Kosovo – myth busting

A number of myths about the north of Kosovo – including that there is a military/police solution to its refusal to accept rule by Pristina and that EULEX is acting legally in seeking to impose Kosovo customs in the north – continue to jeopardize peace and security.

By Gerard Gallucci

The situation in north Kosovo may have stabilized; not quite back to July 25th, but substantially much the same. It can be said that the Quint/Thaci effort to change the situation on the ground in the north by bringing the Serbs to accept rule from Pristina has failed. While the local Serbs have certainly been affected by the moves by KFOR and EULEX to isolate them from Serbia proper and impose Kosovo customs at the northern Gates, their resistance in the form of peaceful protest and barricades has stalled the Quint effort to make them accept the Kosovo state. EULEX has not backed away from its plan to impose Kosovo customs at the northern crossings. But as the locals have blocked these, there is nothing for customs officials to do. The Serbs appear able to find ways to cross the boundary quicker than KFOR can close them. KFOR may be tiring of chasing down trucks and providing helicopter service for Gate workers. The new – perhaps more sensible – KFOR commander is reportedly urging a political approach to resolving the current crisis rather than looking for military solutions.

Thus, the first myth that apparently still needs busting – that there is a military/police solution to the northerners refusal to accept rule by Pristina. In March 2008 this failed and it has failed again. Not even placing a large occupying force on every road and town center can compel people to give up institutions they view as their own, and to accept those they find illegitimate. NATO never had the stomach for this, but let itself be used by the US to back up Thaci’s politically-motivated effort to steal the north. KFOR’s support for Pristina’s trade embargo was, and remains, illegal under its UNSCR 1244 mandate. And it has not worked; there remains no solution to the north through use of force.

Next, the myth that criminals are forcing the northerners to refuse the benefits of being ruled by the majority-Albanian government in Pristina. The Serbs have been holding weddings, classes and parties on the barricades. They have been peaceful but insistent. They blocked the northern Gates while building a new boundary along the Ibar on main roads crossing the line to the majority-Albanian south. But the “hoodlum” myth remains dangerous as even now Thaci is using it to justify his call to impose a Kosovo court in north Mitrovica. Hopefully, KFOR and EULEX will not rise to this provocation.

The next busted myth is that EULEX is acting legally in seeking to impose Kosovo customs in the north. It claims that treating Kosovo as one customs zone, plus the agreement on customs stamps agreed to early this month, means that it can support the establishment of Kosovo customs in the north and the collection of fees to be sent to Pristina. Some argue that EULEX’s mandate includes helping develop the Kosovo state. But the UN passed EULEX responsibility for rule of law in November 2008 with the condition that it be status neutral. Whatever customs regime might be established, it would have to meet that condition. Imposing Kosovo customs and officials and collecting funds for Pristina clearly would not. And any agreement on customs stamps between Belgrade and Pristina does not, ipso facto, allow EULEX to apply it where Belgrade and the local Serbs refuse to accept it. Finally, while EULEX does also have the mandate to help develop Kosovo institutions, this does not extend to acting in a one-sided manner to impose them where there is no agreement to do so. EULEX’s UN mandate for status neutral peacekeeping trumps that. (EULEX should act speedily to release the 13 truck drivers arrested by Pristina for illegal entry. Crossing from Serbia to Kosovo in the north has never required a Kosovo visa or entry stamp. To allow the arrest to stand would be a violation of status neutrality.

The final lingering myths are that the Quint/Pristina effort to seize the north is legal as it enforces a Kosovo state and constitution that the ICJ found legal and that Serbian “parallel” institutions are illegal under UNSCR 1244. The ICJ never said that the Kosovo declaration of independence or state were “legal.” It said that there was nothing in international law on the subject and noted that the Pristina UDI was made outside the ambit of UNMIK. The ICJ did reaffirm the continued legality of UNMIK. One could argue that Kosovo independence and institutions are a fact – they are – but not that they were found legal by the ICJ. Under international law, UNMIK remains the official administrative authority for Kosovo. Any other institutions are therefore parallel to it. But in the north, the local institutions fly under the UN flag, south of the Ibar they don’t. Some are therefore more “parallel” than others.

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s advisory board. The views expressed in this piece are his own and do not represent the position of any organization.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

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0 Response

  1. Pingback : A Collection of Myths » Post Topic » Kosovo – myth busting – TransConflict

  2. As ever an excellent analysis of the situation on the ground from a man in the know. Always look forward to reading your comments. One thing though, I read this morning that the US contingent of KFOR are starting to use strong arm tactics; CS gas, roughing up protesters etc. Is this a sign of things to come, or are they merely testing the water to see how far they can go without provoking a violent reaction, which of course would no doubt suit their pro Thaci agenda.

  3. Leka

    For all readers of this article, it would be of prudence to note, for the sake of critical thinking, that Mr. Galluci is heavily influenced by the Serb side. As such, he openly sides with the Serbs, not only in this article but through all of his past involvement with and in Kosovo.

    p.s. pity he has a same name as one of the greatest players in the history of Liverpool FC, which i support whole heartedly.

  4. Arhangel Mihajlo

    @Leka Instead of stamping the author as “influenced by the Serbs” it would be much more useful to point specific parts in this article which are not true.

    Unfortunately, after this is published, KFOR started shooting at Serb civilians obviously not aware what they are doing.

  5. Pingback : Kosovo – myth busting « Serbian facebook reporter

  6. Pingback : Kosovo – myth busting « SERBIAN JOURNAL

  7. Z man

    Hey LEKA,
    The man has balls to say the way it is like no one else does and that is what bothers you.
    He speaks the truth but as in the movie “you cant handle the truth’
    We know who these albanians are and before the conflict you never heard of Kosovo and now you r an expert on the matter

  8. Kathleen


    It is good to be on the side of good people. More people should be on the side of Christians in Kosovo. They are good people who want to stay on land they have been on for centuries, all the while having violent enemies against them. They have been systemically killed and driven off by the Muslim Albanians, by the Turks, by the Nazis. It is not new information that the Christians in Kosovo have these evil enemies.

    May the good people of the world wake up and help the last of these Christian people who are living under siege by the Albanian gangster clans, by the worlds most powerful and armed (USA) and the Europeans, who apparently have either forgotten them, or dont have the courage the face these overwheming powers who have abandoned the good, the truth, and the law in favor of wealth, hegemony and plain old hubris.

    Democracy does not begin with bombs. It begins with respect and love for all good people, especially those that cant defend themselves.

    How much longer until there is a new exodus and new trail of tears for the Kosovo Christians? In the Krajinja it only took 2 weekends to expel (or kill) 250,000 souls. How much longer? As we say in Chicago, Hillary CLinton’s birthplace, the whole world is watching. I sure am.


  9. one man

    hello people,

    if you don’t know, albanians make problems, becouse kosovo is part of serbia. Just think about that… egg. group of people come to one part of your country, and tell you “this is now our new country”… like european people come to america and use part of land from indians. i think, that now we have civilization. i don’t speak english wery good but you will know what i have in my mind.

  10. Tom in Lazybrook

    The violent clans in the Balkans appear to be in Belgrade.

    Serbia announced to the world last weekend that violent thugs run amok all over the streets of Belgrade. Serbia’s Interior Minister has now announced that there is no freedom of public speech, protest, or assembly for Gay Serbians. Because Serbia is so violent and hateful that 100 Gay people marching 250 feet in their national capital is so dangerous that thousands of lives would be lost in terrorist attacks had Gay Serbs had the ability to exercise freedom of speech. And he hasn’t done anything to protect the rights of minorities peacefully protesting in their national capital or to protect Gay people and their rights under Serbia’s constitution and its’ accession accords to the Council of Europe. He has lost all credibility as Interior Minister. And the Serbian Police have lost all credibility.

    If Serbia refuses (or cannot) protect minorities in its’ own capital, I think it shows that any promises to protect Kosovar interests in Mitrovica are empty promises.

    Kathleen, might I suggest that you direct your comments about respect for others to the Serbian Orthodox Church, who is claimed by Mladic Obradovic (a convicted violent extremist) as a supporter of his Obkaz extremist group in a report on the Balkan Insider website.

    When Serbia stops allowing violent thugs to determine the application of basic human rights to minorities in its’ capital, then it might have some standing to protect others in contested areas.

    Serbia just reinforced the world’s perception of Serbia as violent bigots, who treat anyone different with violent attacks. And that Serbia is either too weak or too indifferent towards the rights of minorities to do anything about the violence. After Srebrenica and Kosovo, we now have yet another example of Serbian violence, denial of human rights, riots, and lawlessness.

    And yes, we are aware that there has not yet been a Gay Pride Parade in Pristina. We’ll be giving the Kosovars an opportunity to see how committed they are to minority rights. Do you really want to consider the impact of a Kosova that allows unpopular minorities to parade in their capital (A Muslim country so tolerant that Gay people can march in public there? – Wow – I can see all the glowing news articles about how great and tolerant Kosova is and how miserable Serbia is in comparison – that can be arrainged – in multiple languages and nations). I wonder how helpful the influential Gay community of Spain can be on pressuring their government to recognize Kosova? Or how about Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil (all of whom don’t currently recognize Kosova and have large and influential Gay communities). Can we force our governments to recognize Kosova? No. But we have far more influence than homophobic bigots in Serbia think is possible. And we intend to make Serbia OWN its’ violent repression of minority rights.

    Might I suggest that you call Dacic and let him know that he has deeply offended 300 million Gay people. And that it might be a good idea to figure out how to get a Gay Pride Parade held in Central Urban Belgrade as soon as possible. And while your at it, you might wish to tell him that Because we will be calling the Kosovars soon. Talk to Israel about using tolerance for Gay people in order to help its’ image in certain countries. They know what Serbia refuses to consider. We are concentrated in large numbers in world influence capitals (London,Toronto, Paris, Madrid, Washington, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Buenos Aires,Sao Paulo, NYC, Los Angeles, Berlin, Sydney)and we can influence the influencers. We also tend to be on the left portion of the political spectrum so that our support can be very useful for groups that are identified with the right wing (such as Serbia and Israel) to engage us as allies to blunt criticism on the Left. We can be as neutral, helpful, or hostile as Serbia is towards us. Serbia’s caving into violent thugs and terrorist threats are moving us from neutral.

    I can see it now..”Kosova has freedom of speech, petition, protest, and assembly… Serbia has extremist violence and no freedoms for minorities”. “How can we give any part of Kosova to Serbian control…they can’t even control their capital”.

  11. xenia

    tom, you are just an angry gay man and you have no idea what are you talking about. I would like to see gay parade in Prishtina more than you, knowing that Albanians still have contracted marriages and are basically a tribe, if you like, and believe me there is a good reason for not having, not even talking, about Prishtina gay parade.

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