2011 – TransConflict http://www.transconflict.com Transform, Transcend, Translate Wed, 07 Sep 2016 15:48:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 Kosovo – Serbia, the EU and Germany http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/kosovo-serbia-the-eu-and-germany-212/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/kosovo-serbia-the-eu-and-germany-212/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2011 20:05:05 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4985 Europe seems to be allowing Germany to lead it into a historic blunder by freezing Serbia out rather than bringing it in.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited Kosovo on December 19th and encouraged the Kosovo Albanians to fight corruption, “behave responsibly” and not “stir up tensions.”  Her main message, however, seemed more focused on Serbia.  She made clear that for Germany, there is no way for Serbia to enter the EU unless it surrenders Kosovo.

Merkel did not say that Serbia must recognize Kosovo.  Indeed, it seems that the EU is anxious to make clear that formal recognition is not required.  (Five EU states themselves don’t recognize Kosovo.)  The conditions Merkel did lay down, however, would amount to a complete Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo.  Germany requires that all barricades be taken down, ways found to regularize trade, joint “border” control and the abolition of all Serb “parallel” local institutions in the north – including municipalities, courts and schools.

Merkel also visited German NATO troops and told them that “our security and our peace back home are down to troops serving their country here.”  (German security depends on subduing the Serbs in northern Kosovo? Why would that be?)

In sum, Merkel’s message was for the Kosovo Albanians to behave and while German political and military pressure on Belgrade takes care of the north.

It seems clear that while some in the EU may be uncomfortable with putting Serbia into a corner – surrender Kosovo or lose the EU – Germany is not.  And Germany commands the EU at this historic juncture because it seems only Germany can bail out the Euro.

It also seems clear that Serbia cannot meet Merkel’s conditions.  On the issue of so-called “parallel” institutions, Belgrade has responded that perhaps it would be better if the internationals accepted them as it is impractical to imagine them disappearing.  Many in Serbia are talking as if they believe EU candidacy is now unlikely and not the end of the world.  Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic – still clinging to his mantra of both Kosovo and the EU – is stretching his rhetoric as far as he can since he too understands he cannot meet Merkel’s conditions.

During a visit to Macedonia, he told the press that there is no way that Serbia can bring Kosovo back into its “state system” as it was before and there is no support for partition.  He suggested perhaps some dual sovereignty approach might work.

The continued German effort to “bludgeon” Serbia and the northern Serbs into surrender is either based on a stubborn belief that force can work or is a cynical way of keeping Serbia outside.  In the coming weeks and months – as it becomes clear that the barricades won’t come down without agreement on KFOR/EULEX status neutrality and Serbian local institutions in the north won’t be abolished in any case – how with the Quint react?

Will the US and Germany, for whatever reasons, up the military pressure and perhaps seek a solution through use of force?  Or will Serbia (and Tadic) be left to simply wither on the EU vine?  Either way, Europe seems to be allowing Germany to lead it into a historic blunder by freezing Serbia out rather than bringing it in.  Is progress on corruption, migration and ethnic conflict, etc. more likely that way?

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

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

To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s new reading lists series by clicking here.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Macedonia and Greece – back to square one? http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/macedonia-and-greece-back-to-square-one-202/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/macedonia-and-greece-back-to-square-one-202/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2011 08:48:49 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4936 Despite the ICJ ruling that Greece had breached its obligation under the 1995 Interim Accord, the dispute is back to square one, with few signs of genuine interest to find a lasting resolution.

By Marija Stambolieva

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently decided that Greece has breached its obligation under the Interim Accord of 1995 by objecting to Macedonia’s admission to NATO. Leaving aside the so-called “name-issue”, however, the ICJ’s decision – and its subsequent handling – have revealed several weak points of international relations, whilst elucidating important lessons for the future.

Macedonia joined the United Nations in 1993 following a Security Council resolution (817) recommending that the country is admitted to membership under the provisional reference “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. The ensuing Interim Accord between the two parties to the dispute provided the basis for the regulation of their mutual relations, and called for continued negotiations with a view to reaching an agreement on their differences over the name.

One of the provisions of the Interim Accord was that joining international, multi-lateral and regional organizations and institutions would not be hindered, as long as the reference is used. In its recent decision, the ICJ found that Greece breached exactly this obligation when opposing Macedonia’s application for NATO.

The reactions ranged from jubilation to panic. In Macedonia, the ICJ’s ruling was greeted with celebrations; in Greece, it was received with criticism. Others warned about the mismatch between the level of expressed emotions and the expected impact of the decision.

The sobering-up came exceptionally fast – only a few hours after the announcement, NATO’s Secretary General stated that, “the ruling does not affect the decision taken by NATO Allies at the Bucharest summit in 2008”, which can only be altered “as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached”.

The EU – membership in which Macedonia is also pursuing – although not explicitly reacting to the ICJ’s judgment, has continued to postpone the start of accession negotiations with the country.

The two political alliances, NATO and EU, seem to have moved past the interim agreement already three years ago, and this decision could now be obsolete.

It would not be the first time that states have chosen to ignore an ICJ’s decision which is not to their liking. The international legal order, however, does not have instruments of enforcement at its disposal, beyond the good will of the sovereign states. Thus, the issue has to return to the realm of international politics.

This does not mean, however, that international law is without value. The resolution to be bound by consensus in decision-making is already a fixed legal commitment of inter-state alliances.

In the UN, nothing can be decided without the consent of the permanent five. There were times when some members chose to undertake certain actions without the endorsement of the Security Council – like in the case of Kosovo, or Iraq – but even then the issues found their way back to the Council’s agenda. The most powerful players have admitted that they need allies for their missions.

On the other hand, one might say that the “name issue” is surely not as critical as cases where potential large-scale security threats or humanitarian disasters are in sight. It should not be forgotten, however, that back then, at the onset of the Yugoslav crisis, the fear of a potential new conflict was what motivated the Security Council to assume responsibility for facilitating the Interim Accord in the first place.

What now, therefore? Almost two decades later, this dispute is back where it was – at the beginning. Bearing in mind the historical background and the current state of international affairs, there are three possible three scenarios:

  1. The matter remains frozen – contemporary history has witnessed a proliferation of disputes and conflicts and the approach to many of them has been to localize and control, but not necessarily solve. The main players seem to have their hands full with pressing issues in Africa, North Africa, the Middle East and Kosovo, such that smaller, seemingly harmless ones will be kept at bay. Furthermore, Greece belongs to the club of established allies and, in light of the current financial and economic crisis, neither of the European states nor the United States has any interest in opening ‘new’ fronts. Macedonia’s applications for NATO and EU membership will, therefore, stay put.
  2. Powerful player(s) take(s) the lead – the United States has on many occasions demonstrated that it is willing to take on the responsibility for maintaining and building peace and security. Under its lead, agreements have been brokered; even seemingly impossible ones, such as that between Israel and Palestine, Israel and Egypt. One of the thus far disinterested European states could back the process. Macedonia’s claims along the lines of international law are respected, and so are its efforts to support international coalition operations. The root of Greece’s concerns is addressed. Heated rhetoric is cooled-off and both states are reasoned into an agreement.
  3. The UN decision is altered the Security Council recommends to the General Assembly that Macedonia is to be referred to under its constitutional name.

For the time being, the second scenario seems implausible and the third impossible. Those who made it their task to get the Balkans on track, however, cannot back down now. Perhaps efforts to create a “mutually-acceptable solution” should be intensified; perhaps alternative approaches to Macedonian approximation should be considered. The latest example in the EU on matters of the euro has shown how member states can push forward despite a veto. Or perhaps one should just wait for “better times”. In the meantime, Greece will probably be ‘saved’ by Europe. The Macedonians, meanwhile, are headed towards deeper isolation, manipulation and deprivation. Back to square one? Fine, as long as there is genuine interest to move things forward.

Marija Stambolieva is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Kassel in Germany. Her current research project focuses on studying the post-socialist transformations of the post-Yugoslav states in light of their social policies. She also holds a law degree and a Master in European Studies.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Kosovo – war or peace? http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/kosovo-war-or-peace-192/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/kosovo-war-or-peace-192/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2011 08:00:29 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4958 A peace initiative by Kosovo Serbs in the north opens the door to backing away from further confrontation, and seems to suggest that they are prepared to enter a dialogue on the future of the north.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The Russian aid convoy finally was allowed to enter north Kosovo on December 16th after a compromise over the EULEX demand to accompany the trucks.  As the local Kosovo Serbs were still preventing EULEX from travelling by road to the Jarinje crossing point – they believed that EULEX was seeking to bring Kosovo Albanian police with them – the EULEX vehicles traveled from south Kosovo north through Serbia and then around back to Kosovo.  It is not known if they had any Kosovo customs officials in the trunk.

The absurd lengths that EULEX went through to not commit itself to acting according to its status neutral UN mandate suggests that the crisis in the north is not yet over.  EULEX chief de Marnhac justified EULEX’s demand that it “control” the entry of the Russian vehicles as a matter of “rule of law.”  EULEX (and KFOR) cite this principle without specifying which rule of law they believe they are enforcing.  Their insistence on subjecting the north to Pristina’s “rule of law” – bringing Kosovo Albanian police and customs officials to the boundary – is at the root of the dispute that has kept the locals on the barricades since July.  Russia’s Ambassador to Serbia correctly noted that EULEX had exceeded its UNSCR 1244 mandate for political purposes.

Meanwhile, the northerners have presented KFOR and EULEX with a proposal for a “time out for peace” while broader issues are settled through dialogue including them.  Everyone would commit to not undertake unilateral actions.  The barricades would come down while the local Kosovo police (KPS) man the crossing points under KFOR and UNMIK supervision.  KFOR would mount checkpoints around Mitrovica to prevent unilateral moves while EULEX would operate normally from there south.  All this would leave time for filling in the details of the agreement to have both Serbian and Kosovo officials on the Gates.  So far, however, there has been little comment from the internationals, with KFOR saying it is a “political matter” and EULEX only that it is “looking” at the proposal.

At the core of the proposed peace plan is the northerners continued distrust of EULEX.  They remain opposed to an EULEX presence at the northern Gates as long as it seeks to impose Kosovo authority and customs there.  EULEX efforts to do so are without question beyond the UN mandate for rule of law passed to them in November 2008.  Perhaps Russia will now insist that the UN take back that responsibility?

The peace initiative opens the door to backing away from confrontation and it seems to suggest the northerners themselves are prepared to enter a dialogue on the future of the north.  The government in Pristina continues to insist that the northern mayors are “illegal”, but they have demonstrated they are the leaders on the ground and capable of acting responsibly.  Chancellor Merkel will visit Kosovo this week.  She should meet with representatives of the northern Kosovo Serbs – perhaps visit them on the barricades – and hear their side to judge for herself if they are all “criminals.”

The open question remains the US.  Left to themselves, the Europeans might well decide on an approach looking to peacefully implement issues agreed between Pristina and Belgrade while discussing further issues.  But if anyone simply wishes to out-wait the northerners – leave it to winter to drive them off the barricades – or look for a good moment to again use force, it would be the US. Pristina’s insistence on its plans for incorporating the north suggests at the least that its US patron is encouraging them to not compromise.  So, the danger of war remains.  Merry Christmas?

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

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

To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s new reading lists series by clicking here.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Novi Pazar’s shared cultural heritage http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/novi-pazars-shared-cultural-heritage-152/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/novi-pazars-shared-cultural-heritage-152/#respond Thu, 15 Dec 2011 08:50:40 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4842 Celebrating and instrumentalising shared cultural heritage in Novi Pazar carries enormous potential for creating a positive platform for dialogue between its two main communities.

By Teddy Noel-Hill

Novi Pazar is a town much maligned and much misunderstood. My first visit there came in in 2008 and I was struck by its distinctive and captivating cultural heritage. Since then I have been convinced that using and promoting the shared cultural history of Novi Pazar, both within the town and in Serbia more widely, could have positive transformative effects pertaining to intercommunity relations and its position within Serbia. I was privileged enough to return to Novi Pazar with TransConflict. Whilst on the trip, I gained a small insight into the problem the town faces and what needs to be done to tackle them.

Novi Pazar is home to a vibrant, well educated and numerically significant population of young people. Given that most of the rest of Serbia, along with high profile cases in Western Europe, not to mention Russia, are going through demographic crises, this is an important advantage when looking to the town’s future. It was with a selection of these young people that TransConflict – in collaboration with Kulturni Centar DamaD – engaged in a debate on life and interethnic relations in Novi Pazar.

The discussion was primarily based around the question of coexisting in a multicultural society and the role that culture plays in that existence. Central to the debate was the idea of shared cultural heritage and how this is represented in Novi Pazar. Novi Pazar has a rich and compelling cultural heritage that in theory is shared between the town’s Bosniak and Serb populations. Unfortunately, cultural exclusivism is pervasive within public life in Novi Pazar.

One member of the group gave an example that illuminated the problem in a telling way. They recounted the case of a programme on local television dealing with the shared history of Novi Pazar and Sandžak more generally. The only problem was the content was actually split into two programmes; one focussing on Serbian cultural heritage, the other on Bosniak cultural heritage.

The group was unanimous in establishing that culture represents an important pillar of society and is therefore crucial to the betterment of interethnic relations. Celebrating and instrumentalising shared cultural heritage in Novi Pazar carries enormous promise for creating a positive platform for dialogue between its two main communities. The economic benefits for doing so were also discussed, in the context of attracting tourists and outside investment.

There was no denial of the multi-dimensional rewards and holistic transformations that shared cultural consciousness and promotion could bring to Novi Pazar. However, various members of the group pointed out that the idea of shared cultural heritage remains a major area of disagreement between the two communities. One member of the group stated that discussions concerning shared culture too often run the risk of offending people from the other community. The fear of causing offence, or saying things that could be open to distortion, were highlighted by those at the debate as restrictive forces on improving intercommunity relations.

Insidious promotion of cultural exclusivity by those in positions of authority in Novi Pazar is sadly strangling any potential efforts towards the realisation of a shared cultural heritage, be it in the past or looking towards the future.

There was then a clear message from this part of the discussion – Novi Pazar needs tangible projects that promote the shared cultural heritage of the town that explicitly draw attention to the fact that the project would be undertaken by members of both the Bosniak and Serb communities.  It would be a tragedy not to use Novi Pazar’s unique and richly endowed cultural landscape to improve interethnic relations within the town and to improve its poltical, economic and social position within Serbia and the region. The transformative power of culture can be harnessed in interesting and constructive ways in Novi Pazar, with many members of the discussion group putting forward tangible ideas to this effect. The production of a weekly television programmed highlighting the shared history if the Sandžak region and the making of an interactive cultural map of Novi Pazar were two potential projects that were mentioned.

As I left Novi Pazar there was a pertinent reminder of the challenges facing the town in regards to its situation within Serbia as a whole. It was a Saturday and Novi Pazar football club were hosting a team from Belgrade. The Belgrade side have a fan base notorious for their extreme-right wing orientation, which alas, seems to be a common trait of football hooligans across Europe. Football stadia all too often represent a stage for all forms of bilious hate-filled sentiments that encompass racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia etc.  In the instance of this Saturday in Novi Pazar, the chanting was of a highly unsavoury politico-religious nature. As someone who watches football regularly in England, I am no stranger to the highly-charged atmosphere of football matches and the heavy police presence that accompanies them. The police presence in Novi Pazar however was more akin to a military operation and it felt as if the potential for violence and was very real.  Hateful chanting takes on an altogether more serious dimension in places such as Novi Pazar where there are heightened interethnic sensitivities and divisions. Whilst important steps can be taken within the town to improve relations between Bosniaks and Serbs, influxes of this nature reflect some of the perceptions and treatment of Novi Pazar throughout the rest of Serbia that need to be tackled. They could also potentially act as dangerous tipping points for strained community relations. Serious measures must be taken by the state authorities to address this, both on a macro and micro level.

Although cause for concern, these events did not overshadow the positivity that I took away from my time in Novi Pazar. Despite the difficulties and divisions that exist in Novi Pazar, the dedication and talents of my warm and welcoming hosts are having and will continue to make a constructive impact. Novi Pazar is fortunate that it possess such an asset as its cultural diversity, which can and should be celebrated. It must be hoped that the foresight, understanding and determination of those young people who wish to determine the town’s future will be allowed to shine through.

Teddy Noel-Hillis currently studying for a masters in Politics, Security and Integration at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London (UCL). He is currently researching the nexus between nationalism, politics and culture in South-Eastern Europe.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Serbia and the EU – who needs who? http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/serbia-and-the-eu-who-needs-who-132/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/serbia-and-the-eu-who-needs-who-132/#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2011 07:58:24 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4891 Though the EU – seemingly motivated by the US and “led” by Germany – rejected Serbia’s candidacy over its continued “refusal” to surrender Kosovo, it is increasingly apparent that the EU needs the Balkans inside even more than the Balkans needs to get inside.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The European Union has said “no” to Serbia.  Chancellor Merkel’s order to the rest of Europe to become more German will probably lead to the unraveling of the Euro – and maybe the EU – as the mandated austerity will sooner or later splinter on the various national political realities.  In the middle of this, Serbia’s president, Boris Tadić, continues to tie his country and his own political fate to gaining EU membership.  One might see in this an a-historical strategic choice.

The EU – apparently motivated by the US and “led” by Germany – rejected Serbia’s candidacy over its continued “refusal” to surrender Kosovo.  The US seems to believe that all the Serbs need is some good hard hits on the head to come to heel.  In north Kosovo, US KFOR has acted on the ground to administer such blows (as on September 27th) while pushing the German/Austrian KFOR to do the same.

In the “diplomatic” realm, the EU is expressing its certainty that surely Serbia will get candidacy next year after it has shown the good sense to do as it has been told and give up the north.  The EU wants to see “actions and not words.”  The EU is careful to inform that this does not mean “recognition” but “normalization” of relations with Kosovo.  And taking down those nasty barricades that injured NATO soldiers trying to remove them.

However, “normalizing” relations with Pristina will not mean any special status for the north but rather bringing the north into Kosovo institutions on Kosovo Albanian terms.  The dialogue that Brussels has sought to use to find an un-American way to approach the northern stalemate keeps running into Pristina’s refusal to accept any practical arrangements that do not somehow entrench Kosovo sovereignty.  The US says it doesn’t have to.  Meanwhile, KFOR sometimes passes through the barricades and sometimes doesn’t because the northern Serbs refuse to let EULEX by until it stops taking Kosovo Albanian officials to the boundary crossings and KFOR still insists.  (EULEX is using helicopters for now despite the Kosovo Albanian officials sitting and doing nothing once there as the crossings remain blocked.)

Tadić remains wedded to doing everything he can for EU membership.  The northern Kosovo Serbs are worried that under EU pressure he might try to cut them off.  Perhaps stop paying salaries or withdraw the MUP.  As almost everyone knows, however, except apparently the Quint, Tadić cannot simply cut the north off, certainly not when the EU placed a noose around his neck and is kicking the chair out from under him.  He has to have somewhere to put his feet.

It has been said that the trouble with the Balkans is that it produces more history than it can consume.  It actually seems more that the Balkans produces too much history for the rest of Europe to consume.  It was the frontline for centuries in Europe’s defensive war with the Ottomans, who were still there just 100 years ago.  The “Holy Romans” and “Habsburgs” of today are now standing at the Gates keeping the Serbs out of Europe.  In truth, however, the EU needs the Balkans inside even more then the Balkans needs to get inside.

The EU loses if there is any “outside.”  As it is discovering, for a united European economy to work, everyone must be inside and playing by the same rules.  An EU based on exclusions and inequalities – where Germany can reap huge profits by selling to neighbors who don’t pay their debts – won’t work.  Austerity alone will only stop the buying and not resolve the problems.  And anyone left outside might do quite well taking-up with those who eventually fall out.

Serbia might be wiser to tell the EU that for now, it is comfortable with handling the Kosovo issue in its own way and when it is ready, it will get back to Brussels.  Don’t call us, we’ll call you?

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

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

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Quo vadis, Serbia? http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/quo-vadis-serbia-122/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/quo-vadis-serbia-122/#respond Mon, 12 Dec 2011 08:02:50 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4882 Despite Europe’s general loss of interest in further expansion, Serbia’s state of aporia keeps it riveted to the European Union; leaving the country without a road, much less a roadmap.

By David B. Kanin

In various ways, the philosophical term “aporia” and Emile Durkheim’s concept of “anomie” represent a sense of disorientation, perplexity, lack of purpose, or a sense of meaning in life.  An individual or a community can find itself without direction or belief in a constructive future.

This is where Serbia finds itself, no matter its Chinese water torture-like relationship with the European Union.  Serbia has been buffeted by serial defeats, at least since the Nazi invasion of 1941, that have negated not only the internal sense of identity forged during the nationalist era before 1914, but also the rather prideful place Serbian publicists advertized their nation had gained through the sacrifices of World War I – especially the iconic retreat of 1915-16 – and the reward given the Karadjordjevic dynasty at Versailles.  Tito’s anything but Serbian Yugoslavia, the failed federal interregnum of the 1980s, the self-serving and self-defeating tactics of a Milošević as devoid of strategic vision as he was of concern about anyone but his family, and wars in the 1990s ripped apart what at best had been a country insufficiently prepared to deal with Balkan developments in the first place.

Even Serbia’s one post-Yugoslav success, Milošević’s deal with Holbrooke at Dayton (they were the central actors in that drama – Tudjman had won what he needed on the battlefield and Izetbegović had little choice but to accept that his community was getting screwed) came at the price of accepting the intra-Serbian border drawn at the Drina.  Along with Belgrade’s acquiescence in the decisive Croatian victories of “Flash” and “Storm,” that acquiescence put to death nationalist dreams to revive the projects composed in 1844 and 1986.

Milosevic’s narrow personal agenda destroyed Serbia’s communal sense of meaning.  His successors have done little to lead the society toward a new one.  Two incidents of the previous decade illustrate Serbian aporia.  The assassination of Zoran Đinđić in 2003 provoked a huge turnout at a funeral marked as much by genuine anguish over Serbia’s self-inflicted suffering as by grief over the politician’s death.  In each year since, the anniversary of that murder has led to new commentaries by public intellectuals not only bemoaning what might have been, but also pointing to the country’s lack of leadership and direction.

In 2005, Serbia’s decision not to join the general celebration of the 65th anniversary of V-E Day underscored that – for too many Serbs – the decision of 1945 marked a defeat, not a victory.  The record of the 1990s is not the only reference point reminding Serbs they are out of step with their own memories, not just with the memories of others.

This state of aporia is what keeps Serbia riveted to the European Union, even though membership in that club has become less than universally popular.  No matter Brussels’ congenital self-righteousness, never mind the moving targets of conditions for accession that mask Europe’s general loss of interest in further expansion (and forget the assertive, insecure Russians) – Serbia’s insular sullenness and lack of leadership has left it with nowhere else to go.

Vuk Drašković, an erstwhile royalist, has teamed up with the Milo Đukanović wannabe Cedomir Jovanović to wave a tattered EU banner in Boris Tadić’s face.  The so-called Progressives have claimed they too want to join “Europe.”  Ivica Dačić, one of those honest enough to acknowledge that further partitions in Kosovo (and, in my view, elsewhere) are possible, expressed in his recent “threat of war” speech the general sense of self-pity and aporia.

  • “We have let the Serbs, who were the greatest victims of the wars, become a synonym for war criminals, those who conquer somebody else’s territories ad jeopardize peace all over the world just because we think that the truth (my italics) is enough and that it does not need to be advertized.”

The EU’s latest non-decision on whether to bestow on Serbia a date for its candidacy was unimportant.  What was more instructive was how desperate Belgrade was for Serbs in northern Kosovo to dismantle barricades for the sake of Serbia’s EU candidacy.

  • Despite head fakes after December 5, at this writing that brouhaha remains unsettled.  It still is not clear why – judging from his public comments beginning November 26 or 27 – Zubin Potok’s Slaviša Ristić broke ranks with his colleagues and cut a perishable deal with KFOR.  Ristić and Mitrovica’s Krstimir Pantić continue to have different public lines as to how their constituents should behave.  (KFOR’s willingness not to insist on free movement by EULEX and to engage in discussions that conceded to Ristić the appearance of sovereignty also are issues worth discussing).

In its current anomic state, Serbia’s political establishment will hold to the chimera of EU membership as tightly as the West Europeans themselves cling to their damaged project for European unity.  As long as Serbian spokespeople claim pride of place as victims and imply they represent some special “truth”, Serbia cannot help itself and will not contribute constructively either to possible Balkan futures or to whatever becomes of “Europe.”  Meanwhile, concerns over chronic economic problems, such possible blows as the threat to close US Steel’s plant in Smederevo, and the local impact of transatlantic financial mismanagement link material concerns to the poor public mood.

In this vein, now that the EU once again has spoken (sort of), Serbia’s politicians and public intellectuals are using their usual noises to avoid the necessary work of finding a future.  Whether expressing desire to join the EU or urging their people to stop acting like terminal supplicants, the conversation in Serbia obscures the country’s baseline aporia – as usual, the country finds itself without a road, much less a roadmap.

This does not have to be the case.  The same Serbia that lost so much in the last three quarters of a century can stop blaming everyone but itself for its problems and – finally – take the lead in fashioning a strategy for regional development.  Of course, this would require Serbian government and society putting its EU aspirations on the back burner (which is where the Europeans have placed them).  They should acknowledge there is no alternative to a down-to-earth decision to embrace the problems and potential common to all Balkan communities, and disgorge the self-destructive mythology connecting spiritual sacrifice to national character.

There is no substitute for Serbia taking part – as one Balkan community among others, not as special hero or victim – in regional strategies and policies designed to overcome the geographic and economic obstacles in the way of peace and the general prosperity.  Neither the declining transatlantic powers nor the self-serving Russians can offer more than inertia as they enable Serbia and its neighbors to slough off on outsiders the responsibility they have been avoiding for their own problems.  Looking to the EU is pointless – it is inept in handling Balkan problems and perhaps facing its own flavor of anomie if it continues to dither in the face of financial problems.

The key to a constructive direction for the region is for Serbs, Albanians, Greeks, Macedonians, the communities loosely connected by the failing entity called “Bosnia,” and minority people living among them to ignore the outsiders, confront their own biases, hatreds, and frustrations, and finally engage with each other as passengers irrevocably condemned to travel in the same small boat.  To jumpstart this process, there is no substitute for building a transportation network and other infrastructural skeleton intended to – finally – create an integrated regional market.

Questions of border and population patterns (which, no matter great power rhetoric, remain very much in play) should take a back seat to problems of physical engineering and financial flows.  Build “corridors” with off-ramps that channel commerce to local destinations, not just Western Europe.  Develop resource plans and economic strategies that harness the capabilities of all Balkan communities and establish a regional approach to broader international trade designed to enable everyone who lives there, not to privilege parochial interests or tired notions of Serbian (or other) national uniqueness.  Make sure gas pipelines and other energy projects serve the needs of Balkan communities, not only the plans of West European planners or Russian oligarchs.  Seek outside investments as a strategic group rather than individual supplicants.

This strategy could enable an emerging network of commerce and trade perhaps leading eventually to further border changes – or, in the best case, softening of the significance of borders – and limited population movements.  The changed context would mean such developments could become constructive instead of destabilizing because they would be determined more by constructive material logic than destructive communal ideologies.  There are no “final statuses” in the Balkans; the question is what developments and relationships will drive the next set of changes produced by Serbs and the other communities with which they currently contest physical and spiritual pride of place.

David B. Kanin is an adjunct professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University and a former senior intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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Articles published by TransConflict do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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We need to talk about Mevlid – Vehabije and extremism in Bosnia and Serbia http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/we-need-to-talk-about-mevlid-vehabije-and-extremism-in-bosnia-and-serbia-812/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/we-need-to-talk-about-mevlid-vehabije-and-extremism-in-bosnia-and-serbia-812/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2011 11:21:25 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4845 If overlying, systemic issues are not addressed, then misperceptions and security rhetoric regarding Wahhabism will put a serious strain on inter-community relations in the Western Balkans.

By Teddy Noel-Hill

Mevlid Jašarević’s attack on the United States Embassy in Sarajevo elucidates much about the nature and causes of extremism in the Western Balkans. The event has thrust Wahhabis in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia further into the forefront of public debate and caused concern across all sections of society. However, it is imperative that Wahhabism is understood as part of the wider environment that drives people to extremism, particularly in Bosnia and Serbia. If these overlying, systemic issues are not addressed, then misperceptions and security rhetoric regarding Wahhabism will put a serious strain on inter-community relations.

The reality of the Wahhabi (1) movement in the Western Balkans is a small number of people living in largely introspective communities in remote areas. Wahhabism is, of course, a foreign import.  It first came to Bosnia during the war, with the predominantly Arab volunteers of the El Mudžahid unit fighting within the Bosnian Army (ARBiH). Wahhabi ideas and practises have spread outside of Bosnia, and there are adherents in Sandžak (both Serbian and Montenegrin), Kosovo and Macedonia. The vast majority of foreign combatants who came to Bosnia to fight during 1992-1995 have largely been thrown out of the country. Furthermore, the influences of Saudi Arabian Islamic networks espousing Wahhabi ideals have been severely curtailed. Instances like the current controversy of the naming of the new University of Sarajevo library demonstrate the sensitivities over Saudi involvement in Bosnia, but the fact remains that Wahhabism is now a domestic issue within Bosnia and Serbia, and must be treated as such.

These days, the major external actor of Islamic orientation in Bosnia and Serbia is Turkey. Turkish religious organisations, as well as groups with no religious affiliation, have been very active in the fields of reconstruction, education and refugee assistance in post-war Bosnia. In Serbia at present, Turkish intervention to reconcile the Islamic community/communities is important on many levels, not least in helping to tackle extremism. The so-called ‘džamija diplomatija’ that is conducted through the Turkish Foreign Ministry, religious organisations and NGOs will hopefully bring cohesion to the Islamic Communities of Serbia, whilst concurrently removing some of its more outspoken figures from politics. The institutional weakness of Islam in Serbia is having a very negative effect when it comes to dealing with extremism. The rift between the rival Islamic Communities is damaging because it prevents concerted efforts to dissuade people, primarily young men, from taking extremist positions on matters of faith.

Additionally, it erodes the interpretative, administrative and representative authority (2) of a singular Islamic Community to which young disaffected men could feel a part of.  The rupture between rival Islamic Communities in Serbia makes it easier for extremist interpretations of Islam to pervade the Muslim population in Sandžak and elsewhere.

The other corollary of these Turkish-led initiatives, the separation of Islam from the politics of Serbia, will hopefully remove a crucial motivation for young men in Sandžak to turn to Islamic extremism. The conflation of Islam with politics, as most overtly embodied in Mufti Zukorlić, was seen by Wahhabis as an example of the abandonment of faith and corrupt practises which adds weight to the arguments they put to disillusioned youth in the region. Until Jašarević’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, almost all Islamic extremist acts, or planned acts, of violence or disruption were directed against Muslim political figures or the Islamic community more generally. This demonstrates that the first and most important steps needed to dissuade people for extremist viewpoints need to come from within the Islamic community itself. The threat posed to the state or “Western” targets, such as embassies, has remained relatively low. There can be no denying that Jašarević’s actions represent a worrying move away from this fact, but a sense of perspective is necessary. What is more, it may seem somewhat prosaic to state that not all Wahhabis are terrorists, but this truth is often neglected or purposefully omitted in popular media and the discourse of security professionals and unscrupulous politicians.

Tackling extremism in the Western Balkans, in all its forms, is dependent on changing systemic socio-economic factors. What drives young men to extremism and threatens social cohesion in the region is the overarching economic and political malaise. Young men are fed with a dearth of economic opportunities and their ineffective, often corrupt, political leaders.

Mevlid Jašarević is in many ways a typical example of an individual enticed by extremist sentiments. He is a young man from an economically depressed city with high unemployment and little opportunities. Novi Pazar has little economic, political or cultural engagement with the Serbian state, and Jašarević and many like him will not see themselves as stakeholders in the Serbian polity. What compounds these feelings in Novi Pazar and parts of Bosnia are mutually antagonistic assertions of identity between young men from different ethno-religious/ethno-national groups.  The root causes of extremist attitudes (unemployment etc.), are exacerbated in environments of existing inter-group tension where public assertions of difference are magnified and exaggerated. Religious extremism and/or extreme nationalism emanating from non-Muslim groups in Bosnia and Sandžak are inherent to the vicious cycle of provocation that Wahhabism is a part of. Even though it is primarily young men from rural areas who have been attracted to Wahhabism and Islamic extremism, there is a key urban dynamic pertaining to the proximity in which people live that needs to be addressed.

Economic, political and educational disenfranchisement of young men in places with troubled inter-communal relations is bound to cause an augmentation of disdain for the members of the other group and more extreme forms self-identification. It is clear that work needs to be done to bolster inter-community dialogue amongst the young and to improve their opportunities.  A combined approach of inter-community dialogue, political empowerment and economic opportunity is sorely needed. After all, the economic situation Bosnia, Serbia (Sandžak) is the same for everyone, regardless of religious identification or national identification

Perceptions and political manipulations of Wahhabis could lead to a dangerous process of securitising Islam. Securitisation of Islam in the Western Balkans will have disastrous consequences for the region, both in the domestic sphere and in relations between states. Securitisation takes issues out of the normal realm of politics and debate and into a dangerous state of exception in which law, rights and dialogue are disregarded. Securitisation will worsen paranoia and rhetoric portraying Bosniaks as latent fundamentalists, and lead to a degenerative process of repression, mistrust and societal polarisation. This will, of course, have a dire effect for the already difficult political situation in Bosnia, and further obstruct the inclusion of Bosniaks in the political and cultural mainstream in Serbia.

The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo went largely unreported in the UK and, from what I have gathered, the rest of Europe. In some ways this is just as well, as there is a distinct lack of understanding and a tendency towards hyperbolic and sensationalist claims about the nature of the Wahhabi “threat” within the Western Balkans. If Islamic extremism becomes a policy driver for Western engagement with the Balkans then the consequences will be calamitous. Given that many EU member states have an, at best, ambivalent relationship with Islam, any mismanagement of the Wahhabi issue from a European/International perspective is possible, but must be avoided.

Teddy Noel-Hill is currently studying for a masters in Politics, Security and Integration at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London (UCL).  He is currently researching the nexus between nationalism, politics and culture in South-Eastern Europe.

This article is published as part of TransConflict’s newly-launched initiative, Confronting Extremism, further information about which is available by clicking here.

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Footnotes:

1. Wahhabis of course would refer to themselves as Salafis. Discussion on theological, historical and ideational differences between the two is beyond the scope of this article.

2. See Eldar Sarajlić “The Return of the Consuls: Islamic networks and foreign policy perspectives in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. (Paper presented at the conference ‘After the Wahhabi Mirage: Islam, politics and international networks in the Balkans’) European Studies Centre, University of Oxford. The paper addresses this issue but in relation to the Islamic Community of Bosnia.

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Politics by other means – netwar for Kosovo http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/politics-by-other-means-netwar-for-kosovo-712/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/politics-by-other-means-netwar-for-kosovo-712/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2011 09:04:14 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4606 Though an under-explored aspect of contemporary conflict, developments in information technology are fuelling the emergence of new forms of warfare which could pose a unique challenge to state’s critical infrastructure.

By Jovana Jezdimirovic Ranito

The end of the Cold War saw a multiplication of war strategies, fuelled primarily by the emergence of non-state actors and threats – including well-organized political movements, guerilla and terrorist groups – plus new communication and information technologies. The transformation of both the settings and demands of conflict has led to a transformation of the very conflicts themselves.

Military hardware – no matter how sophisticated – is beset by several short-comings; being expensive to produce and always leaving physical traces as to its use. Beside physical and diplomatic battlefields, contemporary battles are instead increasingly being fought virtually (through programmed weapons) and in cyber-space.

The bi-polar tensions of the Cold War reduced and obscured the actions of many actors – such as extreme ethnic groups, non-governmental organizations and private entities – whose re-emergence on the international scene has raised their importance for states. Their impact on, for instance, public opinion – which has been used a valedictory tool for new forms of behaviour and modes of organization, often transcending international laws and norms – has made them an important focus for state policies.

Warfare in this new, multi-polar setting has included – besides battles on the ground and diplomatic measures – strategies created by Information Technology (IT); such as ‘net-‘, ‘cyber-‘ and ‘virtual-‘ war. Cheaper and nearly invisible, these emergent strategies have been used as a supplement to more conventional forms of warfare.

If we consider cyber-attacks to be part of a concerted cyber-war, then they would have several profound consequences – political, economic and psychological. Politically, when organized by states keen to hide their tracks, they have the potential to damage infrastructure – including by provoking a shut-down of the power grid, or causing disturbances in transportation, telecommunications, the banking and financial transactions. The economic consequences of such attacks would be devastating; it is calculated that daily losses would be somewhere between $35m and $150m. Psychologically, the chaos caused would provide a considerable advantage to the state executor of the attacks, whose final goal is to exert pressure at the negotiating table.

If on one side of the scale we have cyber war, on the other is ‘net war’; a strategy that employs soft power and does not have the capability to cause the sort of damage that cyber-war does. The similarities are significant, particularly the common goal to influence ongoing negotiations through the use of virtual space and attacks on key websites. However, the differences relate to the technological capability of the attack, its executioners and the tactics used to achieve its goals.

In the case of netwar, the executioner is the nationalist, extreme ethnic group – not the state itself -which leave traces on the websites targeted and spreads propaganda as a means of influencing foreign policy. These attacks are directed not only at vital infrastructures, but rather at all websites they consider relevant to the cultural identity of the enemy; everything that would garner media attention. Their means are grounded in the posting of, for instance, advertising messages and the blocking of websites.

Attacks between Serbian and Albanian hackers, which can be traced back to the late-nineties, have increased in intensity over the last three years. Attacks on the websites of institutions and those concerned with cultural heritage should serve as a warning to policy-makers in the Balkans, emphasizing the need to better define strategies to combat cyber-attacks. At present, there is a lack of clear and official strategies, even though the respective countries recognize the problem and the very real threat it poses.

In Kosovo, netwar has been used as an addition to conventional war strategies as a consequence of the transformation of the conflict; from on-the-ground battles to diplomatic and net war strategies. This strategy cannot exist independently, and its main goal is to influence the ongoing negotiations and spread propaganda. Globally, combating netwar through law enforcement and counter-intelligence remains weak, suggesting that this will remain a privileged way of attacking critical infrastructure in the future.

The lack of clear and strong legislation among the Balkan states leaves them particularly vulnerable to speculative attacks which – in the case of the Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo – are exploited by opportunist, nationalistic, extremist groups with an aim to complement their political dispute. Such cyber-attacks have, until now, not been significant enough to destroy critical infrastructure, though they have certainly disturbed their functioning. The tendency is towards increasing level of attacks, which eventually could reach a level where it is transformed into a cyber-war.

The countries of the region, therefore, need to invest further resources in order to objectively analyse the prevailing situation and address the problem accordingly. Each is increasingly dependent on IT services, and needs to begin seriously investing not only in improving legislation and policies targeting such crimes, but also in network security, incident response, technical training and international collaboration. Without these steps, the possibility of damaging and costly attacks on critical infrastructure remain a distinct possibility.

Jovana Jezdimirovic Ranito completed an MA in Peace and Security studies, is currently a PhD candidate of in International Policy and Conflict Resolution, at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Her interests are related to security and development issues.

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Kosovo – an end to the northern crisis? http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/kosovo-an-end-to-the-northern-crisis-612/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/kosovo-an-end-to-the-northern-crisis-612/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2011 07:37:59 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4834 The new agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the crossing points, plus the removal of some barricades, may provide an opportunity to finally end the current crisis in the north that began on July 25th.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

According to various sources, the northern Kosovo Serbs have begun removing barricades after an agreement with KFOR.  At the site in Zubin Potok that was the scene of recent clashes, KFOR will keep a checkpoint that will now include local Kosovo police. It is also reported that barricades on the road to Gate 1 in Leposavic are coming down.  It is not yet clear if all the barricades will be removed or just some.

There is some expectation that the new agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the crossing points, plus the removal of some barricades, might lead to the EU deciding favorably on Serbia’s EU candidacy.  As long as nothing else negative happens in the next few days, it at least will make it harder for Germany and others to deny Serbia.

The real story, however, may be that finally an opportunity has been created to end the current crisis in the north that began on July 25th.  The decision by the northern Serbs to at least test whether KFOR and EULEX are willing now to return to acting within their UN mandate is a wise and courageous one.  The actions by KFOR and EULEX over the last few months to impose Kosovo customs at the northern boundary have given the local community in the north absolutely no reason to trust them.  However, within the context of the new agreement – which offers a framework for a status neutral approach to the northern crossing points – and to help remove any excuses for Berlin to veto Serbian candidacy, the northerners have apparently decided to act as if they do.  It is now up to KFOR and EULEX to perform their duties as peacekeepers as mandated by UNSCR 1244 and not to seek to further the political agenda of any one side.

Now some words on “status neutral” and “trust.”

Some have questioned the value and meaning of “status neutral.”  The term derives from UNSCR 1244, which does not settle the question of the status of Kosovo but provides for peacekeeping while that status is resolved.  “Status neutral” does not mean – nor does it prevent – each side claiming that status has been decided.  Pristina and its supporters assert Kosovo independence, whilst Serbia and Serbs deny it.  “Status neutral” does, however, establish a mandatory approach for those international elements – namely KFOR, EULEX and UNMIK – acting under the UN mandate in Kosovo.  A status neutral framework for the northern boundary would simply mean that both sides accept neutral practical arrangements while the political dispute continues.  Status neutral does not mean either side has given up their views on Kosovo’s political status.

Some question how KFOR and EULEX can be trusted to remain neutral and carry out any agreements reached in a status neutral manner.  Indeed, they have good reason to question these two Quint agents. It is not, however, really a matter of trust.  The northern Kosovo Serbs have demonstrated – by their determined and peaceful resistance to the effort to impose a new political order on them – that they must be part of any process to achieve a stable and peaceful accommodation over the north.  Their actions to protect what they see as the interests of their community are their ultimate guarantee.  Nothing lasting can be done without them.  Hopefully, KFOR and EULEX will not again be used to try and settle the northern issue through force.  Clearly that does not work.

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

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EU integration pitfalls in the Western Balkans http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/eu-integration-pitfalls-in-the-western-balkans-512/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/12/eu-integration-pitfalls-in-the-western-balkans-512/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2011 17:11:43 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4761 Should stalemate in the European integration process not be properly managed both now and in the future, the EU risks a serious loss of credibility – both as a mediator and as “an anchor for change”.

By Massimiliano Gobbato

A series of events from June onwards provides strong evidence that EU-Serbia relations are approaching a turning point. Serbia’s apprehension of Mladic and Hadžić, the commencement of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and the positive opinion of the Commission on EU candidacy represent valuable evolutions. For Serbia, it has improved its European and international standing, boosting its chances of obtaining EU membership. For the EU, it has strengthened its stabilizing role in the Western Balkans.

Though overshadowed by so-called ‘enlargement fatigue’ and, more importantly, by the current Euro debt crisis, the Western Balkans have gone through some valuable changes during the past two years, bringing about a new wave of EU rapprochement. The ICJ’s ruling on Kosovo, the fulfilment of Serbia’s ICTY obligations and the European Council’s green light for Croatia membership, along with Montenegro’s EU candidacy, are clear signs of a propelling force emerging from the region.

However, some persistent unsettled issues and a certain amount of diplomatic indecision are hindering – if not putting at risk entirely – sustainable solutions. Above all, it seems that some of the key actors inside and outside the region are realising that there is much at stake, and that they lack a clearly defined strategy for dealing with the ever-changing situation.

In order to better understand this last point, it is useful to consider the two-fold approach towards the region’s stability and integration. On the one hand, the EU is called upon by the duty of historical legacy and interests to be a reliable, stabilizing factor for the region. On the other, the remaining former-Yugoslav states have to take steps to catch-up with the rest of the transition countries which have already joined, or are inclined to join, the EU.

As frequently highlighted by several observers, the cornerstone of this process is represented by EU-Serbia relations. Aside from historical factors, the inter-relationship between the situation in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other parts of the Balkans demands a once-and-for-all stabilisation of relations between Belgrade, Pristina and the EU.

Though one could claim that the EU integration process has so far been fairly successful, various controversies remain which will require additional common efforts to reach an acceptable equilibrium. Should this stalemate not be properly managed, however, the EU risks a serious loss of credibility – both as a mediator and, to use EU jargon, as “an anchor for change”.

As far as Belgrade-Pristina relations are concerned, the policy which has viewed Serbia’s and Kosovo integration as parallel processes is no longer applicable in the light of the recent events. The EU’s strategy has shaped its approach within two similar-but-distinct frameworks; deferring the point at which these two processes would inevitably clash.

On the one hand, the EU has encouraged Serbia’s integration progress as with any other potential candidate, whilst on the other, it has engaged Kosovo trough the Stabilisation Track Mechanism, specifically tailor-made for Pristina. This had the dual aim of continuing the enlargement process and delaying the moment at which ‘enlargement fatigue’, disagreement between member states and a predictable deterioration of the situation in northern Kosovo would have left the Union facing a dilemma.

If, to date, the EU has been successful in circumventing inter-relations between the two parties by acting as a neutral actor, the EU is increasingly being forced to reach a common position – or, at least, a coherent integration strategy – despite internal disagreements amongst both member states and its driving institutions.

Though Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, took a firm stance during her last visit to Belgrade, Martin Schulz – leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament and a candidate to become president of the European Parliament – downplayed this hard-line attitude on Kosovo. Indeed, Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, recently stated in a high-level conference in Brussels that, “Croatia transformed itself because of the reforms undertaken, reforms made possible because Enlargement policy was credible. For Member States, credibility means applying rigourous conditionality towards the applicants, but also providing them with a tangible European perspective as they fulfil the relevant conditions”. Given Serbia’s progress on the reform front, the Kosovo issue could undermine the EU’s credibility.

At this point in time, the EU will have to contend with the asymmetries both within itself and the Western Balkans for two reasons. First, Serbia’s candidacy will be a test of EU diplomatic action effectiveness and credibility; not only in the Western Balkans, but elsewhere. Second, the Kosovo case represents an exception to the ‘untouchability principle’ of former Yugoslav borders, which can be considered an unwritten rule of settling territorial disputes in the Western Balkans.

Consequently, the EU is obliged to face its inconsistencies by finding an agreement on the recognition of Kosovo, or by being prepared to compensate – through diplomacy and charisma – for the fact that the EU is demanding Belgrade to recognize something that the EU itself does not agree upon. Furthermore, it is interesting to note the fact that Serbs in northern Kosovo are requesting the same treatment of Kosovo itself; namely independence under the principle of self-determination.

As EU decision-making processes on foreign and security policy still rest upon the principle of consensus, reaching a common approach and a consistent strategy will be neither straightforward, nor immediate. The recent phenomenon of withdrawal from, and resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, clearly points to some of the challenges faced. The Commission has nonetheless given its approval to Serbia’s candidacy request, though with special conditions attached. Even if the European Council grants Serbia candidate status, the real matter at stake is when and under which approach negotiations will be conducted. This recent pattern of EU-Serbia relations is one of the main reasons for why it is still difficult to predict the EU’s future engagement.

Whilst the EU needs to reset and re-adapt its its integration strategy before making further steps, Serbia itself remains in an uncomfortable position. The country is in arrears – both with respect to reform and foreign direct investment – that inhibit economic development. Even though not hit as severely as other neighbours by the financial crisis, Serbia remains in a steady state; implying that urgent actions are required – for instance, on still-pending privatisations – in order to counter the understandable citizens’ dissatisfaction with low living standards and to avoid any form of ultra-nationalistic revival.

As recently stated by the Economist Intelligence Unit, maintaining fiscal discipline and wage policies to balance the pressure for excessive government spending is the main challenge for policy-makers. These phenomena may lead to social tensions and political frictions that impact on the current EU rapprochement and integration process; undoubtedly one of the main means to improve Serbia’s economic conditions. This virtuous circle of economic reforms and European integration should also help improve citizen’s opinions on EU membership, which are prone to changing. The close relationship between EU integration, economic development and nationalist residuals is, therefore, swiftly fading when compared, for instance, to the case of Croatia.

Though the Serbian ruling elites are aware of this challenge, the political panorama continues to stick to the catch-all position – claiming EU integration as a priority, and Kosovo and Methoija as an integral part of the Republic of Serbia – without sufficiently debating the possible consequences of this stance and its apparent limitations. Though some interesting changes within Serbian nationalists have been observed, particularly their attitudes towards EU integration, and in contrast to Serbia’s progress in areas of the rule of law and democracy, the issue of Kosovo relates to the gloomiest part of the country’s recent history.

This particular pattern continues to hinder the start of EU membership negotiations, due to constant frictions with the Kosovo authorities and the EU, plus the wider repercussions for the region. This current vicious circle threaten the favourable momentum that can help move Serbia, Kosovo and the region down the path of ‘normalisation’, economic growth and political stability. If the EU mismanages this process, then it risks serious losses of credibility; both in the Western Balkans and elsewhere.

Massimiliano Gobbato is a former NGO Volunteer in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. He holds an MA in European Studies from the College of Europe, where he specialised in EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy. Massimiliano published several articles as a freelance writer, and previously worked for the Veneto Delegation to the EU on Croatia’s candidacy and EU-Serbia related issues.

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Kosovo – Quint brinksmanship http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-quint-brinksmanship-241/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-quint-brinksmanship-241/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2011 14:36:41 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4769 By refusing to act within their UN peacekeeping mandate, but instead trying to change the facts on the ground through the use of force, EULEX and KFOR are pushing north Kosovo to the brink.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

In the early morning hours of November 24, NATO troops from its Kosovo force (KFOR) again tried to change facts on the ground through stealth and use of force.  They drove a group of local Kosovo Serbs off a road barricade they had been peacefully manning, and then set-up barbed wire to stop the Serbs from retaking the barricade.  Sirens and social media alerted the locals and hundreds of them went to the barricade.  They reportedly removed the barbed wire and as they sought to reinforce the barricade, clashed with KFOR troops from Hungary and Portugal.  The Serbs reportedly threw stones and used trucks to back the soldiers off, while KFOR used teargas before backing off.  Neither side used firearms but KFOR reported 21 of its soldiers were injured, including one seriously by a truck.  KFOR broke off the effort and the Serbs rebuilt their barricade.  Meanwhile, a grenade was reportedly thrown near the North Mitrovica University and shots were heard in the area.  (No injuries were reported in those incidents.)

NATO has tried three or four times in the past weeks to remove barricades in the dead of night.  This latest came two days after the recent talks between Belgrade and Pristina failed to resolve the issue of the northern crossing points, and just days before the EU is to decide whether or not to grant Serbia member candidacy on December 9.  The EU continues to threaten Serbia with not receiving a favorable outcome unless it allows Kosovo customs on the boundary and begins ending support for the northern Kosovo Serbs and their barricades.  The effect of the EU pressures has led to some apparent loss of interest in getting candidacy.

The Quint seems to be on the verge of losing its leverage with Serbia.  There is nothing else Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic, can do to please them.  What they are asking – that he give up north Kosovo – he cannot deliver.  They more they press for the impossible, the more Serbs get ready to be left without the EU.  Diminishing returns.  And if Brussels denies Serbia candidacy next month, its leverage over the near term drops pretty much to zero.

So, why does NATO try once again to resolve the northern crisis on the ground through the use of force?  Perhaps because the people making Kosovo policy just now – the US Embassy in Pristina? – still believe a determined show of force will work?  Or perhaps – because the Quint refuses to believe Belgrade does not control the northern Serbs – as part of an all-out effort to use all available pressures to push Tadic to order the northern Serbs to desist?  Perhaps because they thought they’d catch the Serbs sleeping and would be able to finally show Pristina its internationals are making progress?  Maybe just to muddy the waters and provoke the Serbs into doing something that would make them look bad or perhaps justify further repressive actions by KFOR and EULEX?  Or maybe, to provide a good excuse to keep another potential EU member outside looking in rather than inside and adding to its already enormous problems?

The violence of last night actually helps no one.  The injuries reported by KFOR are unfortunate.  The locals might be more careful (though they claim to have seen the injured KFOR soldier hit by a KFOR vehicle).  But it is the Quint that has put things on the brink by refusing to act within their UN peacekeeping mandate.  All they need to do is accept the northern Kosovo Serb request that they not use freedom of movement to take Kosovo officials to the boundary crossings to begin enforcing Kosovo customs.  The Serb request is that KFOR and EULEX act as status neutral peacekeepers, i.e., that they act within the mandate provided by UNSCR 1244.

To again be clear, KFOR and EULEX actions to enforce Kosovo customs are illegal.  Everything they do to further Pristina’s political agenda is illegal.  Their efforts to remove barricades provoke a legitimate, peaceful response.  The use of force in the dead of night invites zealous responses.  Things can get out of hand.  And the fault of that can be placed squarely on KFOR’s doorstep.

Does Kosovo have to go over the brink for the Quint to look at compromise solutions for north Kosovo?

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

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

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Kosovo – sharing a conundrum http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-sharing-a-conundrum-211/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-sharing-a-conundrum-211/#respond Tue, 22 Nov 2011 12:55:19 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4755 Beset with enormous – perhaps insurmountable – economic and political problems of their own, the Europeans seem uninterested and/or unable to support real solutions in the central Balkans.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

As thing now stand, Serbia, Kosovo and the northern Kosovo Serbs are in the same boat. Intentionally or not, the EU and US are subjecting them all to forces that leave them on collision courses with each other, as well as allowing the ‘Euro-Atlantic’ alliance to keep them on the doorstep of Europe rather than letting them in.

Beset with enormous – perhaps insurmountable – economic and political problems of their own, the Europeans seem uninterested and/or unable to support real solutions in the central Balkans. They meekly follow the US’s lead, despite Washington’s own unrealistic approach to overcoming the region’s lingering ethnic differences.  In Bosnia, the EU/US axis seeks to pursue the holy grail of centralization, despite the three entities appearing comfortable with the current situation in which they run their own affairs.  (Sarajevo, of course, would not mind more centralism with it at the center.)  The EU’s feckless approach to Macedonian membership – waiting for the Greeks -offers nothing there either.

Meanwhile, the EU is beating Serbia over the head with conditions for membership that at least some Europeans know full well are unrealistic.  The Quint has managed to keep Ramush Haradinaj tied up in court while dangling over prime minister, Hashim Thaci, the sword of corruption and organ trafficking charges.  The US keeps promising Pristina the moon while offering nothing more than destabilizing theatrics in the north.  This amounts to an easy way to block both Serbia and Kosovo moving into Europe – member candidacy for Serbia, visa-free travel for Kosovo.

Serious efforts to help resolve the north Kosovo issue – through finding a compromise solution – and preparing Kosovo for travel would take time and resources that perhaps the Quint capitals just don’t want to spare.  So, left to their own devices, Kosovo, Serbia and the northern Serbs will either find their own way to dance together or be left to hang alone.

Finding the key nut to crack would not be difficult for the EU if it were serious.  Just look at the position in which they have left Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic.  Trapped by EU demands he cannot meet and facts being created on the ground in north Kosovo, he has no clear alternatives and therefore no clear policy.  He would make any deal he could but cannot just give away Kosovo or the north.  The deal the Germans and US seem to want – accepting Kosovo customs and taking down the barricades – the northern Serbs would not let him deliver.  They appear more open to compromise than ever.  They will, however, not simply surrender and don’t trust anyone, including Tadic.  One may encourage the northerners to take their barricades down and be open to new ideas but they are not thinking of compromise just now as all they see are hands raised against them.

What could the EU do differently?  It could back off its effort to force Kosovo customs to the boundary crossings in favor of some status neutral approach.  This would allow the northern Serbs to bring down their barricades while Belgrade continues to work through the EU dialogue with Pristina on further practical steps forward.  All this would justify the eminently sensible step of granting Serbia candidacy in December.  The Europeans could also drop the confrontational approach that seems to be favored by the US, and instead seek to support Kosovo through a process of getting it ready for its own movement into the EU.

As of now, it seems the only way for Kosovo and Serbia to get serious help from Europe is to continue drifting toward conflict.  North Kosovo would be the trigger.  How to avoid this is their shared conundrum.  Maybe they themselves need to take the first steps to back away from the current stalemate.  And maybe the Europeans should stop looking for a ‘know-nothing’ exit strategy from the Balkans and instead work on bringing it in from the cold.

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

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

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/global-coalition-to-protect-education-from-attack-221/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/global-coalition-to-protect-education-from-attack-221/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2011 08:08:52 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4740 TransConflict is pleased to announce that it is now an affiliated organization of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is a new global coalition officially formed in February 2010 out of a series of technical conferences convened by UNESCO.

The GCPEA’s mission is to catalyse enhanced prevention of attacks on education, effective response to attacks, improved knowledge and understanding, better monitoring and reporting, stronger international norms and standards, and increased accountability.

Attacks on education are any intentional threat or use of force – carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, religious or criminal reasons – against students, educators and education institutions. Attacks on education may be perpetrated by:

  • State security forces, including armed forces, law enforcement, paramilitary, and militia forces acting on behalf of the state;
  • Non-state armed groups.

A UNESCO study found intentional attacks of these types by state security forces or non-state armed groups in at least 31 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East between 2007 and 2009.

For example:

  • In Afghanistan, the reported number of attacks on schools, students and staff nearly tripled from 2007 to 2008 – up from 242 to 670;
  • In Colombia, 90 teachers were assassinated from 2006 through 2008, and from 2007 to 2009 at least five education buildings were attacked;
  • In Darfur, Sudan, schools have been attacked and looted. In just one episode, an attack on Haskanita in September 2007, five schools were burned;
  • In India, nearly 300 schools were reportedly blown up by Maoist rebels from 2006 through 2009;
  • In Thailand, the number of attacks on schools quadrupled from 2006 to 2007, to 164, then fell back to the previous level in 2008, although killings of teachers, students and security escorts for teachers continued.

Central African Republic ©2009 Sven Torfinn

Over time,violent attacks weaken entire education systems, causing them to lose teachers and academics and affecting the quality of education. The problems extend to higher education as well, including curtailing research and innovation. Weakened education affects a country’s economic, political and social development and interferes with reducing poverty and improving maternal and child health.

The GCPEA’s key objectives are:

  • To highlight the incidence and impact of attacks on education in conflict-affected and fragile situations among key actors, and cultivate public support for education in safe and secure environments;
  • To promote the strengthening of existing monitoring and reporting systems as well as the creation of new systems where needed;
  • To promote effective, coherent, timely, and evidence-based programmatic measures,including prevention and response;
  • To encourage adherence to existing international law protecting education and the strengthening of international norms and standards as needed; and
  • To fight impunity for attacks on education by promoting and supporting a range of accountability measures.

To learn more about the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, please click here

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Hate speech in public life http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/hate-speech-in-public-life-811/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/hate-speech-in-public-life-811/#respond Fri, 18 Nov 2011 16:25:17 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4656 TransConflict Serbia – in conjunction with the Cultural Centre DamaD and with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Belgrade – organized a panel discussion in Novi Pazar, entitled ‘Hate Speech in Public Life’.

TransConflict Serbia – in conjunction with the Cultural Centre DamaD, and with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Belgrade – organized a panel discussion on Friday 18th November in Novi Pazar, entitled ‘Hate Speech in Public Life’.

The panel – which was comprised of representatives of academia, civil society and the judiciary – addressed the forty-strong audience on two core issues – ‘how to define and identify hate speech?’ and ‘how best to combat hate speech?’.

In explaining the rational for the debate, TransConflict Serbia’s executive director, Mirjana Kosic, emphasized how, “various forms of hate speech – particularly those centred upon ethnic, national or religious differences – have become an integral part of public discourse in Serbia and the wider region. Such a discourse is often characterized by inflammatory and offensive statements targeting specific individuals or groups, which often fuels various forms or discrimination and even violence. We hope that this debate will help improve understanding about, and raise awareness of, what constitutes hate speech and how it can be combated.”

Zibija Šarenkapić, executive director of Cultural Centar DamaD, opened the proceedings by stating how overcoming hate speech is an obligation for every society. Though civil society and independent intellectuals tackled the issue during the nineties – when hate speech was rampant and one of the main drivers of conflict throughout the region – the perceived ‘arrival of democracy’ after 2000 led many to believe that the problem was settled. Ten years on, however, “we are witnessing the consequences of our complacency.” Ms. Šarenkapić asserted that, “there are no quick fixes for this issue, and since multi-ethnic communities are especially fragile and susceptible to this phenomenon, the best protection against hate speech is continuous public discussion and awareness, and that is where we will be focusing our efforts.”

Borka Pavicevic

Borka Pavićević, from the Center for Cultural Decontamination (Centar za kulturnu dekontaminaciju) in Belgrade, spoke in length about the pernicious role of religious leaders and the need to promote the secularisation of society. Whilst hate speech contributes to creating fear, fear itself generates further acts of hate speech. Mrs. Pavićević emphasized the importance of culture in tackling the prevalence of hate speech.

Mirjana Matović, a psychologist, delivered a comprehensive presentation on the definitions and characteristics of hate speech, and how understanding of the concept emerged and has evolved. Ms. Matović provided insights into a variety of examples of hate speech – especially those targeting female leaders of the non-government sector – as a mechanism of social control, which endeavours to homogenize, lead and govern a group. The object of hatred is typically anything deemed ‘other’, ‘different’ or ‘foreign’.

Filip Pavlović, from the NGO Fractal in Belgrade, spoke about the prevalence of ‘hate silence’; namely, the refusal of others to speak out against acts of hate speech, despite being aware of their existence.

The panel then fielded a variety of questions from the audience, which touched upon a variety of issues, particularly the relationship between the Bosniak and Serb communities in Sandžak, and tacit approval of hate speech deriving from a feeling of impotency amongst citizens and the passivity of local authorities.

The panel discussion was organized as part of TransConflict’s newly-launched initiative, Understanding Extremism, which aims to improve understanding about the concept of extremism itself, plus the groups and ideologies that manifest extremism in their aims, rhetoric and activities.

This public discussion was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Belgrade.

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Separating religion and state in Bosnia http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/separating-religion-and-state-in-bosnia-711/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/separating-religion-and-state-in-bosnia-711/#respond Thu, 17 Nov 2011 14:02:57 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4544 With the role of religion having remained largely ignored in post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina, there is a need to promote a process of secularization by upholding the separation of religion and state.

By Dusan Babic

Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth, ‘Bosnia’) is now more than ever burdened by the legacy of war and the contradictions of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). Post-Dayton Bosnia is a unique country in many respects, particularly its complex, irrational and inefficient administrative structure. This can, in part, be attributed to the ethnic concept of governance which is – by all relevant parameters – a failed concept; yet one which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Whilst many obstructive elements – including the paternalism and hegemonism of neighbouring Croatia and Serbia – have been identified, the role of religion has remained entirely ignored.

By means of historical context, Bosnia – and indeed the entire region – has endured a confessional feud lasting for centuries. In spite of, or possibly because of, this, the international community has tended to turn a blind eye; regularly ignoring, and even tolerating, the often damaging role of religious authorities. Whilst this in part derives from a widespread stereotype that the former regime repressed religion – and indeed it was marginalized in the former Yugoslavia – this does not excuse such an attitude and approach. It is extremely indicative that no high representative has ever uttered a single critical word about the role of religious leaders, let alone employed the so-called Bonn powers in order to ban their political activities.

Aggressive political clericalism

The term ‘clericalism’ was coined by Belgian journalists in about 1885 to suggest abuse of the clergy’s original functions; which was well manifested by encroachments into the sphere of politics. Post-Dayton Bosnia has been defined by an aggressive political clericalism. Priests and mufties from their pulpits deliver political speeches par excellence. They visit public schools – almost always decorated with religious symbols – universities and other educational and cultural institutions, hospitals, army units and prisons, where they openly agitate for nationalist politicians.  Clergymen are also involved in the media, influencing even editorial policy.

This is an outcome of the symbiosis of state and religion. The Dayton constitution did not specifically prescribe the secular nature of the country. Instead, it was taken for granted. Post-Dayton Bosnia, however, is more like a theocratic state. Consider just a few examples – the banning of the pride parade in Sarajevo, or religious holidays. In parts of the country with a Christian majority, Christmas and Easter are public holidays. The same is true with respect to Bajram in Bosniak parts. And what to say about proselytism post-mortem. All graveyards settings – with talk of collective burials and accompanying religious ceremonies – indicate that all buried persons were believers.

Secularism should not be confused with any official atheism or the like. Secularization is a process which aims to create an anti-clerical society and the spirit of tolerance. Clericalism is the antithesis to this, particularly the strain of Bosnian clericalism which endeavours to gain power and ensure the impact of the clergy on political and secular affairs.

Fostering an anti-clerical culture is of crucial importance for Bosnia. As such, a strict separation between the church and state must be on the agenda. The secular democratic state is the most reliable guardian of all segments of social, cultural and political life. Nothing is more misleading or harmful to religious liberty than the seductive notion that the state should favour religion or even act as its protege. History testifies to how such an approach inevitably results in favouring one religion or ethnic group over others. Such malpractices are clearly detrimental to the development of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

A sobering moment

Some two weeks ago, a man armed with a Kalashnikov opened fire on the US Embassy in Sarajevo. Witnesses told reporters that the man urged pedestrians to move away, saying he was targeting only the Embassy. And they promptly did. This terrorist, Mevlid Jasarevic, wore an odd beard and was dressed in an outfit with short pants, typical for followers of the Wahhabi-branch of Islam, rooted in Saudi Arabia. This one-man-show lasted more than forty minutes.

Whilst watching this peculiar event – which ended with a single shot – my first thought was whether I could imagine a man armed with a Kalashnikov and dressed in a Chetnik-like uniform with a cockade (kokarda) on his hat, parading in the centre of Sarajevo in broad daylight? The possibility of his shooting randomly is excluded, since I am quite sure that he would be disarmed by pedestrians within a matter of minutes. Even lynching could not be excluded.

In cases such as that of Jasarevic, however, a religiously-inspired and indoctrinated reflexive factor proves decisive. Namely, a great majority of pedestrians would ponder, disregard how insane this terrorist might be, but somehow determine that he is one of ours – namely, a brother in faith. Unfortunately, that’s Sarajevo in 2011.

Indeed, consider the famous Pogorelica terrorist training camp case. Pogorelica is located near Fojnica, some fifty kilometres northwest of Sarajevo. At the time, this camp was officially described as a police training center, but was sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran and run by Iranian intelligence staff, who also trained Hezbollah in Lebanon. On February 16th 1996, a US-led raid took place. Shortly afterwards, Grand Mufti Cerić voiced his opposition to the action, despite it being admitted that Pogorelica training camp was formed illegaly and without the consent of the country’s official bodies.

Meanwhile, the Wahabbi movement was expanding and reis Cerić, Head of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Islamska zajednica BiH), was trying to diminish its impact. Reis Cerić is currently the most influential and powerful person among Bosniaks. It indeed matters what he says. Jasarevic’s actions, however, provide for a sobering moment. Any evil for some good. The recent terrorist attack in Sarajevo finally forced reis Cerić to denounce the Wahabbi movement in Bosnia and terrorism, in general. It might help. It might be a light at the end of the Bosnian tunnel. Even an omen that religion is going to play a positive role.

Dusan Babic is a Sarajevo-based media and political analyst.

This article is published as part of TransConflict’s newly-launched initiative, Confronting Extremism, further information about which is available by clicking here.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

Articles published by TransConflict do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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Kosovo – time for a new approach http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-time-for-a-new-approach-611/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-time-for-a-new-approach-611/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 08:18:24 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4587 TransConflict hereby presents the testimony of Gerard M. Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, for a hearing on the Balkans by the Sub-committee on Europe and Eurasia, part of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

Events over the last four months in northern Kosovo are unfortunate reminders of the potential for things to spiral out of control there, with consequences that could be felt throughout the Balkans.  On July 25, units of the Kosovo Special Police (sent from Pristina) attempted to seize control of the two northern crossing points with Serbia that had been until then manned by local Kosovo police and members of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).  In the next days, NATO troops (of its Kosovo Force – KFOR) and EULEX – both in Kosovo under a UN peacekeeping mandate – sought to support the action by transporting Kosovo police and customs officials to the two Gates.

The local Kosovo Serbs saw this as an effort to subject them to Kosovo Albanian control and to cut them off from Serbia.  They responded by peacefully resisting and raising barricades to block further such efforts by the Kosovo authorities or the international forces.  KFOR and EULEX reacted by confronting peaceful protests with armed force, using live fire on September 27, and repeatedly seeking to remove barricades and close off alternative roads using tear gas, pepper spray and heavy machinery.  US personnel have been on the frontline of these efforts, stepping outside their UN mandate without any apparent recognition by the Administration of their new role.

Let me clear about three things:

  • 1.  The NATO troops and EU police have been acting outside their UN peacekeeping mandate by trying to impose Kosovo customs in the north without any prior political agreement.  They are there to keep the peace while others seek to resolve the political differences.  Their actions have damaged international credibility and increased tensions dangerously.
  • 2.  The great majority of the local Kosovo Serbs in peaceful protest and on the barricades are not criminals or being forced to be there against their will.  They see the actions by Kosovo authorities and KFOR and EULEX as an attack upon their lives and community.
  • 3.  Nothing can be gained by the effort by the Quint countries – the US, UK, Germany, France and Italy – to impose Pristina’s authority through force.  The Serbs rebuild their barricades and use other means to get supplies.  The actions by NATO and the EU have only hardened their rejection of Pristina and made compromise more difficult.

I note that last week, one person (a Kosovo Serb) was killed and several others injured (including a local policeman) by gunfire in a sensitive mixed area of north Mitrovica.  Accounts differ as to what happened but it seems the gunfire came from Kosovo Albanians.

After 12 years of frozen conflict, it has become clear that an effort to find a practical accommodation for the north, while Kosovo status remains unresolved, is long overdue.  The local Kosovo Serbs have prevented, through peaceful means, what they see as an effort to impose on them Kosovo institutions that they reject.  The international peacekeepers have reached the limits of their ability to project political solutions that do not have the support of the local communities in the north.  It may therefore be a good time for all parties – Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, Pristina and Belgrade and the internationals including the EU and the United States – to look for alternatives.

TransConflict (an NGO located in Belgrade which occasionally publishes my analysis) has posted a paper that looks at such a possible alternative:  status neutral implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan for Kosovo (developed at the request of the UN Secretary General in 2007).  It derives from an understanding that nothing positive can emerge as long as the two sides continue to see the situation in zero-sum terms, that for them to win, the other side must lose.  Rather, to avoid further conflict and open the door to focusing on achieving economic progress, each side must be willing to compromise and consider outcomes that recognize the fundamental interests of the other side, as well as their own.  Simply put, these are:

  • for the northern Serbs, to be allowed to live in their own communities without political interference in local matters from Kosovo central institutions and with continued linkages to Serbia.
  • for the Kosovo Albanians that the north remain part of Kosovo and function in significant ways as part of the Kosovo political system.

The paper provides a series of detailed recommendations – for the courts, the police, municipal competences, finance, inter-municipal co-operation, co-operation with Serbia and extended competences for north Mitrovica – that could facilitate implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan in north Kosovo.

But without outside help, Kosovo Serbs and Albanians are unlikely to be able to rise above their history and achieve compromise.  The northern Serbs would prefer outright partition and remaining part of Serbia.  The Albanians would prefer not to have a Serb majority in the north.

Unfortunately, the responsible internationals – the Quint and most especially the US – still support imposition of Pristina authority and institutions in the north.  Reportedly, US elements of KFOR are even now seeking to close all alternative roads along the boundary to force the northern Serbs to capitulate to Kosovo customs in the official crossings.  The rest of KFOR and EULEX appears to be simply waiting for Serbs to abandon their barricades in the coming cold.  (They refused a Serb offer to allow them through the barricades if they do not use this access to impose Kosovo customs officials on the boundary.)  The illegal and counterproductive efforts of KFOR and EULEX to seek to force the northern Kosovo Serbs to surrender have only increased distrust and strengthened the local resistance to any compromise.  The Serbs show no sign of being ready to take down their barricades.

Since 2008, Quint policy – strongly encouraged by the US – has been to bully and threaten Serbia and the Kosovo Serbs to accept the loss of Kosovo and to abandon the north to Pristina.  Some view this as one more bit of “punishment” for Serbia despite its new reality of democracy and eagerness to become fully part of Europe.   But pressure and use of force has not worked.  No Serbian leader – despite EU threats to deny the country EU membership unless it cooperates – can simply surrender Kosovo or end support to the north.  The northern Serbs see no alternative but to continue to resist.  The Kosovo Albanians see no reason to compromise when they have US support to continue demanding everything.  (The Europeans have been surprising willing to follow the US hardline, perhaps because they wish to avoid being left alone in the Balkans.)  This leaves the alternatives for the north the same they always have been:  continued frozen conflict or partition – both of which might lead to further ethnic conflict and/or flight – or some compromise solution.  As things now stand, north Kosovo may have to see more conflict before everyone looks to compromise.  It is a good time to look for other approaches to Kosovo than trying to force one side to lose everything.  If the United States cannot support an effort to achieve real compromise, then it should get out of the way and bring our soldiers home before they get further involved in one more conflict far from home.

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.

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

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Facing far right extremism in Serbia http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/facing-far-right-extremism-in-serbia-511/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/facing-far-right-extremism-in-serbia-511/#respond Tue, 15 Nov 2011 08:24:44 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4550 Reducing the threat of far right extremism – particularly its manifestation through terrorist means – involves finding a delicate balance between under-reacting and over-reacting; between giving tacit encouragement and sparking its escalation.

By Vladimir Ninkovic

Anders Behring Breivik reminded us once again that terrorism is an omnipresent threat that can strike in both rich and poor countries alike. A terrorist can be a man or woman, an engineer or a shepherd, a psychopath or mentally sane person. It is, therefore, very difficult to speak about the conditions and environments that facilitate the appearance of terrorism; whilst its erratic dynamics do not help us predict the time and place of the next terrorist attack.

Three years in a row, far-right organizations – together with the most conservative wing of the Serbian Orthodox Church and groups of football fans – have used threats of violence and de facto civil war to create a state of fear prior to the Pride Parade. In 2009 and 2011 they were successful enough to force the police and government to cancel the event at the last moment; whilst in 2010 – the only time it was held – the centre of Belgrade was wrecked by those who saw the Parade parade as an anti-Serb, anti-Orthodox and almost Satanic procession. Members of the LGBT and Roma communities, plus foreign citizens, have also been physically attacked several times in last few months.

Apart from football hooligans, the most prominent organizations which endorsed and participated in these events are generally understood to belong to the far right, such as the clerical-fascist ‘Obraz’, the chauvinist-nationalist ‘SNP Nasi 1389’ and the reactionary movement ‘Dveri’. Disconcertingly, such activities were de facto backed-up by the belligerent statements of certain politicians and church hierarchs.

Some definitions of terrorism describe it not only as the use of violence, but also as the threat to use violence in order to inculcate fear. The key point, on which almost everyone agrees, is that it is politically-motivated. The sources of ideology and the political aims of the terrorists, however, change almost every decade. Putting aside Islamic terrorism, the radical left (including Marxist-nationalist organizations, such as the IRA and ETA) were the dominant threat in Europe, and to a lesser degree in the USA, during the seventies and eighties, whilst the renaissance of the far right started somewhat later. The nineties were the golden years of the Patriot militias, Jean Marie Le Pen, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Jorg Heider, including disasters such as the Riot of Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 1992, the Waco Siege in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to name just a few.

It is generally regarded that the right-wing variant of terror is more likely to occur in, and pose a threat to, those societies that are going through a period of ‘transition’ and/or societies possessing, in the words of Wilhelm Heitmeyer, a “basic stock of equipment” in the form of conspiracy theories, a weapons scene, religious groups plying their views and social deprivation. Serbia shows signs of possessing each of these elements.

After decade of wars and poverty, the new millennium brought new challenges which Serbia’s democratically-elected governments have not always been successful in addressing. The proclamation of independence of Kosovo – and, to a lesser degree, Montenegro – caused feeling of bitterness and resentment towards the country’s continuing decay. The arrests of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, meanwhile, were negatively perceived by many citizens. The recent global economic crisis, high unemployment, perceived corruption in the public sector, crises in Kosovo and Sandzak and several other problems that Serbia today faces has contributed to deeply undermining trust in the government, in particular, and democracy, in general.

Such a situation, on the other hand, has benefited extreme right organizations who see opportunities amidst the end of the “democracy honeymoon” and the renewed quest for alternative solutions. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that the results of a recent survey conducted by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, entitled the “Attitudes and value orientations of high school students in Serbia”, showed that Serbian teenagers are significantly more conservative, nationalistic and xenophobic than the previous generations. Furthermore, the clerical, reactionary and anti-western “Dveri” movement announced participation at the next year’s elections.

On the basis of this, should Serbia expect to experience further radicalization and perhaps even terrorist attacks? According to some definitions, creating a state of fear and uncertainty can already be regarded as terrorism. In that sense, therefore, right wing extremists can already be deemed to have crossed the fine line between activism and terrorism. Apart from those seen as “outsiders” (such as foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities, leftists, civil rights activists and the LGBT community) the state itself – which is seen as ineffective and even under the actual control of the outsiders – could be attacked.

At first, terrorists usually avoid confrontations with the authorities, with their anger instead being directed at the outsider. Eventually, however, they convince themselves that the government is not doing enough to protect the “original community” and the state therefore also becomes a target.  This is already apparent on several occasions, such as the attack on the USA embassy in February 2008, and the targeting of the B92 TV studio and the offices of the Democrat and Socialist Parties (the DS and SPS, respectively) during riots in 2010.

It is important to stress that both underreaction and overreaction by the state may trigger the process of radicalization. Underreaction – which has generally been the case in Serbia – can imply encouragement; whilst excessive repression may escalate into anger and hatred, and also give additional prominence to the extreme movements. The appeal of the fascist Russian National Unity in Moscow, for instance, gained prominence amongst youth after its gatherings were banned by Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov.  The political representation of far-right sentiments – through, for instance, Dveri, which demonstrates lesser tolerance towards other more extreme and less formal groups – could prove a mitigating force to the already present threat of further radicalization of an already quite popular far right. Finding a balance between overreacting and underreacting to the far right threat will be the task for not only government and its agencies, but also for the media and the civil society.

Vladimir Ninković is a project officer (security) for TransConflict Serbia.

This article is published as part of TransConflict’s newly-launched initiative, Understanding Extremism, further information about which is available by clicking here.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/ahtisaari-plan-north-kosovo-011/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/ahtisaari-plan-north-kosovo-011/#comments Thu, 10 Nov 2011 14:19:52 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4535 TransConflict is pleased to present a new policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, authored by Gerard Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica.

Links:

The paper provides a series of detailed recommendations – pertaining to the courts, the police, municipal competences, finance, inter-municipal co-operation, co-operation with Serbia and extended competences for north Mitrovica – that are intended to facilitate implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan in north Kosovo.

After 12 years of frozen conflict over Kosovo, it seems now more than ever that all sides are ready to consider practical solutions to practical problems.  In the last few months, it has become clear that finding such practical accommodations for northern Kosovo is especially timely.  The local Kosovo Serbs have prevented, through peaceful means, what they saw as a one-sided effort to impose Kosovo institutions north of the Ibar River.  The international peacekeepers have reached the limits of their ability to project political solutions that do not have the support of the local communities in the north.”

There is, however, also a strong political imperative supported by both Belgrade and Pristina to treat Kosovo as a whole even as differences over Kosovo status remain.  Some are now talking about how the Ahtisaari Plan might be implemented in the north.  The Plan offers a detailed framework for achieving, in the north, local autonomy within a continued relationship to Serbia while maintaining the territorial and political integrity of Kosovo.  It may therefore be a good time for all parties – Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, Pristina and Belgrade and the internationals including the EU and the Contact Group – to consider how the Ahtisaari Plan might be actually implemented in the north.

TransConflict approaches this effort with an understanding that nothing positive can emerge as long as the two sides continue to see the situation in zero-sum terms, that for them to win, the other side must lose.  Rather, to avoid further conflict and open the door to focusing on achieving economic progress, each side must be willing to compromise and consider outcomes that recognize the fundamental interests of the other side, as well as their own.  Simply put, these are:

  • for the northern Serbs, to be allowed to live in their own communities without political interference in local matters from Kosovo central institutions and with continued linkages to Serbia.
  • for the Kosovo Albanians that the north remain part of Kosovo and function in significant ways as part of the Kosovo political system.

In the current context, any compromise approach would need to leave aside the question of the status of Kosovo and – for the purposes of any agreement over the north – the status of any Kosovo institutions in which the northern Serbs might participate.

This policy paper seeks to look at how the Ahtisaari Plan might be implemented within this context.

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Kosovo – separate tracks http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-separate-tracks-911/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-separate-tracks-911/#respond Wed, 09 Nov 2011 07:20:57 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4472 It is increasingly apparent that the respective parties – including the Quint – are talking past each other and reacting more to what has happened, rather than what might be done to move away from conflict.

By Gerard Gallucci

There comes a time in some conflicts when people on both sides come to understand that they cannot get what they want by further violence, or may in fact lose more than they might gain by continuing to fight.  If they are lucky, some outside third-party may take an interest and help the two sides to move into a negotiating framework.  This is the moment that they all begin to move on a single track toward the possibility of an agreement that freezes the conflict and perhaps leads toward a political resolution and a stable peace.

There is a counterpart to this moment in the lead-up to more violence.  It happens when everyone begins to see only their own grievances, their own version of history, their own agenda.  They lose the ability to hear each other and to be able to consider anything new; anything that might require compromise.  Everyone starts down separate tracks to stalemate or a new collision.

It may be that north Kosovo is reaching one of these moments.  It seems that almost everyone – Kosovo Serbs, Albanians and the internationals – grasps at some level that the situation in the north as it is now has become untenable.  The latest report by the UN Secretary General makes this clear.  It may also be that there is increasing willingness to consider possible modes to resolve the current crisis and perhaps even find an approach that would help return things to a more normal life for everyone.

It seems increasingly, however, that people are talking past each other and reacting more to what has happened rather than what might be done to move away from conflict.  The tracks may be separating.
The two local parties – Serbs and Albanians – are the least likely to be able to rise above their history. They believe too that any acceptance of some compromise position would be a sign of weakness.  They feel the ground may be shifting beneath them – Belgrade may sell them out, the EU may want new approaches.  Without outside help, nothing good is likely to emerge.

Unfortunately, the outside helpers – the Contact Group – also seem trapped by their history and political agendas.  KFOR and EULEX find it impossible to commit fully and openly to peacekeeping, instead of continuing to seek a one-sided political outcome at the northern boundary.  They have stopped – for now – using force, but seem unable to address in any way the deep distrust their actions have created in the northern Kosovo Serb community.  The Quint seems to be stuck in place, without the ability to offer anything new.  Russia sees it has no reason to change its support for Serbia, even as the Tadic government remains mesmerized by the slogan of both the EU and Kosovo.

Winter is approaching and hopefully the cold, cold Balkans weather will prevent everyone from doing anything really dumb.  The potential for accidents persists, however, and life for everyone in Kosovo will remain suspended in this local cold war.  And time moves forward.  People will either have something new to consider or find themselves listening more and more to the old voices in their heads. The internationals are still the responsible peacekeepers and the only real potential peacemakers at this time.  They need to get on track.

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.

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

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Leveraging weakness http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/leveraging-weakness-811/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/leveraging-weakness-811/#respond Tue, 08 Nov 2011 07:33:18 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4436 Faced with outstanding conflicts over sovereignty in the Western Balkans, the EU’s most efficacious strategy depends upon acknowledging and leveraging its own considerable limitations as an international actor.

By David B. Kanin

The EU’s institutions have grown in parallel with its efforts to manage the Balkans.  Yugoslavia fell apart at about the same time as the high-flown rhetoric associated with the Maastricht Treaty raised hopes for the gradual, but inexorable, development of a unified, influential, prosperous “Europe.”  The ability of European paladins to pronounce solutions – and have local protagonists follow their instructions – quickly became an indicator of whether this would-be entity could be taken seriously regarding security problems in its backyard and farther afield.  In a sense, the headlines accompanying each new Balkan horror helped European politicians distract critics who, from the outset, questioned the project of a common currency and financial system which did not take seriously the fact that several of its members never met the criteria established for joining the club.

Two decades on, the record is not good.  EU missions in Bosnia and Kosovo have the respect neither of Balkan communities, nor of an American partner the Europeans so much wanted to avoid having to rely on.  Europe’s failure to manage its own financial affairs and Europe’s irrelevance in the Middle East have reinforced its diminished influence in southeastern Europe.

The trajectory of communal relations in Mostar serves as a good indicator of the larger problem.  In the early nineties the Europeans focused on the town as a place they could use to prove the EU’s efficacy as a security actor.  They proposed a solution that (in effect, not on purpose) would have favored Bosnjak over Croat interests.  The latter objected, of course, and the Europeans found themselves engaged in a tussle they had not thought through between communal authorities increasingly involved in a zero-sum game.  Bosnjak-Croat fighting in 1993, the Washington Agreement signed the following February (in which the US not Europe, played the central role), Dayton, and subsequent ad hoc diplomacy led to the current rickety municipal arrangement—which will work until it does not.  Regarding Mostar and the broader Balkan trajectory, the Europeans at best can be credited with stumbling into a stalemate that has done little to demonstrate their ability to effectively practice conflict management.

Still, no matter how feckless its performance, EU membership remains the central goal of every state in the region (albeit in the context of considerable public skepticism over the value of being inside the Union).  Without the European mantra, most Balkan politicians would lack anything approximating a vision with which to convince constituents to trust their future to them.  Without this brass ring, no matter how far it remains out of reach, many in the Balkans would feel what philosophers call aporia, the sense that there is no direction they can go, no constructive future they can hope for.

This gives the Europeans a significant opportunity to redirect their approach to a region in which their current policies cannot succeed.  The EU should declare that membership is possible only for those Balkan countries not saddled by outstanding conflicts over sovereignty.  It should stop demanding one solution or denouncing another – and should definitely kill the rhetoric that tells the locals the only possible way forward is whatever the Europeans or Americans are demanding at a particular point in time.

Further, the EU should declare they will resume discussions about possible membership with Serbia, Bosnia, Kosova and Montenegro only when all sides to contested sovereignty have forged deals agreed to by relevant parliaments and/or publics.  It would no longer favor the usual Wilsonian teleology.  Whether new status quos involve “civic” or “ethnic” arrangements based on inertial, Tito-era borders, new partitions, population swaps or hybrid combinations of some or all of these would be solely the choice – and responsibility – of the protagonists.  Simultaneously, the EU would reduce its regional footprint drastically, consolidating a residual presence into a single monitoring mission (call it EU-Zen) that would give technical advice when asked, but otherwise stay out of local squabbles.  (In this context, the closure of the European police mission and ongoing reduction of the European force in Bosnia would become positive, strategic developments).

The Europeans would make it clear they would not consider offering membership in cases where violence is used to force a solution.  They also would underscore that they are not promising in advance to accept automatically any solution reached by parties in disputes over sovereignty.  Otherwise, the EU no longer would claim authority to meddle in the Balkans and would turn its attention to much more important internal problems.  In short, the EU would serve notice that, from now on, solutions to Balkan disputes would depend on these becoming more important to those directly involved than to outside powers’ pretensions to international leadership.

There should be one exception to this minimalist turn.  One country in the Balkans has worked hard to manage inter-communal problems and (no matter Western claims that there are no military solutions in the Balkans and despite local violence in 2001 and 2004) so far is perhaps the only Yugoslav successor state to avoid the use of force as a central determinant of its current status quo.

The European Union should admit Macedonia to membership as quickly and with as little scrutiny as it did Romania and Bulgaria.  If they have any backbone, EU decision makers will steamroll the Greek objection, informing Athens that its silly attitude toward Macedonia’s name poses a security threat and no longer will be tolerated.  The pain Greece has helped inflicted on Europe justifies making further financial aid – and conditioning continued Greek membership in the Club – on Athens conceding what never should have been an issue in the first place.  Greece, like other Balkan states, would have to focus on taking responsibility for its own problems.

There is no question that the Ohrid Agreement – which is as much the country’s basic law as is its constitution – has its flaws and remains at risk.  Further, Macedonian prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, is often tone deaf regarding legitimate complaints from the country’s ethnic Albanian community, and – as leader of that community – Ali Ahmeti faces serious challenges on his nationalist flank.  Skopje’s own silliness regarding airport names and statue-building has not helped its cause.

Nevertheless, alone among the pieces of the former Yugoslavia south of the Sava, politicians in Macedonia have forged a consociational system that since the early nineties has held together a place surrounded by states either questioning aspects of its identity, or else serving as an alternative Albanian Homeland.  This constructive context made it possible for the small Nordic and American military presence to serve a successful – lower case – peacekeeping role while the rest of the region was in turmoil.

The Western diplomatic record in Macedonia also is unique in the region.  Rather than attempting to force civic ideology, most Americans and European on the ground (there have been some imperious exceptions) have taken a properly zen-like approach in support of a generally constructive situation, albeit marked from time-to-time by security threats and frustrations.  Fast-tracking Macedonia’s admission to the EU would reinforce a changed European approach, which would reward countries that do the work of forging their own futures, rather than those skillful at manipulating larger powers into taking over those responsibilities (including becoming the lightening rod for blame more properly placed on local politicians, Big Men cum “businessmen,” and other Balkan actors).

The EU should relocate its smaller, redesigned monitoring and mentoring mission to its new Macedonian member.  Politicians from supplicant Balkan states should have to swallow coming ‘hat in hand’ to a place that would have leapfrogged them by doing the work others have studiously avoided.

It may be that communities choose the option of discarding their candidacies for EU membership in favor of some alternative.  Serbia, for one, could choose Russia.  If so, the West should let it do so.  The Russo-Serbian relationship is not as close as sometimes advertised, and – in the absence of a Western foil – Serbs soon would learn the limits of subsuming their interests to the whims of a power interested mainly in pursuing a narrow, late 19th century-style strategy directed solely at opposing whatever appears to be the preferences of the United States.

For too long, the Balkans has been a region where local actors are able to lure larger powers into interventions inimical to those outside players’ own interests, unsuccessful regarding the management of local disputes and sometimes dangerous to everyone involved.  The EU has a chance to break free of this pathology, but only if it overcomes its rhetoric (which masks a version of strategic aporia) and accepts that its most efficacious strategy depends on acknowledging and leveraging its own considerable limitations as an international actor.

David B. Kanin is an adjunct professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University and a former senior intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

Articles published by TransConflict do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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Oiling the Albanian economy http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/oiling-the-albanian-economy-711/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/oiling-the-albanian-economy-711/#respond Mon, 07 Nov 2011 12:17:17 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4413 Despite its undoubted potential, Albania’s fledgling oil industry is being constrained by a lack of domestic capital and political paralysis that is deterring foreign investors and inhibiting growth.

By Gergely Nagy

Albania – one of Europe’s poorest economies – has seen an unprecedented rise in its oil sector in recent years. Experts say there might be at least 10b barrels of crude oil, which would make Albania equal to Norway or Sudan in terms of estimated oil reserves. As a result, foreign companies are flooding the market in the hope of being one of the first actors to grab a seat at the oil table. However, the shiny future might be more ambiguous than it first seems. Whilst a lack of domestic capital leads to a reliance on foreign investors, Albania’s persistent political stalemate is eroding the very stability essential to attracting foreign investment.

In 2004, a Canadian company exploited only 600 barrels of crude oil per day from Europe’s largest onshore oil field, the Patos-Marinza in Southern Albania. Seven years later, daily production jumped to more than 13,000; a huge increase in a relatively short period of time. Oil reserve estimates are also increasing according to company data – the shareholders of Bankers could rub their hands, most likely they have found the investment of this decade in Albania. This rise is not without any antecendents.

Oil industry and export potential

The petroleum industry is one of the oldest industries in Albania; as early as Roman times, bitumen was mined in these territories. Modern day oil exploration began as early as 1918, with production starting in 1929. Crude oil was actually one of the main reasons why Mussolini decided to invade Albania. After World War II, the Soviet Union established dominant positions in the petroleum industry but following the Albanian regime’s split with the USSR, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) became the main actor in this sector, providing financial and technical assistance to the country. Oil production peaked in 1974, with 2.2m tons that year.

However, after Albania broke off diplomatic relations with the PRC, production started to steadily decline and by 1994 only 1,400 tons of crude oil was exploited per day – a decline which could be attributed to a lack of resources and problems with workforce due to the social and economic hardships in the country. The end of the nineties also brought social, political and economic tensions which led many of the major international investors in the oil and natural gas sector to leave the country.

Compared with these events, the early part of this decade has seen a sharp increase in investments in the oil and gas sector. The social and political situation in the region – after NATO’s campaign against Serbia in 1999 – seemed to be improving, and the economic environment also proved favourable. Several foreign companies – such as the previously mentioned Bankers Petroleum plus MedOil, Stream Oil & Gas, Sky Petroleum, San Leon Energy and Petromanas – have acquired both onshore and offshore exploration licences, and some of them already operate several fields and exploit crude oil in increasing quantities. Bankers occupies the leading position – it is the sole operator of the largest onshore oil field in Europe and is aiming to increase production to 20,000 barrels per day in this area in the following years.

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There is much to do to increase oil production – the record levels of the seventies have still not been realised, oil production has surpassed 0.5m tons in 2006 and 1m in 2010. This is just a drop in the bucket; Austria or Croatia produce the same amount of crude oil each year and Albania is still reliant on oil imports to suffice its domestic needs. However, estimated oil reserves are the most important factor. As more and more – mainly foreign – investors start explorations throughout the country and reactivation, redevelopment programs are drawn up in order to increase production, the amount of oil exploited could significantly increase in the next couple of years and estimated reserves could also start to grow.

Currently, according to various company data, at least 10b barrels of oil could be lying under Albanian soil. This number puts Albania into an important position on the world’s oil map. Nonetheless, these data should be handled carefully because oil production companies are interested in pumping up these amounts to increase profits and fuel shareholders’ interest.

The export markets could also open up for oil companies operating in Albania. The country currently exports oil only through the new oil and gas terminal in Vlore, and only to Italy. The export of energy products is clearly increasing – according to data provided by the Bank of Albania, there was a sharp 30% increase this year. In the January-September period, €215m worth of energy products were exported, with crude oil accounting for the majority.

The proximity of Italy – the port of Bari lies only 140 kilometres from the Albanian coastline – is obviously an attractive factor for foreign investors. Less money is spent on transportation and at a cheaper price – customers currently pay only 60-65% of the Brent Crude price for Albanian oil. Due to the oil terminal’s recent existence, there is hardly any data to be found on trends of oil shipments but  expectations are high. With the opening up of this route, regular and frequent transport of oil is foreseeable. Another step in this line would be to add several other export destinations, such as Greece. The export terminal is located at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea which is a geographically easily accessible location – both from the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

The export side is the bottleneck of increasing oil production. Despite the opening of the Vlore terminal, other export infrastructure is needed to transport crude oil to EU member states – which are the primary destination countries of Albanian energy. However, the level of Albanian production is not sufficient enough to provide a financially rewarding pipeline option to transport the oil into EU member states. Natural markets – i.e. close destinations – could be Italy and Greece, however, the construction of completely new pipelines seem unprofitable at present. It is cheaper and easier to wait for sufficient crude oil to fill a tanker for shipment to Italy than to pump oil into a pipeline which would be used only at a low percentage of its capacity. Bankers Petroleum is currently constructing a 40km long pipeline to the Vlore terminal to make oil transport easier and cheaper; a development would also speed up oil exports to Italy, for example.

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Other countries in the region – like Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) or Bulgaria – receive their oil and natural gas from Russia through pipelines running via Ukraine and Hungary. Croatia, meanwhile, is building its own LNG terminal, whilst smaller countries (Montenegro and Kosovo) are tiny markets for such a large pipeline project. Only regional initiatives could provide adequate options for the financially profitable mass-scale export of Albanian oil through pipelines.

At present, only one such plan – the AMBO pipeline – exists. This proposed pipeline would bring Russian and Caspian oil, bypassing the Turkish straits with an entry point in Bulgaria, running through FYROM and ending in Albania, where all the oil would then be shipped to Western Europe. Nevertheless, this pipeline is designed to be a transit pipeline; no intake is planned. Albanian oil could not, therefore, find its way through here.

Cooperation of Western Balkan countries in this field could be another option, however, the different interests and historical energy system inflexibilities – such as the presence of Russian pipelines – make increased cooperation on common grounds almost impossible.

Today, the only profitable option for the export of Albanian oil on a short and medium-term seems to be the transport of this product via tankers through the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Besides this, we can expect that the capacity of the terminal and the destinations where this oil will be shipped would increase as the levels of production rise in the coming years.

Economic effects and FDI inflow

The rise of the Albanian oil industry affects the Albanian economy as a whole. As mentioned previously, the export of energy products has risen by 30% in the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period in 2010. Crude oil was the driving element in this regard. Albania still experiences power outages due to its outdated electricity infrastructure and dependence on hydroelectric power. However, in spite of this, economic growth averaged 5% between 2004 and 2009, before slowing slightly to 3.5% in 2010.

Several major international institutions, such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), have also invested in the energy and oil sector, with EBRD financing Bankers Petroleum’s Patos-Marinza development projects with €64m. Another big investment was the construction of the Vlore terminal – worth €60m and capable of serving tankers up to 190 metres long – by an Italian company.

The oil sector, including retail and wholesale, is driving FDI – the electricity and gas sectors only received some €6m in 2006-2008 – and has the potential for rapid growth in the coming years. A 2010 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on Albania has highlighted how energy supply infrastructure is an area where rapid developments are taking place. The pro-business government, favourable regulation, low corporate taxes, exemption of most businesses from VAT are all attractive points for foreign investors. Such steps have achieved positive outcomes. Despite the global economic downturn, more than $1b of FDI arrived to Albania in 2010; making it second in the region, just behind Serbia.

The Albanian state also benefits from the rise of the oil industry, receiving 10-12% of oil revenues from production companies. According to an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report, government revenues from the oil and natural gas sectors – including the national oil company, Albpetrol – amounted to $31m in 2009.

Albanian politicians are keen to highlight these achievements. Albania’s prime minister, Sali Berisha, is the first to promote his government’s business friendly behaviour and frequently participates at inauguration ceremonies, like that at the Vlore terminal in 2009. Whilst foreign companies value government support, the political stalemate which has been engulfing Albania since the 2009 parliamentary elections and the riots in 2011 are a hurdle in establishing a stable political environment. Opposition socialists accuse the governing party of manipulating the results of the last elections and have boycotted parliament since then; further casting shadows over Albania’s EU integration process.

Future prospects

Albania – which currently imports great amounts of its energy needs from abroad – is slowly becoming an energy exporter. Improved utilisation and further development of these elements is key to its future growth. However, with a lack of domestic capital and the Albanian government unable to provide any considerable amount of financial resources, future developments will be driven by foreign companies. The focus on developing oil infrastructure – terminals, storage facilities, pipelines etc. – continues to grow, whilst further explorations, including offshore, could provide hitherto unknown reserves.

The amount of oil exported from Albania is still relatively small compared to that of other countries. However, stable delivery, the proximity of production to major Western European markets, competitive prices, increasing levels of production and the constantly developing infrastructure and production facilities could make Albania an excellent partner; particular when compared with other regions and countries – such as the Arab states, Iran, Nigeria – where sudden and unexpected political changes can considerably affect long-term oil deliveries. Whether Albania can overcoming some of these growth barriers will have a key bearing on the country’s future wealth and prosperity.

Gergely Nagy is a graduate of Charles University in Prague, where he completed the international economic and political studies Master’s program. Gergely has been a research assistant at various Hungarian and Czech think tanks and institutes, and is currently the deputy editor-in-chief of the news desk of Balkan Press Agency and a freelance journalist for Transitions Online.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.

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Civil society in Bosnia – obstacle or opportunity? http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/civil-society-in-bosnia-obstacle-opportunity-411/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/civil-society-in-bosnia-obstacle-opportunity-411/#comments Fri, 04 Nov 2011 08:35:17 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4408 The marginalization of civil society from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s process of transition can, in part, be explained by the dominant ethno-nationalist agenda that has meant that civil society itself has been ethnicized and divided along ethnic lines.

By Bedrudin Brljavac

‘‘I am not mandated by anyone…I do not belong to any political party. I only represent myself: an intellectual and a citizen.’’

Jean Amrouche, an Algerian poet and intellectual

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s political leadership has failed to form a government since elections in October 2010, leaving the country facing the worst political and social crisis since the end of the war. Inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric has dominated public discourse almost throughout the post-Dayton era, with the leaders of the three main ethnic groups (Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats) blaming each other for the resulting paralysis. Under such conditions of zero-sum politics, it is extremely difficult to expect nationalist politicians with opposing interests to reach a stable compromise without external actors and mediators. One such actor which could provide a helping hand to Bosnia’s quarrelling politicians is civil society. As Paris points out, civil society organizations (CSOs) can “help to break down social barriers between formerly warring communities and provide grassroots support for political parties that support intergroup accommodation” (2004: 194).

However, civil society in Bosnia has generally been marginalized from decision-making processes. Due to socialist-communist regime in the former Yugoslavia, civil society was weak before the war (Fischer, 2006: 16). Nevertheless, during the war and in its aftermath, civil society started to flourish both in quantitative and qualitative terms, with a large number of international NGOs working on reconciliation and the transition to democracy. Sizeable financial and logistic means have been allocated, mainly from foreign donors, to domestic civil society groups.

Similarly, the European Union has ambitiously supported civil society’s development as one of the democratic preconditions for joining the EU. Still, as Žeravčić and Biščević state, “the ability of the civil sector to participate in the creation of public policies is almost negligible” (2009: 145). The puzzling question remains – why has civil society not been more deeply involved in resolving the country’s political deadlock?

The Role of Civil Society In Democracy

A developed, active and independent civil society is an indispensable factor in democratic and open countries. As Paffenholz points out, “civil society consists of a large and diverse set of voluntary organizations, and comprises non-state actors and associations which are not purely driven by private or economic interests, are autonomously organized, show civil virtue, and interact in public sphere” (2010, 60). In modern democracies, a well-developed civil society increases citizens’ freedoms, promotes the rule of law, reduces state corruption and establishes greater government effectiveness (Bostic, 2011: 95).

That is, without an independent and well-developed civil society, any democratic regime would follow uni-dimensional policy-making from the top-down; which is, in both content and ideology, closer to closed and autocratic regimes than to open societies. Strong and active civil society organizations (CSOs) should not, therefore, be perceived as a threat to a country’s political establishment.

In consolidated democracies, it is taken for granted that CSOs work in cooperation with state actors; having a role of equal partner and making a significant contribution to policy-making processes. Civil society as a voluntary element is distinct from state structures themselves, plus the commercial elements of the market; the three constituent parts of a democratic society. Civil society, therefore, is a corrective partner; articulating interests and provide an important check on state power (Bostic, 2011: 96).

Nonetheless, civil society cannot replace the state. Its role is not to act on behalf of public institutions, but rather to work together with them in a harmonious and transparent atmosphere. Furthermore, states with a strong civil society tend to be politically stable, not least because CSOs train citizens to be tolerant, cooperative and reciprocal (Tusalem, 2007: 379–80).

Explaining why CSOs are invisible in Bosnia

There are a variety of reasons behind the underdeveloped and marginalized civil society sector in Bosnia’s democratic transition. With Bosnia’s social discourse marked by a process of extensive ethno-nationalisation, it is almost natural to conclude that even civil society has been ethnicized and divided along ethnic lines. As such, Gajo Sekulic, a scholar at the University of Sarajevo, points out that cooperation or partnership, based on the principle of equality, between civil society and the public sector in Bosnia is impossible because of the latter’s dominant ethno-nationalist agenda (2002).

A rise in civil society’s activism and dynamism is immediately perceived as a reduction in goverment’s power. Granting civil society scope for action is therefore a risky business for nationalist elites, who fear that this will jeopardize their control over the economy, media and general public (Sejfija, 2006: 132). That is, the idea of ethnopolitics is opposed to the development of a strong and influential civil society.

In addition, civil society has practically become an isolated sector; detached from the real needs and interests of ordinary people. It often seems that the most important goal of many CSOs in Bosnia is to receive funding, regardless of the project’s usefulness and relevance for social and political challenges; leading many within the sector to talk about “projectomania”. The term denotes an uncritical attitude by CSOs whose entire programme of activities revolves around project funding, and whose priority is to develop projects that focus on compliance with the donor criteria, often without considering their practical relevance and viability (Sejfija, 2006: 134). These organisations, argues Gajo Sekulic, “are merely a surrogate civil society…the problem is that their projects lack any social legitimacy. What has emerged is a separate, isolated segment of civil sector which could jeopardise the development of an authentic civil society in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The participation of citizens – who should be the defining feature of a civil society – is called into question” (Grupa autora, 1998: 42).

Furthermore, the post-Dayton institutional framework has fostered greater ethnic homogenization, thereby preventing the evolution of a genuine civil society. Fifteen years after Dayton, Bosnia is still far from being the effective and democratic state that the accords had envisioned. Even the vast majority of CSOs have been largely divided and act mainly in their respective entities. Instead of being a significant integrative factor pushing multi-ethnic cooperation, civil society has further contributed to the ethno-nationalist project. For instance, although there are around 10,000 CSOs in Bosnia, only a small number have offices in both Entities, and most employ workers predominantly from one ethnic group. Since Dayton divided Bosnia into two entities along ethnic lines, genuine civic initiatives remain essentially blocked. As Nanić claims:

“the current constitution substantially restricts the development of civil society because of the deep divisions in the civil society itself on ethnic interests, and thus NGOs generally do not have sufficient capacity for activities at the state level” (2010).

Another factor contributing to a weak and undeveloped civil society is the political culture and social behaviour inherited from the pre-war communist regime; based mainly on a total reliance on state institutions and the communist party. Kamrava defines political culture as “a set of values and orientations which determine and influence the public’s perception of politics” (1996). Bosnia’s political culture has gone through a substantial transformation since the mid-nineties. However, it would be naïve to tell that this transition process has been successful.

As Halimović argues that, “BiH citizens generally don’t have a clear vision of what should be their priority and they are completely excluded from policy making. In fact, it seems that citizens are not sufficiently interested in anything except for their mere existence. The fact that BiH has been the slowest country in the liberalization of the visa regime, and that the citizens are again silent, tells us enough about the involvement of the citizens” (2010). Only when people actively participate in community can they contribute to bringing about social and political changes (Belloni, 2001: 173).

Conclusion

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been facing a deep and damaging political and social paralysis for most of the last decade. Although domestic political elites have on several occasions attempted to reach a compromise on constitutional reform, they have failed because of their diverse national interests and party positions. International mediation efforts – especially those of the EU and US – have failed to dilute ethnic differences. The marginalization of civil society from the transition process, however, remains an interesting and puzzling question. Although there are institutional and administrative obstacles to civil society playing a more decisive policy-making role, it is imperative that additional efforts are made to voice discontent about unaccountable and often corrupt politicians. Only by putting pressure on domestic politicians to work in the interests of citizens can Bosnia-Herzegovina’s democratic transition move forward.

Bedrudin Brljavac is a PhD candidate at the department of political science at the University of Sarajevo. His doctoral project is titled, “The European Union as a Global Civilian Power (GCP) – its Impact on the Transformation of Modus Operandi of International Relations”. He has regularly written columns for national and international magazines and daily newspapers, such as Dnevni Avaz, Novi Horizonti, Turkish Weekly and Open Democracy.

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Bibliography

  1. Belloni, Robert, (2001), “Civil Society and Peace Building in Bosnia-Herzegovina”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2001, pp. 163-180.
  2. Bostic, Anze Voh, (2011), “Analysing EU’s Civil Society Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, European Perspectives – Journal on European Perspectives of the Western Balkans, Vol. 3, No. 1 (4), pp 91-113, April 2011.
  3. Fischer, Martina, (2006), Introduction: Moving out of the Dayton Era into the Era of Brussels?, in Martina, Fischer (2006), Peace building and Civil Society in Bosnia- Herzegovina. Ten Years after Dayton, Münster: Lit Verlag 2006.
  4. Grupa autora 1998. Lokalni NVO-sektor u BiH, problemi, analize, preporuke. Sarajevo: IBHI.
  5. Halimovic, Dženana, (2010), “Journalist at the Radio Free Europe (RFE)”, Personal Interview, May, 2010.
  6. Kamrava, Mehran (1996): ‘Understanding Comparative Politics: A Framework for Analysis’, London: Routledge, p. 58.
  7. Nanic, Husein, (2010), “The Representative in the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH”, Personal Interview, April, 2010.
  8. Paffenholz, Thania (2010): “Civil Society”, in Chetail, Vincent, ed., Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: A Lexicon, pp. 60–73, Oxford University Press.
  9. Paris, Roland (2004): At War’s End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  10. Sejfija, Ismet, (2006). From the “Civil Sector” to Civil Society? Progress and Prospects, in Martina, Fischer (2006), Peace building and Civil Society in Bosnia – Herzegovina. Ten Years after Dayton, Münster: Lit Verlag 2006.
  11. Sekulic, Gajo 2002. Interview in Dani. Sarajevo, 21 February 2002.
  12. Tusalem, Rollin F. (2007): “A Boon or a Bane? The Role of Civil Society in Third- and Fourth-Wave Democracies”, International Political Science Review 28 (3), pp. 361–386.
  13. Žeravčić, G. i Biščević, (2009), Analysis of the Civil Sector Situation in BiH; In: HTSPE Ltd. And Kronauer Consulting. Civil Society: Contributions to the Development of the Strategy on Establishment of an Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo, 2009.

Articles published by TransConflict do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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Kosovo – barricades considered http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-barricades-considered-211/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-barricades-considered-211/#respond Wed, 02 Nov 2011 08:31:16 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4399 Having eschewed violence and successfully prevented the one-sided outcome in the north pushed by Pristina and its international supporters, the Serbs should now consider removing the barricades at the two main Gates in order to allow a practical test of KFOR and EULEX’s status neutrality.

By Gerard Gallucci

The current tense stalemate in north Kosovo continues. The local Serbs remain on their barricades, building one to take the place of another that KFOR removed, despite the cold weather and coming winter. KFOR says it refuses to use the partial freedom of movement (FOM) offered by the Serbs until EULEX can exercise it as well. The KFOR commander and EULEX deputy chief tried on October 31st to travel together through the barricades, but the EULEX vehicles were not allowed through and they turned back. Given that some KFOR supply convoys reportedly have used the opportunity to go north in the past several days, the attempt by the senior Quint officials to exercise FOM seems to have been a bit of a stunt.

The northern Kosovo Serbs mounted their barricades as a response to the effort by Pristina – initially supported by KFOR and EULEX – to impose its customs controls on the northern boundary between Serbia and Kosovo. The local Serbs see the effort as an attempt to impose a state border between them and Serbia proper. As they reject the independent Kosovo state, they rejected the effort to establish its northern border. The Serbs saw setting barricades as their only way to peacefully protest and prevent KFOR and EULEX from supporting Pristina by transporting its officials back and forth to the crossing points. The locals also began using alternative roads to avoid the “official” crossings. KFOR at times sought to block those in an effort to force the Serbs to use the crossings manned by Kosovo Albanian officials (brought there in KFOR and EULEX helicopters).

To be clear, all activities by KFOR and EULEX to impose Kosovo customs and Pristina’s officials at the boundary crossings were illegal under their UN peacekeeping mandate. The barricades used by the northerners to resist these illegal efforts were well within their right to peacefully resist. Eschewing violence, even when KFOR fired at them, they have successfully prevented the one-sided outcome in the north pushed by Pristina and its international supporters.

It is fair to ask, however, if the barricades remain necessary. The northerners have successfully made the case that the question of the north will not be settled by force. There is increasing recognition that something more more be done than simply trying to impose Pristina’s control in the north. It even may be that KFOR and EULEX are ready to accept some neutral formula on customs.

So, perhaps, it is a good moment to bring down the barricades at the two main Gates. This would allow a practical test of KFOR and EULEX status neutrality. If no effort was made to collect Kosovo customs at the Gates, there would be no need to remount any barricades. Even if EULEX allowed Kosovo police and customs officers to be at the Gates, as long as they did not seek to control or collect fees there, they could be ignored. And if they did try to collect fees at the Gates, the locals could simply go around. In other words, it might be worth thinking about treating the boundary crossings as if they were not there rather than continuing to block them. This would allow KFOR and EULEX room to return to peacekeeping and their UN mandate without rubbing their nose in their inability to force surrender. It would also relieve pressure on the northerners themselves and on Belgrade.

The barricades along the Ibar may be another matter. The Serbs may find them still necessary to be able to prevent any new unilateral incursions by the Kosovo Albanians until KFOR accepts its responsibility to prevent such, rather than ferry ROSU north by helicopter as it did in July.

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.

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Kosovo – peace not self-enforcing http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-peace-not-self-enforcing-111/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/kosovo-peace-not-self-enforcing-111/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2011 07:28:45 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4390 If KFOR’s request – for complete freedom of movement for everyone – is to be taken seriously, it must go on record that it will prevent unilateral and provocative actions by both sides, and act strictly within its UN mandate.

By Gerard Gallucci

KFOR’s public reaction to the northern Serb’s partial opening of barricades does not yet appear to embrace a peacekeeping approach.  It is removing barricades in the dead of night while the KFOR commander says he will not use the freedom of movement (FOM) offered by the Serbs “because it does not apply to EULEX, for which we cannot check whether the full freedom of movement exists.”

General Drews explained that KFOR’s demand remains that “unconditional and permanent freedom of movement should be provided for all international missions, including KFOR, EULEX and all others organizations and citizens…Until this happens, KFOR will not use the given freedom of movement. There will not be any division between KFOR and our international partners in Kosovo.”  Asked if the FOM KFOR demands includes Kosovo police, Drews reportedly replied that the police in northern Kosovo should also be able to work.  While apparently sidestepping the question if that includes Kosovo Albanian police, Drews said that “on the other side, I trust that the Kosovo government will act prudently and in keeping with the situation.”

It is understandable the KFOR may be trying to avoid statements that suggest it has backed away from efforts to impose Kosovo customs and authority on the northern boundary crossings.  The suggestion, however, that it should be up to the Pristina government to exercise restraint and not unilaterally use FOM to send its police and customs officers to the north cannot be credited at this juncture given the Kosovo government’s threat to launch police operations in the north.

For KFOR’s request – for complete FOM for everyone – to be taken seriously, it must go on record that it will prevent unilateral and provocative actions by both sides.  The risk, should the northern Serbs simply accept Drews’ “trust” in Pristina, would be that another effort to impose Kosovo customs on the boundary would be followed by a new confrontation that would be much harder to settle by dialogue.  Any barricades that the northern Kosovo Serbs remove – or that KFOR removes – could be quickly replaced.  The stage would be set for real confrontation and the possibility for violence would increase.

To repeat what is obvious – KFOR and EULEX’s effort to impose Kosovo customs on the northern boundary is outside its UN Security Council Resolution 1244 mandate and has nothing to do with enforcing rule of law.  It was an effort to enforce the law of the jungle.  The Serbian government – however anxious not to displease Brussels by being too direct – has had to publicly draw the conclusion that KFOR and EULEX have been serving Pristina.  The ICJ in 2010 upheld the mandate of the UN in Kosovo, and it is the only authority under which KFOR and EULEX may act legally within Kosovo.   It is a matter of “rule of law” that KFOR and EULEX remain status neutral.

It is also a matter of keeping the peace for KFOR and EULEX to act strictly under their UN mandate.  Peace does not keep itself.  The peacekeepers cannot simply back away and expect everyone to behave.  Pristina caused the current crisis by acting unilaterally in July.  KFOR cannot expect the northerners to simply take it on faith that Pristina will not again seek to provoke violence.

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.

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Kosovo – some progress http://www.transconflict.com/2011/10/kosovo-some-progress-270/ http://www.transconflict.com/2011/10/kosovo-some-progress-270/#respond Thu, 27 Oct 2011 14:43:26 +0000 http://www.transconflict.com/?p=4384 The decision to allow freedom of movement for KFOR suggests a readiness among the northern Kosovo Serbs to find a way to defuse the threat of violence created by Pristina’s efforts to unilaterally change the situation on the ground.

By Gerard Gallucci

According to various reports, the northern Kosovo Serbs have opened one lane in each of the two roads heading north to the Gate 1 and 31 boundary crossing points to allow KFOR to more easily – and cheaply – supply its forces.  They also will partially open a few barricades elsewhere.  Others will remain, however, and local leaders have indicated that the Serbs will be watching what passes through.  Whilst providing this freedom on movement for KFOR, they still refuse to allow the same for EULEX until it reaches an agreement with Belgrade on not transporting Kosovo customs to the boundary crossings.  The mayor of Zubin Potok expressed hope that “KFOR will respect our decision and not abuse it.”

KFOR called the northerner’s decision “a good first step”, but repeated KFOR’s “demand” for “unconditional freedom for KFOR, EULEX mission, other institutions and citizens.”  KFOR called on the Serbs to “stop their activities and completely remove the barricades.”

The decision by local leaders to open the roads for KFOR logistical requirements is a wise one.  It should decrease the immediate threat of further conflict and allow time for dialogue, whilst giving KFOR the opportunity to demonstrate that it has returned to status neutral peacekeeping.  It should also allow time for Belgrade and EULEX to reach an understanding of how they might deal with the customs issue in a status neutral manner.

The northerners were no doubt under considerable pressure from Belgrade to find a way to avoid further confrontation with NATO.  Serbia’s president, Boris Tadić, must somehow find a way to appear to be meeting EU demands on north Kosovo, whilst at the same time not having the issue re-ignite nationalist feelings about “losing” Kosovo.  That the Kosovo winds are again blowing strong in the Serbian body politic is suggested by reported comments by deputy prime minister, Ivica Dačić, suggesting that if Serbia cannot have all of Kosovo anymore, it should take the north.

Furthermore, the decision to partially open the roads also suggests readiness among the northern Kosovo Serbs to find a way to defuse the threat of violence created by Pristina’s efforts in July to change things on the ground through unilateral actions.  Given KFOR’s inability to resolve the crisis through further use of force, it opens up a chance for it and EULEX to back out quietly of the box Pristina – and the US? – made for them.

The next steps need not be taken out loud.  It might be better for quiet understandings and compromise actions.  This would be real peacekeeping.

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.

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