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NO 105-106

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 105-106 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 105-106

March - April 2007



By Denisa Kostovic

Kosovo seems to have moved to New York. All parties interested in this hotbed of crisis in the Balkans have turned their eyes to the UN Security Council to which the former Finnish president and representative for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari had recently submitted a plan for the resolution of the status of Kosovo. Reactions to the suggested "supervised sovereignty" were quite expected.

In Belgrade, Premier Vojislav Kostunica said, "Failure of Ahtisaari's plan for dismemberment of Serbia is our highest state and national interest." So, the Serbian Premier's criticism highlighted just independence out of the entire package providing not only the architecture of Kosovo institutions, but also the modes and role of international civilian and military presence. In his commentary he simply left out the wide range of rights and institutional guarantees, including the establishment of Serb majority municipalities, the plan envisages for Kosovo Serbs. This is because Kosovo Serbs got almost everything (except for at least formally having Kosovo within Serbia), cynics would say. The comments from the Albanian side were also to be expected. It is common knowledge that Albanians have lost patience and snarl at the very thought of having some "internationals" boss them around once they get independence. Unofficially, they also grudged about the level of protection or almost a special status for Kosovo Serbs, laid down by Ahtisaari's plan.

Diplomatic activities are at full swing. Bets on Russian veto in the Security Council are being collected. As it seems, the resolution of the final status of Kosovo has not only moved forward but also beyond the backcloth of international bargaining. However, that would not actually solve the Kosovo problem. The same issue that doomed the Vienna negotiations between Serbian and Albanian delegations is key to any sustainable plan for Kosovo, Ahtisaari's included: the position of the Serbian minority. Taking into account Ahtisaari's plan, one cannot but wonder why both sides are so dissatisfied with it when it provides such wide range of rights for Serbs and independence for Albanians.

Let's analyze the position of Serbs for starters. The plan banked on the fact that he quality of minority rights combined with new municipal borders would be a sufficient guarantee for Serbs, remove the reasons for their insecurity and thus talk them into accepting Kosovo's independence. As it turned out, the assumption was a wrong one. And that's the biggest shortcoming of Ahtisaari's plan.

Many analysts have been underlying for long that the unresolved Kosovo issue destabilizes the region. And this is why the international community has sped up its diplomatic activities towards resolution. However, Kosovo's independence, both de facto and de jure, need not imply its stability. Actually, Ahtisaari's plan did not manage to change perceptions, which preconditions long-term stability of this part of the Balkans.

And what is it that might change perceptions? An option deserving serious consideration is the creation of European zones of Activities. Such zones would envelop the regions with Serb population but would also be multiethnic. Their primary purpose would be to overcome the dangerous minority-majority logic through construction of European space with European norms and rules. In such zones it would not matter who is in the majority and who in the minority. They would simply be the zones of Activities in line with modern understanding of the term security prevalent in international academic, analytical and governmental circles.

In the era of globalization and erosion of sovereignty of even the biggest states, the issue of security is being perceived from a quite different angle. Focusing territories and borders is outdated - the center of attention has moved to an individual and his rights. In this sense the zones could solve two problems that incite enmity between Albanians and Serbs: construction of a European space in Kosovo would alleviate Albanians' fears of the partition of Kosovo and, at the same time, secure "a protector" for Serbs. And it would be the European Union that would take over the role of the "protector" in the independent Kosovo.

Such strategy implies a radical change in the perception of Serbian enclaves in Kosovo. Just a glance at all those writings about Kosovo worldwide testify that Serbian enclaves are seen as an obstacle to Serbs' integration into the "new," UNMIK-governed Kosovo in the aftermath of NATO intervention in 1999, and thus an obstacle to the determination of the status of Kosovo. In the political and security vacuum between the withdrawal of Serbian security forces and the establishment of the so-so control over Kosovo by international military and security structures, the retreat of Serbian population to enclaves was primarily a security strategy. However, this was soon turned into Belgrade's handy political tool for influencing developments in Kosovo. On the one hand, the official Belgrade managed to hinder contacts between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians, and, on the other, took over the role of "protector" by financing the so-called parallel structures in Kosovo.

What was the outcome of such policy? From Belgrade's point of view, it was no doubt successful as it had isolated Serbs from Albanian surrounding. But it was counterproductive at the same time, presuming that improvement of Serbs' position had been its objective. Because of such policy Albanians looked on Serbs as Belgrade's local branch. And this policy turned Serbs into targets of Albanian violence in March 2004. Besides, Albanians perceive enclaves as blueprints for Kosovo's partition, which is unacceptable to them. In the meantime, whenever referring to enclaves the official Belgrade has been using the vocabulary of emotions and terms such as ghettoes or concentration camps so as to deny Albanians' claims that some progress has been made in the domain of minority standards and interethnic understanding.

European zones of Activities deny the reasoning according to which enclaves are obstacles. On the contrary, this approach implies that enclaves figure for an opportunity to have the problem solved to the benefit of all sides. For, enclaves are ethnically clean only by a narrow definition of the term enclave.

It would be much better to take into consideration a much larger geographic context in which enclaves are situated. Even Kosovska Mitrovica north of the Ibar River, i.e. the biggest Serbian enclave, is inhabited by Albanians, who also live in several villages in the north. Serbian villages in, say, east Kosovo are mono-ethnic but still surrounded by Albanian villages.

While Serbs have favored enclaves, the West has ignored them. What all citizens of Kosovo badly need is a chance to overcome mutual divisions and build foundations for the future. And the European Union should have a lead role in the process.

As a leading factor in Kosovo after resolution of the status issue, the European Union should establish zones of Activities enveloping Serb and Albanian population alike. By securing economic growth, rule of law and respect for human rights, the EU would provide a new model of coexistence. European zones of Activities should guarantee protection to Serbs in the delicate period of transition from UNMIK to EU. That would encourage Kosovo Serbs to get themselves adjusted to and accept "new" Kosovo, and, moreover, turn enclaves into zones of mutual trust rather than separation. At the same time, being European, the zones would alleviate Albanians' fear of Kosovo's partition. Those zones could even become a model for economic growth and stability in Serbia proper. Take, for instance, the town of Brcko in the neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Brcko is multiethnic and has the biggest income per capita in the country.

Last but not least, European zones of Activities would focus humanity rather than ethnicity. As a supervisor of the settlement of the status issue, the European Union takes upon itself the responsibility for making such arrangement efficient and acceptable to all. Therefore, EU should avoid the logic of sacred ethnicities and territorialization of minority rights. As it seems, such a logic incorporated into Ahtisaari's plan is the problem bigger than uncertainty about the outcome of the Security Council vote.


NO 105-106

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