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NO 103-104

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Helsinki Charter No. 103-104

January - February 2007


Kosovo Finals


By Bojan Al Pinto Brkic


The wise leadership's initiative to have the final round of consultations on the future status of Kosovo postponed for ten days has been accepted. Unfortunately, other initiatives by the wise leadership have not been accepted although prepared with the same dose of seriousness and self-sacrifice. The official Belgrade almost unanimously assesses that the international community will once again realize its mistakes with delay but the wise leadership would no longer be there draw lessons for it since Kosovo's supervised independence implies the end of the world. Or it does not - but you can never tell...

The political strategy of Serbian leaders suffers from chronic shortsightedness. Few exceptions from the rule nothing but testify of the problem. Their shortsightedness in the matter of Kosovo combines with their non-existent sense of reality and results in distorted perception that generates incredible moves. In brief, nothing derives from logics or consistency.

The negotiations of the future status of Kosovo went on for a year. In the course of them Belgrade regime was offering the Albanian community in Kosovo the "more than autonomy, less than independence" concept that has been already included in the anthology of jokes, and many other concepts as well - ranging from the return to the constitutional arrangements of 1974 to "inner independence" and "independence without a seat in the UN." None of those offers has been elaborated so as to reveal what it was Belgrade actually had in mind. As it seems, Kosovo is presently very close to some kind of supervised independence. Winners of the last elections have constituted a new parliament and, before even starting to negotiate on a majority government, adopted a resolution on turning down Ahtisaari's plan that "opens the door to Kosovo's independence." The media were speculating that Serbia has had in mind partition of Kosovo. Though this is not to be ruled out, no plan was brought to public eye, not even a plan for integration of two municipalities with Serbian majority. All that leads to the conclusion that neither the negotiating team - which, I assume, has been duly paid their per diems for a year - nor the bigwigs behind it had developed any serious plan whatsoever (not even a simple worksheet including viable objectives, means to attain them, measures to be taken, timeline, budget and underlying risks). The only plan Serbia had was to obstruct the negotiating process and hope a solution would come out of the blue at eleventh hour. "We are fighting for our territories," Serbian nationalists say over and over again but do not realize that in 21st century their way of fighting for territories implies a risk of losing everything.

The recent history of the Balkans proves that all those obsessively preoccupied with territories have met their Waterloo. Serbian leaders are resolute to change this rule. Though negotiations are officially closed, the official Belgrade behaves as if the time has come for presentation of our arguments: the international community has agreed to postpone final consultations for ten days and, by the same logic, could also accept to return Kosovo under Serbia's wing or, as a member of the negotiating team put it, to allow our army to guard borders. The information that the top leadership has appointed someone without a faintest idea about the solutions in play to negotiate on citizens behalf cannot but bring tears of happiness.

Academic titles of some negotiators veil poor knowledge. Those who rule out the very possibility of changed borders and insist on sovereignty just overlook the entire history of humankind. Some of their so-called arguments are true pearls. Such is their claim that an ethnic minority has never had the right to self-determination. Weren't Serbs the first to exercise this right in Austro-Hungary in 1918? So how can one expect those people to understand the complexity of international relations? Well, no one expects them to. At the time they were elected we simply hoped they would not stand in the way and would not undermine regional stability since "Europe and the US would not allow them." As it seems, firefighters are presently somewhere else and we'll have to cope by ourselves with those supposed to protect our interests.

The only change effectuated by the recent elections is that Serbian parliamentary seats are no longer occupied by 250 pupils of the Slobodan Milosevic elementary school. But the fact in itself does not guarantee success. What Serbia needs in the global society that changes at rocket speed is a team of young, uncorrupted speedy Gonzaleses with experience in the world of multinational corporations and able to react before the blow falls. But citizens are given Borka Vucic - with all her abilities she so skillfully hides - to chair the parliament instead. Misdemeanor judges do not try the Radicals for their inappropriate behavior. The others look worried and have gloomy faces. They have to because of Kosovo. And those who are worried the most have never set foot on Kosovo and have seen Albanians on TV only. Well, they didn't have a chance.

Our reasoning when it comes to modern international relations resembles a vicious circle: some n year ago the world laid down some rules but we were not of age to initiate their amendment; a war has been imposed on us; moreover, the world has bombarded us; and now the same world wants to take Kosovo away from us. Neither is the world the same nor it matters whether or not you were of age to be able to change its rules. The people we backed have imposed the war on us in spite of the world's opposition and its attempt to put an end to the spiraling violence. True, they have bombarded us - but we must ask ourselves why was it that they decided to take such step, particularly now that we discuss Kosovo status, and why they condition every move forward we want to make. No one wants to take Kosovo away from us for two reasons at least: firstly, they cannot take away something we do not have at all; secondly, the Kosovo they would want to take is the Kosovo we could never have.

By denying to effectively partake in the process Serbia has changed sides. What matters is not whether a country is an ally of Europe, US or Russia but whether it has a stable system and a government capable of acting as a suitable partner. The official Belgrade should have better publicized its disinterestedness at the very beginning and asked the Contact Group to guarantee a viable solution without Serbia's interference. Instead, the official Belgrade has definitely compromised itself by demonstrating its ability to juggle a constitution and laws in the hope to snatch a piece of territory rather than to improve citizens' lives. In the meantime, from the stage of a grumbler who works, through the stage of a grumbler who works not, the Serbian government has reached the stage of an overt opponent to the international community. It will take us years to put the things right. The most we could look forward to at this point is that the Contact Group or the Security Council would soon officially inform Serbian citizens that their elected leader will have to deal with Kosovo no longer since they are "not authorized," and that their every attempt to express a stand on Kosovo will be treated as indecent meddling in other people's business.

Serbia's thorny path continues to be determined by interventions on the part of the international community because her leadership refuses to accept the realities and start thinking in the long run. Serbia's path is marked by secession of other republics and now by Kosovo's. In all cases separation was caused by Belgrade's inability to place a clear-cut offer on the table and present an action plan for overcoming problems. Belgrade has produced piles of platforms, conclusions and decisions instead. All of them are now filed in some dusty archive. And none of them will be fit for an anthology of political and diplomatic thought. The state lives in the spirit of the old curse of having and losing rather than looks forward to the future. Citizens whose elected representatives are more concerned with territories than with people have almost nothing to look forward to.


Bojan Al Pinto Brkic


NO 103-104

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