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Kosovo's Pandora Box


Aleksandar Mitic

Jan Oberg

May 9, 2007

One of the most dangerous and unrealistic ideas circulating today in international politics consists of considering the Serbian province of Kosovo as a “unique” case. Under such thinking, Kosovo’s independence should be imposed on Serbia in breach of all international laws and regulations, but the solution would somehow not become an applicable precedent to any of the hundreds of other similar disputes and territorial claims worldwide.

This is, regrettably, also the basic assumption of UN Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s proposal concerning Kosovo’s future status. It is one-sided to an extent that should preclude the words “mediator” and “mediation.”

Those arguing why Kosovo’s case should be “unique” suggest it should be so because:

a) the province had a recent history of institutional discrimination and brutal crackdown against a separatist campaign,

b) NATO bombed in 1999 and

c) the UN has been administrating the province in the last seven years.

But is Kosovo really so unique?

So much blood has been shed, so many interventions have been led, so many international administrations and peacekeeping forces have ruled dozens of other regions around the world facing a similar perspective of separatism. Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transdniestria, Palestine, Tamil Eelam, Northern Cyprus, the Basque Province, Chechnya, Northern Ireland, western Macedonia, Republika Srpska, Tibet, Taiwan, Kurdistan…

All of these areas, and many more, will be following the Kosovo talks very closely, especially given that most of them have suffered even more violent, hateful conflicts and have waited for the solution of their problem much longer than the province of Kosovo.

There are hundreds of ethnic groups around the world who feel “territorially” discriminated. Are there any solid reasons that the case of Kosovo Albanians is superior to all the rest?

An Albanian state exists already just next door. Whereas most of the truly discriminated ethnic communities around the world dream of minimal autonomy, Kosovo Albanians want even more than full self-governance which Serbia is offering them: they want to create nothing less than a second Albanian state in the already fragile Western Balkans and thereby risk encouraging other minorities to demand independence.

To those arguing that NATO’s intervention in 1999 should be the basis for Kosovo’s independence, one should remind the developments in Kosovo since then: the expulsion of more than 220,000 Serbs, the shameful enclaves and ghettos in which the remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians live still today, the destruction of 130 Orthodox churches, notorious organized crimes networks, blatant nationalist historical revisionism, some 60-70 percent unemployment in spite of uniquely large transfers of international funds into Kosovo. Since 1999, Kosovo’s de facto existing military formations have participated in warfare in both southern Serbia and Macedonia.

Given the continuous pressure on the Kosovo Serbian community, it is easy to imagine that the independence of Kosovo would most certainly lead to a monoethnic Albanian Kosovo. Serbs who left will never come back.

As such, it would completely undermine the arguments of those who supported the NATO bombings in 1999 in the name of the “multiethnicity” of Kosovo. The bombing of 1999 would historically be seen as a campaign for the independence of Kosovo, which is light years away from the proclaimed goals of the “humanitarian intervention”.

This is a truly problematic perspective, especially since NATO’s intervention was carried out by bypassing the UN Security Council.

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With respect to law, Kosovo can become independent from Serbia only by voluntary, negotiated agreement or by violating the 1945 UN Charter, the 1975 Helsinki Final act, the 1991-92 Badinter Commision, the 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the 2006 Serbian constitution.

When Transdniestria, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh voted last fall to reconfirm their earlier independence-minded paths, international condemnations were outright.

When Russia says the solution for Kosovo should be equally applicable elsewhere – it is accused of plotting against its neighbours.

If Serbia’s insistence on territorial integrity is “démodé” and Russia’s insistence on universal standards “conspiratory”, how does one explain that a number of European Union members now oppose Kosovo’s independence and reject the idea of Kosovo’s “uniqueness”?

At the last several meetings of the EU Council of ministers and heads of state, Spain, Cyprus and new EU member Romania were at the forefront of the EU bloc opposing Kosovo’s secession. Are these countries too falling to the “paranoid Serbo-Russian bloc” or are they plain and simply worried about the implications of Kosovo’s independence in the Basque country, Northern Cyprus or Transdniestria?

It has been a public secret for a while now that some “goodwill advisors” had been suggesting to the team of Martti Ahtisaari to find a “legal basis for the uniqueness of Kosovo in order to avoid setting a precedent”.
But Ahtisaari should have avoided this “one-time solution”. Breaching international law might appease Albanian separatist aspirations in Kosovo, but it would certainly risks opening a Pandora’s box of separatist viruses worldwide.



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