Balkans: Peacekeepers Depart, Gangsters Stay


May 25, 2010: European Union governments are conducting an assessment of the effectiveness of the EULEX rule of law operation in Kosovo. EULEX deployed two years ago. One goal was a reduction in corruption in Kosovo's government. Beginning in summer 2009, several European diplomats dealing with Balkan issues began criticizing the Kosovo government's lack of progress regarding internal corruption. EULEX officials also noted that organized criminal syndicates continue to operate in Kosovo. EULEX has approximately 2000 people serving in Kosovo. The EULEX operation includes customs officers, police officers, and a judicial and prosecutor team.

May 24, 2010: Turkey's and Brazil's diplomatic efforts regarding Iranian nuclear material has gotten the headlines, but that endeavor is only one of many diplomatic initiatives Turkey is currently pursuing. For example, Turkey has been mediating negotiations between Bosnia and Serbia. Turkey has been quiet about it, which is often the best way to work in the Balkans. In March Turkey helped coax an apology for the Srebrenica massacre (in Bosnia, 1995) from the Serb government. Balkan diplomats attribute that success to Turkey's stated intention of improving relations with Serbia, which the frequently isolated Serbs have welcomed. The Turkish Balkan initiatives are part of Turkey's goal to establish “peace around the borders.” Turkey has approached Greece and Bulgaria. It also launched new initiatives with Syria.

May 22, 2010: Kosovo security personnel arrested five members of a Wahhabi Islamic sect. The police also captured a weapons cache (seven weapons, binoculars, and bullet-proof vests) near the town of Prizren. Two of the five arrested were identified as Kosovar Albanians. The other three were listed as Bosnians. Some 120 police officers were involved in the operation. The police report stated that the group intended to commit criminal acts, suggesting robbery. However, the difference between Balkan criminals and Balkan terrorists (to include militias) is often very small. Bosnia has been increasingly worried about radical Wahhabi Islamists operating in Bosnian territory.

May 21, 2010: The Bosnian government announced that several hundred Bosnian police conducted a series of anti-organized crime raids throughout the country. Ultimately over 100 raids were conducted. Sixty people were arrested. The raids involved police from the Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

May 20, 2010: NATO announced that it intends to continue to reduce its forces in Kosovo from the current 15,000 troops. The force will drop to less than 10,000 soldiers and could drop to 5000 soldiers by the end of 2010 or early 2011.

May 18, 2010: Moldova asked the Russian government to withdraw all Russian troops and remaining ammunition stocks from Transdniestr (the Russian separatist state-let within Moldova). The Moldovan government argued that the withdrawal would help resolve the lingering conflict. Russia, on its part, is urging Moldova to give Transdniestr a special political status. Russia opposes any Moldovan move to join NATO or establish closer links with Romania. Russia has stated that once the Transdniestr conflict is resolved Moldova must stay neutral. The current Moldovan government was elected on a pro-Western, pro-European Union platform.

May 14, 2010: Turkey and Greece and Turkey announced that they have agreed to strengthen bi-lateral relations and work to resolve several outstanding issues, including immigration, cooperation on tourism, and expanding mutual business cooperation. The big issues of the Aegean Sea shelf and Cyprus, however, remain unresolved. Both countries, however, are interested in cutting defense spending, especially Greece given its severe economic problems. For some three decades Turkish and Greek business groups have encouraged commercial cooperation, with tourism as a key area. Greek hotel and tourism companies would help their Turkish counterparts develop tourism, particularly along Turkey's Aegean coast (what the Greeks call Ionia, but that raises a lot of bad history...) Current bilateral trade is not that large, slightly less than three billion dollars a year, but both governments believe that figure could quickly reach five to six billion a year.

May 13, 2010: Kosovo police killed men in a firefight near Radusa, along the Kosovo-Macedonia border. Police said the firefight began after security personnel tried to halt a vehicle they believed was attempting to smuggle illegal weapons. Kosovo authorities said the four people in the vehicle tried to shoot their way out of the police roadblock. The vehicle was carrying high explosives, anti-personnel mines, and several other weapons. The men in the vehicle were wearing black uniforms. A Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) uniform insignia was also found inside the vehicle. Two of the men who were killed were identified as Macedonian citizens, one was a citizen of Kosovo. Macedonia is concerned that a small group of Macedonian Albanians want to reignite the Macedonian civil war.




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