SUN, 22 JAN 1995 23:17:45 GMTcinclude
Almost all analyses of the situation in Kosovo are bleak. Another year has passed in "idle gear", but also with unabated tensions and war risks. Therefore, it seems that there is nothing new in Kosovo, neither initiatives which could budge the problem from the standstill, nor readiness to start a dialogue. And, when the impotence of the international community to stop the war in Bosnia and opt for clear principles for solving the Balkans crisis, is added to that bleak picture, the problem of Kosovo seems even more hopeless.
Nevertheless, the problem of Kosovo is not one which can withstand a long blockade and marking time. At the end of 1993 already there were signs and intimations that the process in Kosovo would accelerate, but then unexpected complications in Bosnia arose and Kosovo had to wait again. However, of late, many important international factors have been stating that an end has come to that policy of waiting. In that respect, the most decisive is the statement of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, which says that "Kosovo cannot be forgotten on account of Bosnia" and that the time has come to "open this long postponed issue". On December 23, the UN General Assembly adopted a special Resolution on Kosovo, in which Serbia and the so-called FR Yugoslavia are very severely criticized because of their repressive and discriminatory policy in Kosovo.
The Resolution calls for the rescinding of the discriminatory laws and measures introduced after 1989, "the creation of truly democratic institutions in Kosovo, including Parliament and the judiciary" as well as "respect of the will of the population of Kosovo as the best way to prevent the exacerbation of conflicts". The new CSCE Chairman, Hungarian Foreign Minister, Lazslo Kovac, made a statement in which he, in a similar tone, speaks about human rights violations in Kosovo, Vojvodina and Sanjak, and about measures that should be taken so as to prevent the deterioration of the situation and a new war.
It seems that Europe and the world no longer want to be surprised and taken unawares, as happened in the case of Bosnia, and that they are seeking modalities to apply preventive diplomacy in the remaining hotbeds of crisis in the Balkans, primarily in Kosovo. That is why pressures are mounting on Serbia, but also on the Albanian leadership in Kosovo to start a dialogue and find a solution. In addition to earlier ideas on special status and a high degree of autonomy with elements of statehood (Parliament and Government, independent judiciary, educational and cultural autonomy), advocated by the diplomacies of the world powers, the idea of a preventive civil protectorate over Kosovo, long advocated by the leader of the Kosovo Albanians, Dr.Ibrahim Rugova, is now being bandied about in diplomatic circles.
After the recent meeting between Rugova and Klaus Kinkel in Bonn, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement according to which the solution in Kosovo must be sought within a global approach to the Balkan crisis and that "in that case, a civil protectorate over Kosovo would stand a chance".
Ibrahim Rugova recently made a diplomatic tour including Albania, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA and Germany, which slightly boosted the optimism of the Albanians. In an interview to the Koha weekly, Rugova said that all his interlocutors, high officials of these friendly countries, agreed with him that "preventive measures needed to be taken in Kosovo and that preventive diplomacy was indispensable so as to prevent a conflict". Rugova is also convinced that "in the following year - 1995 - the issue of Kosovo will rank high on the agenda of political solutions", and that he is "convinced that that solution will benefit us all".
As opposed to the optimistically minded Rugova, who in this year of "idleness" managed to overcome and patch up strong tendencies for an internal split in the Albanian movement in Kosovo, which could endanger his position of leader, manily concern and pessimism prevail in Serbia regarding Kosovo. Although official Belgrade keeps repeating that there will be no giving in over Kosovo, it appears to be doing so with dampened enthusiasm and sluggishly, almost unwillingly as it were. The attempts to open channels of controlled dialgoue with the Albanians were abortive. The Serbian regime did not manage to find or create any Kosovo Abdics. That is why the Serbian regime practically has no other means for a more active approach to the Kosovo issue, except to intensify police repression.
This could be seen recently, in the revival of the Serbian resistance movement in Kosovo, which has a radical anti-Albanian political platform, but is, this time, acting against Milosevic's regime, which failed to fulfill their expectations and the promises it had made. In order to neutralise this pressure of the Kosovo Serbs, which is playing into the hands of the increasingly strong nationalistic and pro-Karadzic's opposition in Serbia, Milosevic organized in Kosovo a new police spectacle of arrests and beatings of about 200 members of the trade union of fired workers of the former Department of the Interior of Kosovo, who had, allegedly, been setting up a Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo. But, this action did not have much effect, either on extremist Serbian nationalists who are preparing new actions of pressure on the regime, nor did it frighten the Albanians much.
Kosovo might soon become a grave problem for the Serbian regime, both at home and externally. In 1994, Milosevic made more manoeuvering space for himself than he had in previous years, offering himself to the world as the key figure for resolving the Balkan crisis. His break with Karadzic, whom he left the worries over the fate of the Serbs over the Drina river, partially restored his standing and position of a "peace-maker", and he is now strategically realigning for the future defence of Kosovo and determining Serbia's position vis-a-vis its southern and eastern neighbours. However, cooperativeness in solving the Bosnian crisis is not a guarantee for Milosevic that he will be pardoned for the sins he has to account for regarding his repressive policy in Kosovo, as well as the stifling of democraic institutions in Serbia itself (the latest case was the takeover and stifling of the Borba).
Milosevic's international standing is actually neither certain nor promising. The fact that Lord Owen likes to chat with him, or that he got time on CNN, does not mean that his political rating has improved. That is why Milosevic is seeking outlets and offering himself wherever he can. He is also attempting to engineer spectacular strategic manoeuvers and breakthroughs, so as to pull Serbia out of the international isolation, in which he himself pushed it.
It is in that light that Milosevic's revival of the idea on a confederation between Serbia and Greece, but now extended to two other members which would round off that confederation into a geo-political whole, should be seen. According to Milosevic's idea, the confederation should include Bulgaria and Macedonia also. Actually, Milosevic is offering his southerna and eastern neighbours a pact similar to the one from 1912, when Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece jointly entered the Balkan wars, primarily to prevent the creation of an Albanian ethnic state (when Albanian insurgents had already in the summer of 1912 liberated Skopje). Milosevic is, therefore, again calling Serbia's old allies to unite against the "Albanian danger".
At the same time, the idea of such a confederation would objectively lead to the creation of an Orthodox Balkan alliance, with two geo-politically clearly distinguishable objectives : first, the new confederation would assume the function of a corridor against the reopening and reactivation of the Albanian question, i.e. primarily for preventing the secession of Kosovo and the strengthening of the Albanian factor in Macedonia; second, a much broader safety belt would be created to prevent the renewed military, political and economic breakthrough of Turkey into the Balkans. Milosevic is also trying to undermine the strong Turkish initiative for the renewal of an alternative land communication between Europe and the Near East, following the route of the ancient Via Ignatia, passing through Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. The Serbian President offered the Greeks and the Macedonians a compromise in connection with their dispute (the particulars of the offer are not known), certainly based on an anti-Turkish and an anti-Albanian platform.
But, for this plan to succeed, besides the Greeks and the Macedonians, who will be very hesitant (Gligorov has already rejected this confederation), it is neccesary to convince the Bulgarians also that an Orthodox confederation would be in their interest. Bulgaria has, however, made it unequivocally clear that it is not interested and it is hardly likely that any major changes will take place in its strategic orientation. In any case, Bulgaria harbours traditional mistrust towards the Serbs, remembering their betrayal in 1912, when the Serbs occupied parts of Macedonia, which were to go to Bulgaria according to a secret agreement.
Up to now Bulgaria mainly pursued a policy of rapprochement with the West and NATO. NATO has already decided to expand to parts of Eastern Europe, previously within the Russian (Soviet) dominion. The EC also recently decided to spread to the East and make Poland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria its members around the year 2000. Bulgaria has, therefore, very attractive offers and will probably not be at all interested in entering uncertain regional alliances, being founded with the aim of ensuring the political hegemony of Serbia or Greece.
The slogan "the Balkans to the Balkan peoples", upheld by some Greek circles and now Milosevic also, actually expresses the selfish hegemonistic interests of Serbian and Greek politics, and is possibly inspired by nationalistic and pan-Orthodox circles in Russia, who would like to create an Orthodox confederation, or at least an Orthodox Conference (along the lines of the Islamic Conference).
The Serbian regime and part of the Serbian elite realise that with the new European order, which is in the making, the Serbian part of the Balkans will be amidst a European framework. If Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria soon become EC members, which Macedonia and Albania would also like to become, the Serbian statelets will remain enclaves in the Greater Europe. The question is what nationalism-ridden Serbia wishes at all? Does it want to return to a Western community model, or will some sort of an Orthodox fundamentalism prevail. There is also the question of whether extremist Russia is making use of Serbia (and vice versa, extremist Serbia of Russian interests) to try and create some sort of a bridgehead to preserve the Russian interest sphere in the Balkans? And, is Orthodoxy the last trump card for the revival of Russia's imperialistic ambitions?
The creation of a new European configuration suits the Albanians. It offers them prospects for the political settlement of their national question. Over the long - and probably the medium - run, they should realise their basic national objectives. The issue of Kosovo remains, however, highly explosive over the short-term. The nervousness of Serbian militant circles, who are well aware that time is on the side of the Albanians, can lead to a rapid deterioration of the situation and even a new war. The behaviour of the world powers in such a case cannot be predicted with certainty. The Americans have reiterated on a number of occasions that they would not allow a new war. However, the example of Bosnia has shown that even the strongest verbal condemnation and threats have elicited no concrete reaction. At present, the West is not ready for a military intervention. And, it is not excluded that it will behave similarly in case of a Serbian - Albanian war.
However, most analyses say that there will be no war, after all. It is being used up for the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. World diplomacy is left with the possibility to exert effective pressure on the Serbs by linking the solution of the issue of the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia with the Kosovo question. Milosevic could cut this Gordian knot.
Shkelzen Maliqi, AIM Pristina