Thursday, February 22, 2007

International intervention: strategies that work

The municipal elections in Albania last sunday (februari 18th) have criticised by "international community". Yet I want at this place to stress the positive aspects. From a fierce confrontation the parties have come to a compromise about how the elections should be organised. Some more pressure may be needed to solve some local problems. But this is how I believe the international community should operate: as a voice of reason that mediates a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

This is a kind of compromise that you cannot impose. It leaves the main initiative with the local community.

Compare this to Bosnia. Since Dayton the international community has constantly hang on the side of the Bosniacs pressuring for more centralisation. Yet in doing so they have produced an intolerant climate that has only lead to more separation between the ethnic groups.

One of the motives to demand centralisation is disfunctional government. Yet most problems are with the Federation. So rather one would expect that folding the RS into the federation will only increase the problems. So it seems that the solution is rather in more autonomy for the Croats in the Federation. If the international community would take this line the pressure will soon stop.

Peacekeeping should concentrate on maintaining a neutral climate and keeping polarising issues away. One such controversial issue is of course centralisation. Another is the genocide complaint against Serbia. I believe in fact finding: the truth helps reconciliation. And I would love this fact finding to be extended to the political domain. But this complaint isn't about fact finding: it is about putting a label on someone. And I cannot see how that can be helpful. The international community should never have allowed this complaint to be filed.

There is considerable international attention to the (lack of) returns to cities like Sreberenica. However, somehow attention to the continuing departure of Croats and Serbs from the Bosniac controlled area is missing. Yet these facts are related. How can you expect Serbs and Croats to be enthousiastic about the return of Bosniacs when they see how their own people are treated by Bosniacs.

Does this mean that Bosnia never would be more centralised. It might be, but as a compromise between local parties - maybe mediated by the international community - just as the compromise in Albania. The compromise a few months ago came close - until the international community allowed Silajdzic to spoil it.

The peace keeping mission in Kosovo has from the first day been overshadowed by the threat of Albanian violence. It worked: allthough the mission was well aware and also sympathic to the problems of the minorities it kept giving priority to Albanian interests. This became even more clear in march 2004: afterwards the general impression was that the Albanians had won. The only punishment was that the Kosovo government was supposed to pay the rebuilding. But there was no tax increase to drive this point home and it was clear that in the end the international would pay the bill.

It could have been otherwise. For example in 2004 the international community could have grabbed power back from the Kosovo government and used it to give the Serbs autonomous municipalities. It could even have asked Serb troops or police in - if only temporarily for Leposavic to release the peacekeepers there for elsewhere in Kosovo.

Similar strategies could have used before. For example by setting ultimatums to the Kosovo government to solving certain problems.

A peace mission needs to keep to stay neutral and to achieve that it needs strategies to use when either side grabs the power.

Peacekeeping is about building the basic blocks of living together - including elementary human rights. Only that basis can you have a real peace proces and reconciliation. In this regards the mission in Kosovo has failed.


Anonymous said...

You continue to display an anti- Albanian bias in everything you write.

Reading about Kosovo in this article I began to wonder if you have read any newspapers the last 8 years.

Serbian autonomous municipalities. The fact is that Serbs in Kosovo make up only 5 % of the population and have majority only in few small cities. It is impossible to give autonomy to a village, as you and some Serbs nationalists suggest.

Invite Serbian army back to Kosovo. You are joking right? I can not believe that someone who knows what Serbian army did in Kosovo wants them back. What should their mission in Kosovo be? Genocide? Another ethnic cleansing? You know that Serbian army is a part of the team helping Karadzic and Mladic to hide. Let me remind you that Kardzic and Mladic (with the indirect support of Dutch soldiers) killed 8 000 innocent people in Srebrenica.

You also try to put all blame on Albanians for everything that happened in Kosovo after 1999 something which is very far from the true. It is clear for everyone: It in Kosovo Serbs interest if Kosovo does not develop. They are sabotaging all democratic processes. 80 % of them voted for Milosevic and Seseljs party.

Your posts contain 40% facts and 60% conspiracies.

Kosovo needs to be a democratic country where everyone have the same rights and noone is positivelly discriminated. Bosnia model can not apply in Kosovo since Serbs in Bosnia consitute almost 40 % while in Kosovo only 5 %.

Since you suggest autonomy for Serbs in Kosov, what about Albanians in Serbia? shhould they get autonomy in Presevo valley?

Wim Roffel said...


Sorry for the confusion with the posting. I upgraded to the new version of Blogger and I am still struggling to get everything work as I want.

You are defending ethnic cleansing here: Serbs constituted 10% of the population before the war.

I don't see any problem giving autonomy to villages. The idea of democracy is giving people control over their life and participation their government. In the present climate in Kosovo most Serbs south of the Ibar (except Strpce) don't have any real participation and they are target of heavy discrimination. So it is not more than logical to adapt administrative organisation so that the Serbs have real rights too. That means autonomous villages.

Giving Serbs their own police because the Albanian police doesn't protect them against thiefs (and even helps the thieves) and doesn't do anyhing to make it safe for them to work on their lands is not positive discrimination - it is applying basic human rights.

I wrote only about asking Serbs back in Leposavic - a Serb majority area far from the Albanian majority area. They might even leave after the turmoil was over. This is not about changing the status - it is about giving a strong signal to the Albanians that ethnic cleansing will be punished and that all options are open to achieve that.

Please remember that immediately after the war the Serbs did participate in the Kosovo parliament. They were well aware that they had lost the war and they tried to be constructive. But they did not manage to get one proposal - no matter how reasonable - accepted. On the contrary: Albanian parlementarians made it a sport to openly and insultingly ignore their Serb collegues. It is for this reason that the Serbs have boycotted the following elections.

If Kosovo wants to engage its Serbs it needs to offer them a future.

As for Presevo:
- The position of the Albanians in Serbia is not as desparate as that of the Serbs in Kosovo so they don't need autonomy as urgently as the Serbs in Kosovo.
- When the situation of the Serbs in Kosovo stabilises you will see more integration - also in the administartive organisation.
- If you have read more of my postings you may be aware that I am in favor of exchanging Presevo against the north tip of Kosovo and Strpce.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the answer but I think it is a very bad idea to begin exchange of territories because this could lead to a completely new Balkan map, something neither me or the international community wants.


Albanians in Serbia do not have it better than Serbs in Kosovo:

Surrounded by army

Albanians municipalities discriminated in Serbian budgets

Serbia is having a economical boom- but no thing is happening in Presevo valley where the unemployment is the highest in whole Serbia

Serbian prime minister and other officials from time to time call all Albanians terroists

The number of Albanian in Belgrade in 1990 was 8 000, today 1 400. The same have happened in other cities.

Anti Albanian graffiti everywhere.

Only one deputy in Serbian parliament (Serbs in Kosovo 20)

Limited freedom of expression (Not allowed to show their flag)

Is this acceptable?

Albanians did not take Serbs seriously? What should they have done? Let them govern the majority? You are talking as if Serbs made 50 % of the population. They make only 5 % of the population but have 16 % of the seats in Kosovo’s parliament. This is positive discrimination.


Wim Roffel said...

Hi Niki,

Please re-read my previous comment - you missed half of it. And the position of the Albanians in South Serbia is definitely better than that of the Serbs in Kosovo.

I think the international community is wrong with their no-borders-changes policy. Changing borders is a very emotional issue and for that reason it should be done only in exceptional circumstances. But when you have to do it - like with the creation of Kosovo - you should do it in a way that respects the opinion of the individual villages and town and that means ethnic borders. This was the way in which the succesful split-up of Czecho-Slovakia was handled.

Serbia's "boom" is in the north, not in the south. Presevo now has the usual fate of areas that are cut off from their main hinterland: stagnation. It will take time for the Presevo economy to reorient on Belgrade instead of Kosovo.

Anti-Albanian graffiti: What do you expect? There are more than 100.000 Kosovo Serbs who have lost much of what they had and live now - often in deep poverty - as refugees in Serbia. If your vision comes true 10,000s more will follow and the climate will become even more anti-Albanian.

Not allowed to show their flag: As long as people bother about that kind of things they don't have real problems.

Kosovo parliament has 120 seats. 10 (that is 8%) are reserved for Serbs and another 10 for the other minorities. The 8% is a little less than the percentage of Serbs before the war. It was introduced because not doing so would reward the Albanians for the ethnic cleansing after the war.

There is room for improvement in the Presevo area. But it will demand a constructive approach from both sides.

Anonymous said...

I think you are ignoring the problems Albanians in South Serbia are having. I have to say once again that Albanians in Serbia are the most discriminated minority in Serbia and the discrimination is encouraged and supported by Serbia’s Prime Minister and Milosevic successor, Kostunica. Presevo Albanians are systematically discriminated in the Serbian budget.

Unlike Serbs in Kosovo, Albanians in Presevo valley are not allowed to show their flag or anything containing red and black colours (It is the same as if Belgium made it illegal to have orange jackets there). When you do not have freedom of expression, then you have nothing. Not allowing Albanian flags is a part of the Serbianization of Albanians there, but I have to disappoint Kostunica and his friends because they are not going to succeed. Romans tried, and failed, Turks tried and failed, Serbs tried and failed and will do it again.

Total impression of your comments: You know a lot but are biased.

I hope you do not have anything against me commenting your posts. If yes let me know it and I will stop.

Kindly regards

Wim Roffel said...

Hi Niki,

I have this blog to encourage discussion. So you are welcome to give your opinion.

Half the Serbs from Kosovo have fled. Many of the remaining are afraid to work on their lands. Many with a job have been fired or forced out with threats (for example at the power plant. The Albanians in Presevo don't have any of these problems.

The Serb government could do some more things for the region. But in the capitalist era that means mainly a few new roads and some new buidings for schools and municipalities. Real new employment has to come from investment by businesses. But who wants to invest in a region that not long ago saw bombings and shootings? Kosovo is still too poor and many of Serbia's companies will not be enthousiastic about investing in another Albanian area after they have been disowned without compensation in Kosovo.

Their only problem is that they still have the communist mindset that the government should give them more money.

The flag is forbidden because it is seen as a nationalist symbol for "ethnic Albania" (usually translated as Great-Albania). It is controversial, but there are many countries in the world that forbid things that threaten the unity of the state.

It is nonsense to see the forbidding of the flag as an effort to assimilate the Albanians. If they really wanted to do that they would need very draconic measures like closing the border with Kosovo and forbidding the Albanian language. That kind of policy is impossible in modern day Europe and even if they did it they would nearly certainly fail - the circumstances are not suitable.


Anonymous said...

Kosovo Serbs in Belgrade:;_ylu=X3oDMTBjZmpxdmw3BHBvcwM3BHNlYwNzcg--/SIG=13549m3el/EXP=1172686941/**http%3a//

What do you think this symbolize?


Wim Roffel said...


The picture your linked showed a Serb woman kissing a picture of Mladic. Reminds me of all those reports of solidarity demonstrations for Albanian war criminals (both suspected and convicted).

Yet I am not too worried about this. In every population you have a small percentage of psychopaths, who don't care about how other people feel. And in times of ethnic struggle they become nationalists who don't care about how the other side feels. What is more dangerous are the normal people who support them because they feel that that is in their interest.

I believe that you solve a problem by formulating a reasonable solution for both parties. That will give those normal people an alternative to believe in.

Unfortunately nowadays the international community is obsessed with "principles", while they have forgotten about reasonable solutions. It started in 1990 when they gave Croatia the free hand to treat its Serb minority as bad as they wanted under the pretext of "territorial integrity" and until now it is going on. It is this attitude that has made the Balkan problems "unsolvable". Not only creates it a losing party that wants to get even, it also gives the winners the impression that they can get more than their reasonable share. And so both sides are motivated to support radicals.

Reason for me to keep campaigning for a reasonable solution.

Best regards,