Monday, June 29, 2009

Albania’s ruling party poised for election win

Albania’s ruling Democrats look set for victory after a weekend parliamentary election. Exit polls give the party 69 seats; that is enough to win, but short of the 71 seats needed for a majority.

The opposition Socialists are said to have 55 seats, if the early results are confirmed. Definitive results are expected later today.

International observers and the opposition have deemed these elections to have been fair overall.

The ballot is seen as a test of Albania’s readiness to join the European Union. The country became a NATO member in April and has applied to join the EU.

Even though official results have not been announced, supporters of Democrat Prime Minister Sali Berisha took to the streets in celebration.

The Socialists are led by Edi Rama, mayor of the capital Tirana. He told supporters that despite what he called “a series of irregularities and unpleasing details” in various parts of the country, he said he was satisfied with the election overall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mali i Zi ka shpresa për liberalizimin e vizave

Mali i Zi ka shpresa të shumta të lëvizjes përpara me liberalizimin e vizave. Në takimin e tyre kohët e fundit në Luksemburg, ministrat e jashtëm të BE treguan se vendi, së bashku me Maqedoninë dhe Serbinë, ishte në rrugën e duhur dhe mund të shihte që kërkesat të hiqeshin brenda muajsh.

Kryeministri Milo Gjukanoviç, i zgjedhur kohët e fundit për mandatin e tij të gjashtë, e ka deklaruar çështjen një përparësi të qeverisë.

"Nuk ka mënyrë më të dukshme të nxitjes së reformave dhe vlerave europiane sesa liberalizimi i vizave," tha ai pas përurimit të tij. "Ne besojmë ... [se] do ta bëjmë të mundur që Mali i Zi të jetë midis vendeve të para në rajon, shtetasit e të cilëve do të udhëtojnë së shpejti pa vizë në vendet e Shengen."

Qeveria ende duhet të bindë Brukselin se do të përpiqet në disa çështje kyçe të tilla si lufta kundër korrupsionit, pastrimi i parave dhe paisja e të gjitha kalimeve kufitare me teknologjinë e kërkuar.

Shumë analistë, megjithatë, mendojnë se rruga përpara do të jetë relativisht pa probleme. Mali i Zi ka përmbushur shumicën e kushteve të BE duke përfshirë lëshimin e pasaportave biometrike që ajo shpërndau vitin e kaluar.

"Kërkesat ndaj Malit të Zi nuk janë të mëdha, gjithshka është në zonën e punës kozmetike," i tha Southeast European Times Sekretari i Përgjithshëm i Lëvizjes Europiane në Malin e Zi, Momçillo Raduloviç. "Unë mendoj se do të jetë e mjaftueshme për Podgoricën të premtojë se do të bëjë diçka dhe të tregojë sinjale të qarta se do të jetë kështu."

"Mundësia është këtu dhe deri në këshillin e ministrave të drejtësisë së BE në korrik ka kohë të mjaftueshme për qeverinë e Malit të Zi të tregojë një shkallë më të madhe përkushtimi ndaj çështjes dhe të përmbushë kushtet e papërmbushura," tha Drejtoresha Ekzekutive e Qendrës për Edukimin Qytetar, Daliborka Uljareviç.

Sipas zëdhënësit të Partisë Social Demokratikie, Rashko Konjeviç, liberalizimi i vizave përbën një piketë në procesin e pranimit. "Kjo është masa më e veçantë në rrugën për t'u bashkuar me BE," i tha Konjeviç Southeast European Times.

Çështja është posatçërisht e rëndësishme për të rinjtë dhe për ata që duan të studiojnë jashtë vendit, shtoi ai.

Nga Nedjeljko Rudoviç për Southeast European Times në Podgoricë -- 23/06/09

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ferhat Dinosha says "NO" to Tuzi Municipality

Podgorica, 19 June 2009 (MINA) – “Tuzi is currently not prepared to elevate to the status of Municipality, given it is not an economically viable area,” said Minister for Human and Minority Rights, Ferhat Dinosha.

Dinosha said that establishments should not proceed with the creation of new municipalities at any cost, where there may be lack of resources and no basis for a budget.

Dinosha recalled that Tuzi currently has the status of Urban Municipality, as part of the capital Podgorica, and added that this status is much more favorable for a future transitional phase where they will eventually become independent municipalities.

"Municipal status should go where local governments allow people to live better lives, and better life cannot exist in territories without money (sufficient budget),” said Dinohsa.

Friday, June 19, 2009

KONIK: Montenegro's Roma Camp Shame

Konik is the largest refugee camp in the Balkans but outside of Montenegro few people know of its existence

Montenegro's solution for its minorities? "Go back to where you came from!"

Elvis has never been to school and he doesn't think he would like to.
He will be seven in August and has lived his entire life in the Konik camp for Roma refugees, a sprawl of tents and makeshift wooden huts on the outskirts of Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, next to the country's largest rubbish dump.

His family has lived here since they fled the fighting in Kosovo ten years ago, leaving their homes and all their belongings behind as they ran for their lives.

Three weeks ago the wooden hut they had lived in for the past ten years burnt to the ground along with 18 others - leaving 124 people homeless. Fires are frequent in camp because of bad wiring and the use of open stoves and candles.

The family of 13 now lives in a tent provided by UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.

The Red Cross has given them some flour and oil, but they don't have enough food or water. Survival, rather than Elvis's education, is their current priority.
Food scraps

Elvis doesn't mind his new home as long as he and his best friend, also called Elvis, get to play with their little toy cars. His family, who have now lost everything they own for a second time, are frustrated and scared.

His 59-year-old grandmother asked not to be named, afraid the local Montenegrin community would target her family if she spoke out about their conditions.
So anonymously, she explains: "The conditions we are living in are inhuman.

"We could almost accept this life when it was wartime.

"It's been ten years [now] and we still live like this, now the government needs to help us."

Elvis's uncle, 31, adds: "My mother and wife beg in town. My brother and father pick food from garbage cans.

"I have no idea how long we will be living in this tent for. Why is no one helping us?"

Konik is the largest refugee camp in the Balkans. It is home to more than 2,000 Roma refugees, most of who fled the conflict in Kosovo over a decade ago.

Of the 1,300 students at the local primary school, 270 are Roma.

Save the Children has been working in this school since 2002, hoping to integrate students from the camps into the community through inclusive education projects. It is an uphill struggle.

The mayor of Podgorica recently called for Roma refugees to return to where they came from.

The primary school principal complains that Roma children have poor attendance and a high drop out rate.

Several parents from the local community have withdrawn their children from classes with high numbers of Roma kids and enrolled them in other schools.

Putrid smell

After ten years, the wider community does not acknowledge the refugee Roma's right to remain.

Refugees are unable to work in Montenegro because they don't have the correct documentation and many of the children don't go to school because of poverty and fear of bullying.

Few feel comfortable leaving the confines of the over-crowded camps so days are spent inside the wire-fenced parameter searching for shade and listening to the Kosovan folk songs booming from stereos.

In summer, temperatures regularly top 40 degrees celsius and the stench from the piles of rubbish the children play in is putrid.

The camp has a supply of electricity and water but not enough to go round. For Takovi Aziz, 24, life in Konik is unbearable.

"We are young, we are strong but we can't work. I have no right to work here because I am Roma and because I am from Kosovo.

"The conditions are getting worse and worse. I can't stand it anymore," he says.
"We can't go outside of the camp because the locals here pick fights with us, so we're trapped.

"The whole of Montenegro must despise us, why else would they let us live like this?"

Health risks

Most people in Konik make whatever money they can from collecting scrap metal from the nearby rubbish dump and selling it on for money.

Skender, 30, earns $280 a month doing this, but it's not enough. "My children are hungry and I can't give them any food," he says.

Skender explains that when it rains, the wood and tin hut where he and his family live floods.

The damp means his five children are often sick with colds and have problems with their lungs.

He thinks it is getting even harder for the refugee community here to survive.
For seven years, he explains, a local cleaning company employed around 70 people from the camp.

They were all recently fired for not having the correct paperwork and promptly replaced by Montenegrins.

Skender asks: "We want to live better lives but how can we? We have no support from the government, we have no support from the USA or the United Nations so we just sit here without a purpose in this camp."

Watching his children play in the ashes of the burned out buildings, he adds: "Our children have nothing and we don't have a choice."

Phoebe Greenwood works for Save the Children charity, a UK-based charity.
For more information on Konik camp please visit

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Albanian-American Association “Malёsia e Madhe” Congratulates the newly elected Officers of Homeland Unites Us, Inc.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN USA, June 13, 2009 – The Albanian-American Association “Malёsia e Madhe” congratulates the newly elected officers of “Atdheu na Bashkon” and encourages them to continue their tireless efforts in securing the inherent rights of Albanians in Montenegro.

Given that ethnic bigotry continues to be status quo in sociopolitical programmes affecting communities dominated by Albanian minorities, our organizations will have to collectively pursue strategies designed to underscore these blatant abuses and firmly stand in the path of these calculated ethno-assaults and push back with the tools granted to us by international laws and institutions.

Albanians in Montenegro have grown to realize that when you belong to a minority, you have to be better and work harder in order to have the right to be equal, but when only one ethnic community continues to be favoured regardless of their efforts, it should come to no surprise that discontent emerges, communities become segregated along ethnic lines, and the interests of everyone in the state are harmed.

Our goals run parallel: to permanently erase these disparities between the majority and minority, and do away with these cleavages, that if not corrected in the short term will have grave consequences in the long run. If Podgorica’s political elites want to reap the benefits of democratic recognition as they thoughtlessly rush for European integration, they must first bear the fatigue of establishing and supporting an internal apparatus that will guarantee Albanians the most basic human rights called out by their inactive constitution and made as a prerequisite by international laws. If they fail to fulfill these responsibilities, then we will assert our responsibilities and make certain that Podgorica’s shortcomings do not go unnoticed by international monitoring bodies and European member states and institutions.

We welcome Levizja’s new administration and look forward to collectively working to appease these aforementioned problems.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Homeland Unites Us, Inc. elects new officers

8 JUNE 2009, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT -- The bloggers of freemalesia would like to congratulate the newly elected officers of Homeland Unites Us, Inc. (a.k.a. “Levizja Atdheu na Bashkon”), and wish them luck in all their endeavors to seek justice and equal rights in the Albanian-dominated regions of Montenegro.

We seek a new page in our continued struggle for freedom, liberty, self-determination, and free will as we tirelessly work to prevent Montenegrin institutions from terrifying and enslaving Albanians, while at the same time monopolizing their power and profit.

Our message is clear: Albanians with principles can penetrate where Montenegrin despots cannot. As such, Montenegro’s democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where the majority of the Slavic people take away the rights of the minority Albanian inhabitants. For these reasons we seek truth, justice, and compensation in the form of elevated human rights, afforded to us at birth, where no government gives or takes away, but instead PROTECTS what is inherently ours!

HUU has been the most progressive Albanian NGO in the Diaspora dealing with anti-Albanian policies in Montenegro. A small sample of their success is complimented by (1) staffing an office for human rights and minority protection in Tuz, Malesia e Madhe, (2) successfully promoting and expanding Albanian seats in Podgorica’s Parliament by consulting Albanian political parties, Forca e Re and Perspektiva en route to their victories, (3) consulting, researching, writing, and reporting on the unrestrained abuses perpetrated against the Albanian minorities in Montenegro and publishing for the first time in history a comprehensive account of factual and supporting data detailing a breach in human rights (forthcoming), (4) strengthening the ties with the several Albanian-American organizations throughout the United States in efforts to confront the Montenegrin assault campaign HEAD-On in a united and undeterred front.

The road is long, but the commitment is strong. Congratulations HUU:

President: Dr. Paloka Camaj
V. President: Sabri Gjoni
Treasurer: Gjon Dedvukaj
Secretary: Kol Gjelaj

Friday, June 05, 2009

Montenegro Snuffs Kosova at Balkan Summit in Cetinje

June 04, 2009

PODGORICA -- A summit of Balkan leaders in Montenegro will include the presidents of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, Albania, and Bulgaria, but the president of Kosovo was not invited, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

The regional meeting -- which opens today in the medieval town of Cetinje -- will focus on the cultural heritage of the Balkans.

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic will host the meeting, but no one in his cabinet would comment on the absence of Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu.

A Montenegrin official told RFE/RL that the lack of diplomatic relations between Kosovo and Montenegro is the reason why Sejdiu was not invited to the summit.

Montenegro, which became independent in 2006, recognized Kosovo as an independent country on October 9, 2008.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Yugosphere

By Tim Judah

02 June 2009

Tim Judah examines the overlapping connections between the nation states of the former Yugoslavia.

They say that “no news is good news.” But for the western Balkans this is not true. Preoccupied with the world financial crisis, Afghanistan, Iraq or widespread corruption (ie., British members of parliament,) it is not surprising that this region gets precious little coverage in the outside world, but as a result, when it does, much of it harks back to the war years (eg. ‘man indicted for war crimes sold medicine for impotence’) and thus reinforces old stereotypes.

But this also means that one of the most tectonic shifts in the region in the last decade, has gone completely unnoticed in the world outside.

By striking contrast though, this development is apparently so blindingly obvious to everyone who lives in the region that, if you ask a political scientist if any serious academic research has been done on the range and depth of the phenomenon, he or she just will look blank, think for five seconds, and then say “no.”

I am talking of the love that dare not speak its name, i.e. the Yugosphere. It is the gradual reconnection of a million broken bonds within the region of the old Yugoslavia ranging from culture to business to military and police cooperation, to what must also be virtually daily regional conferences, of everyone from vets to central bank governors.

I say that it is the love that dare not speak its name because, that it is exactly what it is. Type the word ‘Yugosphere’ and into Google and you get nine references, most of which no longer even exist anymore and the rest of which do not relate to what I am talking about.

Try ‘Anglosphere’ by contrast and you get 123,000 references. However the socio-political concept of the Anglosphere, i.e., the things that link the English-speaking peoples from New Zealand to Canada via Britain and the US, is quite different.

Within the Yugosphere the word does not exist of course because, despite the fact that it is plain for all to see - what else would you call the market for a newspaper that has on its masthead its price in the six different currencies of the six ex-republics – no one feels that this is a politically correct expression. But, that does not mean it does not exist.

And, let’s be clear, this is nothing to do with Yugo-nostalgia. How could young Croats whose phones or iPods are crammed with Serbian music, be nostalgic for something they never knew? Why do hordes of young Slovenes and Bosnians (and even quite a few Kosovo Albanians), descend on Serbia’s Exit music festival every year? Why has the Croatian supermarket, Idea, just opened another branch in Usce, in Belgrade? Why is Mercator, from Slovenia, everywhere? Why is Cipiripi, (the Yugosphere answer to Nutella,) planning, according to a recent headline, to “conquer Croatia”?

Why are army officers from Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro training together every day, even if this is not publicised very much? Why do policemen from Croatia and Serbia get on better with one another, than do different and rival parts of the their own police forces?

Why were criminals and turbofolk singers the ironic trailblazers in exploiting the Yugosphere market? (Because they cared early, about making money, not politics).

The answer to all these questions is simple. Because this is a coherent region with a common history and culture and in its heartland of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, people speak the same language with only as much variation as people in different parts of Britain do.

Of course there are always exceptions. Kosovo and its Albanian population being the most notable. And yet, even they often fit the pattern. Look in any supermarket in Kosovo and see how much Montenegrin wine, Slovene milk or Serbian food, Kosovars consume every day.

But here’s the rub. The Yugosphere is just the roof over a far more complex and multifaceted society that exists below it, and Kosovo Albanians, like everyone else, can and do exist in two or more spheres at once.

For example, underneath the Yugosphere we have the ‘Serbosphere’. It stretches from Drvar, the only Serbian majority town in the Bosniak-Croatian Federation in Bosnia via Banja Luka, the capital of the Republika Srpska to Belgrade and down to Strpce and the other Serbian enclaves in Kosovo.

In parallel we can see a Croatian sphere, specifically in Croatian-inhabited parts of Bosnia and a Bosniak sphere which stretches to Sandzak.

And then there is the Albanosphere. Today, with the exception of the former Yugoslav parts of the Albanian-speaking world, this is the most weakly developed of the spheres, in great part of course because, unlike everyone else, the Albanians were for so long divided between two countries with very limited communication.

Until now that has changed slowly. But, with the new highway linking Kosovo and Albania – a major tunnel was symbolically inaugurated on Sunday – that will change. So, sooner or later, the Albanian sphere will come to equal the Serbian one as the biggest in terms of numbers of people it encompasses and strength.

Does all this matter, especially if it means that people’s first identification is with their nation, not their state and, on top of that, most of them live in an ever strengthening cultural, social and business space defined by a state that vanished long ago?

And some may ask, how can this theory be true when there are so many unresolved conflicts between nations and states, within Bosnia for example or between Kosovo and Serbia or now between Croatia and Slovenia?

The answer is that the Yugosphere emerges, or re-emerges, with ever more vitality every year, despite nationalist ideologues. It, and the sub-spheres including the Albanian one, are natural phenomena developing whether anyone likes them, or not. And, in this scheme of things, European integration is vital. If the pull factor of Europe recedes, then the clock can be turned back, the nationalists can argue that borders really do matter and that spheres should indeed be “Greater” states rather than benign zones of cooperation and identification in which all can prosper without eventually setting off new rounds of hate and conflict. Brussels – Can you hear me?

Tim Judah is Balkans correspondent of the Economist and a visiting research fellow at the South East European unit of the European Institute at the London School of Economics.

Corruption, politics: Huge loopholes for Balkans criminals

Europe Features
Jun 2, 2009, 12:48 GMT

Belgrade/Zagreb - When Belgrade police arrested the prime suspect in the assassination of a prominent journalist in Zagreb, it turned out that he had Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian citizenship, each offering him shelter from extradition.

Serbia could therefore not hand him over to Croatia for prosecution, the state secretary in the Justice Ministry, Slobodan Homen, confirmed. Homen, however, promised that although suspect would not be whisked off to Croatia, he 'will be processed in Serbia.'

Similarly, Bosnia cannot return Branimir Glavas, a Croatian legislator sentenced in Zagreb to 10 years for war crimes, to his homeland because he obtained a Bosnian passport six months before the verdict came in May and fled across the border as it was read out.

Some 30 Croats sentenced for a crime are protected in Bosnia by their papers, including the organized crime boss Blaz Petrovic, corrupt surgeon Ognjen Simic and robber Zeljko Vrbat.

Bosnia is a 'Mexico for Croat fugitives,' a recent headline said. But, it works the other way round too, with Croatia sheltering its own. Former Bosnian banker Ante Jelavic arrived in Croatia in 2005 having fled his home country following a convicted for a massive embezzlement.

Serbia and Montenegro complete the quarter of former Yugoslav republics that share the same language and are criss-crossed by family, ethnic, political and business links.

Many prominent fugitives from Serbian justice, such as the former football administrator Zvezdan Terzic and disgraced tycoon Bogoljub Karic have found refuge in Montenegro.

'Montenegro grants amnesty to criminals with its passport,' the Belgrade daily Politika said recently.
But all countries in the region are lax in controlling citizenship applications, with bribes known to ease the process even further. As a result, criminals easily obtain documents to run circles around justice systems.

European diplomats point to this as one of the reasons for the strict entry visa regime for Serbs, Bosnians, Montenegrins and Macedonians.

Today, borders in former Yugoslavia only hamper police, 'while never, even in the blackest days of war, posing an obstacle to criminals,' a former Croatian criminal division police chief, Hajrudin Omerovic, said.

'Organized crime is the same everywhere, from South Africa to Serbia - it is easily regulated when there's political will, Omerovic told the German Press Agency dpa.

He said the political reasons for extradition limitations, which are stemming from the wars in former Yugoslavia and as protection of participants in the conflict, is endorsed by corrupt parts in state administrations.

'Countries that emerged from former Yugoslavia should change the constitutional articles banning extradition of nationals ... so they would not apply in organized crime cases - that would not affect delicate issues of ethnic conflicts,' Omerovic said.

But any will to move forward remains sidelined by the 'big alliance' of organized crime and corrupt segments of administration, which provides shelter to criminals within the context of national interests, he said.

'All those criminals did not accidentally get citizenships,' Omerovic stressed. 'Somebody gave it to them to protect them.'

Croatian and Serbian police cooperated fully in the investigation into the murder of journalist Ivo Pukanoic, whose alleged executor was arrested in Belgrade over the weekend.

'But now that they have arrested the perpetrator, there is a wall and a problem that can only be resolved by politicians, if they want it resolved at all,' Omerovic said.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Kosova-Albania cut through mountains

Crews working on the tunnel of the new highway connecting Albania and Kosovo completed work on Sunday, inaugurating the breakthrough with a celebration ceremony attended by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

The 5.6-kilometre tunnel is part of the Rreshen-Kalimash road - one of the segments of the Albania-Kosovo highway.

The milestone, which was transformed into an electoral rally by the Albanian leader, saw deputies from both countries and hundreds of supporters congregate in the tunnel in a show of unity between the two sister nations.

“We lived today one of our wildest dreams,” Berisha said, addressing the gathered crowd. “We did not tear down a wall today, rather a mountain that separated us,” he added.

Thaci also depicted the highway as a symbol of unity between the two countries, as well as a symbol of Kosovo’s new independence.

“The central element of this physical and spiritual connection is the freedom and independence of Kosovo, the Kosovar state,” Thaci told the crowd.

Albania’s largest public works project in decades, the four-lane highway is expected to strengthen the already deep ties between Albania and Kosovo, where more than 90 per cent of the population of 2 million is of Albanian descent.

It will make travel for hundreds of thousands of Kosovars who cross the border to take their summer holidays in Albania each year much easier.

The road has been dubbed the “patriotic highway,” reflecting the widely perceived geopolitical motives behind the project – and the fact that no feasibility study was ever undertaken into the possible return on investment for the massive undertaking. Corruption allegations and cost overruns have led many to question the ultimate value of the highway's construction.

Last November, following a 17-month investigation, Albanian Prosecutor General Ina Rama indicted Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha on charges of abuse of office in connection with the tender for the highway.

Rama said the deal with Bechtel-Enka to build the most challenging portion of the road, the 61-kilometre stretch from Rreshen to Kalimash, had cost the country hundreds of millions of euros more than originally necessary.

The charge related to Basha’s tenure as transport minister from 2005 to 2007. The prosecutor maintained that Basha and his then-chief legal aide, Andi Toma, illegally favoured Bechtel-Enka.

The minister allegedly allowed construction to begin before the blueprint for the work was finished and in breach of Albanian law on open public tenders. He allegedly accepted a much higher price per work unit than was charged for similar projects elsewhere.

The price tag for Bechtel-Enka’s work, which covers a little more than one-third of the highway's full length, has leaped from 416 million euros in the initial contract to more than 1 billion euros, according to prosecution charges.

Prosecution experts and the state auditing office say the Transport Ministry’s wrongful action cost Albanian taxpayers between 114 and 232 million euros, depending on the method used to calculate the cost.

However, on April 10, the Supreme Court dismissed the charges on a series of technicalities, arguing that Basha had not been indicted properly last November.

“This is the end of a political process and the end of the plot against the highway,” a relieved Basha told reporters outside the courthouse.

The ruling has been harshly criticised by legal experts, however. And despite the ruling, the case against the minister is not over. Prosecutors are expected to file new charges after yet another investigation.

While the Rreshen-Kalimash section of the highway has cost Albania over one billion euros, according to the charges filed against Basha, this is not, of course, the total cost of the highway to Kosovo.

The Rreshen-Kalimash section is only a part of the 170-kilometre route. The Albanian government refuses to give an exact estimate of the total cost of the project.

Source: BIRN