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NO 91-92

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Helsinki Charter No. 91-92

January - February 2006



By Miroslav Filipovic

The question of all questions is not whether Kosovo will be granted independence but its sovereignty. What is crucial is the issue of when Kosovo will be granted sovereignty and recognized as such by other sovereign states and the UN.

There are several epics in the Serbian folk tradition wherein some celestial power tells the Serbs what to do, instructs them how to choose the best way out, but the Serbs somehow fail to understand those voiceless signals and enigmatic forebodings. As they keep missing the meaning of a thunderbolt at the St. Sava Day, the Serbs pursue their meaningless, stupid and losers' race against the world. The same as that horse in Yesenin's poem running a race with a locomotive. As if the same epics guide Belgrade's clerical-nationalists vis-r-vis Kosovo. It is of no avail that competent people are coming to Belgrade and telling our politicians what's in the pipeline for Kosovo, what's already decided on, where their labor will be lost and where they may expect to profit. They could have taught a horse by now, but not our politicians. They stand like a rock in their mission of making life miserable for the Serbs in Serbia, day in day out, and making us all ashamed of the fact that we belong to that people. Until recently, because of the inhuman crimes they have supported and defended, and now because of our politicians who would not resolve what can be resolved and meddle into the affairs the world would never allow them to meddle in.

Now that the Vienna negotiations have begun, everyone is satisfied in spite of the fact that - except for having met with their Albanian counterparts and reached agreement on several items on the agenda - practically nothing has been agreed on. The first meeting on decentralization was supposed to be followed by the talks on the protection of religious facilities, minority protection, property issues, debts and other economic questions, as well as on the international presence once the status of Kosovo is decided. Domestic media and politicians somewhat triumphantly declared that the Serbian delegation had "clearly and convincingly presented its platform for the reform of local self-government, the international community and Kosovo Albanians were not fully informed about, and which made them realize that Serbian requests were realistic." What both Serbian media and politician have kept under cover is that the international community had endorsed the Kosovo delegation's position. "The startup of these talks paves the way to Kosovo's independence," said the delegation's head, Llufti Haziri, at the end of the first round, and added, "We are ready to discuss all matters put forth by the Serbian side or the international community but the measures that will be agreed on will be enacted only once Kosovo's independence is declared."

On the one hand, the international community's mission in Kosovo is complex and delicate, while incredibly simple and clear on the other. All the international community is supposed to do is to determine what form of the status for Kosovo stands the best chance to secure stability and progress, and then simply recognize it to Kosovo. That's, without any dilemma, a sovereign state of Kosovo, no matter how conditioned and limited that sovereignty might be. It would be perfect should all sides accept it. However, it is hardly probable that the Serbian government will voluntarily accept any form of independence that a long-term, stable solution necessitates. Therefore, the international community has already decided to impose a solution as such, and has been preparing itself for that rather embarrassing job. To put it simply, stew is already cooked, it just remains to be seen who will be the one to eat it up.

Before taking any official step the international community will have to solve several other problems. Though Belgrade nationalists narcissistically believe they are among these problems, that's simply not true. Neither anyone cares about the official Belgrade's position the way it is - clerically-nationalistically bullheaded, quarreling, vindictive and spiteful - nor will Belgrade be allowed to decide on Kosovo status. The international community's major problem is in Kosovo itself. It relates to Kosovo Albanians and their institutions that are incapable - even should they wish - to secure the rule of law, and thus safety to the Serb minority. Therefore, the international community looks for the mode that would force the Albanians to provide the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities a sustainable package of guaranteed rights in three domains at least - central institutions, decentralization, and cultural and religious heritage. It still looks for this mode since it's common knowledge that a solution is not at hand - for, apart from the promises of "we shall, cross our heart and hope to die" type, Kosovo politicians have nothing better to offer either to their international mentors or to Kosovo Serbs. I do not question here Kosovo provisional institutions' good will, on the contrary. If they had their say, the Serbs would be the best-protected human beings on this planet. At least until they /Kosovo Albanians/ get their independence. The problem is that conflicts can break anytime and anyplace - mutual antagonism and hatred have reached incredible proportions after all that bloodshed in Kosovo. The problem is that the Serbs in Kosovo are more protected by the orders not to touch them that were, the word has it, issued by Ramush Haradinai and Hashim Tachi than by law. Of course, these orders may easily turn invalid once independence is proclaimed.

The other problem relates to North Kosovo, i.e. to the large Serbian enclave around Kosovska Mitrovica. This is about a grave and hardly solvable problem. Instructed by Belgrade's presidential and ministerial offices, various Ivanovics, Jaksics and the like have constructed a bastion of parallel institutions that openly defy the official Prishtina unwilling to give up this part of the territory.

Referring to the complexity of the situation over there, a high-ranking Western diplomat said, "Let's say the United Nations grant Kosovo independence and a number of countries recognize this young state. Prishtina revels and blows the trumpets, while the North is silent as the grave. Then at some gathering the Serbs in Kosovska Mitrovica announce they would never recognize Kosovo's sovereignty, proclaim secession and declare they will go for armed defense. In a wink, several thousands volunteers, sleepers, bridge-guards, Cossacks, etc., rush to Mitrovica.Rebellion!.You, Serbs, like riots anyway. We /UNMIK/ will not war against the Serbs for sure, let alone allow the Albanians to war against them. Serbia reacts and then we have Russia intervening diplomatically. What shall we do? That's a big problem indeed."

That's why the international community intends to get more involved in North Kosovo, in Kosovska Mitrovica in particular. The Kosovo government will not be able to solve the problem without international assistance, especially unless the official Belgrade orders its para-military to be loyal to Prishtina, which, to all appearances, it will never do. Moreover, to all indents and purposes, it will - like in Krajina, Lika or Bosnia - boost their defiance, insane disobedience and even armed rebellion. This is why a kind of transitional international administration in North Kosovo is more and more frequently referred to as a solution to the problem - an administration within the borders of an independent and sovereign Kosovo that will at least guarantee the Serbs that they will not be subjected to retaliation. The word has it that Russians will also be represented in that administration. So, if the Serbs in North Kosovo overdo their obedience and compliance to the official Belgrade, we shall once again witness the pitiful tractor formations moving down the Ibar River towards Kraljevo and Kragujevac.

The third problem the international community has to come to grips with are the Russians! And not in their capacity as our traditional friends, but that of a dragon that should be fed in order to allow the international community to solve its problems. This is an old movie in this region, the last time we saw it was during air raids. I doubt not that the dragon will once again be fed and happy. To my knowledge, negotiations with the dragon are well underway - and everything is almost settled. Belgrade's clerical-nationalists have relied for long on China's international support too. According to diplomatic sources, however, Beijing said outrightly that depriving a sovereign state of a part of its territory was wrong, but also that Kosovo was Europe's concern in which it would not meddle. "We shall smell the air a bit and then side with the majority," a Chinese diplomat told his Western colleague.

As a novelty, the international community now considers the level of limitation to the new state's sovereignty. The Bosnian recipe has been perceived as the best for long. As it seems, this firm position is being gradually abandoned and some softer restrictions for Kosovo to be imposed by the international community's high representative are looked for. Namely, the international community now takes that the chances that the Kosovo society "turns wild and gets out of control" after independence are less risky than they were in Bosnia, which implies less authority invested upon the high representative. The above-mentioned restrictions would be combined with Macedonian approach deriving from the Ohrid Agreement that "pacified Macedonia" in the short run at least. This rather complex and somewhat blurred concept for Kosovo's independence will be tested for, let's say, a 3-year period during which the "open questions" would be internationally supervised and, at the same time, under UN and EU's guarantees. This primarily refers to minority rights and their protection, and, in the case of the Serbs, to the delicate issue of cultural and religious monuments and their autonomy.

As I've already pointed out, the Kosovo Serbs will be living in another state soon and should avoid at all costs having their human rights, freedom and security under the protection of a Serbian embassy in Prishtina. Therefore, they should come to their senses as soon as possible, give up the vulgar nationalistic rhetoric and, together with their neighbors, begin to build a Serbian politically self-sufficient community within an independent Kosovo. I am sure that the international community and the Kosovo Albanians will lend them a helping hand in such endeavor.


NO 91-92

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