Balkans: The Plight of the Generals


July 1, 2007: France and Great Britain tend to support independence for Kosovo from Serbia. Britain believes Kosovo's independence is inevitable. Belgium, however, is looking for alternatives. Greece opposes an independent Kosovo as long as Serbia objects. Russia opposes an independent Kosovo, and has a veto on the UN Security Council. Russia believes that Kosovo could become a "radical Islamic state." That's not likely, but the statement emphasizes the depth of Russia's historical connections with Serbia.

June 28, 2007: It's the news that didn't happen. Given the touchy negotiations over Kosovo's "final status," UN and Kosovo police feared a possible outbreak of violence on the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo (Battle of Kosovo Polje). The battle took place in 1389 and the Serbs lost to the Turks. A Serbian militia (Guard of St Tsar Lazar) had said it would hold a ceremony and members of the underground Albanian National Army had threatened to take violent action if the Serbs showed up. The police came out in force. There was no trouble in Kosovo, though one demonstrator was reported arrested.

Is Turkey in or out of Europe? Turkey has long been considered part of the Balkans. Certainly Turkish Thrace is literally part of Europe and western Turkey (particularly the Aegean coastline) is very European. But the debate continues. A senior Portuguese government minister said today that it supports EU membership for Turkey and intends to keep Turkey's accession talks "on track." Portugal takes over the presidency of the EU on July 1. Many European diplomats fear that Europe risks an "Islamic" backlash if Turkey is denied membership in the EU. The move by Portugal was seen as a response to a French government decision to stop new discussions on economic and monetary policy between the EU and Turkey. France's new president, Nicholas Sarkozy, said he opposes Turkey's entry into the EU.

June 24, 2007: Serbia has a military retirement problem. Serbia has 807 retired generals. Many of the retired generals served in the former Yugoslav Army. Retirement pay is expensive and the Serb government wants to reduce it. At the moment Serbia only has 15 generals on active duty. But it's uncertain how much trouble 807 retired general could stir up, if their pensions were cut. The large number of generals comes from the Communist Yugoslav era, which ended 17 years ago, when Serbs dominated the Yugoslav armed forces. The Serb generals stuck with Yugoslavia, which melted away to just Serbia, which is now stuck with the pension bill.

June 22, 2007: Serbia said that it would be willing to begin new discussions on resolving Kosovo's future. Serbia intends to maintain its "territorial integrity" (meaning have Kosovo as part of Serbia) but is willing to reach a compromise solution acceptable to all. This is something of a shift on Serbia's part. At the same time Serbia said it rejects the UN plan (Ahtisaari plan) as a basis for resolving Kosovo's final status. Serbia may be indicating it would grant Kosovo a form of "super autonomy."

Montenegro will scrap 61 of its 62 remaining T-55 tanks this month. The one tank not headed for the scrap yard will go to a museum. Montenegro will also reduce its standing armed forces from 2,900 personnel to 2,400.

EUFOR peacekeepers in Bosnia found a small cache of weapons and ammo (17 hand grenades and two rifles) outside of Sarajevo. The cache is believed to date from the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

June 21, 2007: The EU warned Kosovo not to take unilateral steps toward independence. The EU warning made the case that unilateral action by Kosovo would weaken the "legitimacy" of Kosovo's case in the UN Security Council. The warning came after a Russian statement which said Russia opposes any new delay in reaching a decision on Kosovo's final status.

June 17, 2007: Serbian war crimes suspect Vlastimir Djordjevic was arrested in Montenegro and remanded to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for trial. The ICTY is in The Hague, Netherlands. Djordjevic served as deputy interior minister and as a police commander in the 1998-99 war in Kosovo. He is charged with ordering atrocities to be committed.

June 15, 2007: Investigators found the remains of 160 Serbs killed in Croatia. during the 1991-95 Yugoslav war. The bodies were found near the town of Petrinja. The 160 are believed to have died in 1995 during the Croatia offensive against Serbia (Operation Storm).




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