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.