Enjoy the weekend likewise

Okay, we are off to New York, and I expect to be enjoying it far too much to do any posting, so blogging should continue in force on Monday. But I can't leave without posting the Friday Random Ten, that silly blog game in which you open up your mp3 player, set it to "random," and list the first ten songs that come up:

Obojeni Program - Abcd avioni
The Jam - Absolute beginners
Carmen Consoli & Almamegretta - Hard to handle
Üstmamò - Cosa conta
Luna - Friendly advice
Half man half Biscuit - For what Is Chatteris
They Might Be Giants - Sapphire bullets Of love
Zabranjeno Pušenje - Stanje šoka
Groucho Marx - I'm against it
Curtis Mayfield - Move on up

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Update: Heh, I take back that bit about leaving. It seems the Angels of Transport who operate the national rail carrier Amtrak have cancelled all of the Boston-New York trains because of yet another mechanical failure. So I'll drive together with Mrs Ethnia and the Ethniette tonight. DoDo, please come and take over our system!

Vic dana iz Danasa

Razgovaraju dve mame:

- Zamisli, moj sinčić ima samo godinu dana, a već hoda, govori, čak igra rok... A što je pametan - da ti ne pričam!

- A moj je tek napunio pet meseci - a već sve zna o političkoj situaciji u našoj zemlji!

- Šta pričaš! Pa on još ne zna ni da govori!

- Da, ali stalno plače!

Prilog čitateljke Maje Vuković iz Beograda

from Danas, 15 April 2005


East Ethnia makes a political endorsement!

There seems to be a bit of debate as to whether an endorsement of a political candidate by a blog constitutes an in-kind donation (of publicity?) or something of the like. But whatever. Deval Patrick has announced that he intends to be a candidate to unseat the appalling Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, and I intend to support him enthusiastically. If that is a contribution from me, it came mighty cheap.

On authority and inhibition

There is an interesting little summary in the Chronicle of Higher Education on research by Vilmos Csányi and his associates regarding the cognitive abilities of dogs, and how their relationships with humans influence them.

"... in scientific circles, animal-cognition studies have largely ignored dogs, focusing instead on closer human relatives, like chimpanzees and gorillas. Dogs, as a result, have not been considered very brainy.


That never sat well with Mr. Csányi who, like many in dog-loving Hungary, had dogs of his own. Dogs, he suspected, were simply more inhibited than their wild cousins, requiring permission from their masters before doing something as rash as opening a gate, which they may have regarded as a violation of their master's rules. So eight years ago, he and his colleagues conducted a problem-solving experiment of their own. With their masters present, 28 dogs of various ages, breeds, and levels of training had to figure out how to pull on handles of plastic dishes to obtain meat on the other side of a wire fence. Regardless of other factors, the dogs with the strongest relationship with their owner scored worst, continually looking to their owners for permission or assistance. The best results came from outdoor dogs, who obtained the food, on average, in one-third the time. Most telling, when owners were allowed to give their dogs permission, the gap between indoor and outdoor dogs vanished."

Also, the article includes some provocative theses on the differences between dogs and wolves, and which is more likely to jump into your lap.

This week's favorite music links

Not that I have music links to share every week! But I have come across these in the past several days.

The Modena City Ramblers: It includes news and photos, and a few songs to share in the "Multimedia" section.

Do jaja: Follow the alphabetical links at the top and find tons of slow-downloading mp3 files, some of them good.

Obojeni program: Everything about the finest Novi Sad band this side of Pekinška patka, including 12 or so music downloads.

Darkwood dub: Strictly for lovers of Flash animation.

Boris Kovač: Do have a look at his "poetical CV."

This week in court

The trial of the people who were involved in the conspiracy to murder prime minister Zoran Djindić started badly, with multiple delays and not all suspects at hand, and continued fitfully, with numerous efforts to intimidate witnesses, court officials and those present. Now it is delayed again, but this did not occur before two important testimonies during the past week. Čedomir Jovanović came to testify about the conspiracy that took off in order to prevent the "Svedok" operation against organised crime, an appearance that ended in an exchange of insults between him and prime indictee Milorad Ulemek, after which Mrs Ulemek whacked him with a handbag. Then Vladimir Popović ("Beba") came to accuse the current government of protecting suspect, letting slip that conspirator Vladimir Milisavljević ("Vlada Budala," or "Vlada the fool," a nickname he is rumoured to have earned because alone among the criminals, he had completed a university degree) was in Vienna and that his location was known to Serbian authorities. Reports today would seem to confirm Mr Popović's claims.

Update: The reports on Vladimir Milisavljević would seem to be contradictory, after all. The embassy of SCG in Vienna confirms Mr Popović's claim that Milisavljević was sighted in Vienna, that this was reported to the embassy, and that the embassy fowarded the information to the Serbian interior ministry and security agency. But the Serbian interior ministry released a statement saying that the Austrian police found the sighting of Milisavljević to be a false alarm. The Austrian interior ministry, meanwhile, has no record of anything related to Milisavljević.


Just the quotes, please: The "Feasibility study"

Thanks to several attentive readers, East Ethnia is able to share some quotations from the famous "Feasibility Study" for Serbia and Montenegro that was announced yesterday. I have excerpted bits related to legal and political issues for the most part, although the 56-page study also devotes extensive space to various issues of trade and fiscal policy and various types of regulation. For those who want to cite, the full title is:

Commission of the European Communities, Commission Staff Working Paper: Report on the preparedness of Serbia and Montenegro to negotiate a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union. Brussels, 12.04.2005, SEC (2005) 478 final.

An English version accompanies the press release at the EU web site, and versions in other European languages may be available through the main EU portal.

A lengthy selection of quotations follows.

On constitutional order:
"Serbia and Montenegro enshrines the principles of democratic governance and rule of law in the constitutions at State Union and republican level.
In practice, the functioning of democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law have been affected by the lack of political consensus on the future of the State Union, conflicting interpretations of the State Union Constitutional Charter and the failure to adjust the republican Constitutions. This has led to constitutional and legal uncertainty." (p.5)

On the rule of law:
"In Serbia the rule of law remains weakened by the legacy of the Milosevic regime, i.e. the persistent links between organised crime, war crimes and political extremism, and their continued obstructive presence within parts of the current political, institutional, military and state security systems.
In Montenegro, the rule of law needs to be further strengthened. Links continue to exist between organised crime and segments of the political and institutional system.
International surveys indicate that Serbia and Montenegro suffers from a high level of corruption. The fight against organised crime and corruption therefore represent key challenges for Serbia and Montenegro." (p.6)

On the Serbian parliament:
"In the past four years the functioning of the Serbian Parliament has faced serious challenges due to political instability and a lack of respect for legal procedure. Nevertheless, the legislative activity has intensified significantly over the last year." (p.7)

On conflicts between republican and federal institutions:
"Although the Constitutional Charter provides for one Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the State Union level, Montenegro also maintains a Foreign Ministry. Furthermore, the State Union diplomatic service is based on the principle of proportional representation of the two Republics, while being paid exclusively by the Serbian budget. The Ministry for Human and Minority Rights has produced significant policy and legislative initiatives and has developed wide-ranging activities on the ground, albeit primarily in Serbia. It has been assigned new powers and managed to perform them in a satisfactory manner despite the lack of adequate resources. The Ministry of Defence, under the guidance of the Supreme Defence Council, has taken significant steps towards a comprehensive reform of the army, including civilian control and oversight, but this process requires further significant efforts. Both Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Defence come from the same Republic in contravention of the provisions of the Constitutional Charter.
The President of the State Union has taken important initiatives towards regional reconciliation, including public apologies to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for crimes committed in the recent past. He has also taken a strong and positive position on Serbia and Montenegro’s obligation to cooperate with International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia." (p.8)

On public administration in Serbia:
"In Serbia, there is a lack of co-ordination within the government. A particular problem is posed by the high degree of politicisation of the public administration, with serious implications for institutional and policy continuity. Conflict of interest has been addressed through new legislation, but has only started to be implemented. The implementation of sectoral reforms varies significantly across ministries." (p.8)

On public administration in Montenegro:
"In Montenegro, the functioning of the executive reflects a rather stable governing coalition, which facilitates decision-making. There is, however, an environment conducive to corruption and nepotism. The overall legislative performance of the government has been noteworthy. Implementation however is weak and requires further strengthening in terms of human, budgetary and other necessary resources - beyond just donor assistance." (pp.8-9)

On military reform:
"Significant personnel changes have been made, including the retirement or dismissal of a number of high-ranking officers, some of whom had close ties with the former regime or were indicted by ICTY. While the Ministry instructed all soldiers to report any information on the whereabouts of ICTY indictees, and to support their arrest in military locations, no progress in this key area has taken place. There is still resistance within the military system to the rule of law." (p.10)

On prosecution of war crimes:
"Domestic courts have a cooperative attitude and are carrying out good work in trying some low-profile cases, notably Ovcara. Steps have also been taken to improve their organisational and infrastructure capacities. Legal amendments are made to address the issue of command responsibility. However, the overall political climate is such that there is no guarantee that any high profile war crimes trails could be conducted in a fair and transparent manner.
Serbia and Montenegro takes a positive attitude towards the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is one of the founding members of the ICC and ratified the Rome Statute in 2002. Specific legislation for cooperation with the ICC is being drafted both at the State Union level and in Montenegro, although this is a State Union responsibility. Serbia and Montenegro has consistently refused to sign bilateral agreements giving exemptions from ICC jurisdiction. It should continue to do so.
There are no major problems in Serbia and Montenegro’s compliance with the Dayton agreement, apart from those relating to cooperation with ICTY." (p.11)

On protection of human and minority rights:
"(...) more than 400 cases against Serbia and Montenegro are pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Internally, the right to constitutional appeal is guaranteed in the Constitutional Charter and in the Montenegrin Constitution. The Serbian Constitution does not provide for constitutional appeal. The human rights situation on the ground has significantly improved. Further improvements are however needed, notably in ensuring full protection of minorities. The ratification of other Council of European conventions, such as the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages, should also take place shortly."(p.13)

On addressing violations of human rights:
"Over the recent years there has been a significant overall improvement in human rights protection. Legislative reforms were undertaken, the death penalty was abolished and human rights practice in general has improved.
However, there has been little progress in relation to police investigations and legal proceedings regarding mass graves identified in Serbia.
Serbia still has to investigate fully all allegations of human rights violations during the state of emergency in March / April 2003. This is also required under the decision of the Serbian Constitutional Court concerning the constitutionality of the state of emergency." (p.13)

On accountability and lustration:
"The Serbian Law on the Accountability for Human Rights Violations (the “Lustration Law”), was an important step in dealing with the past, as it provides a basis for the screening of candidates for top positions in all branches of the administration and judiciary regarding potential human rights violations committed from 1976. However, it has not been enforced. The deadlock, allegedly for procedural reasons, in fact reflects a lack of political consensus on lustration." (p.13)

On refugees and internally displaced people:
"The high number of refugees and IDPs continued to aggravate difficult socio-economic conditions in both Republics. Furthermore, the precarious situation of this vulnerable part of population has significant impact upon the overall political situation and the ongoing trends of radicalisation in the country. According to UNHCR data, there are currently 289,680 refugees and 244,833 registered IDPs. In January a comprehensive refugee re-registration exercise was undertaken by UNHCR. While the figures remain to be finalised, provisional results indicate that the number of registered refugees has been almost halved to around 140 000. In Serbia the authorities continue their efforts on both repatriation and local integration, based on the 2002 National Strategy and in cooperation with partners in the region. The implementation of new legal provisions allowing dual citizenship resulted in a fall in the number of refugees, as some of them lost refugee status by acquiring Serbia and Montenegro citizenship. The implementation of the agreement on the return of refugees with Bosnia and Herzegovina (signed in October 2003) has already produced results, facilitated safe returns, thus also contributing to the overall drop on number of refugees. Cooperation with UNMIK in the return of IDPs to Kosovo has stalled, following the violent events of March 2004. Serbia and Montenegro is also participating in the regional initiative on refugees return with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia." (pp.15-16)

On economic conditions in Serbia:
"(...) employment remains low and unemployment high. This reflects the fallout of 1990 conflicts and sanctions together with inflexible labour laws. In 2003, the economic activity rate for persons above 15 years was at 47.5%. In Serbia, official figures for end-2004 show an unemployment rate of 32.4%, as compared to around 27% three years earlier. However, this figure would be significantly lower if adjusted for those who are registered as unemployed and receiving benefits but not really seeking work. This not only put strains social expenditure but also injures republican fiscal policy.
Until early 2004, inflation in Serbia had continuously fallen. Consumer price inflation fell from 113% at the end of 2000 to below 8% at the end of 2003, despite adjustments in administered prices, for food and electricity etc. (see below). However, annual inflation (end-of-period) accelerated again in 2004 and reached 13.8% in December, spurred by strong domestic demand, the rising cost of fuel imports and increases in administered prices. Strong wage growth, via its impact on domestic demand and on administered prices, continues to be a major liability to further disinflation. Average real gross earnings rose between December 2003 and December 2004 by 21%, after a corresponding rise of even 26% in 2003. These rises have well exceeded the rise in labour productivity over the same period, also when taking into account the drop of real wages in the second half of the nineties." (p.17)

On bilateral relations in the region:
"Bilateral relations with all countries, both in the political and commercial sphere, have improved steadily, though more rapidly with some than others. Key events were the exchange of apologies between the Serbia and Montenegro and Croatian Presidents for crimes committed in the recent past, and the Serbia and Montenegro apology to the Bosnian people. Regular political dialogue has been established with all partners in the region and has recently resulted in the conclusion of a significant number of sectoral agreements (concerning refugee return, visa suspension, fight against organised crime and terrorism) facilitating the redevelopment of regional ties in all fields.
Some main issues are still outstanding, notably border demarcation with Croatia and BiH and the pending suits against Serbia and Montenegro before the International Court of Justice, which both these countries have filed." (pp.22-23)

On control of "special" services:
"As far as the special security and intelligence services are concerned, Serbia has made some progress in reforming these agencies and in ensuring civilian control. However, there are still concerns at the lack of human rights safeguards, counterbalancing the powers of the new Serbian security agency (BIA). The role allegedly played by parts of the previous security services in the assassination of PM Djindjic has come under scrutiny; however, very little progress was achieved in fully investigating its role and responsibility." (p.37)

On prosecution of war crimes cases:
"Serbia adopted specific legislation on war crimes in 2003. A War Crimes Prosecutor was appointed, premises for specialised court chambers were equipped and special police units and detention facilities are under development. There are war-crime related trials in Serbia ongoing, however they are still few and mostly concern lower ranking officers. This is due to the lack of a specific legal provision relating to command responsibility for war crimes. The Law on amendments to the Law on War crimes, (addressing the issue of admissibility of evidence) was adopted by the Parliament. Cooperation with the police is poor and in spite of clear legal obligations both the judiciary and the police are still subject to heavy political pressure.
The proclaimed independence of the judiciary was, on several occasions, seriously questioned: appointments and dismissals of Prosecutors have been carried out under political influence." (pp.38-39)

On measures to control crime in Serbia:
"Operation “Sabre” during the state of emergency led to significant results in breaking up the key organised crime channels and in resolving high profile cases, including political assassinations. However, this good work was to some extent undermined by questionable practices which not only violated basic human rights but may also have implications for the admissibility of evidence at future trials." (pp.42-43)

On measures to control crime in Montenegro:
"A widely publicised human trafficking case in Montenegro demonstrated the extent to which, despite legislative reform, law enforcement hinges on practical implementation and the independence of the judiciary. The content of a recently published report by the Government founded Commission for Investigation of High Profile Human Trafficking Cases raised a number of questions regarding possible political interference into the investigation and the possible responsibility of former and current high level officials in the Ministries of Interior and Justice. The case poses a number of questions about the independence of prosecutors and the republic’s judicial system in general, the interlinking of personal and political ties and the entanglement of public bodies in illicit actions (as set out in more detail in an OSCE-Council of Europe expert report)." (p.43)

On measures to control corruption:
"(...) no comprehensive action had been taken yet to investigate financial crime, and Serbia and Montenegro’s commitment to fight corruption has remained largely rhetorical. Comprehensive strategies are still lacking, as well as efficient institutions to implement them. Legislative progress was achieved with the adoption of the Laws on Financing of Political Parties in both republics as well as the Laws on the prevention of conflicts of interest, whereas codes of conduct for public servants are stalled. This previous legal vacuum has contributed to a very slow reaction to serious allegations against top government officials and ministers. Even the existing institutions in this field do not enjoy the necessary support from government. As this matter goes to the core of the transition from a totalitarian regime to a functioning democracy based on the rule of law, it is indispensable to achieve rapid improvements." (pp.43-44)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Yesterday marked six years with nobody charged in the murder of the journalist Slavko Ćuruvija. Today Danas announced that threats had been made against their journalist Bojan Tončić, who reported on 6 April that ICTY indictee Franko Simatović was behind the not quite voluntary surrenders to the Tribunal. Not that criminals are recognised by their modus operandi.

Svi! U borbe protiv padeži!


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Call for submissions: Carnival of the Balkans #3

Another month has gone by, and so it is time for one more Carnival of the Balkans, the periodic collection of the most informative, telling, amusing or otherwise good Balkan blogging.

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If you are from the Balkans, write about the Balkans, have visited the Balkans, or have dodirne tačke of any Balkanic sort, send your submissions to me by Thursday, 14 April at eastethnia at gmail dot com, replacing the ats and dots with the appropriate symbols. The carnival will be posted here and at the carnival archive site on 18 April (that's three days later than promised, since I will be running off for a delightful weekend in New York).


Spring in Massachusetts

Yes, Virginia, winter in Massachusetts does last until April. But it's done now, I dare say. Posting was light over the weekend as much of it was spent on outings, exhausting our child and our extravagantly well-walked dog. And spring also means genuine produce, grown on actual farms--no more vegetable-shaped protoplasm from Stop n Shop. This is what we will make tonight with yesterday's find:

Dandelion salad

300 gr dandelion shoots, washed and drained
2 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (or more, if you like)
2 Tbs pumpkin-seed oil or 3 Tbs salad oil (a mixture of pumpkin-seed and other vegetable oils)
wine vinegar to taste
salt to taste

Put hot potatoes on dandelion shoots; add egg and sprinkle with garlic. Mix oil, vinegar and salt, pour over dandelion and toss vigorously. Serve with fresh rye bread.

It seems to me that capers and anchovies could also not possibly be unwelcome here. This recipe and many others from around the Mediterranean can be found at Gourmed.

Più stylish, più saporito

Update your bookmarks, the Burekeaters are moving to a new home on the web.

Swiss movement

Well, yes, this one is a bit old, from 2001. But still, thanks to the mysterious Mr Teekay for sharing it.

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The map is certainly as good as the USA Today map that The Glory of Carniola shared in February. Perhaps I should point out that the CNN that produced this map is not the very fine Croatian blog but some obscure American television outlet.

Update: Goodness gracious, Carniola has another.


Prediction: National Enquirer to launch Scheveningen edition

There are enough stories about the location of various ICTY fugitives in the Serbian press these days that one begins to suspect that they may be planted. Here are today's.

Danas has the testimony of one Miroslav D. Petrović, a noncommissioned officer of the Army of Serbia and Montenegro, "currently a deserter under the protection of the United States, housed on a miltary base in a neighboring country." He claims to have been responsible for the security of the fugitive genocide indictee Ratko Mladić.

He claims that Mladić was at the Topčider barracks in Belgrade last summer, and that the two soldiers whose unexplained deaths caused a scandal last October "saw him and were liquidated in the blink of an eye." As to his reasons for coming forward to a newspaper with the story, he says that he wants to return to Serbia with the protection of publicity, and also that "I am a patriot, but to serve a proper state and army, not criminals."

The article in Monday's Danas includes Mr Petrović's charges of a conspiracy in the military to sell arms "to Albanians," as well as some limited information about who Mr Petrović is. Danas notes that it is "nearly impossible to verify the accuracy" of the information he is providing, and has therefore decided not not to publish the names of people he has charged with major violations of the law.

Danas is to Mladić as Blic is to Pavković. The Blic story has Pavković fleeing the country some time ago, which is claimed by an unidentified source, after which some identified sources express confusion.

Ah, yes, and Glas javnosti does name its source (Kurir!!!!!) for its story on Veselin Šljivančanin attacking Sreten Lukić in the ICTY holding facility. One instance in which the source is as credible as the subject is beguiling.