Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The colony Kosovo

The Polish/Swedish journalist Maciej Zaremba has written a critical series of articles about the situation in Kosovo (links to the English versions are at the top of the page). It is mostly a critical account of how the UN rule works and how it generates corruption. Zaremba sees the structure of the mission as the main problem.

Part 1: report from UNMIKistan, land of the future contains an interview with Albin Kurti and a story about corruption at the airport.

Part 2: The UN state and the seven robbers starts with the case of Jo Trutschler, a German swindler who managed to become senior manager at the electricity company KEK (his fraudulent CV was never checked), tells how many UN employees - specially "consultants" - become employed through "connections". It follows with another airport story and the mobile phone contract.

Part 3: Complain in Azerbaijan is about the "legal immunity" of the mission with several examples.

Part 4: Prowess, courage and plastic socks starts with the story how Swedish soldiers in march 2004 in a day long battle saved Gracanica from being burnt. It continues describing how some other militairy missions did much worse and it ends with the international police.

In two final articles present UN governor Joachim Rücker gives his reaction to the articles ("article is very unbalanced") and Zaremba's reaction.

It makes you wonder whether it wouldn't have been better when the UN had followed resolution 1244 to the letter. It stipulated that after a short UN reign there should come an interim government (that respected Yugoslavia's territorial integrity - so it would probably look something like before 1989 with the Albanians in charge and the peacekeepers as a kind of mediator). After that negotiations should be started for a definitive status. Obviously international government is not the success that we hoped.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A house for everyone

The recent Martic verdict of the ICTY was for me a reason to look again into what happened in the Krajna.

I find it very worrying that Croatia could cleanse most of its Serb community and get away with it. Many internationals like to say that these Serbs somehow deserved it. But I don't buy that. Each ruler is responsible for his own territory and is obliged to make sure that it is not ethnically cleansed. Once you start accepting excuses you open the gate for everyone to find his own excuse. Besides, there are enough indications that Croatia under Tudjman had a policy of actively "encouraging" Serbs to emigrate both by robbing them of their jobs and by symbolism that was designed to bring the horrors of World War II in memory.

I think it is no coincidence that the ethnic cleansings in Kosovo of Serbs and Albanians after march 1999 had much similarity with that in the Krajna in 1995. The unconcern of the international community towards Kosovo's Serb refugees and towards the prospect of more refugees if the Ahtisaari proposal is accepted seem related too.

I think that the problem is rooted in the fact that the international community has only one set of concepts to deal with in this kind of situations: "ethnic cleansing" and "right of return". But in view of the situation in Bosnia those concepts have lost their power. Bosnia has hundreds of thousands of refugees who live now somewhere else where they have settled and from where they don't intend to return to their original place. This gives the concept of the right of return an air of arbitrariness. In practice it means often only that you can ask some money for the house that you left behind.

What I am missing in the international vocabulary is the concept of fairness. If area A sends 500,000 refugees to area B and area B sends 500,000 others to area A there is at least a balance. Such a balance can be found to a certain extent in Bosnia. But in Kosovo and Croatia the cleansing is nowadays completely onesided.

This is not just an academic discussion. Nobody will be enthousiastic about cleansing if he knows that there is to be a balance - because it implies that his own people will be involved too. However, when he cleansing is onesided it becomes profitable.

As a consequence I believe that it would be good international policy to promote fairness in international conflicts. In Bosnia such a policy was present and in the end we got a territorial division that somewhat reflects the size of the ethnic groups. But I believe that we could have improved on the proces by being clear on the principle from the beginning by hinting that the Serbs - being 33% of the population before the war - were supposed to control an area that contained 33% of the population before the war, Muslims 43%, etc.

Having such a rule might have a very healthy influence in Bosnia. Many Bosiaks seem to see Bosnia as "their" nation-state and wouldn't mind some "encouragement" for Croats and Serbs to emigrate. In fact Silajdzic already provides such encouragement. Many Serbs and Croats sense this threat and are for that reason afraid of a more centralized state.

This model is not perfect of course. Croats in Bosnia lived so spread that it would be difficult to let them control a part of Bosnia according to their number in a democratic way. And with the migration of many Bosnian Croats to Croatia one could argue that Bosnia and Croatia have to be considered together to determine the fairness.

Such fairness considerations would also have consequences for refugee returns. It would suggest that it is not fair if one side is returning en masse while at the same time they are blocking the returns for the other side. I think the UN should be clear about these fairness criteria. It might prevent useless discussions about situations in specific cities or villages.

When fairness is threatened in Bosnia the international community can be repair situations with relatively small policy changes. But the situation with Croatia and Kosovo is different. Even if you take the immigration of ethnic Croats from Bosnia and Serbia in account Croatia has exiled about 200,000 people more than it has absorbed. The international community should make it clear that this inacceptable. We will have to grudgingly accept the population exchanges that have taken place. But we can't accept one ethnic group throwing out another just for the pleasure of possessing their lands and houses. So we will need to make some ultimatum.

My preference would that the Security Council gives Croatia one year to repair the situation. If it doesn't manage to do so it should have to give up territory to house 200,000 people.

This wil be controversial. But it will make it clear that the international community is committed to a balanced outcome. If such a policy had been in place before:
- the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and the Croats in Bosnia would at some point have stopped to conquer more territory because they would know that even in the most favorable outcome for them they would have to give up the excess.
- the Croats would have behaved differently in Operation Storm
- the Serbs would not have tried to cleanse Kosovo during the 1999 war.
- destruction of houses would have been limited as the parties would have been aware that they would need the houses for their own people.

Such an outcome oriented policy will also force countries to adapt their policy. Nowadays it is profitable to keep the ethnic hatred alive. It prevents returns and that fits some people well, either for emotional reasons or because they wants the property of the displaced minorities. But with such policy in place countries will follow the opposite policy and stress the faults and crimes committed by the own side in order to decrease the resistance against returns. The alternative of giving up territory is less attractive.

One might argue that such a policy promotes "population exchanges". But in fact it is completely neutral in this respect. The formula says that in an ethnicaly mixed territory each groups should rule over a percentage of the population that is equal to its percentage in the total population. So both sides will have a similar quantity of minorities and know that cleansing will harm their own side too.

Context and restrictions
It should be stressed that I recommended this policy only for those cases where a high percentage of a minority has been expelled for the long term. It is not the solution to all problems. But I believe that it is an indispensable tool in the toolbox of diplomacy that deals with ethnic conflicts.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Speech control

Ideas often come before actions. And so it is good to look what ethnic leaders say and to make them accountable for it. As I see it there are three kinds of "dangerous" remarks:
- remarks that describe the others as inferior or having less civil rights
- complaints and accusations about behavior by the others
- demands for more ethnic rights

1. Remarks that describe the others as inferior or having less civil rights
I find these by far the most problematic as they are explicit. The other kinds of remarks may be quite legitimate, but here there is no doubt about the intent. Yet the international community pays these kinds of remarks the least attention.

The war in Yugoslavia began for me when I heard that Tudjman had said that if the Serbs didn't like it in Croatia they should leave for Serbia. This made it clear that they had less civil rights than the Croats. I still find it unbelievable that the international community did not react.

The recent remarks of Silajdzic about Serbs having been "raised as fascists and criminals" falls in the same category. Everyone understands that criminals should be kept under close control and not be allowed much freedom. And so he implicitly condemns the Serbs as a life as second rate citizens. In nearly every Western country such utterings are punishable under anti-racism laws.

Peacekeepers tend to ignore these kind of remarks. As they see it, these people are not fighting and not making demands and so it is rather innocent. But these ideas lay the framework from which fighting and nationalistic demands follow.

2. Complaints and accusations about behavior by the others
This category can be divided between personal attacks and attacks on an ethnic group.

In the case of attacks on a person or a small group (for example accusing them of being a war criminal, a thug or corrupt) one should keep to the principle that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. This is the only way to keep the political discussion clean. Peacekeepers should be careful to maintain decorum in this area. When there is some proof - of course - charges should be investigated.

Attacks on ethnic groups come in a wide variety. They vary between the 1987 report of the Serb Academy of Sciences about discrimination of Serbs in Croatia and Kosovo to charges that the RS is the "product of ethnic cleansing".

One should try to look to these charges first in the wider context. What is the accuser trying to achieve? Accusations without suggestions how to improve are not very credible. See further under point 3 (demands).

Next one should analyze the complaint. Both "Serbs are discriminated" and "the RS is the product of genocide" are generalisations that are difficult to prove. The discrimination should be made exact with examples and statistics. The "product of genocide" seems to be a combination of a demand for abolishment of the RS and a generalisation about genocide. One might claim that the RS is for a part the product of genocide, but one cannot deny that many other other factors contributed to the arising of the RS.

I think that peace keepers should demounce generalisations and push for concrete complaints. These complaints should be thoroughly investigated and when found grounded there should be a search for concrete solutions.

I good example of how not to handle complaints is the memorandum of the Serb Academy of Sciences in 1986. Sure, the Memorandum contained some bombastic statements, but the study on the positions of the Serbs in Kosovo was a detailed and serious study and deserved a serious answer, not some propagandistic statement about Serb nationalism. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the reason why Milosevic chose to revoke the Kosovo autonomy and to grab for control over the presidium. ialogue obviously didn't work.

It is often thought that the core of democracy is voting or a free market. But I belief that the core is the realisation that you are all together in the same country and working together to bring that country forward. Of course everyone tries to promote his own interests, but it is part of the democratic ideology that you do not cross the borders of fairness.

Yugoslavia in 1986 was on the border of democracy. People started to speak up about their complaints. Institutions like an independent judiciary - that normally guarantees fairness in a democracy were not yet there. And so it was up to the politicians to do it. They failed.

Democracies everywhere have to deal with nationalisms. The trick is to solve the real complaints and to mostly ignore the nationalistic rethoric. Yugoslavia failed to do this and ended by falling apart in war. But nowadays the successor republics face the same challenges.

3. Demands for more ethnic rights
It is a fundamental aspect of democracy that everyone is free to try to improve his position. So there is nothing wrong with ethnic demands - even when they include changes of borders.

However, two principles should be maintained:
- the democratic rules of law as used in that country should be respected.
- no discrimination.

The main task of internationals should be to guide those discussions about those demands. What will the demands mean for the other group(s)? How will the details be filled in? What do they hope to achieve? They should also try to place the discussion in a broader context.

If one takes the "abolishment of the RS" demand one has immediately to conclude that the "product of genocide" claim is about the past. It says nothing about the reason why it should be desirable to abolish the RS now and what should be in its place. As such it clouds the discussion and should be avoided.

I believe peacekeepers should create an open atmosphere for discussions. Discussions should be about real arguments and not be decided by "that is unacceptable for us". And it should be accepted that even when the arguments are good that is no guarantee that it becomes democratically accepted.

For me the word "genocide" is completely meaningless in the context of former Yugoslavia. Is killing 7000 people in Srebrenica genocide? But what if you kill everybody in a village of 300 people? What if you eliminate one complete family of 10?

I strongly prefer to stop talking about genocide in the context of Yugoslavia and instead to start talking about concrete events and facts. The word "genocide" is reducing dialogue and reconciliation to calling names. Let's call a murder a murder and stop pretending that some murders are infinitely worse than others because someone has decided to label them as genocide.

Peacekeepers should also take an active part in shaping the public discussion about what happened in the war. Unfortunately many of them know only fragments of what happened and they tend to listen mainly to one side.

At the moment the international community focusses its attention on war crimes. I think this should be widened. The conflicts began with words and politics. This side should get much more attention.

Peacekeepers should function most of the time as discussion leaders. Doing this they should use the same rules that are used in Western countries.

Friday, June 15, 2007

How peacekeeping missions loose their focus

Peacekeepers have a lot in common with the police. Both maintain some written text: the peace agreement or the law. And both have the authority to use force, but are supposed also to use persuasion to achieve conformity to the peace agreement or law.

If one analyses the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo it is easy to see that something has gone wrong. They are not real peacekeeping operations but something somewhere between peacekeeping and a colonial occupation.

Take Bosnia. The Dayton Agreement was rather clear. But instead of just maintaining it the internationals let themselves be convinced that Dayton was not good enough and needed improvement. No wise cop will not allow himself to be drawn in a discussion about the validity of the laws. He may be flexible on details, but they will not allow you to undermine the core of their mission. Unfortunately what happened in Bosnia.

In my opinion the internationals (both EUFOR and the high representative) should restrict themself to maintaining Dayton. Any discussion about independence for the RS or abolition of the RS should be discarded with a simple "that is not in Dayton".

In Kosovo the situation was even more extreme. Resolution 1244 was clear about Serbia's territorial integrity. It foresaw negotiations to establish an interim government that respected the territorial integrity. After that final negotiations could be started. Serb diplomats were ready and started soon after the war to hint at several solutions including partition. But the internationals rejected this and instead kept Kosovo in limbo for 7 years - after which they started negotiations about a final solution chaperoned by a partial negotiator and handicapped by Contact Group principles that excluded the option of partition.

Resolution 1244 foresaw a short period of UN rule and as a consequence didn't give extensive instructions on how to rule the province. UNMIK was supposed just to keep things running. When the mission continued for years it got inevitably involved in legislation. This was something for which they had no clear mandate and as a consequence it handicapped them in their peace keeping mission.

The problem with changing your basis is that the mission gets off-balance. The discussion is no longer about how the mission can achieve its goals. Instead it becomes torn by conflicting demands from all sides. This undermines also the agreement that forms the basis of the peacekeeping mission. So instead of promoting peace the mission is undermining it. The effect can be clearly seen in Bosnia where the conflict about status of the RS has poisoned the relations between the ethnic groups and instead of returns has led to continuing departures of minorities.