Monday, December 12, 2005

Is it really better if Kosovo is not united with Albania?

Up until the 1999 war many Kosovo Albanians saw unification with Albania as the ultimate goal. In the time of Tito the propaganda from communist Albania was quite strong in Kosovo and it promissed a golden future.

Then came the war and many Kosovars landed as refugees in Albania. It was a sobering experience that undid much of Enver Hoxha's propaganda. The Kosovars found Albania poor and chaotic (it was only 2 years after the pyramid riots). And the Albanians found the Kosovars ungrateful and a bit arrogant. The disappointment is reflected in opinion polls, such as a recent poll that showed that only 8% of Kosovo's citizens supports unification.

Western leaders - with their fear of a great Albania - see this as a positive sign and want to fix the situation in a Kosovo treaty. I think that this fear is more destabilising than the possibility of a greater Albania itself. Even if all Albanians were united in one state it would be only 6 million people - less than in Serbia or Greece.

But a public opinion is volatile. In 10 years the Kosovars may think very differently. I see good reasons to expect that in 10 years Albania will be richer than Kosovo and that might very well change Kosovo's public opinion in favor of a union:
- A look at the map learns that Albania borders Greece and Italy while Kosovo is surrounded by poor contries. So Kosovo will have to try harder just to achieve the same result.
- Everyone who regularly visits Albania knows that the country is modernising fast. In contrast to this the Kosovar leaders are used to blame all Kosovo's problems on outsiders, in the past the Serbs - now the internationals.
- Albania's citizens are better educated. The decade of home education in Kosovo under Milosevic has left a whole generation undereducated.
- Kosovo's bad treatment of its minorities may very well continue after independence - leading to international sanctions. It will also negatively cloud its relations with its neighbours - resulting in bad commercial relations.
- The territories have been united in the past: both in the Ottoman empire and during World War II.
- I estimate that at least a quarter of Kosovo's population descends from people who immigrated into Kosovo during World War II. You can't expect those people to feel very much attached to a seperate Kosovar identity.

If Kosovo's citizens at some time really want to unite with Albania there is nothing that will stop them. If the international community tries to stop them it may very well have a destabilising effect on the region.

The thinking seems to be that if their is no unification there will be no trouble in Macedonia. I think this is naive. Once Kosovo becomes independent you can expect trouble in Macedonia.

The international community tends to work with very rude guidelines in the Balkan: it's favorite of the moment is "no borders should be changed". Unfortunately you can't guide a region through a a turbulent period with such abstractions. Instead you need to look at the details of what both parties want and believe and what seems fair. "No borders changed" is miles from what the local people believe to be fair.

I am fully aware that a unification has some disadvantages too. My point is that the international community should not set this kind of restrictions unless it has very good arguments and it is sure that it can enforce them. Otherwise we are only creating camera opportunities for some rogue local politicians.

6 comments:

arianit said...

Although there are many assumptions in your commentary and assuming that they all come together at the right time, you'd still have Albanians from Albania voting on an unification.
As you may now, the North-South (Gegë-Toskë) dynamics there is pretty strong and two million Ghegs (K-Albanians) added to a population of three million would cause a major upheavel in the new country. For one, all the current politicians in Tirana would not be in power anymore. And we would have to make Rugova the King of Anschluss of Illyrian Lands of Dardhania and Albanoi :). Sam Vaknin, a Macedonian, has a good article in English disproving the "Great Albania" idea, with which Albanians have had the least to do with it.

But who gives a damn anyways. If Albanians can communicate and travel across borders and have standard Europeans rights (think EU), we have our united Albania. Same story with Serbs (plus the shame of the wars). Bruxelles is the future, my friend. We'll be meeting you there, although I'm not sure if you personally will like it. :)

Historically, the approach in uniting ethnic lands with the motherland for Albanians has been diametrically opposite to that of other Balkan countries. While the Serb movement for Great Serbia can be attributed to a specific person (Ilija Grasanin) and policies in Belgrade which orginated from the center out (except maybe Vojvodina Serbs, which were the highest educated, most well to do Serbs at the time), for Albanians it was always Kosovars trying to join the trunk rather than something beeing cooked in Tirana, which was weak and unstable most of the time anyways.

I always find amusing why an internet programer from Holland is so interested in Balkan politics. So, I would like to recommend a great book to you on the issue, "The Balkans" by Misha Glenny. It will put everything in perspective. Get back to me (@Kosovareport) with your opinions when your're done.

Peace out!

Wim Roffel said...

The north-south dynamics might also work in favor of unification. For example Berisha - a northener - might see it as a tool to strengthen his position.

Also you should consider the dynamics of nationalism. If some populist would win the Kosovo elections with an agenda of unification it would be quite difficult for a politician in Albania to resist that without being labeled as un-patriotic.

It is nearly always so that the outside communities have more interest in unification as the "mother country". That is not different with Serbia. Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo are much more concerned about unification as the Serbs in Serbia. Not very surprising in a region with a lot of discrimination between nationalities.

arianit said...

And what about the Tosk? How would they react to 2 million more Gheg on Berisha's side? What if Kosovars chose not to go with Berisha at all but with their own man?

Yes, there certainly is a desire among people from the outlying areas to be united, but what difference can they make. Can they arm and feed themsleves to make a decent fight without motherland's help? Do you seriously believe Bosnian Serbs would be able to fight without electricity, fuel, food, and armaments from Serbia? How do you explain Bosnian Serbs having a 50:1 tank advantage to Bosniaks?

If you go back to when Nacertania and Megali Idea (Greek program, although it didn't make any claim in uniting Greeks but rather justifying the right of Greeks to rule others=colonialism of yore) were constructed, national identity (even for Serbs) was very weak and only apparent among the trading middle classes of Vojvodina. Those in Bosnia and Krajina were a bunch of poor rednecks that worked their land and were happier than God with their identity, as long as Ottoman tax collectors left them alone. With Nacertanije, however, situation changed as Grasanin clearly defined expansion of Serbia towards Bosnia and every government in Belgrade until 1912 worked towards it. Expension towards Bosnia was seen more likely becuase at the time Austria-Hungary didn't lay claim to the area but rather to Vojvodina (whose request for unification with Serbia Grasanin rejected outright for fear of angering Austria). Only 50 years later did Grasanin's secret agents work started coming into fruitition. And of course Archduke's assassination was the cream of it all until Milosevic reset the clock.

Wim Roffel said...

I can't foretell the future. Given Albanian minorities in Macedonia, Montenegro and the Presevo a lot can happen that arouses nationalist passions.

Look at the German reunion in 1989. When nationalist feelings are involved people don't worry about the costs or petty things like Tosk-Gheg differences.

Did you ever study the German and Italian unifications in the period 1860-1870? Those countries had been divided for ages and suddenly the nationalist spirit got hold of them and they united.

In the Ottoman empire the Albanians were the local rulers in their region. So it is logical that they didn't fight for independence like the Serbs or the Greek. They were not better - there was just nothing to win for them.

And what's wrong with Serbs from Serbia helping the Serbs in the Krajna? It is the natural thing to do. The Albanians from Albania helped Kosovo's Albanians too. You can only blame them for waging a dirty war.

Bill said...

I don't know where you get you numbers of post-war migration to Kosovo. I know Albanian migration was minimal(my family was part of it), probably a few thousands. Even if you add to this the new Serbian settlements and the strong presence of government/military network, still numbers could not add to a quarter of the population. I have to conclude that you are not familiar with the topic, but have borrowed the information from Serbian propaganda sources.

Jim said...

This is one of the stupiest things i have ever read in the internet...You say that most albanians of Kosova,have emigrated in kosova during the last world war..thats a bullshit!!!..How did u get that information!!!??? did u get it from serbian bullshit propaganda!?..Or are u making serbian propaganda yourself!?..Albanians have been in Kosova for millenia.centuries before serbian slavs came from siberia,and stole albanian land.albanians are the oldest people of European continent..Also u say that a ''Poll'' about unification shows that only 8% of albanians in kosova are in favor of unification with Albania..That is also a big lie..becouse a recent real Poll,shows that 86% of albanians of Kosova are in favor of unification with Albania,and thats natural,becouse Albania and Kosova are one...Great powers divided albanian territories in 5 states in 1913,and that was the bigest unjistice donne to a nation...Today its justice day.and yes its time for Kosova to be part of Albania were it belongs...Albanians of Kosova wants it..Albanians from Albania wants it..and it will happen very soon...Greetings from Tirana,the capital of ILLYRIA