THE STATUS OF KOSOVO, Vojislav Kostunica, Hashim Thaci

Michael Pugliese debsian at
Sat Oct 7 22:56:27 PDT 2000




Vojislav Kostunica

Before we tackle the issue of the future legal status of Kosovo, we have to say something about the current, actual status of Kosovo, that is, about the actual condition of human rights in the province. Over the past ten years or so the international community, that is, the U.S., used to view the problem of Kosovo solely through the optics of its human rights record. Though the issue of human rights, that is, their violation, appeared in various forms in the former Yugoslavia as well, both in respect to individual and collective rights, U.S. officials saw this as a problem only in Kosovo, and exclusively affecting the Albanians.

The last U.S. ambassador to Belgrade, Warren Zimmermann even claimed in the spring of 1992 that "since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Kosovo problem is the gravest human rights problem in Europe." After the latest wide-scale Albanian rebellion in Kosovo, in 1998, the official Washington began to speak about a "higher phase" in violation of the Kosovo Albanians' human rights, which allegedly manifested itself as a humanitarian catastrophe and genocide. After a Serbian delegation refused to accept the ultimatum in the form of the Rambouillet agreement, this served to "justify" the bombing of Serbia and the arrival of the international missions -- UNMIK and KFOR -- in Kosovo.

Reports of various international organizations at the end of last and the beginning of this year (the U.N., the OSCE, Human Rights Watch), however, showed that even the worst examples of earlier violations of humans rights, which, as a rule occur in any autocratic state, were negligible compared to the conditions that emerged after the bombing of Serbia and the arrival of the international civilian and security missions in Kosovo.

The U.N. special envoy for human rights in the former Yugoslavia, Jiri Dienstbier, formally best qualified to describe the condition of human rights in Kosovo, has concluded that UNMIK and KFOR in Kosovo "have failed in achieving a single one of their declared objectives," and that the situation in the province has only turned for the worse. He also said that despite the presence of the interim administration in Kosovo, the officially but not essentially demilitarized KLA and organized crime are actually in power there, and that what was going on was not a result of revenge, but of an organized policy of ethnic cleansing of Serbs and all other non-Albanians, masterminded and carried out by Albanian extremists.

All this leads to the conclusion that NATO's intervention from the air and the arrival of foreign troops in Kosovo were not, as U.S. President Clinton put it, a just and a necessary war, but rather a war completely unjustified and unwarranted. In order to cover this, the U.S. government and the U.N. behave as if the reality in Kosovo is not tragic at all, but is, in fact, idyllic, and are gearing up for a census and elections, doing all in their power, as opposed to what was earlier done for Albanian refugees, to prevent the return of Serb refugees, and to make, in various ways, living conditions for the remaining Serbs so unbearable so that they too would leave. All this confirms that the Americans and NATO did not arrive in Kosovo because of human rights, but because they are convinced that the power they wield entitles them to maintain a civilian and military presence in Kosovo, a strategically important part of the southern Balkans.

If we continue to follow this logic, it is clear that their presence would be safer if no Serbs were left in the province. After all, Madeleine Albright now says that the idea of a multi-ethnic Kosovo is unattainable. Maybe from that standpoint an independent Kosovo would be the best solution, which, by the way, is a concept supported by all Kosovo Albanian representatives alike, from "moderate" Ibrahim Rugova to not-at-all-moderate Hashim Thaci, the description of both being quite irrelevant and part of the same political game. It is not by accident that a number of U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke, agree with this.

The trouble, however, lies in the fact that the idea of an independent Kosovo is just another name for a Greater Albania, a project that could greatly augment the current instability in the Balkans, which suits Washington perfectly and which it uses to secure its presence and interests in other parts of the world.

What does U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 have to say about the future status of Kosovo in the light of these facts? The resolution is a good example of U.S. legal Newspeak, which enables various sides to see in an international document that which suits them the most, whereas the final word comes from envoys of the supreme arbiter based in Washington, regardless of whether his name is Carlos Westendorp, Wolfgang Petritsch, or Bernard Kouchner.

Resolution 1244 and its two annexes thus speak of "essential self-rule in Kosovo" and of "respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the FRY," but in line with the Rambouillet agreement. As it is well known, the final part of the Rambouillet Agreement contains the following provision: "Three years after this agreement goes into effect, an international conference shall be convened to establish a mechanism for the final resolution of the status of Kosovo, based on the will of the people, position of relevant authorities, efforts invested by all sides in regard to implementing this agreement, and the Final Helsinki Act, and it shall provide an overall assessment of this agreement's implementation and look into proposals of all sides in regard to undertaking additional measures."

This is the arbitration model that was used in the case of Brcko, but this time it involves not a small, three-member commission, but an international conference at which the U.S. and its European allies will have the final say.

As far as the "Rambouillet Agreement" is concerned, it should be kept in mind that Serbia has not accepted it, and that, therefore, it cannot be considered an agreement or a pact at all. In addition, this so-called agreement is in direct violation of Articles 51 and 52 of the Vienna Convention on Contractual Law of 1980, which say that all agreements made under pressure are legally void, which goes for the Rambouillet agreement as well, because Serbia was asked to accept it under the threat of bombing. This is confirmed by the following "diplomatic" message from U.S. State Secretary Madeleine Albright: "If the negotiations fail because the Serbs say no, then we will bomb them, but if the Albanians refuse to agree with it, we will no longer be able to assist them and will cut all aid they have been receiving from outside."

It is clear that resolution of the future status of Kosovo for all those who care about law at all must be sought within those provisions of Resolution 1244 which call for respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the FRY and substantial self-rule in Kosovo. In other words, a resolution should be sought within Serbia and the FRY. This is most important; everything else comes only after that.

It is beyond doubt that the architects of the Rambouillet agreement and the culprits of the illegal and criminal bombing of Serbia can at will resort to other solutions. In this sense, the issue of the future status of Kosovo cannot be viewed as an exclusively Serb or Albanian question. Rather, it is a question of how much legality still remains in international law. This is a question of choosing between the traditional, legalistic, and lawful understanding of law, and a new concept of law understood in terms of force, that is being nurtured in Washington, Brussels, London and elsewhere in Europe. Because of this, this question is to a lesser degree related to the future status of Kosovo and much more to the future status of law.

(The author is president of the Democratic Party of Serbia)

Hashim Thaci

After the war Kosovo is at a crossroads. It would be a mistake to slow down the process of its transformation, but to accelerate it against the political will of its citizens could also endanger the fragile stability in the region. Therefore the solution most acceptable to Albanian interests, that of the international community, and the Serbs and other national minorities is a temporary political status of Kosovo which could serve as a means to achieve the goals Kosovo's citizens ultimately aspire to.

A transitional solution for Kosovo's political status should not be expected to resolve all the problems that were created before the war, but should be seen as a necessity for a political compromise of all three sides involved that should contribute to building mutual trust between the Kosovo citizens. At the same time, Kosovo's transitional political status could serve to start building true local legislative, executive and judicial institutions, the lack of which had provided for the emergence of elements of anarchy and violence.

The institutional vacuum has led Kosovo and the international community into an unenviable position, because it is not known where the responsibility of Kosovo's citizens ends and where that of the international community begins. Because of that it is necessary to create political preconditions for establishing a legal and an executive system, on the basis of which the post-war Kosovo would achieve its initial form.

This stance of mine should advise the opposition in Serbia that it should start altering its positions on Kosovo if it desires to distance itself from the anti-Albanian policies of Milosevic. Otherwise, not only the Serbs in Kosovo, but the Serbian opposition as well, will become a hostage of a failed concept. The temporary status would indicate that Serbia was removed from Kosovo because of its genocidal regime, while the Serbian opposition, if it shows a true respect for the right of the citizens of Kosovo to opt for independence, has great chances of becoming a democratic force that has a future.

The temporary defining of a political status would provide for the creation of basic mechanisms for the development of Kosovo and its safety. This solution, on the one hand, would offer the possibility to prepare and implement a law on census and on holding free multi-party elections, and, on the other, create formal conditions for security and stability in Kosovo, without which no serious investment can be expected, nor any democratization in political relations, particularly among different nationalities...

Of course, the temporary status is not in line with the will of the citizens, who overwhelmingly favor Kosovo's independence, but it is the best alternative to not having any status whatsoever. This is because U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 leaves room for various interpretations, which depend on the side involved and the interest threatened. Thus, we currently have micro-zones closed to each other and to other parts of Kosovo, which is contrary to the interest of those who should implement U.N. Resolution 1244 -- the Serbs who live in those micro-zones, but the Albanians as well, who demand freedom of movement in line with the resolution, as well as with their political and national interests.

(The author is president of the Party of Democratic Progress and co-president of the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo.)

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list