Update on current Kosovo developments

Posted in Other | 01-Apr-07 | Author: Ioannis Michaletos

Special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari

The period on which the final status of Kosovo is finalized is steadily taking its course, albeit it is not crystal clear if that direction will resolve or further complicate on of the most turbulent European regions. The United Nations Security Council is on the verge of becoming once more, a terrain of fierce diplomatic battles between the five planet powers; with an influence to create a new country on the map and transform yet once more the balance of powers in another point in the world.

Martin Ahtisaari, the UN special envoy, in his final report will state that independence is the only viable and constructive solution, according to international media reports that have in most respects unveiled the elements of this proposal. For the time being USA and UK seem confident to agree with an independence resolution and conclude their Balkan engagement that started in the early nineties and reached its climax in the 1999 war. Already UK troops are leaving Bosnia and it more than certain that the United States would like to pursue their interests in the tumultuous Middle East, without having to consider investing personnel, resources and political capital in Kosovo.

On the other hand Moscow and to a lesser extent Beijing have their own interests at stake and their strategic considerations that may not be directly related with Kosovo, nevertheless this small Balkan Province may well be an area that will lead them to diplomatic confrontation with the rest of the Security Council powers.

Gebgeni Primakof, the ex-Russian Prime Minister, has recently stated in Moscow Times that there are three important considerations in relation to the Kosovo status. Firstly the ongoing claims in the Caucasus Republics that may result to independence claims, should Kosovo become independent. In short –Since most of those claims are supported by Russia- it is probable that the Russian foreign policy implies the breakup of Georgia in order to support the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moreover Primakof notes on the balance of powers in South Eastern Europe that would be practically altered by the existence of another state, thus resulting according to him to unstable situations in the near future.

Lastly, the Russian public opinion is firmly on the side of the Serbs and that view is shared by the Russian Federation officials. On a closer look, these views reflect the empowerment of Russia that strives to stake its claim and opinion in the Balkan Peninsula, traditionally influenced by Moscow since the mid 18th Century. It should also be noted that Chechnya is still a hot issue in the country, and a resolution that will present Kosovo as an independent country may be viewed by Russians as a precedent for this war-torn Muslim populated area in Southern Russia. An option clearly hostile to the Russian interests.

China, from its point of view, is not really interested in the geopolitical balance of South Eastern Europe. Even though it managed to create some advancement during the reign of Milosevic, it surely does not act as an influential factor in modern day Balkans. Nevertheless, Beijing is interested in securing that Taiwan will never be recognized fully and properly and it is hesitant in involving itself in situations that might become precedents to its policy of “One China”. Furthermore the Tibetan independence struggle that is supported by the Western public opinion is another point that leads to a Chinese siding with Russia, in order to avoid becoming a country openly supporting “Double standard policy”, one abroad and a different domestically. Of course China in this particular case will not veto unless Russia acts the same way. The reason is that Kosovo is mostly a Western-European affair and China ultimately will not hold against the other four nations in the Security Council. Therefore Russia will once more be the influencing factor in this United Nations resolution.

The international community in Kosovo

After 8 years since the Kosovo Force landed in Kosovo; there are quite a few arguments that point towards a failure of the mission on a societal level. Already the Albanian majority in Kosovo labels the international community status, as “UNmikistan” and the most hot-tempered of them view UN forces and OSCE personnel as unwanted foreign influence. Despite the fact that a substantial amount of some 4 billion Euros in international assistance have been allocated to Kosovo; unemployment has reached unbearable levels of some 50% and the main sources of income rely on remittances from the Kosovo-Albanian Diaspora and the profits of organized crime. There are strong indications of widespread corruption in the apparatus of the public administrations, as well as, a disappointing index of human resources development that stills lacks the one had on Tito Yugoslav years, some 25 years ago.

A very important element of the current situation in Kosovo is the existence of organized crime. Virtually all the security agencies and intelligence briefings made public conform towards an absence of “Law & Order” especially for the heads of narcotics and human trafficking. It is estimated that the infamous “Balkan route” which is used as the trespassing path for the importation of narcotics to Europe; uses Pristina and the surrounding area as its regional hub. The profits are immense and there is a tremendous wealth of research upon these issues that leads to the speculation of an organized crime network of a global spectrum. Unfortunately this issue is at the time being not addressed in the Security Council -At least not publicly- and it will become a Pan European affair over the coming years, due to the important role EU will have to play towards a constructive role in the region and facilitate the transformation of the Western Balkans into a European norms territory.

Another thorny issue in relation to the Kosovo status is the exodus of the Serbian & Roma population. The United Nations Higher Council for Refugees, numbers to 200,000 the Serbian population that fled Kosovo due to Albanian reprisals and during 1999-2007 just 3% of them actually returned under the guarantee of the international community. This fact coupled with destruction of important Christian monuments in the province, further complicates the developments and construct a pessimistic future of an area filled with ethnic animosities and grievances.

The Kosovo issue is one that plays the role of a “Gravity centre” for the whole of the Balkans. Any development there-Either independence or not- will affect one way or the other all states in this periphery. The visions of greater Albania, the insecurity of FYR Macedonia, the ethnic mixture of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the ambitions of Washington and Moscow, all add to an equation not easily solved, perhaps comprehended first and foremost. It is fair to assume that despite the final resolution, the international community will have to react speedily and constructively, so as to limit the influence of crime and extremism in the area, with a multitude of financial, cultural and political tools under its disposal. Moreover it will need the cooperation of all neighboring countries since no regional problem could be dealt from the distance of Brussels or New York. The countries that are closely related to Kosovo must have the appropriate resources and permission to deal with its future pace, thus minimizing the probabilities of a renewed conflict in the not so distant future.

This year will most surely be one of developments in the Balkans, but it will not stop history in the area that “Produce more history than it can consume” as a Churchill once stated and surely knew the Balkans pretty well, perhaps much better than many members of today’s decision making processes.

Ioannis Michaletos is WSN Editor South Eastern Europe, WSN office Athens.