Πέμπτη, 30 Δεκεμβρίου 2010

Huge 'Macedonian-led' heroin ring broken up in Europe

bbc news

23 December 2010 Last updated at 17:24 GMT

Austrian police say a huge Macedonian-led heroin-trafficking ring has been dismantled in a joint operation involving some 400 arrests.
Dubbed the "Frankfurt Mafia" because of its connections to Germany's financial capital, the ring allegedly controlled the heroin market in Vienna.
It was "one of the biggest blows against organised drug crime in Europe", an Austrian police chief said.
Arrests were made in Germany, Austria and Macedonia, going back to 2007.
Of these, some 300 were made in Germany, 69 in Vienna over the past 13 months, and 29 in raids in Macedonia on Wednesday.
Six of those detained in Macedonia are said to be organisers of the ring.
Several of the detainees owned apartments in Vienna and Frankfurt that were allegedly used for distribution of drugs to lower-level dealers.
Homes and restaurants owned by group members were searched and a large amount of money and drugs was found, Macedonian police said.''Extremely brutal'
Col Michael Mimra of the Vienna crime department told reporters on Thursday that the traffickers had taken control of the heroin trade in Vienna "in a short period of time".

The ring, described as "extremely brutal", forced out competitors "through violent intimidation".
The ring sold heroin for between 30 euros (£25, $39) and 40 euros. The authorities seized 170kg (375lb) of heroin in Germany and 26.3kg in Austria, Austrian police said.
"We noticed that this organisation was so good that it was able to replace large quantities of high-quality heroin within days," Austrian security official Franz Lang told reporters.
EU governments agreed earlier this year to step up action against the trafficking of heroin and cocaine into Europe, saying the illegal trade brought in "colossal" profits for criminals.
Heroin largely enters the EU through its eastern borders and Macedonian and other Balkan states have long been favoured routes for traffickers.
According to the latest EU data available, eight tonnes of heroin was seized in the EU and Norway in 2008.
Heroin and related drugs were present in the majority of drug-induced deaths reported in the EU this year, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reports.
read more: bbc news

Igor Luksic appointed Montenegro prime minister

bbc news

29 December 2010 Last updated at 22:22 GMT

Montenegro's parliament has endorsed Igor Luksic as the country's new prime minister.
Mr Luksic, 34, succeeds Milo Djukanovic, who resigned last week having become the longest-serving leader in the Balkans.
The new prime minister has twice been deputy prime minister and minister of finance four times.
This month Montenegro achieved candidate status in its bid to join the EU - a key step towards accession.
"All of us, the government, parliament, local authorities and the society must demonstrate determination and readiness to use knowledge and capabilities... toward full European integration," Mr Luksic told MPs during the session.
His key priority, he said, would be to "implement measures for Montenegro to open accession talks with the European Union".
And he vowed to "stay on the course of structural reforms aimed at improving healthcare, education and social welfare".
Mr Djukanovic, 48, spearheaded Montenegro's successful campaign for independence from Serbia in 2006.
Mr Djukanovic, who first served as prime minister in 1991 and was later president, once faced charges in Italy for allegedly being part of a Balkan cigarette smuggling ring in the 1990s, but said he was leaving office with a clean record.
In May 2006 some 55% of the population voted in a referendum to end Montenegro's union with Serbia, which had been created only three years earlier from the remnants of Yugoslavia.

read more: bbc news

Croatian ex-PM Ivo Sanader to stay in Austrian custody

bbc news

27 December 2010 Last updated at 17:06 GMT

A judge has ruled that Croatian former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader will remain in custody in Austria for another month while awaiting extradition.
Mr Sanader, now an independent MP, was arrested earlier this month on an Austrian motorway after Croatia issued an arrest warrant.
He had left the country as parliament moved to strip him of his immunity from prosecution in a corruption inquiry.
Mr Sanader, 57, denies the accusations, saying they are politically motivated. Arrest warrant
The judge in Salzburg where Mr Sanader is in jail said he should remain there because of the risk that he might flee.
According to the Croatian arrest warrant, Mr Sanader is suspected of conspiring to commit crime and abuse of office.
The inquiry is believed to relate to allegations involving the creation of slush funds for the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
Prime minister from 2003, he resigned unexpectedly in July 2009 and was expelled in January this year by the party.
Croatia has been trying to tackle corruption as it seeks to finalise membership of the European Union by 2012. But the HDZ has been dogged by scandal and two former ministers have recently been convicted of corruption.Austrian activities
Mr Sanader's next custody hearing is due to take place on 27 January although a further extradition could be held earlier.
That process could be delayed by investigations into Mr Sanader's activities in Austria itself.
He gave evidence last week via video link to an Austrian inquiry into the failure of Hypo Alpe Adria bank from which he denies receiving illicit payments.
Mr Sanader's lawyer, Werner Suppan, has complained that documents have been taken from his client's wife and daughters in Croatia and he says they have also been occasionally denied access to their house.

read more: bbc news

Serbia police find Modigliani photo in search

the washington post

By DUSAN STOJANOVICThe Associated Press Thursday, December 30, 2010; 9:30 AM
BELGRADE, Serbia -- Serbian police searching for a war-crimes fugitive on Thursday instead found photographs of a Modigliani painting they suspect is in his possession.
The war crimes prosecutor's office said the police searched a house in the northern city of Novi Sad belonging to a close friend of Goran Hadzic, a former Croatian Serb rebel leader wanted by a U.N. tribunal over atrocities during Croatia's 1991-95 war for independence.
Prosecutors say they found photographs of an oil painting by the Italian master worth more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million) that they believe Hadzic has. The prosecutors said in a statement "we suspect that the painting was intended for sale to collect funds for his hiding."
The statement gave no name or description of the painting shown on the photographs. It was not clear whether the painting was stolen, or belongs to Hadzic.

Hadzic and wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic are the last two suspects wanted by the U.N. court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Serbia must arrest the last two if it wants to move on in its bid to join the European Union.

read more: the washington post


Macedonia Arrests 29 In Trafficking Sting

eurasia review

Written by: SETimes

By Marina Stojanovska
Three alleged ringleaders of a massive international drug trafficking network are among the 29 people arrested in a recent sting by Macedonian police, with the help of their German and Austrian colleagues.
Nicknamed the “Frankfurt Mafia”, the group had strong links to the town of Veles and other locations in Macedonia, authorities say.
“It is assumed that the group belonged to the dealer network which has succeeded in the past years to sell drugs on the streets of Vienna and Frankfurt, worth millions of euros,” said Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska. “All participants of the network who served as street dealers of heroin were paid for travel expenses, accommodations and food and a percentage of the sold heroin.”
Police action took place in Sveti Nikole, Veles and Gevgelija. Those arrested include Vlade Manaskov of Veles and two Skopje residents, Spase Dimkovski and Tomce Dimkovski. Police suspect they played a pivotal role as organisers.
Fourteen luxury cars were seized in the sting, along with dozens of computers, over 50,000 euros and 157,000 denars, two kilos of marijuana, and 25 small packages containing illegal drugs.
The group, authorities say, was a highly sophisticated operation distributed among individuals or decentralised cells. Many dealers were unaware of each others’ identities and simply received their instructions by phone.
“People do not know each other because of greater security for them and for the bosses, and in case of penetration of the network. They got orders via telephone where and in which apartment [to] find drugs, how to process it, pack up and where to take it,” said Ljubco Todorovski, director of the public security bureau.
The police attaché at the Austrian Embassy, Stefan Turner, said that as many as 69 Macedonian citizens have been arrested on drug charges as a result of co-ordinated action among the Macedonian, Austrian and German police.
Indeed, many families in Veles have reportedly filed complaints about the arrests, saying their children are being imprisoned on drug charges in Austria and Germany and handed sentences of up to 15 years.
According to unofficial statistics, approximately 40 people from Veles have been implicated in drug trafficking. Sources in the town told SETimes that the network was originally active in Vienna, then moved to Frankfurt due to fears of a bust.
When the coast was perceived as clear, the gang moved back to Vienna.
Some of those who worked in Frankfurt built big houses in Veles and bought expensive cars, said local residents, who asked not to be identified.

read more: eurasia review

EU Mission Wants More Evidence On Kosovo

eurasia review

Written by: SwissInfo

A report says the European Union’s police and justice mission for Kosovo will not yet open an enquiry into criminal allegations made against the Kosovo leader.
A spokeswoman for Eulex told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that there was not enough information in a recent report by the Council of Europe to open an investigation into charges that Hashim Thaci led a mafia-style organisation.
“The state prosecutor always supports criminal proceedings with evidence,” said Karin Limdal.
The spokeswoman said Council of Europe investigator, Swiss senator Dick Marty, was sent a letter asking him to “provide Eulex with information or evidence supporting the charges he made in his report”.
On December 16 Marty accused Thaci of heading a criminal organisation during the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla war against Serbia in the late 1990s – a ring that assassinated opponents and trafficked in drugs as well as organs harvested from murdered Serbs.
On Saturday, the Kosovo ambassador to Switzerland, Naim Malaj, repeated Thaci’s statement that all of the charges were unfounded, and that the Kosovo leader was considering filing a lawsuit against Marty.

read more: eurasia review

Serbia To Push Montenegro On Organised Crime

eurasia review

Written by: Balkan Insight

By Bojana Barlovac
Slobodan Homen, State Secretary in Serbia’s Ministry of Justice, says Montenegro’s new government must demonstrate its readiness to continue the fight against organized crime.
“The new government will have a serious task, to demonstrate its willingness to be one of key factors in the fight against organized crime in the region,” Homen said.
The new government in Podgorica is headed by Igor Luksic, previously the country’s Finance Minister.
Belgrade has in the past accused outgoing prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, of hiding people on Serbian wanted lists. In a gesture signaling the two countries’ commitment to busting organised crime networks, the two justice ministers signed an extradition agreement on October 29.
A series of arrests followed. Serbia has since taken into custody 12 men charged by Montenegro with war crimes and Montenegro has detained six organised crime suspects wanted by Serbia.
Dusan Janjic, head of the Belgrade-based Forum for Ethnic Relations, said Djukanovic’s withdrawal from politics in Montenegro would shift the focus on organised crime from Montenegro to the Serbia’s backyard.
“The time has come for Serbia to cut its own connections with organised crime,” he said.

read more: eurasia review

War Crime Hypocrisy

Ari Rusila's balkan blog

December 29, 2010

Related to Serbia’s EU association process nearly every progress report of European Commission highlights Serbia’s cooperation with Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Although the country has demonstrated its commitment to moving closer to the EU by building up a track record in implementing the provisions of the Interim Agreement with the EU and by undertaking key reforms the fact that so far as indictees Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić are still at large it is hard to demonstrate full cooperation with ICTY. As ICTY cooperation is a key priority of the European Partnership this makes a formal cause to halt association process (and if fugitives will be deported to Hague then the next obstacle will be recognition of Kosovo).

While EU speaks about standards or criteria during association talks so should some already members look occasionally mirror. Few news about older war crimes from last months popped to my eyes and raise a doubt in my mind about double-standards. Suspected hypocrisy does not limit to EU only but to U.S. and Nato as well. EU seems be unwilling to put their war crimes from recent history on the same line than other smaller players ones. ...more...

read more:Ari Rusila's balkan blog


Igor Lukšić, Prime Minister of Montenegro


Igor Lukšić, Ph.D. (Montenegrin: Igor Lukšić, Игор Лукшић, born 14 June 1976) is Montenegrin politician who is currently the Prime Minister in the Government of Montenegro.[4] His family roots trace back to Crmnica (one of the regions of old Montenegro). Lukšić became the acting Prime Minister of Montenegro upon the resignation of Milo Đukanović, and was elected as Đukanović's permanent replacement on 29 December 2010.[5][6][7]

Political background

In 1998, Lukšić graduated from the University of Montenegro Faculty of Economics in Podgorica. In 2000, he finished postgraduate studies in the same faculty and in 2002, obtained his MA degree. Lukšić received a Ph.D. in economics on 10 September 2005.

Lukšić was first elected to the Parliament of Montenegro in 2001. He also served in the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was the advisor to the Minister of Public Relations, along with being the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro.

On 16 February 2004, Lukšić was appointed Minister of Finance of the Republic of Montenegro by Prime Minister Đukanović. Lukšić stayed on as the country's finance minister after the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro in June 2006, in which Montenegro attained full independence.

Later in 2006 Lukšić was retained by Prime Minister Željko Šturanović during his tenure, and then again by Đukanović after he became prime minister again in February 2008. Lukšić became one of Montenegro's three deputy prime ministers in December 2008. In Montenegrin politics, Lukšić is widely viewed as a close Đukanović ally.[8]

Besides speaking his native Montenegrin, he also speaks English, French and Italian. Lukšić publishes regular blogs in both Montenegrin and English.[9][10]

Succession as Montenegrin prime minister

On 21 December 2010, Đukanović announced his resignation as Montenegrin prime minister and recommended Lukšić as his successor to the ruling party in the Parliament of Montenegro, the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro.[11] The DPS unanimously nominated Lukšić as Đukanović's successor in short order.[12] The Parliament of Montenegro took a final vote on the matter on 29 December 2010. With Lukšić as prime minister, Đukanović will remain DPS party leader as he did during Šturanović's government.[13]

At 34 years old at the time of his succession, Lukšić is the world's youngest current head of government, surpassing Madagascar's Andry Rajoelina, who is two years his senior.[14]

As prime minister Lukšić will likely make Montenegro's application to join the European Union a top priority, as the country was granted official candidate status by the EU shortly before Đukanović's resignation.[15] He is not expected to make significant changes to Đukanović's government in the short term.[16]

read more: en.wikipedia.org

Montenegrin Lawmakers Confirm New Prime Minister

radio free europe

December 29, 2010
Montenegro's parliament has approved Igor Luksic as the new prime minister, replacing Milo Djukanovic.

Luksic, who previously served as the finance minister, said that meeting conditions for the start of membership talks with the European Union by the end of 2011 was his top priority.

The EU has promoted Montenegro to the status of a membership candidate, but said it must carry out more reforms to win a date for the start of the talks.

Luksic is a close ally of Djukanovic, who resigned last week after leading the Balkan republic for 20 years.compiled from agency reports

read more: radio free europe

Bosnian Serb Government Approved

radio free europe

December 29, 2010
Bosnian Serb lawmakers have confirmed the government of Prime Minister Aleksandar Dzombic, who said his cabinet would focus on the economy.

Addressing the parliament of Bosnia's Serb entity, Republika Srpska, he insisted that integration into Europe "should not be abused [in order] to change Bosnia's constitutional structure," in a reference to further centralization of the Balkans country.

Since the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, Bosnia has been divided into two semi-independent entities -- Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Each region has its own parliament and government and the two are linked into a country by a central government and parliament. compiled from agency reports

read more: radio free europe

The Balkans' Calamity Of Leadership

radio free europe

December 29, 2010
By Nenad Pejic
In the spring of 1991, war was looming in Bosnia. Fighting had already erupted in Croatia. Locals in Sarajevo announced a demonstration against the Yugoslav Army to be held in front of the parliament building. As the program director of Sarajevo TV, I met with protest organizers to discuss covering the event. We agreed on live coverage for one hour (I had to break away to take a live feed of a sporting event in Barcelona).”

But when the cameras went off after an hour, the protesters turned on my television crew. I hurried to the scene to try and protect my journalists, but the angry crowd turned on me as well. A security officer pulled me out of the melee and hustled me into the safety of Prime Minister Jure Pelivan’s office....more...

read more: radio free europe

Turkish president seeks to calm Kurdish tensions

deutsche welle

The Turkish president is set to travel to the main city of his country's Kurdish minority on Thursday in a bid to defuse tensions over a recent push by Kurds to assert their culture, language and rights.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is set to make a one-day visit to Turkey's main Kurdish city, Diyarbakir, on Thursday. The trip comes as political tensions continue to rise over an initiative launched by the country's main Kurdish party for greater rights.
The presidential visit, which appears to have been hastily arranged, is being seen as crucial to defusing political tensions in Turkey, which have been heightened by the initiative.
"I think he will look for ways to calm things down," political scientist Cengiz Aktar told Deutsche Welle. "As it is, I think we are again going back to this very belligerent rhetoric of the Kurdish issue. So again we are heading towards a period of dialog."
In addition to meeting with local state officials and businessmen, Gul was also expected to meet with the mayor of the Diyarbakir, Osman Baydemir, who is one of the leading figures in the Kurdish initiative launched earlier this month, which calls for democratic autonomy and the right to use the Kurdish language in aspects of public life, including in education.
Forbidden culture
Kurdish officially did not exist in Turkey throughout the 1980s and it still remains under tight regulations, particularly in education. Until recently, the ruling AK Party had positioned itself as a champion for Kurdish rights, but its own initiative has stalled and condemnation for this latest demand for more rights has now come from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"I am putting it very clearly, those who want to bring discord to this nation are the enemy of 73 million people," Erdogan said. "The artificial discussion of the last few days is a dirty game and evil plot of the terrorist organization and its extensions. My people will not fall for this plot, they'll spoil the game."
The terrorist organization Erdogan referred to is the Kurdish rebel group the outlawed PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state for greater Kurdish rights since 1984. For now they've called a unilateral ceasefire. ...more...

read more: deutsche welle

Δευτέρα, 27 Δεκεμβρίου 2010

Serbian nuclear waste secretly moved to Russia Ivideo)

Nuclear Energy

23/12 23:03 CET

Serbia says it is no longer on the list of potential targets of nuclear terrorism.
This after about 2500 kilogrammes of radioactive spent atomic fuel was sent from Serbia to Russia.
The shipment was carried out in secret under heavy security.
It was feared that in the wrong hands the material could have been used to make bombs.
The month-long operation was coordinated by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
IAEA Special Project Manager John Kelly said: “Serbia has now joined the group of countries which no longer has highly enriched uranium on their territories. Thank you for that.”
Uranium refined to high levels can be used to make atomic weapons.
The operation was the largest single shipment made under a multi-national programme to return nuclear material to the countries where it originally came from.

read more: euronews

Albanian prime minister seeks probe on organ traffic claims


Albania has invited an international investigation into claims it was linked with the trafficking of organs from slain civilians during the war in neighbouring Kosovo.

11:56PM GMT 22 Dec 2010
Prime Minister Sali Berisha said on Wednesday his government has offered full co-operation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, should it wish to conduct a probe.
A Council of Europe report last week said Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was behind the grisly trade while leader of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army in the 1998-99 independence war with Serbia.
The kidneys were allegedly removed from Kosovan opponents of the KLA and Serbs in detention facilities in Albania. Thaci and Albanian officials have denied the allegations, and Berisha claimed the report showed a pro-Serb bias.

read more: telegraph.co.uk

Trafic d'organes : Belgrade accuse l'ONU de dissimulation de preuves

le monde

LEMONDE.FR avec AFP 26.12.10 15h09

Selon des informations diffusées par le quotidien serbe Blic dimanche 26 décembre, la Serbie a demandé au Tribunal pénal international pour l'ex-Yougoslavie (TPIY) d'ouvrir une enquête sur des responsables de la mission de l'ONU au Kosovo (Minuk) qu'elle accuse d'avoir dissimulé des preuves dans l'affaire des trafics d'organes pour lesquels le premier ministre kosovar Hashim Thaçi est mis en cause. Le ministre serbe chargé de la coopération avec le TPIY, Rasim Ljajic, a adressé une lettre au procureur Serge Brammertz, lui demandant d'ouvrir une enquête contre Soren Jessen Petersen, chef de la mission de l'ONU au Kosovo (Minuk) de 2004 à 2006, ajoute le quotidien.

"Nous nous attendons à ce que le TPI ouvre une enquête contre les responsables de la Minuk de l'époque", a assuré M. Ljajic dans une interview au journal Blic. Le rapport du parlementaire suisse Dick Marty, membre du Conseil de l'Europe, évoque un trafic présumé d'organes prélevés en Albanie sur des prisonniers par des maquisards indépendantistes kosovars, à la fin des années 1990. Il met notamment en cause un groupe de responsables de l'ex-Armée de libération du Kosovo (UCK), dont faisait partie Hashim Thaçi.


Selon M. Marty, la plupart des victimes étaient des prisonniers serbes qui auraient été détenus au Kosovo puis conduits en Albanie en 1999 et 2000. La Minuk a engagé une enquête sur cette affaire en 2004 mais elle n'a pas débouché, faute de preuves suffisantes selon elle. "A l'époque, la Minuk affirmait qu'elle ne possédait aucun rapport sur le trafic d'organes et ne disposait pas de preuves (...), mais, en 2008, notre procureur (...) a obtenu 16 pages de ce rapport", selon M. Ljajic. "La Minuk a par la suite cessé de nier son existence et l'a remis en entier, toutes les 25 pages", a précisé M. Ljajic.

M. Marty a recommandé que la Mission européenne au Kosovo (Eulex) qui a pris le relais de la Minuk, mène une enquête "pour faire toute la lumière" sur cette affaire.

read more: le monde

Energy in the Balkans: The Balkananalysis.com 2010 Annual Review

balkan analysis

December 24, 2010
By Vlad Popovici*
2010 was an eventful year for the energy sector in Southeast Europe. It is therefore impossible to objectively rank all the incidents, accidents, energy wars and new energy strategies of the year. And it is no easier to see and rank what could be in store for 2011. These disclaimers aside, we can still give it a try and discuss what we see as some of the most consequential events during 2010 that have impacted and/or could impact the Balkans’ energy sector in the future.
Not all of the incidents or events discussed below have happened in the Balkans, but their impact has been and will continue to be significant for the region’s energy sector. In the same context, we have no intention of ranking them in any way; therefore, we will approach them chronologically.

2010 Part 1: Macondo – the Deepwater Nightmare
What happened? On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the semi-submersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, at the time completing an exploratory well (the MC252 or Macondo prospect) in the deepwater Mississippi Canyon of the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 rig workers. The subsequent fire on the rig could not be put out, and the rig sank on April 22, while crude oil started to gush from the broken riser pipe.
During the next three months BP, the company that was the majority-owner of the Macondo prospect, tried to stop the oil flow from the damaged well using different technical solutions. The effort was supported by the entire oil industry in the region and took place under the constant monitoring of the different local, state and federal authorities in the US.
Macondo was finally capped and the uncontrolled oil flow stopped during the summer months. The Macondo tragedy is undoubtedly the largest offshore oil spill from a single source in history – an estimated 4.9 million barrels flooded into the Gulf of Mexico waters before the well was capped.
Already compared by some observers to other milestone tragedies such as Chernobyl, it highly likely that the Macondo deepwater oil spill will prove a turning point in the evolution and regulation of an industry that was already struggling to improve its public image, but that is still vital for the global economy. Not to mention the legal wrangling, lawsuits and class actions around the spill that, according to an article in the September issue of Offshore magazine, could go on until 2035!...more...

*Vlad Popovici is a professional analyst and consultant on the energy sector who has published widely on various international business and economics topics since 1996, in various global electronic and print media, in English, German, Romanian and Russian. His current focus is energy policy, renewable energy resources, energy infrastructure projects, and energy geopolitics.

Albania calls in war crimes team over organ theft claim


Senior officials continue to dismiss claims that Serb captives were smuggled into northern Albania and killed

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 December 2010 00.11 GMT

Albania last night invited an international criminal inquiry into claims that organs were taken from murdered Serbs there after the Kosovo war.
The prime minister, Sali Berisha, said EU-sponsored investigators based in Kosovo and officials at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague would be formally invited to open inquiries.
Senior officials in Albania, however, continue to dismiss claims made in a Council of Europe report that Serb captives were smuggled into northern Albania by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and killed. The report, which was leaked to the Guardian and will be debated at the parliamentary assembly next month, alleged that a handful of captives were taken to a makeshift clinic near Albania's capital, Tirana, where they were shot in the head and their kidneys were removed.
In comments reported on Albanian television, Berisha said that the Council of Europe report was "not based on fact or real information". He added that Dick Marty, the Swiss politician who led the inquiry, was "well-known for his anti-Kosovo stance".
However, in a surprise move, Berisha added: "We want EULEX [the EU-sponsored justice mission in Kosovo] to investigate. We offer the full co-operation of Albania. The justice minister will send a special letter to The Hague. The Hague will not have any limitation on its investigations in Albania."
Albania has previously been accused of resisting inquiries into the allegations concerning KLA detention facilities in the north of the country.
Philip Alston, a special UN rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, told a press conference in Tirana in February that Albanian officials had played "diplomatic ping pong" and stalled investigations. There had been "no meaningful cooperation from Albania", he said.
"The [Albanian] government should do everything it can to facilitate an independent and objective investigation by the international entities investigating abuses," he added.
Council of Europe investigators are understood to have been among those who, according to Alston, received only limited assistance from Albania during their inquiries.
Members of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly are being heavily lobbied over Marty's report, which they will be asked to adopt at the end of January. The report has already been endorsed by the council's influential legal affairs committee.
Council of Europe parliamentarians are understood to have requested to see evidence cited in Marty's report, which bases its claims on first-hand testimony from alleged witnesses to war crimes as well as FBI and MI6 intelligence reports.
In Kosovo the newly-elected prime minister, Hashim Thaçi, has also suggested that the claims should be investigated. He is accused in the report of heading a criminal network with links to the heroin trade and organ trafficking.
Thaçi has strongly denied the allegations, but said yesterday that an independent investigation was needed to "dispel the mist" in Marty's report. Maintaining his position that the report was designed to undermine Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, Thaçi added he had "nothing to hide" and pledged that Kosovo authorities would be "very co-operative" in dealing with allegations.
Thaçi has been in talks to form a coalition government since his party won the most votes in disputed elections earlier this month.
The AKR party (New Kosovo Alliance), which is believed to be considering entering into partnership with Thaçi, has reportedly said that it will not share power with any officials who are under investigation.
Senior AKR figures cast doubt on the veracity of Marty's report, but said that if it is formally adopted by the Council of Europe next month Kosovo would need to co-operate with international investigators.

read more: guardian.co.uk

Κυριακή, 26 Δεκεμβρίου 2010

Another Balkan candidate

the economist

Montenegro and the European Union

Despite its new candidate status, Montenegro is far from joining the EU


EUROPEAN Union leaders were expected this week to grant Montenegro the formal status of candidate. It will join two other western Balkan countries: Macedonia, whose negotiations are blocked by its name dispute with Greece, and Croatia, which is close to membership. Progress in one country encourages others. A year ago Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia gained visa-free access to the EU’s 25-country Schengen area. This week Albania and Bosnia joined them, so only Kosovars still need visas.
But Montenegrins have also been told that lots of work remains before they join the EU. Passing laws is good, says the European Commission, but implementation matters more. Such criticism has not ruffled feathers in Podgorica. The commission opinion was “quite fair”, says Slavica Milacic, chief adviser to Milo Djukanovic, the prime minister. Mr Djukanovic, who led Montenegro to independence in 2006, has long signalled that he plans to quit. Now that he has won candidate status for his country he might go soon, handing over to Igor Luksic, his deputy. Mr Djukanovic may hope to keep influence behind the scenes, although he knows that Ivo Sanader, his former counterpart in Croatia, tried and failed to do this (and now stands accused of massive corruption).
Montenegro has a lot on its plate. A Serbian newspaper claims that Darko Saric, an alleged cocaine trafficker on trial in absentia, spent some of this year living in a luxury hotel on the Montenegrin coast. Milorad Veljovic, chief of the Serbian police, said that Mr Saric could not be the real boss of the gang, a remark taken to mean that it was a controversial Montenegrin businessman. Montenegrin officials say these are Serbian slurs and insist they are doing all they can to clamp down on organised crime. Last month they arrested Mr Saric’s brother, at Italy’s request, as part of a co-ordinated operation involving over 80 arrests in Italy, Montenegro and Slovenia.

Drugs are not the only issue. In November Italy and Montenegro agreed to build an undersea cable to let Montenegro export electricity. The country does not yet have enough electricity for itself, let alone for export. Plans to build four dams on the Moraca river could solve that. But Darko Pajovic of Green Home, an NGO, says the project would have a bad environmental impact and likens it to an “African scenario of economic development”. Dejan Mijovic of Forum 2010, another activist group, will seek a judicial review. He notes that, in 2015, the region’s energy market will be liberalised. After that, he says, electricity will flow to richer Italy, meaning that Montenegrins will have to pay more for their power despite spending up to €200m ($267m) on the dams.

read more: the economist

Turkey: Military Exercises Planned

ny times

Published: December 24, 2010

Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold a joint military exercises in March and to cooperate against drug trafficking, terrorism and extremism, the presidents of the three countries announced Friday after a summit meeting in Istanbul. High-level military officials and intelligence experts from the three countries met in Ankara earlier in the month to discuss strategy, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

read more: ny times

Protester throws himself 7m off balcony in Romanian parliament chamber

the independent

Friday, 24 December 2010

A protester threw himself from a balcony of Romania's parliamentary chamber yesterday in a protest over government austerity measures.
The man, identified by the country's public television station as one of its engineers, leapt about 7m and landed among the benches before the start of a no-confidence debate in the government. The man, Adrian Sobaru, was wearing a white T-shirt, with the words "You've pierced us. You've killed our children's future. Freedom," in a reference to government policy. The first line was a reference to President Traian Basescu, who after winning the presidential race in 2009 said "I've pierced them", using a well-known line from a Romanian movie.
As emergency medical workers took him out on a stretcher, Mr Sobaru shouted "Freedom!" – echoing cries of the 1989 fall of communism in which more than 1,300 people died. Romanians are commemorating the 21st anniversary of the uprising in which authorities shot unarmed protesters.
Mr Sobaru had facial and other injuries. He will have surgery and psychological counselling, a health official said. Nobody else was injured.
Prime Minister Emil Boc, who was in the chamber, called the incident "a tragedy that shocked me", and appealed for calm "in these tough times."
read more: the independent

What will 2011 bring for the Western Balkans?


26. December 2010. 08:49
Source: WAZ.EUOBSERVER, Sofia News Agency
Serbia could become an official candidate for EU membership at the end of 2011.BiH will need to have a government capable of running the country and implementing necessary reforms.Bulgaria's presidential elections will be the centrepiece of the country's 2011 political calendar. Croatia and the EU will conclude negotiations and sign the accession treaty in 2011. Romania still hopes to be accepted into the EU's border-free Schengen area next year. Albania's EU accession bid is a desperate case.Kosovo remains a black hole in the Western Balkan region.The biggest issue for the Macedonian political scene in 2011 is yet again the name dispute with Greece.
ALBANIA For the first time in Albania's history, its citizens will have the right to travel to most EU countries without a visa. Many Albanians will use this opportunity in 2011 and most will return back home. Fears that some EU countries may face a new wave of immigrants from Albania are unfounded. Around 1.5 million Albanians (not including those from Kosovo) have already left the country over the last 20 years, unperturbed by the existing visa regime. Those who try to stay illegally in the EU will be deported back home. However, the country's EU accession bid is a desperate case. Albania lost the chance to obtain candidate status and became the only country to be given a negative opinion from the European Commission regarding its application. It will get a chance to repair this in the autumn but the political situation does not look any more promising for 2011 than it was in 2010. Augustin Palokaj ...more....

read more: emg.rs

Sanaderisation in Montenegro

the economist

Dec 24th 2010, 18:37 by T.J.
IT MAY attract little attention elsewhere but it's very big news in a tiny country. Three days after Milo Djukanovic stepped down as prime minister of Montenegro, several senior political figures have been arrested. This is presumably no coincidence.
Police detained ten people this morning, including the mayor of Budva, a coastal town, a parliamentary deputy from the ruling party, and, most significantly, Dragan Marovic, the deputy mayor of Budva and brother of Svetozar Marovic, the deputy prime minister until his recent resignation. Media reports have linked the arrests to the so-called Zavala case, an alleged corruption affair concerning land and construction....more....

read more: the economist

Romania, Bulgaria and the Schengen zone

bbc, euronews, euractiv

-Romania and Bulgaria blocked from joining Schengen zone
21 December 2010 Last updated at 20:11 GMT
France and Germany have decided to block Bulgaria and Romania from joining Europe's passport-free travel zone.
The French and German interior ministers said it was "premature" to let them join Schengen in March 2011.
They said Bulgaria and Romania needed to make "irreversible progress" in the fight against corruption and organised crime....more...
EU Enlargement
21/12 23:04 CET
Romania has branded a Franco-German move to block its membership of the EU’s border-free travel zone as discrimination.
Paris and Berlin told the European Commission they would veto it, arguing Bucharest had not done enough to tackle crime and corruption....more...
21/12 18:42 CET
Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel area will not open up to Bulgaria and Romania as soon as they had hoped.
France and Germany have cited concerns over border management and asylum policy, and told the European Commission that this would be premature.
Next March had been the two poorest EU members’ window of opportunity....more...
-Romania fumes at Franco-German Schengen blockade
Published: 22 December 2010
Romanian President Traian Basescu lashed out at a decision by France and Germany yesterday (21 December) to postpone his country’s accession to the EU's border-free Schengen area, describing it as an act of "discrimination". The EurActiv network reports from Bucharest and Sofia.
Speaking in the presidential palace in Bucharest, Basescu said his country would not accept discrimination from anyone, "be it from the most powerful countries of the EU"....more...
read more: bbc, euronews, euractiv

What the mini crisis in Podgorica tell us about Montenegrin politics

ekem programme

News from Montenegro concerning a disagreement between the two ruling parties at the municipal level in the country’s capital Podgorica may not crack the headlines elsewhere in the region or abroad. But the imbroglio is indicative of a more profound process and reveals some constants of the Montenegrin political system as it heads into its fifth year since the country’s velvet divorce with Serbia.
(Photo of Podgorica's City Hall courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Mazbin)

The dispute involved the refusal of the strongest Montenegrin party, DPS (Demokratska partija socijalista/ Democratic Party of Socialists), to accept amendments to the new municipal charter, or statute, of Podgorica proposed by their smaller partner in the ruling coalition, SDP (Socijal-demokratska partija/ Social Democratic Party). SDP was known for its antiwar stance during the 90s and later its strong support for Montenegrin independence from the state union of Serbia-Montenegro.
The amendments would have required, among other things, that all the contracts concluded by municipal officials should be accessible to the public. DPS defied its smaller partner and, what is most surprising, gained support from part of the opposition, whose votes were eventually enough for the new statute to be adopted without the controversial amendments. Namely, NS (Narodna stranka/ People’s Party) and DSS (Demokratska srpska stranka/ Democratic Serbian Party). These had run in elections as part of a wide coalition under the name “Bolja Podgorica – bolja Crna Gora” (“Better Podgorica – better Montenegro”), in this voting sided with DPS. The whole event not only raised concerns about the future of the ruling coalition; it also demonstrated how shaky the ‘united opposition’ is....more...

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To what extent did peace enforcement affect post-conflict reconstruction in Kosovo and how important was the role of security (or lack of)?

Leonidas GontzesEKEM Visiting Fellow
On 3 June 1999, following an eleven-week United States (U.S.)-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aerial war-campaign to enforce peace in Kosovo, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic accepted the Alliance’s conditions for an armistice. (Brzezinski, 2007, p. 118) The cease-fire, in turn, allowed NATO to dispatch peacekeepers as part of Kosovo Force or KFOR and the United Nations (UN) to set up the United Nations Mission in Kosovo or UNMIK. Their objectives included peacekeeping operations and nation/state-building projects. (Mccgwire, 2000, p. 11) The war had succeeded in diffusing the intrastate conflict and had transformed Kosovo into an international protectorate. (Roudometof, 2002, p. 154) The purpose of this paper is to examine to what extent peace enforcement affected post-conflict reconstruction projects in Kosovo. Special emphasis will be placed on the notion of security as a prerequisite/precondition to successful nation/state-building efforts therein.
The centuries-old animosity between Serbs and Albanians can be traced back to the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans which commenced in the middle of the fourteenth century A.D. and was complete a hundred and fifty years later. (Dakin, 1971, p. 9) Medieval Serbia’s most famous and glorious battle took place on the Field of the Blackbirds, Kosovo Polje, on 28 June 1389, where Serb Prince Lazar led an army consisting, interestingly and rather ironically, of Serbs and Albanians (as well as Hungarians) against Sultan Murad I’s advancing Ottoman Turks in a battle which the Ottomans won, destroying the Serb state and ushering in a new era of Ottoman rule for the next five centuries. (Fromkin, 1999, p. 92) The Field of Kosovo, symbol of the Serbian Empire’s fall to the Ottoman Empire, and Pec, the old seat of the Serbian Patriarchate, are situated in Kosovo and Metohija respectively, with Kosovo making up the eastern part and Metohija the western part of the Kosovo-Metohija region. Following the Christian army’s defeat, there were more widespread conversions to Islam with Albanians switching allegiances in large numbers. The province’s demographic map further changed when most of the Serb population went north in two great migrations (1690 and 1737), mostly due to an influx of Turks (Palmer & King, 1971, p. 96) in conjunction with increased hostility from the region’s Albanians whose privileged status within the Ottoman Empire ignited conflict and controversies between the two peoples. (Simic, 1998, p. 180) Following the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 the region found itself again under Serbian administration as part of the Kingdom of Serbia (Hercher & Riedlmayer, 2000, p. 110; Wolfgram, 2008, p. 468) and remained an integral part of that state throughout its transformation and evolution into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia (Jelavich, 1994, p. 200; p. 296). In March 1989, following decades of Titoist-inspired Albanian autonomy and self-governance, the Serbian government, on Slobodan Milosevic’s orders, invoking years of unrest that threatened the Serb population’s rights, security, and cultural heritage decided to impose direct rule on the province (which since 1974 was known simply as ‘Kosovo’ and which again became known as ‘Kosovo and Metohija’). (Hercher & Riedlmayer, 2000, p. 111) Increasing government repression and the failure of non-violent resistance to bring about change led to the formation of an armed Albanian insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) (Dobbins et al., 2003, p. 111; Hercher & Riedlmayer, 2000, p. 111; Wolfgram, 2008, p. 469) which made its appearance on 22 April 1996 (Thomas, 1999, p. 399-400), and the outbreak of open conflict between the KLA and Serbian security forces on 28 February 1998. (Thomas, 1999, p. 406) Government forces initiated counterinsurgency operations in early March 1998, directed against the KLA and other Albanian militants. (Hercher & Riedlmayer, 2000, p. 111) With the death toll during 1998 estimated at 2,000 (opinions differ as to both the identity of the victims and the perpetrators) and the number of displaced persons in the hundreds of thousands, ethnic Albanians claimed that Serbian security forces and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) units forcibly deported Kosovo Albanians and carried out ethnic cleansing and genocide, charges that Belgrade vehemently denied. (Chomsky, 2003, p. 55-56; Parenti, 2000, p. 99-100)...more...


A secret journey to take Serbian nuclear fuel to safety (video)

bbc news

22 December 2010 Last updated at 17:58 GMT

By Gordon Corera Security correspondent, BBC News

IAEA's John Kelly on the dangers of transporting nuclear fuel rods
A shipment of nuclear fuel has arrived in Russia after a top-secret international operation to remove it from Serbia, where it was feared terrorists could seize it to make a nuclear or dirty bomb.
In the dead of night, armed men in balaclavas surround a long convoy of trucks in the woods just outside Belgrade. Radios crackle as they prepare for a long journey.
Their mission is to escort a dangerous cargo, the kind terrorists would dearly like to get their hands on.
Inside blue, bomb-proof, fire-proof containers on the trucks are 2.5 tons of radioactive material, including 13kg of highly enriched uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.
This is the largest shipment of its type ever made, and will clear Serbia of all its civilian highly enriched uranium.
Just before two in the morning, the president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, sweeps in.
"We have significant security here," he tells me. "This is extremely important."
Two hours earlier I had been taken into the decommissioned reactor building where the Soviet-origin nuclear material had been stored.
During the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union both provided countries with reactors to carry out research. Some, like that here in Vinca, ran on highly enriched uranium which came from the USSR.
Most of Vinca's highly enriched uranium was removed in 2002, but the remaining enriched uranium and large amounts of spent fuel were still kept here, in often poor conditions. ...more...

read more: bbc news

Kosovo PM 'to sue' EU investigator

al jazeera

Hashim Thaci says he would sue Council of Europe rapporteur who accused him of heading a crime ring in the late 1990s.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2010 12:15 GMT

Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's prime minister, has said he will sue a Council of Europe investigator over a report that alleged he led an organised crime ring that trafficked human organs across eastern Europe.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Thaci said Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who wrote the report, should "prepare good lawyers to defend him".
"Under no circumstances will Dick Marty escape justice for this slander," he said, but did not elaborate.
Last week's report accused Thaci of heading a crime ring during and after the Kosovo war in the late 1990s, which killed opponents and trafficked in drugs and organs taken from murdered Serbs.
Marty led a team of investigators to Kosovo and Albania in 2009, following allegations of organ trafficking published in a book by Carla Del Ponte, former chief UN war crimes tribunal prosecutor who said she was given information by Western journalists.'Powerful attack on Kosovo'
In a separate interview with the AP news agency also published on Wednesday, Thaci said he wanted an independent investigation to "dispel the mist" surrounding the allegations, saying he has "nothing to hide".
He said the allegations were aimed at undermining Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and blamed Marty for masterminding what he said was a "powerful attack upon Kosovo, Albania and all Albanians".
"It damages Kosovo's image and me personally. But, I have challenged similar inventions for the past 15 years and I have always won," he told the AP.
Marty's investigation found a number of detention facilities existed in Albania, where victims were allegedly held once the hostilities in Kosovo were over in 1999.
Among the facilities, his report said, was a "state-of-the-art reception centre for the organised crime of organ trafficking".
It said Thaci headed a "small but inestimably powerful group of KLA personalities" called the Denica group that "wrested control of most of the illicit criminal enterprises ... beginning at the latest in 1998".
"Thaci and these other 'Drenica Group' members are consistently named as 'key players' in intelligence reports on Kosovo's mafia-like structures of organised crime," he wrote.
The European Union police and justice mission (EULEX) in Kosovo has said it wants to examine the claims and has asaked Marty to send all the evidence he has to EU prosecutors in Pristina.
"EULEX has sent a letter to Mr Marty where we encourage him to provide the prosecutorial authorities within EULEX with any information or evidence that could shed light on the allegations made in his report," Blerim Krasniqi, a spokesman, said.
Kosovo's government was quick to dismiss the report as "full of clear fabrications, non-existent facts and allegations which are not confirmed by international justice".
Thaci became a key leader in the KLA, which sought to separate Kosovo from Serbia. His role in the paramilitary group was partly to train Albanian recruits and dispatch them to Kosovo to fight.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, with the support of the US and many other Western nations.
But Marty has accused Western countries of closing their eyes for the sake of stability and sacrificing important principles of justice.

read more: al jazeera

Montenegro officially becomes EU candidate country


Posted by Open Montenegro on 17/12/10

EU leaders today agreed to make Montenegro a formal candidate for membership of the EU. At a two-day summit in Brussels that ended today, EU leaders backed a recommendation made by the European Commission last month to grant candidate status to Montenegro. However, no date for the opening of membership talks has been set, a signal that the country, which has a population of just 630,000, needs to speed up reforms. (European Voice. read full article)
Montenegro, is the fifth candidate country for membership, together with Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia and Turkey. This was also noted on European Commission web site, where new map with candidate countries now includes Montenegro. (see here)
The Economist reports that “Montenegrins have also been told that lots of work remains before they join the EU. Passing laws is good, says the European Commission, but implementation matters more. … Mr Djukanovic, who led Montenegro to independence in 2006, has long signalled that he plans to quit. Now that he has won candidate status for his country he might go soon, handing over to Igor Luksic, his deputy. Mr Djukanovic may hope to keep influence behind the scenes, although he knows that Ivo Sanader, his former counterpart in Croatia, tried and failed to do this (and now stands accused of massive corruption).” (to read article about Montenegro in The Economist, click here)
European Voice reminds that Mr Djukanovic, whose past business interests have raised concerns at home and abroad, is expected to take up an international position. Many independent analysts, NGO leaders and intellectuals in Montenegro warn that current Prime Minister and his Democratic Party of Socialists(created from ex-communist party) have been ruling the country for too long (since MNE became a democracy, 20 years ago), and created very undemocratic practices followed by vast corruption. In a statement to SETimes in October 2009, Mr Filip Kovacevic (professor at Montenegro University) warned that Montenegro is an unreformed one-party state, where the interests of a small group of people, all with close links to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, rule with impunity at the expense of the interests of the vast majority of Montenegrin citizens. We recently published the fragment of a study by prof.Kovacevic, and you can read it here.

read more: blogactiv.eu

Montenegrin PM Djukanovic resigns, after 20 years, but his influence remains?


Posted by Open Montenegro on 21/12/10

December 21st 2010. Mr Djukanovic, who led Montenegro 20 years (served 5 times as prime minister and once as President), has long signalled his plans to quit. He announced today, on a press conference that he quits position of Prime Minister, but he will keep his role in the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists. Now that Montenegro earned candidate country status for EU membership, Mr. Djukanovic stressed that country is stable and considered as factor of peace and stability in the region.
It is expected that current Minister of Finances, Mr Igor Luksic, will be chosen as a new PM. The Economist, in the recent article about Montenegro, stressed that ”handing over to Igor Luksic, his deputy. Mr Djukanovic may hope to keep influence behind the scenes, although he knows that Ivo Sanader, his former counterpart in Croatia, tried and failed to do this (and now stands accused of massive corruption).”
Independent analysts and intellectuals are worried that PM’s resignation doesn’t mean a lot. Prominent university professor Dr Filip Kovacevic in his recent article in daily newspaper “Vijesti” said that “The person who did not fight for his/her liberation does not know to appreciate its value. The resignation of the long-time Montenegrin authocratic prime minister Milo Djukanovic should have come about as the result of country-wide mass protests. In this way, it appears to be yet another authoritarian game of the domestic and international power-elite.” Internet blogger Stefan Popovic also expressed his concerns: “After they (PM Djukanovic and his close family and friends) bought everything they could (especially the most valuable land), it’s quite convenient to withdraw from power now, leaving career-thirsty colleagues to deal with social problems emerged from his 20 years authocratic rule. Naturally, I expect that no important legislation would be passed without his consent in the future.”
During today’s press conference, Mr Djukanovic listed all the results of his government in recent years and pointed out that he did the best he could in order to foster development and bring the country closer to European Union and NATO. Answering the questions of the journalists, Djukanovic announced that he will now devote himself to a private business, although his past business interests have raised concerns in domestic and international public sphere. (read here his controversial political biography)
As The Economist points out - Montenegro has a lot on its plate. A Serbian newspaper claims that Darko Saric, an alleged cocaine trafficker on trial in absentia, spent some of this year living in a luxury hotel on the Montenegrin coast. Milorad Veljovic, chief of the Serbian police, said that Mr Saric could not be the real boss of the gang, a remark taken to mean that it was a controversial Montenegrin businessman. ….Drugs are not the only issue. In November Italy and Montenegro agreed to build an undersea cable to let Montenegro export electricity. The country does not yet have enough electricity for itself, let alone for export. Plans to build four dams on the Moraca river could solve that. But Darko Pajovic of Green Home, an NGO, says the project would have a bad environmental impact and likens it to an “African scenario of economic development”. Dejan Mijovic of Forum 2010, another activist group, will seek a judicial review. He notes that, in 2015, the region’s energy market will be liberalised. After that, he says, electricity will flow to richer Italy, meaning that Montenegrins will have to pay more for their power despite spending up to €200m ($267m) on the dams.
In a statement to SETimes in October 2009, professor Filip Kovacevic warned that Montenegro is an unreformed one-party state, where the interests of a small group of people, all with close links to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, rule with impunity at the expense of the interests of the vast majority of Montenegrin citizens. We recently published the fragment of a study by prof.Kovacevic, and you can read it here (article: Rhetoric and Reality: Is Montenegrin government really pro-European? )...more...

read more: blogactiv.eu

Ashton, Van Rompuy lead 'renewed' EU interest in Balkans


Published: 14 December 2010

The EU has been suffering from ''Balkan fatigue'' but with the Lisbon Treaty's structures and leaders in place, there is a renewed interest in the region, according to Valentin Inzko, High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). He was speaking to EurActiv Germany.

However, he warned that countries in the region are still a long way from joining the European Union – particularly BiH, where necessary constitutional reforms will not happen any time soon.
Inzko was speaking to EurActiv Germany on the sidelines of a high-level conference on Southeast Europe in Berlin, organised on Saturday (11 December) by the Aspen Institute and the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
After last year's institutional reshaping brought on by the Lisbon Treaty, the EU can now focus on enlargement to the Balkans, he believes, with foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy now firmly in place.
''The structures are becoming clear now. Europe can now focus on issues more intensively. Even in the region, it is becoming clear that personal contributions are important,'' he said.
According to Inzko, the regional situation in the Balkans ''has never been as good as it is now'' but each country will still have to meet all of the EU’s political and economic conditions for enlargement.
Bosnian entities 'should compete'
The EU's Special Representative in Bosnia believes that competition between the country's two entities – the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska – should be encouraged in order to drive economic reform and raise living standards.
''Who has the better economy, the better investment climate? […] You could apply this idea in many areas. We would have positive competition towards best practices. There used to be such a positive atmosphere,'' he explained.
However, any economic progress would need to be matched by political will on both sides, Inzko admitted, referring to the ''German-French'' recipe for moving on from the past.
This involves reconciliation and then economic resurgence along with goal-oriented work and political will, he explained. No mean feat for Bosnia, a country thoroughly divided along ethnic lines and still recovering from the devastating 1992-5 war.
A positive step is set to be made on 15 December at least, when the EU will grant visa-free travel to all Bosnian citizens. People see it as ''a sign that they are welcome in Europe as visitors – as individuals but also as a country,'' Inzko said.
Concerns raised by some EU member states about a surge in asylum seekers following the visa liberalisation are unfounded, he added....more...

read more: euractiv.com

Inzko: Bosnia needs Franco-German recipe


Published: 14 December 2010

The situation in the Western Balkans has never been better and there are signs of progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where competition between the entities could be used positively if it is accompanied by political will, Valentin Inzko, EU High Representative and Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), told EurActiv.de in an interview.

Valentin Inzko is High Representative and EU Special Representative for BiH, a joint position he has held since March 2009. From 2005 to 2009 he served as Austrian ambassador to Slovenia.
On 11 December, Inzko attended a high level conference on Southeast Europe organised by the Aspen Institute and the Austrian Foreign Ministry in Berlin.
He was speaking to EurActi.v.de’s Daniel Tost.

On 3 October general elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). How can four more years of stagnation be prevented?
One should look at the regional situation and the State Presidency of BiH. The regional situation has never been as good as it is now: we have seen important gestures, such as the Srebrenica declaration in the Serbian parliament in Belgrade and President Tadić attending the burial of over 700 victims in Srebrenica in July this year. Even Croatian President Ivo Josipovic has brought a breath of fresh air to the region.
Bakir Izetbegovic also plays an important role as the new Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] member in the Presidency. By apologising for the murder of innocent Serbian victims by Bosniaks, he has contributed to regional reconciliation. Overall, the communication and the atmosphere in the Presidency have changed considerably for the better. We actually have the best situation in the region in the last 20 years....more...
read more: euractiv.com

Serbia seeks probe into Kosovan organ trafficking (video)


20/12 19:43 CET

Serbia has said it is willing to talk with leaders in Pristina over Kosovo’s future status, but have also demanded an investigation into alleged organ trafficking during its drive for independence.
A report last week by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, suggested Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci was behind the illegal trade. Thaci’s vowed to sue.
‘‘Dick Marty must find some good lawyers, if he is able to, to protect him, because under no circumstances will he escape from justice and this crystal clear slander,’‘ he said.
Kidney’s as well as other organs were allegedly taken from Serbs and other opponents of rebel Kosovar forces during Kosovo’s war of succession in 1999.
Serbian President Boris Tadic said the report ‘‘created a completely new situation’‘ and showed there were not only crimes committed by Serbs in Kosovo during the conflict.
Kosovo’s Western-backed prime minister Thaci has vehemently denied the accusations which are alleged to have taken place in neighbouring Albania in the late 1990s.

read more: euronews

Πέμπτη, 23 Δεκεμβρίου 2010

Kosovo's Organized Crime Burden

21 Dec 2010

In Kosovo, the main managers of illicit drugs are the so-called "15 families," which represent the core power of the region, because of their financial clout and political connections.

In a 67-page report published in 2005, BND (German intelligence agency) analysts concluded that there is "close interaction between the leading members of the Kosovo-Albanian society and the domestic and international underworld currently domiciled in Pristina." Moreover, "the criminal networks don't support the creation of a stable political and economic environment, since that will reduce their clout."

What is more interesting is the attest by BND of the "direct involvement of political figures in Kosovo with the Mafia." Thus, the crime kingpins "want to acquire elevated positions within the apparatus of the provisional government and influence directly the politicians."

The German analysts warned for "serious risks from the ongoing corruption in Kosovo in relation to other Balkan countries and the security of the region."

An E.U. report in 2007 underlined the "inability of local officials to put pressure on criminal organizations and the serious risk of collapse of the social system because of the crime issue." The main reason is "the lack of political will by the leadership," which paradoxically is supported by most major European countries. The German report specifically mentioned the name Niam Behzloulzi, a Kosovo smuggler and a number two in the hierarchy of the former UCK.

The Italian newspaper La Republica reported on the Kosovo criminals of their ability to fully exploit the lack of "political culture" in the region and affect every key decision over and above the international force, which does not control the situation. The current leadership under Hashim Thaci is to emerge from the unholy alliance of traffickers in the region and the UCK. Michel Koutouzis, an expert analyst on security issues in Paris has long confirmed that the Pristina government has always been "subject to the power of the Mafiosi who were the largest donors of the KLA rebels and want to keep the region in their own sphere of influence."...more...

Report: West tolerated Kosovo mafia


Published: 16 December 2010

A Council of Europe draft report alleging that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi is a Mafia-style boss spells out a truth that diplomats privately acknowledge: the West in Kosovo has favoured stability over justice.

The crime and corruption given succour by such an approach over the past decade has deterred foreign investment and left Kosovo among the most destitute regions in Europe.
"The international organisations [...] in Kosovo favoured a pragmatic political approach, taking the view that they needed to promote short-term stability at any price, thereby sacrificing some important principles of justice," Dick Marty, rapporteur for the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly committee on legal affairs, wrote in his draft report.
Marty is a Swiss Liberal Democrat, who gained notoriety as Council of Europe rapporteur on US rendition flights and secret prisons, including in Europe.
Diplomats say recent history in a country that remains an international protectorate shows a Faustian bargain for a new state in an unstable region wracked by ethnic wars in the 1990s.
"You have to deal with those who wield the power," said a veteran EU diplomat with long experience in Kosovo. The strategy is "stability first, and then we look at all the other elements of creating a society".
Kosovo has received four billion euros in international aid since the 1999 war. That, plus proceeds from privatisations, along with drug trafficking and other scourges, created huge opportunities for crime and corruption in a country of two million, most of whom are ethnic Albanians, without an effective rule of law.
"There's a lot of thugs around, a lot of criminal activity," said William Walker, a former US diplomat who headed the Organisation for Security and Cooperation mission in Kosovo in the late 1990s.
"I fault the international community as much as the Albanians. They feel that the PDK represents stability," he said of Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi's party, which came first in Sunday's first post-independence election with a third of the vote.
Marty's report said Thaçi served as a mafia-like crime boss during the war, leading a group that committed assassinations, beatings, trafficking in organs and drugs and other crimes. Reportedly, the organ-trafficking ring operated also in Albania, when forced removal of organs was taking place.
"Thaçi and these other 'Drenica Group' members are consistently named as 'key players' in intelligence reports on Kosovo's mafia-like structures of organised crime," said the draft report.
The 'Drenica Group' is named after a valley in Kosovo, traditional heartland of ethnic Albanian resistance to Serb oppression under Slobodan Milosevic, and birthplace of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
"We found that the 'Drenica Group' had as its chief - or, to use the terminology of organised crime networks, its 'boss' - the renowned political operator and perhaps most internationally recognised personality of the KLA, Hashim Thaçi," said the report.
Serbia questioned whether Thaçi could politically survive the allegations.
"I don't know what sort of future this person has," said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić, speaking in Moscow.
EU invites Marty to provide evidence
Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said on Wednesday that the Union's services "take allegations on war crimes and organised crime extremely seriously".
"If the rapporteur, Mr. Marty, has any concrete evidence we invite him to bring this forward to the relevant authorities," she said, later specifying that this included the EU's police and justice mission EULEX.
Kocijancic also indicated that Thaçi was not "untouchable", as his own entourage suggest, hinting at the US support for the former KLA leader.
Kleptocracy rules?
This summer, Kosovo's European Union police and justice mission (EULEX) arrested the central bank governor on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and accepting bribes.
Also, a European Union prosecutor recently named seven suspects in connection with an international organ trafficking network. According to press reports, at least one of them held a high position in Kosovo's health ministry.
"EULEX needs to step up its activity and deliver long-promised arrests of high-ranking corrupt public officials," US Ambassador Christopher Dell said in a confidential cable earlier this year, released last week by Wikileaks.
Otherwise, "we risk that our rule-of-law reforms will fall flat and leave the public with a perception that the government is little more than a kleptocracy," he wrote.
Andy Sparkes, deputy head of EULEX, said the 1,800-person strong organisation was aware of the criticism but had limited resources. "We can't cover absolutely everything. EULEX would like to score more successes, make more of an impact," he said.
Tolerance of official crime and corruption has left the small, southern Balkan country mired in poverty, with nearly half the population officially unemployed.
"It is very serious: we have a decrease of FDI [foreign direct investment], we have a serious decrease of private sector development," said Muhamet Mustafa, an economist who ran for parliament for one of the smaller opposition parties.
"We need a growth rate of more than 7% to take off with the economy, but it is impossible without FDI and more serious investment in the private sector."
Diplomats who do not want to be named say they know of many allegations of high-level crime and corruption in Kosovo, but see far fewer high-level convictions.
"Kosovo has a very poor reputation internationally, therefore can't attract international investment," said a senior international diplomat.
Thaçi has raised eyebrows by building an 800-square metre house just outside the capital Pristina. Earlier this year he told Reuters he had taken out a bank loan to fund the project.
Like other countries emerging from Yugoslavia's collapse, Kosovo aspires to join the EU but is expected to be the last to make the cut. In its 2010 progress report on Kosovo last month, the European Commission was blunt on crime and corruption.
"Available information revealed discrepancies between the income and properties of senior Kosovo officials," the report said. "This indicates widespread corruption at high levels in Kosovo persists. This fact has not been followed up by public debate or investigations of the relevant bodies, showing a distinct lack of political will in fighting corruption."
(EurActiv with Reuters.)
The Albanian judiciary should conduct the investigation in Albania, while in Kosovo the European Union mission should take the lead, Human Rights Watch said.
"The international community can no longer ignore credible allegations of serious crimes in Kosovo and Albania," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "The US and European governments must demand prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations, with prosecutions of those responsible."
"The US and European governments should give EULEX their full financial and political support so it can pursue these difficult investigations," said Roth. "And Washington and Brussels should make clear to the Kosovo and Albanian authorities that closer ties will depend on their commitment to justice."

Kosovo, the smallest Balkan nation, seceded from Serbia in 2008, nine years after the end of a 1998-1999 war between Belgrade's security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. In the following years, Kosovo was an international protectorate patrolled by NATO peacekeepers.
After Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008, the two million-strong republic, 90% of whose population is ethnic Albanian, established many of the trappings of statehood including a new constitution, army, national anthem, flag, passports, identity cards and an intelligence agency.
Most EU countries, except Spain, Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia, have recognized the independence of Kosovo. From all UN members, 69 have recognized Kosovo so far.
On October 2009, the United Nations approved Serbia's request to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) whether Kosovo's secession from Serbia was legal. On 22 July 2010 the ICJ delivered its ruling, which was ambiguous in many ways, but still said that
Kosovo did not violate international law when it claimed secession from Serbia.

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