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)


Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements

September 17, 2008

This year trend in international politics seems to be different separatist movements around the globe. Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia last February played a key role in these developments, which we already have seen in Bolivia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia and probably many more waiting to spark. This trend has big potential, because it is estimated that there is about five thousand ethnic groups on globe. I think now it is time and worth to speculate some variations between independent state and occupied territory.

Last week the ethnic Albanian movement ANDI led by Nevzat Haliti made demand that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia rename itself into “Macedonia-Ilirida” in order to reflect ethnic Albanian demands for a formation of their own entity inside the country. The outcome of this has been described also dual-state, which is one more definition of some sort of self-governance.

Definition problem

Most common aim of secessionist movements is state. The general definition of state is, that it is a political association with effective sovereignty over a geographic area and representing a population. The states can be nation states, sub-national or multinational states. In Max Weber’s definition, state is that organization that “claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”. Status as a state often depends in part on being recognized by a number of other states as having internal and external sovereignty over it.

States wishing to retain territorial integrity in opposition to ethnic or indigenous demands for self-determination or independence sometimes offer or impose limited territorial autonomy. Some +30 states have about 70 territorial autonomies with definitions of autonomous region or island, republic, principality, territorial autonomous unit, Kingdom, autonomous republic, special autonomous province, territorial collectivity, autonomous Monastic state etc. There exist also about 40 non-incorporated territorial autonomies.

Cantonisation

A canton is an administrative division of a country, e.g., a region or state. The most internationally well-known cantons – the Swiss cantons – are theoretically partially sovereign states. Because cantons are generally relatively small in terms of area and population this kind of administrative form could be he best middle way between independent states and occupied territory or tribe-/village-level societies. Of course there is exceptions like Kurdistan which covers area nearly as big as France and has population over 25 million and could claim to be a sovereign state as well than any other one.

Canton or region is a quite good unit in relation to self-governance combining both possibility to local participatory democracy and global activities. Also it is called EU as Union of Regions. Today’s EU Aid does not necessary need state as partner or facilitator. Aid and cooperation can be e.g.

  • Between regions according their living conditions like high mountain regions or periphery regions
  • Between sectors like culture, health etc
  • Between field of activities like agriculture
  • Between private and public institutions like in science
  • Between NGOs of special interest

Canton can have many variations suitable to present day’s complex situations. It can be nation or sub-national unit as well than part of multinational state. If circumstances favor, it can also cover a region with many ethnic groups.

Question about size?

How to estimate the size needed for canton? One aspect is to define population which can carry on some basic services. In Finland there is ongoing reorganization of municipalities because some smaller units can not anymore give social and health services to their inhabitants. From central level is guidelines that for delivering one kind of health services +20.000 inhabitants is needed, for more specialized health services +100.000 is needed. To apply this kind of approach one should first define the level and content of services in particular region and these needs can vary in different part of world.

Bottom line

From point of local self-governance a canton with widest possible autonomy could maybe be solution to manage different separatist activities at international level. The role of state would reduce itself only as one cooperation forum and maybe guarantor of basic minority/civil rights. The most important aspect anyway is that this kind of arrangements can offer a peaceful way out from current and coming conflicts.


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OSCE report fault Georgia – one trivial statement more from EU summit

September 2, 2008

Europe’s leading human rights and security body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, accused the Georgian government of committing likely war crimes in the Georgian rebel region of South Ossetia, Der Spiegel said in a report published on Monday 1st September 2008. The Vienna-based OSCE massively criticized Georgia’s western- backed leadership for its assault on South Ossetia, saying Tbilisi planned the invasion well in advance.

According OSCE report by Spiegel there is at least four interesting facts which mainstream Western media now must swallow:

  • First, the article presents evidence showing how Georgia prepared military actions against South Ossetia before the event transpired,
  • Second, it demonstrates how Georgia attacked South Ossetia before Russian tanks even entered the Roki tunnel,
  • Third, the article includes testimonies from observers who say Tbilisi ordered an attack on South Ossetia at night while innocent civilians were sleeping,
  • Forth Spiegel writes that reports by OSCE observers point to possible military crimes, committed by Georgian troops in South Ossetia.

Same time when Spiegel published it’s cover story the EU’s Brussels summit agreed to condemn Russia’s “inappropriate response” and declared Russia’s recognition of the dissident regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was “contrary to international law”. The EU summit also stated that any solution to the conflict must “rest on respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity—and not on unilateral facts, which contradict international law”.

These remarks of EU summit are sounding a bit familiar to me. Exactly – the words above are almost same which Russia was using about Kosovo case. Then EU and USA were talking something about “absolutely unique – sui generis – case”, which is no precedent. What a double standards and hypocrisy I must say.


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Is Transnistria the next follow up of Kosovo UDI?

August 25, 2008

Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, is backing independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia  – Georgia’s two rebel provinces.   The vote came after a brief war between Russia and Georgia following Georgia’s assault on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali Aug. 7. Both countries won de-facto independence in the 1990s after wars with the government in Tbilisi.  The road which started from Kosovo UDI seems to continue long because it is estimated that there is about five thousand ethnic groups on globe.

After Georgia’s separatists my bet is that in Europe Transnistria could be the next breakaway province.  Let’s look this maybe next new state closer:

Pridnestrovie – also known by the unofficial name, Transnistria – is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. Although widely seen as part of Moldova, historically, Pridnestrovie and Moldova were always separate. Throughout 2500 years of history, the Dniester River forming the current border has been a traditional border between Slav lands (Scythia, 450 B.C.) to the East and Romanian lands (Dacia) to the West.

The population is some 550.000. The inhabitants of Pridnestrovie are for the most part Slavic. This is in stark contrast to Moldova, on the other side of the Dniester River, where 4/5ths of the population are of Romanian descent and where ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians only make up 6 to 8 percent, respectively.

Pridnestrovie meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood.

The economy of Pridnestrovie is a mixed market-based economy. Following a large scale privatization process, most of the companies in the country are now privately owned. The economy is export-oriented and based on a mix of heavy industry and manufacturing. According to the latest data from the nation’s Customs, Pridnestrovie – which is also known as Transnistria, or Transdniester – now trades with 99 foreign countries.

Source and more info about Transnistria e.g. from The Tiraspol Times

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Power in service of ethics

August 14, 2008

During last twenty years war for humanitarian reasons has came quite popular in political vocabulary e.g. in Balkans and now with Georgia case. The ideal to use power in the service of ethics is good. The problem is the low level of ethics when US is using her power in world. I remember their actions in Chile to establish dictatorship, their support to killing squads in middle and south America. In 1983, U.S. troops invaded Grenada because it – a tiny island with 110,000 inhabitants – represented a military threat to the USA. In Balkans US made alliances first with Serb leaders (who later came ICTY wanteds) and after with KLA (which before was described as terror organization), al Quida (1st ally then one element in “axis of terror”) etc.

US started to bomb Serbia – without UNSC approval and based purpose-oriented reports from field – supporting separatist movements. Later US repeated the same in Afghanistan and Iraq (again based false reports).  Before 9-11, the US was supportive of the Chechen rebels, suddenly after 9-11 radical Islam, was the new enemy. This is regardless of whatever Chechen terrorists were doing to Russia on their own.

In Europe the Kosovo question highlights the core problem of EU – uncritical following of US foreign (cowboy) policy . Some times I ask if it is EU, only UK or ex-Sovjet lapdogs the 51st state of USA. To me it is alarming, that this US policy has been made both during democratic and republican US presidents. Future shows if the change will come with new president, will he change old advisers also. And will US succeed to gain support for these actions either through the use of NATO or by persuading the European Community or the newly emerging states of Central and Eastern Europe to get on side.  I hope that change will come and different actors both sides of Atlantic could have debate from more equal base than before.

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Kosovo > South-Ossetia > Abkhazia > ???

August 8, 2008

Georgia launched a major military offensive against South Ossetia on Friday in a bid to regain control of its breakaway province.   The attack started few hours after declared ceasefire, just before opening Day of Olympics.  It’s been confirmed that some Russian peacekeepers working in the region have been killed in the fighting, although exact figures have not yet been released the death toll can already be as high as 1400.

Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia last February played a key role in these developments. There may be endless disputes over whether this has created a legal precedent or not, but realpolitik takes its course regardless. The claim of Great (western) powers that Kosovo is an absolutely unique case was shown to be a joke almost immediately when UDI based to their orchestration opened the Pandora box.

Moscow and quite a few other capitals considered the move a serious step toward the degradation of international law and the triumph of arbitrary approaches to the resolution of global problems. Nonetheless, Russia has chosen a course of compromise. Russia’s leaders could not ignore what happened in the Balkans, but they chose not respond by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, even though they believe that after Kosovo was proclaimed independent they had every right to do so.

Pandora box starts to open

  • Armenian political expert Stepan Grigoryan says that Yerevan should recognize Serbia’s Kosovo province as a precedent for its recognition of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • The Silesian Autonomy Movement has sent a petition to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk asking him to allow all regional communities to gain autonomy status. If he does not agree, the Silesians say they are ready to raise the issue of separation, according to media reports. The movement officially declares its support for the autonomy of Silesia. The association was founded in 1991 and is based mainly in the Polish part of Upper Silesia.
  • On May 4, the oil-rich department (province) of Santa Cruz held a vote on autonomy – that is, declaring its independence from the rest of Bolivia.  Bolivian government calls the actions of separatist movement as the Kosovo strategy – an American attempt to destabilize a national government it cannot control.
  • The potentially destabilizing consequences of this precedent  have been much discussed with reference to other unhappy portions of other internationally recognized sovereign states with strong separatist movements practicing precarious but effective self-rule, such as  Transniestria,  Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Kashmir, Tibet and Kurdistan.

Exit strategy

The root of the problem is that the international community cannot agree on rules for the independence of small regions. Russia said that granting independence to Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent.  I agree with those who said, that Kosovo status – as well other conflicts – can be determine only by negotiations, not by imposition.

From my point of view the best exit strategy from Pandora box is to return to Kosovo case from where all today’s development started.  The steps forward could be following:

  1. Starting real negotiations between local stakeholders with support interested Great Powers and without determined outcome (which was not the case with Status Talks lead by Ahtisaari nor Troika).
  2. Accepting the deal made by local partners be it anything they can agree.
  3. The international community (and donors) should then support implementation of this deal made by negotiations.

Similar steps could be applied other conflicts also.  The possible outcome can be based e.g. to Westphalian order (Westphalian sovereignty is the concept of nation state sovereignty based on two principles: territoriality and the exclusion of external actors from domestic authority structures).

Results can vary from case to case.  The form of deal can be e.g. independence with or without partition, federation, confederation, some of autonomy models such as Aland (Province of Finland) or Hong Kong model. At its best the solution can be like”velvet divorce” of the Czechs and Slovaks.  And also the worst scenario probably is better than situation today.



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