The Balkans-Caucasus tangle: states and citizens
9 - 01 - 2008
Destabilisation could spread in a range of lands between Bosnia and Georgia, says Mary Kaldor. 2008 could see the break-up of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Kosovo.
While the international community worked to prevent armed conflict and maintain macroeconomic stability, the criminal-nationalist entrepreneurs who profited from the wars in the 1990s were never properly dealt with. On the contrary, shadow networks of transnational crime and extremist ideologies have been nurtured in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Georgia by the combination of nationalist governments, high unemployment and lawlessness.
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A large majority of Bosnian Serbs believes their republic should secede from Bosnia if Kosovo declares independence from Serbia, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.
The survey by the Banja Luka-based Partner agency, published in Novi Reporter magazine, said 77 percent of a sample of 850 voters believed Serbs should break away from Bosnia if Kosovo Albanians secede from Serbia.
BELGRADE: Serbia said on Wednesday it would shun any offer of membership of the European Union or NATO if they recognised the breakaway province of Kosovo as an independent state.
Raising the stakes in the bid to block independence, the national assembly voted 220 to 14 in favour of a resolution saying Serbia would not sign any treaty that did not acknowledge its territorial integrity and sovereignty over Kosovo.
It was backed by President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, leaders of the two main parties in Serbia's centre-right ruling coalition, and supported by ultranationalist Radicals and Socialists on the opposition benches.
Kosovo Coalition Pact Harms Democracy
BIRN Balkan Insight
10 January 2008
Kosovo has a new government, but the deal between the two main parties that made it possible contains dubious elements, displaying some anti-democratic tendencies.
One of the issues that has aroused concern is the provision that bars the two parties from tabling or supporting no-confidence motions against the Prime Minister, PDK leader Hashim Thaci, and President Sejdiu, the head of the LDK. The agreement also extends Sejdiu's presidential term from three years to five.
When the government consists of the two strongest parties, leaving a weak opposition, it is all the more important that all checks and balances on those in power are kept intact. Yet under the terms of the coalition deal, the fate of the government now no longer depends on parliament. It will be wholly up to the PDK and LDK leaders to decide how much they wish to engage the Assembly.
The new electoral system, which allowed voters to vote for individual candidates, not just party lists, was supposed to give MPs more authority. But the coalition deal now diminishes their role by tightening top-down control of the Assembly by the governing parties' bosses.
Kosovo's Next Struggle Will Be Fixing Economy, Repairing Roads
A drive down the pockmarked Bill Clinton Boulevard in Kosovo's capital Pristina shows why this region's almost nine-year struggle to secede from Serbia might have been the easy part of independence.
The hard part for Kosovo, set to declare its freedom soon, will be to kick-start its damaged economy, repair its roads and generate enough electricity to keep the lights on. [..]
The poorest region of the former Yugoslavia, it inherits a shoddy infrastructure; a population of about 2 million, half under the age of 25; an unemployment rate above 50 percent and a tax system that depends on custom duties for 60 percent of receipts. [..]
Since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign pushed Serbian forces out of the mostly Albanian region, Kosovo has been the adopted orphan of the international community. [..] The EU, the World Bank and other international institutions have kept the economy afloat. Last year alone, the United Nations' budget for Kosovo was $217 million.
For Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population, independence means a new beginning. [M]any say they are tired of the disputes that have made the Balkans a tinderbox since World War I.
"This part of Europe has produced lots of history, hyper- history even," says Agim Zatriqi, director of Radio Television Kosovo, the public broadcasting company. "Now is the time to produce more useful things, like goods."
Soon, Kosovars won't be able to blame their international mentors for the slow pace of economic change, says Akan Ismaili, 34, chief executive of Ipko.net, Kosovo's first Internet provider and second-largest mobile-phone provider.
'Psychology of Dependence'
"What will change is the psychology of dependence, which has been a barrier until now,'' says Ismaili, whose company sold a majority stake in 2006 to Telekom Slovenije d.d., Slovenia's national phone company, and is now planning $200 million in new investments.
Along with a flag and a country code, Kosovo, which uses the euro as its currency, will get a credit rating. Without this much-needed benchmark, companies face interest rates of 12 percent and higher. "Any level of risk is better than the unknown,'' Ismaili says.
From roads and housing to schools, you name it and Kosovo needs it. Electricity production is so erratic, lights go out in the capital several times a day, while some villages have no electricity at all.
The World Bank has sponsored plans for a new power station fueled by Kosovo's plentiful lignite coal deposits. Four U.S. and European companies have submitted bids. The new plant, which will cost as much as $4 billion, won't be operational until 2014, however. The project's second phase, which would generate revenue by selling energy to neighboring countries, won't come on line until four years later. [..]
ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, bought two steel mills, although the sale won't be final until Kosovo's status is resolved. Mining and tourism remain prospects for foreign investors, says Paul Acda, an official at the UN's Kosovo mission. [..]
Of the estimated 120,000 Serbs left in Kosovo, about half live in the region above the Ibar River, which includes the northern half of the city of Mitrovica. Supported by Serbia politically and economically, Serbs here vehemently oppose secession.
Slavisa Stanic, general secretary of the Mitrovica Chamber of Commerce, says international interference prevents Albanians and Serbs from solving their problems themselves. [..]
"If there were fewer stories in the media about independence, there would be more investment,'' he says. "Not in Albanian businesses, though, because they have a well-known reputation for being swindlers.''
[..] Milan Ivanovic, [who] heads Mitrovica's Serbian National Council, [..] dismissed an appeal for interethnic peace, delivered in Serbian by Prime Minister Thaci before the Parliament, as "demagoguery and hypocrisy.''
Serbs, Albanians and international observers worry violence could break out after Kosovo is independent. Still, with NATO troops guarding the Serbian border, no one expects another war or even the kind of rioting that killed 19 people in March 2004.
"There will be a burst of fever, but it will not last long because it is not sustainable,'' says French Lieutenant General Xavier de Marnhac, commander of NATO's Kosovo force. "The NATO flag will wave over Kosovo for a long time to come.''
Chretien: Canada in tough spot over Kosovo
CTV.ca News Staff
Updated: Fri. Feb. 22 2008 11:18 PM ET
Never at a loss for words, former prime minister Jean Chretien says that Canada is in a "delicate" spot over the decision whether to recognize Kosovo's declaration of independence.
"Canada has to be careful because people want to separate from Canada," Chretien told reporters from Ottawa's Rideau Hall on Friday.
He said because of Canada's Clarity Act, which sets rules for legal separation from the country, the government should be careful of setting a dangerous precedent by recognizing Kosovo's unilateral separation from Serbia.
The U.S., U.K., Germany and France are among more than a dozen nations that have recognized Kosovo's independence. Canada has not yet taken a position.
Chretien noted that both the U.K. and France have their own problems with segments of their populations wishing to separate. Scotland and Wales in the U.K. have long had separatist parties and France has had issues with its Mediterranean island of Corsica.
"But I'm not the one who decides for the government," Chretien said. "I'm not the Monday morning quarterback."
Chretien was made a companion of The Order of Canada Friday in Ottawa and spoke about Kosovo when prompted by reporters.
On Friday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said it would be preferable that Canada join its European allies and recognize Kosovo.
A pair of former ambassadors agreed with Chretien that Canada should move cautiously.
James Bissett, Canada's former Ambassador to Yugoslavia, told CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live Friday evening that he is concerned that Kosovo declared independence unilaterally and without a referendum.
Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, noted, however, that the situation in Kosovo is very different from issues in Canada about Quebec.
"There has been -- between the Kosovars and the Serbs -- a lot of trouble," Heinbecker said.
"There was a war in 1999. NATO had to intervene to stop it. By the time NATO started, (the Serbs) had expelled nearly 500,000 people from their homes in Kosovo. In Canada, we haven't had a shot fired between the French and the English for about 200 years."
Many analysts have said Serbs engaged in ethnic cleansing and discrimination against minority populations in the former Yugoslavia. But Heinbecker pointed out that Canada is a strong state that has had many protections for minorities. He said Canada has historically welcomed full participation of Quebecers into the national life.
He added that Quebecers have held the Prime Minister's Office for significant periods, and they are at the top levels of the military, government, and other public offices.
The Serbian ambassador to Canada, Dusan Batakovic, told CTV Newsnet that he agreed with Chretien's comments, especially when the former Liberal prime minister said that it's hard to judge the escalating situation in Serbia without being there.
"Of course, Serbs remain defiant," Batakovic said of the recent outburst of violence in the capital of Belgrade. "(But) it's regrettable . . . an emotional outburst is obviously wrong."
Many Serbians see Kosovo as the ancient cradle of their state and religion.
Batakovic also expressed concern for the ethnic Serbians in Kosovo and added that Serbia would try to block any attempt by Kosovo to join the United Nations.
Kosovo is 90 per cent populated by ethnic Albanians. It has not been under Belgrade's control since 1999, when air strikes were launched by NATO to put an end to a Serbian crackdown on separatists.
Since then Kosovo has been governed by a United Nations mission.
Serbia says will hold May elections in Kosovo
By Matt Robinson
Mon Mar 31, 10:54 AM ET
PRISTINA (Reuters) - Serbia said on Monday it would conduct its May elections in the former Kosovo province as well, in a fresh challenge to the newly independent state and its international overseers.
"Kosovo is part of Serbia, so parliamentary and local elections will be held in Kosovo," Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic said during a visit to Serb enclaves in the territory.
He told reporters a request would be filed with the U.N. mission that has run Kosovo since the 1998-99 war.
The mission had not blocked Kosovo's 120,000-strong Serb minority from voting in Serbian elections before.
But Kosovo declared independence last month, and its ethnic Albanian leaders are urging the United Nations to withhold permission for the local polls.
The prospect of Kosovo Serbs voting on May 11 poses a security headache for U.N. police and the 16,000-strong NATO-led peace force, already tested by deadly Serb rioting in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica this month.
The move is in line with Belgrade's rejection of Kosovo's secession. Serbia is telling Serbs to boycott the Kosovo institutions, dividing the police force and customs service and strengthening parallel health and education services.
"Serbia will find a way to take over responsibilities that after the declaration of independence were left hanging," Samardzic said in the village of Laplje Selo.
"Serbs don't want to work for an Albanian quasi-state, but for Serbia."
Serbia's coalition government collapsed in early March, triggering the election that could decide whether Serbia pursues a place in the European Union or rejects membership over the bloc's support for Kosovo's secession.
Under a U.N. plan, rejected by Serbia and Russia but adopted by Kosovo, Serbs in Kosovo would be able to vote in Serbian parliamentary elections. But Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority says local elections have territorial implications.
"We want dual-citizenship to be applied in the best possible way," Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said on Monday. "But Kosovo cannot be an electoral zone for anyone."
The United Nations has run Kosovo since 1999, when NATO bombed to drive out Serbian forces and halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a two-year war against guerrillas. The mission has yet to say whether it will allow voting in May.
Kosovo: Four players in race for power
A legal and power gap exists in Kosovo, the newest independent country in Europe, Veton Surroi argues. Kosovo's authorities, UNMIK and the EU all have decision-making mandates, while Belgrade has been taking direct control over what had been camouflaged as 'parallel institutions.' But there is no functional state in countries that have four governances at the same time, and a 'soft' or 'prolonged' partition of the country is taking shape.