Σάββατο, 30 Οκτωβρίου 2010

Turkey's relationship with west on the line in European missile defence negotiations

Turkey's government has been told that its relationship with the West could be seriously damaged if it rejects Nato's request to house part of a £165 million ballistic missile-defence shield that is being built to protect Europe from nuclear attack.

By Praveen Swami, Diplomatic Editor

Published: 9:00PM BST 29 Oct 2010
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state and Robert Gates, the US secretary of defence, have held out the warning in behind-the-scenes talks with Turkish officials ahead of a Nato summit to be held in Lisbon on November 19, where a final decision is expected to be made on the missile-defence plan.
"Essentially we've told Turkey that missile-defence is an acid test of its commitment to the collective security arrangements it has with its western allies," a senior US official told The Daily Telegraph.

Nato's missile-defence programme is designed to protect Europe's population from nuclear-armed missiles the West fears Iran may acquire in coming years. The plans involve radar stations that can detect ballistic missile launches, and advanced interceptor missiles which can shoot them down.
Turkey is critical to the project, since its geographical location means radar sited on its soil will be able to detect Iranian ballistic missile launches early.
The November 19 deadline has left Recep Erdrogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, torn between his Islamist supporters and his country's western allies. Mr Erdrogan has made improving his country's relationship with Iran a central foreign policy. Turkey voted against a slew of new sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iran this summer in an effort to slow down its nuclear programme.
"Sacrificing the Iranian friendship to Nato would mean an end to the independent foreign policy Turkey has followed in recent years, and the respect that that has earned it in the Islamic world, " ", Hakan Albayrak, an influential pro-government commentator, said.
Turkey has long sought EU membership a demanded supported by the UK, but resisted by Germany and France. Islamists in Turkey, angered by the rebuff, have been arguing their country's interests will be best served through new alliances with its eastern neighbours.
In this case, though, US diplomats believe western pressure is working. Turkey's military has already mapped locations for specialised radar which would detect ballistic missile launches in Iran. It is also considering acquiring the US-built Patriot PAC3 interceptor missile.
Even if Turkey does join the missile-defence shield, though, some experts question if it will actually make Europe safe. Theodore Postel and George Lewis, among the world's top authorities on missile defence, have warned that apparently-successful tests of interceptor missiles were conducted "in carefully orchestrated scenarios that have been designed to hide fundamental flaws".
In September, 2009, Barack Obama, the US President, had authorised a £3.15 billion plan provide missile-defence shields for troops deployed in war-zones. The decision reversed earlier plans to develop larger shields to defend the populations of entire territories. But early this year, an official US review concluded the technology meant to protect deployed troops was good enough to protect territories as well.
Yousaf Butt, a nuclear expert at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, has said this plan rests on unsound foundations. Dr. Butt argued that if Iran was "irrational and suicidal enough to discount the threat of massive nuclear retaliation then a missile defence system that can theoretically intercept only some of the attacking missiles most certainly isn't going to be a deterrent".


Slovenia Shines as Central Europe’s Least Corrupt, Hungary Gets Warning Signal

October 27, 2010, 9:37 AM ET

By Veronika Gulyas

Slovenia is the least corrupt state in central and southeastern Europe, followed by Poland, not a long time ago plagued with corruption scandals. Hungary plunged most heavily on Transparency International’s latest corruption ranking.
Slovenia with the score of 6.4 and Poland with 5.3, on the scale of 0-10, are closer to the “very clean” end than to “highly corrupt,” according to the 2010 Corruptions Perceptions Index by Transparency International.
Hungary with 4.7 is followed by the Czech Republic (4.6), Slovakia (4.3), Romania (3.7) and Bulgaria (3.6).
Hungary fell four ranks to the 50th place after failing to implement efficient and comprehensive anti-corruption measures, such as transparent campaign financing and procurement regulations, Transparency International Hungary Executive Director Noemi Alexa said at a press conference Tuesday.

wall street journal

Turkey Defers Lifting Headscarf Ban Until 2011 Elections

Thursday, 28 October 2010 23:20 Written by KUNA

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, announced Thursday putting off its efforts to lift the ban on Muslim females' headscarves at educational institutions until the general elections of 2011.

The Islamic-rooted party adopted this decision amidst staunch opposition from the secular parties to the efforts which mainly aim to promote public liberties particularly the personal liberty, AKP's deputy chairman Suat Kilic told reporters here.
"The AKP has recently held consultations on the planned legislative reforms with the two major opposition parties - the liberal Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party," he noted.
The reforms include lifting the highly-controversial ban on headscarf wearing which was enforced in 1998. The ban is deeply divisive for the country's predominantly Muslim population where two-thirds of women, including the wife and daughters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wear scarves.Erdogan's lobbying for the constitutional reforms faced uproar from the secular political parties and other institutions such as the judiciary.
Public Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya warned the AKP-led government against the move to unban scarves, saying that it runs counter to the provisions of the constitution.
Yalcinkaya also warned the secular parties against yielding to the government bid in this regard, thus prompting the parties to reconsider their earlier views.
The constitution was amended in 2008 to ease a strict ban at universities, allowing headscarves that were tied loosely under the chin. Scarves covering the neck were still banned according to a compromise reached by the AKP and the CHP.
The AKP aspires to a third term at helm through the coming vote based on its growing popularity and reformist platform.

eurasia review

NATO to halve troop strength in Kosovo to 5,000

Peacekeeping 29.10.2010

The NATO secretary general has announced plans for the alliance to reduce the number of troops it has in Kosovo from nearly 10,000 to 5,000 within months. KFOR has been in the territory for more than a decade.

Citing progress in the breakaway former Serbian province, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the announcement in a statement released to the media on Friday.
"The security conditions in Kosovo continue to improve, which is a positive sign, not only for Kosovo, but for the whole region," the statement said.
Rasmussen added that local institutions were increasingly capable of assuming responsibility for security tasks, and that the Kosovo Force (KFOR), which had already been reduced from 15,000 to 10,000 soldiers earlier this year, would continue to be a deterrent to violence.

"KFOR will remain able to deploy forces quickly and effectively whenever and wherever necessary, including with robust reserves. KFOR's mission to guarantee a safe and secure environment in Kosovo remains unchanged."
The German commander of the NATO forces in Kosovo, Major General Erhard Buehler, said the decision was taken "because the security situation is calm," but he said Kosovo's Serb-inhabited North remained an area of concern.
International peacekeeping forces arrived in Kosovo in 1999, following a 78-day NATO bombing campaign to end a conflict between Serbian forces and fighters from the ethnic Albanian majority in what was then a province of Serbia.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in Feb. 2008, paving the way for a reduction in the number of peacekeepers, although ethnic tensions have persisted. In recent weeks, Belgrade, which refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, has also signaled a softening of its approach to Kosovo, a move which was welcomed by NATO.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)Editor: Chuck Penfold

deutsche welle


Serbia multiplies reward for indicted war criminal Mladic

War crimes 30.10.2010

Serbia has greatly increased the reward for information leading to the arrest of indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic. Arresting Mladic is a crucial condition for Serbia's bid to join the European Union.

Serbia increased the reward for information leading to the arrest of Ratko Mladic tenfold to 10 million euros ($13.7 million), apparently to prove Belgrade's political will to capture the indicted war criminal.
The decision, announced on Thursday, "represents Serbia's clear political will to remove the last remaining obstacle on its path towards the European Union," deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric told Beta news agency.
The reward for wartime Croation Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic was also raised to 500,000 euros. Both Mladic and Hadzic are believed to be hiding in Serbia.
"These two men have kept the whole nation hostage, (but) also their families and future generations," Vekaric said
Experts are skeptical

Ratko Mladic was the Bosnian Serb army commander and is accused by the UN of being responsible for the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys, the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II. He is also charged for masterminding the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo, which killed 10,000 people.
Mladic has been on the run for 15 years. In May, his family tried to declare him dead, claiming that he had been in poor health and that they had had no contact with him for more than five years.
Despite Serbia's intentions, raising the reward will likely have no affect Mladic's arrest, Serbian security expert Ljubodrag Stojadinovic told Deutsche Welle. It is not a question of gratification, but rather the government's lack of control of the secret service who would be in charge of arresting Mladic, he said.
According to Dragan Popovic, director of the Center of Applied Politics in Belgrade, Serbia simply tries to send out a positive message to the international community in order to make them believe the government is actively going after Mladic.
Good news from Brussels
Mladic's arrest, along with cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, is Serbia's greatest obstacle to its goal of joining the European Union.

In June, UN chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz accused Serbia of putting little effort into arresting Mladic and has demanded several times that Serbia's EU membership should depend on whether they can catch him.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg this week said they wanted to support the pro-European position of Serbian President Boris Tadic, instructing the European Commission to comment on Serbia's membership application. An official statement from the commission is not expected before the second half of 2011.
Authors: Rayna Breuer, Sarah Steffen (AP, AFP, Reuters)Editor: Andrew Bowen

deutsche welle

Business: Serbian investors call for reforms

The Foreign Investors Council met in Belgrade. Also in business news: Albania's exports are up, year on year, and a new shale oil reserve has been discovered in Turkey.

The Foreign Investors Council (FIC) -- a business association of the leading foreign investors in Serbia -- urged the government to undertake reforms to improve the business climate. At a presentation of the so-called 2010 White Book on Wednesday (October 27th), foreign investors also called for prudent macro-economic policies, which would ensure the sustainable inflow of foreign direct investments. On the positive side, the report noted the signs of economic recovery, but still pointed to the lack of reforms in the judicial system as a hindrance to doing business in Serbia.
The World Bank will invest $200m in Macedonia in 2011-2014, Finance Minister Zoran Stavrevski said on Wednesday (October 27th). The funds will be allocated for projects in the energy, health care, education, agriculture and infrastructure fields that should help boost efforts to join the EU.
Albanian exports increased by 43.6% in September compared to a year earlier, the Statistics Institute reported on Wednesday (October 27th). Trade with EU countries dominates the exports. Italy and Greece accounted for 68.7% of all exports.
Officials from the Kosovo Economy and Finance Ministry met with a European Commission delegation responsible for the economies of potential candidate countries on Wednesday (October 27th). The ministry briefed the delegation about the latest macro-economic and fiscal developments in Kosovo, as well as on efforts to align the country's 2011 budget with recommendations by the IMF.
A new shale oil reserve has been discovered in the central Anatolian region with a total volume of 8 billion tonnes, Turkey's Mineral Research and Exploration Agency announced on Monday (October 25th). The finding significantly increases the country's proven shale reserves, previously estimated at 1.64 billion tonnes. The new basins were estimated to contain 2.6 billion to 8.3 billion barrels of oil, worth between $218 billion and $687 billion.

Cypriot Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis forecasts that the country's economy will grow by 1.5% in 2011. The forecast was made during a ministerial round table at an Economic Forum in Nicosia on Wednesday (October 27th). As for this year, Stavrakis said he expects "positive growth rates, anything between 0.5 and 1%".
Serbian government officials and IMF representatives started discussions Monday (October 25th) on the sixth review of Serbia's 2.9 billion-euro stand-by agreement. The nine-day talks will focus on the budget rebalance for 2010, as well as the fiscal framework for 2011. IMF Mission Chief Albert Jaeger and the Fund's Permanent Representative, Bogdan Lissovolik, announced that they will urge the government to speed up pension reform.
(Various sources -- 22/10/10-29/10/10)
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Audio story: Headscarf issue re-emerges in Turkey

Turkey's longstanding ban on headscarves in universities is under scrutiny again, after the Board of Higher Education told lecturers they could no longer kick pupils out of class for covering their heads.
By Alexander Christie-Miller for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 29/10/10

Five times a day, the call to prayer fills the air in cities across Turkey-- a constant reminder of the important role that Islam plays in the lives of many Turks. But religion is a sensitive topic here. Due to Turkey's secular constitution, it is barred from having any role in public life. And few issues are more contentious than the headscarf.
The Turkish government has vowed to speak with opposition parties in the hope of officially repealing the ban.

A split in Kosovo's LDK?

With early elections on the horizon, one of the key parties in Kosovo is a house divided.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina – 29/10/10

Snap elections in Kosovo are closer than ever. On Thursday (October 28th), the New Kosovo Alliance (NKA) party submitted a request for a confidence motion in parliament. It was signed by 40 lawmakers, including members of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo.
Such a motion will likely lead to the dissolution of parliament and the government's resignation. MPs will discuss it this coming Tuesday.
Meanwhile, one of the main political parties – the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) -- is undergoing a heated internal battle and could even be facing a split.
Former Health Minister Bujar Bukoshi and Uke Rugova, son of the late president Ibrahim Rugova, have announced plans for an alternative candidate list during the elections.
The list, called "LDK-Ibrahim Rugova", will enter the race as a citizens' initiative and field 100 candidates.
The move is a direct challenge to Fatmir Sejdiu, the incumbent party head who recently had to step down as Kosovo's president following a constitutional court challenge.
"We did what was possible to be done in the context of contacts, talks and unfortunately, we could not agree," Bukoshi told KTV, a local network. "The last talks between Uke Rugova and Sejdiu did not yield anything in common. There were very different and contentious positions regarding the opening of the LDK, the unblocking of the party, and the party election process."
"This race was destroyed by Mr. Sejdiu," Bukoshi said, adding that he is no longer a candidate for the LDK leadership.
He insists that the alternative LDK list he and Rugova have put forward is simply intended to boost the party's chances and does not amount to a new political formation.

Rugova agreed, saying the initiative will woo LDK voters who are disappointed with the current leadership.
Sejdiu reacted through an interview published on Friday in Koha Ditore. He said his party does not allow factions.
"The LDK does not have two signatures … it will be represented in the Central Elections Commission as one single party," he said.
A senior party official, Secretary General Rame Manaj, took a similar position in a Thursday interview with the BBC. He said the demands for Sejdiu's resignation are "part of a scenario created by people who do not belong to the LDK".
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

An "ultimatum" on Albanian election reform

Does Edi Rama's latest proposal herald an end to Albania's political woes, or the start of new quarreling?
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 28/10/10

Political life in Albania has been mired in an impasse since the June 2009 elections. The opposition Socialists and their allies want ballot boxes re-opened; the ruling coalition disagrees, and the resulting standoff has held up the legislative process.
EU officials have regularly warned that Albania's EU prospects are being harmed. Now there are signals that the two sides may be inching towards a solution, though whether anything concrete comes of it remains to be seen, and the tone of discussions remains combative.
Edi Rama, leader of the Socialists, made a surprise decision last week to attend a meeting called by Prime Minister Sali Berisha to discuss the crisis. He brought with him what he described as an "ultimatum".
It calls for setting up a commission to investigate problems with the election, such as an alleged lack of policing.
Rama said the opposition is committed to implementing a July 8th resolution by the European Parliament, which "deplores the political crisis" in Albania and "strongly urges all political sides to assume their responsibilities".
Specific steps called for in the resolution include conducting dialogue on a new electoral law to ensure transparency in future polls, and setting up a parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the June 2009 vote.
If the ruling and opposition parties can't find a solution to the impasse, they should look to outside mediation, the EP said.
Berisha told Rama he would study his proposal. He affirmed his government's readiness to implement the EP resolution, and said the opposition would be invited to formulate amendments designed to make the electoral process more secure.
The amendments would then be submitted to the OSCE and the Venice Commission, Berisha said, adding that he wants EP members to help with the reforms.
The prime minister also said the government will secure additional budget funds to address issues such as buying new ballot boxes for the 2011 local elections, and will not burn the old ones.

The Socialists, who have been staging parliamentary boycotts and public demonstrations, say they will call these off for the time being while the government considers their demands.
Spartak Ngjela, a Rama ally, told a local station Top Channel that the offer extends to November 8th or 9th.
Writing in Gazeta Shqip, analyst Andrea Stefani said the opposition has no reason right now to show weakness.
"Even the European Parliament in its resolution, makes clear that the investigation of election materials is seen as a precondition of electoral reform," she wrote in her column.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Pristina's mayor: open to change

Isa Mustafa, mayor of the Kosovo capital, talks to SETimes about the Democratic League of Kosovo and what the party should do now.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 28/10/10

Since exiting the government, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) has been undergoing changes and seeing some interparty sparring. Before snap elections are held in the country, the party will vote in its own chairman.
Though he has yet to formally enter the race for the top party post, Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa has been garnering support. In this exclusive interview with SETimes correspondent Linda Karadaku, Mustafa discusses his possible candidacy and the LDK's well being.
SETimes: Will you announce your candidacy for LDK chairman?
Isa Mustafa: I think that it would be good to have the candidacies for the LDK chairman chosen on the basis of an internal agreement.
Obviously it would be in my interest, Sejdiu's interest and the interests all those who claim to want to become LDK chairman, to listen to the will of the membership of the LDK.
I have not had any conversation with those that have emerged to support my candidacy and request Sejdiu's resignation. I have no connection with public shows of support.
SETimes: What do you think about the LDK leaving the ruling coalition?
Mustafa: I think the time was not right. The right time was earlier, when the PDK took the unilateral decision to break the coalition, or at the time of very big affairs when EULEX intervened.
I [don't know] why, after the election date was set, the coalition break-up was announced.
I have not been part of this decision; I am not a member of the presidency. I had no information. I do not have any explanation, even from those who participated.
SETimes: Was the coalition between the LDK and the PDK functional?
Mustafa: It was not functional at all. It was functional only in the first phase of the declaration of independence and the adoption of symbols of Kosovo, but it did not work later.
SETimes: What is your opinion about the national elections? When should they be held?
Mustafa: I would suggest keeping them on February 13th. I think this [can be agreed upon by the government and the opposition].
An agreement should also be reached on processing some laws in the interim -- the law on the budget, PTK privatisation, the law on elections and some laws deriving from the Ahtisaari package. I think that agreement can be reached.
SETimes: What kind of a future Kosovo government do you expect?
Mustafa: We will have a government that is totally unstable, which will have a short mandate, because we are doing it through early elections.

SETimes: If you run for party chairman and win, what would you change in the party?
Mustafa: I think the LDK should be much more open to new comings in the party, to young people, the young generation that seems missing from the party.
It should be much more open to new initiatives and ideas -- [losing the] mindset that the LDK should be guided only by those who have experience. It should be done to provide the party with a sufficient basis of staff and knowledge to govern Kosovo in a different way.
It's not about a new discovery in the sense of the government, but in the sense of implementation of rule of law, fighting corruption and coming out with economic programmes to combat poverty and unemployment.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Romanian lawmakers adopt bills by mistake

MPs from the ruling coalition admit they did not know what was contained in two pieces of legislation they recently approved.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 27/10/10

Voting procedures in Romania's parliament have come under renewed scrutiny after MPs from the ruling coalition adopted two bills without apparently knowing their content.
Submitted by the opposition Social Democrats, one bill would slash the value added tax (VAT) for basic foods from 24% to 5%, while the second provides a tax exemption for pensions of less than 500 euros.
The legislation runs directly counter to the government's policies as well as an agreement with the IMF to raise the VAT, and could lead to a billion-euro hike in the budget deficit if adopted.
Once the MPs realised the contents of the measures, they publicly admitted that something had gone terribly awry.
"It was a mistake [that] I accept," said Liberal Democratic Party parliamentary leader Mircea Toader. He pledged that his party will move to annul the vote by forwarding another bill.
Finance Minister Gheorghe Ialomitianu is among the three ministers who voted for the bills. Many in the PDL are calling for his resignation.
The bills are now before President Traian Basescu, who must decide whether to sign them into law.
Visiting IMF Chief of Mission to Romania Jeffrey Franks said on Friday he discussed the potential effects with Basescu in the Chamber of Deputies. Franks said he was assured the president would act accordingly.
"I will act in the interest of the nation," Basescu said.
He issued a statement criticising the manner in which parliament works, underscoring that current procedures allow many lawmakers to vote "unknowingly".
In particular, he called for bills to be debated in a legislative plenary session and not in committees, so as to avoid opacity.
The accidental vote left the public wary.
"No wonder parliament tops the list of least trusted state institutions," Catalin Moldoveanu, a sales consultant, told SETimes.
"Luckily this time they passed laws that benefit us, the citizens. But that makes me wonder how many of the current laws were voted under the same circumstances," Moldoveanu said.

Economist Cristian Chiriac explained that the current system of voting was first introduced in the 2008 parliamentary elections when it was seen as a step towards political reform.
"We were told the uninominal vote would bring responsible and professional people to parliament. It looks like it has failed, too," Chiriac said.
"I wish the lawmakers would be compelled to report before the citizens at the end of each legislature. That would eventually break the ice in terms of reform," he added.
In addition to the two bills, majority MPs also "accidentally" approved the calendar requested by the opposition for a no-confidence vote against the government.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Zagreb to get cheaper taxis

Amid protests from the current taxi monopoly, Zagreb's Assembly is liberalising the market.
By Natasa Radic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 27/10/10

Taxi drivers lined up their cars in the historic centre of Zagreb on Tuesday (October 26th) to protest a decision to end the monopoly of Radio Taxi Zagreb, currently the only provider of taxi services in the capital.
More than 50 cars blocked Gornji grad, an old part of the city with narrow streets and limited traffic, and effectively cut off the area.
A few days earlier, they sought to tie up traffic by deliberately driving at a slow speed along the city's main roads. The drivers fear that introducing competition will push down prices and lead to job losses.
The efforts were in vain, however. Zagreb's municipal assembly is adamant about the need to break up the monopoly in order to improve services and get more cars on the road.
Rudolf Snidarsic, 57, was among those who gathered in front of the assembly building and blocked traffic together with his colleagues. He told SETimes that he has been working as a taxi driver for 30 years and fears that the changes will undermine his livelihood.
"If this happens, I am sure I will not work as the taxi driver anymore. If the cheaper competition arrives, we are doomed," Snidarsic said.
There are currently 1,034 taxi licences in the Croatian capital, and the number is now set to increase by 270.
"We are disappointed because nobody listened to our voice," said Mirsad Kukic, a spokesman for the taxi drivers. "We are aware that the competition will immediately start price dumping, and thus we will be out. They will just take the money and vanish."

"We are also in favour of the market liberalisation, but for ten years the city authorities did not allow us to have more drivers per each car," he added. Radio Taxi's drivers have sought to meet the challenge head on by offering a 50% discount.
The bad news for drivers may be a blessing for the consumer, however. Many people consider the current taxi prices exorbitant.
"I don't remember the last time I took a taxi in Zagreb. It is just too expensive. I mean, why can I afford to take a taxi in Prague or Warsaw, and not in my own hometown?" said Josip Jurjevic, an economist. "I am happy that there will be a competition now."
A Rijeka-based competitor, Taxi Cammeo, is waiting to enter the market and says its drivers are ready to pick up passengers as soon as the assembly gives the green light.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Blog review: the return of Sanader

Speculation abounds as a former prime minister begins another chapter in his political life.
By Natasa Radic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 29/10/10

After testifying in parliament about the privatisation of Croatia's state-owned oil company INA, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader startled colleagues and the public by announcing he will reactivate his parliamentary mandate.
It is the latest surprise from a man who abruptly retired from office while at the peak of political power, only to announce his return to politics a few months later. Having been expelled from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Sanader is re-entering parliament as an independent.
He said he could not simply stand aside while, as he put it, democracy in Croatia is threatened.
Independent opposition MP Dragutin Lesar is surprised that everyone else is. "Of course, all of a sudden there is an avalanche of speculations, calculations and assessments ... But was it a surprise? Well, not really, at least not for me," Lesar said.
Thinktank argues that Sanader wants to use his parliamentary post to silence his critics. "There are too many of those who criticise him. He already announced this intention and we can all sit and wait as if we will have to buy tickets for that political match, or Croatian television will have the direct transmission so that we can see it live," he writes.

Other bloggers assess his performance during the parliamentary inquiry concerning INA. The Social Democratic opposition, Mracni blog writes, were less harsh in their questioning than might have been expected.
"Perhaps they were afraid he might give them a straight answer," he writes. "His own former HDZ colleagues were more direct but also nervous, and were trying to hide this by looking at their papers."
"The doctor ate them all with a teaspoon," writes PMS blog, referring to the ex-prime minister's academic credentials he holds as PhD. "They are laughing at us all and are still fools."
Zombix suggests a web of ties and collusion among government officials. "We will see now who had their fingers in the cookie jar," he writes, adding that "they all made deals with Sanader."
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Boris Johnson's idiocy

Oct 29th 2010, 14:52 by T.J.
YOU often hear Balkan-watchers say that there is nothing they yearn for more than to see the former warring states and peoples of this troubled region melt back into a humdrum obscurity, punctuated only by the odd sporting victory. In truth though, nothing gives them greater pleasure than to see the Balkans emblazoned on the front page of a major western daily newspaper.
Today is a slight exception. Anyone with a smattering of knowledge about Kosovo can have only found the sight of the country's name on the front page of the (London) Times—today's splash is “Boris puts the coalition in a spin with Kosovo gibe” [no link as the newspaper is behind a paywall]—annoying.
The story is about housing benefit reforms in Britain, which, says the newspaper, could see as many as 82,000 poor households in London having to move. Yesterday, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “We will not accept a kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London… On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place they have put down roots.”
A cartoon in the Guardian today depicts David Cameron, the British prime minister and the leader of Mr Johnson's Conservative Party, in military uniform with an identifiable traditional Serbian military cap, recalling oft-published pictures of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader who has been indicted for genocide.

The Times says that Mr Johnson's remark, which embarrassed the prime minister, suggests that the mayor would eventually like to take over the top job from Mr Cameron. Interestingly, that presents a parallel with Kosovo, where Isa Mustafa, the mayor of Pristina, is seeking to topple Fatmir Sejdiu, the former president and prime ministerial hopeful. (One more comparison. Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, now sports London black cabs on its streets—see right.)
Mr Johnson’s comment is, needless to say, idiotic in the extreme. At a stretch you could argue that before the Balkan wars, the phenomenon of big Albanian families in Kosovo buying scarce land and houses from Serbs, who would then move to Serbia, was a form of "social cleansing", but that is clearly not the point of Mr Johnson's remark.
A quick (and slightly simplified) history lesson. In 1999 the Serbs "cleansed" hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, who returned following the NATO attack on Serbia. Kosovo's Serbs then fled in turn, or were themselves ethnically cleansed. For poor British families, while being moved from a plush pad in Kensington to the dingy suburbs may be irritating, even traumatic, it is hardly on a par with ethnic cleansing, murder and mass graves.
By coincidence Mr Johnson’s remark comes at the same time as the publication of a new Human Rights Watch report about Kosovo Roma. In it, the NGO appeals to western countries not to deport Kosovo Roma refugees back to their home country, where they face “discrimination and severe deprivation amounting to human rights abuse”. Those who have been sent back, says the report:
experience problems getting identity documents as well as regaining possession of any property they own. They also have difficulties accessing housing, health care, employment, and social welfare services. Many end up in places where they are separated from family members. The deportations are especially hard on children, few of whom stay in school due to the lack of language skills, curriculum differences, and poverty.
The report goes on to note:
About 50,000 Roma, most of them Serbian-speaking, and two Albanian-speaking minorities—Ashkali and Egyptians, who claim origins in ancient Egypt—have been deported to Kosovo since 1999. The numbers look set to rise, with as many as 12,000 people facing deportation from Germany alone. Lack of assistance from international donors and the Kosovo government to those who are deported means that the burden of helping them once they arrive in Kosovo falls on the Kosovo communities of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, the majority of whom live in acute poverty.
Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians are historically its poorest and its most economically, politically, and socially marginalized minority. In recent years, many have been displaced because of the war, ethnic conflict, extreme poverty, and political instability. Their numbers decreased from more than 200,000 before the war in 1999 to 38,000 today. The Roma have often been the targets of violent attacks, spurned by some Kosovo Albanians—the largest ethnic group in Kosovo—as “collaborators” with the minority Serb population.

It would be interesting to know if any Kosovo Roma in London risk being socially cleansed before being deported back to the country that they were ethnically cleansed from.

the economist

Kosovar Opposition Calls For Confidence Vote In Government

October 29, 2010
PRISTINA -- The opposition political party Alliance for New Kosovo has requested that parliament take a vote of confidence in the government, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

The request on October 28 means the motion must be discussed in parliament within five days. If the government does not pass the vote, Kosovo is required under the constitution to hold snap parliamentary elections by the end of the year.

The Kosovar government was severely weakened when the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) withdrew from the two-party ruling coalition on October 18, several weeks after LDK leader Fatmir Sejdiu resigned as president of Kosovo.

Kosovo had been governed the past three years by a coalition made up of the Kosovo Democratic Party (PDK) and the LDK. PDK leader Hashim Thaci is the prime minister.

After Sejdiu resigned as president, the acting president declared February 13 the date for early general elections.

Kosovar political parties are divided over the holding of a snap election by the end of December.

The PDK is generally in favor of such an election, though some opposition parties have expressed concern about the Central Election Commission's ability to organize a free and fair vote in such a short period.

Analysts say the snap election could weaken the chances of new political parties participating in the upcoming elections for the first time.

Kosovo declared independence in February 2008 and is recognized by 71 countries, including the United States and 22 European Union members.

This is the first political crisis facing Kosovo since it declared independence. Foreign governments, international organizations, and other observers are closely watching how the Kosovar government handles it.

radio free europe

Παρασκευή, 29 Οκτωβρίου 2010

Istanbul Developers Aim to Restore Ottoman-Era Glory

October 27, 2010, 5:45 AM EDT

By Benjamin Harvey
(Updates with analyst’s price forecast in 15th paragraph).
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- When Emrah Gultekin looks at the crumbling facades, dangling laundry lines and narrow streets of Istanbul’s working-class Balat district, he envisions a prosperous neighborhood with the best views and highest prices in the city.
Gultekin, the 37-year-old chief executive officer of a local property developer, plans to spend $140 million to renovate more than 60 buildings, mostly from the early to mid- 19th century, in Balat. The rundown neighborhood surrounded by Byzantine walls is within walking distance of Istanbul’s Sultanahmet tourist area.
“That cafeteria used to be used by drug dealers; now it’s part of a college,” he said, pointing to a wooden platform with tables occupied by art students. “This place has a lot of potential, but no one wants to move here at the moment.”
Gultekin said he expects the values of the mainly residential properties may jump sevenfold to $5,500 a square meter within about five years. That’s in line with what similar high-end apartment buildings are now selling for, according to Ipera AS, another real estate developer based in the city. He’s among investors seeking to profit from fixing up residences in the dilapidated historic districts of central Istanbul as Turkey’s affluence increases.
Since Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister in 2003, gross domestic product per capita has nearly doubled to $8,578, even after an 18 percent drop from 2008 to 2009, according to the State Statistics Institute. Some of that growth is new wealth from the less-developed eastern part of the country known as Anatolia.
Wealthy Anatolians
“Lots of people with accumulated wealth from Anatolia are coming to Istanbul and looking for a place in the center,” said Murat Ignebekcili, a real estate analyst at EFG Istanbul Securities. “We’ll be seeing some massive urban transformation projects in that area.”
Balat, a UNESCO-protected district on Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterway, was once one of the most prestigious areas of the city. A century and a half ago, it was home to a merchant community of Turks, Jews, Greeks and Armenians. By the 1990s, its crowded streets had been largely left to poor migrants from the east and Gypsies, also known as Roma.
Gultekin’s company, Balat AS, plans to convert the crumbling wooden structures into classrooms, offices, shops and residences around the arts school. It will need to spend about $1,500 a square meter on the refurbishments. After renovation, permitting and other costs are factored in, he expects to more than double his money.
Entertainment District
Ipera is also looking for projects in Balat after buildings in other gentrified areas got too expensive. In the past five years, Ipera spent $6 million renovating a pair of properties and a rundown warehouse in the area around the Galata Tower in Beyoglu, Istanbul’s central entertainment district, said Emre Baran, Ipera’s co-founder and CEO.
Baran bought the first building, the five-story Ipera10 on Serdar-i Ekrem street, in 2005 for the equivalent of $800 a square meter. He invested the same amount in improvements to the 1903 structure and then sold three refurbished duplex luxury apartments for an average of $4,000 a square meter about three years later. A commercial space in the same building sold last April for $10,000 a square meter, he said. Fashion designers have set up shop on Serdar-i Ekrem, helping to lift prices, Baran said.
High-end apartments in Beyoglu now cost as much as $8,000 a square meter if they have views of the Bosphorus Strait, Golden Horn and landmarks including the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, he said. A search on the Turkish property website www.hurriyetemlak.com shows luxury flats in the area costing as much as $9,250 a square meter.
‘Trendiest Areas’
“It went from being an inner-city slum area to one of Istanbul’s trendiest areas,” Baran said of Galata in Beyoglu.
Luxury residential property prices in Istanbul more than doubled from 2002 through 2008, reaching $7,300 a square meter, according to data provided by Murat Ergin, managing director at Kuzey Bati, the local affiliate of London-based broker Savills Plc. They then fell 15 percent to $6,200 a square meter in 2009 before starting to rebound. Ergin expects they may return to peak levels by early next year.
“The upscale market is moving back to the center,” reversing a trend where higher-income residents moved to gated communities in the suburbs or skyscrapers in the business district, Ergin said. “These projects are performing much better than the market average, at least three to four times.”
Saffet Cicekdag, managing partner of PEGA Real Estate in Istanbul, said he expects prices to rise as much as 25 percent in the next two to three years.
Olympic Swimmer
Gultekin, a 1995 graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, was captain of the Turkish national swimming team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was also previously managing director for Turkey at the Goodman Group, an Australia-based property management company.
He started Balat AS with a $20 million investment from his partners, Sedat Yazici and his son Tolga Yazici, who owned factories that produced Colgate-Palmolive Co. products in Turkey. The group already has lease or sales agreements in place, helping it secure bank loans for the renovations, he said.
“There’s lots of room for growth” in the Turkish real estate market, said Neslihan Karagoz, an analyst at Oyak Securities in Istanbul. “We expect that young people will begin buying homes as incomes increase.”
The amount of mortgage debt outstanding in Turkey equals about 5 percent of the country’s GDP, Karagoz said. That compares with the European Union average of 49.8 percent as of 2008, according to the most recent data compiled by the European Mortgage Federation.
Local Opposition
The gentrification of Istanbul hasn’t always been welcomed by established residents. Hasan Acar, a 40-year-old machinery repairman, is leading a group in Balat that opposes a type of development that has occurred in Istanbul neighborhoods, where the government auctions off the right to renovate entire areas at a time. Acar said people in those types of projects are being forced out of their homes without adequate compensation.
Gultekin said his company hasn’t experienced any neighborhood tensions, partly because he’s negotiating deals with each property owner individually. He declined to provide details of the agreements.
“We compensate them and they can move somewhere nicer while we renovate the old place,” Gultekin said, stepping over a puddle in Balat, where art school students pass veiled women on the street. “If people are pushed out, there are going to be problems.”
--With assistance from Steve Bryant in Ankara, Josh Bassett in Istanbul and Peter Woodifield in Edinburgh. Editors: Anne Pollak, Andrew Blackman.
To contact the reporter on this story: Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul at bharvey11@bloomberg.net.


Serbia's E.U. Aspirations Face Long Road Ahead

Published: October 28, 2010
BRUSSELS — Just days after Serbia was urged anew to increase its efforts to capture Ratko Mladic, the fugitive accused of masterminding the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, officials there increased ten-fold the reward for information leading to his capture.

The government said in a statement on Thursday that it had raised its reward to €10 million, up from €1 million, or $1.4 million. “Serbia is determined to get rid of that burden,” Verica Kalanovic, the nation’s infrastructure minister, said, according to Reuters.
But the enhanced reward is just the latest move in Serbia’s long quest to join the European Union and end a painful chapter in its past.
The government of the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, faces close scrutiny during the next year, both over its efforts to track down Mr. Mladic and on co-operation with Kosovo, the former province whose independence Belgrade does not recognize.
It was just this Monday that the European Union — despite suspicions that Mr. Mladic is hiding in Belgrade — voted to move ahead with membership talks with Serbia.
Requesting a formal study of the country’s membership bid, European foreign ministers overrode suggestions that Belgrade should first arrest Mr. Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb general. But they added that future steps toward membership would be conditional on efforts to pursue him.
The message was mixed: While the Union has opened the door a little to Serbia, it needs to do more to cross the threshold. And that reflects the complex balancing act the bloc is trying to carry off in the Balkans: Give Belgrade too much too fast and there may be no justice for victims of the Srebrenica massacre, which claimed the lives of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys and came to symbolize the brutality of the Balkan war.
“The war in the former Yugoslavia was a terrible experience,” Stefan Fule, European commissioner for enlargement, told the International Herald Tribune in an interview.
He added: “If you take a massacre like Srebrenica, for Europe not to be able to punish those believed responsible for these terrible crimes is unacceptable.”
But too hard a line could undermine Serbia’s pro-European government, helping less constructive forces in the country and potentially de-stabilizing a troubled region.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden argued before this week’s agreement that, if the wording was too negative, this would send a signal to the Balkans that Europe had lost interest in bringing them into the fold.
The European Union has at least bought time. The European Commission’s study of Serbia’s suitability is likely to take about a year, as Serbia answers hundreds of technical questions, and while the answers are analyzed and checked. In theory, Serbia could be given candidate status at the end of next year — before its parliamentary elections in June 2012.
But in the meantime it will be expected to pursue Mr. Mladic, undertake internal economic reforms and try to hold a dialogue with Kosovo.
In September, Serbia supported a compromise United Nations resolution that dropped its earlier demands to reopen talks on the status of the former province. That followed a ruling in July by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that Kosovo did not violate international law when it declared independence.
Mr. Fule said that Serbia’s “constructive approach” on Kosovo was a “critical element” in the decision this week.
But the Union is now pressing Serbia to hold talks on technical cooperation with Kosovo and is having some success.
Ivan Vejvoda, executive director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, said Serbian public opinion “seems to be fully on board on trying to resolve these issues.” There was, he added, a recognition of the need for a “slow normalization and that these practical issues need to be resolved.”
Since five E.U. nations have refused to recognize Kosovo, the Union can hardly demand that Belgrade does so. But Brussels will want to see evidence of a working relationship between Belgrade and Pristina.
Serbia also faces big challenges in continuing democratic and market reforms, Mr. Vejvoda said.
But the biggest obstacle remains Mr. Mladic, an issue that is acutely sensitive, particularly in the Netherlands, which carries a sense of guilt over Srebrenica. It was lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers who failed to prevent the massacre.
The Netherlands also hosts the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the U.N. court that hopes to try Mr. Mladic.
Without the arrest of Mr. Mladic, Serbia will not face up to its past, some diplomats argue.
The E.U. deal this week made any future steps for Serbia toward the European Union conditional on the agreement of all E.U. nations that Belgrade is cooperating fully with the court, giving the Dutch a veto over any further steps.
But there are risks in being too tough, diplomats say, particularly when it is clear that the Union is split on whether it wants to admit Turkey and other Balkan countries.
“It is right to give a clear signal to Serbia,” said Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society Institute-Brussels and a former E.U. official. “All the anti-enlargement rhetoric around Turkey should not do collateral damage in the Balkans.”
She added: “The enlargement magic works when the countries know that they are going to join in the next couple of governments, and the Serbian government cannot be sure of that.”
During the next 12 months the U.N. chief war crimes prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, is expected to report twice on Serbia’s cooperation and, if Mr. Mladic remains at large, his verdict is likely to be crucial.
Mr. Vejvoda said he believed that the government is trying hard to catch Mr. Mladic. “The pressure is to resolve this as quickly as possible,” he said.
The language from Belgrade this week supports that theory. “Let’s not kid ourselves — we must wrap up that cooperation” with the U.N. court, the Serbian deputy prime minister in charge of E.U. affairs, Bozidar Djelic, said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. “Every next move will be harder if we do not fulfill that condition.”
But cynics say they have heard it all before, and that only the capture of Mr. Mladic will prove Serbia’s commitment. From his hiding place, Mr. Mladic still casts a long shadow over Serbia’s efforts to join Europe’s mainstream.
ny times

Serbia: Reward for Capture of Mladic Increased

World Briefing EUROPE

Published: October 28, 2010

Days after the European Union urged Serbia to increase its efforts to capture Ratko Mladic, left, the fugitive accused of masterminding the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, officials there increased the reward for information leading to his capture. The government said in a statement on Thursday that it had raised the reward to $14 million from $1.4 million. “Serbia is determined to get rid of that burden,” Verica Kalanovic, the nation’s infrastructure minister, said, according to Reuters.

ny times

Brussels beckons, Serbia and the EU

Serbia comes a step closer to EU membership
Oct 28th 2010
ON OCTOBER 25th European Union foreign ministers agreed to pass Serbia’s request for membership to the European Commission. To the uninitiated it sounded like a dry act of bureaucracy. In fact, it carried huge significance.
The Serbian government has been waiting for this day since it lodged its bid for membership last December. Until this week it lingered in the “matters pending” file, as the Dutch government argued that Serbia had not fulfilled its obligation to arrest the last two men still on the run from the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, especially Ratko Mladic, commander of Bosnian Serb forces during the Bosnian war, who has been indicted for genocide.
The Serbs have spent much of this year irritating many of their fellow Europeans. In July the government called for a resolution at the UN effectively demanding talks on the status of Kosovo. The British and German foreign ministers visited President Boris Tadic to remind him that Serbia had asked to join the EU rather than the other way around. Mr Tadic not only backed off but agreed to open direct talks with Kosovo, something the Europeans and Americans had been urging on him. This week’s move was his reward.
Serbia certainly needs help. People feel financially squeezed; resentment, particularly towards the elite that has consolidated power in the ten years since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, is widespread. Some 700,000 Serbs, of a population of 7.3m, live below the poverty line. Remittances from the diaspora have plummeted and GDP is expected to grow by only 1.5% this year. This is why the foreign ministers’ move matters. “It will energise the whole system,” says Milica Delevic, the director of Serbia’s EU integration office.
Within a month the commission will send Serbia a list of up to 4,000 questions designed to assess its readiness to join. Answering these will take several months, after which the commission will send teams of experts to Serbia to follow up. Next year it will give its opinion on whether the country is fit to become an official candidate. If the answer is yes, it will be a great boost to Mr Tadic’s party ahead of an election that must be held by 2012.
The questionnaire will largely cover technical matters. But in the Balkans, politics is never far away. When Serbia is asked about its population and the location of its borders, for example, the answer will depend on the treatment of Kosovo. The EU demands good neighbourly relations from aspiring members. As Serbia in effect controls the northern, Serb-majority part of Kosovo, the problem is obvious.
The solution, say diplomats, is to begin direct talks on practical matters that should generate the good-neighbourliness that will be needed if tricky political questions of status are to be fudged, as they will surely be. Mobile-phone coverage is one obvious topic for discussion. In September the Kosovar authorities destroyed equipment that had enabled Serbian mobile operators to provide coverage to Serb enclaves in central and southern Kosovo.
Getting substantial talks under way may be difficult, though. Just as Serbia’s government has agreed to them, Kosovo’s has collapsed, and elections are now in the offing. Any Kosovo Albanian leader perceived as giving a jot to Serbia will be labelled a traitor. Yet in the end talks will have to take place. Without them Serbs and Albanians will remain like two men handcuffed to one another, unable to take the road to Brussels and unable to break free from the past.

the economist


On their heads be it

Headscarves in Turkey

The return of the row over Islamic headwear
Oct 28th 2010 Istanbul

GERMANY’S president, Christian Wulff, paid his first official visit to Turkey last week, accompanied by his lissom wife, Bettina. Hayrunnisa, the wife of the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, took part in the official welcoming ceremony, saluting Turkish soldiers as she walked down the red carpet with her German guests.
Nothing out of the ordinary, it seemed. But in 2007 the generals had threatened to step in to prevent Mr Gul from becoming president because of his wife’s Islamic-style headscarf. It didn’t work, but until last week Mrs Gul had chosen to shun official events where the generals were present for fear of provoking their ire.
The headscarf remains at the core of the continuing battle between overtly pious and pro-secular Turks. The former insist it is an expression of faith. The latter retort that it is a symbol of political Islam, a stab in the heart of Ataturk’s republic. More than half of Turkish women cover their heads in some way, and the number is growing. Yet the garment has long been barred from schools and universities. Headscarved women cannot work in state institutions or run for parliament. When the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party tweaked the constitution in order to ease the headscarf ban soon after being re-elected in 2007, it was threatened with closure by a prosecutor and only narrowly survived.
Mrs Gul’s decision to emerge from the shadows comes amid a fresh bout of tension over the headscarf. This erupted after Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, president of the Higher Education Board and a Gul appointee, decreed that universities could no longer kick out veiled students and that they would no longer be barred from sitting university entrance exams. Within days many universities began to relax the rules. This prompted the country’s chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya (who initiated the closure case against AK) to declare that Mr Ozcan was violating the constitution.
This leaves Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the new leader of the pro-secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in a bind. He wants to change the party’s antediluvian image, and promised to back AK’s bid to ease the ban in universities. But this prompted a furore among the CHP’s Kemalist old guard. Mr Kilicdaroglu is now demanding assurances from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, that the scrapping of the headscarf ban will not be extended to secondary schools and government offices. Mr Erdogan has refused to give any. Secularists are also concerned that new constitutional changes could allow the government to stack the judiciary with headscarf-friendly Islamists.
Tarhan Erdem, a pollster, argues that allowing the headscarf into schools could put pressure on all girls to veil themselves, particularly in the conservative Anatolian hinterland. The counter-argument is that fathers and husbands will allow women to work only if they are bearing the stamp of virtue provided by veils. Moreover, not all veiled women are paragons of modesty: in cities like Istanbul and Izmir headscarved girls sporting hip-hugging jeans and snogging their boyfriends are not an uncommon sight. Some of Turkey’s most formidable feminists cover their heads.
Rather than squabble over a piece of cloth, Turkey’s politicians might devote energy to addressing gender inequality. According to the World Economic Forum, female participation in the labour force has fallen from 34% to 26% since 1989. Women make up only 9% of parliamentary deputies. The highest proportion of these belong to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP), the only party that has a quota for women deputies (40%). The Kurds agree that the headscarf ban should be eased in universities, and suggest rewriting the constitution as the best way of doing this. Yet this week Mr Erdogan said a decision on the ban will be put off until next year. With an election due by next July, some battles are not yet worth fighting.

the economist

Reward for Mladic increased to €10m

By Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade
Friday, 29 October 2010
Serbia has offered a reward of €10m (£8.7m) for information leading to the arrest of the Balkans' most wanted war crimes suspect, Ratko Mladic, whose capture is a condition for the country's membership of the EU.
Earlier this week EU foreign ministers agreed to ask the European Commission to review Serbia's application, a procedural step in the long accession process and one which they had previously blocked.
For its membership to progress, the now pro-Western country still has to arrest Mladic, who was indicted for genocide by the UN war crimes court for his role in the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo.
Serbia's Infrastructure Minister, Verica Kalanovic, said: "The government has money in the budget to cover the reward. There's always money for such allocations. Serbia is determined to get rid of that burden."
The government said it had raised its reward to €10m from €1m. It also said it was now offering €1m rather than €350,000 for information on another fugitive, Goran Hadzic, the Serbs' wartime leader in Croatia. The average wage in Serbia is about €300 a month and 20 per cent of workers are unemployed.
Mladic is still considered a hero by hardliners in Serbia and in Bosnia's Serb Republic region.

Serbia Increases Reward For Mladic Capture Tenfold

October 28, 2010
The Serbian government has announced a tenfold increase in the award it is offering for information leading to the capture of wartime Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic.

The price on his head is now 10 million euros, up from the 1-million-euro reward set in October 2007.

Although Serbia is struggling to cope with 20 percent unemployment, Serbian Infrastructure Minister Verica Kalanovic said the government has money in its budget to cover the increased amount.

"Serbia is determined to get rid of that burden," she said.

Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb forces during the Bosnian war, was indicted in 1995 on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

He is accused of masterminding the more than three-year-long siege of Sarajevo, which claimed some 10,000 lives, and for orchestrating the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

Considered Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive, Mladic is widely believed to be in hiding in Serbia under the protection of sympathizers.

His capture is seen as a key prerequisite for the Balkan nation to progress on the path toward European Union membership.

EU Hopes In The Balance

EU foreign ministers agreed on October 25 to ask the bloc's executive commission for an opinion on launching entry talks for Serbia -- a procedural step in the accession process that has been withheld until now.

But at the same time, they urged Belgrade to increase its efforts to arrest Mladic and another suspect, Croatian Serb wartime political leader Goran Hadzic, if it hopes to further its EU bid.

Hadzic is charged with crimes against humanity during Croatia's war of independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Today, the Serbian government also announced a fourfold increase in its reward for information leading to Hadzic's arrest. The reward is now set at 1 million euros.

To ease concern among some EU governments that progress towards accession would send the wrong message to Serbia, the bloc's foreign ministers also agreed at their meeting earlier this week that any future steps would require unanimous assessment of Belgrade's cooperation in the hunt for the wanted men.

On the heels of that announcement, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic said, "We will do everything, regardless of conditions imposed by the EU, to find Mladic and make him answer for everything he had been charged with."

But analysts see the increase in Mladic's reward money as a direct result of the EU's call.

Deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric told Serbia's Beta news agency said the decision "represents Serbia's clear political will to remove the last remaining obstacle on its path towards the European Union."

He added, "These two men have kept the whole nation hostage, [but] also their families and future generations."

An 'Alibi' Or A 'Good-Faith Effort'?

Speaking to RFE/RL's Balkan Service in Belgrade, former Yugoslav Army officer and now independent military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic said the reward increase was likely just for show.

"This does not mean that the new price [for Mladic] will produce results," he said. "It looks more like an alibi to me -- like we want to tell the world, 'We are doing our best.'"

He added that enacting structural reforms in the government organizations that deal with war crimes would be a more useful step."

It is important to close the gaps and to avoid any leaking of information in organizations in charge of war crimes. The other thing is to have state control of these organizations. The security services think that they can control the state, and it should be the other way around," he said.

At a joint appearance with Serbian President Boric Tadic on October 12, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she believes the Balkan nation is making a "good-faith effort" to arrest its wartime fugitives, and that the effort "should be recognized by others."

The United States has also offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on Mladic's whereabouts.

While Belgrade has failed to apprehend Mladic, struggling to overcome nationalist sympathizers and the general's close network of loyal former aides, it insists that it is making progress.

Jovan Stojic, head of staff for the director of the Serbia's intelligence agency, the BIA, says a telephone hotline set up in 2006 to collect tips on Mladic's and Hadzic's location has been useful.

"So far, no calls have led us the fugitives, but there was information about some of their habits [and] about the people who have had helped them hide," he said. "There has been valid information."

written by Richard Solash with agency material and reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service in Belgrade

radio free europe

Croatian politics

Kosor gets Brussels support

26. 10. 10. - 15:00

Croatian Times
Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor met with European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding in Brussels yesterday (Mon).

Reding stressed her full support for Croatia and PM Kosor in the fight against corruption.

"It was my pleasure and honour to participate in a very successful working lunch with the strong woman who is needed to bring powerful solutions at this moment to Croatia. Mostly we talked about the need to combat corruption, which can be done only with an independent judiciary and an independent public prosecutor who is fighting against corruption, regardless of political party or family," she said after meeting Kosor.

The Prime Minister said that by the end of the year Croatia will complete all criteria in the chapter "Judiciary and Fundamental Rights", which is the most difficult chapter in the accession negotiations.

"I'm sure we'll end all this great work by the end of the year, and it is realistic to expect its closure early next year", said Kosor.

Croatian soldiers join EU military excercise

Croatian Times
Croatian soldiers are participating in the international military exercise of the European Union Nordic battle group, which began in Sweden yesterday (Tue).

Some 21 soldiers and two helicopters will join the formation, which is one of the 18 European Union battle groups intended for quick deployment in cases of extraordinary circumstances.

The standby period for 2011 would be regulated by a special agreement, while the majority of the costs of Croatian participation would be covered by Sweden, the daily Vecernji List writes.

Croatia in 62nd place on Corruptions Perceptions Index

Croatian Times
Croatia ranks 62nd in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index of 178 countries.In the report published by Transparency International, Croatia received 4.1 points on a scale from 0 to 10, where zero represents a totally corrupt state and 10 a state without corruption.

The least corrupted states are Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore, while worst off are Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Looking at the neighbouring countries, Slovenia is the only one ahead of Croatia at the 27th place. Croatia and Macedonia share the 62nd spot, and behind them are Italy (67th), Montenegro (69th), Serbia (78th) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (91st place).

EC President cautious about setting deadlines for Croatia´s EU negotiations

Croatian Times
The president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso has avoided mentioning a concrete deadline to the end of Croatia’s European Union negotiations, prompting some to believe that he was sending a message of caution.

In a recent meeting with the Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, Barroso avoided mentioning any deadlines for the possible end of the negotiations or Croatia' accession to the European Union. He said however, that what local media has described as caution is just a new standard procedure. According to new European Union politics, dates will no longer be set for anyone.

The European Commission said last year that the negotiations could potentially end in the year 2010. It is clear, however, that this deadline will not be reached, replaced by the the vague prediction of sometime "during 2011." Barroso added, however, that the accession date can only be set once negotiations are finished.

In his cautious and categorical statements that there is no date, Barroso wanted to send Croatia a message that it has not finished its job yet, the daily Jutarnji List writes. The main obstacles that remain are the judicial system and the shipyards that have not yet been privatized.

With its financing of the shipyards, Croatia is not only breaking the EU agreement but also its laws on market competition, the daily writes.

The best case scenario will see the issues surrounding the judicial system resolved in the next few months.

While Croatia has received accolades for its progress in de-politicization of the judicial system, Barroso’s caution is a message that there is still work to be done.

Jadranka Kosor´s government receives Parliament support

Croatian Times
Croatian Parliament has voted not to uphold the opposition Social Democratic Party’s initiative for a vote of no confidence for the Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and her government.

After almost 15 hours of heated discussion, the 79 representatives of the governing majority voted against and 62 representatives of the opposition voted for the initiative. One representative abstained from voting, the business portal Poslovni Dnevnik writes.

The parliamentary discussion for which 60 more speakers were scheduled was interrupted after the chairman of the Constitution Committee Vladimir Seks said SDP was violating the Constitution.

Serbia president Tadic to visit Vukovar

28. 10. 10. - 13:00

Croatian Times
Serbian President Boris Tadic is coming to Croatia in November when he is expected to visit Vukovar and pay respects to 200 Croatian prisoners killed in nearby Ovcara by Serb militias in 1991.

Tadic’s visit to one of the places most devastated by the war is a move that, some say, could lead to the closing of an important chapter in inter-state relations.

Vukovar mayor Zeljko Sabo said that he is certain that Tadic’s visit to Vukovar is welcome. "Politically speaking, one chapter of the 1991 war could be closed [with the visit]," he added.

The President of the Serb National Council Milorad Pupovac said that Tadic’s visit to Vukovar is important because it would contribute to calming down of remaining negative feelings that still exist between the two states.

"The visit would show maturity and prove that both countries can deal with the heritage of the war," he said.

But the vice president of Croatia’s leading party the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Ivan Jarnjak says that a visit without a clear message does not mean much.

"I await the message with impatience," he added.

Tadic will also visit Paulin Dvor, a place where 18 Serbs and one Hungarian civilian were killed by Croatian forces, the daily Jutarnji List writes.

croatian times

Πέμπτη, 28 Οκτωβρίου 2010

Filmmaker Kusturica Look-alike Attacked in Turkey; Analysis of Turkish Dominion over Balkans

Posted by Julia Gorin

October 27th 2010 02:36:40 AM

I recently blogged about the reception that the formerly Muslim Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica got from some Turkish politicians at a film festival in Turkey earlier this month, causing him to withdraw from the festival. A day or two later, a festival participant named Majkl Neuensvander was mistaken for Kusturica and beaten up. (Emir Kusturica lookalike assaulted and hospitalized in Turkey — link is in Serbian.)

While we’re back on the topic of Turkey, meanwhile, I have a chance to follow up on my recent postings on the Ottoman Empire reestablishing itself over the Balkans. There was a very good short piece last week by Balkans analyst Ioannis Michaletos, titled “Turkey’s Reach in Kosovo,” whose clincher paragraph is the final one:

"The long-term strategy of Turkey is to gradually “adopt” Kosovo under its sphere of influence, along with the rest of the Albanian populated areas in the Western Balkans. If one adds the already existing strong attachments of the Bosnian Muslims with Turkey and the increased influence of Turkey into the Muslim minorities of Bulgaria, Greece, FYROM and Serbia, then a wider image appears, whereby the “Islamization” process in the Balkans is gradually being promoted by a combination of business activities, political initiatives and last but not least, considerable intelligence operations that are in tune with [an] “Islamic-Balkan” vision as it is being presently formed in Ankara and in Istanbul."

The preceding 12 paragraphs of the piece are also worth cross-posting, so here they are:

The Turkish foreign policy over the last few years has witnessed a dramatic shift, that promotes its “Ottoman legacy” and especially in the Balkan region, where it already influences a considerable segment of the Muslim population. Moreover its increased cooperation with Syria and Iran, further highlights Turkish moves since there is always the likehood of an eventual clash between Turkish ambitions and the rest of the regional political actors that will most certainly have an impact on the Balkan political scene.

Turkey in Kosovo specifically forms a “soft power policy” aiming at promoting the Albanian ambitions, so as to have a strong base in a strategic point in the region. That obviously means, that any clash between Turkey and NATO for instance over the close relationships of Ankara with Teheran, will reflect in the Balkan affairs with possible upturns, even the probability of a conflict in an area full of ethnic animosities and vicious competition between various state interests.
An outline of the main Turkish initiatives and strong-points in Kosovo is presented below, by bearing in mind that developments in a distant field (Middle East) could have a direct consequence in the domestic Kosovo affairs within the short-term period.
An influential factor in Kosovo apart from the Albanian majority & the Serbian minority is Turkey through the 40,000 strong Turkish community. The first Turkish settlers arrived in Kosovo Metojia after the legendary battle of Kosovo in 1389, and soon became the ruling class of the Province. Its presence nowadays is not more than 1.5% of the population; nevertheless Ankara found a way of entering the Kosovo quagmire and demands a role through the use of the Turkish populous there.
In fact the Turkish side refers to Kosovo as a land of minorities and not only of the Serbian one. Various well-informed forces monitor an increased attention by Turkey and a pressure towards USA to accept a wider role for Turkey in Kosovo. Even though the other minorities – Excluding Serbs- are more numerically: Roma (40,000), Bosniaks (30,000), Gorani (50,000); they don’t have the backing of a large state, as Turkey and steadily a third player is emerging in the Kosovo scene.
The Turkish minority mainly live in Prizren (15-29%) and Mitrovice (14%). The village of Mamuša north of Prizren was the only settlement in Kosovo with a Turkish majority, according to the last legal census of 1981. It had 2752 people, with Turks making up around three-quarters of that number.
There are three Turkish political parties in Kosovo:
Turkish Public Front- under the leadership of Sezai Saipi
Turkish Democratic Union- under the leadership of Erhan Köroğlu, centered in Pristina
Kosovo Turkish Democratic Party (KTDP) – under the leadership of Mahir Yağcılar, centered in Prizren (the only registered Turkish party of Kosovo)
There are also two cultural and artistic Turkish associations in Kosovo: Right Way (Doğru Yol) and Truth (Gerçek). The purpose of these two associations is to keep the Turkish culture alive in Kosovo.
Kosovo Turks have their own schools in every educative level. In Prizren, Mamusha, Pristina, Gnjilane, Djakovica and Vucitrin, there are 3 kindergartens, 11 primary schools, 6 colleges and the Pristina University where approximately 2,500 Turkish students attend lectures. A substantial number of them eventually study in Turkey at a graduate level along with Muslim-Albanian students via scholarships by the Turkish educational system.
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Pristina and there are 4 Members of Parliament of Turkish origin in the local government. Also, in the Priznen town a TV station named Yeni Donem was created in 2006 by Turkish developmental aid, whilst other networks such as: Radio Priznen, TV BESA and TV Pro have special programs in the Turkish language.
Further, Turkish newspapers in Kosovo include: Our Voice (Sesimiz), the official newspaper of KTDP, Your Environment (Cevren) since 1973, Avalanche (Cig), Bird (Kus) since 1974, Pearl (Inci).
The Turkish state has in various periods supported the organizations Al Muhajiroun-Kosovo Support Council, as well smaller scale NGO’s in the educational sector. In the political front individuals such as: Ergun Zoga, Celalettin Olmezcan, Enver Tali, Deniz Baykal, Tuna Koc, have assisted the creation of high-level bonds between the political and business forces of Pristina and Istanbul. In the latter which is the most important city in Turkey and in the Balkans, the majority of the Kosovo-Albanians residents in Turkey are based and there are numerous organizations which receive strong assistance by the Turkish state. It is from Istanbul where the bulk of Turkish investment and hand-outs is being transferred to Kosovo and in other Balkan regions such as Bosnia, Bulgaria, Albania and FYROM.
One of the main Turkish establishments in Kosovo with substantial influence is the Turkish business union (TIKA) that was greatly enchased in both material and political base by the Metin Kilic, andAgmagan Demirer, who since 2003 have formed an extensive network of Kosovo Albanians who act as the soft power outreach of Turkey in the region. […]
To close, this is from a related 2001 analysis of the Macedonia conflict by historian Carl Savich, which I re-read this week but is no longer linkable:
In July, 1997, the Albanian mayor of Gostivar raised an Albanian and Turkish flag over the town. These unconstitutional provocations signaled a desire to create a Greater Albania and a return to the Ottoman Turkish Empire status quo, when Albanians converted to Islam and thereby gained privileged positions that allowed them to take over the lands of the subhuman rayah and kaurin and to dominate and control the Orthodox Slavic populations, the Christian cattle. When the police intervened to remove them, rioting resulted in Gostivar and Tetovo which left three people dead…

republican riot