Sunday, June 28, 2009

Serb memorial bulldozed in Kosovo town

Serb memorial bulldozed in Kosovo town

28 June 2009 | 21:46 | Source: Tanjug

GNJILANE -- Municipal authorities in the Kosovo town of Gnjilane on Sunday demolished a memorial dedicated to the knights of Tsar Lazar.

The news was confirmed for Tanjug news agency by Gnjilane municipal assembly president Milorad Todorović.

Lazar Hrebeljanović led the Serbian medieval state's army in the Battle of Kosovo, and died fighting the invading Ottoman Turks. Serbs today mark the 620th anniversary of the battle, and the religious holiday of Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day).

Todorović described the demolition as an act of vandalism that carries with it "a certain message to the Serbs in this part of Kosovo".

"If they intended to do this, the municipal authorities could at least have chosen another day, instead of one of the most important holidays for Kosovo's Serbs," said he.

The memorial was built along with a statue of Tsar Lazar on the 600th anniversary of the battle. The statue was demolished in 1999, after the arrival of NATO troops to the province, the news agency reports.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Israel will not recognize Kosovo

Israel will not recognize Kosovo

Photograph by Annie Griffiths Belt

24. June 2009. | 10:25

Source: Tanjug

Israel has not changed its stand on the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and will not recognize Kosovo, as some Israeli media have speculated.

Israel has not changed its stand on the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and will not recognize Kosovo, as some Israeli media have speculated.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied media reports claiming that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Saturday had announced his cabinet's readiness to ecognize Kosovo's independence in August. There is no change in Israel's stand, Palmor said.

Bulgaria arrests former Kosovo PM

Bulgaria arrests former Kosovo PM

A former Kosovo prime minister, Agim Ceku, has been arrested in Bulgaria on an international warrant issued by Serbia for alleged war crimes.

The Bulgarian interior ministry said Mr Ceku was detained as he crossed the border from Macedonia and a court would consider his case in the next few days.

Serbia accuses Mr Ceku of committing war crimes in 1998-99.

At the time he was commander of the ethnic-Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which was fighting Serbia.

He has dismissed the charges as politically motivated, and says the arrest warrant has no legal basis.

He was arrested at the Qustendil border crossing between Bulgaria and Macedonia on Tuesday evening.

Last month Mr Ceku was expelled from Colombia, after Serbia urged his arrest, but later he transited France en route to the Balkans.

He had previously been detained in 2006 in Slovenia and Hungary.

Kosovo declared independence in February 2008. Ethnic Albanians form the overwhelming majority of the population.

The US and more than 50 other countries have recognised its independence, but more than 100 have not, including Serbia and Russia.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Abused, driven out and poisoned: the scandal of the Kosovo Roma

Abused, driven out and poisoned: the scandal of the Kosovo Roma

A shocking new report reveals the desperate conditions in which one of Europe's most vulnerable populations is forced to live

An institutionalised crime against the Roma people is taking place in eastern Europe. A forthcoming report from Human Rights Watch documents an ongoing scandal at Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, which began 10 years ago in the wake of the looting and burning to the ground of the entire settlement known as the Roma Mahalla.

This was once a vibrant home to some 8,000 people, most of them Muslims. But the inhabitants fled, fearing attacks by ethnic Albanians who saw the Roma as "collaborators" with the Serbs, with whom they share a language. Some 6,500 of these Mitrovica Roma have never returned - indeed, only about a tenth of a prewar population of 200,000 Kosovan Roma remain. The Nato-led Kosovo Force did not intervene at the time in the blighting of the Mahalla, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was quick to help the newly homeless, organising food and, over some months, places to live until their settlement could be restored.

However, these makeshift camps - with the exception of one installed in an old Yugoslav army barracks 30 miles (48km) away - are situated by the dams of an old lead mine, beside a three-storey-high "black mountain", or toxic slag heap, "at the epicentre of contamination", according to Wanda Troszczynska Van Genderen, a researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and author of the report. The defunct Trepca mine complex constitutes an entire region long known for its toxicity and therefore being unsuitable even for temporary use, let alone a decade of inactivity and neglect.

The proximity of the slag heaps and the poor camp conditions predictably guaranteed serious and worsening contamination. There is limited heat and little access to clean water, no coherent or sustained treatment for lead poisoning and the poor diet comprises little more than bread and tea, said a nurse at the camps. In 2004 human rights activists started to protest about the deteriorating health of the Roma residents, and particularly the youngest residents, who absorb lead more easily. They reported children with black or bleeding gums, headaches, stunted growth, high blood pressure, epilepsy, constant diarrhoea, vomiting, disorientation, convulsions, extreme nervousness and "hysteria".

Twenty years ago Václav Havel, a human rights campaigner and the former Czech president, said the fate of the Roma would be a litmus test for Europe's new democracies. Of a world population of perhaps 16 million, some 10 million Roma live in Europe, and overwhelmingly in the former eastern bloc.

Europe is failing the Havel test. A 2005 Unicef report gives some idea: 84% of Roma in Bulgaria, 88% in Romania and 91% in Hungary were living below the poverty line. And in Romania - where the Roma account for as much as a quarter of the population under 18 years old - the already low literacy rate is precipitously dropping, along with school attendance.

Indeed, since the fall of communism, and despite the injection of many millions of euros, from national governments and private sources, life for this European population is significantly harder by all the usual indices of health, education, employment and housing, and in some places even endangered. And the violence has spread to the west, as the attacks on Roma families in Northern Ireland clearly demonstrated.

Arson by mob was a Romanian trademark 15 years ago. In the Czech Republic, instead of clearing out the Gypsy communities, local government built a wall around some of them - while Czech skinheads were easily the most determined perpetrators of serious civilian violence in Europe.

Italy is the scene of more recent mob action - for example, outside Naples, where a large settlement was razed. There have also been alarming responses from Italy's government, including the serious, if ultimately doomed, proposal to fingerprint all Roma under 14.

In European elections this month, far-right parties, campaigning on anti-Roma platforms, made unprecedented gains in Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia, whose Slovak National party gained its first seat in the European parliament.

Almost 700 Roma remain at the Kosovo camps - following unnatural deaths, miscarriages and the births of scores of children with irreversible brain damage. More than half the residents of the camps are under 10 years old and everyone born in them is brain-damaged. Since 2007 the UN mission in Kosovo has discontinued medical treatment for the poisoning, along with systematic blood testing, while weekly distributions of milk and fruit and vegetables have also ceased - though with local vegetables registering lead levels at 176 times the safety mark, they may be better off without them.

The biblical suffering of Roma has for centuries been met by biblical indifference. Because one minority in the heart of Europe is demonstrably the victim of this crime it is impossible to dismiss the effects of racism. A parallel might be found in the long and disgraceful history of coerced sterilisation of Roma women in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and especially Slovakia.

This is no longer state policy, as it was under the Czechoslovak communists. It is nevertheless hard to feel anything other than unease about the "consent" for such operations - usually performed during birth - which continue to be extracted from very young women, from illiterate women, and sometimes from women actually in labour.

The lead poisoning case is worse in one important particular. The UN created the camps, and the UN, along with the Kosovo authorities, bears legal responsibility for these people. It is a responsibility they all in their various departments continue to flout, despite the urging of many outspoken well-wishers. These include European MPs, Roma and human rights activists, environmental engineers, lawyers, journalists, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Danish Refugee Council, Mercy Corps, Norwegian Church Aid, the World Health Organisation, and at least one baroness.

Recriminations and rumours swirl around this sad saga: the Roma were poisoned not by the mines or the giant slag heaps, but instead by their habit of smelting car batteries - stolen ones, naturally. The Roma have also been accused of rejecting offers of housing outside the camps. This is true, and understandable, as the proposed alternatives were either in the contamination zone as well, or else prohibitively far from any source of employment, welfare or education.

The talk is about as toxic as the site itself. Only one fact remains undisputed: the Roma are still there.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Electricity again cut off to Kosovo Serb enclave


B92 News Politics Politics

Electricity again cut off to Kosovo Serb enclave

20 June 2009 | 11:34 | Source: Tanjug
GRAČANICA -- Several thousands of Serbs in the enclave of Gračanica, in central Kosovo were once again Friday cut off electricity.

Tanjug reports that this came due to their refusal to sign collective contracts with the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK) on paying for the electric energy.

State Secretary at the Ministry for Kosovo-Metohija Zvonko Stević pointed out that the ministry and the Coordination Center for Kosovo-Metohija are offering a solution that KEK does not accept.

"The Working Group of the Serbian government is actively engaged in finding the solution to the problem of electricity supply to Serb areas in Kosovo, and it insists on introducing a new electricity distributor in Kosovo," Stević said.

"Since preparations for the celebration of the Vidovdan holiday are underway, we will make sure that electricity is turned on as soon as possible," he underscored, the Serbian media in Kosovo report.

Although some of Gračanica residents were willing to pay the lump-sum in the amount of EUR 26 per household and to continue paying for the consumed electric energy, under the condition that KEK pledges not to insist on signing contracts, there have been no agreements.

Gračanica representatives say that the main reason for not signing the collective contract is that the contract does not specify the issue of outstanding debts since 1999 until present, which amounts to several thousand euros per household.

In mid-May, villagers nearby began paying the lump-sum, after their representatives had signed collective contracts with KEK, so the company regularly supplies them with electricity, with occasional cut offs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Serbia: U.S. citizen served as Nazi guard in Belgrade

Serbia: U.S. citizen served as Nazi guard in Belgrade

By Jovana Gec
Associated Press
Published on: 07/19/08
Belgrade, Serbia —- Serbia's war crimes prosecutors are preparing a case against an American who allegedly served in a Nazi unit that killed 17,000 civilians around Belgrade during World War II, an official said Friday.

Bruno Vekaric, a spokesman for the prosecutors' office, said it has started gathering information about Peter Egner, 86, a native of Yugoslavia now living in Seattle, in order to try him in Serbia.

"We have contacted the Americans, various archives, victims' associations to gather data," Vekaric said. "Once we collect enough material, we will launch a formal investigation and seek his extradition."

This week, the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal court to revoke Egner's American citizenship, saying he served as a guard and interpreter with the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in Belgrade from April 1941 to September 1943.

In its complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the Justice Department said Egner had failed to divulge that information when he applied for U.S. citizenship. Instead, he reported serving in a German unit and was granted U.S. citizenship in 1966.

Egner, who now lives in a retirement community in the Seattle area, said this week he was unaware of the U.S. complaint and refused to comment on the allegations about his past.

Vekaric said a delegation from the Serbian prosecutors' office will travel to Germany next week to check the archives about the Nazi occupation of Serbia during which tens of thousands of civilians were executed. Local historic and security archives also are being searched for any information about Egner, Vekaric said.

"If we make a strong enough case, a warrant will be issued for his arrest," Vekaric said. "There should be no obstacle for his extradition to Serbia to face justice."

The Justice Department complaint says that during an interview with federal authorities in February 2007, Egner admitted that he guarded prisoners as they were being transferred to the Semlin concentration camp and the Avala execution site, both near Belgrade. He also reportedly admitted serving as an interpreter during interrogations of political prisoners.

His lawyer, Robert Gibbs of Seattle, confirmed that Egner served on a low level in the security police when he was 19 or 20, but said his client denies participating in any persecution.

The Justice Department, citing Nazi documents, said that in the fall of 1941, Egner's unit executed 11,164 people —- mostly Serbian Jewish men, suspected communists and Gypsies —- and that in 1942, it killed 6,280 Serbian Jewish women and children who had been prisoners at Semlin. Those women and children allegedly were gassed with carbon monoxide.

See related article:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Serbia complains to U.N. about Kosovo property claims

Serbia complains to U.N. about Kosovo property claims

By Louis Charbonneau
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 6:13 PM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Serbs would like to return to Kosovo but have been stonewalled in their attempts to recover illegally seized property, a Serbian minister told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

In a speech to the 15-nation council, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic reiterated Belgrade's opposition to the independence of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia in February 2008. Some 60 countries have recognized its independence.

Jeremic cited figures from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), estimating that over 200,000 Kosovo Serbs have yet to return home a decade after a 1998-99 war. He said only around 500 went back to Kosovo last year and 30 during the three months from March to May of this year.

He said Serbs "want to exercise their right of return and we must do everything to bring them back home." He added that few destroyed houses have been repaired and most remain empty.

"This is not, however, where the biggest problem lies," Jeremic said. "More than 40,000 claims have been filed by Kosovo Serb IDPs for the return of illegally seized property. And they have not heard back."

He used the term IDPs -- internally displaced persons -- to emphasize that he continues to view Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Many Kosovo Serbs have been displaced ever since the war between Serb forces and Albanian guerrillas led to a 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Serbia that forced Belgrade to withdraw its security forces from Kosovo.

Jeremic called for the UNHCR to take over the role of the Kosovo Property Agency (KPA) in processing restitution claims. He said the KPA, administered by the now-sidelined U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), had effectively "ceased to exist."


Kosovo's Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni disputed the UNHCR estimate for displaced Kosovo Serbs and dismissed Jeremic's figure of 40,000 unresolved property claims as "science fiction." He also accused Belgrade of encouraging Kosovo Serbs not to return to Kosovo but to remain in Serbia.

Hyseni added that Kosovo was committed to the return of "every single displaced person, every single refugee" and that the KPA would process all outstanding property claims.

U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo and British envoy Philip Parham urged Pristina to facilitate the return of Kosovo Serbs.

Parham told the council that Britain was "committed to assisting the Kosovo Property Agency in its work to restore rightful title to property for Kosovars of all communities."

Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting described the rate of return of Kosovo's Serbs as "disappointingly low."

Hyseni also reiterated Pristina's position that it no longer sees any need for UNMIK in Kosovo. A European Union justice and police operation, known as EULEX, has taken over from UNMIK in most parts of the country.

Kosovo is 90 percent Albanian. Many of its 120,000 Serbs refuse to cooperate with Albanian-run institutions.

UNMIK still plays a role in the Serbian parts of Kosovo and in representing Pristina in international bodies where Kosovo has been barred due to Russian and Serbian opposition.

Moscow supports Belgrade in opposing Kosovo independence.

(Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Letter to Hashim Thaci - BIRN's Executive Director Joel Simon

Kosovo must probe death threats against BIRN staff
June 17, 2009

His Excellency Hashim Thaci
Prime Minister
Republic of Kosovo

Via facsimile: +381 38 211 202

Dear Prime Minister Thaci,

As an independent, nonpartisan organization defending press freedom worldwide, the Committee to Protect Journalists urges you to publicly condemn and thoroughly investigate a recent wave of threats against Jeta Xharra, head of the Kosovo office of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), and her colleagues.

According to news reports and CPJ interviews, numerous e-mail death threats were made against Xharra and BIRN-Kosovo staff after the local newspaper Infopress likened the journalists to Serbian spies and compared their work to fascist propaganda. The threats followed the May 28 edition of BIRN-Kosovo's weekly television program, "Life in Kosovo," hosted by Xharra on public broadcaster Radio Television Kosovo (RTK). The program covers sensitive issues such as war crimes, drug addiction, homosexuality, human rights, and press freedom among others.

Although the threats do not appear to have a direct connection with Infopress, Xharra said the paper encouraged intimidation. "In a post-war society such as Kosovo where the wounds are still open, to compare someone to Milosevic's Serbia is not only an insult and incitement to hatred, but could also be life-threatening," Xharra said in a statement published by BIRN-Kosovo.

Xharra told CPJ that BIRN-Kosovo reported the e-mail threats to local police but no arrests have been made. Xharra said her colleagues had been conducting a series of interviews with voters and government officials about promised electoral reforms. When the BIRN-Kosovo crew traveled to the Skenderaj municipality in central Kosovo to speak with the mayor, they were denied an interview and banned from entering the local government building. While in Skenderaj, the reporters were attacked by an unidentified armed man who broke a video camera and stole footage, Xharra said. She discussed the incident during the May 28 show, which focused on freedom of expression.

Four days later, on June 1, Infopress, which receives most of its advertising revenue from the government, published an editorial and an op-ed that were openly hostile to Xharra and her reporting team. A front page piece said the BIRN-Kosovo journalists were Serbian spies, and a commentary said the May 28 edition of "Life in Kosovo" was similar to a "fascist campaign against everything Albanian," BIRN-Kosovo reported. A subsequent Infopress commentary said the author "would be honored to shake the hand of any such dutiful Albanian" who took it upon himself to "punish" the reporting team.

The newspaper quoted Skenderaj's mayor, who said the "Life in Kosovo" program misrepresented the reality of life in the city; the mayor called on RTK to ban the program from its network.

Violent messages then flooded the station's e-mail inbox: "Don't be surprised if someone kills your source," "If we catch you there again in Skenderaj, we will beat the hell out of you," and "Jeta has brought it upon herself to have a short life." Among the most incendiary messages was this one: "I will take it upon myself to personally assassinate you." All of the threats were made anonymously.

The death threats against Xharra and her team of journalists are deplorable and put Kosovo's fledgling democracy at risk. Press freedom in Kosovo must be protected as a fundamental human right for an independent and stable society. We ask you and your government to immediately and unequivocally condemn this attempt to intimidate an independent journalist and her colleagues, hold accountable all those responsible for making the threats, and ensure the safety of Jeta Xharra and her BIRN-Kosovo colleagues.

When Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008, much of the international community recognized its new status. Kosovo must demonstrate that it is ready to live up to the democratic expectations of its people and the world. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.


Joel Simon
Executive Director

June 17, 2009 2:32 PM ET

See similar article from 2002

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Papakostas: We will not recognize independence of Kosovo

Papakostas: We will not recognize independence of Kosovo
June 16, 2009

Cypriot Defence Minister Kostas Papakostas said that Cyprus will never recognize independence of Kosovo. That is a consistent stand of the Republic of Cyprus, which we represent in the EU as well, Papakostas said after talks with his Serbian counterpart Dragan Sutanovac in Belgrade. Papakostas said Cyprus supports official Belgrade on its EU course and that the issue of Serbia’s EU integrations is independent of the Kosovo issue. Serbia is part of Europe and should be an EU member-state if it wants to, he emphasized. Sutanovac said Cyprus and Serbia are exposed to the same security risks and threats and announced that by the end of the year the two countries would sign an agreement on cooperation in the defence field. We have offered Cyprus to have their cadets educated at our Military Academy, Sutanovac said.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Slovenia to cap work permits to Kosovo citizens

Slovenia to cap work permits to Kosovo citizens
12 June 2009

Slovenia's govt. has approved a ban on issuing work permits to officials of companies from Kosovo and drastically cut the number of permits for Kosovo citizens.

The government has decided on these steps against Kosovo companies as a response to the increasing unemployment rate in Slovenia, but also warnings from other EU member-states regarding abuse of its employment laws.

Slovenia has been warned that many nationals of third countries are entering other EU states thanks to Slovenian residency permits, the majority of whom are working on the black market.

Moreover, the number of companies founded by Kosovo citizens is on the rise in Slovenia, while the number of companies started up by citizens of the other former Yugoslav republics is in decline.

As a result, Ljubljana has decided to cut the overall quota of work permits and to propose the introduction of restrictions and even bans to parliament.

A draft law is also being lined up to prohibit the issuing of permits to officials of small and medium-sized companies run by Kosovo citizens who do not have Slovenian residency permits.

The reason for the ban, according to the government, is that these work permits are being abused to enter other countries in the Schengen zone.

Slovenia’s attention has been drawn to these abuses by Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland, the most frequent destinations for Kosovo citizens carrying Slovenian work permits.

The Slovenian government plans to address this problem systematically, through laws it will bring before parliament designed to toughen the conditions for the founding of companies by foreign nationals.

The government has also decided to propose a quota of 24,000 work permits for foreigners.

Of this quota, 1,500 are still to be issued, of which the government plans to give 95 percent to nationals from all the other republics of the former Yugoslavia, excluding Kosovo, which will have to apply for the other five percent with all other countries.


June 11, 2009

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon warned in his new three-month report that Kosovo officials are ignoring his special representative, demanding that the UN mission should withdraw from Kosmet and emphasized that the security situation is relatively peaceful. He warned SC ambassadors that Kosmet Albanian leaders, ever since the unilateral proclamation of independence in February 2008, are ignoring UNMIK Head Lamberto Zannier, demanding the withdrawal of the mission as soon as possible.

Kosovo authorities have continued acting line with the Kosovo constitution and have demanded the termination of the UN mission several times, emphasizing that Resolution 1244 does not represent a relevant document any more and that they have no legal obligations to respect that document, it is said in the regular Ban’s report handed out to SC ambassadors yesterday. In the report, to be on the SC agenda on June 17, Ban assessed that EULEX is functioning under the UN patronage and is status neutral in line with Resolution 1244, As one of the serious problems in the past three months, he mentioned controversies regarding the visit of Serbian officials to Kosmet and allegations of the Kosovo authorities that the Serbian leadership cannot enter the Kosovo territory without a consent of the Kosovo foreign minister, which means south of the river Ibar.

Northern Kosmet municipalities and northern Kosovska Mitrovica continue acting independently of the rest of Kosmet, the report reads. Kosmet Serb leaders, referring to Resolution 1244, believe that UNMIK and KFOR are the only legitimate international mission and are resolute not to accept any institutions or symbols of the Kosovo authorities. They oppose changes in the Kosovo police command chain, whereby police in the north could be directly linked to the police in Pristina. The former submit their reports to EULEX now, he said, stressing that UNMIK presence in northern municipalities serves as a bridge between EULEX and local political leaders, of which some are hesitating to directly communicate with EULEX. The general security situation in Kosmet is relatively peaceful, but in Brdjani, near Mitrovica, a series of incidents broke out due to the fact that Albanians, despite Serb opposition, have tried to renew their houses torn down in 1999. After persistent mediation, UNMIK has convinced the two sides of accepting a pragmatic solution, so it was agreed on May 13 to renew five Serb and five Albanian houses. The Kosmet authorities have not managed to convince local Serbs of taking part in new security Kosovo forces, formed after the end of the Kosovo Protection Corps. According to EULEX report, 45 of the total of 300 Serb policemen returned. Ban also warned the Kosovo power company should take a more flexible stand regarding the resolution of the problem of power supply for Serb enclaves, above all due to a delicate legal and political surroundings.

Local elections in Kosmet will be held in October or November, but there is concern if local institutions, created with the adoption of a new constitution, will be able to organize the entire election process in public. Zannier has continued mediating in talks in which UNMIK officials, UN Belgrade office, EULEX and Belgrade are taking part, of technical issues of mutual interest, but Pristina officials are indecisive. Ban said that according to the UNMIK draft budget for the next two years, the number of UNMIK officials is to be reduced from 4,911 to 507, EULEX officials number 2,569 as of May 31. As in his previous reports, Ban said the number of returnees is disappointingly small, as only 137 expelled persons have returned to Kosovo since the beginning of the year, 30 Serbs, 24 Albanians, 54 Roma, Ashkalis and Egyptians.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Serbia to remove NATO bombs from rivers

Serbia to remove NATO bombs from rivers

Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:06am EDT
BELGRADE, June 11 (Reuters) - Serbia will invest 3.8 million euros in clearing unexploded bombs and ammunition dating from the 1999 NATO bombing from rivers in Belgrade, a government official said on Thursday.

The project to remove unexploded ordnance from the Sava and the Danube will be jointly funded by the European Commission and Serbian government, said Aleksandar Cvetanovic, a state secretary with the Infrastructure Ministry.

Under the terms of the project announced in Belgrade, the European Commission will allocate 1.8 million euros, while Serbian government will secure the remainder.

"The aim will be to locate unexploded ordnance from the 1999 NATO bombing, but also ammunitions that remained since WWII and WWI" he said. This would make the rivers safer for navigation, Cvetanovic said.

NATO conducted a 78-day bombing campaign in 1999 to oust Serb troops from the then province of Kosovo, targeting bridges on the Sava and Danube as well as industrial facilities along the two rivers.

Dozens of aviation bombs and artillery shells are still strewn along the banks and in the river beds of Sava and Danube. Apart from the NATO ordnance, some bombs go as far back as the 1914 fighting between Serbian and the then Austro-Hungarian armies.

In the coming months the government will invite bids from companies to carry out the cleanup operations, Cvetanovic said.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Bolivia Subdues Kosovo Style Terror

Bolivia Subdues Kosovo Style Terror

La Paz - The terrorist group dismantled last April in Santa Cruz was trying to cause a Kosovo effect in Bolivia, according to evidence published this week by the special commission of the Chamber of Deputies.

After revising the electronic equipment seized during the police operation the Attorney General proved the Bolivian-Croatian Eduardo Rozsa Flores, separatist group leader, received orders from abroad to carry out their plans.

Rozsa was systematically in e-mail contact with a person under the alias of Istvan, who was moved throughout Hungary, Croatia and even United States, assured details of the commission.

The communication proved close links with authorities and people from Cruces as well as with ex military and large landowner elites who were financing and giving logistic support to the activities of the extremist network in Bolivia.

As proved the paramilitary group wanted to destabilize the Andean nation through an armed movement to allow possession of the lands in the eastern part of the country to subsequently break them from the national territory like in Kosovo.

After many conflicts the Parliament in that Serbian province declared independence unilaterally on February 17, 2008.

However, the Bolivian improvised secessionists clashed with the police action that in April left the group leaderless.

Besides Roczsa other members of the group were killed in the action like Magyarosi Arpád (Hungarian-Croatian) and Michael Martin Dwyer (Irish).

This week Bolivia saw desperate attempts of a split conflictive opposition which seeks to consolidate alliances before next December's general elections.

With this purpose the National democratic Council (CONALDE) scheduled a meeting Friday in Beni department but it was adjourned because of a lack of quorum.

Now they have the choice of holding individual meetings to try to select one representative against President Morales.

Reporter Jennifer Boresz wins local Emmy Award for Halyard Mission story

Congratulations to Ohio reporter Jennifer Boresz who this June of 2009 has just won an Emmy award for her July 2008 human interest story on the American veterans rescued by Serbia's General Draza Mihailovich during the WWII Halyard Mission rescue operation of 1944. The following is the story issued in July of 2008 for which she has received her 2009 Emmy. The link to WTOL online will provide a video and photo slide show well worth looking at.

Local airmen share little known WWII survival and rescue story

July 4, 2008

By Jennifer Boresz

YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN (WTOL) - As we celebrate Independence Day, four veterans of World War II want to thank those who kept them safe in enemy territory years ago.

They were recently reunited at the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti thanks to the Experimental Aircraft Association.

News 11's Jennifer Boresz was there and has their story.


These men are called the 'Forgotten 500' in a published book. As more and more people hear the story, however, they're hoping the daring rescue mission and the men behind it will never be forgotten again.

"When they said pull that rip cord, I started to pull the ripcord like a lawnmower. It came up and came out in my hand. Then I thought, 'Now what do I do with this?,'" Curtis Diles, a WWII veteran from Dayton tells News 11.

More than 60 years have passed since these U.S. airmen parachuted out of a plane into hostile territory.

Clare Musgrove of St. Joseph, Michigan tells us, "I had the ripcord in my hand, and I was freefalling. I immediately tried to get into my pack and get the pilot chute' out. When I did, it made a much larger chute,' and my flight afterwards was OK."

Their mission was to bomb a German oil field.

"We bombed Ploesti, so the Germans would be penalized for their lack of gasoline. But we paid one terrible price for that because the Germans knew what altitude we would come in," says Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian from Fremont. "They knew the formation we would come in. They had us zeroed in perfectly, and we were like sitting ducks."

For many of these men, the mission was never finished. They died when their planes crashed into the treacherous mountains in the Balkans of Yugoslavia. For the others, they were parachuting into the unknown.

Musgrove tells us, "On my way down, I saw a flock of sheep. When there's a flock of sheep, there's usually people around it. So I made up my mind that when I get down without being injured, that's where I was gonna head."

They landed in German-occupied Serbia, but got help from Serbian resistance fighters led by General Draza Mihailovich, U.S. and British ally.

"Those people had it pretty dog gone rough, and didn't have much to give. But they gave," Carl Walpusk of Moon Twp., Pennsylvania says.

Those Serbians kept the U.S. airmen safe for weeks until the U.S. government got word of the 50 downed soldiers in Yugoslavia. The United States sent in OSS agents on a daring rescue mission known as Operation Halyard.

Fremont's Jibby was one of those men who risked his life. "They asked if I would go as a radioman," he explains, "There wasn't even a heartbeat, and I said certainly."

When he got there, he found not 50 airmen but 250. And the number was growing. "We stayed. What started to be a ten-day mission... we were there for almost six months and brought 500 airmen in."

One-by-one C47s landed on a makeshift runway that the Americans and Serbs built by hand. "We were so pleased that these planes were coming in," Musgrove explains, "This is what we had worked so hard for... getting the airstrip built. It made us so happy."

But when they returned to America, the government said they couldn't share their incredible story. "We weren't supposed to tell them how we got out. I think they wanted to keep that a secret," Walpusk says.

These veterans feel the U.S. didn't give General Mihailovich credit for helping them. By the time the rescue happened, the U.S. and Britain had abandoned Mihailovich as an ally. They say false information was given that he was a traitor and collaborating with the Germans. The U.S. and Britain began siding with communist leader General Josip Tito instead.

Jibby explains, "I don't know why the state department will not admit they made a mistake, that they abandoned Mihailovich. He was voted Man of the Year in 1941 in Time Magazine and hailed as a hero. Then they turned around and called him a collaborator simply to justify favoring Tito."

When the war ended they say Tito put Mihailovich on trial, quickly found him guilty and executed him by firing squad.

The hundreds of rescued airmen were devastated that they couldn't testify at the trial.

"The only thing we ever wanted was to acknowledge that he did help us," Jibby says, "That the Serbian peopled helped us. That he was not a traitor. That we made a mistake in backing Tito. We backed the wrong man."

In 2005 Jibby, Musgrove and a few other airmen presented Mihailovich's daughter with the Legion of Merit. It was awarded posthumously to her father by President Harry Truman.

Jibby tells News 11's Jennifer Boresz, "I just want to say it's great being together with these guys again, and I wish the whole 500 were here today."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Russia agrees to take nuclear waste from Serbia

Russia agrees to take nuclear waste from Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Russia agreed Wednesday to take 3 metric tons of spent fuel from a closed Serbian nuclear reactor to ensure the radioactive waste does not end up in terrorist hands, officials said.

Thousands of fuel rods are now stored in poorly guarded storage areas just east of Belgrade. The rods contain radioactive material that could potentially be used in a bomb.

The Vinca Nuclear Institute's reactor was built with Russian technology in 1959 and shut down in 2002.

"If some 3 tons of nuclear waste would end up in terrorist hands, the consequences would be very serious," said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's state nuclear agency.

Kiriyenko signed the US$54 million (euro38 million) transfer agreement Wednesday in Belgrade, but officials did not say how the funds were being provided or when the fuel rods would be moved.

Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic, who also signed the deal, said the transfer would abolish fears that Serbia could be a potential target for terrorists seeking nuclear material.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been working to make the Vinca Nuclear Institute less attractive to thieves. Officials from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, based in Vienna, said after their last inspection that the facility was "almost like a candy store" for would-be terrorists.

Serbia sent about 48 kilograms (100 pounds) of weapons-grade fuel to Russia in 2002 when Washington, Moscow and Belgrade mounted a joint operation to remove it. The fuel — enough to make at least two simple nuclear warheads — was transferred by truck under tight security from Vinca to Belgrade airport, and then was flown to a Russian government plant about 470 miles (760 kilometers) east of Moscow.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Serbian UN refugee agency worker dies in a Hotel Blast in Pakistan

Pakistani Authorities Search for Hotel Blast Victims
By VOA News
10 June 2009

Pakistani authorities are searching for additional victims in the charred rubble of a luxury hotel in Peshawar, after a suicide bombing there killed at least 15 people late Tuesday.

Another 70 people were wounded in the attack when assailants detonated a truck bomb outside the Pearl Continental Hotel in the capital of North West Frontier Province.

Rescuers search for victims of a suicide blast at Peshawar's Pearl Continental Hotel, 09 Jun 2009
Security camera footage from the hotel was made public Wednesday. It shows a car driving up to a security gate, a burst of gunfire erupting from the car, and then the explosives-filled truck barreling through the checkpoint.

A portion of the hotel was totally destroyed in the blast.

The United Nations confirms at least two of its foreign staffers - a Serbian national and a Philippine national - are among the dead. They are identified as Aleksandar Vorkapic of the U.N. refugee agency and Perseveranda So of the U.N. children's agency.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani denounced the attack and reiterated Islamabad's commitment to fight against terrorism.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the violence as a "heinous terrorist attack which no cause can justify."

Witnesses say the attackers shot their way past guards and set off a massive blast that ripped through the hotel's side, setting the building on fire.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing. But Aftab Sherpao, who has served as both provincial chief minister and interior minister, said the attack was clearly designed to pressure the government as it fights Taliban insurgents in the region's Swat Valley.

Pakistani authorities say more than 1,300 militants and about 100 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began in late April.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Serbs in Kosovo's north protest EU customs

Serbs in Kosovo's north protest EU customs

2009-06-09 14:00:07 -

JARINJE, Kosovo (AP) - Several hundred Serbs have blocked a road in Kosovo's north to protest what they say are plans for European Union officers to start collecting customs duty at Kosovo's borders with Serbia.
Kosovo's minority Serbs fear setting up full customs controls would endorse Kosovan independence from Serbia and cement the rule of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians authorities.
The Serb protesters blocked the road on Tuesday.
EU customs officers keep records of commercial goods entering Kosovo from Serbia and share the data with customs officials in Serbia and Kosovo to crack down on smuggling.
Serbia's top Kosovo official Goran Bogdanovic urged Serb leaders on Monday to «talk and solve problems» with the EU's 2,000-strong police and justice mission.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Free Press Threatened in Kosovo

Free Press Threatened in Kosovo
Pristina | 08 June 2009 | By Vjosa Musliu

Kosovo newspapersBIRN team investigated concerns about freedom of the press in Kosovo and discovered the media’s critical voice is being jeopardised by conflicts of interests, political and business interference and the psychological power of Omerta.

Television Journalist Jeton Llapashtica claims to have lost his job because of the questions he asked. Not because his line of inquiry was irrelevant, or his delivery poor, but because he directed “very tough questions” at Kosovo’s government spokesperson, Memli Krasniqi.

Llapashtica alleges he was fired from his Besa TV job purely because his questions were not in the best commercial interest of the television station he was working for.

During his interview with Krasniqi, Llapashtica asked the Government’s spokesperson to comment on Kosovar rock band Troja and their song Clown’s testament, in which the political apparatus in Kosovo is criticised as an organized team which is stealing land.

Talking to Prishtina Insight, Llapashtica said that the director was very frank and plain when explaining the reasons why he should quit.

Llapashtica said he was told: “You shouldn’t have asked him that question because you provoked him very much. We shouldn’t taunt the government people. They give us advertisements.”

However, Besa TV director Muhamer Fusha argues that Llapashtica was dismissed for his general performance. But he added that “being critical, and a local TV station, is not in the best interest of local TV station”. He said it was the national media to tackle the bigger issues.

While compiling a report in Skenderaj Municipality, which is led by the PDK, Kosovo Democratic Party, a BIRN team was attacked and impeded from filming. Journalist for Jeta në Kosovë Jeta Abazi was trying to report on failures by the mayor.

“Instead of leaving Skenderaj with certain emotions, knowing that the region is famous for resistance toward the Serbian regime, we returned with other emotions and with police escort,” Abazi told viewers after the incident.

According to Glauk Konjufca, from the Vetevendosje! Movement, there is no freedom of expression in Kosovo.

“There is an entire mechanism of small scale blackmails, threats, phone calls and pressure threatening the freedom of speech either on behalf of the government or the institutions”.

An OSCE report, covering summer 2007 to 2008, claimed that: “Politicians and political parties continue to consider media as their spokespersons. Media are ordered to publish the Prime Ministers speech for free.”

And, according to the US Department of State in 2008: “Journalists in Kosovo are intimidated by the government officials, public service workers, as well as by businesses. Some media are financed by business groups and by political interests groups, which offer them financial support in exchange for positive reporting.”

Freedom House, a Washington DC based organisation which assesses freedom of expression in all countries, said of Kosovo: “Most media in Kosovo face great financial difficulties. The editorial independence remains weak and media are adhering to business interests. Public broadcaster Radio Television Kosovo is particularly at the whim of political and economic interests.”

BIRN has conducted an investigation into changing patterns of government advertising in newspapers. It emerged that some newspapers have more advertisements with the PDK-LDK coalition, elected in 2007, while others lost their advertisements with the arrival of this partnership.

Infopress newspaper, largely seen as a pro-Government newspaper, had 234.5 pages of advertisements in March 2007, while in 2009 it had doubled to 406 pages. On the other hand, Zëri newspaper, headed by deputy head of Alliance for Kosovo’s Future, AAK, Blerim Shala, had 260.5 pages of ads in April 2007, while in 2009 it had 178.5 pages.

An investigation by think-tank KIPRED, Kosovo Institute for Political Research and Economic Development, also found similar changes. KIPRED followed the situation with all daily newspapers for eleven consecutive days to see which one received more advertising following the creation of the PDK-LDK coalition.

According to their research, Infopress had 105 pages of ads, Epoka e Re 82 pages, Express 50, Koha Ditore 49, Kosova Sot 40, Zëri 37, Lajm 24 and Bota Sot 16. Although Koha Ditore is currently the most read newspaper, this coalition directed more ad money to Infopress.

The issues around freedom of press were thrust into the open when, at the end of May, Kosovo’s Parliamentary Speaker Jakup Krasniqi declared that civil society and the media in Kosovo were directed by the Government.

According to a Government spokesperson, Krasniqi’s declaration was misinterpreted by the media. “The Assembly President’s statement was drawn out of the context, creating confusion” said spokesman Memli Krasniqi.

He argues that freedom of expression is absent when there is only one voice. “In Kosovo we do not have only one voice that speaks about one issue, because we have the voice of Vetvendosje, voice of civil society, voice of opposition and the voice of media,” added Memli Krasniqi.

Ilir Deda, from KIPRED, said that there was a lack of freedom of speech in Kosovo. “We don’t have a tradition of freedom of expression, and due to the lack of this tradition, the only freedom of expression historically was to say ‘Kosovo republic’ or ‘separation from Serbia’.”

For reaction to BIRN's investigation into freedom of speech click here: RELEX Supports Kosovo Journalist

Friday, June 5, 2009

Falling In Love With Belgrade - Serbia

Falling In Love With Belgrade - Serbia

It's not a secret that not many people people think of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, as a potential place to visit. Most people associate Serbia with wars and ethnic conflict. Belgrade is perceived by many as an unsafe place to visit. That's why it's so amazing to see this story about a 20-years-old French student living in Montreal for two years, Anne-Sophie Pannel, who visited Belgrade this week. What she found was not a grey, dirty, and depressing city. To the contrary, she fell in love with this unknown European capital called Belgrade.

"I really fell in love with the city, so full of contrast. Modern people or buildings are totally mixed with former one and destroyed by the war. The rests of fights are still here, but when I saw children playing on the old canons and chars I tell me that life continue, as if nothing happened. Belgrade, where beer is cheaper than water, where you can eat popcorn everywhere in the streets, where you can buy the first blue Fanta I have ever seen, where you can play tennis and basketball just at the feet of the fortress (which is more a place to relax than an historical site)... strange capital, so quiet and so alive at the same time."

Even more amazing, the French girl met a kiwi named Patrick "who came back two weeks ago from a 2400km motorcycle ride in Eastern Europe, in nine days, and couldn't decide to leave the amazing Belgrade he likes so much." What are your summer vacation travel plans? If you have never visited Belgrade, maybe it's time to visit Belgrade.

Srebrenica — The History of Salon Racism

Srebrenica — The History of Salon Racism

Alexander Dorin четвртак, 04. јун 2009.
(May 23rd, 2009, By

“In the West, the popular mythology about 7,000-8,000 Muslim men being executed in Srebrenica in 1995 is still alive and well, but independent research shows some 2,000 Bosnian Muslim fighters were killed in battle for Srebrenica and that is the number of bodies Hague investigators were able to find”, said Swiss researcher Alexander Dorin, who has been investigating Srebrenica events for the past 14 years.

In his latest book titled “Srebrenica — The History of Salon Racism” (Srebrenica — die Geschichte eines salonfahigen Rassismus) published this month in Berlin, Dorin focuses on manipulations with the number of Muslims who lost their lives in Srebrenica.

“Regarding the events in Srebrenica in 1995, the media manipulations still reign in the West, claiming that after the town fell to Serbian hands some 7,000 to 8,000 of Muslim fighters and male civilians were killed. However, the researchers around the world have shown this bears no relation to the truth,” Dorin told Srna News Agency.

According to data he had gathered, Dorin discovered that at least 2,000 Muslim fighters were killed in battle for Srebrenica. He added the facts are showing that neither civilian nor military leadership of Republic of Srpska (Serb Republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina) ever ordered execution of the Muslim fighters and POWs.

“2,000 is approximately the number of bodies Hague investigators were able to find up to this day. To that number the Muslim side added several hundred Muslim fighters, most of whom came from abroad, who were killed in battle few years before the fall of Srebrenica, in Han Pijesak and Konjević Polje,” Dorin said, adding that this is evidenced even by the Muslim documents captured by the Bosnian Serb Army.

Bosnian Serb Army Fought Against Orić’s Cutthroats, Not Against Muslim Civilians

“Prior to the fall of Srebrenica, Naser Orić’s troops withdrew from this small town, leaving 25,000 civilians behind, although a certain number of civilians, some of whom were armed, was withdrawing together with Orić’s fighters,” Dorin said.

He said that Bosnian Serb Army “did not kill a single Muslim civilian of those who remained in Srebrenica or Potocari, while it did engage Orić’s column, which was breaking through to Tuzla in several groups, in fierce fighting.”

“There is no way the Serb Army could have captured seven or eight thousand Muslim fighters and male civilians and execute them somewhere, partly because that was technically impossible,” Dorin said. He explained that, among else, there was never enough Serb soldiers who could carry out a crime on such scale.

In his research, Dorin was using various sources, including statements by the Muslim fighters and commanders, as well as testimonies given by Dutch UNPROFOR troops who were stationed in Srebrenica at the time.

He pointed to a very interesting investigation carried out by the Bulgarian reporter and author Germinal Civikov, who wrote a book about the case of Croat Dražen Erdemović, former member of the Bosnian Serb Army, whose testimony represents the key Hague “evidence” of “Srebrenica massacre”, who claimed that his commander Milorad Pelemiš “ordered him and few other soldiers to execute some 1,000-1,200 Muslim POWs”.

But the analysis of that case, said Dorin, proves Erdemović invented most, if not all of that story.

Dorin explained that director of the Belgrade Center for Investigation of War Crimes Milivoje Ivanišević analyzed the lists of alleged Srebrenica victims. Ivanišević discovered that, a year after the fall of Srebrenica, some 3,000 Muslim men who were supposedly killed in 1995, were voting in the Bosnian Muslim elections.

In addition, at least 1,000 of the alleged 1995 “Srebrenica massacre victims” have been dead long before or after Bosnian Serb Army took the town over.

“It is perfectly clear that Muslim organizations listed as Srebrenica victims all the Muslim fighters who were killed in the fights after the fall of Srebrenica,” the Swiss researcher said.

According to Dorin, some Western reporters wrote back in 1995 that part of Srebrenica Muslim population, after the town’s takeover, migrated to other countries. This includes an American journalist who wrote that around 800 Srebrenica Muslims went abroad — from Serbia.

“It was not possible to conduct an in-depth investigation, since no one can search the entire world to pinpoint each and every name [from the lists of alleged Srebrenica victims]. Still, the available evidence already shows there were immense manipulations at play,” Dorin said.

A number of photos of Muslim fighters taken during their breakthrough to Tuzla, which Dorin obtained from the Muslim sources, show Izetbegović’s fighters in uniforms, with many of them wounded.

“On these photos one can see a number of wounded fighters who survived the battle against the Serb Army. Muslim side is now presenting its fighters who did not recover from their wounds as the victims of an execution”, said Dorin.

He pointed out that some Muslims have admitted at least 2,000 of their Srebrenica-based fighters were killed in the battle.

Dorin also reminded of the statements by the Muslim politicians given to media about an “offer” American president Bill Clinton made to Bosnian Muslim war leader Alija Izetbegović back in April 1993, to have “the Chetnik [Serb] forces enter Srebrenica and massacre 5,000 Muslims, which would result in the [US-led NATO] military intervention” against Bosnian Serbs.

At the same time, Dutch UNPROFOR troops testified that Serb Army treated Muslim civilians in an entirely correct manner, while Srebrenica Muslim warlord Naser Orić with his fighters was massacring Serb civilians in the most monstrous fashion for years in Srebrenica municipality, and pillaging and destroying their property all the while.

… For Those who Want to Know the Truth About Srebrenica

Despite all the evidence about what really took place in Srebrenica and the fact there was no ‘massacre’, Dorin doubts the Hague verdicts in regards to Srebrenica events can be contested or overturned, being that this “so-called tribunal has convicted a number of people for the alleged Srebrenica massacre without any evidence whatsoever”.

He cited a case of the Serb Vidoje Blagojević, convicted to a long prison term even though he had no connection to Srebrenica events, while “the mass murderer Naser Orić was acquitted of all responsibility for killing the Serbs”.

“That court routinely discards everything that proves Serbs are not the monsters they have been made out to be. That tribunal has a purely political function. It has no relation to the justice and truth”, Dorin told Srna.

The Swiss researcher does not expect his book about Srebrenica events will be able to break down the stereotypes. He said the book was written for those who wish to learn the truth about the events Western mainstream media sold as “Srebrenica massacre” and even “genocide”, in order to justify their war against the Serbs.

Dorin added that mostly left-oriented Western newspapers and organizations have shown an interest in his latest book and have offered cooperation.

Alexander Dorin’s book about Srebrenica events is expected to be translated both into Serbian and English language.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Media War

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

For UNESCO, Cultural heritage in Kosovo is Serbian

Tadic: For UNESCO, Cultural heritage in Kosovo is Serbian
June 4, 2009

Serbian President Boris Tadic stated that UNESCO General Director Koiciro Macura supports Belgrade’s stance that nobody has the right to usurp the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo. During the break at the summit of heads of the Balkan states in Cetinje, Tadic specified that Macura convinced him that at the next UNESCO session in Seville, it will be defined that the Orthodox cultural heritage in Kosovo is the heritage of the Serbian people. Serbia will always insist on it which is why I underlined in talks that the so-called state of Kosovo exists in Pristina’s plans for 13-14 months, while the cultural heritage of the Serbian people in Kosovo has been existing for centuries, said Tadic. He pointed that the Serbian state existed in Kosovo even at the time when its cultural heritage was generated in that region and which became part of the global cultural heritage. According to Tadic, the Serbian cultural heritage should have positive impact on all that want to accept it, but that nobody has the right to usurp it as if its their property.

Kosovo President Excluded From Balkan Summit

PODGORICA -- A summit of Balkan leaders in Montenegro will include the presidents of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, Albania, and Bulgaria, but the president of Kosovo was not invited, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

The regional meeting -- which opens today in the medieval town of Cetinje -- will focus on the cultural heritage of the Balkans.

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic will host the meeting, but no one in his cabinet would comment on the absence of Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu.

A Montenegrin official told RFE/RL that the lack of diplomatic relations between Kosovo and Montenegro is the reason why Sejdiu was not invited to the summit.

Montenegro, which became independent in 2006, recognized Kosovo as an independent country on October 9, 2008.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A million-year-old mammoth skeleton found in Serbia

Jun 3 02:02 PM US/Eastern

A finely preserved skeleton of a mammoth, believed to be one million years old, was uncovered near an archaeological site in eastern Serbia, local media reported on Wednesday.
The skeleton was uncovered during ongoing excavations of the site at Viminacium, a Roman military settlement on the Danube river, said archaeologist Miomir Korac.

Zoran Markovic of Serbia's Nature museum said the skeleton "is extremely well preserved, with only a slightly damaged skull.

"We believe the skeleton is about one million years old, based on the layers of the grounds where it has been found," Markovic told B92 television.

Experts estimated that the mammoth was over four metres tall (13 feet), possibly weighing up to 10 tonnes.

The animal could have died near the Danube on its way from northern Africa and to southern Europe, B92 reported.

In 1996, fossil remains of a mammoth were found near the northern Serbian town Kikinda. The mammoth, believed to be about half a million years old, was named Kika and soon become a tourist attraction.

On September 6, local authorities will organize a "Mammoth fest" to celebrate "Kika's 12th birthday," its website at said.

Vojin Joksimovic -" Kosovo is Serbia" New Book June 28

Kosovo's minorities leaving Kosovo

The EU insists that Kosovo is a tolerant and multi-ethnic society. So why are its minorities leaving?

highly critical report by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) maintains that members of minority communities are beginning to leave Kosovo over a year after its unilateral declaration of independence, due to persistent exclusion and discrimination. In contradicting the conclusions of the EU's general affairs and external relations council, the report once again demonstrates the emptiness and evasiveness of statements by members of the international community asserting Kosovo's supposedly multi-ethnic character. Without urgent measures to improve the position of minorities in Kosovo, such a discourse will increasingly serve only to parody, not portray, the reality on the ground.
report, Filling the Vacuum: Ensuring Protection and Legal Remedies for Minorities in Kosovo, concludes that Kosovo "lacks effective international protection for minorities, which is worsening the situation for smaller minorities and forcing some to leave the country for good". These minorities include not only Kosovo's Serbs, but also Ashkali, Bosniaks, Croats, Egyptians, Gorani, Roma and Turks, who together make up around 5% of the population of Kosovo according to local estimates.
MRG's conclusions clearly
contradict those of the recent meeting of the EU's general affairs and external relations council, which "noted with satisfaction the initial results achieved by EULEX in assisting the Kosovo authorities in consolidating the rule of law and in contributing to a safe and secure environment for all inhabitants, regardless of their ethnic origins". The divergence between such statements and the reports of human rights organisations such as MRG has become a distinctive feature of the international community's efforts to provide positive assessments of Kosovo's institutions. The result is policies that are insufficient to contend with the substantive problems faced by local communities.
Though the government of Kosovo have often been commended for its stated commitment to upholding minority rights, MRG's report goes on to describe how "a lack of political will among majority Albanians and poor investment in protection mechanisms have resulted in minority rights being eroded or compromised in the post-independence period". According to MRG, Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence has left "a vacuum in effective international protection for minorities"; a vacuum that the Kosovo government seems both unwilling and unable to fill. Without tackling deficiencies in the area of the rule of law – reconfirmed by a
newly released report by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), which describes Kosovo's courts as being "inefficient, opaque, and hampered by persistent institutional obstacles" – the plight of minorities will continue to be of secondary importance to the apparent need to proclaim Kosovo an example of a tolerant and multi-ethnic society.
Indeed, Mark Lattimer, the executive director of MRG,
also emphasised how "restrictions of movement and political, social and economic exclusion are particularly experienced by smaller minorities". Such conditions are only likely to be further aggravated by the worsening economic situation in Kosovo, especially for the Ashkali, Egyptian and Roma communities that suffer from deeply ingrained poverty and marginalisation.
MRG has long drawn attention to the many failures to uphold the rights of minority communities in Kosovo, with a
2006 report, Minority Rights in Kosovo under International Rule, describing the situation of minorities as the worst in Europe and "little short of disastrous"; the international community having allowed "a segregated society to develop and become entrenched". Despite these and other warnings from human rights organisations, the international community has continued to not only ignore the difficulties faced by minority communities in Kosovo, but to regularly proclaim success with respect to minority rights protection.
While both the international community and the Kosovo government insist that minority rights are guaranteed and conform to the highest international standards, MRG's report instead highlights how the segregation of Kosovo continues unabated. Indeed, it is increasingly clear that the litany of failures with respect to minority rights has been further exacerbated and entrenched by Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. In sidelining the imperatives of re-integration, the international community's approach towards Kosovo is likely to have ramifications elsewhere in the Western Balkans. Without immediate and substantial steps to tackle minority rights issues, especially the
return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, Kosovo will remain the most segregated territory in Europe and a constant source of tension and instability for the entire region.

Serb graves vandalized again in Kosovo

2 June 2009 12:54 Source: Tanjug
KLINA -- Ten gravestones in a cemetery close to the village of Vidanja, in Klina municipality, have been vandalized in recent days, says a local official.Ranko Kostić said that unknown culprits had smashed a number of headstones and defaced the pictures on them.“The vandals scratched out the eyes on the pictures of the deceased on the gravestones. Serb returnees are upset by this incident and expect the police to bring the culprits to justice,“ said Kostić. Only a few gravestones in the cemetery, where locals from Klina and three other nearby villages are buried, remain untouched. This cemetery is just one of many in Kosovo vandalized on a number of occasions since 1999. The incident has been reported to the Kosovo Police Service, which, Kostić says, has opened an investigation. Of Serb cemeteries in Kosovo, the ones that have been the most frequent subjects of vandalism are those in Klin, Đakovice, Peć, Istok, Srbica, Vučitrn, Podujevo and Kosovo Polje.