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…]

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Lift the sanctions and bring more aid to people in Yugoslavia

By Jan Oberg & Soren Sommelius

TFF PressInfo 90 – April 5, 2000

Originally published here.

 

 “Lift the sanctions and help people in Yugoslavia – or stop talking about humanitarian politics and intervention,” say TFF conflict-mitigation team members Soren Sommelius and Jan Oberg upon returning from a fact-finding mission to Serbia and Montenegro.

“If journalists would provide people all over Europe and the rest of the world an opportunity to see what we have seen, only the heartless would continue the present policies. The sanctions contribute to widespread social misery, they hit those who are already poor, and demolish the middle class.

In addition, the opposition which the West officially supports also wants the sanctions lifted, knowing that they undermine the socio-economic basis for any democratization process.

The international community’s commitment to protect, help and repatriate the Albanian refugees and displaced persons is as noble as it is shameful to not do the same when other – equally innocent – ethnic groups in the same conflict region are in obvious need of humanitarian aid. There is only one word for it: obscene. Sanctions are a mass-destructive weapon,” say Sommelius and Oberg who support the campaign, recently launched in Sweden, to get the sanctions lifted.

 

THE SITUATION

Here are some facts from UNHCR – and if you have not heard about them numerous times already, you may ask what free media and democratic policies are for:

Today’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) – Serbia and Montenegro – hosts more than 500.000 refugees from the wars in Croatia (250.000 from Krajina and some 50.000 from Eastern Slavonia) and Bosnia (some 200.000). In addition, there are 250.000 who have recently been forced to leave the Kosovo province. Some of those from Croatia have been refugees since 1991-92 when the war raged in ex-Yugoslavia. This total of 750.000 to 800.000 creates Europe’s largest refugee problem. Most are Serbs but there are also Muslims, Albanians, Romas and others among them. Only 40.000 of all these are in collective centres, the rest live with relatives or friends. About 50.000 of all the refugees and displaced persons presently live in Montenegro, the population of which is estimated at 650,000, while Serbia’s population is 9-10 million.

Since 1995 only about 40.000 have been able to return to Croatia. UNHCR believes that local integration is the lasting solution for the majority of refugees currently in FRY. [Read more…]