Kosovo workers on strike

This Associated Press video says about itself:

Workers march in Kosovo to demand better rights

(1 May 2018) Hundreds of protesters gathered on Tuesday in Kosovo‘s capital to demand better workers’ rights. Marching on Pristina’s Mother Teresa Boulevard, they demanded the government address issues including pension rights and better safety for construction workers.

Local activist Kushtrim Mehmeti said that in the past two years there had been at least one death per month of construction workers at work. “This is not just alarming, this is a war zone,” he said.

One of the youngest countries in the Balkans, Kosovo is also one of the poorest. According to the Riinvest Institute for Development Research, an independent research institute, in 2017 Kosovo had a 49 percent unemployment rate, of which 40 percent are between the ages of 16 and 24.

By Paul Mitchell:

Strike wave hits Kosovo

6 February 2019

Kosovo has been hit by a strike wave with workers demanding better wages and conditions and opposing a new salaries law.

The strikes are the beginning of a resurgence of the class struggle in the Balkans. Along with the last Assembly elections in 2017—in which the turnout was just 41 percent—they indicate growing disaffection with the “independent” regime created in 2008, following the bloody imperialist-backed war of 1998-99 and run by corrupt former Kosovo Liberation Army figures.

Life for workers and youth remains desperate. Wages, averaging €360 ($410) a month, are among the lowest in Europe. Unemployment is around 30 percent (youth unemployment is over 50 percent) and a similar percentage of the population lives in poverty. Nearly 10 percent are recorded as living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than €1.70 ($1.90) a day.

Over the last weeks, virtually the entire public sector has experienced industrial action. Healthcare workers ended 2018 with a two-day nationwide strike and surgeons continued their action into January, demanding they be treated the same as judges and prosecutors who saw their salaries doubled last year by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Haradinaj doubled his own salary and those of his cabinet members at the same time.

Imri Jashari, director of the Cardiology Clinic at the Kosovo University Clinical Center, told reporters about the “miserable” conditions for experienced doctors, who earn just €600 per month. “There is huge dedication and great investment by healthcare workers, while on the other hand the appreciation of our society and state for this category [of work] is just miserable,” Jashari said.

Miners staged a nine-day strike from January 3 to demand a 20 percent pay rise and only agreed a temporary return to work pending talks with the Ministry for Economic Development.

Teachers began a stoppage on January 14, seeking a 30 percent pay rise at all education levels. Sejdi Rexhepi, a professor of economics at Pristina University, said the new salaries law “may lower the salaries of some teachers… By our calculations, a regular professor will have a fall in salary of €100—and, depending on their academic title, some salaries may fall by up to €200.”

Last Friday—the day before the law was passed in the Kosovo Assembly—the head of the Union of Education, Culture and Science of Kosovo (SBASHK), Rrahman Jasharaj, announced an agreement with the government claiming it “has brought us closer to our demands, so congratulations to all, the school year will commence on Monday.” SBASHK deputy head, Vjollca Shala, disagreed, saying “As for now, there is no deal reached, and the moment that we reach an agreement, we will release a communiqué.”

Municipal workers in the capital Pristina have been on strike and others in Mitrovica, Vushtria/Vucitrn and Rahovec/Orahovac and elsewhere have warned of possible strikes over their 30 percent pay claim. Union leader Mehmet Bajrami said the new salary law could actually lower their pay by up to 40 percent.

The union representing workers at Kosovo Telecom has warned of strikes if their salaries are cut. Once the most profitable company in Kosovo, it has been starved of around €500 million in investment since 2010 when the government, then led by Hashim Thaci, now Kosovo’s president, said it would be privatised. Talks on finding a new owner are continuing.

Workers in the energy sector, airport control and customs have threatened to strike.

The Kosovan government is determined to prevent workers seeking to overturn years of stagnant or declining wages. Erol Belegu, one of Haradinaj’s advisers, said large pay increases would starve the country of investment. “We have already had criticism from the IMF [International Monetary Fund] that the budget is heavily weighed down by salaries.”

In December, the IMF, following its last visit to “advise” the Kosovo government what to do, insisted, “To lower wage and non-wage cost and improve productivity, it is critical to restrain wage and social benefit growth… Fiscal initiatives such as the public salary law and excessively generous maternity/parental benefits, as well as a large minimum wage hike, would not only be costly but also undermine these efforts, providing another reason why they should be avoided or redesigned.”

The IMF, warning that a further onslaught is in the offing, declared, “structural challenges remain largely undented, and should be at the forefront of the policy agenda… plans to restructure public enterprises need to move ahead.”

The IMF has been offering such prescriptions for nearly two decades, but Kosovo, a country of just 1.8 million people with abundant natural resources, remains an economic, social and political disaster.

The country is a product of the tragic consequences of the deliberately engineered break-up of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s by the major imperialist powers, particularly the US and Germany. Serbia was targeted as the regional power considered the main obstacle to the West’s control over an area of geo-strategic interest. Russia’s influence in the region had to be rolled back.

The resulting civil war and new ethnically-based states proved incapable of providing a progressive solution to the problems facing the Balkan people. Kosovo, the protectorate of the Western powers, became the most glaring example of the subservient status of these new states.

Following the 2008 financial crash, the European Union’s promise of membership as part of moves to keep the Balkan countries firmly on side against Russia floundered. No one now talks about a date for Kosovo to join the EU.

Moreover, the concept of a union in Europe has been thrown into crisis with the impoverishment of Greece through EU savage austerity, Britain’s vote to exit the EU, and the Trump administration’s attacks both on the EU and on Germany in particular, as a trade competitor.

Kosovo remains in limbo over its attempts to gain international recognition. Some 90 out of 193 nations refuse to recognise the 2008 declaration of independence, including UN Security Council members Russia and China, Serbia and five EU members—Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania—who fear the precedent the border changes might set for their own countries. Last November, the boast by Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli that Kosovo’s bid to join the global policing body Interpol would be successful, was dashed.

Kosovo’s relationship with Serbia remains at a knife-edge. At one moment there is talk of a land swap, at another trade war blows up with threats of a military war.

The declaration of independence left some 120,000 Serbs as a minority around Mitrovica in Kosovo’s north, which continues to function as a de-facto independent enclave. About 50,000 ethnic Albanians remain in the Presevo Valley in Serbia’s south.

Last year, Thaci raised the possibility of an exchange of territory between Kosovo and Serbia in an article published in the Financial Times and supported in an editorial. Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, made it known that Washington “would not weigh in” on the matter. However, such an exchange could have profoundly negative repercussions throughout the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia which is divided into a mosaic of ethnic cantons.

In November 2018, a trade war broke out when the Kosovan government imposed a 100 percent customs tariff on goods coming from Serbia. Haradinaj declared he would only reverse the tax if Serbia discontinued its “campaign against Kosovo’s aspiration as a sovereign state.”

In December, tensions escalated further when the Kosovan Assembly voted to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a regular army. The Serbian government called the decision the “most direct threat to peace and stability in the region” and warned that armed intervention was “one of the options on the table.”

Kosovo fossil fuel causing cancer

This video says about itself:

‘We Are Choking’ – Air Pollution Protest In Kosovo Capital

31 January 2018

Hundreds of people protested in Kosovo‘s capital, Pristina, against dangerous levels of air pollution.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Third coal-fired power station ‘new source of cancer‘ for Kosovo

Today, 18:05
Updated at 18:30

by Mitra Nazar, Balkan correspondent

Kosovo is suffering from the most serious air pollution in years. Now the government is planning to build a new, modernized, coal [lignite]-fired power plant. This power plant must replace two very outdated plants, the biggest cause of air pollution in the country. But local residents and activists are afraid it will not solve anything.

In February hundreds of Kosovars took to the streets in the capital Pristina. Demonstrating with masks on, they protested against bad air quality. “Do not poison us any longer” and “Let’s save Pristina” was on their banners.

In Kosovo, air pollution this winter was so bad that the government recommended residents in late January not to go outside. On some days, the levels of pollution in the air were higher than those in notoriously polluted cities in China and India. Emergency measures were taken, cars were banned from the Pristina city center for two days, but there was no structural solution. …

According to experts, the biggest culprits are two old coal-fired power stations just outside of Pristina, Kosovo A and Kosovo B.

Most polluted region

They are two of the most polluting coal-fired plants in Europe, they are less than ten kilometers from the capital, in Obelic municipality. …

For a number of years, doctors have seen an increase in the number of patients with respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Symptoms are most common in Obelic, where more than 20,000 people live at the foot of two coal-fired plants and three mines. …

“Everyone knows someone with cancer”, says Ragip Rajcevci (53) who lives in Hade, a village in Obelic municipality. He says that the air is worst in the morning. “Then there is a sea of ​​smog above the village, when I step out of my house I can hardly breathe.”

Children and the elderly are advised not to spend too much time outside the homes. Rajcevci says that many people suffer from lung diseases, asthma or bronchitis. The village where he lives has been on a list for evacuation for years, because it is too close to an open mine, but nothing has happened.

Kosovo C

Now there are advanced plans for a new coal power plant, called Kosovo C, in the same area. In December 2017, the Kosovar government signed a contract with the American electricity company ContourGlobal with support from the World Bank. The new plant must be finished in 2023. Action groups have been lobbying for years to stop this.

“The government’s argument is that Kosovo C will be cleaner”, says Haki Abazi of KOSID, an environmental lobby group. “But that’s nonsense, clean coal-fired power stations do not exist.” … Abazi believes that Kosovo should invest in green energy, instead of building a coal-fired power station again. …

For Ragip Rajcevci, the news about another coal-fired power plant in his backyard came as a shock. For years he has been fighting for better air quality for him and his children, and the generations that are still coming.

“They can tell us as many fairy tales as they want”, he says. “That the new power plant will become cleaner, and that they will shut down the old power stations, but for us Kosovo C is a new source of cancer, and while the whole world is busy with alternatives to lignite, we are building a coal-fired power plant.”

Roma refugee from dangerous Kosovo writes book

Nizaqete Bislimi (Source: DuMont Verlag / Franz Brück)

By Elisabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

From Roma refugee to attorney in Germany: Nizaqete Bislimi’s Durch die Wand (“Through the Wall”)

18 November 2015

In her book Durch die Wand (“Through the Wall”), Roma author Nizaqete Bislimi describes her difficult flight from Kosovo, the hardship and insecurity of life as a refugee in Germany, the harassment by authorities and the readiness to help of private volunteers and initiatives. Despite numerous obstacles, Bislimi, now 36, successfully completed school, studied law and now works as an attorney in Essen, Germany specializing in immigration law.

For the past two years, Bislimi has served as chair of the Federal Association of Roma. In light of the continuous attacks on refugees and the right to asylum, her book is highly relevant.

Nizaqete was 14 years old when she fled the village of Hallaç i Vogël south of Pristina, Kosovo with her mother, two sisters and two brothers in 1993. Her father’s family had lived there for several generations. She left behind the safety and security of a large family with its own house and garden where she spent a happy childhood.

They left because of the “increasingly heated tensions between the Albanian and the Serbian population in Kosovo.” Bislimi writes, “We fled from the spectre of a looming war which, though we could not exactly imagine it, we knew would affect us first.”

Her father could not accompany the family. He had just been drafted into the Serbian army and was forced to surrender his papers.

Bislimi describes in detail her experiences with the German authorities: the endless waiting in offices, the constant fear of rejection and deportation, the inhumane housing conditions and the bureaucratic and financial hurdles that stood in the way of her education.

She writes about the sentiments behind the slogan “the boat is full,” which characterized the official debates on the right to asylum in Germany in 1993 and, in the same year, led to a drastic tightening of asylum laws. Relatives advised the family not to apply for asylum as Roma or Ashkali (another ethnic cultural minority in [Kosovo and] Albania). They only stood a chance if they identified themselves as Albanians fleeing from Serb violence.

At first, the six-person family was housed in a cramped cabin without locks on a ship in the … Rhine. To secure the door at night, they pushed one of their bunks in front of it before going to sleep.

Food rationing presented another problem. “One of the first difficult experiences for us was the unusual German food,” writes Bislimi. “The pre-cooked food was delivered and handed out in metal containers and almost all of it hurt our stomachs and made us sick.”

The asylum process was an inhumane procedure. Again and again, Bislimi’s mother and all her children boarded the morning bus to their local branch of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees where they spent the entire day waiting on cold chairs to be interrogated, have their fingerprints taken and have their applications processed.

“At the agency, there was no room set aside for children and we couldn’t go outside to play. There was nothing left for us to do but sit there and watch the clock while its hands went in circles. It was a scenario that would be repeated again and again for the next fourteen years of my life: waiting for someone to make a decision about my life without the possibility of influencing him or her myself.”

The Bislimi family’s next accommodations were former army barracks where entire families were assigned to one room. Despite the difficult conditions, friendships were forged. Families helped each other as much as they could.

Eventually, the family moved into refugee housing on the outskirts of Oberhausen in the Ruhr area in western Germany. They lived for months in this shanty town in a room no bigger than two by four meters, equipped with three sets of bunk beds, metal lockers and a small table with two chairs. Six single men lived in the room across from them. The few showers and toilets were run down and no amount of cleaning would solve the problem of burnt-on or dried dirt, mold and cockroaches.

After the initial shock, the Bislimis tried to make the best of their situation. During the day, they dismantled the bed frames and combined the mattresses to make seating areas. A curtain on the door protected them from all too prying eyes. With the junk on hand and gifts from fellow housemates, their room was somehow made livable.

Three months after submitting their asylum application, the family was notified that they were temporarily approved and would not be deported, but would still be obliged to leave the country. Bislimi writes: “This document meant that on any day we could be deported without warning. Our resident status in Germany was also highly uncertain and every evening before going to sleep we asked ourselves if this would be our last night.”

These uncertain conditions would continue for 13 years.

Nizaqete and her sister, who had been good students in Kosovo, were sent to secondary school in Oberhausen. Thanks to their own efforts and the energetic help of supporters who looked after refugees in the barracks, they finally succeeded in overcoming all the obstacles that lay before them.

In the summer of 1994, her living situation also improved. A separate housing unit of 24 square meters, with its own bath and kitchen, in a container village near the noisy A3 highway was now considered “lovely.” At a welcoming party in the new accommodations, Nizaqete met a German couple who would be an indispensable help to her in the coming years of harassment from immigration authorities and in her fight for a secure resident status.

As she dealt with the constant threat of deportation, Nizaqete decided she wanted to become an attorney. Almost insurmountable obstacles were placed in her way.

A Unicef study from 2010 is cited in the book, which indicates that access to education and social participation for the children of refugee families in Germany is severely limited. For decades, children of Roma and Sinti families were almost automatically referred to special education schools. In eight out of 16 German states at the beginning of 2005, compulsory education did not apply to children who were the subject of asylum proceedings or who had been authorized to live in Germany. Only in 2010 did schooling become obligatory for them in all of Germany.

Adding to their problems in Germany and their fears of deportation, Bislimi’s family worried about their father and other relatives in Kosovo. Her mother, most of all, lived in constant fear. “Refugee policy in Germany makes people sick in body and soul,” writes Bislimi. “I once heard the expression ‘death on the installment plan’ and found it very fitting.”

The family had to extend their short-term permits in a nerve-racking procedure every three months, sometimes every month. Vocational counsellors and public officials told Nizaqete that according to her permit, she could neither train nor study. She should just marry. There was no other chance for her. Finally, she simply enrolled at the Ruhr University in Bochum and completed her studies successfully. However, she did not receive support under the Federal Training Assistance Act or any other state funding. She paid for her studies with part-time jobs.

Following the successful completion of her first state examinations, Bislimi began work as a junior lawyer in the Higher Regional Court in Hamm. After 13 years, immigration authorities finally granted her a residence permit in June 2006.

Bislimi’s book is also critical of Nato’s military interventions in Kosovo, in which Germany also took part. Nato air strikes on Serbian positions in Kosovo triggered the humanitarian catastrophe, she writes. And after the war, when Kosovo was effectively partitioned off from Serbia, the problems facing ethnic minorities increased. “We heard terrifying stories from home. There was talk of pogroms that took place before the eyes of Nato soldiers, and talk of rapes and forced evictions.” Many of Bislimi’s relatives were killed.

In the last chapter of her book, Bislimi describes how Germany and the European Union pressure the Balkan states to take in refugees. Countries like Serbia, Macedonia and other states would only be granted visa facilitation if they would commit to repatriation agreements.

The living conditions of Roma are devastating. Close to a third of the 600 Roma settlements in Serbia have no water supply and 70 percent are not connected to a sewage system. The infant mortality rate among the Roma is four times higher than the national average. The average life expectancy of Roma women is 48 years.

Bislimi’s Durch die Wand provides numerous facts about the brutality of German asylum and immigration policies that have recently shown their ugly face again. With the tightening of asylum laws and the classification of Kosovo as a “secure third country,” people like Bislimi will no longer have the chance to stay in Germany.

The account of her family’s painful experiences is moving. It deserves a large readership.

Roma refugees in Kosovo poisoned by lead: here.

Jonathan Marshall says Kosovo chaos undercuts a favorite neocon/liberal-hawk war: here.

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS. Extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudis and others have transformed a once-tolerant Muslim society into a font of extremism: here.

Organised crime and corruption represent a grave threat to Kosovo’s society. Analysts have estimated that the level of crime and corruption in this country has started to jeopardise the very existence of Kosovo: here.

German discrimination against east European refugees

Nuremberg swastika vandalism

This recent photo is from Nuremberg in Bavaria in Germany, where Hitler’s nazi party used to have their mass meetings. A building intended for refugees has been vandalized with a nazi swastika and an anti-refugee slogan.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Bavaria will house Eastern European asylum seekers separately

Today, 12:16

The government in the southern German state of Bavaria has decided that refugees from Serbia, Macedonia and Albania should now be housed in separate centers for asylum seekers. There they should hear within two weeks whether they are allowed to stay or not.

Nearly 50 per cent of asylum seekers in Germany comes from Balkan countries, while almost none of them has the right to a residence permit.

Balkan countries like Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo were devastated by NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ war in 1999; in which the German Luftwaffe participated. Ever since, privatisation of economies and ethnic violence inherited from the war caused more devastation in these countries. While people like NATO commander General Wesley Clark got rich from privatisation in Kosovo. But refugees from still unsafe Kosovo are unwelcome in Germany.

The violence against asylum seekers increases. In the first half of 2015 in Germany refugee centers were defaced, vandalized or set on fire 150 times. …

The plan is not at all well received. The chairman of the Social Democratic SPD party Yasmin Fahimi thinks that Seehofer “cheaply attacks refugees.”

Commentators also point out the failures of the CSU with some of their political projects in the past period. From the introduction of tolls on the highways, to the kitchen sink subsidy for mothers who stay at home. The party would now like to get attention in this way, says among other people ARD TV commentator Tina Hassel.

Kosovo refugees discriminated against in Germany and Austria

This video says about itself:

Gypsy Blood: The Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian IDPs of Mitrovica, Kosovo

In July 2000, WHO (the World Health Organization) urgently appealed to the UN administration in Kosovo to close their three Roma (Gypsy) IDP (internally displaced peoples) camps in the Mitrovica area because they had been built on highly toxic wasteland. More than six years later, the UN has still not evacuated these camps, nor sought medical treatment for the life-threatening lead levels in the blood of those living there.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Society for Threatened Peoples, Refugees International (and many other humanitarian organizations) have demanded in writing to the UN the immediate evacuation of these three camps. This film encourages the international community to intervene. Unable to return home or obtain refugee status in a third country, these Gypsies remain trapped on toxic land where every child conceived will suffer irreversible brain damage.

By Markus Salzmann in Germany:

Germany and Austria discriminate against Kosovo refugees

27 February 2015

In the course of the past six months, according to media reports, 50,000 people have left Kosovo, some 35,000 in the last month-and-a-half alone. Their main destinations are Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.

The exodus is the result of the catastrophic economic and social situation in Kosovo, which is making life unbearable for the majority of the population. “Kosovo is the poorest country in southeast Europe,” migration researcher Besa Shahini, from the European Stability Initiative think tank, told Der Spiegel. “The numbers of refugees have been increasing continuously for several years, so in that respect it is not a new phenomenon.”

Average wages in Kosovo are €220 per month. Without remittances from Kosovars who have found work abroad, many families would be unable to survive. The official unemployment rate is 27 percent, but the real rate is estimated at more than double that. Youth unemployment is thought to be around 70 percent. According to figures from the World Bank, around a third of residents are living below the poverty line, on less than €1.50 per day.

The annual income per head in 2013 was somewhat more than €2,500. This is not even half the figure of the European Union’s (EU) poorest state, Bulgaria, and roughly one-tenth of the EU average.

Deutsche Welle reported on an unemployed father, Fitim S., who travelled with his family to Germany. He said he did not even receive social welfare in Kosovo of €80 per month, because, according to the justification, he has a house and did not have to pay rent. “We were told that we could get asylum in Germany,” said the desperate father.

The British Daily Telegraph quoted a woman in Kosovo, who stated, “It is sad for Kosovo, but there is no hope here for the people. They are leaving the country because they are desperate.”

There is no organised medical care. Health care from a doctor or at a hospital can only be obtained in exchange for cash. The country, with a population of 1.8 million, is dominated by criminal clans that are closely connected to the major political figures in the country and enrich themselves through prostitution, people trafficking, and the drugs and arms trade. Corruption is rampant.

“Those with no connections or associations with the clans in the political parties have no career prospects,” states Der Spiegel. “Many people in Kosovo are just fed up with the situation and simply want to escape,” said Iliriana Kaçaniku, who works as an expert on EU integration at the Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society (KFOS). Kosovo is one of Europe’s most corrupt countries. On Transparency International’s index, the country is in 111th place.

Since Kosovo’s independence in 2008, the European powers have not improved the situation at all, but are themselves deeply implicated in the network of corruption and the black market. The Eulex mission, aimed at establishing an independent judiciary, is discredited.

The daily Koha Ditore uncovered that a number of corrupt state prosecutors and judges involved with Eulex had called a halt to prosecutions or handed down milder punishments in exchange for money. German news magazine Die Zeit named the Italian judge Francesco Florit, who allegedly received €300,000 in exchange for clearing a man charged with murder.

The catastrophe in Kosovo is the direct result of the intervention by the major western powers. They deliberately provoked the ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia for their own interests.

In 1991, Germany’s foreign policy backed the breakup of the Yugoslav state by rushing to recognise Slovenia and Croatia as independent states. The United States followed suit and forced the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The result was the extremely bloody four-year Bosnian war, in which the western powers intervened with their own troops.

The NATO states subsequently used the separatist strivings in Kosovo they had promoted in order to move against Serbia. In 1999, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented the Serbian government with an unacceptable ultimatum at the Rambouillet meetings. When it was rejected, NATO went to war with Serbia.

Even then, Albright and German foreign minister Joschka Fischer relied on the support of dubious elements like Hashim Thaci, currently deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo. Thaci, as head of the Kosovo Liberation Army militia, was wanted by Serbian authorities for terrorist attacks against security forces, and had also been accused of liquidating rivals within his own ranks. He also had ties to the drug mafia.

After the war, Kosovo was under United Nations administration, practically under the military and political control of the countries who led the war. The country’s declaration of independence in 2008, which was only recognised by the western powers, further intensified ethnic tensions in the region.

The governments of the countries that pressed for Kosovo’s separation and independence are now responding with an inhumane policy of deporting refugees fleeing the catastrophe they have produced. Almost none of the asylum seekers from Kosovo are permitted to stay in Germany or other European countries. The human rights organisation ProAsyl estimates that only 40 Kosovars were given the right to reside in Germany in 2014. Almost 9,000 applications were lodged.

“There is no asylum for Kosovars,” Manfred Schmidt, President of the federal office for refugees and immigration, bluntly stated. Almost all asylum applications from Kosovar nationals are rejected because they cannot prove any political persecution. Many of the refugees have used all of their savings for the journey and face an even more hopeless situation after their return.

In Germany, the interior ministers at the federal and state levels enacted several measures two weeks ago to restrict the flood of refugees from Kosovo. The German police will provide support to the Serbian border police. This could mean that Kosovars who possess a Serbian passport will be prevented from crossing the Hungarian border.

In contrast to past practices, asylum seekers from Kosovo are not to be distributed among the municipalities after they have been registered. Instead, their asylum proceedings are to be completed at arrival centres within two weeks. European spokesman for ProAsyl, Karl Kopp, criticised the plan, commenting, “There will certainly not be impartial proceedings.” It was merely about “declaring the people to be ready for deportation as quickly as possible.”

Discussions are also ongoing about classifying Kosovo as a secure third country. The most recent states to be classified were Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia. Since November of last year, applications for asylum from nationals of these countries have been rejected in sped-up proceedings as “obviously unjustified.” Subsequently, deportations must take place within a week. The interior minister in Saxony, Markus Ulbig (Christian Democratic Party), has already demanded such a classification for Kosovo.

The state president in Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretchmann (Green Party), spoke out cynically in the Süddeutsche Zeitung in favour of denying asylum to Kosovars. “We have a right to asylum which is meant for people who are politically persecuted. Currently, the mass migration of people from Kosovo is beyond that—but this can’t go on, they are not politically persecuted. It is overwhelming and endangering the right to asylum.”

In Austria, interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (Austrian People’s Party) has provoked a campaign against the refugees on behalf of the Social Democratic-Conservative government. She described it as her mission to restrict the storm of refugees from Kosovo. In the name of this goal, she arranged for statements to be distributed in Kosovo making it absolutely clear that refugees are not desired in Austria and could be punished with prosecution.

The text states, “Smugglers lie. There is no asylum in Austria on economic grounds.” For breaching the EU’s travel ban, a fine of up to €7,500 is threatened.

Leaving Kosovo: Exodus of young people as frustration soars: here.

Albanian nationalist war crimes in Kosovo, new report

This video says about itself:

15 April 2008

Carla del Ponte, a former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, now Switzerland’s Ambassador to Argentina, made a sensational announcement. Her autobiographical book “The Hunt” reveals that Serbian men have been kidnapped and their organs were sold to international traffickers.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Hard evidence of KLA war crimes

Tuesday 29 Jul 2014, 11:16 (Update: 29-07-14, 11:26)

Thorough investigation of war crimes by the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Organisation; an Albanian nationalist paramilitary organisation; acronym in Albanian: UCK] in 1999, has found hard evidence of kidnapping, torture and murder by the KLA on its enemies. Chief investigator John Clint Williamson has declared this.

Williamson also found evidence that some prisoners were deprived of their organs, which were probably sold on the black market. However, hard evidence for that is lacking. He did not rule out that there will still be lawsuits because of organ trafficking as better evidence will come to light.

Although Williamson stressed that he has compelling evidence of war crimes, suspects are not charged for the time being. That must wait until a special court will be established to try the suspects. That court will probably be in The Hague.

Also translated from NOS TV today:

In the late 1990s in Kosovo, serious crimes were committed against minorities. Senior people in the KLA were actively involved in this. That was announced by the chief prosecutor of a special investigation team of the European Union.

Possible indictment of senior officials of former Kosovo Liberation Army relate to claims of ethnic cleansing since 1999: here.

A European Union special prosecutor said yesterday that there were “compelling indications” that up to 10 captives were killed for organ harvesting during the 1998-99 Kosovo war: here.

Schoolgirl Leonarda and anti-Roma racism in France

This video from Hungary says about itself:

Budapest: French Embassy Protest – Opre Roma! Support Leonarda! [2013.10.28]

Opre Roma! Protest in support of Leonarda – an evicted Roma girl from Kosovo

Time and place: 28. 10. 2013 (Monday). Meeting at 10 a.m. at Heroes’ Square, from where we will walk together to the building of the French Embassy in Budapest at 10:30. There a protest letter will be read out in Hungarian, English and French, then after the speeches we leave the location individually. We welcome organizations, student-groups and associations, and individuals to protest with banners against the discrimination of Roma in Europe!

Protest against the European immigration policies which violate human rights and discriminate Roma. Leonarda Dibrani, following the expulsion of her family, was taken from the school-bus by French police forces during an excursion on the 9th of October. The daughter of a Kosovar Roma family is a native French speaker, has never lived in Kosovo before. Following the scandal in France, the state allowed her to go back to France to finish her studies, but not her family. As she is a minor, her right to be brought up within her family is violated this way, however, if she stays in Kosovo, where she does not speak the language, her right to education will be infringed.

On this occasion a group of international Roma students residing in Budapest, coming from 14 different countries invites to act! Who agrees that Roma are being treated as second-class citizens in Europe and want to express their solidarity with families in situations similar to that of Leonarda and with Roma who have been victims of the discriminative European immigration policies, please join us!

Last week student protests were held in different cities of France. The group of Roma students in Budapest will go in the street simultaneously with Roma and non-Roma students in various Spanish cities and in the capital of Albania, Tirana.

By Pierre Mabut in France:

Appeal by family of Roma schoolgirl to return to France rejected

4 February 2014

On January 28, a French administrative tribunal rejected the request for a resident’s permit by the family of Leonarda Dibrani, the 15-year-old Roma schoolgirl who was picked up by the police while on a school outing near Besançon on October 9 and deported to Kosovo.

The Socialist Party (PS) government’s action and the racist, anti-Roma statements of its Interior Minister Manuel Valls, led to mass street protests by high school students throughout France in October and November. They called for Leonarda’s return to France and that of another student, 19-year-old Armenian Khatchik Khachatryan.

President Hollande appeared on television with a cynical and incoherent proposal offering Leonarda the right to return to France, but without her parents and siblings. Unsurprisingly, she refused Hollande’s offer: “I will not abandon my family. I’m not the only one who needs to go to school; there are also my brothers and sisters.”

Indeed, the Dibrani family had been settled in France for four years, with six of the children born in Italy and one in France. The tribunal’s judgement was based on the view that Mr. Dibrani had “no real desire to integrate French society.”

Although Leonarda’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears, the family will make an appeal. She has demanded her right to be considered French: “My homeland is France, here [Kosovo] we will die of hunger, we have been sent here to die. The lawyer told us not to despair because we have the right of appeal, but I don’t believe anymore in justice.”

This ruling against Leonarda’s family reflects virulent and escalating anti-Roma racism in France, which has been given official sanction by the Socialist Party (PS) government. Last year, Valls indicated that he wanted the Roma as a people to leave France, saying they “are destined to stay in or return to Romania.”

He added, “the majority must be expelled beyond our borders … the occupants of the [Roma] camps do not want to integrate into our country for cultural reasons or because they are in the hands of networks dealing in begging or prostitution.”

The PS government has made it a priority to hunt down and deport undocumented immigrants, trampling on their democratic rights—including their right to freedom of circulation within the European Union. It has beaten the record for expulsions, going beyond the previous right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s figures. In 2012, 36,822 undocumented immigrants were deported, an increase of 11 percent over 2011.

This policy has in particular targeted the Roma. While the Roma population in France is currently only 20,000, the government expelled 10,000 over a six month period in 2013.

The denial of the children’s rights to stay in France, where their education had begun, was based on allegations against her father. Documents denounced Mr Dibrani for his “bad maintenance of his accommodation, parking his broken down car in front of the apartment, insulting the housing manager, the children’s repeated absences from school and no serious search for work.”

The fact that such allegations were seized upon to justify Leonarda’s expulsion itself reflects the reactionary political climate that now prevails in France.

The decision by the tribunal, on the government’s recommendation, to reject Leonarda’s family’s request for a resident permit or asylum, has been met with total silence by the pseudo-left groups. From the NPA (New Anti-capitalist Party), through the Student Solidarity union (Solidaires Etudiants) to the SOS Racisme group—an offshoot of the PS and the NPA’s predecessor, the Revolutionary Communist League—there has been not a word of protest.

The leader of SOS Racisme in the Paris region, Blaise Cuecco, has defended the PS government’s policies, suggesting it is somehow neutral and not implementing its “real” programme. He lamented, “We are confronted with a government isolated from civil society.”

Cuecco asserts the PS government is avoiding the question of “liquidating the Sarkozy project”. But as the majority of workers now attest, President Hollande not only had no intention of doing so, but is already proceeding further than his right-wing predecessor had.

Last November Cuecco made empty promises that his organization would fight to continue mobilising students to defend Leonarda after the holiday break. However, like the leaders of the other pseudo-left and “human rights” organizations, he retreated to spare the government any embarrassment in the run-up to the municipal elections in March, where the fascist National Front (FN) is expected to make gains.

The government’s popularity is presently at such an historic low due to its austerity policies that it views the far-right rhetoric of Valls as a trump card to appeal to neo-fascist sentiment and undermine the vote for the neo-fascist National Front (FN).

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Italian medical soldier jailed for saving cat’s life?

Doctor Barbara Balanzoni

Nearly a century ago, in World War I, British military top brass ordered a cat to be shot for treason.

Now, in 2013, an Italian woman doctor may have to spend a year or more in a military jail for saving a cat’s life.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Italian army reservist to be prosecuted for saving cat’s life in Kosovo

Barbara Balanzoni, who saved dying cat while serving as a medical officer at a Nato base, is charged with insubordination

John Hooper in Rome

Sunday 22 December 2013 15.35 GMT

A question is to be raised in the Italian parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a dying cat.

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anaesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offence while serving as medical officer at a Nato base in Kosovo.

It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Lt Balanzoni disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May 2012 forbidding troops at the base from “bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals”. She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary.

Lt Balanzoni told the Guardian she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. She said the cat – later named “Agata” – normally lived on the roof of a hut.

“There are lots of cats on the base,” she said. “In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there.”

Lt Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. “Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene.”

She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn, and was certain to die. “If the cat had died, the entire area would have had to be disinfected. What is more, the surviving kittens could not have been fed. So they too would have died and created an even greater public health problem.”

Lt Balanzoni’s trial is due to open in Rome on 7 February. Her case has been taken up by Italy’s oldest animal defence association, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali and a question to the defence minister is due to be tabled in the Senate, the upper house of the Italian legislature, when parliament reassembles after the Christmas break.

See also here.

French government’s racist deportation of schoolgirl Leonarda

This video is called 15 Year Old Immigrant Girl Begs for Return to France as Classmates Show Support. It says about itself:

17 okt 2013

With a storm brewing on the horizon, Kosovo is as dark a country as ever for 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani.


“Here, I don’t speak the language, I don’t understand it and I am afraid that the others will make fun of me. And my home is not here, my home is in France. Because in France I have everything: all my friends, my boyfriend, my teachers, my school, my future, everything is in France. But here no, I have nothing. I don’t know why I am in Kosovo.”

Leonarda and her family, who are of Roma descent, were deported from France this month.

She herself was pulled off a school bus by police in front of all of her classmates, becoming the latest focus of France’s agonized debate over migration.


“It hurt to leave everyone behind and I was ashamed. All my friends looked at me in a weird way, asking me what I had done, why the police were there… I couldn’t answer because the police took me by the hand, telling me, ‘We have to go, we have to go, we don’t have time, we have to go.'”

Back in France, thousands of students have taken to the streets, condeming the expulsion of Leonarda as well as another case involving an expelled Armenian boy.


“We are against the expulsion and we don’t agree that a person who is integrated should be sent back to a country that she doesn’t even know.”

Shouting “Free Kosovo,” the students declared education has no borders.

The protest ended with clashes with the police.

One youth was seen being dragged off by plain clothes policemen.

Protesters and even lawmakers have blamed Interior Minister Manual Valls of betraying the left’s values with tough immigration policies that led to Dibrani’s arrest.

By Emile Schepers:

Leonarda’s Deportation Was Racist

Monday 21st October 2013

The seizure of a schoolgirl off a bus so she could be booted out of the country is sickening – and many French people are outraged, says EMILE SCHEPERS

The arrest of a Roma girl on a school bus in front of her classmates and her subsequent deportation to Kosovo along with her family has caused an uproar in France and split the ruling Socialist Party of President Francois Hollande.

The president was forced into a humiliating U-turn on her deportation yesterday – saying that 15-year-old school student Leonarda Dibrani could return to France to finish her studies.

But her family cannot.

Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy had initiated a policy of demolishing Roma camps and deporting their residents, mostly to Romania. Sarkozy’s rhetoric on the subject of Roma, Muslims and foreigners in general was dangerously provocative. Roma or Romani are the names of the people historically called Gypsies.

To the surprise of some, the nominally socialist government which replaced Sarkozy‘s gang in the 2012 elections has not backed away from this general policy.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls has made recent statements that coincide with those of the previous government and, over the last couple of weeks, has moved again to deport migrant Roma – that is those not born or naturalised in France – and dismantle their encampments.

This has brought Valls, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and President Hollande into conflict with the left, including the Communist Party and even some in their own party.

The situation sharply escalated on October 9, when immigration police took Leonarda off a school bus to be deported along with her parents who had lost an appeal for asylum in France.

Her father had already been expelled and police had not found Leonarda at home when they went to expel her mother along with six other siblings. So they called the teacher who was accompanying the field trip and forced her to order the bus to be stopped.

Students on the bus did not know why the police were after Leonarda, and some began to speculate that perhaps she had “stolen something.”

Leonarda’s teacher remonstrated angrily with the police about the cruelty of arresting a child in this way but was rebuffed.

There is prejudice in France, as in many other European countries, against the Roma people who are often poor and live in precarious and marginalised situations.

They are often stigmatised with racist stereotypes. Leonarda has lived in France most of her life and speaks fluent French. She was doing well in school where she is popular with fellow students.

In Kosovo, Leonarda and her family face a life of much greater instability, poverty and danger.

Since Nato’s 1999 war split Yugoslavia and created the independent state of Kosovo, its authorities have expelled many Roma. Those remaining face persecution and discrimination.

Previously Valls had fallen foul of the European Commission for stating that most of the 20,000 or so immigrant Roma in France should be deported on the grounds that they supposedly have a very different lifestyle from the French people and cannot be assimilated – language shockingly similar to that adopted by fascists of various countries.

Many commentators speculate that the current government has adopted a highly visible anti-Roma stance because one of its rival political parties, the far right neofascist National Front headed by former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, has been doing well in some areas of the country, in part because of its demagogic scapegoating of immigrants for France’s economic troubles.

However, the other France soon raised its voice.

On Thursday, thousands of high school students in Paris and elsewhere hit the streets demanding justice for Leonarda and for another deported student, Katchiki Kachatryan, who is of Armenian origin.

The French left also spoke out forcefully. The French Communist Party daily L’Humanité, published numerous articles on the case, all of them demanding change, and top leaders of the party including secretary-general Pierre Laurent and the French Young Communist League joined the student demonstrations.

Green Party members of Hollande’s cabinet also denounced the government and hinted that this might endanger their co-operation with it. Some Socialist Party leaders also denounced Valls’s action – though Hollande has been slow to condemn it.

French students’ mass pro-refugee movement

This video is called Student deportations spark protests in Paris.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 19 October 2013

FRENCH YOUTH ERUPT! – against deportations

TENS of thousands of French youth walked out of their classes and lectures and joined marches on Thursday protesting over the removal of two foreign students from France.

At least 20 secondary schools in Paris were closed by the walkout.

A rally took place between the city’s Bastille and Nation squares and there were also school walkouts in Marseille, Lyon and Rouen.

Anger in France erupted after one of the school students, Leonarda Dibrani, 15, was removed from a school bus to be expelled along with her family earlier this month.

They had been living in the eastern region of Doubs for several years.

There is also anger over the removal of Khatchik Kachatryan, a 19-year-old student in Paris who was expelled on Saturday to Armenia after reportedly being arrested.

Protesters have demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who has defended the expulsions and has been carrying out a tough policy towards Roma immigrants in general.

The row has created a crisis within the government of ‘Socialist’ President Francois Hollande.

Outside one school in central Paris, the Lycee Charlemagne, wheelie bins were used to block the entrance. A banner read ‘Jotters not ID papers’.

One schoolgirl, named as Amelie, said: ‘We got organised on Facebook yesterday evening – it was super easy!’

Leonarda and her family have been given a flat and a small allowance in the Kosovo city of Mitrovica, where they have been speaking to French journalists about the shock of being sent to a region where they are strangers, unable to speak Albanian.

A review of the case has been ordered in France, along with an investigation into the police response. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said the family will be allowed to return if ‘any fault is found’ with the expulsion order.

Students protested the eviction of both Kachatryan and Dibrani.

‘Bring back Khatchik and Leonarda, they belong here,’ the marching pupils chanted, holding up signs calling for Valls to resign and urging solidarity.

For her part, Dibrani has spoken out in multiple media interviews from Mitrovica asking to come back to France to continue her schooling.

The anti-refugee demonstrations are organized by the FIDL, a student organisation with links to the governing Socialist Party.