Category Archives: South East Europe

Kosovo – the negotiations


Kosovo – the negotiations, the north and the police | TransConflict | Transform, Transcend, Translate – TransConflict Serbia.

By Gerard Gallucci

Whilst Belgrade shows a willingness to compromise onspecific issues, Pristina remains wedded to a maximalist stance – particularly towards the north – that inhibits its scope for making concessions and has led to suggestions that regional stability could be threatened if the spectre of partition is raised.

The northern Serbs’ peaceful resistance to being incorporated into independent Kosovo has kept the issue of the north alive. Tadic was never eager to assist the northern Serbs but politically he had no choice but to appear supportive. Now, however, Belgrade clearly sees the north as both leverage and possibly a key part of what it might come away with from its “historic” compromise. Will the EU be able to make this work? Or will the Kosovo leadership be allowed to stonewall and threaten peace?

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UNDP Kosovo – News – Public Pulse Report: First Edition


The latest Public Pulse Poll results show a general decline in people’s satisfaction with the work of Kosovo’s key executive, legislative, and judicial institutions.About 72% of respondents of all ethnicities seem to be either dissatisfied with the economic direction in which Kosovo is headed. About 72% of Kosovans seem ready and willing to join public protests organized due to economic reasons as opposed 59% of them who would do the same for political reasons.  According to the survey data, Kosovans identify unemployment 30% and poverty 29% as the two top paramount problems that Kosovo faces. The third paramount problem that Kosovo faces is corruption 11%.

via UNDP Kosovo – News – Public Pulse Report: First Edition.

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In Greece, austerity kindles deep discontent – The Washington Post


Just how far north will economic and social discontent travel?

Athens — Already struggling to avoid a debt default that could seal Greece’s fate as a financial pariah, this Mediterranean nation is also scrambling to contain another threat — a breakdown in the rule of law.

Thousands have joined an “I Won’t Pay” movement, refusing to cover highway tolls, bus fares, even fees at public hospitals. To block a landfill project, an entire town south of Athens has risen up against the government, burning earth-moving equipment and destroying part of a main access road.

The protests are an emblem of social discontent spreading across Europe in response to a new age of austerity. At a time when the United States is just beginning to consider deep spending cuts, countries such as Greece are coping with a fallout that has extended well beyond ordinary civil disobedience.

Perhaps most alarming, analysts here say, has been the resurgence of an anarchist movement, one with a long history in Europe. While militants have been disrupting life in Greece for years, authorities say that anger against the government has now given rise to dozens of new “amateur anarchist” groups, whose tactics include planting of gas canisters in mailboxes and destroying bank ATMs.

Some attacks have gone further, heightening concerns about a return to the kind of left-wing violence that plagued parts of Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. After urban guerrillas mailed explosive parcels to European leaders and detonated a powerful bomb last year in front of an Athens courthouse, authorities here have staged a series of raids, arresting dozens and yielding caches of machine guns, grenades and bomb-making materials.

The anarchist movement in Europe has a long, storied past, embracing an anti-establishment universe influenced by a broad range of thinkers from French politician and philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Karl Marx to Oscar Wilde. Defined narrowly, the movement includes groups of urban guerillas, radical youths and militant unionists. More broadly, it encompasses everything from punk rock to WikiLeaks.

“Many of these are just a few frustrated high school students with a Web site,” said Mary Bossi, one of Greece’s leading terrorism experts. “But as we continue to see, others have the potential to be dangerous.”

via In Greece, austerity kindles deep discontent – The Washington Post.

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Kosovo’s Economic Plan Unrealistic, Experts Warn


On April 18, the government approved the plan for 2011-2014, which foresees economic growth from seven to eight per cent and hopes to reduce the unemployment rate by eight to ten per cent, but it has been met with sceptism by some analysts. The plan aims to fight the informal economy, create a sole agency for tax and customs revenues, improve fiscal policies, and revitalise agriculture.

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kosovo-s-government-plan-on-economy-unrealistic-experts-warn

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Albanian-American Enterprise Fund Returns $15 Million to U.S. Treasury | U.S. Department of State Blog


January 19, 2011, the Albanian-American Enterprise Fund (AAEF), recipient of a U.S. government grant, returned $15 million to the U.S. Treasury. This payback represented the successful completion of a program established by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1995 to promote the growth of the private sector in Albania and assist the country’s transition out of Communist isolation and towards a market-based economy.

via Albanian-American Enterprise Fund Returns $15 Million to U.S. Treasury | U.S. Department of State Blog.

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The Balkanization of the European Union a Blessing in Disguise? « The Global Journal


Thus the denouement of the economic crisis in the European Union threatening it with dismemberment may give rise to a savior who will salvage it from its ultimate catastrophe, the Islamization of Europe.

The Balkanization of the European Union a Blessing in Disguise? « The Global Journal.

 

 

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BOOKS ON KOSOVO


The Best Books on Kosovo

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Defence Ministers Discuss Cooperation in Montenegro


At a meeting of the South East European Co-operation Process, SEECP, in Montenegro’s seaside resort of Budva, Sutanovac stressed that Serbia has a significant role in promoting that cooperation

He warned that, “despite the evident improvement of the regional spirit and cooperation, we should not close our eyes to obvious problems.”

“In addition to the unresolved status of Kosovo-Metohija, the region is also burdened with issues of insufficiently developed economies and high unemployment rates,” Sutanovac pointed out.

According to the minister, additional areas of concern include high levels of corruption, organised crime, trafficking in people, narcotics, weapons and body parts and failures to resolve issues of return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes.

“The unsatisfactory quality of life is what should concern us politicians the most, because we are here primarily for the benefit of citizens,” he stressed.

The SEECP meeting brought together the defence ministers of member states from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Sutanovac noted that the entire region was committed to membership in the European Union and that “regional cooperation is a key segment of the EU’s policy towards the Western Balkans, since the EU itself came into being through the development of regional cooperation.”

He said that “in 2011 we have results which clearly show that there is no alternative to resolving disputes and problems through cooperation.”

“If we take the example of Serbia, only in terms of bilateral relations in the field of defense until and including 2010, we see that it has established contractual relations with all the countries in the region, except Albania, but this is something Serbia will work on in the foreseeable future,” he added.

During the gathering in Budva, the Serbian defense minister held bilateral meetings with his colleagues from Montenegro, Boro Vucinic, from Turkey, Mehmet Gonul and Albania, Arben Imami.

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Economic Downturn Seen Fueling New Divides Across Western Balkans


BELGRADE, Feb 15, 2011 (AFP) — The western Balkans region, for so long riven by ethnic divides, now finds itself grappling with political divisions that have induced a governmental paralysis in some of Europe’s poorest countries.

Deadly protests, strikes and parliamentary boycotts all underline how the region has struggled to absorb not only the legacy of the past but also the impact of the economic downturn.

Observers say one of the casualties is enthusiasm for membership of the European Union, with governments which have long been pushing to join facing a backlash at a time of high unemployment and falling living standards.

“The national issue is not the main concern any more. The issue of employment and corruption is what really concerns the people nowadays,” said veteran Balkans watcher Jacques Rupnik.

The sense of crisis has been felt most acutely in Albania which has been gripped by a political deadlock ever since the opposition refused to recognise results of parliamentary elections in June 2009.

Tensions boiled over last month when clashes between the security forces and anti-government protestors left four people dead in the capital Tirana.

Marko Prelec of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the violence should have served as a wake-up call as to the tensions mounting in what, after Moldova, is Europe’s poorest country.

“Everyone underestimated the severity of the situation in Albania,” he said.

In neighbouring Kosovo, a similar vacuum is in danger of forming with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci still trying to cobble together a fresh coalition after being forced into early elections in December.

Although Thaci’s party did come out on top, he fell some distance short of an overall majority and his focus has not been helped by allegations linking him to organised crime and organ trafficking. He denies the accusations.

It’s much the same story in Bosnia — another part of the former Yugoslavia mired in warfare in the 1990s — which still has no central government, four months on from its elections.

Macedonia’s main opposition parties are boycotting the parliament and want early elections.

And in Serbia, the region’s powerhouse, a wave of strikes by public sector workers and opposition protests have cranked up the pressure on Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic ahead of legislative elections due in spring next year.

“After two years of economic downfall and stagnation, the people are exhausted and nervous, and the government is still on the defensive,” analyst Dimitrije Boarov wrote in Serbia’s private weekly Vreme.

To date, Slovenia is the only former Yugoslave republic that is a member of the EU.

Albania, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia all have their eyes on a seat at the table but while support among the population remains relatively high, there are clear signs of it slipping.

A December survey showed that 57 percent of Serbs were in favor of joining the EU, the first time that the support level had fallen below 60 percent.

In Croatia — the first on the list of EU hopefuls — a recent poll showed that the number of people had dropped to 49.4 percent, albeit still ahead of the 40.3 percent who were opposed.

Rupnik, a researcher at France’s Science Po University, said that the apparent growing indifference towards EU membership there was due partly to the slow pace of membership talks.

He warned against an ambiguous approach where Europeans “pretend to support enlargement” and Balkans countries “pretend to prepare” for it, but without in reality making the tough decision.

Even if Croatia is closing in on its goal of EU membership, that is only after five years of talks.

Although Prime Minister Sali Berisha has made Albanian membership his number one goal, its application has gone nowhere amid the domestic crisis.

Belgrade’s ambitions are also being stymied by its continued dispute with Kosovo, insisting that the breakaway region is still its territory.
The net result could be “a premature Euroscepticism,” said Rupnik.

“People doubt the European project even before it is reached,” he added.

[Description of Source: Agence France-Presse]

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