Inventing Irrelevance

Constitution, Kosovo, and Media Misdirection

On Saturday and Sunday, the citizens of Serbia are expected to vote in a plebiscite on the new constitution. In a rare display of political unity, the draft constitution was supported in the parliament by both the government and the opposition parties. However, remnants of the former DOS regime and the "non-governmental" organizations that support them have launched a campaign against the document; these Jacobins are assailing the constitution as "undemocratic," and particularly object to its preamble, which defines occupied Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia.

This, rather than any other feature in the constitution, is the real point of contention between those who seek its passage, and those in Serbia – and elsewhere – who would like to see it fail. Inclusion of Kosovo in the new Serbian constitution complicates the efforts to force Belgrade into giving up the territory NATO occupied in 1999 on behalf of ethnic Albanian separatists.

What Bothers the New York Times

The New York Times, a stalwart supporter of NATO’s 1999 war and a pillar of Empire’s Official Truth, launched a sloppy attack on the new Serbian constitution on Monday, calling the document "faulty."

Despite mentioning "critics" of the constitution at least five times in the article, the Times‘ Nicholas Wood comes up with only two: Omer Hadzimerovic, a regional judge, and Goran Jesic, mayor of a small town near Belgrade. There is not a single mention of the constitution’s loudest critics: DOS leftovers, such as Cedomir Jovanovic, Zarko Korac, Vladan Batic, Nenad Canak, and their micro-parties; or the Western-backed "human rights" groups and quasi-NGOs that endorse their political agendas.

It’s impossible to verify some of the claims the unnamed "critics" are making. The text of the proposed constitution is publicly available (found here, in Serbian, as a .pdf file), but the document itself has 206 articles (!) in nine sections. For the sake of comparison, the United States Constitution has seven articles and 27 amendments. Much of the language in the proposed Serbian constitution is vague, subject to external definition (what are "European values," anyway?), and rather than providing a cornerstone for future legislation actually depends on it to be functional. In short, it’s a constitution of a decidedly modern, social-democratic welfare state, whose guiding spirit was not God, John Locke, or even Serbian tradition, but the bloated bureaucracy of the EU.

None of these bother the New York Times much, though. This part does:

"Whereas the province of Kosovo and Metohija is an integral part of Serbian territory, with essential autonomy within the sovereign state of Serbia, and that this position of the Province of Kosovo and Metohija obligates the government to protect and represent the national interests of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija, in all its internal and external political affairs…."

Given that the adoption of the constitution would cause new elections in Serbia and make the surrender of Kosovo an act of treason, the Times‘ claim that the constitution "will not have any effect on Kosovo’s future" is not a statement of fact, but rather wishful thinking posing as such.

"My Albanian Friends"

The tough talk about the constitution’s irrelevance and independence’s inevitability seems calculated to soothe the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, who are growing increasingly frustrated that their main political objective has not been achieved for over seven years, despite overwhelming Imperial support. In the past, they’ve taken that frustration out on the few Serbs who survived their ethnic cleansing in 1999. Now that most Serbs inconveniently live in barbed-wire enclosures guarded by NATO troops, they are targeting the UN and even NATO occupiers directly.

AFP reported last Friday that "a U.S. soldier from the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) was assaulted and injured by three civilians" at a gas station in Urosevac. As befits every other act of violence in Kosovo over the course of NATO occupation, the perpetrators were not identified. But as the mainstream media so helpfully reminds us daily, "ethnic Albanians are the overwhelming majority in the province."

Perhaps this is what motivated Frank Wisner, U.S. envoy to the Kosovo talks, to appeal to "my Kosovar Albanian friends" (AFP) not to attack the Serbs during the referendum this weekend. Speaking during his visit to Pristina on Wednesday, Wisner assured the Albanians that "few of us have any doubts what final status means," and that:

"What happens to you is a Kosovar matter and an international matter. It’s not a matter of Serbian sovereignty, which changed when the UN agreed on [Security Council Resolution] 1244."

And yet the Resolution that Wisner mentions says this:

"Reaffirming 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…." (emphasis added)

The FRY was succeeded by the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, of which Serbia was the sole successor when Montenegro seceded this spring. So yes, Mr. Wisner, this rather is a matter of Serbian sovereignty.

The Curious Incident of Mufti Naim

Perhaps the most bizarre instance of misdirection, however, has to be a Reuters report by Fatos Bytyci from this Monday. Mr. Bytyci and his editors thought it newsworthy that Mufti Naim Ternava, top Muslim cleric in Kosovo, told the believers at the ceremony celebrating the end of Ramadan, that "independence … was the only acceptable outcome" of the status talks. According to Reuters, this represented a "rare foray into politics" by the Islamic clergy in Kosovo.

Had Bytyci and Reuters stopped there, it would have been an interesting news item: even the Muslim religious leaders, normally politically inactive, endorse independence. Fair enough. But the story also included the following passages:

"The Kosovo Albanians’ secularism contrasts with the increasingly vocal role played by the Orthodox Church in Serbia’s politics and society.…

"Nationalists in the Church and political elite in Belgrade have tried to play up the Islamic angle to block Kosovo’s bid for independence, warning of al-Qaeda infiltration and Muslim radicalization in Europe."

Are Bytyci and Reuters trying to say that religious extremism was not a factor in the destruction and desecration of over 100 churches and monasteries during the occupation? Or that in the "secular" occupied Kosovo, hundreds of new mosques have not been built, and that fewer "secular" Albanians wear Wahhabi beards and headscarves, rather than more? Yet somehow, it’s the Serbs who are to blame for somehow taking their besieged religious heritage seriously.

Besides, if Islam matters so little in Kosovo Albanian society and politics… why is the statement of Mufti Naim so newsworthy, then? Just like the Empire, Reuters wants to have it both ways.


After years of being used to groveling sycophants in Belgrade, the Empire is finding out that its planned imposition of Kosovo’s separation is getting more difficult by the day. The pesky Serbs, who were supposed to follow orders and wallow in manufactured guilt over fabricated atrocities, have refused to play their part in the show. Unable to deal with Belgrade’s newfound "intransigence," the Empire is putting out incoherent ramblings, from the New York Times‘ attack on the new constitution to Frank Wisner’s misinterpretations of UNSCR 1244, in an effort to persuade both itself and the Albanians that the plan is on track, and "everything will be just fine."

Except it isn’t, and it won’t.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.