Serbia – Past and future

By Johan Galtung

February 15, 2010

In Belgrade: The NATO attack May-June 1999 left scars still not healed, like the bombed out Ministry of the Interior (Israelis want to invest in a hotel at that site).  But the place is as vibrant with culture and restaurants-cafes and intellectualisms of all kinds as ever.  An enviable resilience.  Orthodox optimism?

Processing the past is not easy.  This authors’s summary of Serbian history adds up to three words: defeat, retreat, return.  There is the Abrahamic idea of Chosen People with a Promised Land from Genesis, focused on today’s Kosovo-Kosova. Hypothesis: whatever else happens, there will be some kind of return.  To put this author’s cards on the table I see only one relatively stable equilibrium not maintained by violence and the threat thereof (1):

• an independent Kosova in the name of self-determination,
• with a Swiss type constitution and a flexible number of cantons,
• maybe three Serbian cantons in the North and close to Pristina,
• each canton governed in that nation’s idiom as a federation,
• with open borders to the key motherlands Serbia and Albania, and
• those three countries woven together in a confederation.

The present “independence” – using a Finn as an instrument for US-Western goals and based on three points is of course not sustainable: [Read more…]

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Kosovo: Many options but independence

By Jan Oberg & Aleksandar Mitic

TFF PressInfo 228 – October 27, 2005

Originally published here.

 

The Serbian province of Kosovo, largely populated by the Albanian separatist-minded majority, has failed to meet basic human rights and political standards set as prerequisites by the international community, but it should nevertheless enter in the months to come talks on its future status.

This basic conclusion of the long-awaited report by UN special envoy Kai Eide was approved by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan and fully supported by the EU and the US, but it fails to demystify the paradox.

Only two a half years ago, the international community had charged that talks on status could not start before a set of basic human rights standards was achieved.

Since then, however, as it became clearer that the Kosovo Albanian majority was unwilling to meet the criteria and the UN unable to enforce them, there was a permanent watering down of prerequisites, until the proclaimed policy of “standards before status” was finally buried with Mr. Eide’s report.

Why has it failed? Is it because of the fear of the Kosovo Albanian threat of inciting violence if talks on status did not start soon, or was this policy a bluff from the start?

What kind of signal does it offer for the fairness of the upcoming talks? Will threats of ethnic violence in case “the only option for Kosovo Albanians – independence” – is not achieved again play a role? Or will the international community overcome its fear and offer both Pristina and Belgrade reasons to believe that the solution would negotiated and long-lasting rather than imposed, one-sided and conflict-prone?

Advocates of Kosovo’s independence such as the International Crisis Group, Wesley Clark, Richard Holbrooke and various US members of Congress argue “independence is the only solution.” The U.S. has more urgent problems elsewhere. But full independence cannot be negotiated, it can only be imposed. “Independent Kosova” implies that the Kosovo-Albanians achieve their maximalist goal with military means while Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs and Roma would not even get their minimum — a recipe for future troubles. [Read more…]

Srebrenica Muslims remembered – the rest silenced

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 222 – July 11, 2005

Originally published here.

 

There is every reason to commemorate the massacre by Serb soldiers on innocent Muslim civilians in Srebrenica ten years ago today. But unless it is considered acceptable to quantify crimes and politically misuse human suffering, there is no plausible reason to forget or silence other cases of massacres, ethnic cleansing and terror bombings in which other innocent people lost their lives.

 

Other crimes silenced

In September 2003, mainstream media around the world forgot to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Croatian Army’s killing of civilian Serbs in the Medak Pocket in Croatia.

In May 2005, they forgot to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Operation Flash in Croatia and in August this year they are likely to remain silent about Operation Storm in Croatia. Here is what Amnesty International has to say about the fate of civilian Serbs in Croatia in the years 1991-95 during which 300.000 Croatian Serbs were forced to leave and/or actively driven out with violence from their country. Today’s Croatian leaders are proud of this – and of course present at the Srebrenica ceremony together with diplomats from the United States that, at the time, assisted the Croatian Army in its crimes.

On March 24 this year the international community passed over the 6th Anniversary of NATO’s bombings of Serbia and Kosovo in silence. These bombs killed more people propotionately than the terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. There has been no coverage of the innocents who suffered there, no silent minutes and no speeches of solidarity – neither has there for the suffering in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Read more…]

The UN in Kosovo praises potential war criminal – why?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 208 – March 10, 2005

Originally published here.

Danish diplomat, Søren Jessen-Petersen is the highest authority in Kosovo and SRSG, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, there. In spite of that, his unconditional embrace of Mr. Ramush Haradinaj, a former leader of the illegal Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and former prime minister in the non-independent Kosovo and now indicted for war crimes by the Hague Tribunal seems to raise no eyebrows in any capital, media or at the UN in New York.

All relevant links here. See also the TFF Kosovo Solution Series beginning here.

 

Mr. Søren Jessen-Petersen’s embrace of Haradinaj

In a statement on Haradinaj’s resignation Jessen-Petersen praises him for his “dynamic leadership, strong commitment and vision” and says that thanks to that “Kosovo is today closer than ever before to achieving its aspirations in settling its future status.” He calls him his “close partner and friend.” In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister had no choice but to voluntarily go to the Hague, Kofi Annan’s representative praises him for the “dignity and maturity” he has shown in deciding to do so. He also expresses his understanding of the “shock and anger” the people of Kosovo must feel at this development, “people” meaning of course only the Albanians and hardly the Serbs, Romas and other minorities living there.

Søren Jessen-Petersen continues [Read more…]

Peacemaking in Kosovo coming to an end – for predictable reasons

With a critique of the International Crisis Group

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 197 – April 29, 2004

Originally published here.

See PressInfo 195 as a background to this PressInfo

This PressInfo in Swedish
This PressInfo in Danish

There is a long-term background and some root causes behind the emerging peace-keeping failure in Kosovo. Media and politicians tend to forget them because they were ignored during the 1990s and do not fit the standardised image of the conflict. In this analysis, TFF’s director who has been engaged in Kosovo since 1991 discusses some of the most important among those causes.

In passing, he also points out how an allegedly “prestigious” NGO such as the International Crisis Group serves as a biased NEGO, a NEar-Governmental Organisation, and continues to offer perspectives and proposals that will make things worse in the Balkans.

It’s the beginning of the end

Slowly but surely – and sadly – the efforts of the international community to create peace in Kosovo/a are coming to an end in spring 2004. The reasons are simple: mediation and conflict-resolution in complex conflicts can not be done the way it was between 1989 and 1999. And you won’t succeed with peace-making the way it was done by the bombings in 1999 and the efforts since then.

Had anyone in the EU and the U.S. had the intellectual will and the political courage to draw conflict-management lessons from the Balkans, we would hardly have experienced the succeeding quagmires called Afghanistan and Iraq where the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are also decaying by the day.

The community’s self-appointed conflict-managers and mediators probably now hope that their “condemnations” of the most recent bout of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in March 2004 will do the trick, prevent Albanian extremists from further attacks and keep the Kosovo calamity away from the headlines. If so, there is a high probability that they are in for nasty surprises.

The truth is simple and wants to get out: the international community hasn’t got the faintest idea about what to do with Kosovo. There are no solutions anymore that will be fair in the eyes of the parties. Any future status will create serious problems in the region and possibly for the international community. To put it crudely – if the international conflict-managers are doctors, their patient is dying because of a bad diagnosis and a seriously failed surgery.

Embarrassing as they are, the reasons are quite simple but remain virtually untold: they would require an ounce of self-criticism in a series of European ministries of foreign affairs, in Washington and Brussels. For the decade 1989-1999 the international community operated on a standardised, one-truth, black-and-white explanation of what the conflict was about. They blamed the Serbs in general and Slobodan Milosevic in particular for the Kosovo conflict. They ignored the complex framework in space and time of which Kosovo was a part: the dissolution mechanisms of former Yugoslavia, the wider context of the Balkans and the restructuring of the world order as well as the transition from the Cold War paradigm to something different.

Like we see in today’s Iraq, there were no limits to the political hubris-cum-ignorance. Both Albanian and Serb citizens were treated as pawns in much larger games and they are realising it now.

Below follows a list of some of the conflict mismanagement and long-term root causes that explain the unfolding dissolution of the peace-making efforts in Kosovo that we are now witnessing. (Numbers do not indicate priority or relative importance.)

Some root causes of the failed peace-making effort in Kosovo

1. Not understanding that the former Yugoslavia fell apart – also – because of a series of structural changes such as the oil crisis of the 1970s, European immigration policies and the end of the Cold War with lost neutrality between two blocks. Furthermore, multinational corporations’ exploitation of low-wage labour in South-East Asia which destroyed Yugoslavia’s industrial base and brought huge unemployment – followed by IMF structural adjustment programmes that further devastated the economy and welfare. The international community itself was a co-producer of the Yugoslav crisis and provided the outer conditions that made ethnic scapegoating possible.

2. Not understanding that the autonomy of Kosovo and Voivodina presupposed the existence of Yugoslavia; Serbia proper could be overruled by the two provinces in its own parliament if and when the other Yugoslav republics had left the balancing act. Thus, the Western policy of advocating and promoting the partition of Yugoslavia could not but create terrible problems, in Kosovo and elsewhere.

3. Turning a blind eye to the strong Kosovo-Albanian nationalism and exclusivity; they profited politically from having an arrogant strongman in Belgrade who repressed their basic human rights – for which reason they never supported the opposition in Serbia. When the international community talked about human rights, Kosovo-Albanian leaders meant independence. Ask yourself why what happened in Kosovo did not happen in Voivodina, the other autonomous province.

4.The short-sightedness of teasing Milosevic by supporting an independent Kosovo – like supporting the independence of Montenegro – and dropping that policy as soon as Milosevic left the stage. Go to Podgorica today and you will be overwhelmed by the disappointment with the EU and the Americans; the Montenegrin too have realised how they were treated as pawns.
 
5. The policy of treating equally repressed minorities differently depending on their nationality; the Serb minority in Croatia never got any serious attention from the West; politically the EU and militarily the U.S. helped Tudjman drive a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs out in 1995. With few exceptions, they are still refugees in Serbia.

6. Instead of providing real support to the pragmatic non-violent policies of Dr. Rugova – the only one of its kind in former Yugoslavia – Western countries, Germany and the US in particular, armed Kosovo-Albanian extremists from 1993 and created the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, of about 20,000 well-equipped soldiers. This was what, in 1998, turned the Kosovo situation into a real war. For a short while the US had formally defined KLA as a terror organisation but later used it as NATO’s ally on the ground during the bombing. Thus a conflict that could have been mediated years before with diplomatic means, became militarised.5. The policy of treating equally repressed minorities differently depending on their nationality; the Serb minority in Croatia never got any serious attention from the West; politically the EU and militarily the U.S. helped Tudjman drive a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs out in 1995. With few exceptions, they are still refugees in Serbia.

7. In spite of all warnings in the 1990s, the international community never even suggested a serious, comprehensive negotiation process for Kosovo. The Rambouillet “negotiations” were a fraud; the Serbs and Albanians never met face-to-face there. The introduction of the military appendix that would have allowed NATO free access to every corner of Serbia was a Maffia-like “offer” any responsible European statesman would have to refuse.

8. The international community got various missions into Kosovo. The latest, negotiated between Milosevic and Richard Holbrooke, was the OSCE ‘Verification’ Mission of 2000 people. Unfortunately, Western governments were neither able nor willing to get enough qualified people on the ground in time, so 70% of them mysteriously had military backgrounds and about 100 were allegedly CIA – not so surprising given that the head of mission was William Walker. Since OSCE failed in that mission, the usual fallback argument had to be used: it was all Milosevic’ fault. Truth is that he let them into the province (at the same time as he was accused of intending to drive out every Albanian) and kept his side of the agreement.

9. By the bombing and the diplomacy surrounding it, the Albanians could not but get the impression that the international community, Washington in particular, were granting them their independent state (without consulting Belgrade the loser). Today five years later, they have very good reasons to feel cheated. This of course does not explain Albanian ethnic cleansing or make it acceptable – as argued by the “prestigious” International Crisis Group which functions as an NEGO, NEar-Governmental Organisation*. The author met Americans and others in Kosovo right after the de facto occupation who did not know (or no longer perceived) Kosovo was a part of Serbia and repeatedly called it “this county” with a wry smile.

10. Completely ignoring the human dimension of conflicts. Billions of dollars have poured into Kosovo since 1999; hundreds of government and non-governmental organisations have promoted courses in media, human rights, empowerment and other civil society measures. The only things nobody dared touch were history, hatred, cultural differences, reconciliation, forgiveness, truth commissions and that sort of thing. The naive belief was that if the international community simply put up history’s largest international peace-making mission in a tiny province, the locals will greet them with flowers and those who didn’t would soon be convinced about the inherent goodness of the international mission. They made the same mistake four years later in Iraq.

11. After the bombing the international community monitored – but did nothing to prevent – the reverse ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians, some 200,000 who are still in Serbia and Macedonia, including the always ignored Romas. They were not helped to get back as were the Albanians fleeing the 13-months of war in Kosovo and the NATO’s bombs (the war and the bombings were much more important as causes for fleeing than was the manufactured nonsense about Milosevic already implementing an so-called “Horseshoe Plan” aiming to get rid of no less than all 1,5 million Albanians living in Kosovo).

This happened under the very eyes of 43,000 NATO soldiers and thousands of OSCE, UN and EU staff as well as Western NGOs in Kosovo. The world was told – also by the International Crisis Group – that it should be seen as a psychological reaction to the earlier repression of their side. So, Western endorsed ethnic cleansing continued over the years; the latest but hardly last round we saw in March 2004. This time it was “explained” by two arguments; a story that went through the world’s media about Serbs chasing Albanian kids into a river so they drowned; no retraction were printed when the story turned out to be untrue. The other argument was that the Albanian “criminals” and “mobs” (it wasn’t political!) were “frustrated” over the status issue and the socio-economic situation in the province.

12. The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was officially disarmed and closed down, being replaced by the Kosovo Protection Corps that would, we were told, have only civilian tasks. It leader was Agim Ceku, an Albanian general central in developing the KLA from 1993 while also serving under Croatian president Tudjman and being instrumental in driving out Serbs from Croatia in Operations Storm and Flash. This was yet another fraud by factors in the international community. The Serb forces did leave, but the Kosovo-Albanian army was, for all practical purposes, preserved. Only the naive could believe that the Americans, who are able to bomb Afghanistan to rubble and occupy Iraq, together with other NATO-KFOR forces were unable to prevent KLA from ravaging the region?

Some should wonder today how it was possible for KLA to destabilise and conduct war outside Kosovo, first in Southern Serbia and then in Macedonia? Isn’t it strange also how a disarmed people had weapons to kill Serbs and internationals as well as moderate Albanians and cause very serious destruction of homes and quite solid Orthodox churches throughout Kosovo in March 2004?

13. Like in Iraq, the occupying powers dismissed virtually every competent person who knew how to operate and repair the infrastructure, water, electricity, the health sector, schools, even if they had not taken part in Milosevic’ repressive policies. In consequence, nothing worked at a time when the Kosovo-Albanians had good reasons to believe that things would finally begin to work properly in their republic that had been liberated with a little help from their friends.

14. For about a decade everybody thought that sanctions was a great tool to put pressure on Milosevic but it only impoverished the people and trading partners such as Macedonia and, worse, created or boosted a Mafia economy everywhere. That Mafia is very influential in today’s Serbia and no less in today’s Kosovo. Sanctions and the black economy, combined with imposed privatization policies, created a class society with enormous poverty among ordinary citizens. The International Crisis Group, of course, does not see the absurdity of its own argument that we must – again – understand that the Kosovo Albanians do bad things because their economic situation is so poor. It never justifies Serb politics in those terms and conveniently leaves unmentioned the Albanian trafficking and prostitution, the cigarette smuggling, Kosovo’s several hundred money-laundering petrol stations, the drug trade from Afghanistan (where Western policies have brought back opium production) and Kosovo’s relation to the European underworld. Lack of money would be about the last thing that could explain why Albanian extremists commit ethnic cleansing!

15. The handover problem. The international missions in Kosovo are in the same dilemma as the US-led occupation in Baghdad. They want to hand over everything as quickly as possible to the locals – but also secure that they do what we want them to. The buzz word in Iraq is “sovereignty,” in Kosovo “independence” before which we heard all the other hollow marketing words: liberation, democracy, human rights – hollow because the occupiers do not show even the simplest respect for the locals or for their own Western “standards.” It is not far fetched, therefore, to predict that there will soon be a resistance movement in Kosovo too.

16. Oil, gas and military bases. Realpolitik is more about material matters and strategic positioning. This is where the huge American bases in Kosovo, Bulgaria and Romania as well as the 14 bases in Iraq enter the picture. See details in PressInfo 195. This is where the larger strategic game emerges: the triangle between the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia with its resources, transport corridors, gas and oil pipelines – and long-term strategic battle between the over-militarised, but crumbling West and the rest of the world. The Albanians are waking up to the reality that the West, the US in particular, did not come to Kosovo for the sake of their human rights or their independence unless, that is, it suits larger strategic plans.

17. The counterproductive treatment of Serbia. After Milosevic’s delivery to the Hague, the West never got its act together; conveniently, therefore, it blames Serbia for not getting its act together. If you put yourself into the situation in Serbia, it’s been one long political harassment ever since. The list is indeed long if you want to see it: totally inadequate assistance for reconstruction after the devastating bombing and psycho-political humiliation; extreme conditionality on aid and loans; broken promises of aid if delivering Milosevic; only negative views on one of the few political leaders with clean hands, Mr. Kostunica; no willingness to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission proposed by him; continuously harping on the co-operation with ICTY in the Hague in ways not required of politicians in Sarajevo, Zagreb or Pristina; ignoring the fact that Serbia has Europe’s largest refugee problem of about 500,000 to 600,000 Serbs from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; blatant interference in the country’s internal affairs; no understanding that Serbia feels deprived of Kosovo and collectively punished because of one leader’s brutality and stupidity.

In addition, the country has all the problems of the East European societies in transition and is required to fulfil extremely demanding requirements on the way to a EU membership that may become true a decade or more into the future.

And then there are those who act surprised that right-wing, populist parties such as Seselj’s Radical Party gains are gaining increased support! The International Crisis Group of course proposes more of this type of misguided policy in its March 2004 report on Serbia. Thus, the West is missing a great opportunity to achieve reconciliation and co-operation with one of the most important countries in that part of the world that wants to orient itself towards the West but is constantly rebuffed and humiliated.

Truth is that Serbia is losing Kosovo and knows it. If the West misses the opportunity to offer Serbia an attractive political and economic deal concerning Kosovo and the future of Serbia proper, it stands to lose both Serbia and Kosovo – and the people in both places will lose even more. In the worst of cases it could lead to renewed fighting and breakdown, also in Bosnia.

18. The naive belief that Kosovo-Albanians are seriously interested in EU integration and in joining the globalising market economy. They are not. They are interested in an independent Kosova and in the fate of Albanians in Montenegro, Macedonia and perhaps in developing not a greater Albania but a greater Kosova. And why not? Kosovo-Albanian leaders tend to see themselves as the historical, philosophical and intellectual centre of the Albanian nation. Anything less than an independent Kosova is unacceptable; and let’s not forget that their leaders have told the young generation the last fifteen years that Kosova was already independent. The importance of the difference between de jure and de facto was lost upon themselves in the heat of the struggle and certainly among those between, say, 5 and 20 years of age.

Time is running out for the old political elites, the new ones are impatient, and fifteen years of self-deceptive policies by EU countries and the US are, predictably, finally catching up. There are limits to how many games you can play simultaneously, how often you can change policies, how much unprincipled politics you can amass in one place and how much you can fool the locals in the world’s conflicts, be it in Iraq or Kosovo. There will be a boomerang effect one day.

It may be painful to recognise the conflict mismanagement and the peace-making failure given all the prestige and resources devoted to Kosovo. But it will be more painful to more people if it all breaks down. Early warning does not apply to upcoming conflicts only; it should also apply to failed peace-making. But early warning and violence prevention remains a dream in this world. What we see in Kosovo now could have been avoided if dealt with in civil, political terms some 10-15 years ago by honest brokers. That, it seems to me, is the ultimate tragedy of the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular.

* Throught this PressInfo we are criticising ICG, the International Crisis Group.

It’s simply time that the media look into the background of organisations that, sailing under the flag of convenience of prestigious independent NGO, actually play a semi-governmental, Western/US-biased role. Go to ICG’s website and you will see who is behind it. Among the ICG board members we find:

Morton Abramowitz
Abramowitz helped Zbigniew Brzezinski open intelligence co-operation with China, helped deliver Stinger missiles to the Afghan mujahedin, became president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and helped formulate the new world order with the US as its only superpower and was the eminence grise for Madeleine Albright and acted as adviser to the Kosovo Albanians in Rambouillet.
Various about him here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6539-2004Mar18.html
http://www.tcf.org/4L/4LMain.asp?SubjectID=1&TopicID=0&ArticleID=469
http://www.roadtosurfdom.com/surfdomarchives/002125.php
http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/ch_essay.htm

Kenneth Adelman
Well-known security policy hawk, affiliated with the Project for a New American Century, PNAC, and believed that huge stores of WMD would be found in Iraq. More about him here:
http://rightweb.irc-online.org/ind/adelman_k/adelman_k.php

Richard Allen
Formerly associated with Nixon and Reagan; a Hoover fellow since 1983, he is currently a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. More:
http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/bios/allen.html

Louise Arbour
Former chief prosecutor of ICTY, she indicted Milosevic, by no political coincidence, while the bombing of Yugoslavia happened; newly appointed head of the UNHCHR.
http://www.un.org/icty/pressreal/p404-e.htm
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/arbour/

Wesley Clark
Here is how he explains on his website that he saved 1,5 million Kosovo-Albanians: “From 1997 through May of 2000, General Clark was NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the United States European Command. In this position, General Clark commanded Operation Allied Force, NATO’s first major combat action, which saved 1,5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.” Tried to become the next president of the United States
http://www.draftwesleyclark.com/Biography.htm

William Shawcross
Writer and broadcaster, wrote “In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe’s watch. It was America that stopped that. In 2001, it was only America that could have liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban. The results in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those areas are better off than they were, and only the U.S. could have made those changes. Tony Blair understands that; many other European leaders do not.” More here:
http://www.williamshawcross.com/first_page.html

Stephen Solarz
Former U.S. congressman, hard-line views on how to solve the Balkan problems and isolate Serbia further; like Adelman affiliated with PNAC. More about him here:
http://www.refugeesinternational.org/cgi-bin/ri/article?arc=00033
http://www.newamericancentury.org/kosovomilosevicsep98.htm
http://www.apcoworldwide.com/content/bios/solarz.cfm

Among other security hard-liners on the ICG board could be mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Soros.

And in all fairness there are also non-hawks such as Oscar Arias Sanchez, Emma Bonino, Marika Fahlen, Mohamed Sahnoun, Salim A. Salim, Thorvald Stoltenberg, Shirley Williams as well as Martti Ahtisaari (chairman) and Gareth Evans, (President and CEO).
But they don’t seem to have any balancing influence on the reports of the ICG.

Finally, go here and see how ICG is funded – and draw your own conclusions about its independence given that 19 Western governments and their allies and some ten major US foundations plus mainly US citizens fund its work.

A decade too late – Kosovo talks begin

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 192 – October 14, 2003

Originally published here.

 

On October 14, 2003, in Vienna, high-level Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs from Belgrade met face-to-face. It was a historical meeting in more than one sense. It provides an opportunity for anyone concerned about conflict-management and peace-building to reflect on its philosophy, methods and politics. Did the international so-called community do the right thing? Is there adequate institutional learning? Are there parallels between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq that we should discuss self-critically rather than simply blame the parties?

 

Dialogue is fine but the 1999 bombing hardened everybody

It is the first time since NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in 1999 that Serbs and Albanians meet this way. Indeed, with a few exceptions, it’s the first attempt at real negotiations since it all began in the late 1980s. Like in Iraq, the main parties were prevented from meeting. As time has passed hard-liners have taken over the scene and now they won’t really talk.

Being the clear victims of Milosevic’ repressive policies, the Albanians rightly felt that they had the support of the West and would be rewarded by sticking to a maximalist position; thus no compromise about the goal of complete independence.

Being the largest people whose minorities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo never really felt any solidarity from the Western conflict-managers, the Serbs felt misunderstood, treated without fairness and they were humiliated by the bombings. Why should they not fight adamantly for the Kosovo province that they consider their cradle? In addition, the Serbs as a people – and the Kosovo Serbs in particular – have lost more than any other due to the policies of their own leadership. [Read more…]

Ibrahim Rugova’s decade-long leadership in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF Pressinfo 140 – December 14, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Ten years ago it was not impossible to see…

Ten years ago, TFF’s conflict-mitigation team started working with Dr. Ibrahim Rugova and LDK people in the belief that a) they were the best dialogue partners Belgrade could hope to get, and b) they were the only political leadership in ex-Yugoslavia that advocated non-violence, albeit pragmatic. I have no evidence that they have ever read a line by, say, Gandhi.

We participated in formulating characteristics of the independent Kosova they aimed at: it should be a region with no military, open border to all sides and politically neutral. We helped devise negotiation strategies and facilitated the only written dialogue between them and governments in Belgrade between 1992 and 1996. The foundation produced a concrete plan for a negotiated solution. See Preventing war in Kosovo (1992) and UNTANS (1996).

Our team quickly learned to respect the complexity and difficulties of the Kosovo conflict. We were privileged to repeatedly listen to the deep-held views and animosities among various Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic groups in Kosovo as well as to many and different parties in Belgrade. We knew that the international community played with fire by not attending to this conflict and tried to alert it.

This shaped the basis for our later scepticism about the faked ‘negotiations’ in Rambouillet and NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia including Kosovo. A committed, impartial and competent international civil-political intervention could have mitigated the conflict in the early 1990s. And even if this opportunity was missed, bombings would not produce peace, trust, tolerance, reconciliation or a willingness to live and work together.

 

The West chose Kosovo’s militants as allies instead

Already ten years ago, Dr. Rugova was the undisputed leader of the Kosovo-Albanians. He received a lot of lip-service during missions to Western capitals. Reality was that Western governments in typical ‘covert operations’ from 1992-93 helped create, equip and train hard-liners behind his back, who became the later Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK. Dr. Rugova was marginalised and the U.S. in particular played with the KLA, which at the time was officially categorised by U.S. diplomats as “a terrorist organisation.” Later on, NATO performed the role of KLA’s airforce and the civilian UN mission (UNMIK) and the military KFOR-NATO missions were set up.

These missions officially declared UCK disbanded and illegal but let it continue operating partly as UCK/KLA and partly as the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC. The internationals consistently kept on allying themselves more with the leaders of the KLA, (Hacim Thaci, for instance) and KPC (Agim Ceku,for instance) whilst de facto accepting the illegal violence and mafia-based power structure established by them immediately after the war throughout the province.

In other words, Rugova and LDK were marginalised during the period when a negotiated solution could have been found, then during the Rambouillet process, then after the bombing and, finally, after the municipal elections when LDK won a landslide victory but did not get proportional backing by the international administration. As the standard response runs among the internationals: “we want to control and democratise the hardliners and keep them in the process, therefore we cannot also antagonise them.” Dr. Kouchner, the former head of the UN mission (UNMIK) was instrumental in institutionalising this cosy Western relationship with warlords and mafia leaders.

Since July 1999, this policy has yielded absolutely no results, except ethnic cleansing, destruction of democratic potentials, more mafia economy and criminality, and two KLA incursions, one into Southern Serbia and one into Macedonia.

 

UNMIK must now stop its vain courting of warlords

In this perspective, Ibrahim Rugova is an extraordinary figure in Balkan politics. [Read more…]

Good news: Yugoslavia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 139 – December 11, 2001

Originally published here.

 

At least three recent pieces of good news from the Balkans have passed virtually unnoticed:

– Yugoslavia has established a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation.

– Dr. Ibrahim Rugova’s and LDK’s election victory opens new prospects for reconciliation in Kosovo/a.

– Non-violence has proved to be stronger than police repression and authoritarian rule in Serbia and stronger than extremist violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) in Kosovo.

Contrary to violence and war, non-violence and opportunities for reconciliation don’t make it to the headlines. As a matter of fact, they don’t make it to the media at all. Destructive news furthers pessimism and the feeling of powerlessness. Constructive or good news furthers the opposite and signals that peace may, in spite of all, be possible. In short, those in power, as well as power-loyal media, naturally prefer the former rather than the latter.

These three news items contain important evidence that should begin a debate about the lessons to be learned by the international community regarding its conflict-management in the Balkans since 1991. Regrettably, such a debate – broad-based, democratic and multi-ethnic – does not yet exist.

TFF PressInfo 139, 140 and 141 will deal with each of these news items. PressInfo 142 will address why reconciliation inside Kosovo is absolutely essential for the future.

 

A few words about reconciliation and forgiveness

Every hope for peace in the Balkans, as well as in every other war-torn region, rests on the willingness of the local parties to eventually reach out and deal openly with what happened and why. Reconciliation is not about forgetting. It is about learning to live with the facts, the memory and the pain. It takes two or more people and it can be achieved neither by loans and credits, reconstruction of houses, nor by people in uniform or promises about future integration in international organisations.

Reconstruction of souls is ‘soft.’ It takes much longer time than other types of post-war reconstruction. We have no international ‘armies’ or pools of experts and specialised humanitarian workers on stand-by anywhere.

The other human dimension of post-war healing is forgiveness. It’s basically a unilateral initiative. I decide to forgive someone who has killed my loved ones or hurt me because I consciously want to free myself from the all-absorbing hate; I abstain from the ‘right’ or wish to retaliate or get revenge . I thereby signal that I say ‘no’ to these options in order to invite others to do the same. We can choose to forgive for the sake of our own healthy living in the future or because we recognise that is what will help future generations to live together with tolerance and respect. [Read more…]

NATO’s number nonsense

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 125 – August 29, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Macedonia in NATO – NATO in Macedonia

Successive Macedonian governments officially argue that the country must become a member of NATO. Macedonia is heading for NATO membership. However, since Macedonia is not yet “mature” enough to be in NATO, NATO will be in Macedonia.

Macedonia has not had, or been allowed to have, an independent national security commission that could investigate various future options for the country. NATO membership is the only idea in Skopje. If there are sceptical security experts and defence intellectuals, they do not seem to speak out. The local NGOs vary in their enthusiasm; however, peace groups, women’s groups, etc who are not only sceptical but downright opposed to it have little influence. What NATO membership will cost, in money terms, in the next, say, twenty years is not analysed and there is no talk of a referendum &endash; but, of course, a lot of talk about democracy.

As they say nowadays in the emerging “democracies” in Eastern Europe: What is there to discuss? It is already in the air, we have no choice! We are told that if we don’t come along, other doors will be closed too!

So NATO membership for Macedonia is a Godfather’s offer you can’t refuse. The same goes, of course, for the deployment these days of NATO’s arms collectors. It’s a great spectacle but NATO will not disarm KLA/UCK/ONA/ANA or whatever acronym we use for the militarist, nationalist Albanians fighting allegedly and mistakenly with weapons to get some more rights.

 

NATO/KFOR’s utter failure as a disarmer in Kosovo

When I was in Macedonia a few weeks ago, I obtained a copy of something called the President’s Plan – officially “Plan and Program for Overcoming the Crisis in the Republic of Macedonia.” The first goal mentioned on page 1 is “to fully disarm and disband the terrorists”(the word used about the Albanians in KLA/NLA).

So this was “disarmament” and not, as it is now stated, “collection” of weapons. There is a world of difference.

We just have to wait a little while for the NATO/KFOR “disarmament” show to be repeated in Macedonia. The 30 days are already serialised by international media, press conferences held, “NATO is pleased and optimistic” with the Albanian deliveries. It’s pure public propaganda! [Read more…]

Macedonia – not innocent

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 120 – May 17, 2001

Originally published here.

 

PressInfo 118 offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number 119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time when it could have made a difference. In short, there was a hidden agenda. This one deals mainly with the obvious question:

 

Is Macedonia and its various groups totally innocent?

Of course not! In some respects there is more repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo. Thus, for instance, Pristina University was the centre of learning for Albanians while for almost a decade the issue of higher education for Albanians have been controversial and, since 1997, the Tetovo University considered illegal by the majority. Albanians do not play a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the population (25 – 40 pct depending on sources); whether this is a relevant criteria is another matter. If you go to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented rather than citizens-oriented.

In spite of all this, it is important to emphasise that the situation in no way justifies armed struggle or the extremist claims on both sides that ‘the others’ understand only weapons. True, it is not a perfect world, but the de facto presence of Albanians in politics, trade, schools and media in today’s Macedonia make the claim that “we are so repressed and nothing else will help so we must take to weapons” one that borders on hysteria or propaganda.

Those in Macedonia who had it in their power to do so never really sustained an honest inter-ethnic dialogue throughout society or at a government level. Informal segregation is practised by both sides in schools, media, clubs, restaurants and residential areas: “We don’t mix with ‘them’ – “we can’t live together but perhaps as neighbours” – “I would never have a boyfriend among them” – are statements visitors have heard repeated year after year. [Read more…]

How the UN was forced out of Macedonia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 119 – May 11, 2001

Originally published here.

 

WHY THE UNITED NATIONS WAS IN THE WAY

 

UN warnings were ignored.

UNPREDEP’s leadership repeatedly warned that if NATO bombed Yugoslavia, they could not guarantee the lives of UN personnel just at the other side of the Yugoslav-Macedonian border. Western politicians, Scandinavians from where the UN leadership came in particular, did not understand that if their NATO allies bombed Serbia it could provoke Serb retaliation against the Extraction Force which was partly co-located with their own nationals in the UN mission!

 

The UN was impartial and fair.

UN peacekeepers respected and listened to all sides as a matter of professionalism. They did not see the world in black-and-white terms. They did not occupy territories or bomb their way through. They tried to be role models of more civilised behaviour. In today’s Kosovo, NATO troops implicitly tell the children that driving fancy armoured cars, wearing boots and battle dress and carrying guns is what works.

 

The excellent UN mission was forced out.

The UNPREDEP Mission in Macedonia was one of the best in the history of the UN. It was the most cherished example ever of preventive diplomacy. The military and civilian UN staff provided more stability than any other single actor. It was forced out by diplomatic intrigue (see next para), presumably because the United States, NATO and EU countries wanted to bomb neighbouring Yugoslavia.  [Read more…]

Macedonia – Victom of Western conflict-mismanagement

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 118 – May 10, 2001

Originally published here.

 

For the umptieth time, the politico-military-media complex tells us that local conflicts are caused solely by locals. The international “community” has no part in it but the noble one of trying to persuade the parties to sit at a negotiation table instead.

This time the stage is Macedonia and the complex has learnt nothing since Croatia.

This PressInfo and PressInfo 119 tell you how this intellectual rubbish covers hidden political agendas instead of expressing the truth. They also reveal why the UN was forced out of Macedonia and that it was prevented from having a common mission in Kosovo and Macedonia which was the only thing that would have made sense in the late 1990s. It is based on my own investigations at the time and published here for the first time.

 

The international “community” – the main cause of war.

Since few seem to be burdened with a political memory stretching just two years back, let’s recapitulate why Macedonia, the land described by that selfsame complex as an “oasis of peace” and a success for “preventive” diplomacy, is now at the brink of war:

 

The potential of the OSCE was never fully utilised

The OSCE Mission in the country has done an impressive job in promoting tolerance and a democratic and tolerant political culture. But it was never given enough resources to really have an impact, and OSCE is now completely marginalised in the new world “order”.

 

Macedonia was forced to side with the West against Yugoslavia.

The Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement to set up an OSCE Verifiers’ Mission in Kosovo (autumn 1998) lead to the deployment of an “Extraction Force” in Macedonia, a force that was seen by Belgrade as a clear breach of the agreement and a threat to Kosovo and Serbia. This forced Macedonia to play an anti-Yugoslavia role that served everybody else but herself. Belgrade from now on saw Macedonia as a target for retaliation if need be.

 

Its territorial integrity and sovereignty was violated.

Earlier Macedonia had been forced to accept NATO violation of its airspace when Wesley Clark wanted to conduct a bombing simulation high enough over Macedonia to be seen by FRY radars and thus signalling potential war. Then President Kiro Gligorov told me that the first time he heard about this simulation was from the evening news! The West did not exactly respect the sovereignty of the newly independent – and fragile – Macedonia. [Read more…]

Misguided motives led to the chaos in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

April 5, 2000 – on CNN Interactive

(CNN) — The conflicts that led to war and dissolution of the former Yugoslavia took shape in the 1970s and early 1980s, and their origins are much older. The paradox is that the international community’s self-appointed “conflict managers” have not treated the Balkan conflicts as conflicts.

Instead, they have wielded power and practiced Realpolitik disguised as peacemaking and humanitarianism.

The international community — a euphemism for a handful of top leaders – has historically been an integral party to the conflicts, not an impartial mediator. A policy of disinterested conflict analysis, mediation and conflict resolution would require different analyses, means and institutions (with just a minimum of training).

The leaders of the republics of the former Yugoslavia all did their best to destroy the federation from within. Today’s situation, however, is equally the result of the international community’s failed conflict management in four cases – Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo.

None of the peace agreements work as expected. The regions are more polarized and ethnically cleansed than before. Democracy is formal and imposed, not genuine. The countries are not armed simply for defense, they are militarized.

War criminals are still at large. Refugees have not returned in any significant numbers (except to Kosovo). The deeply human dimensions of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and societal regeneration have hardly begun. No commissions on truth or history have been established.

Money – always plentiful for military purposes – is conspicuously lacking for the prevention of civilian violence and for postwar development. Integration into the EU may not take place for a long time yet.

Finally, and fatally, the U.N. missions to these countries have been thrown out, substituted with more expensive and heavy-handed missions, or discontinued prematurely.  [Read more…]

The UN broke in Kosovo – Not even Nordic governments seem to care

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 86 – February 7, 2000

Originally published here.

 

“Isn’t it amazing that the new moralists who profess to protect human rights, democracy and peace and who spent unlimited funds on warfare now don’t even bother to provide the UN with the minimum funds to bring peace to Kosovo?

The UN urgently needs US$ 102 million. That equals what Sweden spent on sending 860 soldiers to Kosovo. This is what the United Nations Foundation “UN Wire” reported on February 3, 2000 – about a year after the Rambouillet “peace” process began. It is yet another proof of the inter-cynical community’s mode of operation,” says Jan Oberg.

– – – – – –

“UNMIK Out Of Money, Kouchner Says.”

The United Nations has no money to pay its civil servants in Kosovo, UN administrator Bernard Kouchner said today. Speaking to reporters at the Japan Press Club in Tokyo, Kouchner said the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is “facing an emergency, period. We have to pay the civil servants.” Some workers, Kouchner added, have not been paid for months, and “there is 0.00 deutsche mark in the budget 2000 of Kosovo”…Kouchner said the UN needs $102 million for its operation.

“It is the first time in the history of United Nations peacekeeping operations that we have to deal with a budget, with the payment of the civil servants and organise an administration,” Kouchner said. “It is why it is so important to get not only promises, but cash. For the infrastructure projects, we can wait a little bit longer but not for the payment of the civil servants. We must pay them.”

Last week, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright criticised the international community for failing to live up to its financial commitment to Kosovo. “Unfortunately, a serious crisis of funding has arisen,” she said. The United States, Albright added, would contribute an additional $10 million and 100 police officers for the operation.” And: [Read more…]

Your ideas for peace in Macedonia wanted

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 79

Originally published here.

 

“Read the farewell interview with Macedonian President Kirov Gligorov and the analysis by TFF’s Macedonian Associate, Dr. Biljana Vankovska on our site and you will understand how fragile Macedonia’s stability and peace is.

Why not try a citizens’ ‘early warning’? We invite you to send us your ideas on how we can help Macedonia avoid violence and move towards peace in spite of all the obstacles,” says director Jan Oberg.

“After the Kosovo war, all citizens of Macedonia go through very difficult times; presidential elections take place on October 31. If there is one lesson from Kosovo, it is this: the earlier we deal with the problems, the more options there are, and the easier it is to solve conflicts without resorting to violence.

It is a safe prediction that, unless various types of violence-preventive measures are taken and taken in time, Macedonia is likely to slide into chaos. If citizens around the world apply their experience from violence-prevention and peacebuilding and their creativity, we could produce a series of proposals for early action.

You can participate even if you do not have detailed knowledge about Macedonia. Lots of generally violence-preventive steps can be taken to prevent violence and solidify peace anywhere. Below we provide some ideas – just a beginning. Readers, their friends and colleagues, are invited to brainstorm and send us more and better proposals which we would be happy to publish in future PressInfo(s). And we would very much like to receive proposals from our readers and subscribers in Macedonia!

 

• Watch the Kosovo-Macedonia connection.
It is important that the international community does not make any final decision now about the future status of Kosovo. At this juncture, any final settlement will impact negatively on the fears, hopes and political strategies of both Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia. [Read more…]