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.


Verneuil said...

I've seen Feith performance in Dublin : with experience it's not difficult to guess from what he said in the way he said it that he is the perfect person for this kind of mission. I have no doubt he will be in the end the undertaker of his mission. I've made my position clear : a change of policy is needed in Kosovo, it also implies the man.

mostovljanin said...

You sound like you really believe that EULEX is there to do something :D (sorry, no offense)

Wim Roffel said...

Since the departure of SRSG Hans Hækkerup at the end of 2001 the international community has always treated the Albanians with kid gloves. I think the search of the transport ministry is their most intrusive action since then. Of course they were more or less forced by press reports.

Besides the Limaj case there is also the Kurti case where the internationals are meeting fierce Albanian resistance. If the internationals win they will have some room to demand other improvements.

Problem is that Limaj is quite popular, both as a UCK fighter and as a hands-on politician. His generation of politicians may be corrupt but at least they get things done while the first generation of politicians after the war just sat on their hands.

So the greater chance is that Feith looses. The question is what the internationals will do then.

Verneuil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Verneuil said...

Just nominate another diplomat....

These missions are self perpetuating clocks. Present stalemate will not change as long as the ICJ does not clarify current legal framework and the US don't lift a finger.

I would listen very carefully to Veton Surroi's recent declarations and moves. Spearhead of US think tanks, a prime minister or president in the pipeline, he will show some kind of lead and direction before ground events command.

We should expect no miracles. Best available brains have been washed by this dossier and I'm no better.

Wim Roffel said...

Blic today has an article that suggests what Washington's position is. It seems rather unrealistic to me: suspending 1244 sounds like an euphemism for surrender. But that is often the problem with US diplomacy: they have so long been at the top that they don't understand anymore how real negotiations and compromises work.

Verneuil, I don't understand your position on Feith. With the raid on the transport ministry he is showing more balls than any Western envoy before him. Do you really want to replace him with a kind of Kouchner: very nice in the media while he skips over all the tough problems? What do you really mean when you want a change of policy in Kosovo?

Verneuil said...

Thanks for giving the opportunity to clarify my goals and objectives. My blog is not about detailed analysis and possible solutions and prospects, merely about ground realities and past experiences, thus apparently not very constructive. Your approach is somewhat more appealing and interesting.

I'd like to elaborate more another day as I'm not focusing only on Kosovo. If you read carefully my post "Ruminations" I explain my basic philosophy. Ground events usually determine international actor's propositions and actions and not the contrary.

In other words, solutions will come from the parties themselves if outside interferences are stopped. I don't see it happening.

Unprincipled support to UDI is taking off any levying possibility and thus does not help compromises.

I see a gradual change in EU's and US approach to the UDI and Feith last action maybe just a sign. I will tell more after my next trip to Kosovo.

Regret there is no email to contact you.


Stories said...

It is always sad to see that Wim who pretends to know everything does not know some basic facts.

Kosovo has Kosovo Property Agency that deals with occupation of estate belonging to Albanians in the northern part of Kosovo and Serbs in the southern part of Kosovo. The Agency which is headed by internationals in several occasions has sad that their work is being conducted according to the law in the Albanian parts of Kosovo, but in Serb areas they are facing problems and are not able to claim rent from Serbs occupying Albanian homes. Read more here:

I think it is very interesting to see how Wim always have conclusions ready before he starts to write and only takes with things that confirm his prejudice and conclusions about Albanians/Bosniaks being corrupt, war criminals etc. I HAVE NEVER read anything negative about Serbs. Not even when mass graves with massacred Albanian are found in Central Serbia. You have a serious credibility problem.

Verneuil said...

To stories said....

I think you are given a prejudiced opinion about Wim. If you read carefully all his posts you'll change your mind.

Being very well acquainted with field realities in Kosovo, I know what you're saying is true.

You cannot reproach Wim for not being there.

His insights are however particularly sharp and well balanced.

Take time to read and then change your opinion, that is been called clever and polite and give yourself an identity it is like entering in a house masked.

No harm meant.

Stories said...

Vernuil, thank you for your comment, but I have been around here for many years know. Maybe 4 years or it is 3 maybe. Me and Wim like to have sometimes heated discussions and I have maybe sometimes said things that is should not have sad, but my overall conclusion is that Wim fails to see the wrongdoings of the Serbs. Always quick to blame things on the others (read Albanians and Bosnjaks). I like that people are interested in Balkans and particularly Kosovo but I miss the presentation of both sides. For the most Wim gives good observations, but off course only Albanian wrongdoings are observed and exaggerated, the wrongdoings of the Serbs are completely ignored. He is also a fan of conspiracies, especially of those with something real in them.

Despite our different opinions, I like to discuss with Wim and come from time to time to read blog.

Verneuil said...

Ok, understood your point. I think also that past prejudices suffered (and all of you have always suffered in one way or another in past history) cannot and must not explain systematic persecution of peoples such as the ones we all see in present times circumstances. Desecration of holy sites and graves, cutting of water and electricity, telephone, stoning of returnees etc... Question of housing and properties are crucial to Serbs and ALL the ones I know who where leaving south of the Ibar and have been forced to flee haven't been able to take claims of their properties, let alone get any kind of rent from illegitimate occupiers. Regarding properties in Mitrovica or in Pristina (about 30 000 Serbs lived there until 2000, how many today ?), the question is of strategic importance and will be solved when all other questions are solved, hopefully in a dignified manner. Let's not trade these posts into quagmires and the usual inflamed ethnic prejudices, I'm sure we don't want that, because we are truly shocked by what is going on down there.

Don't hesitate to create your own blog to make your opinions and points known and valued, that's a form of democracy. All the best. Nobody has got THE truth.

Stories said...

Once again thank you for your answer.

I completely agree with you that attacks on Serbs are unjustifiable, no matter what they did 10/11 years. It should be the responsibility of courts to bring those who committed war crimes to justice, but unfortunately UNMIK first and now EULEX are not interested in this because this can cause unrests and hence lets people who are guilty of killing thousands of innocent go free.

Vernuil wrote: Housing and properties are crucial to Serbs....ALL the ones I know who where leaving south of the Ibar and have been forced to flee haven't been able to take claims of their properties, let alone get any kind of rent from illegitimate occupiers.

My answer: This is very understandable and they should have every right to live or do whatever they want with their property. I know that many Serbs have sold their apartments, houses and other real estate in Kosovo, and with the money bought something in Serbia. KPA has done a very good job in the Albanian parts of Kosovo and in most cases Serbs have been able to claim their property back. But you have still some problems ongoing. e.g. apartments that were given to Albanians during 80's and then came Milosevic regime and took them back and gave it to Serbs from Central Serbia. Who is the legitimate owner? I thing KPA has decided in favor of Serbs in most cases. You have also the problem with forged documents coming from Serbia and many other problems. In the north the occupation of Albanians homes is encouraged by the Serbian government who is offering money to Albanians to abandon their houses and this way completing a kind of silent ethnic cleansing.

Verneuil siad: 30 000 Serbs lived in Pristina in 2000.

My answer: You meant 1999. Serbs sources say 30 000- 40 000, Albanian sources put the number lower, we must remember that the numbers increased a lot from mid 90's due to the number of police and soldiers sent to Kosovo in connection with the armed conflict that escalated to war. What is true is that their lived many more Serbs than today, and I don't thing Albanians have any reason to be proud about that. Pristina and other places of Kosovo belong to those who have always lived there no matter nationality.

Verneuil said: Desecration of holy sites and graves, cutting of water and electricity, telephone, stoning of returnees etc.

Desecration of holy sites is absolutely a cowardly act that is completely unacceptable and goes against everything Albanian. Those who do this should be locked up in prisons. The same goes about those who stone. Cutting water and electricity is not done because Albanians hate Serbs but because of lack of enough water and electricity. Electricity is cut off to Albanians all the time, and to have a day without power-cut in the Albanian parts you are lucky. When it comes to telephone, I completely support disconnection of Serbian operators and this only because they are operating illegally and posing unfair competition for IPKO who paid 80 million euros for their licence and invested up to 500 millions in antennas etc. The IPKO and PTK licence were given by UNMIK and they must keep what they promised the companies who bought the licences.

I should start a blog, but I have prioritized studies. But I will reconsider it when the holidays start and I have some extra time.

Verneuil said...
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Wim Roffel said...

Hi, nice discussion. I want to contribute a bit too:

Stories wrote: "KPA has done a very good job in the Albanian parts of Kosovo and in most cases Serbs have been able to claim their property back"
They have reached a decision in only 9000 of the 40,000 cases and even in many of those cases the property hasn't changed hands yet. See:

Stores wrote "In the north the occupation of Albanians homes is encouraged by the Serbian government who is offering money to Albanians to abandon their houses and this way completing a kind of silent ethnic cleansing."
Albanians do exactly the same. Serb stories of Albanians buying strategic houses in Serb villages far above the price date from the 1970s or 1980s. More recent are stories of Albanians buying Serb houses in Lipljan along the main road with Arab money and Albanians buying houses in thinly populated areas between Serb villages. Don't forget the millions that Kosovo is investing to maintain an Albanian presence in the North either.

Verneuil wrote "Be glad to meet you for a coffee when I go back :"
Verneuil, did you receive my email?