Some thoughts on Greater Albania, Part 2

So, the Albanosphere: about 7 million Albanians in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece and Montenegro, plus another million or so recent emigrants and gastarbeitern scattered across Europe and the US.

I’m going to leave the diaspora mostly out of the picture. They’re very important, but I can’t spent all my days writing blog posts. I’m also going to leave out the Arvanites and the native Albanians of Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Romania. The Arvanites identify as Greeks of Albanian descent, not Albanians (long story), and the other groups are small.

So what can we say about the rest of the Albanians? Continue reading

Quotes of the day

From The New York Times, Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the USA:

“Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted,” he said.

Then, on the issue of child abuse within the Church (emphasis mine):

For the second day on his first official visit to America, the pope acknowledged the “deep shame” caused by the sexual abuse scandal that has divided and weakened the American church. He agreed that the scandal as it unfolded was “sometimes very badly handled.” He said the church must “address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. “What does it mean to speak of child protection,” the pope asked, “when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?”

Basically, it’s all secular society’s fault. Get it?

Edit: To clarify why I chose these quotes, here is what I wrote in the comments section:

The sad thing is that I do value spirituality and that I do believe religious institutions can play an important role in providing moral guidance. Yet, if those very same institutions are themselves unwilling to live up to the very same moral authority they accord themselves then they are as subversive as the dreaded “secular society”. Even more so, because you can rightly expect them to be better.

Macedonia: are you just doing this to annoy me?

You remember I blogged a few weeks back about how Macedonia’s government was collapsing (because of demands from the Albanian party in the coalition).

Then a bit later I posted about how, no, it wasn’t collapsing after all — the coalition partners had reconciled.

Well, now it has collapsed again. Elections are on June 1.

I should write some about how this happened but, really, it’s just too annoying. Mostly I’m annoyed with myself. Balkan governments do this a lot, you see. Some of you may remember that Romania’s Prime Minister Tariceanu quit in 2005, for instance, and then un-quit a few days after, before elections could be triggered. (He’s still PM almost three years later.) And I don’t want to think about how many false alarms there have been in Serbia.

Perhaps I should try to draw some general principle from this, but, again, I’m too annoyed. I wish the Macedonians well in their electoral endeavours, and now I’ll go post about something else.

(Mind, people who know what’s going on and want to talk about it are welcome to do so. Comment away, please.)

Berlusconi III: Revenge of the Sithio

Haven’t we seen this movie before? Will it be any better this time? Can Italy afford another round of Silvi B?

I know what could make this a great term of office! Start a new campaign: Tyrolia is only Italian! Because it’s worked so well for Greece

Update: I see that David is as enthusiastic as I am.

Berlusconi wins

The old bastard pulled it off. Seems to get fairly solid majorities in both chambers. Veltroni just conceded.

There’s was even more disgust at the political process than usual this election. Lots of scandals and Beppe Grillo rallies. Some dude ate his ballot, etc. So turnout was lower than usual this year. I gotta assume that hurt the left.

So they’re on track to have ten years of Silvio in a twelve year period, quite possibly. At least after that he’ll be to old to run again (He’s 71 now). The evil dorks, Lega Nord, had a great day too. Lovely times ahead for Italy.

There are quite a few of us

In today’s Wall Street Journal Europe, Gareth Harding does a nice job describing the frustration of a UK citizen who has lost the right to vote as a result of long-term residency outside the UK — a feature that only dates from 2002 legislation.  It’s little consolation, but the Irish voting regimen for its many emigrants is even harsher, with voting eligibility gone as soon as you’re off the register in your former home county, and that happens once you no longer live there.   As Harding points out, the situation leaves emigrants without a vote in either their country of citizenship or residence.  Of course the counterarguments are well known, ultimately relating to whether someone living abroad is truly a participant in domestic politics.  It certainly tests the notion of what the European Union is supposed to mean to the citizens of its member countries.

Is 2008 Make Or Break Year For Italy’s Economy?

As Italians head to the polls this weekend in order to pick what will be their 62nd government in 65 years (in an election which is being held three years early to boot, due to the collapse of Romano Prodi’s outgoing administration) one odd detail seems to stand out and sum up the multitude of political and economic woes which confront Italy at the present time: we still don’t have economic growth figures for the last quarter of 2007. Now this situation may well be an entirely fortuitous one – Italy’s national statistics office ISTAT are in the process of introducing a new methodology to bring their data into line with current EU standards as employed in other countries (Italy yet one more time is at the end of the line here, but let’s not get bogged down on this detail) – but there does seem to be something deeply symbolic about all this, especially since Italy may well currently be in recession, and may well be the first eurozone country to have fallen into recession since the outbreak of the global financial turmoil of August 2007.

Perhaps the other salient detail on this election weekend is the news this (Saturday) morning that “national champion” airline Alitalia is near to collapse and may have its license to fly revoked, at least this is the view of Vito Riggio, president of Italy’s civil aviation authority, as reported in Corriere della Sera.

“If something isn’t done soon, everyone must realize that Alitalia is on its last legs…. The authority will have no choice but to revoke the airline’s license “in two, maximum three weeks if it can’t show it can find cash to stay in business”

And – as if to add insult to injury – only this week the IMF revised down yet one more time their 2008 forecast for Italian GDP growth, on this occasion to a mere 0.3% , and (as we will see below) a steadily accumulating body of data now clearly suggest that Italy is already in recession, and may well have entered recession sometime during the last quarter of 2007. If confirmed this will mean that Italy will have been in-and-out of four recessions in last five years. So the real question we should be asking ourselves is not be whether Italy is in a recession, but when in fact she entered it, and even more to the point, when will she leave? Continue reading

afoe now running on WordPress 2.5

Gentle readers, afoe’s backend has been updated to the latest wordpress. So far, the transition seems to have worked well. Over the next couple of days, the frontend will also receive a little facelift – and make the site a little faster. So, in case you’ve got the feeling that something doesn’t work as it did before, that’s probably why.

More on Karabakh, Much More

Not too long ago, Doug Muir wrote about why Nagorno-Karabakh may be coming soon to a front page near you. Back in the mid-1990s, I wrote something much longer on the conflict there. (PDF, ca. 500K) Money quote:

Two of the least useful questions for consideration of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh are “Who’s right?” and “When did it start?” Both parties have legitimate claims, and both have legitimate grievances.

The 1994 cease-fire, which was relatively new when I wrote the piece, has held up ever since, at least at the macro scale. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Minsk Group, which was also relatively new when I wrote the piece, hasn’t solved the conflict. There’s a reason the piece is titled “Intractable Problems.” Actually, there are several. (The analysis is also a bit OSCE-centric. The organization is obviously not the only lens one could choose to look at Karabakh, but I chose it because it was useful for getting at overall questions of European order and transition.) The potentially worse news is what Doug wrote about: Azerbaijan has heaps of oil money and is putting significant chunks of it into rearmament. That may or may not tip the strategic balance, but it certainly raises the chances of renewed conflict. The sequel to the piece linked here was always going to be titled “Just Add Oil and Money.” Maybe it’s time to dust off the sources.