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KOSOVO 2009 - The Report

Date de publication: 26.11.2009



Two anniversaries in 2009

Kosovo has been under international administration for ten years.  NATO troops occupied the province in June 1999 following the bombing of the whole of Yugoslavia by the Atlantic alliance.  At the same time, the Security Council of the United Nations placed Kosovo under international (U.N) administration while reaffirming the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.  In 2008, the Albanian authorities in Kosovo proclaimed independence, while also asking the “international community”, a part of which had encouraged the declaration, to stay in the country in order to oversee the democratic transition of the country and to ensure it integration into Euro-Atlantic structures (EU + NATO).

In October 2009, the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris sent an international mission to Kosovo to study the situation on the occasion of these two anniversaries.  The members of the team were: Natalia Narochnitskaya, a Russian citizen, who is president of IDC Paris; John Laughland, British, Director of Studies at IDC Paris; Vladimir Romanov, Russian, Director of the Foundation for Historical Perspective in Moscow; Jean-Pierre Arrignon, French, professor of medieval history at the University of Arras; and Professor Peter Bachmaier, Austrian, former research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Eastern Europe in Vienna.

I. The Institutions

A stifling complexity

Thanks to the
Declaration of Independence of 17 February 2008, Kosovo is in an extremely complicated constitutional situation.

A country which calls itself independent is in reality governed by an alphabet soup of international authorities, some of which were proposed by the
plan drawn up by the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Martti Ahtisaaari.   This plan, which provided for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, and which was therefore rejected by Belgrade in 2007, has now been integrated into the Declaration of Independence of which it was in any case the starting point.  The role of these new organisations is laid out in the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo.

The new institutions are the
International Civilian Office  and the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission, EULEX.   The ICO came into existence as a result of the Declaration of Independence of February 2008 and following the Ahtisaari plan.  The ICO has considerable powers, comparable to those enjoyed for the last fifteen years by the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina , a country referred to as a protectorate even though, unlike Kosovo, it is in fact a fully-fledged member of the United Nations.    The International Civilian Representative is the supreme authority for the interpretation and implementation of the Ahtisaari plan in Kosovo: no national organ in the country has the right to revise, contest or to reduce the powers laid out in the plan (see Articles 146 and 147 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo).

The existing institutions, which will remain in place in the spite of the Declaration of Independence, are
UNMIK, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo,  which took over the governance of Kosovo in 1999, and KFOR
, the Kosovo Protection Force, a creation of NATO, which ensures the security of Kosovo in this country whose constitution forbids it from having an army.  From 2008, UNMIK has continued to function albeit with a part of its powers taken over by EULEX.  Both UNMIK and EULEX have United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (10 June 1999) as their legal basis, which proclaims Kosovo to be part of Yugoslavia (of which Serbia is the successor state).

EULEX is a mission of the European Union which is supposed to help the government of Kosovo to guarantee the rule of law without formally taking a position on the question of independence.  Five EU states do not recognise the independence of Kosovo (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain) and the legal basis for EULEX is therefore UN Security Council Resolution 1244.  The staff at UNMIL are being reduced as EULEX takes over some of its functions.

Consequently, there are two systems of international administration – ICO on the one hand, EULEX and UNMIK on the other – which govern Kosovo but which operate on contradictory legal bases.  The latter are based on a UN Security Council Resolution which proclaims Kosovo part of Serbia, the former is one the Declaration of Independence which says the very opposite.

In spite of the difference legal bases for these two international administrations, one man, the Dutchman Peter Feith, has been appointed to fulfil two roles, that of International Civilian Representative (pro-independence) and that of Special Representative of the European Union.  The Special Representative of the European Union does not control EULEX but he does report, like EULEX, to the European Council and to the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana.

This personal union of two posts underlines the fact that there is no real difference between the two organisms, above all because EULEX is composed not only of the 27 member states of the EU but also of 5 non-EU states which have signed an accord with it – the United States, Canada, Norway, Croatia and Switzerland.  It is because of these accords that one sees in the streets of Pristina American policeman with the US flag on one shoulder and the EU flag on another – a good symbol of the symbiosis which exists between the two sides of the Atlantic.  This 5 states are all members of the “Steering Group” which sponsors the Ahtisaari plan and which therefore runs the ICO.  In other words, EULEX has greatly diluted the role of the 5 EU states which do not recognise the independence of Kosovo by including within its structures 5 non-EU states which do.

NATO continues to play a key role, particularly by ensuring security.  The Ahtisaari plan provides for “an international military presence” in Kosovo, i.e. NATO, for an indefinite period, as indeed UN Security Council 1244 does too.  The plan forbids Kosovo from having its own army.  The small armed force which it does provide for, the Kosovo Security Force, will be clearly subject to NATO and will have only light arms (see Article 14 of the
Ahtisaari Plan, above all Article 14.5; see also Annex XI and Annex VIII Article 5  ).

In addition, there is the national government of Kosovo itself, which controls neither the army nor the customs or borders, and which has only a partial control over the judicial system and over the legislative procedure.

In the North of Kosovo, the Serbian enclave which is territorially contiguous with central Serbia functions as if it were still part of Serbia.  The authority of the Albanian government in Pristina does not extend North of the River Ibar, while even EULEX has only theoretical power there.  The Serbs there have refused to allow border controls to be set up between Northern Kosovo and Central Serbia and they have also successfully protested against the creation of EULEX courts.  The Serbian currency, the dinar, is used there while only the euro is legal tender in Kosovo.  The Serbian enclaves elsewhere in Kosovo regulate their affairs, albeit with less autonomy than in the North, and therefore “independent” Kosovo as a whole has no territorial integrity.

Not only are there now UNMIK, KFOR, EULEX, ICO, EUSR and the government of the Republic of Kosovo in power, but also the
OSCE (Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe).  The OSCE has been in Kosovo since July 1999.   It had conducted missions in Kosovo previously, in 1992 and in 1998 – 1999 (the Kosovo Verification Mission).  The OSCE’s role is to promote human rights and the rule of law.  The OSCE will stay in Kosovo despite the Declaration of Independence, and also for an indefinite period.  Even if Russia and other former Soviet republics are members of the OSCE, the Mission in Kosovo works in close collaboration with KFOR (i.e. NATO) of which Russia is obviously not a member.

Other international organisations
proliferate.   Also present in Kosovo, albeit without direct governmental authority, are:  the UN “Habitat” mission;  the Ombudsperson in Kosovo, an independent bureau created by UNMIK whose role is to protect human rights; the UN Development Programme;  the International Organization for Migration; UNICEF; the International Monetary Fund; the UN Development Fund for Women;  UNOPS; the World Health Organisation; the World Bank; the International Labour Organization; UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund); the UN High Commission for Human Rights; the UN High Commission for Refugees; UN Volunteers; the International Committee of the Red Cross; and the Liaison and Information Bureau of the European Commission.   Also active in Kosovo although with permanent offices there are the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Council of Europe.  Rarely in history can such a small territory have been the object of so much international administration.

In addition to the institutional confusion, there is also juridical confusion.  There are three sources of law in Kosovo:  Yugoslav legislation, which remains in force for certain crimes, in particular for war crimes; UNMIK decrees; and the legislation of the Kosovo authorities.  Theoretically the legislation in force at the time of the events concerned is used, but these three legal “layers” are not necessarily compatible with one another.

Theoretical independence

Even the independence itself is ambiguous.  The Declaration of Independence of 17 February 2008 is in reality a declaration of the country’s dependence on its international protectors.  It is true that Kosovo was in a paradoxical situation after 1999 – it remained part of Serbia but Belgrade in fact wielded no power there since it was under international administration – the Declaration has only aggravated the contradictions by increasing the number of international organisations with overlapping powers.  The constitution of Kosovo, like that of Bosnia-Herzegovina, now includes within its very structures organisations created by foreigners which are controlled neither by the state itself nor by its people.  Kosovo, like Bosnia, is therefore a laboratory for the system of political interventionism and nation-building which is practised at the supranational level by the EU itself and which provided the politico-philosophical justification for the NATO attack in 1999.

Kosovo’s independence has been recognised by only 62 states in the world – less than one third, which will make it impossible for the country to join the United Nations.  (Among the states which have recognised Kosovo, there are
some whose own independence is rather theoretical, like the Republic of Palau or the Marshall Islands. ) Such partial recognition does necessarily lead to general recognition or to UN membership.  As a result, Kosovo could remain in political limbo for decades.  In any case, Kosovo is supposed to be integrated into the European Union together with the other countries of the Western Balkans – including Serbia – by means of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe.  In other words, it is supposed to cede it sovereignty to Europe.  Furthermore, the Declaration of Independence is itself the object of an appeal for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, an appeal
lodged by the General Assembly of the United Nations.  The Court will probably rule in 2010.  The Court could declare the Declaration, illegal.

This constitutional confusion is visible even in the telephone codes used in Kosovo.  Kosovo continues to use the international dialling code for Serbia (+381) although land lines often do not work.  Mobiles use the international dialling code for Monaco (+377) as a result of a deal brokered by Bernard Kouchner, the first UNMIK governor of the province.  This choice only underlines the theoretical nature of Kosovo’s existence as a state.  There is not even agreement at the official level about how to spell “Kosovo”.  The
web site of the Ministry of Justice, for instance, uses the spelling “Kosova” (as does the URL for the Assembly of Kosovo) instead of the “Kosovo” preferred by other ministries in the government.

It is interesting to reflect on the motives which led the Albanians to make this Declaration.  In some respects their real independence is now less than it was in the period 1991 – 2000, when the “Republic of Kosovo” existed in the form of parallel structures recognised only by Albania.  These parallel structures, created by Ibrahim Rugova, was formally dissolved in 2000 by an UNMIK decree.  By the same token, the 2008 Declaration of Independence has not necessarily increased the real independence of Kosovo or its inhabitants:  instead, it has made the constitutional situation even more complex than before and the independence perhaps less great than it would have been if the Albanians had accepted the radical autonomy proposed by the governments of Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade in 2007 – 2008.

It is well known that the text of the Declaration of Independence was literally dictated by those states who supported it.  The constitution of Kosovo was adopted without any debate in the country’s parliament nor in the country at large.  The flag, stars on the blue background, has evidently been chosen to recall the EU flag, while the national anthem, which has no words, is that of the EU (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”).  These choices underline how artificial is Kosovo’s sovereignty.

Indeed, the creation of a truly sovereign state would be in flagrant contradiction with the philosophy of the European construction, which seeks to dissolve all national sovereignties on European soil.  For at least 20 years, the principle of national sovereignty has been denigrated by the ideologues of European integration.  They affirm that sovereignty is an outdated concept because the world has become interdependent.

It is not just European leaders who advance this idea but also numerous intellectuals.  For example, according to the former Italian Prime Minister, Giuliano Amato, who served as Vice-President of the European Convention which drew up the European Constitution, the EU is an example of “multilateral constitutionalism”.  The EU is a “political UFO”.   According to the British diplomat, Robert Cooper, the EU and European states in general are “post-modern” entities because they do not put emphasis on “sovereignty” and because the distinction between domestic and foreign policy is increasingly blurred.    The EU is said to be the result of a “deconstruction of the state”.  For the Italian philosopher and politician, Gianni Vattimo, the EU is a perfect example of an invented political system which corresponds to no inherited reality and to no history or geography.  He says the EU is “anti-naturalist”.   All these commentators emphasise the fluid and changing nature of the EU, which is exactly the situation in Kosovo.

This state of affairs is obviously intentional.  But in such a “post-modern” situation, pre-modern forms of social interaction take over – clans, the black market, organised crime.  Believing themselves (as the Communists used to) to be in the vanguard of creating a new form of social organisation, the European and international leaders who have been in power in Kosovo for 10 years are supporting with their ideology precisely the very social breakdown which they say they are fighting against.


 Serbian monasteries survive only thanks to the protection of Kfor.  Above: Gracanica

2.    The economic and political situation

The constitutional confusion therefore causes social and economic chaos.  As one leaves the airport on arrival, the first approach to Pristina is marred by gigantic and chaotic road works on the way into town.  These seem greatly out of proportion to the air traffic into the country and, since no temporary road has been created to deal with traffic in the meantime, cars and lorries have to make their way over mud tracks.  This generates massive gridlock on a daily basis.  The capital city is very crowded, which suggests that there has been significant migration from the countryside, no doubt as a result of the collapse of the local agriculture.  On the outskirts of the capital, and in suburbs like Kosovo Polje, the countless slums are testimony to the deep social divisions within the country.  Election posters for a candidate for the post of Mayor of Pristina bear the slogan “For a Pristina which works”:  this strongly suggests that it currently does not.

The Albanians themselves are systematically dissatisfied with the economic and political situation in their country.  All the people interviewed by IDC spoke of their despair.  The remarks of Behxhet Shala were particularly interesting.  Shala is Director of the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, an organisation chaired for many years by Adem Demaci, one of the leading figures in the Albanians’ fight for secession.  This NGO has acquired a good reputation in Pristina and it continues to receive financial support from the Open Society Foundation for its work on Kosovo’s prisons.  Shala told IDC, “Kosovo is not independent because the government is under international administration.  The president of Kosovo is Peter Feith.  It is he who hold executive power in the main areas.”

There is poverty everywhere.  45% of the population lives below the poverty line.  15% lives in extreme poverty, earning less than a euro per day.   Even the
CIA, which sings the praises of Kosovo’s economic development and its progress towards “a market economy”, admits that the population of Kosovo is the poorest in Europe  - poorer, therefore, than Moldova.  The infant morality rate (35 – 49 deaths per 1000) is twice the rate in Serbia and higher than that in Mexico or the Occupied Territories.   According to Behxhet Shala, the unemployment rate is 70% but the UN Development Programme puts it at 50%.

No serious economic development programme has been undertaken during ten years of international administration. The internationals devote their energies more to
ideological education than to real economic development.  Obsessed by politically correct concepts like “diversity”  and “multi-ethnicity”, and peddling these by means of propaganda and self-promotion events
, the international authorities of Kosovo have in reality neglected the one factor which could have integrated such a deeply divided society:  economic development.  A single factory providing jobs to the inhabitants of Kosovo independently of their ethnic origin would have done more to foster ethnic understanding that a hundred lectures on diversity and tolerance.  But the international administration of Kosovo has not built a single one.  The contrast is striking between the massive infrastructure projects carried out by the Austrian colonists who occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1878.  Even today you can see roads, bridges, railways and schools built in the last days of the Habsburg empire, whose developmental fervour is well documented in Ivo Andric’s great novel, The Bridge on the Drina.

The European Commission does not share the CIA’s optimism about Kosovo’s economy. Brussels’ view is closer to reality.  According to the latest
progress report on Kosovo, published in October 2009, the province has made practically no progress towards establishing a market economy.   For those who know how to read diplomatic language, the 2009 report is a damning critique of the province across the board.  The report is especially critical of the fact that no proper investigations have been carried out into the anti-Serb pogrom of March 2004, in which dozens were killed.  It also attacks the lack of independence in the judicial system and in the media (p. 11); very widespread corruption (p. 13); the lack of reconciliation between ethnic communities (p. 18); the fact that (Serb) refugees cannot return to their homes (p. 19); the catastrophic situation in which the gypsy populations live (p. 19) and the fact that the rule of law does not apply in Kosovo (p. 21)

In fact, the European Commission’s finding that there is no market economy in Kosovo is the very opposite of the truth: there is only a market economy in Kosovo, basically small-scale trade but also of course various illegal forms of trafficking.  Throughout the province, you see people selling a few vegetables (often imported) by the roadside.  Precisely what is lacking is not a market but instead industry, both large and small scale, and agriculture.  The contrast with, say, Turkey, is very striking.  According to Behxhet Shala, 97% of the Kosovo economy is import-export, an opinion confirmed by Margarita Kadriu, editor and director of the largest daily newspaper in Kosovo, Kosova Sot.  For the few Kosovars who have a salary, the average monthly income in €200.

According to Behxhet Shala, most of the funds transferred to Kosovo in the form of international aid are in fact consumed by funding the international officials themselves.  Kosovo’s population survives mainly thanks to remittances sent from abroad, essentially from the Albanian diaspora.

The only area in which there is any development is in the construction of mosques.  Less pronounced that in Bosnia, this building nonetheless represents the single contribution of the international community to the reconstruction of the country.  Ten years of international presence in Kosovo (and fifteen years in Bosnia) have produced literally no material benefit for ordinary people.

One of the many churches destroyed by Albanians after June 1999.  This one is on the road between Pristina and Pec
3.    Democratisation

Many Albanians consider that there is no democracy in Kosovo.  “In Kosovo, there is no room for democracy,” declares Behxhet Shala.  “The packaging can seem very democratic but there is nothing inside.  If you listen to the international officials, you will get the impression that all is going well.  In reality, the mechanisms which have been put in place to protect human rights in fact violate them systematically.  It is ridiculous to speak of human rights in Kosovo.”

Margarita Kadriu, who runs the only independent newspaper in Kosovo (the only one which is not controlled by a political party), says that there is widespread disenchantment with politicians, which the Declaration of Independence has not been able to arrest.  “People are fed up with politicians,” she told IDC.  “They are more interested in social questions and in their daily lives.  They see how politicians do nothing but enrich themselves.”  For Albin Kurti, the leader of the independence movement, Vetevendosje (Self-Determination), Kosovo is “
in dependence”, i.e. in a situation of dependence vis-à-vis the international authorities.   There is not question of independence.

Even the international authorities agree that there is no freedom of the media in Kosovo.  In its
progress report of October 2009, the European Commission declared that “Freedom of expression is not fully guaranteed.”   The recent dismissal of the director of the main public television station, Agim Zatriqi – a dismissal which Margarita Kadriu said was the result of political pressure – is only the latest proof that ten years of international administration have not managed to change the way people think.   According to a representative of the main opposition party, thatr of the former guerrilla, Ramush Haradinaj, the current government of Hashim Thaci is in the process of setting up “a dictatorship”.

4.    Corruption and criminality within the government

All those interviewed by IDC, both Albanians and Serbs, and including the Head of Mission of EULEX, emphasised the problem of corruption in Kosovo.  They all agreed that the most senior leaders in Kosovo are themselves involved in organised crime.  Behxhet Shala said to IDC, “Corruption is at the highest level of the state.  Kosovo is an El Dorado for crime.”  The main activities of organised crime are trafficking in arms, drugs and prostitutes, each “sector” being controlled by one or other of the strongmen of the old KLA, now in politics.  The few industrial installations which remain in the country (the airport, the telecommunications and the electricity network) are systematically pillaged by the men in power.

Since Kosovo society is based on clans (like Albanian society in general) the political life of the country is in reality a game of shadows in which the real men of power are not necessarily those who occupy the most officially important posts.  Organise crime remains unassailable because, among other things, there is a rule of omertà which makes judicial enquiries impossible.

One flagrant example of waste and theft is that of KEK, the Kosovo Electricity Corporation.  It has received some 500 million euros since 1999 and yet there is still no proper electricity supply in the province.  There have been daily power cuts for a decade and many houses and businesses are obliged to keep a generator which is used whenever the electricity is cut off.
5.    Decentralisation and the situation for minorities

A key element of the Ahtisaari plan, which is now part of the constitution of Kosovo (Articles 146 and 147) is decentralisation.  This decentralisation will ratify the apartheid which has existed in Kosovo since 1999.  Under NATO’s eyes, Serbs in Kosovo have been the victims of a systematic programme of ethnic cleansing which has been well documented by the OSCE and by other authors.   This ethnic cleansing continued for at least 5 years from 1999 to 2004 and harassment continues, albeit at a lower level, even to this day.  The result is that the Serbs live only in ghettos.  Their monasteries are surrounded by barbed wire and protected by soldiers and armoured personnel carriers.  More than a hundred churches have been destroyed.

Observers are in general agreement that ethnic divisions in Kosovo have only grown worse in the last ten years, even though Yugoslavia was bombed in 1999 to protect multi-ethnicity and human rights.   There may have been a reduction in violence between ethnic groups recently but this is not due to any improvement in inter-ethnic relations but is instead a result of the total segregation of society.   This is precisely the opposite of the goal which the international community set itself when it attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 and occupied Kosovo subsequently. 

The Ahtisaari plan institutionalises this segregation by creating ethnic cantons with a large dose of autonomy.  Many Albanians are hostile to this decentralisation because it reduces their control over Serbian enclaves and certainly represents a limit on their national sovereignty.  The parallel with Cyprus is striking, where the Turks enjoyed in the 1960 constitution (the Treaty of Guarantee imposed on Cyprus by the three powers, the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey) rights which were out of proportion to their weight in the population.

As a result, there is only one word to describe the situation of the ethnic minorities in Kosovo ten years after the war waged in the name of human rights: grotesque.  In which other country in Europe, or in the world, do Christian monasteries have to be protected by soldiers and tanks?  IDC representatives who had visited Kosovo in 1999 could perhaps have considered that such measures were necessary in the immediate aftermath of the war, when the desire for revenge was still at its height – even though nothing can excuse attacks against churches, the most perfect symbol of love and peace.  But ten years later?  The fact that the Serb monasteries still need such protection is a national shame for the Albanian authorities, as for the international administration which has governed the province for a decade.  The fact that a hundred or so churches have been destroyed is an indelible stain on the reputation of the Albanians, who nonetheless say they are Europeans, for instance in the commercials Kosovo has paid for on CNN.

This failure to repair ethnic division is not a coincidence.  It is instead an inevitable consequence of the support given by the West to the most violent elements in Albanian society, especially the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK in Albanian).  This organisation, which the American authorities classified as a terrorist organisation until 1988, was given considerable logistical, political and financial support by the Western powers.    Although the reputation of the late Ibrahim Rugova for non-violence was often exaggerated – he never condemned the anti-Serb
pogrom of 17 March 2004, for instance, even though there were some twenty murders   - the fact remains that he always officially adopted a policy of non-violent resistance.  This was and remains in flagrant contrast to the policy of violence adopted by the KLA.  Indeed, the KLA not only has a policy of violence, it encourages a culture of violence as well.  The former guerrillas who dominate the Kosovo government have erected highly militarist statues to their hero martyrs all over the country.  Such sinister glorification of men of violence has no equivalent anywhere in Europe, an in particular not in Serbia where one never sees monuments to Arkan or Frenki Simatovic.

This Western choice in favour of the KLA was accompanied by a clear choice in favour of the ethnicisation of political life in Kosovo.  Of course ethnic divisions had existed before 1999 and they had caused a long exodus of Serbs from the province, especially throughout the 1980s.  But the decision to support the independence of the Kosovo Albanians represents a choice in favour of the ethnic principle in politics.   The Ahtisaari plan, with its “de-centralisation”, ratifies this principle by institutionalising the ghettos created by acts of violence committed by Albanians from 1999 onwards.  It is true that the segregation has caused the violence to calm down but this does not mean that it constitutes a very appropriate modus operandi for a country which aspires to EU membership.

The poor state of inter-ethnic relations was confirmed by all the interviews IDC conducted in Kosovo.  The Serbs complained, as one would expect, of the fact that they are forced to live in ghettos and of the constant power cuts.  The medieval monastery of Gracanica depends on its own generator for electricity because the power supply was cut off after Bishop Artemije refused to register the monastery as an association according to the law of the government of Pristina.  (Such an obligation to transform a monastery into a legal association recalls the laws adopted in France at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, and which were used to persecute the Catholic Church in the name of the separation between Church and state.  The Pope, Pius X, encouraged the French bishops to resist these laws, especially when they demanded that the new associations created to own church buildings be structured so as to escape the church hierarchy.   The bishops’ resistance led to the legislation being abandoned and recognised as unjust by the state itself.)

But the Albanians in turn were unanimously opposed to any role for Serbia in Kosovo’s affairs.  Evidently political opinions are decided according to the ethnic criteria alone.  Margarita Kadriu confirmed that there was huge hostility to EULEX’s decision to sign an agreement with Serbia on the fight against organised crime.  She said, “People detest EULEX.”  It is indeed true that the Kosovo government is unanimously against the agreement.  By the same token, according to her, the Albanians liked Bernard Kouchner and Michael Steiner as UN Special Representatives of the Secretary General (governors) because they were deemed favourable to the Albanian cause, while they disliked Hans Haekkerup because he also signed an
with Serbia in 2001 (an agreement which stipulated, among other things, that Kosovo would never declare independence).

Organised crime, corruption and the behaviour of the international authorities have ensured that inter-ethnic relations are worse today than they were five years ago.  IDC was able to see for itself what a gulf separates Serbs from Albanians by visiting Gracanica, Pec, Decani and North Mitrovia, where members of the mission met two Serb leaders, Milan Jovanovic and Marko Jaksic.  Supporters of the former government of Vojislav Kostunica, and enemies of the new government in Belgrade, the two men are implacably opposed to EULEX, to the Albanians and to their own compatriots whom they accuse of treason.  For them, EULEX is a way of integrating Northern Kosovo with the rest of the province, including by creating a border between Northern Kosovo and Central Serbia.  They said they are convinced that EULEX exists only thanks to the Ahtisaari plan and that it is therefore incompatible with international law, according to which Kosovo is part of Serbia.  EULEX is therefore attacked by both Serbs and Albanians.
6.    Fundamental instability

Everyone IDC interviewed agreed that the situation in Kosovo cannot last.  Behxhet Shala said, “The situation will explode.”  He expects no improvement.  On the contrary, he said, “The situation will soon become intolerable for both Albanians and Serbs.”  By the same token, Margarita Kadriu said, “Kosovo is a tile bomb.  The question is not whether it will blow up, but when.”  She believes that although the Albanians suffered under Milosevic, they at least maintained their dignity.  Now they have lost even that.  “Without a real plan for development, there is no hope.”

IDC’s meeting with the independence movement,
Vetevendosje, was particularly interesting. Vetevendosje gets into the news a lot, especially since its activists set 60 EULEX vehicles alight in August 2009 in protest at the agreement signed with Serbia on the fight against organised crime. (The government of the Republic of Kosovo was very slow to condemn this act of violent protest.)  IDC met the leader of Vetevendosje, Albin Kurti, a young charismatic man rather in the mould of a 1960s rebel.  His movement is radically nationalist; its web site  carries quotes fdrom Malcolm X and Che Guevara but also from Goethe and Abraham Lincoln; Kurti’s own writings are peppered with quotes from Marxists like Louis Althusser and other  French intellectuals such as Pierre Bourdieu.  Determined and intelligent, Kurti leads a radical movement which however enjoys wide support among the population of Kosovo (at least according to Margarita Kadriu, who denied that Vetevendosje was a marginal movement as the Head of Mission of EULEX claims).

Vetevendosje says that it is against decentralisation, against the protection of Serbian monasteries, against neo-liberal economic reforms and against the international administration in Kosovo.  The movement campaigns for the full territorial sovereignty of Kosovo, without restrictions and without international oversight.  Kurti complains about corruption and about the privatisation process which, he says, is open only to rich people and to the foreign companies which it favours.  For him, the KLA betrayed the cause of the independence of Kosovo at Rambouillet, when it accepted mere autonomy within Yugoslavia.  This solution was then ratified by UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Kurti is especially eloquent about the fact that “stability” is the cornerstone of the international administration’s policy in Kosovo.  (Behxhet Shala had said precisely the same thing: “The international administrators are interested only in stability.”)  According to Kurti, this attachment to stability at any price encourages the corruption of elites.  To maintain good relations with the elites in power becomes a priority for the international administrators as soon as they feel obliged to present the best possible image of a stable province to the outside world and to their own bosses.

Kurti also complains, not surprisingly, of the fact that he was himself imprisoned for five months by UNMIK while no senior politician has suffered the same punishment for corruption.
Statue of Zahir Pajaziti (1962 – 1997), KLA guerrilla, in the centre of Pristina
8.  Greater Albania

One element which would contribute to a destabilisation of the Balkans is the dream of a Greater Albania.  The leader of Vetevendosje said clearly that he was in favour of Kosovo becoming part of Albania.  “The whole resistance movement (against Serbia) was conducted in the name of reunification (with Albania).  The border which currently separates Kosovo from Albania was imposed by violence by the London Treaty of 1913.”  This is obviously the ideology of the Prizren League.

But it is not only Kurti who speaks about unification with Albania.  During the IDC’s mission to Kosovo, the Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, visited Pristina (on 6 October 1999) and
addressed the Kosovo parliament.  “The nation is one and indivisible,” he said, “in its spirit and in its identity.”  This remark elicited a protest not only from Serbia but also from Russia.  Such comments naturally seem to encourage a desire for unification with Albania among the Albanians in Kosovo.

However, the constitution of Kosovo forbids it from joining any other state (Article 1.3).  That such a rule should be placed in the very first Article shows to what extent the international authors of the Declaration of Independence were aware of the danger of a desire for unification.

This rule against joining any other state recalls the same rule laid down in Article 1 of the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, i.e. the Treaty of Guarantee signed by the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey.  (Like Kosovo, Cyprus received its constitution from “on high” from the powers concerned, and not by self-proclamation.)  This Article also forbids Cyprus from joining any other state.  As in Kosovo, the constitution of Cyprus demands respect for minority rights.  To the extent that these rights were disproportionate to the percentage of Turkish Cypriots, their imposition was resented as an injustice by the Greek Cypriots.  As a result, they started to persecute the Turks and to drive them into ghettos.  Civil war broke out three years later.  At the time of the putsch by the colonels in Greece in 1974, a man seized power in Cyprus (Nikos Samson) who called openly for the unification of Cyprus with Greece: Turkey invaded at this point.  Will history repeat itself in Kosovo?
9.  The position of EULEX

Faced with all these challenges, what is the position of EULEX?  The IDC team was kindly received by the Head of Mission of EULEX, the French general, Yves de Kermabon, who had previously been the commander of KFOR.  Since starting his new job, General de Kermabon has not stopped insisting, as he did to IDC, that his mission is only “technical”.  He thereby tries to avoid taking any clear position on the status of Kosovo, this ambiguity having been imposed upon him by the doubtful legal basis on which his work is based, as well as by the refusal of five member states to recognise the independence of Kosovo.

However, his attempt is doomed to failure.  Political, judicial and police power cannot be exercised without a clear legal basis.  The legal basis of EULEX is theoretically UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which stipulates that Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia (Serbia).  In reality, EULEX works in close collaboration with the government of Pristina, with NATO and with the ICR, Peter Feith (who is also the EU’s Special Representative).  More generally, EULEX is part of the European policy whose goal is to integrate the whole of the “Western Balkans” (the former Yugoslavia and Albania) into the EU.  How can such a policy be purely “technical”?  The accession of a country to the EU is a political process about which the people concerned are generally invited to vote in a referendum.

It is probably because of the internal contradictions of his position that General de Kermabon’s statements were often contradictory.  For example, he said that, “The situation is globally positive, above all in comparison with other parts of the world” but later said that it was “catastrophic”.  Asked about the destruction of churches, he said that it was essential “to forgive but not to forget”, whereas EULEX is obliged to ensure Kosovo’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia whose purpose is in no way to “forgive” but instead, on the contrary, to punish, including acts of violence committed against religious monuments.  He said, on the one hand, that progress was being made but, on the other, that organised crime continues to prosper and that members of the government itself are involved in it.

Prompted by his assistant, Frédéric Matthieu, General de Kermabon emphasised that EULEX is adopting “a step by step policy”.  Kermabon said, “The key to success is not to try to do too much.”  Kermabon said that this step-by-step policy was necessary in order not to “destabilise” the situation.  “We will need a lot of time because the challenge is enormous,” he said, without commenting on the fact that there has been international administration in Kosovo for a decade and that there is no prospect of it going home at any time in the near future.

In view of the need to preserve “stability”, it is obvious that EULEX will attempt to perform a balancing act by offsetting decisions which are unpopular with one community with decisions which are unpopular with the other.  In this regard, the brutal arrest of four Serbs  on 23 September 2009 by scores of policemen appears to some to be a way of “compensating” for EULEX’s signature of the agreement with Serbia.  “EULEX made in Serbia” says the graffiti outside the EULEX offices in the centre of Pristina.  The four persons arrested have been living quietly in their ethnically mixed village for the last ten years, and in any case there was no fighting there in the war (1998 – 1999).  It seems highly unlikely that war criminals could have been “hiding” there so openly for so long without anyone bothering them.  At the same time, no investigation has been undertaken into the murder and kidnapping of seventeen Serbs from this region in the period after 1999.   General de Kermabon said, “If we are being attacked from all sides, we must be doing something right.”  But is that really a good principle of government?

The EULEX mission, like international administration in general, is deeply influenced by a paternalism which is difficult to reconcile with the proclaimed goal of democratisation.  General de Kermabon compared his task to “the education of children”, scarcely a flattering remark for the Albanians to whom he was referring.

Worse still, the head of EULEX presented himself as “but a small cog in the system”.  Indeed, an ethic of general irresponsibility is the inevitable result of a system in which lines of accountability are unclear.  This is the worst solution imaginable for a country like Kosovo which needs precisely the opposite.
10.    A “solution” which in fact creates the problems it is supposed to solve

Faced with this situation of external dependence, and lacking any clear political authority, Kosovo society regulates itself according to its ancestral traditions: Albanian society is based on clans and it is these which in fact run the country even now.  The paradox is that the international presence in Kosovo, with its system of divided sovereignty and polyvalent competences (even the international organisations do not agree among themselves) is extremely weak.  The result is that society falls back on its clannish and tribal structures, first among Albanians and then between Serbs and Albanians.  The only cooperation between Albanians and Serbs is Mafia cooperation:  organised crime knows no ethnic or administrative borders.  Everyone finds his place provided that he collaborates with the dominant clan system.  As far as human rights are concerned, it is clear that they do not exist without proper recognised legislation, all the less so to the extent that the judicial mixes local and international judges to create a veritable judicial dog’s dinner of different legislative systems.

In Kosovo, the various international and national institutions each claim their own share of legitimacy.  Tensions are numerous between the international institutions, and the Kosovo authorities know how to exploit this.  In the context, a policy of “small steps” has no chance whatever of succeeding to create a new society.

Behxhet Shala argues that the current situation is intentional and that the international officials want it to continue.  “It gives them a reason to exist,” he says.  Albin Kurti agreed.  He considers that the goal of the internationals is to prolong the status quo for as long as possible without Kosovo undergoing any real change.  Shala complains that the internationals enjoy legal immunity and that they are above the law.  Kurti agrees:  when in 2007 two demonstrators in his movement were killed in the streets of Pristina (and 80 were wounded), the policemen who shot into the crowd were never punished, even though UNMIK has since admitted that they acted wrongly.

According to this theory, the internationals, like fireman-arsonists, in fact have no interest in improving the lot of the inhabitants of Kosovo because that would put them out of a job.  It is not a coincidence if people no longer speak of “conflict resolution” but instead of “conflict management”.   Conflict is therefore no longer something to which one tries to put an end but instead something which is exploited in order to perpetuate an administrative structure for an indefinite period.

IDC was therefore able to see that there are two societies in Kosovo: a virtual society, organised by the European institutions, who satisfy themselves with presenting a calm situation to the outside world whereas the reality is that this calm in fact guaranteed by the Mafia and its clans.  Everyone plays his role but nothing is in fact achieved: there are no economic prospects, everyone respects the status quo, the European institutions pretend to believe that what they are doing is useful; their acts follow the line set from Brussels but little interest is paid to whether they are actually beneficial to the local population.  They inhabit another world which ensures their survival and their permanence by a presence which is all too visible thanks to the huge numbers of gleaming 4x4s on the roads.

The other society, the real society, is based on clans which are present from the top to the bottom of society and without which nothing is possible.  It is they which keep the peace and divide up all economic activity between themselves, something which the European institutions do not take into account.  This is a beautiful alliance between European post-modernism and pre-modern forms of social behaviour, the kind of which Europe should have got rid of long ago.

                                                                  Paris, November 2009.

Members of the IDC delegation in discussion with General Yves de Kermabon, Pristina, October 2009.  

Publications      Research      News



Conference on the "populist wave" in Central Europe (IDC, 19 December 2017)

The Russian revolution and the civil war (IDC, 8 November 2017)

Conference at IDC on the Korean crisis (21 September 2017)

"Trump and Macron on Syria: what is new?" Conference at IDC, 12 July 2017

Conference on the end of globaliation, 21 June 2017

Conference in the Vatican on Catholics and Orthodox (24 May 2017)


John Laughland discusses the Catalan referendum on RT (4 October 2017)

John Laughland discusses NATO expansion on TRT World TV (31 July 2017)