Let us work together for European perspective, says Prodi

“I am very happy to address this distinguished Assembly. Thank you for extending me the opportunity. I return to Albania today with emotion, a country which, as an Italian and European citizen, I have always felt very close to me.

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Macedonia and the division of the media into “Ours” and “Theirs”

By VEBI VELIJA All political analysts now agree on the fact that the collapse of communism occurred parallel to the eruption of ethnical issues. National Rights overshadowed Human Rights, and the struggle for power assumed the features of a fight

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A nuclear Albania: energy hub or security risk?

By Klodjan Seferaj Albania recently announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant, with the government approving a proposal by the US-based firm Westinghouse. The move has the potential to transform the country נplagued by chronic power shortages נinto

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Kosovo elections: the mixed record

By Alba ȥla Kosovo leaders must have forgone all the exhaustion produced by the electoral campaign and the close following of the election days and must have beamed with pleasure at the multiple praising received from the international community. Quiet

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Opposition asks for debate motion with PM Berisha

TIRANA, Nov. 21 – Opposition Socialist Party has made a request for a motion of Prime Minister Sali Berisha on the last progress report of the European Union. That report deserves a serious debate in the parliament to answer all

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The political vacuum: Kosova after the formal halt of Ahtisaari’s proposal

By Eda Derhemi During the recent months of negotiation between the Serbian government and the Kosovar Albanian representatives, the newspapers and TV news broadcast in Prishtina, Belgrade and Tirana have been filled with reports of hostile declarations from both Serbian

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19th Century Romantics and the Publication of the Volume, “Through Romantic Eyes” of the Benaki Museum in Athens

By AURON TARE Quite by accident I came across a luxurious volume, bound with so much care and published in the name of such a serious institution as is the Athen’s Benaki Museum. The volume is entitled, “Through Romantic Eyes.”

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A critical view on EU report on Albania

By Henri ȩli The impression the 2007 EU Report leaves in its wake, conjures up reminders of the times of Communist self-criticism. No parallel can be drawn between that and the rationale behind the drafting of the Report, but the

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Corporate Social Responsibility for Oil Distribution Companies

By Dr. Ibrahim Aktoz Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that organizations, especially (but not only) corporations, have an obligation to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. This

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Kosovo Serbs Put their Hopes in Russia – and Putin

Amidst signs of an emerging Putin personality cult among Kosovo Serbs, many locals doubt how far Russia would go to give them support By Igor Milic in Northern Mitrovica At first sight Sumadija Square in the heart of the northern,

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                    [post_content] => "I am very happy to address this distinguished Assembly. Thank you for extending me the opportunity. I return to Albania today with emotion, a country which, as an Italian and European citizen, I have always felt very close to me.
Italy has particular ties with the entire Balkan region. There exists a spiritual and sentimental nearness which geography alone is incapable of explaining. For with Albania, there is something even more special, a unified and powerful tie, which I believe, has something to do with our Mediterranean temperament. Albania is not only Balkan. It is also a Mediterranean country. Skenderbeg chose to construct fortresses along the coastline, near the sea, and not high up in the mountains, as other Balkan gentlemen of the time did. And what more than this demonstrates the nature of the Albanian spirit. Dazzling, cosmopolitan, full of honour for others and attentive towards that that is different.
When, at similar assemblies to this one, there is talk of historical and cultural ties, it is so easy for clich고and banalities to surface. But, today, I know that I do not risk running up against anything like that, because the entire existence of both our countries is made up of histories we have lived through together, of cultures that have always met, penetrated and fused with one another. Since the times of Antiquity. Many, many Centuries before the insignia of the double-headed eagle on a red background became the Albanian national flag. The archeological wonders of Butrint, the Venetian walls of Shkodra, the Arbereshi villages in our southern parts and the urban physiognomy of this capital city, are all signs of a proximity that stretches beyond the times of politics. Because, more than anything else, between Italy and Albania there exists a binding of our peoples.
Italy has very much at heart, the theme of the day - the European integration of the Western Balkans- and it is a constant in its activity in Europe. And it is only natural that this be the case. Because we known that we cannot change the flow of history, and that we Italians comprehend better than the others, just what is fundamental for the entire region - a final berthing and anchoring alongside Europe. I know that the wish to join Europe is very strong in these parts. All you have to do is look around you to understand that. All you have to do is to study the cities, to talk to the young people. And so, it is exceptionally important that this desire to be a part of Europe is not forsaken. It must not be held hostage of short-lived policies, incapable of establishing relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans, within the correct historical and cultural perspective.
Today's challenge is this: translate the commitments we all undertook in Thessalonica four years ago, into concrete acts. Do not thwart the hopes of those who, in the results of that Summit, quite correctly grasped that this was the beginning of a more profound contractual relationship between Brussels and the Balkan countries, which dissolved every shadow of a doubt ever cast on its outcome. Brussels must, immediately make the European perspective tangible, and lay the foundations for its crowning, within the shortest time possible. So that the simple people are entitled to its benefits immediately, benefits linked with stability, prosperity, freedom of movement and circulation. For their part, the Balkan countries must continue modernization and reforms. They too, must keep the word they pledged and the commitments they undertook. The length of time this process will take will depend on the broad scale and the rates at which these changes happen.
Several political analysts have acutely highlighted the risks of a relationship between Europe and the Western Balkans, based on a dual misunderstanding: that of a Europe which promises integration, without giving it; and of a region that promises reforms, without doing them. It is our duty to work responsibly to dispel all misunderstanding in this field.
How can Italy help this process, to make it irreversible and to speed it up?
The answer is simple: by persevering in doing what it has done over these years. To become the champion of the "Balkan Cause" at the European chancelleries and Community institutions. Suffice it to add that to discharge this obligation successfully we require concrete elements that we can use to back up our reasoning.
We are well aware that finally bringing peace to the region and reaching the required standards of well being, depend on European perspectives. We also know that if the Balkans is more stable, more prosperous and more secure, then the whole continent will be more stable, prosperous and secure.
This is a fundamental message for European public opinion, at a moment when, it is best that it recalls, that there exists a tendency of given EU member countries, to withdraw into their own shells and to deny the undeniable-the successes of the policy of enlargement.
And I wish to be explicit on one point of this issue: the enlargement towards the Western Balkans is the natural enhancement of the countries of central-eastern Europe of the period 2004-2007. This is not a new enlargement, and precisely for this reason, it is top priority in comparison with the other commitments of the European Union.
I declared in this Parliament, five years ago, as the President of the European Commission, that European integration will not be complete until the countries of the western Balkans are members of the Union. I reiterate this with even stronger belief today as the Prime Minister of Italy.
Italy will continue to do its bit, on the bilateral plane too, to speed up this process. With initiatives that aid modernization and the lead reforms of the realization of the European perspective.
For years we have been working to the benefit of the region, with an integrated and global approach that represents every field of activity. The contribution offered by our military and police contingents, in the theatres of crises, has always been accompanied by work that supports institutions, the economies and the communities. This is a real collective effort of our country, which adds value to civil society and administrations at every level, including local entities, beginning from the districts.
Let's see what the region of the Balkans can do to continue along the road towards Brussels. If it is true that the European perspective is explained by the binomial equation of Europe/Reforms, then the answer is very simple: reforms, reforms and more reformsŮ
Over the last ten year period a great deal has been achieved, and, undoubtedly, today the Balkans is far better than yesterday: more stable, more modern and more developed. But there is still so much to be done.
As far as Albania is concerned, the priorities are known:  the reform of the justice system, war against criminal phenomena, modern electoral system. Above all, we must show to all of those who still doubt, that the country knows how to face up to its pledges and responsibilities. I would like to emphasize here, the merit of this Assembly for the ratification of the SAA with the European Union of June 2006.
In other words, there must be a great deal of hard work to reply to the nonbelievers with hard facts. Above all, it is vital that we do not allow the eruption of new crises in the region. We have worked extremely hard for the region to get to the point it has reached. We would be far more disappointed than anyone else, if there were to be any steps backwards.
Our thoughts go to the last developments in Kosovo and in Bosnia. Suffice it to mention that Europe has the tremendous responsibility of enabling these scars of the Nineties' to heal once and for all. But an even greater responsibility falls on the interested governments and peoples. I would like to say to them that, their Polar Star must remain that of the highest European values: peace, democracy, and respect for others and for their minorities. I would like to say to them that the internal boundaries will disappear within the greater European area. I even hope this will happen quickly, within the shortest possible time.
And finally, a word about Kosovo. This will be a decisive test, for Europe and the whole of the Balkans. The word needed is cohesion: in the sense that Europe and the region advance at the same pace now, as never before.
We are working very hard for the European Union to become ready over the coming weeks, for the moment when we will have to decide, together, about what we have to do.
Let us work together for this perspective. Let us show that Albania and the Balkans are members of the greater European family, with full rights.
I don't know whether Albania really is a country created to produce titanic creatures, as Ismail Kadare relates. Without doubt it is a country where you feel comfortable, where for a fleeting moment, in some mysterious manner, you may have the illusion that you are something more than an ordinary human being.
Europe is in need of this today too. It needs to feed on the elation and the desire of all its peoples to live. To find, through them, something of its mythological, epic and fantastic dimension. 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-11-30 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By VEBI VELIJA
All political analysts now agree on the fact that the collapse of communism occurred parallel to the eruption of ethnical issues. National Rights overshadowed Human Rights, and the struggle for power assumed the features of a fight being waged by given ethnic groups. Unfortunately, this is what has been occurring over these years in Macedonia too. In the attempts to build democracy, pluralist parliamentary elections were organized, during which, ethnic issues predominated. In general the parties that produced the most hype in favour of a given national group which they were linked to won these elections and not the parties with constructive ideas for the whole community. Throughout the entire former Yugoslavia, political leaders instilled and cultivated in their individual ethnic groups systematic distrust towards other nationalities. Macedonia is no exception. The media too have also helped reach this goal, especially television. During fifteen years of pluralism, the Albanians failed to obtain a professional media that spoke in their own language, but together with the Macedonians they endured precisely this situation. Therefore, being different ethnic communities and full of mistrust for one another, they were easily manipulated. The birth of Alsat in Macedonia had the purpose and continues to have this purpose of cultivating free and fair information, tolerance and co-existence, the reflection of the life of the country, with its different ethnicities and the issues it features. In this situation, a professional television has only one duty: to teach people how to listen to all political sides. This is the only possible editorial policy that can create peace and tolerance. I will mention just the one example from the painful history of Bosnia. In October 1991, Serb television broadcast an item of news on the beating up of an Orthodox priest by Croat forces. On the same day, Croat television broadcast the  history of a Catholic priest who was maltreated by Serb supporters. Both stories were true. However, Serb television made no mention of the incident with the Catholic priest, and Croat Television did the same regarding the Orthodox priest. The tension that built up between Serb and Croat ethnic communities due to this selective method of using information, began to decrease only when TV Sarajevo transmitted both items of news, something which indicated clearly to the hot heads that no one had a monopoly over what is right or what is wrong.
Relations between professional journalists and ethnic journalists, between the professional media and the political parties in the Government, in fact, were transformed into a war between, professionalism and politics, the truth and half truths, the civil community and ethnic community, freedom and control, open and closed society, democracy and dictatorship. 
Throughout the different events in Macedonia, TV Alsat has tried precisely to keep the public informed openly and professionally, steering clear of demagogy and half truths. Alsat has put its screen at the disposal of all relevant players, offering the public a complete picture, something which profoundly serves peace and tolerance. The philosophy of TV Alsat is the truth which is the same for all ethnic groups, correct and professional reporting and also the creation of opportunities for journalists to work freely. It is easy to recognize the truth from a half truth, but it is very dangerous when these half truths are used to create ethnic tension. This is not only a very important contribution for the media, but also for this distorted political environment that divides journalists and the media in Macedonia today into two categories: Ours and Theirs. In closing, I would like to present another significant fact: subjected to constant pressure to deliver half truths with an ethnic sting, the announcer of Radio Zagreb resigned in February of 1992. This pressure was directly exerted by the Leader of the HDZ, (Croatian Democratic Union Party), Franjo Tudjman. "I had never worked under such strain," the announcer said at the time, "as far as I'm concerned, it was easier to work under communism than today."
To avoid reaching this tragic conclusion, it is the duty of the entire environment in Macedonia to reduce ethnic tension, not to manipulate facts as an exaggerated triumph, and the media must report with as much truth as possible. Only by presenting to the public all sides of the story, without any of the censuring or auto-censuring, only by communicating with and not just speaking to the respective ethnic communities, will we reach peaceful co-existence, so vital for the future of Macedonia.
                    [post_title] =>  Macedonia and the division of the media into "Ours" and "Theirs" 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Klodjan Seferaj 

Albania recently announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant, with the government approving a proposal by the US-based firm Westinghouse. The move has the potential to transform the country נplagued by chronic power shortages נinto a regional energy hub. 
"We can't deny the country nuclear energy, which is the principal source of energy for France and most of the countries of the EU," Prime Minister Sali Berisha told parliament, responding to opponents of the plan. Environmentalists warn that radioactive waste would pose a danger to public health. 
Aleksander an albanian citizen notes that the idea has sparked concerns in neighbouring Greece. "The country is being surrounded נor at least this is expected to happen נby atomic power plants of neighbouring countries," he writes. According to media reports, Athens also stands to lose some of its revenue from electricity exports. 
By contrast, Italy has expressed interest in hooking up its electricity grid to the plant via underwater transmission lines. 
Fair is fair, comments Chenet. "Albania has always accepted nuclear residues from other European countries, becoming in this way the big atomic garbage field of the Balkans." 
Artan, however, worries that the plan poses risks. "Who can ensure the security in order to build such a power plant in Albania?" 
No reason to worry, replies Peshkaqeni. "We can understand that all the technical security measures are being respected." 
Taking issue with environmental groups, Xha Xhai believes they should pay more attention to the current problems, rather than focusing on the potential danger of going nuclear. "According to a report from the World Health Organisation, the impure air in Albania kills at least 200 persons a year, mainly in Tirana נthis without mentioning the large number of viral diseases, especially affecting children. The main cause of this pollution, again on the basis of this report, is vehicle emissions and the bad quality of the gas that is being used." 
"Strangely, the biggest fear of the environment defenders is not the today's situation but the future one נwhat could happen as a result of Prime Minister Berisha's plan to construct the atomic power plant." 
Edrus comments. "The ones who speak like this surely didn't realise that we are the fourth nuclear generation. The construction of an atomic power plant in Albania would be the biggest present that God could give to this country." (SET)
                    [post_title] =>  A nuclear Albania: energy hub or security risk? 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Kosovo leaders must have forgone all the exhaustion produced by the electoral campaign and the close following of the election days and must have beamed with pleasure at the multiple praising received from the international community. Quiet democratic elections, free of incidents, respectful process and peaceful rotation of power. If only we in Albania could succeed to do the same," said one of the well-know TV hostesses, reporting live form freezing snowy Prishtina. Indeed given the heightened concerns about security, the fragile situation that precedes the anxious date named December 10 and the announced troubles of die-hard Serbian groups with medieval names, one could only fear that an important involving political process like the three-fold elections had the serious potential to cause disruption. Yet it didn't happen. However, if one leaves apart the joyful realization that there was no catastrophe, which in itself cannot be a sustainable reason for pride and happiness, the picture seems not so rosy. 
First there is the issue of low voter turnout, around 10 percentage points lower than last year. Some mention half-heartedly that the freezing temperatures and the bad weather in general prohibited people to go vote. Not good enough, given that the stakes were too high for a little shiver to scare the voters off. Rather as a good friend from Kosovo explained, disenchantment with the political class is the real reason. Lack of concrete action towards status development, rampant unemployment and corruption, nepotism and inefficiency have disappointed a lot of people. "The 57 percent that dint go out to vote send an important message," my friend insists and that is "When it comes to choosing between a bad and a bad choice, it is not worth it!" and despite being an highly educated and politically conscious young person, he joined the non-voters club this time.
Second the Serb boycott. Now of course the reasons behind this are grave and mostly out of the influence that Albanian Kosovar leaders can exert. Addressing a forum in Tirana, ORA party leader Veton Surroi explained it loud and clear that the Serb population had been physically and psychologically threatened from Belgrade in order not to participate. Scores of others felt there was no real choice for them because they felt unrepresented despite repeated guarantees for a multiethnic minority-sensitive state by virtually all major competing subjects.  If nothing else, this boycott presents the future leadership of Kosovo with an important indicator and that is: the challenge of integration is harder than anyone thinks and offering guarantees will not suffice.
Finally the elections penalized the political party Ora which by all standards presented an interesting choice that combined elitist elements with grass roots initiatives. The reason given has been that the candidates should have been picked more carefully in order to appeal to larger masses and not only limited urban groups. Ironically Mr. Surroi himself had supported the threshold of 5 percent which is going to ban his subject form being part of the new parliament. Nevertheless, it is definitely not a good sign if the winning parties have to be necessarily populist.   
Whoever has won these elections, and in this case there is no need to contest Mr. Tha詧s Democratic Party of Kosovo, will be in power during one of the hardest times for the entire region. In the midst of the important events that lie ahead it is important not to lose track of this lessons taken out of the electoral process of November 17. 
                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo elections: the mixed record 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 - Opposition Socialist Party has made a request for a motion of Prime Minister Sali Berisha on the last progress report of the European Union.

That report deserves a serious debate in the parliament to answer all the issues on the country's management, including justice, rule of law, corruption which exist here, said Socialist parliamentary group head Valentina Leskaj.

The EU made it clear to Albania that the country should fulfill all that is required in the Stabilization and Association Agreement it has signed a year ago, specifically mentioning the fight against organized crime and corruption, reform in the judiciary and the electoral system and improving the administration.
                    [post_title] =>  Opposition asks for debate motion with PM Berisha 
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                    [ID] => 103097
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-11-16 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-16 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Eda Derhemi 
During the recent months of negotiation between the Serbian government and the Kosovar Albanian representatives, the newspapers and TV news broadcast in Prishtina, Belgrade and Tirana have been filled with reports of hostile declarations from both Serbian and Kosovar Albanian politicians, and constant attempts by European and American diplomats to calm things down and control them. But nobody is doing a thing to change almost a decade of political and economic stagnation in the status-less Kosovo. During the seven years after the NATO war and the withdrawal of the Serbian military and paramilitary groups from Kosovo, the Kosovar Albanians who constitute more than 90% of Kosovo, have lived without the traditional threats and maltreatment from Serbs. But since 1913, when the weak Turkish empire was losing one after another of the Balkan regions it had ruled for almost five centuries, Kosova officially remained part of the Serbian state and territory. The Albanians of Kosovo finally have a chance to reach their old dream, independence from Serbia, a dream that has survived several genocidal campaigns against them, wars, racist discrimination and population exodus. After the Serbian occupation of Kosovo in 1912, Kosovars fought to win their independence and have rebelled several times against Serbian rule. But in recent times they are known more for their strategic peaceful resistance to the Milosevic regime between 1989 and 1999, and the organization of parallel structures of government and administration, schools and hospitals during those years. 
Following Serbia's wars against the ex-Yugoslav republics that sought independence, and especially after the Serbian attempts at genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, the international mood for the first time has changed. In the last seven years Kosovar Albanians' drive for independence from Serbia has finally found support from the US and some of the main EU states, who claim to be ready to recognize a unilateral independence proclaimed by the Kosovar parliament, if the negotiating process fails. The Serbs make veiled threats to use force to protect their territorial integrity if Kosovo declares independence, and the Kosovars vow that they will be independent, with or without Serbian consent. Meanwhile, Kremlin, for reasons that have little to do with the romantic claims of protecting a 'weak Slavic brother' or the threatened integrity of another state, fans the flames. This is the only factor that gave the momentum to the Serbian side once again this Spring, making them believe in surprise that Kosovo is in fact not yet lost. The Albanian government poses as a serious fighter for the right of Kosovars for self-determination, but Albania has no real influence with the world powers that control the future of Kosovo. Still, it has raised the pro-Kosovar rhetoric in all its international activities and has made Kosovo status one core issue of its foreign policy. 
The Kosovo problem seemed to have a clear and logical solution in late spring 2007, when, after the failure of long talks between the Serbian and Kosovar Albanian representatives, Ahtisaari presented his complex proposal for a supervised independence for Kosovo with broad rights for its Serbian minority. Ahtisaari's proposal is still considered by the US and most EU leaders as the best possible solution. But enthusiasm for the Ahtisaari plan has waned after the failure of the UN Security Council to pass a draft resolution based on it, in the face of Russia's threatened veto. Another 120-day period was agreed on, for more talks between Kosovar Albanians and Serbian government to negotiate a solution for Kosovo's status. These talks are led by three representatives from the EU, the US and Russia, and end on December 10. During September and October, the rounds of talks in New York, London, Brussels and Vienna have brought nothing new in the position of the sides. In fact, neither of the two sides expect anything new or positive to come from these talks, and everybody in the international community knows this. These new talks are just another way to postpone dealing with the problem. Nothing during the recent months has provided anything to fill the vacuum created by the international hesitation after Ahtisaari's vision. This last one is in fact the only sensible novelty produced in the last 10 years to solve Kosovo's problem.
Recently it is very common to read that the Albanians of Kosovo are becoming impatient and won't wait for their independence much longer. Their frustration is understandable. Newspaper accounts of events in Kosovo in 1981, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, and 2004, all dates related to important political processes and ethnic confrontations, show an astonishing similarity to today's press reports. Not only is the political rhetoric the same, but there are times when a press conference or declaration of a Kosovar or Serbian politician from several years ago is repeated now, word for word, as a new statement. In the moderate Kosovar newspaper Koha Ditore of April 1997, one reads about the first international meeting between the Serbian and Albanian representatives in New York organized by Allen Kassof of PER, the Project for Ethnic Relation. The report says that the only place the Serbian and Albanian representatives ever were in a room together without third-party moderators was in a room set aside for smokers. Ten years ago that meeting concluded that Kosovo needed a solution quickly, based only on agreement and dialogue and on the reciprocal respect for human rights. Allen Kassof even underlined that the solution should come in the same yearױ997.  The Kosovar Albanians declared at that time that they could not accept anything but independence, representing the will of over 90% of the Albanians in the region of Kosovo, expressed in a popular referendum and in the free elections for a parallel government. The Serbian side on the other hand, declared that a solution for Kosovo could only be found within a democratic Serbia, and that there will never be an independent Kosovo. Ten years later, in November 2007, international politicians continue to repeat the same line: a solution should be found this year, and every delay might cause new instabilities in a region worn out by the prolongation of these talks. "The continuation of the current situation is impossible". But the years show that so far it has indeed been possible.
Inside Kosovo, which lives under the UN administration, tension grows as economic problems increase: without independence Kosovo cannot attract investors, provide jobs to the unemployed, negotiate with international financial organizations, become a member of international bodies like the UN, the EU, and so on. The political atmosphere becomes tenser as Kosovo prepares for its November general elections. Armed groups from both sides, like the Serbian Guard of Tsar Lazar and the Albanian National Army beat their chests and threaten to make war for their causes. Until now these groups have been well controlled by the political institutions in Serbia and in Kosovo, whose attention is concentrated on the negotiations in process. But eventually, they could be used by interested political forces to cause unrest and destabilization, or might even act independently as they threat to do. Other unsolved problems in the neighboring Macedonia, which is country to a large number of ethnic Albanians with close kinship ties with Kosovar Albanians, can also serve as a destabilizing factor if the status talks take forever.
December 10, the end of this new period of negotiations to solve the status of Kosovo, is not really that far off. What did both sides offer each other over one month ago in their first direct encounter with the presence of three international mediators? Practically nothing that can serve as a basis for negotiation: the Serbian side offered 95% autonomy to Kosovo, but not any sort of independence; the Kosovo Albanians offered good-neighbor relations and recognition of a long list of rights for the Serbian minority in Kosovo, but only after independence. The following meetings in Brussels and Vienna in October and early November have only raised the level of hostility. The last Serbian proposal for Hong Kong status for Kosovo is another maneuver of the Serbs to appear as the side that is moving towards a solution with new ideas and refreshed will, but the real proposal is essentially nothing more than the autonomy they offered before. In the recent talks, the Kosovar side is stuck to its "independence" claim without much creativity to serve it in attractive and changing dishes, certainly keeping the independence in the heart of their new proposals. Perhaps this time in Brussels they do bring something eye-catching and do not repeat themselves. 
However, not much new is expected. Each side is simply trying to convince the international community that it is not to be blamed for withdrawing from the political game of negotiations. Serbs do not want to repeat the mistake of Rambouillet that brought NATO to the stage. What Albanians and Serbians are really waiting for as they argue for their unchanged positions is to see which one of their respective protectors, the US-EU or Russia, will yield. 
But an agreement for an independent Kosovo does not seem to be possible this year with Russia standing against it, and a Kosovo under Serbia's thumb again, seems even more distant. Probably there will be a unilateral proclamation of independence from the Kosovar Albanians after December 10, if the US and important EU members will allow it. Is this the solution to the Kosovo problem? If a large number of states, including the major world powers, recognize Kosovo, it could be. If a unilateral independence without a UN Security Council blessing leaves Kosovo recognized as independent by only a few non-major political actors, it would be just another failure of international bodies to deal with the world's ethnic problems. It would also be a failure of the Kosovar Albanians to get rid of Serbian rule and repugnance once forever, hence their strong repeated promise to not act without the support of the US-EU factor. 
However, one thing is certain: "The continuation of the current situation is impossible".

Eda Derhemi (PhD) teaches communications and Italian at the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign, and is an IREX advanced research fellow (IARO) working for six months in Kosovo and Albania.
                    [post_title] =>  The political vacuum: Kosova after the formal halt of Ahtisaari's proposal 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-11-16 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By AURON TARE
Quite by accident I came across a luxurious volume, bound with so much care and published in the name of such a serious institution as is the Athen's Benaki Museum. The volume is entitled, "Through Romantic Eyes." After a visit of several hours through the magnificent ruins of Butrint,  and after sitting down to drink something after such a long walk, friend of mine, a foreign diplomat, gave me this volume as a gift, as a reminder of a talk we once had about the travels of the Romantics of the 19th Century throughout Albania and Greece. The epoch of the travels by the Romantics of Europe to all corners of European Turkey, as the regions of Greece, Albania and Macedonia were known at that time, is a subject of substantial interest. Towards the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th Centuries, a number of European aristocrats, talented artists or adventure seekers searching for exotic background material to their deeds, traveled to hitherto unexplored regions of Greece and Albania. The diaries or publications of these travelers, their paintings and drawings or secret reports remain, today, the most authentic witness accounts informing us of life and the history of the regions they journeyed through. The drawings and paintings they did, that, later on earned them the sweeping term of "19th Century Romantics," are the only evidence we have on how the scenery used to be, now totally transformed by modern times; the only descriptions we have of the ancient cities, now in the stranglehold of steel and concrete or of the colorful folk costumes of the inhabitants of these places, gone for ever, victims of global expansion.
The European Romantics were a very interesting mixture of that universal race of human beings who thirst for travel, exploration and adventure. Writers and poets, archeologists or artists, with a thirst to discover ancient history, but also plunderers of art, very distinguished names in the halls of the aristocrats of Paris or London, but also highly intelligent observers working for the secret services of the respective countries- all of them together created an Epoch, which left indelible prints on the re-birth of Modern Greece or of the other regions of the Ottoman Empire.
Thanks to the diaries or publications of these travelers, their paintings, sketches or reports, we inherit a priceless treasure of information on Greek-Albanian-Turkish history of that period. All of this formed the subjects of the conversation with my diplomat friend and it is for this reason that I could hardly sit down, in quiet, and read this volume in peace.
So after leafing through a part of this Volume, for a few minutes I turned back to the beginning again and saw the foreword written by the Director of the Benaki Museum Dr.Angelos Delivorrias, as well as the text drafted by the authoress of the book Fani-Maria Tsigakou. If some foreign researcher, in this case the Greek scholar Tsigakou, had published a book with inaccuracies or the subtle manipulation of the content of tableaus drawn almost 200 years ago, I would have put this book away in a drawer, dismissing this merely as outright ill will or ignorance. But the name of such a serious institution as Benaki Museum and the support provided to the publication of this volume by official institutions, such as the Ministry of Culture or the Ministry of Tourism of Greece prompted me to write these lines. 
Apart from the magnificent scenery depicted in the tableaus by the masters of those times, there is also a series of portraits and scenes where individuals are depicted dressed in traditional folk costume. The normal reader of the history of that period is well aware of eh fact that the Romantic painters often focused their works around Albanians dressed in their very particular folk costumes. In the territories of European Turkey, the Albanian element was predominant for a series of factors linked with the fact that Albanians traditionally emigrated or worked as mercenaries in the armies of the Turkish Pashas or in the bands of the Klefts. This most picturesque element in the paintings of the highlands or islands of Greece is described hundreds of times in the travel notes of a number of artists or travelers of that time. The powerful personality of Ali Pasha Tepelena and his rule throughout the Greek territory had resulted in the Albanians spreading out far and wide and often, in the travels of these romantics of the time, the Albanians served as guides or armed guards for the adventurers.  The broad scale involvement of Christian Albanians in the Movement for Independence of Greece, made them an even more interesting subject for European painters, who positioned Albanians, as an important element in their compositions dedicated to the Greek Revolution. 
In the collection at the Benaki Museum, there are a series of tableaus, accumulated over the years, in which the Albanian element, dressed in their particular folk costumes, especially the traditional fustanella, are the centre of these works. However, strangely the researcher and Curator of this Museum Mrs. Tsigakou decided that in the volume she published, all the drawings and paintings containing an Albanian element were captioned "Greek Highlanders." It is astonishing how a researcher, who writes and publishes a Volume on the Tableaus of the 19th Century Romantics, can erase with one stroke of the pen, the entire Albanian element, which served as a source of bountiful inspiration to a series of artists of the period.
In particular, I would select the Tableau by Carl Hag, so well known and loved by both the Albanian and foreign public. Naturally, the experts in the field could have quite a lot to say about the painting, printed in hundreds of publications as the Tableau of a typical Albanian male, whereas in the Benaki publication it is entitled, "The Greek Highlander" by Carl Hag 1861.
There is absolutely no doubt that this tableau depicts a typical Albanian male, because not only is his costume typically Albanians, but if you look closely, you can also see that the hair cut is typically Albanian for the time, close cropped fringe and long shoulder length hair at the back. There is plenty of other evidence of the hair cuts of the Albanian males of the time, different from their Greek contemporaries in the works by Hobhouse, the traveling companion of Lord Byron or in the famous painting by Dupres, "Ali Pasha in Butrint." Here, you can clearly see the hair styles of the body guards of Ali Pasha, close cropped fringes and long hair at the back.
I don't think this is the place to dwell on whether or not the fustenella is a characteristic feature of Albanian or Greek folk costumes, because Faik Konica has covered this amply, however I would say that the author Tsigakou does try to very subtly manipulate the truth when she writes that the "long fustenella was used chiefly by the Greek Chieftains and was predominant throughout the Greek residential centers. In the middle of the 19th Century, King Oto decided that this would be the uniform to be used at Court." Mrs. Tsigakou lies deliberately about this issue, or otherwise she does not know that many of the authors of the period, or later on, have written about the fustenella, as one of the main and distinctive features of the Albanians, distinguishing them from the Greeks. The fact that the German King of Greece Otto introduced this attire into the Court indicates the veneration he had for this symbol of clothing of the Albanian fighters. To this day the Greeks still do not have their own word to describe the fustanella, but they call it a fustenella too, borrowed from the Albanian word "fustan" which means dress.
If the author of the volume has suspicions about the themes of the tableaus presented in this publication, it cannot be said that she nurtures similar suspicions on the authorship of these lines, quoted out of context and presented above. Whoever has read Lord Byron, knows only too well that these lines have been taken from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" Canto II, and more accurately from the famous song, "Tamburxh, Tamburxhi!!" Related to this song, this famous poet wrote about the moment when he heard it sung for the first time by a group of Albanians, who danced to this song. Byron rendered the bulk of these lines from these chants into the English version.  In other words, it is impossible that a researcher of Tsignakou's status must have read this famous verse of Lord Byron.
If Mrs. Tsignakou goes so far in this Volume as to manipulate the well known lines of Byron about the Albanians, then how valid are the opinions raised on the Tableaus of the Romantics containing Albanian figures? The reader can draw his own conclusions.
In 1984, the authoress of this book printed an early version of this publication in the French language, entitled, "La Grece Retrouvee," in Albanian, "Greece Re-found," with the foreword  by the well-known  professor of ancient French history Jacques Lacarriere. This French Professor writes that in many of the paintings of the 19th Century Romantics there are Albanians dressed in their national costumes. Mrs. Tsigakou failed to remove this passage from the foreword of the well-known Professor in the initial publication, however in the second publication it has been removed.
Although the book "Through Romantic Eyes" is devoted to the tableaus of the European artists and their art for Greece, there is no reason why the figures of the Albanians who were the source of their inspiration for their works should be manipulated by he researchers of today, even more so when they are backed by official Greek institutions. The tableaus of the Albanians in the context of Greek history should not be negated just as their outstanding contribution to the Greek revolution should not be negated. If Albanian or Greek scholars, private or state institutions are involved in the manipulation of historical truths, they will without doubt help the deepening of the abyss of bilateral misunderstanding and contempt.
                    [post_title] =>  19th Century Romantics and the Publication of the Volume, "Through Romantic Eyes" of the Benaki Museum in Athens 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-11-09 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-09 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Henri ȩli
The impression the 2007 EU Report leaves in its wake, conjures up reminders of the times of Communist self-criticism. No parallel can be drawn between that and the rationale behind the drafting of the Report, but the message one gets from reading it, is that the reforms must be deepened, that there must be a dialogue between the ruling majority and the opposition, the justice system must be reformed, there must be an electoral reform and so forth. There are at least three issues which are left wide open in the EU Report, which have not escaped the Rapporteurs of European bureaucracy, which for all its sluggishness, is one of the most professional bureaucracies of our time. 
First, the report takes note of the lack of progress in the reform in the justice system, which is key to the efforts aimed at improving the rule of law and making it more effective, a fundamental aspect of the proclaimed fight against corruption, and, in the final analysis, the main mechanism, through which a liberal democracy is guaranteed and perpetuated every day. During a period of 26 months, since the Democrats came to power, not even a single article of a single draft law has arrived at the Parliament or has been approved by it, for this simple reason: the consensus between the government and the opposition needed in order to amend the legislative framework of the reform in the justice system has failed. When one speaks of the consensus having failed, it must be said that it is the government that has failed, as the more powerful party, which is supposed to offer a structure to the dialogue and to find a compromise with the opposition. The government has failed to find ways of making specific concessions to the opposition in order to secure its votes for the reforms in the justice system. On the contrary, even those opportunities for restarting the reforms in the justice system that may have existed after the election of the new President of the Republic, Bamir Topi were shattered in Parliament on Monday following the dismissal of the Attorney General, Theodhori Sollaku.
Second, the electoral reform in all its elements is the other issue on which the EU is really insisting. The failure of this reform so far, the intentional protraction and delays of the reform - that it is clear no government of this country ever intends to complete - is one of the most profound responsibilities of the current Majority. This is a great disappointment indeed. Today's majority - yesterday's opposition - was one of the greatest victims of the violation of free elections. But until today, the majority has not scored even a single minimal improvement of the standard related to free and fair elections in this country. It has not done so even for those standards that do not require "the votes of the opposition," such as the national voters' register, the new ID cards, etc. A bogged down, stagnant electoral reform does not bode well for the 2009 elections. 
The third, and most delicate of the three issues, is the acknowledgment by the EU of the election of the new President of the Republic and the "reasonable" parliamentary consensus through which President Topi was elected. Here we have a typical example of the phraseology and catchwords of European bureaucracy, which are void of any meaning that would relate to the local context and developments; a context that, although miniscule in the strategic perspective of Brussels, does actually change the essence of developments and realities. As the initial tests relating to the "Sollaku" affair show, Bamir Topi's presidency is not only failing to solve the crisis stemming from the absence of a bipartisan consensus, but it is creating the grounds for the destruction of every opportunity to find this consensus.  By presenting the parliamentary majority with an opportunity to strengthen its power and take control of the remainder of the institutions, this "president elected by reasonable consensus", could once again upset the balance on the institutional scene, carrying us back to the perilous times of the so-called "Blue State," of the years 1992-1997, or of the "Rose State" of the years 1997-2002. Both of these experiences would be traumatic to the Albanian democracy.
Another year has almost passed faced with the same situation of shortcomings that appear to be endemic to Albanian democracy: an unjust justice system, elections that can be stolen, disequilibrium of powers. So the EU's message about getting down to it and deepening reforms sounds at the very least as a huge irony.  
                    [post_title] =>  A critical view on EU report on Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-11-09 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-09 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Dr. Ibrahim Aktoz
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that organizations, especially (but not only) corporations, have an obligation to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. This obligation is seen to extend beyond their statutory obligation to comply with legislation.
CSR is closely linked with the principles of Sustainable Development, which argues that enterprises should make decisions based not only on financial factors such as profits or dividends, but also based on the immediate and long-term social and environmental consequences of their activities.
The issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) - broadly defined to include such concepts as sustainability, sustainable development, triple bottom line, corporate citizenship, and sustainable enterprise management (including environmental issues) - is now challenging the very foundations of the business strategies of the world's leading organizations. CSR is, however, one of the most complex challenges facing businesses today. To many, it is a guiding principle that underpins corporate vision, strategy and decision-making. To others, it represents a series of emerging issues that must be "managed" by the company in order to maintain its "license to operate". Either way, the responsible, sustainable company realizes short-term success and builds a stable platform for future growth and profitability, while at the same time, acknowledging its economic, social, and environmental responsibilities and the needs and concerns of a wide range of stakeholders. 
Corporate social responsibility is also a key issue for oil distribution sector to be addressed in  a proactive and systematic manner and requires well researched and long-term solutions.
There is a growing pressure on oil distribution companies in relation to their impacts on, and role within society and communities in the countries where they operate.
Oil distribution companies face complex issues as many countries are often economically disadvantaged and characterized by an absence of the right human resources, inadequate physical and social infrastructure. In addition, companies must adapt to a variety of local conditions, legal regulations and social-cultural differences. This reality mostly pushes oil distribution companies seek to address these issues through policies, governance structures, internal business practices and operations as well as codes of conduct and engagement programmes. They also use tools such as social impact assessments and train staff on key issues such as stakeholder engagement, health-safety and environmental concerns.
Corporate social responsibility needs to be an important part of corporate strategy of oil distribution companies where inconsistencies arise between corporate profits and social goals, or else discord can arise over issues of fairness. A corporate social responsibility program can make executives aware of these conflicts and commit them to taking social interest seriously. It can also be critical to maintaining or improving staff morale, to the stock market's assessment of a company's risk and to negotiations with regulators. 
Many companies are responding to the reporting pressures without first establishing how to entrench CSR in their operations and decision-making processes. Only when this is done will the true benefits be realised as the real risks can be managed and the opportunities realised on a sustainable basis. 
For many oil distribution companies, health, safety and environmental concerns have long been ingrained in the way they do business within their own sites and amongst their own personnel. But even here, the challenge is broadening with increasing emphasis on active engagement with dealers and suppliers. In other areas, such as diversity, many firms now have policies and procedures in place, but would admit that they have a long way to go before their goals are achieved. 
In Albanian oil distribution market, besides urgent need of a new energy law and many other regulations  in conformity with international rules concerning fuel business and its  players in oil distribution field, CSR concept still stands an unknown approach except for shareholder value and more profit expectation with an increasing market share. 
It is obvious that main competition amongst oil distribution companies is mostly focused on price reducing aiming the ascending market share and shareholder value and expanding the point of sales in an sophisticated way  instead of posing a stable pricing methodology complying with international oil prices, building their network through implementing internationally recognized health-safety environmental procedures and leading effective CSR policies for Albania and its valuable citizens.
Despite no regulatory body posing and inspecting CSR policies of those existing licensed players and strict regulations concerning the energy game applied, ALPET as first and sole ISO 9001-2000 certified oil distribution company in the market has already been the pioneer of CSR by health, safety and environmental regulations in accordance with international standarts built in its entire network before implementing the ALPET corporate identity, organizing plenty of training and seminars aimed at raising the awareness of all employees, dealers regarding safety standarts and increasing customer satisfaction through improving the quality of service and by importing of quite high quality oil products such as ultra light sulphur diesel 50 PPM(particule per million) meaning very low sulphur content and the lowest air and environmental pollution.
 Apart form that, ALPET also plays a key role in its domain arranging many social-cultural events as principal sponsor to contribute in posing  a better and adorable social life in Albania.
In today's oil distribution industry it is no longer possible for an oil distribution company to focus solely on deriving value only for its shareholders. Instead governments and society at large have begun a robust campaign to ensure that oil distribution companies are addressing long-term issues and have a clear and articulated strategy to both be profitable and responsible at the same time. The only way in which oil distribution companies can achieve this is to first gain the trust of their key stakeholders. Whether these be investors, regulators, employees, or others, it is fundamental that their operations are conducted in a responsible and sustainable way. Oil companies are increasingly facing broad requirements under which they are expected to identify and respond to stakeholder and societal needs.
The risks posed to the business and its reputation are correspondingly diverse. 
Reputation is an intangible asset, but you build it with material that is absolutely tangible. Acting with social and environmental responsibility is a key part of building an oil distribution company's reputation, which is proven by whether or not the company survives. It's intelligent policy to be committed on these issues. 
The key point of CSR for oil distribution sector is that debate about the social-environmental impacts mostly focusing on health-safety and environmental concerns of oil business in the countries where they operate. Every oil distribution company will ultimately need to understand and articulate its position on the thorny issues that lie at the heart of the discussions about CSR. This broad and complex agenda presents a tremendous challenge, but it also presents a tremendous opportunity for differentiation in an increasingly competitive local-global marketplace - and those companies that understand the importance of being good corporate citizens will be those that reap the earliest rewards.
Dr. Ibrahim Aktoz is General Manager of vil Oil & Alpet
                    [post_title] =>  Corporate Social Responsibility for Oil Distribution Companies 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-10-26 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => Amidst signs of an emerging Putin personality cult among Kosovo Serbs, many locals doubt how far Russia would go to give them support
By Igor Milic in Northern Mitrovica
At first sight Sumadija Square in the heart of the northern, Serb-controlled part of Mitrovica is nothing more than a large intersection which is usually packed with people, parked cars and street vendors.
But the square is also home to the town's stage with a speaker's platform.
This is the place where all political gatherings and protests in this divided city in the north of Kosovo take place.
The stage is decorated with an Serbian-language banner in big blue and red letters that reads "Russia, help!" and another two in English and Serbian respectively: "Do not make our holy land a present to Albanians" and "Long live Serbia."
It is not unusual to see slogans and posters like these in many other places in northern Mitrovica, the smaller, predominantly Serb-inhabited part of the divided city. Large stickers with pictures of Russian president Vladimir Putin are prominently displayed on many walls. 
Many from the northern part of the town - which in Serbian is called Kosovska Mitrovica - say it is just a normal expression of a common belief that Putin has played a pivotal role in determining Russia's policy on Kosovo.
"This is about expressing our hope and gratitude for his support," says Bojan Radenkovic, a young local man.
Putin's popularity has shot up in northern Mitrovica, after earlier this year Russia, Serbia's ally, torpedoed a UN resolution that envisaged internationally-monitored independence for Kosovo, Serbia's UN-administered province.
"I hope Putin and Russia will help us and won't leave us in the lurch," Radenkovic says, adding that the outcome of a new phase of talks on Kosovo's future, currently being held under the auspices of the EU, Russia and the US, now depends on the Kremlin.
The talks are focused on reaching a compromise over Kosovo's long-term status. Ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina want independence for the province while the Serbian government is offering them broad autonomy. The US and its allies are advocating Kosovo's independence. Russia however, wants a compromise that is acceptable to both Pristina and Belgrade. The Kremlin has also warned that any unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence could have an impact on breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Many Kosovo Serbs believe Putin and Russia will protect them. However, they remain divided over Russia's readiness for military engagement in Kosovo, if the dispute turns violent. "If this were the case, a wider conflict and a new global division would ensue," Radenkovic says.
In 1999, after NATO bombing ousted Serbian troops from Kosovo, a Russian contingent was unexpectedly rushed to Kosovo from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina where it had been serving as part of the peacekeeping force.
It was deployed at Pristina airport, nearly entering a firefight with NATO troops that were advancing, on schedule, from neighbouring Macedonia.
Russian troops were subsequently included in the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping contingent but were withdrawn from the province in 2003, when Moscow pleaded that it could not afford the cost of their upkeep. Meanwhile Russia, boosted by massive oil and gas revenues, has been seeking to restore its position on the international stage as a great power. Its recently-adopted tougher position over Kosovo has convinced many Serbs in the province that the Kremlin will protect them.
More than 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled the province since 1999 in fear of reprisal attacks by ethnic Albanian extremists.
They have left behind a Serbian minority of about 100,000, half of them in Mitrovica and the areas to the north, bordering Serbia itself, and the other half dispersed in much smaller communities. Though concerned about their future, those in the north, are effectively in control of the areas they inhabit. Serbs living elsewhere - in small pockets among nearly 2 million ethnic Albanians - are much more fearful about their prospects.
"Russian support means the world to us," says Ivan Miletic, 25, a shopkeeper.
"Personally I wouldn't display his (Putin's) picture, but I understand the people doing it," he says.
Russia distanced itself from Serbia under the regime of the late President Slobodan Milosevic. But Miletic believes the situation "is totally different now. I'd say they would find a way to help us, even militarily," he says, and adds that the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence by its Albanian-dominated institutions would allow local Serbs to demand more protection.
Others in northern Mitrovica believe that Russia's military backing for Kosovo Serbs is a highly unlikely option.
"We have strong Russian backing at the moment, but we don't know how long it will last," says Dragan Stojkovic, 42.
Stojkovic argues that despite Russia's apparently firm position over the Kosovo issue, the Kremlin's previous involvements in the Balkans were "not always favourable for the Serbs. Russia is not now what it was like about ten years ago," he claims.
Relations between Belgrade and Moscow soured in 1991 following Milosevic's support for the botched coup staged by pro-communist generals against the then reformist President Mikhail Gorbachev.
In the 1990s Boris Yeltsin's administration that succeeded Gorbachev repeatedly made it clear the former Yugoslavia was not at the top of its agenda. Russia did participate in efforts aimed at ending the bloody conflicts in the old Yugoslavia of six republics, but it relegated the leading role to the US. Sasa Radenkovic, 33, remains sceptical about Russia's support. "I don't believe in it very much. Russia didn't back us all that much" during wars in former Yugoslavia, he says.
However, it appears that there is something of a Putin personality cult in the making among Kosovo Serbs. "Putin is a strong figure, and he boosted Russia's position in the world," Radenkovic says.
There is also the physical appearance of Russia's leader that makes him appealing to many Kosovo Serbs.
Unlike most of his septuagenarian predecessors plagued by disease and too much vodka, Putin's love of the outdoors, martial arts and his professional background as an intelligence officer "make him look like a real man of power, almost a movie star," said Nikola Markovic of the town of Leposavic.
"A man who likes a workout, flies fighter jets, wrestles with his best soldiers, who hunts and goes fishing is clearly someone capable of real action," Markovic said.
His fianc顚orica said that "Putin is cute." "He's a good looking guy in every respect. And I love his dog", she said referring to Putin's Labrador retriever Connie.
"A man who ran the KGB for so many years cannot be stupid. He knows what he's doing. He will outsmart them all", said Milan from the town of Zvecan, just outside northern Mitrovica.
There are differing views among Kosovo Serb political representatives on the extent of Russia's support for the Serbs, but everyone agrees that what Russia and Putin have to say, will certainly matter in the future.
For Petar Miletic of the moderate Independent Liberal Party, what matters is that Russia plays an important role in the process of seeking a solution for Kosovo. "Russia's consent is necessary, if any resolution of the Kosovo issue is to go through the Security Council," he said.
Miletic also says that Russia's future military presence in Kosovo would require an agreement with the EU, the US and NATO. As for the rise in the popularity of Russia and its outgoing president, that was something to be expected, Miletic believes. "People respond positively to the firm views expressed by Putin, as well as to his image of an uncompromising politician."
Nebojsa Jovic, the head of the nationalist Serb National Council for Mitrovica, says that the "position of Russia and its president on the issue [of Kosovo] is constructive and in keeping with international law, hence his popularity among Kosovo Serbs."
"There's a clear desire on his part to prevent the Kosovo problem from becoming a much bigger regional, even European, problem," Jovic concludes.
Given Putin's role, many Serbs in Mitrovica are hoping that the Russian leader will find a way to stay in power when he steps down from the presidency after his second and final term has come to an end in March next year. Putin has indicated that he may want to take the post of prime minister. If they could vote for him, many of his supporters in Kosovo's Serb community would do so wholeheartedly.
Igor Milic is a freelance reporter in Northern Mitrovica. Balkan Insight is BIRN's online publication. 
                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo Serbs Put their Hopes in Russia - and Putin 
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            [post_date] => 2007-12-07 01:00:00
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            [post_content] => "I am very happy to address this distinguished Assembly. Thank you for extending me the opportunity. I return to Albania today with emotion, a country which, as an Italian and European citizen, I have always felt very close to me.
Italy has particular ties with the entire Balkan region. There exists a spiritual and sentimental nearness which geography alone is incapable of explaining. For with Albania, there is something even more special, a unified and powerful tie, which I believe, has something to do with our Mediterranean temperament. Albania is not only Balkan. It is also a Mediterranean country. Skenderbeg chose to construct fortresses along the coastline, near the sea, and not high up in the mountains, as other Balkan gentlemen of the time did. And what more than this demonstrates the nature of the Albanian spirit. Dazzling, cosmopolitan, full of honour for others and attentive towards that that is different.
When, at similar assemblies to this one, there is talk of historical and cultural ties, it is so easy for clich고and banalities to surface. But, today, I know that I do not risk running up against anything like that, because the entire existence of both our countries is made up of histories we have lived through together, of cultures that have always met, penetrated and fused with one another. Since the times of Antiquity. Many, many Centuries before the insignia of the double-headed eagle on a red background became the Albanian national flag. The archeological wonders of Butrint, the Venetian walls of Shkodra, the Arbereshi villages in our southern parts and the urban physiognomy of this capital city, are all signs of a proximity that stretches beyond the times of politics. Because, more than anything else, between Italy and Albania there exists a binding of our peoples.
Italy has very much at heart, the theme of the day - the European integration of the Western Balkans- and it is a constant in its activity in Europe. And it is only natural that this be the case. Because we known that we cannot change the flow of history, and that we Italians comprehend better than the others, just what is fundamental for the entire region - a final berthing and anchoring alongside Europe. I know that the wish to join Europe is very strong in these parts. All you have to do is look around you to understand that. All you have to do is to study the cities, to talk to the young people. And so, it is exceptionally important that this desire to be a part of Europe is not forsaken. It must not be held hostage of short-lived policies, incapable of establishing relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans, within the correct historical and cultural perspective.
Today's challenge is this: translate the commitments we all undertook in Thessalonica four years ago, into concrete acts. Do not thwart the hopes of those who, in the results of that Summit, quite correctly grasped that this was the beginning of a more profound contractual relationship between Brussels and the Balkan countries, which dissolved every shadow of a doubt ever cast on its outcome. Brussels must, immediately make the European perspective tangible, and lay the foundations for its crowning, within the shortest time possible. So that the simple people are entitled to its benefits immediately, benefits linked with stability, prosperity, freedom of movement and circulation. For their part, the Balkan countries must continue modernization and reforms. They too, must keep the word they pledged and the commitments they undertook. The length of time this process will take will depend on the broad scale and the rates at which these changes happen.
Several political analysts have acutely highlighted the risks of a relationship between Europe and the Western Balkans, based on a dual misunderstanding: that of a Europe which promises integration, without giving it; and of a region that promises reforms, without doing them. It is our duty to work responsibly to dispel all misunderstanding in this field.
How can Italy help this process, to make it irreversible and to speed it up?
The answer is simple: by persevering in doing what it has done over these years. To become the champion of the "Balkan Cause" at the European chancelleries and Community institutions. Suffice it to add that to discharge this obligation successfully we require concrete elements that we can use to back up our reasoning.
We are well aware that finally bringing peace to the region and reaching the required standards of well being, depend on European perspectives. We also know that if the Balkans is more stable, more prosperous and more secure, then the whole continent will be more stable, prosperous and secure.
This is a fundamental message for European public opinion, at a moment when, it is best that it recalls, that there exists a tendency of given EU member countries, to withdraw into their own shells and to deny the undeniable-the successes of the policy of enlargement.
And I wish to be explicit on one point of this issue: the enlargement towards the Western Balkans is the natural enhancement of the countries of central-eastern Europe of the period 2004-2007. This is not a new enlargement, and precisely for this reason, it is top priority in comparison with the other commitments of the European Union.
I declared in this Parliament, five years ago, as the President of the European Commission, that European integration will not be complete until the countries of the western Balkans are members of the Union. I reiterate this with even stronger belief today as the Prime Minister of Italy.
Italy will continue to do its bit, on the bilateral plane too, to speed up this process. With initiatives that aid modernization and the lead reforms of the realization of the European perspective.
For years we have been working to the benefit of the region, with an integrated and global approach that represents every field of activity. The contribution offered by our military and police contingents, in the theatres of crises, has always been accompanied by work that supports institutions, the economies and the communities. This is a real collective effort of our country, which adds value to civil society and administrations at every level, including local entities, beginning from the districts.
Let's see what the region of the Balkans can do to continue along the road towards Brussels. If it is true that the European perspective is explained by the binomial equation of Europe/Reforms, then the answer is very simple: reforms, reforms and more reformsŮ
Over the last ten year period a great deal has been achieved, and, undoubtedly, today the Balkans is far better than yesterday: more stable, more modern and more developed. But there is still so much to be done.
As far as Albania is concerned, the priorities are known:  the reform of the justice system, war against criminal phenomena, modern electoral system. Above all, we must show to all of those who still doubt, that the country knows how to face up to its pledges and responsibilities. I would like to emphasize here, the merit of this Assembly for the ratification of the SAA with the European Union of June 2006.
In other words, there must be a great deal of hard work to reply to the nonbelievers with hard facts. Above all, it is vital that we do not allow the eruption of new crises in the region. We have worked extremely hard for the region to get to the point it has reached. We would be far more disappointed than anyone else, if there were to be any steps backwards.
Our thoughts go to the last developments in Kosovo and in Bosnia. Suffice it to mention that Europe has the tremendous responsibility of enabling these scars of the Nineties' to heal once and for all. But an even greater responsibility falls on the interested governments and peoples. I would like to say to them that, their Polar Star must remain that of the highest European values: peace, democracy, and respect for others and for their minorities. I would like to say to them that the internal boundaries will disappear within the greater European area. I even hope this will happen quickly, within the shortest possible time.
And finally, a word about Kosovo. This will be a decisive test, for Europe and the whole of the Balkans. The word needed is cohesion: in the sense that Europe and the region advance at the same pace now, as never before.
We are working very hard for the European Union to become ready over the coming weeks, for the moment when we will have to decide, together, about what we have to do.
Let us work together for this perspective. Let us show that Albania and the Balkans are members of the greater European family, with full rights.
I don't know whether Albania really is a country created to produce titanic creatures, as Ismail Kadare relates. Without doubt it is a country where you feel comfortable, where for a fleeting moment, in some mysterious manner, you may have the illusion that you are something more than an ordinary human being.
Europe is in need of this today too. It needs to feed on the elation and the desire of all its peoples to live. To find, through them, something of its mythological, epic and fantastic dimension. 
            [post_title] =>  Let us work together for European perspective, says Prodi 
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