Sunday, December 09, 2007

If you thought that the Department of Records in Brazil mistyping "Buttle" instead of "Tuttle" was one of the worst historic bureaucratic blunders, you're wrong.
In a court case in the Netherlands in which survivors sue the UN and the Netherlands over the genocide in Srebrenica, the UN noted that "its office in Sarajevo refused air support in Srebrenica because the Dutch commander there failed to fill the request form correctly."

Did they cross in the wrong box (please support us with UN navy maritime support) or did they wrongly identify what happened in the form (calling it mass murder prior to an independent UN confirmation based on an extended fact finding mission) or where some signatures missing (of the victims/perpetrators confirming events) ? I'm curious.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fast Food for Shmekers... I wonder if it schmeckts?

Monday, November 26, 2007

While singing Partisan songs is still a scandal in Croatia, especially on election night, it is quiet ok in Bosnia.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Here's the bad headline of the day from the IHT: "Early tally gives edge to pro-independence party in Kosovo". So PDK won narrowly over the other parties which are not pro-independence? It is hard to distinguish parties in Kosovo on the issue of political program, but still, emphasizing the only thing which does not set them apart is not exactly a journalistic highlight...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

If you are in Bosnia these days and are not following what's going on, you might be mistaken to think that presidential elections are occurring.

Candidate 1: Sarajevo, last weekend

Candidate 2: Banja Luka, last weekend
The good news is that there are no elections looming and neither Sanader nor Putin are running in them.

The bad news is that once more some are looking outside the country for help from other outsiders ruling the country.

In fact, the hysteria in RS and Serbia over Miroslav Ljacak's imposition is out of proportion when reading the decision and actually remembering that in the past year more often than not, decisions were not taken in the Council of Minister of Bosnia due to the boycott of Bosniak members.

Never before have RS officials and Serbia react so hostile to any OHR decision over the past 12 years, suggesting that it is not really about the decision, but rather something to do with Kosovo.
See more here

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kostunica has the choice to give up Kosovo and choose the heavenly kingdom to follow the example of good old Knez Lazar. As Kostunica noted, a new Kosovo battle is being fought between Serbia and the USA. So Lazar will have the illustrious company of Milosevic and Kostunica keeping him company... Lucky him.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The rest of the article from the BBC website actually made more sense. But as the headline reads, I am expecting a string of follow up articles: "Iran 'urged to finally meet international commitments: Kyoto Protocol or sanctions" or "UN presses Gaza on keeping beaches clean" or maybe "US government warns: Rising problem of fly-tipping in Iraq"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It seems like Feral Tribune has come to an end. Ironically, it is not Tudjman's attempts to ban it through pornography tax but good old capitalism: The saying about the two certainties--taxes and death--seems closely intertwined in the case of Feral Tribune. Unable to pay back some huge tax bill from the Ministry of Finance, it stopped publishing. It's harder in the post-authoritarian times with less clear targets, smaller battles to fight, but I hope Feral will also survive this latest challenge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, B92!

Today B92 became an 'adult', celebrating it's 18th birthday. When listing to all the stories about B92 during the 1990s, being an adult promises to make the station a lot more boring and less interesting than it was in its younger years. It is hard to be as provocative nowadays, but as one listener said today, how come that the radicals are still in parliament, as they were in the 1990s and B92 is no longer the same.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Miroslav Lajcak has been formally named new High Rep. for Bosnia by the PIC. This confirms what has been long expected. He will replace Schwarz-Schilling in July. Will he be just another 'last HR' or really the last one (both Ashdown and Schwarz-Schiling suggested being the last ones). His main accomplishment has been the mediation in Montenegro for the referendum. While the referendum and independence went smoothly, there were a lot of ifs which remained unclear and highly problematic in last year's intervention (the so-called gray zone in particular, i.e. what to do if less than 55 but more than 50 % voted for independence). Lacking heavy weight backing from a larger EU member state (like Ashdown) and in fact being from a country which has a government currently not viewed as the most, ehem, European might make Lajcak weak. Considering the confrontational climate in Bosnian politics at the moment and the standstill in terms of reforms, this is all not too promising.
The Politics of Eurovision
So Serbia won for the first time the Eurovision contest (the last and only time Yugoslavia won with Riva in 1990, the country fell apart...). Goran's blog at B92 is great on the domestic debates on Marija Serifovic and the fact that she does not resemble the conventional singers who make it Serbia...
Yesterday I was able to witness Terry Wogan's legendary commentary for the first time...and instead I got Jacques Chirac. Wogan's view of Eastern Europe was awfully reminiscent of Chirac when he called the countries of Eastern Europe "mal élevée" (badly educated). Wogan, annoyed at the apparent block voting, even called a new wall (I shall not comment on the tastelessness of this suggestion). Teaming prejudice, his commentary displayed a great degree of ignorance. He was upset at the voting along certain geographic blocks (ex-Soviet Union, Baltics, Balkans, etc.) and apparently had particular disdain at the East European for this habit.
His commentary ignored the fact that although Western Europe might be economically more powerful, there are simply more countries in "Eastern Europe". Of the 42 participating countries, only 16 are from 'Western Europe' (without Greece), so a disbalance in favor of the East should not surprise anybody (and let's not forget that the only four countries which do not have to earn their place are... Germany, France, UK and Spain). Furthermore, the accusation of block voting ignores the real regional political dynamics. Geographic proximity often makes voting for each other more difficult. Nationalist stereotypes would suggest that it would be easier for Turkey to, let's say vote for the UK, than Armenia. This is in fact the fascinating bit of the competition how televoting meant that politically problematic votes (like Turkey for Armenia, Croatia for Serbia) are no longer excluded by 'politically correct' juries. Eurovision-Citizens calling in have often demonstrated to the break some conventional animosities. When Austria supports Germany, Turkey Armenia, Croatia Serbia, etc. then this is voting despite (past) political considerations, not because of them.
Geographical patterns exist, but they are not rigid blocks but rather patterns determined not only by geography or supposed regional sympathy. Musical tastes differ across Europe and not everything will appeal everywhere, and this after all the fun of the whole spectacle.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

After extended attempts to transform Tadic into Kostunica, the experiment finally succeeded (see above). The government looks a lot like continuity with the previous one. In particular DSS has had relatively few losses, considering that in fact the heavy-weight ministries which DS gained were previously held either by G17plus (finance, defense) or by SPO (foreign affairs). Good news, no more capital investments, although Velja "Kobsicijade" Ilic can still build highways and enrich political life with his astute observations.
The silly ministry of this government is the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija. In fact, I think there should be two ministries, one for Kosovo and one for Metohija, guided by a joint council on Kosovo and Metohija...

Friday, May 11, 2007

The latest news that DS and DSS (and G17) agreed to form a government seems like the 'playing chicken' phase of government formation is over. So electing Nikolic might turn out to have been a similar bluff (and hopefully shortlived) like Velja Ilic's talk about a DSS minority government with radical support a few weeks ago. The key question now to find out is who blinked first: DS or DSS. For a while DSS had the stronger card as they could (theoretically) form an alternative government to a coalition with DS. However, the threat of new elections, just a few days away, seems to be benefiting DS rather than DSS, as they could be portraying themselves as the only/last bastion against radicals in government.
Now the question is whether the other chicken game--between the USA and Russia--in the UN security council will be similarly resolved.

Monday, May 07, 2007

As serious discussions on Kosovo in the UN Sec. Council are approaching, it might be time to think of scenarios. I can see three scenarios that might happen.

The first one would be that the UN Sec. Council votes to endorse the Ahtisaari plan. This would primarily mean Russia backing down from its insistence on an agreed solution (i.e. Serbia agreeing to any plan for Kosovo). Considering that Russia has made a considerable investment in preventing a vote, including the visit of UN Sec. Council members to Kosovo, any simple backing down of Russia seems unlikely at this point. Secondly, if Russia was isolated, pressure might mount, but it seems like not only some other UN Sec. Council members, but also some EU members are less than enthusiastic about the plan which would secure Kosovo's independence. Thus, this outcome seems increasingly unlikely.

In the second scenario, Russia would successfully block the resolution and/or push for a resolution to continue negotiations. Besides the fact that the odds for any negotiated solution between Kosovo and Serbia are infinitely small, such a resolution is unlikely to be endorsed by the USA and UK. Instead, this scenario would mean no resolution. In this case, a unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo would be recognized by some countries, the UN mission would loose all legitimacy, and the North of Kosovo would secede. The risk for violence in Mitrovica or against Serbs in enclaves elsewhere would be great, as would be a turn to the nasty in Serbia (esp. if there will be new elections). Exactly for this reason, EU and USA will try to avoid this outcome.

The third, and in my view most likely, scenario is that the UN Security Council will pass a compromise resolution which does not fully endorse Artisaari plan, but acknowledges it (or something along these lines), transfers the international administration from UN to EU and offers to take final decision (maybe on the basis of the Artisaari plan, just like the UN Sec. Council Res. 1244 takes account of the Rambouillet plans) within a closely defined time frame (i.e. one year or less). This would allow Russia to claim victory, while preventing a chaotic vacuum in Kosovo. The key challenge will be on how to secure support from the Kosovo Albanian elite to prevent a unilateral declaration of independence or violence. While not exactly the ideal case scenario, this solution might allow the EU mission to prepare Kosovo for independence and avoid a void, which would be worse in terms of precedent setting and potential violence than no resolution at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

When crickets become evidence... Jutarnji List reports that some have questioned the recently released recording of the meeting in Brijoni of Tudjman and the army to plan operation Oluja in 1995. According to the report there is no sound of crickets when Tudjman talks about the expulsion of Serbs, unlike elsewhere on the recording. In its comprehensive reporting, it also shares some information on crickets: they only chirp when its warmer than 25 degrees (in fact you can calculate the temperature by the frequency of the chirps) and they don't chirp when they are in danger or they rest.
So if there was no chirping during during these statements, I would propose several alternative theories to that of a doctored tape: a) the crickets were exhausted and took a quick break; b) they thought they would be expelled next and as noted above, crickets in danger don't chirp or c) there was an unexpected drop in temperature (a certain chill in the air so to speak) or d) they just didn't want to be on the soundtrack to such a project...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Here's a short interview for RFE I gave on the Kosovo status discusion in Serbian and in Albanian
"Serbia, China agree to boost agricultural cooperation"

This is todays headline of the Chinese XINHUA news agency. Not exactly saving Kosovo...
Here's a reconstruction of the conversation:
Kostunica: You have to veto the Artisaari plan, it will forcibly remove 15 % (actually, we re-calculated, it is 15.3%) of our territory. This will be a precedent...etc etc
Hui Liangyu: (looking distracted through the window)... I see you have nice corn fields, do you want to sign an agreement?
Kostunica: Yes, especially for the cornfields in Kosovo, so that we trade on the basis of all 100% of Serbian corn fields, not just 84.7% of them. etc. etc.
Hui Liangyu (yawning) Okok

and thus the glorious agreement on boosting agricultural cooperation was signed

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Finally the "I" word has been mentioned officially for Kosovo. Today Ahtisaari unveiled his plan for Kosovo and after avoiding now, as expected, mentions that Kosovo should be given independence. The hesitancy over the past seven years to name future status of Kosovo this explicitly has been understandable, but also gave unrealistic hope to the Serbian elite that anything else was an option. At this point, unfortunately, it still looks like Serbian authorities will be busier preventing the decision in the Sec. Council and any implementation, rather than making the best of the offer and the extensive minority rights protections offered in the package.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where's Veljko?

A few years ago when looking to rent a flat in Belgrade, we nearly rented from Veljko Kadijevic daughter-in-law. She shared her outrage with us that he was wrongly maligned as the last minister of defense of Yugoslavia. Apparently the USA agrees.
As Blic reports, he is living in Florida, advising the Pentagon in Iraqi bunkers these days. Wasn't that the same Kadijevic who was raving about the 'foreign factors' destroying Yugoslavia ...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In Sarajevo last week I noticed that Vucko posters in town to remind of the Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has possibly the best description of this little furry wolf with the howl which seems to call for cough-drops:

"Vuchko", the tough and courageous wolf. This mascot helped to change the traditionally frightening and bloodthirsty image of the wolf, which is present in the region. This wolf has both a serious and a cheerful side, but is happy rather than serious. It symbolises the desire of human beings to make friends with animals, to make a wolf into a Vuchko.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Spam of the day:


Did you know that the UN is handing out awards these days? You can expect my disappointment when it was not for my contributions to global peace.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Motto of the day: Graffiti from Belgrade

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Yesterday Paddy Ashdown gave a lecture here in at the University of Kent. He spoke only little on Bosnia, but instead offered both a biting critique of unilateral intervention a la Iraq and an equally staunch defense of intervention in Bosnia and other countries, if done multilaterally.
Most interesting was his lessons learned from intervention, some already generally accepted in the policy community such as rule of law first, elections second, others, although obvious, were more instructive, such as don't model the country on (an idealized version of) your own country. A number of these lessons seem to be the result of reflecting after his mission as HR in Bosnia. In particular, he favors the abolition of the Bonn powers and movement towards greater self-governance in Bosnia. Considering that he was arguably the most interventionist high rep, the call for less intervention should be instructive for current discussions on extending the mandate of the OHR in Bosnia.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Here are some quick Yugo-nostalgic food tips for Skopje (in German, sorry)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

When discussing the Western Balkans with analysts and policy makers, one can notice distinct mood shifts over the years. In some cases is might be just because you are at a gathering of optimists or pessimists, in other cases it has little to do with the situation in the countries, as it might be the case of dissapointed internatioanl (false) expections or what is bad in one country does not necessarily bode ill for another.
Be this as it may, it was striking to note the worried atmosphere at a meeting last week in Paris of EU policy makers and analysts. After 2006 seemed like a year where transition from post-conflict to European integration would be more tangible, little was decided. Now 2007 might be overwhelmed by the legacy of 2006. Both the status decision for Kosovo and the shutting down of the OHR in Bosnia appears already to be too much in one go. So, local 'ownership', the buzzword of a few years back has fallen in popularity. It appears that the future EU mission in Kosovo will be similar to the OHR including the Bonn-powers (to dimiss officials and pass legislation) and since the current High Rep. Schwarz Schilling is leaving early and even he noted the continued need for the OHR, full souvereignty to Bosnia also seem to be not forthcoming any time soon. To a large degree, the talk of an independence referendum of the Serb Republic by Milorad Dodik is to blame. Ironically, one of the politicians the most critical of the international community and of the OHR in particular has thrown it another life-line.
Whether the OHR will remain effective and it's decision legitimate remains to be seen. It is an emperor without clothes and if it is called on its weakness, there might be difficulties ahead. A few years back, a good part of Bosnian citizens supported an increase in the power of the OHR, in 2006 the UND early warning report notes that supporters of reducing the OHR's competences are larger than those who would like to increase it among all three national communities. Similarly in Kosovo, there is a question whether such a type of mission will be legitimate and accepted, especially as the status solution is unlikely to satisfy anybody fully.
Finally, as there is a sense that EU enlargement might be slowed down and not because of the countries in the region, but because of the EU's current internal crisis, the key carrot might be loosing some of its pull.
Altogether, the meeting left me thinking that despite some key decisions being taken in 2007, stability remains at risk and we might have to wait for 2008 for more courageous steps towards EU Integration of the region.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Last Monday, I participated in a discussion on the status of Kosovo and its implications at LSE. What was striking beside the apparently large interest in the topic was the diaspora mobilization. As a result, it was more controversial and difficult to talk calmly about some issues, such as conditional independence, than in Belgrade (or Prishtina). I guess abroad there are more people who see their role as "professionally" defending what they think their nations' interest is.
Here's an article for which I gave some statements on the elections in Serbia...

Globe and Mail, 19.1.2007

Fate of Serbian reform hinges on vote

Special to The Globe and Mail; SOURCES

PRAGUE -- Serbs go to the polls Sunday in an early election to decide whether the country continues along its plodding path toward Western integration, accelerate the pace of reform or slide back toward radical nationalism. And the wild card in the race will be voter turnout.
Beware of university cafeterias. More than once in recent history have they been the source of protest and unrest. The mention that the confrontation between supporters of Hizbollah and other opposition groups and government followers began in the cafeteria of the Beirut Arab University. This reminds me of the 1981 demonstrations and riots in Kosovo which also began in the university cafeteria over bad food and later demanded the status of republic for Kosovo.
Solution: Close down university cafeteria in troubled times... or maybe serve such good food that nobody can complain.