About the Author: Aleksandar Mitic is a Brussels-based Correspondent of the Tanjug news agency, a Lecturer at the University of Belgrade and Analyst of the Institute 4S.
February 22, 2006 — Positions on the future status of the Serbian province of Kosovo differ among interested parties and international factors. Yet, as the talks get underway, there is one principle that all believe should be taken as the basis for a sustainable and long-lasting solution: compromise.
There seems to be, however, a misunderstanding as to what the word “compromise” implies. Kosovo Albanian leaders claim that their maximalist demand – independence – is a compromising solution. Go figure.
Some analysts, diplomats and lobbyists argue that compromise involves granting Kosovo Albanians independence on condition they start respecting the basic human rights of the Kosovo Serbs that they had been flagrantly breaching in the last six years through murders, kidnappings, arson and destruction of centuries of historic heritage. Notwithstanding the legal fallacies, this indecent proposal is an insult to 21st century European human rights.
Indeed, a compromise for the Kosovo status can only be found within the aim of the talks on Kosovo’s future status: it is to provide a fair, stable, long-term solution for this crisis region.
The majority Kosovo Albanians must get a maximum of opportunities and real means to manage their future without feeling threatened, but also without threatening the interests of Kosovo Serbs, other non-Albanians, Serbia, as well as the security and stability of the rest of the region.
The Contact Group has excluded several options: no return to the situation from before 1999 ( a reference to “standard autonomy”), no joining to neighbouring states (a reference to a “Greater Albania”) and no partition (a reference to a border division between the Serb and Albanian-populated areas of Kosovo).
Within these recommendations, a compromise can only be found between the standard autonomy for the province – unacceptable for the Albanian aspirations – and the full, be it “conditional” or immediate independence of Kosovo – unacceptable for international law, for the Serbs and the Serbian state.
The proposal of a “maximum autonomy” for Kosovo within the borders of Serbia-Montenegro appears set to satisfy all these criteria. Coupled with an autonomy for the Serb areas within the highly-autonomous Kosovo, it responds to realistic demands of the Kosovo Albanians for self-governing, but it also protects the interests of non-Albanians, of Serbia itself and of the principles of non-violability of borders.
Indeed, the option of an autonomy for the Kosovo Serbs within a “maximum autonomy” for Kosovo – all under EU supervision — appears as the most reasonable, compromising and long-term solution.
It is a win-win situation for everyone:
1) The Kosovo Albanians will get the means to manage their future. Kosovo will get a full internal legislative, executive and judicial capacity, a limited external representation – in particular full access to the international financial institutions – a European perspective and a normalization of relations with Belgrade.
2) The Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians will be able to enjoy wide-scale decentralization, including horizontal linkage of Serbian municipalities which would benefit from the education, social and health system of central Serbia, as suggested by the UN special envoy Kai Eide.
3) Serbia will not have its borders changed and its historical cradle amputated. Instead of punishing a democratic government in Belgrade and blocking its road towards Europe, it would make Serbia look towards the future rather than the past.
4) Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will receive formal and practical guarantees that the changes of borders in the Balkans are no longer tolerated. This would dissuade the division of Macedonia along the ethnic Macedonian-Albanian lines and the secession of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
5) Albania will regulate and legalize its relations with Kosovo Albanians, and the Balkans will be freed from the threat of the creation of a “Greater Albania” or a second Albanian state.
6) The European Union will obtain regional stability in the Western Balkans and take fully in charge the European perspective for Kosovo. This is particularly important given that, after Bulgaria’s and Romania’s entry into the EU in 2007/08, the Western Balkans will become the “missing link” for the integrity of the EU.
7) The United States would be able to finally disengage their troops from Kosovo without losing the diplomatic leverage they now possess in both Belgrade and Pristina.
8) China, Russia, Spain, India, Moldova, Georgia and many other countries in the world facing secessionist tendencies would appreciate not having to deal with a dangerous precedent.
9) The UN will have the basis of international law system respected and its special envoy Marti Ahtisaari would be behind the brokering of a historic deal rather than an imposed solution.
10) Multiethnicity and the idea of Europe would finally win. The horizontal linkage of Serbian municipalities would be a model of integration and survival, as these municipalities would also be fully integrated into the Kosovo system run by Albanian-dominated Pristina. Property rights and the security of Serb Orthodox cultural and religious heritage would be ensured and the return of at least a part of the 220,000 expelled non-Albanians could begin. Under the supervision of the EU and the OSCE, human rights, freedom of movement and dignified life for all would finally triumph.