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Serbia, Kosovo Agree on Border Protocol, Kyrgyzstan to Join Free Trade Bloc in 2014

Plus, a new mosque will honor Chechen leader Kadyrov and Russia’s beloved animator Fyodor Khitruk dies, aged 95.

by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Andrew McIntyre, and Nino Tsintsadze 5 December 2012

1. Breakthrough on border crossings marks latest Serbia-Kosovo talks


In their latest meeting, the Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers have agreed to jointly manage crossings at their shared border, even though Belgrade does not recognize it as an international frontier.


Serbia’s Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, met in Brussels 4 December for the third time in six weeks, again with EU foreign policy representative Catherine Ashton as host. Significantly, each side agreed to send a “liaison officer” to the other’s capital. While not diplomats, the liaisons will work out of the EU missions and help with implemented bilateral agreements.


The meeting took place the same day as the Serbian envoy to NATO jumped to his death in a Brussels parking garage.


Four border crossings will be jointly managed. Two will open on 10 December and two more by the new year. The crossings would be staffed by Serbian, Kosovan, and EU police officers.


Ivica Dacic
Dacic said no state symbols will be displayed at the crossings, and no customs duties will be paid on goods intended for the Serbian communities in northern Kosovo. Serbs in the area will not be required to carry Kosovo-issued documents, he said, according to B92.


Before the meeting, hundreds of Kosovo Serbs held a protest at the Jarinje crossing in far northern Kosovo, Bloomberg reports. Following the meeting, Dacic said in a statement the agreements “are not made in the interest of our people, but we are now between a rock and a hard place and if we did not implement it, our EU pathway would not [move beyond] candidate status,” according to B92. 


No motive has been reported for the suicide of Serbia’s NATO envoy Branislav Milinkovic, who leaped to his death from a platform in a parking garage at Brussels airport on the evening of 4 December. He had gone to the airport to greet a Serbian delegation arriving for talks with NATO. Serbia is not a member of the alliance. Milinkovic previously served as Serbia’s envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


2. Kyrgyzstan sets timetable to join Russia-led customs union


Kyrgyzstan will join a Russia-led free-trade bloc in 2014, the country’s economy minister, Temir Sariev, announced 3 December, Radio Free Europe reports.


Created in 2010, the union so far includes Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. The Kremlin has been lobbying for other countries of the former Soviet Union to join, particularly Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, whose economies are closely tied to Russia’s.


In October, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev said his government had decided to join, but Sariev’s statement this week is the first to give a specific time frame for doing so. Sariev told the parliament’s budget committee that a working group would draw up a road map for the country’s entry, RFE reports.


Although there are drawbacks to joining the bloc, including higher tariffs and loss of economic autonomy, Kyrgyz entry makes sense in the long term because Russia plays so large a role in the country’s economy, according to a Stratfor analysis earlier this year. A third of the country’s imports and almost 70 percent of its petroleum come from Russia.


The next country Moscow is likely to court is Tajikistan, which will share a border with the union once Kyrgyzstan joins.


3. Serbian tycoon questioned over privatization deals


Serbian police questioned prominent businessman Miroslav Miskovic 3 December as part of an anti-corruption drive aimed at allaying European Union concerns about murky privatization deals, Reuters reports.


Miroslav Miskovic
Miskovic, 67, said to be one of Serbia’s richest people, controls Delta Holding, a group active in real estate, agriculture, insurance, and other fields, with annual sales in 2010 equivalent to about 9 percent of Serbia’s total economy, according to Bloomberg.


In March the European Parliament called on Serbia to review the privatization and sale of 24 companies after the European Commission voiced serious doubts about the legality of the transactions, Bloomberg writes. News agency B92 reported last week that Monday’s interrogation would focus on a land transaction between Delta Holding’s real-estate company, Delreal, and the Serbian government. Serbian national police chief Milorad Veljovic told B92 that Miskovic will be questioned about his other businesses in future interrogations.


4. Chechnya to honor Kadyrov with giant mosque


A new mosque named after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov will be built in the Chechen town of Shali, RIA Novosti reports.  


The foundation stone for the huge structure, planned to accommodate 10,000 worshippers, was laid at a ceremony 2 December with Chechen and Russian dignitaries present. Designed by Uzbek architects, the mosque is expected to take three years to build.


Thanks to Kadyrov’s efforts, new mosques and madrassas are “going up all the time,” said the head of the council of religious scholars, Khozh-Akhmad Kadyrov, who is reportedly the president’s uncle.


The new mosque will be the second named after a member of the family. Ramzan’s father, the assassinatedformer leader Akhmad, is honored with a huge mosque in Grozny, supposedly the largest in Europe. 

The Grozny mosque named after assassinated Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov.



5. Fyodor Khitruk, Russian ‘Winnie the Pooh’ animator, dead at 95

Fyodor Khitruk
Fyodor Khitruk, a beloved and groundbreaking maker of animated films, died at his home in Moscow 3 December, aged 95.


Khitruk spent half a century at the Soviet studio Soyuzmultfilm, RT writes, although his directing debut, Story of a Crime, was released only in 1962. His directorial output was small – just 15 films – but highly influential, earning him dozens of awards, including a Golden Palm at Cannes in 1974 for The Island.


That film and other “serious” cartoons such as Man in the Frame were notable for techniques like the use of still-photo images. Less adventurous technically, his three adaptations of the Winnie the Pooh stories may live longest in viewers’ memories for their sweet, but not cloying characterizations and spare, evocative backgrounds. Famed Disney animator Woolie Reitherman is said to have told Khitruk, “You know, your Winnie is better than mine.”


Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOLJoshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant. Andrew McIntyre and Nino Tsintsadze are TOL editorial interns.
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