West Balkans soon ready for EU – at least part of it

October 24, 2009

As Lisbon Treaty seems to come into force also the enlargement process in the Western Balkans got new boost. On 14 October 2009 the Commission adopted its annual strategy document explaining its policy on EU enlargement.The document includes also a summary of the progress made over the last twelve months by each candidate and potential candidate: Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, as well as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (under UN resolution 1244).

In addition of strategy paper the Commission published the 2009 progress reports of each of the candidate and potential candidates. Below is a summary related to the countries of Western Balkans. My source has been European Commission Enlargement pages from where one can find the strategy, country reports and also other key documents related to enlargement.

EC’s country conclusions


  • Croatia has made good progress in meeting the benchmarks set in the accession negotiations and negotiations have now formally resumed following the political agreement between Slovenia and Croatia over handling the border issue. Croatia will need to pursue its reform efforts, in particular on the judiciary and public administration, the fight against and organised crime, and minority rights. If Croatia meets all outstanding benchmarks in time, the accession negotiations could be concluded next year.
  • Montenegro applied for EU membership in December 2008 and the Commission is currently preparing an Opinion as requested by the Council. Parliamentary elections met almost all international standards. Strengthening administrative capacity and consolidating the rule of law remain major challenges.
  • Albania applied for EU membership in April. The Commission stands ready to prepare its Opinion, once invited to do so by the Council. Parliamentary elections met most international standards. Strengthening the rule of law and ensuring the proper functioning of State institutions remain major challenges.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina urgently needs to speed up key reforms. The country’s European future requires a shared vision on the overall direction of the country by its leadership, the political will to meet European integration requirements and to meet the conditions which have been set for the closure of the OHR.
  • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made important progress and has substantially addressed the key accession partnership priorities. The Commission considers that the country sufficiently fulfils the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and the Stabilisation and Association Process and therefore has decided to recommend the opening of accession negotiations.
  • Serbia has demonstrated its commitment to moving closer to the EU by building up a track record in implementing the provisions of the Interim Agreement with the EU and by undertaking key reforms. In light of sustained cooperation with ICTY, the Commission considers that the Interim Agreement should now be implemented by the EU. Serbia needs to demonstrate a more constructive attitude on issues related to Kosovo.
  • In Kosovo, stability has been maintained but remains fragile. The EU’s rule of law mission EULEX has been deployed throughout Kosovo and is fully operational. Kosovo faces major challenges, including ensuring the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the strengthening of administrative capacity, and the protection of the Serb and other minorities.

Some latest developments

On 23rd October 2009 European Commission representative gave (FYR)Macedonia six weeks and a day to Macedonia, till the EU Council meets, to promote its name talks with Greece and secure a date for the start of EU accession talks. The change in power in Greece can create some positive atmosphere for the name negotiations.

According to the 2009 European Commission progress report, judicial reform in Albania remains in its early stages, with little progress made thereon in the last year. Now the General Prosecutor’s Office seeks the authorisation to investigate a judge on corruption-related charges. A constitutional amendment that would restrict the immunity of judges is needed for implementation of this task.

The second round of crucial high-level talks, aimed at ending Bosnia-Herzegovina’s convoluted political impasse, ended on Wednesday without concrete results.The talks on last week ended after only a couple of hours, with all Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders and some Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) representatives rejecting some or all of the proffered package.

During President Medvedev’s state visit in Serbia a number of bilateral agreements were signed, including one to establish a joint company (South Stream Serbia) to plan, build, and manage the section of the South Stream gas pipeline, which will pass through Serbia. A second deal saw the foundation of the Banatski Dvor UGS Joint Venture, which will construct and manage a gas storage facility in northern Serbia.

The International Court of Justice, ICJ, has set the agenda for a hearing on Kosovo’s independence declaration. More over background in my article “UN is sending Kosovo case to ICJ

Albania’s press freedom was recently reconfirmed as the worst in the Balkans, by the Reporters Without Borders’ Freedom of the Press Index. Albania is ranked 88 of 179 countries polled for the index, squeezed in between the United Arab Emirates and Senegal. Macedonia ranks 34, Bosnia 39, Romania 50, Serbia 62, Bulgaria 68, Kosovo 75, Croatia 77 and Montenegro 78. A wave of bombings against the political and media spheres during 2008 tarnished the image of Croatia within the EU at a time when the country was hoping to join the bloc as quickly as possible.

On a positive note, citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia (excluding residents of Kosovo) are on course to benefit from eventual visa liberalization to Schengen countries from 1 January 2010. The Commission plans to table proposals by the middle of next year to extend this right to Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided they meet the necessary conditions. A dialogue with Kosovo, with the perspective of visa liberalization once key conditions have been met, has also been proposed.

EU also has free-trade arrangements in place with the rest of the Western Balkans – the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Bottom line

When Ireland said yes to Lisbon and President Klaus is tired alone to resist the Treaty the way seems open for Croatia, (FYR) Macedonia to join EU. Albania, Montenegro and Serbia can follow soon if they want. Bosnia-Herzegovina is collapsing as state (more e.g. In my article “Bosnia collapsing“)

Kosovo may get some progress if EU is ready to squander more billions of euros for its capacity building efforts, but my overall view about Kosovo is quite pessimistic (More e.g in my article “Kosovo update”)

One question is what is the added value for part of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia to be a EU member state; most important pragmatic benefits can be achieved through visa-liberalization and free-trade agreements.

Technically EU can absorb the whole region as well Iceland in near future. The big question is Turkey as the opinions against its membership is still relatively high. However during next few years Turkey will come an energy through implementation of Blue Stream pipeline from Russia and South Stream, possible implementation of Nabucco and planned import of gas from Iraq and Iran. So in energy game Turkey will have some aces; if not membership EU must offer very attractive “third way” solution for Turkey, why not do the same with some states of the Western Balkans if needed.

The situation can change fast if the main players change. E.g next Summer the Conservatives may enter into power in UK and even without delayed referendum over Lisbon Treaty the approach towards EU enlargement and other EU issues can differ from today’s situation.

2009 progress reports of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, (FYR) Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo province can be found as pdf from my Document library.

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Iran’s nuclear program at the crossroads

October 16, 2009

The way ahead with the dispute between Iran’s nuclear programme and the possible response of western powers is foggy. News from last weeks give some base for optimism (peaceful solution) while others are increasing the use of military option. What’s clear to me is that the stakes are now higher than before.

From my point of view following aspects may have influence for one or the other solutions:

  • Confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is able to design and produce a workable atom bomb now
  • Recent massive missile exercises implemented by Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Air Force
  • Information leaks about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s secret visit to Moscow on Sept. 7
  • Iran has agreed to have the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspect a previously secret nuclear facility near Qom as well transport of low-enriched uranium to France and Russia for reprocessing
  • Iran’s right to develop its nuclear program for civil and military purposes
  • Nobel peace prize won by U.S. President Obama

“Secret” IAEA report

Not so long time ago US and UN officials claimed that Iran was five years away from making nuclear weapons. Two years ago, American intelligence agencies published a detailed report concluding that Tehran halted its efforts to design a nuclear weapon in 2003. But in recent months, Britain has joined France, Germany and Israel in disputing that conclusion, saying the work has been resumed. The United States is now re-evaluating its 2007 conclusions.

One reason for re-evaluation is still “secret” IAEA report, titled “Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program”. It draws a picture of a complex program, run by Iran’s Ministry of Defense, “aimed at the development of a nuclear payload to be delivered using the Shahab 3 missile system,” Iran’s medium-range missile, which can strike the Middle East and parts of Europe. The program, according to the report, apparently began in early 2002. Senior staff members of the United Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. If Iran is designing a warhead, that would represent only part of the complex process of making nuclear arms. Experts say Iran has already mastered the hardest part, enriching the uranium that can be used as nuclear fuel. Most dramatically, the report says the agency “assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium. (My source: The New York Times, 4rd Oct. 2009)

Netanyahu’s secret visit to Moscow

Nearly one month there has been rumours about secret visit of Binyamin Netanyahu – Israel’s prime minister – to Moscow on September 7th; a visit which long has been denied. However an article in The London Times , which I next refer, gives quite comprehensive description about it.


Netanyahu flew to the Russian capital with Uzi Arad, his national security adviser, last month in a private jet. His office claimed he was in Israel , visiting a secret military establishment at the time. It later emerged that he was holding talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and President Dmitry Medvedev. “We have heard that Netanyahu came with a list and concrete evidence showing that Russians are helping the Iranians to develop a bomb,” said a source close to the Russian defence minister last week.

New agreements

Iran has agreed in principle to allow international inspectors at a previously secret nuclear facility near Qom – the first round is scheduled for Oct. 25.

IHS Jane’s interactive image analysis – published in The New York Times on 29. Sep. – about Iran’s hidden nuclear facility can be found from here

Same time Iran has agreed to turn over most of its previously low-enriched uranium to the Russians and French for reprocessing to a higher concentration, and it will eventually be returned to them as fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

However there is also opinions that Iran’s motivation for agreement is the quality-problem of its uranium. The impurities, certain metallic fluoride compounds, would interfere with centrifuge enrichment. The contaminated fuel it has produced so far would be all but useless for nuclear weapons. To make enough fuel for a bomb, Iran might have to start over — this time avoiding the impurities.

Iran’s insurance

The Israelis believe the Iranians have “cold-tested” a nuclear warhead, without fissile material, for its Shahab-3B and Sejjil-2 rockets at Parchin, a top-secret military complex southeast of Tehran. The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Air Force on last Sunday launched massive missile exercises during which it tested different types of modern missiles.

 

The western powers see military dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program as thread. One could sometimes consider Iran’s weaponisation activities also from Iranian point of view. In 1953 the Americans toppled their democratically-elected, pro-western government to gain control of their oil reserves. USA re-instated the Shah on his throne, then kept order via the dreaded Savak (security police) with ruthless repression for over a quarter-century. After the Islamic Revolution, during the 80’s, USA gave aid to Iraq and armed Saddam Hussein e.g with chemical weapons to use them on Iranians. After 1980, the USA has been trying to find a means to get Iran back under its thumb, to control their resources, and install a puppet government. Hated by some its neighbours and some superpowers, isolated and weak, it is easy to understand that Nuclear Weapons can be considered as necessary insurance policy in hostile environment.

My view

From my point of view Iran has the same right to develop its nuclear program for civil and military purposes as all the other states. Iran isn’t doing anything else than USA, Soviet Union/Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, South Africa and North Korea haven’t already done. Sure Iran’s programs have been implemented clandestine, but so is the case with all others too.

Now “new” information pieces (Iran has already bomb, tests of modern missiles, secret Qom nuclear facility, Ahmadinejad still in power) are indicating that the Americans and Israelis are preparing the public for war. Even some polls now indicate that more than 60 percent of the U.S. public now favours military action against Iran. USA were aware of Russia’s cooperation on military hardware and its involvement in Iran ’s civilian nuclear program. The extent of the Iranian program with military dimension and the role of Russian and Pakistan experts underlined the growing urgency of action.

The new information can serve also efforts for peaceful solution. The purpose of PM Netanyahu’s secret visit in Russia maybe was to show to Russia and Iran that USA and Israel are updated about Iran’s situation and they are considering to use fast military option against Iran ’s nuclear facilities.

Nobel peace prize won by U.S. President Obama can now have real peace building effect – bombing Iran before Nobel ceremony would give bad image. On the other hand situation gives him the opportunity to move one step further with his initiatives. Indeed last negotiations about Iran’s nuclear programme showed some progress as well direct USA/Iran dialogue for long time.

Iran finally may be ready to make a deal. Iran’s leadership may have achieved much of what it set out to accomplish when it stepped up its clandestine nuclear program in 1999. In contentious, high-stakes negotiations, deals are possible when both sides have a chance to declare victory, and that point may have been reached.

More my Iran articles:


Nobel Peace Prize 2008/2009

October 14, 2009

When Nobel committee last year selected Mr. Ahtisaari – an unofficial spokesperson of US State department and Nato – as Nobel prize Peace laureate this years selection was not surprise. The bright side is that Mr.Obama has not (hopefully yet) junked the original criteria (“to contribute to fraternity in the world, to reduce armies and to establish peace congresses”) for Nobel peace prize as it was case with Ahtisaari. More in general in my article “Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in his grave” and more specific about Ahtisaari’s mediator tactics in my article “500.000 bodies or sign”- headlines are describing quite well the content as my criticism is mostly based on Ahtisaari’s Kosovo approach.

Nobel committee’s advancement can however promote peace in short term as now it is maybe more difficult to Obama launch or support bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities soon. Mr. Obama has also brought totally new spirit and approach to international relations if compared to previous administration so there is some hope that in near future international relations and conflicts can be managed more civilized manner. Will these my wishes come true we shall see later.


HDI 2009 – Balkans and Black Sea

October 10, 2009

Each year since 1990 the Human Development Report by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has published the human development index (HDI) which looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being. The index is not in any sense a comprehensive measure of human development, however HDI gives some valuable information about some dimensions of global trends.

Earlier I have published following two other articles related to other aspects of development in Balkans:

  • Freedom in Balkans which has its perspective on political rights and civil liberties, democracy, economy, poverty and movement

In this article my focus is to collect the human development index scores of Balkans and Black Sea regions as well some other picks. The report and additional related materials etc (my source with this article) can be found from UNDP’s HDR 2009 site.

Dimensions

The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and gross enrolment in education) and having a decent standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income). The index is not in any sense a comprehensive measure of human development. It does not, for example, include important indicators such as gender or income inequality nor more difficult to measure concepts like respect for human rights and political freedoms.

Balkans, Black Sea, others

From original HDR 2009 report I have selected following countries to my modified table

  • Balkan states
  • Black Sea states + Iran
  • The top and the worst score in the wordl
  • U.S. as old superpower
  • BRIC countries as rising superpowers

And here is the table:

Human development index

Dimension /// Rank & score

Rank

+ / –

(2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

Life expectancy at birth (years)

Adult literacy rate (%)

Combined gross enrolment ratio

GDP per capita (PPP US$)

1. Norway (0.971) 12. (80.5) NA (99.0) 8. (98.6) 5. (53,433)
13. –

United States (0.956) 26. (79.1) NA (99.0) 21. (92.4) 9. (45,592)
25. Greece (0.942) 27. (79.1) 35. (97.1) 3. (101.6) 31. (28,517)
29. Slovenia (0.929) 33. (78.2) 8. (99.7) 20. (92.8) 33. (26,753)
45. Croatia (0.871) 42. (76.0) 23. (98.7) 74. (77.2) 52. (16,027)
61. –

Bulgaria (0.840) 69. (73.1) 26. (98.3) 49. (82.4) 69. (11,222)
63. +

Romania (0.837) 76. (72.5) 32. (97.6) 60. (79.2) 64. (12,369)
65. Montenegro (0.834) 58. (74.0) 41. (96.4) 83. (74.5) 66. (11,699)
67. Serbia (0.826) 60. (73.9) 42. (96.4) 84. (74.5) 75. (10,248)
70. Albania (0.818) 38. (76.5) 19. (99.0) 118. (67.8) 93. (7,041)
71. +

Russian Federation (0.817) 118. (66.2) 11. (99.5) 51. (81.9) 55. (14,690)
72. (FYR) Macedonia (0.817) 56. (74.1) 37. (97.0) 109. (70.1) 80. (9,096)
75. Brazil (0.813) 81. (72.2) 71. (90.0) 40. (87.2) 79. (9,567)
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 51. (75.1) 39. (96.7) 110. (69.0) 87. (7,764)
79. –

Turkey (0.806) 86. (71.7) 77. (88.7) 105. (71.1) 63. (12,955)
84. + Armenia (0.798) 64. (73.6) 14. (99.5) 82. (74.6) 100. (5,693)
85. – Ukraine (0.796) 110. (68.2) 6. (99.7) 90. (90.0) 94. (6,914)
86. + Azerbaijan (0.787) 101. (70.0) 13. (99.5) 120. (66.2) 84. (7,851)
88. –

Iran (Islamic Republic of) (0.782) 95. (71.2) 94. (82.3) 91. (73.2) 71. (10,955)
89. + Georgia (0.778) 90. (71.6) 1. (100.0) 78. (76.7) 110. (4,662)
92. + China (0.772) 72. (72.9) 56. (93.3) 112. (68.7) 102. (5,383)
117. Moldova (0.720) 109. (68.3) 17. (99.2) 100. (71.6) 131. (2,551)
134. India (0.612) 128. (63.4) 120. (66.0) 134. (61.0) 128. (2,753)
182. Niger (0.340) 160. (50.8) 149. (28.7) 176. (27.2) 176. (627)

Human Development categories: Very High 1-38, High 39-83, Medium 84-158, Low 159-182

2009

This year’s HDI (released on 5th Oct 2009) has been calculated for 182 countries and territories—the widest coverage ever. The estimates, which rely on the most recently available data compiled by the UN and other international partners, are based on 2007 data. HDI values fell in four countries—in all cases as a result of falling GDP per capita—and rose in 174 cases. At the same time, there were many more changes in country rankings. In 2007 relative to 2006, 50 countries fell one or more places in rank between the two years, and a similar number moved up. This is because changes in rank are affected not just by the performance of individual countries but also by the progress made relative to other countries especially when the differences in value are small.

It is important to note that these HDI results, based on 2007 data, do not reflect the effects of the global economic crisis, which is expected to have massive impacts on human development achievements.

My related other articles:

Balkans and Failed States Rank

Freedom in Balkans

HDR 2009 as pdf

UNDP

UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP is working on the ground in 166 countries. More:www.undp.org


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