Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kosova Elects President and Prime Minister

PRISTINA, Kosova — Kosova's parliament elected Hashim Thaci to a second term as prime minister Tuesday and chose businessman Behgjet Pacolli as the country's new president.

Hashim Thaci was voted in 65-1 to head a coalition government facing growing social tensions and a new round of talks with Serbia aimed at resolving a score of disputes.

Pacolli, a self-declared multimillionaire who owns a Swiss-based construction company, received 62 votes, with 4 against. Pacolli, the country's second president since Kosova seceded from Serbia in 2008, was elected on the third attempt, after failing to secure at least 80 votes in the first two rounds of voting as required by law.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Albania Blood Movie, "The Forgiveness of Blood" Wins Silver Bear at Berlinale

Joshua Marston’s drama about two young people caught in a blood feud in Albania’s rural north has won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

"The Forgiveness of Blood," a drama written by Albanian-born, New York-based scriptwriter Andamion Murataj, tells the story of a family trapped in a cycle of vengeance.

Like in his celebrated 2004 movie Maria Full of Grace, Marston used both unknown actors and professionals for the Forgiveness of Blood.

The two main characters are played by 18-year-old Tristian Halilaj and 15-year-old Sindi Lacej, who had no previous acting experience.

The lead actress in Maria Full of Grace, Catalina Sandino Moreno, who had only a few acting classes to her name before the film, was nominated for an Academy Award.

The film is a familiar tale of territorial rights and family honor but it is told well and the film features appealingly natural performances by non-professionals. It could reach beyond festivals in certain territories, particularly those that have populations with a Balkan heritage.

In the rural north of the formerly communist nation, bread is still delivered by horse and cart but every teenager has a mobile phone. The police have modern vehicles and weapons but elders dish out justice according to the 15th-century Balkan code known as the Kanun.

A conflict over the right of way on one family's land leads to anger and violence. When a man dies, there is no way to avoid a blood feud. Marston and Albania-born screenwriter Andamion Murataj have fashioned an absorbing tale about the impact of such old-fashioned rules, especially on the younger generation.

The director has a good eye and British cinematographer Rob Hardy ("Boy A," "Red Riding") captures shrewdly the many contrasts of ancient and modern in tools, buildings and terrain.

Refet Abazi plays Mark, a delivery man whose daily route with horse and cart has taken him across trails used since his grandfather owned much of the land. But a temperamental man named Sokol (Veton Osmani) now owns the land and he places rocks on the ground to block Mark's way.

When Sokol insults him and his family in the presence of his teenaged daughter Rudina (Sindi Lacej), Mark returns with his brother Zef (Luan Jaha) to set things right. The encounter occurs offscreen but soon Zokol is dead, Zev is in prison, and Mark is in hiding.

A blood feud is declared that means Mark's teenaged son Nik (Tristan Halilaj) and his little brother cannot leave the house in fear of retribution. Nik, who has ambitions of opening an Internet cafe once he graduates and has a school sweetheart, Bardha (Zana Hasaj), chafes under incarceration. However, Rudina thrives in her new duties driving the horse and cart to deliver bread and other goods.

Marston sets a level of increased tension as Sokol's family make further threats and attempt to intimidate Rudina while Nik risks his life to sneak out at night to see his girlfriend. Loyalties become strained as the youngsters begin to challenge what they see as the stubborn futility of the old ways.

The contrasts between unspoiled countryside and urban development and the clash between rural intransigence and youthful impatience add depth to an accomplished and suspenseful drama.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lecture at Oakland University marks Kosova's 3rd Anniversary of Independence

February 10, 2011, Rochester, Michigan -- The Albanian-American Student Organization (AASO) is pleased to host a lecture by political scientists, Viktor Ivezaj and Paul Kubicek commemorating Kosova’s 3rd Independence Anniversary on Thursday, February 17, 2011, between 12:00-1:30 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge at Oakland University’s Student Center.  Ivezaj and Kubicek will highlight Kosova's road to independence and speak on the consequences of secession, its impact on international law and its place with the European community.

Viktor Ivezaj is a Ph.D. student at Wayne State University where he specializes in Balkan politics, minority rights, nationalism, and ethnic conflict. His dissertation will focus on the shifting Albanian Identity in post-conflict Yugoslavia. Ivezaj recently served as a Special Lecturer in OU’s Department of Political Science where he taught courses in World Politics and U.S. Foreign Policy. Ivezaj currently works as a Consultant for the Albanian-American Association, including several other NGOs dealing with minority rights issues in Kosova, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia. Last summer Ivezaj led a delegation to the U.S. State Department where he presented a feasibility study on the status of Albanians in Montenegro.

Paul Kubicek, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Oakland University where he teaches courses in Comparative Politics, Russian Politics, European Politics, Middle Eastern Politics, Politics through Literature and several courses in the Honors College. Dr. Kubicek formerly served as a faculty member at Koc University in Istanbul, where he taught International Relations and Comparative Politics. His research interests include Turkish politics, Central Asian politics and the European Union. He is currently working on a paper on Israeli identity as portrayed in film and television.

The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.
For more information regarding the event email:

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Nationalist fervor spreads through Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Tens of thousands of nationalist supporters rallied against Serbia's pro-Western government on Saturday, demanding early elections amid the Balkan country's deepening economic crisis.

About 10,000 police officers gathered near the rally in front of the state parliament in downtown Belgrade to prevent it from turning violent, as similar protests by right-wing protesters have in the past.

The former allies of the late autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic want Serbia's government to schedule early elections because of the country's rising poverty and unemployment and falling living standards. They also accuse the government of corruption.

The nationalists are promising economic recovery, higher salaries and new jobs, if they come to power. They have risen in popularity amid Serbia's economic turmoil triggered by the global recession and the slow pace of the country's integration into the European Union - the government's main political goal.

"For 10 years, Serbia has lived under a corrupt and incapable government," Serbian Progressive Party leader Tomislav Nikolic told the rally, as the crowd chanted "Thieves! Thieves!" and "Changes! Changes!"

"We will save Serbia when we take over," he said. "No one can stop us."

Opposition leaders addressing the crowd - estimated by police at about 55,000 - threatened to blockade the capital if their demands to move parliamentary elections forward from 2012 are not met within the next two months.

The spokeswoman for ruling Democratic Party, Jelena Trivan, said there will be no early elections despite the protest.

"If they have any concrete suggestions for the resolution of the crisis, the government is willing to talk," she said. "But, early elections are held when the government loses a majority in the parliament, which is not the case."

Nikolic's party which organized the rally said afterward that the size of the gathering showed that "people want elections, a better life and a more responsible and capable government."

It said that if authorities don't respond to the call for the early elections, "even more people will gather" in the capital in April and remain protesting until their demands are met.

"This is the last warning to the government," said another opposition leader, Velimir Ilic. "We don't want to do it like in Egypt or Tunisia. We just want elections."

Milosevic, who died in 2006 during his genocide trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, was ousted in 2000 after massive street protests in Belgrade led by officials from the current Serbian government.

"This is the start of a counterrevolution," said Milos Joksimovic, a 35-year-old mechanical engineer who took part in the anti-Milosevic demonstrations at the same spot in the capital in October 2000. He spoke as he watched Saturday's rally from a distance.

"They are becoming very strong, and it's scary," he said.

After the rally, police detained about 20 football fans who were chanting anti-government slogans.


Associated Press

Jovana Gec contributed to this report.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Reports: Mubarak may be granted asylum in Montenegro

Mubarak May Join Ex Thailand PM Shinawatra in Montenegro

If Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bows to pressure from demonstrators and leaves office immediately he may have a place to go.

Mubarak can be granted asylum in Montenegro because his son has business ties there, news reports in the country said Friday.

"Orascom Holding, a multinational Egyptian corporation which singed a contract last year for the construction of tourist complexes with the Montenegrin government" is owned by the president's son Gamal Mubarak, according to

Montenegro is already home to former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup d'etat.

The New York Times reported that US and Egyptian officials were discussing a plan for Mubarak to turn power over now to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman.

The report, which cited administration officials and Arab diplomats, said the United States was seeking backing from the Egyptian military even though Mubarak himself was balking at the idea.

The White House sought to play down the notion there was a unique plan under consideration but did not issue an out-and-out denial of the Times report.

"It's simply wrong to report that there's a single US plan that's being negotiated with the Egyptians," a senior official in President Barack Obama's administration official told AFP.

The Times said the proposal calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to start a process to hold free and fair elections in September.

Another solution would see Mubarak stay in office as an "honorary president" for the next six months while Vice President Omar Suleiman manages the transition of power.

"This is a face-saving solution, which is to my mind widely accepted in Egypt among many people," Amr Hamzawy, an Egyptian political scientist, told a forum on Egypt at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Thursday.

Tens of thousands filled Cairo's central Tahrir (Liberation) Square Friday, the epicentre of 11 straight days of protests that have shaken the pillars of Mubarak's three-decade rule, on the Muslim day of rest and weekly prayers. Protesters dubbed it the "Day of Departure."

The atmosphere in the square on Friday was more festive and relaxed than on the previous two days when deadly clashes erupted, with authorities vowing the army would not use force and instead setting up razor barriers to keep rival demonstrators apart.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said Friday that he would not run for president even if Mubarak steps down.

Mubarak, who has been challenged by massive civil protests against his rule for more than 10 days now, has declared he wants to live in his fatherland until his death. He has not bowed to the pressure yet to resign before the expiration of his term in September 2010.

According to the press in Montenegro, however, it is very likely that Hosni Mubarak can be granted asylum there because one of the sons of the embattled Egyptian President Gamal is among the owners of Orascom Holding, a multinational Egyptian corporation which singed a contract last year for the construction of tourist complexes with the Montenegrin government

What is more, Montenegro already has a precedent in providing refuge to exiled foreign leaders as in 2010 the former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra, a Thai millionaire who was brought down from power in 2006 by a military coup, received Montenegrin citizenship and is currently constructing a hotel complex on the St. Stefan island.

Egyptian business tycoon, the majority owner of the Orascom Group, Naguib Sawiris amidst 19 powerful and influential Egyptian businessmen are reported to have left the country as the civil unrest intensified.