Kosovo: For a mutually acceptable solution

The modern age of complex multilateral diplomacy requires accountability in national policy, with persistence, responsibility, systematic work and self-confidence. Consensus about Kosovo in Serbia has been reached through the formula “more than autonomy, less than independence”, inaugurated by Mr. Boris Tadić, as the main pillar of common state strategy. The second important factor of a commonly acceptable solution for the Kosovo problem, for both Serbs and Albanians, is wide-scope decentralization, primarily to additionally protect the severely endangered Serbian community. In that respect, forming power-sharing entities in Kosovo is an option that should not be excluded. .

 

During 2005 the balance of power within the state territory of Serbia and Montenegro has somewhat changed in favour of Serbia which became the pillar of stability and reliable cooperation with the international community. Kosovo, under international administration since June 1999, is, despite many efforts of containment, still considered to be the dark zone of renewed bloody conflicts among the local, and now only Albanian, political elite. In parallel, Kosovo, now dominated by the Albanians, remains as the main European hub of illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and human beings. However, whatever is bad for Kosovo is bad for the whole of Serbia as well. Kosovo and the rest of Serbia are connected by tight links in many areas, despite the great differences in mentalities, continual inter-ethnic conflicts and adverse political aspirations. It is also the area claimed by both Serbs and Albanians. This reality should be considered as a starting point in defining the strategy about the future of Kosovo province. It is Serbia’s obligation to provide the long-term protection, regardless of seemingly unsolvable conflicts, of the interests of its citizens in the Province of Kosovo - Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic minorities.

Belgrade has already made one very constructive step formed by the formula “more than autonomy, less than independence”, as the scope for the finding of a new pattern for Serbs' and Albanians’ cohabitation that will redefine relations between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia. Nevertheless, the independence of Kosovo in any form (delayed, controlled, conditional, partial etc.), is absolutely unacceptable for Serbia. The reason lies, not as much as in endangering long-term vital interests of Serbia, but in the fact that Serbia with Montenegro, as a responsible member of the international community, cannot accept dangerous precedents with far-reaching consequences for both the region and the European continent.

The first reason against the independence of Kosovo is the regional domino-effect, containable in short term, but unavoidable in long term, and the one we all in this part of the Balkans fear with reason. The second reason is changing internationally accepted frontiers in Europe, within the state which is neither established like USSR or SFRY, nor is the result of direct historic compromise as in Czechoslovakia. The independence of Kosovo would not only be the violation of the UN Charter, universal international order and the final Helsinki Act from 1975, but a dangerous precedent which would encourage all other aggressive separatist movements in both Europe and Eurasia. Except Albania, no Balkan country supports the independence of Kosovo. On the contrary, there is, in unison, concern among our neighbours that any kind of independence for Kosovo would, in the long term, disturb the stability and European future of the Western Balkans. The international community is familiar with this problem, although it is, due to other current priorities, not aware of its dangerous elements or the series of consecutive and long-term consequences for the region. In Kosovo and Metohija, in spite of the significant efforts of UNMIK and KFOR, there are still ongoing processes of continuous ethnic discrimination of the kind we considered defeated six decades ago.

Adopting a model of anachronous ethnic separation, offered in Kosovo (which was unanimously rejected in Bosnia and Croatia) means, in practice, establishing another Albanian state in Europe. There is no separate Kosovo nation with its own identity. There are only Albanians and Serbs who adversely interpret the past, understand the present and foresee the future. To have their positions reconciled on this issue, Belgrade and Priština need to reach a comprehensive agreement about a mutually acceptable solution.

The Contact Group and the main representatives of the international community recognize that Serbia, which is expected to be flexible and ready for compromise, was the first to make a very important and constructive step by taking an active role in searching for a solution. The concept formed by the flexible formula “less than independence, more than autonomy” is a democratic recipe in accordance with European tradition and various options. Those options vary from one type of gradual autonomy in Spain, entity reorganization in Bosnia and Herzegovina, solutions like South Tyrol in Italy to the most recent solutions from the Ohrid Agreement in Macedonia which was partly made by the European Union. For example, there is a regulation in Ohrid Agreement that allows the right of veto for the smaller community in every affair which concerns its actions. The European Union considers this Agreement as its great success.

 

With its proposals, Serbia has already demonstrated considerable flexibility and shown that it does not want, like Milosevic, to take full control over Kosovo but to regulate a mutually acceptable level of autonomy of two dominant national communities by reaching an agreement on power-sharing with them. Now the Kosovo Albanians, whom Belgrade expects to be moderate and responsible, should make the necessary concessions in order to make space for mutually acceptable political compromise. If there is no such willingness at the moment, the international community should encourage the Kosovo Albanian elite from the transitional institutions in the Province to make the necessary steps in this direction.

There is no black and white solution for this centuries-long ethnic conflict, only different shades of gray. There must not be a defeated or conquered side in Kosovo and Metohija.

 

The Government of Serbia is working with the Presidency of the Republic and cooperating with the Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohija in forming a project of comprehensive decentralization with institutional guarantees for broad autonomy of the Serbian community. There are already prepared projects and working papers on the state strategy. The decentralization is a pattern of internal organizing which includes the protection of essential and fundamental European values. Those are the following rights: the right to have one’s own culture, language, religion, health system, education, pension system, local police and courts of original jurisdiction. It is only logical to establish such autonomous units on the base of language majority of one or the other nation. This means establishment of larger Serbian municipalities than the present-day small, isolated and ethnically discriminated population living in KFOR-protected enclaves. As these municipalities become larger, they could further unite and better represent their interests before the province’s government. This is the logic of power-sharing.

Comprehensive documents are under preparation in Belgrade about the number of internally displaced (roughly 246,000 in six years), missing (1,300) and killed persons (1,300) among Kosovo's Serb citizens, burned houses and churches, illegally seized apartments and private properties and illegally privatized state-owned companies. This will provide documented arguments in impending negotiations, first of all in approaching the evaluation of standards' fulfillment. This evaluation should not be a formality and the United Nations has the responsibility to do it responsibly and conscientiously with obligated insights from the field and from all interested communities.

What seems to be very important in the given circumstances is the need to stop the rush in illegal privatization of state firms and companies as well as the illegal taking of private property. If there are no urgent actions to stop this, the only remaining means is to complain to The European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg against those who usurped or illegally sold the property of our state.

 

It is important that Serbia and not only Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija demonstrate its vital interest in participating in the economy of the province. As a reminder, at least 70 percent of the mineral wealth of Serbia is in Kosovo and it invested greatly in its development during several decades. If some countries wage wars over oil resources thousand miles away, why would Serbia just give up significant resources which have always been a vital part of its system? This would provide a sustainable economic base for the Serbian community in Kosovo and tighter connections to Belgrade than those that the autonomous Albanian community would enjoy in the areas of their majority. Power-sharing is, therefore, the only viable solution.

What we should constantly insist on is a mutually agreed and acceptable solution between Belgrade and Priština with the international community as a future guarantee as well as a useful mediator. No solution could be sustainable if it was not agreed by the sides in dispute. The European future of the region imposes the need for compromise, agreement and responsible application of mutually accepted solutions.

Albanian lobbyists persist in pushing the old idea – financially compensate Serbia for Kosovo – and they, although not being aware of it, practically admit that Kosovo is not theirs. If one wants to buy something, one admits it is someone else’s. However it is necessary to come out of rough conditioning, which is not Serbia’s policy. It is the policy of Albanian extremists who openly threaten the international administration and its peace forces in the province if their maximal demands are not met. Threatening with some type of Albanian intifada is the pressure to which international community must not surrender because it would be another dangerous precedent in the international order.

Independence of Kosovo means dividing Serbia. I agree with the statements that Kosovo cannot be divided, because Serbia cannot be divided either. It is the minimal standpoint for us: no partition of Serbia. Any other solution would lead to the new cycle of conflicts and the renewing of endless spiral of violence in the region. Recently the Albanian lobbyists offered to compensate Serbia with small portion of territory in the Serbian-inhabited north of the province in exchange for the recognition of the independence of the rest of Kosovo by Belgrade. This also demonstrates their weakened position in negotiations and their awareness of the fact that their plan for unconditional independence is becoming more and more difficult to realize. Actually these plans are much further from being realistic now than they were until recently.

 

Serbia must show to its partners in the international community that it is an old European country with a nation who, despite tragic mistakes in recent past, now has a chance to use its geo-strategic position (the famous “house on the road”) as a bridge for regional cooperation and complete prosperity of Balkans. Our old historic fault became our comparative advantage in the age of globalization. We are in the center of the region which connects Central Europe to the Near East, Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean and are a crossroad of roads, railways and rivers, oil and gas pipelines. This makes the issue of Kosovo, although threateningly explosive, only a part of wider geopolitical mosaic.

 

Therefore the following fact should be distinct: 1,700,000 Albanians cannot be satisfied for their particular interests and ideological demands of a nineteenth century type nationalism and permanently frustrate and antagonize eight million Serbs who are rightfully considered, in long-term, as the key factor for the stability of the Western Balkans. Imposing the solution by one-sided pressure is the lowest form of realpolitik which would be a sign of the absence of long term vision and understanding of the complexity of the Kosovo problem. An imposed solution does not guarantee that this region will be a stable part of Europe with a predictable future and part of the system which is, in a political sense, considered as Europe.

 

Serbia and Montenegro is one of the founders of the UN and it is very important to keep solving the Kosovo issue within this organization. Without it, Serbia and Montenegro cannot accept any other solution. The USA is a very important factor in deciding the future status of Kosovo, first of all because of the global security challenges and growing terrorist threats to the region. Serbia and Montenegro wants to be a partner with the main players in the international community in order to provide a long-term compromise on Kosovo. The USA and EU, together with Russia are actively involved in this process through the UN and Contact Group. A European perspective is an important incentive which should help in the long term, but the process was started in the UN and it is only logical to search for a solution within it. Then it should be additionally supplemented by a beneficial European perspective which is very important for the future stability, peace, cooperation and joint advance of the whole region towards Euro-Atlantic integrations.