Random Kosovo/Serbia stuff from the last few days.
First, an interesting Indian perspective on Kosovo:
[T]he truth is that the birth of Kosovo is also a profound testament of the failure of the nation state form in Europe to accommodate ethnic diversity. As Michael Mann, in an important article on the â€œDark Side of Democracyâ€ had noted, modern European history has built in an irrevocable drive towards ethnic homogenisation within the nation state.
In the 19th century, there was a memorable debate between John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton. John Stuart Mill had argued, in a text that was to become the bible for separatists all over, including Jinnah and Savarkar, that democracy functions best in a mono-ethnic societies. Lord Acton had replied that a consequence of this belief would be bloodletting and migration on an unprecedented scale; it was more important to secure liberal protections than link ethnicity to democracy. It was this link that Woodrow Wilson elevated to a simple-minded defence of self-determination. The result, as Mann demonstrated with great empirical rigour, was that European nation states, 150 years later, were far more ethnically homogenous than they were in the 19th century; most EU countries were more than 85 per cent mono-ethnic.
Most of this homogeneity was produced by horrendous violence, of which Milosevicâ€™s marauding henchmen were only the latest incarnation. This homogeneity was complicated somewhat by migration from some former colonies. But very few nation states in Europe remained zones where indigenous multi-ethnicity could be accommodated. It is not an accident that states in Europe that still face the challenge of accommodating territorially concentrated multi-ethnicity are most worried about the Kosovo precedent. The EU is an extraordinary experiment in creating a new form of governance; but Europeâ€™s failures with multi-ethnicity may yet be a harbinger of things to come. Kosovo acts as a profound reminder of the failure of the nation state in Europe.
I don’t agree with that conclusion, but he raises an interesting point. Few EU states have much indigenous ethnic diversity left; the ethnic map of Western and Central Europe has been vastly simplified over the last 100 years, and mostly by methods that would not be acceptable today.
We know a couple of things about the girls whose little looting adventure made them internet celebrities for one brief, greasy moment. We know that they hail from lovely Batajnica (but they already told the fellow with the camera that). We know that their names are Maja TrbojeviÄ‡ and Jovana PetroviÄ‡, and that they were arrested on Sunday. And we know that they are about to be charged with theft, a crime which carries a sentence of between one and eight years. This will give them the dubious distinction of being the only people to be charged with anything after a long night of vandalism, looting, physical attacks on police officers, arson and manslaughter. Congratulations to prosecutors on a job not done.
Police succeeded, after somebody else did their investigation for them, in finding evidence of their crime in their apartment three days later…
Tip for all readers of this blog who are considering a career in looting: don’t let your friends film you, even if it makes you international YouTube stars.
Third, here’s some recent rhetoric from President Kostunica:
“You, the youth of Serbia, are demonstrating today to all of us how to love our country, how to love Kosovo, how to love Serbia. The whole country is proud of you and supports you with great excitement…
“Not even the Munich Agreement in 1938, when Hitler snatched Sudetenland, compares with this legal violence, since the Czechs then agreed to sign off a part of their territory… Serbia has not, and never will, sign any unworthy paper that will hand over Kosovo and Metohija… the Serb people [have] shown the strength and dignity of a great nation, which knows that justice, legality and freedom mean…
“Today, a sense of pride is felt in Serbia, the pride of a free nation that will not be a subject to violence and injustice. We will, every day, as a nation and as a state, show resistance, until the United States are convinced that the rule of international law must be established in the Balkans once again, and that the illegal recognition of a fake state must be revoked… Each day, Serbia will, step by step, keep winning in this struggle, and it the end she will prevail. Because Kosovo is Serbia, this is how it has been, this is how it will be.”
Now this is interesting on multiple levels. There’s the vaguely Communist language — “the whole country is proud of you and supports you with great excitement” is straight from Tito, and the whole rhetorical structure of the speech is classic Party. (Eastern European Communists just loved constructions like “justice, legality and freedom”.) There’s the “worse than Munich” bit, which plays into the “Serbia has been victimized worse than ANYONE” theme. This is, unfortunately, still pretty popular in Serbia. I have to wonder if any Czechs or Slovaks have noticed this.
There’s the “we are winning” bit, which is vintage Milosevic — long-time Balkan watchers may remember Slobo claiming, at the end of the NATO bombing, that Serbia had “won” that conflict. (Under Slobo, Serbia never lost anything — Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, it was one victory after another.) There’s the singling out of the US: it’s never the French or the Swedes or even the Germans any more in Serbia, but America, wicked America 24/7.
And finally there’s “America, revoke this recognition”. That one seems unique to Kostunica. I don’t think he believes America, or anyone else, is going to turn backwards and revoke recognition. That’s just not something that is going to happen. I’m still trying to figure out what he’s trying for here. If anyone knows more, I’d be interested to hear.
Foruth, in the wake of the recent riots, the EU has frozen Serbia’s progress towards membership for a little while. Probably a very little while… in a few months, the burnt embassies will be forgotten. Unless something else dreadful happens — major violence in northern Kosovo, say — the EU will quickly revert to its default position: “Of course you want to be an EU member! Everybody does!”
I think EU expansion is a great thing. It’s done wonders in places like Romania and Bulgaria. But I also think sacking and looting the embassy of an EU member state (and a couple of EU candidates) should get something stronger than a “tut tut”. More generally, I wish the EU would be more strict with its candidates; I think the 2004 expansion was rushed and overhasty, and Romania and Bulgaria would have profited from another year or two on the waitlist. On the whole, I wish Brussels would be a little less “Everybody come join our great club!” and a little more “Kneel before Zod.”
Finally, a brief rant. One thing that keeps popping up in discussion of Kosovo is that the Kosovar Albanians have “gotten everything they wantâ€. Often, this is in the context of “the Serbs are acting like idiotswhile the Albanians are behaving with perfect decorum” — “of course the Albanians are being good, they’ve gotten everything they want!”
Well… no. To give just three examples:
â€“ Belgradeâ€™s not recognizing them, and Belgrade -> Russia -> no recognition from the UN. So theyâ€™re going to be a quasi-state, with passports that work some places but not others, for a long time to come.
Note that theyâ€™re also stymied from even taking the first steps toward EU membership. Since the ascent to membership has been the main driver of reform and economic development in the region, this is a very big deal.
â€“ The Parliament in Prishtina has no power over the north, where thereâ€™s a large Albanian minority living uneasily next to the Serbs â€” a cameo mirror-version of Kosovo itself. (The Serbs, incidentally, are pushing against KFOR and the Kosovar police to try to grab control of the north.) So, the Albanians aren’t “getting Kosovo” — they’re getting most of Kosovo, but with a big chunk bitten out. Yes, it’s a little bit like Ireland in 1921, except that the Albanians aren’t having a civil war about it. Yet.
â€“ The Serbs are refusing to resolve the fraught issue of ownership of former state property. Which is pretty much everything worth owning in Kosovo. This is one reason there’s been very little foreign investment in Kosovo — investors aren’t eager buy a mine or a factory or a piece of land that comes with a massive lawsuit attached. Belgrade’s continued no-negotiation position means that Kosovo will continue to lag far behind the rest of the region.
So, while the Kosovar Albanians are getting more than the Serbs, itâ€™s far from â€œeverything they wantâ€.
On the positive side, there are some really dumb things Belgrade could have done that it hasn’t — closing the border, turning off Kosovo’s lights. So things could be worse. For now.