Kosovo after independence

Kosovo after independence 
Tirana Times - http://tiranatimes.com/

By Albert Rakipi Ph.D 

Finally Kosovo is an independent state. What are some of the challenges this new born state will be facing? 

As with any country that proclaims its independence and seeks international recognition, the primary challenge is international legitimacy. It appears that in Kosovo’s case this challenge will be relatively easy to meet; the independence of Kosovo is a project well coordinated and backed by strategic players in present day international relations. The United States and a number of European powers will acknowledge the independent state of Kosovo. Hashim Thaçi, Kosovo’s dynamic Prime Minister maintains that alongside the US and European states, the state of Kosovo will be recognized by another one hundred countries. Russia and certainly Serbia, perhaps other states as well will refuse to recognized the independence of Kosovo, together with a number of other countries, for reasons that are not related either with Kosovo, Serbia or the Balkans; they will waver for some time over adopting a decision of recognition. Official recognition by the neighboring and other Balkan countries is equally important, and there is no reason why the Balkan states should not follow the majority of the EU member countries. If Albania is not the first country to recognize the state of Kosovo, there is no reason why it should not be amongst the first waves of states to undertake this move, starting from the tomorrow. The independent state of Kosovo is not an undertaking of Albania, neither is it only an Albanian assignment. The independent state of Kosovo is an international project based on liberty and Human Rights. The official proclamation of Kosovo today – marks the final act of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, provides further evidence to the argument that a colonial regime has no future and supports the lesson that no majority can claim sovereignty over a territory and its population, based on systematic, collective violence and ethnic cleansing. The battle for international legitimacy will continue, with UN membership, and for some time, Kosovo will not have a seat or its own flag at this organization. International recognition is the attribution of the individual states and not of the UN, but UN membership requires two thirds of the votes of its General Assembly, only after the recommendation of the Security Council on which none of the five permanent members must vote against this recommendation. The case of Kosovo will probably evoke a similar situation to that of China, who remained outside of the UN for some time. It will not be so much a problem of joining the UN but of Resolution 1244 remaining in force. The question is what negative implications could this situation create for Kosovo when Resolution 1244 recognizes, not Serbia’s sovereignty but that of the Yugoslav Federation which no longer exists? This should not impede Kosovo from entering into relations and signing agreements with other states, or even to seek membership to international organizations and financial institutions for which consensus from other members is not required. Resolution 1244 may damage the new State of Kosovo, on the internal realm, more than on the international one. At the least, Serbia will continue to claim legal grounds to remain in, encourage, support and direct the functioning of parallel institutions in Kosovo, chiefly in the northern part of Mitrovica. This will be the first factor that may produce a weak state in the chain of weak states in the Balkans. Nevertheless, with or without Resolution 1244, unfortunately, irrespective of all the guarantees that the European powers are providing, it is not entirely out of the question that we will have a frozen conflict between the Albanians and the Serbs, between the State of Kosovo and the State of Serbia, isolated in the northern area of Mitrovica. The very least this frozen conflict will do is exert, as much as it is permitted to, a negative impact, first and foremost on what Kalevi Hosi calls “horizontal legitimacy”: the Serb minority, not only the minority currently residing within the zone of the possible frozen conflict, but also the Serb minority in other areas will not recognize Kosovo as their own State. Secondly, a possible frozen conflict will damage relations between Kosovo and Serbia, as two independent States, and also the conciliation process between the Albanians and the Serbs. It remains to be seen how Serbia will handle the issue of Kosovo’s independence. For the time being, only a small part of the political elite, in office or not, and a relatively larger community of Serb society and elite in general, do not regard Kosovo’s independence as humiliating peace. Despite the sharp tones and especially the obsolete language used by Serb PM Koshtunica, mentioning ‘NATO aggression,’ and ‘an international conspiracy against Serbia,’ in the initial reactions out of Serbia, there is a spirit of restraint in opposing the independence of Kosovo, and this is being done via diplomatic and legal means, in other words peaceful means. Nevertheless, we are still waiting to see how Serbian authorities and society will accommodate the independence of Kosovo on the international realm, and in particular, how they will react in Northern Mitrovica. 

The second challenge the new State of Kosovo will run up against is the battle to win internal legitimacy. The Ahtissari Packet provides complete legal grounds to prevent the identification of the nation with the State, a fundamental feature of weak states today. But as we know, constitutions and written laws have never stopped ethnical majorities from building a state based on the nation and not on their citizenry. The Government and other institutions in Kosovo appear to be quite determined not only to implement the Ahtissari packet in the reconstruction and functioning of the state of Kosovo, but also to encourage a spirit of conciliation between Albanians and Serbs. With an entirely western style, Kosovo’s new PM and the former Leader of the KLA, has begun to knock on doors and be welcomed into the homes of Serbs inside Kosovo. Meanwhile, it may be necessary to review some of the elements of the Ahtissari Packet, in the course of its implementation in practice. In particular, the Ahtissari Plan needs correcting in the loopholes that could be used for the existence of parallel institutions in Kosovo. Another element of internal legitimacy will be the relations of the Government and the Parliament of Kosovo and other state institutions, with the Mission of the European Union. Balkan experience has shown that overrated competencies in the hands of the Heads of international Missions could at the very least fail to help the construction of the State and a functioning democracy, and at the most, this could damage the legitimacy of the government and even gnaw away at the bases of the legitimacy of the State. The Government and the Parliament of Kosovo must take into their hands as much responsibility and power as would give the citizens the opportunity to lay blame at their doors for failures and support for achievements. 

The third challenge has to do with economic issues. And as will be witnessed, this will be one of the cardinal challenges. One of the arguments that the opponents to the independence of Kosovo raise is that Kosovo may not be able to function as a State because it will not be economically viable. But, being viable from the economic viewpoint is not linked today exclusively with natural resources and other economic potential, which are not lacking in Kosovo anyway. Economic viability is closely linked with the construction of a functional state. Today, many weak states are wealthy in natural resources, but have failed to secure their citizens basic services, security, energy, infrastructure etc, so instead of these states growing stronger, sometimes they even collapse. As regards new states, not only the legitimacy of the government, but also the legitimacy of the State depend on how they solve economic issues. A Government can be brought down through democratic elections, but the state does not mean elections or the political rotation of parties in power. The problem is that in new states, the failures of government, especially in the economic issues , could damage the confidence of the people in the State. Independence creates no magic solutions for the pressing economic problems in Kosovo. Recognizing the importance of economic issues, the European Union has already announced that a Donor’s Conference be convened in the next few months to come.