31, 2008: Over the last few days, there has been unrest in northern Kosovo,
after a Serb teenager was knifed by two Albanian kids. The rioters burned down
several Albanian shops before NATO peacekeepers were able to restore order.
one positive sign is the growing trend of Albanians in Kosovo turning away from
Islamic radicalism by converting to Roman Catholicism. While 65 percent of
Albanians (in Albania and Kosovo) are nominally Moslems, many are only
superficially so. In fact, there is a long tradition of practicing Christianity
at home, in secret. Forced conversions often have this effect. The return to
Christianity, via Roman Catholicism, is also a slap at the Serbs, who practice
Orthodox Christianity, and are often violently at odds with local Roman
Catholics (like the Croats). The Albanians also take pride in Mother Theresa,
an Albanian Catholic who became a nun, served for decades in India, and was
recently declared a saint by the Papacy. Farther back, there are Roman Catholic
folk heroes who resisted the advance of the Turks, and defended Albanian culture.
These conversions encounter no government hostility, as they often do in Moslem
majority countries, and represent a growing trend worldwide.
28, 2008: Will Greece's extensive riots will spread to the rest of Europe? The
phrase "winter of revolts" began appearing after police in Denmark
and Spain arrested violent demonstrators who were consciously imitating Greek
protestors. Italy, which has its own tradition of street riots, is worried.
Spain appears to be less concerned. French media reported an attack on a Greek
consulate in France earlier in the month that the French police concluded was
clearly tied to the riots in Greece. A message sprayed on a nearby wall called
for "insurrection everywhere." That leads to memories of 1968 and
thoughts about 1848 -- and here it is, late 2008. The media itself plays a huge role in the
phenomenon The Greek street battles have attracted media attention and it's a
chance for groups with grievance to get lots of air time.
24, 2008: The name war between Greece and Macedonia continues to simmer. Greece
insists on calling Macedonia the "FYROM" --Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia. The Greek government fears that Macedonia will someday lay claim
to "Greek Macedonia," which is a substantial swath of northern
Greece. Macedonia says it has no land claims. The name war affects more than
Greece-Macedonia bilateral relations. It has ramifications in the EU and NATO.
The United States has tried to end the name war several times, without success.
The US wants Macedonia to join NATO. Now the US has gotten behind a UN
effort. Some Greek politicians see a
conspiracy to isolate Greece. Greek politicians use the name war to burnish
nationalist credentials and claim that Greece will never allow Macedonia to
simply call itself Macedonia. This is
also an issue that the politicians can use to distract a disgruntled
15, 2008: Serbia confronts a tough diplomatic problem. Its current government
wants to join the European Union but it also wants a better deal (from Serbia's
perspective) on Kosovo. Serbia wants to prevent "linkage" of EU
membership and Kosovo's "resolution." Kosovar Albanians think Kosovo
is resolved -- Kosovo declared unilateral independence in 2008. Serbia still
hopes for some type of partition and guaranteed protection of Kosovar Serbs.
14, 2008: Riots in Greece continued. Greece is now referred to as an
"economic Balkan powder keg" and Athens is a "war zone."
That's hyperbole-- but Greece's high unemployment rate and rising poverty level
signal a society with deeply embedded problems. The fatal shooting of a teenage
boy by Greek police ignited the riots. The police claim he was killed by a
ricocheting warning shot-- but a lot of Greeks simply don't believe the police
version. A majority of Greeks are frustrated with their circumstances. There is
no question that the ruling New Democracy Party faces a hostile populace
dismayed at the global recession. In 2004, when it came to power, New Democracy
was going to clean up the mess left by the scandal-ridden Socialist Party. Now
it has its own corruption issues.
12, 2008: Greece put its military on alert after a new series of violent
clashes in Athens between demonstrators and police.
10, 2008: The EU's European Unio Rule of Law Missio in Kosovo (EULEX)
officially deployed to Kosovo. The EU describes EULEX as a "justice and police"
mission. Ultimately 3000 people will serve with EULEX, around 1000 of its
staffers will be from Kosovo. EULEX will assume many of UNMIK's duties.
5, 2008: The government of Moldova said that Russian troops should
"completely and unconditionally" withdraw from Transdniestr. Russia
has been very hard line on Moldova, demanding that Moldova disavow a
"western orientation" -- which means that Moldova agree to not join
NATO and the EU.