Bureau Chief, Balkans
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Oct 3, 2010

Bosnian wartime leader’s son ahead in key race

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The son of the Muslim wartime leader was ahead in Sunday’s vote to become one of Bosnia’s three presidents, and analysts said he seemed intent on working with other ethnic groups to steer the divided country’s future.

Since the last vote in 2006, mistrust has deepened between nationalist Croat, Serb and Muslim leaders, and political divisions have widened between the country’s two regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.

Sep 30, 2010

Analysis – Serbia only inching towards EU

BELGRADE (Reuters) – An Austrian bank advertisement longer than a soccer pitch wraps tightly around the former interior ministry in Belgrade, giving it a flashy facade masking a darker past still haunting Serbia.

A decade after strongman President Slobodan Milosevic fell in a popular uprising on October 5, 2000, the old ministry remains a ruin of the 1999 NATO bombing, evoking both the promise of a better European future and the wounded core of Serbia itself.

Sep 17, 2010

EU sees new momentum in Serbia’s membership bid

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia has gained new momentum on its path to join the European Union after agreeing to negotiate with its former province of Kosovo, the EU’s enlargement commissioner said on Friday.

Earlier this week, EU officials said the Council of Ministers would discuss Serbia’s candidacy next month. Serbian officials hope to be granted by the end of next year the candidacy status, a step that precedes membership negotiations.

Sep 9, 2010

Analysis – In backing EU path, Serbia faces tough Kosovo talks

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia’s dramatic gesture of flexibility towards Kosovo will enable it to advance towards joining the European Union, but many tangled issues will complicate that goal and may take years to resolve.

Belgrade agreed on Wednesday to amend a United Nations draft resolution that had sought to reopen discussion of the status of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, and pursue dialogue with the breakaway country on future solutions instead.

Sep 3, 2010

Artist draws inspiration from Bosnia’s turmoil

By Adam Tanner

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters Life!) – Ethnic tension and the haunting memory of war vex Bosnia 15 years after Europe’s worst fighting since World War Two, but artist Mladen Miljanovic draws inspiration from such turmoil.

Working in a wide variety of media from painting to video, sculpture and performance art, the 29-year-old Bosnian artist (www.mladenmiljanovic.com) is attracting growing international attention with his take on the absurdities of war and Bosnia’s divide along ethnic lines.

Aug 31, 2010

West gives Serbia tough message on Kosovo

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Britain stepped up diplomatic pressure on Serbia on Tuesday to focus on its European Union future rather than continue to contest the independence of its former province Kosovo, which seceded two years ago.

British Foreign Minister William Hague held talks in the Serbian capital days after his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle delivered a tough message during his own visit that Serbia should acknowledge the reality of Kosovo’s independence.

Jul 28, 2010

Author-lawyer Peter Robinson on defending Radovan Karadzic

By Adam Tanner

THE HAGUE (Reuters Life!) – Of the more than one million American lawyers, California-born Peter Robinson is one of few to specialize in representing accused war criminals.

He now lives in The Hague and is a legal advisor to ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Jul 22, 2010

Kosovo independence declaration deemed legal

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia in 2008 did not violate international law, the World Court said Thursday in a decision with implications for separatist movements everywhere.

The non-binding, but clear-cut ruling by the International Court of Justice is a major blow to Serbia and will complicate efforts to draw the former pariah ex-Yugoslav republic into the European Union.

Jul 22, 2010

World court: Kosovo independence declaration is legal

THE HAGUE, July 22 (Reuters) – Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia in 2008 did not violate international law, the World Court said on Thursday in a decision with implications for separatist movements everywhere.

The non-binding, but clear-cut ruling by the International Court of Justice is a major blow to Serbia and will complicate efforts to draw the former pariah ex-Yugoslav republic into the European Union.

It is likely to lead to more states following the United States, Britain and 67 other countries in recognising ethnic-Albanian dominated Kosovo, which broke away after NATO intervened to end a brutal crackdown on separatism by Belgrade.

It may also embolden breakaway regions in countries ranging from India and Iraq to Serbia’s war-torn neighbour and fellow former Yugoslav republic Bosnia to seek more autonomy.

"The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declaration of independence," Judge Hisashi Owada, president of the ICJ, said in the clear majority ruling delivered in a cavernous hall at the Hague-based ICJ.

"Accordingly it concludes that the declaration of independence of the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law."

Serbian President Boris Tadic insisted Kosovo remained part of Serbia, a statement which, alongside the unequivocal nature of the ruling, threw confusion over Serbia’s path towards EU membership, seen in the West as a way to stabilise the Balkans.

"Serbia will never recognise the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo," Tadic said.

News of the court’s decision prompted celebrations in the Kosovo capital Pristina, where people drove through the streets waving Kosovo, U.S. and British flags and shouting "USA, USA!".

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said everyone should move beyond the issue of Kosovo’s status and seek cooperation.

Kosovo Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni said the ruling would compel Serbia to deal with it as a sovereign state.

"I expect Serbia to turn and come to us, to talk with us on so many issues of mutual interest, of mutual importance," Hyseni told Reuters. "But such talks can only take place as talks between sovereign states."

In the flashpoint northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, Albanians fired bullets in the air and let off firecrackers while Serbs gathered in their part of town and international forces blocked bridges across the river dividing the two sides.

In Serbia the Orthodox Church, which has deep roots in Kosovo, rang church bells and led prayers.

Serbia’s dinar currency hit all-time lows, forcing the central bank to intervene for the second day in a row.



CLEAR RULING, CLEAR OPPOSING SIDES

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 when a 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended a two-year war between Serbia and ethnic Kosovo Albanians, and put in place a U.N. administration and a NATO-monitored ceasefire.

The reaction of Serbia’s ally Russia to the ruling contrasted sharply with that of the United States, a reminder of Cold War tensions and of the risk of a continued impasse in the region, one of the poorest corners of Europe.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the court’s decision did not provide a legal basis for Kosovo’s independence since it only refered to the declaration of independence and did not address the legality of consequences such as statehood or recognition.

Analysts said the ruling left little room for doubt.

"I don’t think anyone was expecting that. It is a clear, strong and unambiguous statement in favor of Kosovo’s independence," said Marko Prelec of think tank the International Crisis Group.

"It will strengthen Kosovo’s position vis a vis Serbia in the international scenes and weaken Serbia’s position. There will be many more recognitions now."



FAULTLINES

The ruling was being watched closely by other nations grappling with calls for secession from within their borders.

"This is bad news to a number of governments dealing with separatist movements," said Edwin Bakker, researcher at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations. "This ruling brings Kosovo’s entry in the U.N. much closer."

Georgia filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Russia at the same court, saying that Russia’s incursion into South Ossetia and Abkhazia amounted to ethnic cleansing. Spain, which has its own regions seeking greater autonomy, has said it will not recognise an independent Kosovo.

"The decision of the International Court once more confirms the right of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to self-rule," said Sergei Bagapsh, president of the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia.

In the Balkans, the ruling could fortify separatist sentiments in the Serb half of Bosnia, another former Yugoslav republic which remains divided along ethnic lines.








Jul 22, 2010

Analysis: Serbia suffers major blow in world court ruling

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Serbia has suffered a major diplomatic blow in a world court ruling on Thursday that Kosovo did not violate international law in declaring independence 2008, a ruling that could also impact Bosnia’s future stability.

“It is an upper cut right to the chin, with no moving around after that,” said one EU diplomat. “It’s like Mike Tyson taking out the other guy in the 34th second and then he doesn’t move.”

    • About Adam

      "Adam Tanner is bureau chief for Reuters in the Balkans, overseeing coverage of Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. His past postings include Moscow, Berlin, Washington D.C. and San Francisco."
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