Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meeting Peter Feith

On 12 april I attended a lecture by Peter Feith. His main talk was about the EU diplomatic service, but he dedicated about a third of his speech to Kosovo. And during the question round many questions were asked about Kosovo.

The speech was not very surprisng. He claimed that Russia had agreed that it wouldn't be a good idea when Kosovo returned under Serbian rule. And he said that after the ICJ verdict the pressure on Serbia to be "cooperative" on Kosovo will be sharply increased. Lajcak said something similar recently.

On questions he made on me the impression of diplomacy at its worst. Sure, he is a very competent diplomat. But he uses his skills mainly to evade questions. He nearly totally ignored the refugee problem and when I pressured him on it afterwards he mumbled something about Bosnia where refugee returns had proved impossible too. I didn't see a trace of vision or moral intuition.

The next day Feith went to Dublin where he attended a conference. In his speech there (the link contains a transcript) he talked a lot about the corruption in Kosovo. It looks like Feith is under EU pressure to do more about corruption. The searches in Kosovo's transport Ministry and minister Limaj's house by EULEX on 28 april may have been a result of that.

I think Feith is wrong here too. In Kosovo many thousands of minority properties are occupied. Any effort for justice ends in judicial quicksands. Feith knows about that but he refuses to address the issue. He seems to think that that he can isolate the ethnic issues - for which he doesn't have a solution - from the rest. Bad thinking! It signals to everyone that the easiest way to get rich is an illegal one: stealing from minorities. But when minorities are fair game foreign investors and Albanians without the right connections are vulnerable too. The Limaj raid was a signal that EULEX means business. But my expectation is that the EULEX resolution will soon end in the same quicksands as the Kurti trial.

Some time ago there was an interview on the Dutch television with a woman who had worked as a judge for EULEX. She was now back. In her whole term in Kosovo she had only been able to finish one single case. For the rest she had waisted lots of time on procudures between Mitrovica North and South.

How to proceed? In my opinion one cannot ignore the minority properties problem. Some kind of trust should be established that takes care of those properties and collects rent when these are occupied by Albanians. Procedures should be streamlined so that property restition can happen much sooner.

Next one should recognize that the Ahtisaari Plan does not work. It gives lots of specific minority rights, but at the same time it gives those minorities very little power over their own fate. Given the weak rule of law in Kosovo this means very little protection. Minorities should have a strong say over their fate. As part of this border changes are in my opinion inevitable.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Why the West should punish Silajdzic

The moment I knew things went wrong in Yugoslavia was when I heard that Tudjman had said that the Serbs should leave if they didn't like it in his Croatia. This is the language of ethnic cleansing. This is how it usually starts. The minority no longer has full citizenship rights and once departure is an option some "prodding" to make that departure more likely is only a small step. I have always considered it one of the main Western failures that it didn't react at all to this statement by Tudjman.

I had the same feeling over the recent statement by Silajdzic that “If someone does not like Bosnia-Herzegovina they are free to leave, but they cannot take any part (of the country) with them”.

In the Western press this was brought as just a tit-for-tat after Dodik had said that "peaceful divorce" should be discussed. I disagree. Many borders have changed in former Yugoslavia and I don't see why we should see Dodik's demands as different from all those others - even if we don't want to give him what he wants. Dodik doesn't want to rob people of their houses and Silajdzic does. That is a very big difference.

For these reasons I believe that a strong Western reaction to Silajdzic 's statements is absolutely necessary. Ignoring this will further diminish the West's already reduced credibility in Bosnia.

Those who believe that this is an exception I encourage to listen to this interview of Silajdzic with Al Jazeera. I found it disgusting. It reminds me of our Dutch extremist Geert Wilders: the same depressive toneless way of talking, the same endless stream of accusations, similar distortions and the same lack of a positive vision of hope. Just as I don't expect Wilders ever to speak positively about Muslims I don't expect Silajdzic ever to speak positively about Serbs - no matter how much they change. These men thrive not on hope but on resentment.