Competitiveness of Balkans

October 16, 2008

The World Economic Forum (WEF) published again a comprehensive annual survey “Global Economic Competitiveness Report 2008-2009”. Economic Forum together with its network of leading research institutes and business organisations in the countries covered by the report has calculated sc. “Global Competitiveness Index Rankings” (GCI) 134 countries poled.

The report takes into account a series of indicators in public and private institutions, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure, health, education, market and labour efficiency.  The survey is designed to capture a broad range of factors affecting an economy’s business climate. The report also includes comprehensive listings of the main strengths and weaknesses of countries, making it possible to identify key priorities for policy reform.

The report is one of background information discussed in the first World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia will be held on 30 October – 1 November in Istanbul, Turkey.

Western Balkans

According mentioned report Slovenia has been ranked as the most competive economy in the Balkans. Slovenia’s GCI was 42 out of 134 countries polled followed Croatia (61), Greece (67), Romania (68), Bulgaria (76), Serbia (85), Macedonia (89), Bosnia-Herzegovina (107) and Albania (108). Other interesting rankings nearby Balkans are e.g. Czech Republic (33), Slovak Republic (46), Hungary (62), Georgia (90) and Moldova (95).

If compared to previous Competitiveness reports there is not dramatic changes during last five years. Only exception maybe is that both Slovenia and Croatia have passed Greece in these rankings. More information about Competitiveness and also about other WEF reports one may find from their weforum.



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Islamic terror in Bosnia – follow-up and some background

October 13, 2008

On September I wrote here an article “Radical islamist network spreading in Balkans” describing some actual events in Bosnia-Herzegivina. Now a Croatian NGO Libertas made public statement in which it says that Croatians in Bosnia are victims of Bosnian Muslim terror and are asking Bosnian Croat political leadership to initiate a plan that will break up the Bosnian Federation entity and form a Croatian one.

Serbianna news headline on 11th Oct.2008 is quite informative – Islamic terror victimizing Bosnian Croats”. The statement of Libertas claims that “After several denary terror attacks on Croatian returnees in central Bosnia, after several murders of children of which the last was in Sarajevo and after the latest murder of Croats in FIS Vitez and relentless attacks on Croatian property in Bosnia, why hasn’t anyone been held accountable,”.

Some background

The Former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia James Bissett told in his article  “War on terrorism skipped the KLA” (look it from my Document library) that Bin Laden and radical Muslim groups had been deeply involved in the Balkans since the civil wars in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. It was reported that Muslim authorities had issued a Bosnian passport to Osama bin Laden at the Bosnian embassy in Vienna in 1993.

Shaul Shay, an officer in the military Late intelligence of the Israeli Defense Forces and expert on international and fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, analyzes in his book “Islamic Terror and the Balkans” the growth of radical Islam in the Balkans. He shows how the war in Bosnia and the war in Kosovo provided the historical opportunity for radical Islam to penetrate the Balkans.

“After 9/11, when the US started examining the financing of terror organizations, it discovered that many of the Islamic charities that operated during and after the war in the Balkans were channeling “terror” money . A big chunk of that money that was supposed to be used for humanitarian purposes went to finance those  [Islamic terror] infrastructures, ” Shay stated.

For background information I could also recommend book “Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa’ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad” by John R. Schindler.

Lessons learned

Western mainstream media (MSM) and reports of international organizations and NGOs have told many stories about capacity building of new multi-ethnic state with European perspective. The events now and earlier are forcing to ask if the picture created by MSM is the right one. I do not have that kind of illusion. Few remarks for future:

  • Are recent events describing wider ethnic intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina and maybe Kosovo too where Islamic terror has some potential?
  • Can this situation give new perspective to one-sided (Serbs bad, others good ones) picture of Balkan wars?
  • Has international community right priorities while making capacity building and police operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina?
  • Has the artificial creature Bosnia-Herzegovina came to end of its road as federation?
  • Do possible three entities have any reason to hang together in same state or are more alluring prospects other side of the borders?



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Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in his grave?

October 12, 2008

The criteria for Nobel peace prize outlined in Alfred Nobel’s will 1895 was “to contribute to fraternity in the world, to reduce armies and to establish peace congresses”. The choice of Martti Ahtisaari as this years winner undervalues – again – those original ideas. Ahtisaari got the prize probably about his actions as mediator in Namibia, Aceh and Kosovo. Namibia went according UN peace plan, Aceh was acceptable compromise and Kosovo everything else.

Norwegian founder of peace studies, Johan Galtung, has criticized heavily Ahtisaari’s way to handle peace processes. Galtung claims that “Ahtisaari does not solve conflicts but drives through a short-term solutions that please western countries”. He further says that Ahtisaari “let’s EU to abuse himself”. According to Galtung Ahtisaari does not hesitate to favour solutions that bypass United Nations and international law.

With Kosovo case I would see three serious – intentional or unintentional – mistakes of Ahtisaari with negotiation process lead by him namely implementation, attitude and outcome.

  • The implementation of Kosovo negotiations already started wrong while Ahtisaari accepted limitations made by Contact Group, which created limitation of discussion option and image about solution tacitly predetermined from the start. This failure is clear when compared sc. Troika Talks, which were open-ended in principle and showed a lot of alternative solutions for Kosovo status.
  • The attitude of Ahtisaari did not help neither success of his negotiation process. He drew precedented criticism from Serbian politicians for allegedly saying that “Serbs are guilty as people” and implying that they would have to pay for it, possibly by losing Kosovo which is seeking independence. Before Ahtisaari this kind of attitude in collective guild of the nations were made by Hitler. One can understand anger of Serbs who few years earlier had overthrow their undemocratic leader.
  • The outcome of process was wretched. It was claimed solution was the only possible – it wasn’t, alternative solutions came during Troika talks. There was no need to continue negotiations – it was because there wasn’t an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. Solution was described “unique case” and no precedent – false again at least if one asks from some thousand separatist movements on globe. Solution was intended to provide stability to whole region – it created only one frozen conflict and puppet state more.

One could say that Ahtisaari has more acted as spokesperson of US State Department and Nato than unbiased mediator. Besides Kosovo Ahtisaari also supported US propaganda about Iraq. Like in Kosovo one reason for attack was “humanitarian intervention” while in reality most of civil casualties were made when Saddam was an ally of USA. Like in Kosovo the attack to Iraq was made without UNSC approval against international law.

Meanwhile, the Swedish institute TFF (Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research) called the decision “scandalous”. Ahtisaari is a man who by his “mediations” fully endorses the “peace” brought about by militarist means and international law violations – rather than following the UN norm of “peace by peaceful means.”, TFF said.

P.S: My headline is a little bit provocative – Mr Nobel was cremated.



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UN is sending Kosovo case to ICJ

October 9, 2008

The UN General Assembly is backing Serbia’s draft to request an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about the legality of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo. October 8th UNGA, by a recorded vote of 77 in favour to 6 against (Albania, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 74 abstentions, adopted a resolution drafted by Serbia.

The resolution
In initiating the resolution, Serbia had responded to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence on 17 February with “maximal restraint”, said Serbian Minister for Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic, as he introduced the text. The resolution was asking the 192-member Assembly to convey its request to the Court–the United Nations’ highest judicial body–for an advisory opinion, in line with its powers under the Organization’s Charter. Sending the question to the Court “would prevent the Kosovo crisis from serving as a deeply problematic precedent in any part of the globe where secessionist ambitions are harboured”, he explained. An advisory opinion would provide politically neutral and judicially authoritative guidance to many countries still deliberating how to approach such unilateral declarations. “Support of this resolution would reaffirm a fundamental principal: the right of any Member State […] to pose a simple, basic question–on a matter it considers vitally important, to the international court,” he said, adding that a vote against the text would deny the right of any country–-now or in the future-–to seek judicial recourse through the United Nations system. “The question posed is amply clear and refrains from taking political positions on the Kosovo issue.”

The vote
With that, the draft received support from a geographic mix of countries, including Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean and the Middle East, with delegates backing the measure out of respect for international law, the United Nations Charter, States’ right to request an advisory opinion-–particularly on sovereignty matters-–and the Court’s position as the appropriate judicial body for ruling on such highly complex matters. Algeria’s representative also underscored that the draft contained no political or controversial elements.

Six country voted against (Albania, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), 77 favoured the draft and 74 countries abstained. The European Union member countries did not have a united stand on the issue, with Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Romania voted in favour, while the rest abstained.

The conclusions
My conclusions about the vote, procedure and discussions in UN General Assembly are following:

  • The Spanish representative really hit the nail on the head when he said that “his government considered the respect of international law was a principle which must be applied to all fields of international relations”. He added that “it at the same time highlights the importance of the functioning of the UN institutions”. So the big question is to restore some authority of UN as the main forum of international relations and to recognise ICJ’s role as highest judicial body of UN.
  • The US vote against resolution was not surprise. USA has always during modern times been against International Court forbidding e.g. hearings of its war crimes there. USA has also frequently broke international law and underestimated UN/UNSC when needed for own tactical reasons.
  • The European Union showed again that its speech about common ESDP, foreign policy etc.are fairy tales useful only for statements and real politic is something else. Those EU member states who have not made Kosovo recognition were also in this UN vote favour to ask ICJ ruling.
  • The amount of abstained votes shows that in principle ICJ is respected because many countries were afraid how to act if ICJ rules their hesitated actions (recognition of Kosovo independence) wrong.
  • The timing of this resolution is right. Even all those who supported Kosovo independence said that Kosovo was unique case and not precedent thousands of ethnical or separatist movements around the world made other conclusion – Kosovo really opened the “Pandora box”. To limit the degree of damage it is time to restore international forums and law.

Source of UNGA meeting and vote: UN News Service/GA/10764/8th October 2008

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UN is sending Kosovo case to ICJ

October 9, 2008

The UN General Assembly is backing Serbia’s draft to request an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about the legality of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo. October 8th UNGA, by a recorded vote of 77 in favour to 6 against (Albania, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 74 abstentions, adopted a resolution drafted by Serbia.

The resolution
In initiating the resolution, Serbia had responded to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence on 17 February with “maximal restraint”, said Serbian Minister for Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic, as he introduced the text. The resolution was asking the 192-member Assembly to convey its request to the Court–the United Nations’ highest judicial body–for an advisory opinion, in line with its powers under the Organization’s Charter. Sending the question to the Court “would prevent the Kosovo crisis from serving as a deeply problematic precedent in any part of the globe where secessionist ambitions are harboured”, he explained. An advisory opinion would provide politically neutral and judicially authoritative guidance to many countries still deliberating how to approach such unilateral declarations. “Support of this resolution would reaffirm a fundamental principal: the right of any Member State […] to pose a simple, basic question–on a matter it considers vitally important, to the international court,” he said, adding that a vote against the text would deny the right of any country–-now or in the future-–to seek judicial recourse through the United Nations system. “The question posed is amply clear and refrains from taking political positions on the Kosovo issue.”

The vote
With that, the draft received support from a geographic mix of countries, including Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean and the Middle East, with delegates backing the measure out of respect for international law, the United Nations Charter, States’ right to request an advisory opinion-–particularly on sovereignty matters-–and the Court’s position as the appropriate judicial body for ruling on such highly complex matters. Algeria’s representative also underscored that the draft contained no political or controversial elements.

Six country voted against (Albania, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), 77 favoured the draft and 74 countries abstained. The European Union member countries did not have a united stand on the issue, with Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Romania voted in favour, while the rest abstained.

The conclusions
My conclusions about the vote, procedure and discussions in UN General Assembly are following:

  • The Spanish representative really hit the nail on the head when he said that “his government considered the respect of international law was a principle which must be applied to all fields of international relations”. He added that “it at the same time highlights the importance of the functioning of the UN institutions”. So the big question is to restore some authority of UN as the main forum of international relations and to recognise ICJ’s role as highest judicial body of UN.
  • The US vote against resolution was not surprise. USA has always during modern times been against International Court forbidding e.g. hearings of its war crimes there. USA has also frequently broke international law and underestimated UN/UNSC when needed for own tactical reasons.
  • The European Union showed again that its speech about common ESDP, foreign policy etc.are fairy tales useful only for statements and real politic is something else. Those EU member states who have not made Kosovo recognition were also in this UN vote favour to ask ICJ ruling.
  • The amount of abstained votes shows that in principle ICJ is respected because many countries were afraid how to act if ICJ rules their hesitated actions (recognition of Kosovo independence) wrong.
  • The timing of this resolution is right. Even all those who supported Kosovo independence said that Kosovo was unique case and not precedent thousands of ethnical or separatist movements around the world made other conclusion – Kosovo really opened the “Pandora box”. To limit the degree of damage it is time to restore international forums and law.

Source of UNGA meeting and vote: UN News Service/GA/10764/8th October 2008

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Kosovo play continues on international stages

October 6, 2008

This week will be show again one significant step in international politics and especially in Western Balkans. 1st at its plenary session called for 8th October, the 192-member UN General Assembly is to debate Serbia’s draft resolution calling for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence. 2nd EU tries again find some common position about Kosovo case and the forecast is that EU member-states will probably abstain from the vote at the UN. 3rd Portugal, Macedonia (FYR) and Montenegro are under huge pressure to recognize Kosovo independence.

UDI and ICJ in UN

Serbia has filed a draft resolution in which it asks from the UN General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) of Kosovo. Belgrade has proclaimed two objectives with this initiative. The first, immediate goal is to have the ICJ provide its stand on the UDI and to stop the recognition of Pristina’s act by UN members. The second, mid-term objective is to have Belgrade and Pristina go back to the negotiating table on the status question.

Last week a trial vote revealed 120 of the 192 members gave their backing to Serbia’s request to refer the matter to the ICJ, reported the German daily Handelsblatt.

Why they say “no” to Kosovo’s secession

Nearly 50 countries has recognized Kosovo but over 140 not. Some of them have also stated that so far they will not make recognition at least before some conditions – like e.g. independence after Belgrade/Pristina deal – are reached. Below one may look reasons why some countries are not pro-UDI of Kosovo (Source: Kosovo Compromise newsletter 04 Aug.2008):

  • Algeria – “There are international laws and they must be respected.” Mourad Medelci, Foreign Minister
  • Angola – “We express solidarity with Serbia in regard to the preservation of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, which includes Kosovo.” Eduardo Dos Santos, President
  • Argentina – “If we were to recognize Kosovo, which has declared its independence unilaterally, without an agreement with Serbia, we would set a dangerous precedent that would seriously threaten our chances of a political settlement in the case of the Falkland Islands.” Jorge Taiana, Foreign Minister
  • Azerbaijan – “We view this illegal act as being in contradiction with international law. Azerbaijan retreated its troops from Kfor in reaction, and opposed support for Kosovo’s secession at the OIC summit.” Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan
  • Brazil – “The Brazilian government will recognize the independence of Kosovo only if Serbia does. A peaceful solution must be sought through dialogue and negotiations, under the auspices of the UN and the legal framework of the UN Security Council resolution 1244.” Celso Amorim, Foreign Minister
  • China – “The unilateral move taken by Kosovo will lead to a series of consequences. China is deeply worried about its severe and negative impact on peace and stability of the Balkan region… and calls to continue negotiations for a proper resolution within the framework of the international law.” Chinese Foreign Ministry
  • Cyprus – “Cyprus will never recognize a unilateral declaration of independence outside the UN framework, and in particular by side-stepping the Security Council.” Foreign Ministry Statement
  • Georgia – “Tbilisi will not recognize Kosovo’s independence. I think everyone in Georgia, regardless of political orientation, is unanimous on this.” Davit Bakradze, Foreign Minister
  • Greece – “Greece is in favor of achieving consensual and mutually-acceptable solutions based on respect of international law.” Yannis Valinakis, Dep. Foreign Minister
  • India – “It has been India’s consistent position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be fully respected by all states.” Indian Foreign Ministry
  • Indonesia – “Indonesia does not see Kosovo as a religious, but as an ethnic and political problem as well as a question of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of a UN member.” Hassan Wirajuda, Foreign Minister
  • Iran – “After considering the region’s issues and conditions, Iran decided not to recognize the independence of Kosovo.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President
  • Israel – “Israel will not recognize Kosovo’s independence, in part because of the possibility of Palestinians using recognition of Kosovo to justify their own unilateral declaration of independence.” Israeli Foreign Ministry
  • Kazakhstan – “The Kosovo issue should be solved peacefully in accordance with UN principles on national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Kazakh Foreign Ministry
  • Libya – “Libya strongly supports the position of Serbia regarding Kosovo, despite the pressure from the European Union and some Islamic states… Libya considers Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence illegal.” Libyan Foreign Ministry
  • New Zealand – “It has never been the New Zealand government’s position to recognize in such circumstances.” Prime Minister Helen Clark
  • Romania – A joint session of Parliament voted not to recognize Kosovo’s independence by 357 to 27.
  • Russia – “Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is a terrible precedent that breaks up the entire system of international relations that have taken centuries to evolve, and undoubtedly, it may entail a whole chain of unpredictable consequences to other regions in the world.” Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister
  • Slovakia – “I do not exclude the possibility that Slovakia will never recognize Kosovo. Kosovo is not some independent territory, it is an integral part of Serbia where Serbs, and members of the Albanian ethic minority live”. Robert Fico, Prime Minister
  • South Africa – South Africa calls for further negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. Foreign Ministry
  • Spain – “The Government of Spain will not recognize the unilateral act proclaimed by the assembly of Kosovo … We will not recognize because we consider this does not respect international law”. Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spanish Foreign Minister
  • Sri Lanka – “The act could set an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations, the established global order of sovereign states and could thus pose a grave threat to international peace and security”. Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry
  • Vietnam – “Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is not a correct implementation of UN SC resolution 1244 and it will complicate the situation in Kosovo and the Balkan region.” Le Loung Minh, Ambassador to the UN

Days after next week

If UN assembly decides to approve Serbia’s draft and an opinion will be asked from ICJ the answer from there can take even few years. If EU will abstain from the vote it again shows the weakness of EU common foreign policy; if member-states are voting against draft EU continues to underrate international law and UN authority. Anyway the situation on the ground will remain tense or frozen. In Kosovo ICO/ICR, EULEX, UNMIK/UN, KFOR/Nato, OSCE etc. will twist arm who has more or less international authority/executive power, Pristina government and Serbian parallel structures are making the same at local level. The fast way out would be direct negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina without preconditions to find sustainable compromise solution.



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Dividing Kosovo – a pragmatic solution to frozen conflict

October 3, 2008

Earlier this week Serbian President Boris Tadic stated, that he would not rule out partitioning Kosovo if all other options on Kosovo’s final status have been exhausted. “Intellectuals in Serbia and the international public are debating the issue of a partition and this is one of the options that have been emphasized all these years in searching for a solution to Kosovo’s future status. I can only think about this when all other possibilities have been exhausted” Tadić told a news conference. (B92, 1/10/2008)

Partition

Although Tadic did not specify where the line of partition would run, it is most likely to include the municipalities of Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok as well as the northern half of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica. This area in northern Kosovo is overwhelming ethnic Serb and Pristina’s influence holds little weight here.

However just half of the 100,000 Serbs living in Kosovo actually live in northern areas while the rest are in isolated enclaves that dot the former province. One should also remember that about 100,000 – 206,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo is living in Serbia.

Kosovo Serbs pro and against

Senior Kosovo Serb politicians claimed President Boris Tadic’s declaration had sent a negative message to Serbs living in the enclaves that are spread out across Kosovo.

Meanwhile the Vice president of the Serb National Council, moderate politician Rada Trajkovic claimed the partition of Kosovo would complete the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo. (BIRN/Balkan Insight Daily 2/10/2008)

On the other hand a deputy for KiM in Serbia Parliament Stojanka Petkovic believes that partition could be a solution. ‘The project of multiethnic Kosovo has failed since it turned out that the Serbs and Albanians cannot live together’, Petkovic says. (Blic 3/10/2008)

Partition as pragmatic solution

Personally I came early 2001 to same conclusion than Ms. Petkovic above and since then considered partition as best possible outcome on the ground. I justify my point e.g. with following arguments:

  • If negotiated and accepted by Belgrade and Pristina partition deal is according international law, not against it like forced, imposed solutions
  • The deal can serve as positive precedent for similar cases in international politics
  • Both parties can focus their energy to improve economy and living conditions of their citizens without never-ending dispute over Kosovo status
  • North can be integrated directly to Serbia without need to make creative solutions for parallel structures; South can concentrate its development needs without endless dispute about authority in North
  • EU and US can focus their actions in Kosovo to capacity building and economical development instead of using huge military/police presence to keep there some order

One big topic of course is the question about enclave Serbs and historical heritage. While agreeing about partition one tacit condition for Kosovo republic should be implementation of self-governance and cultural heritage clauses of Ahtisaari plan.

EU should also implement/finance a sufficient housing program in Serbia to solve its refugee/IDP question. Enclave Serbs could through this housing program find a good alternative to enclave live. The Balkan history is full of examples about more or less voluntary migration of peoples/nations around the region, a housing program could this time make it moderate or at least tolerable.

Bottom line

I know that my point of view is not according some top level ideals about modern multiethnic societies and it can violate some persons’ human rights e.g. freedom to choose fixed abode. However partition can be a practical, pragmatic and realistic solution to end a frozen conflict. It can be sustainable base from where both parties can focus to improve their daily live. Who knows maybe after some peaceful period borders start melt down, interaction between individuals from different ethnic groups’ spreads and multiethnic region is ordinary routine.

Note: I have wrote about different aspects about partition in this BalkanBlog e.g. articles:
Kosovo’s independence in question, 25/9/2008
Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements, 17/9/2008
Kosovo – failed UN (justice) mission, 11/9/2008
Spark, fire and water: Kosovo & Georgia, 19/8/2008
Kosovo > South-Ossetia > Abkhazia > ???, 8/8/2008
ICO & EULEX & Legality, 2/7/2008
Kosovo quasi-independence and it´s economical base, 15/6/2008
Co-rule as new option to open Kosovo deadlock, 10/6/2008
Kosovo problem/my viewpoint, 31/5/2008



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