New, unreasonable, absurd ideas are needed to prevent diplomatic logic from perpetrating new injustice in Kosovo thereby prolonging the conflict for many years to come
After years of postponements, the international crisis around the Kosovo region in the Balkans will climax in a little less than two months.
According to the intentions of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, 10 December 2007 will be the final date for the negotiations between Serbia and its Southern province, whose Albanian majority have been out of Belgrade’s control from 1999.
International mediator Martti Ahtisaari has published a Plan with a series of recommendations that include independence for Kosovo. But in all likelihood negotiations will keep failing. And then in December the USA will follow the Ahtisaari Plan, but Russia will not, further attracting Serbia in its orbit.
In the meantime the European Unione (EU) will demonstrate its independence from Moscow by following the path indicated by Washington: thus doing nothing to heal one of the Continent’s most difficult conflicts.
Europeans have been developing for 60 years the art of postponing comprehensive solutions thereby creating more problems. In December 1991, the Union recognized the independence of Croatia and Slovenia, intently to stop the war between Zagreb and Belgrade but in practice triggering the long Bosnian conflict.
The Kosovo issue can be traced back to a geopolitical decision taken 130 years ago above the heads of the inhabitants. At the time the Albanians were denied independence by German Chancellor Bismarck. They got it then in 1913 but only on a chunk of Historical Albania. Substantial amounts of ethnic Albanians were stranded in Serbia, Greece and Macedonia.
The common trait of this history is that nobody has never asked the Albanians’ opinion. Even in Kosovo, the “liberation” has come from American bombs, not the local guerrilla. And from 1999, although elections have been held, the province has effectively been in the hands of the UN, following Security Council Resolution 1244.
Serbs haven’t much to celebrate from history either. Conquered by the Ottomans in 1389 despite winning an epic battle just in Kosovo, they achieved international recognition at the mentioned 1878 Conference, but then lost much of male population facing the Austrian Empire in World War I. Nazis,
Croats and Italians literally and figuratively cut them to pieces (not just figuratively) in World War II. Then, after relative prosperity under Tito’s Communism, the Serbs fought wars nearly for the entire ten years of the extraordinarily aggressive nationalist/socialist Presidency of Slobodan Milosevic.
Serbia is today a nation with a most serious image problem, seven years after nonviolent popular revolution sent the Dictator to die in an international jail. Its path towards becoming a modern democracy is still not easy, with nationalists always too close to power, a First Minister killed by the Mafia, and a list of fugitive war criminals.
With a rancorous attitude, Brussels and Washington relentlessly seem to treat the entire Serbian Nation as “guilty”, somehow illogically after making so much effort to inspire the local democrats.
Unfortunately, one point seems to escape most: Serbs are Europeans, as much as the Italians, the Portuguese and the Germans (and the Albanians).
In truth their society developed a Communist dictatoriship; there is still lots of corruption and Mafia near the power centers; some Serbs have committed atrocities, covering themselves in blood for ethnic cleansing, concentration camps and mass killings. Two egregious war criminals (Karadzic and Mladic) are still on the run.
But doesn’t precisely that make the Serbs truly European? Their history has many correspondences with the rest of the Continent’s: Communist Party; Italian fascism; Nazi genocide; and the many European war criminals never brough in front of a court of law.
And it would not be difficult to continue.
More: the EU is the fruit of the epochal paradigm shift of 1951, when France and Germany, Latin Europe and German Europe, renounced war in the European Coal and Steel Community, some 1942 years after the slaughter of the lost legions of Varus in the Teutoburg forest.
The EU is the foremost peacemaking experiment in the History of Humanity, more important because more complex also than those 4,000 completely demilitarized miles between USA and Canada.
But if peace is where the idea of Europe begins, that’s where it may end (or jam, perhaps). And so only an enlargement that would include Serbia, the former adversary, would sanction the Continental “completion” of the EU, exactly because for years Serbia has been the enemy to isolate and to bomb.
(two points for clarity: the enlargement to include Albania is also important but it appears a question of time…from a strategic point of view, it has happened already. And the other “missing pieces” from the Continent (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) are in all but paper members of the Union, having to adhere to almost all of its directives and regulations).
Finally, without Serbia, and indeed if Serbia voluntarily and angrily refused to join the EU in open contrast to the dream of the founders (Spinelli, Monnet, Schuman), the Union would have to waste time and resources on that inner wound ready to spill blood at the first opportunity: bye-bye to further expansion with Turkey, the Ukraine, Morocco and Israel!
Unfortunately, this is the most likely future.
In the Kosovar crisis international diplomacy has shown all its limits, and especially its “Curse of Reason”, with perfectly logical behaviors by all protagonists combining in perfectly illogical, and disastrous collective decisions.
Think of the tragic chain of events that changed the solid European equilibrium before the Sarajevo murder in 1914 to the suicidal years of the First World War; think also of the War of Korea, stopped on July 27, 1953 at the same border where it started on June 25, 1950, minus four million dead.
In Kosovo too, everybody behaves according to logic. For the local Albanians, independence is now a goal they thought they had reached a year ago. For the Serbs in Pristina and Belgrade, keeping Kosovo as a province is the last bastion to defend national dignity, having been divorced by Slovenes, Croats, Bosniacs, Macedonians and Montenegrins.
The larger fish couldn’t disagree more either. The USA have repeteadly declared their intention to recognize the independence of Kosovo, in opposition to Russia, while the EU awaits unanimity and so can only show paralisis.
It is hard to imagine how could any “logical” solution satisfy all the parties. Indeed, every “practical idea” guarantees the perpetration of this or that injustice: an independent Kosovo would be evidence for the Serbs that their interests are of no concern to the USA and the EU: frankly, one put-down too many, and without any strong reason why.
Declaring Kosovo as a province of Serbia would mean in turn the betrayal of years of expectations, and would alienate the Kosovars without eliciting so much as a “thank you” note” from Belgrade or Moscow.
Leaving the status quo would not help the development of a territory that is getting addicted to international aid, and where the way to riches passes through the local Mafia and drug smuggling.
Some new solution is needed for Kosovo: an unreasonable, absurd, impratical idea and for those very reasons logical, reasonable and indeed practical, a lot more than the Cold and Warm Wars (and probably, the dead people) that otherwise await all of us in the future, almost with absolute certainty.
What kind of solutions? Offering independence to a smaller Kosovo, cut out according to pre-1999 ethnic lines plus adjustments, with the territories with Serbian majorities conceded to Serbia? Implementing a customs union of Serbia, Kosovo and Albania that would simplify their EU accession negotiations whilst rendering obsolete the issue of Kosovo independence?
Offering free circulation of people between Serbia and independent Kosovo, with generous aids for Serbs to repatriate? Setting aside independence in favor of a “macualted” federal state? Guaranteeing to Serbia the immediate accession to the EU as soon as the necessary laws are implemented, and in any case not after Croatia and Turkey?
Re-admitting Belgrade to the assembly of nations without the lasting distrust and independently from the situation with the war criminals? Compensating the civil Serbian victims of the 1999 war?
None of those questions may be the answer: indeed, they could be all and only Dreams.
However, what has the Powers’ diplomacy to offer, but Nightmares?