Kosova: the hydra

IssueDecember 2004 - February 2005
Feature by Alice Mead

The political/social situation in Kosova in autumn 2004, which most people call by the acronym UNMIK, is a conglomerate, a complex overlay of five years of inadequate solutions and stop-gap measures.

Each decision taken since June 1999 has had only short-term goals, a means to justify the end of not-deciding, and each unprincipled step failed to promote solutions and structures that are stable andjust, being founded, as they are, not on principles but by appeasement.
The first major failure was theKumanovo Agreement, which failed to secure the post-war environment for both Serb and Albanian populations resulting in a three-month period of murder and disappearances on both sides. It failed to include the Geneva Conventions (at the request of Milosevic) and reconciliation measures. It completely sidestepped the true intent and nature of a peace agreement to define the boundaries and their status. It was simply a technical agreement to end the war quickly before costlyand unpopular US/UK ground troops were needed.

Even before UNMIK staff arrived, the Kumanovo Agreement created three months of post-war chaos, which the Albanian population is still paying theprice for and led to the partitioning of Mitrovica paving the way to the convoluted concept of decentralisation.

A lack of engagement

The UN administration, with powers roughly equal to a large municipality andnot an actual country as the local population believed, was then set up in an unde-fined zone with no confirmed geopolitical status. Despite the sending of two of theUN's most talented and respected staff, Dr Bernard Kouchner and the late SergioViera de Mello, the Albanians failed to appreciate them and failed to engage withan appropriate level of diplomatic goodwill in the first year.

Reconstruction proceeded quickly enough. But the gargantuan issue of thepolitical will of 90 percent of the population was never addressed or provided for.Nor were the human rights of a population that had existed under a brutalrepression for nearly 20 years.

Erosion of goodwill

We are all familiar with the resulting economic stagnation, the political limbo,the inability of investors to contribute to Kosova, the inability of Kosova to be ableto apply for World Bank funds, the further decline of a very poor education sys-tem, health system, and infrastructure. We are also familiar with how this co-exists with continual pressure from Belgrade to create inroads into Kosova terri-tory through enclaves and partitioning.

The political idealism that united thepopulation in 1998 and led to a welcoming of the NATO forces has long sinceeroded. The constant clamour of Serbs that they are in danger in Kosova createson the other side an irresponsible sense that the quickest way to end the situationis to drive them out by force, a situation that erupted in violent riots in March.

When violence does erupt, internationals are quick to blame collective ethnicgroups and to avoid analysis of the tense situation underlying such outbreaks andthe costly solutions needed.

Multinational failure

As a limited administrative unit, UNMIK failed--or didn't have enoughauthority--to adequately challenge Serbia in creating a region based on principlessuch as freedom, justice, self-determination, the very principles that the UN wasfounded on but has little power to create or enforce.

The Security Council is not fit as a local government body for the Kosovapeople, who have no voice there, and face overwhelming geopolitical manipulationfrom all five permanent members and lack of interest from the rotating mem-bers. The top-down methods of Javier Solana to regionally super-impose solu-tions that maintain the economic superiority of Belgrade over all other factorsprovides no focus for Security Council thinking either.

So this is what people call "UNMIK". Maybe Kosova should be renamed forwhat it actually is--a multinational failure to create the conditions for peace.(MFCCP). It is how things happen in Kosova now that matters. Citizenempowerment is the first step.

Topics: Balkans