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Will Kosovo Become Precedent for Unrecognized Republics of Post-Soviet Space?

08.02.2007 12:15

Elena Guoskova
Doctor of Science, History
Director, Current Balkan Crisis Research Center, Russian Academy of Sciences

The Kosovo knot is a multilayer problem, integrating several components each of them requiring a theoretical and practical settlement. Simultaneously the Kosovo problem reflects a confrontation of interests of international subjects concerned with this conflict.

Firstly, the Kosovo problem demonstrates the collision of two approaches to ethnopolitical conflict settlement in the post-Yugoslavian space: by the peaceful negotiations and by the use of force. Secondly, the Kosovo problem reflects the seesaw of the world community between inadmissibility to interfere into the internal affairs of sovereign states, and the US policy towards unlimited use of force worldwide. Thirdly, the Kosovo problem exemplifies the biased approach to the conflicting parties, a double standard-policy, originated in Bosnia - Herzegovina and Croatia, when regardless of the situation only one of the parties is accused of everything and always. The fourth, the Kosovo problem represents the antinomy of international law between the right of nations to self-determination, and the inviolability of frontiers.

Russia attentively watches and even actively participates in the settlement of the Kosovo problem. It is not incidental. The experience of multi-national Yugoslavia is important for Russia, because the Balkans witnessed disintegration of a former federative state into mini-states. In so doing, the efforts of international organizations to settle the crisis in the territory of former Yugoslavia caused a precedent of the secession unregulated by the international law.

In the 90-s the federation disintegrated at the level of union republics. Today, the process continues at the level of autonomous regions. We speak about Kosovo and Metokhia. It is very dangerous for Russia alike for Macedonia and Serbia. .

As for Kosovo and Metokhia, Russia has concerns of a dual nature:

1) Proclamation of Kosovo independent and simultaneous declaration of Kosovo and Metokhia to be “a special case” that is insisted by the European structures and USA, will make it impossible to bring up a point of independence recognition with respect to self-appointed states in the post-Soviet and post-Yugoslavian spaces.

2) If Kosovo becomes a universal case of the international law, it will be possible to settle the problems of Transdniestria, Southern Ossetia, Nagorni Karabakh, Serb Republic, etc. But simultaneously we may face an aggravating danger of secession from the Russian Federation. What is the way to overcome this conflict?

Today, Serbs are afraid that Russia will bargain: “South Ossetia and Abkhazia – for Kosovo”. Serbs remind to us that Ossetians and Abkhazians are indigenous nations residing in these territories, as for Kosovo, the situation is absolutely different: they say that Albanians “seized the Serbian land” . In their opinion, Kosovo and Metokhia are comparable with Suzdal, Vladimir, Pskov, Moscow, Novgorod.

In terms of the external political processes (recognition or non-recognition) the processes in the Balkans and post-Soviet space are similar. In terns of the internal substance the political and economical processes in these regions are different. We may speak about self-sufficient democratic development in Transdniestria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorni Karabakh, whereas Kosovo is far from democracy: the region lives on donations, it has no economic potential, and the methods of individualization (terror, genocide, violation of human rights) seemed to have blocked its way to independence.

In reality, it is vice versa. The Balkan crisis demonstrated the biased approach of international organizations to the parties of conflict.

For example, if Albanians in Kosovo may create its own independent state, Serbs in Croatia have to right even to mention their cultural autonomy. Serbs tried to defend the lands populated mainly by Serbs. The international organizations made all their best to support the plans of the Croatian government to unite all lands. They turned a blind eye to the fact that Croats made it by armed force and by the cruelest methods: by ethnic cleansing of Serbs and by creation of a mono-national population. Serbs lacked international support in distinct from Croats.

Albanians in Macedonia may expand their rights up to the level of autonomy whereas Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina are offered to create a united Bosnia.

Moslems in Western Bosnia wanted to demonstrate to the world another, peaceful way to settlement of ethnic problems in the conditions of national and religious conflicts. To this end they established an autonomous area in the far west of Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, this type of autonomy was not supported by the international community.

In 1992, Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina made efforts to establish its own “Croat” state in Herzegovina, but they lacked international support. Therefore the interests of Croats were not taken into account in Dayton.

Referendums in Kosovo and Monte Negro are supported, but they are ignored in Transdniestria and Southern Ossetia. It is actually a double-standard policy.

The following trends are visible it the activities of the international organizations:

- to hamper creation of a unified state by Orthodox Serbian people, neutralize all options to strengthen such state, weaken this state by decreasing its area through provision of independence to Moslem-populated territories;

- to support separatist movements of Albanians (Serbia, Macedonia) and provide for establishment of their unified state;

- to support separatist trends in the camp of Slavic and Orthodox nations (Monte Negro, Voyevodina, Southern Serbia).

The 90s are distinguished with a parade of new state models in the established and stable Europe. But unfortunately the Balkan experience shows that the recognition of independence was caused not by historical, demographical, political or any other factors but interests of certain states and organizations. In the Balkans the process of international recognition of former federative republics needed:
- support of international organizations;
- support of individual states that have significant influence in the international arena.

The current negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina were ill-omened at the very beginning. It is indicative that the negotiations practically did not discuss a status of Kosovo, they discussed an internal structure of Kosovo as if the problem of independence has been solved already. It was incorrect to deny discussions of standards, deny an option of region split, discuss decentralization without status definition, for the decentralization is different in an independent region and in a region of Serbia. As the matter of fact, the talks were planned in the mastered pattern (Rambouillet) – after the talks fail, European mediators may offer their assistance that means forcing of a decision. As for the decision forcing methods, the Balkan experience is very rich.

Currently the most discussible model is recognition of independence through the UN Security Council. Want are (or may be) other options?

- unilateral proclamation of independence after a successful referendum, and subsequent recognition of this state by other countries;
- a territory of frozen conflict under the auspices of multinational forces;
- separation of hostile nations in separate territories and preservation of the status quo by means of multinational forces;
- reunification (e.g. Moldavia and Rumania) within the framework of the European Union;
- the same EU formula is an argument for Kosovars: no need to conduct negotiations if boards soon disappear within the framework of the European Union;
- application of a nonstandard model of slow separation, e.g. “asymmetric con(federation)” or “provisional independence” or “intermediate status” or “condominium (jointly controlled territory)”.

To stop manipulations with the international law, to protect own interests, to avoid further fragmentation of Serbia, Macedonia and Russia, I would like to repeat an idea expressed in the communication of R.V. Nikiforov – the world community should elaborate universal criteria for recognition of independence (level of democracy, absence of genocide and hostilities, non-use of terror tactics, etc. … (and finally) results of referendum). It may be a material contribution to stabilization of the situation in the post-Yugoslavian and post-Soviet spaces. In such case, the leaders of Kosovo would know it in advance that without restoration of Orthodox memorials, cease of Orthodox people genocide, without the safe return of Serbs to Kosovo and Matekhia it is impossible to claim for independence.

Today, the Foreign Ministry speaks on the universal nature of the Kosovo case. But empty statements are not enough. Only elaboration of universal criteria will make it possible to say that one or another territory striving for independence may be recognized or may not be recognized. In this case there will be no questions: is it necessary to take into account the historical right or base on the actual situation? Such criteria will make it possible to avoid biased approach and application of double standards.