Sunday, December 26, 2010
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
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Bosnia and Herzegovina's main goals in 2011 are to meet all the conditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and to quickly process its expected application for EU membership, which needs to be forwarded by the Council of Ministers to the European Commission for assessment.
To achieve these goals Bosnia will need to have a government in Sarajevo capable of running the country and implementing necessary reforms. Unfortunately, almost three months after the last general elections, there are no signs of such a government being formed in the near future. On the contrary: two ethnic blocks – Bosniak-Muslim parties on the one hand, Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat parties on the other – are solidifying. Zeljko Pantelic
Bulgaria's presidential elections will be the centrepiece of the country's 2011 political calendar. The governing party GERB remains high in approval ratings and its candidate stands the best chance of winning, although the party has steadily lost support due to broken election promises and a worsening economic situation.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov says GERB's likely presidential candidate will be interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, his number two in the party and in government. Mr Tsvetanov's image has, however, been tainted by an unconvincing attempt to explain how he acquired six apartments in Sofia after entering politics in 2006.
Bulgaria is likely to have its admission to the border-free Schengen zone delayed due to French, German and Belgian objections.
The country's economic recovery is expected to accelerate next year mainly due to increasing exports, but this will not immediately translate into improving living standards as internal demand will be suppressed by austerity measures to narrow fiscal deficit to 2.5 percent.
Many economists are sceptical that the government will be able to attain this deficit goal. Even if it does manage to, it will cause economic pain and is likely to further undermine GERB's popularity and create a basis for the fragmented and weak opposition to boost its position.
The main opposition Socialist Party has been slowly but steadily gaining in the polls. There are signs of a possible consolidation among the small and cantankerous right-wing groups, which will be trying to profile themselves as a right-wing alternative to Mr Borisov. It is conceivable that, like his predecessors, Mr Borisov will have to replace some of his ministers to appease rising discontent. Vesselin Zhelev
Croatia is entering yet another year with high hopes of concluding its marathon EU accession talks. With former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader behind bars in Austria and wanted for extradition, and with a deputy prime minister and one former minister already convicted for corruption, Croatia is delivering what the EU wants: "A convincing track record of conviction for cases of corruption at the highest level."
Croatia and the EU will conclude negotiations and sign the accession treaty in 2011. To secure this, Zagreb may have to close some of its five shipyards and will have to continue fight corruption at all levels. The EU has stated clearly that it does not want more cases like Bulgaria and Romania. The new EU mantra is: "Only those who are 100 percent ready can join." Augustin Palokaj
Europe's youngest state is not advancing towards the EU and faces increasing difficulties at home. Kosova has became exactly what the EU does not want it to be; a black hole in the Western Balkan region.
Its citizens can hardly travel anywhere without a visa. Fraud and other irregularities in the first parliamentary elections, organised crime and widespread corruption are making outside assistance increasingly difficult. At the same time, the EU and its 2,000 officials in Kosova will come under growing pressure to show concrete results in 2011.
Kosova will start its EU-sponsored dialogue with Serbia but this will not change anything. A possible trade agreement with the EU will not have a substantial practical effect either. None of the five EU countries that currently refuse to recognise Kosova are expected to change their positions in 2011, and Kosova will not became a member of FIFA or UEFA.
Unless there are some positive surprises, 2011 does not look a bright prospect for Kosova. Augustin Palokaj
The biggest issue for the Macedonian political scene in 2011 is yet again the name dispute with Greece. Athens and Skopje have been negotiating the issue under UN auspices since 1995, but without any result.
The planned erection of a giant statue of Alexander the Great in the middle of Skopje's main square will make it even harder to find a compromise with Athens. There is unlikely to be a solution to the dispute next year, and Macedonia risks remaining an EU candidate without a date for accession talks.
The country will disappear from the EU agenda and, warn MEPs such as Zoran Thaler or Yorgo Chatzimarkakis, this could destabilise the country where the 25 percent Albanian minority insists on rapid EU and NATO integration.
The Albanian question will likely surface once again, in ways to tackle the growing stagnation among Albanians living in Malesia, Ulqin, and Plava & Gusija. The exclusion of Albanians from Montenegro's political and social mainstream will certainly create uneasiness in 2011, as evidenced by the increased political activities in the U.S. diaspora during 2010. If Montenegro wishes to close the minority rights' 'chapters' en route to EU accession, it must seriously make inroads with its Albanian population.
Romania still hopes to be accepted into the EU's border-free Schengen area next year, although it remains unlikely until at least the spring. This date was unrealistic from the start, and became more so after some EU heavyweights began to question the wisdom of entrusting Romania (and neighbouring Bulgaria) with guarding and policing the EU's eastern external borders.
After the December EU summit, France and Germany sent a letter to the commission to that effect. France also bears a grudge towards Romania following the 'Roma affair'. Romania will certainly not join the Schengen zone early. Dan Alexe)
In the best case scenario, Serbia could become an official candidate for EU membership at the end of 2011. The country's Serbian leadership is also hoping to obtain a date for starting accession negotiations with the EU and to become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Candidate status is within reach if Serbia arrests the former Bosnian-Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who is wanted for war crimes and genocide by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. However, a starting date for the talks is unrealistic.
Deteriorating living standards in 2011 and an eventual failure to get EU candidate status could provoke new tensions in relations with Kosova before general elections, which are foreseen for spring 2012. Zeljko Pantelic.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:28 PM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This is Djukanovic's second withdrawal after he stepped down as prime minister in 2006. He subsequently returned to office in February 2008. Before that departure, Djukanovic served three consecutive terms as prime minister, from 1991 to 1998, and was the country's president from 1998 to 2002.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 10:03 AM
Monday, December 20, 2010
The newspaper writes that Djukanovic is prepared to resign on Tuesday and a new government headed by Finance Minister Igor Luksic will be quickly formed. Djukanovic, 48, is due to announce his decision to the public at a news conference, sources from his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) confirmed.
The leadership of the Democratic Party of Socialists, Montenegro's ruling party, will hold a meeting on Tuesday and the prime minister will present his reasons for resigning, the daily writes.
If Djukanovic does withdraw, it will be his second withdrawal since he stepped down as prime minister in 2006. He subsequently returned to office in February 2008. Before that departure, Djukanovic served three consecutive terms as prime minister, from 1991 to 1998, and was the country's president from 1998 to 2002.
As Luksic is a close ally of Djukanovic, the changes in the cabinet are not expected to be major and should be approved by the parliament before the end of the year. Luksic, an economic expert, is expected to help the country implement reforms necessary for Montenegro to open accession talks with the European Union.
Djukanovic has long been dogged by suspicions that he was involved in tobacco smuggling in the region, and has been investigated by Italian prosecutors.
In a book titled 'Mafia Export', Francesco Forgione, a former Italian MP who led the Italian parliament's anti-mafia commission from 2006 to 2008, sheds light on organised crime and cites the Montenegrin mafia and Djukanovic as two of the organisers of an international cigarette smuggling route between 1994 and 2000.
Forgione also claims that Djukanovic has not testified more often before the Italian courts in a long-running tobacco smuggling case because he is protected by the immunity granted by his position.
The prosecutor in Bari, Giuseppe Scelsi, has included Djukanovic in his investigation because of the prime minister's alleged role in the smuggling. The trial began in November 2001. Djukanovic went to Bari in March 2008 to answer questions from the prosecution. Soon after that, the case as it concerned him was suspended when he became prime minister in February 2008.
“Milo Djukanovic is protected by immunity while he is the prime minister and head of government. The moment he no longer has immunity, he will be able to be tried in a special trial. The trial will be different from the one that involves seven citizens from Montenegro and Serbia, which began on November 11 ,” Scelsi told Podgorica daily Dan in November 2009.
Djukanovic was 29 years old when he became the youngest prime minister in Europe in 1991. He was elected Montenegro president in 1998, before again assuming the premier's job in 2002 and 2008. He is the longest serving Balkan leader.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 3:06 PM
Friday, December 17, 2010
The statement 'went automatically,' without discussion, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told the German Press Agency dpa.
The decision 'underlines the conviction within the council (of current EU states) that the countries of the Western Balkans have a European vocation,' said Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
The tiny Balkan state of 650,000 inhabitants only broke away from Serbia in 2006, but EU officials say that it has already made enough reforms to count as a possible future member, although they want more progress before membership talks actually start.
Montenegro thus joins Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia and Turkey on the road towards EU membership. Other states of the Western Balkans are also working towards joining the club, but are not considered to be sufficiently well-run to qualify for full candidate status.
The decision to award candidate status to yet one more state of the former Yugoslavia 'is a strong signal of our commitment to the future of the Balkans,' said the head of the EU's executive, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
Officials in Montenegro were quick to welcome the decision, with Deputy Prime Minister Igor Luksic saying the country was ready for the challenge.
'The decision of EU leaders is a major encouragement for Montenegro and an affirmation of our efforts,' Luksic told dpa.
'It is also a challenge and we have to do a lot of work in the seven areas the commission named as crucial for the start of accession negotiations and continue on our path to join the EU,' he said.
In an annual report published in November, the commission stressed that Montenegro would have to improve its performance in seven areas, such as fighting corruption and organized crime, before talks begin.
In November the European Commission recommended that Montenegro be granted official candidate status, but outlined several areas where Podgorica must make improvements.
European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, speaking at the press conference announcing the annual progress report that contained the recommendation, said further work was needed in the field of the rule of law, noting that officials now have seven specific priorities that must be met in order for accession negotiations to begin.
Although the country is considered a parliamentary democracy, parliament's control of the government remains weak, the report says. And although there is broad consensus on the fundamentals of economic policy, the Commission does not believe that the country is a functioning market economy.
The report notes: "The main concerns are related to the politicization of the judiciary and shortcomings in the functioning of law enforcement institutions, in particular in fighting organized crime and corruption. There are also concerns over efficiency and accountability of the judiciary."
Once they do, Montenegro will have to bring its laws into line with EU standards in 35 policy areas, known as 'chapters,' ranging from fisheries to financial regulation.
The process can take many years: current applicant Turkey has been negotiating for membership for five years already, but has only managed to open 13 chapters and close one. Its progress is largely blocked by opposition from Cyprus and France.
Diplomats said that, in Montenegro's case, talks could perhaps start in 2012, meaning that the country could feasibly aim to join the bloc by 2020.
Croatia is expected to end its membership talks next year, while Macedonia's progress has been stalled by the row it has with Greece over its name.
Iceland began membership talks this year, but public opinion in the island nation remains largely against joining the EU.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 7:06 PM
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Holbrooke was taken to hospital on Friday after falling ill during a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was diagnosed with a torn aorta and underwent a 21-hour surgery that ended on Saturday. He remained in critical condition after a second round of surgery on Sunday, and passed away the following evening at the age of 69.
According to The Washington Post, the last time Holbrooke spoke was before his last operation.
"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan," the paper quoted him as telling his Pakistani surgeon on Sunday.
US President Barack Obama, who appointed Holbrooke as his administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009, praised him as "a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer and more respected".
"He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace," he said in a statement.
"America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants," Clinton said in a statement. "Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind -- a true statesman -- and that makes his passing all the more painful."
Holbrooke joined the state department as a foreign service officer after graduating from Brown University in 1962. He worked for three years in Vietnam and joined President Lyndon Johnson's White House staff in 1966, becoming a junior member of the delegation at the Paris peace talks.
Holbrooke, who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, was appointed assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs in 1994, at the height of the conflicts that accompanied the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
In 1995, the blunt-spoken diplomat headed the international negotiation team tasked with resolving the crisis in the Balkans. Holbrooke shuttled among Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo until he persuaded the principal leaders there to agree to peace talks. His efforts to broker a deal to end the bloodshed succeeded on November 21st 1995.
After weeks of tough negotiations, then-Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and the presidents of Croatia and Bosnia, Franjo Tudjman and Alija Izetbegovic, finally accepted the proposed agreement in Dayton, Ohio. The three then officially signed the Accord in Paris on December 14th 1995.
Holbrooke was later involved in international efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo.
During 1998 and 1999, in his capacity as special presidential envoy, Holbrooke worked to end the conflict between the armed forces of Serbia and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who were fighting for an independent Kosovo in the Kosovo War. In March 1999 he traveled to Belgrade to deliver the final ultimatum to Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević before the NATO bombing campaign began. Holbrooke has written numerous articles about his experiences in the Balkans, and in 1998, published the widely acclaimed book, To End a War, a memoir of his time as the chief negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords, ending the Bosnian civil war. The New York Times ranked the book as one of the eleven best books of the year in 1998.
In 1998, he negotiated an agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, where they were accused of conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign.
"I make no apologies for negotiating with Milosevic and even worse people, provided one doesn't lose one's point of view," he said later.
When the deal fell apart, Holbrooke went to Belgrade to deliver the final ultimatum to Milosevic to leave Kosovo or face NATO airstrikes, which ultimately rained down on the capital.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci on Tuesday expressed condolences to the US on the death of diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who was 'a friend' of the people of Kosovo.
Thaci, whose Democratic Party won Sunday's snap elections, sent a telegram to President Barack Obama saying that 'For citizens of Kosovo, the death of Richard Holbrooke is a loss of a friend, of a voice that protected the interest of the Republic of Kosovo.'
Holbrooke was a staunch supporter of Kosovo Albanians in their fight against Belgrade's rule in the late 1990s.
The conflict in Kosovo spurred US into leading NATO in its intervention against Serbia in 1999, eventually paving the way to the secession of the province in 2008.
Thaci's remarks came amid a so far muted response in the Balkan region to the news of Holbrooke's death.
In Sarajevo, one reaction came from the international community's representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, who credited Holbrooke for the Dayton peace accord.
In Belgrade, Serbian state television RTS only quoted Peter Robinson, a lawyer in The Hague for former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, as saying that Karadzic felt 'sorrow and regret' over the news of Holbrooke's death.
On trial facing genocide charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Karadzic has claimed that Holbrooke in 1996 had promised him immunity from prosecution for his actions during the Bosnian war.
Robinson said Karadzic was hoping to get Holbrooke to testify at the ICTY proceedings.
Holbrooke returned to public service in 1999, becoming U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bill Clinton, who was US president during the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s, praised Holbrooke for his "passionate, brilliant service," saying he "saved lives, secured peace, and restored hope for countless people around the world".
"Tomorrow marks the 15-year anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Accords -- the agreement Dick negotiated which stopped the killings in Bosnia and paved a path to peace in the Balkans that endures today,"Clinton said on Monday.
In 1999, he nominated Holbrooke as the United States' ambassador to the UN. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a special statement Tuesday, saying he was "deeply saddened" by Holbrooke's death.
"I pay tribute to his diplomatic skills, strategic vision and legendary determination," he said. "As the architect of the 1995 Dayton Agreement, Ambassador Holbrooke played a key role in ending the war in Bosnia, the most terrible tragedy on European soil since World War II."
A number of world leaders and senior international officials also praised Holbrooke for his compassion, his diplomatic skills and superior strategic judgment.
His "vigorous diplomacy helped to end the war [in BiH], he helped to save lives and bring peace to a part of our continent racked by civil war and bitter conflict," David Lidington, Britain's minister for Europe, said. "All Europeans are in his debt."
Speaking to the CNN on Tuesday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari described Holbrooke as an "extremely hard-working man" who could "get things done, which would otherwise take weeks to get through".
Speaking about Holbrooke, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was quoted as having once said: "If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes. If you say no, you'll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful."
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:12 PM
Monday, December 06, 2010
Ultimately it is up to the state to permit or to limit the use of flags in the public domain. But while national minorities don't have the right to display their symbols on the premises of public authorities, it is necessary to find a way to accommodate their interests.
Accommodation sometimes proves next to impossible when a national minority flag is identical to the flag of the country next door, such is that of an Albanian flag being flown in Montenegro’s municipal offices. Governments may fear that displaying a foreign flag on their turf may convey a message of separation or separatism.
Such reactions are understandable given the sensitivities involved. A flag is the ultimate symbol of sovereignty which no country wants to share with another. But limitations often go too far. Some states have completely banned the use of foreign flags on their territory, even in private life. These limitations breach the right to freedom of expression, as has been the case in Serbia, and until last week in Montenegro.
Just days prior to Albania’s November 28th independence ceremonies, Podgorica assigned Nikolle Gegaj and Ferhat Dinosha the responsibility of allowing the Urban Municipality of Tuz to fly the Albanian national flag. Dinosha claimed the event was a result of Podgorica’s change in policy, allowing national symbols to now be displayed in public institutions.
But the right to express one’s national/ethnic symbols continues to permeate dissent among governments throughout Serbia and Montenegro, primarily fearing separatist movements. In the following article by BIRN, Albanians in South Serbia struggle with this question: "Is flying a national flag belonging to a different state a right of expression or a recipe for trouble?"
Balkan Insight – Ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia are on collision with Belgrade over use of a flag by their new National Council. The Council wants to fly the flag of neighboring Albania.
But Serbia's Law on the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities says that symbols of national minorities cannot be identical to the flags, symbols or emblems of another state.
Baki Rehxepi, head of media in the National Council of Albanians, said they wanted to use the existing Albanian flag rather than invent a new one. "I don't see one reason why we shouldn't use the Albanian flag," he told Balkan Insight.
The question of the use of the Albanian flag comes up every year on November 28, when Albanians in southern Serbia mark Flag Day, their national holiday.
From 1968-1989, and from 2000 to date, ethnic Albanians have celebrated the day with a special ceremony, flying Albanian flags from town halls in their strongholds of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 10:49 AM
Monday, November 29, 2010
Dr. Camaj went on to outline political developments that endangered Albanians throughout the 20th Century, and as a direct consequence, the eventual declaration of independence of the second Albanian state - KOSOVA.
Dr. Camaj cited Montenegro's refusal to grant Malesia a municipality as a tool used to disenfranchise Albanians from the political process. In a Feasibility Study compiled in 2009, Camaj referenced data analysis illustrating the political and economic viability of the "Urban" Municipality of Malesia as it has sustained far greater development than seven (7) other municipalities existing in Montenegro today. This, according to Camaj, is undisputed evidence that Malesia has achieved the economic ability to compete with any municipal government in Montenegro.
Dr. Camaj concluded with numerous incidents of how Montenegro's government denies Albanians opportunities in the employment, academic, and social development sectors. The speech earned a standing ovation from a dominant "Malesor" crowd, many of them who emigrated from Montenegro for the very same reasons Dr. Camaj spoke about this evening.
The evening included special performances by local Albanian youth and traditional music provided by the areas leading entertainers.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:57 AM
Thursday, November 25, 2010
November 23. 2010
Oak Park -- This Thanksgiving promises to be a better one, not only for the needy and hungry who come to Rrok Dedvukaj's restaurant for a free Thanksgiving-style meal on Wednesday, but also for Dedvukaj himself. Known to family, friends and customers as "Rocky," Dedvukaj took a break from operating his three Metro Detroit restaurants in 2006 and went to visit his homeland of Montenegro. On the eve of a parliamentary election that August, the social activist was among 12 ethnic Albanians arrested and accused of plotting a rebellion to establish an Albanian autonomous region within the Adriatic country.
Dedvukaj, who had lived in America since the age of 9, spent three years in prison, where he was beaten and tortured. The case drew international criticism, and human rights groups demanded that Montenegro deal with the issue.
In September 2009, Dedvukaj returned to the United States after his release. He lost everything during those years, including his three restaurants.
In February, with the help of some friends, he opened the Royal Grill restaurant in Oak Park at 22110 Coolidge Highway, at Nine Mile.
He works there six days a week, taking care of customers alongside two sons and his wife and a small staff of waitresses.
Instead of feeling bitter and angry about his experience, Dedvukaj is slowly returning to his old life before he left — the life that included helping the less fortunate.
As a gift to the community, he is serving free meals starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday and until 4 p.m. or whenever the food runs out.
The meal — turkey or ham and all sides and a drink — is available to those in need who cannot afford to pay. Those who can pay are asked to make donations that will go to Oak Park Youth Assistance.
"My customers come in and keep me in business, right? It's a way of saying thank you to them and giving the needy a chance to eat in a restaurant. I know how it feels to have an empty stomach," he said.
Before his three years of imprisonment in Montenegro, Dedvukaj fed the needy at his three restaurants in Pontiac, Detroit and Warren, offering free holiday meals to the poor and collecting donations for a Sept. 11 firefighters fund.
He raised $15,000 over three years.
He knows he returned a changed man. Dedvukaj said it took him several months to adjust to life again at home in Troy.
"I had a hard time in prison. I needed a few months to see where I am and where I belong. Those three years took a lot out of me," he said.
Waitress Sally Sylvester, who alerted the media to Dedvukaj's generosity, said the 52-year-old had inspired her with his dedication to the community and the ideal of helping others in need. Police officers and court officials, who are frequent diners at Royal Grill, are volunteering Wednesday to act as servers for the day.
"It is costing him so much to do this, but that is who Rocky is," said Sylvester, a waitress there since July. "He works to make a difference for people — not just political but personal, too."
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:36 AM
Friday, November 19, 2010
In Albania, support for unification has fallen to 62.8 pe cent from 68 percent last year.
The survey findings came less than three years after Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia.
The survey, conducted by Gallup Balkan Monitor, also showed that 51.9 percent of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia favoured unification within a so-called “Greater Albania” that would also contain Kosovo and Albania.
Ethnic Albanians make 25 percent of Macedonia’s two million population and enjoy considerable autonomy in the western part of the country, bordering Albania.
Kosovo's approximately two million Albanians make up 90 percent of the population, which comprises just 100,000 remaining Serbs.
Majority Albanians declared independence in February 2008, with the support of western powers, on the condition that Kosovo can’t form a union with any other country.
Serbia opposes Kosovo independence and 71.2 percent of Serbs would rather forsake European Union membership than renounce Kosovo, according to the survey.
The majorities of the ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia in favor of forming a "Greater Albania," a poll shows.
80% of the Albanians in Kosovo, 62% of those in Albania, and 51% of the Albanian minority in Macedonia back the idea for forming a Greater Albania, according to a poll of Gallup carried out in cooperation with the European Fund for the Balkans, cited by Macedonian TV Kanal 5.
An alliance between Albania and Kosovo has smaller support – 33.7% in Albania and 29.2% in Kosovo, according to the report of the Serbian media B92.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:41 AM
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
In an enlargement strategy paper, the European Commission gave a significant boost to Montenegro's bid to join the EU, saying its reform efforts had qualified it for candidate status.
But for formal accession talks to open, the former Yugoslav republic "needs to intensify its efforts to consolidate rule of law, in particular in the fight against corruption and organised crime, which remain serious problems," the Commission said.
Croatia is on course to become the 28th EU member state. Talks are entering the final phase, the Commission says.
A dispute with Cyprus continues to delay Turkey's progress towards the EU, which it is not expected to join before 2015.
Montenegro's Balkan neighbours Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia are further behind it in the queue to join the EU.
But on Monday, the 27 EU governments agreed that citizens of Albania and Bosnia-Hercegovina would enjoy visa-free travel to most EU countries, possibly as soon as by mid-December.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 10:17 PM
Friday, November 05, 2010
sevo," Rexhepi said.
The List for Natural Albania includes the groups and individuals who support the idea of a "natural", or "greater" Albania of one state for all ethnic Albanians in the Balkans, which would include parts of the territories of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia.
According to the project, Albanians in these countries would hold a referendum to plead for the establishment of the state.
Presevo valley, a largely ethnic Albanian region in south Serbia, would become part of a "greater Albania" according to the plan, Rexhepi said, explaining that the area has been part of Albanian territories in the past.
Tomo Zoric, spokesperson for the Serbian prosecutor's office, said that his office would check what ethnic Albanian leaders who hold official positions said at the meeting in Tirana.
"If we detect that there were elements of their speeches which violated the law, the prosecutor's office will initiate proceedings," Zoric told Balkan Insight.
In an unofficial referendum held in 1992, a majority of ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley expressed their desire to join Kosova.
2013-A year of natural Albania: at last, Koco Danaj speaks of future events on the Balkans.
By: Bekri Ajdini
Gruevski's politics estimated as nationalistic caused ethnic Albanians to seek for alternative solutions. Ethnic Albanian political scientist, Koco Danaj told Lajm that ethnic Albanians move towards forming of a natural Albania that will include all the places where they live.
"The year of 2010 is the year when the establishment of natural Albania will begin. Don't be surprised if the movement which today is being called self-determination grows into a political party in the future which would include all ethnic Albanians that want to remain Albanians within their progressive mentality," said Danaj.
According to Danaj, contrary to Gruevski's megalomania, "the ethnic Albanian politicians from Eastern Albania who occasionally are in Macedonia have no need to express themselves with a shady terminology, but they should openly speak in front of the people which they represent."
He evaluated Rafiz Aliti's statement as insufficient.
"Ethnic Albanian politicians need to overcome the handicap. They are faced with Gruevski's nationalism that gains support of the EU pro-Slavic lobby against pro-USA ethnic Albanians.
They should recognize themselves and tell where the places they live in belong--in Western Macedonia or Eastern Albania," said Danaj.
He explained that ethnic Albanians are going to enter the EU, but not in the same way that Gruevski chooses and advised BDI that "the new name of the Republic of Macedonia should be Northern Republic of Macedonia and Eastern Albania."
Albanian politicians in Montenegro refute the thought of "Greater Albania"
Montenegro's Minister of Minority Rights, Ferhat Dinosha and leader of Tuzi's urban municipality, Nikolle Gegaj, immediately responded to the news that a "Natural Albania" is being sought after the meetings in Tirana.
Dinosha and Gegaj rebuffed the thought of a "Greater Albania" claiming that Albanians in Montenegro have all the rights that could be afforded to minorities. Dinosha went on to say that Montenegro and Albania have very close diplomatic ties that would not be jeopardized by territorial advances.
It is worth noting that both Dinosha and Gegaj are members and advocates for the DPS and adherents to Milo Djukanovic's master plan to suppress Albanians into political, social, and economic submission.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The European Union is likely to grant Montenegro candidate status in November but defer opening entry talks with the ex-Yugoslav state as a result of corruption and slow democratic reform, an EU official revealed yesterday (27 October).
In May 2006 a referendum decided that the small Adriatic country would become independent from Serbia (55.5% voted for separation; 44.5% to remain with Serbia). The Montenegrin parliament formally declared Montenergo's independence the following month.
For a couple of years before the split, the EU tried unsuccessfully to discourage the separation of Montenegro from Serbia. Up to now, the prevalent opinion in Brussels has remained that the former Yugoslavia should not disintegrate any further.
One of the reasons for Montenegro's push for independence was that the small country, which has no big obstacles on its way to accession as Serbia has with Kosovo, would like to join the EU sooner.
The major ethnic groups in the country are Montenegrins (43%), Serbs (32%), Bosniaks (8%), Muslims (5%) and Albanians (3%).
On 8 October, Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic said his country expected to gain European Union candidate status in November and to start accession talks "soon".
The country is often cited as a haven for trafficking and money laundering.
The recommendation will come in annual progress reports, which the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will publish on 9 November on all the Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Iceland.
The Commission is also expected to deny candidate status for now to Albania. The report will not change the status of Serbia, which will face Commission scrutiny over the next year after submitting its application less than a year ago.
"It's the most likely scenario," said the official. "It's too early for Albania. And Montenegro will likely get candidate status but is not ready to start talks [...] because of concerns over corruption."
Winning candidate status is the last step before a country aspiring to join the EU starts accession negotiations, a long process aiming to align its laws with EU rules and standards.
Hopefuls need to prove their economic reforms are well advanced on the path to becoming functioning market economies and demonstrate substantial efforts to overcome crime and introduce the rule of law.
Montenegro, with a population of 700,000, and Albania are both struggling with rampant corruption.
The EU, a 27-nation bloc of half of a billion people, is already holding membership talks with Croatia, Iceland and Turkey, while all the countries of the Western Balkans want to join one day.
Macedonia is also a candidate but a spat with EU member Greece over its name is blocking the start of talks.
(EurActiv with Reuters.)
Posted by Conference Organizer at 2:29 PM
Sunday, October 24, 2010
CORRUPTION 101: Citing “lack of evidence” Podgorica court frees officers accused of torturing Albanians
Although international monitoring agencies cited numerous incidents of police brutality during the arrests, the appeals court did not refer to any such evidence in their final conclusions.
Facts that were ignored centered on details that the entire process was marred with inconsistencies and corruption. Immediately following the arrests, Amnesty International reported that the prisoners were subjected to “repeated beatings, including with the intension of forcing a confession, using hands, fists, feet, sticks, and on one occasion a computer cable.” The report went on to assert that “beatings were allegedly conducted by both individual and groups of police officers at the police station, by the antiterrorist police involved in the arrest and by police escorting the men to court” (eye-witness reports named Scekic, Mitrovic and Marko leading the way). Amnesty concluded that “one individual reported that a hood was placed over his head; another that he had a gun held to his head; all were subjected to racist threats on the basis of their Albanian ethnicity” (10/17/06).
In the same vein, the U.S. State Department in a recent Country Report cited the Helsinki Committee of Montenegro that “police had used disproportionate force against some of the arrested persons and their family members during the arrests and subsequent interrogations.” Concurringly, Freedom House reported similar abuses and stated that “the hospitalization of prison inmates after a police raid raised questions of brutality and resulted in a change in prison administration…accusations of political interference and complaints of lengthy judicial processes continued to plague the judicial and prosecutorial systems.”
According to a 2009 Report by USAID (Corruption Assessment: Montenegro), Montenegro’s police system has been criticized with having little independence from judicial and legislative influence. As with many political institutions in Podgorica, corruption continues to be a problem:
- The conflicts of interest law is too limited, the local self-government law is inadequate, and whistleblower protection is insufficient;
- Judges are insufficiently trained;
- Trials take too much time, in part, because the courtrooms are not equipped with, and the judges do not use, any form of court-reporting mechanism;
- Defendants who have insufficient resources to hire their own defense attorneys are given appointed counsel; appointed counsel does not necessarily have any experience or specialized training in criminal defense matters;
- There appears to be little or no communication between prosecutors of the Basic Courts, the police, and building inspectors at the local level;
- Political and economic elites as connected by durable networks based on sharing the benefits of corruption. Corruption is controlled from above with the spoils shared within clans based on family, friendship and regional ties – especially in the banking and construction sectors. They act with perceived impunity – there are few controls to detect and prevent corruption, and there is insignificant enforcement and prosecution of high-level corrupt acts. Corruption is seen as a high reward-low risk activity;
- The leading political party (DPS) has minimal competition, with the opposition parties severely fragmented along ethnic, religious or economic lines and no reasonable possibilities for coalition building;
- Public officials can act with impunity. There are minimal controls and oversight to ensure their accountability and, despite access to information laws, there are sufficient loopholes available to minimize government transparency;
- Weak oversight can be seen in the relatively ineffectual efforts by the criminal justice system to identify, prosecute and sentence corrupt officials, whether they are on the national or local scene;
The Directorate for Anticorruption Initiative (DACI) recently completed a survey research study of the justice sector (2008) where more than one-third of all interviewed parties (1788 respondents) and one quarter of companies had the perception that the judicial system in Montenegro is often or always corrupt.
Contributing to this lack of adequate political will is the minimal nature of political competition in Montenegro. Essentially, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), as the successor to the League of Communists, has served as the ruling party for 60 years. The opposition parties appear to be hopelessly small and fragmented, with few proponents of coalition building. Without political competition from other parties or from the legislature or judiciary, the ruling party feels empowered to wield its authority without need to modify its grip on the spoils of power.
If this corruptive behavior in Montenegro is not overhauled, the paternal relationships between the DPS, judicial and police apparatus’ will continue to function unabridged for many years to come.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:10 PM
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Izet Medziti, mayor of the Chair district in Skopje, has an ambitious plan for his predominantly ethnic Albanian municipality. He wants to build a massive new public square honouring the 15th-century hero Skenderbeg.
At 29,000 square metres, it will be larger than the existing Macedonia Square, just across the River Vardar, which bisects the city. Constructing it could cost as much as 50m euros.
Because it would be located on a legally protected national landmark, Skopje's Old Bazaar, a state permit is required. "The Chair municipality has not asked for such a permit," Culture Minister Elizabeta Kancevska-Milevska told SETimes.
Nevertheless, the government has allocated an estimated 356,000 euros to draw up an architectural plan.
Albanian intellectuals seem divided over the issue. Many question the need and cost, saying it is a costly example of urban planning being used for political ends.
Others argue the new square will reflect Skopje's multiethnic reality -- something they say the government's "Skopje 2014" project, aimed at renovating Macedonia Square, failed to do.
"Is the square necessary at a time when the citizens have many more urgent needs?" asks journalist Nazim Rashidi, summing up the reaction of many.
Dzabir Dervala of the NGO "Civil" describes the plans as "megalomanic" and "on par with the other party across the bridge". Both, he says, are unproductive.
"From a political aspect," Dervala said, "the square is a reflection of what is happening in the country and is arrogantly forced by the governing elements [upon the citizens]."
Politicians, he says, would do better to propose infrastructure projects that "deal with poverty and address security challenges".
Monumental works can be a positive thing in normal circumstances, writes analyst Alber Musliu, but not in a time of economic crisis. The rush to propose competing squares is like "creating feuds", he suggests.
Sociologist Hasan Jashari, however, believes the new square will help ease interethnic tensions, though at a steep cost. "It is a compromise solution by the coalition partners to achieve peace in house. It is not a product of the real needs of the population, keeping in mind the essential problems of the citizens with regard to food, health care, education and housing," Jashari said.
It will also allow easier access and freer communication between Skopje's two parts bisected by the Vardar, they say. After all, "this space belongs to us all," Dauti concludes.
Ka nevojë Shkupi për një "Shesh Skënderbeg"?
Izet Mexhiti, kryebashkiaku i lagjes Çair në Shkup, ka një plan ambicioz për komunën e tij me mbizotërim etnik shqiptar. Ai do që të ndërtojë një shesh të ri masiv publik për të nderuar heroin e shekullit të 15-të, Skënderbeun.
Me 29,000 metra katrore, ai do të jetë më i madh se Sheshi i Maqedonisë, vetëm përtej lumit Vardar, që ndan qytetin. Ndërtimi i tij mund të kushtonte deri në 50 milion euro.
Për shkak se ai do të vendosej në një vend kombëtar të mbrojtur me ligj, Pazarin e Vjetër të Shkupit, kërkohet një leje shtetërore. "Bashkia e Çairit nuk ka kërkuar për një leje të tillë," i tha SETimes ministrja e kulturës Elizabeta Kançevska-Milevska.
Megjithatë, qeveria ka ndarë rreth 356,000 euro për të hartuar një plan arkitekturor.
Intelektualët shqiptarë duken të ndarë lidhur me çështjen. Shumë vënë në pikpyetje nevojën dhe koston, duke thënë se është një shembull i kushtueshëm i planifikimit urban që po përdoret për qëllime politike.
Të tjerë argumentojnë se sheshi i ri do të pasqyrojë realitetin multietnik të Shkupit, diçka që siç thonë ata, projekti i qeverisë "Shkupi 2014" që kishte për qëllim rinovimin e Sheshit Maqedonia, dështoi ta bënte.
"Është sheshi një domosdoshmëri në një kohë kur qytetarët kanë nevoja shumë më urgjente?" pyet gazetari Nazim Rashidi, duke përmbledhur reagimin e shumë vetëve.
Xhabir Dervala i OJQ-së "Civil" i përshkruan planet si "megallomane" dhe baraz me palën tjetër përtej urës". Të dyja, thotë ai, janë jofrutdhënëse.
"Nga një aspekt politik," tha Dervala, "sheshi është një pasqyrim i asaj që ndodh në vend dhe është detyruar me arrogancë nga elementë qeverisës [mbi qytetarët]."
Politikanët, thotë ai, do të bënin më mirë të propozonin projekte infrastrukture që "të merreshin me varfërinë dhe t'i drejtoheshin sfidave të sigurisë".
Veprat monumentale mund të jenë një gjë pozitive në rrethana normale, shkruan analisti Alber Musliu, por jo në kohë krizash ekonomike. Nxitimi për të propozuar sheshe konkurruese është si "të krijosh hasmëri", sugjeron ai.
Sociologu Hasan Jashari, megjithatë beson se sheshi i ri do të ndihmojë të zbuten tensionet ndëretnike, ndonse me një kosto të lartë. "Është një zgjidhje kompromisi nga partnerët e koalicionit për të arritur paqen në vend. Nuk është produkt i nevojave reale të popullsisë, që ka parasysh problemet thelbësore të shtetasve lidhur me ushqimin, kujdesin shëndetësor, arsimin dhe strehimin," tha Jashari.
Analisti Artan Sadiku nuk është dakord. "Sugjerimi për të ndërtuar një shesh rreth statujës së Skënderbeut është shfrytëzuar nga [partia e Bashkimit Demokratik për Integrimin] për të përmbushur qëlimet e partisë si dhe për të nxitur tensionet etnike në Maqedoni," tha Sadiku.
Duke e qujtur këtë projekt "Skënderbeg", BDI po përpiqet ta vërë veten ndaj shqiptarëve si historibërëse në konkurrim me partneren e saj të koalicionit VMRO. "Me qëllim që të qëndrojë në pushtet, partitë përdorin të njëjtat metoda për të krijuar një fetish nacionalist nëpërmjet të cilit shpenzohet për ndërtimin buxheti i shtetit," tha ai.
Të tjerë si Avzi Mustafa i Bashkimit të Intelektualëve Shqiptarë dhe gazetari Daut Dauti, janë entusiastë. Ata argumentojnë se projekti është i menduar mirë dhe lidh modernen me tradicionalen.
Ai do të kejojë gjithashtu akses më të kollajtë dhe komunikim më të lirë midis të dy pjesëve të Shkupit të ndara nga Vardari, thonë ata. Gjithasesi, "kjo hapësirë na takon e gjitha ne," përfundon Dauti.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:24 PM
Sunday, October 03, 2010
However, it is expected to gain such status next spring although some believe that could be conditional upon the early departure of Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
Major EU capitals have signalled the country's path towards the EU might be easier without the veteran leader.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 8:22 PM
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu resigned on Monday, potentially destabilizing the fragile political scene before talks with Belgrade which still refuses to recognize the former Serbian province's independence.
Sejdiu bowed to a constitutional court ruling last week that he may not serve simultaneously as the largely ceremonial head of state and as leader of his political party, which is junior partner in the coalition government.
"I respect the constitutional court decision," Sejdiu told a news conference in announcing his resignation as president, who is elected by parliament. "Over these years I have worked so that the Republic of Kosovo would have democratic institutions."
A 58-year-old former law professor, Sejdiu was elected president for the second time in 2008 but remained at the helm of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the second largest party which is part of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's government.
The resignation highlights the growing pains of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, although Belgrade lost control of its province nine years earlier.
In a major policy change, Serbia said earlier this month it would negotiate with Kosovo on practical issues for the country of two million which it does not recognize diplomatically.
Ilir Deda, executive director of the Kosovo think tank KIPRED, said Sejdiu's resignation was problematic for the negotiations which are expected to start next month.
"Kosovo cannot have talks with Belgrade with incomplete institutions amid a vacant presidency and politically weakened government," he said.
In July, in a blow to the impoverished country's image as it tries to attract international investment, authorities jailed the central bank governor in a corruption investigation.
Last Friday, the constitutional court ruled that Sejdiu committed "a serious violation" by serving as both president of Kosovo and leader of a political party. The ruling had been widely expected as the constitution bars the president from holding any political party functions.
Sejdiu was elected president in 2006 to replace Ibrahim Rugova who died of lung cancer.
Sejdiu helped to draft laws in Kosovo after the 1998-99 war when NATO waged a bombing campaign to halt killings of ethnic Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war with Serb forces. He was also the head of Kosovo delegation during status talks with Serbia when Kosovo declared independence.
The parliament has 60 days in which to appoint a successor.
(Editing by Adam Tanner/David Stamp)
Thursday, September 23, 2010
President Topi and his wife were accompanied by the Ambassador of Albania, Deputy Speaker of Kosova's Parliament, and the General Consul of Albania in the U.S.
The president's first stop was at the Albanian Islamic Center of Harper Woods, where he was received by the Center's Imam, Shuaip Gerguri. Topi thanked the attendees for their support of Albania's domestic and foreign initiatives along with the hospitality they expressed. There was a brief question and answer session that followed.
The President then visited St. Paul's Albanian Catholic Church and Community Center in Rochester Hills, where he respectfully honored two of Albania's most notable figures, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu and Mother Teresa.
As the crowd chanted the president's name, Topi expressed his gratitude by walking over to the crowd and shaking hands while thanking them for their warm welcome.
St. Paul's congressional leader, Father Anton Kqira escorted the president into the center's library for coffee and a short discussion. Father Anton presented the president with a gift and thanked him for his generous visit to our community.
Thereafter, the president was honored in the banquet hall of St. Paul's where guests of honor accompanied him to the stage. Those seated beside the president and his wife included Congressman Gary Peters, Mayor of Rochester Hills Brian Barnett, Ambassador of Albania Aleksander Sallabanda, Honorable Consul of Albania Ekrem Bardha, and Deputy Speaker of Kosova's Parliament Naim Maloku.
The Masters of ceremonies were Viktor Ivezaj and Nevruz Nazarko.
The ceremony commenced before a capacity crown of approximately 700 guests, including visitors from as far as Toronto, New York and Illinois. Numerous media outlets were also present to record this historic visit.
The honored guests gave a brief statement related to the president's visit and shared their gratitude and delight with the opportunity to showcase their state and venue to Albania's head of state. Both Congressman Peters and Mayor Barnett thanked the president for his support of the United States and remarked that the U.S. Congress and the City of Rochester Hills will remain strong advocates for Albania's development and proliferation alongside western Europe.
The president acknowledged those present and marveled at the size and scope of St. Paul's Community Center, referring to it as a "Grand Cathedral." Topi congratulated the Albanian community of Michigan on their success and hospitality, and especially thanked the United States for their steadfast support of Albania. Mr. Topi also honored this day Mother Teresa as we continue to celebrate her 100th anniversary by asserting that, "she is a true icon of the Albanian people and a saint among all of us."
After the ceremony, the president was joined by nearly 150 invited guests for a presidential luncheon at Fortesa Restaurant in downtown Rochester. Topi fielded questions by the guests and enjoyed several laughs as his visit winded down.
The reception of President Topi was without question a successful event by all accounts; the president and his wife were humbled by the reception they received during their first visit to Michigan.
We welcome the president and his family to visit our great community again in the very near future!
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:06 AM