In less than six months, the International community, Belgrade, Prishtina and hopefully Kosovo’s neighbors will start negotiations for the status of Kosovo.
It will undoubtedly become a focal point in the coming months, both as a model how to proceed in such cases and as a possible crisis in escalation due to the negotiations themselves.
This process of negotiations for the status of Kosovo and the implied state building will challenge the new world order undergoing its own formation and definition, since Kosovo’s statehood process is not equiparable with state building in Afghanistan, and even less in the case of Iraq. Quite to the contrary, it is in many aspects even contradictory to the goals we have in Afghanistan and Iraq, the principal one being the elimination of terrorism as a viable tool for achieving political goals, above all statehood.
The closest Kosovo could get to any parallel in the world is the process of status building for Palestine, mainly because of the use of violence and secession. Moreover, even in this case, the intrinsic differences of the specific instances of self-determination through secession do not permit the analogy.
Therefore, located in Europe, Kosovo gains an added “quality” due to this similarity and complexity, which is an additional reason why the International Community and its neighbors must proceed in dealing with it immediately.
Even though a final agreement between the principal players in and around Kosovo is not yet reached whether to insist on the policy of standards before status or not, and furthermore, since no alternative or viable and broadly accepted strategy is not yet in place, the predominant position is that negotiations should start somewhere towards the middle of the year.
This accelerated agenda also owes its predominance to the generalized fear that doing nothing is much worse for the stability of the region and its perspectives, which is the general feeling about the actual lack of progress in Kosovo towards the standards of a viable society and state. It seams that there is no more time and patience for a slow creation of a political environment through achievement of standards and social maturity so that all communities in Kosovo could assume ownership over the process of managing the outcome of the negotiations.
New guidelines must be established that will lead to overall ownership by the various ethnic groups, especially Albanian and Serbian, over the democratic future and standards, whatever the definition of Kosovo’s status, not excluding responsible statehood as an integrated generator of stability in the region. The standards will undoubtedly define the status, if the process is simultaneous.
Simultaneous development of standards such as Democracy, the rule of Law, ethnic and religious equality, inclusion, nondiscrimination of sexes, economic reforms, elimination of the grey (black) economy and combating organized crime, together with the building of a stable platform for economic and political reform, and based on it cooperation with its neighbors, should precede status negotiations.
Nevertheless, once on the right track and with acknowledged progress, status negotiations must also take a simultaneous course with the building of standards. Otherwise, both issues will jeopardize each other, thus strengthening the existing vicious circle and deadlock between standards and status.
Based on such premises, the idea of simultaneity of the processes of building standards and status proposed by the US has a broader acceptance, seems viable and is, at this moment, the only way out of the Kosovo quagmire.
However, before venturing into the negotiations, and even more, before getting involved with the delicate process of implementing and particularly harmonizing whatever agreed, a broader insight and understanding of the complexity of the issue is indispensable.
Although the current crisis can feed and escalate on the negative energy created by the growing misunderstanding among the inheritors of Milosevic and others, Kosovo should not be an addendum to the Serbia and Montenegro agenda. It is a separate problem, and the UN, EU, the US, its neighbors and NATO must be deal with it accordingly.
A consequence of completely different and complex causes, Kosovo, together with Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to an extent Montenegro, is, rather, a delayed chain reaction of the open issues of the Balkan Wars. The tardy process of state building of these three nations is a corollary of the disrupted nation building during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, burdening the region even more after the First World War and the creation of Yugoslavia, first as the Kingdom of The Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and later even worsened it with its socialist version.
The process of self-determination that made Yugoslavia possible as a buffer between the East and West excluded three Balkan nations. It was not an answer to the aspirations for self-determination of all the Balkan nations, and especially for the mentioned three: Macedonian, Albanian and Bosniac.
Created under the auspices of US President Woodrow Wilson on the demarcation line of the two great fallen empires the Ottoman and that of Austria-Hungary, Yugoslavia was a compromise between Serbia’s achievements in the Balkan and First World War and the interests and the balance of powers of its allies from the Antante.
Serbia considered itself as the liberator of its brothers and brethren of the Balkans and had territorial pretensions on all the “liberated” territories of Austria-Hungary. Previously Serbia took as spoils of war and integrated into its sovereignty the territories of Kosovo and Metohia, Sandzak and parts of the territories of Macedonia, after it split it with Greece and Bulgaria.
Thus enlarged and previously united in a personal union of Crowns with Montenegro, Serbia became too big for the taste of many of the leaders of the then forming new Europe. Although a victorious Ally, for many a martyr, Serbia outgrew its role on the Balkans. Consequently, its allies were not prepared to give Serbia outright sovereignty of the “liberated” territories of fallen Austria-Hungary. This would jeopardize the balance of power in the region, but even more the spheres of influence agreed at the Berlin Congress (1878). President Wilson’s proposal to create a new state-Yugoslavia, as an entity of shared sovereignty, saved the day. However, based on recognizing Serbia’s ownership over Kosovo, Metohia, Sandzak and Vardar Macedonia, but excluding Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, only put a temporary lid over the powder keg. It exploded twice since its creation: the Yugoslav civil wars during the Second World War and the recent wars for Yugoslavia’s inheritance.
The causes lie in the disrupted and subsequently never recognized aspirations for self-determination of the Albanian, Bosniac and Macedonian nations, if not altogether trapped in Yugoslavia, never consulted whether they want it and agree with its constitution, both legal and organic.
A collateral influence, nevertheless effective, had the creation of Albania. After a number of attempts for compromise in Rome and the drawing of several maps the Allies finally, in 1925, established the Kingdom of Albania as an additional buffer to growing Serbia, baring it from the Adriatic Sea.
This state practically never functioned as one until the advent of Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship and forced national amalgamation. One of the reasons being its ethnic heterogeneity, due to the fact that the state was not established on the ethnic territory of the Shqiptar nation as a consequence of the allied map drawing in Rome.
The complexity of Allied interests and influence, the necessity to control the growth of Serbia/Yugoslavia and to an extent Greece, gave as a result the current disposition of Albania. The newly created Albania stranded most of the Shqiptar nation outside, while trapping numerous parts of other nations within its boundaries. It did not include Kosovo, the epicenter of the Shqiptar nation where they have absolute predominance, instead it included Northern Epirus with its plurality of nations such as Macedonians, Vlachs, Greeks and Hymariots.
The case of Macedonia is similar. Divided between Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania as a consequence of two Balkan Wars, the First World War, and allied map making, it does not cover the bulk of the Macedonian nation, stranded in the three states as spoils of war and, therefore with denied identity, plus Albania.
Rich with national minorities of its neighbors, together with a vast Turkish and Roma population, Macedonia shares most of the consequences of the Balkan Wars and WWI, aggravated in the 1990’s by the Wars for the Yugoslav inheritance. Although it suffers the collateral influence of Albania, Macedonia nevertheless shares with it, to a larger extent, ethnic atomization, division and heterogeneity. However, it is with Kosovo that Macedonia shares the fate of Nations late comers in their quest for self-determination, independence and statehood.
Simply because they could not disassociate themselves from SFR Yugoslavia as founding nations, as was the case with Slovenia, Croatia and finally Serbia and Montenegro (still formally and legally bound by the Union of Crowns) ultimately forced both Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina together with Kosovo to redefine their right to statehood,.
The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a bloody example of the explosive mixture of the interests and the inconclusive solutions of the WWI Versailles Treaty and map drawing, while the Kosovo conflict and subsequent intervention only corroborate the fore mentioned.
Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a patchwork state, while Macedonia had to legalize and codify its secession from Serbia. Bulgaria recognized this, but not altogether Greece, both partners and rivals in the carving of the Ottoman European province of Macedonia.
While recognizing the state as a entity with which it trades, in which it invests and with which it will ultimately associate in the EU, Athens still insists on the “former Yugoslav” character of the Republic of Macedonia in order to prevent any aspirations over the part of Macedonia given to Greece after the Balkan Wars. This territory was originally under Greek military rule with Yugoslav tutorship since the end of the Balkan Wars and WWI, but unilaterally it was included in Greece as a part of its sovereignty with the adopting of the republican constitution in 1975. A fait-acomplis recognized and accepted by SFRY.
The insistence, therefore, on the “fomer Yugoslav” legal identity of the Republic of Macedonia implies an obligation for Skopje to honor Yugoslavia’s recognition of Greece’s sovereignty over the territories formerly under Greek military rule, and Athens uses all its weight to make sure it stays so.
Macedonia disassociated itself from SFRY and successfully completed its secession from Serbia with the Border Agreement signed in 2000. The border treaty ever since has been an element of discord with Kosovo. It underlined the conflict in 2001, serving not only as a “casus belli” but also as an argument for an overall revision of the borders in the region as a prelude to Kosovo’s independence.
In such a complex context, overlaid with layers of misinterpreted and manipulated history, wrong and conjectural solutions, lack of strategy and harmonized interests, not only among the neighboring nations, but as well among the European partners with interests in the region since the Berlin Congress, negotiations on Kosovo’s status must start. To some it will be a process that will lead to Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, to others it will be a process to prevent that. In both cases, a process contaminated with 19th and 20th Century aspirations and standards.
In the meanwhile, the most important aspect of all Balkan issues will be sidestepped once again. That is how to integrate region with new values that will create new standards and provide new perspectives, without concocting a new and impossible political monstrosity, similar to the unsuccessful Yugoslavia in all its versions.
In that sense, the principal task is how to integrate Kosovo, rather than separating it into a xenophobic entity, isolated in the plenitude of its meaningless independence in the era of globalization and European integration.
It is more than clear that any tinkering with the existing Balkan borders and additional state atomization through secession will be disastrous. It will open a Pandora’s box of the mentioned issues capable to ignite frustrated national feelings.
Any revision of any existing border will immediately demand other revisions. Having in mind that no national state, together with the late comers, has true and just borders, since there is practically no nation on the peninsula that does not have part of its nation on the other side of the border, every state will be open for revision. That, in the case of the Balkans means an unforeseen mess, crises and conflict.
Sharing the causes, and prone to their consequences Macedonia must proactively project its interests in the forthcoming developments in Kosovo, understood as both an issue and problem, respectively.
Macedonia should not, under any circumstances, stay out of the process that will determine the standards along which the Kosovo society will be re-arranged, and furthermore it must undertake an active role in the process of the determination of Kosovo’s status. This attitude does not mean, and should not be construed as involvement in the internal affairs of a neighboring entity, whether a protectorate of the UN or part of Serbia. It is, rather an authentic effort of a neighbor and a member of the UN through the harmonization of the interests of all its neighbors to eliminate this issue that burdens the destiny of the region. If not, the current passivity and inactivity and preoccupation with other virtual priorities will exclude the Republic of Macedonia from the process and, instead of being a champion of the solutions, it will undoubtedly promote it as part of the problem and as part of the solution as well.
There is no doubt, as we saw, that the issues that will originate as consequences of Kosovo’s status will nourish not only on the political energy bound to emanate from the possible disassociation of Serbia and Montenegro, but will gain further and emphasized importance due to their influence on the Republic of Macedonia. Kosovo will be the loop, which will release or tie into deeper bondage the last two unresolved national issues in the Balkans: Albanian and Macedonian. They are not marginal fosterers of the crisis focal point in the Western Balkans and are complementary with its central problem, the Serbian issue that holds Croatia as hostage, and with its European partners and consequently the EU. It is without doubt that a European architecture of stability and prosperity is impossible with a black hole in its midst, namely the Balkans, which drains the energy of the new European order.
Therefore, Macedonia should undertake an active role in the imminent process. If not, it will be faced with the dangers of redefinition along the faults of the Balkan Wars and their treaties the WWI and the Versailles Treaty, this time in the projected interests of Europe for stability and prosperity. Baring this in mind, Macedonia must project itself as a proactive factor offering contemporary, European solutions. It has the experience and capacity to do so.
Before venturing into the possible solutions that Macedonia has to offer and must put on the table of the future Kosovo negotiations, it ought to insist actively on a common position of the EU and the US in the matter. It must convince both of these decisive factors join it in a new and integrative venture and to abandon their old fashioned and conflictive Balkan, and Kosovo agendas. Their agendas have not evolved with the situation nor have the frenetic chain of events in the world and the struggle against terrorism influenced them.
On the other hand, both the US and EU should maintain only one central and vital aspect, paradoxically the only one abandoned after 9/11. Namely, the US and EU must once again establish a strategy and with common efforts implement it to integrate the Balkans into NATO and the European family of democracies and market economy.
The Balkans must not become a polygon for the competition among the conjectural differences between the US and EU, which will evolve with different intensity and detail due to the growing rift over the respective role of both entities. The reason is quite obvious. The Balkans is the osmosis membrane between the Western, Christian Culture and Islam. Under no circumstances should it become the border of their possible clash caused by the penetration of terrorism and our failure to eradicate it through the dismantling of its economic base: organized crime.
Consequently, the Balkans requires a common US-EU strategy and a joint solution shared by the nations that stem their sovereignty in this forsaken part of Europe.
A first step could be the division of roles. Primarily in deference to the political and stability necessities of the region, Europe must assume the protectorates of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, for the duration of negotiations and implementation of status in the case of Kosovo, and the completion of the Dayton Treaty respectively. In both cases, its mandate should be to build European standards founded in the Acqui Communitaire to such a level that can guarantee future ascension of both entities. NATO should undertake the security aspects, but not with a permanent military presence, but through different models of cooperation, training and inclusion in the Alliance in order to establish and consolidate local collective and individual ownership over regional stability and security.
Less energy is spent and there is more profit in the integration of the region in NATO and the EU, rather then keeping it in quarantine and under military occupation. Both the continuous stationing of troops and the maintenance of the protectorates drain security and economic energy, without any foreseeable outcome, and send a wrong message to the forces that contributed to such a lamentable state of affairs. In this respect, remarkable admonishments were the electoral victories of the warmongering parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia.
The Republic of Macedonia must be a persistent instigator of integrative solutions for the region, starting with the establishment of a regional Economic Community, founded on a consolidated common market and a common and cohesive security system. Such a Balkan architecture by definition eliminates all arguments for any and whatsoever further decomposition and down braking of states and creation of new xenophobic and hermetically sealed, autarchic entities incapable of surviving on their own; that will not only be an additional burden to their European neighbors, but a permanent focal point of crises.
In such conditions, the status of Kosovo as an issue and goal must be unequivocally identified with the edification and implementation of European standards, social, political, economic and, based on them, European security and rule of law. They assume, as a new quality, a primary role and are in essence the only and true solution, and definitely the epilogue to the crisis that started with the rupture of International Law and the infliction of the sovereignty of a member of the UN.
Kosovo needs a much superior level of life than the one created at present as an reaction to the retrograde Milosevic regime by a even more retrograde local political structure that tilts heavily on organized crime. By achieving these standards, the international community and its neighbors, particularly Macedonia with its multi-ethnic solutions, can convince Kosovo’s citizens that there are healthier alternatives. Only then can we truly expect that Kosovo’s citizens will eliminate on their own and definitely the separate, isolated and xenophobic Kosovo instigated by organized crime as a collateral benefit for its services during the struggle against the rogue regime of Slobodan Milosevic.
There is no room in an integrated and economically active region for an isolated and stressed out state, founded by organized crime with a population held in medieval conditions under the excuse that “higher national interests demand it”.
The democratic structures and political forces in Kosovo, among its neighbors and elsewhere are sentient of this. They know quite well that the ultimate goal of all of them, Kosovo included, is integration in the EU, which is imminent and consequently derides all 19th century aspects of sovereignty and does not accept any state with a semblance of social and state malfunction. Therefore, the absurdity of the dilemma becomes manifest, whether to go to war and hurdle the region and Europe in a bloodletting without precedence for the establishment of a new state, since Kosovo will surely lose its sovereignty once the region joins the European Union, and borders and sovereignty as 19th century aspirations become part of the past.
Ultimately, the question that any effort to establish such a natural chain of events fails, is how to carry out the tardy Kosovo aspiration to statehood and at the same time prevent a landslide that will definitely sever Kosovo from Europe and fence in it in a permanent quarantine.
The solutions to this Kosovo equation are not that difficult to come across. Their disclosure must underlie Macedonia’s platform, its approach to the debate on the issue of the character of Kosovo’s status and subsequent decision-making.
The solutions in question are successfully implemented in the near vicinity and in the Balkans themselves, and have a true European projection and finale: the Austrian State Agreement and Macedonia’s Framework Agreement.
The Austrian State Agreement is a covenant guaranteed by the Allies, Austria’s neighbors and its citizens. It not only provided the reestablished Austrian Republic with independence after the occupation as a consequence to the Second World War, but also created a political environment that provided development, stability, prosperity and inclusion in the EU.
Furthermore, the State Agreement demonstrated its full force in eradicating Nazism, guaranteeing the stability in Central Europe.
In essence, it is a very simple covenant.
It provides Austria with a constitution, and yet it compels the reestablished Republic to assume ownership over standards that must be unquestionable and permanent.
Austria, its citizens, the Allies and Austria’s neighbors pledged permanent neutrality for the Republic. The Republic will be void of any territorial aspiration toward its neighbors, it will permanently proscribe the use of force and forceful revision of its borders and it will irrevocably assume democracy and guarantee freedom to its citizens within a free market economy under the scrutiny of its citizens, the Allies and its neighbors.
The Ohrid Framework Agreement, a brainchild of the leading Macedonian parties and the International Community, gained notoriety as a solution for the conflict in Macedonia in 2001.
Its main features are the mechanisms that codify and guarantee inclusion and just representation, resulting in a growing ownership over the stability and security of the state by all ethnic communities.
Far from ideal or complete, it serves as a firm buffer that will lead Macedonia to a socio-political milieu capable of producing a thorough and long-term Historic Agreement among its ethnic communities.
The Republic of Macedonia as a neighbor and in the name of the International Community should propose Kosovo a State Agreement that will serve as both a Constitution and a pledge to the responsibility of being an unquestionable factor of stability in the region. Much in the same way Austria assumed a similar responsibility in 1955 with its State Agreement.
The UN, EU, US and NATO must guarantee this Covenant in close cohorts with all of Kosovo’s citizens from all ethnic communities, seconded by Kosovo’s neighbors, Serbia included, and of course Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro.
It must compel Kosovo to derogate any use of force, refute any revision of borders, recognize and respect the integrity of its neighbors. Kosovo’s legal system, whatever its status, must distinctly prohibit and incriminate as treason any use of its territory as a base for spillovers, or worse, as a generator of crises and for the creation of conflicts within its neighbors. The neighbors must, on their side, pledge that they will respect the will of Kosovo’s citizens, its integrity and sovereignty. As underwriters of this, State Agreement Kosovo’s neighbors will guarantee at the same time Kosovo’s inclusion in the integrative processes in the region.
Sustained by a Framework Agreement, similar to the one from Ohrid that ended the conflict in Macedonia in 2001, such a State Agreement could serve both as a pledge to stability and as a constitution.
Kosovo’s Framework Agreement, as well as its State Covenant, will follow of course, the guidelines established by its specific socio-economic environment, nevertheless having one main objective as an utmost and unalienable priority: ownership over Kosovo’s stability and prosperity by all its communities without discrimination through a just and equitable representation that will guarantee the rule of Law and provide stability.
The Framework Agreement for Kosovo in the same spirit of the one from Ohrid will guarantee all Human, Civil, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious rights of all communities, from the smallest to the largest.
As an unalienable part of the State Agreement, in its constitutional aspect, the Framework Agreement must guarantee a precisely set and implement a just representation of all of the communities in all of the functions of Government and in all of the institutions of the political, economic and even in the social sector. It must transfer to all citizens the ownership over the political and economic stability, but most of all over their common and cohesive guarantee of security.
The EU must guarantee this Agreement in its political part, the one pertaining to the constitutional aspects, while NATO must guarantee, in its turn, the part pertaining to stability and security.
The UN must provide the legal umbrella and US the support of the whole project, underwriting it with its continuing role as facilitator.
Kosovo’s neighbors must be co-owners in either aspect, backers of the warranty mutually accepted to integrate, rather than separate and isolate Kosovo. The entity should have a well-trained, multiethnic police structured along the lines of equiparable European standards, but no Armed forces.
The main advantage of this approach lies in the cohesive assumption of responsibility by the UN, US, EU and NATO in close collusion with Kosovo’s neighbors and all of Kosovo’s communities. Thus, Kosovo becomes a joint venture of Democracy with overall involvement of all, but in first place its communities and Serbia.
Instead of a threat, Kosovo can become a challenge of excellence that will be of benefit to the Balkan region and facilitate its integration in the EU and NATO.