Update No: 117 - (22/02/07)
The crux of the matter
There is no more important matter for a state than its territorial
integrity. As Max Weber defined it: "A state is whatever institution can
exercise a monopoly of violence in a given territory."
One might add the corollary; " and has legitimacy therein." For inter
alia this makes its exercise of a monopoly of violence legitimate.
Serbia is in grave peril of losing a valued chunk of its territory here.
Everybody knows by now what that is - Kosovo. NATO disputed that Belgrade's
exercise of violence there in 1999 was legitimate and intervened to prevent
further ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovars. In effect it was legitimising the
independence of the province.
De facto Kosovo has been independent of Albania ever since, but not de jure. It
is one thing to be legitimate; another to be legal.
The international community in the shape of the UN is hoping to close the gap
here. Yet it is reluctant to give Kosovo's independence de jure recognition for
fear of encouraging secessions elsewhere.
Montenegro gained its independence last year from Serbia. But, a legal nicety,
it was formally only seceding from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. It is not
only obviously legitimate, but also quite legal to secede fro a union, which in
principle is claiming to be a voluntary affair. Dwelling on such niceties gives
international lawyers and diplomats their living.
Kosovo: Serbia's forever?
One such is UN Special for Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari. On February
2nd, he presented his long-awaited and vital draft proposal for Serbia's much
disputed province of Kosovo. According to unofficial reports, the document does
not mention the word independence, but it neither does it speak about Serbia's
It was immediately declared acceptable by Skopje. But this very fact, as well as
what it contains, makes it far less so to Belgrade.
For, from numerous media reports, it became clear that what Ahtisaari was
speaking about was indeed a form of independence for Kosovo. Its own flag,
national anthem, coat of arms, and constitution are among the many advantages
that Kosovo will be granted. Perhaps most importantly, it will be able to apply
for membership for international organisations, such as Nato and the EU, and
sign international contracts. Economy-wise, Kosovo will be able to participate
in a number of financial institutions, and thus receive money from the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as implement programmes
contracted with them.
The actual document for the plan has not yet been made public. A number of media
organisations, including Reuters, claim they have seen the document or even that
they have it. But according to Ahtisaari's spokes person, the plan has not been
shown even to the interested sides. Swedish foreign minister Karl Bild said in
Pristina that Ahtisaari would bring only a working document, not a final
Nevertheless, supposed extracts from the document have leaked. Whether they are
indeed the "real thing" or not, they give an idea of what is likely to
happen to Kosovo's future status.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) not only claims it has
obtained a key section of Ahtisaari's proposal, but it has also published it on
its website. According to this version, Kosovo will adopt a constitution that
will prescribe the legal and institutional mechanisms for the protection,
promotion, and enforcement of human rights of all persons in Kosovo. It will
have the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the
right to seek membership of international organisations. Kosovo will have its
own, distinct, national symbols, including a flag, seal and anthem, reflecting
its multi-ethnic character. The province will have no territorial claims
against, and is to seek no union with, any state or part of any state.
Serbian president, Boris Tadic, denounced the plan shortly after its
presentation in Belgrade. He warned of a "dangerous political and legal
precedent", if Kosovo became independent. The political bloc led by current
Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica further warned of "serious
consequences" for every country that recognised Kosovo's independence.
According to a representative of Kostunica's cabinet, this means that Serbia's
next government would sever diplomatic relations with any country that accepted
Kosovo as an independent state.
Kostunica refused to meet Ahtisaari. Kostunica's adviser, Slobodan Samardjic,
said that negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina would not be possible until
the new cabinet was formed (Serbia held parliamentary elections on January 21st.
A new cabinet is still to be formed). Samardjic told Serbian national television
that because of this, the negotiation team was not able to implement its
responsibilities, nor could it act in any way. He criticised Ahtisaari for his
timing in choosing to present his proposal on Kosovo's status. This is surely a
Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999. This happened after Nato's
bombing over Serbia forced Serbian troops to withdraw from Kosovo. Negotiations
regarding Kosovo's status have been going on for years. In January 2006 in
Vienna, Kosovo's and Serbia's negotiating teams tried to tackle the less
contentious issues of decentralisation and protection of cultural heritage under
international mediation. But after no compromise was reached, Ahtisaari was
tasked to draw up his own proposal for the province's final status. When he was
in Belgrade to present the plan to Tadic, Ahtisaari declared that Serbians and
ethnic Albanians had been offered one more chance to reach a compromise about
Kosovo's future status.
The international community will supervise, monitor and have all necessary
powers to ensure effective and efficient implementation of any such settlement.
Municipalities in Kosovo will have the right to inter-municipal and cross-border
cooperation on matters of mutual interest in the exercise of their
New municipal boundaries will be delineated in accordance with the Attachment to
Annex III of the proposed settlement (BIRN's website said that it had not
obtained the annexes).
Kosovo will have authority over law enforcement, security, justice, public
safety, intelligence, civil emergency response and border control on its
territory. A new professional and multi-ethnic Kosovo Security Force (KSF) will
be established, and will develop a lightly armed component, capable of specified
security functions. When it has accomplished its goals, including the
facilitation of Kosovo's post-conflict recovery, KSF will be disbanded within
one year after the entry into force of the settlement in question.
No later than nine months from the entry into force of the settlement, Kosovo
will organise general and municipal elections. They will have to be certified by
a competent international authority as having met international standards. An
International Steering Group (ISG), comprising key international stakeholders
will appoint an International Civilian Representative (ICR) and will seek UN
Security Council endorsement of the appointment. The ICR and the EU Special
Representative, appointed by the Council of the European Union, will be the same
person. The ICR will be entrusted to exercise certain powers to ensure and
supervise full implementation of this settlement including the power to take
measures, as necessary, to prevent and remedy breaches of this settlement. The
mandate of the ICR will continue until the ISG determines that Kosovo has
implemented the terms of this settlement.
The EU will establish a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) mission in
the field of rule of law. It will assist Kosovo authorities in their progress
towards sustainability and accountability and in further developing and
strengthening an independent judiciary, police and customs service, ensuring
that these institutions are free from political interference and in accordance
with internationally recognised standards and European best practices.
Furthermore, Nato will establish an International Military Presence (IMP) to
support the implementation of the settlement.
That more discussions will be on the table after the plan was presented is
certain. But it is not likely that the current version of the plan will be
amended, as Serbia simply declines the option for Kosovo to go its own way. What
it has to consider, however, is whether it is prepared to fight for what seems
as a lost cause, or whether it should take this opportunity to make it easier
for another, more plausible cause, its desire for EU membership.
Putin will only support compromise on Kosovo
Russia predictably is backing the Serbs. Moscow will not support any
international plan to resolve Kosovo's status that is not accepted by both
Serbia and the province's ethnic Albanian majority, President Vladimir Putin
said on February 10th. "Only the Kosovars and Serbs can resolve this,"
Putin told a forum of the world's top security officials in Munich. "Let's
not play God and try to resolve their problems."
As a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the power to
block any UN proposal unfavourable to Belgrade, and Putin's blunt remarks
suggested that Moscow might do so. "If we see that one of the parties is
not happy with the solution, we will not support that decision," Putin
In other words if Serbia will not accept the proposals, or modify them
satisfactorily, then Russia in its present posture will block them at the UNSC.
Serbian Telekom buys out Bosnian Serb Telekom
Serbian Telekom (Telecom) became the owner, on January 19th, of Bosnian Serb
Telekom as its representatives signed a document in the city of Banja Luka to
buy shares belonging to the Bosnian Serb government in the second largest
telecommunications company in Bosnia, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
The director of Serbian Telekom, Drasko Petrovic, and the head of the Bosnian
Serb Privatisation Agency, Vladimir Mackic, signed the contract, according to
which the company would pay 646 million Euro for 65 per cent of shares owned by
the government of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Srpska Republic. The Srpska
Republic's government gave the green light to the purchase last year after
Serbian Telekom won in a bid for the telecommunications company over Telecom
Austria, which offered 467 million Euro. The signing ceremony in Banja Luka was
attended by high officials from Serbia and the Bosnian Serb republic, including
Serbian Premier, Vojislav Kostunica, and Bosnian Serb President, Milan Jelic,
and Prime Minister, Milorad Dodik.