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Kosovo on the Agenda


By Jan Øberg


With the Dayton Agreement for Bosnia time has come for well-intentioned and impartial actors to help the Serbs and Albanians to solve their conflict in the province of Kosovo. The recent recognition of the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, by a series of European states &emdash; overdue, as some would think &emdash; implies that Kosovo remains an integral part of Serbia.

The pragmatic non-violent policies of the Kosovo-Albanians under Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosova is bound now to come under stronger pressure: the majority of the two million Albanians their will ponder why their promised land seem to remain a dream and turn to more militant policies &emdash; something Serbian nationalists will know to exploit in their struggle against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

Another scenario is this: the so-called international community's increasingly crisis-ridden Dayton process in Bosnia may accumulate such pressures on Serbia and the Serbs that a civil war-like situation unfolds. If so, Serbian and Albanian nationalist hardliners could easily create the spiralling provocations and violence that release a bloodbath in Kosovo.

This conflict is old, deep and extremely emotionally charged. Grave mistakes have been committed by all sides for decades and, thus, there are no longer any quick and good solutions. Positions are locked, also on whether and how to talk. Fortunate-ly, today's conflict is not acted out militarily. That offers a unique opportunity, but it won't be there forever.

Neither the Serbs nor the Albanians want, or have anything to gain from, a war. They know this very well. But the rest of us must not forget that most conflicts have a logic and dynamics of their own, sometimes even independent of the intentions of powerful leaders. It is a matter of duty, indeed enlightened self-interest, of well-intentioned and impartial actors in Europe to assist the parties now.

The consequences of a violent breakdown in the province could be as bad, if not worse, than what Bosnia has gone through. In all probability it would involve Macedonia which has a large and dissatisfied Albanian minority, as well as Albania and perhaps Bulgaria and Greece.

The international community can assist. But Europe, with all its predominantly military organizations from days gone by, lacks a new way of thinking, a set of norms and the political tools and institutions needed for a comprehensive approach to problems such as that in Kosovo. All mediation attempts during the last 5-7 years have been ad hoc and come to nothing, among other things because of the political isolation of Rump-Yugoslavia and its unwise exclusion from the OSCE.

Only the Serbs and Albanians themselves can find a mutually acceptable and sustain-able solution. What so-called Third Parties can do is limited to facilitation, mitigation, professional negotiation expertise and good offices. Some kind of transitional measures is needed that permit the parties comfortably to rebuild a minimum of confidence upon which long-term solutions are conditioned.

It is not for outsiders to decide or enforce whether this solution is minority protection, various types of autonomy, partition, independence, condominium, protectorate, confederation, a combination of some of these or something new. What Europe or the United States of America might want is irrelevant. In short, the process for Kosovo will bear no resemblance with the Dayton process.

So, how can we help?

* First step could be to establish a multinational, civil United Nations Authority, offering the parties an opportunity to go to the roots of their problem and stick to negotiations without threats. After all, the UN is in need of new tasks and has an excellent mission in Macedonia. The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, OSCE, as well as non-governmental (civil society) organizations should be given specific tasks. In a recent initiative* this has been termed the United Nations Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement, UNTANS.

* A memorandum should be signed between Yugoslavia and the UN Security Council to the effect that the UN, for a period of three years, takes over parts of the daily administration of the area, aimed to reduce tension. A draft treaty text exists.

* Demilitarization of all troops and police in Kosovo during the said period with the exception of what is needed for Yugoslavia's legitimate self-defence.

* Establishment of a permanent Professional Negotiation Facility which helps the parties' delegations to achieve a result within the period. The leadership of this Facility must be selected from nations with no significant interests in the region.

* The present paramilitary troops and police is replaced by international civil police and monitors who co-operates with the UN administration, the Negotiation Facility and with a broad spectrum of local and international civil society organizations stationed in the region.

* Peacebuilding efforts, such as peace education, conflict-mitigation, negotiation techniques and reconciliation and co-operative projects in local communities is conducted all over the area to empower people to handle their own future conflicts.

* Some smaller group of countries, such as the Nordic ones, take the initiative to establish a "Helsinki Process" for all of the Balkans and invite all parties and civil society organizations as participants.

* The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia must be fully integrated into the international community and its organizations, including the OSCE, to accept anything like UNTANS.

The UNTANS idea is the outcome of analyses, conversations and an indirect dialogue between Serbian and Kosovo-Albanian leaders and intellectuals during the last four years, conducted as silent "citizens diplomacy" by the Transnational Foundation in Sweden (see below). It is violence-prevention, peacekeeping and negotiation in one and respects people's right to find solutions that fit them.

In today's world, security can be defined as the ability to early warn, analyse, handle and solve conflicts with the least amount of violence, if any. This type of civil intervention is generally applicable for the UN and other international organizations in other conflicts around the world.

UNTANS, or something like it, could serve as a relevant contribution to the ongoing search for new security structures that, finally, address the simple fact that human beings are in the centre of all conflicts. In short, neither NATO, the WEU nor any military coalition are relevant for solving the Kosovo conflict.

It is imperative that the repression in Kosovo stops; it is also politically, economically and morally self-destructive for Serbia. Having said that, we must also secure that the desires of thousands of nations worldwide for self-determination do not create a war-torn, disintegrating world sliding into irreparable chaos.

There are so many options between total state control and total secessionism. We we need gentler states and alternatives to either/or thinking. They become visible the moment we stop talking about who is wrong and guilty and focus our minds and hearts on the subject matter: what's the problem and how can we help people solve their problems?

It is a moral defeat for us all should one more of Yugoslavia's intractable conflicts blow up due to international ignorance and mismanagement. There are some who dispute that the situation is threatening. But even if they are right, they must admit that neither is it durable or desirable.

Is there, in fact, any argument against creative, impartial mediation and violence-preventive initiatives now?


© Jan Øberg, director, the Transnational Foundation, TFF, Sweden

* See UNTANS. Conflict Mitigation for Kosovo (including treaty draft and the viewpoint of the parties), TFF 1996.













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