Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ohrid Conference Day 3: Lectures and Free Time

Those of you who really know me, know that I can’t sleep without an eye mask (for those of you who don’t really know me, start at the beginning again).  This all started back in 9th grade I think when someone gave me one for Christmas (Shawna!) and I tried it out. It seriously increases my ability to sleep well and wake more rested. I will even use it after a hurricane with no power around for 100 miles. J But anyway, the sun was killer in this hotel room and I woke up by about 8:30 am. Breakfast was a repeat of the day before, but people came down at a later time than yesterday. I guess a lot of people stayed out until 3 am!

We started at 11:30 (can you picture a US conference starting at 11:30? We are killers for time and early starts!) with a lecture by Dr. Mersel Biliali on “Challenges of Western Balkans with the European Countries.” His talk was pretty interesting, even if he did just read from a paper he had written (heck I would too if I had to give a speech in another language!). His main argument was that the current social problems in vital areas come from a history that is not forgotten. The EU helped with the solutions to the Balkan Wars, but they did so by funding solutions (such as supporting the states) that were dedicated to concrete solutions to improve infrastructure.  He then went on to list the main problems that countries of the Western Balkans have:

Serbia: The main problem is Kosovo. He claims that while “it is difficult to accept a new reality,” they really need to. They also have problems with BiH as a state. In addition to problems with Croatia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH): The stagnation of the economy is the main problem. Aid is necessary to continue institutional efficiency. They need to review the Dayton Agreement.

Kosovo: Obviously the issue with Serbia, but after that there is North Mitrovica which is seeking succession from Kosovo. There is a cautious neighborhood policy with Kosovo from the EU because it is seeking candidate status. He suggests that KFOR stay there, because conflict is possible. Citizens of Kosovo have problems with their travel documents as well, especially into Serbia.

Macedonia: They withdrew from the integration based politics recently, and the current government is undermining their chances to get into the EU. The railroad, highways, and pipelines have been lost due to the dispute with Greece/EU.

He believes that NATO should be present in the area to ease the possibility of outbreak of conflict; yet their forces should decrease as the region gets closer to joining the EU. He believes that the name inssue with Greece and Macedonia is the government’s slight of hand. When they get you focused on this, you are not focused on the horrible economy that MK currently has. (It made me think of the Russo-Japanese War, which in case you didn’t know backfired against Russia which was trying to use it as a distraction.) One of the best quotes was “If Europe isn’t brought to the Balkans, the Balkans will be brought to Europe.” He did follow the “party line” (by party I mean most scholars) that any changing of the borders will destabilize the whole region. I disagree with this sentiment, but do agree with the idea that if everyone has their own nation, then ethnic conflict will be more prevalent.

After a walk and lunch, we were transported to Ohrid for some site seeing. Daniel, Vlado (new guy we met on the way down who is pretty dang cool, if I do say so myself), and I went up to see the churches and fortress that we always see when we go to Ohrid. After walking around and taking in the beauty, we stopped for “coffee” and a view.

cherry blossoms?

Then we went back to the conference for the last lecture of the day. This one was by Dr. Zoran Ilievski about “Turkey: EU Member Candidate or Competitor? “ He was by far the most interesting talk. He Discussed how political mythology is based on images, such as this one:

What does it imply? We did about three or four of these before he moved into his discussion. (Google Turkey and EU and go to images to see the others we used.) He described the Turkish Foreign policy:
1.      A balance of security and freedom [like all countries]
2.      Zero problems with their neighbors. (This is more of a goal than reality right now).
3.      Proactive engagement policies in surrounding regions, with high-level political dialogue with a vision oriented foreign policy.
4.      Economic independence (but they are missing an economic diplomacy wing)
5.      Multicultural coexistence in Middle East, Balkans and the Caucus.
6.      Common understanding of security, balanced and systematic relations with global powers. (the idea that security for one is loss for another, this is in response to that idea)

Is a “Turkey Schengen” region out of the question? Could they create an economic union with the surrounding states for a market or people?  Despite that idea, the rhetoric is harming mediation powers because the west I afraid of recognizing Turkey. In 2010, a Gallup Poll found that MK is the only non-Muslim country in the Balkans to support Turkey with a majority of support.

After his lecture, we had dinner followed by clubbing! Instead of clubbing, I went to meet with Emilija for a drink at the Irish Pub. It was nice to meet and talk with her, since we only get together when I get down to Ohrid. We had a great time talking with each other over a drink. But then we were both exhausted, so we just went home. She was nice enough to drive me back to the hotel center so I didn’t have to take a cab. Then sleep, precious precious sleep.

See you around the globe!

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