P r e s s I n f o # 65 April 30, 1999
KOSOVO - why it is serious and what not to do
"The statements and threats by European Union commissioner HANS VAN DEN
BROEK and foreign secretary ROBIN COOK are imprudent: they focus on the
actors, not on the problems. When BENJAMIN GILMAN, chairman of the US House
International Relations Committee talks about sanctions, sending "NATO and
UN troops" to the region and supports "independent Kosova," there is even
more reason for concern.
They speak the language of power and violence, not of understanding and
dialogue. And it is likely to harm the Kosovo-Albanians.
The TRAGIC TRUTH is that since 1990, neither the United States, the OSCE
nor the EU and its members have developed any policies to help the Serbs
and Albanians avoid the predictable showdown we now witness in Kosovo.
There is much talk about conflict prevention, early warning, preventive
diplomacy and non-military security. The second tragic truth is that there
has been very little intellectual innovation since the so-called end of the
Cold War. No new organisations have been created, geared to handle the new
conflicts. Governments still seem unaware that their diplomats must be
trained in conflict understanding and management - as anyone dealing with
legal issues must be trained in law. And global media still focus on
violence, not on underlying conflicts or possible solutions," says Dr.
OBERG who, during the last six years, has been personally engaged with a
TFF team of experts in conflict-mitigation between Serbs and Albanians at
government as well as NGO level.
Regrettably recent events in the Kosovo province of Yugoslavia confirm the
early warnings by many independent voices, including the TFF since 1992
and, latest, our PressInfo from August 1997:
"The Serbs and Albanians have proved that they themselves are unable to
start and sustain a dialogue process towards conflict-resolution and
reconciliation. International attempts, lacking analysis as well as
strategy, have failed, too. The overall situation has deteriorated and
violence is escalating, slowly but surely. It simply cannot go on like that
in the future, and go well. New thinking should be applied sooner rather
Following is Dr. Oberg's assessment of why the Kosovo situation is dangerous:
"The KOSOVO-ALBANIAN LEADERSHIP which supports pragmatic rather than
principled non-violence and wants international involvement is rapidly
being undermined by a "Kosova Liberation Army" whose violence suits the
Belgrade authorities' repression well, and vice versa. The Albanians
proclaimed their independent state "Kosova" in 1990. They hoped that the
Dayton process would include them and that the international community
would not recognise Yugoslavia with Kosovo inside it. Since both
assumptions turned out to be wrong, the Kosovo-Albanian leadership has not
been able to devise a new policy and strategy for stepwise achievement of
their longterm goal.
The SERBIAN LEADERS refuse any international governmental involvement in
what they consider an internal affair of Yugoslavia. But that is no longer
a viable argument. The increasingly violent situation in the Kosovo region
threatens inter-national stability. Yugoslavia is eager to become an
integral part of the international community and seeks much needed
investments and loans; it can hardly have it both ways.
THUS, THE SERBIAN AND ALBANIAN LEADERS SHARE THREE THINGS:
1) a policy with mutually exclusive positions
2) an inability to get an sustained, orderly dialogue going
3) an increasing, perceived need to use VIOLENCE.
Thus, over time the Albanian side has gotten stuck with symbol policies of
their independent state. The Serb side is equally stuck with nothing to
offer but repressive policies within Yugoslavia. In short, a vicious circle.
In this situation it is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to issue warnings, threats or
judgments - as has been done the last few days by Western diplomats in
general and HANS VAN DEN BROEK, ROBIN COOK and BENJAMIN GILMAN in
particular. Since the Yugoslav tragedy began in 1991, the US and the EU
have proven remarkably incapable at analysing the conflicts and the
complexities of the Balkans. Their policies are better characterised by
nationalism and double standards than by "common" policies or
DO THESE DIPLOMATS SERIOUSLY EXPECT US TO BELIEVE THAT NEW ECONOMIC
SANCTIONS against the 10 million people in Yugoslavia (of which 2 million
Kosovo-Albanians) will make ordinary Serbs reconciliate with the
Kosovo-Albanians or that they will make the Yugoslav leadership including
President Milosevic initiate negotiations? Will Milosevic believe the West
is really angry with him when it has made itself quite dependent upon his
co-operation in the - fragile - implementation of the Dayton Agreement?
How many billions of dollars are the sanction-advocates willing to set off
to compensate the trade partners who will be barred from trading with
Yugoslavia - has, for instance, not Macedonia suffered enough under the
former sanctions? How do sanction advocates think secession-prone
Montenegro will react to being victimised once again?
Statesmen wanting to prevent violence would ADDRESS THE PROBLEM and ask:
how can we help solve it? They would need facts, analyses, and some basic
knowledge about conflicts as well as history and psychology - in short
understanding - before making proposals.
Not so Gilman, Cook and van den Broek. Conscious about past conflict
management blunders, they skip listening, knowledge and analysis, play it
tough, apportion guilt, talk down, point fingers, and offer lectures on
civilised behaviour. They pretend to know the ideal solution and threaten
punishment in a tone you would use only to people you fundamentally don't
respect. By ATTACKING THE ACTORS, they help solidify their locked positions
and harden the attitudes.
And so they continue the history of European and American arrogance in the
Balkans. If violence increases, they may turn the blind eye to the tragedy.
Alternatively, they may exert a - self-appointed - moral obligation to
intervene militarily arguing that this is the only way to make these people
understand noble Western motives as well as intellectually and morally
BUT THIS IS NOT THE ONLY WAY. IT'S THE WORST WAY. In the next PressInfo we
suggest other options. But regrettably, a scenario along the lines above
can no longer be excluded," ends Dr. Oberg.
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Dr. Jan Oberg
Director, head of the TFF Conflict-Mitigation team
to the Balkans and Georgia
T F F
Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone +46-46-145909 (0900-1100)