Kosova: For an independent bi-national federation

Issue 

Since Kosova declared independence on February 17, it has been recognised by only 33 countries, while most are "waiting and watching".

With Russia opposed, there is no UN Security Council recognition, so Resolution 1244, adopted in June 1999 at the end of NATO's war on Serbia, which calls Kosova part of Serbia, remains the "legal" situation.

Both NATO, which has troops in Kosova, and the incoming European Union (EU) supervisory bodies consist of countries divided on the issue and have no consensus about their role.

NATO has announced its mandate remains to maintain "a safe and secure environment", but it "is not a police force".

However, the EU police and justice mission (EULEX), and the EU-appointed International Civilian Representative (ICR), to replace the existing UN authority (UNMIK), have no legal mandate under Resolution 1244.

EULEX's mission is to supervise the Ahtisaari Plan, on which Kosova's "supervised" independence is based. The aim is to assure Kosovar Serbs that the plan's high degree of minority rights would be implemented as the Albanian-led Kosova government declared independence — as it had long said it would if no UN resolution was agreed on.

Despite sharp disagreement within the EU over recognition, there was unanimity on EULEX. Those rejecting the "independence" component of Ahtisaari strongly support its provisions for minorities — the "supervision".

However, Serbia currently rejects EULEX, demanding a new UN resolution to provide it with a mandate, which it wants to reaffirm Serbian sovereignty.

However, if such a resolution was passed, the Kosova government would block EULEX, which it views as a concession. Hence the late decision by a several major EU states to accept recognition of Kosova's independence declaration, in order to maintain control.

Self-determination

According to international law, EULEX presence in Kosova is "illegal".

What do supporters of the oppressed care of the "illegality" of an oppressed people, long forcibly trapped within borders they did not consent to, declaring independence?

However, what does it mean when major imperialist powers, with troops in Kosova, are the first to recognise independence, while working to ensure it falls well short of full independence?

Socialists support the right of the oppressed Kosovar Albanians to self-determination. There is no substance to a "legality" preventing independence for a people who have long struggled for it.

Russia uses its Security Council veto to block UN recognition, just as the US blocks recognition of Palestine's 1988 declaration of independence.

We object to imperialist troops and "supervision" limiting Kosovar independence, and demand they withdraw to allow full self-determination.

However, most "supervised" conditions set by the EU for "independence" concern rights for minorities, and nullify any purely "Albanian" content to an officially multi-ethnic state. Albanians constitute 90% of the population.

This includes autonomy and links to Belgrade for Serb-majority regions, protective areas around Serb Orthodox monasteries, dual citizenship for Serbs, a high degree of minority representation in government and state — including veto powers, a new flag with no Albanian colours or symbols, an independence declaration with no mention of the Albanian people, and banning union with Albania.

While opposing restrictions on independence, it is difficult to oppose such policies in a country where the massive crimes against Albanians by the Serbian occupation led to pogroms against Serbs by vengeful or chauvinist Albanians once the Serbian army was expelled.

Despite these formal rights, most Kosovar Serbs oppose independence. Unlike pre-war Bosnia, Kosova was never a multi-ethnic society, but a Serbian colony. The divisions between the two peoples are deep.

Since Serbia was expelled, Albanians have run the state, with Serbs becoming an oppressed minority, whatever their legal standing.

Partition

Kosova is therefore being partitioned. This partition was first established in June 1999 when NATO aided Serb militia in dividing the northern city of Mitrovica across the Ibar river. This maintained the entire north to the Serbia border, 15% of Kosova, as a Serbian zone — containing Kosova's richest resources.

The recognition of "independent" Kosova by only some countries gives a legal character to partition. The Serbian state has controlled northern Kosova since 1999, so while the formal legal position contained in Resolution 1244 have no effect elsewhere, it represents the reality in the north.

UNMIK, which has ruled Kosova since 1999 on the basis of Serbian sovereignty, remains in place. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon affirmed that it will stay until the UN decides otherwise, and denied any transfer from UNMIK to EULEX had begun.

Given a Serb boycott, EULEX on February 24 quit northern Kosova, though Serbs welcome the continuing presence of UNMIK and NATO. Albanians employed by UNMIK institutions, and Albanian police and customs officers, are leaving the north.

The partition has extended, more tenuously, to the smaller Serb enclaves in the Albanian-dominated south. Throughout the country, Serb police officers have quit or not turned up for work for the Kosova Police Service (KPS), where they form 10% of officers.

Quitting the KPS in the south may be shooting themselves in the foot, as southern Serb enclaves are more vulnerable to Albanian hostility. Serb police say they will continue working if they can report to UNMIK.

EU officials acknowledge a split between a Serb "UNMIK-land" and an Albanian "EULEX-land". The March 18 New York Times quoted EU and NATO officials admitting there is little they can do to stop partition.

A proposal put to the UN by Serbia's Kosovo Minister, Slobodan Samardzic, calls for "functional separation" of the two communities, while recognising UNMIK jurisdiction. UNMIK deputy head, US diplomat Larry Rossin, stated this "could be the basis for talks between Belgrade and UNMIK".

Imperialist manoeuvres

Whether to partition Kosova is an old imperialist debate. One of the first US ideologists to advocate Kosovar independence, Charles Kupchan in Foreign Affairs in 2005, also advocated partition. The first head of NATO in Kosova, General Mike Jackson, Britain's Daily Telegraph and the Dutch government all recently called for partition.

One view is that dividing peoples whose cohabitation leads to conflict may establish regional stability. One theory even claims the rapid imperialist recognition of "illegal" independence was meant to lead to deadlock, in order to make partition the only solution.

However, the majority of imperialist leaders believe if internal partition becomes an international border, it will be more destabilising than independence itself, which they long opposed because it may encourage independence struggles by other oppressed peoples.

Full partition would even more clearly pose ethnicity as a basis for border changes, but if it can be declared "multi-ethnic" the effect may be dampened.

If the north stays in Serbia, it may encourage the Albanian-dominated south to join Albania — with a flow-on effect in Macedonia, where a quarter of the population are Albanian. A blow-out of the "Macedonian question" could threaten the cohesion of NATO's "southern flank".

Blocking a "greater Albania" is therefore an imperialist priority, requiring an officially united, multi-ethnic Kosova.

The secession of the north to Serbia and the fusion of the rest with Albania can be viewed as the right of both to self-determination; neither should be blocked by imperialist "stability" concerns.

However, only 40% of Kosovar Serbs live in the north. Its secession would abandon the majority of Serbs living in small enclaves surrounded by the Albanian majority elsewhere.

Therefore, many Serb leaders in the south oppose partition. Rada Trajkovic, president of the Serbian National Council in Kosovo, believes it is in the interests of Serbs to accept EULEX, proposing Serbs have contact with it via UNMIK.

Head of the Serbian List for Kosovo, Oliver Ivanovic, denounced "jingoism" in the north, where it is easy to "score cheap points, but the price will be high for the Serbs in the central part of Kosovo".

However, Trajkovic called for an internal partition \"according to the "according to the Cyprus model" — the UN plan for reunification based on a Greek Cypriot entity and a Turkish Cypriot entity forming a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Kosova, like Cyprus, consists of parts of two nations with no common consciousness.

In promoting more than the autonomy for Serbs contained in the Ahtisaari package, but less than full partition, such a model offers both a way out of the deadlock, and a solution that accords with the reality of a society deeply divided between two nations.

Bi-national federation

The advantage for "enclave Serbs" is that northern Mitrovica, by remaining in Kosova, would continue to form their educational, health, cultural and political centre, with a Serb university and major hospital. It is easier to incorporate scattered enclaves into the same entity with
the north if the latter is part of Kosova, not in another country.

There are also advantages for Albanians. The EU-run state's official multi-ethnicity denies Albanians genuine self-determination. The plan denies the majority any recognition as the key people in the state, after a century of struggle.

With tens of thousands waving the Albanian red and black eagle flag, marking their actual ethnic consciousness, the new blue and white flag appears a gross imperialist imposition.

A bi-national federation would allow Albanians and Serbs to run their own affairs and represent themselves however they choose. The rationale for denying Albanians full independence — that their treatment of Serbs requires imperialist "supervision" to ensure minority rights — would have less credence if Serbs ran their own entity.

It is also possible that Serbia (backed by Russia) may accept this as a compromise, enabling a UN resolution. The pressure from anti-chauvinist Serbs would gain momentum at the expense of the far right.

Imperialist states may also have such a "Plan B" due to the logjam. Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, while "ruling out" full partition, said his meetings with Serbs "testified that partition was present in their lives: these are two societies, two communities." The solution "requires a large degree of self-government for the Serbs".

As a statement by Greek socialists maintains, "a real just solution for Kosovo comes through the restoration of multinational co-existence". Independence is a necessary step to achieve this.

But there can be no real independence without the restoration of shattered working class solidarity between the two communities. Whatever the manoeuvres of imperialist powers and nationalists on both sides, any result that advances this goal should be welcomed.

[Michael Karadjis is a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective.]

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