Balkans: Business As Usual


June 3, 2009: Corruption is a major problem. Even prosecution of corrupt officials does not work. That's because most Balkan states have no extradition treaties with each other. Moreover, because of the confusion and poor records keeping during the 1990s (when Yugoslavia fell apart in a blur of civil war and chaos), it's relatively easy for individuals to get citizenship from several Balkan states. This "no-extradition" policy also applies to war criminals, at least most of them (those that don't cause a threat of less foreign aid). The longer corruption lasts, the longer the instability persists.

June 1, 2009: Slovenia continues to block Croatian membership in the European Union, and an old Balkan border dispute is the main reason. As border disputes go it isn't much. Slovenia and Croatia are fighting over the exact maritime boundary in the Bay of Piran (which lies off the Istrian peninsula, just south of the Italian port of Trieste). The Istrian peninsula is Slovenia's access point to the Adriatic Sea so the issue is a bigger deal for Slovenia than it is for Croatia -- until now. The Croat government says that EU membership is a key political goal and the Slovenes say, okay, then let's make a deal. Both sides, however, have alleged that the other side has reneged on previous agreements. The EU has proposed a compromise settlement that involves a border demarcation study and a ruling by an international court.

May 28, 2009: Germany extended its troop deployment in Kosovo for another 12 months. Germany has around 2,300 soldiers serving in the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.

Moldova's parliament has once again delayed electing a new president. At the moment Moldova's Communists have 60 of the parliament's 101 seats.

May 27, 2009: Kosovo is accused of not doing enough to protect the rights of ethnic minorities. Usually these allegations focus on displaced Kosovar Serbs but Bosniak Muslims, Roma (Gypsies), and Turks have also been forced out of Kosovo.

May 26, 2009: The British government said that it favors the creation of a "bi-zonal, bi-communal joint entity" in Cyprus, but the configuration of such a Cypriot state must be decided upon by Cypriot Turks and Greeks.

May 21, 2009: A man carrying two hand grenades forced his way into Serbia's presidential office building, and was arrested. Serb authorities claimed the man's "motives were not political" -- that his threat involved an economic dispute and the man was a "psychiatric case." But a nut with grenades is still a nut with grenades.

May 19, 2009: The funeral of a women's education rights activist in Istanbul, Turkey turned into a large demonstration against the Islamist-led government. Several thousand secularist (Kemalist) demonstrators participated in protests. Turkey's secularists maintain that the government intends to turn Turkey into a Muslim state. The protests in Istanbul follow a series of secularist protests in Ankara. A demonstration on May 17 attracted 30,000 people.

May 15, 2009: France is conducting counter-terror training exercises with Serbian special forces. The French announcement also said that counter-terror police and military personnel from Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bulgaria will also participate in the training exercises. The training obviously serves political as well as security purposes.

May 12, 2009: A bomb blew up a EuroBank branch bank building in Athens, Greece. Police attributed the attack to violent "anarchist and left wing" militant groups. International banks are favorite targets of the anarchists and leftists. There have been approximately 30 attacks (grenades and explosive bomb attacks) on banks and businesses in Greece in since December 2008. Greek police have also identified two new terror cells, which may be associated with Revolutionary Struggle (RS, also called Revolutionary Peoples Struggle). They are The Gang of Conscience and the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei (also called Revolutionary Nuclei, which is the US State Department's name for the outfit). Revolutionary Struggle is regarded as the "successor" to the Greek terror gang November 17.

May 11, 2009: Twenty police officers were injured in a riot involving Kosovar Serbs that occurred on a road outside the town of Gnjilane (eastern Kosovo). Demonstrators were protesting the fact that 14 Kosovar Serb villages have been without electrical power. The protests have escalated into a dispute between Serbia and Kosovo. The Kosovar Serbs say they can get power from Serbia.

May 10, 2009: A major riot broke out in Athens, Greece when a group of "far-right protestors" belonging to an "anti-immigrant group" attacked a courthouse containing illegal migrants. Most of the illegal migrants came from Africa. Nine Greek police were injured in the riot. Several protestors were arrested after the riot. The protestors belonged to a group called "Golden Dawn," which opposes immigration into Greece. Since fall 2008, hard left and right wing groups have both engaged more frequently in violent street confrontations with Greek police.

May 8, 2009: A Croatian court sentenced a member of the Croat parliament to ten years in prison. The MP, Branimir Glavas, was convicted of war crimes committed during the Serb-Croat war in 1991. Glavas was in charge of a paramilitary organization that kidnapped and murdered ten Serba in the city of Osijek.

May 7, 2009: The Albanian government confirmed that the Turkish government had arrested a senior Albanian diplomat on charges of narcotics trafficking -- specifically heroin trafficking. The actual arrest was made on May 2. The diplomat served in the Albanian embassy in Macedonia. European police agencies say Albania is a key transit point for drugs entering western Europe from Asia.





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