The God of Macedonia

Two weeks ago, when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia National Basketball Team began warming for their first game of the Eurobasket tournament, all eyes of the small central European nation were glued to their televisions, transfixed by their adopted hero, Lester “Bo” McCalebb.

As he jogged around the baseline, aware of the significance of the tournament — the international championship of Europe — to Macedonians, McCalebb lightly rubbed the base of his chin once, twice, and then a third time. It’s a tick he has. It’s hardly noticeable, so subtle he probably doesn’t even realize he does it.

The people of Macedonia, however, whose sense of pride and identity have become so wrapped up in each of his shots and movements, do notice. They notice everything he does.

Interesting little piece on the intersection of sports and politics.

Most Serbs Acknowledge Independent Kosovo, Poll

A new poll shows that about 63 per cent of Serbian citizens accept that Kosovo is in practice an independent state - and that Serbia can only fight now to secure the best position for the Serbs still in Kosovo.

About one third of citizens, 32 per cent, say Kosovo is not independent while 5 per cent do not have an answer.

The survey of 1,003 people was conducted by B92 TV and by the agency Ipsos Strategic Marketing.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade opposes. At the same time, normalisation of relations with Kosovo is the EU’s main precondition for Serbia as it continues to pursue EU membership.

Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March 2012 and is hoping to obtain a start date for accession talks in June.

While most Serbs acccept the status quo in Kosovo, the survey shows that most Serbians would still rather see Kosovo as part of Serbia, than Serbia as a part of the EU. 

Given a choice, some 65 per cent of those surveyed said the priority for Serbia was Kosovo, while the EU was a priority for 28 per cent of people and 7 per cent were indecisive.

(Source.)

Serbian police in the southern town of Presevo have removed a stone monument honoring Albanian insurgents. Political analysts explain what was behind the drastic move.

The rectangular, two-meter-high memorial pays tribute to 27 members of the Albanian Liberation Army of Presevo, Medveda and Bujanovac (UCPMB). The insurgents died in 2000 und 2001 fighting Serbian government forces to free these three communities - mainly inhabited by Albanians - from Serbian rule to join neighboring Kosovo.

Kosovo was a Serbian province under UN administration at the time and in 2008 declared its independence.

Many states worldwide have recognized Kosovo’s independence, while Belgrade and the Serbian minority in northern Kosovo continue to regard the country as a renegade Serb province. Several EU states, including Spain and Greece, also do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Albanians from Presevo erected the memorial last November in defiance of the Serb government. The Albanians regard the insurgents as liberation army heroes - the Serb government has always branded the UCPMB as a “terrorist organization.”

Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic justified the removal of the memorial, saying a monument honoring enemies of the state is inacceptable.  “We showed enough patience,” he said. “Our clear and strong message is that the law should be respected and that no one is stronger than the state.”

The Kosovan government condemned the move by Serbian police forces. A statement from Pristina said the Serbian government’s decision “endangers talks about normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo.”

Several thousand ethnic Albanians took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations in Presevo on Monday this week as well as in Kosovo. Kosovan police and international peace troops managed to stop a group trying to storm a Serb Orthodox church in Dakovica, but other protesters demolished gravestones in Serb Orthodox cemeteries in Kosovo.

(There’s quite a bit more at the source.)

Kosovo government cars torched as PM talks with Serbia

Three Kosovo government vehicles were torched overnight, police said on Friday, in an attack that appeared to be in protest against European Union-mediated talks between Serbia and its former southern province.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, held talks late into the night in Brussels, as part of an EU push to normalize relations between the Balkan neighbors.

The talks are highly unpopular in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but is not recognized by Serbia.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority says it has nothing to discuss with former master Belgrade, which lost control over the territory in 1999 after NATO air strikes to halt a brutal Serbian counter-insurgency war.

Two Kosovo government cars were torched the last time Thaci and Dacic met, on December 4. Three were burned overnight on Friday in the capital Pristina, “all within 20 minutes of each other”, police spokesman Agron Borovci said.

Kosovo Albanians fear that Thaci’s government will make concessions on a small, Serb-populated pocket of northern Kosovo that Serbia retained de facto control of even after the war.

(Source.)

Dodik Blasts Bosnia Ahead of Anniversary

Ahead of the 21st anniversary of the foundation of Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity in Bosnia, and on the day of its patron saint, St Stephen, the President of the entity, Milorad Dodik, has said that Bosnia’s continued existence does not serve the interest of its Serbian community. 

In an interview with the Serbian news agency, Tanjug, he said that the international community was increasingly tired of propping up something that many people do not want, referring to the existence of Bosnia. 

“After the fall of Yugoslavia it [the creation of an independent Bosnia] was not in the political or historical interest of the Serbs,” Dodik said, blaming “a strong international factor which kept up the irrational idea of [Bosnia as] a small Yugoslavia”.

Republika Srpska marks its 21st anniversary on January 9. It was founded after local Serbian leaders formed an assembly and proclaimed the Republic of the Serbian People of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. This was later renamed Republika Srpska.

The entity’s existence was confirmed by the internationally brokered Dayton Ohio accords of 1995, which ended the 1992-5 war in the country.

Republika Srpska’s first president was Radovan Karadzic, who was later indicted for war crimes committed during the war.

(Source.)

I wrote up a little history of the Republika Srpska last year if you want to read more.

International group ends oversight of Kosovo independence, but what will really change?

Monday marks an important milestone for tiny Kosovo, as a 25-nation group formally ends supervision of the young country it has guided since the former Serbian province declared independence after a bloody war. It is a sign of confidence that the new country has matured enough since 2008 to take its destiny into its own hands.

But, in reality, very little will be different for the Balkan nation after the parliamentary ceremony celebrating the change. NATO-led peacekeepers will stay in charge of security and an EU mission will still have a final say in legal matters. Tensions with Serbia and ethnic Serbs living in the tense north will persist and so will the hardship of Kosovo’s army of jobless people who are still waiting to see the bright future they were promised.

The rest of the article contains a brief but pretty good overview of the Kosovo/Serbia conflict, so check it out if that interests you.

A handshake between Kosovan prime minister Hashim Thaci and former Serbian president Boris Tadic has triggered outrage in both countries.
The two attended a summit of current and former regional leaders and European Union officials in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
It was the first time the two had met face-to-face since the 1998-99 war between Serb government forces and independence-seeking Kosovo Albanians that left thousands dead and millions homeless.
…Serbia’s prime minister designate, Ivica Dacic, said Mr Tadic’s presence at the summit is an “enigma”, and asked the former pro-Western Serbian leader to clarify his policies now that he is an opposition official.
"It seems Tadic has led one policy as president and a different one as an opposition leader," said Mr Dacic, who has ditched his alliance with Mr Tadic from the previous government and is now trying to form a new Cabinet with nationalists…
In Kosovo, the handshake sparked condemnation among opposition ethnic Albanian politicians who said it damages Kosovo’s future.
"This shows the current government is ready to meet the same Serb politicians that are the main reason Kosovo remains (ethnically) divided," said Glauk Konjfuca, of the opposition Self-determination party, which is opposed to any talks with Serbia. "This means Thaci is ready to meet Nikolic and Dacic," he added.

A handshake between Kosovan prime minister Hashim Thaci and former Serbian president Boris Tadic has triggered outrage in both countries.

The two attended a summit of current and former regional leaders and European Union officials in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

It was the first time the two had met face-to-face since the 1998-99 war between Serb government forces and independence-seeking Kosovo Albanians that left thousands dead and millions homeless.

…Serbia’s prime minister designate, Ivica Dacic, said Mr Tadic’s presence at the summit is an “enigma”, and asked the former pro-Western Serbian leader to clarify his policies now that he is an opposition official.

"It seems Tadic has led one policy as president and a different one as an opposition leader," said Mr Dacic, who has ditched his alliance with Mr Tadic from the previous government and is now trying to form a new Cabinet with nationalists…

In Kosovo, the handshake sparked condemnation among opposition ethnic Albanian politicians who said it damages Kosovo’s future.

"This shows the current government is ready to meet the same Serb politicians that are the main reason Kosovo remains (ethnically) divided," said Glauk Konjfuca, of the opposition Self-determination party, which is opposed to any talks with Serbia. "This means Thaci is ready to meet Nikolic and Dacic," he added.

Greek border guards have begun covering the letters “MK” on Macedonian car plates with a sticker, in Greek and English, reading: “Recognized by Greece as FYROM” [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia].The Greek liaison office in Skopje confirmed the new practice, saying the country had a right to do this under the 1995 UN interim agreement that regulates relations between the two states.They say this will affect only vehicles with the new plates containing the letters MK.Macedonia introduced new number plates in February, saying they were needed to meet EU standards. Unlike the old ones, the new plates feature MK in small letters in the corner.Macedonia’s Interior Ministry said it was surprised by the move and was still considering its reaction.

Greek border guards have begun covering the letters “MK” on Macedonian car plates with a sticker, in Greek and English, reading: “Recognized by Greece as FYROM” [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia].

The Greek liaison office in Skopje confirmed the new practice, saying the country had a right to do this under the 1995 UN interim agreement that regulates relations between the two states.

They say this will affect only vehicles with the new plates containing the letters MK.

Macedonia introduced new number plates in February, saying they were needed to meet EU standards. Unlike the old ones, the new plates feature MK in small letters in the corner.

Macedonia’s Interior Ministry said it was surprised by the move and was still considering its reaction.

I said that we would not accept it, since tomorrow they will state that Blagoevgrad is Macedonian.
[submitted by projectstartel:] My take on the naming/mapping controversy

A lot of maps of “Macedonia” are questionable at best. Very few records of the ancient Macedonians exist so it’s difficult to pinpoint the original kingdom’s exact location. On top of that, during the existence of Yugoslavia, an effort was made to separate modern Macedonians from the idea that they are descendent from ancient Macedonians in order to promote a “Yugoslavian” identity. I wouldn’t put it past any government to be a bit shifty when it comes to instilling patriotism so there’s a good chance many maps are incorrect. I am Macedonian, and I love my country, but I recognize that no modern civilization is a pure decendent of its ancients. In my opinion, the Greeks are no longer the ancient Greeks. Gene flow, trade, wars, and migrations have transformed their culture far beyond what it once was. They share the name of their land with the ancient Greeks and not much more. Macedonians share the name of their land with the ancient Macedonians and not much more.

Also, I like to think that this interaction sums up the entire naming controversy in a nutshell…