Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Professor Mary Kaldor

  1.  I am a member of the Independent International Commission to Investigate the Kosovo Crisis (See chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa and co-chaired by Carl Tham, director of the Olaf Palme Centre in Stockholm. One of the main conclusions of the Commission was the proposal for a status of "conditional independence" for Kosovo. Although our report was completed before the overthrow of Milosevic, the proposal remains valid and relevant. Indeed, the report makes clear that the problem of Kosovo will not disappear with Milosevic; we stress the need for dialogue and point out that such a dialogue will become possible after a change of power and mind in Serbia. In this memorandum, I will outline the reasons why the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee should take the proposal for "conditional independence" seriously. What follows are my own views and not necessarily the views of the Commission.

  2.  There seems to be a general consensus within the international community that it is too early to consider the future status of Kosovo. A strategy of "constructive ambiguity" is considered the best course of action for the present. This is partly because of understandable reluctance on the part of the international community to sanction further changes of borders. It is also because of the change of regime in Belgrade and the concern to support President Kostunica during this transitional period; it is feared that the hard-line opposition could capitalise on the Kosovo issue if there was international pressure to allow Kosovo to be separated from Serbia. There are several reasons why this view should be challenged:

    —  Firstly, the ambiguity of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, which asserts both the sovereignty of FRY and the autonomy of Kosovo, is in practise "unconstructive". It greatly complicates efforts to restore normal everyday life—a precondition for functioning self-government and democracy. Enormous difficulties have been and continue to be encountered when decisions have to be made concerning, for example, the basis of law, the currency, security arrangements, even planning regulations.

    —  Secondly, there is strong support within Kosovo for independence. Local elections have already been held. Province—wide elections will be held soon. All the parties competing in the elections favour independence for Kosovo. Independence as an option for Kosovo cannot be ruled out if the international community is to respect the wishes of the Kosovar Albanians and the commitment to democracy. Up to now, there has been much local support for the international role within Kosovo. This could change if independence is ruled out and growing hostility could greatly hamper the tasks of the United Nations administration.

    —  Thirdly, it would be an error to repeat the mistakes of the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, the issue of Kosovo was considered secondary to the issue of Croatia and Bosnia—Kosovar Albanians were asked to be patient. In the end, frustration that non-violent forms of struggle were ineffective led to the war. Today, the issue of the future development of Kosovo is considered secondary to the development of democracy is Serbia, and the future relationship between Serbia and Montenegro. Kosovars are once again asked not to "rock the boat". This approach could backfire.

    —  Finally, it is not evident that delaying the issue of Kosovo is necessarily the best way to support democracy in Serbia. Much of the opposition to Milosevic was framed and, indeed continues to be framed, in nationalistic terms. It was the suffering inflicted on Serbs and the Serb nation rather than what was done to Serbia's neighbours that was at the root of the opposition to Milosevic. Many of those who marched on Belgrade did so carrying the symbols of Serbian nationalism. Full democratic development of Serbia will be very difficult unless the people of Yugoslavia come to terms with what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo. The issue of Kosovo needs to be publicly discussed not suppressed.

  3.  In considering the future of Kosovo, the main goal is to find arrangements that are most likely to enable all the people of Kosovo, Albanians, Serbs and other minorities to live together as they have for centuries and to avoid further outbreaks of war both within Kosovo and in the region as a whole. In concluding that conditional independence was the best option, the Commission considered four other options. These were:

    —  Protectorate: At present, Kosovo is under a United Nations protectorate— a new international form of governance, similar although not identical to the arrangements that pertain in Bosnia. The aim of a protectorate is to establish the conditions for self-government, democracy and the rule of law in the future. A long-term protectorate for Kosovo is not a viable option for several reasons, some of which have already been mentioned—the ambiguity of 1,244, the desire of the Kosovar Albanians to run their own affairs which contradicts the goal of democracy and self-rule, and the burden to the international community.

      Full Independence: This is the option favoured by most Kosovars. However other wishes also have to be taken into account. There are anxieties among Kosovo's neighbours about possible further changes in borders, in particular, the concern that independence for Kosovo might raise the spectre of a Greater Albania. This is particularly serious for Macedonia, with a large Albanian minority population. There are also serious concerns among Kosovo's minority population, particularly Serbs and Rome. These concerns must be addressed before any option is firmly adopted.

    —  Partition: There have been several proposals for partition of Kosovo recently. The idea is that Northern Mitrovica, largely populated by Serbs and, indeed, a haven for Serbs from other parts of Kosovo, should become part of Serbia, while part of Southern Serbia, mainly populated by Albanians, notably the Presevo valley should become part of Kosovo. This proposal has been gaining ground recently particularly among Serbs in Northern Mitrovica but also sympathy for the guerrilla group in Presevo has been growing among Albanians, although, most Albanians are utterly opposed to losing Trebca, the mines situated in Northern Mitrovica. This option is unacceptable. It violates the international principles of support for multi-ethnic communities and opposition to forced population displacement. Moreover, such an option legitimises the claims of exclusive ethnic nationalism, thus sustaining the ideologies that were the primary cause of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. It should be stressed that the separation of Kosovo from the Belgrade government is not the same as the separation of Serb and Albanian ethnic populations.

    —  Autonomy within a democratic FRY: This is the option presently favoured by the international community. There is talk of a three-republic solution, whereby Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo become the three constituent republics of a newly constituted Yugoslavia. This could have been an excellent solution before the Yugoslav wars; indeed republic status was the main goal at that time of the Kosovar Albanians. But after all that the Kosovar Albanians have experienced at the hands of the Yugoslavia authorities, not just during 1998-99 but since 1989, it is difficult to imagine that the Kosovar Albanians would ever be willing to submit to Yugoslav sovereignty, however nominal. Indeed the Kosovar Albanians are being asked to accept much more then the other former constituent units of Yugoslavia—Solvenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonian—even though, at least in the case of Solvenia and Macedonian, these republics had not experienced a similar level of human rights violations.

  4.  Conditional independence means independence under certain conditions. Essentially, the international community would retain responsibility for the security of Kosovo's borders, thus reassuring Kosovo's neighbours and removing the spectre of Greater Albania, and responsibility for the security of Kosovo's minority population. Another way of describing conditional independence is as autonomy within the international community. Nominal FRY sovereignty would be replaced by UN or even, an option favoured in Kosovo, EU sovereignty.

  5.  Conditional independence would have to be the outcome of a process of dialogue and ultimately agreement. This would have to involve an external agreement between Kosovo and its neighbours, particularly Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, and an internal agreement between UNMIK, and representatives of all communities in Kosovo.

  6.  With the development of international law and the growing practise of humanitarian intervention, sovereignty is no longer absolute. Sovereignty is conditional upon respect for international law, especially the human rights of citizens. Yugoslavia forfeited sovereignty over Kosovo, as a consequence of gross violations of human rights over a prolonged period. By the same token, independence for Kosovo must also be conditional on respect for international law, both externally with respect to neighbours, and internally, with respect to individual rights, especially the right of minorities.

  7.  One of the main arguments against independence for Kosovo is that it would set a precedent for other regions, particularly Republika Serbska, Vojvidina, and Sandjak. This is, of course, a serious concern. The precedent was set, however, not by Kosovo but by the independence of the former Yugoslav republics. If the case for Kosovo independence is based not on the general process of Yugoslav succession but on the particular case of human rights violations, then the case for secession in these other instances is much weaker.

  8.  With these qualifications in mind, it should be stressed that by offering the Kosovars the prospect of eventual independence, or at least not ruling out this option, it will be much easier to solve a range of issues of current concern. These include legal issues within Kosovo, the situation in the Presevo valley, and the possibility for integration of Mitrovica and for the return of refugees and displaced persons.

  9.  Finally, it is worth pointing out that not only the nature of sovereignty but also the nature of borders is changing nowadays. Nationalists in the Balkans and elsewhere imagine an anachronistic traditional nation-state with relatively closed borders. In a globalised context, such nation-states are no longer viable. In the future, there will have to be increased co-operation within the Balkans and within Europe as a whole. Indeed the Stability Pact offers the prospect of eventual integration in the European Union. This is the framework within which conditional independence for Kosovo has to be located, as the set of arrangements most conducive for future co-operation and integration not separation.

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