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« Democrats and foreign policy | Main | Iraqi interpreters - once more »

February 25, 2008

Comments

szeni

You wouldn't know from this posting that between 1974 and 1989 thousands of ethnic Serbs were terrorised into fleeing Kosovo by the terrorists who get an easy ride from Western champions of human rights. Another well-rehearsed routine is pointing at Milosevic, Karadzic and Co when the issue of hundreds of thousands of Serb refugees comes up.
As for what might have been, around the same time Gorbachev didn't use force to protect Russian minorities outside Russian Federation. Hundreds of thousands of Russians were ethnically cleansed

James Schneider

Szeni has a point the the KLA were vicious too and that this isn't one sided. However, Oliver, I completely concur with the thrust of your argument. Phillips seems to argue for some eternal right of territorial integrity, a latter day Divine Right of Kings. We already know she holds views which are mad and inconsistent, why should Kosovo be any different for her.

JohnBSheldon

A minor point, but the co-author of 'Winning Ugly', which you cite, is Michael E. O'Hanlon, not O'Halloran.

Oliver Kamm

Thanks for that; of course it is Michael E. O'Hanlon. I've corrected the reference in the post, and my apologies to him.

Snorri Godhi

It strikes me that both Oliver and Melanie could be correct, because Oliver analyzes the causes, and Melanie (what she thinks are) the likely consequences, of the current situation.

On the other hand, both Oliver and Melanie could be wrong, because Oliver ignores what happened after Milosevic was driven from power (surely that should have been an opportunity for reconciliation?); and Melanie does not propose any alternative course of action that the West could realistically take now.

Bartholomew

I once looked into a Serbian bishop who has been roaming the USA, meeting with political conservatives and televangelists in opposition to an independent Kosovo.

Milos

It would be better for all if there was a mutual agreement - be it partitioning, the "Hong Kong model" or something else. This is only asking for trouble.

Recognizing independence of the country where part of population is living in ghettos is irresponsible.

Labour Voter

In any case - as many others have pointed out: universal human rights trump territorial integrity every time.

Melanie Phillips is a sad figure, a sort of bag lady of delusional right wing politics, wondering around and screaming her views to all and sundry.

David Boothroyd

I find the suggestion that recognition of Kosova should not have taken place because it would set a bad precedent and encourage similar secessionism to be difficult to justify. There are many secessionist movements and the idea that they would have been deterred if Kosova had not been recognised seems far-fetched. (Is, for instance, Alex Salmond supposed to say that the Scottish National Party could not pursue its policy while Kosova remained within Serbia?)

Ultimate independence of Kosova has been done in such a way as respects the minority Serb population, and great efforts were made under EU supervision to try to win their backing including substantial constitutional guarantees and symbolic changes such as not including the Albanian symbol on the new flag. However the opposition of the minority could not be the veto which their representatives hoped.

PJD

Oliver, how do you explain that the 2000 Yugoslav election was rigged when on the original count Kostunica had 49% and Milosevic 38.6%?

Can you name any of the entire Kosovo villages destroyed in this so called "scorched-earth" policy?

The 1974 constitution of Yugoslavia clearly states that the autonomous province of Kosovo is part Serbia.

Hasan Prishtina

In order for the argument about the "thousands of ethnic Serbs cleansed between 1974 and 1989" to work, any movements of Serbs to Serbia similar in size during this period would have to be accounted for in the same way. This would mean that a campaign of ethnic cleansing was being waged simultaneously in Bosnia, Croatia and Vojvodina as well as Croatia. It also fails to account for the fact that after 1981 Kosova was under martial law and local politicians were replaced by those prepared to follow orders from Belgrade. During this period, there were more Albanian political prisioners, and fewer killings and rapes involving Albanians, than there were of any other nationality in Yugoslavia. Guber and Kuzmanovic's 1989 study 'Kosovo-Srbija-Jugoslavija' is explicit as to the "ethnic cleansing" and the Serbian control of Kosova after 1981.

Milos, you may believe that recognising a country where 120,000 people live in a separate society is irresponsible. But the alternative is two million people living in a ghetto. Moreover, a ghetto where the Serbian government made it quite plain they would use every manner, to subjugate, expel and kill those who live there. Throughout the negotiations, Serbia never talked in serious language about any autonomy greater than that offered, and later rescinded, in 1969. Reaching "mutual agreement" with people that want you either out or dead was never going to happen. What happened this week in Belgrade and on the border shows how dangerous remaining in Serbia would have been. How could Albanians see a future with a country where the government ministers direct riots against them and against foreign embassies?

I think, PJD, you must have missed the news on 7 October 2000 when the demonstrating crowds found thousands of fraudulent ballot papers at the electoral commission in Belgrade. And if you believe those are the figures of real votes cast in that election, then I defy you to find a respected academic observer who agrees with you.

As for a 'scortched-earth' policy, maybe there's some other way of explaining what happened at Krusha e Vogel, Krusha e Madhe, Qyshk, Zahat, Pavlan etc. Or maybe the 120,000 buildings bulldozed by the Serbs (UN figures, not mine)?

The 1974 Constitution says that Kosova participated in the Federal Institutions in its own right. That document also demonstrates the illegality of Milosevic's abrogation of Kosova's autonomy in 1989.

I suppose it's not so odd that people outside the region take a position well to the right of most of the Serbian electorate. They don't have to live in the Balkans.

Martin Morgan

Well said, Oliver.

Milos

Hasan, I don't believe that Serbian government wants to subjugate, expel and kill anyone in Kosovo. All post 2000 governments in Serbia were democratic and peaceful, so I don't understand your fear.

What happened in Belgrade and on the border is a result of a growing Serbian national frustration and you shouldn't use that as an excuse. Serbs could also say that they are unwilling to live in an independent Kosovo because of the Albanian violence in March 2004.

Resorting to unilateral actions is only adding fuel to the fire. It is the unilateral act of Milosevic's government in 1989 that started the whole mess, and unilateral declaration of independence could lead to more conflicts in the future.

It is legitimate for you to not want to be governed by Serbia, not even formally. But, why should the Serbs from the North and the enclaves feel anything different about the Albanian government? The government of Kosovo has done absolutely nothing to improve lives of non-Albanian communities in Kosovo. Kosovar society is intolerant, and it is very hypocritical of the Albanian officials to talk about the multi-ethnic Kosovo. This is not some democratic paradise. We are talking about the country where people can't travel without armed escort nor cultivate their land if they are of the "wrong" ethnicity. We are talking about the country with the highest crime rate and unemployment in Europe...

USA and some EU countries made a mistake in not giving an ultimatum to Kosovar Albanians: "You have to improve first, and only then will you get your independence". Instead, Albanians effectively got support in creation of the Greater Albania. Nobody signed any guaranties on the future status of the country. It is included in the new constitution, but is prone to change. They can now chose to unite with Albania or proclaim sharia law. Who is to stop them - it's their country.

This is all now leading to inevitable partitioning of Kosovo and further bloodshed and misery for all.

neilclark

Ha, Kamm: I'd like to see you respond to this.

hasan prishtina

Milos, Serbia since 2000 has been characterised by coalitions of large numbers of smallish political parties on one side and the extreme right on the other. Now the DSS seems to have realigned with the SRS and SPS, we may soon have more governments controlling crowds shouting "kill, slaughter, so that the [insulting epithet for] Albanian will not exist" as we have seen used at the demonstrations in Belgrade in the last two weeks. As for peaceful, perhaps you remember what happened to prime minister Zoran Djindjic? And the current view that he got "a well deserved bullet"?

I am sorry to see that you justify looting and arson as simply a result of "national frustration". There is a difference with the violence in Kosova: the 2004 violence was condemned by every Kosovar leader; the current violence has the explicit support of the Serbian state.

I would have some sympathy with your views about readjusting borders, on condition they included Presheva, Bujanovc and Medvegje, Albanian enclaves in Serbia, and that the Albanian enclaves in the far north of Kosova, which suffer in the same manner you describe, are allowed to remain within Kosova.

But then you blow it. What evidence do you have that there is the slightest inclination to unite with Albania? Again, what evidence do you have that there is the slightest intention to adopt sharia law? It is these racist attacks on moderate Muslims that have been the hallmark of Serbian nationalist discourse on Kosova.

And the one thing that underpins it all is that the people who live there should be forbidden to express their own views on their future. And that is the royal road to misery and bloodshed across the region.

Mr Clark: may I second your request? I know it would be shooting fish in a barrel, but still immensely entertaining.

Milos

Hasan, you are manipulating facts. Zoran Djindjic was supported by the majority of the Serbian people, and he was killed by criminals who wanted to prevent the government that was just about to persecute them for their crimes. You probably saw how many citizens attended his funeral. The "current view" you mention was expressed by some unimportant Russian journalist, and does not reflect the view of majority in Serbia. In fact, Serbian officials strongly protested after that statement was made. Do you remember who was recently re-elected as the president of Serbia? Boris Tadic - an old friend of Djindjic, who is far from being a nationalist.

I am absolutely not justifying what happened in Belgrade, and I am disgusted as much as you are by that chanting; I am suggesting that you are now using that to label the Serbian people and its government as genocidal - in your own words: "they would use every manner, to subjugate, expel and kill those who live there".

Truth is that all but few of the Serbian politicians condemned the violence (including Nikolic), those who did not are representing an insignificant minority of the electorate.

Indeed, there is a difference with the violence in Kosovo in March 2004: The riots in Belgrade were carried out by few hundreds of the estimated 300,000 mostly peaceful protesters. They attacked embassies and looted stores. On the other hand in March 2004, thousands of Kosovar Albanians razed to the ground the remaining few Serbian cultural and religious monuments, and tried to expel their remaining Serb neighbours from Kosovo. If KFOR did not intervene, they would have succeeded in doing so. Then it really wouldn't matter much what Kosovar leaders had to say.

There is a great hatred between Albanians and Serbs, and it would be best to find a solution where neither side would feel oppressed by the other. In that respect, "readjusting borders" is the only way to ensure stability. Then both nations could join the EU together and leave their conflicts behind. I could agree with you regarding Presevo, Bujanovac and northern enclaves, but Medvedja has only 26.17% of Albanian population (2002 census).

You completely misunderstood my point regarding unification with Albania and introduction of sharia law. Truth is that today most Albanians are moderate Muslims and recent polls do show that only 2.5% of Kosovar Albanians wish to unite with Albania, although during the independence celebrations we couldn't see any flags of Kosovo, but only those of Albania. My point was that nobody signed a document ensuring everything would stay as it is. Now that the independence is recognized without an agreement, who could revoke it if things "go out of hand"? The independence is monitored, but, as a sovereign nation Kosovar Albanians may, for example, chose to ask KFOR to leave. What would that mean for minorities?

People who live there should not be forbidden to express their own views on their future. But the rigid stance "I'm right and you're wrong" and dehumanization of other nations caused all the chaos in the Balkans.

Hasan Prishtina

Milos, I do remember Tadic was re-elected president. I also remember that the margin over the far-right SRS was pretty small. I also remember that the DSS has since realigned with the SRS and Ilic has issued thinly veiled death threats against Cedomir Jovanovic and Snezana Samardzic-Markovic. I also believe that the assassination of a prime minister, for whatever motives, does not militate for peaceful government.

Like me, you probably found out about the design of the flag of Kosova on the day of independence. That's because it was only presented to the public on that day; the government only made the final decision on the previous day. Indeed, ten days before, the main RTK news was saying that there would be no flag ready for independence day. As a result, there were almost no flags ready; even now there is a great shortage. So what flag did people fly? The flag that Albanians in the former Yugoslavia have had the right to fly since 1969: the Albanian flag.

There are agreements; they're with the EU and NATO. Prishtina knows that it needs protection to survive the first few years of independence, much as other countries of the region, such as Bulgaria and Greece, did after their independence. Take a look at the constitution on which the people of Kosova are being consulted at the moment; not only is it the most liberal in the region, but there is the power and authority to back it up against anyone who might subvert it. And now there is independence, the authorities are directly accountable to the people for their performance.

As for asking for KFOR to leave, that would be insane; Kosovars do not have a death wish.

Several hundred Albanians were involved in the disgraceful events of March 2004; several thousand Serbs were involved in attacks the same month on Albanians and Muslims in Belgrade, Nis and Novi Sad. Both are disgusting attacks by extremists, both of which fizzled out fairly quickly. But once more there is a difference: while the KFOR response was pathetic, the Serbian attacks were perpetrated with the knowledge and support of the organs of state.

If partition between Kosova and Serbia is the only solution, then that is what there will have to be. But I believe that assuming from the start that hatred between Albanian and Serb is so great that not one Albanian can live with one Serb merely justifies the attempts at ethnic cleansing, even if they do not produce the results the Serbian nationalists desired. Montenegro show that this can be done.

PJD

Hasan, the 'scortched-earth' events you allude to occurred after 24 March 1999. Kamm was talking about ones that had happened by September 1998.

Well obviously I was alive and well in October 2000 and remember the news. Nether the less I have gone back and read some articles from the time such as this one: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE0DE143CF935A35753C1A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

There isn't anything hear about how any fraud was supposed to have taken place, other than some ballot papers being thrown out of the parliament building. The article with this attempts to make out that some fraud had taken place:

"and ballot papers for the Sept. 24 elections were dumped from the second floor, all of them already circled to vote for Mr. Milosevic"

But if they were for the 1st round of the election then they of course would have already been circled and sorted into bundles for each candidate. There is no way of knowing where these ballot papers came from but the fact that they all had been circled for Milosevic isn't evidence of fraud.

The difference between original election results and then the corrected ones were in fact very small and Kostunica would have almost certainly won the second round in any case. It makes me wonder how the corrected results were arrived at if many of the ballot papers had been discarded out of window.

Kosovo and Vojvodina both still had a member of the Yugoslav presidency after 1989. The constitutions of Yugoslavia and Serbia were changed in that year as the Kosovo and Vojvodina assemblies were both able to veto any decision made by the assembly of Serbia (to which both K & V had members of).

Hasan Prishtina

PJD, I take you point about the time to which Mr Kamm was referring and that we can confine ourselves to Likoshane, Poklek, Prekaz, Qirez etc.

It does seem strange that nobody found any stacks of unfolded, pre-marked ballot papers indicating votes for anyone else. There is also evidence of massive fraud in favour of the SPS in the elections of 1992, 1993 and 1996, so it wasn't as though he didn't have form. In the end, even he had to concede that the 2000 results were fraudulent. And there is quite a difference between 51.93% and 49% when an absolute majority gives the winner victory in the first round.

Kosova and Vojvodina did have Milosevic placemen on the federal presidency after 1989, though their governments had been illegally overthrown by force by the Serbian rulers; Montenegro's government was soon to follow.

The assembly of Kosova was terminated in 1990, after autonomy was suspended the previous year, thanks to: its being surrounded by tanks and armoured cars; the presence of the army and the secret police inside the Assembly; the exclusion of many of its members; and the presence of 'guests' with no voting rights who nevertheless illegally voted the changes through. Thereafter came the explicitly discriminatory laws on employment, education, property exchange and criminal law, laying the foundations of apartheid in Kosova.

To suggest that any of Kosova's institutions had any power against Milosevic after 1989 is no more convincing than suggesting Stalin would have been happy for the Uzbek SSR to have seceded.

The defence of electoral fraud, racial discrimination, violence and constitutional fiction shows us just how dysfunctional much of Serbian political discourse has remained.

PJD

Hasan, could you please tell me the dates that these events took places. It is hard to find much information about them. Other than Prekaz was the Jashari incident of Feb/Mar 1998.

"It does seem strange that nobody found any stacks of unfolded, pre-marked ballot papers indicating votes for anyone else."

Not necessarily. The report isn't exactly detailed here. I am guessing that the person found the Milosevic bundle and threw it out of the window. He might have found the bundles for the other candidates and left them alone. Who knows. But it is hardly evidence of fraud.

"And there is quite a difference between 51.93% and 49% when an absolute majority gives the winner victory in the first round."

Well it depends on what the denominator is. In the original results if you exclude the total of invalid ballot papers then Kostunica received more than 50%. In the corrected results all the candidates had less than they had in the original figures which doesn't really make sense and also the invalid votes don't appear to have been part of the denominator.

Do you know what evidence of fraud there was in the presidential election of 1992 for example?

So you are saying Riza Sapunxhiu was a Milosevic placeman? He was a member of the presidency up to March 1991, well after 1989.

Again I have heard of claims of "discriminatory laws" but never seen any hard evidence (such as text of the laws and dates they were passed etc) to back it up.

Also the version of events with tanks etc when the Kosovo assembley voted were strongly challeneged by many witnesses at the Milosevic trial.

Hasan Prishtina

Riza Sapunxhiu was most certainly a Milosevic placeman, and he ended up the same way as all the other placemen from Borisav Jovic to Radoje Kontic, dropped when no longer useful.

A few discriminatory laws: Law on the Restriction of Real Property Transactions (Official Gazette of SR Serbia 30/89); Programme for the Realisation of Peace, Freedom, Equality, Democracy and Prosperity [as befits its Orwellian title, it did none of these things]; Amendment of the University Law (Official Gazette of SR Serbia 5/90); Elementary and Secondary School Laws (Official Gazette of SR Serbia 1990-92). As with apartheid in South Africa, the situation was worse in practice than on paper.

I have spoken to two Serbian journalists who were there. They agree that the tanks, the armoured cars, the army, the secret police were all there. There are a large number of independent witnesses that confirm the same thing. That testimony, supported only by Serbian nationalists, is about as believable as the Dutch being responsible for the massacre of Serbs at Srebrenica while the Bosnjaks escaped.

At the elections in 1992, thousands of eligible voters were prevented from registering, the CSCE estimating that 100,000 first-time voters had been excised (Guess what? First-time votes were less likely to vote SPS). Ballot papers failed to make their appointed destination in Belgrade or at the district commissions where they could be counted under the scrutiny of observers. The OSCE declared the election to be unfair. Why he bothered, I don't know, because with almost total control of the media Milosevic probably didn't need to fix the elections. But that is so often the way with autocrats.

Likoshane: 28 February 1998
Poklek: 17 April 1998
Qirez: 28 February 1998

Given that the electoral commission was open to scrutiny when Milosevic fell, unfolded ballot papers marked for someone else, Nikolic for example, would have come to light pretty quickly. As it was, none did.

Are you counting "invalid votes" in the same way they were counted in 1992 and 1996?

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