campaign is deliberately circumventing the reality, which is that in essence Kosovo has long been lost to Serbia:
“The issue now is not how to keep it under Belgrade's authority, but how to find a solution to will avoid destabilization and that will allow both the international community and Serbia to save face.”

Source: B92 - News - Politics - Report: Moscow did what it could

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Free Albin Kurti!

It's amazing how little discussion there has been in Kosovo on the coming status of the country. Very little information was revealed during the negotiating process, and any one that attempted to raise concerns was shouted down. The problem was that the negotiating team comprised of all the major political parties, creating the much seeked unity team but leaving no room for disagreement. All the significant political parties were complicit in the deal, they were all invested in it. Out of Kosovo's future were left the brazen Vetevendosje movement on the street and virtually the whole Kosovo population tired of the present and apprehensive of the future yet cajoled into staying quiet at home.

Afraid of instability and uncertain of their civic potential, Kosovars agreed to stay quiet. International community helped prod this apathy for the last 14 months of negotiations and not much else. Not surprisingly today the three most respected institutions in Kosovo are KFOR, Kosovo Protections Corps, and Kosovo Police Service. Having thrown out one criminal security apparatus we became mesmerized by our own police and army.

And Albin Kurti has become new Kosova's first political prisoner. He is locked up because he has the guts to stray clear of the herd. Because my people get very scared when non-conformist opinions are voiced. They would rather shout his voice down, than deal with the insecurities facing them. During trial in Serbia in 2000, he told the Serb judge: "I do not recognize this court, I can only be tried by a court of my people. I do not recognize this court just as I do not recognize Serbia nor Yugoslavia." Unfortunately his people have failed Albin.

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The truth about Kosovo: Arguments and facts in support of independence

 

Esat Stavileci, a prominent Pristina University law professor dismantles Kostunica's legal claims on Kosovo. Good stuff! 

We are aware that Serbia has undertaken a diplomatic offensive to influence the members of the Security Council of UN in order to unable the adoption of a new resolution, with the justification that Ahtisari’s proposal recommends “annexation of Serbia’s territory” and “removal of Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo” and that all of this, according to Belgrade officials, “is in contradiction with international law”.

Source: BALKAN UPDATE

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dear EU

 

Dear European Union:

I see you still want to help. Numbers mentioned in the media are at the level of 1.5 billion euros and 2,000 personnel over the next three years. That's all good. Humbled and grateful of your generosity, I have a few suggestions on how to make your colorful money go farther instead of ending up where your started. At the end both of us should be happier. I don't pretend to have the answers, but I can raise the questions which your technocrats should answer. I assume we're dealing with technocrats, because Kosovo is full of other types.

We'll start with the people first. Please run background checks on people you send down to Kosovo. Today Google is your best friend. Start there. Next on move to databases like Lexis Nexis. Also, please call up the references listed on the resumes (once again, I assume there is such a field on the application) to make sure that the resumes are genuine. Obviously, the level of background checks should correlate with the level of responsibility those persons will take up in Kosovo.  

Kosovo may have the image of being somewhat troublesome and conflictual, which will scare some of your people. Make sure to provide crime and other statistics to remove any fears and prejudices your potential candidate pool may have. Have your people visit Kosovo for one weekend and see for themselves. Kosovo is not heaven, as it does not have continuous water and electricity. But hey, it's not a war zone either. And when it comes to water and electricity, as the Irish found out in New York (not only streets were not paved in gold, they were not paved at all), consider it as an opportunity for your technocrats to make a difference by helping fix them.

Consider the time these people will be spending in Kosovo. You don't want rotations happening too often or otherwise we'd be dealing with tourists.

Consider basing your offices across Kosovo, when that is possible. This will not only keep your technocrats closer to the people (Mao and Pol Pot would be proud of this suggestion) but also spread your colorful money across the relatively poorer smallville Kosovo. Pristina is already very crowded. One thousand of your people living in Pristina will price out many of my student friends who can barely make it to pay rent. Life in the small towns should be quieter and cheaper for your people as well, minus the clubbing scene.

What kind of people should you send down? Open minded and patient. They should be somewhat idealists, and since they also should be experts, my vote will go to the older crowd. Try to avoid soldiers of fortune, they are up to no good. When possible, encourage your technocrats to bring their wives over (Kosovo, being culturally Muslim, is not Thailand). Kosovo has good air links with London, Vienna, Zurich, and much of Germany. Skopje Airport is just 70 km away with other destinations.

I know you will follow my advice and google your people first. But just in case, please, please, please, stay away from Gerhard Fischer, Gavin Jeffrey, Ioan Woollet, and Jo Trutschler. They are crooks and have already robbed people of Kosovo and UN once. Unfortunately, only the last one has been prosecuted. This kind of record demoralizes my own people, who look up to your guys as the standard for which we hold our own. To avoid crooks at the helm of your mission, start by making it clear that even in Kosovo your technocrats will be held to the same standards as in Brussels (not asking much, eh?). Fat compensations, as was the case above, will not make your people corruption-proof.      

Send team leaders, coaches and advisors. As long as they are not intentional, let local leaders make mistakes. That's the only way you can build capacities. This makes me wonder why do you need to send 1,500 of your own? You'll get more bang for the buck from the bright locals, either in Kosovo or currently studying or working abroad. Individually, people from the area are quite good. As a team, not so much.

Above I qualified "idealists." Now I will reverse it by asking for practical people. Kosovo is the land of absurdities. It will amaze you every day. If at the first interview you notice any hint of confidence on the interviewee, send him/her packing. You don't want that person to be disillusioned later in Kosovo.

Be mindful of the dynamics created when your translators get paid more than the local doctors and university professors.

Have your people read Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo.

(To be continued)

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Maps

On Thursday (29 March) European Parliament came in 319-268 support for independence of Kosovo. Dutch green MEP Joost Lagendijk deserves a boulevard named after him in Pristina.

On Friday EU foreign ministers did the same thing.

Now Google Maps has taken sides as well. Try geting directions for Pristina, Serbia. Google's massive server farms don't recognize that place. Perhaps you meant Pristina, Kosovo. Ah, yes, that makes much more sense. You can always depend on Google Maps to certify your sanity.

That's 3:0 for Kosovo this week

.