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NO 105-106

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Helsinki Charter No. 105-106

March - April 2007



By Nenad Ilic

There is no doubt that the Kosovo mythic rhetoric is a Piedmont of the Serbian national organicism. In the 20th century Serbia all political elites have used it, particularly since 1913. And it was at peak in the period 1965-99. Downfall of Rankovic and, later on, enthronement of the national elite and Slobodan Milosevic authoritarianism were the period's landmarks. The nationally-oriented elites were orchestrally glorifying the Kosovo myth and its heroes and thus creating the Serbs' self-perception as a chosen nation. Both the "old" and "new" elites were chanting the Serbs' right to finally stand up for their "neglected" interests. Territorial definition of the "fatherland" was crucial for those interests. The opponents of the idea were labeled the West's plotters against the Serbs or traitors.

The same elite played the key role in shaping the public opinion vis-a-vis Kosovo. The Kosovo problem thus figured - and still does - as the best tool for securing their position (and accompanying privileges) and that of their successors. It is high time to call to account some opinion-makers, analysts and editors who were misusing their right to free expression (some consciously and some mechanically).

Once it adopted multiparty system Serbia imposed the national issue (with Kosovo as the Piedmont) on the ex-Yugoslav agenda. It simultaneously opted for NATO and Moscow, i.e. for a parliamentary, civil state and a corporative, populist one. In a way, Serbia followed the Latin American dynamism and model of populism.

The Kostunica's cabinet, mesmerized by the defense of Kosovo and mythic paradigms, follows in the footsteps of the Kosovo epic. Ever since March 2005 Serbia's highest ranking officials have been aware that Ahtisaari prepares some version of conditional independence. However, after several "adventures in the West" the Serbian political elite has ignored the fact that the country is in the European economic and security zone and turned to Russia for the protection of its interests in Kosovo.

Why is it that only Russia argues for universality of the Kosovo issue? For, it is handy for strengthening of its global position in the "Anglo-Saxon-Russian rhetoric" over crucial security and energy locations. And here we have the issue of Iran as a Piedmont.

Besides, Russia's principled stand on universality of the Kosovo question is a major link in the chain of multi-polar decision-making, aimed to counterbalance Anglo-Saxon domination.

Staunch reliance of Russia's persistence against such constellation is to the detriment of Serbia's long-term interests by default. For, Russia will consistently protect Serbia's interests only if such stand coincides with its interests. And its interests could imply Serbia's staying away from NATO.

But the EU attitude towards the Kosovo issue is a crucial one. In this context, the official Belgrade reconsiders even its interest to join the EU, while some circles are proposing a model of some liberal neutrality vis-a-vis EU and NATO. The question is whether Serbia has the potential to resemble Hong Kong or Pyongyang. For Serbia as it is Norway's or Switzerland's neutrality is nothing but an abstract noun. This is the context in which one should understand some circles' animosity to Bozidar Djelic, as the candidate for the premiership, and Zdravko Ponos, the incumbent head of the General Staff. Is the "Ahtisaari ultimatum" - Kosovo or Europe - just a pretext, veiled by neutrality, for complete restitution of conservative, Moscow-oriented forces? And exactly because of the Kosovo stalemate that Serbia badly needs the EU and its values.

Kosovo is Serbia's spiritual value. But exploiting the Kosovo myth for selfish advantage - paternalism, poltroonery and partisan state - is certainly below human dignity.

In this sense, Serbia needs to develop a new value system and strategy vis-a-vis Kosovo. Serbia needs to be wise and reserved, but has to recognize global interests - Anglo-Saxon and Russian alike. Above all, it has to recognize the values of modern civilization, shake itself free from the concept of organicism, establish long-term cooperation with the countries in the region and turn itself towards the achievements of the EU, the Central Europe in particular.

In his address of March 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon underlined three factors influencing Serbs' hesitation to return to Kosovo: 1) economy, 2) the unresolved status issue and 3) security.

The Serbs in the enclaves, south of the Ibar River, also need a political alternative for communication with the international community and Kosovo Albanians. A Serbian national assembly, seated in Gracanica, could stand for such an alternative. Communication between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians - and, for that matter, regional cooperation and stability - can neither rely on the reincarnation of Milosevic's policy nor on the nationalistic dimension of the disbanded KLA. Serbs should partake in Kosovo institutions and try to reach a historical agreement with Albanians on technical and status issues.

The EU, headed by Germany, should provide a guarantee for Serb-Albanian dialogue. It's never late to start the dialogue the more so since there is no better alternative for a long-term settlement. Ahtisaari plan, the address by the UN Secretary General and Kai Aide's report provide the basis for negotiations.

Correction of borders in North Kosovo as a precondition to Belgrade's recognition of Kosovo's independence would be definitely counterproductive to both Belgrade and Pristine, but also for the region. Therefore, the only viable correction of Ahtisaari plan should focus on the position of the Serbian population in Kosovo:

1) The concept of supervised independence should be endorsed. Full independence of Kosovo recognized by the UN Security Council should be preceded by Kosovo's accession to the EU. The Kosovo Serbs should be granted the status of a constitutive nation. They should occupy 20 parliamentary seats so as to be able to stand for the interests of the Serb community. To speed up their return to Kosovo, special zones of sustainable return (with fiscal and status regimes managed by the EU) should be established in the areas of, say, Osojani, Belo Polje, Priluzje, Sredska and Letnicka Zupa. Later on, those zone could grow into municipalities or be annexed to the existing Serbian municipalities.

2) In the event the Albanians would not accept Serbs as constitutive nation in Kosovo, a special cultural entity could be set up. The entity would envelop all Serbian municipalities enclosing Serbian cultural monuments and, later on, successful zones of sustainable return. The cultural entity would be invested with vital powers, while the majority vote of Serbian MPs would safeguard the Serbs' cultural autonomy.

Pristine should be open to Serbs' representation in local and Kosovo administration.

Last but not least, Serbia should solve the humanitarian problem of collective centers accommodating primarily Serb refugees from Kosovo - those who have neither integrated into the Serbian society nor could return to their homes.


NO 105-106

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