16th April – Blog Reader Appreciation Day

April 16, 2009

16th April is the Blog Reader Appreciation Day organized by Bloggers Unite***. Bloggers depend on loyal readers but rarely thank them. The event gives bloggers a change to do so around the blogosphere. It also gives a change to blogger think own author-readership interdependency if there is or should be such a thing.

In this case my perspective is purely individual one and I don’t go to business blogging nor today’s popular issue where blogging is used one channel to attract voters behind some party or candidateto buy political program, product or service.

My motivation                

I can speak only on the behalf of myself but when I started blogging my first concern was not the reader. My motivation came and still comes from need to express my opinion about issues important to me.

While living and working in West Balkans I saw big difference between the picture of western mainstream media and situation on the ground. The same gap I saw while EU in contemporary history has been making programs, decisions and EP reports related to Balkans, Northern Black Sea Region and Russia. I took the task to make my share to narrow this gap.

First I tried to write to EC officials, MEPs, ministers and policy makers with nonexistent success, then I started blogging with different platforms and audience and at least the feedback has been totally other scale.

Ignoring readership?

As I am not a paid lobbyist of any product or interest group and I am not earning money with ad clicks in my blogs I can freely write what I think, be provocative, biased in other words express myself egoistical way.

At first sight this can be seen arrogant neglecting of readership. I disagree. In mainstream and mass media as well marked orientated promotional campaigns of groups with special interest there is enough flattery to get potential clients or supporters. So with some freedom from pleasing readership I can offer some alternative anyway.

Truthful information?

Some readers expect from blog same criteria than printed articles in respected press or magazines. I compare blog more similar to op-ed, talkback or commentary pages than news or edited articles. At least my posts are not objective (who’s is) scientific (science has also conflicting paradigms and methods) truth and they are far away from academic research.

Often my columns may be biased highlighting the other side of story. As such they can create possibility to angry responses and as best debate with reasonable arguments.

Interdependency

So if my post is one-sided without objectivity is it same than (individual) political statement or program? My answer is no. Political statement rarely takes account reader feedback or screens readership opinions only to make original agenda or message more powerful. If I make a provocative post based to some arguments it can inspire some angry reader with totally opposite view to write critical response backed his/her counterarguments. After this or longer dialogue it is possible that I must admit the weakness of my original arguments. Whatever the outcome, I hope that afterward the readers and I too will have more versatile picture of events than before.

Feedback

Blogging for me is a learning process. Counterarguments from readers are bringing new information and aspects to respective topics – some time they force my search issue more deep to back – or rejection – my own arguments.

In some forums the feedback I get consists mainly about personal insults, sometimes in comments one can not find a word about topic itself. I wondered why these commentators still were reading my blog and I came to conclusion that they must be masochists. The bright side anyway is that it shows that with blogging it is possible to find different kind of readerships.

While writing a blog post also I am reader searching new angles or fresh information from the field. Blogging without readers is possible; with them it is more rewarding.

***

Bloggers Unite is an attempt to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By asking bloggers to write about a particular subject on 1 day of the month, a single voice can be joined with thousands to help make a difference; from raising awareness for cancer, to an effort to better education systems or supporting 3rd world countries.

More my views one may find from my BalkanBlog!

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War Crime Dispute Spain vs. Israel

March 5, 2009

Interesting news from Israel popped to my eyes few days ago.  A  Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (National Union) has called for Israel to put former Spanish officials on trial for their role in the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. His official request was sent to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, in the wake of a Spanish court agreeing to try senior Israelis for recent Gaza operation.  Although both cases – Spanish trial against Israel and International Court against Spain – probably end as curiosity to archives without any further implications they tell something about international criminal procedures.

Case in Spain

The story started last week when Spain’s High Court announced it would launch a war crimes investigation into a Israeli ex-defence minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and 14 civilians in Gaza. The Spanish government is said also considering to amend a law related to case.  (Source Irishtimes)

The Spanish court agreed a month ago to hear the case for prosecution of former IAF commander Dan Halutz, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and five other senior Israeli officials for war crimes over their decision to assassinate Shehadeh while the Hamas leader was in a building in Gaza City. Sixteen other people people were killed in the Israeli airstrike, including Shehadeh’s wife and child and other children. Israeli leaders called the Spanish court “delusional,” however, pointing out that Shehadeh was a terrorist mastermind responsible for the deaths of up to 100 innocent people.

Response in Israel

Now Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad is seeking to have Israel charge the former Spanish Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff for war crimes against the people of Belgrade and other Serbian areas. Spain, as part of NATO, was involved in massive airstrike sorties targeting Serbia during the civil war in Yugoslavia. “In those bombings,” Eldad’s petition said, “hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians were killed because NATO pilots dropped their bombs from extremely high altitudes in order not to endanger themselves. They thus caused mass civilian casualties. It is fitting that the State of Israel try the Spanish political and military leaders for war crimes if Spain does not immediately revoke the charges against the Israeli Defense Minister and Chief of Staff.”

According Mr. Eldad failing to see the hypocrisy inherent in the charges against Israel for its actions while NATO carried out the same, or worse, actions against Serbia, Eldad concluded, “is testimony to hatred for Israel – Israel the people and Israel the state equally – and the State of Israel must fight back against this wave of anti-Semitism.” (Source Arutz Sheva)

Bombings and after

Serbia has tried to put Nato already to International Court for war crimes during bombing 1999.  And of course without success since big or important enough players don’t give a s…t about Hague and like U.S have already sealed an impunity with bilateral agreements in mission regions.More about these Nato’s war crimes here and here.

Some justice has anyway took place while afterwards Spain has defended international law in UN and EU by not recognizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence while U.S. and majority of EU member-states precipitately acted opposite throwing international law to garbage based illusion about Kosovo as unique case (which hallucination endured reality only few months).

Hypocritical EU?

EU can show strength while pottering with trivialities be it question human rights or money consumption in micro projects. If EU would like to act in line with its high-flown ideals it should stand straight-backed behind international court principles so that no country could be immune its rulings.  And if some countries like U.S. look themselves to be above international law appropriate measures – such as sanctions – should be taken against it.   And this probably is total utopia.


Two other aspects about war crimes I recently published:


The new tradition of non-negotiation

January 11, 2009

I am a bit worried about a trend at the beginning of year 2009 – a trend I hope will not dominate the rest of the year.  The phenomena in my mind is the new tradition of non-negotiation.  Crisis management and solving conflicts will be much more harder if local stakeholders are unable even to talk each other.

Few examples from last weeks:

  • Israel does not negotiate with Hamas so war and human catastrophe will continue before some outsiders are broking s.c. temporary ceasefire or truce while sustainable solution would need long and deep negotiations between local partners.
  • U.S. and Iran are discussing in UN and direct talks we must wait until new President takes his office in White House.  Let’s hope that situation does not escalate before that. If real talks had been implemented earlier some today’s problems in Middle East could be now smaller or non-existing.
  • Separatist government in Kosovo province does not want talk with Belgrade authorities about technical details of UN six-point plan from November 2008 before Belgrade recognizes Kosovo;  Belgrade will talk with Pristina’s separatist government only when they act under UNMIK (administration of Kosovo international protectorate) umbrella.  So many practical problems will not be solved.
  • Russia and Ukraine and EU knew problems with gas deliveries years ago, last October was clear that after New Year deliveries maybe stop – no constructive talks even Xmas-week.  When homes in Europe started frozen there seemed to be no hurry to negotiate.  When finally EU broke the deal to accept EU monitors to check if Ukraina is stealing gas from pipes or not the last delay was waiting if Ukraina will sign the agreement.  Big mess again when leaders are not willing to discuss in due course.

It is amazing how on the modern time of information society the authorities are not discussing common problems.  Everywhere else the information flow is huge, on-time debate over today’s conflicts is going on around the globe.  Some forums are of course for those who in principle are thinking same way over issues but also real unlimited and open forums are available.  Internet is full of  ideas, arguments, real-time situation information, proposals and solutions.  It is sad that when we have all real-time information and modern communication means those who can deside do not bother to have simple old fashion or modern discussions with their colleagues.


EULEX, UN and mess-up in Kosovo

November 1, 2008

Last Spring EU was building enthusiastically its Rule of Law Mission EULEX for Kosovo.  However even today EULEX has not started work, its wish is to do so before end of the year 2008.  Some hundreds EULEX mission members are already in Kosovo wondering what to do and where.

Kosovo had made unilateral declaring of  independence, EULEX should replace UNMIK in four months and International Community Office (ICO) should supervise Kosovo’s independence with Nato-lead KFOR troops backing.  Everything was unclear even in paper and in reality the mess has been even bigger. (Earlier 28ht Oct. I wrote an article about chaos between four international administrators plus local stakeholders, check my Blog:archive)

Positions today

The basic position of today’s situation is that to be a credible operation in Kosovo according great ideals imaged earlier in Brussels EULEX should be deployed throughout province.  Belgrad however does not recognise EULEX. They are dealing only with UN/UNMIK, which implements UNSC resolution 1244, where is stated Kosovo province to be part of
Serbia and temporary under international administration – not a word there about some independence.  Serbs have even collected a petition against EULEX with about 20.000 names on it.

An idea to deploy EULEX only south of Ibar river while UN would still administer North Kosovo and Serb enclaves (Ghettos) in Albanian dominated southern part was not acceptable to international community so situation remains unclear.

UN seeking compromise 

UN – which according original plan supposed to hand over its operation to EULEX during past Summer – has negotiated intensively a solution with Belgrade for this problem, which should clear situation in Security Council meeting hopefully on November or December.    

The main components of possible solution are

  • that EULEX operates formally under UN umbrella and is approved in UNSC,
  • EULEX is status neutral, and
  • EULEX does not have mandate for implementation of sc. Ahtisaari’s plan.

In addition there is ongoing technical negotiations between UN and Belgrade and Pristina authorities over six issues – police, customs, judicial system, traffic-infrastructure, borderline and Serbian cultural heritage.

The bottom line

EU is so impatient to finally launch its operation and replace UN mission that maybe solution according components mentioned above can be reached.  There is however doubts that this solution confirms de facto partition of Kosovo.  From my point of view this is not big thread if it is first solution in last ten years which local stakeholders  – Belgrade and Pristina – could together accept.


500.000 bodies or sign!

October 24, 2008

Some of you may have been reading my earlier column “Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in his grave? on 12th Oct.2008.  Now I was reading an shocking article “How the Nobel Peace Prize Was Won” by Gregory Elich at CounterPunch. Original article can be found from here.

One of the main points highlights Ahtisaari’s mediator tactics when he is threatening President Milosevic that those whom Ahtisaari represented were willing to flatten Belgrade and to kill 500.000 people in a week unless President Milosevic does not sign his offer.

Sign or get 500.000 bodies!

“Ahtisaari opened the meeting by declaring, “We are not here to discuss or negotiate,” after which Chernomyrdin read aloud the text of the plan. Ahtisaari says that Milosevic asked about the possibility of modifying the plan, to which he replied, “No. This is the best that Viktor and I have managed to do. You have to agree to it in every part.” Ristic reports that as Milosevic listened to the reading of the text, he realized that the “Russians and the Europeans had put us in the hands of the British and the Americans.” Milosevic took the papers and asked, “What will happen if I do not sign?” In answer, “Ahtisaari made a gesture on the table,” and then moved aside the flower centerpiece. Then Ahtisaari said, “Belgrade will be like this table. We will immediately begin carpet-bombing Belgrade.” Repeating the gesture of sweeping the table, Ahtisaari threatened, “This is what we will do to Belgrade.” A moment of silence passed, and then he added, “There will be half a million dead within a week.” Chernomyrdin’s silence confirmed that the Russian government would do nothing to discourage carpet-bombing. The meaning was clear. To refuse the ultimatum would lead to the deaths of large numbers of civilians and total devastation. President Milosevic summoned the leaders of the parties in the governing coalition and explained the situation to them. “A few things are not logical, but the main thing is, we have no choice. I personally think we should accept…To reject the document means the destruction of our state and nation.”

True story

I originally found above mentioned article from a column by Dr. Jan Oberg, who is a Danish co-founder of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.  He also checked from a  Canadian lawyer Chistopher Black if the quotation was true.  The lawyer confirmed that it was exactly the same what President Milosevic had earlier told him in his cell in the Hague.

Dr. Oberg published also 22nd Oct. 2008 an article which headline “Peace Laureate Ahtisaari endorsed terrorism” tells quite a lot about content. I really recommend you read this analytical article yourself.  It can be found from here. If link does not open so copy/paste following address: http://www.transnational.org/Resources_Treasures/2008/Oberg_Ahtisaari_2.html

The bottom line

After reading articles mentioned above, having followed Kosovo conflict management on the ground as well from different reports and sources I would conclude, that

  • methods to stop Nato bombings were not so sophisticated than maybe earlier assumed
  • it is not anymore unclear, why Serbs had reservations for Ahtisaari and his impartiality as UN envoy/mediator
  • it is easy to understand why there was not real negotiations – status talks – 2005-2006, why they failed and why the outcome – Ahtisaari plan/report – is what it is

The lesson learned could be that crisis management with using force to get imposed solutions without real negotiations between local stakeholders are not sustainable.



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Two Approaches from Balkans towards Europe

October 23, 2008

Countries in Western Balkans have all some European Perspective.  Slovenia is already in, Croatia is hoping to conclude its EU membership talks by the end of 2009, Macedonia has candidate status, membership applications from Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina are in cue, Serbia (with or without Kosovo or part of that) has the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) but not yet into force.  For me it is interesting to see two different approach – or aspects from Balkans towards Europe namely a political one and the technical one.

SAA agreement and implementation of integration program related to that are a huge administrative challenge including all sectors of society politics and law, which after implementation should be compatible with EU.  With this technical process maybe more important for EU membership is political trends and challenges both inside EU as well related to states of Western Balkans.

Croatia

The European Commission is set to give Croatia next month a conditional date for concluding EU membership talks by the end of 2009 despite French pressure against any new commitment on enlargement, EU sources say.  They said the French EU presidency had lobbied Brussels strongly against giving Zagreb even an indicative timetable after Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made the pledge earlier this year to Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. (Reuters in National Post, Tue 21st Oct.2008)

Croatia hopes to actually join the European Union in 2010. But France and Germany insist there can be no further expansions of the 27-nation bloc until all member states ratify a reform treaty designed to strengthen its creaking institutions. According unnamed EU sources the EU Enlargement Commissioner Rehn the Commission will not give Macedonia, which has EU candidate status, green light to start accession talks next year and is also seeking to delay membership applications from Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia in hopes that Serbia, seen as central to Balkan stability, will arrest a key war crimes suspect and join its neighbours on the EU track.

Some EU officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had misgivings about fast-tracking Croatia.  They argue that Zagreb faces on a lesser scale the same problems of corruption, organised crime and a weak justice system as Bulgaria, which many EU countries think was admitted prematurely in 2007.  If this were purely about how well Croatia is doing, it would take another two or three years,” the senior source said. “Sanader still doesn’t get it,” another EU source said. “He still thinks that a diplomatic offensive will achieve it without having to do all the painful reforms.” (Reuters in National Post, Tue 21st Oct.2008)

Serbia

Serbia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed April 2008. Parallel to the SAA negotiations Serbia started its National Strategy for the whole process of European integration with goal to reach membership status by 2012. If/when Serbia gets status of an EU membership candidate the mentioned National Programme (NPI) is coming one of the key documents of the government for future. It serves as reform guide, base of Government’s annual work plans etc. but most of all well prepared and detailed information on planned reforms not for European Commission/EU but for the Serbian society.  (Both documents – SAA and NPI – can be found from Document library right).

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn says that 2009 will be the year of the Balkans, even if the Lisbon Treaty blockage impedes further EU enlargement.  If Hague Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz gives a positive report on Serbia’s cooperation with the Tribunal, the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) may come into force, and it would be realistic to work towards Serbia obtaining candidate status before the end of 2009, Rehn said. (B92, 21st Oct.2008)

EU has encouraged Serbia to start implementing its obligations from the Interim Trade Agreement – a part of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), so as to “with practical and concrete measures speed up the progress on Serbia’s European path”. However, the government in Belgrade has earlier announced its readiness to “unilaterally implement” the provisions of these deals.  Although the Council of Ministers has still to unblock the Interim Trade Agreement with Serbia, the government has decided to begin applying – unilaterally implement – it from January 1st 2009.

Benchmarking – Best Practice

Technically EU candidate can conclude accession talks when/if it meets several technical standards.  They include all social aspects and actions like e.g. judicial reform, stronger action against corruption and organised crime, and reform of big compensated factories in line with EU state aid rules.
This technical approach I would describe as “benchmarking” in which organizations evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to sc. “Best Practice” within their own sector. This then allows organizations to develop plans on how to make improvements usually with the aim of increasing some aspect of performance. Benchmarking may be a one-off event, but is often treated as a continuous process in which organizations continually seek to challenge their practices.

What makes the situation however political is, that term “Best Practice” is often a misused. It is frequently used to support politically correct ideals which, in reality take no account of individual need or circumstances. In this sense the ensuing practice is far from ‘best’ when the resulting effects are contrary to the real ideal situation. It is also used to prevent challenges to rules and systems that are, in reality, not best practice.

Technical vs. political Approach

Today it seems that Croatia has counted on previous good will of Catholic Germany, Austria and Italy who were backing its independence already early days 90s without having to do “those painful reforms”.  Serbia’s approach has been almost the opposite.  There has been minimal amount of good will in EU towards Serbia even technically the country maybe has been better prepared for EU than e.g. Bulgaria.  And as said Serbia is starting to implement Trade Agreement even unilaterally.

Which approach is better?  I would claim that in bottom line all is about politics.  It was political question to accept Bulgaria to EU with loose standards. It can be political question not to accept Serbia to EU on some excuse or other (Hague cooperation, border dispute, Kosovo etc.) despite how well they implement SAA. It can be also political question not to take Croatia to EU if all enlargement will be frozen due the economical reasons, the lack of money or creating a third way for EU wannabies (like new models to integrate Turkey).

Before mentioned Serbia’s National Programme is one of the key documents of the government for future. It serves as reform guide, base of Government’s annual work plans etc. but most of all well prepared and detailed information on planned reforms for EU.  From my point of view the key question is that Serbia should use this document for the Serbian society, not because of possible EU membership but even without that status, to improve living conditions of Serbs in or outside EU.


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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