Thursday, December 20, 2007

The US and EU have said the potential for further negotiations over the future of Kosovo has been exhausted.

UN fails to break Kosovo impasse
Kosovo Serbs' protest
Kosovo Serbs are adamantly opposed to independence
The US and EU have said the potential for further negotiations over the future of Kosovo has been exhausted.

In a statement after talks at the UN Security Council failed to break the impasse, they said the EU would take the lead in implementing a settlement.

Backed by the US and EU members, the Kosovo Albanians are expected to declare independence from Serbia.

Serbia, and its ally in the council, Russia, said that such a move would be illegal and urged further negotiations.

Last week, the EU said it was prepared to send 1,800 police officers and administrators to Kosovo.

Legal dispute looms

Following a closed debate described as tense, in which the Security Council heard from the Serbian prime minister and Kosovo's president, representatives from the US and EU stood together and said the two sides were irreconcilable.

"It's clear in our view that more negotiations in this or any other format will not make a difference," said Belgium's permanent representative, Johan Verbeke.

We are entirely confident that resolution 1244 provides a sufficient legal base to move forward to a final settlement
Sir John Sawers
UK representative to the UN

"We therefore endorse the view of the European Union and US negotiators that the potential for a negotiated solution is now exhausted."

The statement said the EU stood "ready to play a leading role in implementing a settlement defining Kosovo's future status".

In April, UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari put forward a plan offering Kosovo "supervised independence".

Under the proposal, international agencies would gradually steer Kosovo towards full independence and membership of the UN. But they would also prevent it from merging with Albania, or having its Serb areas split off to become part of Serbia.

Both the US and UK representatives said Security Council resolution 1244, which was passed after Nato threw Serbia out of Kosovo in 1999, allowed for the implementation of Mr Ahtisaari's plan.

"We would have preferred to do that through the Security Council, but we are entirely confident that resolution 1244 provides a sufficient legal base to move forward to a final settlement and to establish the necessary authorities needed to achieve that," said the UK's envoy, Sir John Sawers.

'Null and void'

But the joint US-EU statement drew a sharp reaction from Russia.

Its representative at the UN, Vitaly Churkin, insisted there was still "ample ground" for negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina to continue.

Kosovo map

"Any move towards unilateral independence would clearly be outside the limits of international law and outside the limits of resolution 1244," he told reporters after the meeting.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said his country would declare "all unilateral acts of Albanian separatists null and void" - Kosovo would remain and integral and inalienable part of Serbia forever.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan in New York says Western diplomats expect Kosovo to declare its intention to become independent early next year and for the EU to take up the issue once Serbian elections have taken place in February.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Barcelone, Capital of Catalonia. Manifestation "1-D"
December 1, 2007

Hopes Dim for U.N. Solution for Kosovo

Published: December 20, 2007
The New York Times

UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council signaled Wednesday that it would not be able to resolve the status of Kosovo, the breakaway Serbian province, and that a solution would have to come from outside the United Nations.

John Sawers, the British ambassador, emerged from a closed Council meeting to say that what he had heard inside from Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian prime minister, and Fatmir Sejdiu, the president of Kosovo, “underlined just how enormous the gulf is between the two parties.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, said that the two had “irreconcilable differences” and that the time had come to proceed with granting Kosovo the independence it has sought but Serbia has resisted.

“The continuation of the status quo poses not only a threat to peace and stability in Kosovo but also to the region and in Europe,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

Mr. Sawers said the European Union would proceed based on the plan for “supervised independence” with protections for the Serbian minority developed by Martti Ahtisaari, the United Nations envoy, and sent to the Council in March. Serbia and Russia, its ally on the Council, had rejected that plan because it led to independence for Kosovo.

The dispute has pitted the principles of sovereignty and self-determination against each other and produced a stand-off between Serbia, backed vigorously by Russia, and Kosovo, supported by the United States and the European Union.

Massimo D’Alema, the foreign minister of Italy, who presided over Wednesday’s session as this month’s Council president, said the intervention of Russia and the United States had pushed the Serbian government and Kosovo even farther apart.

He said that President Boris Tadic of Serbia had told him, “I can’t let the Russians be more Serbian than me.” And the Kosovars, Mr. D’Alema said, “can’t let themselves appear less Kosovar than President Bush.”

While Mr. D’Alema said Italy backed the European Union plan for Kosovo’s independence, he said “the Americans have underestimated the difficulties of the situation.”

Leaders of Kosovo’s 1.8 million ethnic Albanians have said they will declare their independence only in coordination with the United States and Europe, both of whom have counseled against abrupt action. Mr. D’Alema said he believed that the declaration would be made in March. Kosovo, a province of Serbia with a population that is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when an American-led NATO bombing campaign ended Serbian repression of the Albanian majority.

Serbia, with the strong backing of Russia, says it will never agree to the departure of Kosovo, which it views as a cradle of Serbian nationhood.

Serbia is instead offering a return to the autonomy it had as part of the former Yugoslavia.

Wednesday’s meeting occurred after four months of talks among Belgrade and Pristina and mediators from the United States, Russia and the European Union that were held to satisfy Russian demands for more time. The West contends that the talks produced no movement and Moscow argues that they were substantive and should continue.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Catalonia to Mr. Jacques Barrot Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Transport

Attn: Mr. Jacques Barrot
Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Transport

Dear Mr. Barrot,

In my capacity as a Catalan and European citizen, I feel the need to contact you because at the moment, Catalonia is experiencing an emergency situation. The reason for this letter is to claim JUSTICE, because we are not living on equal terms with other European citizens.

We know that you are aware of the pitiful state of the current Catalan infrastructure. We are living through a genuine railroad nightmare, due to the works on the High Speed Train entry into Barcelona which, what is more, is several years overdue. Nevertheless, our tragedy is heightened by the daily collapse of the commuter railway service, the Prat airport, our roads and motorways and the main entrance and exit points in the city of Barcelona . Neither should we forget the precarious and alarming situation of the Catalan health and education systems, which is directly affecting our state of health and our future as a society.

This situation, just as your co-operator, Mr. Étienne Davignon (European co-ordinator for the high speed railway interconnection between Spain and France ) has acknowledged publicly, has arisen because over the last few decades the various Spanish governments (both PSOE and PP) have failed to invest sufficiently in Catalonia .Or to put it more clearly, we can emphatically confirm that the Spanish State treats Catalonia on purely colonial terms, which completely contradicts the democratic principles that should govern the European Union. One need only look at the tax deficit between Catalonia and the central Spanish government, which has been calculated by respected Catalan economists, and which in 2005 (last available figures) was 19,177 million Euros, and the tax deficit accumulated between 1986 and 2005 that totals 191,000 million euros (according to the value of the Euro in 2005).

This painful situation has reached a climax that is already directly affecting the economic development and physical and psychological wellbeing of certain European citizens, namely the Catalans. Naturally, we are explaining our sorrowful situation to you because we are affected by it every day. However, please take into consideration that we are also talking on behalf of future Catalan (and consequently, European) generations who, if this general collapse continues, will see their future jeopardised. Naturally, we are referring to our own children. And, it is only common sense to see that, faced with this situation, we can only guarantee a collective, prosperous future through an independent Catalonia that is linked directly to Europe. We are firmly convinced of this, and that is the orientation we will give to our politics from now onwards.

Naturally, we are addressing you, Mr. Barrot, because you are also in a position to serve and help us, and because we want to believe that the European institutions really do defend citizen interests. But, essentially, we are addressing you because our governors have failed us and are continuing to fail us spectacularly. The Catalan political leaders who should stand up to anyone or anything to guarantee our most basic rights, are only interested today in attending to their personal or party needs, and at every election, this causes further distancing in the form of increased electoral absentees. That is why, in our capacity as fully fledged members of the European Union, we demand that you, the Head of EU transport, apply the following:

1.- That you use all the mechanisms in your power to put an end to the disastrous situation that we have described, beginning with the catastrophe of the commuter railway service in the city of Barcelona that is affecting thousands of Catalans every day, and the delay in implementing the High Speed Train works and the link with France.

2.- That you call upon the government in Madrid so that once and for all they publish all the tax balances between the various “autonomous communities” in the Spanish State (the Spanish government actually approved this publication in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2005, but no Spanish government has been dignified enough to carry it through). By publishing these balances and increasing the transparency regarding this issue, we will be able to prove that the Catalans are being treated shamefully and in a discriminatory manner with respect to the amount of investment the Spanish government assigns to Catalonia .

We look forward to hearing from you, and remain,

Yours faithfully,

Person's name Person's family name(s)
National Identity Document No.

Transport chaos fuels Catalan nationalism

Transport chaos fuels Catalan nationalism

BALTIMORE SUN - associated Press
- December 2, 2007

"The way the proud people of Catalonia see it, their semiautonomous region...political victory when Spain granted Catalonia more autonomy and extra power over...average was $245 per person, while Catalonia received $202. Of course, many..."

BARCELONA, Spain - The way the proud people of Catalonia see it, their semiautonomous region is an economic and industrial juggernaut that stands out from the rest of Spain.

But recently, their capital, Barcelona, has been mired in Murphy's law chaos: Just about everything that can break down has.

Oddly enough, one result is an enhanced feeling of Catalan nationalism - the idea being that if Catalans had more say in running their own affairs, such as rail networks and airports, they'd do a better job than Spain's central government.

Only a year ago, the region scored a historic political victory when Spain granted Catalonia more autonomy and extra power over tax collection and judicial matters, among others. It also gave them more control over infrastructure, but not carte blanche.

"Yes, we are angry. We feel we had this deal to control our own infrastructure, but nothing has really changed. If anything, it has got worse," said Jose Luis Garcia, a 43-year-old business executive.

The Barcelona commuter rail system - controlled by the central government - has all but ground to a halt because of problems with engineering work on a long-delayed, high-speed rail link between Madrid and Barcelona.

Up to 160,000 people are using alternate transport such as buses, and taking hours to get to work and back. One of three stalled lines is back to working at least partially, but the mess was expected to last for some time.

In July, 350,000 people in the city were left without power for three days after a major power cut. Restaurants had to serve cold food and people were reduced to using gaslights.

And Barcelona, one of Europe's top tourist destinations, was all but cut off at the height of the summer season when airport baggage handlers staged a strike, leaving thousands of holiday-makers stranded for hours.

Office manager Nuria Vidal, 37, says it's time for Catalonians to take a firmer grasp of their own affairs.

"It is an embarrassment for us that this cannot be managed better," Vidal said. "It is a breakdown in the management of infrastructures by the Spanish and Catalan governments. More people are feeling that it is time things which affect us were run locally."

The robust Catalan work ethic has made the region one of the richest in Spain, but a common complaint from Catalans is that a lack of investment by the central government has led to a collapse of local infrastructure.

A report by a Catalan business group, Development of the National Labor, said government statistics show public investment in the region was 17 percent below that of the average from 1991 to 2006. The average was $245 per person, while Catalonia received $202.

Of course, many on the Spanish right, outside Catalonia, say this region receives less because it is richer than poorer regions like Andalusia, which received $218 per person during the period. The northeastern region of 6 million people churns out 20 percent of Spain's economic production.

But the sense of injustice in Catalonia remains strong.

"People have the feeling that, historically, we have been forgotten," said Joan Subirats, head of politics and public administration at Barcelona's Autonomous University.

"Yes, Barcelona has had the Olympics, which did a lot for the city, but to have to wait six years for a high-speed train, which came to Seville in 1992, says it all," Subirats said.

"The effect is, many more people regard themselves now as Catalans than Spaniards. It has increased the sense of nationalism here," he added.

Problems with the bullet train are politically damaging for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who faces a general election in March.

He had promised voters before the last election in 2004 that a high-speed line to Barcelona would open in 2007, but officials say this is impossible and that early 2008 is the new target.

Zapatero was forced to concede in parliament that the government had failed to deliver on the rail issue, but he rejected loud and widespread calls to sack embattled Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez.


Barcelone la fière se lézarde

Barcelone la fière se lézarde

LE MONDE | 01.12.07 | 13h35

- BARCELONE ENVOYEE SPECIALE,1-0,36-984774,0.html

Ee premier effondrement s'est produit début octobre. Ce jour-là, à Bellvitge, dans la banlieue sud de Barcelone, le bas-côté de la voie de chemin de fer s'est brusquement affaissé, miné par les travaux voisins de la ligne à grande vitesse qui reliera prochainement Madrid et Barcelone. Dans les jours qui ont suivi, une vingtaine d'autres petits gouffres se sont creusés sous les rails des trains du sud de la capitale catalane. La paroi d'un tunnel a même menacé de s'effondrer sur la voie. Le temps de réparer les dégâts et de consolider le sol, le trafic de trois lignes de la banlieue de Barcelone a finalement dû être suspendu six semaines.

Des dizaines de milliers de voyageurs ont été privés de trains et soumis à d'épuisantes pérégrinations pour se rendre à leur travail. Les entreprises ont dû faire face aux retards de leurs salariés. Les routes ont été saturées. Depuis plusieurs semaines, face au chaos, Barcelone la moderne, la dynamique, l'avant-gardiste, se découvre percluse et corsetée, en manque d'infrastructures, quand Madrid se développe à grand renfort d'autoroutes, de TGV et d'un terminal aéroportuaire flambant neuf.

Ces effondrements de terrain en série ont accentué la fracture entre la Catalogne et Madrid. Furieux, les Catalans ont le sentiment de payer des années de négligence de la part du gouvernement central. Ils estiment avoir largement contribué, par la redistribution fiscale, au développement d'autres régions d'Espagne et, en retour, ils se sentent pénalisés par des équipements de transports sous-dimensionnés, obsolètes et onéreux pour les usagers.

Le constat est partagé par la droite et la gauche, les nationalistes et les non-nationalistes. "Ces dix dernières années, résume Joan Rosell, président de Foment del Treball Nacional, l'organisation patronale catalane, pour un apport d'au moins 18,8 % du PIB espagnol (chiffre actuel), la Catalogne n'a reçu que 13,5 % des investissements publics, nettement moins que Madrid par habitant. Chaque année, un quart des investissements prévus n'est pas exécuté. Les besoins sont d'autant plus grands qu'en sept ans, la population est passée de 6,2 à 7,2 millions de personnes." Le "ministre" de l'équipement du gouvernement catalan, le socialiste Joaquim Nadal, fait chorus. "Nous payons trente ans de sous-investissement. Depuis longtemps, aucune infrastructure importante n'a été menée à bien en Catalogne. On a fait des tronçons de routes ou de chemins de fer, mais rien de complet. Or le nombre des usagers des trains de banlieue, par exemple, a augmenté de 50 % en dix ans."

A vrai dire, l'exaspération des Barcelonais avait déjà pris naissance cet été, lorsqu'une incroyable série de défaillances dans les équipements collectifs avait semé le chaos pendant plusieurs semaines. Alors que les travaux de la voie à grande vitesse perturbaient déjà les trains de banlieue, le 23 juillet, une panne d'électricité géante avait privé de courant 350 000 habitants pendant plusieurs heures. Début août, les autoroutes s'étaient engorgées au point que le gouvernement régional avait dû lever les barrières de péage pour débloquer la situation. Finalement, l'aéroport avait à son tour été saturé et les voyageurs contraints à des heures d'attente.

Pour tenter d'apaiser la crise qui frappe l'un des principaux "réservoirs" d'électeurs socialistes, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero avait promis des investissements supplémentaires pour l'extension de l'aéroport et pour le port, et il s'était engagé à ce que la ligne de train à grande vitesse, dont la réalisation traîne depuis douze ans, soit inaugurée le 21 décembre. Les affaissements de terrains de cet automne feront probablement mentir le président du gouvernement, car les travaux conduits ces derniers temps à marche forcée ont été ralentis pour permettre la réparation des lignes de banlieue.

"Le paradoxe, relève Joaquim Nadal, c'est que cette crise intervient à un moment ou les engagements de l'Etat en Catalogne n'ont jamais été aussi importants : 30 milliards d'euros pour les sept prochaines années." Les investissements budgétés cette année ont augmenté et l'Etat s'est engagé à investir à l'avenir au moins à hauteur de l'apport catalan au PIB espagnol, soit 18,8 %. Le nouveau terminal de l'aéroport devrait ainsi entrer en service d'ici à 2009.

Les Catalans trouvent dans cette crise des motifs pour instruire le procès du "centralisme" espagnol. Là où un regard français croit voir un modèle de décentralisation, ils perçoivent un pouvoir central qui ne cède pas un pouce de ses prérogatives en matière fiscale - à l'exception du Pays basque et de la Navarre, les régions ne lèvent pas l'impôt - et d'infrastructures, que ce soit par l'investissement ou la gestion : ni les aéroports ni les chemins de fer - pas même ceux de banlieue - ne sont confiés aux régions. "Nous avons un problème avec la technostructure de l'Etat, résume Joan Rosell. Tout ce que nous demandons, c'est une gestion professionnelle et autonome des grands équipements, faite d'ici."


Les nationalistes vont plus loin. Parmi eux, l'économiste Ramon Tremosa, spécialiste des relations économiques entre la Catalogne et le reste de l'Espagne, assure que, "avec les régions autonomes, le centralisme espagnol s'est renforcé et modernisé. Des investissements massifs de l'Etat visent à organiser l'Espagne autour de Madrid. C'est le cas des lignes de trains à grande vitesse distribuées en étoile à partir de Madrid ou encore de l'agrandissement colossal de l'aéroport de Barajas, qui attire les entreprises internationales au détriment de Barcelone." Pour mesurer l'ampleur de leur contribution nette au financement des autres régions, les Catalans demandent que les chiffres soient rendus publics par l'Etat. En vain : ces "balances fiscales" sont l'un des secrets les mieux gardés d'Espagne. "Ils ne les donnent pas parce que cela nourrirait l'indépendantisme", dit M. Tremosa.

Cette crise "ferroviaire" intervient après que l'élaboration, dans la douleur, du nouveau statut de la Catalogne, eut ravivé les préjugés et les tensions entre Madrid et Barcelone. Ce débat plein d'acrimonie avait laissé indifférents une bonne partie des Catalans, comme l'a prouvé l'abstention record lors du référendum qui a sanctionné son adoption. En revanche, la "galère" des trains de banlieue les a frappés dans leur quotidien. "S'il y avait un référendum, les indépendantistes ne seraient pas majoritaires, mais ils seraient plus nombreux qu'avant, résume Jordi Pujol, chef nationaliste qui a présidé le gouvernement catalan pendant vingt-trois ans. Ces dernières années, le discours espagnol a été agressif et négatif par rapport à la Catalogne. On a franchi les limites de la considération à laquelle la Catalogne a droit. Cela peut déclencher des réactions d'éloignement."

Le socialiste Joaquim Nadal veut croire qu'à moyen terme la crise ne laissera pas de séquelles. "La Catalogne, explique-t-il, a été défavorisée pendant trente ans, car le gouvernement central avait d'autres priorités : équiper les régions les plus défavorisées, comme l'Andalousie. Depuis, l'Espagne s'est rééquilibrée, en équipements comme en niveau de vie. Il serait plus grave qu'à partir de maintenant on continue de priver la Catalogne de sa capacité de développement."

Cécile Chambraud

Article paru dans l'édition du 02.12.07.

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