Balkans: Rage Against The Machines


October 29, 2011: Turkey said it will improve urban construction standards throughout the country. The earthquake that struck the country October 23 literally destroyed numerous towns and villages in the Lake Van area. The government is proposing a redevelopment law that includes the tightening of building codes. However, there is a major political element to the law. The Lake Van region (southeastern Turkey) is a predominantly Kurdish area. Turkey has been fighting a low-grade war with the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for some three decades. For reasons economic and political, friction between Kurds and Turks has increased this past year. The development law not only answers a long-term need (strengthening infrastructure so that it can survive large earthquakes) but is also intended to forestall accusations of neglect by Kurds.

October 28, 2011: A Islamist militant gunman from Serbia fired on the US embassy (using an AK-47) in Bosnia, Sarajevo. One Bosnian policeman was wounded in the terror attack, but no one in the US embassy was hurt. A Bosnian police sniper shot and wounded the terrorist, who was identified as Mevlid Jasarevic. He is from the Serb town of Novi Pazar, which is a predominantly Muslim area. Terror attacks in Sarajevo inevitably recall the assassination of Austro-Hungary’s archduke in 1914. That assassination was carried out by a Serb nationalist. It was the spark that ignited World War One.

October 24, 2011: Criminal investigators in Kosovo have discovered a niche where Kosovars and Serbians are cooperating: smuggling. This really isn’t news per se. Balkan smuggling gangs don’t pay much attention to religion and ethnicity when it comes to moving product. In this case the product the Kosovo and Serb gangs are moving is petroleum products (fuel, mostly). Investigators estimate that the gangs are raking in ninety to one hundred million dollars a year. That’s a lot of money, but especially a lot of money in Kosovo and southern Serbia. Peacekeepers and local police believe the gangs have helped foment some of the demonstrations on the Kosovo-Serbia border, specifically those involving the occupation or destruction of border and customs check points. The gangs buy or steal fuel in Serbia, smuggle it into Kosovo, where it is sold.

Meanwhile, Albania and Kosovo have agreed to share consular services in foreign countries as a means of saving money. The Albanians believe there are other areas where both nations could cut budgetary costs by reaching similar agreements. The political perception in Serbia, however, is that this is another indication that Albania still seeks to create Greater Albania. Greater Albania would include parts of Montenegro, Macedonia, northern Greece, and of course, Kosovo.

October 23, 2011: A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, causing much death and destruction.

October 19, 2011: Unrest related to the government’s austerity budget and the on-going European Union financial crisis continues in Greece, where 70,000 people demonstrated in Athens against budget cuts. Angry Greeks are expressing increasingly anti-German sentiments, and media are reporting that the Greek protestors often refer to the Germans as Nazis. That noted, Greece is in a terrible financial crisis and only Germany has the wherewithal to bail it out. It’s easier for the Greek unions to be mad at the Germans than their own government, but they don’t like the Greek government either. The Greek government is considering firing 30,000 state workers in order to meet its 2012 budget goals and begin reducing its debt burden. The problem developed over the last decade, as Greek politicians lied to the EU about their finances, and borrowed billions from EU banks to finance voter friendly programs (government jobs and generous pensions) that kept them in office. Many of the loans were hidden from EU auditors and amounted to massive, government backed fraud. Greek politicians, and many Greeks, refuse to accept responsibility for this and prefer to blame foreigners.

October 17, 2011: Macedonia has cancelled its census. Accusations of falsified data haunted the 2002 census and the same accusations are being made in 2011. Macedonian Albanians claim that they are under-counted. Macedonia Slavs claim that Macedonian Albanians are over-counted. The Macedonian parliament seems to have decided it's better to not ask rather than exacerbate ethnic tensions.

October 14, 2011: Every year the European Union evaluates Turkish compliance with EU requirements for admission. The year the EU report focused on threats by the Turkish government to freedom of expression, treatment of minorities in Turkey (particularly the Kurds), and what it described as Turkey’s intransigence on the problem of divided Cyprus. The Turkish government rejected the criticisms. The Turkish position is that the criticism is simply a political mask for France and Germany’s opposition to Turkish membership.

October 10, 2011: U.S. and Bulgarian military forces are conducting a two week long exercise name Thracian Fall. The exercise includes small unit parachute drops from US Air Force C-130 Hercules and Bulgarian Air Force C-27 Spartan transport aircraft.



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