Belgrade riots and wider perspective

July 30, 2008

This night I was watching news from Belgrade where some 15.000 demonstrators were involved running battles with riot police after a Belgrade rally in support of Radovan Karadzic. In every capital one can find hardliners, extremists or simple hooligans so this event itself is not very dangerous. However the serious question from my point of view is, that according to my rough estimate more than a half of average Serbs in some degree is against the government’s plan to extradite Karadzic to the UN war crimes tribunal.

I can find few reasons why one opposes the extradition Mr. Karadzig:

  1. The picture of crime itself has changed during his 13 years on the run.  Even today’s headlines are describing Srebrenica with slogan  “worst civilian massacre in Europe since WWII”, there is also many arguments about political PR game behind exaggerated death numbers, misrepresentation of early reports and manipulated pictures.  Probably a massacre happened but maybe not like that picture which main stream media has offered.
  2. ICTY is widely seen as partial “winner’s justice” and indeed Haague can not deal with warcrimes made by US or Nato.  Thereby there is not so much confidence for fair judicature in ICTY among Serbs.
  3. ICTY’s reputation with internal – Balkan – matters is also not very good.  Everybody remembers the release of  Ramus Haradinaj who was indicted warcrimes against  Serb, Albanian and Romani civilians in Kosovo and also Muslim Mujahediin commander Naser Oric walked this Summer as a free man from Haague.   Serbs (Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian) instead have got some long sentences.
  4. Government’s motivation to extradite Karadzic is not accepted among many Serbs who look that again only one more act to please EU to get membership status in coming years.  Without this EU perspective the trial could as well taken place in Belgrade.  Besides attraction of EU heaven gains support only slight majority of population.

My conclusion is, that

  • there is indisputable arguments to accuse Mr. Karadzic about warcrimes etc.,
  • there is strong argumentation not to extradite Mr. Karadzic to ICTY, and
  • warcrimes of all actors – including Bosniacs, Croats, Serbs, US/Nato – should get punishment.

Bulgaria wrestles for EU funds and credibility

July 23, 2008

The European Commission is set to withdraw the accreditation of two Bulgarian agencies and bar them for using EU funds after details of a European Commission report on Bulgaria’s fight against corruption and organised crime will be officially issued on July 23. Two agencies under the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works and the Finance Ministry will lose their permits to operate with EU funding under the bloc’s pre-accession programme PHARE. This could deprive Sofia of about €600 million. Two other agency/programme can meet the same procedure.

Some average reader could think that some clever crocks have put nice sum in their pockets because the report highlights corruption, organized crime and economical fraud activities in Bulgaria. Undoubtedly this kind of crimes has happened. However the question about administration of EU funds is more complex than simple crimes. I have worked some 15 years with EU projects and would like bring forward some other aspects from fieldlevel of project management.

EU has some 500-800 different programmes from where individual projects can have 10-100 % financing of their costs. There is some general guidelines, but nearly every programme has also individual regulations, practice and details. For administration it is huge task to manage, coordinate and implement this puzzle.

EU funding/payment can be delayed or revised e.g. if project manager has offered coffee to participants during training session in one programme when this is allowed with other EU programme. Also he can make mistake using real exchange course in payment claim when only monthly average course is allowed. Most projects need own or SME financial contribution but sometimes according one programme rules it comes from too big company, or company is wrong side of municipal border while implementing regional development project. In payment claim some costs can be in wrong budget line or project manager has forgot to ask amendment/revision decision from Management Authority to do so. Some times it is also difficult to interpret if part of project partners´administrative work is its normal development work (uneligible cost) or strictly project development work (eligible cost).

So there is different regulations which are eligible costs in each project depending from which programme main financing is coming. Many times while programme period changes even the EU officials do not know all details which to apply on the beginning of programme period – how then the project manager or province/state level managing authority could forecast them.

Before mentioned boring details can give picture about bad project management, when similar details occurs with most of the projects one can judge situation as bad programme/EU fund management. But one can also see, that this kind of details are far away from organized crime scene.

What is crime from my point of view is that most EU officials/Management Authorities are more interested about small financial details than the outcome of programme/projects. It is possible to keep budget lines, make a perfect financial report where every cent is in right place without any impact on the field. It is as well possible to implement project with excellent results, superb beneficiary feedback, with many spin-offs and follow-ups which following an insufficient financial report will be doomed as failure.

In accordance of my opinion EU should shift the emphasis of the activity from financial nitpicking to goal orientated approach and the first question from EU officials should be the results on the field. The priorities could be e.g. following:

  • Is there any sence in proposed Logical Framework of programme/project
  • What are the results, are they verified and real
  • How the results were achieved (not to estimate justification of costs but to find best practices for similar cases in other regions/fields)
  • How much were the costs (to compare relation of results to investment)

In case of Bulgaria I do not know how much the question is corruption, organized crime etc. and how much simply problems with applying  complex EU bureacracy  in new member state.  However as taxpayer I would like to see EU concentrating to big lines in real world instead detail hooning between specialists about topics those influence to average citizen are close to zero.

Balkan future ?

July 18, 2008

One may have noticed that I have had here as well in some discussion forums quite negative or critical comments about today´s Balkan events and politics. In one forum a question was made if I believe Balkan region to have any future. Yes I do.

Western Balkans will have a future and at least following scenarios can be seen:

  • “Laizez faire” /frozen conflict -model: West does not revise its politics, East keeps positions. EU will “supervise Kosovo some 20 years backed with Nato, north part lives its life integrated to Serbia – same case with Bosnia. Maybe the most realistic and easy (no one needs to do anything) scenario.
  • Deal scenario: US revises its foreign policy after elections and withdraws recognizing of Kosovo, real talks are starting and ending to bitter compromise (e.g. partitioning Kosovo, applying Hong Kong model …), Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia are independently concentrating more to economical/social questions instead of quarreling borders. Pragmatic result, needs hard work from all stakeholders.
  • Crisis scenario: West try to implement “independent” Kosova in the whole territory forcing puppet authority to north pat of province, Serbia sees it occupied territory, Gaza model of conflict. About this scenario the only winner would be organized crime and I really can not think that so stupid policy would attract anyone else or Great Powers who have other real problems.
  • Diversity model: All Balkan countries have their own development paths – some countries are going to join fast to EU (Croatia), some are going to do it later (Macedonia, Albania), some are maybe looking alliances from other directions (Serbia), Kosovo will be international protectorate also next decade; Bosnia will totter between breakup, federation/confederation, state, protectorate depending inner politics and exterior influences.

So I indeed think that western Balkan states will have good future (most my probable scenarios were positive side – especially if one compares it to past decades. My forecast is that in Balkans conflicts will be in smaller scale than before, tolerance and economy are growing and people are starting think more future than past.

LogFrame: Basic matrix

July 11, 2008

In my post before I mentioned Logical Framework Approach (LogFrame) as a model to improve the use of donation money for regional development. LogFrame is not perfect but even with its weaknesses it is in my opinion the basic mean for programme/project management. There is also other good alternatives as well some upgraded models of LogFrame, but below and from document library you may find the basic matrix of LogFrame idea:




Objectively verifiable

Sources and means of



indicators of achievement



What are the overall broader

What are the key indicators related

What are the sources of


objectives to which the action

to the overall objectives?

information for these indicators?

will contribute?


What specific objective is the

Which indicators clearly show

What are the sources of

Which factors and conditions outside


action intended to achieve to

that the objective of the

information that exist or can be

the Beneficiary’s responsibility

contribute to the overall objectives?

action has been achieved?

collected? What are the methods

are necessary to achieve that

required to get this information?

objective? (external conditions)

Which risks should be taken

into consideration?


The results are the outputs envisaged to

What are the indicators to measure

What are the sources of

What external conditions must be met


achieve the specific objective.

whether and to what extent the

information for these indicators?

to obtain the expected results

What are the expected results?

action achieves the expected

on schedule?

(enumerate them)



What are the key activities to be carried out


What are the sources of

What pre-conditions are required before

and in what sequence in order to produce

What are the means required to

information about action

the action starts?

the expected results?

implement these activities, e. g.


What conditions outside the Beneficiary’s

(group the activities by result)

personnel, equipment, training,


direct control have to be met

studies, supplies, operational

What are the action costs?

for the implementation of the planned

facilities, etc.

How are they classified?


(breakdown in the Budget

Donors & field: Will Kosovo rise with 2 bn bucks?

July 11, 2008

A European Union-hosted donors’ conference for Kosovo hopes to collect up to 1.5 billion euros on Friday to start turning from an aid-dependent protectorate to a viable economy. USA is throwing in some 400 m$ and Germany with 100-200 m€ are probably the biggest donors at country level so it is fair that their taxpayers know a little bit where the money goes as well people in Kosovo have right to know what to expect.

Here some remarks based to my own experiences in Kosovo:

Long travel from conference to field

  • Donors´conference ends to statement or promise to give some estimated sum of money to Kosovo. If this promise will be kept or not we shall see, anyway in many similar conferences the implemented figures have been more or less short f original ones.
  • When some sum of donor money actually will be paid from donor so in most cases the donating country takes some percentage for donors own administrative costs before sending rest to management authority.
  • When management authority (receiving country, outside agency, consultant …) gets the charges deducted sum, they are taking off their administrative costs.
  • Depending about programme or management practice there can also be some intermediate organizations or middlemen with their administrative costs.
  • After this the rest part of donor money is near for the beneficiary and how much money goes all the way depends local administration practice, level of corruption, price fixing/cartel, previously agreed contracts and different needs by local interest groups.

Money goes, report arrives

There is big gap between original donors´ideas and real effects of their donation on the field. EU has gaved some 500-800 m€ during years 1999-2007 to Kosovo power plant. People in Kosovo still suffer power cuts etc. like before despite of army of different international management groups (first managers are already in jail, some should be), consultants, development projects, training activities, infrastructure investments and reports. The new power plant is probably the biggest investment in future with todays donor money.

Earlier some donors gave money to build school in some Kosovo village. School was ready, nice photograf for donors´media was taken, report confirmed that building was made ok, also tendering procedures were made with some standards, audit did not find anything special. So perfect project to satisfy donor? no one pointed attention to a small detail that there was no pupils for the brad new school. Similar examples are bridges, roads and swimming pools middle of no where, housing for returns (empty because people are not returning or going away immediately).

The lesson learned is that perfect report does not mean that something positive development has happened on the field. Reports are describing how money is spend. More effective is concentrate to challenge what to do with donations. Time is also one dimension – needs during donors´conference are not necessary the same than those when money actually arrives to destination.

My point of view is that money is only one of means – one part of resources. the more important parts are vision, objective, strategy, implementation, feed back and especially commitment of beneficiary groups and project management.

Some improvement

Some improvement can be made applying Logical Framework Approach through the process. LogFrame is used in most EU projects, but individual donors have their preferences. LogFrame describes obejctives, action lines, how individual projects are implementing the objective and how the success can be measured. There is also some flexibility according fed back during implementation. Special need at individual project and local level is also use there Participatory Planning methods so that all stakeholders can commit to actions. These two practice does not remove problems mentioned before but they can make the impact of donor money more desired at destination.

I doubt that Serbia was invited to Fridays donors´conference. However Serbia is one of the biggest donors in Kosovo distributing their aid mainly Serb populated areas. In this case there is a good possibility to integrate aid to national and local development programmes. In case of donors´conference the challenge is much more bigger because first the diversity of donors and secondly because of th huge chaos in Kosovo administration between numerous international organizations and local administration. The bottom line is anyway to know how to use resources what ever money is arriving on the field.

U.S. is satisfied with the progress Kosovo???

July 5, 2008

This week U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried said that the U.S. is satisfied with the progress Kosovo. He also add that:

It is a place completely independent, regardless of whether a UN resolution says that exists or not. It is independent. Kosovo has been recognized by two-thirds of the EU sates, Europe, Japan and Australia. It is as an independent country. I feel sorry that Russia has chosen to make this thing more difficult rather than to ease it, risking the stability but also the European future of Serbia”.

Few comments:

  • Completely independent must be a joke. Kosovo is UN protectorate where UN and EU are arguing who has authority to supervise it, Kosovo is occupied by KFOR troops owns one of the biggest Nato bases in its territory and has all symptoms to come next “failed state” in World.
  • Recognizing as argument fails also: 40 countries is not the world, some World´s biggest countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia have not recognized it are not planning to do it before new negotiations about status.
  • Russia has indeed made thing more difficult because it has defended UN Charter and international law which US&allies have been breaking last decades.
  • Strong arguments could be made that US Balkan policy has been risking the Balkan stability by creating a precedent to some 5000 ethnic groups scattered across the globe.

James Bisset was Canada’s ambassador to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Balkan politics. I agree with most of his analysis and quote one of them here:

“United States policy in the Balkans has been dysfunctional since March 1992 when their Ambassador, Warren Zimmerman, persuaded Izetbegovic the Islamist leader of the Bosnian Muslims to withdraw his signature to the Lisbon Agreement. This decision which led to US acceptance of the results of an illegal referendum and recognition of the first Muslim state in Europe triggered civil war in Bosnia and led directly to the death and destruction that followed. In the following years US decisions have proven to be equally disastrous for the region.

The decision of the United States government to support the cause of the terrorist KLA in its armed rebellion to secede from Yugoslavia is another example of US policy making gone wrong.Their current policy supporting independence for Kosovo is but another chapter in an unfolding series of strategic errors.

United States policy in the Balkans has been characterized by cynicism, duplicity and short term tactical gain. By backing Islamist aims in the region and supporting terrorist groups in Kosovo there might be the immediate advantage of establishing a large military base in Kosovo or appeasing further Albanian demands by advocating independence for Kosovo but in the long term it will backfire.”

To me it is alarming, that this US policy has made both during democratic and republican US presidents and not only in Balkans but e.g. in Iraq also. Future shows if the change will come with new president, will he change old advisers also. 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.

ICO & EULEX & Legality

July 2, 2008

This Monday Head of the International Civil Office (ICO) Pieter Feith expressed his optimism that EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) would soon have access to the entire terriory of Kosovo, including the northern Serb-dominated area. He also said that an Assembly of Serbs – established last Saturday – with representatives of 24 municipalities in Kosovo, has no legal effect. This statement came after forth meeting of the international Steering Group (ISG) which is described as an international body with the authority to supervise Kosovo´s independence.

Reading this kind of statements I feel, that words as International, Law, Legal, Authority and Independence are used quite flimsy in mainstream media. Let´s look more some definitations:

  • ISG and ICO as international body consists of 25 member countries that have recognized Kosovo´s independence . ISG is like an self-named association more than international body. If e.g. 100 countries those do not have recognized Kosovo´s independence would create similar association it could claim the same authority than ISG.
  • Highest international authority so far is UNSC and in Kosovo case its resolution 1244. Resolution says that UNSC “Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2″
  • Mentioned Annex 2 e.g. says about interim administration, that “Establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo as a part of the international civil presence under which the people of Kosovo can enjoy substantial autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations.”
  • So in conclusion: Kosovo´s Independence is not legal, ISG/ICO administration does not have legal authority under International Law
  • Instead Assembly of Serbs was result of legal elections in Serbian territory and can have some justification at least representing local population in Serb-dominated areas.
  • If EULEX is acting like its name obliges, so it can act lawfully only under UN umbrella and the same is case with ISG/ICO actions in Kosovo.

ISG/ICO and EULEX are in Kosovo case now in headlines. One should remember, that more legal international authorities in Kosovo actions are UN/UNMIK and OSCE which both still are acting status-neutral way.

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