Kosovo re-assessed?

I’ve written on the BBC Editors site about whether the Kosovo intervention is being reassessed in the light of allegations against Prime Minister Thaci

Kosovo has been back on the front pages in recent weeks with lurid allegations against its Prime Minister and dominant politician, Hashim Thaci, accusing him of involvement in organised crime and even harvesting human organs for sale for profit.  Mr Thaci has denied the allegations. 

Mr Thaci has also been in the news as his party was accused of vote rigging in last month’s parliamentary elections which were the first organised by the Kosovo government. This week, the vote had to be rerun in some of Mr Thaci’s strongholds and a new government should be formed in the next few weeks. 

Why is this interesting to people who don’t follow affairs in south east Europe closely? Read More

The Mafia goes green

The FT has an interesting story today about an investigation into Mafia involvement in multi-million-euro wind farm deals in Sicily.

Italian and EU subsidies for the building of wind farms and the world’s highest guaranteed rates, €180 ($240, £160) per kwh, for the electricity they produce have turned southern Italy into a highly attractive market exploited by organised crime.

‘Turned’? Shurely it always was…

A criminal investigation called “Operation Wind” revealed Mafia promises to local officials in Mazara del Vallo of money and votes in exchange for help in approving wind farm projects.

The Mafia suspects were alleged to be linked to Matteo Messina “Diabolik” Denaro, a fugitive clan boss on ltaly’s most wanted list.

Prosecutors suspect the hand of the Mafia in fixing permits and building wind farms that are then sold on to Italian and eventually foreign companies.

Several wind farms built by companies suspected of being linked to the Mafia have not functioned for one or two years, in some cases because of shoddy construction. “This is the amazing thing, that developers got public money to build wind farms which did not produce electricity,” the prosecutor said.

This is not the first massive scam in the renewable sector, nor will it be the last. Governments are about to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at this sector, oversight will be low, and the opportunities for rip-offs will be huge.

The Dangerous Demographics of West Africa

I gave a talk to senior civil servants at the Home Office last week, as part of Demos’s Leadership Masterclass on International Challenges and Counter-Terrorism. My talk was on West Africa, and particularly on how looming demographic changes there are likely to increase instability in a region that is already the world’s poorest and one of its most volatile. I argue that, at least in the long-term, Western security policy-makers would do well to keep an eye on the region. For an edited version of the talk, see after the jump.