Time to end the appeasement of Serbia

Instead of entertaining the idea of territorial exchanges between Serbia and Kosovo, the international community should make mutual co-existence, human rights and anti-racism the basis of its intervention in the region.

By Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi and Roland Gjoni

On July 22, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) affirmed the legality of Kosova’s February 2008 declaration of independence. Before the ICJ ruling, Serbia lobbied hard to convince states around the world to withhold recognition of Kosova’s independence, claiming it was against international law. Once the Court ruled, Belgrade began to realize that Kosova’s existence as a sovereign entity was irrefutable. But instead of respecting the ICJ ruling — a ruling that it requested — Serbia attempted to override the Court’s ruling by presenting resolutions at the UN General Assembly, asking for renewed talks on Kosova’s status. New talks without recognition of Kosova’s independence, however, have the potential to throw the finality of Kosova’s status and the functionality of the new state into free fall, insuring that lasting peace and stability in the region will remain elusive.

The United States and the European Union seem to believe that all solutions for the Western Balkans are found in Belgrade and are trying to push Kosova’s political leadership to the negotiating table, purportedly to deal with “technical issues.” In reality, the international community has run out of ideas for securing Belgrade’s cooperation and is putting pressure on Albanians to give further concessions to Serbia. The fact that the Serb-populated northern part of Kosova has not been under Prishtina’s authority is ostensibly the main reason for renewed talks. But the root cause of Prishtina’s inability to govern the north is not acknowledged.

Since war’s end in 1999, when Kosova came under the protection of the United Nations, the international community has enabled the de facto partition of Mitrovica, allowing Belgrade to consolidate its power there. While the internationals pushed Prishtina to implement the “Ahtisaari plan” (the final status settlement named after its creator, UN Envoy Martti Ahtisaari), which in only two years made all state institutions in Kosova multi-ethnic, integrating the Kosova Serbs into the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, no one tried or tested the plan in the north. On the contrary, the day after Kosova declared its independence in 2008, the West stood idly by as Belgrade-supported extremists burned Kosova’s border crossing, customs checkpoints, and courthouses in the north. In March 2008, it watched as Serbian-controlled extremists killed a Ukrainian peacekeeper and injured 80 international police officers, when UN personnel tried to reopen a courthouse and ever since never reacted to more than a dozen violent incidents in the north. In spite of these and other continuing acts of lawlessness, the West has never put pressure on Serbia to withdraw its financial and political support for illegal, parallel structures in the north.

Appeasing Belgrade has been the centerpiece of the international community’s foreign policy approach to the Balkan conflict ever since the late Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic began waging four wars of aggression in the Balkans unimpeded until a NATO bombing campaign led by the United States ended his genocidal march across Europe ten years later. By then, more than 200,000 Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Kosovar Albanians were dead, four million people had been displaced, and towns, cities, farms and factories lay in ruins. When more than 1 million Albanians who had been driven out of Kosova, many pushed onto deportation trains, returned home at war’s end in June 1999, the West should have recognized Kosova’s independence, informed Belgrade that it had forfeited its legitimacy to govern Kosova, and set Serbia on a path to democratization. Instead, Serbia was never forced, as Germany was in 1945, to confront and transform its genocidal past. The corrupt, intolerant system that Milosevic created in Serbia has yet to be dismantled — not just to the detriment of Albanians, but to the detriment of Serbs.

This is why Serbian President Boris Tadic has every reason to believe that his government can successfully leapfrog over the ICJ ruling and into a new diplomatic phase — one that seeks the acquisition of Kosova’s northern municipalities. Belgrade wants to reopen negotiations with Prishtina in an effort to expropriate the north — just as it was able to extract “Republika Srpska” from Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Dayton Accords in 1995. This has always been Serbia’s endgame — not the reclamation of the whole of Kosova, but instead a land grab that would overshadow Belgrade’s moral problem of insisting that nations live under Serbia, not alongside it.

Twenty years of failing to push for a non-violent, integrationist solution in the north is now culminating in calls for Kosova to trade the largely Serb northern part of its territory for the Albanian majority parts of southern Serbia in the Presheva Valley. But internationals should know that Serbia’s real objective is neither to improve the lives of the roughly 50,000 Serbs living in the north, nor to finally resolve the conflict. On the contrary, such an arrangement will embolden Belgrade to seize the north and leave Kosova in limbo as a failed state, dependent on an international presence for years to come.

Instead of fulfilling Serbia’s expansionist appetite by entertaining land swaps and population exchanges, the West should promote mutual coexistence and human rights throughout the region in anticipation of the day when all borders and visas in the Balkans will be removed. It should champion a new 21st century political process that is neither orchestrated nor manipulated by Belgrade. The way forward should entail making human rights and anti-racism the linchpin of international involvement in Southeast Europe and not rewarding violent behavior because we have no patience and willingness to confront it.

Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi is Balkan Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League. Roland Gjoni is an expert in international law working in Kosova.

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0 Response

  1. Sarah

    What a nasty piece of propaganda for a statelet that does not even exist. Stealing more than half of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia has not been enough for the narco terrorists of Kosovo. They want it all! Ethnically cleansing all other minorities has not been enough. Ms DioGuardi and her husband Joe have been pushing this agenda long enough. Resolution 1244 is still in place and it makes the UDI of Kosovo illegal under the UN charter. The Albanians have stopped at nothing in order to rid themselves of all other minorities. As we have seen a few days ago in Kosovska Mitrovica, it was the Albanians that attacked the Serbs, throwing stone and shooting, thus wounding a UN peacekeeper. Unfortunately, there is no peace to keep with the militant Albanians on constant rampage!

  2. Sarah

    Also, this is how events in Mitrovica are portrayed by the press. The reality is quite different.

    Once again the Foreign Office :
    “The violence started after the Serbian national basketball team were defeated by Turkey in the semi-finals of the basketball world championship in Istanbul”.

    It should read:

    The violence started after 600 K-Albanians gathered at the main and eastern bridges, which divide Mitrovica North and South. As soon as K-Albanians gathered, 1000 Serbs organised themselves and a confrontation ensued. EULEX and Albanian civilians were shooting at Serbs and the Serbs returned fire, EULEX showed no efforts to control aggressors from the south. The volatility of the situation remains evident and similar incidents are likely to take place, with significant, if not fatal consequences. Serbs are prepared and more willing to defend their territorial interests with complete disregard for the processes spilling out of the current Belgrade authorities. it remains to be seen if new elections take place, and if the current opposition has the strength and following to force extraordinary elections.

    Problem: K-Albanians want the territory north of the River Ibar, but expect the International community to do their fighting.

    Solution: Provide a window of opportunity for the K-Albanian Police, supported by KSF to go north and let them fight.

    Result: Serbs will retaliate with their arsenal and force their opposition back to south Mitrovica. Current Serbs intention is only to fight Albanians and not international players. However, should certain foreign members states allow their subjects (in EULEX, KFOR) to mix, then the results are likely to be serious or fatal.

  3. Sarah you seem not to be aware of the latest UN Res. (approved by Serbia itself) taking into account the ICJ opinion which recognizes that the Declaration of the Independence of Kosova did not breach neither int’l law, nor Res. 1244 or any other int’l instrument. Thus, in addition to legal aspects, Kosova exists as an Independent Country in fact as well.

    As regards the problems in Northern Kosova, we all know very well who organizes, finances and whose interest are they in. Brain-washed groups of Serbs do the financing, organization and leading of the criminals there. The Republic of Serbia and the Serbian people have to understand that Kosova has never and will never belong to Serbs; it has historically and will perpetually belong to Albanians. The war for teritorry is over; Serbs can’t have what’s not theirs!

    The international community does not believe the Serb propaganda anymore. It has already understood who starts the trouble and who’s the victim. Therefore, the solution is that Serbia leaves Kosova alone and Serbs in Kosova build up their life calmly and prosperously.

  4. thomas

    very nice piece and i hope it is read by EU officials. For me as a German is hard to understand how Serbia is being given extra concessions when Mladic is still protected by Belgrade.

  5. ZERB

    Nice piece of hate propaganda, you two would have fit right in at the gestapo. Your perversion of the truth is impressive and causes me nausea. Serbia is not being given concessions, it is being blackmailed and both economically and politically attacked on a daily basis by the likes of people like you. Both paid lobbyists are paid by narco-warlords who pump vast amounts of money and even numerous politicians like Joe Biden have openly support known terrorists like Hashim Thaci or is parading around like a statesman when he nothing of the sort. The people of the world sees right through this hit-piece you call journalism.

  6. Peggy

    What concessions are you talking about? Serbia was bombed with illegal aresenal, Serbs split and not allowed to live in one country while Albanians outside Albania were given their own country and Serbs were echnically cleansed from Croatia and Bosnia/Croatia Federation.
    So please do enlighten us with what concessions were Serbs given? If you are talking about RS that’s not a concession. That’s where all the expelled Serbs from other areas had to go to in order to feel safe and have a home. Did you want these Serbs to be kicked out of Eurpe altogether?
    As soon as I read KosovA instead of KosovO I knew that an Albanian had a hand in writing this and therefore completely biased point of view.

  7. Kreshnik

    I think it’s time for the “celestial” people fall to the ground and look at reality as it is. Is it Possible that even after a Serbian genocide in the Balkans condemned by the whole international community, instead of apologizing and ready for self-criticism, they continue to produce poison in the region and in Europe. Fortunately, this part of Europe such attitudes are not tolerated anymore by the time of Fuhrer and his other followers wherever they are. It’s time to make mea culpa, and prove that you belong to Europe and not to ‘Africa, trying to look at the problem within you, trying to cure yourself before the patient perish forever.
    The Albanians have never committed terrorist acts, because all this doesn’t belong to their mentality. They have waited that Serbia after a total failure in his wars, where other Slavic peoples of the federation have created their states, a fortiori it should prove account the aspirations of a people so different (the Albanians) to self-determination. In response they saw what they had tried for a century, genocide, state and academic plans of deportation, colonization, etc.. How you dare to hide the facts, forget the thousands of victims, rivers of blood, whole towns burned and still claim a right that in truth you never had. This is only the beginning of the end of all those who think your way, and remembere than even a “celestial”people cannot be forgiven by the vengeance of history.

  8. michela de philipi

    Nice non mainstream article. I particularly like your view on Serbia’s continued battle for territories becuase I think we have to focus on rights and not land fights. it was Serbia’s massive army who killed civillians around the Balkans which triggered the Nato bombing not the opposite. Now Serbia is changing for the better but someone should claim responsibility for human suffering in Kosovo.

  9. MP

    Didn’t Kosovo Albanians join Hitler’s SS during WWII?
    Terror doesn’t belong to their mentality?
    What they are best known for since 1999, apart from terror. murder and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, is running most of the sex slavery and heroin distribution throughout the rest of Europe. That’s their mentality.
    And Kosovo has been a province of Serbia since before the middle ages. That’s simply a fact. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology for that.
    You can invent, lie, distort and contort as much as you want.

  10. Dushan

    MP, I am offended to your comment labelling all Allbanians as subhuman and criminal beings. This is exactly this type of generalized hatred that has poisoned our politics and led to wars and conflicts. We have to stop seeing ourselves as the only victims and see the world a bit differently if we want to join EU and live at peace with neighbours.

    Dushan

  11. All views should be heard. But in truth, the Quint has not been appeasing Serbia but bullying Serbia. They have threatened to delay its move into the EU, despite it being as important for European unity as it is for Balkans stability. And on the ground, they and the Kosovo Albanians have been pressing the northern Serbs to accept living in a country they were not born in. In any case, promoting “mutual coexistence and human rights” cannot really be done from the mouth of a gun. So, dialogue and negotiations — including what to do about the north — remains the best way forward.

  12. Richard

    Having worked in the Balkans during the 90s I am inclined to disagree with Galluci as his views are very narrow revolving around a potential role for the UN in the North. My expierence as a peacekeeper in Bosnia and Kosovo has taught me that Serbs elect to remember only the wrongs they have been subject too but choose to forget what they have caused to other people. Even Milosevic was ousted only after he lost in Kosovo otherwise Serbs would have made him a king if he deported all Albanians and defeated KLA and Nato. You can see that while Serbs want to distort the facts on Srebrenica, all parties mourn the Nato intervention. So when Serbs cause pain they try to make it look like an accident but when they are loosing they are very bad at that.

  13. John

    Here is truth about Kosovo:
    Criminal clans rule Kosovo, paper April 21, 2008

    Political power in Kosovo is in hands of criminal clans and the international community has been passively looking at it for years, reads the article of the German weekly Spiegel.

    That renowned magazine points that

    Kosovo is a clan-based society in which a handful of criminals are keeping their own people as hostages while EU bureaucrats are ignoring that writes Spiegel.

    Spiegel says that the international community has done nothing during the ten years of the UN rule to curb the corruption. Nor has the Albanian organized crime in Kosovo been curbed even though the police forces and governments of western countries have known for a long time that the province is the main Balkan crossroad for drug and arms dealing, as well as for people trafficking in Europe.

    Europol says that the Albanian organized crime gangs are controlling 80% of the drug market in northern Europe, and some 40% in Western Europe, notes Speiegel.

  14. Karanovic

    Ian, I cannot believe you would publish such Albanian hate propaganda/trash on your site. I hope your beliefs and views are far away from these two people, one being a DioGuardi who must be related to the infamous Joseph DioGuardi, a known KLA terrorist supporter. I am sure there is no bias at all. After reading this piece of trash I can’t bring myself to taking your organization and its views seriously.

  15. Andrej

    Completely worthless propaganda piece. Leaving distortions of history and obvious bias of these two lobbyist gentleman, the Kosovo (as indeed whole of Yugoslavia) issue is a matter of two distinctively different approaches.
    First is a notion of right of determination of nations understood as purely administrative, geographical units with a universal citizenship rights for all of its citizens. A classic national model of modern western Europe and America.
    The other is notion of ethnicity as a founding stone for establishing nations within ethnic boundaries. That model is commonly attributed to eastern Europe, but it was also pervasive in nation forming of west European nations in earlier times (say the process of violent nation-building in France during 18-19 century or the suppression of Celtic culture and language in Britannia well in to 20.century).
    International Community could (and probably should) have decided on one of these two principles in the beginning of Yugoslavian break up and then stick to it.
    But instead of that, thanks to different nations interests and daily motives of all actors, we got completely unprincipled and cynical approach to the process of Yugoslavian disintegration and successive nations building. So we got rulings that it is OK for Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia on grounds of national determination rights, but it is not acceptable for Serbs living in Croatia to use that same right in turn (after HDZ changed republic constitution and stroked out Serbs as constitutional nation of Croatia). Same goes for Bosnia. Serbs over there declared independence from Bosnia only after Croats and Muslims in Bosnian parliament decided to secede from Yugoslavia thereby breaking political agreement that strictly prohibited that kind of decision making without consensus.
    Same kind of double standard goes for Kosovo. When Serbs in Croatia took arms in order to fight for their national rights, especially considering that almost all of them had somebody in their families killed by Croatian regime during the WWII genocide-they were branded rebels and nationalistic terrorists.
    And when Albanians (funded by organized crime money from throughout the Europe) took arms and started attacking local Serbians and what they labeled “traitor” Albanians who were loyal to Serbian state, then they were called “freedom fighters”.
    When US and EU politicians invoke principle of invulnerability of borders in case of Bosnia (and Republika Srpska was NOT a gift to Serbs over there, but a political negotiation to end the war-the only reasonable one I may add, short of mass genocide on part of whatever side won the military conflict), in order to prevent it from seceding completely from Bosnia, they are at the same time willing to ignore that same principle concerning Kosovo, tearing it up from Serbia and giving it pseudo-independence.
    How are we then to take international community claims of well meaning and impartiality seriously when they behave in such consistently double standards mode?

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