New Approach to Kosovo

International community must change its ideas if it wants a solution

by Evangelos Kofos [*]

(“Kathimerini”, English edition, March 2, 2001)

More storm clouds gathering on the borders of Kosovo are simply one more indication that the problem is not restricted to Kosovo itself but is part of a broader “Albanian question.”

NATO analysts recently observed that the latest terrorist attacks by armed ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Presevo and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, apparently by offshoots of the Kosovo Liberation Army, are being directed by a single centre.

The risk that the crisis could spread does not permit opportunistic solutions. An explosion could be averted if the international community radically changes its approach in its attempts to resolve the situation in Kosovo.

The eventual regime in this (de jure but not de facto) Serbian province should be dealt with in such a way as to serve the basic needs not only of the two main parties, Serbs and Albanians, but stability in the region as a whole.

Mutual compromises

A solution can only emerge from a series of mutual compromises, international commitments—legal, political and military—to safeguard the principle of conditional independence for Kosovo, and the gradual removal of Serbian sovereignty from the province.

Such safeguards, however, will not emerge from any treaty imposed by victors, as in the case of UN Security Council resolution 1244/1999, but through international procedures and ratification and monitoring of the agreement by the UN.

A legal framework exists, in the form of the UN Trusteeship system, which was set up to guide colonies and mandates toward “self-government or independence.”

Although the system has not been used for some decades, it has not been abolished. Of course, Kosovo cannot be considered a colony nor is it a developing country. However, according to the UN Charter, “other territories” may voluntarily be placed under the Trusteeship system by states “hitherto exercising exclusive sovereignty over them”. In Kosovo’s case, such country is Yugoslavia.

The terms of Trusteeship are determined by the Charter and individual Trusteeship Accords signed between grantor states and the UN. In effect, this means that the UN retains sovereign rights and appoints one or more states, usually grantor states, to administer the region. In the Kosovo case, Yugoslavia could be one of the countries participating in administering the trust territory.

The Trusteeship Accord has the status of an international agreement and, in a manner of speaking, could serve as a constitution for the region.

Without doubt, many of the provisions and practical applications of resolution 1244/1999 could be incorporated into the new text, giving a fuller framework for the functioning of UNMIK and KFOR which would continue to operate in the region for some time under a different form and name. States granted a mandate could include European Union or UN Security Council member states.

Local government structures, with clear provisions for minorities, should be put into effect immediately. Given the volatility of certain areas such as Mitrovica, these could be designated as protected zones—“safe havens”—under a special status of self-rule, always within the framework of the regional administration. Sites and monuments sacred to Serbs could have a special status of religious autonomy, similar to that of Mt. Athos. By joining the Trusteeship system, Kosovo would gradually move toward “self-government or independence” according to Article 76b of the Charter. However, this process is dependent on certain conditions, namely, “as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples, the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement”. The primary goal of the system, it should be noted, is “to promote peace and security” (Article 76a).

Under these circumstances, the kind and the length of the process “toward self-government or independence” form the basis of the drafting of the accord, although it is clear that because of prevailing conditions, the process will of necessity be a long one and will depend on the way in which the terms of the accord are implemented.

If, as seems likely, independence is chosen, it will have to be in line with provisions for “promoting peace and stability,” not only in Kosovo but in south-eastern Europe in general.

Therefore there has to be a clear commitment to avoiding inciting or supporting terrorist or separatist acts in neighbouring states, or supporting the idea of a Greater Albania.

A “Cyprus clause” banning unification with third countries without the consent of the signatories to the Kosovo Trusteeship Accord could be a moderating factor. It would act as a curb on extremist elements in neighbouring countries who envision solutions similar to the one in Kosovo, and would dispel the fears and suspicions of neighbouring peoples.

Give and take

In tabling this proposal, the author was motivated by his deep concern over the escalation of armed incidents not only in Kosovo but also in its periphery. Unrest has become a continuing feature of life in Kosovo and on its borders. It has become clear that it is mainly aimed at bringing about immediate independence for the province and special status for the Albanian populations in neighbouring states. If, however, Kosovo joins the Trusteeship system, the Albanians will become advocates rather of the peace process, than perpetrators of acts of violence and promoters of regional instability; unless they want to see their vision of independence disappear into a nebulous future.

Initially, this proposal might provoke some protests on each side, as both will be required to give up something, although this time of their own free will. But they will also be gaining a great deal, by international agreement and with guarantees. The region as a whole will become more stable, as long as the political situation remains clear-cut. And the long road to inclusion in Europe will no longer be wishful thinking.

*Evangelos Kofos is presently adviser on Balkan issues to the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), and author of the book “Kosovo and Albanian Unification; The Burden of the Past--the Anguish of the Morrow” (Athens, “Papazisis”, 1998).

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