Category Archives: The Balkans

Serb Officials Warn of Another War in the Balkans

Dušan Stojanović report for The Associated Press:

Serbian officials warned on Friday of another war in the Balkans if Albanians try to form a joint state with Kosovo in the war-weary European region and the West does not reject such a plan.

The angry reactions from the Serbs came after Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said an interview with Politico journal that a union between Albania and ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo cannot be ruled out if European Union membership prospects for the Western Balkans fade.

Serbian government minister Aleksandar Vulin said he expects the EU and NATO to denounce such statements, otherwise there could be another war in the Balkans.

Vulin said that a new war in the Balkans would also include Macedonia and Montenegro which have large ethnic-Albanian populations.

Most of the Balkan wars were over attempts to create joint ethnically pure states, such as “Greater Serbia,” or “Greater Albania.” It is traditional desire by nationalists on all sides.

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Croatia and Hungary Are ‘New Face of Corruption’ in Europe

Nikolaj Nielsen reports for EU Observer:

Perceived corruption in Croatia and Hungary is so high that both have dropped in global rankings when compared to last year, according to Transparency International (TI).

Carl Dolan, who heads the anti-corruption NGO’s office in Brussels, described the two on Wednesday (25 January) “as the new face of corruption in Europe”.

His comments, posted on a blog on TI’s website, followed the publication of the NGO’s annual corruption perception index.

Out Wednesday, the survey noted Croatia and Hungary have now joined the ranks of the worst performers in the EU alongside Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Romania.

The survey ranks some 176 countries and scores them on a 0 to 100 scale, with 0 being perceived as highly corrupt and 100 as being very clean.

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How Teens In Macedonia Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News

Craig Silverman and Lawrence Alexander report for BuzzFeed:

[…] Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics websites. These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.

The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives: As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.

As a result, this strange hub of pro-Trump sites in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now playing a significant role in propagating the kind of false and misleading content that was identified in a recent BuzzFeed News analysis of hyperpartisan Facebook pages. These sites open a window into the economic incentives behind producing misinformation specifically for the wealthiest advertising markets and specifically for Facebook, the world’s largest social network, as well as within online advertising networks such as Google AdSense.

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Claims of Exoneration: The Case of Slobodan Milošević

Binoy Kampmark writes for CounterPunch:

Every age needs its cult of demonology. It creates a social target of unified indignation and moral outrage. Finally, we can find a figure, prey upon it, and feel good that things are orderly in the world. In the savage wars of the Balkans during the 1990s, the identification of good sides over bad, of noble warriors over ignoble ones, led to the discomforts and complex procedures of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

While the trials have focused on figures across the ethnic divide, a heavy emphasis has been placed on those connected with Bosnian Serb and Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army units. The picture that regularly appears is that of unwarranted aggressor seeking to quell the legitimate ambitions of freedom fighting Croats, Bosnians and Slovenians.

The picture that has emerged from the various trials has been more complex than given credit for. There have been puzzling exonerations and inconsistent convictions interspersed with lucid observation. While the focus of ICTY proceedings has yielded convictions for such figures as the unrepentant Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, it has also surprised others, with the acquittal of the noisy firebrand Vojislav Šešelj.

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Montenegro Receives NATO Invite, Rousing Russian Concerns

The Associated Press reports:

Over Russia’s angry objections, NATO agreed Thursday to expand for only the seventh time in its history, inviting the Balkan nation of Montenegro to become its 29th member.

The decision is still subject to formal approval by the U.S. Senate and the alliance’s other national parliaments.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was the “beginning of a new secure chapter” in the former Yugoslav republic’s history.

Montenegro’s prime minister, Milo Dukanovic, who attended the signing of an accession protocol at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said his country, bombed by NATO warplanes 16 years ago, would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the other members of the U.S-led alliance.

You can count on us at any time,” said Dukanovic.

Russia has accused NATO of trying to encircle it and friendly nations like Serbia, and vowed to do what’s necessary to defend its national security and interests.

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How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS

Carlotta Gall reports for The New York Times:

Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store.

The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.

Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.

Kosovo now finds itself, like the rest of Europe, fending off the threat of radical Islam. Over the last two years, the police have identified 314 Kosovars — including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children — who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State, the highest number per capita in Europe.

They were radicalized and recruited, Kosovo investigators say, by a corps of extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab gulf states using an obscure, labyrinthine network of donations from charities, private individuals and government ministries.

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OCCRP’s 2015 Organized Crime and Corruption ‘Person of the Year’ Award: Milo Đukanović

OCCRP writes:

His first real job was as the Prime Minister of Montenegro. He has either been the President or Prime Minister for most of the nearly three decades of his career and the life of his country. While he casts himself as a progressive, pro-Western leader who recently helped his country join NATO and is on track to join the European Union, he has built one of the most dedicated kleptocracies and organized crime havens in the world.

For his work in creating an oppressive political atmosphere and an economy choked by corruption and money laundering, OCCRP honors Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, as OCCRP’s Person of the Year for his work in promoting crime, corruption and uncivil society.

[…] Djukanovic has a long history of befriending organized crime figures, involving himself in corrupt practices and bribing voters. He has been one of the world’s worst caretakers of government, often giving public money to cronies including organized criminals. His actions have left Montenegro with massive debts.

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The Srebrenica Precedent

David N. Gibbs, author of First Do No Harm, writes for Jacobin:

This month marks the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, in which eight thousand people were killed in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. The mass killing was the single deadliest event of the Bosnian War, and the most recognized atrocity of the post–Cold War era.

Its significance cannot be overstated: the massacre triggered a NATO bombing campaign that is widely credited with ending the Bosnian War and giving NATO a new lease on life after the fall of the Soviet Union. Ever since, the Srebrenica precedent has been invoked to justify military interventions around the globe.

In 2005, Christopher Hitchens defended the US decision to invade Iraq with an article entitled “From Srebrenica to Baghdad.” In 2011, when Guardian columnist Peter Preston advocated military intervention in Libya, his article began with the words: “Remember Srebrenica?” In 2012, a call in CNN for Western intervention in Syria appeared under the title “Syria, Sarajevo, and Srebrenica.” And a 2014 article on ISIS advances in Syria warned of a possible “New Srebrenica,” with the implication that Western military action was needed to prevent this calamity.

When supporters of military intervention cite Srebrenica, it’s often to insist on the need to dispense with diplomacy and use decisive military force in response to humanitarian emergencies. As a 2006 New Republic editorial succinctly argued, “In the response to most foreign policy crises, the use of military force is properly viewed as a last resort. In the response to genocide, the use of military force is properly viewed as a first resort.” Given the broad way that genocide is now defined, this is a call for interventions without limit.’

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How Britain and the US decided to abandon Srebrenica to its fate

Florence Hartmann and Ed Vulliamy report for The Guardian:

MUSLIM REFUGEES[…] Over two decades, 14 of the murderers have been convicted at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadžic and his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic, await verdicts in trials for genocide. Blame among the “international community”charged with protecting Srebrenica has piled, not without reason, on the head of UN forces in the area, General Bernard Janvier, for opposing intervention – notably air strikes – that might have repelled the Serb advance, and Dutch soldiers who not only failed in their duty to protect Srebrenica but evicted terrified civilians seeking shelter in their headquarters, and watched the Serbs separate women and young children from their male quarry.

Now a survey of the mass of evidence reveals that the fall of Srebrenica formed part of a policy by the three “great powers” – Britain, France and the US – and by the UN leadership, in pursuit of peace at any price; peace at the terrible expense of Srebrenica, which gathered critical mass from 1994 onwards, and reached its bloody denouement in July 1995.

Until now, it has always been asserted that the so-called “endgame strategy” that forged a peace settlement for – and postwar map of – Bosnia followed the “reality on the ground” after the fall, and ceding, of Srebrenica. What can now be revealed is that the “endgame” preceded that fall, and was – as it turned out – conditional upon it.

The western powers whose negotiations led to Srebrenica’s downfall cannot be said to have known the extent of the massacre that would follow, but the evidence demonstrates they were aware – or should have been – of Mladic’s declared intention to have the Bosniak Muslim population of the entire region “vanish completely”. In the history of eastern Bosnia over the three years that preceded the massacre, that can only have meant one thing.’

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Macedonia, the New US-Russia Battlefield

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

Macedonia is a poor, landlocked Balkan country of about 2 million. To the Kremlin, it’s also the newest front in an ideological battle, with the U.S. fomenting regime change to counter Russia’s influence. As is often the case, that view is correct to the extent that Russian interests are aligned with those of a corrupt authoritarian ruler.

Here’s what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had to say last week:

I cannot judge for sure, but it so happens objectively that these events in Macedonia are unfolding against the background of the Macedonian government’s refusal to join sanctions against Russia and an active support from Skopje for the plans to build the Turkish Stream pipeline, to which many in Brussels and across the Atlantic are opposed. We cannot get rid of this feeling that there’s some sort of a connection.

The origins of this conjecture, and Lavrov’s sarcasm, are clear. The Kremlin couldn’t help being suspicious about the timing of Macedonia’s political crisis.’

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Welcome to Liberland: Europe’s tiny new country where taxes are optional

SEE ALSO: Inside The Strange And Wonderful World Of Micronations

Jamie Campbell reports for The Independent:

Liberland.JPGA politician from the Czech Republic is claiming to be the President of a brand new “independent sovereign state” in the Balkans.

Vit Jedlicka, a member of the Conservative Party of Free Citizens, is the self-appointed president of “Liberland,” a 7sq km “country” (only the Vatican and Monaco are smaller) where taxes are optional and there is no military.

It is situated on the banks of the Danube between Serbia and Croatia in an unclaimed no-man’s land, or terra nullius territory, meaning that neither country has ever held full sovereignty over the area.’

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$100bn NATO claim: Serbian NGOs seek compensation for 1999 Yugoslavia bombing

RT reports:

Residents stand on the rubble of houses in town of Cuprija, some 100km (65 miles) south of Yugoslav capital of Belgrade where 11 people were injured, five of them seriously including four women, after nine NATO missiles struck the centre of the town early May 29,1999.(Reuters)‘Two non-governmental organizations have said NATO should be required to pay compensation for the massive damage inflicted during the 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

A meeting of the Belgrade Forum for the World of Equals and the Club of Generals and Admirals in Belgrade presented an initiative to hold 28-member NATO financially accountable for the damage that Yugoslavia sustained in the attacks.

Serbian experts put the price tag of the devastation between $60 and $100 billion’

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Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

John Pilger writes:

ukraine_obama_nobel.JPGThe recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

“To initiate a war of aggression…,” said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, “is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.’

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Land of Waste: How Albania Became Europe’s Rubbish Tip

‘Albania is slowly sinking under the weight of Europe’s waste. This report investigates an industry of waste that is both necessary for survival, yet a threat for many Albanians. For how long can it continue? “For us, the Roma, it is our only work, because nobody will hire us”, says Renato, a scavenger earning half the average national wage. In the “dustbin of Europe”, countries such as Serbia, Slovenia and Russia dump their scrap in vast quantities. Yet Albania’s infrastructure is insufficient for dealing with this often toxic waste. Despite efforts to restrict imports, waste continues to enter under the guise of “raw material”. In towns such as Elbasan, home to a large metallurgical plant, the poor control on the industry is beginning to destroy the health of its workers. As one doctor describes, “On one hand, the community has been here for a long time, and needs work. But on the other, it cannot afford the sacrifice”.’ (Journeyman Pictures)

Inside the UN Resolution on Depleted Uranium

John LaForge writes for CounterPunch:

‘On October 31, a new United Nations General Assembly First Committee resolution on depleted uranium (DU) weapons passed overwhelmingly. There were 143 states in favor, four against, and 26 abstentions. The measure calls for UN member states to provide assistance to countries contaminated by the weapons. The resolution also notes the need for health and environmental research on depleted uranium weapons in conflict situations.

This fifth UN resolution on the subject was fiercely opposed by four depleted uranium-shooting countries — Britain, the United States, France and Israel — who cast the only votes in opposition. The 26 states that abstained reportedly sought to avoid souring lucrative trade relationships with the four major shooters.

Uranium-238 — so-called “depleted” uranium — is waste material left in huge quantities by the nuclear weapons complex. It’s used in large caliber armor-piercing munitions and in armor plate on tanks. Toxic, radioactive dust and debris is dispersed when DU shells burn through targets, and its metallic fumes and dust poison water, soil and the food chain. DU has been linked to deadly health effects like Gulf War Syndrome among U.S. and allied troops, and birth abnormalities among populations in bombed areas. DU waste has caused radioactive contamination of large parts of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and perhaps Afghanistan.’

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Serbia to salute Putin but sees future with Europe

Matt Robinson reports for Reuters:

‘Russian President Vladimir Putin is guest of honor at a military parade in Belgrade on Thursday to mark 70 years since the city’s liberation by the Red Army, a visit loaded with symbolism as Serbia walks a tightrope between the Europe it wants to join and a big-power ally it cannot leave behind.

The United States and European Union are unlikely to welcome the sight of Putin taking the salute at a parade of more than 3,000 Serbian soldiers while NATO says Russian troops are fighting on the side of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The East-West split over Ukraine, recalling the Cold War, has exposed the balancing act Serbia faces, politically indebted to Russia over the breakaway region of Kosovo but seeing its economic future inside the EU.’

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UEFA defends decision not to keep Serbia and Albania apart after brawl

Owen Gibson reports for The Guardian:

View image on Twitter‘Uefa has defended its policy on keeping some countries with political tensions apart in its qualifying groups and not others following the brawl that caused the Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania to be abandoned.

European football’s governing body agreed to keep Armenia and Azerbaijan apart during the Euro 2012 qualifying process amid an ongoing territorial dispute between the two nations.

When Gibraltar was formally admitted to Uefa, it also confirmed that its newest member would not have to play Spain, which does not recognise it as a separate country. Russia and Georgia were also kept apart.

But Serbia and Albania were not separated in the draw, although away fans were banned from the stadium in Belgrade. It was the first time Albania had played in Belgrade since 1967 amid tension over Kosovo.’

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War Crimes Trial Ends as Divisive Election Nears in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Daniel Nolan reports for VICE News:

‘Suspected war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic denied responsibility for atrocities committed during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s, as his five-year trial came to a close this week.

“I will be acquitted,” Karadzic said, with characteristic chutzpah. “Since the distinguished prosecution lawyer, Mr. Tieger, has no evidence, he has chosen to tarnish my reputation; he has called me a liar and gangster.”

Jozsef Pandur, a former Office of the High Representative and EU Special Representative and Hungarian ambassador to Sarajevo, told VICE News that the Hague has been trying to establish the chain of command that was in place during the Bosnian conflict.’

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Serbia holds first Gay Pride march in four years thanks to capital lockdown

Ben Tufft reports for The Independent:

‘Belgrade was placed under lockdown last night as Serbia’s first Gay Pride march in four years took place under the watchful eye of tanks and special forces.

The activists were able to advance several hundred metres through the deserted city-centre streets, but only thanks to the protection of thousands of riot police, water cannons and helicopters.

It was a rare sight for Serbia, one of the most conservative countries in Europe, to witness a march akin to those found in the more cosmopolitan cities of London and Berlin. Albeit on a smaller scale and with far more security.’

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Thousands still missing from Bosnia war

Press TV reports:

‘Bosnia-Herzegovina is still dealing with the dilemma of thousands of people filed as missing from the Bosnian war in the 1990s, Press TV reports.

According to officials, there are still more than 8,000 missing people from the war that ended 20 years ago, while 22,000 bodies have been exhumed and identified until now.’

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In Bosnia’s schools, three different people learn three different histories

Kristen Chick reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

‘Two decades after Bosnia’s brutal civil war ended, reconciliation is still a dream, one the education system is pushing further away from reality. Bosnia Serbs, Bosniak Muslims and Croats typically study in schools with curricula tailored to their ethnic biases. World War II is hardly the only period that receives wildly different treatments depending on the school.

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After the Flood: Mines and Mass Graves in Bosnia

‘An estimated 120,000 landmines still litter the Bosnian countryside since the end of the war there in 1995, making daily life a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. In May, the worst floods in over a century dislodged countless mines and deposited them in new locations, from farm fields to the back yards of local residents. The flooding also unearthed previously undiscovered mass graves, making some citizens hopeful that they may finally be reunited with the remains of their lost loved ones. VICE News traveled to northern Bosnia to tag along with the team in charge of de-mining the countryside, and met residents still reeling from the horrors of war.’ (VICE News)

Kosovo Leaders Have Been Accused of Killing and Harvesting Organs

John Dyer reports for Vice News:

KLA fighters in Pristina, 1999‘On Tuesday, Clint Williamson — an American diplomat appointed EU prosecutor in 2011 to investigate crimes against humanity in Kosovo — released a scathing statement that accused the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of murdering a handful of people and then trafficking their kidneys, livers, and other body parts. KLA leaders now run the tiny Balkan country’s government…. The KLA also murdered, kidnapped, and detained people illegally, and in general oversaw a reign of terror against its non-Albanian and Albanian opponents after the group won Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 1999.

The important thing for Americans to recall here is that the KLA achieved victory with the help of United States and NATO bombers attacking Serbian forces. At the time, President Bill Clinton portrayed the KLA as freedom fighters challenging Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic — a genocidal monster who died in a Hague prison cell in 2006. A few years ago, grateful Kosovars erected a bronze statue of Clinton in downtown Pristina, their capital. But now, it turns out, members of the KLA were probably monsters, too.’

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War tourism: Tour operators taking advantage of growing interest in travel to conflict zones

Moshe Gilad reports for Haaretz:

‘It’s a thin line between morbid curiosity about the catastrophes of others and a genuine desire to understand the world’s most sensitive areas. It’s what separates war tourism from deep journeying into a region in conflict. Nicholas Wood, a former New York Times Balkans correspondent who founded the study-tour company Political Tours five years ago, insists that his firm’s activities fall into the latter group. You want to get a nuanced and complex understanding of the situations we see on the television news, he said, adding, that the idea is not to be voyeuristic, but rather to gain a deeper understanding.

[…] Political Tours’s list of destinations is long and varied. It includes North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, Libya, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the focus is on the referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. A tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is planned for October.’

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Albania on the rocky road to EU membership

Angelina Verbica writes for DW:

‘Albanians are cheering the news. Albania is now officially an EU accession country. The wish to “belong to Europe” has been strong for a while now in Albania after decades of communist isolation and the ensuing chaotic years of democratization. Now the moment has arrived: The country of 3 million people received official candidate status from the EU heads of states on Friday.

Most people in Albania know that the hardest part still lies ahead, despite the euphoria in the country. “To be a candidate country means that we have to work even harder and that we can’t lean back confidently,” said Klajda Gjosha, EU integration minister, in an interview with DW. It doesn’t mean that the accession negotiations will start soon. The EU stipulates that Albania first has to initiate several reforms. The main issues are tackling corruption in the justice system and civil services as well as the fight against organized crime.

“The implementation of the rule of law is key. Therefore I would focus on judicial reform,” said Hellmut Hoffmann, Germany’s ambassador in Albania, in an interview with DW. A corrupt justice system is hampering economic development. That was also Angela Merkel’s message to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama during his Berlin visit in March. It seems that the message has got through: it is probably no coincidence that a week ahead of the decision in Brussels the police in Albania brought a stronghold of for the growing of marihuana under control. In the village of Lazarat, which is known as Europe’s biggest cannabis-growing area, the police has destroyed 12 tons of marihuana.’

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Little Tony Blairs of Kosovo: The boys named after the “great man”

‘When Nato eventually intervened in 1999 to stop the ethnic cleansing by Serbian forces of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the UK prime minister Tony Blair was hailed as a hero. As refugees returned to the province, several new parents of baby boys called their sons Tony Blair. Now, fifteen years on, the Guardian’s Julian Borger returns to Kosovo to hear how their lives have turned out – and their hopes for the future of a fledgling state still struggling for full international recognition.’ (The Guardian)

Bosnia writes a new story at the World Cup

John Leicester writes for the Boston Herald:

‘It truly is a horrific thought that not even the giant Maracana Stadium, filled to the brim with 74,000 people high on life and football, could fit all the dead from the Bosnia war. But their presence — in hearts, in memories — was felt as the young nation they never lived to enjoy made its World Cup debut, the 77th country to plant its flag on football’s biggest stage. “This is why we came, to remember,” Adnan Filipovic said as he filed into the stadium with his parents, his voice breaking with emotion. “All those people are coming with us to this game.” When the 1992-1995 war made refugees of the Filipovics and so many others, never did they think they’d one day see Bosnians teamed together, in Brazil of all places, giving two-time world champion Argentina and its superstar Lionel Messi a tough bone to chew.’

READ MORE @ THE BOSTON HERALD…

Bosnia floods create new land-mine risk in Balkans

From the Associated Press:

‘Record-high floods and landslides have swept away people, homes and roads in the Balkans over the past week, but in Bosnia another deadly menace is hiding in the flood rubble: land mines.Authorities have spent two decades trying to unearth the 1 million land mines planted during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Before the floods, nearly 120,000 remained in 9,416 marked minefields. Then floods washed away river banks and fueled landslides that have unearthed minefield warning signs and, in many cases, the unexploded booby traps themselves. An official at Bosnia’s Mine Action Center, Sasa Obradovic, said his agency would deploy mine-hunting scouts starting Monday.’

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Van Rompuy: If the public doesn’t want EU expansion, “we do it anyway”

M. E. Synon writes for Breitbart:

‘In an interview with De Standaard newspaper, Van Rompuy speaks about his “dreams” that all the Balkan states will join the EU. He calls it an “inspiring thought” that in the long term “the whole of European territory outside Russia” will be tied in some way to the EU. He admits he does not know if there is public support for such a move, “But we do it anyway.”

Van Rompuy’s comments, released in the midst of the tensions which have followed moves by Brussels to put Ukraine on the path to EU membership, give credence to Putin’s fears that ultimately the EU intends to put its tanks on Russia’s lawn. Building a common EU defence is one of the strategic priorities for the Brussels elite who are trying to build “a country called Europe.”’

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Serbia’s new PM pledges painful reforms with eyes on EU

Maja Zuvela and Ivana Sekularac report for Reuters:

Serbia’s parliament approved the cabinet of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic who took office on Sunday pledging deep economic reform and a drive to get the country into the European Union by the end of the decade. In March the 44-year-old Progressive Party (SNS) leader won the strongest popular mandate of any government since the days of Slobodan Milosevic, a leader during the wars of Yugoslavia’s demise in the 1990s that left Serbia isolated and bankrupt. One hundred and ninety-eight deputies in the 250-seat parliament voted for Vucic’s 19-member cabinet. Vucic said entry into the EU would be the government’s priority.

The former ultra-nationalist and Milosevic-era minister, who converted to the pro-EU cause in 2008, promised root-and-branch reform of the bloated public sector, pension system and labour law, as well as a cut of subsidies to loss-making state firms. His lead role in a much-publicized fight against crime and corruption, including the arrest and trial of influential Balkan retail tycoon Miroslav Miskovic, has vested him with popularity and helped him secure 158 out of 250 seats in the parliament.

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