Balkans: The Labors Of Hercules


July 13, 2011: European Union finance agencies are warning that the cost of bailing out Greece from its economic mess may be another $112- 126 billion. This assessment has led some officials to begin openly discussing the possibility of a debt default by Greece. That would shake the European Union economically and politically.

July 12, 2011: Turkish security agencies launched several raids in cities throughout the country and arrested 14 alleged members of Al Qaeda. One of the biggest raids took place in the capital, Ankara.

July 11, 2011: A munitions dump exploded in the Greek sector on the island of Cyprus, in the Zygi naval base. Twelve people were killed, among them the naval base commander and 62 were injured. In the wake of the blast Greek Cyprus’ defense minister resigned. Now the story gets more interesting. The explosives that blew up were explosives seized in 2009, as part of a shipment of Iranian munitions being shipped to Syria in violation of a UN weapons sanction.

Greece revealed that it will continue to expand its military relationship with Israel. Greece may start buying Israeli weapons and cooperate on other defense industrial projects. Greece and Israel have increased defense cooperation as the Israel-Turkey alliance began to fray. Israel and Turkey remain at odds, with the biggest problem the May 2010 Gaza flotilla fracas where Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish citizens who were on a ship attempting to run the blockade of the Palestinian seaport of Gaza. Turkey insists that Israel apologize for the deaths. The Israelis refuse, but say they will compensate the families of those killed. Greece, seeing a diplomatic opportunity, decided to improve relations with Israel.

Turkey’s Republican Peoples Party (CHP, the main opposition party) ended a boycott of Turkey’s parliament. The CHP joined three-dozen Kurdish politicians in protesting a court ruling that barred nine Kurdish politicians from assuming office. The Kurds were charged with supporting a terrorist organization.

July 10, 2011: The Croatian government arrested the country’s senior military commander (Lieutenant General Mladen Kruljac) and accused him of corruption. Kruljac is charged with illegal land and real estate transactions. The arrest is regarded as a significant political event. One of the most powerful men in the country has been charged with criminal corruption. Maybe things are changing in the Balkans.

July 6, 2011: Serbia’s president visited Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, in what is being portrayed as an attempt by Serbia to improve relations. Serbian officials frequently visit the Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb statelet inside Bosnia. Those visits, however, result in accusations of undermining Bosnia by fomenting secessionist sentiments in the Republika Srpska.

July 2, 2011: Serbia and Kosovo agreed to take measures to make cross-border travel between the two countries easier. It does not sound like much, and it isn’t, but it is really the first public agreement the two countries have come to since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. However, both governments have agreed that some pragmatic steps should be taken to make peoples’ lives a little easier. Kosovars will be able to cross the border in private vehicles with temporary plates. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s license plates. The Kosovars have agreed to do it. There will be some other customs agreements forthcoming.

June 29, 2011: The government of Moldova announced that it had arrested six people for attempt to illegally sell uranium-235 to an unnamed African country. Four of the people arrested were Moldovan citizens. Two of the people involved were from the breakaway Moldovan statelet, Transdniestr. Transdniestr has become a notorious smuggling den for virtually everything, but especially weapons and drugs.

 June 27, 2011: More Syrian citizens have fled from Syria into Turkey and Turkey has welcomed them. The Syrian government is upset with Turkey’s decision to accept Syrian refugees, as well as Turkey’s decision to beef up its military forces along the Syrian border. The Turkish government also accused the Syrian government of committing atrocities against its own citizens. Syria has responded by harassing Turkish truck drivers transiting the country. Hassling truckers isn’t the big story; the big story is a potential shooting match between Turkish and Syrian military forces. Neither government wants it to happen, but the Turks acknowledge that they have looked at several possible scenarios, including one where Syrian forces cross the border to attack refugee camps. Turkish diplomats have asked Syria to pull its forces away from the border.

 June 26, 2011: The Turkish government reported that some 12,000 Syrian refugees are now living in camps inside Turkey.

June 24, 2011: A German member of the European parliament is making the case that corruption is so bad inside Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria that these countries should turn their financial operations over to the European Union. The argument goes that corruption in these countries is so pervasive and so economically destructive that only an outside multi-national group can bring about the necessary economic reforms and systemic modernization. Technical assistance alone won’t succeed; the EU needs to run the day to day administration in order to end endemic bureaucratic theft and economically modernize these countries. The reform program has a name: The Hercules Project. Hercules, for his fifth labor, cleaned up the endemic mess in the Augean Stables.



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