A Year After

This week, the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo celebrated the anniversary of the Albanian provisional government declaring “independence” from Serbia. On February 17, 2008, following two years of sham negotiations and diplomatic farce, the institutions ostensibly established by the UN occupation authorities in 2001 as “self-government” decided to unilaterally implement the so-called Ahtisaari plan, a proposal for “supervised independence” penned by the former Finnish president and Imperial envoy to the region.

Without a doubt, the declaration was illegal. It went against the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, explicitly ruling out violent changes to borders in Europe, and against the UN Security Council resolution 1244, which upheld Serbian sovereignty in the province even as it created a quasi-legal pretext for NATO’s occupation thereof. Legality, however, was a moot point to the Albanians – and more importantly, to their sponsors in Washington and Brussels, the same people and institutions that organized the 1999 NATO onslaught. Last year’s declaration based itself on the “right” of conquest and “law” of the jungle.

One year later, the “new nation” has little to celebrate. It has been recognized by just over a quarter of the world’s governments, mostly U.S. allies and clients. Even though the declaration prompted political upheaval in Serbia that saw an openly pro-Imperial client regime assume power, Belgrade remains opposed to Kosovo’s independence, and continues to pursue its legal claim to the territory. Within the province itself, a parasitic economy founded on foreign donations and remittances from the diaspora has predictably failed to thrive.

The “independent state of Kosovo” is an illusion, propped up by Imperial force and Imperial money. With the global economic crisis devastating the foundations of both, the renegade province may soon be left to pursue its unsustainable claim on its own.

Puppet Theater

Kosovo certainly has the trappings of an independent state. On paper, they are a multiethnic, secular, civil republic, with a politically correct flag and coat of arms, and a parliamentary democracy with a prime minister. In practice, the flag is almost never flown, while the red-and-black flag of Albania is ubiquitous. And the “prime minister” just so happens to be the leader of the terrorist KLA, Hashim “Snake” Thaci.

A year ago, Thaci announced that “one hundred countries” would recognize his regime. So far, only 55 governments have done so, starting with the U.S. puppet government in Afghanistan and including such eminent superpowers as Nauru, Samoa and Micronesia. Although 22 members of the EU recognize Kosovo as a separate state, Brussels has been unable to bully all its members into recognition: Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain continue to refuse.

Washington and Brussels have tried to prop up Pristina any way they could, from deploying a “peace and justice” mission (EULEX) to “assist” with nation-building, to having the Nobel Peace Prize go to Martti Ahtisaari, author of the proposal to create an independent Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Serbia’s symbolic victory at the UN General Assembly vote in October 2008 may not have done much in practice – Belgrade was asking permission to request a non-binding, advisory opinion of the World Court as to the legality if Kosovo’s secession – but it was powerful in symbolism. Almost all of the countries that recognized Pristina either supported the Serbian proposal or abstained. Only five countries openly opposed it: U.S., Albania, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia.

Rude Awakenings

For over eight years, as the province was nominally governed by a UN viceroy, advocates of independence both among the Albanians and in the West argued incessantly that it was the only solution to the widespread poverty. Not surprisingly, their argument turned out to be wrong.

As an Albanian reporter for Deutsche Presse (DPA) reveals, dreaming about independence is nice, but eventually one has to wake up to the harsh reality.

“It turned out that stories how everything will improve with independence and about investors were just that – stories,” the DPA article quotes Admir Llapashtica, 25.

Unemployment is crushing. Legions of young people sit in cafes all day and loaf. Those that work end up forking over most of their earnings to pay the bills. Most people live on remittances from relatives abroad. Indeed, the entire “state” lives off foreign donations. And things haven’t improved with independence; quite the opposite:

“I’m amazed at the fact that it has become worse, with all prices going up, but that nobody seems to care about that,” Shaip Mustafa, 25, told DPA (emphasis added).

Before the declaration of independence, the few profitable enterprises in Kosovo were able to transport their goods through Serbia. Now, as Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo customs stamps, their profits are evaporating. Meanwhile, the Albanian diaspora in Europe and the U.S. has economic woes of its own, and the remittance faucets are slowly running dry.

Even such basic utilities as running water and electricity remain spotty for all too many people. In a joke from 2005, an Albanian man reaches for his gun when water, gas and power all come back to his home, grumbling about how “the Serbs are back.” Things haven’t changed for the better since.

On Life Support

Just as the Serbs have been led by their noses for years with promises of a “better tomorrow” if they only comply with yet another set of demands coming from Brussels and Washington – only to wake up to even more demands tomorrow, and that promised future nowhere in sight – the Albanians of Kosovo have believed independence to be the panacea for all their problems. Having invested so much emotionally into wishful thinking, they are finding it hard to give up, even when confronted with reality.

Yet the reality is merciless. The “Independent state of Kosovo” exists only because the Empire carved it out of Serbia by force and maintained it for years on with NATO troops and millions of dollars in donations and loans. By now, however, even the most starry-eyed Albanian separatists must have noticed that things are not going well for the Empire, and that Barack Obama cannot change the laws of physics or economics with a few flowery phrases. Kosovo’s life support is running out.

Far from being inconceivable, it is increasingly likely that within the next year the Empire may have to abandon its various satrapies around the world in order to try and survive at home. At that point, all the countries and governments who exist solely thanks to Imperial force – or funding – will find themselves having to sink or swim on their own.

And the “Independent state of Kosovo,” an experiment now a year old, has all the buoyancy of a brick. 

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.