Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Joined: 27 Sep 2005
|Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2008 8:49 pm Post subject: Kosovo and Macedonia: Strategic Wars for Natural Resources?
Kosovo and Macedonia: Strategic Wars for Natural Resources?
By Christopher Deliso
Are the intractable conflicts of the West Balkans merely, as is often said, reducible simply to the alleged inabilities of different ethnic groups to get along, or are they driven by other factors as well?
In 2001, George Monbiot argued that the Kosovo war had been sparked by a desire to tame all the wild places of the Balkans in order to secure the route for the “trans-Balkan pipeline,” or AMBO. He cited the following:
“…on 9th December 1998, the Albanian president attended a meeting about the scheme in Sofia, and linked it inextricably to Kosovo. ‘It is my personal opinion,’ he noted, ‘that no solution confined within Serbian borders will bring lasting peace.’ The message could scarcely have been blunter: if you want Albanian consent for the Trans-Balkan Pipeline, you had better wrest Kosovo out of the hands of the Serbs.”
Actually, if there was such a conspiracy, it probably worked the other way: if you want us to bomb the Serbs, you’d better support the pipeline. Albania is not and never was in a position to make such threats as Monbiot would have it doing.
That said, he and others have probably gotten it wrong when they argued that the wars in Macedonia and Kosovo were fought for securing the (oil) realm. This is because there has simply been no progress on that front. Why?
First of all, there is no single, dominant American governmental/oil juggernaut, at least not in this region, and no one has gone full steam ahead on the project. If there were, the AMBO pipeline would have been financed a decade ago. The truth is, as I’ve repeatedly argued (some links here), the industry had other priorities at various times, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, completed only this year at a cost of around $3 billion. More recently, the war in Iraq and increased focus on the Middle East have only further ebbed away at international interest in the Balkans. Second of all, by supporting armed secessionists in wars that any clear-headed person could foresee as having a destabilizing influence on the region, the US acted contrary to any supposed “war for oil stability” motive.
Kosovo: Nickel, Coal and Unsolved Dilemmas
Yet while there’s no oil in Kosovo, as Robin Cook snidely put it once, the province has other sub-surface riches, ones which are far easier to extract and transport. The recent rushed privatization of a nickel mine in Kosovo drove home the high stakes at work in the region’s worst remaining conflict zone. At the end of October, the Kosovo Trust Agency sold the Feronikeli plant in central Kosovo for $40 million to Alferon/IMR, part of Eurasian Natural Resources Group, “which is among the world's largest private mining and metals groups,” according to the AP.
The news agency adds that the plant “…was badly damaged during NATO bombing of Serb forces in the disputed province in 1999…the privatization of Feronikeli is the most important sell-off of socially owned enterprises, a term used for enterprises owned by the workers and managers under a system set up under communist-era Yugoslavia.”
Of course, the Serbian government opposed the deal, claiming that Kosovo should remain a part of Serbia and therefore that Belgrade should be consulted before any such deals can be conducted. After all, despite Albanian demands for independence, Belgrade is still footing the bill for Kosovo’s international debt to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The bill amounts to a total of $1.4 billion, reports B-92, “and Serbia puts aside 250 million dollars every year in order to pay these debts back.”
The Serbian news agency adds that resource claims – and not ethnic or historical - will be the major motivating factor in the upcoming negotiations over Kosovo’s future status. The chief example is Trepca, the dilapidated mine in Serb-inhabited northern Kosovo with its “...reserve of seventeen billion tons of coal, which is enough to sustain the region for the next two hundred years.”
So far, the UN-administered Kosovar government has fairly well ignored Belgrade’s concerns. According to B-92, it’s already sold off 120 of the province’s 540 “active companies.” However, until the Albanians can wrest hold of northern Kosovo, Trepca will elude their grasp- and perhaps that of deep-pocketed Western vultures like the Eurasian Natural Resources Group.
The Director of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Slobodan Milosavljevic, told B-92 that Serbian economic interests of Serbia require safeguarding and that worldwide chambers of commerce must be advised to warn their companies against participating in Kosovo privatization deals, so long as the province’s status remains undetermined.
At the same time, local economic analyst Milivoje Mihajlovic stated that the Serbian Government has a “serious argument” in the negotiations, a strong card to play, regarding the volatile issue of property rights. “That is what the Albanians are afraid of, stated Mihajlovic, “because they have no rights of ownership.” The Albanians, of course, beg to differ.
On 18 October, it was revealed that 4 international heavyweights are interested in building a necessary new power plant in Kosovo: AES-General Electronics, Siemens, Rusall, and Basic Element. The UN-controlled province has since 1999 failed to rebuild damaged or dilapidated energy grids, or squandered electricity through corrupt dealings, meaning that this former exporter of electricity remains an energy invalid- one of the reasons for local frustration with the UNMIK administration.
The question of northern Kosovo is especially significant to the rich multinationals and to the Albanians and Serbian government. If Kosovo becomes independent, but the Serbian north autonomous, the Albanians will most likely be deprived of the cash windfall (or at least primary control of Trepca) deriving from the area’s natural resources. The same would happen were Kosovo to remain, as Belgrade demands, a part of Serbia. And if Kosovo becomes independent with no autonomy for the north, the Serbs will lose out.
For Kosovo’s southern neighbor, at least, that would be the safer option. Macedonia’s fate is inextricably tied up with the future of Kosovo, as politicians and commentators from the Albanian minority in the former country have reiterated that any division of Kosovo would give them precedent to divide Macedonia. Were they to do this, what would it mean from the point of view of natural resources?
Macedonia: Water Wars?
Was Macedonia’s civil war of 2001 provoked merely by the stated desire of the Albanian insurgents for more civil rights, or for their alleged desire to hack off the western part of that country? Was it merely a matter of ethnic hatreds, or were other strategic interests involved?
A few years ago, Sam Vaknin painted a general picture of the emerging water crisis around the world and how future conflicts might be at least surreptitiously shaped by rich nations’ common need to acquire and control water supply as lakes and rivers dry up or become salinated. In this context, the Macedonian conflict takes on new dimensions.
The evidence is striking. The country’s largest river, the Vardar, begins in the west of the country, near Albanian-majority Gostivar, before it snakes eastwards and then south through Skopje, Veles and on to Greece. Macedonia’s major snowfall accumulation also occurs primarily in the west, in the spine of mountains that also serve as the border (at least on paper) with Albania, in turn feeding local rivers and streams.
The country’s most important lakes and waterways exist in its lush western half. Mavrovo and Debar are the two most important lakes one finds before reaching the enormous, 3-million year old Lake Ohrid, which is connected to the latter by the River Crn Drim that flows out of the lake from Struga and northwards. North of Struga, the Macedonian village of Vevchani has important springs that a future hydro project might well tap. And there are other smaller rivers and lakes in the west. And all of these significant bodies of water have sizeable Albanian populations either directly nearby or in close proximity.
But nothing is simple here. Lake Ohrid is shared with Albania itself. And the steadily receding Great Prespa Lake is again unfortunately shared with both Albania and Greece. Even in the best case scenario, even if Macedonia can hold on to its sovereignty and territory, its ability to control water resources, environmental standards, endangered fish, etc., have already been compromised.
By contrast, the agriculture-focused central and southern plains, inhabited almost entirely by Macedonians, face chronic drought situations each summer. Water rationing is the norm in towns like Negotino during the hot summer months. In the dry southeast, little Lake Dojran, the third lake that Macedonia is forced to share with a neighboring state, has had to be continually refilled due to large-scale theft of the water for irrigation by Greek farmers on the other side of the lake.
The situation for Macedonia’s major population center, Skopje, is potentially precarious. On the western side of the city, the River Treska and impressive Matka Canyon also run through Albanian-majority territory. Several lakes north of the city, on the Skopska Crna Gora mountainside, are under the same ownership.
An early test of Vaknin’s theory came in 2001, when Albanian paramilitaries turned off the water supply for one month to the city of Kumanovo by blocking the flow from one of these lakes, Lipkovo, near the Serbian border. In the sweltering summer heat, homes and hospitals went without water, which led to sanitary problems and suffering, especially for infants and the elderly.
Four years later, the water wars tactic were employed again by armed Albanians. But this time it was used on the other side of Skopje. A shadowy local militant group threatened to bomb the Rasce water pipeline, which supplies the capital with water, if the referendum on territorial decentralization was passed.
In a typically Balkan bout of black irony, almost one year ago, Macedonia’s entire water resources were turned over to Sadula Duraku - the very man who had masterminded the 2001 water shut-off in Lipkovo. Duraku was nominated to be the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy by the jury-rigged coalition government of SDSM-DUI. It seems likely that his appointment was made at least partially because Duraku could, through his ethnicity and party affiliation, exercise some degree of control over future water mischief-makers as had emerged a month earlier in Rasce.
It also seems likely that Macedonia’s “frozen conflict” will have to thaw out someday, with control of the ensuing flow being an item of top importance for the enemy sides. The stakes will be high, not only for Macedonia’s inhabitants but for international investors from high-water usage industries, who will be eager to be on the winning side.
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.
|Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 3:28 pm Post subject:
Just finished Wayne Madsen's "The Star and the Sword".
Of all the dirty sh-t in the book, Macedonia President Boris Trajkovski's plane crash sounds like Wellstone, Connell, John Jr.
A King Air 200 on 2.26.04, 9 people dead, NATO troops the 1st on the crash scene, Macedonia objects to NATO and US investigating the crash, 60 days later a pro-US guy's installed as President, and today N. Macedonia is a NATO member.
A private investigation company has "death threats if he went to the Balkans to conduct his probe" and visits from Israeli art-student sellers.
2010 US State Dept issues an in-depth report on these Israeli kiosk vendors across America, embassy in Tel Aviv recommends ban on Visas for any Israeli having just completed military service. This comes from the "tranche of cables exposed by Wikileaks".
I've always suspected Israeli gangsters of Assange's persecution - US Intelligence is dominated by bureaucrats, Israeli Intelligence are gangsters with the gangster ethic.
Alfred Mendes writes:
1996: The Trade & Development Agency (TDA - now known as the USTDA) was given the task of overseeing the South Balkan Development Initiative (SBDI) of 1996 - as a result of which, TDA gave the Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation (AMBO) the exclusive right to run the Corridor 8 pipeline, a 900 kilometre trans-Balkan pipeline from Burgas - via Skopje in Macedonia - to the Albanian port of Vlore on the Adriatic Sea. In the words of the Director of TDA, J. Joseph Grandmaison, this project was “..a significant step forward for this policy and for US business interests in the Caspian region”. The feasibility study for this pipeline project was contracted out - by the TDA - to the prestigious oil/construction company Brown & Root (the CEO of whose parent company, Halliburton, had been Dick Cheney - now Vice-President under Bush jnr.) Now - in 2009 -the project is still not completed!
December 1996: IFOR was augmented by the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) of 30.000 troops. The cease-fire could now be ensured by this display of military might.
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."