Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kosovo: Is EU Set To Recognize Independence?

 

Kosovo: Is EU Set To Recognize Independence?

By Patrick Moore

Kosovo -- graffiti for independence, Prishtina, 21Nov2005

Graffiti in Pristina that says: 'No Negotiations -- Self-Determination'

(epa)

October 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Some recent German media reports suggest that Germany and a critical mass of countries within the European Union are prepared to recognize an independent Kosovo if the current round of Belgrade-Pristina negotiations do not produce an agreement. The talks end on December 10, after which the Kosovar leadership has said it will declare independence if no deal is reached.

Kosovo: Is EU Set To Recognize Independence? - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Le Monde: The West is preparing for a unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo (automatic translation)

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Can Kosovo play the game?

Sport is one bright side of the after-war period in Kosovo. It is also one of the few things that has made the most gains and maintained those throughout the years. Mind you, it has not been an easy road, but it just seems that when it comes to sports, the exuberance is unsurpassed in other fields of life.

Sport is the only field of life that has transpired the ethnic divisions on the national level. For example, you have a basketball club from the northern, Serb part of Mitrovica playing the team in the southern, Albanian part. Basketball and other sports matches are pretty much all the interaction that the two ethnicities get there, despite living a bridge apart from each other. Other basketball and football teams incorporate players from Bosnia, Croatia, Albanian, Montenegro, and Macedonia on top of the sport powerhouse nations such as the United States. The girls of my hometown handball team recently got the chance to play a team from Serbia. Imagine the cathartic event considering that out of a couple of thousands of Serbs before the war, none lives there today, and that, hundreds of Albanians are still missing and many others were found in mass graves in Serbia.

Kosovars care deeply about sports with all the major championships and leagues broadcast and followed religiously. Pick up any newspaper or TV program schedule and you will see what I mean.

That is why the current isolation of Kosovar sport is unacceptable. Rather than finding reasons to keep Kosovo’s sports teams from international participation, relevant authorities should look instead in ways to make it possible. The fact that Kosovo is not independent yet does not carry much water because many other regions with unique identities such as Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Faroe Islands have been participating in international competitions without second thoughts. Moreover, whatever form Kosovo status resolution takes in the future, it is understood even by Serbia’s own admission that Kosovo will be able to represent itself in international sporting events.

But we do not have to and should not go that deep into the murky water of politics. We only have to consider those cheese video spots you get during sporting events: sport is a major force for good and it can makes friends out of enemies. I know this because I have seen it in the last eight years in Kosovo.

Don't let sport become a victim of politics. Just let Kosovo play!

 

(In response to Can Kosovo play the game article published on the Play the Game 2007 Conference coverage website.)

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pseudo-principles

Articles to read from this week's issue of BIRN.

Edward P. Joseph, a former UN Deputy Administrator to Mitrovica and other Balkans hotspots has five recommendations for the US and the EU to follow on Bosnia and Kosovo. This is by far the best analysis on BIRN yet. His conclusion: 

The truth is that power is about the perception of power. As long as the EU and Washington stand together for their principles – and not allow Moscow and Belgrade to divide them with cynical pseudo-principles – these twin crises can be weathered. The alternative is tragicomedy.

 

From Prishtina there is a reportage with a former KLA commander and some students, who think that time has come to declare independence, even if its unilateral. This attitude is becoming more common. How common it is will see by the attendance in the announced student organizations' open-ended protests starting 10 December, when the negotiation protest is expected to end. 

Kosovars will be voting on municipal and parliamentary elections on 17 November. According to a poll about two weeks ago PDK is expected to lead with their percentage in the low 30s with the rest of the pie largely fragmentized. Now it seems that Serbs too will be going to the polls and the date might be December 9. There Seselj's Radicals lead in popularity among the parties and the reasonable Tadic among the men. BIRN brings two articles about what the elections mean for the Serb political scene. First, get a broad overview of what the two different positions are about the election timing in regards to the Kosovo status resolution and the fallout expected from that, and then about the actual date itself.

Now, why December 9? Does DS know something that we don't know about the results of the Kosovo process? More importantly, is it an guesstimate by DS or something they have been told and advised about by their friends in the EU capitals that would like to see a pro-Western attitude in Belgrade?

Initially, when Kosovo's own election date was being considered, there were opinions that it would become a diversion in the heat of  the status considerations. Now at least we are equals with Serbia in this aspect. 

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Friday, October 26, 2007

26-10-2007

Analysis: time for tough decisions on Kosovo running out
Times Online - UK
Vladimir Putin called for patience over Kosovo's fate before today's EU/Russia summit, but time is running out for tough decisions on the future of the ...

Putin warns Europe over Iran and Kosovo
Times Online - UK
Mr Putin will also address a bid for independence by Kosovo, the autonomous province in southern Serbia that became a battleground in 1999, when Nato jets ...

Serbian nationalists ratchet up rhetoric on Bosnia as decision on ...
International Herald Tribune - France
AP BELGRADE, Serbia: Facing a possible loss of Kosovo, Serbian nationalists are reigniting tensions in the Balkans, sending out dark hints about coming to ...

Serbia and Kosovo must compromise as talks reach 'critical phase'
Forbes - NY,USA
LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Talks over the future of Kosovo have reached a 'critical phase' and the two sides must be more willing to make compromises if ...

Green-based Guard unit returning from Kosovo
Akron Beacon Journal - Akron,OH,USA
By Beacon Journal staff report A Green-based Ohio Army National Guard unit is returning home after a nearly yearlong deployment to Kosovo. ...

Serbs call for election boycott in Kosovo
Courrier International - Paris,France
The campaigns have officially begun for Kosovo's local and parliamentary elections, due to take place on November 17. The Serb government is urging Serb ...

Kosovo: Former US Envoy Says It's Decision Time For Europe, Serbs
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty - Prague,Czech Republic
October 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Amid signs that Germany and other EU countries are prepared to recognize Kosovo as independent if current negotiations fail, ...

FreeBalance opens new office in Kosovo
Ottawa Business Journal - Ontario, Canada
By Ottawa Business Journal Staff Finance management software maker FreeBalance has opened a new location in Kosovo to better serve customers in Afria, ...

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EU countries poised to recognise Kosovo: German politician

 

The German daily Die Welt on Thursday reported that at least 25 EU nations planned to recognise Kosovo's independence, but diplomats in Brussels cast doubt on the scenario.

EU countries poised to recognise Kosovo: German politician

Serbia and Kosovo must compromise in 'critical phase': Ischinger

Speaking to the Financial Times, Wolfgang Ischinger acknowledged that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was a "real possibility", but said that leaders in Pristina knew that was not "good enough to lead them into paradise."

http://www.eubusiness.com/news_live/1193356022.2

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Western Front

Interesting article from the The Economist on the developments in Bosnia. Serbian Premier Vojislav Kostunica announced two days ago that "Serbia is facing two challenges, Kosovo and Republika Srpska." I was like, wtf?!!! Well, Economist explains it all.

Now that Belgrade has gotten Russian support on both fronts, this can only mean extra headaches for the EU and its man in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajcak.

Serbia fighting two fronts is good news for Kosovo, since Serbia is that much weaker on Kosovo now. But how will EU come away from Bosnia remains to be seen.

It looks like Kostunica is turning into another Putin for the West, along the lines: "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

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DW

Deutsche Welle asks: Should the EU sidetrack the UN and agree to recognize an independent Kosovo?

Warchild: Yes, Russian stance has no basis in reality and will set the precedent of a Russian veto on European affairs. Russia's position is merely one of the political maneuvers in Putin's game to gain influence for his newly aspiring country. Giving in to Russian bullying by letting Kosovo go on in limbo will create a dangerous situation in the Balkans, with the EU (not Russia nor Ghana) having to deal with the consequences in its own backyard if the situation escalates. Risk-benefit analysis clearly comes on the side of the EU acting strongly in unison so that it can control the developments in the next few months.

P.S. Please add Kosovo to your "Country of Origin" drop-down menu.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kosova: Another Round, Another Stalemate

Serbia wants to control Kosovo's borders? I guess a Serb soldier trying to control an Albanian-Albanian border is what they mean when they say live fast, die young. If Serbia is so dedicated in controlling borders, it should at least try to prevent the smuggling of goods and people on the border it already controls: Serbia-Kosovo one. The biggest goods smuggling and criminality on the Balkans probably runs through the part of the border that Serbia can already do something about. To paraphrase Paul Acda's (Economic Pillar of UNMIK) response to Serbia's threat of border closing in case of Kosovo independence: we would welcome such a move; criminality will be greatly reduced.

Radio Free Liberty has a recap on the latest talks in Vienna.  

2007-10-24

The latest round of talks concluded in Vienna with both sides emerging dejected. The mediators, for their part, are keen to emphasise that there are areas of agreement and that an agreement can be reached.

Kosova: Another Round, Another Stalemate

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

BREAKING: Germany Is In

This is the biggest news in months.

German government has apparently taken the decision to acknowledge Kosovo independence after the December 10 negotiations deadline and after the declaration by the Kosovo parliament, announces [machine translated from the original] German Radio Deutschlandfunk based on its sources within the government.

As goes Germany, so goes the EU, people. Anybody can tell me where to get Danke Deutschland in full?

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Strike!

The bitter winter is here, and it brings with it a whole lot of protests. These are not political though. As soon as the teachers' union got some sort of promise that their payments would increase in the future, it's legal system workers' turn to strike. They request no less than a 100% increase in wages (on a base of merely 140-200 euros) plus 60 euros per person for meals. That's a whole lot of burek and yogurt, people. As is often the case, they will back down after some half-hearted promises for the future and "for the sake of the status process." I wonder what will happen when there is no more status process?

My advice now has turned more pessimistic. I tell everybody to leave. Get the hell out of here! See you in better times, my friend.

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Cautious optimism from Belgrade team

Another Vienna meeting with varying results depending on who you talk to. Belgrade team is "cautiously optimistic." Kosovo PM thinks talks are going nowhere and a correspondent for Kosovo's public broadcaster reports thus:

Unconstructive atmosphere. Serbs have reacted furiously to the Troika proposal criticizing every single point. Serbs engaged in a fierce debate with the Troika with the Troika-Belgrade meeting lasting for an unusually long time. Jeremic declared that today is decisive for the continuation of talks.  

Kosovo team has nothing against the proposals. Most of the points mentioned in the document are already in the "Good Neighbors" proposal.

Of course, what Kosovo team don't say is what is missing from the document, which is independence of any kind. This is understandable considering that the Russians would not agree to that and probably leave the process. Serbia does not want to discuss the finer points of the Kosovo-Serbia relations out of the fear that this will be accepted as some sort of agreement and despite the fact that those relations will have to be established even if Serbia's position is accepted wholeheartedly.

It seems that getting rid of UN Resolution 1244 is a very much a possibility under some sort of a temporary solution.  With that, later in 2008 select countries may proceed to unilaterally establish relations with an independent Kosovo. In the mean time until 10 December, we are back again to renegotiating the content of the Ahtisaari plan, and we know that that path is a dead end. Currently we are in between a dead end and and a closed road, so help us God!

B92 - News - Politics - Vienna: Cautious optimism from Belgrade team

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Vladimir Arsenijevic: "Our negroes, our enemies" - signandsight

 

17/10/2007

"Our negroes, our enemies"

Serbian writer Vladimir Arsenijevic outlines the calamitous relationship of his compatriots to the Albanians.

For all ex-Yugoslavs, but particularly for the Serbs, the Kosovo Albanians used to be simply "our negroes." Nowadays, however, they are cast as Serbia's arch-enemies – a myth ruthlessly exploited by nationalist politicians, even as negotiations take place over the future of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo, which has been under UN administration since 1999. If anyone in Western Europe asks how all this could have happened, I can tell them, for I have watched and listened to this story unfolding in my country.

Vladimir Arsenijevic: "Our negroes, our enemies" - signandsight

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

B92 - News - Politics - UK looks to avoid unilateral Kosovo moves

 

UK looks to avoid unilateral Kosovo moves

10 October 2007 | 12:53 | Source: Tanjug

VIENNA -- British officials are trying to dissuade Kosovo Albanians from unilaterally proclaiming independence, reports suggest.
“The Kosovo Albanian team was in London yesterday meeting with Foreign Office officials regarding key aspects of the Kosovo problem, specifically regarding the intentions of Priština to unilaterally proclaim Kosovo independence after December 10,” according to today’s edition daily Frankfurtske Vesti.

B92 - News - Politics - UK looks to avoid unilateral Kosovo moves

Friday, October 05, 2007

NY Times is in

New York Times urges the United States and the majority of her EU allies to recognize Kosovo independence on December 10:

A sovereign Kosovo, like all new democracies, will need long-term help meeting legal, human rights, economic and other challenges, but its people deserve the chance to try.

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Eric Gordy, a Belgrade-based sociologist, rarely talks about Kosovo. And in this commentary he explains how everything Kosovo-related in Belgrade is not really about Kosovo. His examples: patronage of Kosovo Serbs gets the ruling party their votes; tensions are kept high by the weakening DSS to keep the elections from happening; and the "Ministry of Kosovo and Metohija" has seen its corpus of experts multiply.

The outcome of the negotiations is more or less known in advance: the parties will posture for the media for a few months, fail to reach an agreement, and the international mediators will seek to impose a resolution. The only issue that really remains in the air is whether the final status of Kosovo will be called by the name "independence" or by some other label.

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Serb street's opinion about Kosovo on Financial Times. With such jewels as: the number of Serbs thinking Serbia should go to war for Kosovo is now 10%, down from 12% in June.

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The new Telekom Slovenia/Ipko Net mobile operator will start offering its services by the end of the year. Investments worth €200 million are being made. Meanwhile the publicly owned Vala has improved since the time the idea of a second operator was first thrown a couple of years back.   

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Albin

Albin Kurti is back in the headlines after the extension of his home arrest for two more months. A Hungarian journalist has interviewed him in length about what his movement stands for. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time that he was given the chance to speak in his own words for a foreign media. BIRN is back with the another story on this subject, saying that Amnesty International is collecting evidence to declare Albin a political prisoner and how some Kosovar leaders have grown back their spine. Finally, Alice James looks at the system of justice in Kosovo and Albin's case in particular .

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Free Burma

Free Burma! 

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Wag the EU

Borut Grgic. Wall Street Journal.

A lot of time has passed since the bloody war that destroyed Bosnia and Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovo's Albanians. But all the progress the region has since made in pursuing a common European future is now in danger as the resolution of Kosovo's future status and Bosnia's police reform are on hold. And the European Union shares a lot of the blame for this. Its "soft-touch" diplomacy in what essentially is still a macho world is showing its limits.

Milosevic yielded only when his hand was forced-twice by NATO interventions. The new Serbian leadership can of course not be compared to that regime. But Belgrade plays a similar type of "blame the EU" game, a Milosevic classic. Western pressure is held responsible for everything bad that happens to the country. If Kosovo gains independence, as the U.S. and some EU countries want, Belgrade warns that Serbian democracy will be doomed. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica also tells the EU not to push his country on the extradition of war crime suspects to the international court in the Hague because it would supposedly bring the radicals to power. Likewise, Belgrade urges the EU not to insist on ambitious reforms because democracy in Serbia is too fragile to support sweeping changes in judiciary, police and defense matters.

And the EU plays along with it. Strangely, it has now become the EU's responsibility to make Serbia a member of the Union. While Brussels is telling Turkey to change if it wants to get into the EU, Belgrade is telling Brussels it must change its politics if it wants Serbia in Europe. The tail is wagging the dog and it makes Europe look extremely weak, if not outright hypocritical.

It's also complicating the delicate diplomacy to steer Kosovo toward statehood. Kosovo's Albanians will declare independence with or without foreign blessing, but the absence of a united European stance plays into Serb and Russian hands and raises the odds of a messy, if not necessarily violent, end in Kosovo.

There is a parallel situation in Bosnia with respect to the police reforms. The 1995 Dayton peace agreement divided the country after the war into a Serb Republic and Bosniak-Croat Federation. Since then, ethnically divided government structures are being merged, including the army, in an effort to reunite the country. But the police forces are still separate, allowing criminals to escape capture simply by crossing jurisdictions. Bosnian Serbs fear that giving up their police force may lead to the eventual loss of their autonomy.

Again, Europe has allowed Bosnian Serbs to delay the necessary reforms for two years now. With last year's departure of Paddy Ashdown as the international community's high representative for Bosnia, the EU adopted a velvet-glove approach under Mr. Ashdown's successor, Christian Schwarz-Schilling. The new international boss, Miroslav Laicek, is changing the rules. The Slovak diplomat said that the police reform Bosnia's political rivals agreed on Friday doesn't go far enough to justify Bosnia taking the next step toward EU membership.

He is right. Friday's deal doesn't meet the three conditions set forth by the EU: that the police budget and police laws will be handled at state level and that there will be no political interference in the police structures. The EU member countries must now support Mr. Laicek. As long as the police reform is stalled, Bosnia's EU prospects should be put on hold.

The claim that international pressure supposedly threatens democracy makes as little sense in Bosnia as it does in Serbia. If regional leaders in Serbia or Bosnia will be voted out of power, it's not because they lost Kosovo or agreed to a common police structure, but because they failed to raise the standard of living and create new jobs.

The problem is that bad behavior is contagious in the Balkans. If Kosovo turns bloody again, the troubles could spill over. The Kosovo- Macedonia border is not yet settled and Albanians on either side could reignite ethnic turmoil there if pushed on partition. In south Serbia, probably one of the Balkans' poorest regions, Albanians could call for separation to join Kosovo. Kosovo's north, which is predominantly Serb, would probably want to link up with Serbia. This is why even suggesting the partition of Kosovo is so dangerous. It pushes the Balkans a step closer to the ethnic strife, isolationism and corruption of the 1990s.

Unfortunately, EU foreign policy is stuck in the last decade, when Brussels failed to step up to the plate when the Balkans plunged into war and the U.S. eventually intervened. European policy is today held hostage by the narrow-minded interests of individual EU member states. The objections to an independent Kosovo coming from Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Spain have little to do with Kosovo and almost everything with these countries' own domestic politics. They are concerned that Kosovo's independence may serve as a precedence for their own problems, be it the failed unification in Cyprus, the calls for more autonomy of Basques and Catalans in Spain and Slovakia's and Romania's failure to successfully integrate their ethnic minorities.

So as a result Russia and the U.S. are calling the shots and muscling the Balkan policy out of the hands of the EU. The U.S. strongly supports Kosovo's independence drive, while Russia backs Belgrade with equal vigor. This puts at risk not only the future of the EU's Balkan engagement but EU foreign policy in general. If Europe is unable to lead in the Balkans, its own backyard, it is unrealistic to expect Europe to lead anywhere, much less be taken seriously.

The Bosnians have now been given a few more days to hammer out a police reform agreement. Serbian and Kosovar leaders, who on Friday held direct talks for the first time in six months, have until Dec. 10 to reach a deal. Brussels must not waver now. The Balkans can't wait forever for the EU to get serious about foreign policy.

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Mr. Grgic is the founding director of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Ljubljana.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Merci France

"There is a clear determination that this is a key deadline," said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for the chief European Union foreign policy representative, Javier Solana. "This is absolutely fundamental. There should be no further delay in terms of additional mechanisms" for talks, she said from Brussels in an interview.

"We can no longer accept a Russian veto on EU policy," said one European Union official in Kosovo, who is not authorized to speak to the press and spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I believe we will still have the Ahtisaari plan, but without a Security Council resolution."

IHT



Whether Europe will deliver is on everybody's mind.

The question of two million Albanians once again is on the doorsteps of Europe. With a lackluster Germany, a country very dear to every Kosovar gastarbaiter family's heart, it is France that has come aggressively pro independence. True, French position may have nothing to do with Kosovo or Albanians as such, and more with what seems to me a very weird French desire to cuddle with the Unite States. If Chavez and Ahmadinajad can do it too, it is not schick anymore and France must now move on. Whatever the reason, I'd still like to thank France. It feels weird having you on our side, but we certainly would like to thank you. Merci France!

________


Back in 1878 a resurgent Russian Empire was beating a retreating Ottoman Empire on every front. What better allies Russia could find than the Serbs and the Montenegrins who had opened another front in the Balkans. The only problem was that there were Albanians in between. Being unable to stand on Russia's way, at Berlin the Grand Powers signed away Albanian populated lands to Russia's allies in the Balkans.

I would like to reach back into history and try to (crudely) translate a few lines from Lute of the Mountain of Father Gjergj Fishta. It should be noted that he had no predisposition to be anti-European. He was schooled in philosophy in several European countries and died a staunch catholic. The drawing of the border lines at conference rooms thousand of kilometers away and the massive movements of population that ensued such borders pained him. As the Ottomans were being kicked out, the question of the position of Albanians on the East-West spectrum was raised. Fr. Fishta would naturally propagate a European future for Albanians, only to find out that Europe wasn't interested in them and then some. His lines go a long away in explaining the fuzzy feelings that Albanians have towards Europe and the sympathy for the US instead.



Today they want to tear it into parts:
And why? Why wants Europe...
Ah! Europe, you old bitch,
That denies God and besa*
Is this the sign of your civilization:
Splitting the land of Albania
To feed the cubs** of Russia?


*Albanian code of honor
**Montenegro and Serbia