The Comparative Analysis of Criminal Defense Advocacy in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbiawas released at the opening conference of the Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network (BRRLN) Conference today in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. The report, which analyzes the profession of criminal defense advocacy in light of international law and standards, seeks to answer the question “What does a strong, independent, and effective criminal defense bar look like, and how can a regional network of defense lawyers help achieve this?” Continue reading →
Ethnic map of the Balkans. Note: Henry Robert Wilkinson published in 1951 the work Maps and politics: a review of the ethnographic cartography of Macedonia where he stated tthat this ethnic map, as most ethnic maps of that time, contained a pro-Bulgarian ethnographic view of Macedonia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Progress toward more effective management of regional disputes will be possible only if leaders emerge inside the region capable and willing to channel their own and their followers’ emotions toward negotiations everyone accepts from the outset will lead to painful sacrifices on everyone’s part.
By David B. Kanin
In a region burdened by frozen conflict, current events are reminding everyone involved of the dangers posed by contested sovereignty. Kosova’s ill-conceived decision to knuckle under to international pressure and accept the placement of an asterisk on its identity led Pristina to become aggressive in its demand that international overseers prevent Kosovar Serbs from holding local elections in conjunction with Serbia’s just-completed election. Various Serbian responded to Pristina’s rhetoric by warning darkly of possible violence against Serbs in Kosova. A few days after what proved to be relatively quiet elections – compared to what went on in France and Greece, Serbia appeared to be Europe’s island of political continuity, and not much at all went on inside Kosova – Kosovar interior minister, Bajram Rexhepi, still hinted at possible use of force north of the Ibar. At the same time, Serbian police arrested ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia as a part of Ivica Dacic’s campaign strategy – Dacic was accordingly rewarded at the ballot box.
The internationals’ diminution of Kosova’s status put into high relief continuing disarray over what to do in the Balkans; the US and others continue to fail to bring to heel five EU members who refuse to recognize the new state. Whether and how sputtering negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina resume depends on the outcome of the negotiations that will form the new government in Serbia on how Kosova decides to deal with its externally imposed diplomatic disadvantage.
Macedonia’s inter-communal condition is even more worrying. Early EU membership is off the table – much as this author would wish it otherwise. The “name” imbroglio with Greece ensures that the NATO summit in Chicago will be no more satisfying to Macedonia than was the Alliance’s poorly choreographed meeting in Bucharest in 2008. The arrest of allegedly radical Jihadists for the murder of five Macedonian fishermen tests the stability of a piece of former Yugoslavia so far spared the horrors of major fighting. The bombastic “Skopje 2014” project highlights ethnic Macedonian insecurity over their identity and reinforces ethnic Albanian irritation with being treated as less than a fully constituent political community.
It is worth remembering that Bosnia too remains a faltering Western enterprise. The central state is illegitimate (or irrelevant) to two of the country’s three major communities and is too weak to provide much value to the Bosnjak plurality – witness the trade of insults and accusations over the Dobrovoljacka Street commemoration.
The May 17 arrest of a young Serb employee of UNMIK’s north Mitrovica office removes any good reason for resisting the judgement that the Kosovo Albanians have no intention of accepting a negotiated outcome for the region north of the Ibar River. They do not want negotiations on the north, they just want the north. So, to head off any possibility of having to accept compromise, they will provoke the Serbs there into refusing to deal with them.
The young man arrested frequently travelled to visit family in the mixed north Mitrovica village of Suvi Do. To get there, he’d have to pass through an Albanian area. At that point, he would also have to pass by a unit of the so-called “regional” Kosovo police that EULEX allows free reign in this sensitive area. His routines were known. He could have been stopped at any time, as any of the Serbs living there can be. The decision to arrest him at this point on “suspicion” that he was involved in a demonstration in April to prevent the Kosovo Albanian police from setting up another provocative checkpoint – where there had just been a deadly explosion – was clearly political. (EULEX has still not managed to release any information on who might have been responsible for the explosion.) Many, many Serbs turned out for this. The targeting of a local UNMIK employee also allowed Pristina to take another shot at the UN office in north Mitrovica.
A cynic might say that the arrest was Pristina’s way of “recruiting” Serbs to take part in its “dialogue” over the north that it plans to unilaterally launch in September. The truth, however, is more basic than that. The Kosovo Albanians do not want to negotiate over the north, they want to have their “rule of law” imposed there so that they can use it to enforce more “returns” and eventually push the Serbs out entirely. They expected the internationals to do this for them; first UNMIK, then the ICO and EULEX. Having failed in that, they have mounted steady provocations since July 2011. Now they see the internationals pushing them to talk with the northern Serbs. So they provoke the Serbs, either to set off violence that they can use to justify new repression or to simply strengthen the hands of those Serbs opposed to talks.
The logic of contemporary post-war intervention and proconsulship in both Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina is impossible to divorce from concepts of collective national guilt.
By Matthew Parish
Political liberalism is a tradition within international relations that finds its origins in the thinking of US president, Woodrow Wilson. An academic and an idealist, Wilson thought that relations between states could and should be based upon moral principles rather than the brutal and ever-shifting vaguaries of the balance of power that characterised European diplomacy in the nineteenth century. This ideology has recurrently infected US politics, from the drive to promote decolonisation in the aftermath of World War II to the fight against communism in Indochina. It has also been a pervasive theme of western foreign policy in the Balkans since the end of the Cold War. As Yugoslavia disintegrated into bloody violence, US President Bill Clinton’s team of advisors determined that some sides were more responsible than others. The Serbs and to a lesser extent the Croats were brutal butchers, while Bosnia’s Muslims and Kosovo’s Albanians were for the most part victims of aggression inflicted by others.
This factual conclusion shaped the US administration’s moral vision of how post-war Balkan political geography ought to be configured. Bosnia’s Serbs and Croats must not be rewarded for their aggression. Bosnia must remain a unified, multi-ethnic country, notwithstanding the efforts of two of its three ethnic groups to tear the territory apart. By contrast Serbia must be dismembered, because Serbs cannot be trusted to treat their Albanian minority properly. This inference – from atrocity to moral outcome – would have suited Wilson’s reasoning admirably.
The premise of this argument – that Serbs in particular where disproportionately barbarous – is contested, but significant empirical evidence in its favour exists at least in the Bosnian case. Atrocities committed against Muslim civilians in Srebrenica, Brcko, Omarska, Zvornik and other places were broadcast around the world and shocked the conscience of the international community. The siege of Sarajevo is cited as another heinous war crime, and the arbitrary shelling of a city of half a million people for three and a half years was a shocking cruelty. Sieges usually are so. The majority of commentators accept that Serb forces were disproportionately responsible for the carnage of the Bosnian war. Whereas the population of Bosnia in 1991 was 44% Bosniak, 31% Serb and 17% Croat, the number of deaths in the Bosnian war were 66% Bosniaks, 25% Serbs and 8% Croats. Thus relative to population sizes, Bosniaks suffered disproportionately while Croats were disproportionately fortunate. Continue reading →
The Pristina press is reporting on secret meetings between the Kosovo government, the US ambassador and chief of the International Civilian Office (ICO), Pieter Feith, on a new plan to push the UN out of the north. According to Koha Ditore, the three have agreed to close the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Administration in Mitrovica (UAM) that administers north Mitrovica under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Koha Ditore says it has the document, titled “Kosovo Government carries over the financing of the municipal services in the north from UAM to AONM.” It refers to an action plan aiming at the closure of UAM by March 31 and its replacement with an “Temporary Administrative Office for North Mitrovica” (AONM) under the authority of Pristina and to be placed in the mixed neighborhood of Bosniak Mahalla. The plan is said to contain 10 actions which were due to begin implementation early this month. Space and equipment for the AONM were to be secured by February 10th, with a meeting with the UNMIK SRSG on the 17th to inform him that the Kosovo government would cease funding UAM.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the military alliance will not allow the Balkan region to slip back into violence amid simmering tensions between Kosovo and Serbia over a border dispute.
Rasmussen made the comments during a brief visit to Pristina, a day before Kosovo authorities are to deploy police and customs officials at two disputed border crossings with Serbia.
Burned-out Kosovo police vehicles at the Serbia-Kosovo border crossing in Jarinje following violent ethnic clashes in July.
September 14, 2011
PRISTINA — Kosovo says it will reopen two border outposts in its Serb-dominated north this week in a move that could reignite tensions that led to deadly clashes in July, RFE/RL’s Balkan Service reports.
In an interview with RFE/RL on September 13, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said Kosovo’s government would take control of custom points 1 and 31 on September 16.
He said the plan would be under the authority of Kosovo’s institutions, which will work in cooperation with the European Union’s Rule of Law (EULEX) mission and the peacekeeping force (KFOR) in Kosovo.