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


Serbia Towards EU – Why?

June 29, 2017

Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s prime minister designate, says her future government’s goal is membership in the EU along with modernization of the troubled Balkan country. Brnabic told Serbian lawmakers on Wednesday [28th Jun.2017] that the government will lead a “balanced” foreign policy, seeking good relations with Russia, China and the US. Serbia’s parliament is expected to vote her government into office later this week.

 Yesterday I gave an interview to Sputnik UK radionews about this Serbia topic and here are my core comments:

 

Serbia’s EU process?

To join EU is a long process. There is over 30 chapters to negotiate and some 80 000 pages EU regulations should be applied Serbia’s legislation. However I think that it is good idea to continue EU process but not only to fill EU’s needs but especially Serbia’s internal needs for example how EU could help Serbia’s modernization activities.

 

Balanced foreign policy?

Balanced foreign policy from my perspective is an ambivalent expression – it can be only short term goal while EU membership is long term aim/utopia. Even during membership process there might be needs to take [biased] positions. And if one is EU memberstate so you are EU’s side. For example Greece, Hungary and Finland have traditionel good relations with Russia but all are implementing sanctionpolicy against Russia probably due common pressure from EU. So in my opinion Serbia’s balanced foreign policy does not live long during membership process.

 

According to a poll carried out by the Serbian European Integration Office at the end of last year, only 47% were in favour of EU membership, how much public appetite is there for joining the EU?

In my opinion this apetite will go more down in future. People might think that ok, we recognize Kosovo, door to EU opens and there will be free trade and movement etc soon. As I mentioned chapters and regulations so that’s heavy and long job which can take decade(s). Many Serbs might start think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucrazy it demands. Besides there is also other alternatives like for example ”third way”.

 

Third way?

In my opinion the main benefits of EU membership can be achieved without being EU member. With ”third way” I mean

  • Non-aligned foreign policy
  • Free trade agreements with EU and others
  • Being part of customs union with EU but outside the framework of the EU treaties and institutes

So my recommendation in short: Serbia should join EU economically but not politically.

Serbias options, EU, EAU, 3rd way


Balkans and Geography of Turkish Stream

March 22, 2015

 

ONLINE JOURNAL 21.03.2015 | 00:00
Pyotr ISKENDEROV
Strategic-Culture.org

Balkans and Geography of Turkish Stream

Russia’s Stroytransgaz has announced that it will build a gas pipeline across (FYR) Macedonia, which could eventually be used as part of a route to supply Europe with Russian gas via Turkey. Macedonia will have its own source of energy. Today the country has energy dependence indicator of 47, 9 percent – the second largest after Croatia (52%). The importance of the pipeline going across Macedonia is immense. It will become the key component of all-Balkans energy system linked to the Russia-Turkey joint Turkish Stream project on the construction of gas route leading to Central and South Europe.

According to Stroytransgaz, the 96.6 km (60 miles) Negotino-Klecovce gas pipeline will cross Macedonia from near the Greek border in the south up to the vicinity of the Serbian border in the north. Stroytransgaz will build 61 km of the link by June 2016.

gasovod

At the moment, Macedonia receives gas from Russia via Bulgaria and Romania as part of the transit through Ukraine (pipe string N8). The existing pipeline has a capacity of 800 million cubic meters a year – not enough to satisfy the needs of the Balkans. The pipeline may be out of operation as early as 2019 when Russia plans to stop using this route, or, even earlier, in case of Ukraine’s further disintegration.

Gasprom and its Turkish partners want to finish the construction as early as they can. Gazprom’s CEO Aleksey Miller said, «Our priorities – to study the route’s options in Turkey, to define the location of the landfall facilities, gas delivery points for Turkish consumers and border crossings between Turkey and Greece».

There is an intriguing collision here. Nature and geography are the factors to facilitate Macedonia’s becoming the key transit country in the Balkans. There is an alternative route going through Bulgaria and Serbia. But Moscow does not see Bulgaria as a partner to trust. Serbia imports all the gas it consumes. Russia accounts for 95% of its supplies. Belgrade faces political problems. It has to prove itself as a reliable partner to become part of the emerging energy system in the Balkans.

caucase-turquie-en

Turkish Stream has the same capacity as South Stream. It can carry up to 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually to Europe with 16 billion remaining in Turkey and 47 billion going farther to the Balkans. It’s enough to satisfy all the requirements. The main obstacle is the gap between the Serbia’s ruling elite on the one hand, and the interests of Serbian people on the other.

No matter Western and many Serbian media outlets have launched an anti-Russian and anti-Gasprom campaign, there is a growing understanding in Serbian society of the reasons South Stream was cancelled. According to a poll conducted in late 2014-early 2015, 39, 8% of Serbs believe the United States is behind the cancellation of South Stream while 20,2% put the blame of the European Union. Only 6, 5% believe that it was Russia’s fault. 2, 4% of respondents think that Bulgaria was responsible because it’s not fully independent while taking decisions on energy and other issues.

Bulgaria mainly, and to lesser extent Serbia, failed to act on their own being too much subject to foreign influence. Today Turkey imports around 70% of oil and gas it needs, its consumer demand is to increase 40% by 2020. Turkey wants to become a key energy hub. It takes part in talks on all the projects under consideration related to new routes going to Europe, no matter some of them are subject to competition. The availability of resources defines energy geopolitics. It makes the Russia’s position be on solid footing.

Of course, Macedonia presents some risks due to internal political instability and the emergence of Albanian factor. The West’s intention to frustrate the Russia’s plans is obvious. There are grounds to believe that the recent round of political confrontation in Skopie was incited by the West. The events have all the making of «color revolution» inspired from outside. But one way or another, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia have to think about their energy needs. Common reason makes them realize that close cooperation with Russia meets their interests. All planned and existing energy routes go to the region from the East, not from the West. Liquefied gas tankers from Qatar or Algeria don’t drop anchors Belgrade, Sophia or Skopie.

 

 


Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean

August 14, 2013

<img alt><img source="pic.gif" alt="Energy triangle"</img>

The potential “third energy corridor” – the Greece-Cyprus-Israel energy triangle may be the winner of the European energy game.”Third Energy Corridor” into the EU, a development of certainly wider geo-economic proportions.The gas could be a geopolitical game changer especially for Israel as well for the wider region (meaning the Balkans, the Middle East and especially the Eastern Mediterranean).

The Energy Triangle refers to the joint natural gas extraction between Cyprus, Israel and Greece that is estimated to begin in 2015. Officials from all three countries have agreed to the establishment of a gas pipeline from the Aphrodite gas field and the Leviathan gas field to a liquefied natural gas plant in the Vasilikos Power Station by 2019. (Note: here is not referred EU’s energy policy triangle ”emissions-supply-affordability”). So for the Energy Triangle and the EU there is now three projects of common interest: the first is the connection of an electricity cable between the three countries, the second is the feasibility of a pipeline from the East Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and the third one is the gas storage pipeline that will enhance the strategic resources of Cyprus, Israel and other European countries such as Greece.

Russia is the key player – even a game changer – in this triangle too. Future production in the eastern Mediterranean would be too marginal to offset Russia’s dominant market position. Nevertheless, the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom is seeking a financial stake in the development of local resources. Israel and Cyprus see Russia as a source of both technical expertise and potential political support. Russia has repeatedly affirmed Cyprus’ right to explore offshore deposits in its exclusive economic zone.

Moscow won’t jeopardize its new deeply strategic energy partnership with its Israeli-Greek Cypriot ‘Western’ partners – in particular, its burgeoning relationship with the Middle East’s coming energy superpower, Israel. It is not only energy but geopolitics as Russia’s actions might cause selling out of Russia’s backing for both Iran and Syria for a Stake in Israeli Gas.

<img source="pic.gif" alt="Map credit: Gazprom"</img>

Map credit: Gazprom

Gazprom has also revealed that the company still has plans to link Greece with South Stream. This implies that the Russian strategy is to use Greece as a potential LNG hub, supplied by South Stream. South Stream, as far as its geostrategic role is concerned, is one of the most important projects in Balkans since WWII. Especially Serbia can be the heart of energy transport in the Balkans but also two branches will be built – to Republika Srpska and Croatia. In addition the Serbian side has proposed the construction of branches to Kosovo and Montenegro and Macedonia has also expressed the wish to get a branch of the pipeline from Serbia. On the other side the competitive project, the Nabucco pipeline, is already practically dead. More about background of Nabucco/South Stream battle in my articles Is it time to bury Nabucco? and EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

The new opportunity with energy gives also some new political leverage to Israel. There has been a bit uncertainty how Israel will formulate its export policy. Israel’s options for selling the gas include Europe, China or even India. In terms of development, a partnership with Cyprus tying in its gas fields and co-operating on building sub sea gas pipes makes sense. And Greece has proposed becoming a distribution hub for eastern Mediterranean gas throughout Europe. Just how Israel’s vast reserves are to be monetized is yet to be seen. However in the few years since the state’s changeover from oil to gas-powered electricity generating plants Israel is already believed to have saved around $5 billion in revenue.

The new Gulf

<img source="https://i2.wp.com/www.yalibnan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/oilgas-lebanon-israel-400x452.jpg" alt="Levantine basin gas and oil."</img>

Source: Noble Energy

The U.S. Geological Survey says the Levant Basin, encompassing Syria, Lebanon. Cyprus, Israel and the Gaza Strip, contains 123 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.

In 2009 and 2010, a pair of U.S.-Israeli consortiumsexploring the seabed near Haifa discovered the Tamar and Leviathan fields, which collectively hold an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. Israel has also worked to expand political, military, and economic cooperation with other local stakeholders, particularly Cyprus. But even at a combined total of 25 Tcf, worth some 200 billion euros at today’s prices, Tamar and Leviathan only represent around a fifth of the estimated gas in the Levantine Basin, much of which falls within Israeli jurisdiction. Anyway only this is enough gas to supply Israel’s needs for 150 years.

Since Cyprus signed a maritime border agreement with Israel in 2010, it has become the second main beneficiary of the gas boom. The island straddles Israel’s most likely gas export route to European markets. Cyprus also lays claim to its own gas deposits. The Aphrodite field, which is next to Leviathan, may contain up to seven tcf of natural gas — enough to meet Greek Cypriot domestic consumption needs for decades to come. Yet even that field is contested by others. The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus claims co-ownership of the island’s natural resources.

On the borders of energy triangle one should not forget Syria, which is in the middle of two important energy corridors: It links Turkey and the Caspian See to Israel and the Red Sea and it links Iraq to the Mediterranean. Syria’s civil war is preventing seismic soundings in its waters but there’s every reason to assume they contain similar-sized gas fields.The Eastern Mediterranean gas fields might be the reason the Kremlin has created a military foothold in Syria for the Russian Federation. Moreover, it has been Iran that has agreed to explore and help develop these natural gas fields off the Levantine coast for Beirut and Damascus. Before civil war Syria was seeking foreign investment for three offshore oil and gas concessions. If the present regime in Syria falls the question is who would control these energy routes. If western powers are taking more firm grip from Syria it would also mean that the large natural gas fields off the Lebanese and Syrian coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean would be out of reach for China and instead go to the E.U., Israel, and Washington.

Also Lebanon, whose waters border both those of Israel and Cyprus, is expected to start issuing tenders to international companies to explore its maritime exclusive economic zone.

To its south, Israel has a difficult relationship with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over natural gas, and has been obstructive to the PA’s own natural gas exploitation opportunities. Gas was discovered in 2000 by BG in waters that would include Gaza’s EEZ. However, political difficulties made it impossible to tap and transport the gas – not only is the PA not a member of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and hence has not declared its EEZ, but Israel occupied the Gaza Strip until 2005 and holds de facto control over the waters off Gaza’s coast.

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/farm8.static.flickr.com/7135/7017081555_dc08f6c09b.jpg" alt="Levantine basin gas and oil."</img>

Levantine basin gas

Earlier Egypt’s natural gas sector has expanded rapidly, with production quadrupling between 1998 and 2011. Egypt’s proven gas reserves were estimated at 2.2 tcm in 2011, representing the third-largest reserves in Africa after Nigeria and Algeria. In 2010, Egypt produced roughly 61.3 bcm of natural gas, of which 45.1 bcm was consumed domestically. In 2010, Egypt exported 15.1 bcm of natural gas (of which 9.71 bcm was via LNG and 5.46 bcm via pipeline). Egypt’s proven crude oil and condensate reserves are estimated at 4.5 billion barrels. The recent unrest in Egypt and the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi is again giving the energy markets jitters reminiscent of the uprising in 2011 that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rein. Then, as now, most attention is focused on oil markets and possible disruptions of tanker trade through the Suez Canal. But with increased worldwide attention focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade, it’s important to note that about 13-14% of global LNG trade passes through the Suez Canal. Since 2011 Egypt has suffered from gas shortages and has already halted gas exports to Israel and shut down one of its two LNG plants — the SEGAS LNG plant at Damietta — because of a lack of feedstock.


With a newfound focus on maritime security, eastern Mediterranean states are also keen to modernise their navies and coastguards. Israel, for example, announced in July 2012 that it would spend $800 million on acquiring four offshore patrol vessels to protect its platforms and enforce maritime security. Turkey, meanwhile, has a number of naval procurement projects, including 16 Tuzla-class patrol craft for the navy and four Dost-class offshore patrol vessels for the coastguard. The most substantial Turkish procurement is for a $1.7 billion landing helicopter dock, the navy’s first amphibious assault vessel.

Two other claimants, Greece and Cyprus, are hamstrung in procurement efforts by lack of funds. Inspired by the gas finds, however, Nicosia finally gave the go-ahead for the procurement of two offshore patrol vessels in January, with a likely budget of $150m (although it is unclear how the country’s financial crisis will affect this programme). Greece, meanwhile, with a defence budget constrained by a political decision to stick with the purchase of six submarines from Germany, has resorted to unusual deals to bolster its Mediterranean presence. In February, Athens sought to lease two frigates and four maritime patrol aircraft from the French navy to better patrol the eastern Mediterranean.

Volume of gas fields

US firm Noble Energy and Delek Energy, a domestic company, discovered gas off the country’s coast in 1999. The Mari-B field, which began production in 2004, contained about 1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas but is now severely depleted and likely to run dry within two years. Other nearby fields, such as Noa and Pinnacles, are now connected to the Mari-B platform and began production in June 2012 – they are thought to hold a further 1.2tcf of gas.

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/mercury.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/468x351/165677/iresourcemultiple_files/45eab09d-1c3e-4ec0-978c-476f756a2363/en/Gas-Claims-in-the-Eastern-Mediterranean468x351.jpg" alt="Levantine basin: Exclusive economic zones (EEZ)."</img>

Source: IISS

The first well, Leviathan 1, was first drilled to a depth of 5,170 metres where the deposit found was estimated to contain 16 trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic metres) of natural gas. The second stage of drilling of the Leviathan 1 well was intended to reach a depth of 7,200 metres where the estimated natural gas reserve is an extra 9 trillion cubic feet (250 billion cubic metres) and potentially 600 million barrels of oil.

The Tamar field is considered to have proven reserves of 200 billion cubic metres (7.1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and is estimated to contain an extra 80 BCM of probable natural gas reserves. In a related development, natural gas from the offshore Tamar gas field near Haifa started flowing last April 2013.Tamar produces a gross 636 million cubic feet of gas a day.

Karish is Israel’s latest offshore gas discovery northwest of Haifa and the fifth field to contain over 1 tcf of gas. Noble Energy announced on the 22nd of May 2013 the discovery of the Karish well, in the Alon C license approximately 20 miles northeast of the Tamar field, in 5,700 feet of water.

Beyond Israel, the most active country in gas exploration has been Cyprus. Nicosia was eager to negotiate its Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundary with Israel (having already done so with Egypt in 2003), and reached an agreement in December 2010. A year later, the real Aphrodite field (Block 12) was discovered in Cypriot waters, just 35km west of the Leviathan field. The estimated reserves of up to 8 tcf would more than cover Cyprus’s entire energy needs for 200 years.

More about topic in Outlook for Oil and Gas in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countriesby Manfred Hafner, Simone Tagliapietra and El Habib El Elandaloussi, MEDPRO 10/2012

Transfer of gas

The Israeli energy minister Uzi Landau announced that his country has established a high level commission that actively examines the prospects for transfer of gas. To date, the following options have been proposed:

  • Transfer gas to Israel for the purposes of electricity production
  • Creation of LNG stations in Cyprus and Israel to supply the world market
  • Creation of a floating LNG station close to the gas fields
  • Creation of a pipeline connecting the fields with Greece and from there on to the EU via Italy
  • Use the gas production for electricity generation and creation of a high voltage cable to connect Israel-Cyprus-Greece who will consume the electricity. it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity. it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity.

(Source: Natural Gas Europe )

It should be pointed out that any transfer of gas to Europe from developments in the eastern Mediterranean would take upwards of a decade to begin, once investment decisions were taken. In one other point of view, a dynamic triangle between Greece-Cyprus-Israel could be treated as an efficient geo-political counterweight to Turkey.

March. 8, 2013 a new deal by Russia’s Gazprom to market Israeli liquefied natural gas shows that Moscow is again emerging as a player in the strategic region. The 20-year LNG contract between Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Marketing and Trading Switzerland and Levant LNG Marketing Corp. also provides a major boost for Russia’s drive to rebuild its Cold War influence in the Middle East that collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union.This is an important milestone for strengthening Gazprom’s position in the global LNG market ( Source: UPI)

Already on end of June 2013 Cyprus inked a deal with a US-Israeli partnership to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the island to exploit untapped energy riches. Building a multi-billion euro LNG plant is seen as the biggest infrastructure investment project in the island’s history.

Early August 2013 Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a memorandum of mutual understanding to cooperate in energy and water resources. The delegations from all three countries voiced their support for the EuroAsia Interconnector project that plans to link the electricity grids of all three countries via an underwater cable that is also going to hook up with the Paneuropean Electricity Grid. The 2,000-mega-watt EuroAsia Interconnector could potentially allow for the export of electricity generated in the eastern Mediterranean to the EU energy market through the trans-European electricity networks; it is also seen an important reason for stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

Conclusion

The term “Energy Triangle” was first issued at the Cyprus-Israel Business Association in Nicosia, Cyprus in 2010. Due to the joint establishment of the Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between Cyprus and Israel, this marked the beginning of an increasing collaboration between the two Mediterranean neighbors. Both countries agreed to a joint extraction of natural gas by the American company Noble Energy in order to cut the financial burden of extraction by both countries. Shortly after the exchange of representatives between Israel and Cyprus, the Gaza flotilla raid occurred in 2010, thus destroying the Israeli-Turkish relations and pushing Israel towards a closer alliance with Greece. Since 2011 Greece joined Israel and Cyprus in the plan to export natural gas to Europe by 2015 through a power plant close to Limassol.

The discovery of natural gas is a huge strategic opportunity but it also has complicated rivalries in the eastern Mediterranean, an area already full of long-standing security issues.Among those to have issued assertive statements of intent regarding undersea gas finds are Greece and Turkey, Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as well as Israel, the Lebanese militia group Hizbullah and Palestine’s Hamas.

The energy discoveries during last decade have transformed Israel’s energy calculus and caused a significant strategic shift.. In 2012, when Egypt abruptly cancelled natural gas exports to Israel, the country was reliant on imports for 70% of all natural gas used, and on its Arab neighbour alone for 40% of its supply. But the Tamar and Dalit fields alone hold enough natural gas to supply all the country’s needs for two decades. When combined with Leviathan, Israel could meet all of its electricity needs and export gas.

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U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria

April 5, 2013

The Syrian rebellion began in earnest on March 11, 2011, when protests erupted. Since then, the Syrian civil conflict has become increasingly violent. About 70,000 people have died in the country’s civil war over the past two years. Millions of people have been displaced, both internally and abroad. For months regional and Western capitals have officially held back on arming the rebels, in part out of fear that the weapons would fall into the hands of terrorists.

Now however U.S. has begun to support arms delivery to Syrian opposition with recycling its old practice in Balkans. Multiple planeloads (some estimates are up to 160 cargo-planes, 3,500 tn) of weapons have left Croatia since December 2012, when many Yugoslav weapons, previously unseen in the Syrian civil war, began to appear in videos posted by rebels on YouTube. Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria. American intelligence officers have helped the shipment with their earlier practice during Balkan wars. Earlier compared with the heavy weaponry employed by the Syrian regime, most of the equipment of Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been light so now the game is changing.

In Syria, a recoilless gun from the former Yugoslavia. Photo credit The NYT

Some foreign arms have been making their way to the Syrian opposition; the vast majority of guns were bought right from the regime – corrupt regime officials sold them. Another portion of their weapons was bought off the black market from Turkey or Jordan, which made them very expensive.

The opposition began as a secular struggle to overthrow the Assad regime. But many of the loosely linked brigades fighting the Assad regime have incorporated Islamist aims into their mission. These groups range from moderately Islamist outfits such as Liwaa al-Tawhid to more conservative groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, whose members have called for the countrywide implementation of Shariah, or Islamic law. There are also jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), which operates as an extension of al Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise and has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. JAN boasts foreign connections and members with years of fighting experience, making them invaluable to the uprising.

The M79 Osa, an anti-tank weapon of Yugoslav origin, seized from Syria’s opposition.

Officially besides about $385 million in humanitarian aid has been disbursed by the U.S., there is an additional $115 million in nonlethal support for the fighters. On the other hand U.S. (unofficial) decision to send in more weapons is aimed at another fear in the West about the role of jihadist groups in the opposition. Such groups have been seen as better equipped than many nationalist fighters and potentially more influential. U.S. is covertly working to get those weapons into the right hands. Western officials agree that helping Syrian rebels defeat the brutal Assad regime is a worthwhile cause, but recent reports suggest some of that assistance has already benefited jihadist groups – e.g. JAN fighters have been using weapons originating in Croatia. (Sources: NYT , IBT , Debkafile)

Weapons from Croatia

A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment” (Hugh Griffiths, SIPRI, who monitors illicit arms transfers)

Persian Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been orchestrating weapons shipments into the conflict for months. Weapons from the former Yugoslavia were spotted in Syria this winter, after a series of military cargo flights from Zagreb to Amman. The arms are typically sent to Turkey and shipped into Syria via ground transport. The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports. Also from Jordan and Turkey, trucks take the weapons to the border with Syria.

The anti-Assad front is not like-minded: Riyadh – and Prince Bandar in particular – accuses the Qataris of conspiring to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Damascus, including radical groups tied to Al Qaeda. Qatari Prime Minister and Secret Service Chief Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem has shot back with the charge that Saudi Arabia is maneuvering for control of the Syrian rebel movement.

The below video posted by the jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, a collection of various smaller groups based in the north of Syria, mainly around Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama, and not part of the Free Syrian Army, demonstrates that the Yugoslavian weapons – supplied via Croatia – being provided to FSA have now begun to reach the hands of jihadists. These include RBG-6 40mm grenade launcher , the M79 Osa rocket launcher, M79 rocket pods, Yugoslav-made recoilless gun, as well as other assault rifles, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars and shoulder-fired rockets for use against tanks and armored vehicles.

Youtube video

 One should add that Croatia’s Foreign Ministry and arms-export agency has denied that such shipments had occurred. Croatia, poised this year to join the European Union, now strictly adheres to international rules on arms transfers. However, export figures obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) show that last December, Jordan suddenly began buying Croatian weapons.

MLRS in Syria too?

On March 2013 Syrian rebels in Aleppo have begun receiving their first heavy weapons – 220-mm MLRS rocket launchers – from a large-scale supply operation headed by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. According Debkafile in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, his agents produced snapped up Russian-made MLRS (Smerch) and Hurricane 9K57 launchers capable of firing scores of 220-mm rockets to a distance of 70 kilometers.

I have some doubts how this Russian made MLRS has came from Croatia. First only one source (Debkafile) indicates so, second I don’t have any confirmation that this system was for sale in Balkans, third some youtube videos from Syria which I have seen about this MLRS are so unclear that the question could be about some similar type of MLRS.

Image shows a M60 recoilless gun (YU) being used to attack an army outpost,Hajez Barad, in Busr al-Harir, Daraa, on March 2nd.

The Saudi operation for shipping heavy rocket launchers from the Balkans to Aleppo is complicated. The rockets are fixed to vehicles weighing 43.7 tons each. The rockets themselves are 7.6 meters long and weigh 800 kilograms. To arrange the transfer of this heavy artillery to the rebels in Aleppo, Prince Bandar contacted Hakan Fidan, head of the MIT-Turkish National Intelligence Organization. They agreed to set up an overland route from the Balkans via Turkey and across the Syrian border to Aleppo, under the protection of the Turkish army.

It may be that Syrian rebels have now also the BM-30 Smerch (tornado), the most powerful multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) in the world. It was developed in the early 1980s and was accepted to service with the Soviet Army in 1987. It is also in service with Belarus and the Ukraine, and has been exported to Kuwait (27 systems) and Algeria (18 systems).India placed an order for an initial 38 systems. Deliveries began in May 2007.

The heavy MLRS rocket launcher in Syrian rebel hands

Former Yugoslavia had three types of MLRS: M 63 Plamen(32 /128),M 77 Ogan(32/128) and M 87 Orkan(12/262) which was produced in cooperation with Iraq and army of Iraq used this system. The M87 Orkan (hurricane) is a MLRS, jointly developed by Yugoslavia and Iraq. Most of development was made in Yugoslavia and some manufacturing took place in Iraq. It was first publicly revealed in 1988 during defense exhibition in Iraq, labeled as the Ababil-50. The Orkan MLRS project was finished in the early 1990s due to collapse of the Yugoslavia and it is estimated that only few system were built. The most modern – 2011 – MLRS in Balkans is LRSVM, which is a modular self-propelled multitube rocket launch system developed by Serbia-based Vazduhoplovno Tehnicki Institut (VTI). Also Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Defense Technologies (EDT) has developed, manufactured and delivered the first unit of the MLRS, which was designed and manufactured locally in UAE but in collaboration with a leading Serbian defence contractor. Perhaps some of these are now in operation theatre.

M87 Organ (YU)

Aleppo is the key to win

The Saudi operation for shipping heavy rocket launchers from the Balkans to Aleppo is complicated. The rockets are fixed to vehicles weighing 43.7 tons each. The rockets themselves are 7.6 meters long and weigh 800 kilograms. To arrange the transfer of this heavy artillery to the rebels in Aleppo, Prince Bandar contacted Hakan Fidan, head of the MIT-Turkish National Intelligence Organization. They agreed to set up an overland route from the Balkans via Turkey and across the Syrian border to Aleppo, under the protection of the Turkish army.

On the other hand Russia brings down its cargo planes loaded with weapons and replacement parts for the Syrian army at Nairab air base attached to Aleppo’s international air port, after the air facilities around Damascus were targeted by rebel fire. Recently Russian and Iranian arms lifts to Nairab were doubled, after rebels seized many Alawite villages in the Aleppo and Idlib regions of northern Syria.

The Saudis hope to expedite the rebel capture of the big Syrian Nairab air base attached to Aleppo’s international air port. The Saudi prince has personally taken the Nairab battle under his wing, convinced that it is the key to the conquest of Aleppo, once Syria’s national commercial and population center, after more than a year’s impasse in the battle for its control. The fall of this air base would also substantially reduce the big Iranian and Russian airlifts to Assad’s army. Moscow has since warned the rebels that if they attack incoming or outgoing Russian planes at Nairab, Russian special forces will come in to wipe out their strength around the base and take over its protection themselves.

U.S., Croatia and common history of clandestine operations

It is not surprising that U.S. is using Croatia for its clandestine operations. Radical Islam has enforced and widened their activities in Balkans last 15 years. During Bosnian war many foreign Islamists came to fight in mujahedeen brigade also many Al Quida figures – including Osama bin Laden – were supporting Bosnian Muslims 1990’s. US took the side with these “freedom fighters” in Bosnia and later in Kosovo. US involvement in the Balkans is not about helping any of the people in the region — Muslims, Croats, Serbs, or Albanians. The only interest of the Pentagon is in creating weak, dependent puppet regimes in order to dominate the entire region economically and politically.

In the 1980s Washington’s secret services had assisted Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Then, in 1990, the US fought him in the Gulf. n both Afghanistan and the Gulf, the Pentagon had incurred debts to Islamist groups and their Middle Eastern sponsors. By 93 these groups, many supported by Iran and Saudi Arabia, were anxious to help Bosnian Muslims fighting in the former Yugoslavia and called in their debts with the Americans. Bill Clinton and the Pentagon were keen to be seen as creditworthy and repaid in the form of an Iran-Contra style operation – in flagrant violation of the UN Security Council arms embargo against all combatants in the former Yugoslavia. One could add that Ayman al-Zawahiri, later the leader of al Qaeda, came to America to raise funds in Silicon Valley for Bosnian jihadists.in 1993, Mr. bin Laden had appointed Sheik Ayman Al-Zawahiri, to direct his operations in the Balkans.

The recent history of this issue in Balkans started in June 1993, when President Clinton received the head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, Prince Turki al Faisal – a close adviser to his uncle, the King. The Prince urged Clinton to take the lead in the military assistance to Bosnia. The American administration did not dare to do so: the fear of a rift within NATO was too great. However, the United States did consider the Saudi Arabian signal to be important, and therefore a new strategy was elaborated. Its architect was to be Richard Holbrooke, who started to look for a way to arm the Bosnian Muslims. In the summer of 1993, the Pentagon was said to have drawn up a plan for arms assistance to the Bosnian Muslim Army (ABiH), which included supplies of AK-47s and other small arms. This operation was to demand almost three hundred C-130 Hercules transport aircraft flights.The first consignment from Iran landed in Zagreb on 4 May 1994, with sixty tons of explosives and military equipment on board. The arms were transported in Croatian army trucks along the Adriatic coast to Bosnia. Because the supplies attracted too much attention at Pleso Airport in Zagreb, the flights subsequently went mainly to the Croatian island of Krk. Shortly after Iranian cargo aircraft had landed there, a number of Croatian helicopters arrived to continue transporting the load after dusk.

Besides weapons the arrival in the Balkans of the so-called Afghan Arabs, who are from various Middle Eastern states and linked to al-Qaeda, began in 1992 – mujahedeen fighters who travelled to Afghanistan to resist the Soviet occupation in the 1980s later migrated to Bosnia hoping to assist their Islamic brethren in a struggle against Serbian Croatian forces.

In the summer and autumn of 1994 plans were elaborated for training the ABiH. An US ‘mercenary outfit’ was to arrange this training. This was carried out by Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), a company based in Virginia that employed various retired American generals and intelligence officials. With the consent of the State Department, MPRI trained the Hrvatska Vojska (HV, the Croatian Army) and later also the ABiH. MPRI’s role arose from the signing of the agreement between the United States and Croatia on military collaboration. By engaging MPRI, Washington also reduced the danger of ‘direct’ involvement. The CIA settled on 14,000 tons between May 1994 and December 1996. According to the State Department from May 1994 to January 1996 Iran delivered a total of 5000 tons of arms and ammunition via the Croatian pipeline to Bosnia. (Source Bill Clinton’s Bastard Army by Ares Demertzis ,Feb. 2009 in New English Review)

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established also mid-90s. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society.  (More e.g in Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo )

The pattern of U.S. collaboration with Muslim fundamentalists against more secular enemies is not new.In both cases all sides committed atrocities, and American intervention in fact favored the side allied with al-Qaeda. Similarly the cause of intervention was fostered by blatant manipulation and falsification of the facts.

Assad is not the only war criminal

Reports of a chemical weapon attack in Syria’s Aleppo Province end of March 2013 provoked leaders and politicians, particularly in the West, to advocate more fiercely for the overthrow of the Assad regime, despite the vague details surrounding the attack. Current data seem to suggest, however, that it was not government forces behind the attack, but rebel forces.The attack, intelligence sources appear to agree, was launched by rebel fighters and not government forces. Since the victims were overwhelmingly the Syrian military, this was not a huge shock, but is important to reiterate. Likewise, the Assad forces called upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into the attack.

Last October, the rebel forces were responsible for four suicide bombings in Aleppo that killed approximately 40 civilians and wounded many more. Jebhat al-Nusra, a group linked to al-Qaeda, has taken credit for the bombings. Additionally, the rebels were also responsible for the massacre of over 90 people in Houla last year. Immediately following that event, the U.S., France, Great Britain, and Germany blamed Assad for the killings and expelled Syria’s ambassadors from their countries in protest. Later reports, however, pointed to evidence that the massacre was in fact carried out by anti-Assad rebel forces.

From the other side Iranian supplies are what keep Assad’s army functioning and his regime in Damascus and other Syrian towns able to survive the rebellion. Iraqi Al Qaeda is also preparing to push trucks loaded with Chlorine gas-CI trucks into Syria for the jihadists to use against Assad’s forces. U.S. has been unable to persuade Iraq cut short the Iranian airlift and land route through his country to Bashar Assad of weapons, fighters and cash.

From my point of view it remains to see if this newest U.S. clandestine recycling operation has better success that earlier in Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya … I doubt.

P.S.

Some sense of proportion should be applied with different conflicts:


Kosovo Referendum Prepares the Ground for Tripartite Approach

February 17, 2012

Ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo – municipalities of Zubin Potok, Zvecan, northern Mitrovica and Leposavic – have been voting in a two-day referendum on February 14.-15. The question was simple: Voters were asked simply ”Do you accept the institutions of the so-called ‘Republic of Kosovo’ established in Pristina?”. Turnout was at 75.28%. Final results will be made known on February 19th – just after the fourth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence declaration – but early estimate is that 99.74 % were against Pristina’s sovereignty. In Kosovo case the figure probably reflects good the opinion of local Serb population. The result shows that the barricades against EULEX were not just the work of “criminals” and “radicals” but instead have real popular support.

One should note that question about northern municipalities of Kosovo is only one – even if a core one – aspect in Kosovo framework. During NATO-bombing and after ethnic cleansing implemented by Kosovo Albanians, nearly 200.000 Serbs and Romas escaped to Serbia where they are living like internal refugees many of them in temporary conditions. Despite naïve multiethnic ideas in Brussels they have not any intentions to risk their lives by returning hostile environment and their destroyed homes. In my opinion international community – which allowed this problem to happen – should finance a housing program in Serbia for these refugees (or officially IDPs). Second core question is the fate of some half of remaining Kosovo Serbs namely those who are living in isolated enclaves outside northern municipalities in Kosovo. These enclaves are protected by KFOR troops and should be so long as Pristina administrated part of Kosovo is so hostile as it still is.

High Tension in Kosovo North

Tension has been high in northern Kosovo since last July. The situation escalated when Kosovo Serbs put up roadblocks and barricades to stop the deployment of Kosovo customs officers to border points between north Kosovo municipalities and Serbia. Several rounds of violence has occurred; a Kosovo policeman was killed and several NATO troops injured. The north was the scene of unrest in November, when some 50 soldiers from the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force were hurt in a dispute between the two sides over control of border crossings. This Pristina’s failed attempt to seize the northern boundary with support by EULEX and KFOR have demonstrated that using force does not solve dispute.

The governing coalition in Belgrade has called on the Serbs to end the blockade, refrain from violence and abandon the referendum and same time several EU nations, especially Germany, want Serbia’s government to make deals with Pristina so that Serbia could get EU candidate status this Spring.

In Brussels, the EU said it was preparing for a new round of talks between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at easing tensions in northern Kosovo. “There is a particular situation in the north that needs a solution, but neither violence nor barricades, or a referendum contributes to it,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said. “Only a dialogue can achieve that.” (Source AP ) Earlier the EU pressured Serbia intensely in November and December, demanding that it force the northern Kosovo Serbs to remove their barricades in the name of “freedom of movement”. KFOR fought several actions against barricades, inflicting – and taking – casualties.

The burned down border crossing Jarinje on Kosovo's northern frontier with Serbia in the early hours on July 28, 2011. (SASA DJORDJEVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Time to Exit-strategy?

However the western powers have on the drawing board also an other strategy of fostering change to avoid reinforcing the status quo in the north. The press in Pristina has reported about secret meetings between the Kosovo government, the US ambassador and chief of the International Civilian Office (ICO), Pieter Feith,on a new plan to push the UN out of the north. An “EU House” will be established in the north to promote the “European perspective” and to cooperate with “progressive forces” willing to work with Pristina, “parallel” municipalities in the north would remain unrecognized and “Advisory Councils led by moderate Kosovo Serbs” chosen by Pristina taking place from democratically elected bodies in Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan. To make space for these innovations the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Administration in Mitrovica (UAM), that administers north Mitrovica under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, will be closed.

Also the International Steering Group (ISG) had meeting on January 24th in Vienna to deside its 2012 program for Kosovo. Despite its name ISG represents only countries which have advocated Kosovo Albanian separatism, cover costs of Kosovo Albanian state-building efforts.cover costs of Kosovo Albanian state-building efforts and try to underestimate UN Security Council Resolution 1244 – which btw represents in Kosovo highest international law. Anyway ISG issued a communique calling upon the government of Kosovo to continue to implement the Ahtisaari Plan, aiming to complete outstanding elements so that the period of “supervised independence” could terminate by the end of this year. While the outcome both politically and on operation theatre has been modest as best and the results related to investments almost non-visible, ISG probably his hurry to implement fast exit-strategy.

Marko Prelec from International Crisis Group concludes well the situation now since last summer tensions started in his post Update on Northern Kosovo Barricades. A quote:

The situation shows with crystal clarity the folly of the “freedom of movement” campaign, which cost tens of millions of Euros (flying Kosovo officials to, and from, the border day after day runs into serious money), dozens of injuries, made travel more difficult for real people and achieved nothing. All this started because of the basic disputes between Kosovo and Serbia, over Kosovo’s independence and territorial integrity. Trying to use issues like freedom of movement – or the rule of law – as tools to change locals’ minds about sovereignty issues, rather than as ends in themselves, just damages the tool. The dispute isn’t a technicality and cannot be resolved as though it were.

or back to Dialogue?

Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has poor history. Serbs and Albanians have been in negotiations and talks frequently over the past two decades – from the tentative efforts of the 1990s to the doomed talks in Rambouillet, France, in 1999 and the later “status” talks between 2005 (Ahtisaari’s pseudo-talks) and 2007 (“Troika” led talks). None of these has led to tangible results and left outsiders imposing an outcome, be it NATO intervention or proposing the Ahtisaari plan.

The original or better to say official aim of international community was to build “standards before status”, on 2005 the task was seen impossible so the slogan changed to “standards and status”. Even this was unrealistic so Feb. 2008 “European”standards were thrown away to garbage and “status without standards” precipitately accepted by western powers. For international community I don’t see any success story with this backward progress. Thus the multiethnic idea is far away despite EU’s billions. The remaining Serbs in Kosovo are barricaded into enclaves keeping their lives mainly with help of international KFOR troops or in de facto separated Serb majority region in North Kosovo. This has changed former multiethnic province more mono-ethnic one.

Rewrite History: The Map of Destroyed Shrines in Post-war Kosovo

(To see picture above in full size click here!)

The new situation has forced also International Crisis Group (ICG) to admit the defeat of its Kosovo policy recommendations during last decade. ICG has acted as informal extension of U.S. State Department however pretending to be neutral mediator and think tank. During earlier “status” negotiations 2005 it endorsed preconditions before talks and afterwards supported sc Ahtisaari plan. Now in their new analysis ”Kosovo and Serbia after the ICJ Opinion”  ICG sees Kosovo’s partition with land swap one of possible solutions during coming talks between Belgrad and Pristina.

The fact on the ground is that northern part of Kosovo is integrated to Serbia like it always has been, as well those parts south of Ibar river, which are not ethnically cleansed by Kosovo Albanians. Serbia still runs municipalities, courts, police, customs and public services, and the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) has been unable to deploy more than a token presence there.

During the course of events, the Ahtisaari Plan was implemented in south Kosovo, the north, however, remained outside Kosovo institutions and the ICO, and the Ahtisaari Plan was not implemented there. The Ahtisaari Plan derived a formula that would allow Kosovo Serbs to have their own local institutions and communal life with continued linkages to Serbia, but within the framework of a multi-ethnic Kosovo. If partition option – which in my opinion is pragmatic, the best and even realistical way to solve Kosovo conflict – is not yet possible so then the Ahtisaari Plan might be temporary base for compromise. The Plan however needs some modification. A new follow-up – entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’ – is presented by TransConflict and it might be achievable as the policy paper is authored by Gerard Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica.

My Scenario

Kosovo … a Serbian province, occupied and now international protectorate administrated by UN Kosovo mission; as quasi-independent pseudo-state has good change to become next “failed” or “captured” state; today’s Kosovo is already safe-heaven for war criminals, drug traffickers, international money laundry and radical Wahhabists – unfortunately all are also allies of western powers”.

(Ari Rusila)

US based Freedom House gave in their last report (2012) rank partly free to Kosovo related to political rights and civil liberties (5,4 points respectively), while Serbia got rank free (2,2) and e.g also Croatia (1,2), Bulgaria (2,2) and Romania (2,2) got rank free, while Bosnia-Herzegovina (4,3) and Albania (3,3) fell to category partly free. (Note: Each country is assigned a numerical rating from 1 to 7 for both political rights and civil liberties, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free.) So even western powers must addmit that despite billions of dollars for Kosovo state-building efforts during last 12 years the outcome is that the protectorate still is among the worst in region related to political rights and civil liberties. One could ask why then Kosovo Serbs should go backwards by integrating to that society when better the alternative could be integrate also officially to more developed Serbia.

In my opinion Kosovo will remain a frozen conflict probably whole this decade. The western powers can not addmit – yet – that their intervention was a mistake, international community can not addmit its failure with capasity-/state-building efforts after squandering billions of Euros, noor that instead of multiethnic democracy the out outcome mono-ethnic tribe-society.  EULEX etc will continue to build some facades and pseudo-activities like it used to do, Pristina pretends that north is integral part of their quasi-independent pseudo-state which the North never has been, the Kosovo institutions do not exist in the north, and it is very unlikely that they will be established there soon. Hard-line Serbs keep claim about Kosovo as Serbian province, which it indeed has been but after 1999 situation on the ground changed; instead the today’s government in Belgrade might change in next elections. What is clear after referendum is that population in Kosovo’s northern municipalities does not want to integrate Pristina lead institutions, they want to continue their living as part of Serbia like they always have been, in short they want reunify northern municipalities with Serbia again.

After this quite pessimistic view one can ask if there is any other way forward. From my point of view there is the negotiation option. But this time negotiations should base facts on the ground instead of high-flown ideas in Washington and Brussels, around negotiation table in addition to Belgrade and Pristina representatives should be also local stakeholders from northern Kosovo and selected by local population. The referendum made positions clear for tripartite approach.

More eg in Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state

Serbia: Kosovo vs EU?


Mladic in Hague, Serbia towards EU, reopening Srebrenica

June 2, 2011

From historical perspective the Mladic’n arrest and the Hague trial serves as formation of a more comprehensive picture of events in the Balkans in the 90’s after the procecutor and the defense have made their case. Issues related to the underlying policy objectives of Srebrenica, events before Srebrenica and the number and the PR game around Srebrenica. Realization of the right however is only theatrical minor point for the EU and for the current Serbian government as both see it only as a formal step towards Serbia’s EU membership.

Serbia’s current government is hoping that Mladic’s arrest will clear the way towards EU membership. In the press conference of Mladic’s arrest President Tadic said “I believe that the doors for Serbia to joining the EU are open”. I disagree, there is lot of issues waiting on the table, minor problems such as accepting Kosovo licence plates and finally (after few years of negotiations) recognition of Kosovo’s independence too. E.g. EU Parliament Rapporteur for Kosovo Ulrike Lunacek said it clearly that extradition of Ratko Mladic to The Hague is insufficient for Serbia to join EU and that Serbia must do a whole lot more if it wants to join EU. “Serbia must show that it is ready to expand relations with an independent Kosovo,” Lunacek said. (Source: Dnevnik ) The technical association chapters need some work and remains to see what kind of EU there is existing when membership is on the door. It also remains to see how long negotiations with EU will continue as after elections the new government can whistle the game over.

Since Serbia’s EU application has its position improved, particularly related with energy issues. When the EU favored Nabucco is practically already dead project e.g. after events on the Arab Street (pipe has political support, but no gas available) and when the Italians and now also the French and German companies are backing Russia’s South Stream are Serbia’s changes to become an energyhub growing. Russia but also Turkey have been activated to wide their economic cooperation with Serbia and for example, last autumn came into force a free trade agreement with Turkey.

My opinion of the membership negotiations has remained relatively the same as follows:

In my previous articles, still and now even more than before I have a view that Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucracy it demands, could the main benefits of EU membership be achieved via “third way”. Despite this I think that at this moment it is good idea to continue EU process but not only to fulfill EU needs but especially the needs of the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels.

More about Serbia’s EU perspective in my earlier article: Serbia’s EU association is not a Must

In my opinion more that fast track to EU the Mladic’s trial in Hague will be a fast track to discover what really happened in Srebrenica 1995 and before that. Todays picture about Srebrenica is still heavily manipulated. To me its clear that thousands of Muslims were killed in Srebrenica once this place fell to Bosnian Serbian forces as well that some of them were innocent civilians. It is clear too that thousand(s) Serbs were butchered around Srebrenica during Bosnian War 1992-95 e.g. by the 3rd Corps 7th Muslim Mountain Brigade lead by Bosnian Muslim leader of Srebrenica forces Naser Oric. To the Brigade mentioned were subordinated foreign Muslim fighters, also known as mujahedeen, who came from Islamic countries and it operated from “demilitarized safe area of Srebrenica”. One possible scenario is that when the Bosnian Serb Army responded to this terror and attrocies the remaining fighters attempted to escape towards Tuzla, 38 miles to the north. Many were killed while fighting their way through; and many others were taken prisoner and executed by the Serb troops.

One explanation to the cruelty in Srebrenica can be found from the testimony of French General Philippe Morillon, the UNPROFOR commander who first called international attention to the Srebrenica enclave, at The Hague Tribunal on February 12, 2004. He testified that the Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, “engaged in attacks during Orthodox (Christian) holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region.”

More in my earlier article Srebrenica again – Hoax or Massacre? .

The western mainstream media has demonized Serbs and their action in Bosnia and later also in Kosovo. The attrocies implemented by others have widely ignored. At the start of the 1992-95 Bosnia war, Muslims and Croats were allies against the Bosnian Serb forces, but they fought each other briefly when Croat forces tried to create a separate Croat statelet in northeastern Bosnia. Only a couple days ago it was reported thatBosnia’s warcrimes court has jailed a Croat ex-soldier for 15 years for the killing of more than 60 Muslim civilians during a brief 1993-94 war between Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Miroslav Anic received a reduced sentence under a plea bargain after pleading guilty to all charges. He was convicted of taking part in a series of attacks by a Croat militia on Bosnian Muslim villages from June to October 1993, it said. Anic had served as a member of the special unit Maturice, operating within the Croat Defence Council (HVO) under the command of Ivica Rajic who was sentenced in 2006 to 12 years in prison by the Hague-based United Nations war crimes tribunal. (Source: Trust.org/Reuters)

Mladic arrest and theatre in Hague will bring Srebrenica again front of a stage and this will have its effect in already fragmented and fragile Bosnia-Herzegovina. Probably confrontation between three ethic groups will increase and this could lead to the final dissolution of BiH. Serbia is keen to secure EU candidate status and Mladic’s arrest may be one step forwards for this aim while same time the trial of Mladic may be one step backwards in Bosnia-Herzegovina for its EU membership aspiration.

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P.S.

Finally a skeptical description – by Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey/Pravda – how EU makes Serbia blessed:

And congratulations, Serbia. Now you can join the European Union. Wonderful! Stand back and watch your industry destroyed as what you export is assimilated by German industries, watch your agriculture decimated as you are paid not to produce and your production goes to France before you are left with barren fields, stand back and watch the EU label Slivovica illegal because some idiot in Brussels doesn’t like it. Stand back and watch your unemployment rate skyrocket, watch a clique of elitists whisked off to cushy jobs in Brussels, watch your prices treble and your salaries stagnate and watch your customs destroyed as you become assimilated first by the EU and then by NATO. You will have to pay for it, you know. The people, not the leaders, of course… Nobody will ask you if you want to join NATO but you will be expected to buy its equipment and participate in its wars.


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