Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Expert argues why Serbia would be better off without Kosovo

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A Serbian expert has argued that Serbia would be better off without being tied to Kosovo within some kind of state community. In any common state, Albanians would make up 20 per cent of the population and MPs and 30 per cent of the army. "The demographic explosion of Albanians threatens to fill the unpopulated areas of central Serbia", which would happen within 20 years. In 40 years' time there could be 8m Albanians in the common state. Kosovo, being far poorer than Serbia, would be a big drain on funds. Serbia's overall development would be held back and the country would fall further behind its neighbours. "Reason and not myths and emotions should decide the final status of Kosovo," concluded the author. The following is the text of the analysis by Ivan Ahel, expert in systems and management theories, entitled "Why Serbia should give up its southern province" published by the Serbian newspaper Danas on 26 March:

Talks on the development of Serbia's strategy regarding the final status of Kosovo are under way. Most politicians hold that "Kosovo is a Serbian province" and can achieve only a high degree of autonomy within it. The international community, for its part, says: Kosovo is an autonomous part of the new state community and is being built into it as a republic (that state of affairs has already been achieved); the form of composite community can be a confederation, union or federation. The question that presents itself is what Serbia would gain and what it would lose with that kind of complex association.

A brief review of the basic indicators of a possible new state community that Serbia-Montenegro would form with Kosovo gives the following picture: the Albanians would make up 20 per cent of the population in a new community; they would have just as many deputies in a federal parliament; they would be the second largest people in the state and Albanian would be the second important language in public use. Since their population is predominantly made up of young people, Albanians would account for 30 per cent of the army personnel, including the army's commanding personnel. Albanians would fill many ministerial positions. The name of the state would be a point of dispute owing to those circumstances: the Albanians would demand that their name be included in the name of the state and that the latter become SCGK [Serbia-Montenegro-Kosovo]. In that case, Serbia, as a state, would disappear from Europe's political stage. That is no doubt a high price for the pleasure that life side by side with the Albanian community would bring. An Albanian would be head of state, foreign minister, and so on once in three or six years.

On the condition that that situation is acceptable to the Serbs (and that is a question), it is important to see what the Serbs would gain as a result of cohabitation, seeing as they would be paying such a high price. Kosovo does not have economically important resources; coal extraction hardly pays out commercially and the exploitation of lead- and zinc-yielding ores is profitable only in the Ajvalija and Belo Brdo (Serb enclaves) mines and will be a relatively short-lived one (exhaustible resources). Agriculture is primitive and hardly meets the food needs of the densely populated areas of Kosovo. The demographic explosion of Albanians threatens to fill the unpopulated areas of central Serbia, which would happen quickly, in one to two decades. The picture of central Serbia would look significantly different after those changes.

Figures relating to the cohabitation of Serb and Albanian communities in the former SFRY [Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] can help resolve the dilemma. The per capita gross national product (GNP) is the internationally accepted standard criterion for the comparison of economies. According to available publications ("Selo Srbije i njegove perspektive [Serbian Village and Its Prospects]", author Petar Bijelica, publisher Institute of Economics, Belgrade 2000), Yugoslavia was a medium-developed country, whose per capita gross national product ranged from 761 dollars to 3,030 dollars in 1988. According to the publication "Sistem nacionalnih racuna [System of National Accounts]", the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] GNP stood at 1,358 dollars in 1994. It went up to 1,742 dollars in 1998. Serbia's GNP was somewhere around 2,000 dollars in late 2004. For comparison's sake, Slovenia recorded a GNP of about 18,000 dollars and Croatia one of approximately 6,000 dollars. It is obvious how extremely Serbia lags behind.

The GNP was approximately 3,000 dollars in the former SFRY and in Serbia, 2,560 dollars. That same year, Vojvodina's GNP was 3,666 dollars and Kosovo's 732 dollars. If Serbia's industrial production for 1990 is represented with an index of 100 per cent, it went down to 40 per cent in 1993. It was only in 1997 that it rose to the level of 50 per cent. It again dropped to about 37 per cent as a result of the war in Kosovo. If Serbia's GNP in 1990 is said to be 100 [per cent], it went down to 43 per cent in 1993. GNP grew at a very slow rate. It rose to 54.9 per cent in 1998 but again dropped to the level of 47.4 per cent in 2000 because of the war in Kosovo. A slow growth of GNP was recorded after the [Milosevic regime] overthrow in October 2000. It reached the level of 52.5 per cent in 2003 compared with the 1990 level. Those are disturbing trends, because development accelerates very slowly. Serbia lagged behind extremely in the war and post-war years. At the same time, a destructive pollution brought about by the conflict with the Albanian community was rampant in society. The hatred between the Serb and Albanian communities has been immense, the parameters of their systems have been hugely devastated, instability will regularly characterize the life of the new community. The consequence will be Serbia's reduced efficaciousness and a possible plunge into catastrophe.

A comparative analysis of the levels of development of individual parts of Serbia gauged by the per capita GNP in the 1980-90 period shows that central Serbia's gross national product was 112.1 per cent of the average for the whole republic, Vojvodina's 144.1 per cent, and Kosovo-Metohija's 28.3 per cent. Serbia had an advantage of four or five to one. The war put Kosovo in an even more unfavourable position. In a [new] common state, central Serbia and Vojvodina would have to support 2m poor and production-wise non-productive Albanians and that kind of money flow would create big problems for Serbia. The four to five times poorer Kosovo would be an impediment to Serbia's development.

In this case, the parameters of the systems of central Serbia and Kosovo that are constant and slowly change [as published] are involved. Serbia's and Kosovo's agriculture, energy industry, mining and metallurgy were severely damaged in the war years. S. Petrovic claims that in the first three years of the sanctions alone, the capital outflow stood at about 4bn dollars for agriculture and was significantly higher for the energy and mining sectors. That led to the bankruptcy of those branches of the economy, which can hardly recover. Bor and Trepca [mines] have been totally devastated and the chances are slight that they will start operating again. The energy sector is being renewed at an enormously high price, especially in Kosovo, a price that is slowing down overall development. The question of who will finance the recovery of those systems in Kosovo is currently without an answer. The branches of the economy such as commerce, the machine building, electrical engineering and construction industries have declined to such an extent that they are becoming commercially unprofitable enterprises with enormously high debts that exceed the value of their property. Tourism potentials have been frozen and can hardly be restarted again soon. Total losses are estimated to stand somewhere around 150bn dollars. Kosovo is in a far worse situation than Serbia in all those respects. Deagrarianization and uncontrolled industrialization have become totally unsynchronized, which has resulted in high unemployment. Several million people are jobless and without any prospects of getting a job.

Demographic figures give rise to even greater concern. Statistics point to burgeoning demographic trends in Kosovo. In the Albanian-populated municipalities in Kosovo, the rural population increased by 85 per cent between 1948 and 1991. The urban population is more than 10 times larger and is looking for space for sheer existence. Contrary to that trend, the depopulation of the Serb villages in Kosovo is taking place at an enormously fast pace. Central Serbia is characterized by outright depopulation, which is also unfolding at an enormous speed. Since Kosovo lies directly next to central Serbia, in a common state in which Kosovo would be Serbia's province, that is, in a composite state like a union or federation, the southern part of central Serbia would be inundated by the Albanian population. The worst solution would be for Kosovo to fuse with Serbia; in which case a massive, quick and unobstructed takeover of central Serbia by Albanians would be made possible under law. Just like in the case of connected vessels, Kosovo would be emptied and central Serbia filled. Had the demographic trends in central Serbia and Vojvodina been as explosive as in Kosovo-Metohija in the 1948-91 period, central Serbia and Vojvodina together would have had 20,885,000 inhabitants in 1991. The number would have gone up to 26m by now. If the same demographic trends were to continue in a [new] common state, about 8m Albanians would be living in central Serbia, Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metohija in 40 years' time. That would be a Serbian-Albanian (or Albanian-Serbian), in all respects unproductive, and civilizationally extremely backward state; which is obviously not in the interest of the Serbian people and the Serbian state.

Central Serbia is characterized by intensive depopulation; people over 60 years old are staying in the villages to work. The number of young people [there] is daily declining. The active agricultural population in central Serbia dropped from 2,563,000 in 1948 to 1,040,699 in 1991. No precise figures are available for 2004 but the estimates are depressing. The rural population in central Serbia is continually growing older and less educated, which is why it is less ambitious and practically incapable of performing stepped-up and highly productive agricultural activities. Serbia's authorities are doing nothing to prevent a demographic catastrophe. The unpopulated areas of central Serbia are waiting to be taken over in a stampede by the Albanian population. Serbia's authorities should primarily bear that in mind when dealing with the final status of Kosovo.

Contrary to those tendencies, a real boom of the Albanian population continues in Kosovo. There were 99 villages with over 1,000 inhabitants in 1949 and 443 in 1991; only seven villages had over 2,000 inhabitants in 1948 and 115 in 1991; only two villages had more than 3,000 inhabitants in 1948 and 39 in 1991. On the other hand, the villages with fewer than 100 inhabitants are in the area of Kosovska Mitrovica and are populated by non-Albanians, mostly Serbs.

The urban population is also growing at a dizzying rate but without elementary infrastructure conditions. It is estimated that Pristina alone now has over 500,000 inhabitants and many towns have doubled their populations. Chaos reigns in those chaotic urban agglomerations. Rural areas are also overpopulated, which is a threat to existence (Kosovo is Europe's most densely populated region without [the necessary] living conditions). The most favourable solution for the Albanians would be to link up with Serbia and abruptly fill in the demographically vacated territory of central Serbia. Out of their nationalist blindness, they are missing the for them vitally most important chance to remain a part of Serbia. Viewed from the aspect of Serbia's interests, Serbia would be dangerously threatened if events were to take that course; neither the Serbian politicians nor the Serbian people are taking that into account when discussing Kosovo's final status. Struggling for territories in the face of the incoming Albanian population, Serbia would be unable to pursue development objectives and transitional restructuring. It would consequently draw further and further away from its neighbourhood, which would be making steady progress, and that would mean that Serbia would also draw away from the EU.

The above are just some brief sketches from the study "Systemic Approach to the Kosovo Problem", which is being prepared by the Forum for Ethnic Relations, in which attention is drawn to the other, ugly side of keeping Kosovo. Reason and not myths and emotions should decide the final status of Kosovo.

Source: Danas, Belgrade, in Serbian 26 Mar 05 p IV


Anonymous said...

Maybe it _is_ better to stay with Serbia and take back the land in Sumadija that they got from Albanians...

Anonymous said...

Right, my great-great-grandfather run away in 1878 leaving his land and gold near Prokuplje. It would be nice to get that back.

Anonymous said...

My Illyrian great-grandparents had a bunch of land in Szeged. It would be nice to get that back. And my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand uncle had 160 ha. in the periphery of Timisiora. I want to get that back.