February 03rd 2013 05:43:00 PM
******UPDATE: See Bolded Addition in Schwartz Section******
Liz M. recently circulated an item which mentioned in passing, and without explanation, that Madeleine Albright’s company had dropped out of the upcoming bidding for Kosovo’s telecommunications company:
Kosovo delays state telecom sale for third time (Reuters, Jan, 24)
Kosovo has postponed for a third time the bid deadline for its state telecoms company until March 14, saying that interested buyers need more time to gather funding.
A previous attempt to sell the Balkan country’s most profitable company collapsed in 2011 after corruption charges were filed against a number of senior company officials.
The saga has clouded Kosovo’s efforts to attract foreign investors, who are often put off by its reputation for deep-rooted organised crime. [Note the casual reference. And readers are supposed to just move on to the next paragraph, as if “Oh, yeah, who doesn’t know that?” As if the media have made no secret of it.]
The previous deadline was the end of January.
Government officials say that interested bidders are looking for financial backing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, of which Kosovo became a member in December.
Kosovo’s Post and Telecom (PTK) has more than 1 million mobile subscribers and 100,000 landline customers. It also provides internet and cable TV services. The government is offering to sell 75 percent, not including the postal arm of the company.
He also confirmed that Albright Capital Management in cooperation with Portugal Telecom had dropped out.
According to its website, ACM is chaired by Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. Secretary of State and a key figure in the 1998-99 Kosovo war that saw NATO air power used to help halt the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians by Serb forces. […]
Liz wondered, “What happened that the witch ‘dropped out’?”
The Czechs happened. Specifically Czech Friends of Serbs in Kosovo. At least that is my strong suspicion.
Let’s think about it. And about the timing. If, this past fall — just three months ago — there had been no incident created at the Albright book-signing in Prague, her animosity toward Serbs wouldn’t have flared and been on display — including on VIDEO display. A video that was subsequently picked up and reported on (how ’bout that) in the country where she was secretary of state and in whose name she waged war on those Serbs: the U.S.
So a book-signing in a foreign country that otherwise would have passed into oblivion, instead got the attention of English-language media from Pakistan to London and Washington, including The Examiner and The Atlantic, in turn bringing more attention to the incident. And making the possibility just a bit glaring that Albright’s war against Serbs could be connected to her hatred of them.
Having thus reminded the media of her existence, and thereby of the war she is associated with, Albright was momentarily back on the map — at a time uncomfortably close to the scheduled telecom bidding. It was all too much, too soon, and it would look too obvious — because for the first time, people were looking.
(God forbid some eyebrows should have been raised just over Albright not being fazed by the corruption eruptions, investigations and even deaths that plagued the privatization process of the telecom company.)
Then again, my theory could be wishful thinking. Wishful thinking that her exposed hatred of Serbs had anything at all to do with Albright’s company dropping out. After all, when has cause ever led to effect for Western dignitaries vis-a-vis the Balkans? Another explanation revealed itself in the following part of an article by America’s foremost shill for Albanian and Bosnian Muslims, a former Jew whose struggle becomes more desperate every year to make America’s Balkan thread make sense:
“Privatizing” Kosovo: The Madeleine Albright Way (By Stephen Schwartz, Dec. 26)
…Albright and others have commenced new efforts at involvement in Kosovo that left local people concerned about the intentions of their benefactors of more than a decade past. In The New York Times on December 12, Matthew Brunwasser wrote under a page-one headline, “That Crush at Kosovo’s Business Door? The Return of U.S. Heroes.” The Times account described Albright and James W. Pardew, a special envoy sent to the Balkans by President Bill Clinton, offering competing bids for privatization of the Kosovo state postal and telecommunications agency, known as PTK (from its Albanian and Serbian initials).
General Wesley Clark, chairman of Envidity, a Canadian firm interested in Kosovo’s coal mines and potential for synthetic fuel production, has also gone to Kosovo in search of financial advantage. But Albright’s involvement has given her the highest profile in the discussion of Kosovo’s economic future. According to the Times, “Albright Capital Management, founded by Ms. Albright, has been shortlisted in the bidding for a 75 % share in… PTK.” The Times estimates the probable payout to Kosovo political leaders for PTK, if a deal is consummated, at “between $400 million and $800 million.” Officials of another Albright entity, Albright Stonebridge Group, have a minor share in PTK’s only competitor, the private company IPKO, based in Slovenia. Times correspondent Brunwasser wrote that the situation could “threaten… market competition if Ms. Albright’s consortium wins the bid” for PTK.”
…Some observers have advocated “voucher” privatization, through which shares in government-controlled companies are distributed to all the citizens of a country, either free or at a low cost. “Voucher” privatization succeeded most notably in the Czech Republic.
Kosovo is among the poorest countries in Europe, with the growth of its economy hampered by the failure of the “supervising” international authorities, with titles like the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). [Notice he doesn’t ponder why a law-and-order mission would inevitably fail in Kosovo, but simply lays all the blame where it’s safe to do so.]…They have interfered with media, elections, [unlike the Kosovo politicians rigging those two things, thereby causing the internationals’ “interference”?] and border relations with Serbia, but have neglected to reform Kosovo’s financial regulations or even to settle who owns various industries, such as the large-scale Trepca mining complex in northern Kosovo. Trepca, which produced lead, zinc, gold, silver, and rare minerals, [but no Albanian corpses, he forgets to mention] is the object of opposing claims of proprietorship by Serbia and Kosovo….
When Albright and other humanitarian liberators [ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!] appear in Kosovo as “privatizers,” questions are bound to be asked. Although “entrepreneurship” usually means investment and expansion of commerce, in the absence of a secure domestic financial system and other guarantees for legitimate and desirable foreign ventures, Kosovo’s economy continues to shrink. As a prominent Democrat and Clinton administration figure, Albright is associated with that party’s strident rhetoric against the free market in the 2012 American presidential election, including allegations of Republican corporate looting and similar “heartless” practices.
It is difficult for some Kosovar political leaders to imagine that Albright’s leap into their economy would create jobs, greater efficiency, and modernization of infrastructure. The Kosovo “Self-Determination” movement, which is represented in the republic’s parliamentary opposition and which stands for a maximum standard of independence for the country, issued an open letter to the Kosovar public in September. It appealed for e-mails to be sent to prospective bidders for privatization of PTK, criticizing the project for the sell-off of the post and telecoms agency. “Self-Determination” warned that properties were being offered for sale as if they were the private holdings of politicians, rather than resources of all Kosovo residents.
The “Self-Determination” representatives argued that Kosovo’s leaders aim to drive down the value of the state assets, so that they may be expropriated and sold. “Privatization is a name behind which these officials hide,” the opposition advocates declared. The call by leaders of “Self-Determination” for protests against privatization behind the backs of the populace led to accusations that “Self-Determination” is a violent, anti-American movement.
Albin Kurti, a young philosopher and the articulate founder of “Self-Determination,” refuted in late December charges by U.S. ambassador Tracey-Anne Jacobson that he and his colleagues threatened Madeleine Albright. The leaders of “Self-Determination” pointed out that after they published their letter in September against a distorted privatization, they met with Albright in Kosovo in November. “Self-Determination” did not oppose her visit, or threaten her as Ambassador Jacobson alleged. Kurti has insisted that he and his colleagues respect American principles of freedom, independence, and public responsibility.
[Note Schwartz’s predictably innocuous description of Kurti and Self-Determinaton. Contrast it with one by Balkans expert Daniel Hamilton: “…the ultra-nationalist Vetevendosje – or ‘Self Determination’ – movement led by former political prisoner Albin Kurti…Kurti staunchly opposes any form of negotiations with Serbia and wants an end to the continued presence of international institutions in Kosovo. He has also long advocated a union between Kosovo and Albania, an act which was explicitly forbidden in the writing of the country’s constitution in order to protect the rights of minority Serb, Turkish, Roma and Gorani communities.” So Schwartz, for all his love of using the “nationalist” adjective when referring to any ounce of self-respect a Serb might have, not only neglects to use the term where it actually applies, but he also approves of Kurti’s position against any negotiations with Serbia, as well as kicking out the internationals, and Albanian unification. While, of course, habitually citing that supposedly maturity-proving Kosovo constitution. “While mainstream politicians have sought to pigeonhole Kurti as a dangerous radical – which is precisely what he is – the process surrounding [President Atifete] Jahjaga’s election only lends credence to his argument that the country is nothing more than a puppet of the British and American governments. In the days following his removal from office, Pacolli, a Swiss-based billionaire…indicated strongly that he wished to see his name submitted to the National Assembly again for a renewed presidential bid. In ‘changing his mind’, he was refreshingly honest in explaining his reasons for not going through with it - US Ambassador Christopher Dell told him to accept Jahjaga’s nomination or risk Kosovo ‘losing American support’.” But let’s end with Schwartz’s Romper Room version:]
The friendship of Kosovo, as a Muslim-majority state, is a major benefit for American foreign policy. The Balkan republic has resisted Islamist radicalization, excluded religion from public education, and acted to protect women’s rights. These blessings should not be wasted because of the avarice of retired American officials or the incompetence of current diplomats. America, and especially Kosovo, deserve better.
They really don’t, but point taken. Though I really must underscore the fun in Schwartz having to deal with the “violent, anti-American” stick that anyone gets hit with by the U.S. political establishment when he or she calls out the corruption of the mobsters that U.S. officials do business with. How does the shoe feel on the other foot? In the future, we can expect to see only more of things like the extremer but purer extremists (e.g. Self-Determination) coming to loggerheads with the buyable corrupt extremists we’ve backed. Florin Krasniqi, who moved from Brooklyn back to Kosovo to be part of the Self-Determination opposition is making himself a thorn in the side of Hashim Thaci’s ruling party, and I expressed some faux concern for his well-being here. I also did a search on my blog for the name “Dino Asanaj,” to see if I’d ever mentioned the privatization czar before he “committed suicide” over the summer by “stabbing himself 11 times.” Here was what I found:
Congressmen David Bonior and Joseph Dioguardi worked tirelessly to build support in the U.S. Congress, as did Senator Robert Dole. They were consistently encouraged by such leaders of the Albanian American Diaspora as Florin Krasniqi, Hary Bajraktari, and Dino Asanaj. At one point, Krasniqi took Dioguardi to visit KLA resupply camps in Tropoja.
I didn’t realize that the now dead Asanaj was an Albanian-American, who apparently returned to Kosovo after “liberation.” And ended up dead, of course. I wonder who’s next. Here is a bio I found linked to his wikipedia page, which exists — appropriately enough — only in German:
DINO ASANAJ – Chairman of the Board
Dino Asanaj was born in Peja [Kosovo]. He has graduated in his professional studies in Belgrade in 1982. He went to USA in 1985. He is the founding member of Services Group International LLC, a US company, which has played a prominent role as an investor and developer of the International Village LLC in Prishtina, where Mr. Asanaj is the Managing director. In USA he founded DD interiors and IDT Electric, highly respected interior and electrical construction companies specializing in high-end residential and commercial construction projects. DD Interiors and IDT headquartered in New York are still functioning under the Asanaj family management while Mr. Asanaj is leading the planning and construction of the International Village LLC in Prishtina. He has been involved in the startup ventures in Kosova where he has been one of the original investors of US capital in companies such as IPKO and as well as other telecommunications ventures in Kosovo.
During his career, he has organized and participated in various investments and economic conferences in the United States and as well in Kosova, were he has achieved productive results for the community and created bridge for US and Kosovo/Albanian business.
During and after the war of Kosova he served as the representative of the Kosova Government and KLA representative in the United States. During these years he has also served as an advisor to Kosovo delegation at the Rambouillet Conference. He has served as an advisor to the Prime Minister of Kosova for expatriate affairs throughout the world during 2007-2008, furthermore he has been a member of the Board of the Trustees of the National Albanian Council (NAAC) during the years 1993-2002, in Washington DC.
He has published books such as: “Century 21” in 1996 and “Nation” 1997, and he has also published many political and economical articles in different papers throughout US and Kosovo. For his efforts during the war he has been awarded the distinguished Medal of Honor.
None of which helped keep him alive. The way that “liberated” and, we were told, “anti-communist” Kosovo works is strikingly similar to the way the KGB and especially its forerunner, NKVD, worked, which was what the movie “Burned by the Sun” tried to highlight. Serving the human meat grinder doesn’t keep you from being its next victim.
But getting back to the point. Maybe it was a combination of the noise made by Self-Determination and that made by the Czech Friends of Kosovo Serbs which forced Albright out of her Kosovo grubbery.
Another timing aspect would seem to support the dual theory. Just a month before Albright’s October meltdown in the bookstore, things were looking really good for her Kosovo fortunes, as noted by Bloomberg News and Italy’s Osservatorio balcani e caucaso. Except just a few lines into the article by the latter, one notices that the paper noticed that the anti-corruption agency Cohu noticed that there seemed to be a conflict of interest. Apparently, only the shameless Albright didn’t notice — or hoped that no one else would. As Liz quipped at the time, “Criminals love to return to the scenes of their crimes”:
Kosovo’s PTK privatization: with a little help from old friends (Osservatorio balcani e caucaso, Sept. 18, 2012)
Efforts to sell 75 percent of Kosovo’s telecom shares are coming to an end. Old American friends are favourites for the country’s biggest privatisation yet.
Kosovo is drawing the attention of the United States, again. Before, the countries’ engagement was mainly political, now the countries are getting down to business. The company of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright “Albright Capital Management LLC” has been shortlisted for the privatisation of PTK, Kosovo’s state-owned postal and telecom company. A government committee has made four other foreign entities eligible to bid for telecom shares.
The head of the Chamber of Commerce, Safet Gerxhaliu, thinks that global companies such as “Albright Capital Management” have a strategic impact which could be used to improve Kosovo’s image, which Gerxhaliu thinks is off-putting to foreign investors.
Transparency International ranks Kosovo 112 among 183 countries analyzed in the 2011 corruption index.
Reviving Kosovo’s economy should not rely on old relations, but instead focus only on economic terms, according to the anti-corruption agency “Cohu”. The organisation published a report shortly after the short-listed candidates for the privatisation of the telecom were announced. The Cohu report reads: “By including “Albright Capital Management”, the privatisation of Kosovo’s telecom industry risks turning into a competition of conflict of interests without business rational motives. This will harm fair competition, just like in 2007 when this group was part of the winning consortium of the mobile operator license [IPKO]”.
The organisation refers to the relations between government leaders and their lifelong appreciation for the support Albright has shown towards Kosovo since 1998 during the war and onwards. Also, Albright’s company has been listed among the partners in a team that won the first contract given to a private mobile operator, a process which continues to raise questions, even today. Media report that there is no confirmation from either the mobile operator IPKO nor Albright’s company about whether it continues to hold shares in the private competitor of the soon-to-be-privatised public mobile operator.
It is interesting to point out that a Turkish company - “Turkcell”, is part of the final stage of the privatisation process. This confirms the presence of the Turkish economy in the process of privatisation and similar big investments in Kosovo. A consortium [led] by a Turkish company has managed Kosovo’s only international airport since 2010, meanwhile another Turkish company is implementing the most expensive project in Kosovo’s history – the motorway connecting Pristina with Albania. Earlier this year, the government sold the distribution section of Kosovo’s Energy Corporation in an effort to revitalise the poor energy supply system. The Turkish company “Limak-Calik” won the contract for 26 million Euros, irrespective of the fact that about 200 million euros’ worth of investments had been made in previous years by the Kosovo government.
[Y]ears of mismanagement of the company has damaged the company. Financial reports of the company reveal that only in 2011, bonuses to employees reached 2.21 million Euros. Members of the board have received salaries of up to six thousand euros a month, when the average salary in Kosovo is below 300 euros.
In the first attempt to privatise the telecom sector, the process stumbled on the last hurdle. The attempted privatisation was cancelled in 2011 when one of the two remaining companies - “Hrvatski [Croatian] Telecom” - pulled out because of “corrupt affairs in the public company”. It referred to an ongoing corruption case which involved current and former high-ranking officials of the public company who reached allegedly damaging contracts with private enterprises.
Failing to complete the process will not be a good sign for the parties responsible for the process: preparations for the privatisation have cost taxpayers in Kosovo about 5 million euros since 2008.
The biggest privatisation process will test the old ties of Kosovars with the Americans, or the new strong partnership expanding Turkish businesses in the region. It might even give the market a chance to speak for itself in a form that benefits the citizens more.
A cable about that 2007 IPKO deal, thanks to Wikileaks:
US Embassy Diplomatic Cables from WikiLeaks,
Albright Group runs Kosovo telekom
Released Aug 30, 2011 01:44
Created Mar 16, 2007 12:58
FM USOFFICE PRISTINA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7154
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 0256
RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA 4943
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 0406
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC C O N F I D E N T I A L PRISTINA 000204
SUBJECT: KOSOVO: UNMIK/PISG SELECT NEW WINNER OF SECOND MOBILE TENDER AFTER KOSMOCELL FAILS TO MAKE PAYMENT
Classified By: COM TINA KAIDANOW FOR REASONS 1.4(B) AND (D)
1. (SBU) Summary: The Kosovo Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) recently announced the consortium of Telecom
Slovenia/Ipko/Albright Group as the winner of the second mobile tender after the initial winner Kosmocell was unable to make its payment for the operating license. The consortium of Mobilkom Austria and American company Columbia Ventures Corporation (CVC) have complained about the awarding of the tender, noting irregularities and a lack of transparency in the evaluation of the bids. Austrian Mobilkom has filed a lawsuit in a Kosovo court to protest the latest decision. UNMIK, however, has told us and stated publicly that the evaluation and awarding of the tender was a fair and transparent process. Media reports claim there was collusion between Kosmocell and Telecom Slovenia, alleging that Kosmocell owner Ekrem Lluka was paid by the Slovenian company not to make its payment so its consortium could be declared the winner. Having annulled the initial second mobile tender in 2004, UNMIK, using outside consultants, was more involved this time in overseeing the process. What remains a concern is the violence directed at some of the main actors involved, including TRA head Anton Berisha. We will encourage UNMIK and the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) to aggressively pursue investigation into these incidents. […]
As early as 2004, Nebojsa Malic caught wind of Albright’s greedy intentions for Kosovo:
Albright seeks profits in occupied Kosovo? (April 14, 2004)
Now officially retired from politics, Albright has a lucrative “consultancy” business. According to a Belgrade-based news agency Inet…the Albright Group, LLC will “advise” the board of Ipko Net, a Kosovo (Albanian) ISP seeking a mobile telephony concession in the occupied province. Here is the text of the report, translated by Inet:
“Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, or her consultancy firm Albright Group LLC, has taken over the job of special adviser of the chairman of the board of managers of the Kosovo Internet Provider Ipko Net, which will compete for a new mobile provider in the province. As it was stated from Ipko Net, the company recently founded a joint firm, with mixed capital, with the American Western Wirless International from Seattle, with which, as it was said, it intended to compete for a ’second mobile operator’ in Kosovo.”
And while all this happens far from American eyes and ears, closer to those eyes and ears she peddles the usual, as she just did again last week — at yet another of her hero fantasy events, this time in Grand Rapids, Michigan:
…Albright shared the story Tuesday, Jan. 29, during a visit to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, where an exhibit of her diplomatic pins is on display.
“My instructions were to get (U.N.) condemnation of Cuba for what had happened [Cuban military pilots shot down two Cuban-American civilian aircraft in 1996],” Albright said. “(The Cuban pilots’ flight transcript) was bloodthirsty, horrible and all the words were translated except one: It said ‘We have cojones. They don’t have cojones.’
“I decided I would use the following line: ‘This is not cojones. This is cowardice.’”
[How silly the cheering Cuban crowd at the Florida stadium where she said this must have felt just four years later, when her administration would cower before Cuba and sacrifice a seven-year-old boy to Castro.]
Speaking to a full audience in the museum’s auditorium, Albright talked about her career in U.S. diplomacy and her museum exhibit, which includes a blue bird pin that she wore in honor of the fallen Cuban-American pilots. She toured the pin exhibit earlier in the day with local media. The display will remain at the museum through April 21.
About her career, Albright expressed pride over U.S. intervention in Kosovo and regret that the country did not try to stop genocide in Rwanda.
Regarding Kosovo, Albright recounted how military intervention got off to a rough start there. But when she returned to Kosovo in 2012, she met families grateful that the United States got involved.
“Now there’s a whole generation of little girls in Kosovo whose first name is Madeleine,” Albright said. “I was very disturbed by how long it took us to get into Bosnia. And then Kosovo really happened on my watch (as Secretary of State). I felt we could not stand around watching people be ethnically cleansed.”
She noted that Time Magazine initially called the Kosovo intervention “Madeleine’s War,” and “then when we won it, it was called something else.”
Check out the full item to see some of her humorless “one-liners.”