Kosovo Albanians welcome Clinton, Albright 20 years after NATO intervention

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Former US President Bill Clinton applauds during the inauguration of the monument of Madeleine Albright at the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
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Former US President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, walk during the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
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Former US President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, walk during the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2019

Kosovo Albanians welcome Clinton, Albright 20 years after NATO intervention

  • Clinton, 72, and Albright, 82, were greeted like rock stars in the Kosovo capital Pristina where a statue of Albright was unveiled in the city center for the occasion
  • Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade’s repressive grip on the territory

PRISTINA: Thousands of Kosovo Albanians turned out on Wednesday to welcome back former US president Bill Clinton and his ex-top diplomat Madeleine Albright 20 years after they helped engineer the NATO air war that ousted Serbian forces.
Clinton, 72, and Albright, 82, were greeted like rock stars in the Kosovo capital Pristina where a statue of Albright was unveiled in the city center for the occasion, joining one of Clinton erected earlier on a boulevard named after him.
Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade’s repressive grip on the territory following a brutal counter-insurgency campaign by Serbian security forces.
“I love this country and it will always be one of the greatest honors of my life to have stood with you against ethnic cleansing (by Serbian forces) and for freedom,” Clinton told thousands gathered in sweltering heat in downtown Pristina.
Marking the 20th anniversary of NATO peacekeeping troops entering Kosovo after Serbian forces left, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci awarded Clinton and Albright medals of freedom “for the liberty he brought to us and the peace to entire region.”
Clinton and Albright were the most outspoken proponents of NATO intervention to halt killings of Kosovar civilians by Serbian forces as part of Belgrade’s 1998-99 crackdown on a Kosovo Albanian guerrilla uprising.
“I was watching the NATO planes from the window of my apartment in Pristina during the war and I was praying to God and the USA; I had no other hope,” said Gani Kelmendi, 78, as he waited in the crowd for Clinton to appear.
“I remember the moment when in my village the Serb army was getting out and French soldiers were coming in. I could not believe my eyes,” said Fetah Berisha, 67, who considers Clinton Kosovo’s “savior.”
But the end of fighting brought about by NATO’s intervention has not brought true peace to the southern Balkan region.
Belgrade has still not recognized independent Kosovo more than a decade after more than 110 other countries did and, backed by its main ally Russia, is blocking Pristina’s bid for membership of the United Nations.
Tensions rose anew six months ago when Kosovo introduced a 100 percent tax on goods imported from Serbia and warned it would keep them until Belgrade recognized its independence.
The European Union has warned Kosovo and Serbia that they will not advance toward wished-for membership unless they reach an agreement to normalize relations.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.