Balkans: Oil, Blood And Religion


June 15, 2009: The "Name War" negotiations are set to continue. Greece and Macedonia  meet with a UN mediator on June 22 to structure the diplomatic discussions. Both countries will then be asked to prepare to "present their current stances" (ie, political positions) in July. Greece insists on calling Macedonia the FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), in part because it fears recognizing Macedonia might give Macedonia a reason to claim Greek Macedonia (the area around Thessalonica).

June 12, 2009: Moldova's constitutional court (essentially its supreme court) issued a ruling that requires the dissolution of parliament and new legislative elections. The ruling is an attempt to provide a legal route to resolve Moldova's post-election crisis --and avert a possible civil conflict that could involve Russia and Romania (and Romania is a member of NATO...). The current parliament has not been able to elect a new president. Opposition parties contend the April 2009 election was a fraud.

June 11, 2009: NATO has decided to cut its troop strength in Kosovo. The current NATO KFOR force has around 14,000 soldiers. The plan is to drop the force to around 10,000 by the beginning of 2010. NATO is also discussing further cuts in peacekeeping troop strength, to between 2200 and 2500 soldiers. There is no time frame for that steep cut but the fact NATO defense ministers are discussing it openly is significant. The EU has promised to beef up its European Union Rule of Law (EULEX) mission in Kosovo, but the EULEX security element is primarily police. Kosovo's own defense forces are scheduled to increase in strength, albeit slightly. A 2,500-soldier KFOR contingent would be something of a trip wire force. At its height KFOR deployed 55,000 peacekeeping troops and police.

June 10, 2009: Cyprus intends to pursue an offshore oil and natural gas exploration project despite strong (as in very strong) political objections by Turkey. In 2008 Turkey sent its navy into Cypriot waters (off Cyprus' southern shore) to protest what it regarded as a unilateral decision by the Greek Cypriot-led government to conduct oil exploration off Cyprus and issue licenses to oil companies for offshore drilling rights. Turkey says it shares continental shelf rights with Cyprus and that the current government of Cyprus does not genuinely represent the entire island. The Cypriot government contends that if the division of the island is ended then Turkish Cypriots will "enjoy the benefits" of the oil and gas fields where they are developed.

June 2, 2009: The US government issued a statement that it believes Bosnia is the Balkan nation "most at risk" for renewed violent conflict. The U.S. continues to believe that the Dayton Accords are the best way to avoid new violence. The U.S. statement follows Bosnian Serb demands for the increased autonomy of the Republika Srpska (Bosia's ethnic Serb statelet). The recent resignation of the prime minister of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation (the other statelet), Nedzad Brankovic, has also added to instability. Brankovic resigned after being indicted on corruption charges -- but then corruption is also a source of instability (no one trusts the government).

May 31, 2009: During the past month both the EU and Russia have signed new natural gas pipeline agreements with Turkey. Russia and Turkey will build a new undersea pipeline in the Black Sea. The EU deal involves the Nabucco pipeline which will connect the Caspian Sea basin to Europe. The pipeline will run through Turkey and terminate in Austria.





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