Kosova: really “independent”?

The idiot left has lost no time in blasting Kosova’s declaration of independence. The latest spew from New York’s International Action Center screams “US Hands Off Serbia!” and cheers the Belgrade protests (where wanted war criminal Ratko Mladic was hailed as a hero) and the attack on the US embassy there. Predictably, the statement barely mentions the Albanians—and then only to note that almost a quarter of them have been forced to leave Kosova to seek work abroad. The uninitiated reading this propaganda would have no idea that the Albanians constitute over 90% of Kosova’s population, and that they overwhelmingly—practically unanimously, it seems—support independence. Fortunately, there have been a few principled voices on the left who have had more honest things to say about Kosova…

First and foremost is Israeli dissident Uri Avnery, in his latest column (Feb. 26), refreshingly entitled “Three cheers for Kosova!” (note Albanian spelling—not the universally-accepted Serb spelling of “Kosovo”). Viewing the situation through the prism of the Palestinian conflict (as opposed to Vietnam, the idiot left‘s only “paradigm”), he draws an obvious parallel—and notes an inevitable Zionist affinity for Serb nationalism:

Much as Serbs are different from Israelis, it seems that we have a lot in common. Both peoples believe that “the whole world is against us”. Both are completely convinced that they are absolutely in the right, even when everybody else is telling them otherwise.

Like the Israelis, the Serbs are also immersed in their past.

For them as for us, history is more important than the present. The future is a hostage of the past.

Many centuries ago, the Serbs lived in Kosovo. According to them, that patch of ground was the cradle of their nation. There, in June 1389, the defining event of their history took place: the great battle against the Ottoman Turks. The fact that the Serbs were decisively beaten does not diminish the memory. It also does not matter to them that afterwards a people of Albanian descent took root in the country.

In World War II, the feeling of solidarity between Serbs and Jews was cemented. Our heart was, of course, with the courageous partisans. The Jews who succeeded in reaching Tito’s liberated areas were saved from the Holocaust. Serbs and Jews were murdered together in the Croatian concentration camps, which were so gruesome that even SS officers shuddered when they visited them.

The death of Tito and the collapse of his regime did not put an end to the feeling of solidarity. On the contrary, our Rightists fell in love with Slobodan Milosevic. Ariel Sharon supported him publicly. Perhaps he liked the combination of deeply-felt victimhood and merciless brutality.

All this explains the mixed feelings many Israelis have towards the declaration of independence of Kosova (as the Kosovars themselves call their country.)

I am afraid that in this matter, too, my views diverge from those of many other Israelis. My heart was with the masses of Albanian Kosovars who rejoiced and danced this week in the streets of Pristina.

He depicts the Israeli Consensus Reality view of the question in telling terms:

This week I saw an interview on TV with Knesset Member Arieh Eldad of the ultra-Right. For a moment I was about to panic: it seemed as if he was supporting the independence of Kosova. But his next sentence put me at ease. He vigorously objected to recognition.

What are we coming to, he exclaimed. If the province of Kosovo can secede from the Serbian state, what is there to prevent Galilee from seceding from the Israeli state? The majority of the Galilean population are Arab, and tomorrow they will demand an Arab-Galilean state of their own. If the Kosovars are allowed to do so, why not the Palestinians inside Israel?

And to his credit, he is unafraid of the Kosovars setting a positive example for the Palestinians, concluding:

That is a world-wide tendency. Separate nations do not unite in new states, but on the contrary, existing states break up into national components. Anyone who believes that Israelis and Palestinians will unite tomorrow in one state does not live in the real world. The slogan “two states for two peoples” is relevant today more than ever.

So Israel, approaching its own 60th anniversary, should recognise the Republic of Kosova and wish it well.

However, having cleared the air of idiot-leftist cant on the question, we do have to raise some caveats on Kosova. It is not that we don’t think the Kosovars are entitled to independence. On the contrary, we are saddened that they have settled so cheap—for a sort of pseudo-independence. Another principled leftist view comes from the current (March 10) edition of The Militant, weekly broadsheet of the US Socialist Workers Party (not to be confused with the idiot-left British party of the same name). “Kosova ‘independence’ includes continued NATO occupation,” the headline reads. First, they note the pro-“independence” consensus in Washington—and the depressing if inevitable reality that the Kosovar Albanians still look to Uncle Sam as their protector:

The “declaration of independence” was welcomed by the three leading U.S. presidential contenders, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican John McCain. “Kosova’s independence is a unique situation,” said Obama. “It is in no way a precedent for anyone else in the region or around the world.”

Meanwhile, in predominantly-Serbian northern Kosova, several hundred Serbs set fire to two UN border posts February 19. Slobodan Samarzdic, the Serbian government minister for Kosova, said the assault “might not be pleasant but it is legitimate.” He added that Belgrade plans to “take over the customs in northern Kosovo.”

“The security of Kosova is a guarantee of NATO and no one can attack. Everything is under control,” Kosova prime minister Hashim Thaci told the Associated Press.

The Militant closes—very refreshingly!—with some dissident Albanian voices, who recognize that this so-called “independence” doesn’t go far enough:

That high opinion of the foreign occupation is not unanimous among working people in Kosova. The group Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) opposes the imperialist-imposed plan and the ongoing occupation of Kosova, while fighting for self-determination.

“Lack of self-determination and self-rule enables international companies to buy very cheap our publicly and socially owned enterprises in the process of privatization, but also to control our natural resources and shape the fiscal policy,” Albin Kurti, 33, a leader of the group, told the Militant via e-mail.

Kurti said the EU-run government “will have immunity from Kosova’s law” and Belgrade will retain some control over majority Serb areas.

“Kosova didn’t really need a UN mission here,” he continued, “but our own seat in the UN. Likewise, we don’t need an EU mission to rule over us, but Kosova’s inclusion into the EU as an independent, sovereign state.”

Kurti called for “strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, non-violent protests, and demonstrations… for self-determination for the people of Kosova, for civil rights and freedoms, for equality and prosperity.”

Kurti was arrested a year ago, after a demonstration for self-determination in which two students were killed by UN police and 80 wounded. He was jailed for five months then placed under house arrest for another five and a half months. He still faces charges of “leading a crowd that committed a criminal offense.”

Now, from what we’ve seen, there’s every possibility that Vetevendosje are themselves extremoid ethno-nationalists, not principled leftists. But the criticisms they raise are still absolutely legitimate, and The Militant deserves big creds for airing them. For all the cheering in Pristina, Vetevendosje’s views may not be so marginal. Kosova is merely switching from UN to EU administration, and NATO will still be there as a regional police force. There seems to be at least an undercurrent of recognition on the part of the Kosovar Albanians that they are still occupied—if now by paternalistic and “benevolent” international forces rather than exterminationist local ethno-fascists. From a March 4 commentary by Simon Roughneen at IslamOnline:

Kosovars have a humorously cynical view on international bureaucratic excesses. They often cite the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which ran the erstwhile province since 1999. The incoming European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) designed to replace the UNMIK does not seem to have a universal approval. In Pristina, some graffiti conflate the names UNMIK and EULEX with an x drawn through both.

Now, the savvy Barack Obama‘s reassurance that Kosova will not serve as an example for any other upstarts around the world was first and foremost intended for consumption over at the Israel Lobby, secondarily intended for consumption in Moscow (and Belgrade), and tertiarily (at best) in places like Madrid (think: the Basques) and Ottawa (think: Quebec). But the Kosovars should beware that realpolitik will prevail over lofty sentiments at the end of the day—and their territory will be divided. The following sobering account (Feb. 22) was sent to us in translation from the Belgrade daily Standard:

Although NATO tanks have deployed at the administrative border between Kosovo and Serbia proper on Wednesday already, a day before that the Serbian flag had been hoisted at the Brljak crossing near Zubin Potok, which could be interpreted as the first clear sign of what could be the policy of official Belgrade on its southern Province in the future. Although no confirmation of this can be obtained from Serbian state officials, it is a de facto partition of Kosovo.

On Tuesday [Feb. 19] when Kosovo Serbs had taken over the administrative border at this, as well as at the Jarinje border crossing, previously chasing away UNMIK customs officers, for the first time customs and excises duties were not paid for the goods supplied from Serbia to Kosovo. This is only one of a number of indications that the partition has been seriously considered and worked on.

Judging by the sentiment of the population and statements of local leaders, the northern part of Kosovo, which is populated by a Serb majority, will not consent to have Pristina as its capital instead of Belgrade. The representatives of the international community have realized that immediately after the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence. The first comments in western media have the thesis on Kosovo’s partition as the focus of their reports, for they opine it is the only possible shock-absorbing solution against Belgrade’s reaction.

Many unbiased analyses confirm that the partition of Kosovo is at this moment more than possible. Kosovo has been partitioned for years already, like it or not. The northern part of Mitrovica, Zvecan and Leposavic have so far been more turned to Belgrade than to Pristina. In this part of Kosovo, the Dinar has been a regular payment means, children have attended schools according to the same curriculum as children in the rest of Serbia, those being sick have been treated according to Serbia’s health insurance. The proclamation of Kosovo will add intensity to this, which can be seen in the field. The analysts in the West are also aware of this…

The Serbian government has primarily planned that Kosovo Serbs boycott the Pristina government, while at the same time working on forming their parallel institutions in the north of Kosovo. By maintaining even closer ties with cut-off enclaves, especially in Metohija, Belgrade will try to persuade both itself and the world that it will never consent to have a part of Kosovo only and that it will never recognize the loss of Kosovo, although openly working on formalizing the actual situation on the ground—a partition of Kosovo.

See our last post on Kosova.

  1. israel – serbia
    Arieh Eldad is right – which is why Israel is squeamish about Kosovo independence. Israelis, just like Serbs, mostly abandoned their historic, ancestral lands, centuries ago, being chased away by various conquering empires – Israelis by the Romans, Serbs by the Ottomans – only to find, when they returned later, in 20th century – Israelis as Zionists, and Serbs as Kingdom of Yugoslavia – that those lands have been inhabited by others: Israel by Palestine Arabs, and Kosovo by Albanians. Ideally, from the point of view of Israeli/Serb nationalist, Arabs and Albanians would pack up and go somewhere else (Jordan, Albania..). But this is not happening and it is source of endless grievance in both cases. Israeli-Arab conflict is more violent and more intractable because of the hands-off approach by the rest of the world, where both Israelis and Arabs are free to do whatever they want to each other. Serb-Albanian conflict is moderated by the international presence, so Serbs can’t launch an offensive against Albanians in Kosovo, and Kosovo Albanians, having their governing bodies supervised by the international forces, can’t really launch rocket attacks against Serbia proper. Why Kosovo is not used as a model for Gaza and West Bank, then? Other than that, Kosovo’s international legal position is not much different than that of the West Bank, i.e. Kosovo is not a sovereign state with a seat at the UN. It still did not get to share in the same status granted to former Yugoslav republics, a thing it desires since 1981. And Albin Kurti’s fears are right on spot. The only thing of some economic value in Kosovo – the Trepca Mines Complex – is a) occupied and shut down by UNMIK/KFOR in year 2000, with an eye to be sold below market to some British or French conglomerate, and b) is located in the Serbian ethnic majority Northern part of Kosovo – in Zvecan. TMC used to produce 80% of Kosovo’s economic output! And it is quite out of reach of Kosovo Albanians… It is like the oil is found under a part of Gaza strip, and Israel moves in and takes that part away.

  2. Kosova’s mineral resources
    Our friend Ivo Skoric of the Balkan Pages writes:

    One thing that media don’t talk about much regarding Kosovo – it is always economy, stupid, behind everything.

    The Serbian-majority North end of Kosovo is home to the Trepca Mine Complex – second largest deposit of coal in Europe, and the biggest lead and zinc mine in Europe – 70% of Yugoslav mining was done there, and before wars TMC accounted for 80% of Kosovo’s revenues: i.e. the only really worth natural resource thing not only in Kosovo, but also in Serbia, and for that matter in former Yugoslavia is in Zvecan, near Kosovska Mitrovica. It used to have Serbian management, but workers were both Serbs and Albanians, and the 40-so mines and factories are spread both on Serbian and Albanian sides of river Ibar. It is interesting that not a single NATO bomb fell on it and one of the first orders of business of UNMIK/NATO in year 2000 was to occupy the mine complex and shut it down, presumably on environmental reasons. Now there are French and British companies interested in upgrading the old and obsolete (well they kept it closed for 8 years, didn’t they) infrastructure and reap profit.

    Serbs are not going to let this peacefully go to Albanians, or to French…

    Ivo also provides a telling quote from a UK House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs 2001 “Fourth Report” on Kosovo:

    The Trepca mine complex is one of the most important and difficult issues for the international administration in Kosovo. Depending upon which calculations are used, it employed from 10,000 to 40,000 people before the conflict in Kosovo. The complex of about 40 mines produces gold, silver, lead, zinc, and cadmium. The metallurgical, mine and other industrial facilities may, at their peak, have accounted for 80 per cent of Kosovo’s economy. The complex is located in the Mitrovica region,[219] and there are major portions of the complex in both Serb-majority areas, and Albanian-majority areas. It was a significant source of hard currency earnings for Milosevic and associates. The Trepca workforce has in the past included both Kosovo Albanians and Serbs, but the management has been in the hands of Serbs since 1981-82. It has also produced significant pollution, and poses a public health risk in the Mitrovica area. Because of controversy over the emissions from Trepca, UNMIK took over the complex in August 2000. Since then Trepca’s operations have been largely shut down, and Kosovo Albanian and Serb workers have been employed in cleaning up the site. The challenge now for UNMIK is to restructure the complex’s operations so that it is economically viable, environmentally sound, and, as far as possible, meets the expectations of the Albanians and the Serbs. The FCO informed us that a study by independent consultants will report soon, and UNMIK’s plans will be announced shortly thereafter. However, the FCO warns that “modern production methods may mean that far fewer people will be employed there in the future.”

  3. Camp Bondsteel

    An important point from the IAC release (one unmentioned by WW4 Report)

    “The only major construction in Kosovo is of Camp Bondsteel, the largest U.S. base built in Europe in a generation. Halliburton, of course, got the contract.The U.S. base guards the strategic oil and transportation lines of the entire region.” Also,
    “The largest prison in Kosovo is at the U.S. base, Camp Bondsteel, where prisoners are held without charges, judicial overview or representation.”

    IAC deserves creds for that.