Kosovo Plus One: A Balance Sheet

By: Tim Judah In the second week of February at the regular Monday morning editorial conference of the Economist, decisions were being taken on what should be in the next issue. The Europe editor said that he planned to run

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Why Albania cannot escape the global crisis

By Arben MALAJ The Albanian economy cannot be considered immune to the global crisis. First, the crisis in other affected countries is directly transmitted to us through effects on trade, on remittances and on foreign direct investment. Second, effects on

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Inter-State Relations and the Domestic Account of (In)Security

Talking about the Balkans, Chris Patten, the former Commissioner for EU External Relations, provided probably the most philosophical description of the Balkans’ technology of change when he said, almost a decade ago that “In the Balkans, like the old English

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The Others

By Jose Ignacio Torreblanca I have just come back from Albania where I found the people wonderful, but also rather unfortunate. If you ever want to check this for yourself, all you have to do is stand in the centre

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Climate Change – a terrifying Prospect for this Country

By Frank Ledwidge There are some very disturbing developments in science these days.. Theories and ideas that, just a few years ago would have been dismissed as belonging in the world of science fiction, are now commonplace. The driver for

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What does “Europe” mean to Albania?

By Tom Hashimoto Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, Albania joins the European Union (EU). For Greece, for example, it is natural to have a “European” neighbor on her land path to the rest of Europe. On the

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An Evolution of the Political and Security Situation in the Western Balkans

Controversial developments The evolution of the political and security situation in the Western Balkans has been marked by contradictory developments. It has been true in 2008, and it could be so also in the current year. However, some progress were

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The elections in Macedonia seen from the demographic point of view

The presidential and the mayors’ elections held in Macedonia Sunday, 21 March, offer an interesting though partial and to some degree refutable view of the composition of the Macedonian electorate as compared to the overall Macedonian population. Referring to the

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Kosovo – The Guerrillas have got to go

It was the first anniversary of Kosovo independence last week. Aside from a few page seven columns it got little notice in Britain or the US. Nor did the poll commissioned by a Kosovo thinktank that only 6% of convicted

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40 Years Dream…

By Warren Anderson 40 years ago, in 1968, America was at war in the quagmires of Vietnam. She was at war with herself at home over culture, politics, poverty, generational differences and race. She was in a Cold War with

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                    [post_content] => By: Tim Judah

In the second week of February at the regular Monday morning editorial conference of the Economist, decisions were being taken on what should be in the next issue. The Europe editor said that he planned to run a piece on the first anniversary of Kosovo's independence. A fellow editor interjected: "We'll that was a disaster wasn't itš"  In many circles this is a common refrain and a common perception. It is also, of course, quite wrong. 
One year on is a good moment to take stock of the situation in the region; to consider the fears that preceded Kosovo's declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, what has happened since and how nature of regional stability has changed. It is also a good moment to discuss the nature of the political landscape today, ie., which problems remain - and what is new, above all in the wake of the world financial crisis. 
On the eve of Kosovo's independence a diplomat in Pristina who had been very involved in crafting the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, the now Nobel peace laureate, for the territory looked gloomy. He was unhappy, not because Kosovo was about to declare independence but because it had not happened as he and his colleagues had planned. Serbia had not agreed to the Ahtisaari package and backed by the then resurgent Russia had indeed indeed actively opposed it. This, was not supposed to have happened. It meant, he said, that we had not got to "final status" or the end of the book, but rather we were simply closing one chapter on the story of Kosovo's status and opening another. "We had hoped we would be finishing the book by now," he said.
What he said was true and his downbeat assessment was correct but the gloomy predictions of many sceptics about the results of Kosovo's independence have since proved unfounded. Let's consider what they were: 
Firstly that there would be an exodus of the remaining Serbian population and that we would once again see columns of tearful refugees stuffed into cars and on tractors. 
Secondly that there would be a new upsurge of violence in Kosovo which also might spill over into the rest of the region, especially the Presevo Valley and Macedonia.
Thirdly that Serbia would fall into the hands of radical nationalists and finally that Kosovo would open the Pandora's box of secessionists across the world, starting with the Republika Srpska.  
Let's look at those one by one. Firstly, there was of course, no Serbian exodus. This was due to several factors none the least being the desire of both Serbian and Albanian leaders to avoid one and to avoid giving cause for one. A Serbian exodus would have been a disaster for all, quite apart from the people actually fleeing. It would have dogged the birth of the new state and hung over it as a kind of "original sin" - however caused, just as the 1948 exodus of Palestinians from the nascent State of Israel has been. In that sense, in terms of the media, political and historical impact of such an exodus it would have been far, far greater than that of the flight of Serbs in 1999. 
But, in terms of a balance sheet, there was a price to pay for this success of course. Barring a huge upsurge of violence there was no real fear of an exodus from the north of Kosovo, above the Ibar river. The real fear concerned those Serbs in the enclaves numbering perhaps 60,000. The price has been, and is, the fact that Pristina's authority does not run in these areas. 
The north lies completely beyond the remit of the authorities in Pristina, despite the symbolic presence of Serbian police in the uniforms of the Kosovo Police Service and officials from the EU's police and justice mission EULEX, on the border. 
Secondly; violence. Yes, there have been violent incidents, but far fewer than most expected. There was, in the wake of the declaration of independence the burning down, with the approval of the government, or parts of it, of the then Serbian premier Vojislav Kostunica, of the northern border posts and the tragic death of one Ukrainian soldier in a riot in Mitrovica. In recent months there have been bombs in Mitrovica too but no casualties. By contrast it is striking how at the edge of Gracanica, 10kms from Pristina, Serbian and Albanian businesses of all kinds now sit cheek by jowl next to one another in a way that has not been seen since 1999. There has of course also been no "spill over" violence in either Presevo or Macedonia. 
Thirdly: The fear that Serbia would fall into the hands of extreme nationalists. This was another legitimate fear but one which did not happen. On February 3rd Boris Tadic beat Tomislav Nikolic the then leader of the Serbian Radical Party by only three per cent in the presidential election. In the wake of Kosovo's declaration of independence some 200,000 people came or were bussed into the centre of Belgrade to hear Serbian leaders reject independence and Metropolitan Amfilohije saying: "Kosovo and Metohija are the apple of our eye, the heart of our hearts, our holy city of JerusalemƩn this worldly life nor in God's eternal one, any more than we can renounce our own soul and our own destiny" After that demonstration, and most likely with the connivance of elements of the security services, the US embassy was attacked and one of the attackers died in the fire. 
(Continued from page 7)

Then what happened? On May 11th Serbia elected a strongly pro-European government and most extraordinarily the Radical Party, which for so long had teetered on the brink of power had imploded by autumn, splitting into two and thus neutralising itself as a nationalist threat. Vojislav Kostunica is now a marginalised figure while Mr Nikolic is now a welcome guest amongst the diplomats as he seeks to reposition his party, the Serbian People's Party, (SNS) in the same way that Mr Sanader did with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in the wake of the death of its founder Franjo Tudjman. One of Serbia's problems is that now the (old) Radicals are vastly over represented in parliament compared to their support in public. 
And look at the figures too. A poll published last week taken by Strategic Marketing, a reliable Belgrade pollster found that 61.27% of Serbs thought that Kosovo was lost, 22% thought it was not while 16.23% had no opinion. In other words two of thirds at least have no illusions. 
Does that mean that Kosovo has disappeared from the Serbian government's public discourse? No, but the reasons for talking about it may be different from before. 
Let's consider its actions. It opposed the deployment of EULEX. It mounted a successful campaign to have the General Assembly refer the issue of Kosovo's independence to the International Court of Justice. It has banned exports from Kosovo bearing the stamp "Republic of Kosovo" and it has retained political control over Serbs in Kosovo. 
The ICJ campaign was an undoubted success for Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian foreign minister. In effect it has closed off the possibility of many more states beyond the 55 that now recognise Kosovo from doing so. In this way Kosovo remains in a kind of unusual limbo. It is recognised by many, but not all of the most important states in the world. It has no prospect of joining the UN for the foreseeable future, but a strong possibility of joining other organisations such as the IMF and World Bank. The ICJ move has also helped cement the division between those EU states that have recognised Kosovo and the five "refuseniks". Kosovo's government, lacking the experience and assets of Serbia's has been unable to mount a successful counter-offensive nor take effective counter measures on the trade issue, which it could, bearing in the mind the huge imbalance in Serbia's favour of the balance of trade. 
What is Serbia, or specifically Mr Jeremic and President Tadic, playing at here? The answer is, as I say, to watch what they do, not what they say. Kosovo, in the wake of independence was not sealed off, the borders were not closed and rhetoric aside, moves have been made to damp down possible flash points. The appointment to do just that of Oliver Ivanovic as deputy head of Serbia's Kosovo ministry is a case in point, in that his friendship and contacts with many Kosovo Albanian leaders has proved an asset and effective means of communication. 
Serbia's government publicly opposed EULEX. It then played hardball and won certain concessions important to it and for presentation purposes to its public. Now, neither side is happy but then neither lost much either. EULEX is deployed across all of Kosovo which many thought that would never happen. In the north, and on the borders, its presence may be symbolic, but that, for now, is better than nothing. 
Mr Jeremic's Kosovo campaign can be put down then to two perhaps not very surprising things. The first is that, being a politician, the issue serves him well. His popularity has grown thanks to the question and he is often talked about as a future prime minister. But, the campaign also serves to neutralise any possible opposition in Serbia accusing the Democratic Party of being unpatriotic and treacherous etc. In the longer term the aim may well be, or indeed actually is, in the minds of some high placed Democratic Party officials at least a way to position the party in such a way that it's nationalist credentials cannot be questioned if it proposes a formal partition of Kosovo in a few years, not excluding an exchange of territories for parts of Presevo. When it comes to the strategic rail and road links which pass through Presevo and have always been cited as a reason why this could not happen, there would appear to be no reason why diversions could not be built to bypass this problem. How realistic this is remains to be seen, how desirable too - but it certainly is an idea circulating at the top levels of the Serbian government.
The question of partition and division brings us onto the fourth issue on our list. The famous "Pandora's box". Did Kosovo's declaration of independence make the break up of existing states more likely? Undeniably the issue of Kosovo has been used, up to a point, in the discourse of Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of the Republika Srpska and of course Kosovo was cited when Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But, we have to be realistic here. Bosnia and it internal relations would hardly be easier if Kosovo did not exist. Indeed, the interesting thing is how Mr Dodik used Kosovo only briefly as a precedent before moving on. Above all though we need to consider the fact that Mr Dodik is interested in being a big fish in a small pond and that means remaining being exactly where he is now, retaining power for the RS but not destroying Bosnia entirely. It is not in his strategic interest to destroy Bosnia and not in Serbia's either. The prospect of an embittered and hence potentially radical Muslim statelet around Sarajevo is not a prospect which the current Serbian leadership finds appealing.  
As for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s it is instructive that apart from Russia only one or two other states have recognised them, such as Nicaragua and that Russia failed utterly in persuading even the states within its sphere of influence to follow it in recognising them. So it seems that difficult though Kosovo's birth was it was clear that a good many countries recognised the legitimacy of its claim to independence and self-determination in the post-Yugoslav context, whatever the legal technicalities. Many of course did not, but such a difference between the cases suggests that new states will emerge on their own merits, not because of what happened in Kosovo or South Ossetia. 
One year after Kosovo declared independence it is clear that the balance sheet is far more positive than negative. Independence has not led to new instability and indeed more likely staved that off. Having said that it is clear it has not solved all the residual post-Yugoslav problems of its inheritance either. In the short term though many are details rather than big picture questions - ie., what will happen to customs revenue from the north. In the medium term, we are likely to have more of the same, ie., a de facto divided Kosovo, which has been the case of course for the last decade, with  manageable outbursts of violence and in the longer term, in theory, increasing clout from the EU about coming to a final, "final settlement" in exchange for membership. But even that is questionable. After all, even states we think of as finished and final are open to question. Is the United Kingdom a final or an evolving state? How will it look in ten years? Will it still exist in ten years or will Scotland have seceded? 
Now we are into the realm of hypotheticals of course, but it seems to me that in fact the Balkans are moving in a direction which is somewhat novel. Despite the difficulties inherent in European integration this is a process which would seem to me to be irreversible, if not a long road strewn with difficulties. What we will see is a consolidation of generally weak states within their existing borders, but equally the ever clearer emergence of overlapping spheres. For example the Albanian sphere in terms of academia, business, media, culture and transport. The Serbian sphere covering the regions where Serbs live and of course smaller Croatian and Bosniak spheres. These are naturally developments and are plain already and they are not mutually exclusive. An Albanian from Tuzi can work happily in Podgorica, watch Kosovo or Albanian television and do business with colleagues from anywhere in the former Yugoslav states. 
Finally: The next year promises all sorts of challenges but for the first time in two decades these very challenges are not unique to the Balkans. They are all the fallout for the world financial crisis. For example how Serbia will deal with unemployment when its hitherto largest exporter, US Steel starts sacking now idle workers, or how Kosovo copes as remittances from a cash strapped diaspora fall off and no more or less easy to deal with or different than how Ukraine deals with unemployed steel workers in the east or Armenia deals with a decline in remittances. There is one key difference in the western Balkans which can help inoculate it from social unrest and worse, and that is that the experience of the 1990s was so bad for most people that whatever the financial crisis throws at them now it will not be worse than that. In other words, they have a far higher threshold of pain and thus greater resilience than the average European, certainly from the west and central Europe and for the most part from the rest of it too. 
Kosovo plus one then: Perhaps seven out of ten. Problems upcoming will be mainly due to fallout from the world financial crisis. Meanwhile a new Balkan political and economic geography is beginning to emerge within the confines of existing borders. The existing setup in Kosovo, ie., Kosovo pretends it is sovereign all of its territory and Serbia pretends Kosovo is independent cannot last forever, but there is no reason to suppose it cannot last for the many years to come, nor that some form of deal for the north can eventually be struck which will fail to satisfy both sides but be just enough to unlock the current frozen situation.  

Speech held Feb.21 at the 4th Albanian Institute for International Studies Security Conference titled "Desecuritization and Resecuritization of Western Balkan Inter/Intrastate relations."

                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo Plus One: A Balance Sheet 
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                    [post_content] => By Arben MALAJ
The Albanian economy cannot be considered immune to the global crisis. First, the crisis in other affected countries is directly transmitted to us through effects on trade, on remittances and on foreign direct investment. Second, effects on the banking system resonate in the entire economy. 
Our main trading partners have been affected by the crisis to no negligible extent, be it in their banking sectors or overall economy. According to IMF data so far on 2009, Italy will experience economic growth of 2.1% and Greece of 1.7%. As our main economic partners turn out to be considerably affected by this crisis, our economy will be negatively affected in at least three ways, a shrinking of exports, remittances and foreign direct investment.
The decline in exports, as testified by the tendency of these last months, has a considerable social impact. Some sectors that were revitalised during the period of high prices, such as mining and agriculture, are now hard-hit by the global crisis. Traditional sectors also, such as manufactured exports, seem to be affected to no negligible degree.
Naturally, by hitting hard some of the countries with the highest concentration of Albanian emigrants, this global recession will considerably reduce the cash inflow from emigrants and, thus, its contribution to the Albanian economy.
Another indicator of a negative impact is the halting and hindrance of some foreign direct investment projects. According to the latest IMF survey on the effects of the global crisis on low income countries, the share of foreign direct investment in the GDP is expected to go down to 3.5% this year, assuming the country receives loans from the IMF or other sources, from 4.9% in 2008. Overall, the decline in exports, remittances and foreign investment has tremendous impact on economic growth as well as on the balance of payments deficit.
The second source and indicator of crisis is our banking sector. Even though diversified, due to the global crisis, our banking system has been obliged to reduce the loan issuance rates, thus reducing the financial resources for economic activity. Furthermore, the credit structure, dominated by foreign currency for consumers and credit borrower with incomes in domestic currency, also risks enhancing the negative psychological effect if the devaluation of the lek continues.
If the banking crisis managed to bring an economic and social one in countries with modern and innovative banking systems, the financial sectors of countries with low living standards like Albania, affected by declines in growth rates, and increases in unemployment and poverty, are definitely, inevitably threatened.
The crisis is not the isolated event of a particular day. It started as a slowdown in growth rates, it continued as a recession and it comes now as a grave economic and social crisis. If we are to analyse the assertions of double-digit growth and the negative review that the IMF has made to the growth of the Albanian economy, from 6% to 3.7%, and then to the latest declining review of 2%, we will see that even though the figure is still positive, we are following the same tendency as that of the concrete phases of the global crisis. 
The current evaluations of the country's state of affairs conclude that due to the very low level of taxes, budgetary income and due to the rising level of budget deficit, Albania has very little room for fiscal manoeuvring.
Apart from the real economic effects, blocking local government budgets, as in the cases of Tirana and Durres, has a considerable psychological effect which is one of the most difficult factors to manage in crisis situations.
The lack of cooperation between political and economic factors in the country, and the rising political temperature due to the upcoming elections risk creating additional and harder to manage costs in this difficult economic situation.
No budgetary intervention can withstand the domino effect of psychological crises. Delays in accepting the hard economic reality, delays in determining cautious interventions as well as a disarray of fiscal policies under electoral fever influence considerably and negatively the management of this situation.

_______________________

The author is Member of Albanian Parliament , Former Minister of Finance.












Economic Crisis Starts to Hit World's Poorest Countries
IMF Survey online,   March 3, 2009
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2009/NEW030309A.htm


IMF Report

Effects of the crisis by sectors:
Trade			Low
Investments		Low
Assistance		Low
Remittances		Average

Trade
Balance of Payments (as % of GDP)
2008            -10 %
2009            -7.5 %
2009 (in case of assistance)            -8.5%

Remittances
Cash inflows from emigrants (as % of GDP)
2008            11.5 %
2009             9.1 %
2009 (in case of assistance)            9%

Investments
Foreign Direct Investments (as % of GDP)
2008            4.9 %
2009             4.6 %
2009 (in case of assistance)		3.5 %
Foreign Assistance
Assistance from abroad (as % of GDP)
2008            2.7 %
2009             2.2 %
2009 (in case of assistance)            1.9 %

* "in case of assistance" means in case countries increase their foreign debt, receive assistance from the IMF or other loans. 

                    [post_title] =>  Why Albania cannot escape the global crisis  
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                    [post_content] => Talking about the Balkans, Chris Patten, the former Commissioner for EU External Relations, provided probably the most philosophical description of the Balkans' technology of change when he said, almost a decade ago that "In the Balkans, like the old English floral dance, it is often a case of two steps forward, one step back".
While this logic of the technology of change almost prevailed in the region for more than a decade, the year we have just left behind may be a turning point whereby the steps towards the creation and well-functioning of a Balkan order were not necessarily accompanied by steps backwards. 
2008 was an important year for security and stability. First of all, the countries of the Balkans, and consequently the Balkan order, confronted the critical test of accomodating the changes of the political map of the region after the declaration of independence of Kosova.
Second, Albania and Croatia were invited by NATO to join the Alliance, a process that is now in its final steps, expected to be wrapped up in the next NATO summit.
Last but not least, all countries in the region have made progress, however modest, in their efforts towards EU integration.
Albania's and Croatia's future membership in the Alliance, as well as the steps made towards the preparation of Balkan countries for EU membership, represent fundamental investments for the creation of a functional, liberal democratic order that would make conflict within or between Balkan states impossible and unimaginable.
Though true, such a reading of developments in the Balkans is optimistic, or at least it presents us with only one side of the medal. A simple effort to open up today's (in)security account shows that the agenda of political, economic developments, the modernisation of Balkan societies, and consequently integration at a regional and European level, are still threatened by security issues.

The Security Agenda at the Inter-State Level 

The main schools of thought in International Relations, and some of the contemporary approaches in Security Studies suggest that inter-state relations must be observed in order to understand and explain the process of desecuritisation, which unfortunately at times is accompanied by resecuritisation also.
A careful study of the present relations between states in the Balkans uncovers a series of issues for which one cannot safely exclude the possibility of transformation into security issues.
Alongside a status quo spirit in relations between Balkan states, several issues have emerged, the resolution of which is a prerequisite for further progress. Thus, Croatia, a country very close to EU membership, and Slovenia, one of the newest and most successful members of the EU, are involved in a very controversial border dispute. 
(Continued from page 7)
Despite its highly politicised nature, it nevertheless remains unimaginable that the recent dispute will become a security issue.
The failure to reach an agreement over the name issue between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia hindered the latter to join NATO during this current wave of the Alliance's enlargement, together with Croatia and Albania. Even though the disagreements between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia seem entirely politicised, to the extent that they incite nationalistic sentiments, it can be safely asserted that these disagreements are unlikely to become a security issue.
Although there are no security issues between Albania and Serbia, the relations between the two states after the declaration of independence of Kosova are poor. Political and economic exchanges continue to preserve the status quo of the last three-four years.
Albania's relations with Montenegro and fYROM seem to be on the right track, but the mal-functioning economies of each country limit further progress. In the meantime, there are no security issues between the three countries, but rather, an enhancement of political will to strengthen economic and political cooperation.
Albania is one of the countries that recognised Kosova immediately after the declaration of independence. At present, Albania and Kosova seem to be going through a phase of accomodation of the new state of affairs visible in their political and economic communications but also at a societal level. Albania has offered a supportive political stance towards Kosova and the political elite of Tirana sees future relations with Kosova as those between two future members of the European Union, as opposed to the mistaken theories that see Kosova's independence as a stepping stone towards Greater Albania.
Last but by no means least, Serbia-Kosova relations stand closer to a resecuritisation process that retains implications for the security and stability of the entire region. Relations between Serbia and the new state of Kosova are utterly and completely politicised. Despite the self-restraint that the governments of the two states have demonstarted since the declaration of independence of Kosova, their entirely politicised relations have very often been on the brink of a dangerous resecuritisation process. Serbia refuses to recognise the new state of Kosova and it has fully invested its diplomatic means in de-legitimising Kosova's independence and hampering the process of international recognition. By continuing to claim sovereignty over the new state of Kosova, Serbia has encouraged parallel institutions and structures, especially in the north of Kosova where in several occassions the situation has been very close to the eruption of a new conflict.
On the other hand, Kosova's government and authorities have refrained themselves from the idea of establishing control and authority over the entire territory of the country, especially over the northern part. Furthermore, the international presence, the EULEX mission, has also not been able to establish its full control there. 
This is the state of affairs with respect to security issues from an inter-state perspective in the Balkans.

The Security Agenda at the Intrastate Level
 
However, the other perspective that I would like to discuss here is that, currently, the security agenda of the Balkans depends more on relations within rather than between states. In fact, the domestic (in)security account has been and continues to be decisive for a functional and sustainable order in the Balkans.
This globally dominating trend in the post-Cold War environment applies to the Balkans also, indeed a special case if we keep in mind the political map of the region, which in the words of Pedrag Simic, resembles the leopards' skin due to the incredibly rich ethnic mix of the various ethnic groups that inhabit the peninsula.
It is precisely due to this reality that more often than not the domestic security issues in each country of the region have the potential to incite a resecuritisation process in inter-state relations.
If we try to open up the state to domestic (in)security accounts, almost in every country in the Balkans we will be able to easily discern that the main security threat is the weak state, lacking the domestic capacity to guarantee its citizens basic political goods, starting with law and order.
The sources of weakness of Balkan states nowadays are varied. They have historical roots and are related to the relatively poor state tradition in the Balkans, to the structure of the economies, the level of industrialisation, the level of modernisation of society, the armed conflicts that accompanied the dissolution of Yugoslavia and last but not least, to the stage of economic development and the nature of the regimes.
Out of all the above-mentioned factors that continue to keep Balkan states weak and mal-functioning, only the nature of the regimes and economic development are relevant to the idea of strengthening the states, making them functional and similar to the state model of the European Union members.
With respect to the nature of the regimes, in the case of the current Balkan states I believe that we can all agree that we mostly find hybrid regimes, or formal, unsubstantial democracies. Please allow me to bring some examples in order to support the argument of a correlation between weak democracies and security issues.
The main reason the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina is relatively weak and mal-functioning is the simple fact that it is not yet a unitary state. However, one of the non-negligible causes that keep Bosnia and Herzegovina a weak state I believe must be sought in the nature of the regime and the level of functioning of democracy.
Conflict and the zero-sum logic that has dominated Albania's transition, having established by now a legacy the political elite of the country has not entirely given up, has seriously threatened security and stability issues of the country.
The establishment of parallel institutions and structures in Albania, FYROM and Kosova is, amongst other things, a result of the nature of the regimes, not quite democratic and functional yet.
Seeking an enemy by all means and preserving  the status quo regarding the conflict has served and will continue to serve, not only in the case of the Balkans, the short-term interests of the political establishment in countries where democracy is still feeble and merely formal.
Serbia is opposing the independence of Kosova through diplomatic means but continues in the meantime to encourage and finance parallel institutions and structures within the state of Kosova. While the option of Kosova's reinstatement under Serbia is not even theoretically possible, the encouragement and funding of Serbian parallel structures in Kosova, including the diplomatic offensive meant to hamper the process of international recognition of the new state, can serve domestic, short-term, political interests in Serbia. Also, it is perhaps the time to address pointed questions:
If military conflicts are almost an impossibility in today's Balkans, are we heading towards a sustainable peace or towards the creation of a frozen conflict between Albanians and Serbs?

The Economy-Security Nexus 

The other impeding factor for strong and functional states in the Balkans - the poor state of the economy and infrastructure, the low level of foreign direct investments, the relatively high levels of unemployment - have the potential to incite a process of resecuritisation.
In the context of a global crisis, the effects of which the economies of the region cannot escape, economic matters ought to be prioritised from a security standpoint.
The discussion of economic issues in light of the need to strengthen the generally weak states of the Balkans can easily fall into a vicious circle. From a theoretical and practical perspective, the question that requires an answer is this:
Does a strong state bring economic development or does the state get stronger as a result of economic development?
The prevailing force for change (and desecuritisation) in the region, the European Union seems to see the strong state as effecting economic development. This is clearly visible in the Union's assistance priorities for more than a decade now. More concretely, the EU has dedicated much of its funding to capacity/institution-building in the countries of the region. In fact, the rule of law is an essential feature of the EU state model, and needless to say a fundamental pre-requisite for accession. In the Balkans much was needed in this respect and owing to EU assistance there has been good progress in Albanian institutional capacities.
However, the time may have come for a reconsideration of the question in hand, and thus of this strategy. In one way or another, investing in institution-building is a top-down approach. The suggestion here is not to entirely give up this approach, but rather to adopt a combined one: alongside investment in institutional capacity, the weak state in this region can be strengthened through strategic economic investment.
Allow me be more clear by referring here to what a great thinker like Karl Poper reminds  us of. In one of his latest interviews, he tells us that Gorbachev did something grotesque, ridiculous: he established a stock exchange in Moscow. We have seen pictures of its formal opening with great celebration. However, the reason the stock exchange was so ridiculous is that there was simply no stock and no money to buy stock at that time in Soviet Union.
Albania did something similar and certainly more ridiculous. It was 1992 when the government decided and established the Bursa in Tirana which is practically still not working, although they have offices and a code of procedures, so basically institutional capacity, just like in other western countries.
What I am trying to say is not that the top-down approach is not any more relevant in the state-building process. Rather, the argument is that, as the Balkan experience shows, a combined perspective of investment in institutional capacities and the economy would   really help in strengthening the state in the Balkans.

                    [post_title] =>  Inter-State Relations and the  Domestic Account of (In)Security 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-04-03 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Jose Ignacio Torreblanca 

I have just come back from Albania where I found the people wonderful, but also rather unfortunate. If you ever want to check this for yourself, all you have to do is stand in the centre of Tirana. Looking to one side, the massive North Korean styled congress centre dominated by an enormous mural depicting the people in arms looms into view; looking to the other, typical Italian fascist neo-classical design meets the eye, legacy of the occupation by Mussolini's troops. Turning round, you can see a small mosque, one of the few which survived the crazed regime of Enver Hoxha, who declared atheism the State religion, imposed a reign of terror on the country and destroyed a large part of its cultural heritage. This all makes for interesting pastiche, certainly, but it is problematic too from a historical perspective. 
Despite five centuries of occupation, the Ottoman Empire failed to leave so much as a single University behind, and Hoxha's dictatorship bequeathed the people half a million bunkers and a shattered civil society. The country's international image is still weighed down by the film "Lamerica", which portrayed the devastation brought about by the collapse of the banking system in 1997. At the time, people thought a Ponzi scheme of such proportions could only take place in a closed and backward society, but thanks to Bernard Madoff, the Albanians can rest easy, and even allow themselves a smile. 
And one thing Albanians certainly do is smile. Mediterranean as they are, Albanians look back on the past with a sense of humour; the bunkers have given rise to a buoyant souvenir industry with a popular line in ashtrays, and in the pyramid shaped mausoleum which Hoxha built, a restaurant called "The Mummy" has been opened. The Mayor of Tirana, weary of the dilapidated state of the city's buildings, encouraged people to paint their homes in eye catching colours, something which has become a tradition. Tirana has spruced itself up, and it is now a big, bustling city set against the backdrop of stunning, snow capped mountains. 
During my trip I had the chance to talk to members of the government and opposition, exchange impressions with leading staff from research centres, and chat with journalists from the local media. All of them impressed me with their intelligence and the clarity of their vision of the future, especially Rexhep Meidani, President of the country from 1997 to 2002. The message I received from the people I spoke to was unanimous; it's time to leave the past behind, to break with the image of the Balkans as a place of hatred, war, destruction, crime and corruption, and to turns our minds to the Balkans of the future. 
And there precisely lies the key - in a European future. Albania will become a full member of NATO this April and the Stabilisation and Association agreement which governs relations with the EU is about to come into force, which will immediately allow the government to request official recognition as an accession candidate. Albania is afraid it might be left straggling by the pack in the race to join the EU; Macedonia already has official candidate status and it appears that Montenegro and Serbia will present their candidacies as well before too long (possibly during the Spanish presidency). There is a lot still to be done before accession is secured, but Albania is on the right road. The forthcoming parliamentary elections to be held in May will be a test of its maturity, though work is still to be done on some things as obvious as the electoral roll, and the political class remains too caught up in the fight for power, diverting energy from some highly important reforms which are still outstanding. 
Naturally, Spain's success arouses a good deal of admiration in Albania. Our country has an especially strong presence in Albanian cultural and political life thanks to a very active Embassy and a technical cooperation office with numerous projects underway, including the training of Albanian civil servants and the modernization of the civil service. This makes up for some of the misgivings felt in Tirana by the Spanish government's decision to align itself with Serbia, something Albania has never quite managed to comprehend; at the end of the day, they argue, Albania has contributed a great deal more to regional stability. The tragedy of Kosovo, when Milosevic's regime drove more than seven hundred thousand Kosovars to the Albanian border after years of torture and killings, is still very much fresh in the memory. At the time, it became fashionable to accuse Tirana of promoting a "Greater Albania" - to include the Albanians of Macedonia and Kosovo - but the allegation has proved to be a complete myth. 
Back home, a strange feeling overcomes me that there are two kinds of European in the continent today; those who have Europe (and don't want it), and those who want it (and don't have it). 
jitorreblanca@ecfr.eu 

Jos顉gnacio Torreblanca joined the European Council on Foreign Relations as a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Madrid Office in September 2007. Previously he spent three years at the Madrid's based Elcano Royal Institute for International Affairs as Senior Analyst for EU affairs. He has a doctorate in Political Science and Sociology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and teaches political science and EU affairs at the distance learning University in Madrid (UNED). He is also Fellow at the Juan March Institute of Studies in Madrid. He has been Fulbright scholar in the European Union-US Program, Lecturer at the George Washington University in Washington DC and a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence. He is also a member of the editorial board of the journal Foreign Policy en espa
                    [post_title] =>  The Others 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-04-03 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Frank Ledwidge

There are some very disturbing developments in science these days..  Theories and ideas that, just a few years ago would have been dismissed as belonging in the world of science fiction, are now commonplace. The driver for these ideas is of course climate change.  There is a growing acceptance that the consequences for the world of climate change could be far more serious than previously thought.  For Albania in particular, as for all Mediterranean countries could be virtually terminal.
The idea is that climate change will result in an increase in mean temperature of about 5 degrees.  This does not simply mean hotter summers.  This will mean the melting of the icecaps, flooding of lowland areas by a sea level increased by up to 80 metres (yes, 80 metres), and the dessication, acute drying of latitudes South of the Baltic. The consequences for humanity will be utterly radical.  Population will, or could be entirely relocated, with the vast social consequences that will .  Siberia will no longer be a barren freezing wasteland.  It may be the bread basket of what remains of the human world.  Countries like Britain will be crowded with high rise cities, which will also throng in Canada and once again, Siberia.  Because there will be too little land for the cultivation of animals, humanity will become an essentially vegetarian species.  The wholesale death of the Ocean Algae, at the bottom of the maritime food chain, will mean that the seas will be essentially dead. There will be little or no fish. 
These ideas, as I have hinted, are not confined now to Kooks and eccentrics.  This is the vision of James Lovelock. the originator of the now largely accepted idea that the Earth is what amounts to a self-regulating organism.  This is the so-called Gaia theory. It posits that humanity has proved itself unhealthy for this organism, the life-system  and the Earth is doing something about it. It is making itself no longer welcoming for us.   Lovelock believes that in as little as a hundred years, there could be as few as ten thousand people.  Yes, a few thousand people.  More optimistic scientists take the view that there may be a billion.  An article in the leading British magazine New Scientist stated however, that some scientists refused to comment on the consequences of climate change on the scale now envisaged, as it might make them seem scaremongers.
Jmkes Locelock is not afraid to comment. In his most recent book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009), he  says that "There is only a small chance that... we could reverse climate change." The consequences of this are that now we should be thinking not about planning to reduce carbon emissions, any reduction would not be effective. They would be irrelevant, like shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic. Its too late for that.  We need rather to be thinking of how to cope with the consequences.  Those consequences are terrifying. 
Lets hope that these are indeed distopian visions and only that.  The trouble is that many serious scientists now believe that these predictions may be accurate.   If they are, the only people alive in Albania in 100 years time, will be living, if at all, in the highest mountain valleys.  There will be no water anywhere else.

                    [post_title] =>  Climate Change - a terrifying Prospect for this Country 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-04-03 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Tom Hashimoto

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, Albania joins the European Union (EU). For Greece, for example, it is natural to have a "European" neighbor on her land path to the rest of Europe. On the other hand, there are some concerns for the financial and economic cooperation between the EU and Albania: the relatively weak Albanian financial market is too risky to be included in the Euro zone in this time of a global financial crisis. Then, what does "Europe" mean to Albania?
Economists at the Tirana Economic Forum last week (10 March) seem to be rather pessimistic on what the government can do to combat against the current economic crisis. Given the size of the Albanian national budget, the options are certainly limited. Foreign Direct Investments and financial assistance from abroad are shrinking, and thus, over all cash inflows (including remittances) are also not optimistic.
The different side of the same coin is that the Albanian economy will recover when the European economy recovers. Greek and Italian investments in Albania are the visible and direct part of this interdependency. Albanians who are working in Europe also contribute to the homeland economy through remittances. Hence, the Albanian government can prepare its economic recovery by further integrating with the European economy. 
Politically speaking, if the current administration succeeds the application submission to the EU, the governmental political party gains a credit for its diplomatic achievement: hence, the outcome of this negotiation affects the upcoming election in June. Not to mention, Albania's importance in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) will increase as Albania becomes a member of the EU. Unlike some other candidate states, people in Albania almost unanimously support this EU membership application. It is time.
Albania today experiences the political and economic difficulties like many other countries in the world. In this time of pessimism, "Europe" is the last hope remained in the Pandora's box. That said, my fellow Albanians, I give the words of a Japanese leader in the late 16th century, Shingen Takeda: "people are the trenches, people are the stone walls, and people are the castle." Future of Albania is on your own hands, and people of Albania yourselves are the hope.
_____________________
Tom Hashimoto is Lecturer of Political Science and International Relations at University of New York in Tirana. He teaches diplomacy and international law.

                    [post_title] =>  What does "Europe" mean to Albania? 
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                    [post_content] => Controversial developments
The evolution of the political and security situation in the Western Balkans has been marked by contradictory developments. It has been true in 2008, and it could be so also in the current year.
However, some progress were undoubtedly made.
First of all, Albania and Croatia have been invited to join the Atlantic Alliance during the Bucharest Summit, a step which will certainly contribute to stabilize the region as a whole. 
Not less important, despite many dark forecasts, Kosovo was able to proclaim itself a sovereign and independent State without igniting any immediate interstate clash in the Balkans. There were only street riots in Belgrad1. 
Even more surprising, given such an emotional issue on the table, on May 11th, 2008 the people of Serbia voted and expressed a clear mandate to engage EU. And as a consequence of these electoral results, Serbia and EU signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement that should be viewed as a turning point in the complex history of the euro-serbian relations, even if a Dutch and Belgian veto prevented it to actually enter into force, for the alleged lack of cooperation with the International Court for the Crimes in Former Yugoslavia on the part of the Serbian authorities. 
However, each of the above positive achievements has been met by negative and disturbing developments. If Albania and Croatia have been invited to join Nato, for instance, Fyrom was barred from getting such a success by the opposition of Greece, which is rooted in the still unsettled controversy over the official name of the Macedonian Republic. 
The complex heritage of the Nineties surfaced also elsewhere, with similar disappointing results. Despite the pro-atlantic and europeanist stance showed by both Croatia and Slovenia, a bitter and old sea border dispute between Lublijana and Zagreb broke up again, and the outcome of that diplomatic crisis was a sudden halt to the ratification process of the accession Treaty, which put in danger its completion before the Nato Summit of Strasburg and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Atlantic Alliance. 
Kosovo proclaimed itself independent, but it has been recognized as such only by 55 States out of the 192 represented in UNO. A not negligible number, higher than that of the two States recognizing Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia until now, but nonetheless still representing a mere 23-24% of the International Community at large. It is not time to despair, of course, but it is clearly too early to claim the universality of that recognition. The process to get it will take time. It should be also noticed that the UN General Assembly deferred the issue to the International Court of Justice, and that even the EU split over the independence of Kosovo, for that only 22 member States out of 27 recognized the new Republic, and there are still five Countries opposing the step: Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Romania, and Cyprus2. So the Western Balkans are still a source of political division and antagonism, both inside and outside the EU, as they used to be a century ago.
As far as intra-state relation is concerned, inside Kosovo it is still open the issue relating to the future of the Northern corner of  the new State, the area north of Ibar and the Northern side of Kosovska Mitrovica, where the hyphotesis of a de facto partition of the Country - backed by Belgrad and viewed by many independent analysts in Italy as an useful tool to strengthen the more Europeanist wing of the Serbian political system - enjoys strong support among the locals. 
The unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo prompted also the authorities of Republika Srpska to consider plans to organize a referendum to break away from Bosnia-Herzegovina, so putting at risk the completion of the stabilisation process now in the hands of the EU. It is also noteworthy that Eufor Althea should have been withdrawn by the end of 2008, and it is still in place.
Last but not least, the political and diplomatic struggle over the recognition of Kosovo sparked a wider debate on the right of ethnic communities to constitute themselves into independent States, with significant extra-regional spill-overs, for instance in the Caucasus, where Russia played a decisive role, linking Kosovo to the frozen conflicts between Georgia and its breakaway Republics of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia.

The need for long term 
structural solutions
So far the situation we inherited by the past year. But what about the future? The present contribution to this International Conference is mainly about the Western European perceptions on the matters. 
The prevailing view is that on the whole security conditions have improved in the Balkans, even if we are still confronted with some unsettled territorial disputes having a potential to evolve into open conflicts in the future. The perceived situation is one in which pushes for de-securitization and re-securitization persist side by side. 
If by de-securitization is meant a less urgent need for international troops on the ground, that trend is felt by the West, perhaps too much. Domestic pressure for substantial reductions of the detachments deployed in Bosnia, Kosovo and around is on the rise in many EU and Nato Countries. Military forces are required elsewhere, first of all in Afghanistan, and the actual threat of a new inter-state war between Serbia and the new Republic of Kosovo is considered quite remote. 
However, a demand for re-securitization is getting stronger relating to the intra-state dimension of the Balkan politics, both inside Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Confederal political institutions are seriously pressed by both the Serbs, and the Bosnian Muslims and Croats. However, while the International Community, the Atlantic Alliance and the EU are still committed to preserve the multiethnic nature of the new Balkan States, they currently prefer to pursue their aims by deploying light police forces, and even providing them with assistance in realm of Justice, the new Eulex mission operating in Kosovo being a case in point. 
Most of the analysts are also fully aware that the Balkans are and will remain in the next future a playground for some kind of power politics between the Russian Federation and the West, and possibly even among the main EU member States.
What is badly needed is a clear and viable structural solution for the area. When, a year ago, on February 21st, 2008 the then Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Massimo D'Alema, explained before the Parliament the rationale for the decision made by the Prodi Government to recognize the independence of Kosovo, he envisaged a comprehensive strategy, according to which the stabilization of the Balkans should have been achieved through the full Europeanization of the region.  
Only the complete integration of the Balkans into the EU - so the argument was going - could actually provide the area with a definitive tool to deprive of any meaning the territorial claims still on the floor, as it happened decades ago among Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, restoring also the economic unity of the region. 
The proposal made by D'Alema, and well before him also by Limes, the Italian Review of Geopolitics3, sounds logic, since the EU disbands the borders among its member States through the Schengen Agreement, which is part of the aquis communitaire. 
But the problem with such a vision is a lack of support inside the EU for any prospects of further large and challenging enlargements. It is probably both too late and too early for such a move.
The opposition is not coming by the Governments. Most of them could actually support such a strategy of inclusion for the Western Balkan States, and even force their national Parliaments to accept it. 
It is the EU common people to stand against. The last round of the enlargement process, which brought into the EU Bulgaria and Romania, has been perceived as a bitter failure by a significant percentage of the European population, and especially in Italy, Spain and France, where higher are the costs paid in terms of domestic insecurity and low wage competition. Relevant groups of EU taxpayers are also starting questioning the real outcome of the 2004 big round of accessions. 
The dramatic economic and financial crisis under way will make the situation even more difficult to manage, spreading fears and engendering growing support for new isolationist and protectionist policies, to be pursued both inside and outside the EU. In January 2009, the British workers went on strike just asking their Government to protect their jobs from the competition of cheaper foreign colleagues, coming not from Poland or the Baltic States, but from Italy and Portugal, and brought in by a multinational firm like Total. They were also successful, getting a compromise solution by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
In the meantime, common people could not easily understand anymore the need for an enlargement of the EU to the Balkans also because the memories of the wars fought in the Nineties are fading. While such a prospect would be resented by all the political forces opposing even the idea of a possible future accession of Turkey to the Union. 
So it seems quite difficult that the wide enlargement needed for the stabilization of the Balkans could occur before a long period of time. 

Prospects for future
This is not to say there is nothing we can do now. It is true right the opposite. A workable strategy to improve the security conditions in the Balkans over the next 5 to 15 years is more than ever necessary.
An enlargement of Nato could provide such a bridge solution, bringing enhanced stability to the region, encouraging investments by both local and foreign firms, and supporting in the end an accelerating economic recovery. 
US could lead the Alliance towards that achievement, as it is already doing, while there won't be significant opposition on the part of the "old" European Nato members States. The Treaties of accession to the Atlantic Alliance contain no transfer of national sovereignty to supranational bodies: and they will continue to be ratified by Parliaments without any popular consultation. 
It will be Nato to provide the Balkans with a transitional strategy to improve regional stability, making easier and less dramatic any future EU advance in the area. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic already set a happy precedent, joining the Atlantic Alliance in 1999, and the EU five years later. Also Bulgaria and Romania benefited by such a two step approach, getting Nato membership in 2004 and the EU one only three years later, perhaps even too early.
Of course, there will be still the problem of Serbia. 
It is plain to assume that Belgrad won't be interested in getting an invitation to join the Alliance in the near term, even if the memories of the 1999 bombing campaign should have faded long ago. In 1949, after all, Italy was among the founding members of the Atlantic Alliance, joining its former enemies shortly after the defeat. 
However, the Serbian public opinion is not yet ready for such a step. That is the reason why, while expanding Nato and waiting for the EU arrival in the Western Balkans, it will be important to find a way to engage Serbia. 
May be it won't be easy, because the price to pay could be emotionally relevant to most of the regional players, and even an unbearable one to some, but it is nonetheless worthy, unless we want to make of Serbia a geopolitical black hole in the midst of the Balkans, a potential pray of every kind of extremism and adventurism. 

1 During the riots, on February 21st, 2008 protesters raided several Embassies, including the US one,  as well as Western shops and banks, including the Italian Unicredit.
2 However, in some of these Countries the official attitude against recognition began to be openly criticized.  On February 16th, 2009, for instance, the progressive daily newspaper El Pais published a column by Jos衉gnacio Terrablanca stressing the opportunity for Spain to align herself in that regard to the position assumed by the Western most advanced democracies, including Canada, France and UK, whose Governments granted full diplomatic support to independent Kosovo despite their domestic problems with Quebec, Corse, and Scotland. 
3 See Lucio Caracciolo and Michel Korinman, Progetto Euroslavia, Limes, Italian Review of Geopolitics, No. 4/1995, pp. 7-10.

Speech held Feb.21 at the 4th Albanian Institute for International Studies Security Conference titled "Desecuritization and Resecuritization of Western Balkan Inter/Intrastate relations."
* General Secretary and Director of Research of the Centre for Strategic Studies and International Politics, Rome, Italy


                    [post_title] =>  An Evolution of the Political and Security Situation in the Western Balkans 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-03-27 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => The presidential and the mayors' elections held in Macedonia Sunday, 21 March, offer an interesting though partial and to some degree refutable view of the composition of the Macedonian electorate as compared to the overall Macedonian population. Referring to the State Election Commission of Macedonia, the turnout at the presidential election was 56.44 %. On results based on data following the processing at 2823 polling places or 94.86 % of the votes cast, the Albanian candidates for presidency Imer Selmani (New Democracy), Agron Buxhaku (Democratic Union for Integration) and Mirushe Hoxha (Albanian Democratic Party) totaled 250643 votes (25.58 % of the votes). The Macedonian candidates totaled 728973 votes (74.41 % of the votes).  The State Election Commission of Macedonia states that the election was not held in 134 polling stations. The voting participation of the Albanian electors compared to the Macedonian electors is unclear, and the general turnout at last Sunday's elections is lower than, for example, at the 2002 elections.  Many more Albanians from Macedonia (calculated in ratio to the stock of Albanians living in Macedonia) are reported to live abroad than Macedonians living abroad (calculated in ratio to the stock of Macedonians living in Macedonia). Many of them might not vote. But, if we were to refer to former elections, Albanian participation in the elections has generally been poorer than the Macedonian participation.
Cross-voting is thought to be low and should not account yet as a major contradictor to the ethnic vote, though the most successful Albanian candidate Imer Selmani (14.99 % of the votes) called for "an Obama effect in Macedonia" previous to the elections. The population in age to vote (over 18 years of age) might count out of the electoral body a larger part of the younger Albanian population than the Macedonian counterpart. The Macedonians consider the Albanians as the larger ethnic group that has a younger age structure than themselves.  This factor, as well as the historic tendency of Albanians voting less than the Macedonians might induce to think that, with more than 25 % of the voters in the last presidential elections, the Albanians might represent in Macedonia an ethnic body of nearly 30 % of the total Macedonian population. Whatever be the accurate percentage of Albanians in Macedonia, the Albanian vote will be perhaps determinant in electing the country's future president in the election runoff of 5 April. 

                    [post_title] =>  The elections in Macedonia seen from the demographic point of view 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-03-20 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => It was the first anniversary of Kosovo independence last week.  Aside from a few page seven columns it got little notice in Britain or the US.  Nor did the poll commissioned by a Kosovo thinktank that only 6% of convicted heroin dealers in Italy were ethnic Albanian.  60% were Italian and 21% North African, apparently.  How many of the Italian citizens were in fact Albanian in origin was not revealed.  Its all how you present it.

So how is Kosovo doing?  Not very well, really. At least on the diplomatic front.  The Serbians have succeeded in preventing some of the major players, even EU countries such as Spain, from recognising the state at all, in addition to the usual suspects of Russia, China et al, who will be recognising Kosovo when hell freezes over.  Three quarters of the world's countries have not recognised Kosovo.

In the long run, if this situation persists Kosovo is in serious trouble. With its major neighbour not talking to it, and more importantly not allowing trade, development is hardly assured. They shot themselves in the foot badly by the way they treated their Serbs. The riots of 17th March 2004 being almost certainly orchestrated by individuals now within the government were a bad strategic mistqake, as they cast real doubts, or even more real doubts on the good faith of those in charge. 
 
 I have to say, seeing Thaci as Prime Minister is an afront.  The German intelligence service BND has indicated that he was heavily involved in organised crime.  It is surely nothing less than a disgrace that he is the face of Kosovo.  Mind you, I suppose, Berlusconi is Prime Minister of Italy, so it is hardly unique.  Whatever the truth about the BND conclusions (and who do you believe?) for decent Serbs who still await the return of over 1000 dead civilians' bodies from wherever KLA killers disposed them, Kosovo is not now their country.      

Kosovo has to work the war criminals and gangsters out of its system, as Serbia is doing.  Thankfully Harudinaj and Limaj, the KLA 'indictees acquitted at the Hague after witnesses mysteriously failed to give evidence, seem no longer to be openly in government.  Similarly Agim Ceku, who came within a hairs breadth of an indictment in the Hague due to his dubious activities in the Croatian so-called Army, is no longer running the the Kosovo Security Force as I believe it is now called.
 
If it wishes to begin to be taken seriously, Kosovo needs to have serious people governing it.  There are very many excellent men and women in Kosovo, They need their chance.   Ex-guerrillas of dubious integrity have got to go.

                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo - The Guerrillas have got to go   
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                    [post_content] => By  Warren Anderson

40 years ago, in 1968,  America was at war in the quagmires of Vietnam. She was at war with herself at home over culture, politics, poverty, generational differences and race. She was in a Cold War with an evil foe that would use any trick or lie to get ahead and to keep their people ignorant and subservient. She had lost to assassination two great leaders that may have had answers to keep violence and hatred down in the streets, but instead whose deaths caused the destruction of neighborhoods and violent city riots throughout America.
40 years ago, in 1968, my father had to take my friend home because his father could not come and pick him up. Not because they did not have a car. Not because his father was busy. But because he was black and we lived in segregated Chicago. He lived only a few blocks from me on the South Side of Chicago, but it may as well have been on the moon, because there was no way his father could drive to a white neighborhood and leave alive. But we could take him home and cross the race line.
40 years ago, in 1968, my mother took me to the Chicago Public library. I remember seeing drawings done by black kids my age or a little older. Between 6-10 years old. They were disturbing drawings for me, for they depicted blacks and whites fighting and killing each other. I remember asking my mother if my friend, Anderson Parks, wanted to do that to me.
40 years ago, in 1968, America was faced with a crucial election. President Johnson, reviled for the Vietnam War and not so popular in the South for his advancement of crucial Civil Rights legislation, had decided not to run. His Vice President, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, had decided to run for the Democratic nomination. Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota was running as well, in place of the murdered Senator Robert Kennedy. The convention would be in Chicago, personal fiefdom of THE Mayor Richard J. Daley. A Chicago, Dr. Martin Luther King learned earlier, that was more dangerous and more racist than perhaps even the South. In 1968, after the riots sparked by King's murder, Mayor Daley gives Chicago Police the order ..."to shoot to kill any arsonist and to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting."
40 years ago, in 1968, in Grant Park, Chisaid by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."
The crowd erupted again, many obviously moved to tears by the words and sentiment expressed. It was a simple speech that touched simple but true themes and forgotten truths about America, the American character and American history.
As quickly as the Mall had filled, it began emptying. The cold was compounded by a very brisk wind, making the temperature feel even colder on exposed skin. Yet, again, people were in great spirits. It felt as though there had been a new dawn, a turning point in American history. It felt the same way after President Ronald Reagan's first inauguration, replacing Carter. At that time it felt like we finally had someone who knew what to do at the helm of the ship of state. Our enemies would fear us, not laugh at us. The hostages were freed.
Tradition states that after the Inauguration there is a lunch for the new President. Senator Ted Kennedy, a stalwart and crucial early supporter of Obama's, fell ill, causing concern from the new President as well as Congressional colleagues. He is expected to be out of the hospital shortly.
Delayed due to the lunch, as usual, the next order of business in Washington, D.C. was the Inaugural parade. Those watching TV and those with tickets for the bleachers along the parade route, and who were fortunate enough to get through security check points quickly, saw the new President and First Lady walk a fair distance of the 1.5 mile route. Cheering and jubilation were evident on the faces of those waving fervently at the First Couple.
The parade, made up of over 10,000 people from all 50 states, lasted longer than most of those who paid to sit and watch them. The biting cold and the desire to get ready for the Inaugural Balls probably had something to do with that. Even the Presidential viewing stand was empty but for the President, his wife and security and staff.
An Inauguration is not complete without Inaugural Balls, and this inauguration had 10 official balls. The President and First Lady, as well as the new Vice-President and his wife attended each of the ten. The President started with the Neighborhood Ball, where he showed that he was either very tired or just could not dance. He said and did the same at each, finishing at the Ball held at Union Station just before 1AM, over an hour ahead of schedule.
At the end of a long day it was obvious a line had been crossed. Finally, America had someone in place who knew what Americans were thinking, how they felt and that could actually articulate those thoughts. It was also obvious Obama could coherently state what was needed to be done and had the guts and the sense to tell Americans what they needed to do, as well as the sacrifices and difficulties that lay ahead. But most importantly, on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009, President Barack Hussein Obama gave America hope. We have done it before, many times. We can do it again. Yes we can!
                    [post_title] =>  40 Years Dream...  
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            [post_content] => By: Tim Judah

In the second week of February at the regular Monday morning editorial conference of the Economist, decisions were being taken on what should be in the next issue. The Europe editor said that he planned to run a piece on the first anniversary of Kosovo's independence. A fellow editor interjected: "We'll that was a disaster wasn't itš"  In many circles this is a common refrain and a common perception. It is also, of course, quite wrong. 
One year on is a good moment to take stock of the situation in the region; to consider the fears that preceded Kosovo's declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, what has happened since and how nature of regional stability has changed. It is also a good moment to discuss the nature of the political landscape today, ie., which problems remain - and what is new, above all in the wake of the world financial crisis. 
On the eve of Kosovo's independence a diplomat in Pristina who had been very involved in crafting the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, the now Nobel peace laureate, for the territory looked gloomy. He was unhappy, not because Kosovo was about to declare independence but because it had not happened as he and his colleagues had planned. Serbia had not agreed to the Ahtisaari package and backed by the then resurgent Russia had indeed indeed actively opposed it. This, was not supposed to have happened. It meant, he said, that we had not got to "final status" or the end of the book, but rather we were simply closing one chapter on the story of Kosovo's status and opening another. "We had hoped we would be finishing the book by now," he said.
What he said was true and his downbeat assessment was correct but the gloomy predictions of many sceptics about the results of Kosovo's independence have since proved unfounded. Let's consider what they were: 
Firstly that there would be an exodus of the remaining Serbian population and that we would once again see columns of tearful refugees stuffed into cars and on tractors. 
Secondly that there would be a new upsurge of violence in Kosovo which also might spill over into the rest of the region, especially the Presevo Valley and Macedonia.
Thirdly that Serbia would fall into the hands of radical nationalists and finally that Kosovo would open the Pandora's box of secessionists across the world, starting with the Republika Srpska.  
Let's look at those one by one. Firstly, there was of course, no Serbian exodus. This was due to several factors none the least being the desire of both Serbian and Albanian leaders to avoid one and to avoid giving cause for one. A Serbian exodus would have been a disaster for all, quite apart from the people actually fleeing. It would have dogged the birth of the new state and hung over it as a kind of "original sin" - however caused, just as the 1948 exodus of Palestinians from the nascent State of Israel has been. In that sense, in terms of the media, political and historical impact of such an exodus it would have been far, far greater than that of the flight of Serbs in 1999. 
But, in terms of a balance sheet, there was a price to pay for this success of course. Barring a huge upsurge of violence there was no real fear of an exodus from the north of Kosovo, above the Ibar river. The real fear concerned those Serbs in the enclaves numbering perhaps 60,000. The price has been, and is, the fact that Pristina's authority does not run in these areas. 
The north lies completely beyond the remit of the authorities in Pristina, despite the symbolic presence of Serbian police in the uniforms of the Kosovo Police Service and officials from the EU's police and justice mission EULEX, on the border. 
Secondly; violence. Yes, there have been violent incidents, but far fewer than most expected. There was, in the wake of the declaration of independence the burning down, with the approval of the government, or parts of it, of the then Serbian premier Vojislav Kostunica, of the northern border posts and the tragic death of one Ukrainian soldier in a riot in Mitrovica. In recent months there have been bombs in Mitrovica too but no casualties. By contrast it is striking how at the edge of Gracanica, 10kms from Pristina, Serbian and Albanian businesses of all kinds now sit cheek by jowl next to one another in a way that has not been seen since 1999. There has of course also been no "spill over" violence in either Presevo or Macedonia. 
Thirdly: The fear that Serbia would fall into the hands of extreme nationalists. This was another legitimate fear but one which did not happen. On February 3rd Boris Tadic beat Tomislav Nikolic the then leader of the Serbian Radical Party by only three per cent in the presidential election. In the wake of Kosovo's declaration of independence some 200,000 people came or were bussed into the centre of Belgrade to hear Serbian leaders reject independence and Metropolitan Amfilohije saying: "Kosovo and Metohija are the apple of our eye, the heart of our hearts, our holy city of JerusalemƩn this worldly life nor in God's eternal one, any more than we can renounce our own soul and our own destiny" After that demonstration, and most likely with the connivance of elements of the security services, the US embassy was attacked and one of the attackers died in the fire. 
(Continued from page 7)

Then what happened? On May 11th Serbia elected a strongly pro-European government and most extraordinarily the Radical Party, which for so long had teetered on the brink of power had imploded by autumn, splitting into two and thus neutralising itself as a nationalist threat. Vojislav Kostunica is now a marginalised figure while Mr Nikolic is now a welcome guest amongst the diplomats as he seeks to reposition his party, the Serbian People's Party, (SNS) in the same way that Mr Sanader did with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in the wake of the death of its founder Franjo Tudjman. One of Serbia's problems is that now the (old) Radicals are vastly over represented in parliament compared to their support in public. 
And look at the figures too. A poll published last week taken by Strategic Marketing, a reliable Belgrade pollster found that 61.27% of Serbs thought that Kosovo was lost, 22% thought it was not while 16.23% had no opinion. In other words two of thirds at least have no illusions. 
Does that mean that Kosovo has disappeared from the Serbian government's public discourse? No, but the reasons for talking about it may be different from before. 
Let's consider its actions. It opposed the deployment of EULEX. It mounted a successful campaign to have the General Assembly refer the issue of Kosovo's independence to the International Court of Justice. It has banned exports from Kosovo bearing the stamp "Republic of Kosovo" and it has retained political control over Serbs in Kosovo. 
The ICJ campaign was an undoubted success for Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian foreign minister. In effect it has closed off the possibility of many more states beyond the 55 that now recognise Kosovo from doing so. In this way Kosovo remains in a kind of unusual limbo. It is recognised by many, but not all of the most important states in the world. It has no prospect of joining the UN for the foreseeable future, but a strong possibility of joining other organisations such as the IMF and World Bank. The ICJ move has also helped cement the division between those EU states that have recognised Kosovo and the five "refuseniks". Kosovo's government, lacking the experience and assets of Serbia's has been unable to mount a successful counter-offensive nor take effective counter measures on the trade issue, which it could, bearing in the mind the huge imbalance in Serbia's favour of the balance of trade. 
What is Serbia, or specifically Mr Jeremic and President Tadic, playing at here? The answer is, as I say, to watch what they do, not what they say. Kosovo, in the wake of independence was not sealed off, the borders were not closed and rhetoric aside, moves have been made to damp down possible flash points. The appointment to do just that of Oliver Ivanovic as deputy head of Serbia's Kosovo ministry is a case in point, in that his friendship and contacts with many Kosovo Albanian leaders has proved an asset and effective means of communication. 
Serbia's government publicly opposed EULEX. It then played hardball and won certain concessions important to it and for presentation purposes to its public. Now, neither side is happy but then neither lost much either. EULEX is deployed across all of Kosovo which many thought that would never happen. In the north, and on the borders, its presence may be symbolic, but that, for now, is better than nothing. 
Mr Jeremic's Kosovo campaign can be put down then to two perhaps not very surprising things. The first is that, being a politician, the issue serves him well. His popularity has grown thanks to the question and he is often talked about as a future prime minister. But, the campaign also serves to neutralise any possible opposition in Serbia accusing the Democratic Party of being unpatriotic and treacherous etc. In the longer term the aim may well be, or indeed actually is, in the minds of some high placed Democratic Party officials at least a way to position the party in such a way that it's nationalist credentials cannot be questioned if it proposes a formal partition of Kosovo in a few years, not excluding an exchange of territories for parts of Presevo. When it comes to the strategic rail and road links which pass through Presevo and have always been cited as a reason why this could not happen, there would appear to be no reason why diversions could not be built to bypass this problem. How realistic this is remains to be seen, how desirable too - but it certainly is an idea circulating at the top levels of the Serbian government.
The question of partition and division brings us onto the fourth issue on our list. The famous "Pandora's box". Did Kosovo's declaration of independence make the break up of existing states more likely? Undeniably the issue of Kosovo has been used, up to a point, in the discourse of Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of the Republika Srpska and of course Kosovo was cited when Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But, we have to be realistic here. Bosnia and it internal relations would hardly be easier if Kosovo did not exist. Indeed, the interesting thing is how Mr Dodik used Kosovo only briefly as a precedent before moving on. Above all though we need to consider the fact that Mr Dodik is interested in being a big fish in a small pond and that means remaining being exactly where he is now, retaining power for the RS but not destroying Bosnia entirely. It is not in his strategic interest to destroy Bosnia and not in Serbia's either. The prospect of an embittered and hence potentially radical Muslim statelet around Sarajevo is not a prospect which the current Serbian leadership finds appealing.  
As for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s it is instructive that apart from Russia only one or two other states have recognised them, such as Nicaragua and that Russia failed utterly in persuading even the states within its sphere of influence to follow it in recognising them. So it seems that difficult though Kosovo's birth was it was clear that a good many countries recognised the legitimacy of its claim to independence and self-determination in the post-Yugoslav context, whatever the legal technicalities. Many of course did not, but such a difference between the cases suggests that new states will emerge on their own merits, not because of what happened in Kosovo or South Ossetia. 
One year after Kosovo declared independence it is clear that the balance sheet is far more positive than negative. Independence has not led to new instability and indeed more likely staved that off. Having said that it is clear it has not solved all the residual post-Yugoslav problems of its inheritance either. In the short term though many are details rather than big picture questions - ie., what will happen to customs revenue from the north. In the medium term, we are likely to have more of the same, ie., a de facto divided Kosovo, which has been the case of course for the last decade, with  manageable outbursts of violence and in the longer term, in theory, increasing clout from the EU about coming to a final, "final settlement" in exchange for membership. But even that is questionable. After all, even states we think of as finished and final are open to question. Is the United Kingdom a final or an evolving state? How will it look in ten years? Will it still exist in ten years or will Scotland have seceded? 
Now we are into the realm of hypotheticals of course, but it seems to me that in fact the Balkans are moving in a direction which is somewhat novel. Despite the difficulties inherent in European integration this is a process which would seem to me to be irreversible, if not a long road strewn with difficulties. What we will see is a consolidation of generally weak states within their existing borders, but equally the ever clearer emergence of overlapping spheres. For example the Albanian sphere in terms of academia, business, media, culture and transport. The Serbian sphere covering the regions where Serbs live and of course smaller Croatian and Bosniak spheres. These are naturally developments and are plain already and they are not mutually exclusive. An Albanian from Tuzi can work happily in Podgorica, watch Kosovo or Albanian television and do business with colleagues from anywhere in the former Yugoslav states. 
Finally: The next year promises all sorts of challenges but for the first time in two decades these very challenges are not unique to the Balkans. They are all the fallout for the world financial crisis. For example how Serbia will deal with unemployment when its hitherto largest exporter, US Steel starts sacking now idle workers, or how Kosovo copes as remittances from a cash strapped diaspora fall off and no more or less easy to deal with or different than how Ukraine deals with unemployed steel workers in the east or Armenia deals with a decline in remittances. There is one key difference in the western Balkans which can help inoculate it from social unrest and worse, and that is that the experience of the 1990s was so bad for most people that whatever the financial crisis throws at them now it will not be worse than that. In other words, they have a far higher threshold of pain and thus greater resilience than the average European, certainly from the west and central Europe and for the most part from the rest of it too. 
Kosovo plus one then: Perhaps seven out of ten. Problems upcoming will be mainly due to fallout from the world financial crisis. Meanwhile a new Balkan political and economic geography is beginning to emerge within the confines of existing borders. The existing setup in Kosovo, ie., Kosovo pretends it is sovereign all of its territory and Serbia pretends Kosovo is independent cannot last forever, but there is no reason to suppose it cannot last for the many years to come, nor that some form of deal for the north can eventually be struck which will fail to satisfy both sides but be just enough to unlock the current frozen situation.  

Speech held Feb.21 at the 4th Albanian Institute for International Studies Security Conference titled "Desecuritization and Resecuritization of Western Balkan Inter/Intrastate relations."

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