Western Balkans: Road to EU or U-turn?

October 24, 2019

The European Council held a regular autumn meeting in Brussels on 17th and 18th October 2019. Besides Brexit, Turkey, clima change etc the plan was to determine when to start of negotiations with Republic North Macedonia and Republic Albania for their EU membership. As predicted by many analysts in recent weeks, neither Albania nor North Macedonia received a date at the EU Summit to launch negotiations for their EU accession. EU – again – could not decide the date when to start these negotiations.

In addition to the issue of stability in the Western Balkans region, it also concerns the credibility of European leaders. Namely, at the EU summit in June 2018, they decided that they would assign in 2019 a date for the start of negotiations to North Macedonia and Albania, if they meet conditions for the start of negotiations. For both countries, and especially for North Macedonia, this has been clearly achieved.

Although only France openly opposed EU negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania few more EU members quietly agreed this position. Given that the EU has 27 members (excluding the UK), there is always the possibility of different conditions and blockades. According IFIMES  the EU hesitance can have strategic consequences in the Western Balkans and it is due to uncertainty about EU membership and pressures from the domestic public, that certain countries could change their geopolitical orientation.

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who openly supported North Macedonia and was obviously disappointed, told Reuters that “It’s becoming harder and harder to provide a proper explanation (for the delay). If we agreed with our partners on the steps to take, and our partners are delivering, it is then our turn to deliver.”

Indeed! The EU Commission concluded following in its latest [Council conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process – June 2019] report  related to Albania:

Reaffirming its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with Albania based on its positive evaluation of the progress made and of the fulfillment of the conditions identified by the Council. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.

And related to Norh Macedonia [same report ] as follows:

Reaffirming its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council strongly welcomes the historic and unprecedented Prespa Agreement, as well as the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, and takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia based on its positive evaluation of the progress made and of the fulfillment of the conditions identified by the Council. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.

EU Credibility?

As a decision on issuing a date to begin enlargement talks has already been delayed on two previous occasions Throughout this period, European Commission officials have argued that it is important to send the right message to the nations of the Western Balkans that have carried out reforms demanded by Brussels. They also assert North Macedonia should be rewarded for settling its long-running name dispute with Greece via the June 2018 Prespes Agreement. To give a date to Albania and North Macedonia about starting entry negotiations to the EU is not a big deal. Once given, negotiations to conclude the 35 chapters of the acquis, if ever concluded, could well require a decade. Therefore, for the bloc to grant a date, is irrelevant.

Practically the Eastern EU enlargement for the moment is stopped. Croatia’s membership was exemption and mistake, Turkey’s EU bid is dead as continent simply has no intention of ever incorporating 70 million Muslims and the rest – such as Serbia and other Western Balkans – are still more or less in association process.

According IFIMES  some experts have been pointing out that 15 EU member countries would not be able to fully meet the membership criteria now, which are required from the Western Balkans countries. They also note that Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to the EU membership, as well as Croatia recently, without imposing so strict requirements of the membership.

One example about (Non)functioning of the EU was the dialogue between official Belgrade and Pristina which was led by the EU as a mediator. The dialogue was a fiasco. No significant progress has been made in the last ten years since the Western Balkans region was left to the care of the EU. The justified questions are, is the EU a reliable partner? Same time many Western Balkan countries and other big actors than EU have been active developers.

 

Croatia as typical example

Croatia is typical example of new European behaviour. Actually, Croatia does not respect the decisions of international arbitration court regarding the cross-border dispute with Slovenia. At the same time, Republic of Croatia does not respect the decision of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts for the crimes perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia (MICT), by which certain highly positioned officials of Croatia and Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ) are sentenced by absolute decision for participation in the associated crime against Bosnia and Herzegovina. HDZ is a political party against which the process is ongoing at the district court in Zagreb.

It should be added that the position of Serbian community in Croatia suddenly deteriorated after Croatia became full member of the EU. Serbian community was cooperative and important factor, which contributed that Croatia became the EU member. The audit of events from the Word War II is ongoing in Croatia where the attempts are made to rehabilitate fascist and collaboration armies and present them as anti-fascist. Of enormous importance is the position of Jewish community, which still did not resolve the issue of returning its property taken from them. Audit of history contributed that the Jewish community and other anti-fascist associations independently and in fact separately celebrate anniversary of liberation from the concentration camp Jasenovac that was held by the Ustasha regime. Representatives of the Croatian state do not take place at those commemorations. Pro fascist appearances and speeches of the president of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (HDZ) and her open involvement in internal affairs in the nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina are evident.  Recently – 2018 – the Croatian government document allows that “Ustasha” (Croatian Nazi brand from WWII) salute “Za dom spremni” (equivalent to Hitler’ “Seig Heil”) can be used publicly.

Croatia – Past and present

Croatia as the EU and NATO member did not resolve open border issues with any of the neighbours except for Hungary, since it inherited that border from former Yugoslavia. Indeed in the Western Balkans it is in conflict with almost all states. The analysts find worrying the fact that the EU and NATO institutions did not react to the behaviour of Croatia when it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, because it is evident Croatia misuses its EU and NATO membership. Many war criminals find their shelter in Croatia.

 

Development without EU functioning

The Western Balkans leaders are aware of the need to take strong steps towards mutual cooperation, which will be aimed at creating better living conditions for citizens and, especially important, stopping the trend of mass displacement of population from the region. Analysts believe that the countries of the Western Balkans must establish strong political, economic, cultural and any other form of cooperation and act jointly towards the EU, as a group of states with clearly defined requirements. Regional cooperation does not mean that the countries of the region have given up their European path and the EU membership, it is important with EU perspective or without it.

One example could be the cooperation within the so-called Višegrad group of countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) which was formed to make it easier and faster for these countries to join the EU and NATO. Therefore, it could be vise for the countries of the region to act jointly towards the EU and / or other foreign policy initiatives.

While (Non)functioning of the EU is obvious the good thing is that many countries in Western Balkans – except Croatia – have been active with their own development work and cooperation. Besides improving their societies e.g. according EU chapters of the acquis they have developed their bilateral and regional cooperation.

Few examples of this:

  • In Novi Sad on October 10, 2019 trilateral meeting between president of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) and prime ministers of North Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and Edi Rama (PS) was held. Declaration of measures for establishment of „small Schengen“ was signed between the three countries. This declaration should help the entire Western Balkans region to start functioning in four key EU freedoms – freedom of movement of capital, goods, services and people.
  • Joint declaration foresees elimination of state border controls and other obstacles to simpler movement in the region until 2021, and also to enable citizens to travel in the region with personal ID card only as well as to find employments anywhere if they have the certificate of their qualifications.Declaration also foresees recognition of diplomas in the region as well as better cooperation in combatting organised crime and support in cases of natural disasters.
  • President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić invited all so-called members of the Balkans six to accept the document about “small Schengen”, regardless of their differences referring to the recognition of Kosovo.
  • The prime minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev said that the initiative for economic networking of the countries in the region should be joined by all six Western Balkans countries (Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo).
  • Also late October 2019 the president of Serbia Vučić held in Belgrade trilateral meeting Serbia-Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina and the joint basis for commencement of works on highway Belgrade – Sarajevo was laid, which is one of the important infrastructure projects.

 

Other players

Today still the EU is overwhelmingly dominant as an external partner, as on average 60% of exports from the six Western Balkan countries go to the EU.  However some other players are active in Western Balkans and this activity could be more attractive in future when enlargement process is blocked or at least frozen.  Few examples:

Turkey has been very active in Balkans during recent years; its trade with the Balkan countries increased to $17.7 billion in 2008 from about $3 billion in 2000. Turkey’s banks provided 85 percent of loans for building a highway through Serbia for Turkish transit of goods to the EU. In 2008, Turkish Airlines bought a 49 percent stake of Bosnia’s national carrier, BH Airlines, and other Turkish companies are keen to invest in shops, supermarket chains and hotels. In addition Serbian exporters have been selling their products in Turkey free of customs duties.

Serbia and Israel have signed an Agreement on bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Israeli investors have so far invested over $500 million in Serbia. The major Israeli investments in Serbia are construction of the Usce business centre and Airport City Belgrade business complex in New Belgrade. Some good background for cooperation is that Serbia was the second country in Europe to recognize Israel in 1948 and Israel refused to support the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, leading to admonishment from the United States. Ariel Sharon criticised NATO’s bombing as an act of “brutal interventionism”. Also Israel does not recognise Kosovo’s independence as a sovereign state.

Related to Russia, according NEWEUROPE , the TurkStream pipeline will surface on the shore of the European part of Turkey near Kıyıköy with gas delivery point at Lüleburgaz for the Turkish customers, and a border crossing between Turkey and Greece in İpsala serving as delivery point for the European customers. Gazprom said on 11 October that TurkStream gas pipeline is going to be brought into operation before the end of 2019. “Construction of the receiving terminal on the Black Sea coast near the Kiyikoy settlement is nearing completion. The landfall section in Russia and the Russkaya CS are ready for operation,” Gazprom said.

Also China has found an opportunity to use the Balkans as an entry point into the lucrative European market. The most notable is the Belt and Road Initiative, the ambitious project to build land and maritime networks that will link Asia with Africa and Europe. Chinese companies have also snapped up critical industries e.g. in Serbia such as a copper mine, a steelmaker and a thermal power plant, along with high-speed rail lines, roads and ports.

Last year 3.6 billion euros were invested in Serbia from abroad and that in 2019 there will be even more.In the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD report for 2018, it was noted that inflows in Serbia grew by 44 per cent to $4.1 billion and that Serbia became the second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment among transition economies.

 

My view

If the Balkans find that too many obstacles are strewn about the road to Brussels, they may well be tempted to set out on the shorter road to Istanbul” (Misha Glenny, Balkan political analyst)

The EU was made as peace project after the end of the World War II and it enabled to ensure permanent peace in Europe and long-term stability. In recent past, in the Western Balkans though, several wars were going on. If EU wants peace project to be continued, it needs to be implemented also in the Western Balkans countries. European leaders have often confirmed their support to the Western Balkans and its Euro Atlantic road, however the real actions are missing. One can estimate that with this inability EU will lose its credibility as partner at least in Western Balkans and the countries might find more attractive possibilities elsewhere e.g. from Russia, China and Turkey.

Many – still non-member – Balkan countries, Turkey and one disputed region (Kosovo) have some vision about EU association. While considering this in my opinion three aspects should be highlighted:

  • Why to join? Due the needs of people or due the needs of Brussels or elite?
  • When related to time-line? Association process is long and circumstances are changing, after EU/Eurozone crisis who know what kind of EU if any still exists, same time other regional and global power-centers are rising and options should be open.
  • Where? Now it is open question if country is joining in future to strict federation with martial law, to some sub-category of loose federation, confederation, open discussion forum or free trade zone only.
  • After this the forth question – how – is the easy one.

The best scenario from my point of view could be some kind of EU Lite version. A bit of similar ”privileged partnership” agreement than planned earlier with Turkey. EU Lite should be build simply to EU’s early basics as economical cooperation area including a customs union, the EU tariff band, competition etc linked to idea of the Common Market. EU Lite could also apply a structure of Confederation. Also some kind of fiscal confederation can be shaped. EU Lite could be described also as a political union and there could be some forum for national parliamentarians and party leaders. Federalist intentions, the EU puppet parliament and the most of EU bureaucracy should from my point of view put in litter basket together with high-flown statements and other nonsense.

More background and sources:

IFIMES/ Research – Western Balkans 2019: Does the EU push the Western Balkans countries to the Russian “hug”? 

Key EU documents of enlargement [2019]:


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila blog


Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

May 1, 2010

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 – 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 — 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 — 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 — 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 – 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 – 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 — 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)


Forgotten Refugees – West Balkans

November 10, 2009

The refugee question is of paramount importance in Balkans – still. Beginning 1991, political upheavals – such as the breakup of Yugoslavia – displaced millions of people. Officially one part of these people are refugees meaning that they have escaped to other country, one part is “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) meaning that they have escaped from their home village/-town but still are in the same country than before.

In contrast to the other regions, in Europe the refugee population increased slightly (+2%). This raise can partly be attributed to the figures from Montenegro in which 16,000 people from Kosovo (Serbia), previously reported as IDPs, were reclassified as refugees. Similarly, armed conflict in Georgia forced some 135,000 people to flee their homes in 2008; by the end of the year, an estimated 293,000 were considered internally displaced persons in Georgia, including 49,200 people in an IDP-like situation.

Statistics

As source I have used UNHCR report 16th June 2009 and “Internal Displacement in Europe and Central Asia” report made by UNCHR and The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council. To table below I have collected the numbers of refugees and IDPs in western Balkans; the sum total includes also asylum-seekers, stateless etc. persons.

Country Refugees IDPs Total
Albania 65 0 87
Bosnia-Herzegovina 7257 124529 194448
Croatia 1597 2497 33943
(FRY) Macedonia 1672 0 2823
Montenegro 24741 0 26242
Serbia 96739 225879 341083

Most of Montenegro refugees – 16259 – fled from Kosovo. Nearly all of Serbia’s IDPs fled also from Albanian mayority parts of Kosovo province.

The table above is maybe surprising to those who have the picture – made by western mainstream media – in their minds, that (only) Serbs were making ethnic cleansing. In reality today the Serbs are the biggest victims of Balkan wars.


Behind of the numbers

Bosnian war (1992-95) included massive transfer of populations so it was possible to draw new boundaries according ethnic groups. Armed conflict between Yugoslav, Croatian and Bosnian forces and militias, accompanied by massive human rights abuses and violations, led to the displacement of over a million people and the creation of ethnically homogeneous areas within the newly independent Bosnia and Herzegovina. By 2008, almost 600,000 people had returned to their places of origin, and the government reported that 124,600 people remained as IDPs.

Dayton Agreement 1995 created federation like Bosnia with entities according these lines so situation with IDPs in Bosnia-Herzegovina is quite stable.Under Annex VII of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, support to durable solutions has focused almost exclusively on the return of displaced people to their places of origin to the exclusion of other durable solutions, as any support to local integration was perceived as cementing the effect of the war and the “ethnic cleansing” which motivated the displacement.

In 2003, the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees took over from the international community the responsibility to implement Annex VII , and elaborated a National Strategy for Implementation of Annex VII which still focused mainly on return. In 2008 however, the Ministry revised this strategy, and from 2009, though the emphasis remains on return, it recognizes the need to compensate people for lost property (instead of a sole focus on restitution) and to assist the most vulnerable who cannot or do not want to return, thereby providing de facto support to local integration.

Between 1991 and 1995, 220,000 ethnic Croats and subsequently up to 300,000 ethnic Serbs were displaced by armed conflict in Croatia. Since then almost all the Croat IDPs have returned to their homes, while most of the Serbs displaced have resettled in Serbia or in the majority-Serb Danube region of Croatia.Since the end of the confl ict, only one third of Croatian Serb IDPs and refugees have been able to return.

In Serbia the refugee problem came when Serbs were expelled from East Croatia and Croatian Krajina. The IDP problem is a follow-up of Kosovo conflict when some 200.000 Serbs and some thousands of Roma were expelled from there to northern Serb-dominated part of province or to Serbia. During Nato bombings also Kosovo Albanians – about 700.000 – escaped from the province but most of them have returned back.

While new displacement was avoided, the rate of return decreased significantly in 2008 from an already low level, as most IDPs waited to evaluate the approach of Kosovo authorities towards Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanian communities. Those who already returned to Kosovo struggle to find livelihood opportunities, notably because of widespread discrimination against Serbs and Roma. Local integration opportunities for Kosovo Serb IDPs are scarce since they live in complete isolation from Kosovo institutions. Most of them reside in enclaves relying on a parallel system of education, policing, and health care supported by Serbia. Security concerns have prevented them from returning to their repossessed property. Because of their limited freedom of movement and the discrimination they have faced, IDPs’ access to land and employment has been very limited. The most vulnerable IDPs are Roma people in both Serbia and Kosovo, who have specific protection needs because of their social marginalisation and lack of civil documentation, which prevents them from registering as IDPs and limits their access to housing assistance and other social benefits.

Tensions in Macedonia between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians culminated in violent confl ict in 2001 which displaced over 171,000 people, 74,000 of them within the country. Since then, over 99 per cent have returned and only around 770 people remained displaced. Most of those still displaced in 2008 were ethnic Macedonians or Serbs who did not feel safe to return to the Albanian-dominated Lipkovo-Aracinovo area.

Some remarks from my point of view

  • International administration and sackful of money does not guarantee better living conditions for refugees nor other vulnerable groups. One of the cruellest example I earlier described in my article UN Death camps, EU money, local negligence
  • Some 5 % of IDPs in Serbia is planning to return to their original hometowns partly because their property is occupied by Albanians. In Bosnia-Herzegovina property issues have mostly solved and refugees/IDPs have got rights to their original flats/houses, but in Croatia the Serbs lost their homes without rights nor compensation.
  • While in Kosovo the situation is frozen like the overall situation in province too elsewhere there is fears that the progress may go backwards. In Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic tensions for some reasons are rising e.g. between Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, while earlier these tensions were mostly between Serbs and other ethnic groups. This may be related to rising of conservative Wahhabism in region and tendency of total collapse of state as it is today. More about this in my article “Bosnia Collapsing?
  • To solve refugee and IDP problem in western Balkans there is a need of massive housing programme especially in Serbia and this can probably be implemented with help of international donors. Housing activities should also be supported by economical development programmes to decrease unemployment figures and social problems common in locations with big share of refugees/IDPs.
  • I think that the revised strategy implemented in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2008 has better change to be successful than the earlier attempts. The new approach recognizes the need to compensate people for lost property (instead of a sole focus on restitution) and to assist the most vulnerable who cannot or do not want to return, thereby providing de facto support to local integration. This strategy should be copied to Serbia/Kosovo too. For example since 2003, the European Commission has allocated over €30 million for minority communities throughout Kosovo and still the return numbers are quite modest; the same money invested to housing in Serbia could achieve better results.

Global fact box


2008 IN REVIEW – WORLD STATISTICS AT A GLANCE

There were some 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008.

This includes 15.2 million refugees, 827,000 asylum-seekers (pending cases) and 26

million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Nearly 25 million people – 10.5 million refugees and 14.4 million IDPs – were

receiving protection or assistance from UNHCR at the end of 2008. These numbers

are similar to 2007.

In 2008, UNHCR identified some 6.6 million stateless persons in 58 countries. The

Office estimated that the overall number of stateless persons worldwide was far

higher, about 12 million people.

Some 604,000 refugees repatriated voluntarily during 2008. Repatriation figures have

continued to decrease since 2004. The 2008 figure is the second-lowest in 15 years.

More than 839,000 people submitted an individual application for asylum or refugee

status in 2008. UNHCR offices registered nine per cent of those claims. More than

16,300 asylum applications were lodged by unaccompanied and separated children in

68 countries. With one quarter of applications globally, South Africa is the largest

recipient of individual applications in the world.

UNHCR presented 121,000 refugees for resettlement consideration by States. More

than 67,000 refugees were resettled with UNHCR’s assistance during 2008.

According to Government statistics, 16 countries reported the admission of 88,800

resettled refugees during 2008 (with or without UNHCR assistance). The United

States of America accepted the highest number (60,200 during its Fiscal Year).

Women and girls represent on average 49 per cent of persons of concern to UNHCR.

They constitute 47 per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers, and half of all IDPs and

returnees (refugees). Forty-four per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers are children

below 18 years of age.

Developing countries are host to four fifths of the world’s refugees. Based on the data

available for 8.8 million refugees, UNHCR estimates that half of the world’s refugees

reside in urban areas and one third in camps. However, seven out of ten refugees in

sub-Saharan Africa reside in camps.

Pakistan is host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.8 million), followed

by the Syrian Arab Republic (1.1 million) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (980,000).

Afghan and Iraqi refugees account for almost half of all refugees under UNHCR’s

responsibility worldwide. One out of four refugees in the world is from Afghanistan

(2.8 million) and Afghans are located in 69 different asylum countries. Iraqis are the

second largest refugee group, with 1.9 million having sought refuge mainly in

neighbouring countries.

Pakistan hosted the largest number of refugees in relation to its economic capacity.

The country hosted 733 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per capita. It was followed by

the Democratic Republic of the Congo (496 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per

capita) and the United Republic of Tanzania (262). The first developed country is

Germany at 26th place with 16 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per capita.

Source and more: UNHCR

Note

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. A year ago I participated to Refugee event, this year I organized it again and one may find few other bloggers too writing today about different aspects of problem.


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.


EU’s visa-freedom dividing Balkans

July 25, 2009

The “European perspective” is key concept for integrating western Balkans into EU. The main carrot for ordinary people during this millennium has been visa-free travel after some 17 years of isolation. On 15th July 2009, the European Commission submitted its proposal on visa-free travel for citizens of Western Balkans countries. After a non-binding opinion of the European parliament on the EC proposal the Council comprising EU interior ministers will take the official vote and at best case free travel to Schengen area could be possible January 2010.

But not for all! European perspective will be true only for some when visa ban still will be existing for some countries or even to some ethnic groups inside a country. Instead of connecting people of western Balkans with western Europe the EC proposal will divide again people according their nationality or location. From EU’s side the reason for division is seen technical related to common standards; from western Balkan’s perspective the reasons for division can be seen political or even related to religion.

The Schengen wall was erected against most of the Balkans during the early 1990s, when the breakup of former Yugoslavia created an image was ongoing and bloody wars were spreading from Croatia to Bosnia and Kosovo. Before breakup the citizens of Yugoslavia enjoyed relatively free travel possibilities if compared to rest of countries in central and eastern Europe. After visa ban and trade embarco only the most criminal elements found it easiest to evade the regulations.

EC proposal

Briefly of the five regional states involved in the visa-liberalisation process, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro have been approved for visa-free travel within the EU, as of January 2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania have been told that they might receive EU visa-free status later. Kosovo, on the other hand, has not been included in the process, as five of the 27 members of the EU have not recognised Kosovo’s independence. (Source BalkanInsight )

An EU law (Council Regulation 539/2001) lists the countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the Schengen area (Schengen Black List) and those whose nationals do not (Schengen White List). The Commission proposes following:

  • visa-free travel for the citizens of Macedonia since this country has fulfilled all the conditions listed in the visa roadmap; technically, this should be done by moving Macedonia from the “black list” onto the “white list” annexed to the relevant Council Regulation;
  • visa-free travel for the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro on condition that these two countries meet a few remaining conditions by the date of adoption of the proposal by EU member states;
  • exclusion from visa-free regime for Serbia of holders of the new Serbian biometric passport who reside in Kosovo and persons whose citizenship certificate has been issued for Kosovo, due to “security concerns regarding in particular the potential for illegal migration from persons residing in Kosovo”; the new passport can be issued to Kosovo residents solely by the Coordination Directorate at the Interior Ministry of Serbia, which will make these passports recognisable;
  • formalisation of the existing visa requirement for Kosovo residents by adding Kosovo (under UNSC Resolution 1244/99) to the black list, under the special category of “entities and territorial authorities that are not recognised as states by at least one member state” where the Palestinian Authority and Taiwan are already listed;
  • no change of the status for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which remain on the black list since they have not fulfilled all conditions, but the Commission “intends to propose transferring them to the positive list as soon as they have fulfilled the necessary benchmarks”.

(Source and more information about “White list project” one may find from web-pages of European Stability Initiative – ESI – institute)

Divided rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina is an international creature established by Dayton Agreement on 1995 which split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities – the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Three ethnic groups – Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks – are trying to lead state together and separately. Entities are united by weak central institutions, while at same time administration is quite heavy loaded with some 170 ministers and whole system is supervised by international presence.

Most Bosnian Croats already have Croatian passports and since Republika Srpska residents can apply for and obtain Serbian passports, the EC proposal for Bosnia would affect the majority of Bosniaks and those Bosnian Serbs, Jews and others that live in the Muslim-Croat Federation. The EU’s message now weakens already non-existent national identity and opposes EU’s earlier multi-ethnic ideals.

While earlier dispute was between Serbs and Bosniaks, last year showed serious dissension between Bosniaks and Croats and EC proposal will make ethnic divisions deeper at time when Bosnia-Herzegovina is on the stage of transition from an international protectorate to one responsible for its own reform dynamics. So instead of an inevitable EU member, Bosnia is more likely to remain an unwelcome, dysfunctional and divided country, with an aggrieved Bosniak (Muslim) plurality, a frustrated, increasingly defensive Serb entity, and an anxious, existentially threatened Croat population. (More about Dayton and situation in BiH e.g. In My article “Bosnia Collapsing” )

Mess-up in Kosovo continues

The Kosovo case is dividing international community as well EU. EU started its huge rule & law mission late 2008 under UN umbrella. Besides UN/UNMIK and EU/EULEX there is also other players twisting arms who is leading the international protectorate. There is European Union High Representative who simultaneously leads International Community Office wondering his role, same time Nato-troops (KFOR) tries to keep ethnic tensions moderate, OSCE do not know its role nor length of its mission’s mandate in Kosovo, EU delegation office, few influential foreign liaison representatives and of course sc. Kosovo government based to local tribes. It shows amazing creativity to establish this kind organizational nightmare in one tiny province and more amazing is that after nearly nine years of international administration and capacity building and squandered billions of Euros both the administration and the situation on the ground are beneath all criticism.

According the new report made by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) gives a bare picture about worsening situation of minority rights in today’s Kosovo. Instead to return to their homes after ethnic cleansing implemented by Kosovo Albanians after Nato intervention 1999 minorities are beginning to leave Kosovo, because they face exclusion and discrimination. This negative process is happening in international protectorate where EU is implementing one of its biggest civil crisis management operations and once again demonstrates the huge gap between high flown ideas, aims, programmes and statements made in Brussels and their implementation on the ground.

In the letter to the EU, the NGOs state that Kosovo`s exclusion from the visa-liberalisation process threatens to transform Kosovo “into a ghetto without any way out”. The head of the Club for Foreign Policy and co-signatory of the letter, Veton Surroi said that Kosovo’s citizens would be further isolated by the EU’s decision, hindering the integration of the country.

“Today, one of the [factors] which impinge on the dignity of Kosovo’s citizens […] is the issue of visas. Go to any embassy in Kosovo or in Skopje today and you will see how degrading the approach towards Kosovo’s citizens has become. And today we are worse off than we were 15-20 years ago”, Surroi said in a press conference on Tuesday. (Source BalkanInsight)

In line with the Commission’s (visa-free) proposal, the 3.5 million Serbs living outside Serbia, including the Serbs of Bosnia, will be eligible to receive Serbian passports allowing visa-free travel within the EU. The residents of Kosovo, meanwhile, will not. The argument for discrimination is a follow-up of of administrative mess-up mentioned earlier. According EC proposal

“Since 1999 Serbia has not had the possibility to make on the spot verifications regarding persons residing in Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/99 … the Commission and the Member States experts were not in a position to verify the issuing of breeder documents and the integrity and security of the procedures followed by the Serbian authorities for the verification of the correctness of data submitted by persons residing in Kosovo when applying for new Serbian biometric passports”.

So when EU and international have not implemented during last 10 years UN resolution the residents in international protectorate must suffer. From the bright side now the majority of former Kosovo Serbs can have visa-free travel abroad as they are residing in Serbia because they could not return to their homes in Kosovo after ethnic cleansing made by Kosovo Albanians on 1999 and 2004. (More about this topic e.g. in my article “Kosovo March/February 17th: Pogrom with Prize”)

Politics or standards

For one hand one can see some European hypocrisy towards the region as in both cases – Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo – EU and international community have guided and supervised these regions towards “European standards”. So has EU failed with this task as those countries without outside supervision are getting visa-freedom earlier?

There is also well based arguments that the EU is isolating three mainly Muslim European states/regions – Albania, BiH and Kosovo – and Turkey as some in the EU fear the presence of such a large, Muslim community inside traditionally Christian Europe. Of course EU denies political aspects and highlights only the technical ones but from Balkan perspective the impression can differ.

Be the proposal based on political or technical reasons the outcome now however is that while visa-freedom sure is good step forward for (FYR) Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro the Commission’s proposal same the gulf between ethnic groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo will deepen further.



World Bank destroyed Albanian village in joint operation with corrupted Government – a typical crime story from Balkans

February 12, 2009

This post was first published in TH!NK ABOUT IT site 12th February 2009.

The internal report shows that a project of World Bank in southern Albania led to the destruction and destitution of a powerless village Jale in 2007. The report, obtained last week by Balkan Insight , a publication run by investigative journalists in southeast Europe, also noted allegations of corruption and efforts at a cover up. The Bank has already announced the suspension of a loan for the project. World bank, the world’s largest and most influential anti-poverty institution and part of the U.N. system, is doling out $100 billion over the next three years for development projects. (Source BalkanInsight) As the case from my viewpoint is not unique exception it is maybe worth to analyze it a bit more.

The investigation by an inspection panel found that World Bank management failed to comply with its policies with respect to the design, appraisal and implementation of the project, harming the local people affected by it. The probe also found that WB assisted the demolition by pressuring local construction police to take action and by supplying them with equipment and aerial photos.

In addition to the project’s failure to comply with World Bank policies,  the investigators noted allegations of corruption and complaints that the demolition of the Jale settlements was part of a bigger scheme to develop the area as a tourist resort.

The project

In 2005 $18 million in WP financing was provided for a vaguely-worded $39 million “coastal zone management” project that would clean up the area’s shoreline, “strengthen governance” of the zone, “enhance cultural resources,” and “encourage community support for sustainable coastal zone management.”

The World Bank only agreed to the financing after its board of directors in Washington was first assured that the Albanian government, headed by socialist Prime Minister Sali Berisha, had reached an agreement on a “moratorium” on demolitions of the houses of the Jale residents.

That assurance came in the form of a critical sentence in what is known as a “project appraisal document” (or PAD). But the statement was false. No such deal had been struck.

On April 3, 2007, the villagers were notified that their houses would be demolished. They were given five days to appeal to a local court, which they did, but the construction police did not wait for the hearing. According to the investigators, many of the dispossessed were told they should be happy, as the World Bank would soon be giving them better homes and lifestyles.

Since the World Bank board had been wrongly assured that there would be no demolitions without a formal agreement, there were, of course, no World Bank-financed homes on the horizon. (Moreover, the panel report notes, the bank has done nothing since the demolitions to assist the victims in any way.)

The bulldozing caused an immediate furore in the Albanian media and parliament if not in Washington with one politician after another arguing they were illegal under Albanian law.(As source I have used FOX News).

Political connection/corruption

While never mentioned by name in any of the reports or memos, the Albanian responsible for coordinating the World Bank-financed project was Jamarber Malltezi, an official with the country’s Ministry of Public Works and the son-in-law of prime minister Berisha.

In March 2007, just weeks before Jale was demolished, Malltezi sent a letter to the head of the country’s “construction police” on the official letterhead of the Bank-financed project, according to the panel’s report discussing potential demolitions, “the importance of sustainable development” and the need for the police to act “as fast as possible.” Attached to the letter were two CDs with aerial photography financed with World Bank funds indicating the houses to be destroyed.

In addition to the project’s failure to comply with World Bank policies,  the investigators noted allegations of corruption and complaints that the demolition of the Jale settlements was part of a bigger scheme to develop the area as a tourist resort.

World Bank Spent More Than a Year Covering Up Destruction of Albanian Village

The investigative panel also accused World Bank management of misrepresenting facts during the probe and hampering the investigation by withholding access to data, while it notes the unusual lack of recollection of facts and crucial events by staff. Investigators say that several WB staff members both in headquarters and on the field were “coached” to provide unusually consistent but factually incorrect or misleading information.

Managers at the World Bank provided false information to the agency’s board of directors about a project and then spent nearly two years trying to cover it up. But what is crystal clear are the attempts by bank officials to hide something. The panel’s report is filled with allegations of the bank obstructing investigators in their year-long probe in language highly unusual for a bureaucratic document. (Reference FOX News)

The Albanian Response: World Bank influenced by the Albanian mafia

On 9th February 2009 Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha accused a World Bank investigative panel of being influenced by the Albanian mafia for their report on a controversial coastal management project that was used to demolish parts of a village and leave many families homeless.

“I express my contempt for the unscrupulous slander of the investigative panel in what they call an independent report, but which has been dictated by the Albanian land mafia,” said Berisha in a press conference on Sunday, adding that he had asked World Bank officials to probe the panel’s ties to organized crime. (Source BalkanInsight)

Simultaneously in London’s FT

In a column in London’s Financial Times on 25 January 2009, WB president Robert Zoellick called for an “Age of Responsibility” that would include developed countries giving nearly 1 percent of their economic stimulus packages to the world’s poor.

“The World Bank could manage the distribution of the cash with the United Nations and the regional development banks,” he wrote. “We could use existing mechanisms to deliver the funds fast and flexibly, backed by monitoring and safeguards so the money is well spent.”


And the World Bank’s board? It will meet February 17 to discuss the panel’s report and management’s official response to it.

How about EU?

World Bank is only one donor in Balkans the big one is European Union and it also has its share of problems . Couple of months ago I wrote an article “Squandering Kosovo’s Aid Funds” referring information made in public in German daily Die Welt on 18 December 2008. The core message was that a big part of EU Aid for reconstruction projects of Kosovo has been wasted due criminal activities, corruption, frauds and mismanagement. As base of the claim were the investigations conducted by the EU Anti Fraud Office (OLAF), UN investigators and the Italian Financial Police. More than 50 cases of financial embezzlement was found – most of them in energy sector. In twelve of these cases there is proof of criminal liability.

While most of the 2.3 billion Euros invested in the reconstruction of Kosovo since 1999, after the NATO bombing of Serbia, has disappeared without a trace and when it is expected that by 2011 the EU will throw Kosovo another one billion euro it could be clever to spare a minute for quality-planning and future management.

Lessons learned

Unfortunately I do not believe that the case I have described is unique in Balkans or universally with development projects by big donors. From project management point of view I like to highlight following aspects:

  • At planning stage the correct information from the field should be provided, not only high level marketing reports
  • The Aim(s) and output should be clearly defined and understood by both donor and beneficiar
  • The final project plan should include realistic Logical Framework Approach (LogFrame)
  • At implementation stage the events on the ground and the progress reports should be compared to verification measures in LogFrame
  • The feedback from the event on the ground level and about inappropriate connections on the management level should be used to make necessary correction to original plan
  • If the aims of original plan look unreachable or the methods with implementation are incorrect the financier should have courage to stop project when it is still ongoing without waiting yearlong investigations to be ready
  • Internal investigations should be supported not prevented by donor management.

The biggest mismanagement or misuse of Aid money is not according my opinion local criminal activities. The strategic error has made in international level by not knowing the demands on the ground, not adjusting ideas and plans according local needs or the moment of Aid delivery, using indefinite mixture of emergency relief and long term planning, lack of simple and unambiguous development strategy and strategic leadership.

The strategic error is to use Aid funds only in a right way, not to right purposes. The fatal crime will be if international community does not correct earlier errors and practices at strategic level – only after that one can demand smoothly flowing project at local level.



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World Bank destroyed Albanian village in joint operation with corrupted Government – a typical crime story from Balkans

February 12, 2009

This post was first published in TH!NK ABOUT IT site 12th February 2009.

The internal report shows that a project of World Bank in southern Albania led to the destruction and destitution of a powerless village Jale in 2007. The report, obtained last week by Balkan Insight , a publication run by investigative journalists in southeast Europe, also noted allegations of corruption and efforts at a cover up. The Bank has already announced the suspension of a loan for the project. World bank, the world’s largest and most influential anti-poverty institution and part of the U.N. system, is doling out $100 billion over the next three years for development projects. (Source BalkanInsight) As the case from my viewpoint is not unique exception it is maybe worth to analyze it a bit more.

The investigation by an inspection panel found that World Bank management failed to comply with its policies with respect to the design, appraisal and implementation of the project, harming the local people affected by it. The probe also found that WB assisted the demolition by pressuring local construction police to take action and by supplying them with equipment and aerial photos.

In addition to the project’s failure to comply with World Bank policies,  the investigators noted allegations of corruption and complaints that the demolition of the Jale settlements was part of a bigger scheme to develop the area as a tourist resort.

The project

In 2005 $18 million in WP financing was provided for a vaguely-worded $39 million “coastal zone management” project that would clean up the area’s shoreline, “strengthen governance” of the zone, “enhance cultural resources,” and “encourage community support for sustainable coastal zone management.”

The World Bank only agreed to the financing after its board of directors in Washington was first assured that the Albanian government, headed by socialist Prime Minister Sali Berisha, had reached an agreement on a “moratorium” on demolitions of the houses of the Jale residents.

That assurance came in the form of a critical sentence in what is known as a “project appraisal document” (or PAD). But the statement was false. No such deal had been struck.

On April 3, 2007, the villagers were notified that their houses would be demolished. They were given five days to appeal to a local court, which they did, but the construction police did not wait for the hearing. According to the investigators, many of the dispossessed were told they should be happy, as the World Bank would soon be giving them better homes and lifestyles.

Since the World Bank board had been wrongly assured that there would be no demolitions without a formal agreement, there were, of course, no World Bank-financed homes on the horizon. (Moreover, the panel report notes, the bank has done nothing since the demolitions to assist the victims in any way.)

The bulldozing caused an immediate furore in the Albanian media and parliament if not in Washington with one politician after another arguing they were illegal under Albanian law.(As source I have used FOX News).

Political connection/corruption

While never mentioned by name in any of the reports or memos, the Albanian responsible for coordinating the World Bank-financed project was Jamarber Malltezi, an official with the country’s Ministry of Public Works and the son-in-law of prime minister Berisha.

In March 2007, just weeks before Jale was demolished, Malltezi sent a letter to the head of the country’s “construction police” on the official letterhead of the Bank-financed project, according to the panel’s report discussing potential demolitions, “the importance of sustainable development” and the need for the police to act “as fast as possible.” Attached to the letter were two CDs with aerial photography financed with World Bank funds indicating the houses to be destroyed.

In addition to the project’s failure to comply with World Bank policies,  the investigators noted allegations of corruption and complaints that the demolition of the Jale settlements was part of a bigger scheme to develop the area as a tourist resort.

World Bank Spent More Than a Year Covering Up Destruction of Albanian Village

The investigative panel also accused World Bank management of misrepresenting facts during the probe and hampering the investigation by withholding access to data, while it notes the unusual lack of recollection of facts and crucial events by staff. Investigators say that several WB staff members both in headquarters and on the field were “coached” to provide unusually consistent but factually incorrect or misleading information.

Managers at the World Bank provided false information to the agency’s board of directors about a project and then spent nearly two years trying to cover it up. But what is crystal clear are the attempts by bank officials to hide something. The panel’s report is filled with allegations of the bank obstructing investigators in their year-long probe in language highly unusual for a bureaucratic document. (Reference FOX News)

The Albanian Response: World Bank influenced by the Albanian mafia

On 9th February 2009 Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha accused a World Bank investigative panel of being influenced by the Albanian mafia for their report on a controversial coastal management project that was used to demolish parts of a village and leave many families homeless.

“I express my contempt for the unscrupulous slander of the investigative panel in what they call an independent report, but which has been dictated by the Albanian land mafia,” said Berisha in a press conference on Sunday, adding that he had asked World Bank officials to probe the panel’s ties to organized crime. (Source BalkanInsight)

Simultaneously in London’s FT

In a column in London’s Financial Times on 25 January 2009, WB president Robert Zoellick called for an “Age of Responsibility” that would include developed countries giving nearly 1 percent of their economic stimulus packages to the world’s poor.

“The World Bank could manage the distribution of the cash with the United Nations and the regional development banks,” he wrote. “We could use existing mechanisms to deliver the funds fast and flexibly, backed by monitoring and safeguards so the money is well spent.”


And the World Bank’s board? It will meet February 17 to discuss the panel’s report and management’s official response to it.

How about EU?

World Bank is only one donor in Balkans the big one is European Union and it also has its share of problems . Couple of months ago I wrote an article “Squandering Kosovo’s Aid Funds” referring information made in public in German daily Die Welt on 18 December 2008. The core message was that a big part of EU Aid for reconstruction projects of Kosovo has been wasted due criminal activities, corruption, frauds and mismanagement. As base of the claim were the investigations conducted by the EU Anti Fraud Office (OLAF), UN investigators and the Italian Financial Police. More than 50 cases of financial embezzlement was found – most of them in energy sector. In twelve of these cases there is proof of criminal liability.

While most of the 2.3 billion Euros invested in the reconstruction of Kosovo since 1999, after the NATO bombing of Serbia, has disappeared without a trace and when it is expected that by 2011 the EU will throw Kosovo another one billion euro it could be clever to spare a minute for quality-planning and future management.

Lessons learned

Unfortunately I do not believe that the case I have described is unique in Balkans or universally with development projects by big donors. From project management point of view I like to highlight following aspects:

  • At planning stage the correct information from the field should be provided, not only high level marketing reports
  • The Aim(s) and output should be clearly defined and understood by both donor and beneficiar
  • The final project plan should include realistic Logical Framework Approach (LogFrame)
  • At implementation stage the events on the ground and the progress reports should be compared to verification measures in LogFrame
  • The feedback from the event on the ground level and about inappropriate connections on the management level should be used to make necessary correction to original plan
  • If the aims of original plan look unreachable or the methods with implementation are incorrect the financier should have courage to stop project when it is still ongoing without waiting yearlong investigations to be ready
  • Internal investigations should be supported not prevented by donor management.

The biggest mismanagement or misuse of Aid money is not according my opinion local criminal activities. The strategic error has made in international level by not knowing the demands on the ground, not adjusting ideas and plans according local needs or the moment of Aid delivery, using indefinite mixture of emergency relief and long term planning, lack of simple and unambiguous development strategy and strategic leadership.

The strategic error is to use Aid funds only in a right way, not to right purposes. The fatal crime will be if international community does not correct earlier errors and practices at strategic level – only after that one can demand smoothly flowing project at local level.



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