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So hypothetical about Kosova:
A view from Macedonia



Biljana Vankovska

February 17, 2008

In a recent message delivered by its eloquent spokesman, the Macedonian Government considers declaration of Kosovo’s independence “a hypothetical situation that it would rather not comment”. Having been inspired, here I am with a “hypothetical” commentary.

The saying that “everyone is a general after the battle” has obviously been embraced by most Macedonian analysts and the government: few are willing to take a risk and make a prognosis. They keep quiet and wait to hear the statements from Washington and some European capitals before they join the chorus. Additional incentive for this column came from IHT columnist who argues that international lawyers will anyhow cry against the breach of the international law and the Kosovo precedent but their cry is futile and meaningless now when the solution for a conflict has been found.
In other words, there seems to be a general attitude that international lawyers are impotent and irrelevant participants of the debate, while on the other side power politics dominates the world.

Any disregard for the international law that comes nowadays from the proved democrats from the West irresistibly reminds on something I heard in my young age. Namely, Tito used to give ‘advice’ to the lawyers and judges not to stick to law as a blind man to his stick. However, both advice “forget” that Justitia is blind precisely in order to guarantee her objectivity, integrity and lack of prejudice. Everybody is (or better, have to be) equal before law, national or international equally, or law becomes un-law.

I may be labeled as a blind lawyer, pro-Serbian or an intellectual without sense for Realpolitik but this is my view on the “hypothetical situation”.

In delicate situations it is quite often one to be faced with a false “either-or”  dilemma, or ultimatum to choose between “good” and “evil” side. For instance, the opponents of 1999 NATO intervention were blacklisted as supporters of Milosevic’s regime, or later the same happened with the opposition to the war in Iraq.

The fact that Kosovo state-in-making is an outcome of the use of violence (joined armed operation of KLA and NATO) does not annihilate the fact that there had been gross violation of human rights of Kosovo Albanians inflicted by Milosevic’s regime.

In short, today’s “hypothetical situation” is a by-product of a spiral of violence, which continues even today. One can hardly disregard the legal fact that NATO, which tried to punish Milosevic in its 1999 crusade, remained unpunished for the violations of ius ad bellum as well as ius in bello.

The spiral of illegal acts today involves even the EU, which while doing lip-service to values such as democracy and rule of law, instills itself in Kosovo in a non-legal manner (through “creative” and “flexible” reading of 1244 UN Resolution). To make the irony even bigger, now everything has been turned up side down and with a rather perverse logic the EU is concerned and warns against parallel institutions in Kosovo, forgetting that it was initially pursued for many years by the “Balkan Gandhi”, Ibrahim Rugova.

From the perspective if the EU mission of monitoring the process of state-building in Kosovo, Serbia is seen as a potential aggressor and violators of would-be state borders. Paradoxically, the ones who deem liberalism in international relations naiveté or even folly are jumpy to blame the Serbian government for possible playing hard on its national interests. The only justification of the Western policy towards Kosovo (but not in the case of the Kurds, Chechens, etc.) lies in the argument that Serbia does not deserve to govern the province because its past harsh records and now is the time to be punished (with territorial concessions as well as some important natural resources that happen to be located in Kosovo). Of course, nobody mentions pipe-lines and some other aspects of importance for the US national interests...

If the justification is to be accepted, one immediately comes to the next question: what should have been the price (or punishment) for the war crimes and Holocaust that Germany and its allies were supposed to pay?

How will the USA be punished for the 1,200,000 civilian casualties in Iraq and hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan? Undeniably, Serbia under Milosevic inflicted horrible injustices and committed crimes over Kosovo Albanians (as well as in Croatia and Bosnia).

However, it does not erase another fact: it was under the international rule that the harshest crimes against Kosovo Serbs took place, with over 200 000 refugees and 100 000 still living in so-called enclaves like mice rather than like human beings. As long as these injustices are not corrected the stories about multiethnic Kosovo are going to be just a hollow phrase, quite similar to the false story of the post-Ohrid Macedonia.

The “hypothetical situation” is surely reality, but it’s wise to keep in mind that its true effects are still to be felt. The Pandora box in the Balkans is, unfortunately, not closed but re-opened. The Chinese proverb “may you live in interesting times” rings quite true.

The disoriented Macedonian government is under strong external pressures on three fronts: the name issue, the implementation of the so-called May Agreement (that calls for redefinition of the internal order) and fast recognition of Kosovo - all in return for NATO membership. As for the latest, Macedonia is sandwiched between the internal (Albanian) and international pressure to swiftly recognize Kosovo and the certainty to gain an eternal enemy in Serbia, on which the country is dependent in economic, energy-supply and infrastructures that lead towards European countries.

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The wide opening of the Kosovo market is weak consolation for the possible losses. In addition Macedonia is in a clinch between the “traditional friends” - Serbia and Greece. The latter already trades within the EU over its recognition of Kosovo if in return it gets guarantees that Macedonia is going to change its constitutional name.
In Montenegro the situation is the opposite: as soon as the government recognizes independent Kosovo it will meet a strong opposition from almost a half of its population.

Republika Srpska is probably first on the “waiting list” of entities that long to prove that Kosovo is not the “first and last precedent of this kind”.

Macedonia is enforced to bargain over its name (another exception in the international law), while Serbia is expected to trade with a part of its territory in hope to get European future. While Macedonia awaits the last proposal over the name dispute from the UN envoy, the American Niemitz, and he has already said that he is coming with “an offer that one can’t refuse” (which is a phrase typical for mafia and not diplomatic jargon) there is a strong and disheartening feeling that nothing much has changed since 19th century when a wise man said that the Balkan nations are nothing but a small change in the transactions among the Great powers...



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