Thursday, January 10, 2008

Answer to Vetevendosja

Vetevendosja has sent an open letter to the foreign ministers of the EU member nations. I will react to some parts of their (rather long) letter.

"This new EU mission has been described as a ‘state-building’ mission and one which will lay the groundwork for an independent Kosova. [...] Furthermore, it will be based upon a Resolution which expressly states in Article 10, that the international mission has as its goal the restoration of ‘substantial autonomy’ for Kosova within Serbia."

- I was surprised to see Albanian nationalists confirm that resolution 1244 does not allow for an independent Kosovo.

"First, the establishment of this new EU mission has been agreed without consulting the people of Kosova. Its existence is based on the (Martti) Ahtisaari Settlement which has not been accepted officially as part of any ‘status’ agreement for Kosova. [...] This is a decision that can only be made by all the people of Kosova, voting in a referendum as an expression of our right to self-determination guaranteed by international conventions to which all of your member states subscribe."

- Sorry, Kosovo isn't independent yet. The Spanish Basques don't have the right to organise an independence referendum either. Slovakia became independent without a referendum.
- Note also the resistance against the Ahtisaari plan. It confirms me in my fears that the implementation of the plan will not be wholeheartedly and will be continuously sabotaged.

"Second, this new EU mission is doomed to fail because although it proclaims that it is coming to help build democracy in Kosova, it will be undemocratic. The International Civilian Office (ICO) will hold executive power in Kosova, ensuring that the political pluralism we enjoy remains simply a façade,
We want the EU to be in Kosova helping us to build our institutions and monitoring minority rights, but we do not need to be governed by the EU. Democracy cannot be established through a system which is undemocratic. It can only be slowly destroyed. The turnout in the last election is evidence enough to prove this point."

- As I have repeatedly written I agree with this. The EU mission should restrict itself to minority rights and leave economics to Kosovo. Of course they will influence Kosovo's economic policies in the context of the path to EU membership. But this is a different process that doesn't involve the right to fire people.

"Ahtisaari’s Settlement will accentuate the ‘ethnic’ nature of the Kosova conflict, rather than resolving its political causes. It prescribes decentralization along ethnic lines which will create a Serb entity inside Kosova, like Republika Srpska in Bosnia. Six new Serb majority municipalities will be created, containing most of the key mineral and water resources of Kosova, for example, the reservoir of Gazivodë which supplies 60% of Kosova’s water. These municipalities will be linked territorially and administratively, and have the right to be funded by Belgrade. The parallel structures which have functioned in these areas, without obstruction by UNMIK since 1999, will be legalized and all the Serbs who work in these structures will still receive their salaries from Belgrade. Thus, Serbia’s influence in Kosova will be strengthened by this plan, not weakened. Once more, Serbs in Kosova will be instrumentalized by Serbia, which has consistently refused to allow them to integrate."

- Come on, guys, the conflict is ethnic. Kosovo's argument to become independent is ethnic.
- Decentralisation along ethnic lines is an old principle that is applied in many countries. The fact that some anti-Serb people make a lot of noise about the RS in Bosnia doesn't change that.
- Integration comes not by force but by seduction. If the Albanians make it attractive enough the Serbs will come sooner or later to their cities for shopping and work. This will not apply for the Serbs north of the Ibar: you will have to accept that the ethnic border is there and that north of the Ibar it is the Albanians who are the minority and have to adapt themselves.
- I would consider that with Stari Trg and the coal mines the Albanians have the majority of Kosovo's mineral wealth. For access to water many countries are dependent on each other. If the north would become part of Serbia (what I prefer) it would very well be possible to make a treaty stipulating the Albanian rights.

"Decentralization is not being implemented in order to bring government closer to the people. It is being used as a tool for apartheid."

- Calling the autonomy of the Serb villages "apartheid" is in my opinion racist rethorics. Any minority with its own language and religion will to a certain extent keep to itself. Connecting this with self-government is a quite normal - specially in an area where inter-ethnic relations are tense and discrimination is common.

"Many Albanian families have an Orthodox heritage. Many of their ancestors worshipped in Orthodox churches until the 18th century when the majority of conversions took place under the Ottoman Empire. [...] The Ahtisaari Plan establishes the absurd logic that should an Albanian want to convert to Orthodoxism, he will also have to become a ‘Serb’. "

- As far as I know before the conversions the Kosovo Albanians tended to be Catholic - not orthodox. But maybe they want to point to the fact that up to a third of the ancestors of Kosovo's Albanians may have been converted Serbs.
- For the moment I can see very little Albanian attachment to those church monuments (and nobody who wants to convert). One can only hope that this will change one day as they are Kosovo's main tourist attraction.
- One should be glad that the Serb church wants to spend millions to maintain Kosovo's monuments. I expect that one day somewhere in the future they will no longer have so much money available and Kosovo will have to take over the maintainance. So: enjoy the bonanza as long as it lasts!!!
- The fact that Orthodox churches are bound to countries is nowadays a problem in many countries (Macedonia, Montenegro, the Russian church in France, etc.). The Orthodox churches will have to adapt themselves to the modern times where people are free to choose their own churches. But let's give this time. The Kosovo problem is complicated enough without it.

"the plan envisages the creation of special zones around selected monasteries, further isolating them from the community and including hundreds of hectares of socially owned and private property. In the zone surrounding the Monastery of Deçan, villagers have only been allowed the right to cut hay on their land, nothing more. "

- In anarchic Kosovo it may be new, but in other European countries it is very normal that land use is restricted by planning. In the case the owners of land are disadvantaged by plan changes one should talk about indemnifications.

"The economic relations of the decentralized municipalities will be much closer with Serbia than the rest of Kosova.
Therefore, what will be known as Kosova’s single market will be much smaller than it is today (and today it is very small)."

- money has its own logic. Just as smugglers and criminals have never had problems over the Kosovo-Serbian border and as many Kosovo Albanians keep buying Serb products - so will the Kosovo Serbs buy Albanian products if they are cheap enough.
- Kosovo is a very small market anyway. Given the scale on which many companies operate nowadays I expect multinationals to build one factory for the whole Balkan.

"The Serb entity will be de-facto controlled by Belgrade and the Albanian will be controlled by the EU and held hostage to Belgrade by mechanisms such as a double majority voting system for the Serb minority, which gives them the right to veto changes to the constitution and to a number of domestic laws. Belgrade will be guaranteed the ability to destabilize Kosova’s government at will."

- the right to veto certain laws does not open the possibility to destabilise Kosovo's government.
- for the moment Kosovo's Albanians make it very hard for the Kosovo's Serbs to identify with Kosovo. One day that will change and Serbia's influence will diminish.
- once Kosovo's status is settled in an agreement with Serbia the Serb government will feel much less need to interfere. This should be seen as one more stimulus for Kosovo to seek a real agreement with Serbia. For this the Ahtisaari plan is insufficient as it doesn't provide Kosovo's Serbs with enough protection. A good plan should have at least two extra aspects: 1) more security for the Serbs south of the Ibar by appointing part-time local village police men; 2) a kind of autonomy for the area north of the Ibar that gives them the power to resist Albanisation policies from Pristina.

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