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In the International Herald Tribune

Response to Hashim Thaci's
article on Kosovo's independence


 By Aleksandar Mitic and Jan Oberg, TFF 


This is our response to Hashim Thaci's article, My People Deserve Their Independence, in the International Herald Tribune, November 25, 2005. The IHT printed our response on December 4, 2005 - but in a much shortened version. Here is our letter in full.


Lund & Brussels, December 1, 2005

Hashim Thaci, leading Kosovo-Albanian politician, argues (International Herald Tribune, Nov 25, 2005) that "my people" - presumably referring here to the Albanians - deserve their independence. It's one of many pro-independence articles appearing now when talks are to start about the future status of this UN-administered part of Serbia and Montenegro.

Independence is one option and it would be a good solution if a) the arguments for it were more truthful and b) it would not risk further instability and perhaps renewed violence.

Thaci's main argument is that his Albanian people have suffered so much that they deserve independence. But while Milosevic' policies were indeed ruthless and indefensible, Thaci's historical account lacks the vital elements of Albanian nationalism and separatism. His argument of a "just cause" for independence cannot fly if only because of the suffering that the Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo have faced in the last six years.

Another argument is that minorities will be protected in his independent Kosova. But in the 1960s, about 25% of Kosovo's inhabitants were Serbs, now there are a few percent left. About 200.000 found it best to leave after the UN, NATO, the EU and the OSCE arrived in the wake of the bombings in 1999. Thaci was a leading politician at the time too. It was the largest ethnic cleansing, proportionately, in the former Yugoslav wars. In contrast, Serbia has remained de jure and de facto multi-ethnic.

So the "old nationalism" that he accuses Belgrade of today is not exactly eradicated in today's Kosovo. The Albanian side is more rigid in its demands for full independence - they don't want to negotiate about it - than is Belgrade in its attitude to various other options. The idea of war and bombings to form new states endangers international law. Creating new 19th century-like states and borders in the 21st century's borderless Europe appears rather anachronistic. And if Kosovo, why not Taiwan, Tibet, Chechenya, Tamil Eelam, Kashmir? The world has about 200 states and 5,000 ethnic groups. Should we have 4,800 new states?

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He mentions Serbian war criminals, but there are indicted Kosovo-Albanian war criminals too, such as former KLA leader and prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, presently on leave from the Tribunal in the Hague.

Also, the story of why Kosovo's autonomy was taken away is more complex than Mr. Thaci's let the readers know. It had to do with the overall constitutional breakdown and the independence moves by Croatia and Slovenia.

Finally, Mr. Thaci's wants Kosovo to join the EU, be protected by NATO and be demilitarised. The latter is news to most of us and sounds as if it had been written by a media advisory firm. Has the Kosovo-Albanian pride in their military victory - with a little help from NATO - and the wish to get a big army in the independent Kosova suddenly vanished? Will Kosovo finally be de-militarised - which it never was - and can we be sure that the mixture of Albanian politics, clan-ism and mafia economy (and 50-70 per cent unemployment) will work just fine the day they take over and shall share the power over a completely independent Kosovo? And will all the Romas and Serbs be invited back to real peace and equal opportunities?

If so, independence would certainly be both possible and desirable. It's up to the international community to judge whether Mr. Thaci's rosy picture of the past and the future has anything to do with Realpolitik.


Jan Oberg & Aleksandar Mitic

The Transnational Foundation, TFF, Sweden and Brussels, December 1, 2005


See also our Kosovo: Many options but independence  


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