What Serbia Should Not Do

By Ilir Meta One of the comments I received a few days ago, after I saluted the initiative undertaken by the European Commission on starting the visa liberalisation negotiations with Serbia, was: Ok, they removed the visas for Serbia, but

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Unmik Fatigue

By P쭬umb Xhufi “UNMIK Fatigue,” would probably best describe the general state of politics and morale in today’s Kosovo. The most convincing message has now been sent out by the elections of November 17th. The poor turnout in an election

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For an Intellectual Revival

By Dardan Velija Kosovo is going through a deep transition phase. The Kosovar society has never in the history undergone a bigger transformation than the one during these eight years, since the entrance of NATO tropes. The passage from transition

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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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                    [post_content] => By Ilir Meta
One of the comments I received a few days ago, after I saluted the initiative undertaken by the European Commission on starting the visa liberalisation negotiations with Serbia, was: Ok, they removed the visas for Serbia, but why are they not doing the same for the Albanians? Without wanting to explore at any length the reasoning from an Albanian perspective, I decided that a more careful analysis of the perceptions of this act vis-a-vis Serbia would be just as important as the adoption of a political stance towards Serbia or our neighbours in general.   
I recall a meeting I had years ago with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergei Ivanov, who could not hide his surprise when I told him that we had removed the visa regime with Montenegro (at the time part of the Serb-Montenegrin Federation) "What about Serbia?" - he asked, because what you have done is the same as if Russia were to remove the visa regime for California but not for the United States as a whole. We are ready to do that at any time, I replied as long as Serbia agrees to such a move.  
Naturally all I have said so far does not concern so much the issue of visas, as it does a whole new philosophy regarding the relations with our neighbors in general and Serbia in particular. At the core of this new philosophy stands that new dimension in the development perspective of all our countries that is the process of European Union integration. It is this integration and its sistem of values that must serve as the point of reference for all our domestic policies, but especially for our foreign policy. Integration, coexistence, reciprocal respect, multiethnicity and especially our mutual dependency are the values which have to be implemented at all costs, as long as countries in the region hope to fulfill its aspirations to become a member of the EU. 
But time is of the essence in this regard. If we dare to embrace these values, if we now understand that the progress of our region towards the EU is a common project of all our countries we will speed up our integration into the EU, but if someone laggs behind that will become a burden on all our region. A simmilar policy oriented towards integration stands at the core of the plan on the definition of Kosovo's final status, by President Ahtisaari too. By now, as we near the final stages of its implementation there is ever growing international support for the status of Kosovo also because it is based upon this policy of integration.   
Seen from this perspective, the independence of Kosovo must not be viwed as a "zero summ game" dilema by Serbia, but as a guarantee that this plan allows both parties come out as winners. It is the choice between these two perspectives that will determine Serbia's history and not the preservation - or not - of her sovereignty over Kosovo. Serbia must at any cost chose integration, because the independence of Kosovo will ensure that everyone, including Serbia comes out a winner. Such a move would save Serbia once and for all from the archaic folklore that has held it hostage to its past, thus making its future insecure.   
This historical decision in favor of integration and Europe does not leave room for mistakes. Such a decision does not allow for speculations that the independence of Kosovo can be stopped - a process that started in Rambouille when Milosevic refused the agreement and followed a long and pricipled evolution based on the three criteria: no return to the pre 1999 situation, no partition and no unification with other countries.  The independence of Kosovo will not change regardless of the rhetoric or electoral demagogy coming out of Belgrade. There are courageous voices in Serb politics nowadays that accept this, such as Ceda Jovanovic, who is calling on politicians not to lie to the electorate by saying that there is a possibility of holding on to Kosovo. Kosovo, he correctly pointed out, was lost by Milosevic. 
Serbia should also not hold on to the erroneous belief that Resolution 1244 of the Security Council supposedly guarantees her sovereignty over Kosovo, at a time when article 11, point "e" in this resolution referes to the Rambouille conference as far as the determination of status is concerned and that has at its core the respect for the will of the people of Kosovo. The Serb embargo against Kosovo would not serve as a instrument of presure, neither is it an economic instrument which could reverse the process of independence because the greates loser would be Serbia herself. She would lose a significant market which has been established as a result of the economic relations that existed in the former Yugoslavia, at a time when the vacuum created by the rising demand would quickly be filled by other neighbouring countries. The greatest loser would be Serbia. 
The violent disintegration of Kosovo would not offer a solution either. The consequences ensuing from the population displacements, the renewed flow of refugees into Serbia at a time when there are many refugees yet to be integrated in that country from the times of the conflict in Croatia and Bosnia, would add to the suffering of the Serb people who would be the most affected victims of the extreme nationalism of its leaders. 
In the meantime the possibilitiesy the Serbs have for living and integrating in Kosovo are considerable and potentialy better. The Ahtisaari plan ensures a system of positive discrimination of the Serbs and other minorities that does not have its equal in international practice. It guarantess the Serbs and other minorities a power assymetric to the size of the population. And this is indeed positive because the respect for the rigts of minorities is not so much a matter of percentages but an issue of standards and values that must also be respected by Serbia herself when it comes to the Albanian population of Presheva, Bujanoc and Medvegja.   
Were Serbia to urge the Kosovo Serbs towards a confronation with the Albanians and the internationals she would not just bear responsibility for the incerase in their suffering, but she would also have to pay the political and economic consequences for this. But if Serbia does not engage in such an adventure then the new state of Kosovo and the international community would have a permanent obligation to ensure a better life for the Serbs of Kosovo as well as their security. An atempt at partition, a Kosovo without any Serbs would eliminate any prospect of the Serbs or Serbia exerting any influence on Kosovo while at the same time endangering the important place Kosovo occupies as far as the Serb cultural and historical heritage in Kosovo; a factor that is forcefully but not convincingly advertised by Serbia. And again the loser would be Serbia.    
And Serbia cannot make the mistake of looking at Russia as an alternative to the EU and EU integration. The current political interests Serbia and Russia share, the economic cooperation with Russia cannot change the fact that the interests of Serbia do not constitute a goal in themselves for Russia, but just one element in Russia's global interests and a pawn in its challenge to the West in general and the Americans in particular. had it been otherwise Russia would have kept its military presence in Kosovo as part of the forces guaranteing security. It is also hard to imagine Serbia projecting itself as a destructive island in the heart of the Balkans, surrounded by neighbours that are EU memberstates. She would be a great loser and so would be the whole region. 
That is why it was important to congratulate Serbia on the visa agreement with the EU and to wish that President Tadic, the representative of the pro-European reform minded forces win the elections on February the 3rd. But above all we as Albanians would do well to adopt a new philosophy in the relations with our neighbours, a philosophy that is rooted in civilised relations because what is good for our neighbours is also good for us.
                    [post_title] =>  What Serbia Should Not Do 
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                    [post_content] => By P쭬umb Xhufi
"UNMIK Fatigue," would probably best describe the general state of politics and morale in today's Kosovo. The most convincing message has now been sent out by the elections of November 17th. The poor turnout in an election that was rated as being of exceptional significance, due to the moment and weight, sounded the alarm bells for those who think that the course of events will unfold in the direction taken since June 1999, when Kosovo was liberated and "handed over" to the forces of NATO and the administration of UNMIK. "Neither the bad weather, nor the disillusionment of the people of Kosovo in their politicians can justify this shocking turnout," tried to declare certain Internationals, like the well known Mr. Giovanni di Stasi of the Congress of the Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
The truth of the matter is that, apart from its incontestable, positive sides, the exaggeratedly dragged out existence under the administration of UNMIK, in a certain sense, has tainted both society, and the institutions of Kosovo. Furthermore, this situation has convinced everyone, down to the last citizen of Kosovo, that, in the final account, it is the "internationals" and UNMIK that decide on everything. They run the country and offer employment, salaries and assistance. They are the ones who do the defending andŮthe representing. If we were to follow this line of reasoning through, then, the turnout in the voting would have been higher, if in Kosovo, it had not been Tha詠and company the country was voting for, but Ryker and company. Let there be no illusions: the politicians of Kosovo, and even those in Albania to a certain extent, have been "devalued from the very outset. In the perceptions of the ordinary citizen, these politicians in addition to failing to ever decide or solve anything, are also a very heavy burden due to the high salaries, the corruption, or the abuse associated with their careers. For the "intellectuals" of Kosovo, especially the ones who have managed to approach, in a certain manner, the offices of UNMIK and to play a role in the mechanisms of the international presence, Albanian politicians have even become an annoyance, with their ignorance, provincialism and "primitive" patriotism.
It is of inconsequence just what degree of truth lies in such perceptions: skepticism that goes as far as hostility towards "one's own ilk" is nurtured by the excess of power the others have - the "internationals". In this diseased state of soul, even the most outrageous facts of abuse, corruption and immorality amongst the highest of UNMIK employees are destined to be buried, whilst the most insignificant "indiscretion" committed by the most irrelevant employee of the government of Kosovo becomes the target of  bitter attacks by public opinion and the media. Before the internationals, an Albanian Prime Minister, even the most glorious of Heroes in the war for the liberation of Kosovo, is required to disperse meaningless smiles, just like the most honoured Rugova had to. The exaggerated dragging out of the moment of granting Kosovo its independence has caused tremendous damage, and the biggest damage of all is that it has devalued, divided and creased the elite and the political class of Kosovo.
Furthermore, this has created "ex novo" an individual species, "the Kosovo UNMIK-ian", another kind of Komsomol who can be found playing some debasing role in the many offices of the internationals and in the main streets of Prishtina, where he plays the role of the companion, the guide, but in most cases, that of the interpreter, the English language being the sole virtue of the majority of the representatives of this species. These are the new, spineless beings, who, interested in their jobs only, concealing their identity as much as they can, fight tooth and nail to keep them. There is not a chance of speaking to this species about politics, about Kosovo, or about its independence. They have neither seen nor heard anything: they are "internationals" and their superiors are internationals!
After it has moved out of Kosovo, alongside all the benefits that deserve gratitude, UNMIK will also have left in its wake the following peril: the opportunity of political promotion for this species of UNMIK-ian, in whom, behind the countenance of sterile, cold, and heartless test-tube creatures, (Max Fischer would probably have named him 'Homo Faber'), lie hidden, ambitions and the greed of a shark. We have already witnessed several of them, in action, in Albania: ministers, advisors, legal experts, and NGO offspring who have thrown themselves into the fight for power, to ravage its spoils with the voracity of a conqueror.
The drafters of Resolution 1244 of the Security Council, first of all the United States of America and the countries of the EU, were well aware of this situation of apathy and dependence when they defined one of the clauses of this Resolution that foresees that after a given period of time, (implicitly, after three years), the status of Kosovo must be determined on the basis of certain criteria, the most important of which was valued to be the will of the people of Kosovo. But all that has been forgotten. The advent to office of the Bush administration and the shift in the priorities of the United States resulted in the US lowering its profile somewhat in Kosovo. In Belgrade and elsewhere, this was interpreted as a sign that from here on, for tactical reasons, the USA and the EU had defined a larger tolerance margin for every indiscretion that Belgrade or Koshtunica might commit. This moment of "vacillation" in the Balkans, sparked off by circumstances outside of the Balkans, was pounced on by Koshtunica and taken instant advantage of by an interfering more, and far more stridently into the affairs of Kososvo.
In this atmosphere of tolerance, given countries within the EU went a step further. They began to articulate stands of a different strategy towards Serbia that foresaw Belgrade being drawn into and included in European processes, and not being isolated or being levied conditions against. Belgrade was sent the initial signals of the opening of SAA negotiations with the EU and of its move closer in the direction of NATO's Partnership for Peace Initiative. There was even talk that units of the Serbian Special Forces, the infamous "Red Berets," who have murdered and slain in Bosnia and in Kosovo, would be sent to the anti-terror fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.(Which, fortunately, did not happen). Ideas like Belgrade's release from obligations imposed by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and even the lifting of all obstacles for the "rehabilitation" of Belgrade began to surface. In European environments, the request to dissolve this Court was heard even. Concessions in principle were made to Belgrade, as its "special responsibilities" toward the Serbs in Kosovo were recognized. And so it came to pass that the UNMIK Administrators began to pay visits to Belgrade and to open talks with the Serb Government about the problems of KosovoŠAnd it came to pass that the Serbs in Kosovo were allowed to take part in the elections of Serbia, whilst Belgrade pressurized them to boycott the elections in KosovoŠAll this was tolerated, neglecting and offending the sentiments of the Albanian Majority and, in the final account, allowing the flagrant violation of Security Council Resolution 1244.
Therefore, the international community conscientiously put at risk what it had itself planned to build: a multi-ethnic Kosovo, where all its citizens, including the Serbs, could feel themselves citizens of Kosovo. The Serbs were allowed everything. They were even allowed to aggressively attack forces of the Police of UNMIK and KFOR. Who can forget what happened in North Mitrovica on 8 April 2002, when a crowd of young Serbs from the infamous "Bridge Sentinels," caused the wounding of 22 police officers, several seriously injured? The reaction of UNMIK on that occasion was emblematic: its Chief, Stefan Feller, "really overdid it" by calling these Serb aggressors "criminals and gangsters." And that was it. No measures adopted, no concrete action against this band organized by Belgrade. The "bridge sentinels" whose HQ was in a sleazy club, but elegantly named club, "Dolce Vita," continued to throw up road blocks across the Mitrovica Bridge and to organize incursions of violence against Albanians, and against the police and military of UNMIK and KFOR. The history of the "bridge sentinels" constitutes one of the blackest pages of the UNMIK Administration in Kosovo, the most debasing evidence of the lack of desire, the incompetence and the vacillation of the international community, in general, to carry out its mission properly in Kosovo.
The very first victims of this atmosphere of unprincipled tolerance towards Belgrade were the Serbs of Kosovo themselves. Illusions began to take root in this community that perhaps Belgrade was going to be their capital and not Prishtina. The example of the "bridge sentinels," which did actually function, or in other words, the example of a para-military force, not recognized but, all the same, tolerated by the UNMIK Administration, encouraged Belgrade to go for even higher summits.  It encouraged them to go far as to promote the creation of a special Serb Police Force for Serb enclaves in Kosovo, or the opening of Serb Courts. Insane ideas, in full contravention to Resolution 1244, but which, at the end of the day, did begin to find silent listeners throughout offices of particular employees of UNMIK and the EU. Edging in the direction of the theses of Belgrade, in March 2004, Italian Foreign Minister, Marco Frattini, cautiously launched the idea of Kosovo's "decentralization", defending himself by declaring that, "this is not to be understood as a definite solution, nor as a solution that would place the Serbs on one side and the Albanians on the other." Looking back, today, we could say that Fratinni had no need to be cautious. Ahtisarri's project sanctions precisely the division of Kosovo into cantons, the division of the Serbs on one side and the Albanians on the other.
In the meantime, the expectations of the Albanians were being openly ignored. And up until this moment the Albanians had maintained an exemplary stand. It seemed as though everything that was cooked up in the UNMIK offices was done deliberately to put off the "special moment"; the definition of the status. The enigmatic formula of "pre-status standards" was invented, which threw everyone into a frenzy of work to solve the already age-old puzzle of the chicken and the egg. It is a known fact that without having space and freedom within which to maneuver, in other words, without a status, it is futile to claim standards. The words "Balkan Fatigue" began circulating ever more densely around European negotiating tables. On the one hand, this encouraged Belgrade to radicalize its stands towards Kosovo. On the other hand, with the implicit threat of a "European disengagement," it faltered the courage of the Albanians to push forward their fair demands and shunted them into a sidetrack of endless concessions and postponements. And let's not forget that this was also a message for Montenegro, which at that time had "made up its mind" to break away from Serbia and create its own independent State.
It was against this backdrop of errors, indecisiveness, postponement and tolerance that the grounds were laid for the eruption of the violence in Kosovo in March 2004. Beyond the astonishment of certain naivet鬠the general assessment of these events was that this was the eruption of tensions and frustrations that had been building up for some time, following years of postponement and unilateral games by the UNMIK Administration and the international community in general. Analyst Patrick Moore, in an interview for "Radio Free Europe" on 5 April 2004, contested every allusion made to the existence of an "organizational centre" of the March riots of that year, and defined the ignoring of the issue of Kosovo's status by the international community as the main reason for this unrest. In no case and for no reason whatsoever, will Kosovo ever be able to be excluded from the process of de-colonization, begun following World War Two, or from the other process of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, which began in 1990 precisely in Kosovo. Dushan Janjich, Chairman of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, and a very observant analyst of Kosovo developments, reasoned in a similar manner at the time. He stated that the vacuum created as a result of the absence of the status cannot be filled with the UNMIK, which has now fulfilled its duty.
Today, as 2007 draws to a close, looking back over all the positive and negative experiences of these eight long years of transition, the exact right moment has come to take that final step of independence and to break away from UNMIK and the UNMIK-ians with the required respect and gratitude. Time has come to break away, in particular, from a culture of apathy and non-involvement, spawned in Kosovo by the dragged out period of "the asymmetrical bi-authority" and manifested in its most worrying form in the poor turn-out in the elections of November 17th . 
                    [post_title] =>  Unmik Fatigue 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-12-14 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Dardan Velija
Kosovo is going through a deep transition phase. The Kosovar society has never in the history undergone a bigger transformation than the one during these eight years, since the entrance of NATO tropes. The passage from transition to some sort of freedom and from communism to some sort of democracy has touched every level of life in Kosovo. This has disoriented the society and has shaken the value system. Never in the history was the need so great for an agenda shaped by the intellectuals. 
During these past years, the intellectual voice was not heard much. The intellectuals of the eighties and nineties still dominate on the surface, but on a deeper level there is a clear dominance of mediocre gossipers, that in fact decide the agenda. Lack of public debates between intellectuals has allowed for gossiping to become the medium in the creation of policies. We now live in a time when mediocrity is the norm. Even worse, to call mediocre the developments in many sectors, it would be overestimation. The gossipers have become so strong that they have managed to silence the intellectual. Philosophers have written about the dangers that a society runs, when ruled by mediocrity. The connection between the mediocres is a strong instinctual bond for survival. This makes their alliance extremely powerful. Hayek has said that although on the surface intellectuals do not rule, their ideas are spread without their control. This doesn't seem to be happening in our country. 
During these past twenty years there was very little intellectual debate. Kosovo was facing the risk of extinction and this naturally led to the homogenisation of the society, where debate was considered divisive. The only debate then was that whether Kosovo could be liberated through peaceful resistance or through taking up guns. After the war, there were a few attempts to debate, one about the national/linguistic identity of the people of Kosovo and another half debate on the religious identity of the Kosovars. Forum 2015 in these past years, among others has asked whether it is worth to build a new power plant. The Selfdetermination movement has attempted to initiate debate whether Kosovo should become independent by following the internationally led negotiation process or through the exercise of the right for Selfdetermination of the people of Kosovo. But it can be said that in all these years there was no deep intellectual debate. Even a few intellectual sparks, it seems have become extinct either due to lack of an intellectual opposition, or due to continuous attacks of mediocres against the intellectual. 
Clearly there is lack of a universalist intellectual approach that analyses the developments and options for direction. The intellectual is in spirit universalist and analyses the developments by passing them through the test of the historic achievements of humankind. She focuses on analysing the idea, less on the actions and far less on the evaluation of the individual. Unfortunately there is something universal about mediocrity. It universially deals nearly exclusively with the human and not with the idea or the issue. In Kosovo, as in Switzerland or Bangladesh, mediocrity deals with the individual and dehumanizes it. While the intellectual is an advocate of the human. She loves the human and defends her, thus has a humanistic soul. When the intellectual evaluates the actions of the human, he sees them with a humanistic eye. Mediocrity, on the other side, hates the human. It tries to transfigure it, so is in spirit dehumanising. 
When a mediocre debates with the intellectual, it is always the former that wins as he attacks the debater and not the issue. While the intellectuals deals with the ideas and not the opponent. 
Mediocres do not debate among themselves as debate between them is conflict and the war between them is unfair. When they gather, they evaluate, judge and execute individuals that are not there. That is why mediocres feel the need to be as much as possible with each other so as not to fall pray of their colleagues. That is why, medicores spend all day in cafes, the most active forums of Kosovo. 
A distinction between mediocrity here and in the West lies in that there, mediocres deal with the celebrities and less with the highest levels of policy-making (king or Prime Minister) and not with the intellectual. In the West, intellectuals live in their world where they debate freely and in that way define the ways of the development of the society. Gossipers find them boring to deal with. But here, in the peak of its rule, mediocrity has captured the governance, the civil society, the educational system and has monopolised the contacts with the internationals. Mediocres make each other's lives miserable but unify only when they see an intellectual spark. It seems as if there were a pact among them against the intellectual. 
There is need for an intellectual rebirth to project a European Kosovo. The intellectual thinking changes in time. Sometimes the intellectuals too make mistakes, but there is a great need for intellectual courage to start dealing with the issues that the, what someone has called 'macchiato subculture' debates through stigmatising individuals. There should be no taboos in public life. Kosovo is too small for big secrets. Until there are no intellectual debates, the mediocrity will keep ruling. 
There needs to be a moral pact among intellectuals. Enough with the human! Let's start debating ideas. Let's deal with ideas and debate them. The debates should be made in public, in our media. No doubt there will be mistakes. No doubt, the members of, what someone has called the "macchiato subculture" will stand waiting to put horns and tails on intellectuals every time they make mistakes. But even if they don't make mistakes, they will have horns and tails put on them because mediocres do not deal with ideas but humans. But this is the mission of the intellectual 
If there is no courage now, the intellectuals will be recruited by mediocrity. They will be forced to enter little ridiculous wars that will consume them intellectually and spiritually. After a while, they will see themselves gossiping. The intellectual will have transformed into a gossiper. What a tragedy! And when this enormous transition chapter is over, our country will look differently. It will have been formed by mediocrity. This should not be allowed to happen!
                    [post_title] =>  For an Intellectual Revival 
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                    [ID] => 103258
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-12-07 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-12-07 01:00:00
                    [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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            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 103197
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-11-30 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-30 01:00:00
                    [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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                    [ID] => 103124
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
                    [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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            [6] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 103125
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
                    [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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            [7] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 103168
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
                    [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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                    [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_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] => 2008-02-01 01:00:00
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            [post_content] => By Ilir Meta
One of the comments I received a few days ago, after I saluted the initiative undertaken by the European Commission on starting the visa liberalisation negotiations with Serbia, was: Ok, they removed the visas for Serbia, but why are they not doing the same for the Albanians? Without wanting to explore at any length the reasoning from an Albanian perspective, I decided that a more careful analysis of the perceptions of this act vis-a-vis Serbia would be just as important as the adoption of a political stance towards Serbia or our neighbours in general.   
I recall a meeting I had years ago with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergei Ivanov, who could not hide his surprise when I told him that we had removed the visa regime with Montenegro (at the time part of the Serb-Montenegrin Federation) "What about Serbia?" - he asked, because what you have done is the same as if Russia were to remove the visa regime for California but not for the United States as a whole. We are ready to do that at any time, I replied as long as Serbia agrees to such a move.  
Naturally all I have said so far does not concern so much the issue of visas, as it does a whole new philosophy regarding the relations with our neighbors in general and Serbia in particular. At the core of this new philosophy stands that new dimension in the development perspective of all our countries that is the process of European Union integration. It is this integration and its sistem of values that must serve as the point of reference for all our domestic policies, but especially for our foreign policy. Integration, coexistence, reciprocal respect, multiethnicity and especially our mutual dependency are the values which have to be implemented at all costs, as long as countries in the region hope to fulfill its aspirations to become a member of the EU. 
But time is of the essence in this regard. If we dare to embrace these values, if we now understand that the progress of our region towards the EU is a common project of all our countries we will speed up our integration into the EU, but if someone laggs behind that will become a burden on all our region. A simmilar policy oriented towards integration stands at the core of the plan on the definition of Kosovo's final status, by President Ahtisaari too. By now, as we near the final stages of its implementation there is ever growing international support for the status of Kosovo also because it is based upon this policy of integration.   
Seen from this perspective, the independence of Kosovo must not be viwed as a "zero summ game" dilema by Serbia, but as a guarantee that this plan allows both parties come out as winners. It is the choice between these two perspectives that will determine Serbia's history and not the preservation - or not - of her sovereignty over Kosovo. Serbia must at any cost chose integration, because the independence of Kosovo will ensure that everyone, including Serbia comes out a winner. Such a move would save Serbia once and for all from the archaic folklore that has held it hostage to its past, thus making its future insecure.   
This historical decision in favor of integration and Europe does not leave room for mistakes. Such a decision does not allow for speculations that the independence of Kosovo can be stopped - a process that started in Rambouille when Milosevic refused the agreement and followed a long and pricipled evolution based on the three criteria: no return to the pre 1999 situation, no partition and no unification with other countries.  The independence of Kosovo will not change regardless of the rhetoric or electoral demagogy coming out of Belgrade. There are courageous voices in Serb politics nowadays that accept this, such as Ceda Jovanovic, who is calling on politicians not to lie to the electorate by saying that there is a possibility of holding on to Kosovo. Kosovo, he correctly pointed out, was lost by Milosevic. 
Serbia should also not hold on to the erroneous belief that Resolution 1244 of the Security Council supposedly guarantees her sovereignty over Kosovo, at a time when article 11, point "e" in this resolution referes to the Rambouille conference as far as the determination of status is concerned and that has at its core the respect for the will of the people of Kosovo. The Serb embargo against Kosovo would not serve as a instrument of presure, neither is it an economic instrument which could reverse the process of independence because the greates loser would be Serbia herself. She would lose a significant market which has been established as a result of the economic relations that existed in the former Yugoslavia, at a time when the vacuum created by the rising demand would quickly be filled by other neighbouring countries. The greatest loser would be Serbia. 
The violent disintegration of Kosovo would not offer a solution either. The consequences ensuing from the population displacements, the renewed flow of refugees into Serbia at a time when there are many refugees yet to be integrated in that country from the times of the conflict in Croatia and Bosnia, would add to the suffering of the Serb people who would be the most affected victims of the extreme nationalism of its leaders. 
In the meantime the possibilitiesy the Serbs have for living and integrating in Kosovo are considerable and potentialy better. The Ahtisaari plan ensures a system of positive discrimination of the Serbs and other minorities that does not have its equal in international practice. It guarantess the Serbs and other minorities a power assymetric to the size of the population. And this is indeed positive because the respect for the rigts of minorities is not so much a matter of percentages but an issue of standards and values that must also be respected by Serbia herself when it comes to the Albanian population of Presheva, Bujanoc and Medvegja.   
Were Serbia to urge the Kosovo Serbs towards a confronation with the Albanians and the internationals she would not just bear responsibility for the incerase in their suffering, but she would also have to pay the political and economic consequences for this. But if Serbia does not engage in such an adventure then the new state of Kosovo and the international community would have a permanent obligation to ensure a better life for the Serbs of Kosovo as well as their security. An atempt at partition, a Kosovo without any Serbs would eliminate any prospect of the Serbs or Serbia exerting any influence on Kosovo while at the same time endangering the important place Kosovo occupies as far as the Serb cultural and historical heritage in Kosovo; a factor that is forcefully but not convincingly advertised by Serbia. And again the loser would be Serbia.    
And Serbia cannot make the mistake of looking at Russia as an alternative to the EU and EU integration. The current political interests Serbia and Russia share, the economic cooperation with Russia cannot change the fact that the interests of Serbia do not constitute a goal in themselves for Russia, but just one element in Russia's global interests and a pawn in its challenge to the West in general and the Americans in particular. had it been otherwise Russia would have kept its military presence in Kosovo as part of the forces guaranteing security. It is also hard to imagine Serbia projecting itself as a destructive island in the heart of the Balkans, surrounded by neighbours that are EU memberstates. She would be a great loser and so would be the whole region. 
That is why it was important to congratulate Serbia on the visa agreement with the EU and to wish that President Tadic, the representative of the pro-European reform minded forces win the elections on February the 3rd. But above all we as Albanians would do well to adopt a new philosophy in the relations with our neighbours, a philosophy that is rooted in civilised relations because what is good for our neighbours is also good for us.
            [post_title] =>  What Serbia Should Not Do 
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