What to do with Refugees?

March 31, 2009

Immigration policy discussion is gaining speed inside EU. It has been said that harder attitude towards immigrants has guided peoples voting behaviour related e.g. to Lisbon Treaty, it is one topic while considering EU enlargement and today’s financial turmoil is heating discussion more.

One aspect of immigration policy discussed in Finland is integration of asylum seekers to Finnish society. There is lot of problems in this sector – not enough language courses, long administrative process before getting status, the cold environment (both social and climate), difficulties to get job etc. And to handle these problems there is never enough money.

Recently I was reading an interesting article (here but only Finnish) which proposed solution same time to first avoid many problems related to Finnish society and second increase the effectiveness of managing bigger amount of asylum seekers. The key idea in article was following:

In Finland the Ministry of Interior has estimated that one asylum seeker cost 57.000 € to state per year. One expert of development policy calculated that if we could help asylum seekers near their country of origin -e.g. neighbourhood regions – so with that sum we could help 200 people. If Finland nowadays takes 6.000 asylum seekers per year with this method and the same investment we could help over one million people.

In EU there has been plans to establish camps for illegal immigration just outside EU borders. From my point of view this solution is not so good than concentrate actions near countries of origin. People who have came long way to EU border have many times paid a fortune for their dangerous trip and false papers to traffickers and many times only one from family can go. If the help would be given near families, maybe villages could stay together, wait to return or start new life in environment which is so much as possible similar than place from where they had escaped.

During Balkan wars in 90s created a big refugee/IDP problem in region. Hundreds of thousands refugees/IDPs have not yet returned to their homes. Anyway situation in Balkans today represents a possibility to test about method described above.

Forced or free population changes or transfers took place mostly to nearby regions and most are still living in these destinations. The problems and solutions would be totally different if the destination had be e.g. Indonesia, Paraguay or Greenland. The main components to manage situation in Balkans could be effective housing programme backed with infrastructure investments and economical development programs. The same system could be applied also in future by EU while managing global challenge of asylum seekers.


10th anniversary of Nato’s attack on Serbia

March 24, 2009

March 24th was held the 10th anniversary of Nato bombings against Serbia.While remembering this intervention I would like to highlight some basic issues before, during and after bombings 1999:

  • Public justification was based to fabricated, manipulated and one-sided reports by U.S. like earlier in Bosnia and after e.g. in Iraq-case.Although reliable figures are beginning to emerge, the final death toll from the Kosovo war remains unknown, and has become the focus of considerable debate. Some Western government and NATO officials suggested during the war, when figures went as high as 100,000;The New York Times reported, “On April 19, the State Department said that up to 500,000 Kosovar Albanians were missing and feared dead. Through its own research, Human Rights Watch documented 3,453 killings by Serbian or Yugoslav government forces. (More in HRW report )
  • The bombings and later orchestrated unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) of Kosovo Albanians were against international law and violation of the UN Charter, Helsinki Accords and a series of UN resolutions including the governing UNSC resolution #1244
  • The big refugee problem started during Nato bombings, after one week from start 300.000 refugees, in April 850.000 refugees. Earlier before -90s Serbs had moved out from Kosovo partly because they felt themselves as discriminated by Albanian majority; during -90s Albanians moved out due the same reason.
  • The actions of the Nato campaign – named as Merciful Angel – were offically Decoydirected toward “interruption of violent attacks being carried out by the Serbian Army and special police forces and the reduction of their capabilities”.Nato planes destroyed 4 % of its military targets during bombing – partly because for avoiding own casualties they cowardly launched missiles so high that could not make difference between wooden decoys and real weapons.Instead of military targets the main damage was made against civilian targets.  Nato destroyed e.g. an embassy (China), a prison (Istok), three column of Albanian refugees (81 dead March 13th and 75 April 14th), radio-tv station (Belgrade, 16 civilians dead), a passenger train (Grdelica bridge, 14 dead), also a number of infrastructure, commercial buildings, schools, health institutions, media houses, cultural monuments were damaged or destroyed.Some 2.500 people (mostly civilians) were dead, material civil infrastructure damage is estimated to be some 30 billion dollars.
  • Bombing civilian targets, using cluster and DU (depleted uranium) bombs can be seen as war crimes or at least violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions in particular.
  • Just after bombing Albanians started ethnic cleansing of Serbs under eyes of KFOR peacekeepers who had made “humanitarian intervention”. The vast majority of those people – Serbs, Roma and Gorani – were forced out by ethnic violence and intimidation and still live in dreadful conditions in camps and emergency housing in Serbia.
  • After bombing almost all Albanian refugees have returned while only tiny fraction of Serb refugees – or officially internally displaced persons – have returned to Kosovo. The remaining Serbs in Kosovo are barricaded into enclaves keeping their lives mainly with help of international KFOR troops or in de facto separated Serb majority region in North Kosovo.This has changed former multi-ethnic province more mono-ethnic one.
  • The same ethnic cleansing was repeated March 2004 and again UN Mission in Kosovo was bystander and could not bring perpetrators up for trial. (More in my article “Pogrom with Prize”)
  • The aim of international community was to build “standards before status”,on 2005 the task was seen impossible so the slogan changed to “standards and status”.Even this was unrealistic so Feb. 2008 “European”standards were thrown away to garbage and “status without standards” precipitately accepted by western powers.
  • According western powers the UDI was said to “unique” – instead it serves as precedent to nearly 5.000 ethnic or separatist groups in the world.
  • A state normally needs statehood structures, executive power over own territory and sustainable economy.In Kosovo two first elements are on hands of international outsiders and the export of province can cover 5-10 % of import – the rest is covered mainly by international aid and organized crime.
  • The outcome today is a quasi-state with good change to become next “failed” or “captured” state if international community does not firm its grip in province.Today’s Kosovo is already safe-heaven for war criminals,drug traffickers, international money laundry and radical Wahhabists – unfortunately all are also allies of western powers.

Solution?

It’s easy to blame the situation today in Kosovo on U.S foreign policy.After implementing its failed attempt to please Muslim countries, after increasing the profits of its military-industry-complex and after creating one of its biggest military complex in Europe U.S. is covering its track record an leaving he whole mess to its lapdogs in EU.As a result of EU’s short-sighted post-conflict management policy they must again throw away few billions of EU taxpayer money to keep flag in international protectorate and safe haven of drug cartels – in artificial creature with no realistic visions nor exit strategy.

From my point of view the solution could be to finally put that reset button and go go back to Jan 2008.The exit strategy could start by U.S. withdrawing it recognition of Kosovo UDI.After this the real talks between local stakeholders can start without predestined outcome.The compromise can be any of countless different territorial autonomy models, the parties can even create a new one or agree some partition of province.The only important thing forsake of sustainability would be that local parties make the deal and outsiders only facilitate it.This process could also reset the international law, prevent similar violations in future and put focus from old wrongdoings towards future.


 


Snow White Elections in Macedonia

March 23, 2009

George Ivanov from the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party maintains a lead according to early results from (FYRO) Macedonia’s (later Macedonia) Presidential election although he is likely to face a run-off vote in two weeks time; then his challenger will be Ljubomir Frckoski from the Social Democrats. Macedonia could have a “Snow White Election”, the EU ambassador to the country, Erwan Fouere said optimistically during his monitoring to the ballot posts. Besides fair play in elections the statement can also describe the fact that the snow prevented some 12,000 people in certain mountainous villages to vote as the balloting did not start in 103 out of the nearly 3000 ballot stations. (Source BalkanInsight)

Background 2008

The election was being closely monitored in the West which has previously warned the country that it could face years of delay in its bid to join the European Union if there is a repeat of last year’s election-related violence.

Last year’s general elections were marred with violence and fraud in the ethnic Albanian populated areas of the country. Violence erupted between rival ethnic Albanian parties during the vote leaving one person dead and several wounded. This sparked negative reports from election monitors and criticism from the west, including the EU.

Campaign 2009

For their part, the seven presidential candidates have focused their campaigns on the country’s strategic goals, EU and NATO membership, and on the need to solve the burning so-called name row with Greece that jeopardizes these goals. The economy and ethnic relations between the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority were also high on the agenda.

Macedonia’s Helsinki Committee had earlier skeptical view about this year elections. The Committee cites the latest OSCE report on the election campaign that notes that pressure put on administration workers to vote for the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, badly organised local election bodies, and unbalanced media coverage do not bode well for a good assessment of the elections. (Source BalkanInsight)

Results

After several weeks of campaigning during which the main candidates have largely failed to inspire voters. A bit over 50 % of eligible voters bothered to go vote.

Out of 98 percent of the counted votes, the results are following:

  • George Ivanov (Conservative VMRO DPMNE) is the frontrunner with about 340,000 votes or 35 percent,
  • Ljubomir Frckoski from the main opposition the Social Democrats has won 198,000 votes or just over 20 percent,
  • The independent candidate Ljube Boskoski, acquitted at The Hague tribunal of war crimes during the 2001 Macedonia conflict last year and Imer Selmani from the New Democracy party both tallied around 145,000 votes or about 15 percent each,
  • Agron Buxhaku from the ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI got 73,000 votes or just under 7.5 percent,
  • Nano Ruzin from the Liberal Democrats won around 39,000 votes or about 4 percent, and
  • Mirushe Hoxha from the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA got about 30,000 votes or around 3 percent.

Earlier the State Election Commission announced Sunday’s presidential and mayoral elections went without major incident and met democratic norms.

(Source BalkanInsight)

Wishful thinking

Before elections there was an assumption that if the country pulls off a smooth election it can hope for a swift removal of EU visas put up against travelling Macedonian citizens and a date for the start of its EU accession talks this autumn.

Macedonia has been a EU candidate state since 2005 and last year the EC said Skopje is still not ready for the start of accession talks largely because the violence and fraud allegations that marred the 2008 general election.

So when elections now went quite well is Macedonia closer EU? Unfortunately not – not because of country itself but due the stagnation of EU for the sake of Lisbon Treaty. Before Irish yes the Treaty is not coming to force and EU can not “de facto” absorb new members.

When situation is frozen Croatia and Macedonia must wait, Turkey probably has already realized that it will not in near future come an EU member, Montenegro’s candidate application is put in archives and others are calculating their options. From the other hand this kind of time-out can be seen also positive since it gives time to think possible new cooperation methods as alternative for full membership.




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Revising U.S. Balkan Approach

March 19, 2009

I just read the article “Kosovo a Year Later” of Mr. Bandow in “The American Spectator” and must say it was very refreshing; it challenges the manipulated picture created earlier in mainstream western media and of course is provocative to those who believed earlier stories. Recently I have found that Mr. Bandow’s thoughts are not so rare in U.S. (neo)conservative circles.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is also a fellow at the Institute for Policy Innovation. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire (Xulon Press). Here some highlights of his article (original here):

The U.S. should have ignored the conflict, but President Bill Clinton saw the Balkans as an opportunity to turn U.S. foreign policy into a form of international social work, as Michael Mandelbaum of SAIS termed it. Once NATO drove Serbian security forces from Kosovo, the final disposition of the territory was obvious. Although UN Resolution 1244 assumed continued Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo, providing for “a political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status,” the allies never intended serious negotiations. Rather, ethnic Albanians understood that independence would be the final result. Negotiations were simply for show to disguise Serbia’s expected surrender.

Compromises were possible — overlapping EU, Kosovo, and Serbian citizenship and partition north of the Ibar River were two leading candidates — which might have won grudging agreement on both sides. No one would have been happy with the result, but both sides could have acquiesced.

But what was supposed to be a pleasant bit of Kabuki theater, with everyone playing their assigned role to reach the predetermined outcome, quickly fell apart. Both the Serbs and Russians balked. Washington and like-minded European states eventually decided to make another end-run around the United Nations (which had not authorized NATO’s aggressive war in 1999) and back Kosovo’s unilateral independence.

The current number of recognitions is 55, only a few more than which recognize the Western Sahara (claimed by Morocco). Washington’s claim that Kosovo’s status is “unique” and thus not a precedent is too self-serving to take seriously. Serbia vows continued resistance and Russia insists that Kosovo will never join the UN. If the World Court rules for Belgrade, some nations might even reverse their recognitions of Pristina.

Returning to the status quo in Kosovo might not be a viable option, but neither is pretending that Kosovo’s independence claim has yielded regional stability. The U.S. and EU could still convene a conference, harkening back to the Congress of Berlin and similar international gatherings, to conduct genuine negotiations with the goal of achieving an acceptable compromise. Otherwise, Kosovo’s declaration of independence is likely to prove to be just another step in continuing regional strife.

U.S. selected its side against Serbs in Bosnia mid-90s and later in Kosovo. With trade came the allies of terrorist organisations, war criminals and leaders of organized crime groups. The final result so far is a creature of quasi-state Bosnia-Herzegovina – which now is collapsing (more here) – and a new”captured” or “failed” state experiment Kosovo. As side effects U.S. has helped to establish a safe heaven for radical Islam – which now is conquering influence among earlier secular Bosniaks and Kosovo Albanians, which now is arming themselves to attack towards their Christian neighbours inside their occupied territories and abroad.

High flown ideas about multi-ethnic societies in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo have failed long time ago. (More e.g. in my article”Pogrom with Prize“.  In Kosovo first idea of international community was to develop standards before status. This slogan was fast turned into “standards and status” and when even this goal was too demanding standards were thrown into garbage bin when the Western powers implemented their precipitate decision to recognize Kosovo.

It is promising that nowadays the other side of story is spreading also in U.S. If the new Obama administration will make a pragmatic as well justified change to former Balkan policy it can help to solve today’s confrontations. I hope this will realize sooner than later.


Let’s elect Donkey Parliament

March 17, 2009

When EU normally is disseminating EU doctrine to outside world there some times could be nice idea to apply some practice of others in Brussels. This came to my mind while reading news from Bosnia. Protesting over the inability of their politicians to elect a city mayor more than five months after the last elections, local residents in Mostar – Bosnia-Herzegovina – brought a donkey to demonstrations last week, proposing the animal be the city’s new Mayor.

Local residents and media have demanded assistance from Bosnia’s top envoy and his Office of the High representative, the OHR. “Once again, the political parties seek to blame everyone but themselves for the current situation. However, the OHR notes that the parties, who were elected to serve the needs of the citizens of Mostar, have only pursued political negotiations based on their own selfish desires for power, position and material gain.” (More in BalkanInsight)

Deciding about future visions and actions of EU is one key function in EP so one must ask if the decisions made by donkeys are better or worse than human beings. Some years ago in New York a monkey was put to play darts at a target being composed of NY stock list. When stock portfolio was filled by stock with hits of monkey’s darts and compared to portfolios of sc professional brokers the monkey got in many cases better profit. Be it monkey or donkey could this be possible also in EP?

Environmental assessment with donkey parliament would be positive. Members of EP would not need to visit in home country to give some false illusion that the opinions of voters have some role in decision-making. The output of parliament members could be useful for organic farming.

Present parliament delegations and members are also making visits in developing countries on purpose to estimate need or output of EU’s external Aid programmes. With donkey parliament one could send parliament members temporary to make some fieldwork in these countries and with many cases the result on the ground could be better and more important for beneficiaries than with today’s implementation.

Comparing pros and cons between donkey parliament and present system can give contradictory results depending connotations of each individual. Probably the voters have anyway put the selection in right scale and will show the importance of EP with turnout percentage on voting day.


Buying independence – case Kosovo/Maldives

March 12, 2009

Few weeks ago I wrote an article “Kosovo as private property referring former Kosovo PM Haradinaj complaining that the country is transforming into private property of the leadership. The story got interesting follow-up about allegations that government officials of Maldives accepted a $2 million bribe in order for that state to recognize Kosovo independence.

The allegations were made at the beginning of March 2009 in Maldives by the opposition Islamic Democratic Party. The president of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has ordered his police to investigate allegations. The Maldives foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed has also rejected the allegations as false. Sources: SofiaEcho and BalkanInsight

maldives

In transparency international’s corruption ranking Maldives hold place 115 in 2008 among 180 states in list.

According allegations government officials of Maldives – like FM Shaheed – accepted a $2 million bribe that was delivered by Kosovar businessman, Behgjet Pacolli, to recognise Kosovo. Behgjet Pacolli –a Swiss and Albanian citizen – is believed to be the world richest Albanian. His wealth has came quite legal sources unlike other Kosovo’s top leaders whos income is based drug trafficking, other organized crime or donations from radical Islam movements. Pacolli’s Swiss based Mabetex Group has had successful construction activities in Russia and Kazakhstan as well in Italy. He is founder of political party named “New Kosovo Alliance” (AKR) which came third in parliamentary election 2007. As politician Pacolli is a bit controversial among Kosovo leaders since he negotiated with Milosevic about peaceful solution in Kosovo 1998, he supported also negotiations with Belgrade about Kosovo status.

After Maldives recognition Kosovo is recognised as independent by 56 out of 192 UN member states. Huge pressure and lobby is made mainly by U.S. to countries who does not have yet made recognization. UN general assembly send he whole case to International Court of Justice (ICJ) to ask its opinion about the legality of the unilaterally declared independence. So far Kosovo is a province of Serbia administrated as international protectorate according UNSC resolution 1244.


Could EU lead the 3rd Way out from Confrontation?

March 11, 2009

During last twenty years war for humanitarian reasons has came quite popular in political vocabulary e.g. in Balkans and now with Georgia case. The ideal to use power in the service of ethics is good. The problem is the low level of ethics when US is using her power in world. EU has been mostly economical union without any significant military muscle – U.S. lead Nato has had that role.

As economical – if not military – power EU’s influence to conflicts is sc. soft power. Should EU take more distance to U.S. foreign policy? I think yes, an independent 3rd way should be taken into consideration.

Balkans and Caucasus are suffering about US Cowboy policy

United States Foreign policy during last decades could be described as series of strategical errors. When Soviet Union splintered, the US saw possibility to widen its influence through breakaway republics and former satellites, do whatever want in the rest of world and feed her powerful military-industrial complex. Supporting on one hand nationalist/populist leaders (Georgia, Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo) and with one hand elsewhere dictatorships (Asia, South & Middle America); making alliances with terrorist groups (Al Quida, KLA) shows that the aim was only reach short term tactical gain. Attacks to Serbia and Iraq were made on base of fabricated information/propaganda and probably also the intelligence from Afghanistan was not better.

Georgia was one again failed example about US Foreign policy which aims to create classical “banana republic” to Eastern Europe where US controls crucial foreign and/or domestic policies of another nation through ties with its military and intelligence institutions. EU’s military, political, and corporate elites have already increasingly become dependents or confederates of the US military-industrial complex. While Russia wishes to safe its “inner courtyard” – sc “Russian World” US is doing the same with its MacWorld. However today it seems that those two worlds have more and more common zone: Many ex Soviet republics have joined or are dreaming of joining NATO, missiles and radars are coming closer and closer Moscow – it feels that new cold war, old polarization/confrontation, is coming.

All above mentioned has now leaded to polarization of world and confrontation between Russia and the US. When the US has acted (lunatic style) as one’s own discretion one effect is that UNSC has been guided to sidetrack. United States policy in the Balkans has been dysfunctional, characterized by cynicism, duplicity and short term tactical gain and at world level as series of strategic errors. Let’s hope that those errors are not duplicated any more in Caucasus or elsewhere.

The bluff of US Foreign Policy has normally been “western democracy” etc. However the record in Georgia was questionable. In one report, Human Rights Watch asserted that “the fragility of Georgia’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law were revealed on Nov. 7, 2007, when government forces used violent and excessive force to disperse a series of largely peaceful demonstrations in the capital, Tbilisi.” In the other report even (the Western nearly governmental elite lobby group) International Crisis Group warned of a creeping authoritarianism in Georgia and urged Western governments to pressure the regime in Tbilisi to respect democratic principles.

To show his admiration for the U.S. president, Saakashvili even renamed the main road to Tbilisi’s airport George W. Bush Street. The same was made earlier in Kosovo. It is good to think globally but better act locally. Like in Balkans before Caucasia is today suffering US cowboy policy which is creating unnecessary confrontation with Russia. There is maybe way out from banana republic status when local governments start to develop their policies more from domestic needs without too much adoring transatlantic short term games.

3rd Way out

As a Finn I would like to ask if third way could be possible also elsewhere. Finland has over 1000 km common border with Russia, number of wars has been between us and Russia/USSR but also lot of good times like Autonomy time 1806-1917 as well last decades with increasing economic cooperation. With this background today more Finns are against than pro to join NATO and our dear neighbours in Sweden have similar results in opinion pools.

This neutral – unallied – position makes it possible to approach world politics, human rights, economical issues etc with critical way be that critics to east or west. I do not mean that critics should be end in itself or the top priority for e.g. Caucasian countries. However I am from old school and believe that real progress can be made only after fresh debate, dialogue or at least tolerance between local stakeholders not copying values or practices e.g. from Washington nor Brussels bureaucrats.

The unallied position is same time open to all kind of cooperation to all directions. The statements about world events are our own; they are not coming from Washington or Moscow. Personally I like this third way, is it possible also for Caucasus – I hope local stakeholders can decide.

I see that the only way out from today’s confrontation is that the Great Powers start dialogue from empty table with equal basis, one output could be the restoration of UNSC as a forum for global conflicts. The global challenges e.g. environment, poverty, 3rd world conflicts etc are so big that no individual power can solve them. These challenges should be top priority, not short term wins of private armies, military industry and short-sighted politicians.

Could EU lead the 3rd Way?

In Europe the Kosovo question highlights the core problem of EU – uncritical following of US foreign (cowboy) policy . Some times I ask if it is EU, only UK or ex-Sovjet lapdogs the 51st state of USA. To me it is alarming, that this US policy has been made both during democratic and republican US presidents. Future shows if the change will come with new president – I admit to have some doubts because he didn’t changed the old advisers. And will US succeed to gain support for these actions either through the use of NATO or by persuading the European Community or the newly emerging states of Central and Eastern Europe to get on side.  I hope that change will come and different actors both sides of Atlantic could have debate from more equal base than before.

For economical development EU has e.g. its Neighbourhood programmes for non-member states. EU can also make any kind of individual agreements such as customs, visa regime etc with non-members so they can enjoy many EU benefits without membership.

Questions to answer for adopting 3rd way in EU

  • Does EU or the majority of its member states want more independence from U.S.foreign policy?
  • Can EU’s Nato members and partners change Nato or challenge U.S. superiority in Nato?
  • Can EU find a common vision, strategy and position with its external relations?

Realism?

I do not know if my proposal is realistic. I know that my mother was fleeing from home when USSR occupied that part of Finland during WWII. I also know that I have found some of my best friends from Russia. Lesson learned – one can forget past wrongdoings and look forward. Dialogue and tolerance at local level is in my opinion the best guarantee for sustainable solutions. Collecting guns on the borders is from my point of view the worst scenario excluding use of them.

http://www.meridianeaton.com/images/issue35-b.jpg

Note: While speaking above about 3rd way I have used term only as such. There is no direct connection to sc. Third Way philosophy designed by U.S. Democratic Leadership Council some 10 years ago. That philosophy rests on three cornerstones: the idea that government should promote equal opportunity for all while granting special privilege for none; an ethic of mutual responsibility that equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment; and, a new approach to governing that empowers citizens to act for themselves. Also term 3rd way is now used in EU describing the efforts to find a privileged partnership for Turkey instead of normal membership.

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