The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: Serbia

A Prime Minister’s brother, a football game, and the evolution of warfare

by fpman

This is special. Serbia hosted Albania yesterday for a Euro 2016 Group I qualifier. No away fans were permitted, to avoid some rather inevitable trouble. Trouble that thus had to find alternative expression and made its way onto the pitch in the shape of a drone… carrying an Albanian flag (this one). See the brawl that resulted from this.

The distraction was frustrating to the players of both teams, at the same time as the political message of the flag itself evoked strong emotions in many, among both the spectators and the players, given historical memories of conflict between the two countries, and even the recent memory of the Kosovo war between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. The brawl began as one of the Serb players (playing in white) managed to capture the flag. As you can see in the video eventually some fans ran onto the pitch to join the melee, too. It is small consolation that most of the players actually behaved rather gently towards each other, and at one point, when there was a threat that a tsunami of fans may charge the Albanian team, the Serb players, including those from the bench, escorted the Albanian players to the locker room tunnel’s entrance.

A drone, and its operator, started all this. This is pretty interesting in and of itself. Here we saw the unlawful application of a drone with political motives targeted at specific civilian groups in audience, distracting a public event. If the unlawful application of the drone would have included violence, this would have been an instance of terrorism. So in a sense we have seen history made yesterday. Take a closer look with this in mind:

And with this in mind it is an especially amazing turn of events that the police arrested one person in connection with the incident. As mentioned already, no away fans were permitted to come to the game, and so the police took the person in question from the VIP box. It was Olsi Rama, the brother of the current Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Wow. Just wow. We’ll update this post once it becomes clear(er) if Olsi Rama was really the person responsible for the incident. Not to say that that is the only aspect of this story that may make it interesting, as we indicated above…

Update (October 15, still): In a twist to the story, it turns out the police have not really “arrested” Olsi Rama. Rama also denies having flown the drone himself. Reports have nevertheless appeared in the Serb press visualizing the remote control in his hand at the time when he was supposedly detained, and there is also an allegation circulating that “European diplomats” helped Olsi Rama get through the security check. Bearing in mind that Olsi’s brother, Prime Minister Edi Rama, is set to go to Belgrade on October 22 (at least for the moment he still is), this is beginning to look like a consciously timed provocation by someone, well-suited to bring out some of the typical, silly nationalist phantasies attached to the coverage of what happened – such as the story of a Euro-Albanian conspiracy against Serbia by means of flag-flying at a football match.

Update (October 16): This is what happened to the drone. A fan wearing a mask took it somewhere. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

FanWithFlag

Update (October 17): besides describing the general mood in the stadium throughout most of the match before the drone’s arrival, this article also notes that: “Ivan Bogdanović, the Serb hooligan who led the 2010 Italy match riot, was seen invading the pitch. He served jail time in Serbia after the Italy incident, in which he burned an Albanian flag. That game had to be abandoned as well. Yesterday he led a group of masked supporters into the pitch before being kicked out by police.”

Given Bogdanović‘s past involvement in disrupting football matches, tolerated since years by Serbian police, one has even more of a reason now to believe that the flying of the drone was a strategically planned provocation. By the way, the guy who took the drone from the pitch happened to go onto the pitch together with Bogdanović. They were flying in close formation… See Bogdanović on the left and the guy who captured the drone in the middle, below (photo: Marko Drobnjaković, AP):

Serbia Albania Euro Soccer

In the meantime, President of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, has also voiced the view that the drone incident was an American-European-Albanian conspiracy to create a distraction just before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit. Because… because… because Putin’s visit was so totally distracted it went ahead with a proper military parade

Contrary to what Dodik is suggesting, the drone incident was most likely the perfect way to energize nationalists who traditionally favor a Russian rather than a European orientation for Serbia.

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Gérard Depardieu is a businessman, not a politician

by AiteVer

Ello. It’s AiteVer again. Did you miss me? Did you notice I was gone? Well, I guess you were in good company anyway, thanks to fpman, my colleague over here and a cousin apparently, too 🙂

Anyhow, while I was busy upgrading my status in academia [sic!], the globe was shaken [very sic!] by the news that Gérard Depardieu can drink or drinks up to 14 bottles of wine a day. In my opinion, it is quite a shame that this is the one snippet that swept the news world as it was taken out of some truly remarkable context: from an interview that’s filled with astonishing statements such as

‘Putin is a simple guy, a former KGB agent who was long imprisoned in Vienna’

or

‘Do you think that if I was egocentric I could approach Jean-Paul II, Mitterrand, Castro, Putin, and all those kinds of people? I don’t care about having an ego. ‘

I guess these days it isn’t really news when a celebrity takes up a second job advertising other people’s stuff or starts his or her own business. It can be especially true for those who are over their prime time in showbiz. As for Depardieu, he has done all of these. Before his abandonment of his status as French cultural god and becoming a ‘tax refugee’, he was known to own a vineyard and other businesses in France, and he gave his name to basically anything, whether it was ketchup, Azeri cuisine or an Armenian air company, naturally regardless of politics. Well, regardless of politics at least as long as the politics of certain policies didn’t affect him personally…

The change came into his life with the introduction of a temporary 75% income tax in 2012 by the French government that was levied on people earning more than a million euros. He first moved to Belgium and was subsequently granted Russian citizenship by a presidential decree on January 1, 2013. What’s changed since? Little – and maybe some, I would argue.

He’s admittedly into ‘living a life of excess’ just as much today as pre-tax-scandal, and he still lives the dual life of a high-profile actor and successful businessman. Nonetheless, he now also plays in a movie whose plot is rather reminiscent of the DSK scandal, in a patriotic Kazakh film, and lately in a Russian movie set partly in Chechnya, too. Added to this, his Russian businesses include a chain of restaurants present in major Russian cities, as well as a line of organic vodka. Also, he has appeared in a Kazakh commercial advertising Eurasian Bank’s special VIP card that is ‘elaborated with a pure gold pattern and 0.02 carat genuine diamond’ and in a video with Gulnara Karimova (of whom we already wrote on this blog) – to further illustrate the diversity of his impressive portfolio. Altogether, we can assume that whatever he is doing, he must be really successful in it, considering the expenses it must take to sponsor his daily 14 bottles of quality alcohol, ‘whenever he’s bored.’

DepardieuIn vino veritas (source)

The notable part from a political point of view is that his post-career career has brought him onto a slippery slope. As a symbol of the West from a certain perspective, whatever he says resonates loudly. Even though Depardieu’s love for Russia perhaps did not start with acquiring citizenship, it definitely has given him room to voice his ideas on international politics. He started his new career as a proud Russian by calling the country a ‘great democracy’ and then went on to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions. And as the dominant political narrative of events in Ukraine has increasingly focused on a conflict with the West in Russia, the role of the well-known French national symbol has grown in parallel.

Of course, there is some importance of his Russianness in the Europe he left behind, too. Firstly, his departure left a mark on France, as he was one of the most famous exports of the country. Secondly, his stance towards Putin is quite controversial, as signaled by the large amount of questions he receives from western media.

Still, his presence in Russia is possibly much more important for the host country itself, which, given his presence in the Russian press, has clearly been recognized by Russian decision-makers too. For example, according to Russian media, on a trip to Serbia he recently praised the people there for not supporting the EU sanctions against Russia, while in an interview about his new movie Viktor, he hastily explained Ukrainian history by saying the western half used to be Polish and the eastern half Russian, even though he quickly added that he isn’t too competent in politics to talk about it…

Depardieu is now, for all its worth, a (proud) Russian citizen. He pays lower taxes, he’s involved in local business and he’s a friend of Putin. On the other hand, he still is an international superstar and that continues to work in his favor financially. When he was asked why he’s still in business, he replied:

‘I have to make a living, and besides, I do other things too. Cinema is not the only thing I do, luckily. I hang out with artists, I travel, I’m into cuisine, and wine, I go and visit dictators…or so they say!’

If I have to take a guess he probably meant to be kidding with the last part but he definitely hit the spot. Of course we will never know if he says his pro-Kremlin remarks out of political conviction (to which he is entitled) or because of his current business interests (to which he is also entitled) but there is one thing for certain. Whatever he says can reach the masses easily. And the issue isn’t really whatever we think about his competence to talk politics but that when he and others praise Putin for his actions in Ukraine, they make loud judgments over issues by which they are not the least affected… Or, more exactly, if they are affected it is not in the way the people in Ukraine are affected. Depardieu is a Russian citizen, and being there has commercially benefitted him greatly. As long as he remains the friend of the Boss, this isn’t expected to change significantly.