Ahtisaari’s ‘Final Solution’

Last Friday, the UN’s special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, presented his proposal for the future status of Kosovo to the government in Belgrade and the provisional Albanian government in Pristina.

Kosovo, also known as Kosovo-Metohija, is province of Serbia that has been under NATO occupation and UN administration since June 1999, following a 78-day bombing campaign by NATO led by the United States. The bombing began on the pretext of coercing Serbia into agreeing to a "peace treaty" presented during the sham negotiations between the Yugoslav government and Kosovo Albanian separatists (KLA, advised by US diplomats) at Rambouillet. After the bombing began, NATO used the images of refugees fleeing Kosovo to claim "ethnic cleansing" and "atrocities" were taking place, and through the mass media under its direct influence imposed that manufactured justification for its attack.

After the Serbian police and Yugoslav military forces withdrew from the province, hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma, Turks and other non-Albanians were driven out, their property looted and destroyed, by militant Albanians, often at gunpoint. The mainstream Western press excused this as "revenge attacks." Since 1999, over a hundred Serbian Orthodox churches, chapels, monasteries and cemeteries have been desecrated or completely destroyed. The largest-scale pogrom against Serbs was in March 2004.

Since then, advocates of an independent, Albanian-dominated Kosovo have conducted an offensive in the media, diplomatic and political circles to ensure that the "final solution" for the occupied province favored their cause. The most prominent leader of these efforts has been the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), with a long history of interventionist activism in the Balkans. ICG’s founder, Morton Abramowitz, was one of the KLA advisors at Rambouillet. Wesley Clark, commander of NATO forces bombing Serbia, served subsequently on ICG’s Board of Trustees – as did Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland who persuaded Belgrade to sign an armistice that ended the war. Ahtisaari’s appointment as UN’s Special Envoy for Kosovo signaled which solution for the occupied province the US and Europe preferred to see.

Judging by the contents of his proposal, accessible as a series of Word files on the UNOSEK website, the Finn did not disappoint. Although extremely vague, favoring form over substance, the proposal makes it clear that Kosovo would be a state in all but name, with no vestige of Serbian sovereignty whatsoever. Aspects of Ahtisaari’s plan concerning the rights and protections for the Serbs left in the province got a lot of press in the past week, but as even a cursory examination of the actual document shows, they are empty promises at best.

A State, Almost

One might be forgiven for the assumption that Ahtisaari was to assemble a proposal based on what has been negotiated by the Belgrade authorities and rebellious Albanians over the past year. Instead, he put together a proposal based on the wish-list of independence supporters, dressed up as a compromise.

For example, Kosovo is envisioned as having all the prerogatives of a sovereign state, except in name (left unspoken is the option for the government to declare independence and demand recognition): "its own, distinct, flag, seal and anthem" for one, and the right to "negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership in international organizations."

However, Ahtisaari places some limitations on this. The symbols "must reflect the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo." The province would be prohibited from making territorial claims against other states, or seeking union with another State or parts thereof. The political system would have built-in quotas for non-Albanians, including a mechanism of "double majority" voting in matters "dealing with areas of special interest" to those communities. And all along the way, there would be Imperial supervision.

Foreign Overlords

The proposal envisions an European Union Special Representative (EUSR) who would also be International Civilian Representative (ICR), "appointed by an International Steering Group (ISG) comprised of key international stakeholders."

This ISG sounds suspiciously like the "Peace Implementation Council," which is basically the self-appointed, arbitrary Contact Group that gave itself the authority to award Bosnia’s viceroy near-unlimited dictatorial powers. Neither the ISG nor the PIC have anything to do with the UN, OSCE, EU or any established international bodies, which could be held accountable – at least theoretically – for their actions. Neither the "High Representative" in Bosnia nor the EUSR/ICR in Kosovo answer to anyone except these shady self-proclaimed "stakeholders" with unlimited power.

Ahtisaari’s proposal envisions everything in Kosovo being under the ultimate authority of the ICR.

Provisions and Committees

Everything in the new Kosovo, from police and the judiciary to the government and civil service, is to be subject to quotas. Overseeing this process in the judiciary would be a "Kosovo Judicial Council," a committee including foreigners, which would make recommendations to the president. He or she, by the way, is supposed to "represent the unity of the people of Kosovo," whatever that means.

The Kosovo Assembly – derived from the current parliament formed under UNMIK’s provisional constitution – is tasked with adopting an actual Constitution (with limitations described in the proposal) within 120 days of the proposal coming into force, by a 2/3 majority, with "appropriate consultations with non-majority Assembly members." It is not specified what these might be.

Another committee – "Implementation Monitoring Council" – would be charged with overseeing the security of Serbian heritage sites.

Heritage and Decentralization

Much has been made of Ahtisaari’s supposed effort to include strong protections for Serbs and other non-Albanians into his proposal. But what it actually says is mostly vapor.

For example, the Kosovo Assembly is told it would have to pass a law establishing "Protective Zones around designated Serbian religious and cultural sites." There are 45 sites that would be designated as such; the rest of Serbian heritage in the province is up for grabs.

KFOR, renamed IMP (International Military Presence) would "provide security to a number of pre-designated sites… at the beginning of Settlement implementation." Afterwards, however, the main responsibility to provide the basic security to Serbian Orthodox Church property will be on "Kosovo law enforcement agencies."

This translates into the Kosovo Police Service, with a centralized command in Pristina. Yes, it is stated twice that Serbs "will have a role" in the selection of local police commanders, but that’s as far as non-Albanian input goes. The proposal foresees the disbandment of the KPC within a year, to be replaced by Kosovo Security Force (KSF). It’s not hard to guess who would form the majority of KSF’s cadres. The province would get its own intelligence agency as well.

As for decentralization, Ahtisaari envisions six new Serb-majority municipalities, but the framework of Kosovo’s government is so centralized, it is hard to see how they could be viable. All they really get to do deals with "an enhanced role in the selection of local Police Station Commanders" and "protection and promotion of cultural and religious affairs at the local level." At the same time, these municipalities’ special privileges – even if only on paper – would make them a new target of hate and envy of the Albanian population, perpetuating the current situation.

Bogus Human Rights

Ahtisaari’s proposal says that all human rights are guaranteed, but the guarantor would inevitably be the government of Kosovo – dominated by ethnic Albanians. The proposal supposedly "provides for the right of all refugees and internally displaced persons from Kosovo to return and reclaim their property and personal possessions in accordance with Kosovo and international law." This means, however, the Assembly can pass a law forbidding the return of refuges unless they prove their innocence of war crimes charges. A "Croatian model" would be applied, where returning non-Albanians would be arrested based on secret indictments and put on trial for war crimes. No convictions need to take place (not that they would be hard to secure with the Albanian-dominated judiciary), the arrests would serve to intimidate potential returnees.

Empty Talk

Upon reading Ahtisaari’s proposal, several things should become obvious. It abounds with assertions that have no purchase in reality: for example, declaring Kosovo to be "diverse," multiethnic and democratic, when it is manifestly not so and there is no known mechanism to make it such. It simply says the Albanian-dominated authorities would protect human and property rights and freedoms of everyone, when they have shown absolutely no inclination to do so in the past eight years, or ever before.

If NATO and UNMIK, with thousands of troops and bureaucrats, were unable to stop the constant acts of violence and destruction specifically targeting the Serbs, what could an inexperienced, funds-starved Albanian government do better? Provided, of course, that it was willing to confront violent elements in its own society that committed such outrages.

The Albanians’ provisional prime minister, Agim Ceku, told the Serbian papers on Monday that he’d never committed any war crimes; that atrocities in Croatia by troops under his command were "normal things that happened in war," and that the KLA itself never committed any atrocities. Ceku – and the establishment behind him – would have the Serbs and the world believe that hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma and Turks ethnically cleansed from the province, destruction of their property and heritage, and constant assaults on the remaining members of those communities over the past eight years are "isolated incidents" of "extremist individuals."

Such as the 50,000-odd "individuals" who engaged in the March 2004 pogrom?

Empire’s Hollow Victory

Ceku and his followers are happy with the proposal, probably because they know this is a back-door path to independence that dodges the Russian veto in the UN. Maybe also because they remember, unlike many others, that laws can be ignored and treaties violated at one’s convenience if one enjoys Imperial support. Indeed, they may be expecting the Empire to be their willing accomplice in trampling the "flavor" sections of Ahtisaari’s plan – if it’s ever adopted – just as it has sponsored their efforts since 1999. But in the final analysis, even if they get almost everything they want, the Albanians of Kosovo would still have a foreign overlord set above them, and someone – the remaining Serbs – to blame for their problems.

This is why Ahtisaari’s plan isn’t the "final solution" for occupied Kosovo; unless, of course, it envisions the problem correcting itself with the Serbs packing up and leaving, which is something most "Western diplomats" keen on independence already expect and secretly desire.

Another key assumption Ahtisaari and his sponsors are making is that a new, pro-Imperial government would be established in Serbia that would either approve of this land grab, or accept it with impotent resignation. That may or may not yet happen, but it’s an assumption no one should make lightly.

In the Balkans, nothing is ever certain. Especially not "final solutions."

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 Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.