Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New York Times -- ALBANIAN JOAN OF ARC.; Handsome Heroine Takes Father's Place and Vanquishes Turks

This article was published by The New York Times on May 21, 1911. The original print can be found at this link:

The author is unknown

CETTINJE, May 9. -- A young girl, whose first name corresponds to that of the given name of the Maid of Orleans, is now being sung in the songs of the Montenegrin bards in the inns and coffee houses of Podgogritsa. When at the battle of Vranye last week her father, the hereditary commander of his clan, fell, she immediately stepped to his place and led the Martinais to victory against the Turks. Aside from the romantic phase of the affair, for Yanitza Martinay is very beautiful, the battle is important as showing that the Montenegrins on the frontier had joined with the Albanians.

According to a person who is well acquainted with her, this new Joan of Arc is not yet 22 years of age, and is "a tall, handsome, well-developed young woman. All the Albanian women are brave, and are trained from their girlhood to the use of firearms, and in times of war, as there are no mules, they carry the provisions and ammunition for their soldiers and go into the firing line to distribute them."

"And are sometimes killed?"

"Yes, often that happens."

"Yanitza would probably have carried a Martini rifle; or, as many of the Martinis were collected last year by the Turks, her weapon may perhaps have been one of the old-fashioned Albanian rifles, which are handsomely decorated with silver and have very long, narrow barrels."

Shooting is almost the only amusement of the young men and women in Albania. Both boys and girls learn to shoot when they are 12 years old. At weddings and parties amuse themselves by dancing and shooting; at christenings shooting again is the principal amusement -- firing at targets for some little prize -- and at festivals there is shooting all day long. It is one of the great difficulties that Turks have to contend with, for it is part of the national life; the people use their rifles by day and sleep with them at their side by night. The custom has grown up with the prevailing insecurity from vandettas at home and border troubles abroad.

Physically, the Albanians are the finest race in Europe. Their women are handsome, with dark hair, though their eyes are sometimes gray. To see them walk is a delight. We like to see the ballet is Servia. The first time I saw the Albanians walk it gave me just the same pleasure. Their movements are so graceful, elegance and strength together.

Yes, they are a very fine and a very gifted race. They are like the Scots in the seventeenth century, and they will be by and by the finest race, intellectually as well as physically, in the Balkans. If you go to Constantinople you will find that many of the finest men, not only soldiers but also statesmen, are Albanians.

Their fault, due to their present degree of civilization, is that they cannot grasp the idea of State. The clan is their highest organization; they are unable to see the importance of combining the clan with the higher organization of making a state. But that will come.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

U.S. (Biden) gets cheers in Kosova after Serbia embarrasses herself

By Adam Tanner
Thursday, May 21, 2009 9:56 AM

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden received a tumultuous welcome in Kosovo on Thursday just hours after leaving Serbia where thousands of police kept streets empty to avoid anti-American protests.

The contrasting welcomes on a three-day tour of the Balkans highlighted both warm Kosovar feelings for the United States which has supported its independence, and the still uneasy relations between Serbia and Washington.

"Welcome and Thank You," said posters across Pristina, showing pictures of Biden, a former U.S. senator known for his support of Kosovo independence from Serbia.

Thousands of schoolchildren lined his route into town, holding up American and Kosovo flags. They cheered wildly as his black limousine passed, and some chanted: "USA, USA."

"The United States and God saved us in 1999. Biden is our man and I came here to see him," said Shukri Morina, who traveled 30 kilometers (19 miles) to Pristina.

In Serbia, police cleared the streets of people who still bitterly remember the NATO 1999 bombing of Belgrade, and some offices were told to keep their windows shut with the curtains drawn. Hundreds of police lined Biden's route to the airport and even the tarmac itself.

Kosovo, where more than 90 percent of its two million people are ethnic Albanians, declared independence last year, but Serbia is suing in an international court, claiming it had no right to do so.

International troops still patrol, including about 1,400 from the United States. Over the past decade the international community has given billions of dollars in aid to landlocked Kosovo, the Balkans' smallest geographic country.

"I think the government has made considerable progress in the first year, it's remarkable," Biden said in a meeting with Kosovo's prime minister and president. "The United States has made it clear that the recognition of Kosovo is irreversible."

Unemployment is still very high and crime and corruption remain serious. With several European Union countries refusing to recognize Kosovo, it is the only Balkan country without any EU prospects at present.

"We have given our commitments to continue good governance, transparency, rule of law and fight corruption," said Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Biden's visit "is a reconfirmation of powerful support from the U.S. for the progress that we have achieved in Kosovo."


To highlight American support for the rights of the ethnic Serb minority, Biden plans to visit the 14th century Decani monastery, one of the jewels of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

But Orthodox Church leaders in Kosovo with jurisdiction over Decani criticized the plans.

"The U.S. vice president is visiting Kosovo as an independent state, to confirm the forceful secession of Serbia's territory and its handover to Albanian terrorists who were not punished for numerous crimes against Serbian people, Serbian property and Serbian cultural and religious heritage," they said in a press statement.

"Does Joseph Biden want to confirm with his gesture that Decani is an American base in Kosovo, the same as camp Bondsteel?" the statement asked, referring to a military base Biden was also to visit on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina and Branislav Krstic in Decani; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Biden seeks new U.S. start in Balkans


18 May 2009

By Adam Tanner

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden makes the highest-level U.S. visit to Serbia in a quarter century this week seeking a new diplomatic start in the Balkans, a region where Washington twice intervened militarily in the 1990s.

In visiting two of Serbia's former adversaries, Bosnia and Kosovo on the same trip, the former U.S. senator with much experience in foreign affairs faces a tricky balancing act where sensitivities about the past wars and divisions remain strong.

"The main point really is that, in a sense, the United States is back; the focus that we had in the 1990s on the region is back," a senior U.S. official told reporters.

"We haven't been as focused on the Balkans in recent years, maybe some of the momentum, for example, in Bosnia, has been lost or, in some cases, reversed."

In 1991 just before the start of the wars that ended Yugoslavia, then Secretary of State James Baker said: "We don't have a dog in this fight." But by 1995 Washington and NATO were bombing Bosnian Serbs and then brokering a peace deal to end a war that killed 100,000 people.

In 1999, the United States and NATO bombed Belgrade in an effort to force rump Yugoslavia to withdraw from Kosovo. A few major buildings in the Serbian capital Belgrade remain in rubble and resentment over the bombing endures.

In recent years, the United States has focused on Kosovo, which declared independence last year, after devoting much attention on warring and postwar Bosnia in the mid 1990s.

"We have had an approach in the last 20 years where we have tried to address what we see as the most critical problems," U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Cameron Munter said in an interview. "What that sometimes leads to is a focus so that those problems sometimes become the defining element of the Balkan policy."

Washington now seeks a broader view of interlocking Balkan issues, he said, a region hoping to join the European Union.


The vice president arrives on Tuesday in Bosnia, where he meets leaders from both halves of a country divided along ethnic lines. The Bosnian Serb half has acted more assertively since 2006 on boosting its autonomy and the Muslim-Croat half remains stuck in a political and economic morass.

"What the problems are here is a clear demonstration that appeasement does not work," said Raffi Gregorian, a U.S. diplomat who is the deputy peace envoy to Bosnia. "Messages of keep Bosnia quiet but don't do anything have not succeeded on behalf of the international community."

Highlighting the division is an announced protest during Biden's visit by Serb veterans to draw attention to what they call discrimination of non-Muslims in Bosnia. Diplomats and analysts say the ethnic standoff could endanger the entire region's stability and slow EU integration.

Bosnian Serbs are wary about Biden visit and a big U.S. role, but Bosnia's foreign minister welcomed him.

"It is a very clear sign of the willingness of this new administration to engage in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to finalize the project that was started during the Clinton Administration," Sven Alkalaj told Reuters.

Serbs in particularly are watching Biden skeptically because of his past criticism of Serb actions in Kosovo, its ex-province that remains a sore point in relations with the West. Biden, who visits Belgrade on Wednesday, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to Serbia since Vice President George Bush in 1983.

By contrast, Biden is likely to receive a warm welcome on Thursday in Kosovo, where he is celebrated as a long-time supporter of Kosovo independence during his years as a U.S. senator. Kosovo is strongly pro-American and the capital Pristina has a Bill Clinton Boulevard and will soon rename one of the city's street after George. W. Bush.

The vice president also had a family link to Kosovo. His son Joseph III, now Delaware's attorney general, served as a U.S. Justice Department adviser in Kosovo in 2001.

(Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo and Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; editing by Alison Williams)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Economic crisis plunges Montenegro into uncertainty


The wealthest municipality in Montenegro has had to halt reconstruction on one of its top resorts for lack of funds. Just weeks ahead of the main tourist season, the town of Petrovac does not resemble the pictures of bliss on postcards -- instead, it consists of a half-finished promenade, uncleared beaches and dusty roads.

It is uncertain how long the town will have to wait for prosperity to return. The Budva municipality cannot afford to pay construction firms to finish the work. The municipality, which once boasted over 100 millionaires among its population of 15,000 is now teeming with employees who have not received salaries in four months.
Budva's reputation rested on sales of seaside homes, apartments, hotels and land to foreigners. Now that the crisis has hit globally, the banks that made the loans are selling off the very same dwellings.

The municipality itself is 20m euros in debt -- mainly because of failed construction projects -- and faces a blocked bank account. Budva is not alone in its misery. Last week, projections of a 4% decline in Montenegro's GDP this year overshadowed the government's former projections of up to 2.5% growth.

"The primary revenues of the Montenegrin budget in the first quarter of this year were 216m euros -- about 13.8% less than expected," the finance ministry said. Finance Minister Igor Luksic is currently negotiating with Deutsche Bank to iron out the terms of a 75m-euro loan that will help boost the country's 1.6-billion-euro budget.

The government, which has already obtained a 150m-euro loan from the European Investment Bank to back the liquidity of financial institutions, is also holding talks with the IMF and other international creditors.

"The IMF is ready to support our financial system under certain conditions," Luksic said after returning from the Washington meetings of the IMF and World Bank last month.

The budget suffers from a lack of foreign investment, a source of revenue that dried up abruptly. In 2007, the country saw almost 60m euros of income from privatisation -- the figure dropped to 11.5m euros in 2008. Contracted investments brought in 20.5m euros in 2008 -- ten times less than in 2007, Montenegrin Vice-President Vujica Lazovic said earlier this week.

He offered two reasons for the collapse in revenues from investment. "One is the global market crisis, and second is that we do not have many companies that we can offer for sale, particularly attractive ones."