Archive for the ‘South Eastern Europe’ category

Launch of Radical Islam Monitor in Southeast Europe (RIMSE)

February 23, 2011

 

Radical Islam Monitor in Southeast Europe (RIMSE) seeks to expose Islamist activities (both violent and non violent) in the region of Southeast Europe.

Special attention will be given to Islamist activities taking place in Greece.

RIMSE argues that the threat posed to the West in general and to Southeast Europe in particular is not by Islam as a faith but by Islamism as a totalitarian political ideology.
Website: http://www.rimse.gr

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Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina call for promotion of ties

October 7, 2009

ISNA – Tehran Service: Islamic Parliament 1388/07/15 10-07-2009 News Code :8807-00044

 

 

TEHRAN (ISNA) – Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina are willing to expand mutual relations in politics, culture, economy and parliamentary cooperation. Parliamentary friendship group of Iran and Bosnia Herzegovina held meeting with the Muslim member of the Bosnia Herzegovina Presidency, Haris Silajdzic in Sarajevo.

 

Silajdzic calling for expansion of economic ties between Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina said, “economic relations of the two countries must reach a level that can satisfy both countries.”

 

Also Iran’s parliamentary delegation asserted, there were many potentialities which should be found to broaden the domains of cooperation between the two countries particularly in industry and economy.

 

The Iranian delegation also meeting with the Foreign Minister of the European country Sven Alkalaj hoped the two sides would promote cooperation through parliamentary ties.

 

Iran’s parliamentarian also met Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives Speaker Milorad Zivkovic where both sides hoped the two countries interactions in different political and parliamentary levels would be influential in strengthening friendly relations.

Bosnia’s IMF tightrope

September 18, 2009

Ian Bancroft in Belgrade

 

 

Business New Europe   |   September 18, 2009

 

 
Despite being initially agreed back in May after often-fraught negotiations, the three-year €1.2bn stand-by arrangement reached between the International Monetary Fund and Bosnia-Herzegovina remains beset by a host of impediments that delayed payment of the first tranche and threatens to curtail future financial assistance.

Gripped by political crisis and growing social unrest, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina – the Muslim-Croat half of the country, due to receive two-thirds of the IMF money – has struggled to enact a series of testing reforms that were demanded by the IMF, and in the process further exposed Bosnia’s vulnerability to the global economic crisis.

Approval of the stand-by arrangement was initially delayed in June after the IMF rejected the Federation’s proposed budget revision for 2009. Protests by war veterans – the largest welfare category and one of the most influential social and lobbying groups – supported by trade unions and invalids’ associations, forced the Federation government to exempt war veterans and their families from a planned 10% reduction in welfare payments. In seeking to extract savings from administrative expenses, however, the Federation – which is expected to contribute the bulk of Bosnia’s budget savings, equivalent to more than one-fifth of its 2009 budget – violated an undertaking with the IMF to curb social transfers that have left the entity on the verge of bankruptcy and forced the government to take out a €71m short-term credit from local commercial banks in order to cover part of a backlog of payments from 2008. As the Federation’s finance minister, Vjekoslav Bevanda, then surmised, “politics have got entangled with the IMF arrangement.”

Though the head of the IMF mission to Bosnia, Costas Christou, previously warned that achieving the budget savings required by the IMF would require a “decisive package of measures,” the Federation government has failed to formulate a cohesive and coherent strategic response, relying instead upon a series of sporadic and haphazard measures designed to eke out savings without offering fundamental and sustainable reform.

As Svetlana Cenic, former finance minister of Republika Srpska, the other half of Bosnia, warns, the country has an “unsustainable system with huge public spending, stalled reforms and insufficient attractiveness to foreign investors, and these can no longer be justified amid the global recession.”

 

 

 

 
Postponed privatisation

 

 

Whilst the Federation government is prepared to privatise some of the better-performing public companies – such as engineering company Energoinvest and pharmaceuticals manufacturer Bosnalijek – the current economic malaise has persuaded Mustafa Mujezinovic, the Federation’s new prime minister, to put such plans on hold until both buyer interest and potential prices are more buoyant.

Although Bevanda recently confirmed that each of the entity’s 10 cantons had adopted the revised budget re-balance (which proposes savings of around €112m, including a €30m reduction in social benefits for war invalids) that will allow Bosnia to obtain the first tranche of IMF support, doubts remain as to the entity’s overall political capacity and willingness to see through such reforms in the face of rising unemployment, growing social unrest and increasingly vociferous interest groups.

With IMF estimates suggesting that Bosnia will experience an economic contraction of 3% in 2009, primarily in the Federation, with “a very mild recovery only beginning in the middle of next year,” and with unemployment currently hovering around 40%, the ramifications of the global economic crisis will continue to magnify and exacerbate the shortcomings of the Federation.

By contrast, Republika Srpska quickly proposed a revised 2009 budget that meets the IMF’s requirements by reducing spending by 4% to approximately €818m. Having already cut the salaries of government and public sector employees, and reduced public spending to below 40% of GDP as advised by the IMF, Republika Srpska, which continues to benefit from the proceeds of a string of successful privatisations, has found itself better placed to respond to the economic downturn.

As Aleksandar Dzombic, Republika Srpska’s finance minister, emphasized, savings of some €36m were achieved through cuts in grants and internal debt, eliminating the need to reduce pensions and veterans’ welfare payments. Despite the Federation’s previous failure to fulfil their part of the agreement, Republika Srpska’s request for immediate support from the IMF was immediately rejected.

Facing a stalemate over constitutional reform and other key measures for accession towards the EU, Bosnia ‘s continuing wobbles on the IMF tightrope have further exposed the country’s economic, financial and structural fragility. Though a series of short-term measures have secured access to the first tranche of assistance, doubts remain over the Federation’s capacity and willingness to contend with the political and socio-economic ramifications of implementing the stringent conditions on which future financial assistance depend. In order to mitigate Bosnia’s growing crisis of legitimacy, therefore, urgent steps must be taken to ensure that the present and prospective dysfunctionality of the Federation does not undermine the entire country’s efforts to secure vital IMF assistance.

German general takes over KFOR command in Kosovo

September 9, 2009

German Lieutenant General Markus Bentler took over Tuesday the command of NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR). In a ceremony held in KFOR main headquarters in Pristina, Bentler took over the office from his processor Italian general Giuseppe Emilio Gay, becoming the 14th commander of KFOR ever since the international forces took over control in the breakaway southern Serbian province in June 1999. Gay said that as a sign of KFOR successful performance, the mission is beginning to move forward in the next phase of recognizing that the situation is improving. “The gradual reduction of NATO does not mark the end of our engagement, but the aim is to confirm the big progress we have achieved,” said Gay, adding that KFOR would continue to provide safety, security and freedom of movement to all citizens of Kosovo. General Bentler said that cooperation with institutions in Kosovo and international missions must continue. “We have to ensure a secure livelihood with a reduced staff and it will be a challenge for me,” Bentler said. Commander Joint Force Command Naples Admiral Mark Fitzgerald said at the ceremony that, in coordination with international partners and local institutions, KFOR would continue to provide support to all Kosovo citizens in creating a peaceful and stable environment, encouraging economic development and a free and democratic society. The change of command occurs at a time of significant KFOR reduction of troops announcements in the territory. NATO has made clear they intend a significant reduction of troops in the next two years. At the end of this year there will remain 10,000 troops from actual 13,829 peacekeepers serving now in Kosovo. KFOR, which at its height numbered 55,000, is expected to be reduced to a little more than 2,000 although no specific time frame is proposed. Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu decorated Gay with a golden medal for his military service in Kosovo. Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence in February 2008, which has been recognized by 62 countries including the United States and most European Union members. Serbia and its strong ally Russia, a permanent UN Security Council member with veto rights, have said they will not recognize an independent Kosovo.

 

 

Source: Xinhua

NATO to cut troops in Kosovo despite unrest – Rasmussen

September 3, 2009

Reuters
NATO will stick to plans to scale down its military presence in Kosovo, despite recent unrest there, alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.

On Aug 25, seven people were wounded in northern Kosovo when minority Serbs and Albanians clashed in the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica.

A hand grenade was detonated and the two groups briefly traded small-arms fire, police said. In the capital Pristina, dozens of protesters led by an ethnic Albanian nationalist group rallied against the EU executive presence, damaging 24 EU vehicles.

“Despite the unfortunate incidents, I don’t think the overall security situation has changed,” Rasmussen told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“So we will stick to the decision already taken that we will reduce the number of KFOR troops from a level of 15,000 to a level of 10,000 at the beginning of next year. I think the overall security situation has improved and the conditions are fulfilled that we can take that step…I think the overall security situation is quite satisfactory.”

Last month’s violence broke out after Serbs from the ethnically mixed neighbourhood rallied to protest against the rebuilding of Albanian houses destroyed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war.

In April, dozens of people including a French peacekeeper were wounded when local Serbs fought international peacekeepers and police to protest against housing development.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, nine years after a NATO-led air war forced Serbian security forces out of the area, ending Belgrade’s crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

Following Kosovo’s independence declaration, the European Union deployed a police, customs and judiciary mission called Eulex to replace a United Nations mission.

NATO aims to cuts its troop presence to a little more than 2,000 over two years, although Rasmussen stressed that each further reduction would follow a thorough analysis of the security situation to ensure there was no negative impact in Kosovo or the region. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Bosnia’s ethnic divisions are evident in schools

August 25, 2009

By AIDA CERKEZ-ROBINSON (AP) – 22 Aug. 2009 STOLAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina — It’s shortly after noon, and teenagers who were taught their capital is Zagreb, in neighboring Croatia, are streaming out of Stolac High School. In an hour, their classrooms will be filled with children who have learned that their capital is Sarajevo, Bosnia. Fourteen years after Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, youngsters from Muslim Bosniak and Roman Catholic Croat families attend the same schools, but are separated from each other and learn from different textbooks. With the Bosnian Serbs already holed up in their own part of the country, critics say the Balkan nation’s school system is one of the worst examples of segregation in Europe — one that’s producing a generation ripe for manipulation by nationalists. Tiny Bosnia is home to just 3.5 million people, yet its schools are governed by 14 ministries, many run by people who favor segregation. Vedran Zubic, a high school teacher in the capital, Sarajevo, sees the separation as a continuation of wartime nationalist rhetoric. “We have a generation of young, intolerant, ethnically isolated and ethnically overfed pupils who are being used as weapons of nationalist politicians,” he said. The Stolac school is an example of Bosnia’s postwar emphasis on “two schools under one roof.” It was designed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as an urgent but temporary response to the problem of educating the children of parents who had ventured back to their prewar homes in towns subjected to ethnic cleansing. During the war, Croats drove the majority Bosniak population out of Stolac, a southeastern town near the Croatian border. Those who returned found the town’s schools were using Croatian history books. Bosnian Croats are taught they are members of the Croatian nation living in a Croat province in Bosnia. Almost 99 percent of Bosnian Croats have Croatian passports and vote in Croatian elections. Before the former Yugoslavia crumbled in the 1990s, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks attended school together and studied from uniform textbooks distributed by the communist government. But the war opened a chasm between Bosnia’s ethnic groups, and the peace accords that followed split the country into a Serb mini-state and a Bosniak-Croat federation. Separation since has become a way of life. Unwilling to have their kids learn the history and language of a neighboring country, Bosniak returnees formed a school for their children in a private home where Bosnian language and history was taught. Predominantly Muslim Bosniaks, for example have been taught in geography books that “Muslims don’t attack sacred objects, unlike others,” while mainly Catholic Croats learned that “Muslims are an ethnic group and not a religion.” The OSCE mission in Bosnia, in charge of overseeing education, pressed Croat school managers to allow the Bosniaks to use the school building at least in the afternoon. The first day, Croat school staff piled up chairs and desks to build a barrier separating the children. The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia even invited Martin Luther King III, the son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., to talk to teachers and students about human rights and segregation. But in Stolac, King found, his father’s famous dream remains just that: a dream. As he spoke, Croat students sat up front; Bosniaks took the chairs in the back. Merima Tabakovic, a 17-year-old Bosniak student, points to flagrant examples of discrimination in Stolac’s classrooms: She said Bosniak students cannot enter the school before the afternoon, even if it’s raining. “In the winter, they switch off the heating as soon as the second shift starts,” added another student, Azra Isakovic. And students rarely broach the issue of segregation with one another. “It’s taboo,” she said. Claude Kiffer, who runs the OSCE education department, said it was supposed to be a temporary solution until a new, countrywide curriculum was adopted. But that never happened, and the Stolac model spread throughout the part of the country shared by Bosniaks and Croats. Today, more than 50 schools operate like this. Now, nongovernmental organizations and the OSCE are urging an end to segregation. Education, they contend, should have been a part of the Dayton peace agreement that ended the war, but in 1995, few understood the damage that segregated schools could inflict in the long run. “The absence of genuine education reform designed to bring future citizens together undermines all other reforms so far,” Kiffer said. The system, he added, is producing “three sets of citizens who do not know anything about the others, have no intercultural skills.” He warns: “In the longer term, this may contribute to the breakup of the country.” David Skinner of Save the Children says about half of all peace pacts worldwide fail after five years because neglected school systems don’t produce citizens with critical thinking skills. The nonprofit group recently organized an international conference in Sarajevo where participants urged the U.N. to include education in future peace agreements. That way, Skinner said, “we can start reducing the number of peace agreements that fail.”

Serbs’ Claim of Kosovo Organ Ring Is Investigated

August 4, 2009

Europe’s leading human rights group began an investigation on Monday into Serb allegations that Serbian civilians were abducted in Kosovo during the Kosovo war of 1998-99 and taken to Albania, where their organs were extracted for sale before they were killed.

The inquiry, by the Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, is being led by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, who previously investigated the existence of alleged secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons in Europe used to interrogate terrorist suspects. The Council said Mr. Marty would meet this week with leading war crimes officials and human rights groups in Serbia and Albania.

Distrust between the two groups remains high even a decade after the war, with each side accusing the other of atrocities. Serbian war crimes investigators are now alleging that up to 500 Serbs from Kosovo disappeared during the Kosovo war. Ethnic Albanian guerrillas fought Serb forces under the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in a conflict over control of Kosovo in which 10,000 people were killed, most of them ethnic Albanians.

Ethnic Albanian officials in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, have strenuously denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated and aimed at undermining Kosovo, which defied Serbia by declaring independence last year. Serbia considers Kosovo its cultural heartland.

Serbian investigators say they have evidence that at least 10 people were abducted by ethnic-Albanian guerrillas as part of an alleged underground trafficking operation in which the guerrillas made use of a network of hidden hospitals in Albania to extract organs, before dumping the bodies of victims into mass graves.

The allegations surfaced publicly last year in a memoir by Carla Del Ponte, the former chief United Nations prosecutor for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. In the book, Ms. Del Ponte claims, based on what she describes as credible witnesses and reports, that after NATO bombed Serbia in 1999, ethnic Albanian guerrillas transported hundreds of Serbian prisoners into Northern Albania, where they were killed and their organs “harvested” and trafficked out of Tirana, the Albanian capital.

When the book was published, ethnic Albanian officials and many analysts questioned why Ms. Del Ponte had chosen to reveal the allegations five years after her investigators examined the claims. They also noted that the inquiry had failed to provide enough evidence to form a case.

 
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/world/europe/04serb.html?_r=1