Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

In Flames – Kosovo’s final status lies at the root of renewed violence.

Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for foreign policy, called the local mobs &ldquocriminals”. But they are also a kind of auxiliary paramilitary force, pursuing specific political aims. They believe that a sustained campaign, which results in a majority of Serbs leaving Kosovo, will present the international community with a fait accompli. And the evidence supports their conclusions. Ethnic cleansing has worked in the Balkans. Serbia is, in the aftermath of its decimating military campaigns is completely homogenous save for the Hungarian population in Vovodjina. Croatia still has Serb communities but they are much reduced and still subject to overt discrimination. In Bosnia there has been more success at integrating communities, but it is still very fragile.

Since 1999, 230, 000 Kosovo natives – mostly Serbs, Montenegrins and Roma – have registered as UN refugees in neighbouring countries. In Pristina and Kosovo Polje, the Serbs are almost all gone, so no one is even left to complain. There is a logic here that is political and utilitarian. It works. Why should Kosovo's well-armed and well-organised malefactors want dialogue? Their ethnic violence is producing, as Christopher Caldwell reminds us, exactly the &ldquofacts on the ground” that suit them well. The multi-ethnic Kosovo that was trumpeted five years ago is a steadily vanishing dream, because mobs understand that the west's long-term path of least resistance is to acquiesce in the de facto independence and ethnic purging of Kosovo.

Last month's demonstrations in Belgrade point to the depth of feeling among Serbs on the issue. Kosovo is the spiritual essence of &ldquocelestial Serbia”, the site of its most important Orthodox churches, and the locus of the foundation myth of the modern Serb nation. The assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic one year ago plunged Serbia into a political crisis that reinforced Serb insecurity and weakened the hand of democratic forces. The upcoming Serbian presidential election is likely to be won by the ultra nationalist Radical party that scored 28% of the vote in the general election before Christmas and has been making much political capital out of the impotence of the Serb government in the face of the ethnic cleansing of their brethren in Kosovo. They trade on the fact that moderate Serb politicians risk accusations of treason by signalling any concessions on Serbia's &ldquoholy land”.

It is extraordinarily dispiriting to encounter (as I did on a recent visit to once cosmopolitan Belgrade) even liberal young Serbs who still hold to ideas about 'eternal Kosovo' and its central place in their cognitively constituted Serbia. Albanians are routinely depicted as terrorist untermenschen and criminal reprobates, unworthy of a state of their own. Ultimately Serbia will have to face up to the fact that some form of divorce is necessary. The difficulty lies in reconstituting Kosovo as a practical issue of politics in preference to an emotional national attachment.

Voislav Kostunica, the Serb Prime Minister, calls for &ldquocantonisation” of the province. This has been resisted by Albanian leaders (and termed a provocation by some). It was also given short shrift when Kostunica visited Brussels in the aftermath of the clashes. Although Kostunica was praised for the moderation of the Serb response, he was also given an uncompromising message. Serb self-government was not on the cards.

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