Corruption, Politics and The Balkans

This WordPress.com site is about expressing views about corruption and politics

Underground Treasures of Kosovo

Large reserves of minerals at Trepcha Mining in North Kosovo

 

There have been several ways of calling Kosovo, tiny Balkan country that became independent in 2008.  Albanians say it belonged to their ancestors, Illyrian’s.

More about Illyrian’s

The Serbs call it the cradle of their nation. Many occupied Kosovo for ages. The Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians, German Nazi, Italian Fascist…and the fight over Kosovo is still going on. The last war ended just 13 years ago.

Many ask what makes this territory of only almost 11 thousand km so precious? I guess the story posted below sheds some light over that question.

 

More about Trepca (Trepcha) Mining can be read here:

 

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Its Allah, Jesus or “Albanianism”….

He can pray to Allah or Jesus.

Erald Kapri, Albanian student at the WestminsterUniversity in London could have followed his father religion, Islam or his mother’s Orthodoxy.

He decided to follow none as many of his fellow Albanians in the Balkans, most of who don’t even declare their religion anymore. Based on the Albanian media reports 70 % of the population in Albania refuse religion and simply didn’t declare their faith during last year’s Census.

Erald Kapri – Albanian student in London

Albanian’s in the Balkans, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro and everywhere is a mixture of Muslims, Orthodox being the second largest group (20%) and Roman Catholics.  Their most beloved phrase is “The religion of Albanian’s is Albanianhood”, meaning unity between different religious communities.

Mixed marriages like Erald’s parents are the most common thing within Albanians. Especially in Albania a marriage between a Muslim and say a Catholic or Orthodox are not even a topic of discussion anymore, for years now.

Albanian Mosque in the Adriatic port city of Durres

After the fall of Communism in Albania, in the beginning of the ’90 and after the war in Kosovo in 1999, extremely conservative sects of the actual religions have tried to manipulate Albanians. Mainly these groups come from Arab countries and a few from the West.

Fortunately these groups of people failed, at least so far. I will write something more about these tendencies in the days to come, because that might be a danger in the making for the years to come.

12th century Orthodox Church in Labova e Kryqit, Albania – Wikipedia

For every Albanian, the biggest national hero is Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, someone that defended Christianity in the Balkans like no one else.

Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeu – Wikipedia site

The above posted Wikipedia page about him states that in 1444, he initiated and organized the “League of Lezhë”, which proclaimed him Chief of the League of the Albanian people, and defended the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades. Skanderbeg’s military skills presented a major obstacle to Ottoman expansion, and he was considered by many in Western Europe to be a model of Christian resistance against the Ottoman Muslims.

In almost every town either in Kosovo or Albania you could find a statue honouring Albanian born nun, Mother Theresa, considered by many the biggest pride of Albanians ever.

Mother Theresa, in this photograph (left) wearing Albanian national costume of Prizren south of Kosovo (1923)

In my home country, Kosovo the situation might be slightly different. For example mixed marriages are not as common as in Albania, but you don’t need to marry someone to say there is love in the air, right? I have been friends with many Albanian’s in Kosovo without even knowing they are Catholics. It’s this much “important” to us. We go to school together; we celebrate Christmas, Aid al Fitter and we try to have fun as much as possible.

Mother Theresa: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus”

Actually, in Kosovo, after the war you would have entire villages changing their religion by as they say, going back into Catholicism. In 2008, CNN presented the story by saying “some Kosovo Albanians are experimenting with their new found freedom”

There is a lot more that you can write about this, but I would like to end this post by saying; if it weren’t for the bloody politicians, I guess we should be quite proud of ourselves.

The Albanian word of honour to Jews

It’s a small nation, primarily Muslim that did the un-imaginable, saved Jews from the Nazi’s. And that’s not all. Albania, even though during that time was occupied by the Hitler run Germany, is the only country that came out of the World War with a bigger number of the Jewish people than before the war.

No single Jew was handed over to the Nazi’s.

Although this incredible story happened so many years ago, almost no one ever knew about this. Rarely would you see stories published or broadcast about Albanians saving Jews!

Generally I never hide my disappointment with things happening in the Balkans, especially in two countries run by the Albanians, Kosova and Albania.

For a change I wanted to write something positive, something I can be proud of. The first thing that comes to the mind of every Albanian is Mother Theresa, Albanian born nun and world renowned humanitarian. Actually, if there is one thing that makes me feel amazing about my country and my people (Albanians), most definitively it is the harmony between different religions. I will not go any further this time with this one, leaving that to the next post.

I give you my Albanian “Besa” for that. Trust me, this is the best promise one Albanian can make and we keep that promise, even if we have to die for it.

This is what Albanians gave to the Jews during World War II – BESA.

“Besa” or keeping a promise was always part of the Albanian culture, but for the first time was mentioned in “Kanun of Leke Dukagjini” (15-th century), a collection of Albanian traditional customs and cultural practices.

Details about Albanian “Besa” in English

Albanians took the Jewish people home and after giving them their “Besa”, they would even die and not betray the Jewish refugees.

Due to the Albanian extremely rigorous communism after the War until the ’90 very few in the world knew about Albanian “Besa” to the Jews. In 2009, CBS News Sunday Morning prepared a special that is very much worth watching it.

The American photographer, Norman Gershman for years followed the story and came up with a large format book with pictures and text, “Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II”. Those pictures have been exhibited among other places also at the United Nations, the European Council in Strasbourg, the House of Commons and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In June this year, a documentary about Gershman’s project was promoted in Aspen.

The Trailer of “Besa – The Promise”

“No matter how often I tell the story of our rescue in Albania by a Moslim Albanian family, I relive our life in Albania over and over again! I love to be able to talk about these wonderful people, who through their compassion, courage and valor upheld the honor of the human race! The Albanian people filled the moral void that engulfed the world in those days, they were among the few shining stars!”

Johanna Neumann – Jewish refugee in Albania during World War II

 

The Poverty – Story broadcast by CNN

Radio Television of Kosovo story about poverty in Kosovo. The story was broadcast by CNN on 24 November 2008. Unfortunately the situation is almost the same even today.

In the days to come, I will publish some of the stories I prepared especially for a CNN program that used to be called World Report, but now its World View. Although these stories date back some years ago I believe they remain quite valid today as well.

“10 seconds TOM’s” of Oslo II

EU and their peace

An analysis about the “Nobel’s” decision to praise EU as a peacemaker

They support Balkan leaders with alleged criminal background; they even cover for them when they manipulate elections. Once they went as far as congratulating a Serbian presidential candidate while people were still voting…

Part 2

Ivica Dacic (second from the right), is the Prime minister of Serbia and the other one (second from the left) is Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo. Both leaders, praised very much by the EU especially for being ready to meet, have quite a dark background.

Ivica Dacic from Serbia was and remains to this day a big fan of Slobodan Milosevic, the late President of Yugoslavia/Serbia during the ’90, better known as The Butcher of the Balkans. He was his spokesperson to be more exact. What happened in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo or better saying the big numbers of civilian victims are primarily “thanks” to the deeds/decisions of Milosevic. In the Balkans, Dacic is better known as, “Mali Sloba” (Serbian for “Little Slobodan”).

Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic better known as “Mali Sloba” (Little Slobodan)

So, Milosevic’s Goebbels only 13 years after the last atrocities in the Balkans finds his doors wide open in Brussels.

Just for your information, Dacic runs a government coalition together with former Serbian Radical Party members whose politics is also to publicly deny that the killing of over seven thousand civilians in Bosnia’s Srebrenica was not genocide.

Actually there is quite a funny story about…well, let’s call it now “EU contribution” for Serbia. On May 10, Serbia was going through its second round of Presidential elections.

It was a neck to neck race between the democrat, Boris Tadic and former radical, Tomislav Nikolic, no one really knowing who could win. Not so difficult for the EU…. NO… Two hours before the polling centers would close; European Union publishes a press release congratulating Nikolic on his win, while Serbs were still voting.

Most of my Serbian colleagues said it was a mistake, because in the end, they believed, the democrat will make it. Much to their disappointment, Tomislav Nikolic won the elections and is now the President of Serbia. Too much of a coincidence? You decide.

EU congratulated former Radical, Tomislav NIkolic while Serbs were still voting for the new President

On the other hand, we have the Prime Minister of Kosovo. Well, to have a clearer picture, The Guardian on January last year reported something really interesting based on western military reports leaked to them.

These reports said that: “Kosovo‘s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, has been identified as one of the ‘biggest fish’ in organized crime in his country”.

It was the Guardian that actually made another story about Kosovo Prime, a worldwide story and that includes nothing less than accusation’s about alleged illegal organ harvesting during the war in Kosovo. There is an EU-run investigation going on right now about that.

The Guardian report on Kosovo Prime Minister

It’s funny though that there is no other Western Balkan leader that is praised more than Prime Minister Thaci. Not only that, but when necessary, EU’s most important officials provided him with arguments to escape easily accusations of election fraud.

Kosovo’s last general elections held in January 2010 are better known to be the worst and most manipulated elections ever held in Europe’s newest country. Back then, The Economist quoted several western diplomats who witnessed industrial – scale fraud or others who said that “the words ‘vote count’ should be substituted by ‘vote cook”.

I don’t believe that in any other country in the world the turnout would go as far as 116%. In central Kosovo, there were polling centers where beside the 940 voters, the entire number of the people eligible to vote, another 300 had apparently voted.

The Economist on Kosovo elections

All of the “votes” were for the Democratic Party of Kosovo, the one lead from the Prime Minister, Thaci.

Now comes the “fun” part. Hours before Kosovo’s Central Election Commission said anything, hours after media kept reporting about problems and fraud…two of the TOP EU officials issued a statement congratulating Kosovo for orderly elections.

As you can see in the statement attached to this post, deputy president of the EU Commission, Baroness Catherine Ashton and EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, congratulates Kosovo about something that went entirely wrong.

EU officials on Kosovo elections

In the days to come, all televised political debates would be with the prime minister’s associates showing the EU statement supporting the worst elections Kosovo ever had. “THANK YOU” EU, our very much corrupted government is enormously indebted to you.

The list can go as far as you want…there are plenty of other things that apparently ‘Ten Seconds Toms’ of Oslo didn’t even bother to check.

The Nobel Committee thanked EU for giving “the possibility of membership for Turkey” because this as they said, “(it) also has advanced democracy and human rights in that country”.

The last report about Turkey is jailing more than 70 journalists, the absolute majority of them because of their media work.

When they gave the Prize to Barack Obama, I don’t think that anyone believed they can top that. Well, they did, just a few years later.

After the news broke out of EU becoming the last Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a German Green Party MP said let’s hope that EU will not have the same downturn as Obama did, right after they gave him that prize.

“10 seconds TOM’s” of Oslo

EU and their PEACE

An analysis about the “Nobel’s” decision to praise EU as a peacemaker

Part 1

They support Balkan leaders with alleged criminal background; they even cover for them when they manipulate elections. Once they went as far as congratulating a Serbian presidential candidate while people were still voting…

For those still wondering, I am talking about European Union, “the peacemaker” of 2012, as per the Nobel Committee.

Actually, there is a movie character that best describes the members of the Nobel Committee who thought European Union should be rewarded for their peace contribution. He was described as “the most clinical distinguished subject”…

“Ten seconds TOM” is a character from Drew Barrymore’s movie “50 first dates”, a man that suffers from a short, very short memory loss. It takes only ten seconds for him to forget everything.

I think this is a much nicer way to describe the “Nobel” committee, probably instead of just saying a bunch of possible senile old people.

You must suffer from short term memory loss forgetting every ten seconds those pictures of people covered in blood, mostly coming from Greece and Spain, primarily because of EU leaders’ decisions. This is the time when EU is going through its worst crises ever.

Except from EU itself, no one was really convinced they deserved that prize. You should have seen Nick Clegg’s face not even trying to hide his shock and disbelief when they told him the news live. He is the champion of the few British pro EU politicians.

Actually, the main reason why I decided to write something about this topic now is one of the reasons mentioned by the Nobel Committee, THE CONTRIBUTION IN THE BALKANS.

In fact, every EU attempt to bring peace in the Balkans failed miserably. It was always NATO that brought those horrible wars in the Balkan to an end, from the first part of the 1990’s to their end.

Now, almost all of the Balkans societies remain very poor; rule of law remains one of the most serious concerning issues because of the large presence of corruption and organized crime… In Kosovo, EU has sent the biggest and costliest mission ever to fight organized crime, bring corrupted people to justice and they have executive authority to do that.

A recent report published from the EU Court of Auditors said that mission, called EULEX, failed to help Kosovo face its worst enemies, corruption and organized crime.

A few days ago, for the first time ever, Prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia met in Brussels, under the auspices of the EU. The meeting was considered “historical”, 13 years after the war in Kosovo ended. So far so good, but this contribution brings up a legitimate question; who is actually profiting from the EU help in the Balkans?

to be continued…

A London experience vs. a never-ending story

 

When living and studying in London writing about your personal experience as most of my colleagues at the Westminster University Journalism class do makes perfect sense.

I guess working for almost a decade as a journalist for Balkan media has done its part in keeping me “isolated” on the things going on in the region of “Blood and Honey”, the never ending mixture due to all the events that historically happened there.  These events “end” with the famous line ‘to be continued’ and they do, unfortunately, continue forever…as my obsession with those stories does.

The last days before I travelled here, to Harrow to be more exact, all of my friends had one thing to say to me…”Don’t forget to have fun; this opportunity comes once in a lifetime”. I think they know me too well, because so far, even though we were specifically told at the University to become “news junkies” with international news, I still can’t get all the Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and other Balkan websites out of my head.

I agree this is a shame because if London doesn’t take away the attention from everything else, what can? As a Chevening Scholar, it would be a much bigger shame if I should even think of complaining about the opportunities. There are so many events organized either by other Chevening scholars or the Committee that manages the scheme for the British government, making it the London experience is indeed unique.

And when I thought I am “unfixable” something really fun and exciting happened. Hyde Park actually happened, the amazing “never-ending” green space that seems to be twice as enjoyable with other Chevening scholars from around the world.

An amazing part of being a member of that community is that you can go to a picnic with people you meet for the first time and talk for hours like you have known each other for ages.

 

You can chat to skilled, experienced young people, from far away Australia or Mauritius, or you can just share your disappointment with a student from Bosnia and Herzegovina about the way our Balkan countries are going…oh…here we go again…Sorry about that, force of habit…

Nevertheless, I think this also says a lot about Britain, as a country and society, a real country of opportunities with open-minded people that bring together young professionals from all around the world creating one of the biggest and most respected networks of young professional’s. A British University diploma makes this whole experience a true one of a kind in the end!

 

In case you missed this….

Cover of the “Preportr” – Monthly magazine of the Kosovo Center for Investigative Journalism

Writing about poor people or poverty always gives the public a feeling of sadness, never expecting something as noble as a normal person would consider the news that recently came from Uruguay. The President of the “República Oriental del Uruguay”, José Mujica, is considered the “poorest president in the world”, after an interview given to the Spanish “El Mundo”.

Some might ask what is noble on that, but the former fighter of the guerrilla war for democratic changes during the 1960’s, donates 90 % of his salary. El Presidente keeps only 1250 Dollars from the 12 500 dollars he receives as the President of the country.  Mujica went through some very tough years during the ’60 and the ’70 in his countries prisons. His biography on Wikipedia says that once, “during the ’70, this included being confined to the bottom of a well for more than two years”.

When asked what is his most valuable possession, the President of Uruguay said: “Volkswagen Beetle, valued at $1,945”.

Remaining as humble as he obviously is after so many years and especially after he was presented with the possibility of luxury when he came to power in 2010 is truly a one of a kind case.

So many other guerrilla fighters/commanders that fought for the freedom of their country in a matter of few years turned from heroes to utterly disgusting politicians, mainly famous for corruptive affairs.

In one of the posts in this blog I wrote about the large Kosovo delegation that travelled to New York, an expensive trip that equals the living costs of many Kosovars for an entire year. Some of the people that travelled there, including the prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci were part of a guerrilla group that Kosovo Albanians consider heroes of the resistance against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, known also as “the butcher of the Balkans”.

Hashim Thaci, during one of the rallies of the pre-election campaign in 2002, then leader of the main opposition party in Kosovo. Two years before that, he was Political Director of the Kosovo Liberation Army (Albanian guerilla fighters who fought against Milosevic regime); Photo by Laura Hasani

It’s his second term as the prime minister and one of the main reasons why I named this blog “Corruption and Politics”.

The Prime minister of Kosovo in 2012; Photo by Laura Hasani

Obama says he is a kingpin, he wanders free in Kosovo

Another Balkan “funny” story….and yes, ITS COMPLICATED

US Congress and plenty of Senate Committees know him, Barack Obama thinks he is a dangerous man …That’s why Obama even wrote a letter to the Congress putting restrictions on him under the “kingpin act”, freezing any assets he may have under American jurisdiction. But, in the Balkans, he wanders free, with the Police not knowing whether he should be arrested or not?

Barack Obama’s letter to the Congress can be read on this link

His name is Naser Kelmendi, quite the star in the Balkans, not the way he wants to be though. Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) wrote that he and “his sons, Elvis, Liridon and Besnik as well as his brother, Beqir (Bechir) own a number of businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo, including hotels, and a trucking company”.

The investigative project say the Americans, and at least Bosnia’s prosecution believes he is in charge of a big heroin and cocaine trafficking organization to Europe, through the Balkans. With other words, Albanian run Mafia, in close cooperation with other people from the region.

To those who read my first post in this blog I said that in the Balkans all the wrong people cooperate with each other, mainly on organized crime. Naser Kelmendi is the perfect example on that. Actually he is the perfect example to explain why the Balkans is a complete dysfunctional region.

The Kosovo Albanian businessman has done business with Bosnians, Montenegrin businessman, and according to Bosnia’s Investigative Reporting Center, generally illegal things like smuggling drugs, cigarettes, trafficking in people and laundering money.

In Kosovo he walks in the street like he has no problems at all and the police can’t arrest him, because (here we go) Bosnia doesn’t recognize Kosovo and therefore doesn’t agree to send a warrant request to Kosovo Police, because Serbia would be mad if they do and then Bosnia’s territory would definitely separate…Yes, ITS COMPLICATED…otherwise it wouldn’t be a Balkan story.

Kosovo media has been publishing the news about Kelmendi walking in the Kosovan western town, Peje, close to the border with Montenegro, with pictures, so often it’s like they are screaming:

…THERE HE IS…GET HIM ALREADYYY

 

Honestly, I keep making the same mistake over and over again, thinking there is nothing else happening in the Balkans that can shock me more…I always get “disappointed” to understand that there is something else I didn’t know and that is even more shocking that the last one.

 

One week of UN “attendance” = 2500 pensions

Kosovo is a very small and poor country, but the shocking things that happen due to the weird behavior of this Balkan country politician’s are absolutely BIG!

Although not a member of United Nations, a delegation of 50 officials, including top leaders of Kosovo traveled to New York to…well, as they say, “attend” UN General Assembly meeting.

In a simple calculation made from one of the most influential economy analysts in Kosovo, Lumir Abdixhiku, this whole trip, in a matter of days will take approximately 200 thousand euros out of the very small budget of the Balkan country.

According to Abdixhiku’s facebook status all this money covers almost 2500 pensions, or over 1100 minimum wages in Kosovo.

“So, a seven day trip abroad of a Kosovo politician equals with the living costs of 8 Kosovars for an entire year” claimed Abdixhiku.

According to UN website, General Assembly “is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations” and meetings will last for a week. So, the small Balkan country’s BIG delegation will have a lot of time to sightsee New York, considered America’s most exciting city. Some news portals reported that the entire delegation will reside at one of the most expensive hotels in New York, InterContinental Hotel…

Many from over 4 thousand people I have as my Facebook friends, have expressed their anger and disgust with their country’s decision makers, because all the sightseeing and the fun will be paid from their pockets, officially called “taxpayers” money.

One of them wrote: “this must be the delegation of China and not of Kosovo”.

My editor in chief at KosovoCenter for Investigative Journalism saw this trip in a different way, though: “Today, while Kosovo woke up without some 50 top-officials who are on an “official trip” to New York, corruption might hit the lowest point in history…..”

Kosovo most favorite Facebook parody turns American “The Simpsons” character’s into “The Pimps” of Kosovo political scene

Kosovans favorite parody series, “The Pimpsons” obviously got a large injection to continue mocking the countries politician’s, showing the large Kosovo delegation in front of an airplane before flying to New York.

FYI, “The Pimpsons” as the author, Fisnik Ismaili, says is a mock up parody of “The Simpsons” characters with Kosovo political figures where the latter are actually “The Pimps”. The main figure used to be former US Ambassador, Christopher Dell, always controlling Kosovo puppet leaders, while the Prime minister of the country is usually seen with an army uniform and sometimes with blood on his hands.