Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Is Kosovo ready for visa-free travel to the European Union?

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Weeks before a parliamentary election in Kosovo that could decide the course of democratic reforms there, the European Union is struggling to decide whether to offer Pristina encouragement or reproach.

The country, a former breakaway province of Serbia, is the poorest and smallest in the Balkans and riddled with problems. Unemployment rates are near 50 percent, state institutions are weak and per capita income is just $2,500 — one of the lowest in Europe. Five EU members do not even recognise it as a state. Yet it may also hold the key to stability in a region marked by decades of ethnic conflict.

On the whole, Brussels has a clear policy towards Kosovo. It says Pristina could become an EU member, but only when ready. Exactly what steps are needed to push it along the path towards membership, and when, are the subject of debate.

The most pressing discussion in Brussels now is whether to begin talks with Pristina about visa-free travel: from the middle of December, citizens of Kosovo will be the only ones in the western Balkans who need a visa to travel to the EU.

Macedonia and Greece could look to EU for help

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“What’s in a name?” asked love-struck Juliet by way of justifying her love for Romeo, whose Montague family was so loathed by the Capulets.

For Macedonia, rather a lot.

The name has been fought over by Greece and “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” for nearly two decades. Now European Union diplomats are telling them to ask for mediation help from the bloc. It may be the only chance, they say, for the two countries to solve a dispute that is preventing Macedonia from joining NATO and starting accession negotiations with the EU.

Croatia must read European Union signals carefully

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The European Commission told Croatia this week that its negotiations to join the European Union have reached their “final” stage. Sounds promising, considering how reluctant many EU governments are to admit any new members at a time when the bloc is coping with financial difficulties.

But there was another, more subtle message in the text of the Commission’s annual progress report on EU hopefuls. And it read quite  differently.

from Tales from the Trail:

Hillary Clinton stops to see Bill’s statue in Kosovo

Hillary Clinton stopped on Bill Clinton Boulevard to view one of Kosovo's main attractions: the Bill Clinton Statue.

Clinton, on her first visit to Kosovo as secretary of state, on Wednesday received a rapturous welcome from the crowd waving U.S. flags and cheering on the Clinton Brand, which many Kosovars see as key to their country's independence.

“It’s good to talk” EU tells Serbia, Kosovo

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kosovoThe message to Serbia from Brussels is clear: swallow your pride and start talking to Kosovo. Without strong evidence that Belgrade is mending ties with its former province, the message goes on, Serbia’s pathway to European Union entry will be rocky, if not blocked entirely.

Quietly, EU diplomats warn that Serbia must tread carefully on the issue. Since the International Court of Justice ruled last week that Kosovo’s 2008 secession was legal, the province is gone from Serbia for good, they caution.

Bizarre details emerge in Bolivian plot

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Terrorists tried to blow up Bolivia’s President Evo Morales on a naval boat on Lake Titicaca. Mercenaries, including a veteran of the Balkan wars, were plotting against Morales and his political opponents at the same time. A Roman Catholic cardinal was among their targets. Reuters correspondent Eduardo Garcia reports that these are just some of the bizarre allegations made by the Bolivian government after police killed three men in a shootout at a hotel. The government said the police foiled a plot to assassinate the leftist president.

The strange tale began on Thursday when Bolivian police killed three alleged terrorists or mercenaries and arrested two others in the eastern city of Santa Cruz. Morales said he ordered the men detained because they were plotting to kill him.  When police stormed the hotel, a gunfight broke out and three suspected were killed. Where the dead men came from is still a mystery. Government officials said they traveled from either Ireland or Croatia to kill Morales and trigger a spiral of violence in the poor South American country. Morales said two of the men killed were Hungarian. But local media cite police sources saying one of them was from Ireland and one from Romania.

The third man killed was identified as Bolivian Eduardo Rozsa Flores, who the government says fought in separatist movements in the former Yugoslavia. In his blog, Rozsa describes himself as Muslim and in one entry he calls Morales’ hero, Argentine revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara a racist and mass murderer. He also had this site.

What Russia wants: lessons from the 19th century

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Russian tanks in N. Ossetia after crossing from S. Ossetia/Sergei KarpukhinRussia’s bear-paw swipe at Georgia has got many people drawing comparisons with the Cold War, but personally I like to look for parallels in the 19th century.

At the time the faultlines between Russian and British imperial interests ran from the Balkans through the Crimea and the Caucasus to Central Asia and Afghanistan. That is remarkably similar to some of the faultlines creating upheavals today.  

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