Thursday, January 31, 2008

Montenegrin Prime Minister Resigns On Health Grounds - AFP

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AFP)--Montenegrin Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic, the first in the post since independence in 2006, said Thursday he was resigning because of poor health.

"I want to inform you that I am resigning from the post of prime minister of the Montenegrin government due to health reasons," Sturanovic said in a resignation letter sent to the parliament Speaker Ranko Krivokapic, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Sturanovic, 48, took up the post in November 2006 after his Democratic Party of Socialists won elections. He has been receiving treatment over the past year for a rare form of lung cancer.
"Medical therapy in the coming months anticipates that I reduce working engagements," Sturanovic said in the letter.

Sturanovic's resignation had been expected, prompting speculation in Podgorica of a comeback for former prime minister Milo Djukanovic, the architect of Montenegro's independence.

Djukanovic stepped down in October 2006 after 16 years in politics, saying he was tired of politics and wanted to focus on business.

A source close to the DPS leadership, Djukanovic's return was unavoidable because of government plans for a "more active approach to the European Union."

The same source said that Djukanovic was "reluctantly coming back to professional politics."


Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2008
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Candidates on Kosova ... and perhaps beyond

The war on terror, economy, abortion, civil rights, crime, education, environment, families & children, free trade, government reform, healthcare, homeland security, immigration, jobs, social security, tax reform, and welfare policy are only a fraction of the issues the 2008 presidential candidates will be tackling this year en route to the November elections. You do not have to be savvy student of politics to discern these issues, but as an informed electorate, we must assess each candidate on the issues rather than straight party politics. What should concern us most is what will affect us most in the next four to possibly eight years with a new president. But for an Albanian electorate the only issue that seems to matter is that of the motherland, or Kosova. If not Kosova, then the candidate that most identified themselves with issues sympathetic to the Albanian question will get the nod in the coming elections. Because this will most likely be the litmus test, here is a brief synopsis on where the candidates stand on the Albanian issue(s):

(D) Senator Hillary Clinton who insisted that her husband initiate the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 has repeatedly declared that the bombing of Serbia was "a success". She has been the honored guest to of many Albanian fundraisers and is hailed as someone that would continue her husband’s legacy as a friend and defender of Albanians. Hillary receives 63% of her campaign donations from individuals who donate $2300 or more and 37% from those who donate the maximum $4,600; in short, she is a "big money" candidate. Hillary Clinton is a socially liberal and aggressively interventionist.

(D) Barack Obama wasn't in Congress during the 1999 NATO Bombing, but his campaign website advocates a negotiated division of Kosovo based on demographics. Barack Obama promotes that "Kosova was a success" (perhaps in the hopes of becoming Hillary's running mate?) While many would like to see Barack Obama as "a peace candidate", Obama has been doing more than flirting with the Congressional hawks in order to become more of a (Democratic) Party guy. The very things that might be appealing about Barack Obama, he is burying to "fit in" with the Democratic Party machinery. Barack Obama receives 46% of his donations from $2300+ contributions and 11% from $4,600 contributions. Barack Obama is a socially liberal Democrat and moderate interventionist.

(D) John Edwards, who although he voted against the 1999 Bombing of Yugoslavia, did vote to use all necessary force (American troops) once we were engaged. His statement: “We saw the success of NATO in the Kosovo operation under President Clinton.” Edwards wants to expand NATO and Edwards called for a combination of U.S. and NATO actions to accelerate the peacekeeping process and engage in Darfur. Edwards receives 39% of his campaign contributions from $2300+ donations and 16% from $4600 donations. Edwards is a liberal Democrat and, perhaps a well-meaning interventionist, but an interventionist none the less.

(R) Senator John McCain who made his name nationally known by advocating the 1999 NATO Bombing of Serbia. Back in 1999, McCain even advocated the we send American troops into Kosova on behalf of the KLA. McCain has consistently been on the Albanian American Civic League's payroll and even marched with them a year after the NATO intervention. McCain receives 47% of his campaign donations from $2,300 or more contributors. McCain is a conservative Republican and aggressive interventionist.

(R) Mitt Romney has no history or statements on Kosova or the Balkans, although he appears to see Russia as more of a partner in defeating terrorism, rather than pretending that the Cold War is still on. He has the endorsement of Tom Tancredo, although this is likely more for Romney's stance on immigration than anything else. Beyond being very nice to look at and him being 100% Republican, it is hard to get your arms around what Romney is about . Some say that he is "Bush III"; others say that he is his own man. Can't tell because he is pandering too much to the Republican Party line to tell. Romney was a successful venture capitalist before entering politics and has financed a significant part of his own campaign. However from individual donations, 49% come from donors of $2,300 Romney is a Rightwing Republican with interventionist tendencies.

(R) Mike Huckabee wasn’t in Congress in 1999, and we can find no references to statements made by Huckabee re Kosova or the Balkans. Until recently, Huckabee has been hard to nail down on any foreign policy specifics which is perhaps why he was doing well in the polls, he was a blank slate on which a voter could write their own foreign policies from his general statements. But Mike Huckabee did reveal his policies in “America's Priorities in the War on Terror”, once again focusing on what he thinks that average Americans want to hear – “kinder, gentler worldwide foreign policies”, but “big bad Russia” – if it sounds familiar, it should, it was once said by a Bush. Huckabee receives 37% of his campaign donations from $2300 contributors. Huckabee is a big government, “nanny state Republican” (as much as that should be an oxymoron) and an interventionist who supports surrounding Russia with missiles. (Update: Huckabee has recruited a marine for his campaign who is telling about his time in Kosova. Mike seems to be pandering to McCain's Albanian fan club.)

(R) Rudy Giuliani also wasn't in Congress during the 1999 NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia. Giuliani's main connection to Kosova appears to have been as US Attorney back in 1985, when, according to him, the Albanian drug mafia put "a hit" out on him for his crack down on Albanians in New York during the ‘80s. Otherwise, we can find no specific reference directly tied to Kosova. Giuliani receives 60% of his contributions from those who donate $2,300+ and 19% from $4600 contributions. Rudy Giuliani is a moderate Republican and (verbally) aggressive interventionist.

(R) Representative Ron Paul for his aggressive opposition to the 1999 NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia, both during and after the bombing. Ron Paul also led a bi-partisan coalition that actually sued President Clinton for violating the War Powers Act as a result of the bombing. He continues to oppose Kosova’s Independence and has dismissed all descriptions of the NATO Bombing as having supposedly been "humanitarian". Ron Paul is not a member of Serbian Caucus. But there is a "Serbs for Ron Paul" message board and an "Open Letter to Orthodox Christians" re supporting Ron Paul. Ron Paul gets all of his campaign contributions from individuals, with the average contributor donating less than $200. Although labeled “an isolationist” by his critics, Ron Paul believes in free international trade & defense of America, but not intervening in the politics of other countries. Overall, Ron Paul is a conservative libertarian Republican and anti-interventionist.

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Memoriam of Dr. King

In memoriam of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday we should be conscious to the fact that this immortal figure recited speeches that cannot be neglected, not by African-Americans, and not by minorities throughout the world where they are subjected to abuses and left to feel inferior to another race, class, cast, etnhie, etc. In memoriam of King’s speech on August 28, 1963, we honor him today on his Birthday, where Albanians remember his words in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and with all respect take his undying speech and interpret it as Our struggle that continues to resonate through the pillars of self-determination, liberty, autonomy, choice, free will, sovereignty, INDEPENDENCE … for all Albanians throughout the Balkan peninsula.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come to Kosova out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells in Spuz. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of Slavic brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Come back to Albania, come back to Tetova, come back to Presheva, come back to Malesia, come back to Chameria, come back to the slums and ghettos of your homeland villages, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my Albanians, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow. I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Albanian dream.

I have a dream that one day a “Greater Nation” will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed--we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the black mountains of Plav & Gusine the sons of Scanderbeg and the sons of Jashari will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood and remember the blood spilled in honor of country!

I have a dream that one day even the region of Malesia, a district sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom, justice, and self-determination.

I have a dream that our little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the choice of religion but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Chameria, with its vicious racists, with the Greeks having their lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Chameria little Cham boys and Cham girls will be able to join hands with little Kosovar boys and Kosovar girls as sisters and brothers with no borders separating them.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley of ancient Illyria shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all Albanians shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the Tirana with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our Greater Nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Albanian’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!" And if Albania is to be a Great Nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Tuz.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of Gjakova.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Shkodra.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped mountains of Gusine.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of Vlora.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring from the raging seas of Ulqin.

Let freedom ring from valleys of Presheve.

Let freedom ring from every mountain top of Ethnic Albania, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every village and every municipality, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's Albanians, Malesor, Kosovar, Shkoltare and Katunar, Muslims and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Illyrian spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Montenegro to hold presidential elections in April

PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Presidential elections will be held on April 6th, Parliament Speaker Ranko Krivokapic announced on Thursday (January 17th). These will be the first presidential elections since Montenegro became an independent state. Krivokapic urged voters to participate and invited the EU and other international organisations to send monitors.

Later in the day, the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) announced that incumbent President Filip Vujanovic would seek re-election. The opposition Movement for Changes is nominating its leader, Nebojsa Medojevic, to run, while the opposition Serb People's Party plans to nominate Andrija Mandic. (RTCG, Antena M, AP, DPA - 17/01/08)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

GALLUP EXCLUSIVE: Impasse Over Kosovo -- Opinion Polls Shed Light on Depth of Conflict

Harvard International Review
January 15, 2008
The fault lines generated by the conflict over Kosovo’s future continue to spread. Originating with the residents of the region, which is formally a Serbian province though populated predominantly by ethnic Albanians demanding autonomy, they extend to the Serbian and Albanian governments, which have periodically struggled over territory in the Balkans for almost a century. In the late 1990s, the Serbian government waged a brutal war against the Kosovo Liberation Army, an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group, which resulted in over 10,000 deaths and accusations from the international community that Serbian forces engaged in ethnic cleansing.

More recently, the conflict has created a diplomatic struggle that has widened far beyond the Balkan region. Last February, after more than a year of fruitless negotiations, UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari released a Western-backed plan for “supervised independence” in Kosovo. The Serbian government immediately rejected the plan outright. Russia, backing its close ally Serbia and wary of any precedent that would bolster its own separatist groups, refuses to support the Ahtisaari plan or any other that grants Kosovo independence without Serbia’s prior consent.
Given these enduring setbacks, the deadlock over Kosovo continues with no end in sight. Why has the issue proven so intractable, despite months of negotiations involving such powerful mediators? As in many of the world’s most difficult conflicts, the most important reason is the lack of potential for compromise among the populations involved. As such, Gallup World Poll data from the Balkans reveal just how deep the divisions run among the residents of the region.

Support for Compromise Proposals

Respondents in Kosovo’s Albanian and Serbian communities were asked to choose from a list of possible outcomes, ranging from full independence within Kosovo’s present borders to the continuation of Kosovo’s status as a Serbian province. In between were three compromise proposals: 1) “conditional” independence, without an army or membership in international organizations for a specified adjustment period, 2) the partitioning of Kosovo between Serbia and a new independent state, and 3) the reorganization of Kosovo into two entities within Serbia, with broader autonomy for the Albanian population.

The results indicate a complete absence of support for compromise solutions among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians; virtually all said Kosovo should be an independent state within present borders. For their part, Kosovo’s Serbs were only somewhat more likely to consider compromise options: 77 percent said Kosovo should remain a Serbian province, while 13 percent said it should be partitioned.

Perhaps even more telling is the poll’s indication that there is little practical recognition of even prospective compromise among either group. In fact, as the following graph indicates, strong majorities in each population – 87 percent of Kosovar Albanians and 64 percent of Kosovar Serbs - fully expect their preferred outcome to triumph.

Attitudes toward UN, EU intervention

Given the lack of support for compromise proposals, the only guarantee at this point seems to be the inability of all groups to view a solution as fair. That leaves the international community with little choice but to continue with a custodial arrangement -- like the current UN supervision of Kosovo -- that forestalls open conflict and maintains enough stability to foster the region’s economic development and increase the pressure on all parties to work for peace.

But even that strategy seems increasingly unworkable. Poll results within the Balkans indicate that involvement by the UN and the European Union has itself become divisive. Ethnic Albanians—both inside and outside Kosovo—are far more likely than Serbians to view such intervention positively. Just over half of Albanians say they feel the current UN Mission in Kosovo, which has administered the territory since 1999 under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, is fair and impartial. Just 8 percent of Kosovo’s Serbs agree, and Serbs outside Kosovo are only somewhat more likely to do so, at 23 percent.

Under the Ahtisaari Plan, the European Union would play the foremost supervisory and peacekeeping role in helping Kosovo move forward. As with opinions of the UN, Albanians are far more likely than Serbs to view EU involvement positively; in fact, almost two-thirds of Kosovar Albanians (63 percent) say they think the EU plays a “very positive” role in the Balkan region, compared to just 3 percent of Kosovar Serbs. Among Serbs living in Serbia, however, perceptions of the EU are much more positive, probably a reflection in part of the Serbian government’s aspiration to become a EU member by 2015.

The tenuous positions of the UN and EU in the region would be further complicated if Kosovo’s government unilaterally declares independence, as the Prime Minister Agim Çeku has repeatedly threatened to do. Not only would such a move heighten existing tensions within the UN Security Council, but it may also create a split within the European Union itself. Already, German officials, wary of how the United States and Great Britain might respond to such a declaration, warned against taking any position that was not agreed to by Russia and the UN.

How do the region’s inhabitants view the prospect of Kosovo’s independence and its possible effect on the region? As would be expected, the majority of Serbs polled living in Kosovo, 75 percent, think an independent Kosovo would destabilize the Balkan region. Among Serbians outside Kosovo, the proportion is somewhat lower, at 59 percent. In sharp contrast, only 8 percent of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority share that view, while 76 percent disagree.

The least desirable outcome of the current situation is a return to war. But, as shown in the graph below, a significant proportion of Serbs – 15 percent of those living in Kosovo, 16 percent elsewhere in Serbia – feel there will be a return to war in Kosovo. Furthermore, a far greater number of Serbs are unwilling to say one way or another. In fact, just 44 percent of Kosovar Serbs disagree that there will be a return to war. Kosovar Albanians on the other hand, perhaps assured by the support of UN peacekeeping forces, are far more unified in the belief that war is unlikely.

Whether or not there is a return to open conflict in the region, these polls give an indication of just how unlikely it is that people of different origins in Kosovo can be persuaded to adopt a spirit of compromise. The lack of dialogue was again apparent when large numbers of the Serb minority boycotted the parliamentary elections on November 17th, 2007 in Kosovo. The deadline for settling Kosovo’s final status expired on December 10th, 2007 as EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss what the next steps should be. But, while satisfying the UN Security Council and other big players in international relations is important, the much more difficult task is to find a solution that brings the people of Kosovo closer together rather than dividing them further.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted in February 2007 with nationally representative samples of residents aged 15 and older in each country. For results based on the sample of 1,509 Serbs, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 714 Kosovar Albanians, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 257 Kosovar Serbs, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±7 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Steve Crabtree has developed and produced publications for The Gallup Organization since joining the company in 1993. He contributed to writing Building Engaged Schools, Gallup's book on education reform. Crabtree currently leads the production of published material for the Gallup World Poll, a groundbreaking worldwide survey launched in 2006. He is also a regular contributor to the Gallup Management Journal.

Zsolt Nyiri is Regional Research Director for Europe for the Gallup World Poll.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Move over Middle East, Here comes Albania and her Oil discovery!

BIRN: 10 January 2008 Tirana -- Vast and untouched reserves of oil and gas have been discovered in northern Albania, one of Central Asia's and Eastern Europe's leading petroleum corporations announced Thursday.

The report was compiled by Gustavson Associates LLC on behalf of Manas Petroleum Corporation, which has been awarded a contact by the Albanian government to explore the north of the country for oil and gas reserves.According to their findings, the unproven reserve holds up to 2.987 billion barrels of oil and 3.014 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

However if the oil is capped with a layer of gas, Gustavson calculates the field to total 1.4 billion barrels of light oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And in the event that only gas is present, the reserve is expected to contain 28 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Balkans region has proven oil reserves totalling approximately 345 million barrels. Of that, 198 million barrels is located in Albania . Proven natural gas reserves in the Balkans region add up to approximately 2.7 trillion cubic feet.

Under the licence awarded to Manas Petroleum Corporation, the company is allowed to explore oil and gas reserves in an area approximately 780,000 acres in size, located along a geological fold in north-western Albania.

'The probability of success for a wildcat well in a structurally complex area such as this, is relatively high due to the fact that there exists a proven hydrocarbon source and analogous production exists only 20 to 30 km away,' notes Gustavson in the report.

Manas is currently still analysing the findings and will make further announcements on its next steps in the coming weeks.

The corporation is an important player in the development of Albania's terrestrial oil and gas reserves.

In December 2007, Albania's Council of Ministers agreed to allow DWM Petroleum AG, a subsidiary of Manas, to assist in the exploration, development and production of Albania's land-based hydrocarbon reserves in conjunction with the government's Agency of Natural Resources.

Montenegro Tops Software Piracy

BIRN: 14 January 2008, Podgorica -- More than four-fifths of software used in Montenegro is believed to be pirated, according to the Montenegrin office of software giant Microsoft.
The Montenegrin government is losing $5-6 million (€3.38-4.06) each year in unpaid taxes, due to the use of illegal software, the head of Microsoft Montenegro, Oliver Obradovic, told the Montenegrin agency, Mina-business.

"Experience in the neighbouring countries has taught us that action by the tax and police administrations has produced the best results as regards suppression of software piracy," Obradovic said.

Obradovic has called for the drafting of amendments to the law that refers to the tax administration, which currently does not include breach of copyright.

Microsoft estimates that pirated software accounts for 83% of all software in use in Montenegro.
Illegal use applies to the private sector and individuals because the government has signed a contract on a strategic partnership with Microsoft, and has introduced licensed software in most public bodies, including the municipal authorities.

According IDC, a company dealing with information technology statistics, the extent of software piracy in Montenegro is the highest in the region.

The extent of piracy in Croatia is 55%, Macedonia and Bulgaria 69%, Bulgaria, 65%, Serbia 78% and Slovenia 48%.

Obradovic says that the government has adopted a set of legal documents in the field of intellectual property rights, which is the first important step in struggle against software piracy.
"However, we consider the struggle against software crime to be a process,” Obradovic said, noting that further measures needed to be taken.

Friday, January 11, 2008

US, Germany agree to recognize Kosovo after Serbia elections -- IHT

They will try to get rest of Europe to follow, officials say

By Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune January 11, 2008

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - The United States and Germany have agreed to recognize Kosovo and get the rest of Europe to follow suit after the province declares independence following the Serbian elections next month, according to senior European Union diplomats close to negotiations over the future of Kosovo.

In a recent conversation about the future of Kosovo, EU officials said President Bush and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had agreed it was imperative to secure the stability of the western Balkans by coordinating the recognition of Kosovo after the second round of Serbian elections planned for Feb. 3.

They said Washington was aggressively pressing the EU to ensure that the recognition of Kosovo was not delayed by even a week.

"The cake has been baked because the Americans have promised Kosovo independence," a senior EU official said. "And if Washington recognizes Kosovo and European nations do not follow, it will be a disaster."

Pristina's determination to declare independence from Serbia is opposed by Belgrade and Moscow. Several EU countries - including Spain, Slovakia, Romania, and Cyprus - are also reluctant to recognize an independent Kosovo, fearful that such a move would spur secessionist movements on their own territories. But EU diplomats said a majority of European nations - including Germany, France, Britain, and Italy - planned to recognize Kosovo, regardless of dissenters.

The German Foreign Ministry said yesterday that no decision had been reached on when the EU would recognize Kosovo. It ruled out any suggestion that Germany and the United States alone would recognize Kosovo. Merkel has been lobbying the other 26 EU member states so the bloc will have a united stance over this issue.

Slovenia, a nation of 2 million people that took over the EU presidency for six months on Jan. 1, is pressing EU members to make good on the bloc's pledge to send an 1,800-member police and civil force to Kosovo this month. EU officials said Slovenia was determined that the force be in place before Kosovo's independence declaration and that the declaration and its recognition by EU nations could be put off until after the force was dispatched.

Slovenia, the first former communist country to assume the EU's rotating presidency, is determined to bring stability to the western Balkans nearly 17 years after it helped unleash the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia by declaring independence itself in 1991.

Dimitrij Rupel, the Slovenian foreign minister, said this week that the EU's best hope of finding a way out of a potentially explosive situation in Kosovo was to push Serbia to soften its recalcitrance by offering Belgrade closer ties and the prospect of joining the bloc.

Rupel, who played a key role in shepherding Slovenia to independence and then EU membership, said he hoped Serbia and the EU would sign an agreement cementing political and economic ties by the end of this month.

"The financial situation of Serbia is terrible, and coming closer to the EU will help change that," he said.

Rupel noted that Serbia's per-capita gross domestic product of $3,000 had hardly improved since 1989, while Slovenia, which joined the EU in 2004, had seen its per-capita GDP jump from $5,000 in 1989 to $23,000 last year.

Kosovo legally remains part of Serbia, and two rounds of Serbian elections are due to be held, on Jan. 20 and Feb. 3. A declaration of independence in Kosovo before those dates would probably play into the hands of nationalist forces in Belgrade.

Slovenian officials are pressing Washington and Pristina to put off independence until after the elections.

The EU has insisted that it will not fully embrace Serbia until Belgrade hands over those indicted on war crimes charges, including former military commander Ratko Mladic.

But Rupel hinted that the EU could show more flexibility if Belgrade softened its intransigence over Kosovo.

He warned that comments by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia last week, that the EU would have to choose between its relations with Belgrade and with Pristina, were unhelpful.

"Serbia belongs to the EU and can't join the United States or the Russian Federation," Rupel said. "It is absurd to think otherwise, and we should do our utmost to push Serbia toward the EU."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kosova's government takes shape

Prishtinë, 9 January 2008 – The 120-seat Parliament of Kosova elected today the 40-year-old chairman of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) and former political leader of the Kosova Liberation Army UÇK, Hashim Thaçi, to head the new Kosova Government for a period of four years.

The voting follows an agreement on forming a coalition reached by Kosova’s two main political parties, the Democratic Party of Kosova, PDK, and their formerly bitter rivals, the Democratic League of Kosova, LDK. Both parties signed this agreement on Monday after several weeks of tough negotiations following the inconclusive parliamentary elections held on 17 November.

Thaçi will preside over a cabinet of 15 ministries, out of which seven will belong to his party and five to the LDK, while three ministries will be run by representatives of ethnic minorities living in Kosova.

As part of the deal, Kosova’s President Fatmir Sejdiu, a veteran LDK politician, will remain in his post for a new five-year term. It follows last year’s agreement among political parties and the UN administration in Kosova, UNMIK, to amend the constitutional framework that stipulates a three-year term for the presidency.

Jakup Krasniqi, secretary general of PDK and a former spokesman of the UÇK, has been elected for the position of the President of the Parliament of Kosova.

The new government will have following members:

Hashim Thaçi (PDK), Prime Minister
Hajredin Kuqi (PDK), Vice Prime Minister
Ramë Manaj (LDK), Vice Prime Minister
Fatmir Limaj (PDK), Minister of Transportation and Telecommunication
Zenun Pajaziti (PDK), Minister of Interior
Nekibe Kelmendi (LDK), Minister of Justice
Arsim Bajrami (PDK), Minister of Public Services
Ahmet Shala (PDK), Minister of Finance and Economy
Enver Hoxhaj (PDK), Minister of Education, Science and Technology
Skender Hyseni (LDK), Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
Sadri Ferati (LDK), Minister of Local Government
Mahir Yagcilar (KDTP), Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning
Nenad Rashic (SLS), Minister of Labour and Social Welfare
Lutfi Zharku (LDK), Minister of Trade and Industry
Justina Pula-Shiroka (PDK), Minister of Energy and Mining
Alush Gashi (LDK), Minister of Health
Boban Stankovic, Ministry for Returns and Communities
Idriz Vehapi (PDK), Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

In his speech in front of the Kosovar Parliament, the newly elected Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, mentioned the economic development and investments in energy and infrastructure as priorities of the new government. He also announced a series of measures to promote foreign investments in Kosova.

Kosovo has been administered by the UN since NATO bombing in 1999 pushed out Serbian forces to end the ethnic cleansing and mass killing of ethnic Albanians. Kosovo’s newly-elected authorities are set to declare the territory’s independence from Serbia, in accordance with Ahtisaari’s plan, within weeks.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Kosova to announce independence in early February – Hashim Thaci

TOKYO, January 9 (Itar-Tass) - Kosova’s incoming Prime Minister Hashim Thaci believes that Kosova would unilaterally announce its independence from Serbia already in the first half of February.

It is expected that later on Wednesday Kosova’s parliament will approve a new Cabinet led by Thaci, who heads the Democratic Party. This party won the elections last November.

“We cannot drag feet with independence any longer,” he said in an interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun daily published on Wednesday.

“This will happen during four-five weeks. Our government seeks independence as a democratic sovereign state on the basis of full coordination of actions with the United States and the European Union. The U.S. and the EU member-states will immediately recognize our independence. The number of such states is likely to be considerable,” Thaci said.
Kosova’s new prime minister declined a presupposition that the announcement of Kosova’ independence will bring about chaos in the region.

“On the contrary, this will contribute to stability on the Balkans. We would like to seek good relations with Serbia, too,” he said.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"Podgorica Day" Sees Tuz Bridge Opening

Podgorica Mayor Miomir Mugosa, along with diplomats and Montenegrin ministers, officially marked the completion of two large infrastructure projects in the Albanian community of Dinosa on December 19.

This date, celebrated as "Podgorica Day," saw Ambassador Moore and DCM Ferrill as well as Albania's Ambassador to Montenegro gathered with the Minister for Minority and Human Rights, Fuad Nimani, the Minister of Agriculture, Milutin Simovic, the President of Tuz Urban Municipality, Smail Cunmuljaj, and President of the Democratic Union of Albanians, Ferhat Dinosa.

The question that immediately surfaces -- why is this day referred to as "Podgorica" and not "Tuz" or "Dinosha"? After all, is it not a celebration of and for Albanians and a tribute to projects in these territories? But our Albanian characters do not seem to care, just look at the glee in their rosy faces.