Κυριακή, 23 Ιανουαρίου 2011

Islamic Headscarves in Legal Limbo: the Controversy over Religious Symbols in Bulgaria’s Public Schools


balkan analysis.com


January 20, 2011
By Professor Kristen Ghodsee*
Editor’s note: In this new article, Balkanalysis.com contributor Dr. Kristen Ghodsee explores the intricacies of Bulgaria’s current debate on head scarves in schools.
The controversy over banning Islamic headscarves in public schools has, until now, largely focused on the situations in France and Turkey where secular governments are carefully trying to maintain a thick wall between church and state. In 2006 this controversy hit home in Bulgaria: the EU member state with the largest Muslim minority (estimated between 13-15%). Complaints regarding discrimination against Islamic religious symbols were filed with the Parliamentary Commission for Protection from Discrimination, the national body that deals with human rights violations. The Commission’s decisions in two key cases as to whether girls should be allowed to wear headscarves in schools have created a legal limbo wherein the state has abdicated its responsibility for interpreting the Bulgarian constitution. Instead, individual headmasters are now allowed to make their own policy regarding religious tolerance in public institutions.
In the first case, two high school students were forbidden to wear headscarves to the Karl Marx Professional Economics secondary school in the southern Bulgarian city of Smolyan. A heated national debate was ignited as two girls challenged a decision of their school’s headmaster. The girls claimed that their rights were violated because they wanted to obtain a secular education in economics while as devout Muslims also continue to wear Islamic headscarves in the classroom....more...

*Kristen Ghodsee is the John S. Osterweis Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College in Maine, and has been conducting ethnographic research on Bulgaria for the last fourteen years. She is the author of two books on post-socialist Bulgaria; The Red Riviera (Duke University Press 2005), and Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria (Princeton University Press 2009), which won the 2010 Association for Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS) Heldt Prize for best book in the field of Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian women’s studies.
Professor Ghodsee’s forthcoming book, Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Communism, will be published by Duke University Press in fall 2011)....more....

read more: balkan analysis


Bosnian Deputies Want Freeze On Politicians' Wages Until Government Formed


radio free europe

January 22, 2011
SARAJEVO -- A group of Bosnian parliament deputies has called for the suspension of salaries for those politicians taking part in talks to form a government following inconclusive general elections in October, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

The deputies say their colleagues have behaved irresponsibly toward the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are being hurt by the deputies' failure to form a government.

They say those involved in the talks must suffer financially because of this failure.

"It is obvious they are not interested in how pensioners and socially endangered categories like the disabled and others are surviving," said Josip Peric, a Bosnian Croat deputy in the parliament's upper house, the House of Peoples.

"Any blockage that threatens the payment of funds to these categories [of people] is unfair and immoral," he said.

Irreconcilable Differences

The Bosnian political scene is split into two blocs with seemingly irreconcilable positions.

On one side is the relative winner of the elections, the largely Muslim but multiethnic and nonnationalist Social Democrats; the country's largest Muslim party; and two smaller Bosnian-Croat parties. All four of the parties are from the Bosnian-Croat Federation.

The second bloc is made up of the two biggest parties from the Republika Srpska, the country's other highly autonomous region; and the biggest Bosnian Croat party, which is advocating the creation of a separate region within Bosnia for its Croats.

While the Republika Srpska has formed its government, the formations of the Bosnian and the federation governments are nowhere near resolution.

Bosnian legislators receive an average salary, including benefits, of 4,200 Bosnian markas ($2,900) per month while the average wage in Bosnia is about $600.

Sasa Magazinovic is a member of the Social Democrats, who say they are trying to break the nationalist mold that many think has blocked Bosnia's progress since the end of the 1992-95 Balkan wars.

He told RFE/RL he fully supported the idea of blocking the deputies' salaries until they form a government.

"I absolutely support this, not just myself but my party as well," he said. "It is in concord with our platform and we welcome this initiative."

The international community, which has supervised Bosnia's peace process and is still deeply engaged in the running of the country, has said Bosnian politicians need to show a greater level of responsibility if they are to be given the full reins to run the country, which aspires to join the European Union.

Vehid Sehic, a civic activist and former head of Bosnia's election commission, says politicians are displaying "social insensitivity."

"Most of the elected and appointed officials are exclusively looking out for their own interests, and they ignore the public interest," Sehic says.

"They are not objective or self-critical and show no interest in sharing the destiny of ordinary people. Unfortunately, they use all means available to secure material gain for themselves, even when they are not working."

read more: radio free europe

Παρασκευή, 14 Ιανουαρίου 2011

TANJUG or TANK?


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Starting off the new year is this interesting news item:
"The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kosovo on Tuesday passed a regulation which prohibits the movement in the province of vehicles with new Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP) license plates inscribed with the first letters of the Kosovo cities on them.The license plates are being issued by MUP since the beginning of 2011, and the regulation was issued by outgoing Interior Minister of Kosovo Bajram Redzepi."

If you thought this originated somewhere in the self-proclaimed "Republic of Kosovo," you would be wrong, however. The source of this story is the Serbian state news agency, Tanjug.

That, by the way, should be written TANJUG, as it stands for "Telegraphic Agency of the New JUGoslavia." With Yugoslavia gone the way of the telegraph, some may question the reason for Tanjug's continued existence. But how then, I ask you, would the Serbian public be brainwashed into accepting the "Republic of Kosovo" as an actual state?

Over the past 15 years or so, I've become intimately acquainted with the Western news media. There is nothing inherently evil about the inverted-pyramid structure of the news story; it does precisely what it was designed to do, leading with the important information and providing the details later. The real trick is choosing the words and phrases to plug into the template. Search engines are a wonderful thing. They can show us how many ostensibly independent and separate news outlets have used the exact same, or sufficiently similar, phrases to describe an event or persons involved, often indicating that the original phrasing came from the same source.

Words have power. Compare the effects of calling someone a "war criminal" or "war crimes indictee" with a more accurate (but oh-so-not-demonizing) "defendant" or "suspect." Designated victims are never "breakaways" or "rebels" - those terms are reserved for the designated enemies. By calling the Muslims of Bosnia "Bosnians" and the Albanians "Kosovars," the Anglophone media have deliberately endorsed these groups' claim to the territories in question. One famous example of how deep this deception went was the 1990s argument that the US should have bombed the Serbs "as soon as they crossed the border" of Bosnia. Given that the Serb presence in Bosnia dates back to the first mention of the word "Bosnia" in recorded history, the US would have needed a time machine for the task...

Long story short, by using the terms such as "Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kosovo" and recognizing Rexhepi as a government official, Tanjug is implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the state declared by the Albanians in the occupied Serbian province. As is the Serbian Secretary for Kosovo-Metohija Oliver Ivanovic, whom the article quotes describing Rexhepi as an "outgoing minister who now holds his mandate only in technical terms.”...more...


read more: gray falcon

Montenegrin lawyers prepare suit against Bishop


serbianna

January 14, 2011 – 3:00 am
Montenegrin lawyers say that Bishop Amfilohije should be persecuted because his statement was humiliating to the ethnic Albanian Muslim, Mehmed Bardi, who wants to demolish a church that is on the mountaintop in Montenegro. President of the Association of Lawyers of Montenegro, Stanko Maric, and former chief of Montenegro’s Supreme Court, Blagota Mitric say that Bishop Amfilohije must be persecuted for issuing an anathema on the Christmas Eve over attempts to demolish a church. “With that statement Amfilohije committed an act against religious and inter ethnic tranquility in the region of Bar in Montenegro,” Maric and Mitric told the daily Pobjeda. Speaking during the Christmas Eve liturgy, Amfilohije was referring to the resurrected church building in Rumija that was demolished by the conquering Muslim Turks when they entered the city of Bar. “Who demolishes’ that cathedral [on Rumija], may God demolish him and his offspring, may the holy cross be his judge,” Amfilohije said.
Anathema is a Christian doctrine that, according to Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco, “literally means the lifting up of something separate” and “Anathema is not final damnation: until death repentance is possible.”
“Thus, the Church excommunicates, expels from her midst (when it is said, ‘Anathema to so-and-so’, that means the same thing as, ‘So-and-so: out of here’), or anathematizes for the same reason that any society does so,” writes Orthodox Bishop Theophan the Recluse. Those who desire to establish a so-called “montenegrin” orthodox church view any attack on Amfilohije as positive, and this particular one on the subject of church anathema relies rather heavily on sophistry – “a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning” – and as such is a soft attack on a legitimate Bishop that stands in the way of the illegitimate and uncanonical activities in Montenegro.
Attacks on Amfilohije on this matter argue as follows: since the Serbian word for anathema (prokletstvo) also means damnation or cursing then there are two sides to the Amfilohije speak: religious side and the civil side which the bigoted Albanian Muslim Mehmed Bardi found offensive.
“One thing is when Amfilohije is cursing those who seek demolition of the church and I can include that in his church-canonical sphere, but that moral reflection is nihilistic because Amfilohije, through the curse on offspring, in unacceptable and unreasonable,” said Mitric to Pobjeda.
In 2008 the church of the Saint Trinity on Rumija, seen below, was again vandalized with graffiti about Albania....more...


read more; serbianna

Croatia, Serbia try to resolve war crimes case


serbianna

Jan 13, 2011
Croatian and Serbian officials met Wednesday in an effort to resolve a case that has inflamed relations between the former wartime foes, that of a Croatian war veteran wanted by Serbia for alleged war crimes.
Tomislav Purda, who fought for the Croatian army during the 1991 Serbo-Croat war, was arrested Jan. 5 in Bosnia on a Serbian warrant issued through Interpol, where he is wanted for war crimes against the injured or sick.
Purda reportedly is accused of killing two Serbian soldiers together with two of his comrades in November 1991 in Vukovar. He is fighting against extradition to Serbia.
The arrest infuriated Croatia, raising tensions with Serbia and prompting the countries’ justice ministers, Drazen Bosnjakovic and Snezana Malovic, to meet in Zagreb.
Justice ministry said the two agreed that Serbia will deliver the copy of its file against Purda to Croatian prosecutors, an indication that it might eventually hand over the case to Croatia.
Relations between Croatia and Serbia, crucial for the stability of Balkans, have vastly improved since the 1991-95 war.
But Purda’s arrest touched many nerves in Croatia as he fought in Vukovar, the eastern city that fell to the Serbs in November 1991 after months of siege and bombardment. For Croats, it’s a symbol of Serb wartime cruelty.
January 12, 2011Associated Press


read more: serbianna

Serbia closer to joining World Trade


serbianna

Jan 12, 2011
Serbia has signed a Bilateral Protocol with the EU which is viewed as an important step in the process of Serbia’s admission into the World Trade Organization or WTO.
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Mladjan Dinkic and the EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht both agreed that the signing of the Bilateral Protocol on market liberalization between Serbia and the EU represents an important step.
“Serbia has made significant progress towards WTO membership, and the EU will continue to strongly support the country’s joining this organization,” De Gucht is quoted as saying after the signing ceremony.
Minister Dinkic said that the signing of the Bilateral Protocol represents “the most important step on the pathway leading to WTO membership, since 60 percent of Serbia’s overall trade and services is realized with the EU member countries,”
“A lot of work still remains to be done, but I am convinced that the talks can be finalized in the next couple of months,” Dinkic said.
Dinkic said that talks are already underway with the US, Brazil, Switzerland, Salvador and Ukraine.
“As for other big countries, I do not think there will be any problems in reaching agreement,” Dinkic said.
World Trade Organization membership reduces barriers to trade thus increasing choice of goods available to produce and consume. Many believe that WTO creates incentives for good governance, economic growth and rising income.
Dinkic also met with the European Commissioner for Regional Development Johannes Hahn to talk about the implementation of the Danube Development Strategy.
Hahn expressed his support for Serbia in implementing this plan.
After the meeting, Dinkic said that “the experiences of European policy in assisting underdeveloped regions in Serbia can teach us a lot, given that in its current budget, and it will stay that way in the EU’s future budget, 10 times more funding have been allocated to underdeveloped areas of the EU.”
“We in Serbia would be advised to follow suit because the regional differences here are a lot bigger than in other states in the EU,” Dinkic said.
Critics say that Danube Development Strategy is not laced with EU funds so it should be of no interest to Serbia.
However, Dinkic replied by saying that “Commissioner Hahn recommended that we take after Poland when using EU funds, because it made the best use of accession funds, and later the EU’s cohesion funds.”
“There is money, but it is important that we here in Serbia know how to attract this money and use it purposefully and help the citizens,” Dinkic added.
Meanwhile, Serbia’s Trade and Services Minister, Slobodan Milosavljevic, said that Serbia needs predictability on the movement of its national currency because predictability allows companies to draw up profitable plans.
“What we certainly need is stability and predictability or at least a higher level of predictability in the movements of the dinar so that we can draw up better plans and monitor and analyze measures implemented in companies and the economy,” said Milosavljevic.
Inflow of foreign funds determines, to a great degree, the value of Serbia’s currency and Milosavljevic believes that such fund inflows depend on investment inflow and privatization.
“A lot will depend on the amount of real funding that will arrive through investment and some further privatizations during the course of 2011. We are expecting somewhere around 3 billion euros in investment,” said Milosavljevic.
Nomura Securities analyst recently noted that Serbia is a great place to invest.
January 12, 2011SERBIANNA


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Spain reaffirms stance on Kosovo


se times

January 13, 2011 – 6:30 am
13 January 2011 10:05 Source: B92
MADRID — Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told her visiting Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremi? on Wednesday that Madrid will not recognize Kosovo.
Jimenez also voiced her support for a speedy start of the announced Belgrade-Priština dialogue.
Spain is one of the five EU member-states that have chosen not to recognize the Kosovo Albanian unilateral independence declaration made three years ago.
This position will not change even after last years advisory opinion rendered by the ICJ, Jimenez told Jeremi?.
Spain’s EFE news agency reported that Kosovo dominated the agenda of the first meeting between the two ministers.
A statement after the meeting said that Jimenez commended Serbia’s constructive stance regarding the dialogue which, both she and her guest agreed, should start as soon as possible and without any conditions.
When it comes to relations between Serbia and Spain, they were described as “excellent”.
Jimenez pledged Spain’s continued support for Serbia’s EU integration bid, and the country’s attempts to become a candidate for membership.
Spain will also assist Serbia in carrying out reforms of its judiciary, legislation and in fighting corruption and organized crime, the statement said.

read more: serbianna

Kosovo: OSCE supports reintegration of repatriated persons


se times

January 13, 2011 – 6:30 am
Human Rights Education Associates 2011-01-12PRISHTINË/PRIŠTINA, 12 January 2011– A new booklet presented by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo today informs about mechanisms at the central and local level to support for repatriated persons in Kosovo.
The booklet targets municipal officials, who are the first point of contact with repatriated persons. The information will help the officials ensure that this vulnerable group gets the necessary support in areas such as civil registration, health, education, employment, social welfare, housing and property-related issues.
“Repatriated persons very often lack basic information on essential public services at their disposal. Without immediate assistance from central and local level institutions, their reintegration in the society can be very difficult,” said Susan Heintz, Director of the OSCE Department for Human Rights and Communities. “The institutions in Kosovo should make more efforts to help repatriated persons access to essential public services. They should allocate funds as necessary, taking into account the specific needs of individuals and families upon their return.”
The OSCE Mission is mandated with the protection and promotion of human rights and communities’ rights. The OSCE Mission published a report on the reintegration of repatriated persons in Kosovo in November 2009 and conducts periodic assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of central and local level institutions in safeguarding the rights of repatriated persons in Kosovo.
The booklet is available in five languages (Albanian, Serbian, Turkish, Romani and English) at: www.osce.org/kosovo

read more: serbianna

Statue tells tale of Turkey-Armenian ties


se times

13/01/2011
The "lifespan" of a monument intended to foster friendship with Armenia underscores Turkey's conflicted attitude.
By Alexander Christie-Miller for Southeast European Times -- 13/01/11


The sculpture of a divided human figure overlooking the city of Kars in eastern Turkey was supposed to symbolise the century-long estrangement of Turks and Armenians, and their yearning for renewed friendship.
But the fate of the 35m-high Statue of Humanity has become symbolic of the conflicting attitudes in Turkey towards reconciliation with its eastern neighbour.
Work began on the monument in 2006. Only, half-completed, it has been earmarked for demolition. On a visit to the city last weekend, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned its fate into an international news story when he labeled the statue an "abomination".
"We wanted to build something that would bring people together," Naif Alibeyoglu, who commissioned the monument while he was mayor of Kars, told SETimes.
The bitterest source of division between the two countries is the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks during World War I. Armenians insist the murders were genocide -- a label Turkey rejects.
Alibeyoglu said the sculpture is a riposte not only to genocide memorials in Armenia, but also to one in the neighbouring Turkish city of Igdir, home of the Genocide Monument and Museum. The 43m-high monument was built in 1997 to commemorate Turks killed by Armenians in the same conflict.
"It was supposed to be an alternative to the genocide monuments, which promote a bad relationship and are designed to divide the two people," he said.
Amid staunch opposition from local nationalists, who view the sculpture as a capitulation to Armenia, construction stopped in 2008. Opponents flagged a supposed planning violation, which has led to the demolition order.
Diplomatic relations have been blocked since 1993, when Armenia went to war with Azerbaijan. Since then, the border on which the monument stands has remained closed.
Protocols aimed at normalising relations signed by both countries' leaders in 2009 have yet to be ratified by either parliament.
But in Kars, which would stand to reap the economic benefits of an open border, the desire for reconciliation is strong.
Kaan Soyan, co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council, said that while the current national trade volume between the countries wavers between $200m-300m dollars a year, this could rise to more than $1 billion if the border opened, half of which would come through cities such as Kars.
The closure stifled the city's natural role as a regional transportation hub, and better relations could prompt an influx of Armenian tourists visiting their historic sites, such as the ruined city of Ani, Soyan said.
"Kars has always been a centre for interrelations between different countries and ethnic groups," he told SETimes. "There needs to be a revival of that old attitude. Ethnic separation never helped any region."

Rober Koptas, editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, says the decision to build the monument, and now to destroy it, had more to do with domestic Turkish politics than the stalled rapprochement with Armenia.
"This was a political statue," he said.
Cengiz Aktar, an international relations professor at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, says the decision to scrap the monument is telling.
"It gives a clear picture how low in the list of prioritie\s Armenia is for the government," he told SETimes.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com

read more: se times

Bosniaks block RS government, petition constitutional court


se times

13/01/2011
Did Republika Srpska violate the right to equal representation?
By Ljiljana Smiljanic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka – 13/01/11


More than three months after elections, obstacles still remain in forming a new government in Republika Srpska. Bosniak MPs protest the appointment of Momir Malic, an ethnic Serb and member of the ruling Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), as Council of Peoples President.
They say the choice of Malic, instead of a Bosniak, breaches the constitutional right of all constituent peoples to equal representation in BiH institutions. Seeking redress from the RS Constitutional Court, the Bosniak Caucus filed suit on Wednesday (January 12th).
A joint committee made up of representatives of Parliament and the Council of Peoples has been unable to reach a compromise, and the standoff continues.
"We don't intend to block RS. The solution to this problem is to fix a mistake in the House of Peoples," said Malic's chief opponent, Mirsad Djapo, said.
No Bosniak, he said, holds any of the six key positions in the RS institutions -- parliament president, prime minister, House of Peoples president, Constitutional and Higher Court presidents, or chief prosecutor.
These positions are filled by Serbs, Croats and one Montenegrin.
Wednesday's meeting sought to find a compromise solution -- appoint a Bosniak to the position chief prosecutor instead -- but failed. Acting chief prosecutor Amir Bukic has recorded his nationality under "other".
Anger has erupted over the impasse, with the majority Serbs charging that Bosniak politicians are striving to undermine the Bosnian Serb entity.
"Bosniaks have shown they do not care about RS interests and it all comes down to making RS weak. They have shown we should not trust them. How can they take their paycheck from RS and act against its interests?" said Marko Pavic, president of the Democratic People's Union, a partner in the ruling coalition.
Opposition Party of Democratic Progress leader Igor Crnadak said it is not specified that any nationality should fill the six positions, except that no nationality can occupy more than two. "Therefore I believe it will be shown the constitution was not violated," Crnadak said.

Bosniaks were given an opportunity for representation on the Council of Peoples, claims SNSD Executive Secretary Rajko Vasic, saying the party is determined not to remove Malic from the post. "Djapo was offered the vice presidency but declined," he said.
Even the Constitutional Court President Mirko Zovko took the unusual step of weighing in on the issue, saying the constitution was not violated since there are no provisions about Bosniaks being represented in any of the six key positions.
While the court wrangles with the issue, the old government continues to carry out day-to-day work.
"The old government can work since the new government can't make any decisions until the RS Constitutional Court gives its ruling on the possible violation of Bosniaks' national interest," newly elected RS Prime Minister Aleksandar Dzombic said.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.read more: se times

The Demolition of the Yugoslav Tribunal


serbianna
Jan 13, 2011
By Edward S. Herman A review of Germinal Chivikov’s book Srebrenica: The Star Witness and the book shows that the Tribunal “does not behave according to the traditions of the rule of law” – it is a political rather than judicial institution, and has played this political role well.

It is not the first work to effectively assail the Tribunal—Laughland’s own book Travesty (Pluto: 2006), and Michael Mandel’s How America Gets Away With Murder (Pluto: 2004) are powerful critiques. But Civikov’s book is unique in its intensive and very effective focus on a single witness, Drazen Erdemovic, and the ICTY’s prosecutors and judges handling of that witness. Erdemovic was the prosecution’s “star witness,” the only one in the trials of various Serb military and political figures to have claimed actual participation in a massacre of Bosnian Muslim prisoners. It is therefore of great interest and importance that Civikov is able to show very convincingly that this key witness was a charlatan, fraud, and mercenary, and that the ICTY’s prosecutors and judges effectively conspired to allow this witness’s extremely dubious and contradictory claims to be accepted without verification or honest challenge.
Erdemovic was a member of a Bosnian Serb military unit, the “10th Sabotage Unit,” an eight-man team of which he claimed shot to death 1,200 Bosnian Muslim prisoners at Branjevo Farm north of Srebrenica in Bosnia on July 16, 1995. Erdemovic confessed to having personally killed 70-100 prisoners. He was initially arrested by Yugoslav authorities on March 3, 1996, and quickly indicted, but was turned over to the ICTY at pressing U.S. and ICTY official request on March 30, 1996, supposedly temporarily, but in fact, permanently. He was himself eventually tried, convicted, and served three and a half years in prison for his crimes. This was a rather short term for an acknowledged killer of 70-100 prisoners, but longer than he had anticipated when he agreed to testify for the ICTY—he had expected complete immunity, as he told Le Figaro reporter Renaud Girard (“Bosnia: Confession of a War Criminal, “ Le Figaro, March 8, 1996). He claimed to have an agreement with the ICTY whereby “in return for his evidence he will be allowed to settle in a Western country with his family. He will enter the box as a witness, not as an accused, and will thus escape all punishment.” But his earlier arrest, indictment and publicity in Yugoslavia may have made some prison term necessary for the ICTY’s credibility. He ended up after his prison term in an unknown location as a “protected witness” of the ICTY. But even before his own sentencing he had begun his role as star witness in the ICTY’s (and U.S. and NATO’s) trials of accused Serbs. He appeared in five such trials, and from beginning to end was taken as a truth-teller by prosecutors, judges, and the mainstream media.
One of the most remarkable and revealing features of the Erdemovic case is that although he named seven individuals who did the killing with him, and two superiors in the chain of command who ordered or failed to stop the crime, not one of these was ever brought into an ICTY court either as an accused killer or to confirm any of Erdemovic’s claims. These co-killers have lived quietly, within easy reach of ICTY jurisdiction, but untroubled by that institution and any demands seemingly imposed by a rule of law. The commander of his unit, Milorad Pelemis, who Erdemovic claimed had given the order to kill, made it clear in an interview published in a Belgrade newspaper in November 2005, that the Hague investigators have never questioned him. He had never gone into hiding, but has lived undisturbed with his wife and children in Belgrade. Nor have ICTY investigators bothered with Brano Gojkovic, a private in the killer team who Erdemovic claimed was somehow in immediate command of the unit (a point never explained by him or prosecutors or judges). Civikov points out that only once did the judges in any of the five trials in which the star witness testified ask the prosecutors whether they were investigating these other killers. The prosecutors assured the judges in 1996 that the others were being investigated, but 14 years later the Office of the Prosecutor had not questioned one of them. And from 1996 onward the judges never came back to the subject....more...


This text was originaly published at the BalkanStudies.org

read more: serbianna

Kosovo – what a mess


transconflict

Given the spate of bad news emerging from Kosovo in recent weeks, the only way forward is for the international community to again attempt to achieve a political solution, this time with Belgrade directly.


By Gerard Gallucci

Though it is winter and should have been a time for nothing much to happen, over the last few weeks Kosovo has produced nothing but bad news. First an election with so much fraud that it required another election to be held in order to fix it. Then a Council of Europe (CoE) report alleging that Kosovo’s top leadership had been involved in organ and people trafficking in 1999-2000. This was followed by another CoE report criticizing Kosovo for its failure to protect witnesses of war crimes. The European and American supporters of Kosovo independence were said to have overlooked these issues in the name of political stability. To top it off, the Kosovo leadership has sought to discredit the Swiss investigator who authored the trafficking report – labeling it as Nazi-like propaganda – and conducted what the Washington Post described as a “witch hunt” against Albanians who aided the investigation.
All this comes at a time when the European Union and UN are standing by to facilitate talks between Belgrade and Pristina that some hoped would lead to negotiations and eventual agreement on the remaining political issues that have blocked Kosovo from moving forward. Fewer than 40% of the UN membership recognizes Kosovo independence despite the recent decision by Qatar (#73) to do so. Five members of the EU continue to refuse recognition. It seems clear that Kosovo will reach the third year anniversary of its independence declaration in February as a still un-finished state. It seems likely as well that it will reach that date without a government, or with one severely weakened by continuing charges of corruption and electoral fraud, a cobbled-together coalition that may not be able to survive a vote of no-confidence and a leadership that few countries, including “friends,” will be eager to embrace. Negotiations on substantive issues under these conditions are unlikely to be fruitful if they occur at all.
How did all this happen? Four reasons emerge: the Quint’s decision to push ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence without the sanction of the UN Security Council and then to seek to brush the UN aside; Serbia’s effective diplomacy to raise questions about the declaration and prevent a landslide of recognitions; the refusal of hardliners among the supporters of independence – especially the US and UK – to accept any form of compromise with Belgrade while they supported Pristina’s efforts to bully Kosovo Serbs into submission; and the US and EU strategy – while exercising leadership of both UNMIK and EULEX – of appeasing the Kosovo Albanians in order to maintain “control” and stability. The “independent” Kosovo was allowed to come into the world with vast problems – political, economic and criminal – swept under the carpet while the Quint focused on seeking to pressure Serbia to simply surrender its claim to the territory.
It would be easy to say that the US/EU effort to force their desired outcome for Kosovo has backfired. But the real issue is now how to move forward with a Kosovo that is not only incomplete but likely to remain so indefinitely without a political settlement both sides will accept and without continued international tutelage for many years to come. There seems only one way forward, for the internationals to make another try to achieve a political solution, this time with Belgrade directly. The Kosovo Albanians cannot keep up their end in any genuine negotiation as long as they pursue their maximalist claim to all of Kosovo on their terms. Indeed, they would have to be strongly constrained during any negotiations from seeking to provoke instability within Kosovo or the region as a “bargaining chip.” The six-member Contact Group – the Quint countries of the US, UK, German, Italy and France plus Russia – should work together with Belgrade on a political accommodation that accepts Kosovo independence as a fact but also recognizes Serbian interests, including economic and commercial and vis-a-vis the Church and the Serbian-majority north. The mess that Kosovo has become requires a new approach to begin cleaning up.
Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008. Gerard is also a member ofTransCconflict’s advisory board. The views expressed in this piece are his own and do not represent the position of any organization. You can read more of Mr. Gallucci’s analysis of current developments in Kosovo and elsewhere by clicking here.

read more: transconflict

Πέμπτη, 13 Ιανουαρίου 2011

Bosnia: Europe’s Time to Act


crisis group

11 Jan 2011

OVERVIEW
After years of hesitancy, European Union (EU) member states should make 2011 the year when the lead international role in Bosnia and Herzegovina shifts from the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to a reinforced EU delegation. Bosnia has outgrown the OHR established in 1995 after the Dayton Peace Agreement and the creation of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC). Today the country needs EU technical assistance and political guidance to become a credible candidate for EU membership, not an international overseer to legislate for it or maintain security. Member states should rapidly install a comprehensive plan to reinforce the EU presence, including an embassy led by a strong ambassador, strengthen the membership perspective and build local credibility. OHR should withdraw from domestic politics and, unless a threat to peace emerges, focus on reviewing past decisions.
Member states should step up the EU’s presence even while Bosnia’s political parties struggle to form entity- and state-level governments more than three months after the 3 October 2010 general elections. Reform is urgently needed to avert political and economic crisis, but the OHR is no longer the entity that can cajole Bosniak, Serb and Croat leaders into change. EU membership perspective can better stimulate a shared vision of the country’s future among its leaders and encourage key reforms needed to improve institutional efficiency. “Enlargement fatigue” and the crisis of the euro should not allow sceptics among member states to undermine Europe’s success at securing stability in the western Balkans in what is a major test of the capability of the new European External Action Service (EEAS) to deliver a more effective common foreign and security policy.
The PIC announced its readiness to close OHR five years ago, but this now seems remote. Slipping calendar deadlines gave way in 2008 to a set of five objectives and two conditions (“five plus two”) – of which Bosnia has completed three of the former and one of the latter. Because the remaining two objectives – division of state property and of defence property – have defied all attempts at a political solution, OHR is likely to remain open throughout 2011, if not longer. Several non-EU PIC members also want to see stronger evidence of leadership from Brussels, notably through greater resource commitment, before handing over the baton.
Solution of the property issues has little bearing on state viability but has become a symbol of Bosnians’ ability to govern on their own. The symbol should not obscure the actual situation: Bosnians do manage their affairs without significant help. While the PIC and Bosnian elites have debated OHR’s fate, much of the transition to domestic responsibility has quietly happened. State institutions have full use of the property they need, despite lack of clear ownership status. The Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) National Assembly passed its own property law in 2010, which is now being challenged at the Bosnian constitutional court. The armed forces have unhindered access to all military facilities and properties. Ownership will have to be established sooner or later, to allow for re-sale and investment, but this is not urgent.
The political scene has also shifted. Most Bosniaks voted for moderate parties in the 2010 elections while those who campaigned on the old issue of defence of the state against Serb challenges lost heavily. In RS, the ruling SNSD conducted a nationalist campaign but did less well than it had hoped. The small Croat population supported its own ethnic parties. Wrangling over the composition of the state government and its agenda has continued into 2011, when governments at state and entity levels – especially in RS – will face massive budget deficits, as the global economic slump belatedly hits Bosnia. Leaders consequently have limited room for intransigence. All major parties are now at least declaratively behind key reforms and speeding up EU integration; none count seriously on OHR intervention to help them with the required tough decisions.
Important PIC stakeholders such as the U.S., the UK and Turkey, together with some domestic elites, worry that Bosnian politicians are not ready to govern on their own (though sovereign Bosnia has been entrusted with a UN Security Council seat) and will be unable to form a functional coalition government, that the RS will attempt secession and violence ensue. They fear OHR closure would trigger the country’s break-up, or at least remove a barrier to moves in that direction. But the OHR is no longer the security guarantor it once was. In the event of a threat to territorial integrity and advised by their on-the-ground ambassadors, the EU, the U.S. and others in the international community could muster the political will and military means to act, whether OHR remains or not; Bosnian politicians who acted irresponsibly would be vulnerable to the same diplomatic and other international mechanisms, including sanctions or, in the extreme case, use of force, as any other national leaders. Meanwhile, however, the OHR gives them an excuse to deflect responsibility for their failures to the international community.
2011 can be the pivotal year during which the EU builds up and the OHR downsizes gradually. For an effective soft transition, EU member states and the key Brussels players – primarily the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (Catherine Ashton) and the European Commission – should take several steps in parallel:
Ashton should name, without extending what is already a six-month delay, a strong ambassador to head the EU Delegation (the formal term for its embassy) in Sarajevo, ideally a former member-state senior official with solid EU experience in, particularly, enlargement issues;
increase significantly the capacities of the Delegation’s political section to advise the ambassador on Bosnian developments, liaise with senior party and government leaders on bringing legal and institutional structures into compliance with EU norms and coordinate the contributions of other EU actors;
create or strengthen the Delegation’s legal, communication, economic and security sections, drawing on other EU staff already in Bosnia and upgrading the field office in Banja Luka; increase the Delegation’s own budget to a level commensurate with its new responsibilities; and
increase funding under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) to levels comparable to those in neigh­bouring countries and consistent with the EU’s stated aim to lead in Bosnia.
Though the EU has long aspired to lead the international effort in Bosnia, member states and other Brussels actors still have to settle differences over timing, strategy, staffing and financing of a reinforced presence and mission. If they cannot do so in early 2011 – starting with a comprehensive discussion by foreign ministers at the 31 January Foreign Affairs Council – and Bosnian officials fail to support the process by making a genuine effort to work towards EU integration, the handover risks being botched. Bosnia could then be left with the worst of both worlds: rivalry between an enfeebled OHR and an EU Delegation struggling ineffectively to assert itself.
To help avoid this, the PIC should:
refocus OHR on its own unfinished business, especially dealing with the cases of Bosnians it has barred from public office, while limiting its use of executive powers to a true emergency;
support the EU’s leading role in Bosnia by agreeing to a transfer of the EU Special Representative (EUSR), currently double-hatted as the High Representative, and that official’s staff to the EU Delegation; and
continue to commit to Bosnia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, support the executive mandate of the EU military force (EUFOR) that took over from NATO in the country and keep the UN Security Council apprised of any threat to the 1995 Dayton Agreement or subsequent Security Council resolutions.
Once freed from its link to OHR, the EU’s diplomatic team should be able to focus on facilitating the political process and helping Bosnia’s disparate communities find the single voice required to interact responsibly with their European neighbours.
Sarajevo/Istanbul/Brussels, 11 January 2011

read more: crisis group

Albania extradites Italian wanted on mafia ties, crimes


xinhua news

English.news.cn 2011-01-12 01:07:06

TIRANA, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Albania extradited to Italy on Tuesday an Italian citizen wanted in his home country for alleged crimes of mafia-style collaboration and drug trafficking.
The Central National Office of Interpol in Tirana said that 59- year-old Albino Prudentino had been put on a flight to Italy at Albania's main Rinas airport early this morning.
An Italian court in Lecce in southern Italy has issued a warrant for Prudentino's arrest in September last year on charges of mafia-style criminal organization, drug trafficking and kidnapping.
A statement from Albania's State Police said Prudentino had allegedly been involved in those activities from 2004 until 2009 in the Italian towns of Mesagne, Ostuni and the vicinity of the town of Brindisi.
An international search warrant issued by Interpol in Rome led to his arrest in Albania at the end of October last year shortly before he was to inaugurate a casino and restaurant in Albania's south-western seaport town of Vlore. ...more...

xinhua news

Albania PM announces taxes for high fees in telecom and banking sectors


xinhua news

English.news.cn 2011-01-11 04:03:26

TIRANA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said on Monday his government will move this year to raise taxes for mobile phone companies and banks charging unjustifiable high fees and tariffs on Albanian consumers.
Comparing the companies to oligarchies, Berisha announced a policy of zero tolerance against them for offloading onto the Albanian customers fees and tariffs that were "too high and unjustifiable," and threatened to impose taxes on them.
Since Berisha came to power in 2005 after eight years in opposition, his government has done little to get the country's four mobile phone companies to lower prices for their over four million subscribers.
"In a friendly way, I voiced a serious concern of my government towards two or three sectors that charge very high and unjustified fees for their services to the Albanian citizens," Berisha said at a joint news conference with the World Bank's Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
"Of course, this is not nice news, but I would like to inform public opinion that the government will move to change the fiscal system towards these sectors in a proportionate and powerful manner," Berisha added.
Arguing that he had expected companies to lower fees after Albania cut profit and personal income tax as well as social security contributions, Berisha said his government would not accept the fact that Albanians pay tariffs that were disproportionate vis-a-vis the market and reality in neighboring markets.
Albania has weathered well the effects of the global financial and economic crisis and its GDP has grown around 3 percent, but its citizens are faced with higher prices of staple food and electricity.
Albania is to hold local elections in May, which will be an important test after the contested parliamentary elections of 2009, so Berisha wants to cast himself as the protector of consumers. His main target was mobile phone companies that charge Albanians fees twice or thrice higher than in the other countries of the Balkan region, although the country's usage of mobile phones was 17 percent higher than the European average.
The four mobile phone operators, which are AMC, owned by Deutsche Telekom and Greece's OTE, Vodafone Albania, Turkish-owned Eagle and Albanian-owned Plus, have more than 4.16 million subscribers in total.
Banks charging high prices for electronic transactions were also the subject of Berisha's anger.
"We cannot accept that electronic transactions are free of charge all over Europe while here they have a high price. This happens at a time when for the sake of developing this market we almost force the citizens to use electronic transactions," Berisha said.
"The duty of the government is to move using the system that makes possible a more honest and just distribution of income," Berisha stressed. "This government will adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards oligarchs and oligarchy."
Editor: yan

xinhua news

Serbia: Extent of communist killings still a mystery


serbianna

January 10, 2011 – 8:42 am
Council of Europe and the EU are into their 5th year waiting for Serbia to provide the list of victims whom communists have murdered during and after the WWII says Serbian professor Jovica Trkulja.
“Serbia took over the responsibility of human rights but is not respecting them,” said Trkulja.
Trkulja says that “the book” of victims that was meticulously maintained by the communist secret service known as OZNA has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.
Historian Srdjan Cvetkovic said that his group – that seeks to uncover depth of the communist terror – has found “millions” of pages maintained by OZNA in which names of those whom communists murdered is listed.
“We are seeking the book,” said Cvetkovic. “It exists, that is what we were told, but it is not in the archive of Serbia.”
Cvetkovic says that 20,000 Serbs were “liquidated” by the communists in the period of 1944 to 1946. The “book” lists the most basic information on them such as the name, birth and place of living.
The most frequently listed reason for murder was “enemy of the people” or “chetnik ally”.


MacDowell of the US Ranger Mission behind him inspecting the troops.
Cvetkovic says that a large number of those whom communists killed were students and underage Serbs. Only 1% of the 20,000 had any kind of court proceedings, meaning that the vast number of people whom communists killed were not found guilty of anything.
One such person is Serbia’s General Mihailovich who was betrayed by his western allies and shackled by communists for his valiant stand against tyrants, the Nazis and the communists.
General Mihailovich was executed after a sham trial and there is an active search for his remains.
Yesterday, media in Serbia has reported that one former OZNA agent volunteered his information to the authorities and testified that he was present at the execution of General Mihailovich.
This former communist agent said in his testimony, apparently given in December of 2010, that he saw how General Mihailovich was shot in the back of the head from a pistol from a close range.
He gave a detailed account of everyone that was the witness of General Mihailovich’s slaying and said that he also witnessed how General Mihailovich’s body was dumped in a hole by the wall of the prison where communists kept their victims.
Based on his account, experts say that they may soon find the body of Europe’s first WWII freedom fighter....more...


read more: serbianna

Turkey releases organ extractor


serbianna

Jan 11, 2011
The court in Turkey has released Yusuf Somnez who was arrested yesterday on evidence that he took part in Albanian-led organ extraction in Kosovo.
Somnez denied any involvement in organ extraction.
Turkey does not extradite their citizens to other countries where they commit crimes.
Turkish police in Istanbul arrested Yusuf Sonmez yesterday under suspicion that he acted as the chief organ extractor of kidnapped Serbs in Kosovo that was organized by the Albanian separatist leadership lead by Hashim Thaci.
Turkish agency, Anadolia, reports that Sonmez was arrested under suspicion that he took part in organ extraction of Kosovo Serbs.
Sonmez is also suspected of being a high ranking kernel in the international trade in human organs.
Anadolia agency reported his arrest under title “Doctor Frankenstein arrested”.
Sonmez said that everything he did was legal and that he is not a part of any criminal group.
Kristiina Herodes, spokeswoman for European Union police in Kosovo, welcomed Sonmez’s arrest and said it was carried out based on the Pristina warrant. She said it was too early to comment on whether he would be extradited.
Herodes said the EU prosecutor in charge of the case, Jonathan Ratel, was working closely with Turkish judicial authorities on parallel investigations in Kosovo and Turkey.
denied any wrongdoing in the Kosovo case.
“I am being shown as the biggest criminal and even the leader of a criminal gang,” he wrote. “If I am the gang leader, where are my men?”

EU prosecutor said last week that, besides kidnapped Serbs, a large number of poor people came to Kosovo from abroad so that Sonmez can take out their organs.
These volunteers were offered $20,000 for an organ and extraction was done in a Pristina medical clinic called Medicus. The Medicus clinic is owned by an ethnic Albanian Lutfi Dervishi.
EULEX had an international warrant for Sonmez’s arrest.
Council of Europe report authored by Dick Marty mentions Medicus as the offspring of Albanian separatist organized crime activity in the sphere of organ extraction.
“This criminal activity [organ extraction], which developed with the benefit of the chaos prevailing in the region, at the initiative of certain KLA militia leaders linked to organised crime, has continued, albeit in other forms, until today, as demonstrated by an investigation being carried out by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) relating to the Medicus clinic in Pristina,” says the Council of Europe report.
Council of Europe report also says that investigation in Medicus and in Albanian organ trade has been deliberately made hard by some EU countries and countries implicated in invasion of Serbia’s Kosovo province.

A further investigation, also carried out by EULEX, into the case of the Medicus Clinic in Pristina, has been made similarly difficult by the delays on the part of the authorities of several Council of Europe member and observer countries in responding to EULEX requests for international legal assistance. Considering the gravity of the acts alleged – trafficking in human organs, no less – such delays are incomprehensible and unconscionable,” states the Council of Europe report.
Albanian separatist leaders have all condemned the Council of Europe report and denied that they are implicated in any criminal activity.
Turkish media says that Thaci was a close associate of Somnez and that Thaci opened doors for Somnez’s morbid business of organ extraction.
After Thaci’s Albanian gunmen seized power in Serbia’s Kosovo province, Somnez offered poor people up to $20,000 for an organ, mostly kidneys, and his “patients” were mostly from Turkey or the Turkish speaking regions like Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan.
Some years ago, Somnez’s license was taken away in Turkey and because of that authorities say that he was very careful and that he sent his victims to Kosovo where an ethnic Albanian clinic, Medicus, took over the organ extraction procedure.
At the Medicus, six ethnic Albanians took part in organ extraction, one among which was Ilir Recaj who also worked at the the Kosovo Albanian separatist “ministry” of health.
Once the organ was taken out by Medicus the “patient” was never paid.
Buyers of these organs were from Israel, Canada and Germany and evidence shows that an Israeli lawyer paid $180,000 for a kidney.
Turkish daily Milijet wrote last year that “No such operation in Kosovo could pass without Hashim Thaci’s knowledge”.
Turkish intelligence notes that the name of Hashim Thaci appears 27 times in relation to the organ extractor Somnaz.
Somnaz was running away from the law for over a year and his Istanbul clinic was shut down.
Somnaz is married to a Lithuanian and has a Lithuanian passport and he hid inside the EU countries using the Lithuanian passport.
Somnaz was arrested on Tuesday around 3 pm and questioned extensively.
January 11, 2011...more....


read more: serbianna


Kosovo Albanian elections had “serious flaws”


serbianna

Jan 11, 2011
The delegation of the European Parliament (EP) said that the Kosovo Albanian parliamentary elections held on December 12 and January 9 were characterized by several serious flaws.
The delegation said that the fraudulence indicates lack of political will with regard to staging proper elections that would be in line with international standards and good electoral practice.
Kosovo is controlled by violent ethnic Albanian separatists whose leader, Thaci, has been named as the mastermind of organ extraction as well as heroin trade and female slavery.
In a release issued following the repeat of elections in five Kosovo municipalities, the EP delegation noted that elections passed peacefully, despite the reports on electoral frauds and intimidation.
The delegation will state its conclusions once the final assessment of the performance by local and international observers has been made.
According to the release, the EP delegation is encouraging the Central Electoral Commission to complete the election related activities as soon as possible, and to provide a transparent and detailed report on the results.
The EP delegation also stated that the work of the Elections Complaints and Appeals Panel has notably improved, and that steps have been taken to put an end to the tradition of non punishing election irregularities.
The delegation expressed regret over the serious violations of the December 12 elections in several municipalities and the delayed completion of the election related activities.
Serbia’s State Secretary for Kosovo Oliver Ivanovic said that reports by two Council of Europe members, Dick Marty and Jean Charles Gardetto, should give the full picture regarding the rule of law in Kosovo and incite the EU Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to action, Serbia’s State Secretary for Kosovo Oliver Ivanovic said Tuesday.
Dick Marty’s report names the “elected” Albanian separatist leader Hashim Thaci as the boss of the organized Albanian criminal activity whose reach extends deep into Europe.
Gardetto’s report notes that witnesses to these crimes are in danger of their life.
Thaci recently threatened to release names of witnesses to his criminal activity.
TanjugJanuary 11, 2011...more...

read more: serbianna


EU, Serbia reach deal on WTO membership


serbianna

Jan 11, 2011
The European Union and Serbia say they have reached a deal that could pave a way for the Balkan nation to join the World Trade Organization this year or next.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, who signed the agreement, says Serbia is making strong progress toward WTO membership, “and the EU remains a strong supporter of its swift WTO accession.”
Serbia has been trying to get into the WTO since 2004.
Deputy Prime Minister Mladjan Dinkic said on Tuesday that the accord with the EU, Serbia’s largest trading partner, represents a significant step closer to the final goal. It will help Serbia finalize negotiations with a number of other countries, including the United States, he said.
January 11, 2011Associated Press...more...


read more: serbianna

Denmark, Serbia sign bilateral military agreement


serbianna

Jan 11, 2011
Serbia and Denmark on Monday signed a bilateral military agreement that would better equip the Air Force of Serbia to participate in international peacekeeping missions, reported the Serbian news agency Tanjug.
The bilateral cooperation plan, which encompasses 30 activities, was signed on Monday in Belgrade by Serbian Defense Ministry official Milorad Peric and Kristian Fischer of the Danish Defense Ministry.
Along with the logistics training for the Serbian air force, the Danes would also provide training for search and rescue missions and agreed to finance the education of a Serbian officer at the regional peacekeeping operations in Sarajevo, said Peric.
Expressing support for Serbia’s bid for European Union membership, visiting Denmark’s Defense Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech stressed the importance of Serbia’s role in regional security in the Balkans.
To date, Denmark has donated more than 3 million Euros (about 3. 9 million U.S. dollars) to the Serbian military, said Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac.
January 11, 2011XINHUA...more...


read more: serbianna


Thaci, others were investigated for heroin


serbianna

Jan 11, 2011
Kosovo Albanian leader, Hashim Thaci, and several other Albanian separatists in the Balkans were under investigation by the Swiss authorities in 1998 for involvement in heroin trade reports Skopje daily Vreme citing Swiss source Tan.
“Ali Ahmeti, Fazli Veliu and Bardi Mahmuti, together with the Kosovo… Hashim Thaci, were under investigation by the Swiss authorities for heroin smuggling,” writes Vreme.


Reporters for Vreme say that they attempted to contact Ahmeti and Veliu but these men declined to answer their calls.
Instead, the reporters got a statement of their “follower” Safet Neziri who accused the media of an anti-Albanian campaign aiming to discredit the Albanian terrorist organization the KLA.
“We are witnesses of an unfair campaign from various services and criminals that are already lasting several months. They aim to blacken DUI [Democratic Union for Integration] and general achievements of KLA. Those are insinuations from various [intelligence] services: whether UDBA or others,” said Neziri to Vreme.
UDBA is the former communist Yugoslav secret service whose name was changed several times over the years.
Former Yugoslav secret service, Bozidar Spasic, recently said that he possesses documents which indicate that numerous Kosovo Albanian separatists and the ones in Macedonia worked for the agency.
“Large number of Albanians that are currently in power in Macedonia and Kosovo were active in the SDB service and for them, especially in Kosovo, which represents a very serious problem. If that issue gets out in the open, I believe that all of them will kill one another and Kosovo will collapse,” said Spasic.
Last week, former leader of the KLA splinter group, Gafur Adili, told the Albanian TV network, Alb, that he has documents which prove that Ahmeti was a Yugoslav spy and that Ahmeti made an agreement with Macedonia’s leader as to when to start a war in that country.
“According to the information that I have from people that are alive, but the one I will not publicize today, but there will be time when I will announce their names, in Podgradec a deal was made on the beginning of war in Macedonia,” Adili told the Albanian TV.
Albanian separatists and Macedonia’s forces attacked one another in 2001.
Adili also said that he has documents that prove Ahmeti’s cooperation with “UDBA”.
In September of 2010, Adili wrote an article in which he says that “even the Tirana newspaper SHQIP” had written that Ahmeti’s uncle Fazli Veliu has served the Yugoslav secret service.
Adili also alleges that other “prominent” Albanians that were Ahmeti’s associates have accidentally died and that Ahmeti gave 100,000 German marks for weapons. Adili says that the money was “amassed” by Avni Elmazi, from a Sermove village near Gostivar, through fellow Albanians in Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
January 11, 2011SERBIANNA...more...


read more: serbianna

Serbia’s Sandzak amid bitter Muslim divide


serbianna

Jan 10, 2011
Overwhelmed by cheap Chinese competition and divided by rival Muslim groups, Serbia’s once-thriving Sandzak region is languishing in a deep economic and social malaise that has sparked the first calls for autonomy.
The remote area tucked between Kosovo and Montenegro was once the centre of the Balkans’ black-market textile industry, with factories churning out high-quality replicas of brand-name jeans and shoes to hungry local markets squeezed by sanctions.
But today its main city Novi Pazar is a picture of decline, with many factories standing idle and more than 50 percent of the population estimated at 400,000 to 500,000 unemployed, local officials said.
Teenagers hang around in the city’s main square with little to do. Most are glum about their future prospects, and complain about politicians who promise more than they deliver and “muftis who drive around in BMWs or SUVs”.
“My impression is that everything is at a stand-still,” said a woman in her 40s who gave her name as Azra.
“This is a catastrophe. All most young people think about is going abroad. Some have turned to drugs,” she said.
Much of the economic malaise is put down to the lifting of economic sanctions following the ouster of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, which allowed cheap Chinese and Turkish imports to compete with local products.
In the 1990s as ethnic wars raged in Bosnia and Croatia following the breakup of the old Yugoslav federation, the Sandzak region carved out a profitable niche supplying black-market goods for Serbia and Montenegro, which were under international sanctions for fueling the fighting.
Now, business leaders are pinning their hopes on the European market, with Serbia working to obtain European Union candidate status next year.
“Our principal trump card is that we are in Europe. We can make smaller batches and export quickly,” said Tigrin Kacar, a local businessman.
The economic crisis, however, has fanned internal tensions in the predominantly Muslim Sandzak region — which borders Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 in a move not recognised by Belgrade.
In recent years, a bitter battle has been waged for influence among Sandzak’s Muslim religious community, stoked by two rival muftis. So far incidents have been minor, mainly skirmishes over rival property claims.
On one side of the divide is a group led by Adem Zilkic, which is based in the capital Belgrade and recognised by the Serbian government as the official interlocutor for the country’s Muslims.
But his influence is being undercut by the mufti of Novi Pazar, Muamer Zukorlic, who accuses his rival of kowtowing to Belgrade and who set up a rival organisation in 2007.
Zukorlic recognises the spiritual authority of Mustafa Ceric, the mufti of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which was the center of the former Yugoslavia’s scattered Muslim community before the bloody break-up in the 1990s.
In recent weeks, Zukorlic has called for autonomy for the Sandzak region, saying that the “Bosniaks (Muslims of Slav origin) are the only people of Europe who do not have their own exclusive state.”
“We are asking that Serbia give us a degree of sovereignty, within the framework of constitutional order,” Zukorlic said, adding that this initiative “does not mean ethnic autonomy, but autonomy for a multi-ethnic region,” with a Serb minority.
This is a “test of mutual confidence between the Serb authorities and the Bosniaks” but “Serb authorities are showing no confidence, not granting us the slightest degree of autonomy,” he complained.
The rift between the two Muslim communities — unusual in a region more used to inter-ethnic conflict — is growing and Zukorlic has even invited the European Union to send a monitoring mission to the area. Brussels has not officially responded to the request.
For residents like Azra, the clash is a major concern.
“Relations between Serbs and Muslims are better then among the Muslims themselves,” she said.
Bisera Seceragic of the local branch of the European Movement in Serbia, a non-governmental organisation focused on pushing Serbia closer to the EU, argued that Sandzak’s economic problems were more pressing than the dispute among Muslims.
“We are a region on Serbia’s outskirts on the border with Kosovo,” she said.
“One in two inhabitants lives below the poverty line. One in seven eats in local soup kitchens,” she said.
Semiha Kacar, from a local rights organisation, said the government needed to improve infrastructure and open up the region to attract investors.
“This region has not been treated the same as the other parts of Serbia,” Kacar said.
AFPJanuary 11, 2011...more...

read more: serbianna


Mufti calls for inter-religious peace in Kosovo


se times

12/01/2011
In an exclusive interview, Mufti Naim Ternava discusses co-existence and the nature of Islam.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina – 12/01/11


The head of the Kosovo Islamic Community, Mufti Naim Ternava, believes the country's independence has created better opportunities for all religious communities to exercise their beliefs freely and to foster better regional co-operation.
In an interview with SETimes, Ternava said that because the Islamic community is the biggest in Kosovo, it bears the most responsibility.
"That's why I feel good when security and inter-religious peace reigns in Kosovo," he said, adding that peace and security are important to all faiths.
During the 1998-1999 conflict with Slobodan Milosevic's forces, mosques were destroyed and as many as 37 imams killed. Today, in an independent Kosovo, the Islamic community feels safe, secure and respected. Still, Ternava said, some issues remain.
"The judicial position of the religious communities has not been clarified," he said. "There is not enough space given to us to contribute in fighting against negative phenomena."
The community wants religion added to public school curricula, for girls to be allowed to wear veils in school, and for more infrastructure to be built for the Islamic Community, he said.
"We are calling it traditional Islam," Mufti Ternava said when asked about the type of Islam practiced in Kosovo. "We have the right to call it that; it is genuine, clean."There is no need to give Islam another image depending on the country, the space where believers live."
He rejected allegations that radicals from outside the country are exerting influence. In the period after the war, he acknowledged, various associations entered and were active in Kosovo, and some of their members attempted to indoctrinate young people.
"It is true that ... anyone could come in and out without control for a long time; uninvited people -- from East and West -- who didn't want the best [for] Kosovo came in as well," he said.

But that has changed. Today, he insisted, Kosovo's Islamic community "is consolidated: we have no foreigners in, we are all Kosovars. It has made it impossible for some individuals and groups to have success in Kosovo."
While the Kosovo Islamic Community "does not control the borders", the mufti said he has called on local and international institutions to be more vigilant in tracking who comes in and out of the country. Islam espouses peace and prosperity for all and opposes violence, Ternava said.
"Islam has nothing in common with terror, fundamentalism, the killing of innocent people. That is against the norms of Islam," he said. Religious co-existence, he adds, is natural and something that has been forged over the centuries.
In Kosovo "we have families of two different religions, living under the same roof," he noted. But he said he opposes "attempts by some missionaries working to convert Muslims into Christians", saying individuals must be able to choose their religion.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com....more...

read more: se times

NATO mission in Macedonia: from military to civilian



se times


12/01/2011
Its security tasks in Macedonia done, the Alliance will now focus on assisting the defence reform process.
By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje – 12/01/11


NATO troops have left Macedonia with the change of the Alliance's mission there from military to civilian. The move is being widely heralded as a sign that the country is secure and ready for NATO membership.
At a December 28th ceremony, NATO's military representative to Macedonia, General David Humar, symbolically presented the keys of Camp Able Sentry -- located at Skopje's Alexander the Great Airport -- to Defence Minister Zoran Konjanovski.
"This act is a confirmation that Macedonia significantly advanced its defence and security. I hope that in 2011 the name issue will be solved and you will become a full-fledged member of NATO," Humar said.
The change in mission means that the Alliance will now focus mostly on assisting reforms in the Macedonian military. The remaining NATO personnel are now located at the defence ministry.
A spokesman for the ministry, Sasko Dimov, told SETimes that co-operation over the past 11 years has been based on a multitude of joint projects and a dedication to implementing reforms.
"This year we received excellent marks from NATO [Headquarters] in Brussels for the achieved reforms but also from the defence ministers [of countries] with which Macedonia continually co-operates," he said. "Within that context is NATO's troop withdrawal from its headquarters in Skopje. It speaks clearly about our readiness to become immediately a full-fledged member of the Alliance."
Konjanovski said the Macedonia-NATO partnership has now been raised to a higher level, one significant to the stability and security of the entire region. He added that "the principled partnership between Macedonia and NATO was proven not only here but also in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan".
"We are always there when the Alliance needs us," he added.


Over the years, public reaction to NATO's presence was generally positive. "Our country went through a more or less turbulent period and the co-operation with NATO represented a strong partnership that greatly contributed to strengthening the peace, stability and security in Macedonia and the entire region," Skopje resident Ljuben Lazarovski, 64, told SETimes.
Military analyst Petar Shkrbina says the NATO troop withdrawal from Macedonia is a logical consequence to developments in Kosovo, where 3,000 troops are expected to leave in March.
"NATO's rear headquarters in Macedonia was tasked with securing logistical support for the KFOR troops in Kosovo, but since EULEX took over that mission, there is no more need for activities by the Alliance's military team in Skopje," Shkrbina told SETimes. "The advisory NATO team, which will remain in Macedonia, will work on reforms, but that is a completely different organisational unit, apart from the military mission thus far."
"All this is a positive signal that the region is stable," he added.
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Wiretapping scandal shakes Bulgaria


se times

11/01/2011
A scandal erupted last week when a local tabloid published leaked transcripts from wiretaps.
(Various sources -- 05/01/11 - 11/01/11)


At least one person will be charged with disclosing a state secret in recently leaked transcripts from wiretaps featuring senior Bulgarian officials, local media reported on Monday (January 10th).
The scandal erupted five days earlier when the Sofia-based Galeria weekly published the contents of three telephone conversations Bulgarian customs head Vanyo Tanov allegedly had with his superiors -- Finance Minister Simeon Djankov and his deputy, Vladislav Goranov.
Galeria claimed last week that it had received the transcripts on a USB flash drive from an anonymous source in late December.
The tapes, reportedly recorded in May last year, revealed Tanov and the finance ministry's tense relations with Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. In one of his conversations with Djankov, the customs chief hinted that the interior minister had tried to shield certain companies from being sanctioned for violations of the customs rules.
Nearly a week since the transcripts were made public, there is no official information as to why Tanov's phone was tapped. According to press reports Monday, the investigation prompted by the leak has established that the tapes were made with the use of special surveillance.
Under Bulgarian law, the application of wiretapping or similar devices requires a prosecutor's warrant and is permitted only in cases when they constitute the only means of revealing or preventing serious crimes, or in operations linked to protecting national security.
If the gathered information provides no grounds for initiating legal proceedings, the recordings must be destroyed within ten days of termination of the operation.
Tanov, who headed Bulgaria's anti-organised crime police until 2007, said in an interview in late December that he had been able to prevent a plot aimed at discrediting him. He said he received a tip-off that someone was ordered to place smuggled cigarettes in his son's car.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov indicated last week that he was aware of the tapes' existence.
He also said he sees nothing wrong in the spying on members of his cabinet or other senior officials, arguing that the European Commission has repeatedly criticised Bulgaria for failing to deal with high-level corruption.
"All spying is done with a prosecutor's and court warrant, as provided by law," the prime minister and leader of the ruling centre-right party Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) said. "Ministers must work knowing they are watched all the time."


No one has the right to use special surveillance devices as a preventive measure, Ivan Kostov, the leader of the rightist Democrats for Strong Bulgaria party, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2001, said on Monday. He urged the parliamentary subcommittee supervising the use of special surveillance means to conduct a thorough analysis of the case.
Meanwhile, the conservative Order, Law and Justice Party made public on Monday the contents of Tanov's alleged wiretapped telephone conversations with two key GERB lawmakers, Iskra Fidosova and Menda Stoyanova.
The two are the heads of parliament's legal and finance committees, respectively.
Tanov said on Tuesday that the published text of his conversation with Stoyanova was edited and none of it corresponds to the truth.
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