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

 Kosovo Solution Series # 6


PressInfo # 214

 March 30, 2005


Aleksandar Mitic, TFF Associate & Jan Oberg, TFF director


Relevant background links for this series here.

Belgrade has stated clearly that "full independence", including the "hidden independence" in the form of "conditional independence" is out of question. The "conditional independence" does not change the negative outcome from the point of view of Belgrade: Kosovo is to be independent once it fulfils certain criteria. Belgrade and the Serb community consider "conditional independence" rhetoric -- very popular among near-governmental organizations, policymakers and pro-Albanian lobbyists -a "bluff".

Belgrade has, on the other hand, accepted the recent approach by the European Union which argues that there can be no return to the pre-1999 situation. A new solution, between autonomy as it was and complete independence must therefore be found.

Atypical solutions are indeed not a novelty in the post-war former Yugoslavia. Such solutions have been found by the international community and the different sides with the creation of two semi-independent entities in Bosnia - the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat federation - in Dayton (1995), the Ohrid accord (2001) between Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia, as well as the Belgrade agreement (2003) between Belgrade and Podgorica on the state of Serbia and Montenegro.

No serious Serbian politician nor policymaker is as gullible as to believe that Kosovo can be managed from Belgrade, that Serb police and soldiers are to be re-deployed from central Serbia to secure Kosovo, or that Kosovo should not have its own budget, police force and representation abroad. They know it very well.

But no serious Serbian politician nor policymaker is ready to accept "full" or "conditional" independence - two sides of the same coin.

In seeking a final solution, it would be wise of the international community to give special attention to issues such as:


1) Demilitarization of the area, with some international presence and a strong OSCE-trained local police.

2) Guarantees against later secession or joining of neighbouring countries, in particular Albania and the regions of western Macedonia.

3) There can be no "border" nor "border crossings" between Serbia and Kosovo.

4) A "positive discrimination" of all minorities in Kosovo, in parliament and in public institutions.

5) Serb cultural heritage, such as the monasteries, must receive special extra-territorial status and the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church must be fully protected and restored.

6) There has to be huge compensation for lost property to Serb citizens and to Belgrade for state property.

7) There must be an international judiciary system set up in Kosovo.

8) Serbia-Montenegro's road to EU integrations must be smoothed and the first results must be visible before the talks on the final status begin.

9) Return of all those displaced Serbs and other minorities who so wish must be assured. Freedom of movement must be guaranteed, security and human rights for the Serbs and other minorities must become one of the main priorities for the special region of Kosovo

10) Economic viability of Kosovo has to be fully analyzed and trade barriers must be brought down.

11) There must remain an international presence until it can be safely assumed that all the above provisions pertaining to human rights and other minority issues will be working well without such an international presence. It has to be welcomed - but isn't sufficient - that there is a low tension and a "knowing how to behave well" with 17.000 NATO troops and thousands of other internationals in Kosovo; it must also work well after they have left.

For all involved - and for the EU - the economic development dimensions of independence must be given a new status in the future discussions. No independent European state can live on a combination of non-productive investments, 70% unemployment and a largely black economy combined with organised crime and be said to satisfy European standards.

We know from the break-up of old Yugoslavia that the ethnic dimension of the conflicts was driven mainly by structural economic crisis. A new Kosovo with a non-viable economy is likely to be consumed in inter-ethnic violence or Albanian-Albanian violence whereas independence with a reasonable, legal-based economic development may serve to prevent future ethnic violence. In other words, learn one of the most important lessons from former Yugoslavia when you deal with Kosovo's future!

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A media strategy for Serbia

Since Belgrade is a partner without which a just and long-lasting agreement on Kosovo is impossible, Serbian authorities must come up with a comprehensive pro-active policy and communication strategy. The old mantras of "we are right and need not prove it", "we are good and need not prove it", "truth is on our side and we need not prove it" must be abandoned immediately.

In order to play a dynamic pro-active rôle, Belgrade must:

1) Form a creative media team, made up of consultants, media and PR experts ready to present and argue the arguments mentioned above with the main message being: "an independent Kosovo is impossible and unacceptable but there are several other just solutions still possible".

2) Express as soon as possible the common vision of all state and political structures about the future of Kosovo, a flexible and compromising solution -- "between standard autonomy and full independence" - which will offer a true European perspective for all actors in the region instead of an option which contains in itself the seed of destruction and irredentism.

3) Lead a diplomatic offensive through the diplomatic network at the bilateral and multilateral level.

4) Devise a pro-active media strategy, involving teams set up in key Western capitals (Brussels, Paris, London, Berlin, Washington, New York, Rome, Madrid, etc) which would be in charge of:

- Media relations and contacts with key actors in the industry.

- Policy promotion and briefings of the media, analysts and think-tanks.

- Fast reaction to inaccuracies, unreasonable and extremist views.

- Fast and reliable answer to all inquiries about the issue.

- Alarming states, think-tanks, NGOs and the media about the dangers of the independence of Kosovo.

- Networking with all those seeking to find a viable solution in Kosovo.

- Getting the views of the alternative media in the mainstream.

- Devising a strong and up-to-date internet-based awareness campaign.

- Distributing promotional material.

- Pointing out to alternative news sources.

- Fighting for the "media context" of the Kosovo issue.

- Setting up a "bank of ideas" on the Kosovo issue, primarily focused on human interest stories.

- Setting up well-organised archives (audio, TV, internet, text, graphics, statistics).


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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