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The situation as
seen from Serbia

Kosovo Solution Series # 4


PressInfo # 212

 March 23, 2005


Aleksandar Mitic, TFF Associate & Jan Oberg, TFF director


Relevant background links for this series here.

Not even the hardest pro-Albanian lobbyists deny the importance that Kosovo plays in the hearts and minds of the Serbs. Kosovo holds the cultural, religious and national heritage of the Serbian people. It is home to 300,000 Serbs - currently in Kosovo or displaced since 1999 - not to mention the hundreds of thousands who left the province for economic or other reasons in the decades before. Some 1,300 monasteries, churches and other religious objects testify of the richness of Serb presence in the province.

There is however an attempt on the behalf of pro-Albanian lobbyists to present the issue as simply the "Kosovo myth" which the Serbs must get rid of if they want to get "closer to Europe". Near-governmental organizations such as the ICG and newly-born Balkan specialists tell the Serbs: leave Kosovo as the French left Algeria, leave Kosovo as the Russians left Ukraine, sell Kosovo or you will be in trouble.

They often offer the dangerously false dilemma: "Kosovo or Europe: Serbs, pick one because you cannot have both!".

In today's Serbia such arguments are getting a welcome from a miniscule part of the population, several Western-financed non-governmental organizations, as well as a few media outlets and political circles outside parliament. Not a single parliamentary party in Serbia - from those seen as "pro-Western reformers" to those seen as "conservative nationalists" - is ready to accept an "independence" of Kosovo as defined by the Kosovo Albanians and their lobbyists.

The burden of the wars in the 1990s is still very heavy for the Serbs: a majority of Krajina Serbs have been expelled from Croatia, the Republika Srpska is an international protectorate in which elected representatives are constantly being threatened of being dismissed by the omnipotent international governor in Sarajevo, near all of the wartime Serb leaders from the 1990s have been extradited to the Hague war crimes tribunal, the refugee toll does not get below half a million people even a decade after the end of the Bosnian/Croatian wars and six years after the bombing of Kosovo.

The national frustration is indeed very present. It's a wounded society. Many feel a collective punishment despite the constant rhetoric about the "individual" culpability being examined in the Hague. The Serb population also sees a devastated economy and social fabric, due to incompetent internal policies, but also to decade-long international sanctions and the bombings.

Furthermore, Serbs argue that they were the only ones in the former Yugoslavia to throw out their own "bad leader", while the other republics never tried that. The delivery of Milosevic to the Hague was never rewarded or praised.


Reforms and fulfillment of Western conditions

The results that they see since the arrival of reformists in power feel more like sticks than carrots. Although Serbia is firmly in favour of the European Union, is adopting European laws and standards, follows to the point the line the IMF/World Bank demands for the opening of her economy and the liberalization of its market - even facing the fact that its factories are being bought at the lowest prices by international factors - it faces what it perceives as a deliberate policy aimed to force it down on its knees.

Furthermore, Serbia has fulfilled all of the security conditions set by the West:

1) It has respected the 1999 withdrawal conditions and the Kumanovo accord to the full extent.

2) It has shown restraint and collaborated extensively with NATO in managing the 2000-2001 Albanian uprising in southern Serbia.

3) It has led a moderating role in March 2004, when it prevented a spill-over of the Kosovo violence to other parts of Serbia and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica headed a demonstration for non-violence in Belgrade.

4) It has been praised by Western diplomats for its management of inter-ethnic tensions in southern Serbia and in the northern province of Vojvodina in the fall of 2004.

5) It has reformed its defence and police structures in accordance with Partnership for Peace and OSCE standards.

In contrast, the international community has not kept its promises since 1999: there has been no real disarmament of the KLA/KPC, no return of refugees/IDPs, no real security for the minorities in Kosovo, no compensation for property taken over. All of the UN heads of administration, from Bernard Kouchner to Soren Jessen-Petersen have been perceived as strongly pro-Albanian.

Indeed, in Kosovo, the dramatic situation of the Serbs has only received greater attention when no one anymore could pretend to be blind - with the March 2004 violence. However, even since, there has been a pursuit of a policy putting Kosovo on the "independence agenda", rather than trying to find a compromising solution which could satisfy all sides and create stability and prosperity for the whole region.


Independence, perhaps - but where is the logics?

This "independence agenda" has been pushed more and more overtly by near-governmental organizations and some Western officials. Talks about the independence of Kosovo as the only solution possible is however a great paradox and an example of the lack of principled, consistent policies by the international community. Here are some of the reasons:


1) Republika Srpska - the Bosnian Serb entity under the 1995 Dayton accords - has nearly the same number of people as the province of Kosovo, between 1,5 and 2 million people. It is also a protectorate and has had the same kind of NATO force on its soil like Kosovo. It has a very similar structure of the population as Kosovo - some 90% belong to one ethnic community. Strategically, its Bosnian Serb population has the same aspirations as the Kosovo Albanians: to become independent.

Yet, in Republika Srpska, the international community is tearing down all symbols and structures of statehood: from laws to the mechanisms of police and army. The Republika Srpska is in fact in the process of getting - perhaps forcefully - closer to a more unified Bosnia. All this despite the wishes of its population, but for the sake of regional and European integrations, multiethnicity and stability.

In Kosovo, the very same international community is doing just the opposite: it is building a state from scratch, paving the way to a break-up of a country and treating Kosovo as an "independent state in-the-making". It has set up a state and government structure with ministers and a president. What a difference 100 kilometres can make (the distance from Republika Srpska to Kosovo)! A whole new world of principles, standards and guidelines with an obvious goal: make the Serbs lose both Republika Srpska and Kosovo. To put it crudely, it's 0-2 in the game, an easy take-away win against a Serbia on its knees and against the even more powerless minorities in Kosovo. Despite the fear in Belgrade to talk openly about the linkage of Republika Srpska and Kosovo (and before 1995 Croatian Krajina), such an outcome may well become an explosive device for the decades to come.

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2) Breaking up the most multi-ethnic society? Just as the West rushed into the break-up of the former multiethnic Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, it could be rushing to break-up Serbia, the most multiethnic country of former Yugoslavia. What kind of examples does this kind of policy set for multiethnicity in the Balkans: for the Muslim-populated Sandzak area, for the Albanian-populated southern Serbia, for the Serb-populated eastern part of Montenegro, for the Albanian-populated western Macedonia, for the Serb-populated eastern Slavonia, for the Hungarian-populated north of the Vojvodina province? In a larger perspective one may even ask: how come that wherever the international community has intervened in conflicts, there is less multi-ethnicity than before the war? How come that those who drive an overall globalising world where we are all becoming more mixed can keep on pursuing civilisationally regressive and nationalist models of one nation in one state?

3) Why new borders on the road to EU integration? If the entire south-eastern Europe is on its way to European integration, on its way to integrated Europe, where borders will "no longer matter", if this is a process that is under way and is to be completed in the decade to come, why create new borders around a new second Albanian state in Europe? Why are new borders at such a high cost necessary if they are going to be brought down in the matter of years? Where is the logic of European integration in the independence of Kosovo?

4) Exceptionalism will undermine international law. Recognizing the independence of Kosovo without the UN Security Council approval - where Russia and China are certain to block the outcome due to Chechnya, Taiwan and Tibet - as well as without Belgrade (as proposed by the ICG), is sure to deal another heavy blow to both international law and the world system, create serious negative precedents and aggravate international relations.

5) Bombing for independence and mono-ethnicity. Building on the experience since 1999, the independence of Kosovo is highly likely to, sooner or later, result in a mono-ethnic Albanian Kosovo. It will become the second Albanian national state in Europe. As such, it would undermine completely the arguments of those who supported the 1999 bombings in the name of "multiethnicity" in the province. The 1999 bombings will historically be seen as a bombing campaign for the independence of Kosovo, which is light years away from the proclaimed goals of a "humanitarian intervention".

6) Helping some minorities to become independent. The international community accepted independence for Croats and Croatia out of Yugoslavia but not independence for Serbs out of Croatia, thereby taking the side of the majority in Croatia. Thus, the Kosovo-Albanian argument that there has been too much historic and contemporary repression to live together is valid in Kosovo but not in Croatia where the historic repression of Serbs is much worse and 250.000 legitimate Croatian Serbs citizens were ethnically cleansed in 1995 and have, we few exceptions, not come back.


The TFF Kosovo Solution Series

# 1
Why the solution in Kosovo matters to the world

# 2
The media - strategic considerations

# 3
The main preconditions for a sustainable solution to the Kosovo conflict

# 4
The situation as seen from Serbia

# 5
The arguments for quick and total independence are not credible

# 6
What must be Belgrade's minimum conditions and its media strategy

# 7
Nations and states, sovereignty and self-determination

# 8
Positive scenarios: Turn to the future, look at the broader perspectives

# 9
Many thinkable models for future Kosovo

# 10
Summary: From "Only one solution" towards democracy and peace


Relevant background links for this series.



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