Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Interview with Ahtisaari

Following is my translation of an interview of Ahtisaari with the Volkskrant as published on march 12. It covers about the same subjects as the lecture that I attended (the organisation of the lecture will only publish a short report.) Ahtisaari obviously has a strange idea about negotiating.

The interview was by Paul Brill en Leen Vervaeke. I have omitted the introduction and have started with the first question.

At which moment in the negotiations did you realize that no compromise was possible between Serbia and Kosovo?
‘During my first journey in November 2005. In fact everything was already decided in 1999. The situation of the Albanians in Kosovo had then become so desperate that NATO had to interfere. Next the area has been administered for eight years without involvement from Serbia. Return to the previous situation was out of the question. So when I met premier Kostunica on my first trip, I told him clearly: Serbia has lost Kosovo forever. He said: nobody has told me that.’

That seems to confirm the Serb reproach that there never were open negotiations.
‘They were not negotiations in the traditional meaning. The situation was that one of the sides had misbehaved so badly that external intervention was necessary. The negotiations were only about how the lasting presence of Serbs in Kosovo could be arranged.
‘Serbia did not help at all with that. The Serb leaders kept pretending that Kosovo would return to Serbia although they knew very well that that was no longer possible.’

Shouldn't Serbia be appeased by Europe so that it can easier accept the new reality?
‘The former minister of foreign affairs Draskovic told me once: why are you punishing us democrats for what Milosevic did? My answer was: it would be difficult for us to reward you for what Milosevic did.
‘Why should we appease Serbia? The country misbehaved badly, also during the negotiations. And take care: Serbia wants to become a member of the EU - not the other way around.’

But there could be some understanding for the hurted pride of a nation that in a short time had so much to restrict itself.
‘That it happened that way is not the fault of the EU or Kosovo.’

But it can influence the relations in the Balkan and so also in the EU.
‘That is true. But the solution is not that we massage Serbia. The solution is that Serbia gives account of its past. That it realizes what it has done wrong. Milosevic was definitely not the only one who was wrong. In Europe only Germany had a honest look at its past. Serbia still has to start. It should have a good thought about what it wants. Whether it wants to belong to Europe or that it wants to orientate itself at Moscow.’

What do you say to those who fear that Kosovo will cause a chain reaction of rebellious areas that want to secede?
‘You should never avoid a solution just because other people can abuse it. You have to decide the Kosovo case on its own merits. Where do you have a similar history? And then I don't mean from the 13th century. I see no other areas that have been ruled by the UN for eight years.’

So you are against independence for the Republika Srpska?
‘Yes, they don't have the right to do that. They have consented to the Dayton Treaty and they are obliged to observe that.’

The Russians might think otherwise.
‘Let the dust settle. I think that the Serbs and also the Russians will in the end act rationally/ But I am disappointed by the Russian attitude. They blocked the road via the UN, and with that they encouraged unilateral steps. Th├ít is a dangerous precedent.’

1 comment:

bganon said...

For a diplomat he has remarkably little understanding of the concept of regional stability.

I do not expect somebody with his mindset to understand anything further than what the west wants and what he believes Serbia allegedly wants (he believes Serbia wants the EU).

I think his approach can upon occasion be effective but on other occasions be very dangerous indeed. It takes more to be a skilled negotiator than to be an uncompromising one.