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American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

April 2003

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Although the armed struggles that took place in Kosovo have long ended, and the Serbian dictator removed, much still needs to be done to make the people there feel that they are part of a democratic world. Dr. Hyseni's following remarks center on the development of a democratic future in a multiethnic society, basically using an economic approach.—Carl R. Fritz

The Future of Kosovo

Despite all the work by United Nations peacekeeping forces, the problem of Kosovo’s future remains unresolved. First of all, it requires an analysis of its status from the viewpoint of human rights, equality, and the right of minority nations.

Eco-ethnic Integration
The purpose of this essay is to suggest an approach to bringing people from different ethnic groups together, which can significantly contribute to the people of Kosovo. Up to this point, the international community has made great progress in integrating ethnic groups in government and other public institutions. However, very little integration has occurred at the grass roots or the level of the general population. The key to success at there is that the general population needs to be stimulated in a way that is economically beneficial for everyone who participates. In order to achieve this, the benefits must be immediately felt, and they must outweigh the pressure for non-participation.

Integrating Kosovo’s ethnic communities has been a great challenge. Political hard-liners, especially those of the Serbian minority, continue to apply nationalist pressure against the Albanian majority (ninety percent), and to provoke the division of Kosovo. Moreover, Serbian extremists continually provoke not only representatives of the international community in Kosovo, but also the moderates within their own ethnic group who appear to be cooperating with the other side. This is easy for them to do, with memories of repression and war still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Complicating the matter is the unresolved question on the status of Kosovo. As long as that question remains open, extremists of the Serbian minority will continue to disrupt progress toward building a multiethnic society. The only solution will be a means by which the international community can undermine Serbian ability to keep the population divided. Once integration takes hold, stabilization may come as a natural by-product.

A common thread through many people of the Balkans is the collective tendency to think almost entirely in the present, and very little toward the future. This can most probably be attributed to their recent history, a history marked by numerous wars and forced expulsions; particularly affected are the Albanian people under Serbian colonial regimes (1912-1939). This has conditioned the people to view their future with a high degree of fear and skepticism. Moreover, people of this region cannot be expected to view democratic life and experience from a western perspective. The evolution of their political and economic systems has taken a completely different path. They went from feudalism to communism, and are now just getting their first taste of democracy and a free market economy.

A means for achieving successful ethnic integration can most likely be found by fulfilling the common people’s immediate interests, by improving their families’ economic conditions. Reinforcing this is the fact that the trading of commercial goods is the one link between ethnic groups that has never been entirely broken, including during the most recent war. Even now, such economic activity is quietly thriving.

Accordingly, the international community could create immediate and tangible economic incentives, easily understood across the entire population. This can be accomplished through legislation that provides preferential treatment and tax incentives for multi-ethnic local businesses in Kosovo. For example, the entire international community, including each of the UNMIK pillars, along with support from the NGO’s, can provide preferential treatment during the tendering of contracts to businesses that meet the established multi-ethnic criteria. The criteria for a multi-ethnic business might consist of having a specified ethnic balance of workers, directors and even owners. If necessary, additional measures could be implemented, such as providing an automatic tax credit for all businesses meeting the standards. In this manner, even small family businesses, which make up the backbone of Kosovo’s economy, would benefit as well.

Business naturally brings people together. Therefore, the international community should consider using economic incentives as a means to break down the barriers that separate those communities. Once integration takes hold, a greater degree of internal stabilization will most likely result.

Recognizing the Independence of Kosovo
To be realized, the above mentioned paradigms of multiethnic democracy, integration and economic justice favoring the co-existence of all people in Kosovo are a primary condition for achieving recognition of independence of Kosovo by the international community. Kosovo has constituted a colonial problem in the heart of Europe since 1912. The United Nations should find proper and legal instruments to resolve that problem, as with other colonial issues such as Algeria in 1962 and the recent case of East Timor. Kosovo thus would have a real chance to escape not only Serbian colonial rule, but also the eastern Slav influences such as Russia and its European allies. Otherwise, Kosovo under Serbian sovereignty will always be a potential powder keg affecting Balkan and European stability, peace, and security.

These reasons are relatively clear and simple; they are according to the historical and political rights of the Albanian people, the charter of the United Nations, and international political justice. In favor of these opinions, I also add this axiomatic conclusion: “The Albanians did not fight for autonomy but for independence and surely not to remain under Yugoslav suzerainty.”*


* Quotation from Henry Kissinger, Does America Need a Foreign Policy?: Toward Diplomacy for the 21st Century, New York, 2001, p. 270).

The author earned a doctorate in international affairs at Pristina University of Kosovo. From 1978 to 1999, he held professional positions in the Department of Translation, Information and Foreign Affairs in Belgrade. For the past four years, he has resided in Boston, Mass., USA.

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