Friday, January 30, 2009
US President Barack Obama will put Kosovo and the Balkans in the background letting Vice-president Joe Bidden and State Secretary Hillary Clinton to lead Balkan policy, James Hooper, a former American diplomat told Radio Freed Europe.
According to him, "this is very good news, considering the fact that Biden knows the Balkans extremely well." Biden is a "stable personality, honest and balanced," who understands the region well "and is ready to take a harsher stance," said Hooper.
Speaking about State Secretary Hillary Clinton, Hooper said that she will never "devalue the war of her husband, President Clinton."
"All this I think is good for Kosovo and good for the Balkans, for the fact that there will be people that have a lot of knowledge about the region, who will have leading role," stated Hooper.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 1:58 PM
Thursday, January 29, 2009
PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Senior Montenegrin officials asked Kosovo leaders on Wednesday (January 28th) to recognise the status of Montenegrin citizens and offer them the same rights as other minorities. During a visit to Kosovo, Deputy Montenegrin Parliament Speaker Rifat Rastoder said his focus was the issue of displaced persons and conditions for their return. At the same time, Rastoder stressed that Montenegro does not consider this a condition for enhancing diplomatic ties between the two countries. Kosovo Parliament Speaker Jakup Krasniqi said institutions in his country will make every effort to ensure Montenegrins living in Kosovo enjoy representation in the next elections.
In other news, Kosovo Security Force (KSF) Minister Fehmi Mujota admitted on Wednesday there have been mistakes in selecting former Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) members to join the KSF. Mujota said that in co-operation with KFOR, the KSF will review all applications, including those of KPC members already recruited for the new force. (Zeri, Koha Ditore, Express, Telegrafi, Kosova Sot - 29/01/09)
Posted by Conference Organizer at 1:36 PM
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
PODGORICA, Montenegro (AFP)--Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic Tuesday called early legislative elections for March 29, in a move that gives his allies a chance to extend their near 20-year hold on power.
The assembly dissolved itself Monday, almost a year before its mandate was to expire at the end of 2009, with the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic seeking a new term to speed up European Union integration.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 1:03 PM
BELGRADE, Serbia: About 3,000 ethnic Albanians rallied in tense southern Serbia on Monday, demanding the release of 10 imprisoned former Kosovo rebels suspected of war crimes, a news agency reported.
The rally in Presevo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian town near the boundary with Kosovo, was peaceful. However, it was another sign of simmering ethnic tensions in an area that was the scene of an ethnic Albanian rebellion in 2000-2001.
The protesters carried signs such as "Freedom Fighters Don't Belong In Jail," the independent Beta news agency reported. The organizers warned that the arrests have led to tensions in the volatile region, the agency said.
Serbian police last month arrested the former Kosovo fighters, accusing them of atrocities — including torture, rape and murder — against Serb civilians in the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane in the aftermath of the 1998-99 war.
On Monday, Serbia's war crimes court said it has extended the detention of the group by another two months. Court spokeswoman Ivana Ramic said the suspects must remain in custody because they face serious charges and because they could influence the witnesses.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 10:25 AM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:46 PM
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Jan 8th 2009 | PODGORICA
From The Economist print edition
A RECENT Montenegrin video, released on the internet, shows two shrieking teenagers filming the speedometer of their car as they roar through a tunnel at 260kph (160mph). Although the appearance of the film earned the boys criminal charges, at least they did not crash. In a curious manner, the video mirrors Montenegro’s present fate. After three years of breakneck growth, the economy is rapidly slowing down. It is has not quite crashed—but the aftershocks could still be nasty.
The capital, Podgorica, has been expanding fast in recent years. Flats and offices have sprouted all round the city’s edge as developers flush with cash from sales of villas and apartments on the coast to Russian, British and other investors have poured the proceeds into new property. But in the past few months, as the number of foreigners investing in coastal property has dried up, so has the cash. Workers at many building sites across the city have lost their jobs. Property prices have fallen by 50% or more.
Down by the coast things are as bad or worse. Planned developments, many aimed at rich Russians, have been scaled back, though the government hopes to lure Gulf Arab investors to take their place. Growth figures say it all. In 2006, the year it declared independence, Montenegro’s economy grew by 8.6%. In 2007 it accelerated to 10.7%. Last year the government forecast 8%, but the correct figure will be lower. And in 2009 the government is planning for growth of only 5%—and the IMF is talking of a mere 2%.
That will be disappointing to the Montenegrins, even if in these hard times some growth is better than none. But the government is also grimly aware that, besides coping with the general fallout from the global financial crisis, it faces two home-grown problems. The biggest is a huge aluminium factory on the edge of Podgorica. Its fumes are toxic, it makes a loss and it consumes gargantuan quantities of subsidised electricity. It is controlled by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian tycoon well known in Britain and elsewhere, who is now locked in disputes with the Montenegrins. Aluminium prices have crashed; unless he keeps getting subsidised electricity from the government, he will, he says, have to shut the whole place down.
In any other country this might not be front-page news. The problem for tiny Montenegro, with a population of only 650,000, says Sasa Popovic, an economist, is that the factory and its related industries account for a vast 40% of GDP. So its closure would be a huge political blow to the government of Milo Djukanovic, the prime minister.
He has already been embarrassed by a second matter. In December the government had to bail out a troubled bank owned, in large part, by his brother and, to a lesser extent, by his sister and himself. That Prva Banka was considered the family bank lured large numbers of people, companies and even government departments to transfer their accounts to it. But the end of the boom means that many of the bank’s borrowers cannot pay back their debts. “We are very nicely packaged from the outside,” says Daliborka Uljarevic, a financial analyst, “but when you open the box it does not look so nice inside.”
Gordana Djurovic, Montenegro’s Europe minister, admits that the bank affair seems “unusual” but insists that no laws were breached and that the cost of doing nothing was higher than the cost of doing something. Understandably she is keener to talk about good news. Just before Christmas Montenegro lodged a formal application for the status of candidate to join the European Union. Formal candidacy is “realistic” by December, claims Ms Djurovic.
Montenegro may by then have a new government. An election may even be called for March 29th. Mr Djukanovic is currently riding high in the polls, but much of that reflects the disarray of the opposition rather than his own personal popularity. Mr Popovic reckons that Montenegro’s economy may not crash but go into a kind of hibernation. That might give the opposition a chance to reorganise and make up lost ground—which explains why the prime minister may choose to go to the country sooner rather than later.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:22 PM