Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Centrifugal Europe: example Brtitain

I have previously posted about how the prospect of EU membership was an important factor in the success of the secession movements in the different republics in fromer Yugoslavia. Today an article from the United Kingdom about nationalism there.

In 1999 London gave Scotland and Wales a great deal of autonomy, believing that that would stop nationalism there. It hasn't. Nationalism is as high as ever. And what is new: the English are getting nationalist too. 51% of the Scottish favor independence now, but from the English 59% favor Scottish independence.

One more illustration that "feeding the beast" is not the solution to solve nationalism. It only makes it stronger. Instead one should primarily work on a central state where everyone feels equal. And if one carefully listens the supporters of the nationalist parties have some specific demands (like keeping more money in the province) that can be solved. More power for the regional parliament usually doesn't bother them: it is more a hobby of the nationalist politicians themselves, not their supporters.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Integration and equality

Until not so long ago the "multi-cultural" society was in fashion. But nowadays the pendulum has swung the other way and it is in fashion to talk about integration.

The most famous example of integration is probably the American "melting pot". Its succes is based several factors: It begins that people expect that they will have to integrate some the when the move to the USA. They may spend their lives in mono-ethnic communities, like the Chinatowns, but the expectation is still there for the next generation. It helps also that people in the US are highly mobile, so many people will move at some time in their lives to areas where their ethnic group is rare, so that they have to integrate.

It is also interesting to notice the limits of the integration: blacks don't integrate very well. This has to do with discrimination. Not the official kind of discrimination: there were laws that discriminated the Chinese too at some point, yet it didn't hamper their integration. The real difference is that the discrimination of the blacks is rests on stereotypes that nearly everyone shares to some degree.

The US is not the only country that integrated its minorities well. France is another example. They did it by suppressing local languages, like that Breton and German. Yet it worked: for example the Alsace has within a few generations been converted from German speaking to French speaking and there is hardly a complaint. The secret: a sense of equality. One of the ways to achieve this is an educational system that is based on achievement. Everyone who manages to qualify for one of the "grand ├ęcoles" is nearly certain of a nice carreer.

France is not the only country that has integrated minorities well. Another example is Greece, that has been quite successful in integrating its Vlach, Slavic and Albanian minorities. Many of those people now feel primarily Greek. Iran is another country that until now has been quite successful, but it is still in an early stage of integration and things may yet go wrong.

On the other hand you have for example Turkey that never has been able to give its Kurds the impression that are equal. I consider it more or less inivitable that some day they will have to give up on Kurdistan and give it independence. England had a similar experience with Ireland a century ago. They mostly succeeded in imposing their language, but they failed on creating equality.

Kosovo and integration
That brings me back to Kosovo and the position of the Serbs there. Serbs are demanding autonomy, while Albanians are refusing it in the name of "integration".

To quote some fragments from a recent article:

"We never have said that we don't support decentralisation. But we have been reserved and we still are, especially regarding the creation of mono-ethnic municipalities … We want to integrate the communities, and the creation of mono-ethnic municipalities is in opposition to this,"
...
"The process might have its difficulties. I don't know how it is functional for a village located 1km from the centre to be part of another municipality that is, for example, 20km away,"


As I tried to prove above, the crucial part of integration is equality. Separate living or municipalities are not important. The US had its China towns and its Little Italy's but it never doubted that they would integrate one day. Similarly, seperate municipalities will not stop Serbs from Lipljan or Gracanica to integrate.

On the other hand, the ongoing discrimination will hinder integration. So the top priority of Kosovo's government should be to stop that discrimination. A very important aspect of that discrimination is the lack of safety, that - among others - makes it impossible for Serbs to work their lands. The best way to achieve this is to give the Serbs responsibility for their own safety (= police).

One shouldn't expect wonders of course: integration is slow process that takes generations. But one can expect that once the Serbs feel really safe enough to go back to the cities (meaning that not only they will not beaten up, but also that they can rent a house without having burglaries every month) it will speed up.

The above does not apply to the land north of the Ibar. The vicinity to the Serbia will make that the Serbs there feel less need to integrate with the Albanians south of the Ibar. But one should wonder if one should try. Respecting the present ethnic border is the easiest thing to do. And it would invite Serbia to do the same in Presevo.

On final note on the language. I consider it only logical that Kosovo's Serbs will learn the Albanian language at school. Unfortunately the gap between the Gheg and Tosk dialects is an obstacle. The present situation - where Gheg is the spoken language and Tosk the official language - makes it very difficult to teach Albanian to the Serbs. If you teach them the official language they will not be able to use it on the streets and as a consequnece they will find it difficult to remember. But if you teach them Gheg they will still be isolated from the official world.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The ICG and the Serb constitution

After the dissolution of the union with Montenegro Serbia inherited the old Yugoslav constitution and so it was a one country federation. So it needed a new constitution that abolished that superfluous layer of goverment. This offered also the opportunity to update the constitution a bit. But as fits constitutions this update was not meant to be controversial - as was shown by its 96% approval rate.

One might qualify the statement that Kosovo is an essential part of Serbia as controversial. But the writers of the constitution had little choice here. Any softness here would have been interpreted as that Serbia has given up on Kosovo and that would have weakened its negotiation position in Vienna.

Yet the International Crisis Group (ICG) and the NGOs that it funds still found it necessary to attack the constitution from all fronts. I have not the impression that this criticism was meant to achieve improvements. Instead the goal of the attacks seems to demonize Serbia. They show much resemblance with an old election tactic: if you throw enough dirt at someone some of it will stick. If you want to read the dirt the ICG is throwing please read here on James Lyon's blog. Allthough some of his minor criticism is valid, the great majority of it consist of putting things out of context.

After the referendum (end october) the ICG continued its offensive with a report "Serbia’s New Constitution: Democracy Going Backwards". As this is a bit late to correct things this can only be classified as destructive criticism: sowing dissent and arousing hatred.

It is not clear what the aim is of this propaganda. Maybe some people at the ICG fear for their jobs now that the organisation is becoming superfluous in Europe?
But I do believe that mr. Soros should do some serious thinking about what he is doing with his money. His stated aim is to promote democracy in the former communist countries, but the organisations that he supports - like the ICG - seem bent on creating havoc instead nowadays.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Scenario's for the future of Kosovo

IWPR has an interesting article by Tim Judah in which he sketches the most probable future of Kosovo.

The scenario is as follows:
- the UN will assign Kosovo some status, but will avoid the word "independent" that would draw vetoes. It will get an international mission that is patterned on that in Bosnia.
- Kosovo's parliament will declare itself independent and some countries will recognize it.
- Kosovo's Serbs will de facto secede.
- Kosovo will end up looking a lot like Bosnia with an international mission trying to weld together two units that don't want to.

I think this is a very probable scenario.

In a Reuters article today the probable recommendations of Ahtisaari about Kosovo's future were summarised as follows "Kosovo get[s] the right to join world bodies normally reserved for sovereign countries. States would be able to recognise it and it could apply for a UN seat.". It differs a bit from Judah's prediction but the outcome is the same.

I just wonder how long the international community will continue with their fruitless efforts. Both Bosnia and Kosovo give the idea of "nation building" a bad name. Sure, you can have several nationalities live together in one state. But only when that state is prepared to treat them as equals...

How Milosevic intervened in Bosnia and Croatia

B92 has recently aired a documentary "The Unit". It tells the story of how Milosevic intervened in Bosnia and Croatia.

It began after the Plitvice Lake incident at the end of march 1991. Here for the first time the Croats for the first time enployed their army against the Krajna Serbs. The battle itself was unconcluded but it was clear that the Krajna Serbs were in the long term not able to resist the Croat army.

So Milosevic - who until then only verbally had supported the Krajna - now felt the need to give some kind of them military support. He had also more opportunistic reasons to do so: on march 9 1991 there had been protests and riots in Belgrade led by Draskovic. Supporting the Krajna was a nice diversion of the attention. The result was the MUP Special Operations Unit (JSO), a.k.a. the Red Berets - the subject of this 3 part tv documentary. The Tigers and the Scorpions were subunits of the Reb Barets.

This unit - that included Franko Simatovi─ç-Frenki and Arkan - operated in rather small units of 40-60 soldiers. Their strategy was to go to a place, wreak chaos and train local militia to take it over.

The whole unit was never bigger as 3000 men. The soldiers were on short time contracts - so people who developped some conscience could easily be sent home.

I expect the people at ICTY to watch the documentary with mixed feelings. On the one hand it shows that Milosevic indeed had an active role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. On the other hand there is not a trace of "Great Serbia".