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NO 113-114

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 113-114 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 113-114

November - December 2007


Kosovo - The Final Curtain


By Nikola Samardzic

Kosovo became independent from Serbia after NATO intervention in 1999. The Security Council Resolution 1244 placed it under the UN mandate, while Serbia, as time went by, managed to partially secure direct influence on the region north of the Ibar River with North Kosovska Mitrovica as a center. Emerged from the Kosovo status negotiations and mediation of the UN Contact Group, the plan of Martii Ahtisaari, special representative of the UN Secretary General, included a compromise of a kind. Focused on their respective radicalized policies, Belgrade and Prishtina hardly ever refer to the conciliatory nature of the document - for, Ahtisaari's plan occupies the space between the Albanians' expectations for having full independence recognized and the official Serbia's claim on sovereignty with such territorial autonomy for the Albanians that implies not their participation in the republican administration. In this sense, Ahtisaari's plan suits neither the predominant Serbian nor Kosovo Albanian policies. What the two policies seem to have in common is refusal of any compromise and contempt for the values of democratic culture.

Ahtisaari's plan itself reminds that the 1999 intervention also ended in a compromise to leave the decision of the final status of Kosovo to the UN Security Council. The disagreements between the US and the EU on the one hand, and Russia on the other, which seem to be deeper and deeper, made such decision hardly probable. The USA has turned over to the EU the European political and security agenda, almost without exception. Russia's new authoritarian policy used the Kosovo status negotiations to boost anti-European sentiments in Serbia, the only country in the region that wavers over its European future. Serbia's Tadic-Kostunica cohabitation that blended in a harmony with the opposition Serbian Radical Party plays into the hands of Russian interests. The assassination of Serbia's first democratically elected Premier, Dr. Zoran Djindjic, really took the country to an anti-European and anti-democratic blind alley. And somehow since the murder of journalist Ana Politkovskaya that announced a clampdown on the faltering and weak democracy in Russia, President Putin has been emerging in Serbia in the light of a renewed Slav mythology, while the official Serbia has been offering Russia, on its own initiative, its territory, economy and culture: an enclave in Europe that is hostile to Europe.

Any policy focusing Kosovo exclusively seems to fail. Russia's intention - and thus Serbia's too - to divide the EU over Kosovo failed the first. Russia's meddling into the EU's stands and decisions nothing but produced a counter-effect. By threatening to veto the Security Council's new resolution that would better reflect the realities of Kosovo's international status Russia has isolated itself from the decision making that will proceed despite all dilemmas that presently burden the international scene.

The issue of Kosovo status indicated serious splits in the international politics. Liberal democracies have to cope with ever stronger obstruction from China and Russia, permanent members of the Security Council, and anti-democratic character of some of the countries elected to serve nonconsecutive two-year terms. In such constellation the UN Security Council will not revoke the Resolution 1244 that acknowledges in principle Serbia's (the then FR Yugoslavia's) sovereignty and establishes UN Mission in Kosovo, or give the green light to Ahtisaari's plan for Kosovo's conditional independence. The present Security Council cannot reach an agreement on authorization of the EU mission that would implement the plan.

Yet, Kosovo is just a symbolic point of discord in world politics. The Kosovo precedent will become a regular stage in the future development of the international law that occasionally incorporates specific cases such as the case of Kosovo. What matters is a watershed in the international relations: global decision-making will be again replaced by major interest spheres, where major interests can be effectuated. In the domains of politics, institutions and security, the EU - with the assistance of the United States - will most probably effectuate the Ahtisaari plan on the large part of Kosovo territory. The question is whether Kosovo will be partitioned and how long such partition will last - the partition whereby Serbia could try to compensate the loss of the entire territory. The question is also how strong the pressure from the EU will be to Europeanize Kosovo's traditional society, authoritarian policy, nationalism and organized crime included. And the question is to what extent the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities will integrate into the Kosovo society. The EU's decisions will be legal as they will be grounded on a common policy that is presently harmonized vis-a-vis the Kosovo precedent and on the support from the allies, the USA in the first place. In this sense, the EU will become a new, alternative domain of the international law that is now only temporarily suppressed by Russia's obstruction in the Security Council.

The Kosovo issue both triggered off the former Yugoslavia's disintegration and became its final stage. The future status of Kosovo and the echo of that process will leave a deep mark in the region. The institutional and security character of future Kosovo administration will be determined, among other things, by the official Serbia's stands. The Kosovo tension along with negotiations marked by the mediation troika discord affected the region. Albanian armed groups emerged in the north of Macedonia as a collateral damage. While the negotiations were still on, Belgrade and Moscow tried to use them for destabilizing the region, Bosnia-Herzegovina in the first place. Belgrade and Prishtina seized the opportunity to indicate the extent of their influence beyond their borders. Republika Srpska walked out of the negotiations on the reform of Bosnia's central institutions. At one point even the implementation of the Dayton Accords was jeopardized. Belgrade's policymakers, including the Premier, began interpreting the Kosovo precedent in the light of equal rights for Republika Srpska despite the fact that Serbia had put its signature under the Dayton Accords. However, Republika Srpska itself discontinued such trend and thus revealed its unreadiness for the adventure that would move it away from European integration processes and push into another isolation - particularly its western part with Banjaluka. But for its part, Russia denied the right of the UN High Representative in Bosnia to manage the process of accession to the EU.

The Belgrade-Prishtina ineffective negotiations were closed on December 9, 2007. The international-legal frame for the future status of Kosovo was left to the Washington-Moscow relationship, while the EU took upon itself the institutional one, i.e. to establish a protectorate. Since the mediation troika's role was exhausted, the EU summit of December 14 decided to send an EU civil mission to Kosovo to replace the UNMIK. Supervised independence of the Ahtisaari plan implies guarantees for the rule of law, implementation of the European security and defense policy (ESDP) and establishment of the International Civil Office (ICO). Though the UN Secretary General and Brussels agreed that the EU mission in Kosovo would actually continue to implement the Resolution 1244, the effectuation of the plan, because of Russia's opposition, necessitated harmonization of the stands of all EU member-states. Serbian Premier Vojislav Kostunica called the EU mission in Kosovo illegal and pressed for continuation of the negotiations.

Since the Kosovo Albanian side refused to negotiate any more, now it is on NATO, UNMIK and Kosovo provisional institutions to develop a security plan that will enable a peaceful transition along the lines of the Ahtisaari plan. This is the context in which certain institutional instability, dual governance of Kosovo as a European protectorate and its undefined international status remain problematic. Serbia's denial to simultaneously work on its own accession to the EU and cooperate with the EU for the attainment of its own interests in Kosovo will bloc Kosovo's membership in international institutions and take Serbia back to isolationism. Russia's obstruction makes the protectorate somewhat illegal and sharpens the relations within the Security Council. Finally, it turned out that the US, the EU and NATO are incapable of having their Kosovo policy, launched in 1998 and 1999, institutionalized at the level of the UN, and that Russia was risking its international influence, which it grounds solely on its energy and blackmailing power.

The official Serbia resumed the former regime's political values. The leader of the Social Party of Serbia, Ivica Dacic, made no bones about while commenting the Serbian parliamentary resolution on Kosovo, adopted with majority vote on December 26, 2007. "The resolution verifies everything the state leadership was working on before 2000. When I look at what you've put in black and white here I don't see why you bothered to oust us at all, " said Dacic.

Serbia pursues its policy, once again wholly determined by Kosovo, against the backdrop of an unfinished state, slowed down transition and unreadiness to face up the recent past. The intelligence services that had planned and executed the murder of the first democratically elected Premier have not been disbanded. De-nazification, demilitarization, denationalization and decentralization have not taken place. The regime's and the opposition's decision-makers go hand in hand when it comes to key issues such as the future of Kosovo and Montenegro, Bosnia - Herzegovina's integrity, and the relationship between the tribunal in The Hague and the Serbian society. The new constitution, born out of the compromise by predominant elites most of which are burdened with criminal past, left Serbia an authoritarian, centralized and unfinished state with a grotesque and inefficient foreign policy.

Serbia reacted to the realities in which over 400 million Europeans in 24 countries live and freely move in the Schengen zone as of December 21 by adopting a declaration that conditions signing of the already paraphed Stabilization and Association agreement with its integrity. Serbia thus opted for isolationism and sharpening of relations with the EU and its neighbors, and left Kosovo and its interests in Kosovo to the uncertainty of a frozen conflict. For its part, the EU - which needs to integrate Serbia so as to take off the region this territorial and institutional burden, and threat to its stability and security - was left to wrestle with the application of the Cyprus precedent but also with the necessity to encourage those forces in the Serbian society it considers democratic or less malign and more cooperative. The Cyprus precedent anyway relates not to integrity only since the North Cyprus is still under Turkish occupation. Both Cyprus and Greece, the same as Rumania and Bulgaria are the EU member-states regardless of some flaws in their institutions and democratic capacities.

Since despite the disagreement within the Security Council the official Serbia cannot count on any serious deterioration of US-EU-Russia relationship, it can do nothing else for the time being but to manipulate the Kosovo Serbs by the 1990s model. By calling the Serbs to boycott Kosovo elections of November 17, 2007, Belgrade once again denied legitimacy of Kosovo institutions and left the majority of the Kosovo Serbs in the institutional and political void. This opened the door not only to the last Serb exodus from the enclaves south of the Ibar River but also to red-hot national sentiments and passions - which could further spiral should some Albanian groups or armed gangs, and Serbian security services deliberately incite violence. In the meantime Serbia has fortified parallel institutions. Stalled movement towards the EU, reliance on Russia and the inflow of Russia's nontransparent investment are also the symptoms of Serbia's new anti-democratic policy and its Putinization.

Opposite and unbending positions alone did not cause the failure of Belgrade-Prishtina negotiations. Belgrade has always kept the Kosovo Albanians at ethnic and cultural distance, and has never invited them to partake in constitutional referendum. As for the Kosovo Serbs, it has ordered them to remain outside Kosovo institutions and whenever possible punished those who would not obey. Albanian political parties profited from Serb boycott, while Albanian extremists showed they would seize every opportunity to resort to violence should the ruling coalition in Pristhina waver in the matter of independence. Para-military units once again got organized both in Serbia and in Kosovo - though, for the time being, just as a farce associating the recent past. Radical nationalism poisoned the youth on both sides. Serb and Albanian media in Kosovo exchange accusations of extremism. Threats of violence are in the air. The Serbian Foreign Minister underlined it would be hard to expect "smooth flow of goods and services" in the event of unilaterally proclaimed independence. The new Kosovo government will have a hard furrow to plow to explain why independence is postponed beyond the first quarter of 2008 and might have to cope with armed groups.

Kosovo has become global and regional crossroads. In this sense, Serb national mythology has demonstrated unquestionable ability for long-term prediction. The Serb political society lays split at the threshold of institutional and cultural Europeanization. All differences between the Serbs and the Albanians, either traditional or induced, are accentuated: their perceptions of the past and collective identities, and their understanding of international politics. Bygone mentalities and prejudice about ethnicity, race and security are revived. Each of the two sides sees the other as archetypically worthless but dangerous. As for the international arena, it seems that the Resolution 1244 would remain in force. The only question is what political stands the US, Russia, the EU and NATO will take so as to consider the Resolution a legal ground for a European mission. Russia is capable of blocking the revoking of the Resolution 1244 but not its reinterpretation, which would make it possible for the UN Secretary General to send a new mission to Kosovo. The Resolution 1244 anyway guarantees not Serbia's lasting sovereignty in Kosovo but confines it to a new resolution that will specify the final status. Kosovo independence will thus integrate into international law - which already incorporates precedents - on the grounds of recognition some states will opt for. Though recognized by individual states, Kosovo will remain without some state attributes such as a seat in the UN - for the matter is in the hands of the Security Council and five permanent members invested with the right of veto. As they will take the Kosovo precedent inappropriate some major states such as Russia will refuse to acknowledge the reality of an independent Kosovo. By force of circumstances or not - whatever - all the states refusing to accept Kosovo's independence will belong to anti-democratic, authoritarian and less prosperous part of the world. In this sense, Serbia has come closer to its recent past.


NO 113-114

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