Sunday, November 14, 2004

Kosovo Rising?

Back in July of 2003, an acquaintance from the UN forwarded me an article from the Boston Globe with the title “The UN Has Brought Peace and Stability to Kosovo”. The timing of the article’s appearance was not accidental. “Kosovo's capital has a boulevard named for Bill Clinton,” it begins, “A crude replica of the Statue of Liberty crowns a hotel on the city's outskirts. ‘Liberation Day,’ the anniversary of NATO's entry into the province, is a national holiday. Maybe this is how Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz dreamed Baghdad would be….” So, just three months after the fall of Baghdad to US forces and two months after President Bush declared an end to major hostilities in Iraq, the Globe was already offering an unflattering comparison between Iraqi reconstruction efforts, which had barely even had the chance to begin, and the alleged successes of a UN Administration in Kosovo which had been in place for four years. Note the tense of the last sentence cited: not “maybe this is how Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz dreams Baghdad will be”, but “maybe this is how Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz dreamed Baghdad would be.”

Since, perhaps not coincidentally, I am no longer in touch with the said UN employee, I do not think it would do any harm if I quote the first sentences of my reply to this missive: “Thanks for that. It’s not the sort of thing I’d come across usually. To be honest, the title practically made me fall off my chair. No one ever doubted that Kosovo could be ‘peaceful and stable’ if one of its two major ethnic groups was ‘cleansed’ from the territory and this is what has happened: I can’t see how it makes it better that it turned out to be Serbs rather than Albanians.” By the summer of 2003, the virtual entirety of Kosovo’s Serb population had been driven out of the parts of Kosovo’s territory under effective Albanian control: either into guarded enclaves or into the Serb-majority area north of Mitrovica or out of the province altogether. Much the same fate befell Kosovo’s Jews and Gypsies and other minorities. Indeed, as the Belgian doctor and humanitarian aide worker Eric Dachy discussed in an article published in the French magazine Les Temps Modernes (“La raison humanitaire au Kosovo”, Les Temps modernes, Nos. 615-616, septembre-octobre-novembre 2001.), this was already largely the case by the middle of 2001. According to a report by the government of the Republic of Serbia to the UN Security Council, over 1000 Serbs were killed in the course of the expulsions. As I politely mentioned to my erstwhile acquaintance from the UN, it thus reads as a sick joke when the Globe article cheerfully observes that “last year [2002] only one Serb was killed in an ethnically motivated crime” – and this whether or not the claim, for which no source is given, is true. By 2002, as a result of the massive violence against Serbs of the preceding years, Albanians and Serbs were no longer living together in Kosovo, but at best side by side. Little more than a month after the publication of the Globe article, gunmen would open fire on a group of Serb youngsters swimming in a river near the town of Gorazdevac, killing two and wounding several others. This was only one of several anti-Serb attacks that marked the last weeks of the summer. And then, of course, in March of this year, Kosovo would be swept by a renewed wave of anti-Serb violence on a scale sufficiently large that even those European and American media most enamored of the UN could no longer ignore it.

But at least Kosovo’s economy seems in the meanwhile to be picking up. Too bad that its principle staples are traffic in drugs and women respectively. Over at Chrenkoff, Arthur has posted translated excerpts from an article in the Polish magazine “Przekroj” on the matter. It is titled “Democracy and Prostitution” and notes, among other things, that:

"in the capital Pristina, over 200 brothels have sprung up right under the noses of international police and UN administrators. Women from all over the Balkans, as well as Romania, Ukraine, and Moldavia are marshaled into the brothels.

"Non-Government Organisations are accusing soldiers from France, United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and Pakistan of powering the illegal sex trade and even profiting from it. So far, not one person has been charged over the whole enterprise, as peacekeeping forces remain outside the jurisdiction of Kosovar courts.

"And as if that wasn't enough, Kosovo has now become a prime exporter in the flesh trade. Britain's Scotland Yard estimates that Albanian organised crime controls some 75 per cent of brothels in the United Kingdom."

Read all the excerpts, as well as Arthur’s reflections on the significance of the Kosovo "quagmire" which so little of the media in the US and Europe is willing to recognize as such.

I would only venture to add that the sorry performance of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) not only gives cause to pause regarding the competence of the UN to manage post-war transition situations, but also concerning the competence of the EU. For despite the UN imprimatur, the UNMIK has in fact been largely a European affair. Apart from the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was appointed on an interim basis to be the first “Special Representative” of the UN Secretary-General heading the UNMIK, all the heads of mission have been prominent politicians or diplomats from EU member states. There are even signs suggesting that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has tacitly accorded the EU a kind of advice and consent function in the matter. Were this so, it would arguably constitute a violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter prohibiting the Secretary-General from seeking or receiving instruction from “any government or from any other authority external to the Organization”. In June 2003, reports in the German press openly spoke of the EU “nominating” the Special Representative.

Moreover, in an arrangement that Kofi Annan himself described as “novel” in first announcing it in 1999, the EU is recognized as a “partner” of the UN in the Kosovo mission, being officially responsible for economic reconstruction. But the EU itself - which refers to the "pillar" of the Kosovo mission it heads quite simply as the "European Union Pillar" - has interpreted its "mandate" in Kosovo more broadly than the narrow assignment of responsibility for economic matters would suggest. Thus, for example, it claims to “mentor” through EU-appointed “Principal International Officers” four of the eleven government offices in Kosovo’s provisional government – including the Office of the Prime Minister. Finally, it is worth mentioning in this connection that Kosovo's so-called "provisional institutions of self-government" are strictly subordinated in all essential matters to the dictates of the "Special Representative". It is thus the latter who is sovereign in Kosovo, not any elected representatives of Kosovo's people. That this sorry state of affairs obtains in Kosovo today, more than five years after the end of the Kosovo War, perhaps helps to explain why certain European politicians seem eager for the reconstruction of Iraq to fail.