Slower But Surer Progress Towards Enlargement

The Western Balkans will have to wait until the EU has agreed its constitutional reforms, which won’t happen before 2009. By Peter Sain ley Berry This week, on June 20, European Union leaders sit down for their summer summit in

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All the president’s men

In a short editorial of this week, one of the most influential Albanian dailies, continued to repeat “imagine if Nano became President,” “imagine if he did get the votes”, “imagine if he did secure the approval ofŢ, imagine this about

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“Lost paradise”- the new ban on smoking

By enforcing a ban on smoking in public areas, Albania joined the other 121 countries where smoking in public places and advertisements of cigarettes is forbidden. The ban aims primarily at safeguarding public health by reducing rate of second-hand smoking

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Managing informality: A structural approach instead of guerrilla battle

By ȡpajev Gjokutaj* Civil society, by virtue of being an advocate of citizens’ interests, is highly interested in the debate about reducing informality. Recent data that point to an overwhelming 40-50 percent of informality in the country economy show that

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Serbia’s Radicalism Helps Kosova

By Janusz Bugajski The fragility of the newly formed Serbian government and the rising power of the ultra-nationalist Radical Party underscore why Kosova needs to be permanently separated from an unstable Serbian state. Although a last minute government coalition was

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The power of the individual

By Alba Cela A few weeks ago, a member of the DP parliamentary group, Gilman Bakalli resigned from the group and became an independent MP. The media storm that followed has abated now. The sensational and unexpected declarations of Bakalli

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Games Serbia P[l]ays

By Ivan Delibasic “Sadly, Serbia is not a Russian province, but it surely will never be an EU colony.” These words, spoken out by newly elected Speaker of Serbian Parliament [and the Speaker himself] are the outcome of a constant

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The Terrors Of Justice In Montenegro: Free the Tuzi Fourteen

by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi It has been more than six months since fourteen Albanians, including three American citizens, were seized from their beds in Tuzi in the wee hours of the morning of September 9, 2006, by a masked and

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Albanians should all feel a sense of disgust about the Fort Dix plot

Albanians, and particularly those Kosovars who took refuge at Fort Dix in 1999, may want to express your gratitude to the soldiers at Fort Dix. If so, one way to communicate this message is via this address: Col. R. David

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The Presidential Puzzle

By Jerina Zaloshnja TIRANA, May 4 – Though there is less than a month till the election for the country’s new president, the ruling government coalition and the opposition are far from a consensus for a presidential candidate. Prime Minister

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                    [post_content] => The Western Balkans will have to wait until the EU has agreed its constitutional reforms, which won't happen before 2009. 
By Peter Sain ley Berry
This week, on June 20, European Union leaders sit down for their summer summit in Brussels. The summit is supposed to last for two days but the discussions at the European Council may well drag on into a third or fourth day of tense negotiations, as the 27 states grapple with important institutional reforms that will shape the Union for years to come. 
What will be the effect of these reforms on Western Balkan entry prospects? And will a successful outcome to these negotiations remove what has been a block on substantive progress during the past two years? 
We should take nothing for granted. It is still possible that Poland may veto the talks, as it has threatened to do, unless it is allowed to maintain its present voting strength in Council of Ministers meetings. Should this happen, the whole process of constitutional reform will be thrown back and enlargement blocked for an indefinite period. 
But a Polish veto is only one of several potential stumbling blocks; there are big differences between what most nations want to keep from the old constitutional treaty and what countries like Britain and the Czech Republic are prepared to entertain. Major compromises will be required from both sides.  
Even if the talks are successful and the leaders agree a framework for a new "Reform Treaty" there is still no guarantee that among the 27 nations there won't be one that fails to ratify the document. This is despite the fact that the treaty has been designed to avoid the necessity for ratification by referendum. This is crucial in France and The Netherlands on the rock of whose electorates the original constitutional treaty crashed in 2005. 
But assuming all goes well, the ratification process should be complete by 2009. It will only be after that, I suspect, that a new enlargement window will open up. 
That doesn't mean accession talks will not proceed in the meantime. While the new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has indicated that he does not see Turkey as a future member, he agrees that the Western Balkan states should join at some point. It is just a question of when. 
Nevertheless, as one reason for the negative results in France and the Netherlands was the speed with which the EU was enlarging, the new treaty is likely to contain references to the EU's capacity to accommodate new arrivals. We may, therefore, be looking at accession processes that are more gradual. 
It is also doubtful whether the summit will really get to grips with the thorny question of exactly how a Union of 33 or more states should be run; how decisions should be made and how states should be represented - in order to ensure the efficient conduct of business.  
In essence, European leaders are discussing constitutional provisions originally designed for six states and developed to accommodate 15 and now 27 states. But the whole character of an organisation changes as its membership increases. Achieving a consensus among a partnership of 30 is many more times more difficult than achieving one among 15. 
Such questions will need to be addressed once the framework of the new treaty becomes clear. The sooner such discussions start the better, so that some conclusions may be available before 2009. 
As for Turkey, the French President has suggested that instead of joining the Union, it might position itself at the centre of a Mediterranean community, linked to, but not part of, the EU. Which other countries this community might embrace is not clear, however. Moreover, Turkey has made it clear it opposes being asked to take any path that does not end with EU membership.  
We shall need to see how much support Mr Sarkozy receives for his suggestion. Yet the idea of countries working together is surely a good one. I suggested something similar myself in an earlier article in this newsletter. (See http://www.birn.eu.com/en/58/10/1583/?ILStart=20 ) 
In the Western Balkans, a form of competitive entry in which states race to squeeze in under a closing door could be replaced by collective or community entry.  
A group of states that worked together to form common institutions and to meet EU entry requirements might join together, preserving some regional autonomy within the overall Union structure. 
Such "community" thinking may have a further advantage. It is hard to see any lasting stability for Kosovo outside a wider collective framework that embraces all relevant interests.  
Self-determination will no doubt ultimately prove the guiding principle in a final status settlement; it is hard to see where else the future of Kosovo could lie.  
But the more such a solution is wrapped in a community framework the less the trauma for all concerned. Thus, slow but surer progress could well be the message from this summit. 
Peter Sain ley Berry has worked as a consultant with various European companies and undertaken information work for the European Commission. He contributes a weekly political column to the Brussels based EUobserver and is the editor of Europaworld.
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                    [post_content] => In a short editorial of this week, one of the most influential Albanian dailies, continued to repeat "imagine if Nano became President," "imagine if he did get the votes", "imagine if he did secure the approval ofŢ, imagine this about Nano, imagine that! Indeed Fatos Nano has few chances to become President, thus the imaginary feelings are almost justified. Nevertheless his shrewd political approach deserves credit and with a bit of luck he could as well succeeds leaving not much room to imagination.
Everyone seems to be in love with Nano all of a sudden. In the weekend, former strong opponent Nikolle Lesi held his hand. In Nano's own words, "Lesi showed traditional highlander generosity in accepting the auto-critical approach towards the past." If Lesi finds it reasonable to extend this generosity to the present as well, Nano might find himself with a couple of votes more from the Demo-Christian Party. Indeed, coming out of the SP's office meeting, where Mr. Nano received a cold shower, one might think that he does not stand a real chance. But did you notice Mr. Nano tremble? Did he sound insecure; did he say anything about refusal? No, on the contrary he said they had resumed the partnership. Is it important what he says? It has always been.
But why talk about trifles when Mr. Nano seems to have the most important and decisive support of "the one" and only man who can command a majority of votes in the parliament, the Prime Minister himself.
Lets take a look at the other competitors: The candidate of the majority is the head of DP's parliamentary group and a very popular figure Bamir Topi.
In the last meetings of the right-wing coalition currently in power, though one by one all important names are withdrawing the de-facto support for Bamir Topi, reserving him a place only in the appraisals ledger.
Current president Alfred Moisiu was backed to a certain extent by Edi Rama and received positive feedback for his work by President Bush as well during is visit on June10. Moisiu though does not stand good chances because the DP has repeatedly voiced their disapproval of him with Parliament Head and DP's number two, Jozefina Topalli leading a staunch word-battle against him.
Unless we consider Albanians love for surprises, which can perfectly well turn out to be the decisive factors, others candidates can pose no real challenge to Nano's name.
It is true that Nano does not enjoy the support of the opposition and has never been considered a consensual option. Nevertheless he does have many supporters within the SP, which would rather ruin their political career than abandon him and his interests. This was obvious in the Congress of the Sp in April where the tension between supporters of current SP leader Edi Rama and former leader Nano grew to a boiling point.
To most actors of the civil society, media analysts and all sorts of other paper-mongers, the return of l'enfant terrible has seemed as impossible, unthinkable, abhorring and a list of other synonyms of indignation.
Nevertheless, like all political games, Nano's one has a sound reasonable expectation supporting it, a good calculation of either numbers of media effects (after all a nice presidential campaign means that he can still run the show.)
Hence the scenario where a Prime Minister accused of setting Albania in flames in 1997 and another one who fled it the year after when the crowds challenged his authority are going to have an absolute grip on Albanian politics is scary despite being with a lit bit of luck, justƩmaginary.
                    [post_title] =>  All the president's men 
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                    [post_content] => By enforcing a ban on smoking in public areas, Albania joined the other 121 countries where smoking in public places and advertisements of cigarettes is forbidden. The ban aims primarily at safeguarding public health by reducing rate of second-hand smoking exposure. There are over 850,000 smokers in Albania, were the total number of inhabitants is just above 3 million, and they spend annually about 300 million euro on cigarettes, according to the Institute of Public Health in Albania.

It used to be the heaven of smokers, a country where the fumes would rise up in every public space and no one could complain on such "ludicrous" reasons as passive smoking danger or bad smell. All age ranges, from teenagers to old people, and recently independent of any gender differences, would light up enjoying the pleasures of their vice wherever, whenever. Their reality though was shattered. From last Friday's midnight though all Albanian smokers will have to battle away their day with the humorous tyranny of no smoking signs everywhere, looking avidly for tables in the verandas of bars and clubs where their little smoking corners are unaffected. 

A European law - a global tendency
The ban on public smoking is a requirement of the Association and Stabilization Agreement with the European Union. Its benefits include the protection of non-smokers form the hazards of passive inhaling of fumes, the potential reduction of the number of smokers and more realistically the reduction of the quantity of nicotine a smoker inhales daily. In the meantime a state-sponsored action will be taken to reduce the number of tobacco advertisements in public areas. The new law also stipulated ban on all such ads.
The law also imposes age-limit for purchasing cigarettes. Selling tobacco products to minors could be a subject of fines of up to $1000. Indeed smoking among young ages has always been a very important issue. Scenes where children as young as 10 years old smoking cigarettes on the streets, and especially scenes with Roma children even younger than that asking people for cigarettes have been depressingly common. 
In fact smoking bans are discussed and implemented worldwide. The United States for example, has some of the toughest laws against smoking not only in public closed spaces but also within close ranges of any sort of building. These laws and regulations vary according to specific states but the general tendency is towards more regulation and less space for smokers. This is based on research that has found smoke-filled rooms contain up to 50 times the number of cancer-causing particles as nonsmoking rooms. This is a truly dire situation for restaurant and bar employees who, unlike customers, have no way around inhaling second-hand smoke.

Small business in difficulty
When the first rumors were heard about the possibility of such a regulation, people did not believe it. They brought up explanations of how the industry of bars and clubs would experience a shock. They clearly underestimated the capacity of the most established members of this industry to adapt parts of their ambiences to the new law. Most of the bars now have separated areas with open spaces dedicated to smokers and inside spaces carrying the sign that ban smoking.
Nevertheless the majority of the little coffee- houses and bars do not have the space need for a veranda or an open space. These small businesses are at the brink of collapse given that their customers will look towards new places where they can still enjoy their addiction. 

Upcoming seasons
The timing of the law could not have been better. The summer season in front of us guarantees a gradual suffering for all smokers who will now be only partially affected given the possibility to smoke in outdoors spaces. The real challenge will arrive with the advent of the cold season where outdoor caf顳itting will no longer be possible. Up until then it remains to hope that bars and clubs will have adapted special rooms with all safety and isolation requirements to offer to their loyal smoking clients so that they do not freeze out in the cold. 
                    [post_title] =>  "Lost paradise"- the new ban on smoking 
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                    [post_content] => By ȡpajev Gjokutaj*

Civil society, by virtue of being an advocate of citizens' interests, is highly interested in the debate about reducing informality. Recent data that point to an overwhelming 40-50 percent of informality in the country economy show that half of the national revenues are not subject of redistribution and consequently do not contribute to the reduction of poverty, to the improvement of social services and to the living standards of Albanians in general. 
The fight against informality is a process that encompasses many aspects but its success or failure will depend on two main variables: the need to guarantee a wide political and social support and the avoidance of the spontaneity by conceptualizing a systemic reform. 
The government as the principal actor to coordinate the measures against informality is under the obligation to equilibrate the contributions form business actors, civil society, media and all other relevant ones. 
Albanian informality is a quasi-endemic occurrence affecting vital sectors. Hence the recovery from this dangerous phenomenon can only be gradual. In this context the wide support of important factors, the participation of interest groups and transparency throughout the process are mandatory to guarantee its success.  Simultaneously the fight against informality should not affect negatively the values of business and free enterprise- let alone destroying investment- but modify their relationship with institutional values. 
The government is justified to consider economic informality as the main problem, especially fiscal evasion given its midterm concern of fulfilling electoral promises, which require more funds in the state budget.
However, the civil society actors view informality in a wider perspective and hence justify the civic concern to design a comprehensive and long-term reform that addresses all its aspects, ranging from blood-feuds (informal justice) to black labor (informal employment). 
In the recent public discourse, frequent reference has been made to the phenomena of informality in the activities of political parties and especially to the relationships between sponsoring business and parties in times of electoral campaigns. Besides being non-transparent, these funds often come in the form of payment for future quid-pro-quo favors in decision-making such as tenders, and affect largely the law-making process. 
In this context the "party- politics- business - electoral campaigns" informal schemes become very dangerous because it serves as a mechanism towards state capture. Fighting this sort of informality then becomes a priority for both the society and its institutions given the strategic importance of the decision-making process that it seeks to undermine. 
The conceptualization of the anti-informality reform as an all-encompassing movement would require a comprehensive vision and would guarantee wider support from different components of the society. The public needs to perceive this fight as a systematic and upfront effort and not a segmented, guerrilla-like battle with no clear strategy. 

* Executive director, 
Soros Foundation Albania
                    [post_title] =>  Managing informality: A structural approach instead of guerrilla battle 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-05-25 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
The fragility of the newly formed Serbian government and the rising power of the ultra-nationalist Radical Party underscore why Kosova needs to be permanently separated from an unstable Serbian state. 
Although a last minute government coalition was stitched together by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic shortly before the election deadline, there is major uncertainty on how long this agreement will last. Even more importantly, the Radicals will be waiting on the wings seeking to capitalize on coalition conflicts and the imminent independence of Kosova.  
If there are new elections, the Radicals look set to increase their share of the vote and even form  the next administration. This will have serious implications for Kosova and for Serbia's relations with the outside world. 
Negotiations on a Western-oriented government have dragged on for over three months primarily because of disputes over the allocation of key security posts. The President was outraged by Kostunica's demands that his party control the country's defense, police, and security services. 
The more moderate Tadic democrats are willing to cooperate with The Hague tribunal by delivering General Ratko Mladic to the tribunal and reforming the security sector in preparation for future NATO entry. As a result, Kostunica has accused Tadic of being a puppet of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). 
Kostunica's stubbornness on the ICTY and the immaturity of much of the Serbian elite has damaged Belgrade's credibility as an international partner. With regard to Kosova, Serbian officialdom are committing at least three self-damaging errors.
First, by placing their hopes in a Russian veto at the UN Security Council, Belgrade is viewed as the capital of diplomatic cowardice. By heating up the Russian question Kostunica and company are viewed as willing to endanger European unity for their own historical myths.
Second, by failing to form a government for three months, no major Serbian politician seemed willing to assume power when key decisions are made over Kosova. Each leader is more concerned how they will look in history books instead of focusing on improving the lives of ordinary Serbian voters.
Third, the rise of the Radicals will place the final seal on international decisions over Kosova. A government that includes aggressive nationalists with claims to neighboring territories and whose leader is on trial in The Hague, will severely damage Serbia's relations with the EU. 
If the Radicals enter government, Serbia will slip even further behind its neighbors in terms of European integration, economic reform, and national security. Clearly, all the former Yugoslav republics and Kosova itself made the right decision by leaving a sinking ship in which the navigators themselves continue to punch holes in the hull. Tethered to Serbia, Kosova's chances of economic progress and Europeanization would look bleak.
The prospect of an ultra-nationalist government compounds the concerns of international powers over Belgrade's response to Kosova's independence. The Radicals were at the forefront of organizing death squads, which targeted unarmed civilians in Bosnia and Croatia. Such exercises could be repeated for the alleged glory of Serbia. 
There are indications that Radicals and veterans of previous ethnic massacres are beginning to regroup. Rallies have been held in Serbia by an openly anti-Albanian group, styling itself as the Guard of St. Tsar Lazar. For them any form of independence for Kosova will trigger the operations of Christian militia against the "Albanian Al-Qaeda." 
A Radical administration would certainly provide paramilitaries with greater scope for action, through enhanced state funding and logistical support. The revival of Serbian paramilitaries could provoke widespread ethnic violence in Kosova. Rather than returning Kosova to Serbia, it will lead to the evacuation or expulsion of the remaining Serb minority. With the internationals having pledged to stand firm against territorial partition, the dream of a multi-ethnic Kosova could contain one less minority in the newly independent state.
                    [post_title] =>  Serbia's Radicalism Helps Kosova 
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                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-05-25 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Alba Cela
A few weeks ago, a member of the DP parliamentary group, Gilman Bakalli resigned from the group and became an independent MP. The media storm that followed has abated now. The sensational and unexpected declarations of Bakalli and his meaningful departure from the DP parliamentary group were a real shock to most Albanian commentators at the time who dashed to analyze them in the context of eroding governing coalition and internal party disputes. Few were the people who went one step further in probing the significance of this gesture, which -needs to be stressed- has been by no means easy on Bakalli himself. In a TV program experienced analyst Mentor Nazarko briefly mentioned it, but rushed to peruse other aspects of the event. What he said though, that "the gesture of Bakalli reminds us of the amazing power of the individual", deserves better scrutiny and more media exposure. 
The leader of the right wing governing coalition, the DP has traditionally shown signs of internal totalitarian mindset. Reading this gesture as a sign of diversification of the right, as Prec Zogaj in the same TV interview did, is clearly unjustified. Bakalli's tone and statement showed clearly that he abhored "the communist system" (in his own words) installed in the decision making process of his party. What has provoked his extreme gesture, which puts in serious jeopardy his function as a representative of his electoral zone, is not the sudden diversification of thought in the DP, but its complete lack. Bakalli's concerns were both of a local nature, the marginalization of Shkodra's economic and social problems in the government's agenda, and of a more general political one: the disfigurement of the DP's character through its conduct and policies while in power. 
Bakalli sought the only remaining channel out of the gloomy box he found himself in: a party that was not responding to its promises, not responding to its electorate and not responding to his personal political beliefs and views. Since the group was not hosting his political persona any further, he chose to become an individual seeking on his own the fulfillment of his goals and of his personal responsibility towards the electorate that made him a MP. This explains also his following refusal to join any other parliamentary group. Becoming an individual Bakalli rediscovered the strength to blame every single one of these concern on specific names and last names, a gesture that will definitely cost him politically but that is to him as an individual no longer a liability.
As part of a group that was no longer a framework of agreement and cooperation, a host to his ides and projects, Bakalli remained powerless. As an individual expressing his revolt he gained power from the very first move. He provoked a serious and engaging debate, he gathered the positive reaction of many member of his electorate and he was free to complete his term serving in an independent, though unfortunately by all odds not efficient, way.
Last week the same person hit the news again by climbing the hill in Shkodra where the Top-Channel antennas were located and reactivating the TV signal for the audience in a clear defiance of the administration's decision to deprive this part of the country from one f the most popular TV channels in the country. Hence there is an untold message that is left almost untouched by the crowd of media-s ad analysts, and that the Albanian public seems to be in danger of forgetting as well: the power of one individual to stand up to a system, to sacrifice some of career or his personal interest and disentangle himself by virtue of protecting some basic principles. We would need a few extra Bakalli-s in that case. 
                    [post_title] =>  The power of the individual  
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                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-05-18 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Ivan Delibasic
"Sadly, Serbia is not a Russian province, but it surely will never be an EU colony." These words, spoken out by newly elected Speaker of Serbian Parliament [and the Speaker himself] are the outcome of a constant and consistent policy of certain politicians in Serbia throughout the last four years. The very policy ignored, neglected, even justified and thus legitimized by the international community, from the prosecutor of ICTY to EU Commissioners, a policy of permanent radicalization of Serbian political main-stream. 
The process that began defending the plotters to assassinate PM Zoran Djindjic, continued with the formation of Government with support of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia [SPS] and not supporting presidential candidate of Democrat Party [DS] against newly elected Speaker of Serbian Parliament, followed by the building coalition with Serbian Radical Party [SRS] in Novi Sad [capital of Vojvodina province] and bringing representatives of SRS into the Parliament of Montenegro, had its glorious finale in electing Tomislav Nikolic [SRS] for Speaker.
Tomislav Nikolic has been a deputy to Vojislav Seselj who is indicted in ICTY for crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war, deputy to Mirko Marjanovic in Serbian Government and 1999. deputy to Momir Bulatovic in Federal Government of FRY [during that period federal army and Serbian police forces committed major atrocities in Kosovo], representative of the most violent, chauvinistic, xenophobic political organization in Balkans. This is an impressive CV even by local standards.
That morning, in that Assembly, the political image of Serbia was clearer than ever - side by side, shoulder by shoulder in a half-empty chamber Kostunica's Democrat Party of Serbia [DSS], Seselj's SRS and Milosevic's SPS voted for Speaker, just like in "the good old days". Deputies of G17 PLUS, DS and Liberal Democrat Party [LDP] had left the building. 
This act by Kostunica's DSS finally exposed the illusion about them as a pro-European, honestly democratic political organization, a mirage that fooled so many politicians outside Serbia and, unfortunately, many citizens of Serbia. More than a year after the suspension of the SAA negotiations with the EU over the lack of cooperation with the ICTY, representatives of the very same government responsible for the SAA showed how insignificant Europe really is to them. 
On Thursday Serbia took over the presidency of the Council of Europe. Without raising a flagŠnot much of a statement from European human rights organization to a genocide-friendly country [extensive interpretation of the ruling of ICJ] with a genocidal Speaker. But if Russia can, so can a Russian province wannabe, right? If nothing else, the Speaker reminded us all that Serbia is still a part of alliance of Russia and Belarus and expressed hope and belief that Russia and China will form a counter-alliance to "imperialistic EU and America". 
Eventually, following the enormous pressures from abroad, a coalition government of democratic block [DS and G17 PLUS] and DSS [no one serious or sober can any longer consider them to be a democratic party] is about to be formed, but the bitter taste of the Radical Speaker cannot be washed off. If the past is any guidance, the coalition behavior of DSS will continue to hamper Serbia's attempts to break with the past. Paradoxically, its behavior gave a boost to EU integration efforts when the EU offered an immediate resumption of negotiation on SAA and visa liberalization reminding one of the old Serbian folk saying that a glass of gall necessitates a glass of honey. All this in spite of Serbia's absolute lack of cooperation with the ICTY and the fact that ministries in charge of capturing Ratko Mladic [or should I say protecting?] will remain in hands of DSS. The vicious circle of hypocrisy, in which a substantial role is played by officials of the international community and the master of two-facedness PM Kostunica, is currently revolving around the dismissal from his position a newly elected Speaker, since PM Kostunica and his DSS would hate to create a bad blood with the potential coalition partners after the next elections.
On Europe's day and day of defeat of fascism, "new Serbian majority", lead by acting PM Vojislav Kostunica and his DSS, defeated European Serbia and celebrated fascism, bringing Serbia back to the most horrifying part of its past, a past we all hoped was a part of history. Only a few days later, a "newer new majority" in Serbia is celebrated by the entire world, even though those two majorities have a common denominator.
                    [post_title] =>  Games Serbia P[l]ays 
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                    [ID] => 102149
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-05-18 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-05-18 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi
It has been more than six months since fourteen Albanians, including three American citizens, were seized from their beds in Tuzi in the wee hours of the morning of September 9, 2006, by a masked and fully armed SWAT team participating in an operation code-named "Eagles' Flight."  The next day, when parliamentary elections were held in Montenegro, the government released a statement to the press, stating that the men had been apprehended because they were a part of an organized, terrorist group bent on overthrowing the state.  No evidence was provided, but photographs of a cache of weapons uncovered by the governmentءll of which appeared to be of World War II vintageطere splashed across the front pages of the Montenegrin media.  At the time of their arrest, the three Americans (Kola Dedvukaj, Rrok Dedvukaj, and Sokol Ivanaj) were on vacation in Montenegro.  Kola and Rrok, the two detainees that I know personally, are both retired Chrysler assembly line workers from suburban Detroit.  Rrok retired because of spinal problems, and this was his first vacation to Montenegro in twenty-five years.  The night before their arrest, they, along with most of the other fourteen, had attended a peaceful political rally in Tuzi in support of the ethnic Albanian politician who was subsequently elected to the Montenegrin parliament. 
Until they appeared before the higher court in Podgorica, the fourteen did not know why they had been arrested and humiliated, beaten for hours at a time, forced to remain on their knees for prolonged periods, threatened with weapons and electricity, and starved for three days.  As of this writing, Kola Dedvukaj's health has deteriorated so badly that his life is at risk.
Amnesty International and Helsinki International intervened, challenging the Montenegrin authorities to investigate the torture of the fourteen men.  At the urging of the Albanian American Civic League, Members of the U.S. Congress, specifically, Congressman Tom Lantos, now Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Committee's Ranking Republican Member, senior Committee member Dana Rohrabacher, and Senator Joseph Biden, now Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appealed to the Montenegrin government to either produce proof of criminal activity and bring the fourteen Albanians to trial in timely fashion or release them immediately.  To date their letters have gone unanswered.

Victims of Torture and Illegally Obtained "Evidence"
As confirmed in Amnesty International's October 2006 report, entitled "Montenegro"  Newest UN State Must Stop Torture and Take Action to Bring Police to Justice," the torture of the fourteen Albaniansئrom the time that they were arrested on September 9 in Tuzi until they were transferred to the federal prison in Podgorica on September 12طas consistent with a pattern that had been documented in a May 2006 report on Serbia and Montenegro by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.  Sokol Ivanaj said that his torture was so severe that he was compelled to confess falsely.  On March 15, 2007, lawyers for the Albanian prisoners reported to Amnesty that an investigation into the torture of the fourteen men still had not been conductedسix months after criminal claims were filed on their behalf with the Higher Court in Podgorica.  Also, no disciplinary measures have been taken against the police officers involved.
Equally important, when the Montenegrin government finally filed formal charges three months later, on December 7, 2006, they did so against the entire group for "planning crimes of terrorism and insurrection" and based on illegally obtained evidence that did not support the charges anyway.  According to the lawyers for Kola and Rrok Dedvukaj, the thirty-page indictment contains, for example, only a few paragraphs mentioning their clients.  These paragraphs were based on one diary confiscated from another detainee during a search without a warrant or witnesses, a statement obtained under police torture from another prisoner, and two caf顣onversations overheard by informants in Shkodra and Tirana, Albania.  
In addition, Rrok Dedvukaj emerges in the indictment as a man dedicated to peace and opposing violence, and Kola Dedvukaj is cited only as being present in Shkodra without any personal involvement in a discussion of the potential need to resort to armed struggle to defend Albanian rights in Montenegro.  In short, these men are being treated as part of an organized group preparing terrorist attacks without a single description of their particular words or actions that would justify even suspicion against them.  And, as the nine lawyers representing the Tuzi Fourteen stated in a public document on October 12, 2006, "there is no evidence and not even any indication that the majority of the men performed criminal acts of the kind they are suspected of."  This raises serious questions about the reasons for their detention and the prolongation of their confinement.

Denied the Right to an Immediate and Fair Trial 
For three months, the fourteen remained in Spuz prison without being formally charged with a criminal offense. And yet they were routinely identified in the Montenegrin press as "terrorists," violating their presumption of innocence.  When the government finally indicted the men last December, they said that collectively they were "preparing to incite armed insurrection against the state" in order to "create a territorial region within Montenegro populated by Albanian people with a special status contrary to the constitutional order of Montenegro."  The Prelevic law firm, representing Kola and Rrok Dedvukaj, as well as some of the other prisoners, stated that, on the contrary, "There was no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the Americans, that the shocking torture and jailing of the fourteen was an act of ethnically motivated violence against Albanians, and that the mindset of the Montenegrin government needed to be changed."  Several ethnic Albanian political leaders told the press that the arrests amounted to a political provocation because most of the detained men supported Albanian politicians in Tuzi seeking the return of municipal status to Tuzi instead of the ruling party of then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
On April 9, 2007, the fourteen men will have languished in jail for seven months.  All appeals for their release on bail pending trial have been denied.  Incredibly, in the case of the Americans bail has been denied because they are believed to be at risk of flight as U.S. citizens, even though the authorities have their passports.  Still no trial date has been set.  The High Court in Podgorica not only failed to schedule a trial date within two months after the indictment was filed, in breach of domestic law, but it announced that it would not schedule the trial until Austria made a final decision about whether to extradite Doda Lucaj, another ethnic Albanian named in this case who is currently detained in Vienna.  If Austria follows its legal procedures, it should rule by the middle of April on Lucaj's appeal to block his extradition.  But even if it does not, the burden of proof rests on the Montenegrin government to justify continuing pre-trial detention of the Tuzi Fourteen.
Once the case goes to trial, the first step to ensuring that the proceedings are fair is to record them electronically and conduct them simultaneously in Albanian and Montenegrinء subject that the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica took up with the Montenegrin government in February.  Because the government thus far has failed so profoundly in its international obligations in this case, its capacity to conduct a fair trial remains increasingly in doubt.

The Politics Behind the Arrest and Prolonged Detention of the Tuzi Fourteen
In a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica on November 28, 2006, the Prelevic law firm stated that they are convinced that their defendants "are being deliberately abused by the Montenegrin authorities in order to 'prove' an international conspiracy and achieve political goals."  The conspiracy to which they are referring is a fiction manufactured by some forces within the Montenegrin government and the international community, which would have us believe that there is a militant group of Albanians extending from the United States to Kosova to Montenegro preparing to commit violent acts in Southeast Europe.  
In reality, as one senior Western diplomat said off the record, the jailing of the Tuzi Fourteen is an effort "to break the link between the Albanian American diaspora and the Albanian communities in Montenegro.  The growing strength of this link emerged in the effort of the residents of the Albanian-majority area of Malesia to reclaim municipal status for Tuzi, a status that was taken away by the Montenegrin government in 1957.  It is not clear which parts of the Montenegrin government may have been involved.  Some speculate that officials with strong links to Serbia are responsible, with the goal of undermining international support for the independence of Kosova by misrepresenting Albanians as a violent force in the heart of Europe.  (Meanwhile, the Albanian population has a history of nonviolence in Montenegro, in spite of Slavic repression and oppression, and the Albanian vote in the May 2006 referendum tipped the balance in favor of Montenegro's long sought after independence from Serbia.)
Others speculate that Albanian politicians linked to the ruling Montenegrin Slav party are involved in this case, hoping to diminish what they perceive to be as threats to their political power emanating from Tuzi.  The timing of the arrest of the Tuzi Fourteen, just hours before the elections that would bring a candidate into the parliament representing Tuzi's aspirations, has not gone unnoticed.  Still others believe that the Montenegrin government was drawn into an operation by the international law enforcement community in its "war on terror," an operation that went wrong because an Albanian still at large in the case is an informant who helped manufacture it.
The longer the Tuzi Fourteen remain in jail without a trial date, the more questions will be raised about the real reasons for their incarceration.  To bring the case of the Tuzi Fourteen into the light of international justice requires an investigation into and clarification of the politics behind their incarceration.  

The Implications for Montenegro and the West
The United States and the European Union should be concerned about the status of this caseخot just in relation to the prisoners who have been illegally arrested, tortured, and confined for months, but also in relation to what this case means for the future of a newly independent nation, which has been admitted to the United Nations and is seeking entrance into the European Union as a democratic, multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious state.  Bolstering the illusion, rather than the reality, of a democratic Montenegro will be a disservice to the country and the region, and in the long-run, it will undermine the goal of the European Union to integrate the Balkans.  As a democracy, Montenegro has the responsibility to adhere to the rule of law and to protect the freedom and human rights of all of its citizens, especially its large ethnic Albanian population and other minorities.  This includes treating prisoners humanely and as innocent until proven guilty, and either releasing them or conducting a fair trial in a timely fashion.  In the case of the Tuzi Fourteen, these basic protections have been egregiously denied.
------------------------------
Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi
Southeast Europe Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League
New York, USA

                    [post_title] =>  The Terrors Of Justice In Montenegro: Free the Tuzi Fourteen 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-05-13 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => Albanians, and particularly those Kosovars who took refuge at Fort Dix in 1999, may want to express your gratitude to the soldiers at Fort Dix. If so, one way to communicate this message is via this address: Col. R. David McNeil, Installation Commander, Fort Dix, USA, email: webmaster@dix.army.mil
Albanian Americans should all feel a sense of disgust about the alleged plot by three Albanian brothers to kill "as many American soldiers as possible" at Fort Dix.
I don't know what rock these creeps crawled out from under, but if this story is true, by their ignorant, evil intentions they have done reputational damage to all Albanians.
This attempt at a terrorist attack at Fort Dix is all the more reprehensible when one considers it was Fort Dix that hosted thousands of Kosovar refugees in 1999 when they were forced from their homeland by Milosevic. And if not for American military intervention, the Kosovars would still be living under repressive Serb domination.
The Serbs have been waging a fierce public relations war in an attempt to undermine Kosova's independence. At the heart of this campaign is a concerted effort to scare the West into thinking an independent Kosova will become a jihadist state. Up until now, most have rightfully ignored this argument. But given recent events, some will now pay attention. If the Duka brothers did act as reported, they have only succeeded in helping the Serbs and hurting Albanians.
I know that Albanians living in the U.S. who enjoy the advantages of our system recognize that, even with its flaws, this is a great country. As far as I'm concerned, those who are even the slightest bit ambivalent about this can either love it or leave it! And if there is a cancer in our community that is threatening our way of life as Americans and damaging our image as Albanians, it should be dealt with in a very prejudicial manner. If you see something, say something.
By: Gary Kokalari
Albanin American activist
                    [post_title] =>  Albanians should all feel a sense of disgust about the Fort Dix plot 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-05-10 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-05-10 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja
TIRANA, May 4 - Though there is less than a month till the election for the country's new president, the ruling government coalition and the opposition are far from a consensus for a presidential candidate.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Tuesday that he would be ready to begin negotiations with the opposition to find the best possible consensual candidate.
The ruling Democratic party has declared it is prepared to offer its parliamentary group head and deputy leader of the party, Bamir Topi, as the best candidate for the post. 
The opposition has declared Topi as unacceptable and has appealed for a consensus. Although there has been no formal candidate presented by the opposition, some of them support the reelection of the current president, Alfred Moisiu. A smaller group supports their former leader, Fatos Nano.
Berisha has said, however, that new elections were not rules out unless there was a compromise. According to the constitution, a new president, who is elected by the parliament, would need at least 84 votes out of 140 seats. If the parliament cannot elect the president in five rounds of voting, then the country goes to new general elections.
The opposition bases its request for a consensual president on the 2002 experience when Moisiu was elected with agreement from the two main political parties, then opposition Democrats and the Socialist party. 
The then-government, led by the Socialists and their allies, could secure the 84 votes. But the international community suggested the new president be a consensual one taking into consideration the results of the 2001 parliamentary elections. The world recognized the Socialists' victory, but still the electoral process was compromised because of the claims from the opposition.
Now the governing coalition has 80 votes in the parliament, something which obliges them to reach a consensus for the president.
The government says, however, it is entitled to a new president due to the results they have achieved thus far.
The opposition has declared no formal candidate but insists on an agreement for the new president.
A number of candidates have come to the front.
Former Socialist leader and Prime Minister Fatos Nano does not enjoy the full support of his opposition group. A local analyst said that if Nano became the next president, then all the powers in the country would be secured from the Siamese twin brothers. That's not the case of Poland, analysts say, where people are also not pleased with twins running the country.
Berisha and Nano have dominated post-communist Albanian politics, taking the country into a very contentious ongoing situation. Servet Pellumbi, former Socialist parliament speaker and a senior leader, considered as unacceptable would result in electing Nano to the post. Nano is not and cannot be the opposition's candidate, he said. Regarding himself as the next president, Pellumbi did not oppose the idea, but said the decision was up to the party's forums.
Socialist Movement for Integration head Ilir Meta also said that the next president should come out of the opposition, or the other solution would be new polls.
Another presidential candidate is Sabri Godo, president of the Republican Party, and part of the governing coalition. Godo seems to enjoy support in academic and intellectual circles. On Topi, Godo says he is one of the best alternatives though he does not hide his own ambition for the post. Godo excludes, however, Nano's candidacy, or his return to active politics in the country.
It is very likely that the opposition Socialists demand a second term for Moisiu, whom they strongly support due to his stands that often have supported them.
But for the government and its coalition members, Moisiu's second term is considered unimaginable. During the last two years, when the Democrats have been in power, ties between the government and the president, or better say, between Berisha and Moisiu have been frozen, at the very best. 
Moreover the government has often accused Moisiu on many issues.
Republicans, who have presented Godo as their candidate, have also asked for a roundtable of the governing coalition to decide on the best possible candidate they could introduce.
That idea was supported also by the Christian Democrats, also a government coalition member, who have declared they would support Moisiu for a second term.
Berisha also said he would not oppose neogitaitons with his opponent Rama on the issue. But words are far away from deeds. That has been often said before, but they have never met and do not intend to meet in the near future.
Albert Rakipi of the Albanian Institute of International Studies says the very grave allegations the government has made against Moisiu serve no one unless verified in a court of law. On the other side, says Rakipi, it is not a violation of the law if the governing coalition does not want to support Moisiu for a second term.
Head of the Delegation of the European Commission, Helmuth Lohan, said Wednesday that Brussels would like to see political stability in Albania and no new elections. He also said Brussels would not like to serve as a mediator in Albanian politics, meaning they should try to reach a consensus on the next president by themselves.
The failure of electing the new president in the next eight weeks could take the country to general elections and that is considered the worst alternative that could happen for the country, since there electoral reform remains uncompleted.
                    [post_title] =>  The Presidential Puzzle 
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            [post_date] => 2007-06-22 02:00:00
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            [post_content] => The Western Balkans will have to wait until the EU has agreed its constitutional reforms, which won't happen before 2009. 
By Peter Sain ley Berry
This week, on June 20, European Union leaders sit down for their summer summit in Brussels. The summit is supposed to last for two days but the discussions at the European Council may well drag on into a third or fourth day of tense negotiations, as the 27 states grapple with important institutional reforms that will shape the Union for years to come. 
What will be the effect of these reforms on Western Balkan entry prospects? And will a successful outcome to these negotiations remove what has been a block on substantive progress during the past two years? 
We should take nothing for granted. It is still possible that Poland may veto the talks, as it has threatened to do, unless it is allowed to maintain its present voting strength in Council of Ministers meetings. Should this happen, the whole process of constitutional reform will be thrown back and enlargement blocked for an indefinite period. 
But a Polish veto is only one of several potential stumbling blocks; there are big differences between what most nations want to keep from the old constitutional treaty and what countries like Britain and the Czech Republic are prepared to entertain. Major compromises will be required from both sides.  
Even if the talks are successful and the leaders agree a framework for a new "Reform Treaty" there is still no guarantee that among the 27 nations there won't be one that fails to ratify the document. This is despite the fact that the treaty has been designed to avoid the necessity for ratification by referendum. This is crucial in France and The Netherlands on the rock of whose electorates the original constitutional treaty crashed in 2005. 
But assuming all goes well, the ratification process should be complete by 2009. It will only be after that, I suspect, that a new enlargement window will open up. 
That doesn't mean accession talks will not proceed in the meantime. While the new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has indicated that he does not see Turkey as a future member, he agrees that the Western Balkan states should join at some point. It is just a question of when. 
Nevertheless, as one reason for the negative results in France and the Netherlands was the speed with which the EU was enlarging, the new treaty is likely to contain references to the EU's capacity to accommodate new arrivals. We may, therefore, be looking at accession processes that are more gradual. 
It is also doubtful whether the summit will really get to grips with the thorny question of exactly how a Union of 33 or more states should be run; how decisions should be made and how states should be represented - in order to ensure the efficient conduct of business.  
In essence, European leaders are discussing constitutional provisions originally designed for six states and developed to accommodate 15 and now 27 states. But the whole character of an organisation changes as its membership increases. Achieving a consensus among a partnership of 30 is many more times more difficult than achieving one among 15. 
Such questions will need to be addressed once the framework of the new treaty becomes clear. The sooner such discussions start the better, so that some conclusions may be available before 2009. 
As for Turkey, the French President has suggested that instead of joining the Union, it might position itself at the centre of a Mediterranean community, linked to, but not part of, the EU. Which other countries this community might embrace is not clear, however. Moreover, Turkey has made it clear it opposes being asked to take any path that does not end with EU membership.  
We shall need to see how much support Mr Sarkozy receives for his suggestion. Yet the idea of countries working together is surely a good one. I suggested something similar myself in an earlier article in this newsletter. (See http://www.birn.eu.com/en/58/10/1583/?ILStart=20 ) 
In the Western Balkans, a form of competitive entry in which states race to squeeze in under a closing door could be replaced by collective or community entry.  
A group of states that worked together to form common institutions and to meet EU entry requirements might join together, preserving some regional autonomy within the overall Union structure. 
Such "community" thinking may have a further advantage. It is hard to see any lasting stability for Kosovo outside a wider collective framework that embraces all relevant interests.  
Self-determination will no doubt ultimately prove the guiding principle in a final status settlement; it is hard to see where else the future of Kosovo could lie.  
But the more such a solution is wrapped in a community framework the less the trauma for all concerned. Thus, slow but surer progress could well be the message from this summit. 
Peter Sain ley Berry has worked as a consultant with various European companies and undertaken information work for the European Commission. He contributes a weekly political column to the Brussels based EUobserver and is the editor of Europaworld.
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