Saturday, December 03, 2005

Kosovo's Status: Serb Sovereignty vs. Albanian Self-Determination

POLITIKA (Belgrade) Friday, December 2nd, 2005
Originally Published in Cyrllic Serbian. English version below.


Raju G. C. Thomas

The Serbian-Albanian Paradox

As to whether whether Kosovo should remain part of Serbia-Montenegro or become an independent state, the"international community" should resolve it's status in accordance with the practice of international law, not on Albanian claims of victimhood, or personal images of good Albanians and evil Serbs. International law generally has favored the territorial integrity and sovereignty of existing states and rejected the right of self-determination, whatever the historical origins of state boundaries. For Albanians, this is residential land. For the Serbs, this is their religious and emotional heartland, no different than the historic land of Israel to the Jews.

The BBC's "Kosovo Timeline" states that "Kosovo lies at the heart of the Serbian empire under the Nemanjicdynasty.... The period sees the building of many Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries." Under Ottoman rule, "over the centuries the religious andethnic balance tips in favour of Muslims and Albanians.... Serbia regains control of Serbia from the Turks, recognized by the 1913 Treaty of London." Following NATO's military action in 1999, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, reaffirmed that Kosovo is part of Serbia.

Demographic Transformation

A demographic transformation has taken place in Kosovo while it remained a part of Serbia. Over thelast decades, this demographic change was caused bythe flight of Serbs from Kosovo under Albanianharassment, better opportunities in Serbia, higherAlbanian birthrates, and Albanians coming across theborder from Albania into Kosovo within Tito's Yugoslavia where economic opportunities were better.

Similar conditions prevail in Texas, New Mexico and California where the Mexican population isovertaking the White Anglo population. However, such demographic changes within a province of a statecannot justify the demand for new independent states. The Irredentist Terrorist Strategy of VictimhoodAlbanian claims of victimhood, and therefore theright to independence, is no different from that of similar claims in Nigeria (Ibos), India (Kashmiris), Russia (Chechens), Turkey (Kurds) and Sri Lanka (Tamils). Claims of victimhood by Albanians in Kosovo are minor compared to these regions.

In all of these cases, terrorist attacks on civilians and police are intended to invite overwhelming military retaliation by the state against an enemy that cannot be distinguished from the civilian population. There is an outcry of human rights violations against the state, and appeals to the international community by the minority group for independent statehood. The extremely violent independence movement led bythe Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE)_for an independent Tamil state against the wishes of the majority Sinhalese- dominated federal government in Sri Lanka, has continued for more than two decades without resolution. The LTTE was labeled a terrorist organization by the US State Department, just as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was also labeled as such earlier by State.

Both the LTTE and the KLA adopted the means of terrorist attacks to achieve its territorial goals. Whether it is the Tamils, the Kashmiris, the Chechens, the Kurds, the Palestinians, or the Kosovo Albanians led by the KLA, such tactics to carve out independent states should not be allowedto succeed. It will encourage similar tactics elsewhere among ethnic groups wishing to secede froman existing sovereign state.

Gaining Independence Under International Law Kosovo may obtain independence under international law on the willingness of the federal government in Belgrade to grant it. For example, in August 1998,the Canadian Supreme Court, while acknowledging that Canada is not indivisible, declared that Quebec could not secede through a simple majority vote among its residents. The terms of secession would have to benegotiated with the rest of Canada as an amendment tothe Canadian constitution. The nine Canadian justices indicated that while sucha secession would be theoretically feasible, it would be difficult, painful and costly, suggesting that itwas not likely to be accepted in practice. More importantly, the Canadian Supreme Court (that included3 judges from Quebec) declared that underinternational law, there is no right of unilateralsecession except territories that are judged to becolonies of oppressed peoples. Quebec did not fulfill this category.

Does Kosovo? Do Kosovo Albanians havea greater right to independence than demandselsewhere?Should Belgrade Concede Kosovo's Independence?Perhaps it would be in the interests of Serbia to let Kosovo go. It appears unrealistic for Serbia toregain control and maintain law and order. Serbforces would face indefinite attacks from the KLA whowould be indistinguishable from Alabanian civilians. Serb civilians of Kosovo are unlikely to return underthese circumstances. The trade-off offered by theUnited States to Serbia for relinquishing Kosovo isfaster entry into NATO and the EU.

On the other hand, there are cases where suchviolent struggles for independence were resolvedwithin the territorial boundaries of the state, e.g.,the Ibos of Nigeria, the Sikhs of India, and even theSerbs of Bosnia.The territorial integrity and sovereignty of everybreakaway republic of the former Yugoslavia has beenpreserved - Croatia, Bosnia-Herzgovina, and Macedonia. So must that of Serbia.

Raju George C. Thomas
Visiting US Fulbright Professor Faculty of the Political Sciences
Jove Ilica 165, Belgrade University 11000 Belgrade, Serbia Montenegro

About Raju Thomas^DB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=0739105175

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