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An intermediate solution to the Kosovo conflict

kosovoindepesdf.jpgFinding a solution to the future of Kosovo that satisfies the Serbs and the Albanian-Kosovars is proving to be a difficult task; perhaps the alternative could at one stage be the creation of a Confederation between Serbia and Kosovo, which is still its province; it would not be an optimal situation for either of the parties, but it could be an intermediate route towards the final, peaceful solution to the conflict.

(From Barcelona) KOSOVO REPRESENTS THE LAST PIECE of the complex ex-Yugoslavian puzzle that needs to be put into place. The bloody Balkan wars of the 90’s, including the one which pit Serbia against Kosovar guerrillas of the UÇK (Kosovo Liberation Army [1], in its original Albanese initials) reached their climax with NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, the posterior Resolution 1244 and the multinational force mission in the territory. From this point on, the situation has been presided over by the UN Security Council with the Finnish diplomat Ahtisaari put in charge so as to propose a political solution to the conflict. The result has been a plan of action presented in 2007 which, in short, proposes independence for Kosovo under international supervision.

“The most desirable process would be to channel the topic through the UN Security Council with an agreed upon solution that Russia would not oppose. But it does not seem very possible”

Let’s remember that 92 percent of the population of Kosovo is Albanian-Kosovar, predominantly Muslim, and, as opposed to other ex-Yugoslavian territories, is not very mixed with the Serbian minority. But let’s also keep in mind that many Serbians not only consider Kosovo a part of its territory, but also a central element of Serbia’s cultural, historical and national references.

As expected, the Serbian government, with Russia’s consent, has not accepted the terms of Ahtisaari’s proposal. And Russia can use its veto power in the Security Council if the topic comes up again. It does not seem like Serbia is willing to go any further than associated asymmetric state status within its borders for Kosovo. As such, it looks like the situation has come to a standstill.

POSSIBLE ROUTES

The recent elections for the Kosovar Parliament have given a clear advantage to the PDK, a party headed by Hashim Thaçi [1], ex leader of the UÇK and a clear defender of independence. However, its capacity for action is not quite independent of the final stance of the international players, basically the EU and above all, the United States. It will be very difficult for the Kosovar government to undertake any strategy without being able to count on that international support.

“One possible route, less drastic in character for both sides, would be to establish a Confederation between Kosovo and Serbia by means of a common organ”

The most desirable process would be to channel the topic through the UN Security Council with an agreed upon solution that Russia would not oppose. But it does not seem very possible. Another strategy is to ignore the Council and legitimize Kosovo’s independence with Resolution 1244, which was established after the war of 1999, as a starting point. This would entail legal problems, but it is already known that these types of obstacles can be overcome with agreements between the principal players. But there could be other by-products if this route is adopted. For example, it is not out of the question that Serbia would look for instability outside of Kosovo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), aside from being able to decide to expel the Kosovars living in Serbian territory. And, above all, Russia’s final action, after its drastic position in opposition to the NATO deployment, must be seen.

One possible route, less drastic in character for both sides, would be to establish a Confederation between Kosovo and Serbia by means of a common organ with joint representatives between both entities, and with representatives of the international community (from the EU o the UN). The responsibilities of this organ should be very reduced (for example, some international politics aspects, border defense, also of Kosovo’s new borders, with the participation of international forces) while in regards everything else each entity would be completely independent, including a possible process of admission to the EU.

SERBIA-KOSOVO CONFEDERATION?

Comparative politics show the tendency of confederations to stop existing in such form. These either tend to evolve in the direction of a federation (very unlikely in this case) or towards a definitive separation of the entities. Confederations are not usually terminal-states, but are instead halts in processes that evolve towards more stable solutions. But, in the case of a confederate solution I think that any common organ should be joint (composed of an equal number of Kosovar and Serbian representatives), aside from having a similar number of members from the international community.

It would allow Kosovo to consolidate itself as a player on the international stage and avoid a rupture that Serbia and Russia would view as traumatic during this time. The Confederation should have rules stipulating that in the upcoming years (let’s say around 2015) closer ties between the two entities be established by consensus, a separation like the one established for Montenegro in 2006 take place, or the Confederation be prolonged.

This would not be an optimal situation for neither Kosovo’s nor Serbia’s leaders, but it could be a key step towards the conflict’s final, peaceful solution. In the case of bipolar conflicts (Palestine-Israel) the presence of a third pole seems to be absolutely necessary to arrive at a solution. Some lax confederate clauses could be part of this process.