Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Roderick W. Moore To Be Ambassador to Montenegro

President George W. Bush announced his intention to nominate five individuals and designate two individuals to serve in his Administration:

The President intends to nominate Roderick W. Moore, of Rhode Island, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Montenegro. Mr. Moore, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Serbia. Prior to this, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Bulgaria. Earlier in his career, he served as a State Department Fellow and taught at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Mr. Moore has been serving as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade since January 2004. He also served (2000 – 2003) as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, prior to his transfer to Belgrade.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Moore held diplomatic postings at U.S. embassies in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (1988 - 1989) and Sofia (1990 - 1992). From 1992 - 1993, he was the Department of State's representative in Skopje, Macedonia. He later served as Political-Economic Counselor at the American Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia (1996 - 1999) and was Senior Political Adviser in the Office of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo, B-H (1996).

In Washington, Mr. Moore worked in the State Department’s Operations Center (1992) and later served as Political-Military Officer in charge of the states of Central and Eastern Europe in the Department of State (1993 - 1995). While assigned as State Department Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy from 1999-2000, he taught on U.S. policy toward the former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Moore attended Brown University where he received his B.A. in Russian Studies and International Relations in 1986, and an M.A. in Slavic Linguistics in 1987. His languages include Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Russian, Macedonian, Czech, French, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Senator LEVIN to Address Albanians in Detroit

Michigan Senator Carl Levin (D) will be at the US-12 Bar & Grill in Wayne, Michigan on Sunday July 8th where he will address the greater Albanian community on issues surrounding immigration, Kosova, and the Albanian prisoners in Montenegro. Levin, who recently turned 73, will bid for another term in the U.S. Senate where he is the current Chair on the Committee on Armed Services.

Levin's involvement with Albanian issues have spanned for more than 20 years. In 1986 he successfully appealed and won the release of Pjeter Ivezaj, a U.S. citizen who was detained and sentenced by the Yugoslav communist government for his peaceful participation in an anti-discrimination rally in the United States. In 2007, Levin is again investigating and appealing for the release and fair treatment of Albanians being held on bogus charges of terrorism in Montenegro. Levin has requested the U.S. Department of State to pay special attention on the treatment of these prisoners and demand they receive a fair trial. Additionally, Levin has also petitioned the Montenegrin government to treat the prisoners in accordance to international and European laws protecting minorities and political prisoners.

Senator Levin, along with his brother Congressman Sander Levin (D-MI) continuously invite and receive Albanian constituents to their local and Washington, DC offices where they listen and respond to the many concerns regarding minority rights abuses and its effects on U.S. Foreign Policy.

Levin's interest on the status of Albanians in Kosova and Montenegro are a special concern to him given his committment to the region and his voting record where he is for enlarging NATO to include Eastern Europe.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Montenegro Rebuffs Albanian Demands

As they press their grievances over the new country's constitution, Montenegro's ethnic Albanians are showing they could become a permanent source of friction in this tiny Adriatic republic. Ethnic Albanians represent about 7 percent of Montenegro's 620,000 population.

The three Albanian political parties in the parliament are threatening they will not back adoption of the new constitution by the parliament unless the ruling coalition led by the Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic revises the draft to expand minority rights.

The proposed constitution must be approved by the parliament with a two-thirds majority or Montenegro will face a constitutional referendum later this year.

Ethnic Albanian deputies proposed a number of amendments, demanding regional devolution and use of Albanian as the official language in the areas where they are a majority.

Montenegrin Albanians also want a bicameral parliament, full guarantees of minority rights in accordance with international standards, and the detailed stipulation of these guarantees in all laws. But, the government has said it finds such demands unacceptable.

However, the draft constitution defines minority rights in a single article that stipulates that the state will respect and implement all international documents regulating the issue.

It appears that such a draft will be a major source of friction between ethnic Albanians and minority parties representing Montenegrins.
Ethnic Albanians' demands were dismissed as unrealistic by the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, or DPS, loyal to former President Milo Djukanovic and the Social Democrats, or SDP, led by Ranko Krivokapic.Senior DPS official Miodrag Vukovic said his party would not accept demands for a bicameral parliament or for separate Albanian regions.

"Regionalism, federalism, or the redrawing of territories with ethnic boundaries would contravene the concept of a civic state and be fatal for such a small community as ours," Vukovic told Balkan Insight.

Three of the six Albanian parties in Montenegro are represented in parliament: The Democratic Alliance, the Democratic Union of Albanians and the Albanian Alternative. None are in the ruling coalition, which is supported by more than half of Albanian voters in Montenegro, according to polls.Most Montenegrin Albanians live near the eastern border with Albania and Kosovo, in the town of Tuzi and coastal resort of Ulcinj.
Apart from ethnic Albanians, other key minorities in Montenegro are Bosniac Muslims, who account for 15 percent of the population, and Serbs, who make up 32 percent.

Montenegrin minorities were a key factor in the 2006 referendum which paved the way for the country's secession from Serbia. Montenegro's pro-independence camp won a tiny majority over those who favored union with Serbia.

In return for minority votes, the DPS offered guaranteed seats in parliament.The pledges envisioned that ethnic minorities making up between one and five per cent of the population would receive one parliamentary seat, andminorities making up more than five per cent of the population would receive two seats. Parliament passed a law to implement these proposals shortly before the May referendum.

But in July 2006, the constitutional court declared theminority representation plan unconstitutional. Since then, there has been no sign of the government reviving the proposal, leaving minorities feeling short-changed.

The ethnic Albanians' and other minorities' demands for detailed stipulation of rights in the constitution were also backed by the Venice Commission, an expert legal body of the Council of Europe which helps states draft, revise and interpret their constitutions and other key legislative texts.After a two-month debate that ended on May 28, the country's 81-seat, unicameral parliament must now decide on a number of amendments. With their three seats, ethnic Albanians can influence the vote and effectively force a national referendum if the ruling coalition fails to forge an alliance with one of the major, mainly pro-Serbian opposition parties.

Mehmet Bardhi, leader of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Alliance party, says the government has reneged on its other promises, including establishment of a new Albanian-language faculty in the city of Ulcinj and the right to nominate a police chief in Tuzi, who would then be endorsed by the Interior Ministry. Albanians also want Tuzi to be upgraded to a municipality with an ethnic Albanian-dominated local government.

Bardi alone has submitted 35 amendments to the draft constitution, including demands about regional devolution. "Collective rights are related to specific territories," said Bardhi, who argues for ethnic Albanian-controlled areas. He said Montenegro's Albanians would seek backing for their minority demands from international bodies and influential pro-Albanian lobbyists from the United States.
The government "can adopt 10 constitutions for all we care," Bardhi said. "The issue of our rights will remain open as long as they keep ignoring us."

Another key ethnic Albanian politician, Fatos Dinosa, of the Democratic Union, says that a bicameral parliament with a "chamber of minorities" is the best solution for Montenegro's political scene and "for settling relations between the government and the minorities."

The other parties rallying Albanians have forwarded a joint proposal to parliament envisaging a special charter and a separate law on minorities to be incorporated into the constitution. The SDP's Vukovic said relations between Montenegro's diverse ethnic, religious and cultural communities are basically sound and a new constitution would only improve them.

The only concession the government was willing to make was over "a separate chapter of the constitution as a mechanism for protecting human and minority rights," he said.

"No party in Montenegro has a mandate to represent any ethnic minoritybecause not one of them rallies an entire ethnic community," Vukovic said. But Nazif Cungu, leader of the Ulcinj-based Forca, the biggest of the ethnicAlbanian parties that are not represented in the parliament, warned thegovernment was in danger of damaging relations with the Albanian community.

"If they .disregard the position of both the Venice Commission and theminorities who effectively built this country, it will be a major setback toour relations," Cungu told Balkan Insight.

Aleksandar Zekovic, a human rights expert and activist, said that although he understood the position of Montenegro's Albanians, some of their demands should not be made part of the new constitution."Montenegro's political elites have made no effort to improve the actual implementation of the [existing] law on minority rights and freedoms," he said.

"After the crucial chapters were scrapped [by the constitutional court], some of the Albanian parties have responded with unrealistic demands, fearing another fraud. What they really want is a safer future for themselves."

Samir Adrovic is a correspondent of the Podgorica daily Vijesti. BalkanInsight is BIRN`s online publication.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Montenegrin chief prosecutor criticizes courts for prolonging cases

June 14, 2007

PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Chief prosecutor Vesna Medenica presented her annual report to Parliament on Wednesday (June 13th), criticising local courts. She cited what she said were unjustified extensions, with cases dragging on for as many as 12 years. As of last year, the courts managed to complete only 52.5% of all pending cases, the report said. However, the report also said 20 indictments against 120 individuals suspected of involvement in organised crime were filed last year, up by 118% compared to 2005.

The Albanian political prisoners have been jailed for over 9 months.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Montenegrin ombudsman says human rights record unsatisfactory in 2006

PODGORICA, Montenegro, June 4, 2007 -- Ombudsman Sefko Crnovrsanin presented his annual report on human rights Monday (June 4th), which concluded that the record remained unsatisfactory last year. He found that despite gains since 2005, violations were registered at all levels, in nearly all areas of society. Crnovrsanin found persistent weaknesses in the work of the state administration in 2006, poorly applied regulations, as well instances of civil servants mistreating members of the public. According to the report, 495 complaints were submitted to the Ombudsman's office in 2006.
This poses a serious threat to Montenegro's process towards European integration and will not go unnoticed by the Council of Europe. The issues surrounding the Albanian detainees has also marred Montenegro's human rights record in 2007 and has destabilized relations with their largest minority.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Venice Commission makes recommendations on Montenegro's draft constitution

PODGORICA, Montenegro, July 3, 2007 -- Experts from the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's (CoE) advisory body on constitutional matters, have sent Montenegrin authorities 199 recommendations concerning the country's draft constitution. At its session on Friday (June 1st), the Venice Commission concluded the draft is generally in line with CoE standards, but needs improvement in the sections relating to minority rights, the election of judges and the composition of the Judicial Council.

In July, a Venice Commission delegation will visit Podgorica to review how its recommendations were incorporated.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Russia Rejects Kosova Plan

NY Times

United Nations, May 31, 2007 — Russia on Thursday rejected a revised draft of a Security Council resolution advancing a plan for supervised independence of the disputed Serbian province of Kosovo.

The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, said the revision “has not changed anything,” and when asked whether Russia would veto it, he said: “I do not like use of this word. But you are guessing well what is on my mind.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, said that the United States would still push for a vote next week and that it was now up to Russia to come up with suggestions for resolving the impasse. He pledged to “make every effort to accommodate to constructive ideas and suggestions from our Russian colleagues.”

The resolution supports the plan by the United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari that would end United Nations administration of Kosovo in four months and have the European Union take over a supervised transition to independence.