Balkans: Mine Is Bigger Than Yours


December 2, 2010:  The UN extended its long-running Cyprus peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) until June 2011. The extension comes as negotiators for Greek and Turkish Cypriots continue to discuss how to end the division of the island. The discussions are being held in New York under UN auspices. The deal on the table is not a new one. A reunited Cyprus would operate as a federal state. The UN describes the arrangement as a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation. Both the European Union and the UN have warned Cypriot Greeks and Turks that failure to make progress could lead to a permanent division of the island. Greek Cypriots are considering a Turkish demand that they abandon claims to property in the Turkish-controlled north. The Greeks want a larger Greek Cypriot zone in return. The Turks are considering that. The Turks continue to accuse the Greeks of not really wanting to reach an agreement. They point to the 2004 UN-backed referendum on a reunification plan which Turkish Cypriots approved but Greeks rejected by an overwhelming margin. Meanwhile, earlier this year the Turkish government told the U.S. that it wants the U.S. to take a major role in encouraging the negotiations. Both Turk and Greek Cypriots indicate they will have follow-on discussions in January 2011 which will include the UN secretary-general.

December 1, 2010: The UN will participate in upcoming negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. The rights of Kosovar Serbs living in northern Kosovo remain a major source of friction. Kosovar Serbs argue that if Kosovo can unilaterally decide to secede from Serbia, then they can secede from Kosovo.

Results in Moldova's national elections (held November 30) indicate that the parliamentary deadlock will continue. It will be strange bedfellows, again. It is possible that four different parties will be included in a new coalition government.   The Communists, the Liberal Democrat Party, the Democratic Party, and the Liberal Party may form the new government. The bottom line is that Moldova will muddle along and its biggest issue, the separatist stately Transdniestr, will continue to remain unresolved.

November 30, 2010: Kosovo's acting prime minister said that he believes Kosovo will become a member of NATO sometime within the next four years.

November 29, 2010: Serbia's defense minister stated that the Serbian Army is the strongest military force among the states formerly included in Yugoslavia. That is true. Then he also added that the Serb Army is the second strongest in the entire Balkans. That sounds like old time Balkan bluster – and it is a statement certainly subject to debate. To start with, Romania and Bulgaria might disagree. Both of these NATO nations have sharply reduced their armed forces in sheer number but they have modernized them as well. Largest does not mean strongest. On its part, Serbia is also modernizing its forces. But the statement that it is the second strongest is still a bit of a puzzler. Presumably the Serb defense minister rates Greece as the strongest military force in the Balkans. The Greek military is a powerful force, yet the defense minister's analysis appears to ignore Turkey. He may be comparing the entire Serb armed forces to just the Turkish forces deployed in Turkish Thrace (European Turkey). Yet those forces (army, air force, and navy) in Turkish Thrace are formidable. Moreover, they can be quickly reinforced from Anatolia, and once they arrive, they are definitely in the Balkans. As it is, western Anatolia, with its Aegean Sea shoreline, is a Balkan frontline. The Balkans are a geographic zone, but they are also a political zone. In that sense, a huge chunk of Turkish Anatolia is in the Balkans and so is Cyprus.

November 25, 2010: Bulgarian media report that the Bulgarian government has been discussing expanding security contacts with Israel. As the Israel-Turkey split continues, Israel has expanded its defense and intelligence cooperation with Greece. It appears the Israelis are now pursuing a similar relationship with Bulgaria.

November 20, 2010: NATO has agreed to a demand by the Turkish government that the new NATO missile defense system not be solely to stop Iranian missiles. NATO wants Turkey to provide radar sites and possibly anti-missile sites as well and the Turkish diplomatic demand is a small favor in return. However, the truth remains that Iran is the threat to Europe, and Iranian nuclear weapons would threaten Turkey. Turkish diplomats argue that singling out Iran as the enemy would limit their flexibility in dealing with their neighbor. Turkey also wants the missile system to be able to defend all of Turkey from attack. Additionally, the government believes it should have some control over the missile defense system. In mid-November Turkey's prime minister said that a Turkish military commander should be in charge of missile defense systems in Turkey. The prime minister was not demanding, however, that the Turkish commander was in control of decisions to intercept. That would be determined by rules of engagement (ROE) agreed to in advance by all NATO members, and Turkey would support that ROE. NATO wants to have the shield in place by 2020.

November 18, 2010: The UN Security Council extended the mandate for EUFOR, its peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. EUFOR is tasked with insuring that the Dayton Accords (1995 Dayton Peace Agreement) are enforced. The Dayton Accords ended The Bosnian War.

November 10, 2010: The EU announced that Montenegro should be given candidate status. Croatia and Macedonia, which are also former Yugoslavian republics, already have candidate status. EU candidacy represents a major political gain for Montenegro and is a reward for good behavior. Though Albania and Bosnia are not candidates, the EU also agreed to let citizens of those two countries travel in EU countries without visas. These are also rewards for good behavior.




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