Saturday, May 28, 2005

Kosovo faces renewed war - Tim Judah

Serbs want a new European role but old problems haunt them, reports Tim Judah

Sunday May 29, 2005
The Observer

With all eyes on France and the future of Europe, the fate of Kosovo might seem piffling, but no one is going to die in France as the result of its referendum. As for Kosovo, well, in 1999 we did fight a war over it and yet, when the UN Security Council on Friday gave the green light to a process that could result in its independence - or in another war - nobody noticed.
The council's decision is of momentous importance. The big powers - Britain, the US and France, dragging a reluctant Russia behind them - have decided that, six years after the end of the Kosovo war, the status quo itself has become a threat to stability.

Kosovo - for Serbs, the cradle of their civilisation, home to some of the most important Serbian historic sites - is now a land where more than 90 per cent of the population is ethnic Albanian. Technically it is part of Serbia, but it has been a UN protectorate since the war ended. Kosovo's Albanians desire independence and if Kosovo is forced back to Serbian rule no one doubts they will go back to war.

In March 2004, 19 died and 4,000 Serbs and Roma were 'ethnically cleansed' when Albanians rioted. Diplomats and policymakers realised something had to be done. On Friday that work began.

The UN has asked Kosovo to live up to a series of eight standards, including human rights. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, will send a representative to assess the situation and in September, assuming a favourable report, a 'status envoy' will be appointed to discuss the 'final status' of the province.

According to sources this process will last up to nine months and, assuming Serbs and Albanians cannot agree on whether Kosovo should be independent or not, a Security Council solution might be imposed. It might be some form of what is called 'conditional independence'. That is to say, a figure with considerable legal powers, such as those held by Lord Ashdown in Bosnia, might be appointed with reserve powers to, for example, sack politicians deemed to be corrupt.

Here in Belgrade, it seems that the city is out enjoying the summer sun. For years, Serbs have wanted nothing less than for their country to be a normal part of Europe again. And things have been going their way. Last weekend the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development held its annual meeting here, and this weekend Serbia is holding its first Erotic Fair.

But Kosovo haunts them. On Friday Serbia handed over to Kosovo the remains of 64 Albanians, along with those of 709 others, in the Batajnica Ministry of Interior base, near Belgrade, where they were buried by the Milosevic regime during the war.

Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian Prime Minister, and President Boris Tadic both say Kosovo is Serbian land and cannot have independence, only 'more than autonomy'. At first glance you might suspect that these were gambits in the negotiations. But they are not. Both men genuinely believe that Kosovo's two million Albanians can be persuaded by the international community to give up their dream of independence. But this is a fantasy and it is unlikely Russia will come to their rescue.

Serbians warn that, if Kosovo is given independence against their will, then extreme nationalists will come to power and plunge the region into chaos.

But Kosovo Albanians say the same. Without independence, they say, the radicals will begin an intifada, 'cleanse' the remaining Serb population and spread war into Serbia and Macedonia.

There is no easy answer for Kosovo. But one thing is sure. If nothing is done, the violence will be back and then British, French, Italian and US troops stationed there will come into the firing line and the UN mission could collapse.

Supporters of the European constitution remind us that the EU was born to end war. Across Kosovo, which has little prospect of entering the EU until at least 2014, they already use the euro and the European flag flies everywhere. They believe in it. Let's hope they're not wrong.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The STATUS QUO has totalled debilitated the place.........there is absolute no economic development due to this and the people feel they like are suspended from a ceiling......

How interesting that it has taken the UN 6 years to figure this out....or has it been 6 years of bluffing the population?!.

The UN promotes democracy, and this is what must prevail...if the minority 5-10% serbs don't like democracy, that is bad luck, but what can you do when the 90% or so want this?

Their best bet is to integrate into society, and be happy that at least Serbia is only a short drive away......

The poor Serbs are used to being treated privileged so much under the previous regimes and now they are only able to receive equality...

The Albanians or should i say Kosovars, should try and develop the economy as much as possible, because once every person has a job, the problems should subside considerably.....although the status quo needs to be defined in order for this to commence...

Liam, Dublin.

Anonymous said...

Tim Judah's views on Kosova's future are highly similar to Belgrade's, where he's seems to be spending his summer again.

Anonymous said...

the cradle of Serbian civilization was reported to be east of the Volga in 500 BC...

as vassals of the Avars...

those wonderful folks who gave the world the word "avarice"...

which they no doubt taught serbia...

Serbs wandered across what is now the Ukraine around 200BC...

and were dragged, by the Avars, into the Balkans as a "dark" part of the Dark Ages in the sixth century AD...

in the fourteenth century Serbian culture reached it zenith...

the original Greater Serbia stretched from Trieste to the Peloponnese over to Thessalonika and back up the Vardar to the danube...

it was a dagger in Constantinople's back...

after Serbia repeatedly violated treaties with Byzantium...

the Byzantine emperor INVITED the ottomans over to Gallipoli as allies around 1350...


with the help of treacherous Serbs, the Ottomans wiped defeated the Christian army in 1389...

reports of blond turks in their army started then...


Serbs were so attached to Kosova that they abandoned it en masse by 1700...

to settle in vojvodina...

Anonymous said...

EU role

Status solution for Kosova is being thinked from international community as a solution that will please both parts (albanians and serbs). This is very unlikely to happen in 9 or more months (years)Koffi and rest of UN think, unless EU can add at the table of negotiation another option. This option, is a formula for EU integration of Serbia-Montenegro and Kosova. The integration must be quick with terms appointed and conditioned only by the will of respective populations to live together in harmony as part of EU. I'm sure this solution will find approval from both parts involved, without further discussions about Kosova being or not part of the union S-M.N. Of course there still will appear problems with fractions from both sides but EU laws can be applied and deal with them more efficiently than ever. This may seem a wild fantasy considering the process EU imposes to canditates for membership but I think that if it was possible it will not sign the end of a policy or set of rules in disavantage of EU but the birth of a new era that will result in a stronger EU in terms of its capacity of problem solving at the region. Of course after the vote NO of French referendum last night this seems even more difficult...

Anonymous said...

EU role

Status solution for Kosova is being thinked from international community as a solution that will please both parts (albanians and serbs). This is very unlikely to happen in 9 or more months (years)Koffi and rest of UN think, unless EU can add at the table of negotiation another option. This option, is a formula for EU integration of Serbia-Montenegro and Kosova. The integration must be quick with terms appointed and conditioned only by the will of respective populations to live together in harmony as part of EU. I'm sure this solution will find approval from both parts involved, without further discussions about Kosova being or not part of the union S-M.N. Of course there still will appear problems with fractions from both sides but EU laws can be applied and deal with them more efficiently than before. This may seem a wild fantasy considering the process EU imposes to canditates for membership but I think that if this
was possible it will not sign the end of a policy or set of rules in disavantage of EU but the birth of a new era that will result in a stronger EU in terms of its capacity of problem solving at the region. Of course after the vote NO of French referendum last night this seems even more difficult...

Anonymous said...

Although obviously the status quo cannot remain, shame on the international community for taking action in response to Kosovar Albanians threats of violence. Congratulations to the Albanians for (again) using the U.S. to get what they want. However, is it not contradictory for the U.S. to reward behavior (and supposed adherence to standards) by FINALLY intervening and pushing for a resolution only in the face of civil war? Ultimately, Kosova's progress shouldn't be measured by whether they can threaten war to attain independence, but whether they can peacefully handle their own country when the final status is resolved. Too bad the U.S. and the international community dragged its feet for 6 years and let the situation get to this point, where people in Kosova have to result to such tactics.

illyria said...

I just want to pay credit to Anonymous. Keep on going.