Vol. 11 No. 15 :  21-27 April 2005
Pages 22-23

Kosovo’s independence, the wrong solution for Europe by Jan Oberg and
Aleksandar Mitic

By this summer, Kosovo will almost certainly have passed a test set by the
international community, a test that will allow talks on the final status of
this UN protectorate to begin. The positions of two of the three parties are
clear: Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority is demanding full independence and
offers no sign of flexibility, while Serbia insists on nominal sovereignty,
but accepts that Kosovo cannot be ruled from Belgrade again.

Unfortunately, the narrowness of the current international debate suggests
that the third party – the international community – may enter talks already
convinced Kosovo should be independent. 

Some groups, such as the Brussels-based think tank the International Crisis
Group (ICG), argue that independence really is now the only realistic
option. But it is not. It is also an unjust, dangerous, obsolete, and
anti-European solution. 

It is unjust, because independence cannot be negotiated, it can only be
imposed. Full independence would, in effect, steamroll the aspirations of
Kosovo’s non-Albanian communities and those of Serbia. 

It is dangerous (and unjust), because independence would breach the legal
framework which ended the violence in 1999, reward those behind the campaign
of ethnic-cleansing against the non-Albanian communities ever since and
encourage those who exported violence to neighboring areas in southern
Serbia and western Macedonia. It is dangerous, too, because Belgrade must
play a role in finding a compromise on Kosovo. 

And it is anti-European because it is archaic to create new international
borders when the entire region is moving towards a “borderless Europe.”

So, in its own interests, the West needs to look for other options. It need
only look to Bosnia. But the Bosnian example is barely debated – a failure
that highlights the paradoxes, the fallacies, the dangerous precedents, and
the lack of principled, consistent policies in the international community’s
approach to Kosovo.

First, like Kosovo, the “entity” of Republika Srpska is a protectorate, with
NATO forces on its soil. Like Kosovo, some 90% of its population belongs to
one ethnic community. In strategic terms, its majority Serb population has
the same aspirations as the Kosovo Albanians: to become independent.

But in Republika Srpska, the international community is tearing down all
symbols and structures of statehood. Republika Srpska is, in fact, in the
process of being gradually absorbed into a centralizing Bosnian state, in
the name of stability, multi-ethnicity, and European integration – but
against the will of the majority of its population.

In Kosovo, the very same international community is doing just the opposite:
it is building a state from scratch, treating Kosovo as an independent state
in the making.

Second, an international community that rightly lauds multi-ethnicity may be
about to break up the Balkans’ most ethnically diverse country, Serbia. What
kind of example would this set for the Muslim-populated Sandzak area, for
Albanian-populated southern Serbia, for the Serbian-populated eastern part
of Montenegro, for Albanian-populated western Macedonia, for
Serbian-populated eastern Slavonia, for the Hungarian-populated north of the
Vojvodina province?

Third, if the whole region is on its way to an integrated Europe where
borders no longer matter, why create new borders only to bring them down
again in a matter of years?

Fourth, it is almost certain that Kosovo can gain independence only by
bypassing the UN Security Council since Russia and China would undoubtedly
wield their veto. A solution without the UN (and without Serbia, as proposed
by the ICG) would deal another blow to international law.

Finally, there can be little doubt that independence for Kosovo would sooner
or later result in a mono-ethnic Albanian Kosovo. What then of the arguments
of those who supported the 1999 bombing as a “humanitarian intervention” in
the name of multi-ethnicity?

The international community should do as it did in Bosnia in 1995, in
Macedonia in 2001, and in Serbia and Montenegro in 2003; that is, to search
a solution to ethno-territorial conflict that falls short of independence.
Why should Kosovo be an exception? If it becomes so, dispiriting questions
will linger. Was independence merely an exit strategy for an international
community afraid of confronting Albanian extremism and violence and tired of
its failures in Kosovo? 

Most importantly, though, it would be a self-deluding exit. The
international community can leave Kosovo, but its problems will haunt it.

Jan Oberg is the founder and director of the Transnational Foundation for
Peace and Future Research (TFF) in Lund, Sweden. Aleksandar Mitic is a TFF
Associate. A longer version of this article first appeared in the online
magazine Transitions Online (www.tol.org).

                           Srpska Informativna Mreza


                           Srpska Informativna Mreza



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