Greece: citizenship for children of immigrants?

In between trying to deal with one of Europe’s worst economic crises and a crippling series of strikes, the Papandreou government in Greece has introduced a new immigration law. It would allow the children of immigrants to apply for Greek citizenship, provided that

(1) their parents have lived legally in Greece for at least 10 years, and
(2) the child has completed at least three years of schooling in Greece.

By one estimate, over 250,000 children and young adults would qualify for citizenship. As many as 100,000 of those may be of voting age.

This is a huge, huge deal. In order to understand why, you have to understand the odd position of immigrants in Greek society. Continue reading

New Balkan visa rules: Serbia in, Albania still out

And the Montenegrins and Macedonians. EU Commissioner Olli Rehn just announced his recommendation that these three countries be granted visa-free travel to the EU starting January 1, 2010.

While many European readers will blink and shrug, this is a huge, huge deal for the region. For the last 20 years, it’s kinda sucked to be a Serb. Back in Yugoslav times, you had one of the world’s best passports. East, west, developing world… the Yugoslav passport was welcomed for easy travel in almost every country on earth. But after 1991, suddenly your passport was a piece of junk: nobody welcomed Serbs, you were often viewed with suspicion, and you had to fill out elaborate forms (and wait for months) to get a visa to enter the EU. Even after the wars ended, Serbia was still kept firmly at arm’s length.

A whole generation of young Serbs have grown up grumpy about this: they didn’t do anything, so why are they being punished, while young Croats and Bulgarians can freely travel to London and Paris?

No more. Assuming the recommendations is approved — and it’s almost a rubber stamp — then six months from now, Serbs (and Montenegrins and Macedonians) will be able to jump on a plane and just fly to anywhere in the EU, no visa required.

Mind you, they won’t be able to get work permits. It’s just travel. But still: it’s going to make a huge difference.

This being the Balkans, there are of course some complications.
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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

An unpleasant anecdote from 1999

Via the invaluable B92 website comes a nasty little story from Albania.

In her book, “The Hunt”, to be published in Italy on April 3, the former Hague Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte states that, during investigations into war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, against Serbs and other non-Albanians, the prosecutor’s office was informed that persons who disappeared during the Kosovo conflict were used in organ smuggling operations.

Yah, that’s right. Organ smuggling.

More below the cut. Continue reading

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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Eurovision: The White City in the distance

Eurovision is in Belgrade this year. Beo Grad, the white city of Serbia! Where the Danube meets, you know, some other river!

Pretty cool, no? It will be the first Eurovision in the former Yugoslavia. (Yes, there was a Eurovision in Yugoslavia in 1989. But it wasn’t former then. Doesn’t count.) Continue reading

Albania’s quiet President

You don’t hear much about Albania’s President, Bamir Topi.

That’s probably a good thing. Topi was a partisan politician — he was the #2 leader of current Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party. But since he’s been elected, he’s acted like a national and mostly nonpartisan figure.

In this, he’s followed the lead of his predecessor, Alfred Moisiu. Moisiu, an elderly former general, had been a compromise candidate for the Presidency. To everyone’s surprise he turned out to be very good — dignified, moderate, and nonpartisan, personally honest, but capable of being very sharp when Albanian officals and politicians were being blatantly dishonest or incompetent. When Moisiu finished his five-year term last summer, there was a broad movement to draft him for a second term. (He refused. He’s nearly 80, and being President of Albania is no sinecure.) Albania hasn’t produced a lot of thoughtful, diligent and more or less honest politicians yet, so having two in a row in the Presidency is good fortune. Continue reading

Another blackout in Albania

So Albania had a country-wide blackout yesterday. (N.B., I’m not going to post about Albania every day. It’s just sort of random.) They’ve had plenty of blackouts before, but this was the first one to talke the whole country down. It lasted for several hours. Fortunately, it happened on a warm day, so nobody froze and there don’t seem to have been any deaths. Still, not good.

Albania has problems with electricity, and has had since… well, pretty much always. Communist dictator Enver Hoxha tried to electrify the whole country, but he did it in a really slapdash way, with generators, equipment and networks ranging from ramshackle to crappy. The country gets all its electrity from Communist-era hydropower plants; hydropower is clean and all that, but the generators are old and in need of constant repair and a season of bad rain (common in Albania) can turn the lights off.
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Oil in Albania

Just ran across this interesting report on possible new oil reserves in… Albania.

Gustavson assigns 2.987 billion barrels with 3.014 trillion cubic feet of associated gas as the P50 prospective oil resources in its oil with associated gas case. Gustavson notes that because of the depth it is possible that the prospects will hold natural gas. In its oil with a gas cap case Gustavson calculates the prospective resources to total 1.4 billion barrels of light oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Gustavson estimates that in the event only gas is present the P50 prospective resource is 28 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Gustavson is a major petroleum engineering firm, so this should be taken seriously.

Just under 3 billion barrels, of which 1.4 bn is the easy-to-refine light oil: how much is that? Well, by way of comparison, Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels of proven reserves, and Mexico has 12 billion. So this is not exactly a new Caspian Sea. Albania won’t be joining OPEC. On the other hand, it’s not chump change either.

And the natural gas is nice too — 15 trillion cubic feet is enough to make it worth running a pipeline north to Central Europe. In the next decade, the Swiss and Germans may be heating their homes in part with Albanian gas. It’s not going to eliminate Europe’s reliance on Russian hydrocarbon, or even much reduce it. But it’ll help a bit.

Albania already has some modest oil fields — enough to supply about half the local energy needs. Fortunately for Albania, this hasn’t resulted in massive local subsidies; oil there costs only a bit less than elsewhere in the region. (I say “fortunately” because if it had subsidies, they’d now be impossible to get rid of.) It also has a couple of refineries, so it would be able to capture that much more value before sending the oil along.

The fields are at least three years away from exploitation, and probably more. So Albania will go through another election cycle, and will have some time to get ready. It will need to. While the amount of money involved is modest on the scale of global or even European oil transactions, it’s pretty big in an Albanian context.

Meanwhile, in Montenegro

Montenegro initialed a Stabilization and Association Pact with the EU on March 15. That’s a step on the road to EU candidacy.

Nobody outside the Balkans noticed. Even inside the Balkans, nobody got too excited. Montenegro is a small and rather poor country, and EU membership is still years away. Hell, all they did was “initial” the S&A pact. They won’t actually sign it until (1) Montenegro adopts a new, EU-appropriate Constitution, and (2) all the current 27 members approve.

Still, it’s no small achievement. It shows that the Montenegrins, like the Croats, may be able to launder their recent history. Montenegro isn’t being held up for not cooperating with the Hague Tribunal, nor is their enthusiastic participation in the breakup of Yugoslavia being held against them. They are now formally, officially on the road to EU membership.

This is as good an occasion as any to review the league table in the Western Balkans. Continue reading