Skip to comments.Support for talks on splitting Serbia, Kosovo
Posted on 06/24/2003 10:54:24 AM PDT by Dragonfly
Support for talks on splitting Serbia, Kosovo
By Judy Dempsey and Kerin Hope in Thessaloniki
Published: June 23 2003 5:00 | Last Updated: June 23 2003 5:00
The European Union and the US will back direct talks between Serbia and Kosovo that could help end one of the last outstanding disputes to dog stability and security in the Balkans.
Diplomats hope the talks could eventually lead to Serbia and Kosovo agreeing on how they could peacefully separate from each other, with internationally recognised borders.
The talks, expected to take place next month outside the region, were agreed in principle at the EU-western Balkan summit in Thessaloniki, where European leaders at the weekend promised the countries integration and eventual membership under stringent conditions.
In particular, EU leaders spelt out how the region had to combat corruption, human and drug trafficking and smuggling, which is rife in Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
These countries were told their chances of becoming closer to Europe depended on strengthening the rule of law and, crucially, co-operation among the police forces across the region to weaken criminal gangs.
"These countries have a road open to the European Union. They know what they have to do," said Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief.
The EU has provided 4.6bn (£3.2bn) for 2000-2006 to the region, topped up by an additional 200m pledged at the summit.
But diplomats said the changing attitude at the summit reflected a growing consensus by the EU and US that any stable, long-term integration into Europe by the western Balkans will not be possible until the territorial and border disputes are resolved.
Constitutionally, Kosovo is still part of Serbia. In practice, since 1999 it has been under a United Nations-sanctioned international protectorate.
"We now support a dialogue," said Zoran Zivkovic, prime minister of Serbia. He insisted, however, that talks with Kosovo would only begin once Michael Steiner, the UN's special envoy for the province, left his job later this month.
Mr Steiner has proved a controversial figure in Kosovo. Diplomats said that he had quickly alienated the Serbs in both Kosovo and Serbia.
* Pope John Paul yesterday urged Bosnians to heal the war wounds of the 1990s and renew faith in the future through forgiveness, Reuters reports from Banja Luka. Visiting Banja Luka, he also asked Serbs to forgive wrongs committed by the Catholic church in the second world war.
For instance, where does this notion of forgiveness come from? The Catholic Bishop of Banya Luka "forgave" those who did wrong to the Croats, and then the Pope forgave those hwo did wrong to the Serbs. All that on a site where some 2,000 Serbs were forced to take Catholic communion in 1942 only to be summarily executed after that! And everyone noticed that the Serbian Patriarch was absent (hmmm?). Can you think of one reason why an Orthodox Patriarch would even bother with a heretic who claims infallability and who takes it upon himself to forgive, which is not his but something only God can?
PRISTINA -- Tuesday The chances of dialogue between Belgrade in Pristina are very slim, Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said today.
Rexhepi, speaking to media in Pristina, cited the imminent departure of Kosovo governor Michael Steiner and the lack of any agenda for the talks.
I believe that these talks cannot be successful without the participation of the US and the EU and the agreement of the Kosovo Parliament.
There will be a day when discussion of the final status will be held, but this depends on willingness both in the region and among the international superpowers, said Rexhepi."
Notably the US must be present. Zhivkovich's government wants to get on the good side of Washington ans is therefore more pliable, mord ready to compromise.
But if Kosovo goes, I think RS needs to leave as well, along with NorthernEpirus, and so on...all bets are off!
But if Kosovo goes, I think RS needs to leave as well, along with NorthernEpirus, and so on...all bets are off!
Fellas, don't you think you're opening Pandora's box? Changing borders based on ethnicity can lead to lots of things--like Vojvodina incorporated into Hungary or an independent Kurdistan--and just think of what it would be like in Africa! Plus, isn't that an invitation to ethnic warfare or cleansing or discrimination? If borders are based on ethnicity, some will be tempted to artificially change the ethnic balance in order to support more expansive ideas of their borders. We've already seen that happen--we don't want to encourage it.
BTW, northern Epirus/southern Albania has very few Greeks left--most departed soon after communism fell--I don't think that Greece would want to incorporate a very poor, Albanian dominated province into their country. In fact, there are certainly more Albanians living (counting both legal & illegal presence)in southern Epirus/Chameria than Greeks in Albania--changing the border based on ethnicity could backfire there!
What is a "right," Mark? What gives us the "right" to determine what is right and what is wrong? If ethnicity is not good enough for an ethnically divided Balkans, and history is not good enough for a historically endowed Balkans, what is the criterion for drawing the borders after they have ben redrawn in violation of the Helsinki Agreement with our own blessing?
Is it the "free" world to keep people imprisoned in countries they don't consider their own? Under regimes they consider foreign? What determined our own borders, Mark? Was it ehtnicity? Was it history? Was it perhpass some belief in "Destiny" imparted by the Almighty? Or was it just sheer force? We took what we wanted when we could?
What is the measure of this world as to who gets a state and who doesn't, where the borders lie, and when does history constitute a "right" to anything?
Kosta, the problem is not drawing borders--that has already been done. The problems come with re-drawing them; almost impossible to do without conflict.
I believe the ultimate solution lies in two measures. The first is maximum devolution of powers from central governments to local authorities. Centralization of power & budget & taxing & spending means that people will naturally look to the central government both as the source of their problems and as the solution to their problems. Add in ethnic minorities who believe they are being discriminated against or even just ignored by an ethnic majority run government and you have the necessary ingredients for combustion. Decentralize to where government services, taxes, and spending are primarily based locally and decided on by people closest and most affected by the problem. You thereby neutralize the idea that faraway bureaucrats of a differnt ethnicity are hostile or just don't care--if you want a fire truck or to fix the pot-holes or Albanian speaking teachers or less taxes, then vote on it and do it at the town or district or prefect level. Don't appeal to the central government and then blame the lack of results on real or perceived discrimination. Devolve powers and eliminate huge categories of complaints. Both my Macedonian & Albanian translators were astounded when I showed them my absentee ballot. We were voting on taxing ourselves for a new township fire engine, a bond issue to expand the county library, and a proposal to sell part of a park to a developer. In Kosovo, FYROM, and Albania proper, none of those decisions are made at the local level. Instead they must apply to the central government. Anyway, you get the picture.
The second measure is broadly defined and extensively protected individual rights--not group rights. Rights based on ethnic or group identity are always fraught with the potential or realization of trouble. Social, civic, and legal equality for all citizens makes rocky soil for the seeds of dissension.
If and when devolutiion of powers is complete and individual rights are protected, all these border issues just will not seem that important any more. And any solutions we look for in the near future ought to support those two goals in the long term.
Mark, it was done wrong. Borders are human creations, not something carved in stone. They can be changed and they have changed. We can't just all of a sudden, because it suits our interests, stop people from pursuing their inalianable rights. We can't arbitrarily start a moratorium on border changes. Border changes will become surperfluous wehn they are done right.
Your answer reminds me of the way many analysts think. You are looking at the problem of the Balkans (or for that matter of the Middle East) through the prism of an American approaching an illogical conflict logically.
In the past, decentralization has led to chaos, local sherifs, and above all separatism. We are talking different culture here. The conflict in the Balkans is ethnic, spiced with historical emnity and bloodshed.
The problem with minorities in Serbia is not that they have too little, but too much to say. They expect the government to provide them with ethnic schools and radio and television stations -- all on taxpayers' account. Serbia has the largest number of minorities in all of the former Yugoslaviav republics not because they are discriminated agianast, but because Serbia gave them more than other republics did -- and some are still not happy with that.
Decentralization of Voyvodina resulted in local sherif mentality of the local chieftans. If challenged, they will create or even back separatism in order to keep their jobs and privileges. If decentralized regions with majority Serbs leads to separatism, can anyone be surprised it does so where the majorities are not Serbs?
You are right about the individual rights. A democracy has an obligation to protect individuals' rights, not ethnic group rights. But you know very well that we have a method of pushing agendas of special-interest groups by peddling our lobbists through the back door and using "incentives" to win over the hearts and minds for a specific narrow-interest cause.
Again, this is not about violations of civil rights. In fact it is the very government we consider democratic in Serbia that is actually straying from such democratic principles, but generally speaking the onoy place where human right sare being violated is in Albanian controlled areas on our watch -- Kosovo, where Serbs are being killed for being Serbs, and their churches desecrated or destroyed because they are Serbia's cultural treasure that cannot be replaced. It is, by all definitions, genocide -- an attempt at physical and cultural annihilation of an ethnic group by another ethnic group -- as we stand there and pretend that nothing of the sort is happening in Kosovo.
This is an ethnic and religious and cultural clash, with an elephant memory. Applying civil solutions to an uncivilized people (Albanians) is a waste of time, just as neogtiations between Sharon and the Palestinians is a waste of time unless the Palestinians are willing to kiss Sharon's feet.
Again, you can use the same yardstick in FYROM or Serbia as in your local neighborhood. But, the Serbs should use the same method that has been applied in the US. They should create suitable "reservations" for self-governing "nations," and not get involved in their affairs, but also not do much beyond provide roads, schools and hopsitals. All ethnic autonomous geography is to be erased and autonomous regions obliterated. All Serb minorities are to be taught that they are Serb nationals of various colorful ethnic backgrounds, and all should pledge their loylaty to the state of their birth, not of their origin. Minorities are to be free to have their own Sunday schools or private ethnic schools, but not expect central or local governments to use taxpayers' money for such gifts. Expression of ethnicity and customs should be a private prerogative of each individualand not a secular or political issue.
But this still leaves the borders unsettled. Land claims there go back hundreds of years. One third of all Serbs live in artificially and illegally creatred "countries" on the corpse of the former-former Yugoslavia. Before anyone accepts the borders drawn by communist internaitonalists in 1943, one must ask and answer positively the question why should a multiethnic Bosnia be expected to work any better than multiethnic Yugoslavia did? And why should the Serbs in Bosnia not have the same right to secded form Bosnia as the right invoked by Bosnian Muslins and Croatians to break up thre country?
Kosta, your implication is that "inalienable rights" are linked to borders, i.e. what country you live in. Inalienable rights are the inherent human rights of every person--they are not bestowed and cannot be taken by any government, although sadly, many governments have prevented their exercise. Further, basic human rights are not a function of race or ethnicity. Recognition and protection of those rights for every person, regardless of where they live or their ethnicity, is the basic task of government. And that is where the focus should be, not in re-drawing borders with the implication that people are only safe or protected when in a state comprised of people just like them. Attempts to do that are inherently divisive and are guaranteed to lead to more hard feelings, bitterness, and perceived "winners" and "losers".
You say Border changes will become surperfluous wehn they are done right. and I contend that you will never get them right. Border changes will become superfluous (heckuva word) when governments safeguard and respect the rights of all their citizens.
And I still contend that a parallel strategy is devolution of powers to the local level--you say:
The problem with minorities in Serbia is not that they have too little, but too much to say. They expect the government to provide them with ethnic schools and radio and television stations -- all on taxpayers' account What I say is: Eliminate that problem--get the central government out of that business. Devolution means to let the local governments elect their own officials, raise their own taxes, hire their own police and firemen, build & staff their own schools and libraries. Not only is locally run government more responsive to the people, but when there is a problem, the local people decide the solution--not the central government. Can't blame far-off bureaucrats whose decisons may be perceived--fairly or unfairly--to be influenced by race, religion or ethnicity. Ergo, eliminate the problem you just described above.
It was the violation of the same right when it came to Serbs that caused the conflict. Serbs didn't want to live in Croatia any more than Croatians wanted to live in Yugoslavia. By violating Serb reights to self-determination, the Serbs were forced to live in newly and arbitrarily redrawn borders, precisely based on thnicity. So, when you state that "basic human rights are not a function of race or ethnicity" I say rubbish!
You also say that basic human rights "are not bestowed and cannot be taken by any government, although sadly, many governments have prevented their exercise" -- which to me is the same as taking them away, if not de jure then certainly de facto. Cutting through the semantics of what's the diference between taking something away and preventing it from being taken away, the fact remains that governments and unelected bodies very much have a say who gets to exercise these inalienable rights and who doesn't. Our government, which does not represent Serbian people, decided that Serbs have no right to exercise self-determination, just as the world governments have decided that Kurds have no right to it either. If the government has cannot take Kurdish human rights to self-determination, then by what authority short of naked oppression are Kurdish rights being curtailed?
In the former Yugoslavia, only the "constitutive peoples" (konstitutivbi narodi), a communist-era idiot phrase intended to mean only the founding Southern Slavs (Yugoslavia = land od Southern Slavs, the people who originally constituted the country) had a right to secession, whereas the so-called "nationalities" (narodnosti), a politically correct terms for "minorities," did not have that right.
So, while Yugoslavia's highest law gave them something that was theirs by birth, the American government denied them not soemthing that was already inalienable (which is intself alienation), but also denied Serbs soemthing that was guaranteed to them by their own Constitution!
Thus, in reality, it is clear that self-determination (of peoples) has a lot to do with ethnicity, because ethnic and religious groups tend to congregate and separate as a unit, and the exercise of that right is either allowed or alienated by the governments, which technically cannot curtail them -- but do anyway, sometimes half-way across the world.
Border changes will become superfluous (nothing heckuva about that word), or unnecessary, not only when "when governments safeguard and respect the rights of all their citizens," but when governments respect the rights of foreign citizens in their respective countries, and when governments, especially those of greater nations, begin to respect internationla agreements to which they are signatories (i.e. the Helsinky Agreement of inviolability of borders, 1975).
The problem of minorities in Serbia is not lack of local government. Serbia has local governments and had them all along. The problem is that they do not feel that they are Serbian "nationals" because they were born in and are citizens of Serbia, but behave as (what I call) -- "domestic foreigners."
I was not being sarcastic when I suggested that Serbia needs to be reorganized on the basis of the US: to create suitable reservations for its minority "nations."
Thus, in the paragraph beginning "You say that basic human rights..." the sentence "Cutting through the semantics of what's the diference between taking something away and preventing it from being taken away" should read "Cutting through the semantics of what's the difference between taking something away and preventing it from being being used"
Also the word konstitutibni should be konstitutivni.
America has found a solution to the problem of religious and ethnic conflict that continues to divide and terrorize much of the world. Visitors to places like New York are amazed to see the way in which Serbs and Croatians, Sikhs and Hindus, Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Jews and Palestinians, all seem to work and live together in harmony. How is this possible when these same groups are spearing each other and burning each other's homes in so many places in the world? The American answer is twofold. First, separate the spheres of religion and government so that no religion is given official preference but all are free to practice their faith as they wish. Second, do not extend rights to racial or ethnic groups but only to individuals; in this way, all are equal in the eyes of the law, opportunity is open to anyone who can take advantage of it, and everybody who embraces the American way of life can "become American."
Don't you think that is a better solution than carving out ethnic cantonments & reservations?