Balkans: The Turks Return as Europeans


April 5, 2007: The European Unions new "Multinational Maneuver Battalion" (MMB) has reached full strength in Bosnia. The force include Polish, Hungarian, Spanish, and Turkish soldiers. While Turkey isn't part of the EU (yet) it has contributed troops to the EUFOR (European Force) peacekeeping mission. The EUFOR contingent has been reduced to 2500 troops. The MMB will conduct the full range of peacekeeping operations, including quick reaction force missions.

April 3, 2007: UN Security Council began to debate its Kosovo independence proposal. Russia has said it will not support "an imposed solution" on Serbia. What Russia means by "imposed solution" isn't quite clear, but Russia has a Security Council veto, so everyone is paying attention. Russia advocates "continued negotiations" between Serbia and Kosovo. Serbia told the UN that the proposal is "unlawful" and an "attempt to dismember" Serbia.

April 2, 2007: NATO does not support a partition plan for Kosovo. Some Kosovar Serbs want the UN to allow the area around Mitrovica (with a Serb ethnic majority) to remain part of Serbia.

March 31, 2007: The European Union failed to reach a consensus political position on Kosovo independence. The EU wants the UN Security Council should make the decision - a "punt" in the diplomatic world. It's believed that Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, and Romania have "reservations" about Kosovo independence. Spain faces a number of regional demands for autonomy, and in the case of radical Basques, a demand for a completely separate state. The EU did agree to help Kosovo if the UN recommends full independence. Help would take the form of economic and financial aid.

March 28, 2007: The Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb statelet) made the city of Srebrenica a "special economic development zone." The politics of this are complex. At one level this is a jobs program that is supposed to insure equal employment opportunities for Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. But there is concern that the Bosnian Serb government want to impose "direct rule" on the city. The Bosnian Serbs have made that demand in the past.

March 27, 2007: A bomb went off in the Kosovo town of Mitrovica, in a predominantly Serb area. This was the second bombing in four days . The bombs went off near a construction site. The Serb government is building two large residential apartments. Kosovar Albanians allege that the apartments are for Serbs only.

March 26, 2007: A UN report recommended that Kosovo should be allowed to become independent. The report asserted that independence is the only viable option for a politically stable and economically viable Kosovo. The UN leadership, as well as the US and Great Britain backed the UN recommendation.

March 24, 2007: Macedonia said that it will begin "preaccession" discussions with the European Union in 2008.

March 20, 2007: Albanian police arrested four Albanian Army soldiers. The soldiers had been smuggling weapons and ammunition to Kosovo. Obviously, Kosovo independence is a touchy subject. Serbia fears the emergence of a "Greater Albania" that would include Kosovo. An incident like this plays right into Serb fears. However, Albania can point out that it discovered the smuggling operation and stopped it. The Albanian government wants to join the EU and perhaps NATO, and it has no interest in squabbling with Serbia. However, Albanian ultra-nationalists aren't too keen on the EU and NATO. They like the idea of "Greater Albania." There is also money to be made selling weapons. Welcome to the Balkans.


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