Monday, October 20, 2008

The economic crisis in developing economies

The financial crisis is not restricted to the US and the EU. Developing economies suffer even more as they are often dependent on foreign finance. The NY Times notes that the Ukraine has asked the IMF for 14 billion US$ while Hungary just got 5 billion euro from the European central bank.

The Balkan will not be spared either. Business Week this week published a list of 10 countries in the danger zone. Among them are Serbia and Romania.

Reuters has some economic facts about the Serbian economy. The current account deficit is 18 percent (IMF advice: les than 10%). Foreign investment is artificially keeping the exchange rate high so that there is much more import than export. But of course this is borrowed money that one must be paid back. The Ukraine is already suffering from the hangover of foreign-investment led growth. Serbia may well follow if it doesn't take measures to decrease its trade deficit.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

HLC: 13500 deaths in Kosovo in period 1998-2000

The Humanitarian Law Center has published a list of victims of the Kosovo conflict between januari 1998 and december 2000. According to B92 they have so far registered 13,472 victims — 9,260 Albanians and 2,488 Serbs. I have to refer to B92 for these data because the data on the HLC website are very concise. HLC will publish their complete data in januari 2009.

Excavations after the war brought about 3000 bodies and about 2000 more are reported missing by the Red Cross. Admiitedly that is for the war only while the HLC list spans a 3 year period and it is not yet clear how many of them were killed in the war. But it stills brings us thousands of names of people whose family for some reason didn't bother to report their death of disappearance. This raises important questions about the reliability of the Red Cross missing list. It raises also the question how complete the HLC list is: even in 2007 they added 3193 names. And what kind of methods do they use to find so many new names?

Postscript 2: I encountered an article on the Slobodan Milosevic website that claims that most victims were killed by NATO or the KLA.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

US State Department hires - but whom?

Two months ago I wrote about America's lack of diplomats. The article I referred to must have been tipped by the State Department because since then the State Department has decided to hire 1100 new diplomats.

The question is whether the people that it hires will be the right people. Foreign Policy had an article by Andrew Curry about the hiring process at the State Department. He decided to to the test for the first step in the hiring process. He came away pessimistic. It looks like the State Department cares more that you can manage the embassy cook than that you know something about international relations.

Here is another article about the hiring by the State Department. This one has much attention to how the work is organised and paid.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ahtisaari wins the Nobel prize

Ahtisaari won the Nobel prize. I have written previously about him and I won't repeat that. Here is a good article about his "result-oriented" style of negotiating.

I think that this result-oriented style has been his undoing in Kosovo. His main strength is that he is well-connected in international diplomacy and is in a position to assure himself of support from the main powers in the world. But this diplomatic orientation has a price in that those powers may pose their own demands. In the case of Namibia and Atjeh this didn't provide problems as those countries weren't very interested in the subject. In the case of Kosovo because of the Kosovo War some countries were more or less parties in the conflict and as consequence very partial pro-Albanian.

In previous conflicts Ahtisaari had had a very open style of negotiation. "nothing is decided until everything is decided" was one of his slogans to discourage the parties from claiming partial victories in the negotiations. This flexibility was absent in his Kosovo negotiations where he immediately went to Belgrade to tell Serbia that it wouldn't get control back over Kosovo and could only negotiate about minority rights for Kosovo's Serbs.

It looks like in Kosovo Ahtisaari had become somewhat lazy after his earlier diplomatic successes. I saw him in a meeting answering questions and I got the strong impression that he had never really studied the position of Kosovo's Serbs. His proposals for autonomy totally ignored the specific problem of refugees who hadn't been able to return for many years and the continuing unsafety.