Memorandum submitted by Professor Mary
1. I am a member of the Independent International
Commission to Investigate the Kosovo Crisis (See www.kosovocommission.org)
chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa and co-chaired
by Carl Tham, director of the Olaf Palme Centre in Stockholm.
One of the main conclusions of the Commission was the proposal
for a status of "conditional independence" for Kosovo.
Although our report was completed before the overthrow of Milosevic,
the proposal remains valid and relevant. Indeed, the report makes
clear that the problem of Kosovo will not disappear with Milosevic;
we stress the need for dialogue and point out that such a dialogue
will become possible after a change of power and mind in Serbia.
In this memorandum, I will outline the reasons why the House of
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee should take the proposal for
"conditional independence" seriously. What follows are
my own views and not necessarily the views of the Commission.
2. There seems to be a general consensus
within the international community that it is too early to consider
the future status of Kosovo. A strategy of "constructive
ambiguity" is considered the best course of action for the
present. This is partly because of understandable reluctance on
the part of the international community to sanction further changes
of borders. It is also because of the change of regime in Belgrade
and the concern to support President Kostunica during this transitional
period; it is feared that the hard-line opposition could capitalise
on the Kosovo issue if there was international pressure to allow
Kosovo to be separated from Serbia. There are several reasons
why this view should be challenged:
Firstly, the ambiguity of United
Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, which asserts both the
sovereignty of FRY and the autonomy of Kosovo, is in practise
"unconstructive". It greatly complicates efforts to
restore normal everyday lifea precondition for functioning
self-government and democracy. Enormous difficulties have been
and continue to be encountered when decisions have to be made
concerning, for example, the basis of law, the currency, security
arrangements, even planning regulations.
Secondly, there is strong support
within Kosovo for independence. Local elections have already been
held. Provincewide elections will be held soon. All the
parties competing in the elections favour independence for Kosovo.
Independence as an option for Kosovo cannot be ruled out if the
international community is to respect the wishes of the Kosovar
Albanians and the commitment to democracy. Up to now, there has
been much local support for the international role within Kosovo.
This could change if independence is ruled out and growing hostility
could greatly hamper the tasks of the United Nations administration.
Thirdly, it would be an error to
repeat the mistakes of the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, the
issue of Kosovo was considered secondary to the issue of Croatia
and BosniaKosovar Albanians were asked to be patient. In
the end, frustration that non-violent forms of struggle were ineffective
led to the war. Today, the issue of the future development of
Kosovo is considered secondary to the development of democracy
is Serbia, and the future relationship between Serbia and Montenegro.
Kosovars are once again asked not to "rock the boat".
This approach could backfire.
Finally, it is not evident that delaying
the issue of Kosovo is necessarily the best way to support democracy
in Serbia. Much of the opposition to Milosevic was framed and,
indeed continues to be framed, in nationalistic terms. It was
the suffering inflicted on Serbs and the Serb nation rather than
what was done to Serbia's neighbours that was at the root of the
opposition to Milosevic. Many of those who marched on Belgrade
did so carrying the symbols of Serbian nationalism. Full democratic
development of Serbia will be very difficult unless the people
of Yugoslavia come to terms with what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo.
The issue of Kosovo needs to be publicly discussed not suppressed.
3. In considering the future of Kosovo,
the main goal is to find arrangements that are most likely to
enable all the people of Kosovo, Albanians, Serbs and other minorities
to live together as they have for centuries and to avoid further
outbreaks of war both within Kosovo and in the region as a whole.
In concluding that conditional independence was the best option,
the Commission considered four other options. These were:
Protectorate: At present,
Kosovo is under a United Nations protectorate a new international
form of governance, similar although not identical to the arrangements
that pertain in Bosnia. The aim of a protectorate is to establish
the conditions for self-government, democracy and the rule of
law in the future. A long-term protectorate for Kosovo is not
a viable option for several reasons, some of which have already
been mentionedthe ambiguity of 1,244, the desire of the
Kosovar Albanians to run their own affairs which contradicts the
goal of democracy and self-rule, and the burden to the international
Full Independence: This is
the option favoured by most Kosovars. However other wishes also
have to be taken into account. There are anxieties among Kosovo's
neighbours about possible further changes in borders, in particular,
the concern that independence for Kosovo might raise the spectre
of a Greater Albania. This is particularly serious for Macedonia,
with a large Albanian minority population. There are also serious
concerns among Kosovo's minority population, particularly Serbs
and Rome. These concerns must be addressed before any option is
Partition: There have been
several proposals for partition of Kosovo recently. The idea is
that Northern Mitrovica, largely populated by Serbs and, indeed,
a haven for Serbs from other parts of Kosovo, should become part
of Serbia, while part of Southern Serbia, mainly populated by
Albanians, notably the Presevo valley should become part of Kosovo.
This proposal has been gaining ground recently particularly among
Serbs in Northern Mitrovica but also sympathy for the guerrilla
group in Presevo has been growing among Albanians, although, most
Albanians are utterly opposed to losing Trebca, the mines situated
in Northern Mitrovica. This option is unacceptable. It violates
the international principles of support for multi-ethnic communities
and opposition to forced population displacement. Moreover, such
an option legitimises the claims of exclusive ethnic nationalism,
thus sustaining the ideologies that were the primary cause of
the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. It should be stressed
that the separation of Kosovo from the Belgrade government is
not the same as the separation of Serb and Albanian ethnic populations.
Autonomy within a democratic FRY:
This is the option presently favoured by the international
community. There is talk of a three-republic solution, whereby
Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo become the three constituent republics
of a newly constituted Yugoslavia. This could have been an excellent
solution before the Yugoslav wars; indeed republic status was
the main goal at that time of the Kosovar Albanians. But after
all that the Kosovar Albanians have experienced at the hands of
the Yugoslavia authorities, not just during 1998-99 but since
1989, it is difficult to imagine that the Kosovar Albanians would
ever be willing to submit to Yugoslav sovereignty, however nominal.
Indeed the Kosovar Albanians are being asked to accept much more
then the other former constituent units of YugoslaviaSolvenia,
Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonianeven though, at least in
the case of Solvenia and Macedonian, these republics had not experienced
a similar level of human rights violations.
4. Conditional independence means independence
under certain conditions. Essentially, the international community
would retain responsibility for the security of Kosovo's borders,
thus reassuring Kosovo's neighbours and removing the spectre of
Greater Albania, and responsibility for the security of Kosovo's
minority population. Another way of describing conditional independence
is as autonomy within the international community. Nominal FRY
sovereignty would be replaced by UN or even, an option favoured
in Kosovo, EU sovereignty.
5. Conditional independence would have to
be the outcome of a process of dialogue and ultimately agreement.
This would have to involve an external agreement between Kosovo
and its neighbours, particularly Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia
and Albania, and an internal agreement between UNMIK, and representatives
of all communities in Kosovo.
6. With the development of international
law and the growing practise of humanitarian intervention, sovereignty
is no longer absolute. Sovereignty is conditional upon respect
for international law, especially the human rights of citizens.
Yugoslavia forfeited sovereignty over Kosovo, as a consequence
of gross violations of human rights over a prolonged period. By
the same token, independence for Kosovo must also be conditional
on respect for international law, both externally with respect
to neighbours, and internally, with respect to individual rights,
especially the right of minorities.
7. One of the main arguments against independence
for Kosovo is that it would set a precedent for other regions,
particularly Republika Serbska, Vojvidina, and Sandjak. This is,
of course, a serious concern. The precedent was set, however,
not by Kosovo but by the independence of the former Yugoslav republics.
If the case for Kosovo independence is based not on the general
process of Yugoslav succession but on the particular case of human
rights violations, then the case for secession in these other
instances is much weaker.
8. With these qualifications in mind, it
should be stressed that by offering the Kosovars the prospect
of eventual independence, or at least not ruling out this option,
it will be much easier to solve a range of issues of current concern.
These include legal issues within Kosovo, the situation in the
Presevo valley, and the possibility for integration of Mitrovica
and for the return of refugees and displaced persons.
9. Finally, it is worth pointing out that
not only the nature of sovereignty but also the nature of borders
is changing nowadays. Nationalists in the Balkans and elsewhere
imagine an anachronistic traditional nation-state with relatively
closed borders. In a globalised context, such nation-states are
no longer viable. In the future, there will have to be increased
co-operation within the Balkans and within Europe as a whole.
Indeed the Stability Pact offers the prospect of eventual integration
in the European Union. This is the framework within which conditional
independence for Kosovo has to be located, as the set of arrangements
most conducive for future co-operation and integration not separation.