Update No: 125 - (26/10/07)
The Kosovo conundrum
The gravest issue facing Serbia as a state entity is the status of Kosovo. It
challenges its very identity in the eyes of many Serbs.
It is not objectively clear why they feel it is so vital, given that de facto it
has been independent for years. Inhabited by Albanians, it is no longer an
integral part of Serbia at all.
But it has a lot of Serbian Orthodox churches, some of great beauty. And then
there is the great matter of the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds in 1389,
fought in Kosovo. This was lost by the Serbs and inaugurated a half millennium
of subjection to the Ottomans, only ended in 1878, thanks to the help of the
Russians. The Serbs have the unique perspective of seeing the Russians as
genuine co-faithful and liberators. What is ironic about the totemic value of
the Battle of the Field of the Blackbirds is that the Albanian princes brought
their forces to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Serbs,all under Hungarian
command, to suffer and to die with them, against the mighty Ottoman army on that
The Serb leader is standing pat on a legalist position. Kosovo "will never
be independent," Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said at a
convention of his Democratic Party of Serbia on October 14th in Belgrade. "Kosovo
could become independent only if Serbia recognized it or if the United Nations
Security Council violates the UN Charter," he said at a DSS conference at
which the party was due to vote on its new party programme.
"The whole world knows well that neither Serbia would ever recognize
Kosovo's independence, nor the UN Security Council violate the UN Charter,"
Kostunica said. "That means Kosovo will never be a UN member state."
Dismissing speculation that Serbia may attempt to trade Kosovo for a fast-track
approach to EU membership, the nationalist premier added that Serbia would not
recognize Kosovo regardless of "any pressure, threats and
Away from the West
The DSS assembly was voting on a party programme that marks a clear turn away
from the West and towards Russia, including a declaration of opposition to NATO
membership. It was also set to re-elect Kostunica as its president.
The DSS is grateful to Moscow which this year blocked apparently imminent
independence for Kosovo in the UN, forcing more talks on the status of the
breakaway province. The talks were launched in August and were tentatively
scheduled to end on December 10.
Kostunica made his remarks just as Belgrade and Pristina negotiators were due to
start another round of talks in Brussels, under the mediation of the United
States, Russia and the European Union.
But with Serbia adamantly against independence and Pristina, representing the
Albanian majority, interested in nothing but independence, the talks were
apparently doomed to failure even before they started.
Fait accompli looming
Kosovo Albanian leaders, who represent 90 per cent of the population in the
province, threatened to unilaterally declare independence after December 10. But
whether after a UDI they would get international recognition is a separate
If this were to happen, it seems that there is precious little Belgrade can do
about it. The world is hardly going to look idly by while the Serb army invades
Kosovo, having rescued it from it in 1999. The Serbs need to forget about Kosovo
and concentrate on matters closer to home, but that is advice for a rational
world, not necessarily the one we inhabit.
Kostunica has been re-elected the leader of his ruling Democratic Party of
Serbia, the party said on October 15th.
Kostunica, who has led the party since it was formed in the early 1990s, was
chosen at a party assembly, the spokesman Andreja Mladenovic said. The
re-election was a formality with nobody challenging the country's conservative
Kostunica came to power in Serbia in 2000, replacing former strongman Slobodan
Milosevic as president of what was then rump Yugoslavia.
Kostunica switched to the post of prime minister in 2004 and is currently
serving his second term as head of government.
The fight against crime and corruption
There are far more real problems than Kosovo for the re- elected leader to
confront. Serbia's failure to meet the Council of Europe (CoE) demands in the
fight against corruption has re-awakened concern over the country's future and
Even though Serbia is listed as a country with high corruption, on the
Transparency International list it has improved its standing. This leading
anti-corruption organisation reported that Serbia improved by 11 places in the
anti-corruption fight, with an index increase from 3.0 to 3.4 on a scale of 10.
Corruption is, nevertheless, still wide-spread, but is at least discussed,
because, for the Serbs, corruption is seen by too many as a sort of virtue, a
short cut to arrive to the 'job done'. And it doesn't matter that the same
'job', is destroying the country's economy and the lives of millions. Corruption
in Serbia is a cancer wound of unseen proportions.
It is not clear what Kostunica, or any alternative leader, could really do about