KOSOVO AND METOHIJA UPDATE
On February 2, 2007, UN special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari released his proposal for a settlement of all issues between
Belgrade and Pristina. The key features of his proposal include the following:
Kosovo shall adopt a constitution that shall prescribe the legal and institutional mechanisms for the protection, promotion, and enforcement of human rights of all persons in Kosovo.
Kosovo shall have the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership of international organizations.
Kosovo shall have its own, distinct, national symbols, including a flag, seal and anthem, reflecting its multi-ethnic character.
Kosovo shall have no territorial claims against, and shall seek no union with, any state or part of any state.
Kosovo shall establish a comprehensive and gender-sensitive approach for dealing with its past, which shall include a broad range of transitional justice initiatives.
Immovable and movable property of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or the Republic of Serbia located within the territory of Kosovo at the time of this settlement shall pass to Kosovo.
Claims regarding private immovable property, including agricultural and commercial property, shall continue to be addressed, where appropriate, by the Kosovo Property Agency, KPA, who shall address
property restitution issues, including those related to the SOC, as a matter of priority.
Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia shall strive to settle directly any claims between them, which are not otherwise addressed by this settlement, by mutual agreement, taking into account relevant international norms and standards.
Except as otherwise provided in this settlement, Kosovo shall have authority over law enforcement, security, justice, public safety, intelligence, civil emergency response and border control on its territory. 1
While this list is not exhaustive of the Ahtisaari’s proposal it offers a window into the glaring deficiencies of the proposal. While not explicitly stated, the Ahtisaari proposal is a call of for the complete independence of Kosovo and an alteration of the borders of Serbia, without the consent of Belgrade. Not only is the Ahtisaari proposal contrary with established norms of international law, it is also antithetical to the will of the United Nations pursuant to a prior resolution.
United Nations resolution 1244 (hereinafter referred to as “resolution 1244”). adopted on June 10, 1999 states “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki
Final Act and annex 2.” 2 (Emphasis added).
As the successor state to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia was guaranteed, through resolution 1244 that her borders were safe from arbitrary alteration from outside forces. The language of the resolution could not be any clearer and the intent of resolution 1244 was consistent with long established norms of international law respecting the territorial integrity of sovereign states.
Aside from the obvious legal shortcomings of the Ahtisaari proposal, it also fails to acknowledge certain realities on the ground in Kosovo and Metohija.
To begin with, the United Nations administration over Kosovo was intended to provide a buffer between Serbs and Albanians in the troubled province, disarm the KLA terrorist group and provide the Albanian leadership in Pristina and opportunity to prove that Albanian control over the province would protect all minority groups, including all Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
However, the pogroms of March 2004 proved that indicted war criminals such as Agim Ceku and Ramush Haradinaj could not protect the minority Serbs who remained beyond the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. On March 17-18, authorities in Kosovo almost completely lost
control, as at least thirty-three major riots broke out across Kosovo, involving an estimated 51,000 participants.3 After two days of rioting, at least 550 homes and twenty-seven Orthodox churches and monasteries were burned, leaving approximately 4,100 Serbs, Roma, Ashkali, and other non-Albanian minorities displaced. 4
To the astonishment of many, the Ahtisaari proposal fails to adequately address Pristina’s inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to protect all non-Albanian minorities in Kosovo. Instead the Ahtisarri proposal shows the naivety of a young child hoping the indicted war criminals in Pristina will suddenly have a change of heart towards all non-Albanians.
Proponents of the Ahtisaari proposal have advocated “the right of self determination” for the Albanians in Kosovo, even in the face of Belgrade’s willingness to grant Albanians the highest level of autonomy within Kosovo.5 Proponents argue that the Albanians of
Kosovo should be able to determine the course of their future independent of Belgrade. Ignoring the obvious legal issues concerning the territorial integrity of Serbia, the world community should be asking whether or not it wants to open this can of worms that Kosovo independence will bring.
In essence, the Ahtisaari proposal, if accepted, could open the flood gates to similar independence movements causing instability across the globe. Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh said "If Kosovo is recognized by the international community and Abkhazia is not, we will continue struggling for our recognition.”6 Abkhazia is not alone in this regard as other flashpoints such as Ossetia, Taiwan and the Basque region of Spain could be other areas to follow the Kosovo precedent. In fact, this precedent could be extended to other parts of the former Yugoslavia.
Based upon the Kosovo precedent, should the Serbian majority of Republika Srpska be granted the same right of self determination? Should the Serbs of Krajina be returned
to their homes and permitted to secede from Croatia should they so choose? Clearly, the Kosovo precedent cannot and should not stand on its own. If the United Nations chooses to adopt the Ahtisaari proposal, they will be ensuring many more years of instability in the Balkans and across the globe by the unprecedented disregard for the territorial integrity of a sovereign state.
Slavko Ristich, SBAA Board Member