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Decriminalization of the Balkans condition of all conditions

Decriminalization of the Balkans condition of all conditions

By Sonja Biserko  Any discussion about Serbia-Kosovo relations has to take into account the international context and interests of some global players that strongly influence regional dynamics, relations between Serbs and Albanians included. In the early 1990s at the outbreak

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Albin Kurti’s victory to work out an old agenda of Kosovo

Albin Kurti’s victory to work out an old agenda of Kosovo

By Naim Rashiti  Kosovo held new snap elections on 6 October this year. The record-high turnout brought change in the political landscape. Vetëvendosje  Movement (LVV) of Albin Kurti won the elections with 29 out of 120 seats of the Kosovo

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Albania, as OSCE’s chair will simultaneously provide and seek democratic assistance

Albania, as OSCE’s chair will simultaneously provide and seek democratic assistance

By Veton Surroi On the first day of the upcoming year, Albania will assume the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the hand-over ceremony of the Chairmanship from Slovakia, one can imagine the former

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Editorial: The multiple paradoxes of the Albanian OSCE chairmanship

Editorial: The multiple paradoxes of the Albanian OSCE chairmanship

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Back in 1991, when Albania, still under the communist leadership of Ramiz Alia, became member of then then called CSCE, the development marked a significant departure from isolationism and a real sign of expected transformation. It gave

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Polish-Albanian relations: strong and rich cooperation with a lot of future potential

Polish-Albanian relations: strong and rich cooperation with a lot of future potential

TIRANA, Dec. 12 – The trajectory of the Polish-Albanian relations through time has been one of the most interesting with a rich history in the past and an even richer potential for the future, Deputy Director of the Albanian Institute

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Albania takes over OSCE Presidency

Albania takes over OSCE Presidency

TIRANA, Dec. 6 – Albania officially took over on Friday the forthcoming presidency of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation), an organization comprised of 57 member states, which it will lead throughout 2020. The next OSCE Chairman will be

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Polish Defense Minister offers Polish aid for earthquake relief

Polish Defense Minister offers Polish aid for earthquake relief

“The Allies can take our aid into consideration. Today, the military reconquest team arrives in Albania. The soldiers will assess what assistance the Polish military can provide in eliminating the effects of the earthquake that struck Albania. We will help,

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Editorial: A failed state laid bare by a natural disaster

Editorial: A failed state laid bare by a natural disaster

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL On November 26, a natural disaster of significant proportion hit Albania when an initial earthquake of 6.4 magnitude followed by dozens of aftershocks claimed the lives of more than 50 people and destroyed the homes and livelihoods

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AIIS, Hanns-Seidel Foundation hold conference on current regional relations challenges

AIIS, Hanns-Seidel Foundation hold conference on current regional relations challenges

TIRANA, Dec. 4 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), in cooperation with the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, held a conference titled ‘Albania in the region: policy, perception and outlook,’ on November 26, aimed at discussing current issues and challenges of

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Tirana, Durres prosecutions initiate construction permit investigations after earthquake

Tirana, Durres prosecutions initiate construction permit investigations after earthquake

TIRANA, Dec. 2 – Tirana, Durres and Kruja’s prosecution offices announced that they have launched investigations into damaged buildings a few days after the strong earthquake that left 51 people dead on Tuesday morning.  The capital and Durres area, including

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                    [post_date] => 2019-12-18 13:02:17
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                    [post_content] => By Sonja Biserko 

Any discussion about Serbia-Kosovo relations has to take into account the international context and interests of some global players that strongly influence regional dynamics, relations between Serbs and Albanians included.

In the early 1990s at the outbreak of Yugoslav wars, the liberal order that implies international cooperation was still functional. That was evident in the way the Contact Group coped with the Yugoslav crisis, and in operations of other mechanisms in which major international players were involved. International engagement was in the function of bringing the Balkans in transatlantic integration. In addition to the aspect of security (NATO), EU member-states operated in the Balkans through soft power with and economic integration. Dynamic of the Balkans’ integration depended on the region’s potentials. However, the financial crisis (2008) changed EU’s priorities, while Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency and Russia’s penetration into the region (2013) disturbed its existing agenda.

There is no telling so far what will come out of EU’s attempt – Germany’s in the first place – to effectuate normalization through Belgrade-Pristine dialogue, and consequently Kosovo’s recognition and its membership of UN.

The Brussels dialogue, which resulted in an agreement and a number of other special agreements, was unfortunately halted was halted the moment Commissioner Mogerini chaged the format of dialogue and accepted the deal the two presidents, Thaci and Vučić, made on Kosovo’s partition. Partition of Kosovo has always been Belgrade’s only option, but it was surprising that Thaci and Albanian Premier Rama said yes to the deal. The deal also had the support of certain international circles, but failed thanks primarily to German opposition to changing borders.

Tariffs imposed on the goods from Serbia, assassination of Oliver Ivanović and a numenr of other developments have led to blocking of dialogue and raised tensions.

The recent Kosovo elections and the victory of Albin Kurti (Self-determination and LDK) have changed the political panorama in Kosovo and opened up the possibility of creating a new framework for dialogue and a possible solution.

The results of the Kosovo elections have led to a relaxation in Kosovo society and raised expectations regarding the fight against corruption and addressing every day problems. Albin Kurti is a politician without a war record or corruption in his file. He immediately announced lifting of 100-percent- tariffs that enables reopening of the dialogue with Serbia. He also announced the principle of reciprocity requesting equality for Kosovo in its dialogue with Serbia.[1]

Thaci and Haradinaj are true electoral losers, mostly because of irresponsibility they have demonstrated at home and at international scene. Their foreign policy ended up in a fiasco – their policy for visa liberalization failed and Kosovo was not admitted to Interpol and UNESCO. Belgrade’s campaign against Kosovo’s recognition resulted in withdrawals by some smaller countries. Hence, repute and opportunities for the young state of Kosovo were seriously undermined. No doubt that Kurti’s unyielding stance about Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity considerably decided the electoral outcome.

Albin Kurti denies recognition to the Serbian List that won all the ten minority seats in the parliament. He argues that it does not represent Kosovo Serbs but the Serbian government.

Another electoral loser in Kosovo is President Vučić, who had strongly influenced developments in Kosovo via the Serbian List under his control. Belgrade is dissatisfied with the outcome of elections as it no longer has the partner to deal with on Kosovo’s partition (Thaci), it is particularly dissatisfied with the fact that Kurti becomes prime minister. It still hopes that US would exert pressure on LDK to make a coalition with Thaci’s party that ranks third by the number of votes won. Apart from Vucic and his environment, disappointment with the election results is not hidden by other actors in the Serbian scene and it can be said that there is consensus in this respect.

They mostly argue that Kurti’s “extremism” and messages he has put across “leave no room for improvements, reducing tensionsand continuation of negotiations.” Commenting on Kurti’s victory, Serbian tabloids ran headlines labeling him “A European Šešelj,”[2] “Serb-hater,[3] and “Great Albania dreamer.”[4] President Vučić himself called him “a most dangerous man.”[5] Current political elites in Belgrade, Prishtine and Tirana as well are conspiring against Albin Kurti hoping that Kosovo might go to the polls again. While speculations in this regard multiply, Kurti continues to meet all major partners from the EU and the US.

Serbia looks forward to Americans’ influence on the composition of Kosovo cabinet. However, as things stand, the West and US have accepted Kurti as a new leader capable of coping with corruption and crime. As indictments from The Hague will be coming in soon, Kurti is probably the only politician ready to extradite the accused.

The fact that US appointed two special envoys for Kosovo and the Western Balkans leads to the conclusion that it would try to speed up a settlement. It allegedly plans to force Serbia and Kosovo to take their seats at the negotiating table and reach a sustainable solution. US’ primary objective is to suppress Russia from the Balkans and have the Western Balkans in the membership of NATO. President Vučić is barely pleased with these possibilities. His statements following on his meeting with newly appointed US envoy Richard Grenell were rather pessimistic.

Belgrade has all its hopes on Russia in terms of reaching a "Kosovo compromise" that is partition. Because, as many point out, "Russian support is essential for the survival of the Republika Srpska as much as it is for the defense of Kosovo and Metohija.[6]  In addition, given the changed international circumstances, Belgrade reckons that Russia has a number of reasons to support Serbs in national positions of vital interest, regardless of its relations with Washington. Vučić pins his hopes on the meeting with President Putin, scheduled for late 2019. Russian Premier Medvedev’s visit to Belgrade also symbolically mirrored Belgrade’s expectations from Russia.

Ever since it resolutely stepped in the Balkans (2013) Kosovo has been Russia’s main argument – and instrument – for blocking the region’s movement towards Euro-Atlantic integrations. Regressive trends in each country of the region only strengthened Russia’s influence on overall developments. Democratic capitalism has been less and less attractive to Western Balkan countries; hence, they have been more and more turning towards other players such as Russia, China, Turkey or UAE. Alternatives to modernity the latter are offering are anyway more appealing to incumbent authoritarian leaders in the region. Besides, those players are placing financial resources for infrastructural projects in their hands.

Actual geopolitical circumstances in the Western Balkans and, especially, the inertia of EU (as it let down Macedonia and Albania) open up more room to Russia’s presence, even in the countries wherefrom it has been expelled recently (Montenegro and Macedonia). As status quo in Kosovo perfectly suits Russia; hence, it has been invoking UNSC Resolution 1244. The key to the problem of Kosovo is, in a way, in Russia’s hands, rather than Serbia’s. Besides, at the hearing in the European Parliament, Jose Borrell, EU’s newly appointed commissioner for foreign policy, reminded that Kosovo could not be a state unless recognized by “China, India and Russia.”[7]

Even the “Small Schengen” project Vučić has been offering to Albania and North Macedonia plays into Russia’s hands.

For, if EU neglects the Western Balkans (French President’s decision to prevent opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania), its credibility in the region will be sloping downward.

Russian analysts also argue for a status quo in Kosovo. Katarina Entina of the High School of Economics predicts yet another backward step in negotiations, and says that Kosovo is not on America’s priority list; as Trumps has begun campaigning for another presidential term, he cannot be expected to take some stronger stand about Kosovo, so everything will remain as it is for another year and a half. EU also needs to protract Serbia’s progress in the fulfillment of technical requirements for its membership. Therefore, speeding up the solution to the Kosovo issue suits neither EU nor Trump; so, “the dialogue will be only formal and technical.”[8]

Western policy for the Balkans has been unproductive because it has excessively banked on corrupted elites in power and the promises they made. Having neglected democratization – and, hence, the media, civil society and opposition – it enabled strengthening of authoritarian regimes and leaders.

No major progress towards stability and sustainable peace could be expected in the Balkan region unless it is crime cleansed. This is why Kosovo elections and Albin Kurti’s victory heralds of a new era in the Western Balkans. It will not be a process without resistance and violence, but it is certainly the only way to change the paradigm so far. And the hints we witness now require stronger presence of EU in the region, and its full support.

To sum up, the region necessitates thorough reforms, which the Western world is facing also with great resistance. It is necessary to restore faith in the liberal system and institutions. Only in this key can the Kosovo issue, as well as all other relations in the Balkans, be resolved. That’s the only key to the solution of the Kosovo problem, and all other problematic relations in the Balkans.

*This article first appeared at the Tirana Observatory (www.tiranaobservatory.com)
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                    [post_content] => By Naim Rashiti 

Kosovo held new snap elections on 6 October this year. The record-high turnout brought change in the political landscape. Vetëvendosje  Movement (LVV) of Albin Kurti won the elections with 29 out of 120 seats of the Kosovo parliament. Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) came second with 28 seats. The governing coalition of warriors lost elections. Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of Kadri Veseli came third with 24 seats. The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) of Prime minister Ramush Haradinaj earned only 13 seats. The victory of the opposition parties, VV and LDK need still work to materialise.  Elections results were certified only in late November, almost two months after the vote and the electoral system  impose coalitions of large number of parties.

In public, the opposition parties until now, LVV and LDK brought hopes. Voters expect them to change governance, fight corruption, attract investments and stand up against any possible ‘controversial options” for an agreement with Serbia. Kosovo’s context offers little room for radical improvement; it will be constrained by both the socio-economic reality, with an inefficient, starved-for-funds state and a dysfunctional party system, and the need to move forward in the various international-sponsored processes. All of this, in a difficult political landscape.

Despite the generally cordial campaign that preceded the elections, relations between key political actors remain tense; leaders do not trust each other and basic norms of cooperation between actors are still missing. That is especially true for the case of Albin Kurti, the leader of Vetëvendosje, who has spent much of his time in opposition (and before that, as an activist) attacking other parties, including his current potential partner LDK.

Last two years, Prime Minister Haradinaj had tense exchanges with President Hashim Thaçi, and the President of the Assembly, Kadri Veseli, the leader of PDK, the largest party of the coalition. At some point, relations between them broke down to a point of refusing to talk one to another. Vetëvendosje and LDK made a strong largely not-so-loyal opposition to Haradinaj; should they join forces in power, they will face the same treatment by the remnants of the PAN coalition.  In particular, Haradinaj’s AAK will harshly defend the tariffs against Serbian goods once Kurti  will remove them. In addition, PDK, which would then be the largest party in opposition, will be a challenging partner for the new government.

Furthermore, how the new government will interact with President Thaçi and his office remains doubtful. President Thaçi has so far exercised a more central role in Kosovar politics than his predecessors, due to the continuous presence of his former party in the previous governments. However, in a government led by Vetëvendosje and LDK, his influence will certainly diminish. In fact, given past animosities with them, it is likely that conflict will continue, at least until Thaçi’s end of mandate in 2021. Should the Head of State fail to build a working relationship with the Head of Government, a number of issues will risk stalling, including Foreign Affairs and the Dialogue with Serbia. Similarly, various appointments for independent constitutional institutions require consensus of both and can become a source of conflict between them. Sustained personal distaste, a shared history of mistrust and discord, and conflicting egos will make building constructive relations difficult, if not impossible.

If Kurti were to secure the premiership, he ought to build some relations with both his coalition partner and the opposition, with whom he never tried to reconcile. Any new government will have to create a favourable climate to enact the promised reforms. In the case of Kurti, especially, would entail making a U- turn and engaging with the opposition from day one.

First, he has to agree with LDK on a governing coalition and share of power; both had long engaged in talks and claimed to  have come together to a joint governing program, a structure of the government, priority policies, dialogue with Serbia etc. Yet all broke down when they set to negotiate posts. LDK leader wants VV to grant him the post of the country President in 2021, after the mandate of Hashim Thaci end. For Kurti this is too much. Even if an agreement between LVV and LDK is reached soon, they ought to negotiate with minorities, including Serbs to vote their government, whose position is still unknown.

Kurti chose LDK with whom have considerable differences; LDK is a conservative party that is loyal to the statehood and identity of Kosovo, and fully adhere to liberal policies of economy, governance etc. VV insists on opposite policies. For example. LDK support full privatisation of society owned and public enterprises, Vetëvendosje wants to put all companies under a government scheme. LDK’s trust on its potential is very low, and worry that  it will be marginalised in the Kurti government or divert policies. It’s a relation that was never tired; often conflicts between them were much higher than with others, in particular when LDK leader Isa Mustafa led the government of Kosovo between 2015 and 2017.

Both, LVV and LDK oppose new compromises in the dialogue with Serbia. For Albin Kurti, dialogue with Belgrade is not a top priority. EU and U.S. expect the new government to immediately engage in the dialogue. The Kurti-led government will remove the 100 percent tariffs imposed on goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia but will impose “full reciprocity” that will not make any easier for Belgrade. Kosovo’s allies worry that new measures can delay dialogue and if does not start soon, “the dialogue will pose for much longer”.  U.S. with two envoys, and EU to-soon-appoint a new special envoy expect Albin Kurti to appoint a broad-based negotiating team and together with President Hashim Thaçi to soon participate in the high-level dialogue, i.e. upcoming Paris Summit that French President Emanuel Macron has long aimed at doing.  LDK is more sensitive than VV toward the demands coming from international friends of Kosovo.

In recent months Albin Kurti has attempted to make himself a more Kosovo centric politician. Yet, LDK remains concerned  and worry that Kurti can change position toward Kosovo statehood,  its symbols, constitution, territory etc. Led by Vjosa Osmani, but not only, LDK wants to consolidate ‘Dardania’ identity of Kosovo, established by the former leader Ibrahim Rugova. This is not one of Kurti.

Many local and international actors worry that should Albin Kurti fail to conduct or conclude the dialogue with Serbia, he may shift to his old agenda, the laisse deep in his hear, a confederation with Albania. It has become a practice for the leaders of Kosovo and Albania to promote unification every time they fail at home, but all doubts intentions of Edi Rama or Hashim Thaçi when they do so. In the case of Albin Kurti is different; he had long promoted this policy.  LDK will oppose any formal rapprochement with Albania; it will rigidly oppose the debate for any special arrangement, a confederation or any institutional make between two countries, that undermines the sole sovereignty of Kosovo.

Likewise, LDK will strongly oppose new regional initiatives, i.e. min-Schengen that recently leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania launched. Kurti objected cautiously, largely aiming at avoiding public disagreements with Albanian Prime minister Edi Rama. LDK will oppose Rama too.

Kosovo domestic problems are enormous too. Yet, the new government can find a much greater leeway to launch its own initiatives on key reforms, accountability of government, functioning of the institutions, depolitisation and effectives of highly corrupted independent agencies and regulatory bodies, foreign policy and attracting investments. It shall priorities strength of the institutions, fight against the informal economy and employ competent officials.

Kurti needs to strengthen rule of law and reforms of judiciary, increase pace on the fight against corruption and organised crime and lobby to the EU member states to secure long-delayed free visa travel for Kosovo citizens, no later than second half of 2020, when Germany preside the council. Low quality Education and a dysfunctional healthcare are in high demand better policies. Citizens expect Vetëvendosje and LDK to soon deliver on all those ‘priorities’. Kurti needs to show rapid change to meet the high expectations, to which he has long contributed too. The composition of the government, domestic politics and international developments will determine the success or failure of Albin Kurti as leader of Kosovo.

 

This article is written before the new Kosovo institutions are constituted, and anticipate that Vetëvendosje and LDK will reach an agreement to form a majority and Albin Kurti to lead the government.
*This article first appeared at the Tirana Observatory. (www.tiranaobservatory.com) 
[post_title] => Albin Kurti’s victory to work out an old agenda of Kosovo [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albin-kurtis-victory-to-work-out-an-old-agenda-of-kosovo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-13 15:54:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-13 14:54:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143762 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143758 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-18 12:55:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-18 11:55:59 [post_content] => By Veton Surroi On the first day of the upcoming year, Albania will assume the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the hand-over ceremony of the Chairmanship from Slovakia, one can imagine the former Chair informing his Albanian counterparts about OSCE peacekeeping missions in Ukraine, Georgia, Transdniestrian region in Moldova or Nagorno Karabagh. They will also inform them on the mission to Kosovo (or ‘Kosovo and Metohija’ when speaking to delegations from Serbia, Russia or others in its obrite). They may also inform Albania’s delegation on another OSCE mission which did not belong to the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia – a country known as Albania. Said differently, Albania will assume the upcoming Chairmanship of the OSCE and be informed from the previous chair on the organizations work in Albania. This is a seemingly absurd scene. But if it can serve as comforting to Albania and Albanians, this is not the first time this scene has played out. Previously, Bosnia and Herzegovina were elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council as the body was preparing an assessment report on the country itself. This is however not comforting. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a proper state. Assuming the Chairmanship of the OSCE is a great honor for Albania. The decision to support its candidacy is in part due to its positive role during the tragic wars leading to the dissolution of Yugoslavia for which it is highly regarded by many member states. When the 2020 Chairmanship of the organization was decided, the dominant perception was that Albania had become at last a stable country, adhered to NATO and aspired EU membership as it gradually transforms itself into a functional democracy which guarantees its citizens perspective. Given this consideration, the chairmanship was expected to further advance Albania’s international position as part of the club of states with credibility. But Albania, which will temporarily lead the organization starting on January 1st, is unlikely to provide an added value, guidance to the mission in Ukraine’s Luhansk, answers to Russia’s persistence not to reduce its armament in Transdniestria, or add something to repeated pleas for reconciliation through the mission in Nagorno Karabagh. Russian diplomats must have already briefed its ‘frozen conflict’ clients about the upcoming round of foreign diplomats with an OSCE mission in their own country to explain that peace is a better alternative to war. The mission, in softer terms referred to as ‘the presence’ ritually deals with the recycling of democratic power legitimacy, otherwise known as elections. OSCE has similar missions in Serbia and North Macedonia whereas the former is increasingly autocratic and the latter more democratic. In comparison, the country assuming the chairmanship of the organization is caught in a serious institutional crisis that stands out even among the region’s outrageous precedents as uniquely authentic. As such, Albania embarks on the new year with imbalanced institutional powers, notable among which is the absence of a functioning Constitutional Court over the last two years. The legislative is also without an opposition. As a result, its prime minister governs untroubled from pressure from institutional or political checks and balances which free him from consideration for critical voices. In absence of a power balance between the three branches of the government, the President has turned into an oppositional force. The political opposition itself has become a mere spectator. I fear that the project image of Albania prior to assuming the leadership of the OSCE does not exist anymore. Prime Minister Rama may be the only figure with the deserving stature in his government worth considering for the role, but even he will not be able to as he will be increasingly preoccupied with internal political issues. It will be hard to preconceive that whatever peacekeeping mission priorities there may be for the organization, Mr. Rama will be able to allocate even a moment of his focus away from the byzantine mechanisms he is employing to install loyalists in the justice ‘reform.’ If he does not pursue this course, his opponents will; if he does not hijack the reform, others will. On top of this gloom are the ramifications of the November 26th earthquake, with which the government will be preoccupied in the first half of 2020. When Albania was elected to lead the organization in 2020, many of its well-wishers, be them at home or abroad, were jubilant. This could have provided a great opportunity for a new generation of diplomats who could have represented the country in an emotionally affecting manner; since the state apparatus in these occasions improves its performance beyond previously known standards. It is often in occasions such as this both the society and the state dug out energies, they did not know they had at their disposal. But this is unlikely to happen in the case of Albania, which is expected to be marred by democratic legitimacy crisis until it reaches a tipping point. This could turn into an absurd historical development where the country leading the OSCE could need its assistance to hold general and local elections and to regain the democratic legitimacy of the legislative and the executive. If the chairmanship of the OSCE was previously considered as a quick medical treatment to prevent conflict escalation and assist in overcoming issues associated with democratic transition, Albania is likely to find itself in the midst of a paradox as it will seek to simultaneously seek and provide these services to others. *This article was first published at the Tirana Observatory (www.tiranaobservatory.com)   [post_title] => Albania, as OSCE’s chair will simultaneously provide and seek democratic assistance [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-as-osces-chair-will-simultaneously-provide-and-seek-democratic-assistance [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-13 15:52:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-13 14:52:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143758 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143682 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-13 15:17:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-13 14:17:39 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Back in 1991, when Albania, still under the communist leadership of Ramiz Alia, became member of then then called CSCE, the development marked a significant departure from isolationism and a real sign of expected transformation. It gave hope to those who were expecting change both in and outside the country. Three decades later one would expect that the fact that Albania assumes chairmanship of the OSCE is a significant achievement, one demonstrating the immense transformation, both politician and social, of the country from the most savage communist regime towards a functional democracy. Alas, this is not the case. This chairmanship is riddled with so many questions, paradoxes and contradictions that it feels more like a pun than an achievement. How does Albania look today at the helm of this important organization, which comes from the Cold War times and whose main objective is conflict resolution? An extremely weak if not failed state where there is a raging political conflict and a poisoned polarization at every level of society, where regular elections are still a fleeting aspiration, where internally there is no semblance of a constitutional order, where dysfunctional institutions and the culture of the individual authoritarian leader are perhaps as present as when the country joined back in the early 90s. The checks and balance system is completely out of order and the lack of political dialogue has made change impossible. Weren’t it dramatic it would be funny that just months ago the Albanian President Ilir Meta wrote a letter requesting the Slovak presidency of the OSCE to assist with solving the political crisis in Albania. Suddenly now a few months after, when nothing has changed and the situation is even worse, Albania assumes the role of leading the ambitious OSCE agenda of resolving key inter-state crisis around the world. Another paradox is the standing of the organization within the country itself. OSCE has been at the heart of the political conflict either when it has shown remarkable indifference to the matters at hand or dubious lack of neutrality. Even today the organization has suffered a hard blow to its legitimacy due to its treatment of the opposition or of protesters. One cannot disregard a reflection on the organization itself which by letting itself be led by hybrid democracies carrying heavy baggage (and this applies not only to Albania) apparently has failed to reform adequately its mission, ambition and vision. The current administration in Albania, caught in its obsession over facade and populist show, will drum around this chairmanship as a key foreign policy success. However even the most simple reflection over the facts reveals that it is a just a very costly endeavor with almost zero chances to bring any impact in Albania and much less in the rest of the OSCE community of states. [post_title] => Editorial: The multiple paradoxes of the Albanian OSCE chairmanship [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-multiple-paradoxes-of-the-albanian-osce-chairmanship [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-26 12:47:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-26 11:47:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143682 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143701 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-12 10:23:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-12 09:23:33 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 12 - The trajectory of the Polish-Albanian relations through time has been one of the most interesting with a rich history in the past and an even richer potential for the future, Deputy Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), Alba Cela, said in the opening statement of the seminar: “Talking Polish-Albanian Relations: Stocktaking and evaluating the potential for the future.”  The event gathered diplomats, members of the Poland-Albania Friendship Association and experts to discuss the past, present and future of the relations. In his opening address, His Excellency the Polish Ambassador Karol Bachura touched upon the fact that relations were already 80 years old. He made an expose of the developments of the last years mentioning the visits of both sides at the highest political level, highlighting those of the Prime Ministers, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Presidents of the two countries since 2016 onwards. The Ambassador also mentioned the reestablishment of the military attaché presence in Tiran as a signal that security and defense cooperation will be strengthened more in the near future. In the end the Ambassador concluded with the excellent news that the national carrier of Poland is expected to launch a regular direct flight between Warsaw and Tirana as early as the middle of next year. This will intensify and facilitate exchanges and connections even further. “We view Albania as a very valuable NATO ally,” said the Ambassador in this regard. Ambassador Bachura also presented the various initiatives led by the embassy to promote Polish culture in Albania in the field of literature film and music such as the Polish film week. Marta Szpala, senior fellow from the Centre from Eastern Studies, a governmental think tank associated with the office of the Prime Minister of Poland focused on European integration as a platform where Polish support and assistance throughout the years but particularly in the last period have been very strong. Szpala said that Poland, being a member of the Tallin group within the EU supports Albania and the entire region in the enlargement question. Szpala mentioned some of the instruments for technical assistance such as the Tirana conference for raising the capacities of the public administration and facilitating their networking as well as the Enlargement Academy. Szpala touched upon the Berlin process and the chairmanship of Poland which was culminated with the hosting of the Poznan Summit. This according to Szpala was a real game changer that brought even more attention and resources in Polish foreign policy towards Albania and the Western Balkans region. According to her, looking into the future the fields where the potential needs to be sued are security cooperation, economic exchanges as well as the social potential. AIIS senior researcher Dr Ledion Krisafi presented some of the findings of a research study carried by AIIS where he focused on the under exploited economic potential. He said that despite the numerous economic agreements between Albania and Poland since the 90s and the business forum organized in Tirana in 2017, the trade between the two countries is still very low.  However, the trade has increased in the last years, going from 48.4 million euros in 2014 to 73.4 million euros in 2018. Albanian exports to Poland have increased from 7.7 million euros in 2014 to 17.1 million euros in 2018. He said that compared with the other Balkan countries, these figures are still very low. For example Poland’s trade with Serbia stands at 1.2 billion euros, and even compared with North Macedonia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania’s trade with Poland is lower. Dr Krisafi said that there is a lot of potential to increase the trade between the two countries, especially in the areas of energy and mechanical devices from Poland and agriculture products, minerals and oil from Albania. At the moment Albania exports mostly footwear, fish and textiles, while imports from Poland mostly tobacco and sugar. Also Polish investments in Albania are very low. In 2017 the stock of Polish investments was just 600 thousand euros, while in 2016 there was no Polish investment at all in Albania. He said that Polish economy is the most successful from the former communist countries and after three decades of continuous economic growth, Poland now is trying to increase its economic presence in different areas, including the Balkans. Leonard Zissi from the Polish-Albania friendship Association presented some interesting historical facts and curiosities about the exchanges between Poland and Albania during various times and under various political regimes. He ended on a very optimistic note of predicting that relation will improve and deepen in the future since they are based on shared values and an accumulated human interaction through centuries.  [post_title] => Polish-Albanian relations: strong and rich cooperation with a lot of future potential [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => polish-albanian-relations-strong-and-rich-cooperation-with-a-lot-of-future-potential [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-16 10:26:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-16 09:26:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143701 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143644 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-08 12:07:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-08 11:07:03 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 6 - Albania officially took over on Friday the forthcoming presidency of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation), an organization comprised of 57 member states, which it will lead throughout 2020. The next OSCE Chairman will be Prime Minister Edi Rama, but this time in his capacity as Albania's Foreign Minister.  It was Rama who delivered the speech today, at the close of the ministerial organized in the Slovak capital, which held the presidency throughout 2019.  Rama outlined what the priorities of Albania's chairmanship will be, starting from honoring the commitments of the member states, promoting the work of the OSCE closer to the people and strengthening the dialogue "as the only way to build trust towards each other.” Rama did not leave unmentioned the crisis in Ukraine, which he said "remains the most pressing security challenge in Europe. It is unacceptable that prolonged conflicts in the OSCE region continue to claim lives. Therefore, efforts for resolving the conflict will be at the top of the agenda for the Albanian Presidency,” he said. Rama ended his speech by stressing the need for compromise and urging member countries to engage constructively, open-minded and without forgetting that everything is done for the people.   [post_title] => Albania takes over OSCE Presidency [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-takes-over-osce-presidency [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-08 12:07:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-08 11:07:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143644 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143647 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-07 08:13:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-07 07:13:21 [post_content] => "The Allies can take our aid into consideration. Today, the military reconquest team arrives in Albania. The soldiers will assess what assistance the Polish military can provide in eliminating the effects of the earthquake that struck Albania. We will help, among others, with infrastructure recovery,” Mariusz Błaszczak wrote in his official Twitter account.    [post_title] => Polish Defense Minister offers Polish aid for earthquake relief [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => polish-defense-minister-offers-polish-aid-for-earthquake-relief [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-10 08:15:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-10 07:15:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143647 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143626 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-05 20:09:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-05 19:09:39 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL On November 26, a natural disaster of significant proportion hit Albania when an initial earthquake of 6.4 magnitude followed by dozens of aftershocks claimed the lives of more than 50 people and destroyed the homes and livelihoods of thousands of others primarily in Durres, Tirana and Lac. The majority of the losses, both in human lives and in infrastructure have been judged as a manmade consequence related to buildings outside of security parameters in terms of construction site chosen and materials/techniques used. In addition to the immense pain and loss to the directly affected families and the destruction of entire buildings or even sections of the cities, the earthquake brought also the stinging pain of laying bare the utter failure of the Albanian state in all its chronological dimensions: past, present and most likely the future. For more than three decades now, the Albanian state has failed to establish the bare minimum, control over the territory and a basic governance over the buildings and people it’s supposed to rule over. For more than three decades corruption in the construction and permits sector have produced buildings without minimum safety standards. The outcome was made visible when the devastation hit and claimed so many human lives. For the moment it is unclear, despite the powerful rhetoric, whether this past lesson will be taken or lost on the decision-makers. Rules and regulations over the planning and execution of construction respecting all requirements of “where and how” (hence territory type and quality of materials), will be strengthened however their implementation will still be dependent on the control mechanisms and responsible individuals in charge.  Two months prior to this shock, on September 21, a large earthquake (approx. 5.5 magnitude) also hit the same areas and caused some significant damage. This natural warning went ignored and many of the buildings damaged the first time were among the ones worst hit the second time around. No responsibility was taken over this fact either. This was the unearthed pain of the past. As for the present, the management of the crisis reveled the ugliness and debilitating chaos that prevails in all the current institutions of the Albanian government, both at central and local level. First there was the utter and ludicrous personalization of the post-event time with the Prime Minister wondering around the affected sites and inside damaged homes, hugging people and dogs, shedding tears and barking against mayors, trying to make jokes and boasting that he had made international leaders feel Albania’s pain.  This all live in all the TV screens of national media, whose unprofessional and unethical coverage merits a whole other critical article on its own. The behavior of some ministers was similar and in some cases even worse. In addition, the Prime Minister and his majority even in these difficult days tried to gain political capital by benefiting from the spirit of the post-earthquake, making claims of reconciliation and collaboration with the opposition. Conveniently forgetting that in all the previous days they had worked incessantly to undermine the legitimacy of the real opposition by using the fake one inside the parliament to pass laws and reforms, now suddenly they found an inspiration to extend a hand and curate their image. Moreover the involvement of stakeholders such as charity organizations and even specific religious institutions in the crisis management tables raised huge questions over the seriousness of the state. Flanked on both sides by a popular and telegenic imam and a young activist for charity, the Prime Minister failed to project the necessary gravitas of a leader that is in charge and instead relied on the usual façade tricks.  Second, there was the lack of capacities of the emergency management services which had no equipment, no well-trained experts and not even sniffing dogs to rescue people under the rubbles. They were almost entirely dependent on the teams that came from assisting states in the region and from Western Europe to save the lives that were thankfully saved due to the expertise and preparation of others.  Leading among them was the example of Kosovo, which despite being a young state with similar problems, had a well-equipped and well trained emergency force that made a real difference on the ground. There have been no firings and no quitting with the exception of the Durres mayor which resigned over a poor choice of words! The hierarchy of the intuitions responding to the aftermath of the events is not clear to this day.    Finally, now a week after, it seems that the seeds of future corruption and mismanagement are already being sown with ambitious grand scale projects of building new neighborhoods. Without a serious analysis of other more realistic options, the government is set already on the path of major expenditures to house hundreds in entirely new buildings in the three affected cities.  Time will show whether the funds and procedures over these major projects will be mad transparent and used effectively or will be another infamous case of the dark PPPs already eating away the public finances. The track record is not inspiring. The earthquake that hit Albania was a severe natural disaster and would have caused damages wherever. However the fundamental weaknesses of the Albanian state not only did not assist the situation, they made the toll worse. As experts say “Earthquakes don’t kill people. Buildings do.” It is legitimate yet painful to say now that bad governance does. Unless we change this, the next terrible disaster is just a matter of time.     [post_title] => Editorial: A failed state laid bare by a natural disaster [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-a-failed-state-laid-bare-by-a-natural-disaster [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-26 12:47:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-26 11:47:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143626 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143704 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-05 10:29:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-05 09:29:09 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 4 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), in cooperation with the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, held a conference titled ‘Albania in the region: policy, perception and outlook,’ on November 26, aimed at discussing current issues and challenges of regional relations, as well as the role of perceptions towards foreing policy. Held at the Tirana Times Bookhouse, the opening remarks were made by AIIS Deputy Director Alba Cela, followed by AIIS Executive Director Albert Rakipi, Hanns-Seidel Stiftung Program Coordinator Nertila Mosko and Albania’s Deputy Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Sokol Dedja.  Dedja spoke of Albania’s EU integration process, saying that despite the latest decision - “or indecision” - regarding the country’s opening of accession negotiations, the government’s commitment to successfully implementing all reforms remains unwavering.  “This obviously applies to internal reforms - the justice reform, the fight against corruption and crime - while for the external reforms, we have to be more careful. We can not pretend as if nothing happened, because there have been tectonic shifts in international politics. In this regard, a mature reflection is necessary,” Dedja said.  He further added that despite the latest rejection by the EU to open Albania’s accession negotiations, the country’s EU perspective remains unchanged even by countries like France, with the only thing that might possibly change being the rhythm of that accession. Naim Rashiti, Director of the Balkans Group in Kosovo, on his part said that a generational shift is taking place in Kosovo, as he remembers his generation celebrating November 28 as an Independence Day and now sees his children celebrating February 17. “Albin Kurti won elections when he dropped the national unity front. The new generations, lacking the black and red symbol, have decided to make good governance and welfare their national symbol and have decided that’s what their country will be based on,” he said.  Milan Krstic, from Belgrade University’s Faculty of Political Sciences and Director of Communications of the Center for Social Dialogue and Regional Initiatives, said that Vucic tries to present the relations with Albania as a kind of progress for Serbia, to show how Serbia has changed and is changing the relations with the region.  However, he underlined that part of these improved relations is real.  “Serbia and Albania are overcoming turbulences from the past and this aspect can be seen in regard to the orientation towards the EU."  Furthermore, he said the extreme nationalistic part of Serbian politics shows Rama as a security threat, with the goal of the Greater Albania.  He spoke of how Vucic is direct on the Kosovo issue, and says that Serbia doesn’t have any power there anymore, while giving importance to the mini-Schengen, which is supported by the government.  “Serbia sees possible economic benefits from investments and the potential of stability through the mini-Schengen,” Krstic said. According to Vucic, Krstic said, the stability it creates and a bigger market will bring more foreign investments, while also having its own political benefits, with normalization of relations between these countries. In this way Serbia tries to be de-stigmatized, to leave behind the past, while also showing itself like ‘the good guy’ who opens up the borders, while Kosovo is implementing a 100percent tariff to Serbian imported goods.  Ledion Krisafi, researcher at AIIS, said that Albania’s policy towards North Macedonia has changed little in the last three decades. It has two main points: the inviolability of North Macedonia’s borders and territorial integrity and second, the euro-Atlantic perspective of the country. Albania has maintained this position even though it has national interest in North Macedonia. All this time Albania tries to maintain a delicate balance between good neighborly relations and on the other hand to support Albanians’ demands for more rights inside North Macedonia.  He added, 2017 was a crucial year, because the Albanian government supported directly and indirectly the LSDM party of Zoran Zaev in the general elections. Also it was crucial because after Zoran Zaev’s victory there was an attempt to raise the level of bilateral relations. This approach may have future repercussions, if the VMRO-DPMNE party in opposition wins the next elections.  On the economic part, the two countries are part of CEFTA2006 and this has had considerable influence in the trade between them, but still short of the expectations.   [post_title] => AIIS, Hanns-Seidel Foundation hold conference on current regional relations challenges [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => aiis-hanns-seidel-foundation-hold-conference-on-current-regional-relations-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-16 10:31:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-16 09:31:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143704 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143608 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-03 15:22:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-03 14:22:30 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 2 - Tirana, Durres and Kruja’s prosecution offices announced that they have launched investigations into damaged buildings a few days after the strong earthquake that left 51 people dead on Tuesday morning.  The capital and Durres area, including Thumane, are most affected by the earthquake.  The many buildings that were damaged were part of an investigation launched by the three prosecution offices.  According to official reports, part of the investigations that have been initiated for the offenses of duty Abuse, Illegal Construction and Providing Illegal Construction Assistance are the building permits issued by local authorities, their implementation by builders, and construction cases where responsible authorities have been abusive and failed to intervene.  “The purpose of the investigation is to take swift action to clarify the concrete circumstances that have led to the consequences and the state of constructions. The offenses under investigation are those of ‘Abuse of duty,’ provided by Article 248 of the Criminal Code, investigating the bodies that have approved construction permits and whether they have been granted in support of the law, and whether the builders have complied with the permit, ‘Illegal construction,’ provided by Article 199/a of the Criminal Code, as well as ‘Providing assistance for illegal construction,’ Article 199/a of the Criminal Code,” said the Prosecution of Tirana, which also explained that it has requested information The Municipality of Tirana for the already identified dwellings affected by the earthquake and not classified in the appropriate housing conditions. The first official data released this afternoon by Deputy Interior Minister Rovena Voda speaks of 7900 affected houses and buildings: Collapsed flats: 131   Seriously damaged houses: 3 811   Lightly damaged flats: 3 149   Seriously damaged mansions: 461   Lightly damaged buildings: 324   The grave situation created by the earthquake was at the heart of a special meeting of the National Security Council convened today by President Ilir Meta, who explained after the meeting “closer cooperation and coordination between all institutions to provide emergency response until full normalcy is restored” was discussed and that support was given" to the prosecution to advance investigations and to hold all those who are responsible liable.” According to Meta, "internal resources and international support should be provided to overcome the serious consequences of the earthquake.”  International support has so far been immediate. After assisting in the early hours after Tuesday's hit, 50 foreign experts have been hired to assess damaged buildings to date.  "This phase will take several days. All areas of concern will be systematically addressed by joint teams of Albanian and international experts,” said today the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Tirana Luigi Soreca. By the afternoon, there were 469 objects evaluated by joint expert groups in Durres, Kruja and Shijak. In the end, 180 were found to be uninhabitable and 21 buildings to be demolished in the Durres area. After the completion of this process, the reconstruction phase will have to start.  "In a third phase, we will consider how the European Union will help Albania rebuild with a medium to long-term perspective. This discussion will begin on Thursday with the visit of our new European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič. Reconstruction planning will require a thorough post-disaster needs assessment and an efficient donor coordination that the EU is ready to support,” said Soreca.   [post_title] => Tirana, Durres prosecutions initiate construction permit investigations after earthquake [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tirana-durres-prosecutions-initiate-construction-permit-investigations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-03 15:25:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-03 14:25:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143608 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143764 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-12-18 13:02:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-18 12:02:17 [post_content] => By Sonja Biserko  Any discussion about Serbia-Kosovo relations has to take into account the international context and interests of some global players that strongly influence regional dynamics, relations between Serbs and Albanians included. In the early 1990s at the outbreak of Yugoslav wars, the liberal order that implies international cooperation was still functional. That was evident in the way the Contact Group coped with the Yugoslav crisis, and in operations of other mechanisms in which major international players were involved. International engagement was in the function of bringing the Balkans in transatlantic integration. In addition to the aspect of security (NATO), EU member-states operated in the Balkans through soft power with and economic integration. Dynamic of the Balkans’ integration depended on the region’s potentials. However, the financial crisis (2008) changed EU’s priorities, while Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency and Russia’s penetration into the region (2013) disturbed its existing agenda. There is no telling so far what will come out of EU’s attempt – Germany’s in the first place – to effectuate normalization through Belgrade-Pristine dialogue, and consequently Kosovo’s recognition and its membership of UN. The Brussels dialogue, which resulted in an agreement and a number of other special agreements, was unfortunately halted was halted the moment Commissioner Mogerini chaged the format of dialogue and accepted the deal the two presidents, Thaci and Vučić, made on Kosovo’s partition. Partition of Kosovo has always been Belgrade’s only option, but it was surprising that Thaci and Albanian Premier Rama said yes to the deal. The deal also had the support of certain international circles, but failed thanks primarily to German opposition to changing borders. Tariffs imposed on the goods from Serbia, assassination of Oliver Ivanović and a numenr of other developments have led to blocking of dialogue and raised tensions. The recent Kosovo elections and the victory of Albin Kurti (Self-determination and LDK) have changed the political panorama in Kosovo and opened up the possibility of creating a new framework for dialogue and a possible solution. The results of the Kosovo elections have led to a relaxation in Kosovo society and raised expectations regarding the fight against corruption and addressing every day problems. Albin Kurti is a politician without a war record or corruption in his file. He immediately announced lifting of 100-percent- tariffs that enables reopening of the dialogue with Serbia. He also announced the principle of reciprocity requesting equality for Kosovo in its dialogue with Serbia.[1] Thaci and Haradinaj are true electoral losers, mostly because of irresponsibility they have demonstrated at home and at international scene. Their foreign policy ended up in a fiasco – their policy for visa liberalization failed and Kosovo was not admitted to Interpol and UNESCO. Belgrade’s campaign against Kosovo’s recognition resulted in withdrawals by some smaller countries. Hence, repute and opportunities for the young state of Kosovo were seriously undermined. No doubt that Kurti’s unyielding stance about Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity considerably decided the electoral outcome. Albin Kurti denies recognition to the Serbian List that won all the ten minority seats in the parliament. He argues that it does not represent Kosovo Serbs but the Serbian government. Another electoral loser in Kosovo is President Vučić, who had strongly influenced developments in Kosovo via the Serbian List under his control. Belgrade is dissatisfied with the outcome of elections as it no longer has the partner to deal with on Kosovo’s partition (Thaci), it is particularly dissatisfied with the fact that Kurti becomes prime minister. It still hopes that US would exert pressure on LDK to make a coalition with Thaci’s party that ranks third by the number of votes won. Apart from Vucic and his environment, disappointment with the election results is not hidden by other actors in the Serbian scene and it can be said that there is consensus in this respect. They mostly argue that Kurti’s “extremism” and messages he has put across “leave no room for improvements, reducing tensionsand continuation of negotiations.” Commenting on Kurti’s victory, Serbian tabloids ran headlines labeling him “A European Šešelj,”[2] “Serb-hater,[3] and “Great Albania dreamer.”[4] President Vučić himself called him “a most dangerous man.”[5] Current political elites in Belgrade, Prishtine and Tirana as well are conspiring against Albin Kurti hoping that Kosovo might go to the polls again. While speculations in this regard multiply, Kurti continues to meet all major partners from the EU and the US. Serbia looks forward to Americans’ influence on the composition of Kosovo cabinet. However, as things stand, the West and US have accepted Kurti as a new leader capable of coping with corruption and crime. As indictments from The Hague will be coming in soon, Kurti is probably the only politician ready to extradite the accused. The fact that US appointed two special envoys for Kosovo and the Western Balkans leads to the conclusion that it would try to speed up a settlement. It allegedly plans to force Serbia and Kosovo to take their seats at the negotiating table and reach a sustainable solution. US’ primary objective is to suppress Russia from the Balkans and have the Western Balkans in the membership of NATO. President Vučić is barely pleased with these possibilities. His statements following on his meeting with newly appointed US envoy Richard Grenell were rather pessimistic. Belgrade has all its hopes on Russia in terms of reaching a "Kosovo compromise" that is partition. Because, as many point out, "Russian support is essential for the survival of the Republika Srpska as much as it is for the defense of Kosovo and Metohija.[6]  In addition, given the changed international circumstances, Belgrade reckons that Russia has a number of reasons to support Serbs in national positions of vital interest, regardless of its relations with Washington. Vučić pins his hopes on the meeting with President Putin, scheduled for late 2019. Russian Premier Medvedev’s visit to Belgrade also symbolically mirrored Belgrade’s expectations from Russia. Ever since it resolutely stepped in the Balkans (2013) Kosovo has been Russia’s main argument – and instrument – for blocking the region’s movement towards Euro-Atlantic integrations. Regressive trends in each country of the region only strengthened Russia’s influence on overall developments. Democratic capitalism has been less and less attractive to Western Balkan countries; hence, they have been more and more turning towards other players such as Russia, China, Turkey or UAE. Alternatives to modernity the latter are offering are anyway more appealing to incumbent authoritarian leaders in the region. Besides, those players are placing financial resources for infrastructural projects in their hands. Actual geopolitical circumstances in the Western Balkans and, especially, the inertia of EU (as it let down Macedonia and Albania) open up more room to Russia’s presence, even in the countries wherefrom it has been expelled recently (Montenegro and Macedonia). As status quo in Kosovo perfectly suits Russia; hence, it has been invoking UNSC Resolution 1244. The key to the problem of Kosovo is, in a way, in Russia’s hands, rather than Serbia’s. Besides, at the hearing in the European Parliament, Jose Borrell, EU’s newly appointed commissioner for foreign policy, reminded that Kosovo could not be a state unless recognized by “China, India and Russia.”[7] Even the “Small Schengen” project Vučić has been offering to Albania and North Macedonia plays into Russia’s hands. For, if EU neglects the Western Balkans (French President’s decision to prevent opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania), its credibility in the region will be sloping downward. Russian analysts also argue for a status quo in Kosovo. Katarina Entina of the High School of Economics predicts yet another backward step in negotiations, and says that Kosovo is not on America’s priority list; as Trumps has begun campaigning for another presidential term, he cannot be expected to take some stronger stand about Kosovo, so everything will remain as it is for another year and a half. EU also needs to protract Serbia’s progress in the fulfillment of technical requirements for its membership. Therefore, speeding up the solution to the Kosovo issue suits neither EU nor Trump; so, “the dialogue will be only formal and technical.”[8] Western policy for the Balkans has been unproductive because it has excessively banked on corrupted elites in power and the promises they made. Having neglected democratization – and, hence, the media, civil society and opposition – it enabled strengthening of authoritarian regimes and leaders. No major progress towards stability and sustainable peace could be expected in the Balkan region unless it is crime cleansed. This is why Kosovo elections and Albin Kurti’s victory heralds of a new era in the Western Balkans. It will not be a process without resistance and violence, but it is certainly the only way to change the paradigm so far. And the hints we witness now require stronger presence of EU in the region, and its full support. To sum up, the region necessitates thorough reforms, which the Western world is facing also with great resistance. It is necessary to restore faith in the liberal system and institutions. Only in this key can the Kosovo issue, as well as all other relations in the Balkans, be resolved. That’s the only key to the solution of the Kosovo problem, and all other problematic relations in the Balkans. *This article first appeared at the Tirana Observatory (www.tiranaobservatory.com) [post_title] => Decriminalization of the Balkans condition of all conditions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => decriminalization-of-the-balkans-condition-of-all-conditions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-13 15:49:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-13 14:49:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143764 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1097 [max_num_pages] => 110 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_comments_popup] => [is_paged] => 1 [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 47c1877509ee05437095704feefa8b84 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => 1 [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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