Kosovo, this and that

Random Kosovo/Serbia stuff from the last few days.

First, an interesting Indian perspective on Kosovo:

[T]he truth is that the birth of Kosovo is also a profound testament of the failure of the nation state form in Europe to accommodate ethnic diversity. As Michael Mann, in an important article on the “Dark Side of Democracy” had noted, modern European history has built in an irrevocable drive towards ethnic homogenisation within the nation state.

In the 19th century, there was a memorable debate between John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton. John Stuart Mill had argued, in a text that was to become the bible for separatists all over, including Jinnah and Savarkar, that democracy functions best in a mono-ethnic societies. Lord Acton had replied that a consequence of this belief would be bloodletting and migration on an unprecedented scale; it was more important to secure liberal protections than link ethnicity to democracy. It was this link that Woodrow Wilson elevated to a simple-minded defence of self-determination. The result, as Mann demonstrated with great empirical rigour, was that European nation states, 150 years later, were far more ethnically homogenous than they were in the 19th century; most EU countries were more than 85 per cent mono-ethnic.

Most of this homogeneity was produced by horrendous violence, of which Milosevic’s marauding henchmen were only the latest incarnation. This homogeneity was complicated somewhat by migration from some former colonies. But very few nation states in Europe remained zones where indigenous multi-ethnicity could be accommodated. It is not an accident that states in Europe that still face the challenge of accommodating territorially concentrated multi-ethnicity are most worried about the Kosovo precedent. The EU is an extraordinary experiment in creating a new form of governance; but Europe’s failures with multi-ethnicity may yet be a harbinger of things to come. Kosovo acts as a profound reminder of the failure of the nation state in Europe.

I don’t agree with that conclusion, but he raises an interesting point. Few EU states have much indigenous ethnic diversity left; the ethnic map of Western and Central Europe has been vastly simplified over the last 100 years, and mostly by methods that would not be acceptable today.

Second, a nice piece of snark about last weeks Belgrade riots from the inimitable Eric Gordy.
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Hamburg and Hesse

In James Gleick’s bestseller, Chaos: Making a New Science, one of the recurring phrases is “period three implies chaos.” Grossly simplified, once things start oscillating among three stable states, chaos is inevitable and ubiquitous. In politics, particularly German politics, three parties did not imply chaos, but rather orderly transitions with the hinge party making a switch from time to time. The advent of a fourth, the Greens, didn’t cause structural problems either. But the fifth, now called the Left, is doing the chaotic trick nicely.
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Armenia’s dubious election

So Armenia had a Presidential election last week. Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian — the establishment candidate — won in the first round, supposedly with 53% of the vote.

I’m not much of a prognosticator. I do it sometimes, but I’m not very good at it. Still, here it is: two weeks before the election I made this comment on my home blog:

Armenia’s Presidential election is on Tuesday. I’ve hardly blogged about this, because it’s pretty much a done deal — the ruling party controls all media, has a massive machine in place, and is ready and willing to stuff ballot boxes and juggle numbers if necessary. My prediction: Serzh, the establishment candidate whose ugly face has been everywhere for the last few weeks, will win in the first round by 55%.

I was off by 2%. Amusing bit of trivia: apparently Serzh’s supposed percentage was just .01% different from the winning percentage of President Saakashivili in neighboring Georgia, just a month ago. 53%, boys — just enough so nobody can ask for a recount. More than that looks greedy!

So what does it mean? Continue reading

Communist takeover in Cyprus!

Well, okay — they just elected a Communist as their President.

And AKEL, Cyprus’ sort-of Communist Party, isn’t exactly a bunch of ragged proletarians. Excepting some fiery rhetoric, a tendency to wave red flags, and a proliferation of pictures of Che, it’s not too different from a standard European party of the left. AKEL supporters range from headscarf-wearing grandmothers to latte-sipping yuppies. New President Dimitris Christofias did get a degree from Moscow University, but he comes across as a pretty typical Balkan elected official. Attempts by his opponents to paint him as a slavering radical and an atheist enemy of Christendom seem to have backfired; he won the Presidential runoff yesterday by a comfortable margin, 53%-47%.

Still, he’ll be the first Communist head of state in Europe in… oh, a while now. Will he be the first Communist head of state in the EU? I can’t think of another offhand. Anyone?

Christofias has said that he hopes to restart talks with Turkish Northern Cyprus, which have been stalled since Greek Cyprus rejected the Annan Plan in 2004. I wish him luck — he’ll need it. Even with goodwill on both sides, reaching a settlement will be difficult; the Turks are still resentful that the 2004 deal was rejected, a lot of Greeks are either apathetic or actively hostile to any negotiation with the north, and both sides will be vulnerable to nationalist attacks on their flanks. I’d say Christofias’ victory raises the chances of a successful settlement from “zero” to “very slim”.

Still, it’s an interesting development. Let’s see what happens.

Montenegro: Djukanovic is Prime Minister, again, again

So Milo Djukanovic is back as Montenegro’s Prime Minister again.

Djukanovic is a damn interesting character. When Yugoslavia broke up, most of the pieces were dominated by guys in their fifties and sixties — Milosevic, Izetbegovic, Tudjman. Hell, Gligorov of Macedonia was a WWII vet in his seventies.

Montenegro was the odd exception. Djukanovic was born in 1962, so he was just 27 when he and a couple of colleagues rode Milosevic’s coattails to power in Montenegro. By 1991 he was the youngest Prime Minister in Europe. By 1998 he had squeezed out various rivals to become the most powerful man in the country.

Which he still is today. He’s been in “retirement” for the last year and a bit, but everyone knew this was just a refractory period before jumping back in. Originally it was thought he’d run for President next year, but the current PM fell ill. Sow now he’s going to be Prime Minister for the third time. Continue reading

The interesting smell of burning embassies

So a mob attacked the US, Croatian, Turkish and Bosnian embassies in Belgrade today. The US embassy — evacuated in advance — was looted and partially burned. The other embassies also suffered varying degrees of damage.

This came at the same time as a government-sponsored mass demonstration against Kosovo’s declaration of independence. (Yes, Serbia still does government sponsored mass demonstrations. It’s a bad old habit that they still haven’t shaken.) The official line is that the two events were completely unrelated, and indeed the US and Croatian embassies were a couple of kilometers away from the center of the demonstration. On the other hand, there’d already been embassy attacks earlier in the week — the Slovene embassy was broken into and looted on Monday — and the Americans, at least, had pre-emptively evacuated their embassy and asked for increased police protection. Continue reading

Qatar: It’s Where the Money Comes From

Karl Marx said that ideology is part of the social superstructure, merely a decorative overlay on the brutal truth of the economic base. Millian liberalism was really just an expression of the pounding steam engines, Jacquard looms and downtrodden apprentices of 1840s Manchester, just as absolutism had been built on the assumption that society would always consist of peasants and landlords.

If you handle a lot of money and need to count large amounts of money, the best option is to use a money counter to ensure that the amount is counted correctly.

But what does it tell us about the chief proponents of “Eurabia” that a healthy chunk of their money comes from, well, Arabia? We don’t need to spend too much time flogging this sack of horseshit; Randy McDonald has already debunked it with rapier sharpness in this post at Demography Matters, following up on his classic 2004-vintage spanking of Mark Steyn. The short version is that there are not enough Muslims, the ones who are in Europe are progressively exhibiting more European demography, the countries whose demography is most worrying attract large numbers of non-Muslim immigrants, and not all European countries’ demography is anything like the same.

The Nation‘s Kathryn Joyce takes a look at the politics of Eurabia; nobody should be surprised that it’s pretty ugly. Essentially, there’s a gaggle of thinktanks/campaign groups/whatever closely connected to the Mormons and Senator Sam Brownback, and specifically to their extreme “quiverfull” wing, which advocates having absurdly (8+ kids) large families. It looks a lot like an effort both to find a new market for their politics in central Europe (Kazcynski’s Poland was Target One) and also to gin up a foreign-policy scare that would energise their base in support of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Well, that went well.

It’s also amusing that Joyce describes their view of Poland as “the anti-Sweden”. I don’t know to what extent this is a true misrepresentation, but it’s worth pointing out that they’ve placed their strategic bridgehead on the wrong side of the Baltic. It’s as if the Normandy landings had taken place somewhere on the coast of Portugal or Ireland. In yet another cracking DM post, this time by “AFOE Principal Investigator” Edward Hugh, we learn that Sweden is the last place in Europe that needs to worry. Well, except for France. Poland, on the other hand, is solidly in their problem group of countries with very low total-fertility rates (the data is here (XLS)). France? Sweden? You can almost hear the authoritarian personalities creak and groan with the cognitive dissonance. Of course, there’s a very good reason why they didn’t go to either France or Sweden, which is that they would have been laughed out of town.

But what especially amuses me is this:

The result is the spread of US culture-war tactics across the globe, from the Czech Republic to Qatar–where right-wing Mormon activist and WCF co-founder Richard Wilkins has found enough common cause with Muslim fundamentalists to build the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development.

Doha? As in Qatar? Yes. Unless you’re in the oil or natural gas business, there’s one reason to locate a new institution – especially a profoundly subsidy-dependent one like a thinktank – in Qatar, which is that the sheikh is probably paying for it. Marx would have understood what’s going on here – nothing happens without the means of production, after all. Money, not Coke – it’s the real thing. But what would he have made of the World Council of Families?

Problems of Recognition

A developing story, of course, but the BBC is reporting that the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy recognizing or pledging to recognize the independence of Kosovo. Wikipedia is also quick off the mark with its entry on the now-official flag.

The EU has papered over its differences, with the common foreign and security policy consisting of saying that Kosovo “does not set a precedent,” and then leaving it to member states to decide their own relations with the territory. Spain is the biggest EU country withholding recognition; others in this group include Cyprus and Slovakia (worried about the Hungarian minority, one presumes, and given the approach of one of the parties in the governing coalition they may be right to, though a Köztásaság Kistranzdunaj (Republic of the Little Area Across the Danube) seems silly).

France has got to be a blow, considering it was the most pro-Serbian Western country during the conflict in 1999. If memory serves, some members of the French military were even charged with passing sensitive information to Serbia at about that time. French foreign minister Kouchner said that at some future date, both would be in the European Union together. I’m not sure that helps.

Consequences? Too early for me to say. It may indeed be a one-off, the last in the cascade of the former Yugoslavia.

Turkish prosecutor arrested

This doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of attention, but Kemal Kerencsiz was arrested last month.

Kemal Kerincsiz is a Turkish lawyer. He’s also the guy who tried to prosecute Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, and several other writers for “insulting Turkishness”. And he’s been arrested — along with 32 others, including several military men — for being part of a massive conspiracy to commit violent acts against enemies of the state. The conspiracy is called “Ergenekon”, and the story is still coming out.
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