Discussions between Serbia and Kosovo about the possibility of agreeing on border adjustments to settle a solution to the current frozen situation will be ephemeral, a short-lived romance. Not because the presidents of both countries could not finally agree on a deal, but because Europeans suspect the return of ‘Balkan ghosts’. The proposal discomforts the European Union and its member states. International leaders and analysts have already demonised this option, condemned their consequences and warned that another tragedy might befall Balkan people.

The weekend of September 8 and 9, Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, made a trip to Kosovo. On Saturday, he visited the Gazivode Lake – located in the majority-Serb northwest region, which is strategic for the supply of water and electricity.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Offensive Plan for the Balkans That the U.S. Should Get Behind

The Balkans remains in strategic limbo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years ago, but Serbia has yet to come to terms with its loss — refusing to recognize Kosovo and stirring trouble between the country’s ethnic Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority. Almost two decades after the NATO bombing campaign to drive Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, some 4,000 NATO troops remain there to keep the peace.

A breakthrough may now be in the making. It is a morally offensive one, but nonetheless the United States and the European Union should get behind it.

President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo are apparently working on a proposal to engage in a land swap that could bring the simmering conflict to an end.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, national security adviser John Bolton said the United States “would not stand in the way” of a land swap deal between Serbia and Kosovo. Recent reports suggest the two countries are close to an agreement that would resolve one of Europe’s most challenging political standoffs since the end of the Cold War.

The plan would redraw the Serbia-Kosovo partition to allow a Serbian-speaking territory in Kosovo’s north to join Serbia, while an Albanian-speaking region in Serbia’s south would join Kosovo. The stakes are high: Resolving this impasse probably would pave the way for Kosovo to gain a seat at the United Nations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Solo he visto a Ratko Mladic en la televisión y el ordenador, pero conozco bien su legado en Bosnia oriental. Viví un par de años a principios de esta década en la municipalidad de Foca, en el Alto Valle del río Drina, fronterizo entre Bosnia, Montenegro y Serbia. Mladic nació por allí, en Kalinovik, un pueblucho apartado en las altiplanicies de Treskavica. Es una región de montes, cañones y nieblas, muy aislada, sobre todo en invierno. Más allá de su magnífica naturaleza salvaje, el Valle del Drina es conocido porque durante la guerra de Bosnia (1992-95), cuando casi todas las cámaras miraban al sitiado Sarajevo, en poblaciones como Gorazde, Visegrad, Srebrenica o la propia Foca se llevó a cabo gran parte de la limpieza étnica de bosnios musulmanes y otros crímenes dantescos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mi país, Serbia, se ha convertido sin quererlo en el laboratorio de pruebas de Facebook respecto del comportamiento de los usuarios y la organización independiente sin fines de lucro de periodismo de investigación en la que soy editor en jefe es uno de los desafortunados conejillos de indias.

El mes pasado, me di cuenta de que nuestras historias habían dejado de aparecer en Facebook, contrario a lo habitual. Me sorprendí. Nuestra fuente más grande de tráfico, la que representa más de la mitad de nuestras visitas mensuales a la página, no estaba funcionado.

Pensé que seguramente era una falla del sistema; no era así.…  Seguir leyendo »

My country, Serbia, has become an unwilling laboratory for Facebook’s experiments on user behavior — and the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism organization where I am the editor in chief is one of the unfortunate lab rats.

Last month, I noticed that our stories had stopped appearing on Facebook as usual. I was stunned. Our largest single source of traffic, accounting for more than half of our monthly page views, had been crippled.

Surely, I thought, it was a glitch. It wasn’t.

Facebook had made a small but devastating change. Posts made by “pages” — including those of organizations like mine — had been removed from the regular News Feed, the default screen users see when they log on to the social media site.…  Seguir leyendo »

El acuerdo entre la Unión Europea y Turquía, el cierre hermético de las fronteras de Hungría y Croacia, o el uso de la fuerza contra los refugiados por parte de los cuerpos y fuerzas de seguridad búlgaros, entre muchos otros factores, han convertido a Serbia en la última frontera para miles de personas que tratan de llegar a la Unión Europea. Si bien Grecia continúa siendo el principal país de tránsito y estancamiento de refugiados e inmigrantes, Serbia le sigue los pasos. En estos momentos los datos oficiales confirman que en el país balcánico hay unas 7.740 personas estancadas (OIM), no obstante todas las instituciones y organismos no gubernamentales serbios consultados afirman que en realidad esta cifra supera los 11.000.…  Seguir leyendo »

The trouble in the Balkans today is not Russian meddling, though there is some of that, but a special case of the malaise afflicting Eastern Europe: unchecked executive power, erosion of the rule of law, xenophobia directed at neighbours and migrants and pervasive economic insecurity. The pattern varies from country to country but is palpable from Szczecin on the Baltic to Istanbul on the Bosporus. The countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia – have long tended to follow patterns set by their larger, more powerful neighbours. They are doing it again.

The ability of the European Union (EU) to fix problems in the Balkans is hamstrung when the same troubles persist within its own borders, sometimes in more acute form.…  Seguir leyendo »

For centuries, dark forces of history have found the Balkans a suitable proxy region for unleashing grand plans for global prominence and competition. Now, after two decades of stability and prospects for a prosperous future, Serbia again is returning to an old vocation — seeking regional hegemony. It is doing so by destabilizing the Balkans, expanding its own military and working toward economic dominance of a regional common market that Kosovo finds unacceptable and strongly opposes — all of this with Russia looking over Serbia’s shoulder.

Russia is clearly using Serbia not just to regain a foothold in the Balkans, but also to seek vengeance on NATO, the United States and the West with schemes to restore the regional prominence it lost when the Soviet empire collapsed.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’Histoire a parfois de bien étranges, paradoxaux, soubresauts. La preuve vient encore d’en être faite, ce dimanche 2 avril 2017, en Serbie, où le peuple a élu, dès le premier tour, un ancien extrémiste à la tête de l’Etat: Aleksandar Vucic, lequel, ne craignant pas de cumuler désormais les deux principales fonctions politiques de ce pays, n’est autre, également, que son premier ministre!

Ministre de l’information de Milosevic

Pour ceux qui ne connaîtraient pas cet homme avide de pouvoir, sans partage, où président et premier ministre coïncident en un seul et même individu, je leur conseille de lire ce très peu flatteur portrait qu’en brosse l’encyclopédie Wikipédia. …  Seguir leyendo »

On Sunday, Serbians chose a new president — electing Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with an estimated 54.9 percent majority.

Why would Serbia’s prime minister shift gears to seek the more ceremonial position of president of the Republic of Serbia? The move reflects an ongoing effort to solidify the position of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). It may also be a sign of Serbia’s turn toward an “illiberal” democracy — a political system marked by free and fair elections, but where rule of law, separation of powers, media freedom and other types of liberties are undermined.

In an article published before the 2016 Serbian parliamentary elections, the third in just four years, we wrote that Prime Minister Vucic called for new elections in an attempt to extend his mandate until 2020, but also boost the SNS performance in the concurrent local elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tensions have been on the rise again between Serbia and Kosovo, prompting European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini to visit the Western Balkans last week.

Her visit was timely: on March 2, a French court postponed the extradition of former prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj. He was arrested in France in January 2017 on an Interpol warrant issued by Serbia regarding war crimes committed during the Kosovo war (1998-1999).

These recent events have reopened the issue war crimes and the people who committed them – few of whom were ever prosecuted – on both sides.

The Kosovo War

From March to June 1999, NATO intervened in Kosovo and Serbia with air strikes to stop the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo’s Albanian population by the Serbs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abetted by fake news stories, manipulation of social media, and continual lying, the coming to power of Donald Trump has raised the question of whether other countries’ populations might be susceptible to the same level of deceit. An interesting case is Serbia, whose current prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, a former ultranationalist who served as an information minister in the late 1990s, when newspapers were fined and shut down in order to muzzle dissent as Slobodan Milošević fought a war with NATO over Kosovo.

The following commentary by the Serbian opposition politician and human rights activist Vesna Pešić describes the tricks Vučić and his party use to rule the country these days.…  Seguir leyendo »

Da la impresión de que fuera ayer mismo y, sin embargo, este 2015 van a cumplirse dos décadas del fin del cerco de Sarajevo, una ciudad mártir que, durante algo más de tres años, sufrió el asedio de las tropas y milicias de los serbiobosnios (serbios nacidos en Bosnia), dirigidas por dos nacionalistas radicales: el vesánico psiquiatra y poeta Radovan Karadzic y el sanguinario militar escapado de un cuento de terror Radko Mladic, ambos juzgados por el Tribunal Internacional de Crímenes de Guerra de la Haya, dependiente de la ONU. Durante esos tres años de sitio, en Sarajevo murieron unas 12.000 personas, el 85 por ciento de ellas civiles, asesinadas en las calles, en su mayoría, por francotiradores y por bombardeos de mortero en lugares públicos.…  Seguir leyendo »

El martes, la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ), el órgano judicial de la ONU, emitió la sentencia en la que se pronuncia sobre concretos hechos criminales, salvajes, cometidos durante el conflicto de los Balcanes. Su pronunciamiento ha sorprendido y ha sido objeto de resúmenes y análisis confusos.

Aunque el proceso comenzara en 1999 con una demanda de Croacia contra la República Federal de Yugoslavia, hubo un conjunto de problemas muy técnicos y procesales, nada despreciables, sobre la admisibilidad y traslado de la demanda y sobre la adhesión a la Convención de 1948 sobre Genocidio debido, entre otros aspectos, a que hubo tres cambios en la estatalidad de la actual Serbia (R.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the end of November, a group of young Serbian artists and activists burst into an abandoned cinema in Belgrade called Zvezda. The theater was to be demolished, and the “Movement for the Occupation of Cinemas” was determined to save it. Over six weeks later, they’re still there, putting on films and attracting worldwide attention for their stand — but also raising questions about what, exactly, cinema means in today’s society.

Zvezda, whose name means “Star” in Serbian, isn’t just any theater. Before it was closed, it was one of the crowning symbols of the propulsive and world-famous Yugoslav film industry.…  Seguir leyendo »

After months of talks mediated by the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo signed an agreement last month to resolve disputes dating from the 1990s, when Kosovo, a former province of Yugoslavia, effectively won independence following a Western-led military intervention.

But the deal won’t reconcile the two Balkan nations or help them gain admission to the European Union. To make matters worse, the two nations said this week that they could not agree on a timetable for implementing the agreement.

This setback is nothing on the scale of Balkan massacres in the 1990s, but it represents a continued failure to put the region’s troubled past behind it through integration with the rest of Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

Seventeen years ago, on 13 July 1995, there began in the former Yugoslavia what Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general, has called the worst war crime in Europe since 1945 – the shooting by Serb forces of about 8,000 unarmed men and boys at Srebrenica. The victims’ only crime was that they were Muslims.

“By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims,” Theodor Meron, the presiding judge of the appeals chamber of the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has declared, “the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity”.…  Seguir leyendo »

“We give this town to the Serb nation.… The time has come to take revenge on the Turks.” Seventeen years later, the words still hang in the air like poison gas over Srebrenica. With that speech, Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic pronounced the death sentence on more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. On July 11, 1995, the slaughter began. Bosnian Serb soldiers loyal to Mladic hunted down, tortured and killed the male inhabitants of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the United Nations had blithely declared a “safe area” for Muslim civilians. The Serbs expelled the women and children, brutally tearing teenage sons from their wailing mothers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Another war is brewing in the Balkans. Recently, Serbia’s voters elected a new president. Ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic narrowly defeated the liberal, pro-European Union incumbent, Boris Tadic. Mr. Nikolic’s victory means the Balkans may be plunged into ethnic violence again.

Mr. Nikolic won on his appeal as a crusading populist and hard-line Serbian nationalist. He campaigned against the rampant corruption and economic mismanagement that characterized Mr. Tadic’s government. Serbia faces an economic and social crisis. It is plagued by massive high unemployment, stagnating growth, soaring debt and rising poverty. Mr. Nikolic vowed to tackle the country’s problems and impose honest government. In particular, he has pledged to stand up to Serbia’s venal ruling class – a promise that struck a chord with many Serbs.…  Seguir leyendo »