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Extremist organizations still spark fear in the Balkans
Extremism “constitutes both a cause and a consequence of conflict; deepening mistrust within and between communities, and often contributing to outbreaks of violence and acts of terrorism,” according to TransConflict, a training centre for conflict management. Ian Bancroft, the co-founder and executive director of TransConflict, told SETimes that extremism — particularly its violent manifestations — challenges ethnic relationships in the Western Balkans. “The persistence of poverty, the marginalization — whether perceived or real — of certain groups, and the deficiencies of post-war efforts at dealing with past have hardened divisions between communities,” Bancroft said. The list of extremist organizations in the region is not small. In Macedonia, the Hristianska Organizacija (Christian Organization) became part of the recent tensions through a video they posted on the internet in which masked men were shown burning Albanian flags and chanting anti-Albanian slogans. Professor Stevo Pendarovski, of American College University in Skopje, said that in the post-communist era, the Balkans has experienced serious problems with the “homegrown” extremists who fight for local causes. “[The] dissolution of the former Yugoslavia has practically archived old extremists; all of them have been deeply embedded into the respective national liberation movements,” Pendarovski told SETimes. He said that many old radicals have merged into the system. “Macedonia has made a unique achievement: thousands of former extremists have been entirely absorbed by political institutions and state bureaucracy. (…) “Recycling” extremists into the political arena has been successful. (…) In Serbia, two extremist organizations — Obraz and SNP 1389 — have also taken to the internet. Vladimir Ninkovic, a project officer for TransConflict Serbia, says that the extremist groups in the Balkans are motivated primarily by nationalistic causes. “The internet is a very fertile ground for popularizing extremist ideas, recruiting new members, establishing connections between — and brainstorming with — similar organizations from all around the world, as well for fighting ‘cyber wars’ with their counterparts from the region,” Ninkovic told SETimes. While there is a fear that the growing popularity of relatively new organizations — such as Obraz, Nasi, 1389, and Dveri — is alarming, “the influence of such groups is not very high. (…) The level of organization these groups have demonstrated means they cannot be ignored,” Ninkovic said. “The arrival of Wahhabism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Raska/Sandzak region, Kosovo and Macedonia, however, poses new challenges to the region: one that is of great concern to many Western European countries,” Ninkovic said. (…) But the Wahhabis are not the only group causing fear. A new Albanian group has also appeared on the scene, saying it will “protect” northern Kosovo. The so-called Army for the Liberation of occupied territories Albania (AÇTOSH) issued a communiqué last year that was published in the media of different countries, saying that “in particular, Kosovo is threatened by the formation of a ‘Republika Srpska’ on Albanian territory.” Ninkovic said that what is particularly worrying is that many young people have participated in acts of extremism. (SETimes)
Albania and IAEA sign Country Program Framework for 2012 – 2017
Albania and the International Atomic Energy Agency have signed Albania’s Country Program Framework for the period of 2012 – 2017, ATA news agency reported April 2. The Framework includes projects worth over EUR3m in priority areas for the country’s economic and social development. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press office, the program is the basic document for the medium-term planning of technical cooperation between Albania and IAEA. It identifies four priority areas, sustainable energy development, human health, local development and environment and governmental and regulatory frameworks for safety and legal framework. (Balkans.com)
Bosnian Warlord Freed From Croatian Jail After Serving War-Crimes Sentence
Former Bosnian politician and warlord Fikret Abdic has been released from prison after serving two-thirds of his sentence for war crimes against fellow Muslims during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some 3,000 supporters gathered in the Croatian coastal town of Pula to welcome Abdic, who is also known as Babo (Dad), as he emerged from a Pula prison facility on 9 March. Abdic, once one of the richest men in Bosnia and a popular politician, was convicted in 2003 of participating in the killing of Muslims during the conflict. He had turned against the Muslim-led central government in Sarajevo during the war, creating an autonomous region in Bosnia’s northwest. He was tried in Croatia, where he fled after the war. (RFE/RL)
EU: Kosovo needs to maintain momentum
By launching a feasibility study on Kosovo, the EU is asking the country to fulfill a set of conditions to prove that it is ready to move closer to integration. Specifically, the main sectors that Kosovo needs to advance are rule of law, trade, public administration and economic development — bringing them all up to EU standards. On 27 March, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle launched the study — which is the first step towards signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the Union — in Pristina. ‘ ‘Today’s launch … paves the way for Kosovo’s further progress towards the EU. The feasibility study will open a new era in EU-Kosovo relations. We need to maintain momentum,” Fule said. “This will require wide public support and commitment from across the political spectrum,” Fule noted, adding that he explained to Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci “what we will do and also what we expect from his government.” “The same goes for relations with your neighbors. It is essential for Kosovo’s future that relations with Serbia evolve rapidly and in a positive direction — this includes engaging with the Serbs in the north of Kosovo,” Fule said. He also set some deadlines for Kosovo, and said the EU will send a mission in June to review the country’s progress. “On the rule of law, I want to launch a structured dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci and Minister of Internal Affairs Bajram Rexhepi in Brussels at the end of May,” Fule said. Minister for European Integrations Vlora Citaku said integration in the EU is one of the most powerful consensus Kosovo has reached as a society. “It will become concrete now with a [set] guide of reforms we have to undertake — not only as a government — but as a society,” Citaku told SETimes. Kosovo analyst and university professor Belul Beqaj says the most difficult reform will be the so-called Madrid criteria for public administration. (SETimes)