From Fri Dec 12 14:00:07 2003
From: Le Monde diplomatique <>
To: Le Monde diplomatique <>
Subject: Protectorate of Kosovo
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2003 18:24:45 +0100 (CET)

Reconstructing states: Protectorate of Kosovo

By Jean-Arnault Dérens, Le Monde diplomatique, December 2003

Kosovo is governed by the UN, run by international administrators (some of whom have proved corrupt), financed by aid, the remissions of exiles, and crime. Serbian and Albanian politicians will scarcely speak to each other, let alone negotiate seriously about the future.

A FEW days after representatives from Belgrade and Pristina met in Vienna on 14 October for the first face-to-face talks since the end of the war in Kosovo, an elderly Serb died of starvation in an Albanian village, alone and neglected by his neighbours. This is a reminder of the terrible plight of 80,000 Serbs in Kosovo (1) and the daily violence that still prevails in this United Nations protectorate, four and a half years after the war ended.

The official aim of Nato intervention in 1999 was to end the repression of the Albanian community under the Milosevic regime and secure the withdrawal of all federal and republic military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo. Under Resolution 1244 adopted by the UN Security Council on 10 June 1999, the UN was to provide an interim administration for Kosovo, “taking full account of the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” (it was replaced in February 2003 by the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, which succeeded to all its international obligations.)

The Belgrade government continues to insist on strict application of Resolution 1244, which provides for the gradual restoration of Serbian sovereignty and the return of Serbian and Monte negrin military and police personnel to Kosovo. Meanwhile the UN interim administration mission in Kosovo (Unmik), hampered by the contradictions inherent in its mandate, has been trying since 1999 to recreate state institutions there from scratch.

Privatisation of Kosovo undertakings finally started in May 2003, after long delays; it is overseen by the Kosovo trust agency (KTA), under the auspices of the European agency for reconstruction. In September the KTA blocked the third call for tenders when it transpired that the 22 Kosovo undertakings involved were com panies incorporated under Yugoslav law. A US businessman, who had bought a sawmill in Pec, has brought an action before a court in New York. KTA staff may be open to prosecution for privatising property that does not belong to them (2). This is a comic example of the mandate's limitations, operating in a legal vacuum that precludes development projects in a region where unemployment is 50%, if not more.

To quote an experienced and disillusioned aid worker: “When I came to Kosovo in 2000, many international officials were trying as best they could to push economic development projects. Now everybody seems to think Kosovo is in capable of producing anything and can only live on international aid, injections of money from Albanian exiles in Europe and the proceeds of organised crime.”

The Albanian rulers insist that the international protectorate is an interim arrangement, a step towards independence for Kosovo, which is what most of its people want. Branislav Milosevic, a journalist, recently acknowledged that “Resolution 1244 has become a kind of sacred text that nobody believes in” especially as Unmik has been “unable to impose an official interpretation” (3).

To quote the Albanian commentator Veton Surroi, “Kosovo is now like a pilotless plane” (4). The meeting in Vienna, presented as essential to its future, looks more like a publicity stunt by the international community. We had to have a nice picture of the Serbian and Albanian representatives shaking hands. They had to agree in prin ciple to enter into dialogue even though their positions are largely irreconcilable. The alternative would be international reprisals.

On the eve of the meeting, the new head of Unmik, Harri Holkeri, appointed in July, decided, ostensibly for reasons of protocol, that a Serb, Milorad Todorovic, minister in charge of coordinating repatriation, and a member of the Turkish community, Resmija Mumdziju, minister of health, could not be included in the Pristina delegation, as the prime minister of Kosovo, Bajram Rexhepi, had refused to take part in the discussions. Rexhepi is a member of the Demo cratic Party of Kosovo (DPK), to which most of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) belong. The DPK had agreed in principle to the meeting, but the Pristina delegation consisted only of Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo, who has undoubted moral authority but only token powers, and Nexhat Daci, speaker in the Kosovo parliament and a member of Rugova's party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK). So the DLK moderates are once again in a difficult political position, open to accusations of selling out if they really engage in discussion with the Serbian enemy.

Nikola Kabasic, an experienced human rights mediator in northern Kosovo, where there is a Serbian majority, has harsh things to say about DLK nationalism. According to him, “Ibrahim Rugova is almost as radical a nationalist as the rest. Not once, in the two years since he became president of Kosovo, has he made any effort to meet Serbian representatives or see for himself the situation in the enclaves, the ghettoes in which 80,000 Serbs are living. There will be genuine discussions only when Albanian politicians have the courage to fulfil their obligations to their Serbian fellow-citizens by clearly denouncing acts of violence, restrictions on freedom of movement and human rights violations; and when they stop regarding Serbs as war criminals and second-class citizens.”

None of them appears to be willing to take this course at present. The political price of such a daring move would probably be too high. The embryonic civil society developed in Kosovo in the 1990s is also silent. Since 1999 the rare moves to encourage dialogue between different communities in Kosovo have been made by outsiders and have met with little public response. As Kabasic says: “The Albanians regard policy as an exercise in rhetoric; the Belgrade government sees Kosovo as a domestic policy issue to be raised at election time; and the international community throws the odd bone to both sides.”

Unmik and international organisations involved have thousands of officials. Unmik administrators have discretionary powers to quash decisions taken by town councils elected in 2001. These administrators often spend only six months or a year in the job, meeting over dinner and exchanging gossip: one from Bulgaria did not keep separate personal and public accounts; another, from Mauritania, dismissed a delegation of Albanian trade unionists, explaining that “Kosovo is democratic now, no more socialism, no more trade unions”.

Corruption scandals, some of them at the highest level, have damaged the reputation of the international administration. The former director of the Kosovo Electricity Corporation, a German, was arrested by the German police in December 2002: ¤4.5m from international donors had disappeared from its books (5).

The rise in organised crime marks another serious failure by the UN administration. More than ever, Kosovo is at the heart of the European traffic in drugs and people; and illicit trade is developing on its borders. The UN police work closely with local officers of the Kosovo police service, but the service has been infiltrated by agents of the KLA and criminals. They also control the translators and interpreters that UN police officers use every day.

Almost 1,000 demonstrators protested in Pristina on 14 October against the Vienna meeting. The People's Movement of Kosovo and the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo, which fought alongside the KLA but is now marginal, call for an end to the “international occupation” of Kosovo. Early in the Nato intervention in Kosovo, Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, said the humanitarian purpose of the intervention did not exempt democracies from the obligation to propose an appropriate solution to the problem they sought to settle by force. If they failed to do so, the result of Western intervention would be that the Nato peacekeeping forces would succeed the Serbs as an obstacle to Albanian national aspirations.

Since the Thessaloniki summit in June 2003, a new European doctrine on Kosovo has emerged. According to this, Kosovo, like all the western Balkans—a new term invented for Albania and the former Yugoslav republics except Slovenia - should naturally join the European Union one day. The prospect of integration should gradually resolve territorial claims and conflicts and mark a new era of peace in the region. But the EU authorities refuse to set any date for integration.

The Albanian population is becoming increasingly restive. Since the spring, a new force, the Albanian National Army (ANA) has mounted many smash and grab raids and armed attacks in Kosovo, Macedonia and the Presevo valley in southern Serbia. The ANA calls for the unification of all “Albanian lands” in the Balkans and the creation of a “unified ethnic Albanian state”.

Fringe Albanian guerilla bands were already appearing in the Presevo valley and Macedonia in 2001 in response to the deadlock in Kosovo. The ANA has strong links with criminal groups but has so far gained little popular support. Most Albanians are still more interested in independ ence for Kosovo than in establishing Greater Albania. The international community is still against redrawing borders because of possible repercussions. So it is easy for Rugova to claim that the refusal to grant Kosovo independence is breeding extremism.


See also : Afghanistan: emirate of Herat and A guide to nation-building

(1) There are about 200,000 Kosovo Serb refugees in Serbia and Montenegro.

(2) See Tanja Matic and Alma Lama, “Privatisations au Kosovo: mais à  qui appartiennent les entreprises?”, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 24 October 2003,

(3) See Branislav Milosevic, “Kosovo: la Serbie à  la recherche d’une stratégie de sortie”, Reporter, 7 October 2003,

(4) See Veton Surroi, “Y a-t-il un pilote dans l’avion”, Koha Ditore, 1 October 2003, and

(5) See Adriatik Kelmendi and Astrit Gashi, “Kosovo: corruption à la MINUK”, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 9 December 2002.