Balkans: The Year Bosnia Breaks


January 20, 2010: 2010 could be the year Bosnia breaks. At least that's the talk among diplomats trying to navigate the shoals of Bosnia's latest internal turmoil. Bosnian Serbs in the Republika Srpska (RS, the Bosnian Serb statelet within Bosnia-Hercegovina) have rejected an international mediator's decision to extend the mandate for maintaining an international judicial presence in Bosnia. The Dayton Accords of 1995 included an international “judiciary assistance” group that handled war crimes cases. The rejection by the RS government technically puts it in violation of the Dayton Accords. Why is this a big deal? The Dayton Accords, fragile as it is, ended the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Getting rid of the international war crimes investigation staff isn't the Bosnian Serbs chief aim. What they really want to do is secede and join Serbia. They point to Kosovo as an example of unilateral secession.

January 18, 2010: The Turkish government said that it will continue to link “political normalization talks” (establishment of normal diplomatic ties) with Armenia to a resolution of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. This means that genuine normalization will be difficult, because the Turkish government insists that resolution entails withdrawal of Armenian military forces from parts of Azerbaijan beyond Upper Karabakh. Armenia, of course, argues that several of the contested districts more properly belong to Armenia, or that Armenian control of the districts is necessary to the security of Armenian enclaves in the region. Both the EU and the U.S. are urging Turkey and Armenia to establish normal relations. The Russo-Georgia War, two years ago, shook the Caucasus region and the strategic argument is that a solid deal between Turkey and Armenia will help re-stabilize the Caucasus and deter further Russian meddling. If everybody starts getting along then the oil pipelines running west from Azerbaijan will also be safer.

January 17, 2010: Greece's weak financial condition continues to feed internal dissent. A large group of Greek farmers used farm equipment to close most of the main border crossings into Bulgaria. The farmers were demonstrating in favor of higher prices for their products. Closing the Bulgarian border, however, meant the farmers had shutdown a border to a fellow EU member. In a sense, the protest was a demand for larger EU subsidies for Greek agricultural products as well s a protest against Greek government policies. The Greek farmers are increasingly militant and their Tractor War does get headlines.

January 7, 2010: The battle against corruption continues in Bulgaria. When it joined the EU, Bulgaria promised a major crackdown on governmental corruption. The latest arrest involves a Bulgarian organized crime leader who had a journalist and a radio talk show host murdered. The journalist had been reporting on Bulgarian organized crime ties to the business community.

In 2008 Bulgaria faced EU economic penalties for failing to make sufficient progress in attacking criminal syndicates that had infiltrated legitimate businesses.

January 4, 2010: Serb police arrested a long-sought war crimes suspect. Darko Jankovic is accused of killing 19 people in the town of Zvornik in 1992. Zvornik and its immediate vicinity were the scene of several “ethnic cleansing” attacks in the early phases of the Bosnia War. Zvornik is located in eastern Bosnia.

January 1, 2010: Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders announced that they believe a new peace agreement will be reached in 2010. A new series of talks will kick off in late January with the goal of creating a new Cypriot federation. Any final deal must be approved by voter referendums in both the Turk and Greek sectors. Turkish Cypriots acknowledge that one reason they want to resolve the division of Cyprus is because it will remove one of the impediments Turkey faces as it tries to join the European Union. Greek Cypriots want Turkey to open its seaports to ships sailing from Greek Cypriot ports.

December 30, 2009: The long and twisted tale of anti-government conspiracies by the Turkish military took a new turn as the Turkish government defended the military against what it called “unjust criticisms.” The statement followed the detention of eight soldiers serving in the Turkish Army's Special Forces Tactical Mobilization Group headquarters (which is located in Ankara). Some Turkish media alleged there was a plot afoot to kill Turkey's deputy prime minister. All of the soldiers were eventually released by the police and no charges were filed. So the sparring between Turkey's ruling Justice and Equality Party (AKP, which is an Islamist party) and Turkey's secularists (Kemalists) continues. The big battle will be the national election, scheduled for 2011.

December 28, 2009: The Bosnian government announced it will contribute a troop contingent to the international security effort in Afghanistan. Ten Bosnian soldiers currently serve with German and Danish units in Afghanistan. Bosnian would likely deploy a company-sized force.

December 25, 2009: The Serbian government announced that it will consider filing charges of genocide against Croatia in the International Court of Justice. The Serb accusation specifies actions by Croats against Croatian-Serbs in the towns of Sisak, Paulin Dvor, Pakrac, Osijek, Medak, Maslenica, Gospic, and Karlovac during the period 1991-1995. Croatian Serbs driven from Croatia's Krajina region have been making these accusations for years. Serbia has borne the brunt of genocide accusations, thanks to the brutality of the Milosevic government, but the Serbs have also been victims of genocidal warfare. In World War Two the Nazis employed Bosniak Muslims (and many Albanians) in attacks on Serb villages. The Nazis called it anti-partisan warfare. To the Balkanites it was another chance to kill their neighbors.

December 22. 2009: Serbia applied to join the European Union.





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