Monday, May 24, 2010

On being cooperative on Kosovo

The word cooperative has two meanings. Originally it means to cooperate, that is: working together. It implies a kind of equality between the parties involved. But the word has acquired another meaning. When the police talks about a suspect being cooperative they simply mean that he does what they want him to do. And when your boss tells you that he wants you to be more cooperative he usually just wants more obedience.

When the Western countries ask Serbia to be more cooperative one would expect them to use the first meaning. However, often their behavior puts them closer to the second meaning of the word.

Take the issue of the mobile telephone transmitters. If such an issue would arise in a Western country the solution would be pragmatic. It would be recognized that - as Serbia is pumping 500 million a year into Kosovo - missed revenue for Kosovo is not the real issue. It would also be recognized that having cheap phone connections to Serbia is essential to many of Kosovo's minorities. So the most probable solution would be to give those Serbian companies some kind of official license. In exchange they would pay some taxes and maybe the involved Serbian companies would ask to offer some service so that the Kosovo companies can offer their customers cheaper phone access to and inside Serbia.

This is a classical win-win solution as experienced leaders all over the world have been designing for centuries. Unfortunately Western Kosovo policy is defined by idealist NGOers and diplomats who never have felt the need to be pragmatic. As a consequence this issue - like many others - has been hijacked by Albanian nationalists and US officials who see imposing Kosovo's independence on the world as matter of American prestige instead of as a problem between Albanians and Serbs.

A similar issue is at work with Kosovo's participation at international conferences. There was a solution and that worked for some time. Then some countries decided to change the formula in the favor of the Kosovo Albanians and when Serbia balked they accused Serbia of not being cooperative. In fact it was of course those changers who were not cooperative.

Another example was the electricity. Several Western countries offer their citizens the choice between more than one electricity provider. So there was no reason why the Serbian company couldn't get a special status in Kosovo. In fact it would be advantageous as it would make that company responsible for the payment by Kosovo Serbs - reducing the risk of non payment for the Kosovo company to zero. Instead it was chosen to have a solution where Kosovo's Serbs were forced to give in. The fact that the deal was sweated with money obscured for many that this set a precedent that was not about cooperating but about imposing the will of one side. This set the precedent for even more ugly behavior in the case of the mobile phones and the minibuses.

The core of Western democracy is respect for different opinions. So for Kosovo the litmus test for its democratic content is how it treats those people who believe that its independence is illegal. Blowing up transmission towers and forbidding minibuses shows that democracy in Kosovo still has some serious shortcomings. This is not a cooperative attitude, this is the opposite: using any excuse to badger dissenting voices. In a cooperative attitude force would only be used when all other options were exhausted and even then not more than strictly necessary and without losing respect.

One of the main misunderstandings is the idea that any issue is a battleground for (or against) the recognition of Kosovo's independence. Yet cooperation can only work once you allow that some subjects should remain neutral territory. The main effect of making everything a battleground is that it delays the finding of solutions.

I have always believed that the unilateral independence for Kosovo was a stupid mistake. It was based on the belief that Serbs are a kind on evil human sub-race that is incapable of compromise. This idea resulted first in the Ahtisaari negotiations were as a matter of "principle" the Serb side was robbed of all its negotiation chips. Next was unilateral independence and it seems that we have now arrived at the third stage where misguided internationals are prepared to commit serious human rights violations in order to realize their goals.

Experience learns that if they get what they want they may very well be setting the stage for the next Balkan drama. The ethnic cleansing during the Kosovo War was a direct copy of the ethnic cleansing of Croatia 14 years before. The international involvement in that cleansing is one of the darkest episodes of Western involvement. Unfortunately too many Westerners are still proud that they then helped to "restore Croatia's territorial integrity". Milosevic used the same excuse.

Look at how countries like Nepal and El Salvador handled their guerrilla problems. Both recognized that the guerrilla's had some point. And instead of just stating that those guerrilla's were outside the law and should be punished they adopted amnesty laws, employed former guerrilla's in the army and gave them other help to get settled. That is the kind of pragmatic attitude that is needed in Kosovo.

6 comments:

Stories said...

What you are saying is to put things upside down. Serbs are not only breaching the Constitution of Kosovo, but also the 1244 that you and your friends love so much.

Having unlicensed power suppliers, phone operators etc is illegal according to 1244/UNMIK but also the Constitution of Kosovo.

Your thoughts are extremely pro-Serbian (who are dining with? Kostunica?) and you suggest between the lines to force Albanian under Serbian rule again, because 5 % of Kosovo population are unhappy about being a minority.

One can conspirate many solution, but don't forget who constitute the majority. And those should have the last word, off course fully respecting the human rights of all the citizens no matter nationality, and that's what was done by creating a state that is neither Albanian nor Serbian, Vetevendosje disliking it very much.

Linking power and phone cuts with human rights is very laughable. It is not a human right to have electricity when none of your Albanian/Bosnjak/Roma neighbors have it, or to be able to make cheap phone call with mobile. Me to would like to have cheap mobile plan, but it costs all around the world to have a mobile. In addition PTK and IPKO offered same day free numbers to Serbs so they could make emergency calls in case they needed it.

If you want rule of law, then you should have rule of law no matter what it means for some individuals(corrupt politicians)/groups(Serbs).

I have as I said earlier always doubted that you have a genuine interest in the human rights of the minorities in Kosovo. Serbs by far have the best material living standards in Kosovo according to a report I read, published by UNDP. Then you have Romas, they are today the most discriminated minority in Balkans incl Kosovo, living in extreme poverty, forgotten by every one, why not one single word about their suffering?

Albanians are the biggest looser right now. They were told: accept Ahtisaari plan in return for independence. They did it and know they are ending up with North being lawless and Ahtsiaari plan being implemented but only in Albanians parts, and we all know Ahtisaari plan was a big compromise for Albanians (Albanians gave veto to Serbs in Constitution questions, accepted transferring part of sovereignty to EULEX etc)

Wim Roffel said...

"Having unlicensed power suppliers, phone operators etc is illegal according to 1244/UNMIK but also the Constitution of Kosovo."
Here in Holland we have a choice of suppliers both for power and fot telephone. That could be in Kosovo too. So why don't you change your laws when they prevent you from having a decent minority policy. Laws are there to serve people, not the other way around.

"It is not a human right to have electricity when none of your Albanian/Bosnjak/Roma neighbors have it"
I did not say that. I just objected that the issue was abused to further Albanian nationalist goals, instead of being solved in a purely pragmatic way.

"In addition PTK and IPKO offered same day free numbers to Serbs so they could make emergency calls in case they needed it."
Those hypocrites were just trying to prevent a public relations disaster.
No Western country would have handled the problem like this: blowing up things like they were a bunch of bandits and not even considering to warn the people involved.

"Albanians are the biggest looser right now. They were told: accept Ahtisaari plan in return for independence. They did it and know they are ending up with"
This was the most extremist plan for which the Albanians could get US support. It was their choice to choose it instead of a real compromise. And now they have to live with the fact that even the mighty US couldn't guarantee them a bumpfree ride.

"you suggest between the lines to force Albanian under Serbian rule again"
Where do you get that nonsense? I have always believed that independence for Kosovo is the most sensible solution. But not this way.

"It is not a human right [...] to be able to make cheap phone call with mobile."
Economic discrimination is discrimination too. In fact a lot of discrimination is economic.

"Then you have Roma's, they are today the most discriminated minority in Balkans incl Kosovo"
If you read my blog well you will see that I am solution oriented. I always offer solutions that are achievable. You cannot change past war crimes so I hardly mention them. Similarly I hardly mention corruption and organized crime in Kosovo because I don't see a way to do something about it either. Only when something happens where change is possible do I address the issue. You may call it realpolitik if you want.
I might react when I see an article in a German newspaper advocating expulsion of Kosovo Roma and tell them that it is estimated that 80% of Kosovo's Roma are displaced and that for that reason expulsion doesn't make sense to me. But otherwise I think that the spin-off of a better treatment of the Serbs is the best that can be achieved at the moment for the Roma in Kosovo.

"Serbs by far have the best material living standards in Kosovo according to a report I read, published by UNDP."
Links please! And is that before or after transfers from Serbia are taken into account?

Asteri said...

I get a great deal of pleasure listning to Albanians getting the hump over the Serbs setting up "illegal" and "illegitamate" parallel structures after they did exactly that for years.

Its like anyone who does not conform to their sence of entitlement is pro-Serb.

Anonymous said...

The comments don't account for the fact that the Serbs are less interested in practical solutions than the Albanians.

Wim Roffel said...

Really? Can you give one example?

Verneuil said...

There was several complicating factors managing post war Kosovo and handling affairs there :

the first one being the incapacity of local leaders and populations to think with a broader perspective and, to put it bluntly, to use their brains instead of other organs. This is due to several factors including the geographical position of Kosovo, poor education system, legacy of prejudices and the distorted opinion local populations have about their relative importance in the region and the world ;

the second being the absence of independence of local media and the mediocre level of local journalists taking orders directly from politicians and local sponsors. They often find it easier to fuel basic ethnic hatred and prejudices and report gossips than conduct in-depth, independent, daring and interesting reports about the subjects such as good governance, independent justice and administration, corruption, status of minorities.....clan allegiances restrict all kind of freedoms, one's get easily killed in the Balkans for expressing an independent opinion hence the expression of ethnic intolerance and prejudices anonymously under the cover of disguised identity or darkness ;

the third being the impossibility to do one's job properly and express an opinion without being immediately labelled a pro this or con that as if our education was so poor and porous as to have us inevitably take sides in village quagmires and neighbourly quarrels ;

the fourth is airing a tune already heard so many times elsewhere, in post colonization Africa for example : to take refuge and excuse from the past- however terrible it was - for being incapable of correcting TODAY past mistakes and injustices, start doing better than previous rulers and behave like descent and normal human beings. Present day rulers in Pristina, groomed, trained and supported by western countries, have obvious difficulties doing that;

Maintaining extensive contacts and friends throughout all Kosovo, there is one thing that nobody wants to admit publicly is that the international presence there has brought in this dead end of central Balkan soaking in hate and desolation an air of freshness and openness that is making the atmosphere slightly more breathable for every one .