Thursday, April 30, 2009
ROME, Italy -- Prosecutors have dropped charges against Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic over his alleged involvement in cigarette smuggling, the justice ministry announced on Wednesday (April 29th). Poised to assume a fifth term as prime minister, Djukanovic enjoys diplomatic immunity. In 2007, prosecutors in the town of Bari informed him that he might become a defendant in a lawsuit related to cigarette smuggling between 1994 and 2002. He has been avoiding trial because of his immunity. Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic, who was killed by a car bomb in October 2008, was a key witness in the case. (Ansa, Makfax - 29/04/09)
He was first on a list of 15 suspects which includes some of his closest aides, but also shadowy underworld figures from the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere, the Croatian weekly Nacional said.
In 2003, prosecutors combatting organized crime asked judges in Naples to issue a warrant for Djukanovic's arrest, but the motion was turned down owing to his diplomatic immunity.
He and Podgorica officials claimed that hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of cigarettes only transited Montenegro, which had been under a 1990s United Nations trade embargo as a part of Yugoslavia.
Set to become a fifth time, with only a five-year presidential term interrupting his direct rule over Montenegro, Djukanovic relinquished the office only once, after elections in late 2006.
Though his Democratic Party of Socialists then also won, Djukanovic, 47, said he wanted to retire from politics and run his businesses.
However, after reportedly receiving notification in 2007 that he may be indicted in Italy, he returned to the office in early 2008, replacing his heir, Zeljko Sturanovic.
Last year Djukanovic volunteered a visit the court in Bari, which handles the case, to testify. His cabinet had said that Djukanovic answered questions over six-and-a-half hours.
It was neither immediately clear when the Bari court would move against other suspects in the case, nor whether it would unpack Djukanovic's file from the archives when he loses or gives immunity.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:55 PM
Monday, April 27, 2009
27 April 2009 -- In a hasty move that will certainly stir emotions among the Albanian minority in Greece's northern province Chameria, Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, described the relation with Greece as "excellent" on Monday, after a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Kostas Karamanlis, in Tirana.
According to Balkan Insight, The two leaders met to sign an agreement which delineates the continental shelf border in the Ionian Sea between Greece and Albania.
"Athens will back Albania’s EU integration perspective," said Karamanlis in a joint press conference with Berisha.
Karamanlis’ visit follows last week's sentencing of an ethnically Greek mayor in Albania'a Southern town of Himara, to a six month prison sentence for destroying road signs because they were not posted in Greek language.
"I assured PM Karamanlis that the Albanian government will do its utmost to back the Greek minority that exists in the country," said Berisha.
Albania recently became a member of NATO, and is expected to file for EU candidacy status on Tuesday, a move to which Greek support would be critical in overcoming skepticism some EU capitals hold against further expansion.
Bersiha, however made no mention of the continued ethnic discrimination carried out against Albanians in Chmeria.
Chameria is the area of Epirus which includes the cities of Igoumenitsa, Parga, Paramithia, Filiata and Margariti, that is the Greek province of Thesprotia. This beautiful region, has a rich Albanian heritage and it was only in 1912 that it was annexed unfairly and unjustifiably from Greece. This was the aftermath of the decision of the great powers to give Çameria to Greece, just as the great powers had made similar decisions to give Kosova and other Albanian territories to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.
The Greek government has been very hostile toward Çams and the main reason is the fact that Çams have a very strong Albanian identity. Another reason of the Greek hostilities is the fact that Greeks inherited a very hostile policy towards us. During the period of time, from 1854 till 1877 the Albanians of Çameria resisted successfully the attacks from Greek "Andartes". During the WWI and WWII the greek troops attacked Çameria again. The (provisional) government of Vlora (Albania) responded by sending Albanian military troops to assist the Albanian population of Çameria , but the decision of the Ambassadors Conference assigned Çameria to Greece. As a result of this decision by the great powers, Greeks forces led by the hateful figure of N. Zervas launched attackers that ended up with many innocent Albanian locals killed.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 1:37 PM
Saturday, April 25, 2009
24 April 2009 Montenegro has been blocking the entrance of Kosova exports into the country, because of their customs stamps which read the 'Republic of Kosovo'.
Even though Montenegro has recognized Kosova’s independence, Customs officials at the border have been turning away exports, confirmed the head of Kosova’s Economic Chamber, Besim Beqaj, to the daily Koha Ditore.
"A few days ago, Kosova products were blocked at the entrance of Montenegro because of the non-recognition of our customs stamps", said Beqaj.
Beqaj announced that Kosova authorities have contacted authorities in Podgorica to report the case. However, they have yet to receive a reply.
Kosova’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Lutfi Zharku, announced that Pristina is "expecting to solve this issue in the next two or three days".
Montenegro now joins the ranks of Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have decided to reject Kosovo imports or apply full tariff duties because of the Republic of Kosovo customs stamp.
All three states, including Kosova, are part of the Central European Free Trade Agreement, CEFTA, despite the fact that Kosovo products have not been given free movement in this economic area.
Kosova has announced that a retaliated blockade will not occur toward the three countries involved, but that the matter will instead be resolved in a politically diplomatic manner.
(Reporting by Shega A’Mula)
Posted by Conference Organizer at 3:44 PM
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
ALBANIAN AMERICAN ASSOCIATION “MALËSIA E MADHE”
SHOQATA SHQIPTARO-AMERIKANE “MALËSIA E MADHE”
May 18, 2009
United States Representative United States Senator
The Honorable Sander M. Levin The Honorable Carl M. Levin
1236 Longworth House Office Building 269 Russell Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510-2202
Dear Messrs. Levin:
As president of the “Malesia e Madhe” Association (a/k/a the “Great Highlands”), a non-profit Michigan entity organized to assist the ethnic Albanian population in Montenegro, I write this letter to express my objections regarding certain actions taken by the government in Montenegro in connection with recent plans to reduce or eliminate the only state sponsored Albanian language periodical named “Koha Javore” (the “Weekly Times”) published in Montenegro. As you maybe aware, Albanians consist of 7 % of the total population of Montenegro.
The Montenegrin government recently proposed either to (1) reduce the Koha Javore’s edition from approximately 15 pages to four, or (2) to completely eliminate Koha Javore’s publication. This proposal can only amount to censorship. In our opinion, this proposal is in violation of, inter alia, the Montenegrin Constitution and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Specifically, it is our opinion that this proposal violates Article 49, 78 and 79 of the Montenegrin Constitution. Article 49, in pertinent part, states that “[t]he right to establish newspapers and other public information media, without approval, ….shall be guaranteed.”
Articles 78 and 79 in principle pertain to minority rights. Albanians are classified as a minority in Montenegro’s Constitution. Article 78 states that “[e]veryone shall be obliged to preserve natural and cultural heritage of general interest. The state shall protect the national and cultural heritage.” Article 79, in pertinent part, states minorities have “the right to exercise, protect, develop and publicly express national, ethnic, cultural and religious particularities; . . the right to information in their own [Albanian] language.”
As you can imagine, the Albanians in Montenegro are rightfully alarmed and disturbed with this proposal as it acts to restrict, and infringes upon Albanian’s rights. The Albanians will be forced to read newspapers written in Montenegrin or a language they are not fluent in. It is our belief that the Montenegrin government is using this proposal as a vehicle to “assimilate” Albanians into being “Montenegrin,” which is in direct violation of the aforementioned Constitutional provisions.
As might be expected, Albanians have come to trust Koha Javore for objective news reporting, opinions and periodicals that affect the life of daily Albanian Montenegrin citizens. Thus, the lack of an Albanian language newspaper will act as a direct censorship of the Albanians “right to information in their own language.”
As you are keenly aware, Albania and Albanians are America’s staunchest and strongest supporters throughout the globe because of, among other things, the United States’ commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and support of minority rights.
In closing, we kindly request that you investigate and apply pressure on Montenegro to rescind these proposals and ensure that Albanians in Montenegro are guaranteed fundamental rights, including the “right to information in their own language.” The Albanian Americans of Michigan, as always, appreciate your unbridled support for these causes.
Thank you for your attention.
Gjergj (George) Ivezaj
Council of Europe
Amnesty International USA
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF)
U.S. Department of State
Ministry for Human and Minority Rights Protection, Montenegro
Posted by Conference Organizer at 9:24 PM
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
By Emma O’Brien
April 21 (Bloomberg) -- Small European countries grappling with the global financial crisis shouldn’t resort to unilateral adoption of the euro because they may risk being excluded from the European Union, according to the сentral bank of Montenegro.
The International Monetary Fund recommended the EU’s eastern members consider adopting the euro as a way of helping reduce their foreign-currency debt, the Financial Times reported April 6, citing a confidential report by the Washington-based lender. Montenegro, which is not an EU member, took on the euro without the now 16-nation euro-area’s consent in 2002 as it sought to rein in hyperinflation and lure foreign investors.
“It was a completely different situation for us because it was done when the euro was not as entrenched as a physical currency,” Nikola Fabris, the Central Bank of Montenegro’s chief economist said in an interview.
While prospective EU member Croatia and hopeful candidate Bosnia have considered unilateral euro adoption this year, “it would be quite something for any country to decide to unilaterally adopt the euro now as they’d be faced with sanctions from the EU, all sorts of funds and grants would be suspended and the process of accession postponed,” Fabris said.
Montenegro replaced the Yugoslav dinar with the deutschmark in November 1999 to rein in inflation of 128 percent and to impose “fiscal discipline” on the country, Fabris said. It took on the euro 2 1/2 years later after Germany and the rest of the euro region introduced the new currency, he added.
Euro-area finance ministers last month rejected calls from some of the EU’s eastern members to fast-track their transition to the euro or ease the terms for adopting the currency. The European Monetary Union demands prospective members keep inflation, public debt and budget deficits in check as well as lock their currencies into an exchange-rate mechanism which allows limited movement around a central rate to the euro.
“Euroization was crucial to the restructuring of our banking and financial systems because it gave them hard currency that was worth something,” Fabris said. “It’s a good solution when you have high inflation and a relatively unstable currency rate but you couldn’t do it now because of the EMU regulations.”
Other countries, including Kosovo, Monaco, Vatican City, San Marino and Andorra, also use the euro outside of the EMU’s borders.
Montenegro, a nation of almost 700,000 people that borders Serbia and the Adriatic Sea, will still record economic growth this year, after expanding at an average 8 percent over the previous three years, Fabris said. The “situation would have to be significantly worse than it is now” for the nation to join countries such as Hungary, Latvia, Ukraine and Serbia in seeking a loan from the IMF, he added.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:06 PM
Monday, April 20, 2009
REUTERS: 20 April 2009
SKOCIDJEVOJKA, Montenegro (Reuters) - Developers hope the stunning cliffs rising above the clear waters of the Adriatic in central Montenegro will entice investors to put millions into luxury apartments in an ambitious holiday development.
Yet the site, a former military base, remains a cluster of shelters and bunkers littered with old army supplies, and no one is rushing to lay down 8 million euros (7 million pounds) for a villa, or rather less for an apartment.
At the same time, hotels and restaurants along what was once the Yugoslav coastline are cutting prices in the biggest downturn since the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
"I must admit I am worried. This is the worst crisis year," Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic told Reuters. "It is hard to believe that any industry, including the tourist industry, can do business with the same intensity."
A few months ago, leaders in the Balkans forecast they would escape the worst of the world recession.
Now, many say they are next in line after the United States and the rest of Europe and a poor summer tourism season could deliver a severe blow to Montenegro and Croatia, which briefly fought during Yugoslavia's violent demise in the 1990s.
Both rely more on tourism revenue as a percentage of their gross domestic product than any other European countries, accounting for about a quarter of their economies, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Both economies are likely to be in recession this year.
Lower revenue could delay or reduce billions of dollars in expected leisure investment for years to come and have a serious effect on the balance of payments, while making foreign loans from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and commercial banks all the more pressing.
MADONNA AND THE STONES
Since opening in 2006, the upmarket 322-room Hotel Splendid outside Budva, Montenegro's main coastal city, has lured the rich and famous, including Madonna and the Rolling Stones.
Now, co-owner Zarko Radulovic is cutting room rates by 30 percent and offering bargains such as round-trip flights from Serbia's capital Belgrade and two nights' stay for 240 euros.
His Montenegro Stars Hotel Group expects to make no profit this year, but Radulovic, who is president of the Montenegrin Hotel Association, is concerned that 2010 could be even worse.
"I hope 2011, 2012 will be better," he said.
In the walled medieval city of Dubrovnik, Croatia's leading hotel firm Valamar, which operates 39 properties, says it is on schedule to open a $46-million (31.5 million pounds), 401-room hotel by May.
"In some of our properties we expect a demand decrease and we are compensating it with a large variety of creative packages," said board member Zrinko Kamber.
Many hotels and restaurants are talking about cutting prices by 10 to 20 percent. Croatia is suspending visa requirements for some nationalities and cutting tourism taxes.
"We will be hit," Montenegro Tourism Minister Predrag Nenezic said. "I'd be happy with minus 5 percent revenue."
Croatia has similar hopes, although some expect 20 percent less revenue, which would force it to re-adjust its budget.
Investors also want bargains. Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Development, is considering an investment in the Lustica peninsula at the entrance to Kotor Bay, where Venetians once sheltered their navy.
In an interview, Sawiris said he hoped Montenegro would use the slowdown to control recent excesses as Russians and others flooded the market to build and to buy. Many billboards in Russian and English still advertise apartments and investment deals.
"Montenegro right now is much better because this overheating that was starting to take place and deflect the people's and government's attention from proper (building) code development is now gone," he said on Wednesday.
Heavy discounting could complicate Montenegro's plans to differentiate itself from Croatia by moving up market. To weed out budget tourists who avoid restaurants, Montenegro inspects cars, letting in only a day's supply of food.
"Croatia clearly has gone for mass tourism," said Peter Munk, founder of Barrick Gold and lead investor converting a former naval port into a yacht complex in Tivat, Montenegro. "Montenegro has taken a much more careful approach."
His Porto Montenegro development plans to open its first yacht berths and housing this summer but could slow if demand slackens.
Investing large amounts in uncertain times is also in prospect for Amanresorts, the upmarket hotelier restoring Sveti Stefan, an island with 15th-century stone houses where stars such as Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor once stayed.
They originally expected to spend 20 million euros but rebuilding costs for the island and two adjacent properties have soared to 80 million euros, said project manager Jean-Pierre Barratin.
Closed in 2007, Sveti Stefan still has a long way to go. A recent tour showed rooms stripped bare and little building work in progress.
The first section, a six-room mainland villa, opened in December. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently stayed there but, at between 400 and 750 euros a night, bookings are modest.
However, company officials say the future is bright.
"Montenegro and Croatia, in my view, have the best and most beautiful coastline in Europe," said Adrian Zecha, founder of Amanresorts. "It is still unspoiled compared to the western Mediterranean coastline, which is overbuilt."
Many renowned Adriatic destinations are crying out for investment. Korcula, Croatia's most heavily populated island with a medieval walled core, still has lacklustre Yugoslav-era state hotels and past privatisation efforts have failed.
"Without new serious investment, I think our tourism will stagnate," said Korcula Mayor Mirko Duhovic. "Montenegro has opened the door to investors, they are much more liberal, which has led to a boom in investment."
Even as they prepare for tougher economic times, residents take comfort in knowing things can hardly be worse than during the wars in the 1990s. "If we survived the crisis in 1991, we will survive this crisis," Dubrovnik Mayor Dubravka Suica said.
(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Podgorica)
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:53 PM
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
By Nedjeljko Rudovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 14/04/09
Hoping to boost the energy sector, Montenegro's government has decided to sell nearly 20% of the state electrical company, Electropriveda. The move, however, came after a row between two parties in the ruling coalition -- Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the smaller Social Democratic Party (SDP), led by parliament speaker Ranko Krivokapic.
The SDP came out against the sale, arguing that strategic economic sectors should remain in state hands. Djukanovic and his party, by contrast, favour privatisation.
According to the prime minister, the state does not function well in the role of owner and entrepreneur. Krivokapic, however, has said it is too risky to give private companies the opportunity to control the energy sector.
In 2007, the SDP blocked the planned privatisation of a thermal plant and coal mine in Pljevlja, citing other countries in the region that had decided to maintain state control. This time, however, the DPS was able to persuade its partner to accept the Electropriveda sale, thus avoiding a split ahead of the March parliamentary elections. Potential bidders have until the end of April to submit offers for 18.3% of the company shares.
Out of that amount, 9.15% will be sold from existing capital, with the rest representing new capital, the state-run Agency for Restructuring and Foreign Investment reported.
Qualifying bidders should have produced or distributed at least 1,500 GWh of electricity in the last fiscal year. They must have revenue of at least 250m euros, assets worth at least 500m euros and a credit rating of at least BBB assigned by Standard & Poor's, Fitch, or Moody's.
The investor will enter a five-year management contract and must buy out a stake from small shareholders at the same price it pays the government.
Electropriveda -- 70.6% owned by the state -- reported a 7m-euro loss in 2008. The company's worth is estimated at 1 billion euros. Montenegro has not had new power generation facilities built in the last quarter century, and the country has an annual electricity shortfall of 35%.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:01 AM
Monday, April 13, 2009
FOCUS News Agency
PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO, Monday April 13, 2009 -- “Montenegro’s government has to consider whether Albanians should get a deputy Prime Minister’s term of office, which would ultimately be responsible for minorities’ issues and co-operation with its neighbors.” This is what chairman of the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, Ferhat Dinosa told Radio-television Montenegro.
He pointed to a proposal that Albanians need to have their own deputy chairman in Parliament, which would be good for all concerned. He added that Albanian representation of Montenegro must be present in all spheres of power.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 8:14 PM
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
06 April 2009
A vigorous debate took place on the issue of corruption in education at the conference ‘What are You Going to do When You Start to Work?’, organized by the NGOs Centre for Monitoring (CEMI) and Centre for Civic Education (CGO) with the support of the German Embassy in Montenegro.
The conference was organized under the aegis of the project ‘Corruption in Education’. The project of CEMI and CGO lasted for 11 months, and included 7 components: 1) survey; 2) capacity-building in student organizations; 3) education of high school students and teachers; 4) analysis of the legal framework; 5) national media campaign; 6) conference; 7) publication with recommendations on how to fight corruption in education.
CGO and CEMI presented the recommendations that followed the realization of the project at the conference. The recommendations were forwarded to the Ministry of Education, Universities, media, and student organizations, resulting in several additional measures proposed to the National Commission for the fight against corruption and organized crime.
The recommendations sparked quite a debate among presenters of the report and representatives of the University, which claimed that that corruption was far less present at University than it has been presented in CEMI and CGO’s study.
Project “Fight against corruption in education” continued its realization with a seminar for high school proffesors in PR center in Podgorica, February 27-28, 2009.
On a two day seminar participants had the opportunity to get information on project idea and goals, results of qualitative and quantitative research that we realized within the previous project phase, Action plan on fight against corruption and organized criminal, legal framework analysis and existing documents and recommendations for their improvement.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:58 AM
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Macedonian conservative candidate George Ivanov has scored a landslide victory in a presidential election runoff seen as a key test of the Balkan country's EU and NATO credentials.
Speaking at the national television, Mr Ivanov said that his "three crucial priorities" would be Macedonia's integration in the European Union and NATO, as well as the solution of the 18-year name dispute with Greece.
Mr Ivanov won 63.41 per cent of the vote compared with 36.56 per cent for Ljubomir Frckoski of the main opposition Social Democratic Union party, according to electoral commission data based on more than 96 per cent of polling stations.
The figures, expected to be confirmed later in the week, put turnout at 42.86 per cent, scraping over a threshold of 40 per cent and averting the need for the vote to be held again within six months.
A low turnout of voters for the presidential poll was apparently evident in ethnic Albanian populated areas. Ethnic Albanians make up one quarter of Macedonia’s population.
Conceding defeat, Mr Frckoski praised voters and party supporters for keeping the election free of the violence that marred parliamentary elections last year.
"We had a calm and peaceful election. I use this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Ivanov. God save Macedonia," he told party supporters.
The same sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, whose VMRO-DPMNE party had earlier claimed the lead for Mr Ivanov.
"We had free, fair, democratic and peaceful elections. Today the citizens showed democratic capacities and will for free, democratic elections. This is strongly opening our perspective for Euro-Atlantic integration," he said.
Mr Ivanov, 48, campaigned on bringing prosperity and resolving a long-running dispute with Greece that has damaged the former Yugoslav republic's hopes of joining the EU and NATO military alliance.
A political scientist who once served as a visiting professor in Greece, Mr Ivanov is known for his diligence, but has been criticised in some quarters for his lack of political experience.
The post, with a five-year mandate, is largely ceremonial, but the president is officially the supreme commander of the army, with decision-making authority in foreign policy and the judiciary.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 8:54 PM
Saturday, April 04, 2009
APRIL 1, 2009 -- Today, Albania and Croatia have completed the accession process, and have joined the Alliance as members. I warmly congratulate them on this historic achievement. In becoming NATO members, Albania and Croatia share the benefits and responsibilities of collective security.
We are looking forward to welcoming the Heads of State and Government of Albania and Croatia as full members of NATO at our Summit later this week.
A flag-raising ceremony marking the accession of Albania and Croatia will be held at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 7th.
STRASBOURG, FRANCE (AP) - Asserting his voice at NATO, President Barack Obama on Saturday welcomed Albania and Croatia to the alliance and declared to other nations that "the door to membership will remain open."
"It is a measure of our vitality that we are still welcoming new members," Obama said of NATO, which is marking its 60th anniversary at a summit dominated by the war in Afghanistan.
Obama, the one doing the welcoming, is himself new to the table. He is taking part in his first NATO summit and seeking support from allied nations toward the plodding effort in Afghanistan, where the new U.S. president is sending in more troops and civilian help.
As the leaders got down to business, the two NATO summit hosts, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made it clear they embraced new U.S. leadership. "We are very pleased to work with him," Sarkozy said of Obama. "We trust him."
Meanwhile, outside, police fired tear gas and flash bombs at protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks less than 2 miles from the gathering of world leaders. First lady Michelle Obama and other spouses canceled a visit to a cancer hospital out of concern for security, the French president's office said.
One of NATO'S stickiest political issues is how and where to grow. Germany, France and many other NATO nations fear any more NATO eastward expansion will further damage the alliance's ties to Russia.
Said Obama: "The door to membership will remain open for other countries that meet NATO standards and can make a meaningful contribution to allied security."
Founded in 1949, NATO has added members since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, its Soviet-dominated Cold War foe. In contrast to the alliance's previous eastward expansion, which infuriated Russia, Moscow has not objected to the inclusion of Albania and Croatia in NATO.
Albania and Croatia officially joined NATO this week. Obama praised them for having already deployed troops to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, calling that commitment a sign that both countries will be strong contributors.
"We are proud to have you as allies," Obama said. He also made a pitch for Macedonia and said he looks forward to the day when it will would join the alliance, too. Macedonia's accession to NATO has been stalled over a dispute with Greece.
Earlier, in a move symbolic of NATO's unity, Obama began his Saturday by joining Merkel and other heads of states in walking along a pedestrian bridge that links Germany and France across the Rhine River. The leaders met Sarkozy at the center of the bridge, then crossed together onto the French side in Strasbourg and posed for a group photo.
In the midst of an eight-day trip abroad, Obama says it is a new day in U.S.-European relations. But he is likely to encounter the same old story of allied reluctance to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The European allies may pony up a marginal increase in forces keyed to preparations for Afghanistan's national elections in August, but the Obama administration is pinning its main hopes on getting more civilian contributions _ particularly trainers for the Afghan police.
At the summit's opening on Friday, capped by a working dinner in nearby Baden-Baden, Germany, Obama promised to repair damaged relations with Europe, asked for support of his new war strategy in Afghanistan and pledged a U.S. commitment to global elimination of nuclear weapons _ in the name of keeping nuclear arms out of the hands of terrorists.
The summit's co-hosts, Sarkozy and Merkel, both were quick to offer support for Obama's new Afghan strategy of sending American reinforcements and bolstering the training of Afghan forces. But they would go no farther.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said securing new commitments from allies would neither begin nor end with the NATO meetings, noting that nations need more time to digest Obama's revamped war strategy. Obama's national security adviser, retired Gen. James Jones, said Obama's new approach to Afghanistan, which calls for widening the approach to include more civilian effort and broadening the focus to include Pakistan, would inspire fresh involvement. "I think there's a new mood," Jones said.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 1:06 PM