Kosovo status - carpe diem?

Kosovo status – carpe diem?

Several important factors provide the context for smart, collective planning and action in the benefit of all the peoples of Kosovo and led by the northern Serbs.

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By Gerard Gallucci

At a recent meeting in Belgrade between the leaders of Serbia and Albania, the Albanian Prime Minister suggested that the status of Kosovo as an independent country was settled.  Rami noted that “108” countries had recognized it as well as the International Court of Justice.  Leaving aside the fact that the ICJ did not “recognize” Kosovo’s independence but merely said international law is silent on the subject, he is essentially correct.  Kosovo’s fate was sealed when, in 1999, NATO – without UN mandate and therefore illegally – ended the longstanding conflict between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians with two months of bombing and then entered the territory.

Everything since the NATO intervention has been a kind of shadow play.  Under UNSCR 1244, approved after Serbia surrendered, the UN sent a peacekeeping mission to Kosovo to hold the place until the intervening powers formally decided what to do with it.  The Quint (the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy) ignored the elements of 1244 they didn’t like – such as recognizing Serbia’s continued sovereignty over the territory – and in 2008 decided to give Kosovo its independence.  (This occurred outside the ambit of the UN Security Council as the Russians would not go along with the plan).  UNMIK did its holding job as well as possible, given the difficult mandate and lack of unanimity among the Perm Five, and turned things over to the EU.  Unfortunately, the EU has failed in almost every way possible to help the new country onto its feet as a functioning, non-corrupt, multi-ethnic democracy.

Serbs in Kosovo reacted in different ways to the fact that they were now being told they lived in a different state than the one they were born into.  Many left and those that stayed south of the Ibar eventually accommodated themselves to the fact they were surrounded by Albanians and left to their own devices.  (The internationals did nothing when Pristina used force to bully them into submission.)  The Kosovo Serbs in the north resisted and still do despite the evident decision of Serbia’s rulers to abandon them to their fate.

The present government of Serbia has tied its continued existence to EU accession.  The country’s economy is in dire condition and its future depends on gaining EU assistance and eventual membership.  Despite the SNS’ origin as a “nationalist party,” it has already essentially let Kosovo go in order to meet the Brussels/Berlin demand that it move to regularize Belgrade’s relationship with Pristina.  Pristina says it wants full diplomatic recognition from Belgrade in four years and Berlin still refuses to open any chapters on EU accession until Serbia regularizes relations with Kosovo.  Belgrade cannot simply roll over but as long as the Kosovo Albanians don’t launch an outright invasion on the north, any rational Serbian government will do whatever it takes vis-à-vis Kosovo to remain on the EU track to membership.

The question for the northerners remains what it always has been:  what happens to them?  Until it became clear they would receive only minimal help from Belgrade, the leadership in the north was simply rejectionist.  They resisted UN efforts to help work toward a status neutral approach as embodied in the Ahtisaari Plan and wasted opportunities to use the openings offered by UNMIK management to settle some boundary issues in a way that would establish clearer lines between them and the Albanians while also opening up channels to conduct necessary relations in a status neutral way.  During that period, most northern Kosovo Serbs didn’t even bother to read the Ahtisaari Plan.  But recently, signs of a new, younger and more pragmatic leadership have emerged.  They are looking to the continued role of the UN and at models for implementing Ahtisaari provisions along, for example, the South Tyrol model, to provide a safe and secure environment for the Serbs, north and south, remaining in Kosovo.

It remains clear that the fate of Kosovo Serbs remains in their own hands. As NATO and the Quint finally came to recognize, there is no “military solution” to the north.  But Belgrade will eventually recognize Kosovo whether it be in four years or 20.  The relevant elements of the Ahtisaari framework remain and the internationals cannot afford to allow the Albanians any more episodes of outright ethnic cleansing.  Indeed, given the difficulties the Kosovo Albanian leadership is having even forming a government, Kosovo’s Serbs may be able to have outsized political influence by participating fully and playing their cards wisely.  These factors provide the context for smart, collective planning and action in the benefit of all the peoples of Kosovo and led by the northern Serbs. Carpe diem.

This article was originally published by KoSSev – the Kosovo Sever portal, and is available by clicking here


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13 Responses

  1. Fadil

    Gerard still willing to interpret things by his own, and usually by providing false information. UN SC resolution 1244 NEVER mentioned Serbia, regarding “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, but so called and not recognized “state” of “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” (FRY), which was FEDERATION and not unitary “state”, and a remnant of dissolved UN member – SFRY (socialist Yugoslavia). The so called FRY was rejected from the UN by UN SC resolution 777 (1991) and was not recognized by majority of the world, hence NATO bombed undefined territory, which caused massive terror to an ethnic group. Kosovo in the former socialist Yugoslavia had a status of constituent element with VETO POWER – as actual sovereign states like Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia etc. and was forcibly occupied from Serbia in 1990. It was absolutely disputable situation and not even close to the Gerard’s interpretation and others alike.

    In the UN SC R. 1244 only “commitment of member states” – of the UN – “to the territorial integrity” of so called FRY is mentioned and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) EXPLAINED PERFECTLY saying that “Scope of the principle of territorial integrity is confined to the sphere of relations between States”. This means that UN SC said to the UN members to “respect” territorial integrity of so called FRY but did not say anything to Kosovars as it DID, for example, to the people of Northern Cyprus, just 19 days later, by resolution 1251, that the solution of Cyprus is in ONE STATE and its territorial integrity and sovereignty safeguarded. Nothing similar is in the UN SC R. 1244 since there is absolutely NOT any reference that Kosovo had to remain within so called FRY and not to mention Serbia at all.

    As for Kosovo status, by resolution 1244, UN SC mandated UN mission in Kosovo to “facilitate political process for the determination of Kosovo status taking into account Ramboullet accords”, which says that the WILL of PEOPLE is the BASIS for Kosovo status. No single reference to the “territorial integrity” or “continued sovereignty” of so called FRY. Serbia is not at all the subject of Kosovo status in R. 1244 and is mentioned only in the regard of the withdrawal of its security forces from Kosovo. Serbia may claim that is successor of so called FRY but did Kosovo gave it consent on it if it were part of such a state? As mentioned above Kosovo had VETO POWER on these matters since 1974 by Yugoslav Constitution.

    As for the Kosovo Serbs who “were now being told they lived in a different state than the one they were born into” i must say that this is very ridiculous statement of Gerard, and usually the same many Serbian extremists emphasize as an “argument”.

    The healthy logic would ask, for example, what about Serbs in Montenegro who must live in different state “than the one they were born into”?? What about Croats in B&H? What about all former Yugoslav people who were born in socialist Yugoslavia and now live in different states?? Why only the fate of the Serbs in Kosovo should be taken into consideration and NOT the others???

    So Gerard why you always deal with something absolutely not relevant and why only the Serbs should have that privilege to be a “special” group?? What are other peoples to you? Are they humans or not?

    Nobody is denying you to love so much Kosovo Serbs, only those in the north because for those in the south you do not take care at all, but do not share disinformation. Do not try to cheat the world because in the 21st century that is impossible.

    1. Gunnar

      Kosovo was not a federal subject of FRY as your comment implies, it was an administrative unit of Serbia with a degree of autonomy similar to that of a Kraj in Slovakia, for example.

      1. Fadil

        @Gunar,

        I did not say that Kosovo had a status of federal unit in the so called and nor recognized state of FRY since the inception. I said that Kosovo had a status of federal unit within UN member SFRY (Socialist Yugoslavia), which eventually collapsed in 1991. As I already mentioned, by resolution 777 (1991), UN SC rejected the so called FRY being part of the UN. The so called FRY, a leftover after the collapse of SFRY, eventually became part of the UN in November 2000. This means that NATO di not bomb UN member but rather disputable territory.

        As of July 1990 Kosovo was forcibly and illegally occupied from Serbia by violating Yugoslav Constitution, Serbian Constitution and Kosovo Constitution since Kosovo had to give CONSENT for every constitutional change.

        In other side, UN SC, in it’s resolution 1244 (1999), said that Kosovo should have substantial autonomy, pending final status, in the so called FRY and NOT Serbia. This would mean that Kosovo was either federal element of the so called FRY, hence should be asked on who was successor after the break up of such entity, or a free country after it’s collapse. When so called FRY changed the name from FRY into “Serbia and Montenegro”, Kosovo was not asked at all. When the state “Serbia and Montenegro” was dissolved in 2006, Kosovo was not asked again. When Serbia held referendum for the new Constitution in 2006, votes of Kosovars were not included in the final counting. Practically Serbia agreed that Kosovo was separate country.

  2. PEN

    Mr Gallucci do you believe the Tribunal being established to prosecute KLA war criminals will achieve anything, given the protection Albanian clan leaders are afforded by Western security agencies.

    1. Pen, I’m not in a position to say either way what might happen and we should presume innocence until proven guilty. But looking more broadly, it might be better to focus on the present with an eye on the future rather than too much on the past. In the kind of intense conflict as occurred throughout the Balkans, all sides did bad things. The question is, it seems to me, what happens now?

  3. PEN

    I agree, all sides did do bad things. But the impression I have is that only one side was made to pay for it. Given that in many people’s eyes the Hague ‘court’ is a thoroughly discredited institution, the onus of my question was; will Albanian war criminals face justice. The truth of course, as with their Croatian counterparts, is that in all probability they won’t. You allude to the present and the future in your response. The present is what it is. The Serbs of northern Kosovo will not be driven out, however much of a thorn in the side they are to the coterie ensconced in Pristina. The Serbs elsewhere in Kosovo will also remain where they are. Apart from those in more isolated communities at the mercy of local thugs. As to the future, well I guess you’ll continue speculating on that in regular updates on this forum. Most of which I enjoy reading by the way.

  4. Pingback : November 2014 Review - TransConflict

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