Thursday, July 27, 2006

KOSOVO: Going through the motions

Ian Traynor

July 27, 2006 12:58 PM

The Contact Group is one of those blandly-titled, anonymous committees of international officials and diplomats whose members are invisible and whose utterances often inscrutable. They also have the power to change the world we live in.

Once established, such committees are difficult to dismantle. Almost by a process of inertia, they tend to subsist quietly just in case they are needed for problems related or unrelated to the crisis whence they originally sprang.

The group in question, comprising officials from Europe, the US, and Russia, was initially created to inject a note of consensus into the cacophonous shambles that passed for international diplomacy in the Bosnian emergency of the mid-90s.

In the past year or so the Contact Group has been resurrected to grapple with what is probably the last piece of the post-Yugoslav jigsaw - carving an independent state of Kosovo out of the depressed wreckage of modern Serbia.

Last Monday at a Habsburg-era palais in Vienna, the leaders of Serbia and the (Albanian) leaders of Kosovo met for the first time since the Kosovo war of 1998-99 to grapple with the dilemma of what is to be Kosovo's status.

Predictably, there was no meeting of minds. The meeting itself was the message. Simply getting the rival leaders around the same table was a success for the Finnish fixer, Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland who is the special UN envoy for the Kosovo talks.

Sitting unobtrusively at the same table were several anonymous chaps from the Contact Group.

Of all the national and political conflicts that tore Yugoslavia apart, Kosovo is probably the simplest and most intractable. Everywhere else - in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Macedonia, the conflicts were among and between southern Slavs who shared a language and a culture and often inter-married.

The Serbian-Kosovar conflict, by contrast, is starkly ethnic, between two quite distinct cultures of Orthodox Slav Serbs and nominally Muslim Albanians who have no intention of living together.

That there was no agreement in Vienna was a racing certainty in advance. There probably never will be. Does it matter? To the extent that a negotiated settlement agreed by the parties is infinitely preferable to a "solution" imposed from outside, the answer has to be yes.

But will it make any difference in the long run to what happens to Kosovo? Not really. This is because the script for the Vienna talks has essentially been written in advance by the diplomats of the Contact Group. To all intents and purposes, the broad outlines of the new Kosovo dispensation were determined even before the negotiations started in February. The negotiations are about putting flesh on the bones of the Contact Group blueprint, filling in the details and taking account of some, but only some, of what the local players have to say.

This makes for a strange negotiation. In eight rounds of talks, there has not been a semblance of agreement by both sides on issues such as how to decentralise government in Kosovo, how many municipalities there should be, how many and in what way ancient Serbian Orthodox monasteries and monuments should be protected.

And yet the UN mediators betray no sense of panic, no sense of urgency, no mood of desperation that things are going badly, no banging of heads and tables to try to force a deal.

This is because in many ways it is a phony negotiation, a going through the motions to try to avoid the unseemly impression that Kosovo's fate is being or already has been decided elsewhere.

The Contact Group's own papers and statements tell the story.

Before the negotiations started in Vienna in February, the group issued a binding set of "guiding principles" for the talks. Firstly, the negotiations could not be blocked and had to be concluded. That means that if the Serbs walk out, as they still could, no one will blink.

The future Kosovo will be multi-ethnic, with extensive rights and self-government for the Serbian minority. "There will be no changes in the current territory of Kosovo" and no partition, as the Serbs would like. That means the Serbs can't take a slice of Kosovo and it also banishes the romance of a so-called Greater Albania, with the Albanians of Kosovo merging with neighbouring Albania proper or with the Albanian majority in neighbouring western Macedonia.

And for the foreseeable future, Kosovo will need to remain an international trusteeship. On the military side, that task falls to Nato. On the civilian and policing side, the UN (running Kosovo since 1999) is to be supplanted by the EU. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, adds Kosovo to his expanding Balkan protectorate. In Brussels, that script too has already been written.

In January, also before the negotiations opened, a Contact Group statement declared that Kosovo would not return to the status of before March 1999 (ie before Nato's air war against Serbia) and warned Serbia that the settlement had "to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo".

Since 90 per cent of Kosovars are demanding nothing but independence, the outcome is pre-ordained. The Serbian leadership is aghast, crying foul at every opportunity, but has been slow to adapt to the new reality.

It is offering extensive home rule to Kosovo. This amounts to a bit more than what obtained in Kosovo under Tito's communist 1974 constitution until Slobodan Milosevic abolished these rights and liberties in the 1980s. In current circumstances, the Serbian offer is a non-starter. If ownership is nine-tenths of the law, the Kosovar Albanians (90% of the population) are home and dry.

In the January statement, the Contact Group said a negotiated settlement was "the best way forward". Implicit here is that it is not the only way forward.

In the absence of an agreement (almost certain), the agreement will be made for them; indeed, it already has been.

Albert Rohan, the retired Austrian diplomat who has been running the Vienna negotiations, said the other day that he did not expect the parties to reach a deal.

"In the autumn we will report to the UN security council on the result of the negotiations and then it's up to the security council to decide what to do."

Mr Rohan sounded quite unruffled. The Serbs, by contrast, were exciteable, demanding he be sacked and also hinting that the entire Ahtisaari mediation should be closed down.

What happens next? The likeliest scenario is that the talks remain deadlocked. Mr Ahtisaari pronounces this sad state of affairs to the security council in September.

The Contact Group then recommends that given the failure of the parties Mr Ahtisaari draw up "a comprehensive proposal for a status settlement" and the Finnish fixer redraws the map of the Balkans, establishing the first ever independent state of Kosovo, albeit an independence hedged with conditions and subject to international supervision.

The security council then rubberstamps the settlement. Last Monday the Contact Group reiterated that all this should be accomplished by the end of the year. "The process must be brought to a close."

Any agreement in Vienna will be a bonus, but not essential to the outcome. The negotiations are more about dotting the i's and crossing the t's on a script written by the Contact Group and Mr Ahtisaari.


raindrop said...

Everything is spot on here.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

An independent Kosovo would not be multi ethnic. Two hundred thousand minorites have already been expelled. Any Serbs not in the Mitrovica area live in ghettos patrolled by NATO troops not the Albanian police force. This commentary is a joke. So naive and horrible and totally lacking any realistic view of Serb hating and killing Agim Ceku.

raindrop said...

I live in Kosova and can tell you that you are horribly misinformed or just plain lying. Many Serbs are members of the local police force (got ID checked going to Gazivode by SERB cops working for UNMIK just the other day). Mitro has had Serb cops for ages and Albanians working in the north. In fact a friend of mine--Albanian--works in Zvecan.

Your right that Serbs have a problem tho. They keep looking to Serbia to save them which isn't going to happen. The reality is posted as above. The sooner they accept that reality and start working with the rest of Kosova (and that includes Bosnians,Gorani and Roma; because no one is looking at being part of Serbia again) the better for them.

Bg anon said...

Well this report from Traynor is misleading if partially true.

I like the way it tries to create a group of men in the shadows - as if they dont represent the official positions of nation states that make up the Contract Group. 'committee', 'group', 'invisible', 'anonymous' (twice) 'inscrutable' etc.

Its interesting that one is given the impression that Traynor is showing how it is the contract group men and Arti who will decide on Kosovo - not the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia etc.

Again, 'the broad outlines of the new Kosovo dispensation were determined even before the negotiations started in February. The negotiations are about putting flesh on the bones of the Contact Group blueprint'.

Talk about beating around the bush it would be more accurate to say it clearly - that the moment NATO went to war against Serbia supporting the Kosovo Albanians (for whatever reasons) Kosovo's fate was decided.

Kosovo's script is not 'written by diplomats of the contract group' or Arti, it is written by the most powerful nation states in the world.

I'm also confused by Traynors language - 'The future Kosovo will be multi-ethnic, with extensive rights and self-government for the Serbian minority.' Now is that Traynors belief or is he referring to the philosophy of the contract group? (Notice there are no quotation marks here). If it was clear that it was his opinion of course he would have to back it up and there is very little evidence to support that view so far.

Then there is 'It is offering extensive home rule to Kosovo. This amounts to a bit more than what obtained in Kosovo under Tito's communist 1974 constitution until Slobodan Milosevic abolished these rights and liberties in the 1980s.'

By 1980's he means of course 1989. And as most international analysts have pointed out Belgrade has offered practically everything in return for the formality of Kosovo remaining in Serbia. Not 'a bit more' than Tito's Yugoslavia much more like everything but independence in name.

I dont have a problem with those who have certain beliefs or biases one way or the other. Or even those that have a hard line opinion.

But I do have a problem with misleading pieces written.

mitrovica pika pika said...

bg anon, you are full of shit.

"And as most international analysts have pointed out Belgrade has offered practically everything in return for the formality of Kosovo remaining in Serbia. Not 'a bit more' than Tito's Yugoslavia much more like everything but independence in name."

Who are these analysts that said that. What do you mean by most. In titos yugoslavia kosova didnt have an army, in serb offer still kosova doesnt have an army. In titos yugoslavia kosova was a federal unit, in serb offer to kosova it has no representation in serbias parliament but manages the affairs of albanians. In serb offer serb areas remain under belgrade-that would mean kosova doesnt even have authority over its territory. And of course in titos yugoslavia serbian churches didnt have hundreds of hectares of land.
I dont know whay you are smoking but I hope you OD soon and stop insulting human IQ.

Bg anon said...

Mitrovica PP are you able to make a comment without resorting to bad language? Since we started communicating I've done nothing but try to be reasonable with you and you have done nothing but be insulting.

Really you should try relying purely upon argumentation one of these days.

I think that means you can forget me ever replying to your posts again. However, if anybody else asks me I will endevour to reply - time permitting.

On the other hand you could apologise and then I will reply.

Respect is built mutually. Are you ready?

mitrovica pika pika said...

Respect is earned motherfucker. And you posting lies and sofist crap will never earn any..

ANYC said...

BG anon,
Your argument about Serb offering "everything to Albanians" but indep is quite biased. Reason is quite simple actually-you are asking for taxation without representation. Serbia wants to control Albanian external affirs and customs yet there will be no Albanians allowed in your govt. Quick story to illustarte your case was what king of England did to American colonies, and we know the outcome of that beautiful idea.
The problem is really with your PM. He is one of the more radical people you could have elected and he is screwing your country big time. There was a poll done just recently which says majority of serbs dont care whether Kosova stays or goes, but your PM countinues to hold to his nationalism by all means.
He even went as far as sabotagin Tadic's effort to convince serbs that Kosova is gone as a result of Millo's policies, by saying that EU mebership should take a backseat to Kosova. Talk about a regressive person. Maybe it is time for moderates like yourself to put someone else in charge...

mitrovica pika pika said...

Serbia is run by a cartel

Author: Nenad Dimitrijevic interviewed by Dejan Ilic for Feral Tribune (Split)
Uploaded: Wednesday, 02 August, 2006

Serbian political scientist teaching in Budapest discusses denial of crime, collective responsibility and the problems confronting Serbian society today

Over the past years you have given several talks in Serbia and written a number of texts on the need for Serbian society to confront the evil of the past, i.e. its own role in the events of the 1990s. What is the cause of your engagement?

There are two questions here. The first is: What actually happened? The second is: Is what happened relevant for living in Serbia today? The answer to the first question is to me simple and unambiguous. Great iniquities were committed in the past: mass murder, persecution, deportations, destruction of property. We can identify this injustice as crimes committed against non-Serb population on the basis that it was ethnically non-Serb, and in the name of the Serb ethnic group and all its individual members. This, in my view, is the starting-point for answering the second question. There is no alternative to confronting the truth. Not to do so has dramatic consequences: the crime is not recognised as crime, the victims are not recognised as victims, the perpetrators are not recognised as perpetrators. Omission to do so does not remove the past, but rather affirms it in practice. I am speaking here not about the intentions of the actors, but of the situation in which the political, cultural and moral heritage of the crime remains permanently present.

This can be summed up with the simple proposition that one cannot put aside the past by either an act of political will or mere silence. It is clear today that policy towards the past became the point of division within the democratic forces following the change of regime in 2000. Those who were prepared publicly to defend the lie about the crime have won. What I will call colloquially ‘post-Dinđić’ Serbia appears today, six years after its liberation from Milošević’s regime and three years after Đinđić’s assassination, as a state which has decided to stay in the past.

Few, of course, would publicly declare that the period under Milošević is something that should be preserved or restored; but the analysis of the dominant values, ideological matrices and behaviour of the leading political actors reveals a practical commitment to the preservation and reproduction of essentially the same ideological themes and governing mechanisms. Our present is based on retrograde and anti-civilisational choices of approach to the past which simultaneously form in a decisive manner the character of our present and our attitude to what constitutes a desirable future. These choices are inspired by an a priori refusal on the part of citizens, nation, society and state to confront what happened not long ago in the area that used to be called Yugoslavia. The refusal commonly takes the form of denying criminal, political and moral responsibility for the crimes committed. This then materialises itself in political and social speech, political and social activity, in which the central place is taken, neatly complementing each other, by betrayal and national honour; obsession with a glorious past and celebration of equally glorious defeats ranging from Kosovo in 1389 to Kosovo in 1999; complaints that the world does not understand or respect us; hatred of minorities; glorification of murderers as heroes, and much else besides. One can say that this country has fallen victim to unbridled right-wing options, ranging from a specifically Serbian form of liberal nationalism personified by the ruling coalition to a specifically Serbian form of street fascism personified by the Serbian Radical Party.

You say that you too are responsible for the crimes committed by the Serbian side, by the very fact of being a Serb. What do you mean by that?

To say that I am co-responsible for the crimes on the basis of national membership implies that you too, and all those who are Serbs by nationality, including our children, are also responsible. I defend, in short, the concept of collective responsibility while affirming at the same time that politically I am a liberal. This may sound extravagant or simply wrong. Many people, including liberal Serbs living in Serbia and abroad, do not agree: they say that this only contributes to the mystification of the nation, or that the affirmation of the concept of collective responsibility perpetuates in the long run, despite good intentions, the worst elements of Milošević’s inheritance. I wish to stress, however, that my position is not doctrinaire - it is just an attempt to identify the main obstacle that bars Serbia’s progress to civic and political normality. It is not a question here of culpability. Culpability is a legal category applied to individuals who become identified as perpetrators or collaborators in acts defined as criminal in nature following a correctly executed procedure. The difficulty is that legal-criminal procedures are not sufficient for confronting the recent crimes. We are dealing with mass crimes, with the manner in which the regime selected the victims, the role of the political elites, the support extended to the crime and its perpetrators by a large number of ‘ordinary people’, i.e. with the wide acceptance of a perverted system of values in which approval of the crime was a sign of morally correct behaviour and patriotism, and finally with the heavy moral and political consequences that the crime has left behind. These are the factors that should condition our way of looking at the past, the choice of institutional mechanisms that should help us to confront it, and the assessment of our individual and collective political and moral positions.

All these factors could be reduced to a simple proposition: every non-Serb, i.e. every innocent person who was killed because he was not a Serb, was killed in my name, for I am a Serb. I believe that this painful perception represents the foundation of the moral responsibility of all members of the Serb nation. I will repeat something that I wrote long ago: I am accidentally a Serb, but the crime was consciously and systematically executed in my name. It follows from this that the fortuitousness of my national identity has been cancelled out by the deliberate intention and activity on the part of those who proclaimed my national name to be the reason for killing those of another name. The fortuitousness of my national being ends at this point, because the crime committed in my name is a final fact of a special kind: the ideological foundation, nature and extent of the crime are such that it penetrates my individual identity. Therefore, in order to be able to become autonomous individuals, each of us separately and all of us collectively must confront the fact of crime. This facing up to facts and their assessment is the first aspect of moral responsibility. Secondly, we must address the community of the victims, and state clearly that what was done in our name was a crime which we condemn - this is another collective act through which we would re-affirm our individuality.

You argue at the same time that the Serb national identity has been destroyed, and that it must be rebuilt anew. Is it possible that the only indisputable fact that will remain at the core of the Serb national identity is that Serbs have committed crimes while everything else will become questioned? If so, then the refusal on the part of Serb society to confront the events of the 1990s is perhaps inevitable and understandable?

The Serb national identity has been destroyed with a highly inflammable combination of nationalism, mass crime and refusal to recognise the true nature and consequences of this crime. We can discuss at length whether from the historical point of view nationalism as an ideology contains also positive elements, but in the Serb case such a discussion no longer makes sense. Serb nationalism in the recent period has manifested itself as a barbarous ideology: it abolished the difference between good and evil and sent a message to the Serbs that they are free from civilisational constraints and can kill at will. Following this self-exclusion or voluntary withdrawal from civilisation, i.e. after a collective sacrifice of all fundamental moral norms, it is illusory to speak about something worth calling national identity. I do believe that when we use the first person plural and say ‘we Serbs’, we can only refer at this moment to the recent crimes.

Confronting a crime and its consequences is a very painful and humiliating experience for all members of the Serb nation. To that extent the refusal of the majority of members of Serb society is foreseeable and at an elementary psychological level understandable. The fact remains, however, that it is impossible to justify this refusal. The thesis that it would be counterproductive to ‘open old wounds’, because it would further divide society, is wrong in an elementary sense: the fact is that society is already deeply divided, as a direct result of the war, the perception of it, and the political abuse of its consequences. Since the border between truth and lie in regard to the past is unclear, the lie can effortlessly be translated into a manipulative political discourse. One should also not forget that the lie of which I speak consists precisely in presenting the recent crime as something that can be justified in the name of defence of ‘national interest’.

In this sense the view into the past is a pledge for the future. To put it differently, dealing with the issue of moral responsibility should not be viewed as a burden, but as a process that should help us accept as our own that minimum of universal values which we rejected not long ago, and which separates civilisation from what is not civilisation.

Simply stated, two things are crucial for the transition in which Serbian society finds itself today: democratic processes and market economy. It is possible, however, to show that at this moment both the democratic procedure and the market are working in favour of maintenance of the system of values that was built during the 1970s and the 1980s and that became dominant in the 1990s. In public life and in the market, people largely follow the ideas strongly promoted during the last decade and a half and which provided the basis for Serb participation in the recent wars. It could be argued perhaps that both the democratic process and the market reform should be suspended for a while, to give time for building a new system of values. Does Serbia in these conditions have any chance of successfully completing the transition?

The problem does not lie in democracy, the market or what we call ‘open society’. The problem is that we do not have, and have never have had, any of this. What we have now is a seeming democracy and a poor imitation of a market economy inherited from Milošević’s period. People in Serbia believe that democracy is a political form in which those who rule are legitimised by the majority will expressed in elections, and that those who have won elections can do whatever they want - from infringements of human-rights values and disregard of constitutional norms to a pilfering economy and criminal wars. We are no longer at war, true, but all the above-mentioned forms of brutal despotism have remained under the mask of democracy. As in Milošević’s time, Serbia is a privatised state: the political institutions, the mechanisms of repression, the judicial system, the financial powers, the economic institutions and processes as well as - by no means least important - ‘the ideological apparatuses’ - remain under the control of a kind of a para-state cartel formed by the ruling parties, the parties of the ‘opposition’, the enormously wealthy ‘controversial businessmen’, the army, various police formations, the mafia, the Church and the court intellectuals. In sum, the basic facade of statehood inherited from the previous period has been retained, and the actors of the old regime have succeeded in preserving their network of interests practically untouched by forming an alliance with the part of the new elite gathered around Vojislav Koštunica and the Democratic Party of Serbia. Instead of a democratic transition as a process in which the institutions and the ideology of the old regime are dismantled and at the same time democratic institutions, rules and values are affirmed, we have got a perverted hybrid regime which keeps us tied to a bad past.

As to Serbia’s chances, I must say first that nothing is predestined so far as social and political relations are concerned, so that Serbia is not condemned to a gradual decomposition without an alternative. On the other hand, the comparative experience of the countries in transition suggests that there exist a certain sequence and rhythm of steps that must be made both in the dismantling of the old regime and the construction of a democratic order. If we look at the countries that have gone through the transition, we can see that some moments are most suitable for certain kinds of reform: first come constitutional changes that reform the political institutions, then democratic elections, after which so-called systemic laws are adopted of which probably the most important are those regulating the economic sphere. At the same time there is reconstruction of the state administration and the judicial system, subjection of the repressive apparatuses to democratic control, etc. But if you say that you are a society in transition, yet spend six years doing nothing but maintaining the key institutions and values of the old regime, then you are not standing in the same place but are in effect moving backwards, so that something that was possible and necessary to do at the very beginning becomes today almost impossible.

Nenad Dimitrijević teaches at the department of political studies of the Central European University in Budapest. His subject is constitutional and political theory, and he is the author of The Case of Yugoslavia: Socialism, Nationalism, Results (2001). This interview has been translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 30 June 2006.

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