Thursday, December 16, 2004

Kosovo's Surroi notes "arbitrariness" in decentralization process

ext of commentary by Hour Civic Initiative leader Veton Surroi: "Mystical words: Standards and decentralization", published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 15 December

Kosova [Kosovo] is a country that has not only lived with the mystification of battles from the past, but continues to produce new mysticism. It only takes a glance at the political discourse to understand that it is not applicable to any country in the world.

Standards have been talked about for three years ("Kosova needs to implement standards", "no status without standards", "the government will be assessed according to their implementation"), but what we call Standards are in fact obligations for a functioning state. A country like Kosova, which is not a state, can be neither functioning, nor nonfunctioning.

There has been talk about the decentralization of power for at least two years, and there is no mention that the power in Kosova is scattered (among UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], the Kosovar authorities and the Serb parallel institutions) and, as such, it cannot be decentralized. Moreover, in absence of the rule of law, Kosova can decentralize only what it has not, and that is the absence of the state through some kind of improvisation called "provisional" ("provisional institutions of self-government", "provisional constitutional framework").

The problem with the "provisional" things is that they tend to become permanent. In this way, the postwar legal chaos in Kosova can be called provisional when we read history 50 years later, but for those of us who are experiencing it, it is becoming permanent - just like it has been the case with the consequences of the postwar legal anarchy, starting from corruption to political relations. We have already become accustomed to new mysticism about standards, decentralization and other similar formulations. What we are not used to is having a state.

New mysticism is arising partially, or to a great extent, for two reasons that still do not bear their real name. First, "implementation of Standards" means a failure in finding a more appropriate way to decide on the permanent status of Kosova. And since the day when [former UNMIK chief Michael] Steiner launched this idea at a news conference, three good years have been lost without concluding that in fact there is only one standard: the treatment of Serbs in Kosova.

And with this we move to the second mystic formulation, that of decentralization. Behind the big words about strengthening local government hide two very simple issues. First, the responsibility of the Albanian leadership, which, since the critical moments of Kosova's liberation was unable to keep the situation under control and to end the collective mistreatment of the Serbs. Second, whatever the treatment of the Serbs in Kosova was, Belgrade made unrelenting efforts to create "autonomous Serb territories" as a precursor for dividing Kosova. The real meaning of the word decentralization is this: arranging Kosova's territory is such a way that it can legalize what we now call parallel Serb institutions.

If one combines the two mystic words, then the actual formulation of the international community is as follows: Kosova should implement Standards by adopting decentralization that legalizes Serb parallel institutions before the launch of status talks. Then, the talks on Kosova's status can start.

As to how these undefined truths will function can be seen from the words about new breakthroughs, as is the case with "pilot projects". In the current platform of decentralization, which was adopted by all entities of the previous government, there are pilot projects aimed at creating "pilot municipalities" to see how decentralization will work. Translated into other words it means that new municipalities, like Gracanica [Serb enclave near Pristina], will be created outside the map of Kosova and outside Kosova institutions. Once created, these "pilot municipalities" will move from the provisional to the permanent stage.

Personally, I have nothing against new municipalities, but I am against formulations that pretend to hide this fact by trespassing institutions and through political shortcuts based on "working groups". This is called political arbitrariness, and in Kosova it seems that arbitrariness is not an exception, but the rule.

I do not believe that the efforts for decentralization will progress any further than what have progressed so far. For Kosova to have real decentralization, unlike the current path, it should simultaneously build its legal and constitutional system. Decentralization can only be one part of that legal-constitutional body and not, as in its current form, an effort to build a new body.

I could be wrong. The entire system built after the war suffers badly from absurdities that I never believed would have been accepted by Kosovar decision-makers. But they did, and we are living with them.

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