February 19, 2004

ERP KiM Newsletter 19-02-04

German KFOR still not providing escorts for distribution of humanitarian aid

Humanitarian aid sent by the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija through the Strpce Red Cross cannot be distributed to remaining Serbs in Prizren due to reluctance of German KFOR to provide military escorts. Bishop Artemije: A sorry example of collective punishment of the Serb people that deeply compromises the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and Metohija.


Kosovo Serbs fear that KFOR withdrawal will force them flee Kosovo (photo: a US military patrol in a Serbian village in Eastern part of Kosovo Province)

Serbs in fear while KFOR reduces troops in Kosovo

ERP KIM Info-Service
Gracanica, February 19, 2004

After the latest KFOR decision to remove checkpoints around some isolated and vulnerable Serb villages in Kosovo many Kosovo Serbs are in fear that they would be forced to flee the restive province soon. The intent of KFOR to reduce the number of its troops on the expense of security of non-Albanian population will according to Kosovo Serb leaders not only block the announced process of returns but will force the remaining Serbs out of their homes. Villagers of the Serbian village of Miroc near Vucitrn (French Sector) have already left their homes after the Greek KFOR was ordered to withdraw and leave them under the jurisdiction of the local, predominantly ethnic Albanian police. Very tense situation is in the village of Velika Hoca nr. Prizren (German Sector). After the "unfixing" of the local KFOR very few Serbs will dare start working in their vineyards in spring. Having in mind that this is the only source of income for the Serb population of nearly 400 some families have already announced that they would be forced to leave Kosovo in search of more safer surrounding and income. Despite protests of the Coordination center in Belgrade and the Serbian MPs in the Kosovo Parliament KFOR claims that the unfixing strategy will not have negative consequences for the security of the minority population. Nevertheless, Kosovo Serbs live in fear that by the end of the year with reduction of KFOR troops in Kosovo smaller and isolated Serb enclaves will be doomed to disappear. The Church remains seriously concerned for its monasteries, the most of which are located in areas of increased security risk and thoroughly depend on KFOR protection.

CONTENTS:

German KFOR still not providing escorts for distribution of humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid sent by the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija through the Strpce Red Cross cannot be distributed to remaining Serbs in Prizren due to reluctance of German KFOR to provide military escorts. Bishop Artemije: A sorry example of collective punishment of the Serb people that deeply compromises the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and Metohija.

Serb MPs boycott Kosovo parliament session due to nationalist murals
"The Kosovo parliament is not just a parliament of Albanians. We have our own very rich history," said Oliver Ivanovic, the deputy speaker of the parliament and a senior member of the Kosovo Serb coalition.

STRATFOR U.S.: Balkan militants, leaky borders and Olympic games
Recent rumblings from the Balkans indicate the active presence of Islamist militant groups. While such rumblings are nothing new, the variety of high-level responses to them suggests something is brewing in the Balkans.

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NATO options in the Balkans according to Stratfor Institute, U.S.

Stratfor Institute, Houston, U.S 
Feb 4, 2004

NATO has a vested interest in portraying its operations in Kosovo as a success story. The alliance cannot afford to be seen as a do-nothing occupation force, but it certainly does not have enough forces in the region to actively and decisively engage militant groups. NATO also is wary of the two solutions that would permit a wholesale withdrawal of forces: reintegrating Kosovo into Serbia, Of allowing Kosovo to declare independence. If NATO officials admitted to a robust militant presence in the Balkans, the political backlash in the United States would be excruciating. The United States does not have the personnel to aggressively address militancy in the Balkans without reducing efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which are higher political and military priorities. Returning to the Balkans also would be a tacit admission that the United States missed an opportunity to handle regional militants. So the United States - and NATO by proxy - seeks to downplay the extent to which these groups have infiltrated and are operating in the area (Read the full report down )


German KFOR still not providing escorts for distribution of humanitarian aid

Humanitarian aid sent by the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija through the Strpce Red Cross cannot be distributed to remaining Serbs in Prizren due to reluctance of German KFOR to provide military escorts. Bishop Artemije: A sorry example of collective punishment of the Serb people that deeply compromises the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and Metohija.

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ERP KIM Info Service
Gracanica, February 18, 2004


The 68 remaining Serbs out of a prewar total of 8,000 who are still in Prizren have been receiving humanitarian aid packages every few months from the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija consisting of food and hygiene items. This is a practice that has existed for the past five years. In the past humanitarian aid from the Serbian Government was delivered to the municipal board of the Red Cross in Strpce. The Red Cross in Strpce then transported the aid to Holy Archangels Monastery, and the on duty priest in the Bishop's residence in Prizren, accompanied by a German KFOR military escort, took the food from the monastery (in military vehicles) to the Bishop's palace, where it is distributed to the remaining Serbs. As a result of the most recent measures by German KFOR, the monks of Holy Archangels are unable to continue distributing humanitarian aid to the endangered Serb population.

On February 8, 2004 the secretary of the Strpce Red Cross informed Fr. Herman, the abbot of Holy Archangels Monastery, that Coordinating Center aid had arrived in the Strpce Red Cross and asked him to request that German KFOR make an exception to its decision to cancel escorts for the monks because the aid is for older and impoverished persons to whom this aid is essential.

Despite the unprecedented arrogance of German lieutenant colonel Kai Brinkmann during a recent interview, Abbot Herman sent a letter to the German commander on February 8 in forming him that it has been the practice during the past five years to distribute humanitarian aid to the remaining Serbs, that a shipment of aid had again arrived and was being stored in by the Strpce Red Cross, and asking him to authorize a KFOR escort in order to transfer the aid to Prizren.

On February 12 Milan Djurinac, the secretary of the Strpce Red Cross, visited Holy Archangels and brought the humanitarian aid to the monastery. The reason for the visit was to make detailed arrangements regarding the distribution of aid to the Serbs in Prizren. Abbot Herman informed Mr. Djurinac that he still had not received any response from German KFOR.

"On the morning of February 15 we asked the on duty commander of the patrol protecting the monastery if he would ask his commanding officer for an answer. After one hour he informed us that he had informed his captain and that we would receive a response that evening. In the evening we asked him again and received the explanation that he had not received a response from his command. This was repeated during the course of the next three days. As of the morning of February 18 we still have not received a positive or a negative answer; our request is simply being ignored," Abbot Herman told the ERP KIM Info Service.

"This example best shows that KFOR is not willing to provide necessary escorts to the monks even for the purpose of distributing humanitarian aid to the remaining 60 odd Serbs in the city of Prizren. At the same time, it serves to directly disprove claims by Mr. Harri Holkeri, the chief of UNMIK, during recent talks with Dr. Nebojsa Covic of the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija, that reports on problems with which we are confronted are supposedly 'unfounded and exaggerated'. It is clear that Mr. Holkeri does not have an accurate picture of events in this area and that he gets his information exclusively from the biased reports of German KFOR," said the Abbot of Holy Archangels.

According to information the Diocese received today from Holy Archangels Monastery, reports appearing in some Serbian media that German KFOR allegedly resumed escorts and other services to the monks of that monastery are simply not true. The monks stated that the sanctions introduced against the monastery after January 21 are still in full force.

Commenting on the ignoring of the most basic needs of the monks and the faithful people in Prizren, Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren told ERP KIM Info Service that this is "a sorry example of collective punishment of the Serb people that deeply compromises the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and Metohija".

The Diocese of Raska and Prizren wishes to thank the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija and the Strpce Red Cross for their great efforts in providing the humanitarian aid for our faithful people. The Diocese also thanks Dr. Nebojsa Covic personally for his efforts in attempting to resolve the problems of Holy Archangels Monastery and the Serb people remaining in the Prizren area and appeals to the Serbian Government to lodge an official protest at the highest levels as a result of this unprecedented behavior on the part of the German Bundeswehr which, by refusing to provide escorts for the distribution of humanitarian aid, is practically starving the remaining Serbs in Prizren

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Serb MPs boycott Kosovo parliament session

"The Kosovo parliament is not just a parliament of Albanians. We have our own very rich history," said Oliver Ivanovic, the deputy speaker of the parliament and a senior member of the Kosovo Serb coalition.

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Beta News Agency, Belgrade
February 18, 2004

PRISTINA -- Wednesday - Serb deputies in the Kosovo parliament have boycotted today's sitting in protest at images on the walls of the renovated assembly building.

The Serb MPs say the images of the Albanian League and Albanian national hero Skenderbeg are discriminatory.

"The Kosovo parliament is not just a parliament of Albanians. We have our own very rich history," said Oliver Ivanovic, the deputy speaker of the parliament and a senior member of the Kosovo Serb coalition.

The head of the United Nations mission has also objected to the images.
Harri Holkeri refused to attend the ceremonial opening of the new chamber, insisting the parliament is a multi-ethnic institution representing a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

A three-day session of parliament began today to discuss proposed anti-discrimination legislation.


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STRATFOR: Balkan Militants, Leaky Borders and the Olympic Games

Recent rumblings from the Balkans indicate the active presence of Islamist militant groups. While such rumblings are nothing new, the variety of high-level responses to them suggests something is brewing in the Balkans.

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STRATFOR, Houston (U.S)
Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence


Feb 04, 2004

Summary

Recent rumblings from the Balkans indicate the active presence of Islamist militant groups. While such rumblings are nothing new, the variety of high-level responses to them suggests something is brewing in the Balkans.

Analysis

In February 2003, four concurrent and curious statements came out of the Balkans. On Feb. 1, NATO proclaimed its Kosovo operations a success and a benchmark for future NATO missions. The next day, Serbian Intelligence Chief Momir Stojanovic said that Islamist militants - including al Qaeda - are actively operating in Kosovo. Albania and Macedonia. Stojanovic's claims were quickly denied by NATO, Serbian defense officials and Albanian and Macedonian officials. Stojanovic then went one step further, saying that not only are militant organizations active in these areas, but also that Serbian intelligence agents have been monitoring them for more than a year.

Whether Stojanovic's - of NATO's - assertions are accurate, they point to the possibility that militant organizations like al Qaeda increasingly see the Balkans as a potential launching pad for operations in Western Europe and beyond.

The Balkans have long been home to and fertile ground for Islamist organizations, due to a large Muslim population and regional instability. As recently as September 2003, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Meyers visited the region to reiterate the danger it posed. So why all the denial?

NATO has a vested interest in portraying its operations in Kosovo as a success story. The alliance cannot afford to be seen as a do-nothing occupation force, but it certainly does not have enough forces in the region to actively and decisively engage militant groups. NATO also is wary of the two solutions that would permit a wholesale withdrawal of forces: reintegrating Kosovo into Serbia, Of allowing Kosovo to declare independence. If NATO officials admitted to a robust militant presence in the Balkans, the political backlash in the United States would be excruciating. The United States does not have the personnel to aggressively address militancy in the Balkans without reducing efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which are higher political and military priorities. Returning to the Balkans also would be a tacit admission that the United States missed an opportunity to handle regional militants. So the United States - and NATO by proxy - seeks to downplay the extent to which these groups have infiltrated and are operating in the area.

Officials in Belgrade have a conflicting agenda when it comes to dealing with militant groups in the region. On one hand, the rising tide of nationalism, coupled with pressure from the European Union, has induced some government officials to deflect criticism away from Serbia and Montenegro and toward the national enemy, Albania. This could be motivating Stojanovic's assertions. Stojanovic has a long history of anti-Albanian sentiments stemming from his term as a commander of Yugoslavia's Pristina Corps before the NATO campaign in the late 1990s. While in that position, Stojanovic was accused of war crimes that included mass executions of ethnic Albanians.

On the other hand, Serbian officials want to give the West the impression that there is nothing to see behind the curtain and that further intervention is unnecessary. The United States and NATO are beginning to disengage from the region after intense involvement in the late 1990s. Belgrade docs not want to give Washington a reason to return.

Additionally, Belgrade has been trying for some time to improve relations with Washington and integrate into the European community, toeing the NATO party line on terrorism in the Balkans could be one way to do that The official who denied Stojanovic's claim was Serbian Minister of Defense Boris Tadic, who in September 2003 told a Macedonian newspaper that militant organizations are Active in the region and acting in concert.

Albanian and Macedonian officials denied Stojanovic's claims simply because they do not want to be seen as incapable of dealing with a militant threat, and they are opposed to outside intervention.

Despite these denials, evidence cited by Stojanovic and others in the past - and simple logic - points to the Balkans as an obvious rallying point for al Qaeda and other militant organizations.

For example, the western Balkans have long been a primary route for illicit trafficking. Guns, drugs, prostitutes and other illegal traffic have passed freely across porous borders. Ease of mobility, proximity to Western targets and black-market sources of equipment and revenue provide a unique opportunity for militants.

Additionally, the area is populated with Muslims. While they are not as sympathetic to Islamist extremism as Muslims in the Middle East or Central Asia, they still empathize with militant movements, due in part to a history of mistreatment at the hands of the ruling powers. The region contains the largest contiguous Muslim population within Europe, providing militants an opportunity to find a safe haven. Growing Muslim populations in nearby Spain, France and Germany also could provide support for militants in the region.

The Balkans represent access to abundant target opportunities. In coming months, the EU expansion will open up visa-free travel to a number of Central European nations that border Balkan states. This will make infiltration into Western Europe - and perhaps the United States - that much easier.

Moreover, Stratfor has said for some time that al Qaeda will attempt a huge operation in the near future or risk losing its relevance in the Muslim world. And although it might not be the type of target al Qaeda usually seeks, this summer will bring a highly visible, relatively vulnerable and easily accessible target to the Balkans' backyard: the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The Greek borders with Macedonia and Albania are porous, providing easy entrance into Greece. Large gatherings and the massive Western presence at the Olympics will present a wonderful target for hopeful militants.

Greek authorities obviously are worried; security spending for the Olympics is believed to be in the neighborhood of $700 million - more than 10 percent of Greece's annual defense expenditures - and Athens has enlisted NATO allies to provide money and personnel to beef up security efforts. Such massive defense operations would not be undertaken were there no inkling of a threat. That threat could easily come from militant organizations operating clandestinely near the northern Greek border.

Despite the huge sums of money being spent on security, criticism abounds. The main security company contracted by Athens - the U.S. firm Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) -- has clashed with Greek officials over the delayed implementation of a variety of security measures, SAIC representatives have referred to Greek officials as unresponsive, and claim that they are hindering security efforts. Also, the majority of security efforts will go toward protecting the high-profile elements of the Olympic games - athletes, venues, transportation, etc. - but less will be allocated to protect the multitudes of tourists and fans expected in Athens before and during the games.

All of the claims, denials and counterclaims suggest that, while the extent might be unknown, militant Islamist organizations are active in the Balkans. These groups most likely share the same ideology as their cousins in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and will view the Summer Olympics as a potential target. However, the United States and NATO will do their best to push the Islamist threat in the Balkans into the shadows until more victories in the broader war on terrorism can be realized.


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ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
Our Information Service is distributing news on Kosovo related issues. The main focus of the Info-Service is the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian community in the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. ERP KIM Info Service works in cooperation with www.serbian-translation.com as well as the Kosovo Daily News (KDN) News List

Disclaimer:
The views expressed by the authors of newspaper articles or other texts which are not official communiqués or news reports by the Diocese are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Additional information on our Diocese and the life of the Kosovo Serb Community may be found at: http://www.kosovo.net

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