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NO 133-134

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Helsinki Charter No. 133-134

November - December 2009


Kosovo and Serbia


By Miroslav Filipovic

It is crystal clear to whoever saw Prishtina only once and spent there a day only how much Kosovo sees itself is an independent state, how much its citizens are intoxicated and exalted with their independence and what a fool Belgrade makes of itself and of all of us.

Back in 2001 and well into 2003 the Zoran Djindjic cabinet - or at least he personally - had a solution for the Kosovo question that was in Serbia's best interest: the solution that implied not a long warfare, destruction, damage to national economy and, most importantly, Serbia's international disrepute and impaired position. At that time Serbia was at the threshold of the European Union for the second time in the past twenty years and about to join the club of normal states and nations.Everybody knows that happened then and turned the scale. Like in the Milosevic era, Kosovo once more became a big voting machine and means for coming to power and holding it. Like in the Milosevic era, the nationalistic Belgrade turned a blind eye to blood, sweat and tears of Kosovo Serbs. All it has been caring for since was power and the moneys coming with it.

Everybody knows too well now that Kosovo will remain an independent country and our new neighbor in the south, a country with a long and open border with Serbia. Establishment of good neighborly relations with this country, whereby citizens of Serbia could actively contribute to everyday life in Kosovo, is in their best interest. Insterests of Serbia and its citizens in Kosovo are manifold. The state of Serbia and its citizens have left enormous property over there. Public property and private property. Serbia's major historical and cultural monuments remained in Kosovo. A considerable number of citizens of Serbian and Bosnika origin remained in Kosovo. All these interestes are in the hand of the government in Prishtina now. To be in the position to look after these interests the government in Belgrade needs to develop good relations with the government in Prishtina. Ministers from both cabinets should communicate daily, the President of the Republic and the Premier should meet their colleagues in Prishtina on monthly basis to discuss the problems their ministers was unable to solve.

This is not that hard as it seems from the angle of Serbia's cheap nationalistic media and confused ministerial and presidential offices. What is certain and what I am quite certain about is that a president of Serbia (whoever he might be) and a president of Kosovo (whoever he might be) will soon have to speak to each other in the same way they are now speaking with other presidents. I am also certain that - quite soon in a historical perspective - it will make no difference whether a president of Rumania, a president of Macedonia or a president of Kosovo pays a visit to Serbia. So it will be as it cannot be otherwise. And how things stand today?

A regime in Serbia does whatever it wants to do anyway. And so, instead of setting foundations for neighborly relations with its new neighbor, Kosovo, Belgrade does all in its might to undermine Kosovo's movement towards stability and the rule of law. It not only undermines it but, moreover, boasts at home and all over the world of how sucessful it has been in it. Oh, well, wise men wear their horns on their breasts, fools on their foreheads. And whatever they learned from Milosevic about the political use of Kosovo seems to be of little avail. Serb nationalists cannot go for their strongest trump card - a small-scale, limited but efficient warfare: a couple of days only, a handful of casualties and a few churches in flames.

Wise men can hardly understand Serbian politicians' logic. Adventures of Serbia's policy for Kosovo has been become, therefore, a course of study at several prestigious political schools throughout the world. Students are taught by this example about how much an irresponsible regime can harm its own country and people. This is about a classical thesis known to every Serbian peasant: it is crucial for every good husbandman, and every country for that matter, to live in peace and have decent relationship with neighbors. And that's exactly a crucial task of every normal country's foreign policy. Therefore, every normal country does its best to secure peace at its borders and cooperatin with neighbors. Every country except for Serbia. For Serbia is not a normal country and does not have normal and serious politicians. What Serbia does is quite the opposite. It provokes and finances conflicts at its borders and tries at all costs not to cooperate with its neighbor. So far such flying in the face of the whole world has cost Serbs millions of Euro and reputation. And they will be paying the same cost until Kosovo becomes a fully sovereign state. Then we might start paying by far higher costs for all those follies at the borders. We have already experienced it too many times. Too many times our young men have come home in plastic bags just because we were unfortunate enough to have fools and ignoramuses in key officies.

And everything could be different. Belgrade should care more than anyone else that Kosovo turns into a real state as soon as possible so that it could be a mentor of sorts to this young state. Benefits would be manifold. Why shouldn't the Delta Company open fifty-odd mega-stores in Kosovo towns? Why shouldn't Serbia's lame economy sell food and other commodities to Kosovo the more so since it can be competitive in Kosovo only? Why shouldn't Serbia build roads and rairoads throughout Kosovo? Or, say, apartments? Why shouldn't Serbia supply Kosovo's craving market or profit from its icredibly cheap labor force? Well, because for all this one should have more grey cells than available to us.

And Kosovo itself is another story. Kosovo pays no heed to Serbian Foreign Minister's hymns of praise for his own humble self but moves forward and becomes, day in day out, a better and better place to live in. With Europeans as its lawmakers Kosovo administration has arranged many areas by far better than Serbia. And, to tell the truth, there are things Serbia could learn from Kosovo. It is crystal clear to whoever saw Prishtina only once and spent there a day only what a fool Belgrade makes of itself and of all of us. In 2009, another eleven states recognized Kosovo and should this pace continue in three years only Kosovo would have the magic number of ninety-odd states that opens the door to UN membership. Everything will be over then, and Kosovo's and Serbia's teams will be competing at equal footing at some European or world championship. Kosovo is in the membership of International Monetary Fund for six months already.

On the other hand, Kosovo is still far from a sustainable state. True, there are things it can be proud of but there are also segments that hardly qualify it for a state. Economy is almost non-existent, as is production, import is bigger than export by ninety percent. Kosovo is a very poor country. More than half of its population is unemployed, 40 percent live in poverty, out of which 15 percent in extreme poverty. The Kosovo government does not control the entire territory of the state and solely lives on donor countries' subsidies. The energy sector is non-existent, while corruption is beyond imagination.

To all this, Albanians say, "So what?"

Kosovo is an independent state for less than two years. As the war drew to its end, the Serbian army and the police devastated Kosovo. Almost all the houses were torched, all the trucks, cars and buses taken to Serbia, tractors, combines and other agricultural machinery left without oil, central and municipal achives transferred to Serbia, pieces of art from Kosovo museums packed in aluminium containers and shipped to Serbia. Because of this and because of Serbia's clumsy, stupid and harmful politics Kosovo can exists and be recognized by major world powers. Because we are as we are, Kosovo has all the time in the world to correct mistake by mistake and turn into a normal state, slowly, at the pace slower than normal.

I can't tell why it is that so hard for Belgrade politicians to accept and acknowledge the fact that Kosovo is an independent state, reality, and that pretending otherwise is of no avail. Even before the International Court of Justice Serbian politicians are trying to play tricks - so they say they expect all the countries to reconsider their recognition of Kosovo in the event the Court rules in our favor. And, should the ICJ by any chance rule against us, they say, Serbia would never ever recognize Kosovo.

The fact that the official Belgrade is the weakest link in the chain of Kosovo problems is a blessing in disquise. Kosovo Serbs have seen through Serbian politicians and realized that the future of the Serb community is in Kosovo and its institutions. Those refusing to run away to Serbia gradually turn into loyal citizens of the Republic of Kosovo. Of course, the process is complex and painful. Many years shall pass away and many steps will be made to and fro before this becomes a reality - and this will become a reality because that's the only alternative.


NO 133-134

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